Thursday, January 20, 2011

a practical post: turning alternative worship stations into communities

I sat with a pioneer today. We reflected on a year of experimentation. An artist by charism, last year they thought “Stuff it, I’m going to create a quiet, still space. Populate it with stations. Have a start and end time. Advertise it as I can. And offer some resources to nourish people’s spirituality.”

After a year of experimenting, they are encouraged. By the growing numbers. By the engagement with folk they don’t see on Sunday mornings. By the impact of leaving the stations set up during the week, so that folk on Sunday morning get to see and engage.

It is proving a genuine missional innovation. Having visited (I love visiting pioneer innovations) I had some encouragements. And some suggestions

1. Think more about what people can bring into your space. How about providing a variety of things on the foyer (bits of material, stuff from $2 shop, coloured cards). Invite them to chose something that marks their week/mood/a relationships. This creates curiousity and builds individual participation.

2. Think more about what people can take away, something to tuck in their pocket as a reminder of their engagement – a stone, a thread, a symbol that connects with a station. This helps memorialise the time.

3. Have a map of church, with stations. As a newcomer, visitors always wonder if there are special “sacred” places. A map helps orientate me in a space, lets me know where to go and where the stations are. It lets me decide if I want to go in a liturgical order, or not. This map can be simple (station a, station b, station c etc) or more detailed (rose station, origami station, water station).

4. Think about next steps. People need space to come and go. And feel free to come and go. But some people might want next steps. They might want to suggest an improvement. Or know about future offerings. Or have a go. Or something touched a nerve and they want to talk. Sp provide next steps, sensitively.

5. What about a discussion space. Some people like to to process thoughts and ideas. They want to share how they engaged. And to hear how others engaged. Especially for people with aural learning preferences. So a dedicated coffee space afterward. Or the next Sunday. It must be optional. But this provides ways for events to become communities.

I note these ideas here, wondering if they might be useful to others experimenting with installation type, station based fresh expressions.

Posted by steve at 03:51 PM


  1. really helpful suggestions, Steve. thank you, yet again.

    Comment by Andrew Dowsett — January 21, 2011 @ 1:00 am

  2. think about icons, by which i mean stations become a part of people’s memory, perhaps you created something together, or over a time that became a sculpture, a painting, a fire… these things, these icons carry with them memory for people who are a part of the community. think about including a few, or rotating them within the space.

    they don’t need to be “doing” anything, in your local traditional churches these icons can be baptismal fonts, pews, memorials… (yes, there’s a fine line between a pew that noone wants to remove EVER and an icon that carries a shared memory but that’s a part of the fun)

    Comment by darren — January 21, 2011 @ 1:04 am

  3. I second the ‘discussion space’ idea. That’s something I’ve always missed at Opawa’s Side Door.

    My Anglican Sunday church has, and I’m not kidding, one hour for the service and about one hour for the coffee and chat afterwards — and everyone knows where the real business of the parish is done.

    Comment by Nate — January 25, 2011 @ 12:30 pm

  4. thanks nate. I did suggest discussion spaces a number of times re Side Door, but it didn’t seem to grab.


    Comment by steve — January 25, 2011 @ 1:54 pm

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