Missional theologian and leadership writer Alan Roxburgh was in Rupert’s Land this September, leading Anglicans and Lutherans in planning a lay-led, neighbourhood-based discernment project. “Anglicans and Lutherans in God’s Neighbourhoods” is a new initiative to explore the ways God is at work in our neighbourhoods and join in what God is doing. It is rooted in the idea that God is at work everywhere, and all we need to do is pay attention and take part. Jesus says, “The harvest is plentiful but the labourers are few.”
The pilot project, beginning this fall, will select five neighbourhoods where there are five to nine people interested in meeting together for a period of eighteen months. Over that time, they will gather in public spaces — “loitering with intent” — to discern how God wants them to be the face of Jesus to their neighbours. Together, they will seek to understand what it looks like to represent the kingdom of God in their own contexts.
Roxburgh made it clear that this is not about “doing,” it is about “being”; just looking for a new service project moves the focus off of what God is doing and back onto ourselves. He told the story of one man who did something simple to connect the kingdom life with his neighbours. Excited about the first warm day of summer, he decided to pack a cooler full of beer, grab his lawn chair, and hang out on the front lawn for the afternoon. Soon, neighbours started doing the same, until the yard was full of neighbours building community as they chatted about faith and life.
Unlike a traditional approach to evangelism, which tends to presume that I have something for you, the missional approach assumes that God is already at work teaching a person about faith and the way of Jesus. All we need to do is join the conversation. This can lead to extraordinary stories of crossing bridges and barriers, as fresh friendships and faith communities are formed.
Simon Blaikie pointed out that such a discernment process will look different depending on the neighbourhood. Being intentionally present in a middle class suburb is not the same as being present in a rural community or an impoverished inner-city area. It will be up to the first five neighbourhood groups to figure out what this will look like in their time and space. Then, they will report back to others in the Diocese and Synod, and after 18 months new groups will be commissioned.
The point of all this is to to become a Church that is not bound by four walls. Jesus lived his story of hope at dinner tables and on street corners, so it only makes sense that his followers would do the same. If you missed the discussion with Roxburgh last month, you can watch it online. Leave a comment below to join the conversation about where this experiment might take us.