July 2017: Double Listening
Life was bursting out of our church building on Pentecost Sunday. Those walking past in the late afternoon saw adults chatting on our grass strip and children running around. They heard conversation and laughter. They smelt sausages and burgers cooking on the grill. The fact that the sun shone was a bonus, but even rain could not have dampened the abundant life that was clearly evident.
This was the annual Messy Church BBQ. Messy Church meets monthly. Between 80 and 100 people come. A third of them are adults. A third are people who come to church on Sunday morning. For everyone else, Messy Church is their church.
Messy Church is remarkable. At a time when some are writing the church’s obituary, this new form of church is proving a big hit. It offers a different way for people to gather for worship and fellowship. It has clearly struck a chord.
While Messy Church is an international initiative the way it began in North Berwick is fascinating.
Back in 2008 the Kirk Session believed God was prompting us to think about beginning a new activity for children. We had plenty ideas about what might work. However, rather than discussing them, we decided to listen to the community. With the support of Community Education and the Primary School, we did a mapping exercise. We wanted to find out what children and their families were saying. What kind of activities did they do outside school? What would they like to do that wasn’t on offer?
As we listened to what the children and their parents were saying we heard some interesting things. Two of these were, there aren’t many things families can do together, and, Sunday afternoons are quite quiet.
As we listened to what God might be saying, we realised that Messy Church might offer what some parents were looking for.
This was an exercise in ‘Double Listening.’ It’s something that John Stott believes the church needs to do all the time. We are called to listen to the Word and to the World. He explains what this means.
We listen to the Word with humble reverence, anxious to understand it, and resolved to believe it and obey what we come to understand. We listen to the World with critical alertness, anxious to understand it too, and resolved not necessarily to believe and obey it, but to sympathize with it and to seek grace to discover how the gospel relates to it. (The Contemporary Christian, p 28)
In September the Kirk Session is having an Away Day at Leuchie. We are going to be thinking and discussing what our priorities should be for the next few years. It will be an exercise in Double Listening – listening to the World and to the Word. We need to understand what our community is saying and feeling, and to hear what God is saying to us.
Please could you pray for the Kirk Session that it will listen well, before, during and after the Away Day. More than that, pray that God will help you listen to your community and to his prompting. Ask, what is it that people are thinking? What are the hidden hurts and the unexpressed longings? What is it that keeps people awake at nights and gets them out of bed in the morning? And what is it that God is saying about these things?
A great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. (1 Kings 19:11,12 )
Picture: "Untitled [Listening}" by Antony Gormley at Maygrove Peace Park
Photo: © Mike Quinn, used under Creative Commons Licence
To see other messages from Neil, click on the appropriate month in the table below.
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