It's been a little while since I penned a Mission News.
If you want to read back over Roadmap for a Post Pandemic Church, as we "learn to live with the virus", whatever that might mean, you can find it on our district website.
But first I wanted to share a story. It's Olly's story, not mine, but he is happy for me to share it with you.
I've known Olly for several years. He sometimes watches football with my daughter. And we've known his family since before either of them were born. But I had never heard this side of Olly's story, until he was encouraged to share it. Click here to hear Olly's story. It will literally only take two minutes of your day.
I don't know how Olly's account comes across to you, as I place it in the context of my own relationship with Olly, and with God. I expect you have heard stories at times which have deeply impacted you.
Wejoin in with God's mission as we tell how God has joined in in our lives.
I have recently been reading Fuzzy Church, a study of sometimes fragile Northern churches where "something is happening". (You may recognise one of them, but I'll leave you to spot it for yourself!). The authors are searching for trends amongst these churches, how they relate to contemporary Northern contexts, and what clues they offer for future church which may arise from the compost of Christendom.
One of the key learnings was that in these "something is happening" churches people from the leaders to the newest Christians, had "theological agency – permission to name what God was up to in their individual and collective lives". In doing so they bucked a trend of "practical atheism" that we are too often trapped in. We have so privatised religion that when we ask our people to speak of God we can't / don't / daren't / forget to attach God to a verb. God is God has God said God listened
Until we see and speak this in action we forget how theological agency is a driver of agency, permission for new members especially to be their "best selves in the Christian community they were joining" Perhaps repentance is not too strong a word to describe a recognition that we do not name God's agency in our stories?
Our Christian communities arechanged when we join in telling stories
In telling these stories, we recount our experience of being aware of the interaction between the story of our lives and God's ongoing story of creation. We collect these stories as a community, recognise the patterns, and relate them to the written stories we cherish. How we respond to each new story is informed by what we have learned, practised and felt. And our understanding, behaviour and experience can be re-interpreted through each new story of disciples under construction. Together and incrementally we experience, celebrate and are changed by God's presence ever more deeply. When we tell stories, we worship.
Welearn of God through telling and listening to stories.
Sharing stories may feel awkward at first as we relearn the habit, but it is an essential component of a healthy Christian community. Our next synod gathering will offer a range of ways of sharing. Click here to book your place and have a think about who might like to come with you. All are welcome.
I've spoken today mainly about why's. I'll be back soon with a few suggested what's and how's. In the meantime, I would love to hear your stories of stories. Are you already doing something like this regularly in your church? How has it changed your perspectives? How did you get started?