The Dock Vision

(This is a summary of the presentation from the launch of the Business Plan – a good chance to clarify The Dock vision at this stage in its development!)

Everyone needs a BHAG.  That’s a Big Hairy Audacious Goal – something big enough to fire the soul, to be impossible in human strength, to be possible only with God’s help.  Here in The Dock we have three of ’em (because just one or two isn’t big enough or hairy enough) – and they are:

1.  A Shared Future Church

It used to be fashionable to knock Belfast as the place where people beat seven bells out of each other in the name of religion.  Anyone who’s lived here through the last decade, or been part of any of the many prophetic, bold church communities who reach out beyond their four walls, knows that simply isn’t true any more.  Time to show the world how much Belfast has changed.  Time to take the unique opportunity offered by the fresh start in the Titanic Quarter to live out a Shared Future expression of church from Day One – together.

We propose a kind of ‘Chaplaincy Sofa’ – a welcoming, relational space where absolutely anyone can connect, find friendship and start a conversation – and where you might find yourself chatting to a Chaplain of any denomination.  A ‘shared medley’ where differences are respected, similarities are celebrated, and faith brings hope and joy into daily lives.

The BHAG is a shared expression of church so bold and loving that visitors across the world think to themselves, “Well if they can do it…”

2. A Community Hub

To build community, someone needs to put the kettle on.  In a busy, thriving area like the Titanic Quarter – filling up fast with residents, businesses, entrepreneurs, filmmakers, students, tourists and many more – life can easily pass by in a blur of work, eat, sleep.  We need ‘thirdspaces’ – neither home nor work – where friendships can grow, neighbours can become more than nodding acquaintances, groups can meet to ask that most basic question of community life: “So, how was your day?”

The Dock aims to kick-start those questions, those conversations and those connections; to completely steal one of the straplines used by the TQ Ltd developers, where once we built ships, now we build communities.

The BHAG is to see a day where people moving away from the TQ cry big snotty tears of emotion to have to leave behind the friends they’ve met and the community they’ve become part of.  To create a place where people belong.

3. A Beautiful Boat

Here’s the sweet part: where will all these chaplains hang out, where will the sofa be located, where will all these community-building conversations take place?  On a boat.  The Dock seeks to buy a beautiful old boat, about 100 feet in length and preferably with more than one deck (restaurant barges, clipper ships and riverboats are all under consideration), and moor it in the heart of the Titanic Quarter at the Abercorn Basin.

The boat will be a cafe space, stuffed with comfy old sofas and offering top-quality fresh locally-produced food – the kind of place you can pop into to grab a quick coffee and read the paper, or meet a friend for a long lingering lunch, or gather with your mates after work, or join a book group, or host a barbecue, or… – you get the idea.  It also offers a space for the chaplains to connect that doesn’t look like a church from any denomination, and so we step onto neutral waters together.

The BHAG is to have this boat moored in the TQ within this next year, so that The Dock can be part of the Titanic Quarter community throughout this tremendously exciting Titanic Centenary year.  Given that we’re starting from scratch, that is big and hairy and audacious – but kind of exciting…

Interested?  There are all sort of ways to connect – through the Dock Walks (a pilot project for living out that shared church), the Meet The Neighbours events at the Arc Apartments (a pilot project for living out that community hub), or by finding out more about The Dock itself (it now exists as a company in its own right, and has recently launched a Business Plan which you can find here).  You can contact one of the two Chaplains who have already been appointed, Chris or Karen.  You can sign up for email updates.  You can join us on Facebook.  You can pray for the vision to become reality.  You can visit the TQ and see first-hand the tremendously exciting the pace of change in the old Docks (Chris works part-time for the Titanic Walking Tours and can wholeheartedly recommend getting out there on foot to see all that’s happening).

However you do it, stay in touch!

Did we ever think we’d see days like these in Belfast?   What a huge privilege to be living through these incredible times for our nation, our churches and our city.