out what church can be like...
: Southend UK [02.10]
the summer of 2009 Phil Durrant spent a month with Church from Scratch
in Southend and recorded a thought provoking video diary of his impressions.
It's a diary that captures the day to day life of this distinctive church
and their mission. Phil is a trainee minister at Oxford University and
Church from Scratch is a 7 year old Baptist church, planted by Peter Dominey.
The church is now a network of 10 community groups across the area and
is organised around mission and community rather than having a Sunday
Dominey answers questions on Church from Scratch
You describe church from scratch as 'dirt under the fingernails' sort
of church. what does that mean for you?
It hints at us being a down-to-earth everyday experience. We don't do
Sundays, having moved the focus away from services (which we don't have)
to faith expressed through shared lives in missional christian community.
It also hints at the ordinariness of our lives and the pain of a number
of us dying young as a consequence of troubled lives. And lastly If we
get engaged and don't back off there's got to be dirt under the fingernails,
does what you do differ from the 'house church' movement stemming from
Errr... apologies if the answer tends to stereotype what the 'house church'
movement was about, I wasn't a Christian back then. We're multi-voice
when we gather which may be a similarity, but our leadership works more
as a resource that roves and guides the network rather than those who
are the source of all truth. Maybe that's because our view of the Trinity
is more social than the western hierarchical understanding of authority
in the godhead which may have influenced some 'house church' streams.
We're big on being incarnational and that leading to it being highly contextual
and that means the culture we are planted in will deeply shape our practices.
We don't see a blueprint for church in the Bible, the hope is that Church
from Scratch will smell of Southend-on-Sea as well as Jesus.
the video diary, Phil says you have the people but not the resources -
a reverse of the situation some more traditional shaped churches find
themselves in. Is this a creative tension?
I think Phil was referring to our ability to connect with people
from beyond the church. The lack of resources is a pain. We see easy opportunities
to reach more people if only we could resource that. You see lots of CFS
are people who just about stay afloat in life. Not people with the stability,
skills and wealth I've experienced in three previous churches as a Christian.
We've carried out two secondment exercises as a way to recruit local christians
with more capacity. Some local churches were generously open to that secondment
exercise but it's going to be hard for any long-haul Christian to transition
to our values and the way we express them when they've experienced many
years in a different tradition of church. As a creative solution we're
also exploring the possibility of offering internships with CFS and if
anyone wants to have a conversation about moving to Southend for a self-funding
internship we're up for that. White knights coming to save the day need
not apply! www.churchfromscratch.org
a bit of a revelation moment for Phil on day 5 when he realises that the
there's no need to 'get people to church' (meaning sunday morning worship)
- the outreach already is church. Do you think the wider church would
benefit from this theology?
What?! And move away from "Back to church Sunday" thinking? Surely not!
of the 5 characteristics mentioned at the end of the video is fluidity.
How does this sit alongside the need for continuity and a sense of stability?
7 years in it's increasingly hard not to congeal. Now a community of people
is at stake when we undergo change; the risk of damaging what is encourages
us to be risk averse. At the start there was no church, and it was far
easier to embrace risk with just Jesus' mission to join in with and few
people to get burnt. (Note to self: More courage needed.) And to answer
the question, the hope is that our values are continuous and our practices
can change. I just wonder if we need to develop some sort of rule-of-life
in the future to give us the stability of a limited set of rhythmical
practices so we can embrace other change without being disorientated.
Those practices might be communal or individual, they would need to be
missional. I like the way Small-boat-big-sea have started to explore that.
That's just a guess at what might be needed to help us stay fluid.
Is becoming institutionalised a genuine fear? And how do you/will you
Yes. The fear is of our increasing structures and mechanisms constraining
our ability to be redirected by Jesus and us reducing our reliance on
him. We need the structures and mechanisms to sustain and help us develop
and at the same time they seem to be the thing that sucks life from us.
A friend pointed out the "routinisation of charisma" thinking which I
found a helpful Google. Though I get a sense of the inevitability of us
institutionalising to some degree. Perhaps the answer could be controlled
demolition! For each new structure or mechanism we believe we should put
in place, we ask if there's another one we should knock down. My sketchy
knowledge of church history tells me that jumping in the life boats and
letting the old thing sink brings many new opportunities and is the way
the church has often broken free from institutionalism. But to mix up
the metaphors, if we become a turkey are we really going to vote for Christmas