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broken glass

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Last month, I wrote this series of posts about major changes that may be coming to our congregation, and what it could mean for our entire church. We’re struggling as our contemporary service is rapidly growing, to the point it is at the limits of our capacity as we operate now, while our traditional service is in slow, steady decline.

This has been a very difficult process for everyone, as many solutions have been proposed and debated at length. A merging of the two services was tested last fall, but a vote to make it permanent failed by 3% at a congregational vote. Sharing of space by other means has also been brought forward and mostly vetoed, while many (including myself) question the amount of energy being devoured by debate about worship music style. I grow increasingly frustrated and weary with the entire process.

As this has happened, a new proposal came forward from our associate pastor, looking to launch a church plant from our congregation, lead by people interested in building a church on a foundation of community and service projects. Needless to say, this prospect excited me and many others, and ignited a fire in me that had been missing for a long time in the church. As I’ve become more involved in our community, I’ve come to desire a church that has a deeper connection with the city around it, and would gladly help launch this new church and serve in it, if our present congregation would allow us.

What appealed most to me is the goal to work closer with community organizations, charities, services etc. to better serve London’s communities. I’m disturbed at the thought that I may be participating in a thinly veiled social club. In a time when the credibility and reliability of the global church is crumbling, every effort has to be made to regain it. The church lives and dies by its relevance to the community that surrounds it. If we cannot be a meaningful, helpful, contributing member of London, why do we exist?

As this has happened, I’ve tried my best to examine my motivations, but cannot be certain I am interested in this new venture for the right reasons, or at least, entirely. I want to be sure that I’m not simply leaving the present church, but moving with energy, honesty and authenticity into this new project.

Our church is at another major milestone, and intersection. This Sunday we have a congregational meeting to discuss our collective future, the hopes and fears of all the members, and the direction we would like to take, together. It will be a very difficult meeting, but I hope, also one of great wisdom, honesty and sensitivity.

I’ll be away next week after the meeting at a conference in Kitchener on community and neighbourhoods, but I hope to write about my experiences in our meeting next week. Thoughts and prayers with our congregation for wisdom and discernment through this trying time would be greatly appreciated! It is difficult for all of us, but it is my sincere hope that we will complete this process renewed in faith and fellowship, and if not immediately then in time a more united and strengthened group.

Next post: Building Together

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community building

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Last month, I wrote these posts with my thoughts on community. Over the spring I’ve been slowly becoming more involved with local community groups including the Strengthening Neighbourhoods – Argyle Steering Committee, and the Argyle Community Association. I’ve been glad to learn more about how our community works together as well as projects happening across the city. I’ve also been presented with many challenges in our communities, and hope to work towards solutions with others across the city.

One of the major concerns I’ve heard from everyone I’ve met with is the sense that there is a great deal of good work happening in all communities, but the work is happening in relative isolation. Each community comprises a mixture of associations, clubs, services, religious institutions, schools etc. that work on their own projects without collaborating with others in their area. This issue also happens in a broader sense, with associations across the city working on their own initiatives, often duplicating work and resources when they could be much more effectively used together. This could move ever higher, with organizations at different levels and national scopes working against each other, potentially unaware of even the existence of each other.

There is also a question of time. Though we’re extremely fortunate in London to have groups like the Urban League that work to bring all communities together to share knowledge and resources, it can be difficult to find the time to come out to their events on top of ones happening inside the isolated community. This is a challenge I’m struggling through, and hope to find solutions to. I have the sense of terrific potential, but there never seems to be enough time to accomplish everything.

This also leads to the issue of burnout. With so much work to be done, it is important for each of us to be aware of our limitations, and to be able to take care of others that may be overburdened.

I feel as if I’m still near the beginning of the learning process, and am very excited to learn more. I am very grateful to have been accepted to the board of the Argyle Community Association at our last meeting, and look forward to further learning and working in the community. I also share everything happening in the community over Twitter (check out all the latest @ArgyleCommAssoc).

Next week, I’ll be in Kitchener at a conference on community and neighbourhoods hosted by the Tamarack Institute, I’m very excited to participate, and share everything I learn there! I hope to blog and post from the conference, and find ways to harness what I’ve learned once I’m back. I’ll also post highlights via pictures from my twitter account, @BrianGibson13

Next post: Building Community