On Saturday, March 7th 70 people came out to the Churches Together London event held at West Park Church in London. It was a great morning of exploring and discussing the wave of relational neighbouring that is changing churches across North America.
Rob Hueniken welcomed the guests, and referenced Together LA, an organization in California much like Churches Together London and True City, whose purpose statement reads very similarly: ” To transform the conditions of those living on the margins, to live missionally within community, and to develop cross-cultural and multi-church relationships”.
Steph Card warmed up the group and got them thinking with her paper clip exercise. There are a lot of things you can use a paper clip for, and in 30 seconds many people thought of 2 to 4 things. But together, as a group, there were 77 things – showing the strength of inclusiveness and community.
Dave Witt, from True City Hamilton, was the keynote speaker, and shared stories and encouragement from his 11 years of experience. He referenced Nehemiah 3 and the rebuilding of the wall, in which each person – regardless of status or position or job – was helping to make things better together. Dave encouraged us to really know our neighbourhood, and to recognize the importance and potential we have by being relationally present.
Our second speaker was Graham Buchanan of West Park Alliance in London. His work with youth and as the Community Connections leader has helped bring a strong new sense of community involvement, both within the church walls and especially outside – within the neighbourhood. When Graham said that he starts each morning with a prayer for the neighbourhood you could see people pause and then nod in recognition of having that mindset.
As with all Churches Together London meetings, there were times for discussion and sharing ideas. It is great seeing and hearing so many people talking about neighbouring and the roles and challenges for churches.
We wrapped up our morning with an excellent panel discussion, including Jay Gurnett of Vision Ministries, Sue Gowan of Youth for Christ and CCNL, Graham Buchanan from West London Alliance, and Dave Witt of True City Hamilton. David Cottrill of North Park posed questions to the panel, and there was also a time for questions from the attendees.
Jay Gurnett said that people want to do something meaningful, and that often translates into doing something good in their community. He encouraged us to get out of our comfort zone, to take the risk of getting involved and to work together.
Sue Gowan described her various roles as a Board member as being more hands-on than people often think. She reminded us that churches, traditionally and historically, have played vital roles in society and within community, and that we should be recreating that history daily.
Graham Buchanan talked about getting involved in community using the analogy of marrying his wife. He didn’t propose to her on day one – he got to know her, to understand what is important to her, and earned her trust. Relationships take time and effort to build, but great things come from them.
Dave Witt said that the community would love for church members to be engaged, but we need to recognize that only some of the people in a church have those gifts. The idea is to also use the many other gifts in a church so that everyone can be involved. One of the beauties of collaboration is that we don’t each have to do everything. And one of the beauties of neighbouring is that even a bit of participation can be good, so even small churches can get involved in their community.
Thanks to all of the attendees for making it such a great morning of fellowship and sharing. And thanks to Carole Verdun and West Park Church for providing such a beautiful space for us to explore and discuss being part of community.