I’ve been thinking a lot recently about connection.
That can mean a variety of things. It can mean something about feeling personally connected, or rooted, into something or somewhere. Connection can also be about the six degrees of separation stuff which, supposedly, link us to each other relationally. There is also the connecting side of connection; what I mean here is probably that entrepreneurial ‘stuff’ of noticing things that are not currently connected but could be and produce great positive results from being connected. Then there are the connections we make as we get to know a variety of people in different circumstances in a particular geographical area.
In various conversations over the last couple of weeks I have been shocked, rocked, knocked …. blah blah blah … to realise that I have now been in Gillingham for 26 years! For 24 of those years I have been involved in some form of Christian ministry working alongside the people of this town that I now call home.
During those 24 years a lot of connections with the people of this place have developed. I have been incredibly conscious recently through involvement in some of what the CofE calls ‘occasional offices’ (baptisms, weddings, funerals) how ‘connected’ I have become with various peoples stories. It seems now that it’s becoming more and more common to meet people with whom I have some link through being here for so long.
This week I have met with people who instantly relaxed when they recognised me from running a youth club 24 years ago! They are now 38, with their own children and as we chatted it was exciting to see these people are still connected, through various ways, with the local Christian community. I have met couples seeking to have their children baptised who I am connected to through the past ministry of GYFC. I am marrying couples with whom I have various connections through schools and other stuff. I am welcoming parents who were in various youth clubs at school parents evenings who now have children about to leave school! I am being stopped by people in the High Street who recognise me from ‘somewhere’ and we talk and we remember each other ….
Apart from making feel incredibly old I also feel a stirring of excitement within me. You may ask why ….. well it’s because, without wishing to offend, Gillingham has been a bloody hard place to work in! It’s not been an easy middle class leafy suburb where people have flocked to events and churches. National and international speaker type people have been here and left telling us how amazingly hard a ‘mission field’ this place is. Those were encouraging times …. not! People are honest and searching … and asking … but often we/church/christians have been answering the wrong questions for a significant group of people. (For some the church has also been asking the right questions … so please don’t think i’m knocking the good work of the local church cos I aint!)
But, despite the toughness, I am excited, because what I outline above are great mission opportunities. By that, I don’t mean people converting, bums on pews and stuff like that, because I believe firmly the Bible makes it clear that is God’s job and not mine; but I take mission to be about lives being transformed, and through that communities being transformed, and by that towns being transformed, then cities, then countries, then … well you get the drift! In short hand, Christians call this ‘the gospel’ … or good news!
To be good news, it;s got to make a positive difference … right? It’s got to be about transformation and love and grace and acceptance. Is it good news if it’s not good news to all? I’m not even sure if I know what I am asking there?
Gillingham has been a bloody hard place to work in, and continues to be, but God is here! God is working and peoples lives are changing as we are invited to support and serve. God is doing Godstuff and i’m constantly looking to join in with that.
And the point of this post is … well I’m not sure … apart from urging a commitment to rootedness and building connections. It’s worth taking time to connect …. it’s good to connect … we are created to connect!
One of the beauties, and nightmares, of blogging is that ‘stuff’ you write is always there. I often look back a year or two and cringe and ask ‘did I really believe that?’. A little over a year ago I wrote about being rooted here. I’ve linked to this post because, a year on, I still shout a loud yes to this ….
I hope to continue to be
listening to the heartbeat of the community and responding appropriately …. what else can we do
what other option do we have….
.. time for …