Archive for the “Creativity” Category

For five minutes or a couple of hours on the first Sunday of the month people come and sit in a candlelit church.

Sometimes it is the simplest idea that catches the imagination.

Providing a place of sanctuary and stillness is one of the gifts the church can provide to a busy world full of stress and concern.

Be still and know that I am God.

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I’ve just spent a few days at college considering play and creativity in the context of church. I have lots of notes and thoughts, but the one that has stuck with me is about space to play and create art.

Play is at the centre of creativity.

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Play is about trying things out.  It’s about testing ideas, positions, opinions and options by imagining what they would be like without committing to them.  Art then, at least partly, capturing what you discover as you play.  This process of imagining something then making it if  done reflectively can be a spiritual practice.

That must surely begin with a playful attitude, the expectation that church is a place that encourages and enables play and art and creativity.  And that means you!  Yes, YOU!

So, how do we create both the expectation and the space for our churches and communities to be creative places?

I don’t think it’s accidental that Messy Church and Godly Play have been two of the most successful things to happen to the church for years.  Why?  Because they centre around play.  Spill the Beans works in a similar way because it centres on story, a playful and imaginative exploration of an incident or idea.

The strength of these approaches is perhaps that they don’t expect masterpieces, just that you take part and see what happens.

That your contribution is valued and valid…

no matter what your art teacher told you at school.

I’m fed up with church being about finding the one, correct answer.  The idea that a parable has one right, correct and universal meaning is just nonsense.  They are stories designed to make us think, imagine, test, explore and create meaning.  So, how else can we explore these meanings except by play and art?

The kingdom of God is like…

Imagine is the kingdom of God is like…

‘is like’ is an invitation to imagine.

What if it is like:

a seed

a man in a field

a box of treasure

a prodigal son

a vineyard

or whatever else we are invited to imagine.

How does that playful, fun, imaginative engagement help us to understand more about God, life and each other?

If that’s no the point of church what is?

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Who else needs your space?

My churches hosting co-working revelation got me thinking…

Church halls have often been a hive of activity with anything from Boys’ Brigade to dance classes and slimming clubs.

That’s all good.

But who are you missing?

How can you help your community to engage with each other and make things better?  How could your church support community projects and create and nurture community at the same time?

Detroit SOUP – image by Dave Lewinski

 

 

Detroit SOUP inspires me.  Why? Because it’s easy and effective.

Here’s what SOUP say about SOUP:

SOUP is:

Detroit SOUP is a microgranting dinner celebrating and supporting creative projects in Detroit. For a donation $5 attendees receive soup, salad, bread and a vote and hear from four presentations ranging from art, urban agriculture, social justice, social entrepreneurs, education, technology and more. Each presenter has four minutes to share their idea and answer four questions from the audience. At the event, attendees eat, talk, share resources, enjoy art and vote on the project they think benefits the city the most. At the end of the night, we count the ballots and the winner goes home with all of the money raised to carry out their project. Winners come back to a future SOUP dinner to report their project’s progress.

Perhaps it’s easier to watch what happens:

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So, could you do something like SOUP in your church hall?

I think you could.

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I came across an article about church as a space for co-working yesterday.

It was one of those moments when you think that something is so obvious you can’t believe everyone isn’t already doing it!

We know that working patterns have changed.  Loads of people work from home now.  That’s great.  You don’t have to commute.  You can work in your pjs, listen to whatever music you like as loud as you want, video conference, email, work hours to suit your life… Home working has lots of upside, but it can also be a lonely existence.

That’s why you see so many people camped out in coffee shops with their MacBooks.  They are looking for company.  The presence of other human beings.  And cake.

nomad worker http://www.travelandworkonline.com

But we also know that being with others is a creative way to work.  Those conversations where people ask what you’re working on and then add some insight or suggest a contact that could help, or suggest working together on something…

So, why doesn’t your church create a space for these nomadic workers?

You have a hall that probably doesn’t get used much during the day.

You have tables and chairs.

You have a kitchen and toilets.

All you need is some good, reliable wifi, power sockets, a wifi printer and someone to be around to welcome people and put the kettle on and make a decent cup of coffee.  Stick in some whiteboards and plants and you have just created co-working nirvana.

It’s like a constant coffee morning for people with jobs.  And they will pay to use your space.

I’m not suggesting you become a start up incubator, yet, just a nice friendly place with space and a welcome.

There are some great examples of churches who are already doing it…

St Lydia’s in Brooklyn is my favourite.  They do dinner church so they were already half way there.

Sy Lydia’s Co-working

So, what’s stopping your church from being a space for co-working?

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Does church maintain the status quo?  We talk a good game about transformation and renewal but are we organisationally set up to avoid it?

Broken Rhythms

This isn’t a new question for me.

I remember thinking about it when I was training for youth work at Jordanhill in 1991.  Apparently other people had been thinking about organisational inertia it for longer than that because there were books written about it.

In youth work this questions appears in the guise of ‘Do we train young people to be good, middle class, well mannered high achievers?’ or ‘Do we just want young people to be like us?’.

