Monday, July 23, 2007

New Housing

Lots of stuff in this mornings news about the floods, alongside government proposals on home-building and the impact of new houses on floods. Topical here in Yeovil too - one of the 3 key sites around the town, a development of 717 houses on Lyde Road to the E of the town, slopes down to the river Yeo, and the only community provision aside from a school will be a 'riverside park'. With the run-off from the houses and streets, in place of nice, absorbent earthy fields, I wouldn't be surprised if the 'park' is flooded for some of year.

A group of 9 church leaders, from 6 different denominations, met on Saturday morning to think and pray about how we respond to the new developments. Yeovil already has the appearance of a doughnut (Cerne Homer (see below), back off, not that sort of doughnut) of a core of neighbourhoods with a high density of churches, surrounded by a ring of neighbourhoods with little or no local church presence to speak of. Two of the estates will have, as their 'local' church, village churches with congregations of 4-6 which are physically cut off from the estates, with established village congregations and ways of doing things.

Astoundingly, and as a fantastic answer to prayer, we came away after eating, talking and praying together with complete agreement on the outlines of a strategy, and initital commitments from each church to make a practical contribution. The basic idea is small teams of Christians, drawn from local churches, who move onto the new estates with the intention of being the nucleus of a new Christian community for those areas. Rather than seek to plant a church - going in with a predetermined idea of what the end result will be - the aim is to be there to serve the community, to share the good news of the love of God, and to see what emerges. It could be a new church (i.e. worshipping community, not a building) for that community, it could be something else.

With building work starting, possibly, in 2008, the next phase is to talk about this to our churches, and to get to work on some of the more knotty issues to do with oversight, who will lead what, how exactly do we go about this and give it the best chance of success. With Yeovil, very likely, expanding in small clumps of housing rather than in vast new estates, we need to find ways of being God's people in smaller communities than the traditional urban parish, combining the strengths of good town-wide churches with good neighbourhood churches. To find such a large cross-section of churches in agreement with this vision, and willing to do something about it, has been great.

2 other little stories: one local church, with whom we'd had little contact, was mentioned during the morning, and we expressed a hope of making some kind of a link with them. On the way home one of the people at the meeting met a man who turned out to be a member of this church, and they got talking....

A few weeks ago I emailed Anglican Church Planting Initiatives, who are the national experts in church planting stuff for Anglicans, and said we were looking at how to go about mission to new communities of 1500-2000 residents with up to 9 partner churches from 6 different streams/denominations, and was there anyone else who'd done this that we could learn from? They said no, there wasn't! It's such fun being a pioneer........

1 comment:

  1. Yea, God can be so unpredictable. Situations we see as obvious turn out to be not very helpful and yet He arranges meetings and conversations when we least expect them.