December is here… so how about starting with a Christmas-themed joke? OK… three men stand before St Peter at the gate of Heaven. They will be allowed in, St Peter says, if they can show him anything to do with Christmas. The first man roots around in his pockets and finds a lighter. “This is a candle!”, he says, and he’s allowed in. The second man fishes in his pockets and finds some keys, which he jangles – “These are bells!” He’s in. The third man searches his pockets for a while longer before eventually producing some lacy pants. In answer to St Peter’s questioning look, he says triumphantly “These are Carol’s!”
Well it made me laugh.
So it’s now just over a fortnight since Launch Day at the Dock – and I’ve been nowhere near the Titanic Quarter for most of it. That’s not quite as jammy as it sounds – one thing I know I need as I take this new role is some re-training and fresh input (planting new churches wasn’t exactly part of my theological education in Dublin…). So it was perfect timing that two conferences coincided perfectly with the first few weeks of the Dock’s existence.
First up I headed off to a church-planting conference called ‘Planting Life’ in Bath and learned:
1. Bath is lovely
2. …especially since they had an open-air exhibition of my favourite photographer, Yann Arthus-Bertrand, lining every street – check out www.earthfromtheair.com !
3. There is nothing on this planet like a good fried breakfast
4. and… I got to spend time with people of different nationalities, denominations, styles, backgrounds – all united by their desire to plant new churches and find fresh ways to worship God and serve their communities. In one day I went from feeling kinda lonely to being part of a great network of people with stories to tell and experiences to share. I found out that some people in the Netherlands are also thinking of planting a church on a boat… that the docklands of Glasgow have an urban regeneration scheme very similar to the Titanic Quarter and that the Church of Scotland have been planting a church there for the last 18 months (I’ll be going over to give that a visit!)… that this whole world of church-planting is so big and vibrant that books have been written, ‘experts’ have emerged…
5. …and maybe most importantly, all the speakers, seminar leaders and experienced practitioners agreed on one thing: it all starts with vision. The most important thing a leader can do at the start of a new church plant is to discern God’s heart and call for the area in which they are working, and set forth a vision. Something that excites people. Something that people can get behind. Something that fires the soul…
So – let’s have coffee. To anyone and everyone reading this blog, if you have an interest in, or a heart for, or an idea about the way church could grow in the Titanic Quarter, I want to hear it. I believe that God speaks through his people, his church, and that he unleashes imagination and creativity and vision in all sorts of different people. So my mission for December is to imbibe all the ideas and hopes and passions that are out there, so that 2010 might begin with the establishment of a vision for The Dock. You know where to find me (usually The Streat in the Odyssey) and how to get in contact (firstname.lastname@example.org). So get in touch, tell me your thoughts, meet me for a festive latte, and let the vision begin to take shape!
The second conference I went to was a week-long retreat as part of something called The Arrow Course, which is a leadership training course for Christian leaders. I’ve signed up to follow the course for the next 2 years and at the residential I learned:
- Newry is – well, it’s not Bath
- (although the shopping Outlet at Banbridge is quite cool)
- It’s really hard to take a break from your mobile and laptop for a week
- and… you can’t lead others if you can’t lead yourself. Again and again the different speakers and topics kept coming back to the challenge to get my own spiritual life sorted – a really good challenge to face at the start of a new venture.
So as part of the Dock website (and this blog), as well as keeping you up to speed with happenings at The Dock, I’ll be sharing some of my own story and my own walk with God. I’m not a super-holy megasaint starting building a new church based on my own personal wonderfulness. But I do believe in the power of God’s love and forgiveness for imperfect people, and I believe that he does incredible things despite (and sometimes through) our weaknesses. So I hope that this blog will be a human story and a journey of faith, not just a description of the facts. If you ever think it is becoming so crowded with programmes and ideas and meetings and events that the God-story at the heart of it all is getting buried, please give me a warning sign!
That’s all for now! I’ll try to blog again soon to share some of the ideas and thoughts surrounding the vision. For now – take care out there!