There is some really interesting stuff around at the moment about how we might work with young people to develop an authentic expression of church with no expectation that they should or would even want to worship and gather in community in the same way we might.

There is another aspect to this question… Does the church maintain the political and social status quo?

I remember sitting in a Church of Scotland General Assembly where someone suggested a change.  The Principle Clerk stood up and stated that such a change would require an Act of Parliament.  The clear implication taken was that this would be too difficult and the proposer should sit down and shut up.  Which they did.  This is just one fairly extreme example but in many ways all of our decision making processes mitigate against change.  We consult widely, we need broad agreement, we take ages to change.

These can all be good things.  Taking time prevents lurching from one position to another, making snap decisions and encourage reflection and consultation.  It gives time for discussion, consideration and prayer.  These ‘safeguards’ prevent the loudest voice winning out, include a wide range of people in the process and hopefully listen to what God might be saying to the church.

They can also kill enthusiasm, limit growth and stifle innovation.

What really baffles me is when the church seems to be in agreement about the need for change but is completely unable to make that change happen.  Perhaps it is be cause too many things would need to change all at once.  Perhaps it is because we don’t have a clear idea what that change would actually look like.  Perhaps it is because we aren’t training people to be creative, risk taking leaders.

The recent Church Growth Research from the Church of England seems to paint a clear picture of the recipe for growth:

Church Growth

 

 

I’ve managed to get myself nominated to be on a United Reformed Church task group considering 20-40s.  It would seem to be ‘money where your mouth is’ time.

So, what do we need to do to become the kind of church that people in the 20-40s would engage in?  What might that kind of church look like?  What are the things that really stop people engaging with church?  Are they big philosophical issues?  Are they relational?  Are they about time and energy?

Answers on postcard, Facebook comment, tweet, email, text or more preferably over a coffee… 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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When I don’t write often I find it hard to write often.

Does that make sense?

Writing is a habit.  It takes practice and persistence.  At least that’s what I find.

I’ve been a bit out of practice recently.  I tell myself I’ve been busy, and that’s true, but it’s not an excuse.  Not really.  I can make time for other things, so why not blogging?  Why not journaling my thoughts about my training for ministry?

Perhaps it’s because I’m processing.  I tend to blog when I know what I think about something.  Sometimes I think out loud.  Sometimes I kick an idea around.  But mostly I have a pretty good idea of my thoughts.

Perhaps it’s because I’ve been learning and thinking about the writing prophets.  My first module has been Old Testament and we’ve been thinking about Jeremiah and Isaiah and Amos.  It’s fascinating to go back to something that was written such a long time ago and find such resonance with today.  It’s also sobering to wonder how anything I write might be read by others and might stand the test of time.

Of course I have been writing in some forms.  I’ve written sermons and emails and notes and study materials but I haven’t blogged my thoughts for ages.  To be honest I only really started this post because we’ve been doing a module on writing for different contexts and I need to write in a few formats.  This seemed more appropriate than writing a magazine article for an imaginary publication.  But why should that be?

Writing is powerful.  Words convey so much.

In a TED talk JJ Abrams talks about how he feels intimidated by his MacBook.  Some days he sits down to write and feels as though he has nothing worthy of this beautiful piece of technology.

I’ve felt that.  I’ve felt it about a new notebook with its fresh, clean pages, just waiting for me to ruin them with my inane scribbling and incoherent thoughts.  I buy Moleskine notebooks.  I use a good pen.  I do that to remind me that committing something to paper is in some ways a sacred thing.  It has value.  Even if no other person ever reads it.

Sometimes that can lead to a paralysis.  A writer’s block.  It’ll never be good enough or nobody will be interested so why even bother?

But I also find I write more when I read more and when I engage in conversation more.

Writing helps me to organise my thoughts.  It forces me to try to make things orderly and coherent.  That’s not always easy and, as I said earlier, perhaps that’s why I wait until I know what I think but sometimes as I write the connections begin to appear.  The dots start to join and a picture starts to appear.

Sometimes when I write it just comes flooding out like a tidal wave of consciousness that always seems to make sense when it’s done.  Other times writing is a long, slow and painful process that results in something that feels unfinished and doesn’t quite capturing the thoughts it grazes against.

So, I’ll try to write more here because some of the stuff I’ve been learning about is important.  Crime and punishment, justice and righteousness.  Big topics with huge implications for society.  Jeremiah and Isaiah and Amos thought so too… See… dots to be joined.

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spill the beans conferenceThe big, long awaited Spill the Beans Conference is just around the corner!  Come and find out more about Spill the Beans, how it works, why it works and how you can use it in your church.

Saturday 31st August

Wellington Church on University Avenue, Glasgow.

10am – 4pm

Cost £8 (includes lunch)

 for application forms.

 

 

Workshops include:

  • Storytelling with Adults and Young People
  • Worship Space and Art Installations
  • Community Engagement
  • Worship Teams
  • Using Age Group Materials

Download the  Poster: StB Conference Final

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