embedded

22 01 2013

I was in a meeting today at our local Children’s Centre. It was called the Extended Services Committee, and gathers all those who provide services for, in or around the Centre. There were about 15 people, all ‘professionals’, ranging from Breastfeeding and Community Health teams, the Early Intervention & Prevention team, fitness class leader, Adult Education, Creche service, Homestart, as well as the Centre Management and more. And me. 

I’m there as a community representative, and because the Centre do an Outreach Service in our church hall. The meeting was really valuable, and it is fascinating to see so many people committed to the support and nurture of young families in our area. There are 4 Children’s Centres within walking distance of our church, all of which are increasingly valuable to our local area.

view from BA cropped

It made me think though. Our community needs professionals who come in and do their stuff. Absolutely. But alongside that, there is no substitute for the embedded local church. Bill Hybel’s famously said that the local church is the hope of the world – in so many ways I agree. We don’t offer breast-feeding classes, but we are there. We aren’t health visitors, we aren’t welfare experts, we aren’t in fact anything much. But we are there. As government funding rises and falls and service levels rise and fall, we are there. For friendship, for support, for relationships. Yes, for signposting to other services. But mostly to be there.

We’re also not a church of ‘professionals’ who serve our community; we are a church of the community, full of people with the same issues as the community around us. This might make us different from many churches who have motivated, capable, professional people  at their disposal to run groups and services for others. We don’t. We just about manage to run a coffee morning (run by 2 ladies over 75) and a playgroup (run by me, a mum of 4 and 2 ladies over 80), but we do them and we do them well. Basic, but well. We love to see people meet Jesus, and occasionally we do. We also love to see exhausted single-mums laughing, lonely families meeting up, supportive friendships growing, FoodBank vouchers given when needed and a safe place to meet.

Maybe this is the difference between being a professional service provider, and being an embedded local church. We are interested in whole-life, not just our specialist subject. We live here, so we do not go when times get tough. We walk these streets every day, to school, to work, to buy milk and to walk the dog. And to pick up others’ dog poo. This is our life, not our job. This is our neighbourhood, not our catchment area.

This is being embedded. This is community. This is church. 

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this is poo.

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10 responses

22 01 2013
Graham

Thank you- this is very good and I have been thinking about this a lot recently. You have encouraged me!

22 01 2013
Kevin

Thank you. I even encouraged myself too!

22 01 2013
dorothy726

I’ve spent most of the day being very, very angry with “the Church” ie the institution. Thanks for this – it’s stopped me, as it were, throwing ithe baby out with the bathwater!

22 01 2013
Kevin

Glad to be of service! I know the feeling though…

22 01 2013
dorothy726

do you really? I spent today thinking most actual employees of the jolly old Cof E pretty much think it’s a Good Thing, and struggling to understand how they can possibly continue to be part of what can be at times an extremely oppressive institution. Your blog gave me a glimmer of “how”…

22 01 2013
Kevin

The day to day stuff is how. Not the hierarchy or theology or internal wranglings. The c of e is far from perfect but it gives a good platform to work from in the community.

22 01 2013
Kevin

Glad to be of service – I know the feeling though!

22 01 2013
neil stewart

best one so far vic

23 01 2013
c2drl

I’ve been thinking. Why do we have all these experts and supervisors of experts and regulators of experts and qualifications for experts? Some of them we need, but I suspect not many. They are there because the community isn’t functioning; or is the community not functioning because they are there?

The Tories, who hate the Church and are trying to marginalise it, had the idea of the big society, which I think is just another name for community doing what Government shouldn’t. But having had the idea they can’t leave it alone to function and have to prescribe it with rules, as an example look at local planning!

Charities are now moaning that they can’t speak up about issues because they will loose their government funding. Should charities be funded by government in the first place? Isn’t that for local comunities and philanthropists?

So yes, well done Kevin. The community needs the Church and indeed the Church is the community. Working it out in practice is tough, often unrewarding work, but it is what Christians are called to – the little things like clearing the snow of someones drive, or getting their shopping, or offering them a meal or a cup of tea.

Jesus didn’t seem to join the local pharisees political union, he sat down with the poor. Churches and Vicars that do the same are walking in his footsteps, wearing his uncomfortable shoes. So keep at it and be encouraged, all of you.

23 01 2013
ruth

Both James and I found this really helpful and once again feel reassured that what you write about is putting into words some of our ‘ un-articulated’ thinkings! Thank you!
I feel more positive!

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