Thursday, March 10, 2005

How often do we meet in the forming of community?

How often does “church” need to meet to be church? Here at Opawa I’m tossing around the birthing of another emerging congregation – expresso101. One of the questions is timing – how often do we meet? Here’s part of an email I sent a friend. Any web wisdom out there for us?

for a number of months I have been wanted to start something a bit different at Opawa. Sunday morning is a singing monologue. It’s got some really good things, but Q/A and discussion will never sit easily with the majority of Sunday morning punters.

And I’m also thinking that church does not equal singing. It’s about people growing together and into God. For some people that will be by singing and listening. For others, it will be by discussion together.

Hence expresso101 – discussion, cafe, video loops, all participants – as an idea. I have talked to a number of others, who are all keen, and who can think of others who could be interested. So it could be a goer.

The question of timing is a key. I really, really don’t want expresso101 to be seen as a small group or as a “monthly top up.” To do that seems to demean discussion as a valid spirituality.

So ideally I would like to set up expresso101 to be “church”- ie to have all the elements of growing together and with God that Sunday would have, just in a different way. For me that revolves around community (being real with each other), spirituality (connecting with God), mission (doing/being something for others).

So I have been wondering about an expresso101 discussion fortnightly, and in the week in between either do a movie (ie something fun) or do a combined “mission” project eg plant trees, work in a foodbank … whatever the whole group would feel authentically helps them give beyond themselves. So in effect we meet weekly. Not cos I like being busy, but cos that’s a pattern that might make it more fully “church.” People don’t need to come weekly – just like people don’t on a Sunday morning – but the question I ask is “does this have enough of a rhythm to sustain spirituality?”

People could also still be part of both Sunday and Espresso (or Side Door or Digestion), but I am reluctant for espresso101 to meet less than weekly.

Posted by steve at 05:09 PM


  1. steve.. I really think that this is a great proposition and a great question to be asking. We have struggled with this in our young adult endeavours over recent months.

    See, a gathering needs to be large enough to feel more like ‘church’ than ‘cell group’, relaxed enough to feel comfortable like ‘cell group’, not ‘church’ so that it’s practices become different to a ‘singing monologue’. A gathering like this needs to be regular enough to be like ‘church’ and not just a ‘regular event’ so as to encourage participation and not wallflowering.

    If it helps at all, our similarly planned ‘REAL’ .. (not my name by the way :-)) flopped when done monthly and when done fortnightly. Although the young adult staff are perserving with fortnightly… follow your gut and go weekly.

    Be busy but effective.

    Comment by tash — March 10, 2005 @ 7:15 pm

  2. Hi Steve, I’ve been doing a cafe'( jAZZANIAH cAFE’) thing for about a year now. We were lucky enough, sorry, no it wasn’t luck…it was God thing. We initially had been doing an out door cafe thing on the street ( with the city’s blessing ), they supplied the space and power. But with spring,summer and fall turning to winter…we were struggling with weather. But this local Cafe’ owner who is only opened for lunch and breakfast saw us struggling and offered her Cafe’…Free!!!!. So with her, and a partnership with the local food bank, all sales from coffee, desserts etc go to the local food bank.
    It has been a wonderful experience. We never imagined it to be ” church “, but it’s amazing how many people have told us that to them it really feels like church. The conversation has been rich and real. We have older folks in there 70’s, we have toddlers and moms, teens and mid-life folks. We have experimented with music, reflection, movies and communion. We have also maintained a sort of loose partnership with a local church.
    It has been a great experience, we’re still learning. But I love it because it is so low keyed, there is not the pressure of preparation like the Sunday morning church…and because of that I am able to do both.Anyway Steve, it sounds exciting, and I love the name, ” Expresso101″

    Comment by ron cole — March 10, 2005 @ 9:18 pm

  3. I think it needs to be weekly. Otherwise a) you forget when it is happening, and b) it makes it really difficult for “outsiders”/newcomers… they need to know where you will be and when.

    The monthly rhythm is good, tho we’ll need a 5th week option so that 1st and 3rd weeks are at the cafe and 2nd and 4th elsewhere and 5th something diff again… And a good email system so people get reminded each week whats on…

    (hmm that is all very pragmatic!)

    Comment by lynne — March 11, 2005 @ 11:32 am

  4. options I have thought of are

    week 1 – discuss
    week 2 – fun
    week 3 – discuss
    week 4 – mission
    week 5 – ???

    Week 1, 2, 3 – discuss
    week 4 – mission
    week 5 – fun

    Comment by steve — March 11, 2005 @ 11:37 am

  5. I like the former option like this..

    1. discuss
    2. discuss
    3. misson/fun
    4. discuss
    5. fun

    Comment by tash — March 11, 2005 @ 12:33 pm

  6. What do you see “mission” looking like within/without this context?

    Comment by Paul Fromont — March 11, 2005 @ 3:55 pm

  7. Paul
    I’d want this to be mission
    a) in that it is a conversational space focused on nourishing spiritual seekers
    b) that part of ethos of the group would be regular participation in something beyond the group – egs I mentioned in the post included tree planting, serving in a foodbank. This is something the group would talk about and do together and would just be part of the groups life.

    We are asking the same question of all the congregations we start at Opawa: how will mission be in their ethos?

    Comment by steve — March 11, 2005 @ 6:21 pm

  8. The catch with going weekly, it seems to me, is the cost of preparation, input, setup and teardown.
    Cafechurch in Sydney meets weekly – when I was involed at the start there were probably 5 person-days work going into preparing every weekly meeting. Now there’s less work required, but only becaue they’ve build up lots of capital
    (their own building, equiptment, expertise, resources, and people) over years. And they still have a (part-time) Professional Christian to run it all.

    It’s not clear that something regular fortnightly or monthly wouldn’t do as well – some of the UK groups work that way, or alternate public meetings with smaller private/ planning space.
    But I’d expect the communion to grow more slowly.
    After meeting weekly for a year, your group will already have had more meetings than many many others.

    So I wish all the best for your venture!
    I’d love to be part of something like this in Wellington, but I
    just don’t have the time, the energy, enough people around me
    (and I’m too old but that’s another story)

    Comment by James Noble — March 11, 2005 @ 9:06 pm

  9. Hmmm….. the phrase that jumped out at me was “And I’m also thinking that church does not equal singing. It’s about people growing together and into God. For some people that will be by singing and listening. For others, it will be by discussion together”. It was the former that I had well and truly had enough of when I found Graceway, and I have found the building of community together, whether via discussion or whatever we do, to be the thing that makes sense, for me, of church.

    Comment by Larraine — March 13, 2005 @ 11:43 pm

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