When you move to a new area you need to meet people.
The only way I know how to do this is to be out and about … cafes. pubs, music venues, the street at key times of the day.
Sometimes, though, I don’t feel up to the vulnerability level that getting out there on my own places me in and so I need to collect ‘tools’ to help me.
People sometimes say I’m brave to minister the way I do … I’m not sure that’s the case but it is true that I often go out scared, wondering what I might come across, how I may be reacted to and what will happen. But … that is part of the role so if you can be brave while terrified then … well … that’s ok I guess.
A precursor to all these is to wander around the streets in a prayer walk. I have already lost count of how many times I have prayer walked around the new parish … that sounds pious … it’s not but just merely be focussing in on the fact that I believe nothing happens without prayer and, in these early weeks, part from meeting people all there is to do IS pray!
At my tutorial at CMS with Cathy Ross on Monday we were talking about this and she suggested I try Street Wisdom as some kind of tool to work with. Essentially the concept is tying some exercises to heighten your observation skills on the street before gong on a ‘quest’ (taking a question out and looking for answers on the street).
My description does it no justice so what I suggest is look at the website, download the free audio guide and give it a go. I wanders and saw my patch is a new way, even after just a few weeks of being here. Slowing down and listening, looking, smelling and just noticing was quite an amazing experience. I was surprised by what hit me, and the message I received.
I was walking down one street asking my question (which was ‘what is this community yearning for?’) when I stumbled across this great big sign saying ‘one way’. I don’t really do ‘one way’ things and kind of found is amusing that I had planned, and went, in the opposite direction. I felt an answer developing that was saying there is more than one way, and part of the issue is that, in the past, one way has prevented the right way.
As I continued to wander I came across some garages attached to flats. These garages had
been gated off (I’m guessing by the council) and had been boarded up. They spoke of desolation. I felt they had been ripped away from those that had cared for them. As I looked, I saw a real beauty and potential in them. I was nervous, at first, wandering their on my own (that vulnerability thing again) but as I disappeared from sight of the community i felt the space to be one of great peace and welcome rather than threat and fearsome. I guess that could be different on any other time than 3pm on a sunny day!
As I continued with my quest i got a growing sense that the answer was something along the lines of ‘being cared for’ or simply ‘being loved’. Maybe that seems an obvious answer and maybe we could argue every community is looking for that But … this came from listening to and watching my streets; so its not just about being loved but about being loved in a way that means something … and that will be the next quest …. ‘what does loving look like here?’