Friday, 29 August 2008

telford - Safe Space


[pics: dinner at Mark's & drinks with Mark in Ironbridge, Craig Mitchell]


We've finished at greenbelt - i've got a few more things to write about that, and will when there's time.
yesterday and today has been in telford, where there is a small community who gather around the meal table, reflect on faith, and encourage each other in the living out of their faith. worship is all of life, meditations are the focussed parts of their gathering. new monasticism is something that this community looks like, and i'll find some websites to link to eventually.
telford is an intentional city, forty years old. ironbridge, a town that is part of the telford area, has tudor and victorian buildings, and grew most dramatically with the industrial revolution. this difference is part of a difficulty in determining the wider community's identity, and the safe space community live within that.we met with Mark Berry, who is employed by CMS and the Anglican Church to be here offering this space to the community, offering peace in the manner of Christ's disciples in the gospel of Luke. i'm still processing my responses to the conversations begun yesterday afternoon and evening, and which will continue tonight as we gather over a meal with the rest of his community.

i'm starting to wonder what it means for ordained minsitry for small, less institutionalised gatherings around faith, and what it means for the institutionalised church. as Cheryl said just this afternoon, Australia might just need the uniting church, and i agree - its presence in the community has potential to point to the presence of the Holy in our community, along with other churches, and my struggle at the moment is, how do we encourage emerging, alternative forms of church without losing the best the uniting church has to offer on its bigger, state and national scale, as a presence within the Australian community?

Telford is a constructed city, linking several old old cities, including Ironbridge, which flourished in the industrial revolution, and is the site of the first bridge ever constructed out of iron. 

But Telford is only 40 years old, and has the feel of a constructed city, very different
 to the haphazard, ancient villages and towns that surround it. It feels imposed. 
At dinner, though I did drink more local English ales (warm and flat, though interesting), it didn't become apparent to me how that particularly shapes the mission activities of the group. I did hear the varied stories of how people found this group. It seems to be especially inspiring at a personal level, but I wonder if any of the conversations I wasn't party to touched on how it affects their engagement with the wider community? [pic: Michelle Coram]
I did meet Carol, who belongs to Wellington Methodist church - Wellington is one of the older towns connected to Telford, which Carol rarely visits, preferring to support local business where possible. For Carol, Safe Space is the next in a line of challenges for the living out of her faith. I guess it feeds into her experience of community with the Methodists, though the conversation took a turn in different directions, and I lost the opportunity to ask her how to reflect on how her experience at Safe Space is lived out for her... 
I also met Ian, who had spent 5 years reading about Christianity, faith, emerging church, from many perspectives, before looking on the internet for a local group and discovering Safe Space met 3 miles from his home. It's just the think he needed (I'm paraphrasing) to take a step further with his faith. He thinks he'll look for something else/more in time, though for now it's where he wants to be. 
Mark told me about St Brendan's Cross, which has become something of a symbol for the group. He painted a great icon. The cross, boats/sailing and the Gospel of Mark are strong influences for the group as it gathers. Pilgrimage is a key activity along with meditation and the meeting over a meal. 

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