Here's an email from a member of our community (Ian) to our faith community email list: What do you reckon?
I’ve been doing some thinking lately about how we view “church” (by which I mean all the activities Solace people do together as Solace people). What kind of a thing do we think Solace is? I suspect that this is important, because whatever kind of thing we decide that church is, will affect the way we choose to engage with each other through this thing we call church. We are likely to behave in ways that would be typical/acceptable in that kind of gathering.
So what is Solace? Is it club like a sports club? Is it like a professional association? Is it like going to a concert or a regular live music gig? Is it like an invitation to dinner or a barbeque with old friends? Is it like kindergarten, school, or work? Is it like a book club? What do you think?
I want to argue that for us to succeed in building a self-sustaining network of friends in Jesus spirituality; we need to think of Solace as more like an invitation to dinner or a barbeque than like a concert. By self-sustaining, I mean that there is a critical mass of people involved; that they stay for long enough to be formed and to form others; and that their kids find life in this.
If Solace is like a concert then it (whatever Solace activity we might be thinking of) is an event that we can go to if we wish. Our attendance or non-attendance at the event doesn’t alter the event. We see ourselves as observers and not central to the concert and it won’t be diminished or cancelled if we don’t go. Also, it isn’t affected by whether we choose to talk to anyone while we’re there. And over time, as our tastes change we can stop attending one band’s concerts and move on to another band without causing any pain.
If Solace is like an invitation to dinner with old friends, then it (whatever Solace activity we might be thinking of) is a gathering that only exists because of those who attend. Our decision to attend or not to attend will alter the gathering. We are not observers, we are central to making the gathering what it will be. It will be diminished and in some cases cancelled if we don’t go, and the gathering would be significantly affected if we chose not to talk to anyone while we were there. If we decide to leave this group of friends behind and move on to another group of friends there will be pain.
And there’s more. If a Solace gathering is like a dinner party or barbeque with old friends, then other guests (including their kids) will be disappointed if we are not there. The host will be disappointed and might be annoyed if we did not call ahead to indicate that we had to cancel.
I think the dinner gathering model more closely reflects what Solace is than the concert event model does. And thinking of Solace as a series of gatherings is more likely to generate the outcomes we want than thinking of Solace a series of events.
We don’t go to Solace, we are Solace. Our decisions about whether we choose to attend things and how we interact with each other when we do will make Solace what it is, or is not to become. What ever we want Solace to be is what we have to become in order to participate in making it happen.
Do we want to feel welcome? We have to welcome people.
Do we want our friends to be there when we attend? We have to commit to being at the gatherings we’re committed to, and share these commitments with our friends so they know when to expect us. And if we can’t make it, we need to call significant friends to let them know we won’t be there and perhaps make other arrangements to meet. We also have to commit to being open to forming new friends as people join us, so that they can become part of the gathering too.
Do we want the experience of worshiping with and growing with the same group of good friends over many years? Then we have to commit with Solace (or somewhere else) to be a long-term engaged member, and to put a high priority on gathering as Jesus' friends.
Our response to this is that we want Solace to feel welcoming, we want to worship with our friends and we want to keep doing so for many years. So we’re making the commitment to welcome, to befriend, and to stick around.
What do you want? What metaphor for Solace works for you? What behaviours does it call for from you? What’s your response?
Here's my response:
Certainly more of a dinner party than a concert in my view (and how I live) …
But probably less “gathering” focused (although that too) and more of an ongoing dinner party … mmm, maybe for me more of a life being a party (you know the kind where people come and go at whatever time) with specific times for speeches which is the time everyone tries to make sure they are around for (which in our case are the various “gatherings”)
But I like.
AND the focus on committing to the journey together too.