Dream story ...so far"
It took a while
for us to get here though! Here's the story so far…
As we met to prepare the report (which had a six months brief!) YAC soon decided that as well as simply talking about ideas and dreaming of how we would like the church to be in theory, we now had a safe space to actually live out that kind of church and experiment in worship together. Meeting fortnightly to do this, YAC soon became a 'church' in all ways except name.
By late summer YAC, having published its report, had created community so effectively that the members, with one or two exceptions, wanted to go on meeting together for worship1 as well as starting to prepare for planting a creative worship community in the city centre. In February 2002 'Dream' was born with the strap-line 'Re-imagining Church', expressing a desire to be creative and think outside the mainstream 'box' whilst holding on to the community of faith, the essential concept of 'church'.
An article in 'CrossCurrents', the diocesan magazine, picks up the story…
A Dream service would typically include some 'led' elements around a theme that all people were invited to join in with, though not necessarily led in the traditional way by someone standing at the front. It may be an invitation to discuss issues informally around the tables, a spoken meditation, a piece of music, a visual reflection or a combination of these elements! In addition there would be various stations around the room with different installations, exercises or reflections that worshippers were invited to visit at any point during the evening. This allowed for real individual engagement in a gathered context. The services were intentionally open-ended, allowing people to reach their own conclusions and offer their own worship, whilst prayerfully trusting the Holy Spirit with the outcomes. It was in this that the real power and attraction of Dream lay.
Before long, Dream was gathering anywhere between 30 and 70 people, most, but not all, of whom would be between the ages of 18 and 30. Most Dream regulars were people who had other church connections but appreciated the creative approach offered by Dream, which they found lacking in their regular church. Some Dream regulars had no other church connection, viewing Dream itself as their church. It was not unusual for such people to bring along their own 'non-churched' friends to future services having experienced the openness of Dream themselves.
The advantages of meeting in a city centre bar were many - the relaxed atmosphere, the fact that people naturally gathered in these spaces, the open bar during the worship, and so on - but very soon the principal drawback became apparent. Again, the CrossCurrents article described a then recent issue…
Dream soon became nomadic, moving from venue to venue, with the associated pressures of building new relationships with venue staff from scratch, unfamiliar surroundings when it came to setting up and so on. Each move also adversely affected the number of people attending. Coupled with this, YAC, which had become the planning and leadership group of Dream, had become smaller making it increasingly difficult to sustain a large and labour intensive event. Although YAC was still meeting fortnightly, with additional meetings when needed, planning for Dream had taken over our life as a community. With the busyness of setting up for Dream and making sure everything ran smoothly the members of YAC were also aware that we were unable to get to know new people coming to Dream and so build real caring community.
Towards the end of 2003 we made the decision to step back from organising larger Dream services for the time being, to discover again together the vision for Dream and how it was going to progress. At the same time opportunities arose for networking with other similar initiatives in the diocese, most notably 'Emerge' in Haydock and an 18-30s group meeting in Everton. That's where we find ourselves at the moment - rediscovering what it means to be a small creative worshipping community, where the Dream is able to grow not simply by drawing more people to a central event, but by enabling a network of groups to emerge around shared values. At the time of writing 'Dream' is made up of three networked groups - 'Dream in the City' , 'Dream in Haydock' and 'Dream in Everton' - each doing their own thing whilst sharing values, ideas, etc with the wider network. A new website is also being developed which will carry information about the network and shared resources, as well as utilising forums for discussion amongst members of the respective groups, the wider network and anyone who's interested.
we have avoided the term 'alternative worship' though there are close
links and similarities to this 'type' of community