I was out volunteering on detached around the streets of Hartlepool this evening. Just walking and wandering around. In the end there wasn’t many opportunities for conversations but that’s not so important. In a culture where every moment is viewed through a lens of how effective, purposeful and impactful time is. Just being available and wasting time providing space for people is not only valuable, but valued and counter cultural.
For all the activities and events, the more open and informal the space, the most likely to connect with people, to be able to listen and It’s not only counter cultural because it values conversation but that it requires that people slow down. It means that we can act out being interested in other people.
I was hearing today of the stressed out male who turned up at a community cafe. Was given a conversation, a coffee and disclosed about a relationship issue with their son. At the end the person want to give the church a £5 for the coffee. That’s how much it meant to the person. It is valued.
Mary Rogers suggests that places become safe when people share authenticity and common values. This in a building is also created because a building exudes trust like a church. But this can also happen outside. Public spaces can be caring spaces. Places of listening. As young people have commented, ‘when with us they feel safe’ though they’re still outside.
In addition. The church is caught in a resource trap. Since the late 1890’s ministries that used more formal teaching and resources excluded the harder to reach. Or anyone who already opt out of the activity. We want programmes and off the shelf and organised. To be truly counter culrural , open to others and do mission, the perogative is to offer counter cultural space. To value conversation and opportunities to meet people where theyre at.
Oh and offer cake. Coffee. Or soup. Lets do church that is regularly available. Create welcoming hopeful listening spaces. Slow meaningful conversations and relationships.