Six of us from the Upper Room went to Bournville in Birmingham for the Inhabit conference yesterday, and led a workshop on Redemptive Community and the power of conversation in that. We had a great day – here is the material that we used. It can be printed as an A5 booklet. It had pictures, speech bubbles etc in to break it up but they wouldn’t display properly here so I’ve taken them out.
The Upper Room Community at the Inhabit Conference Friday 3rd October 2014
Building Redemptive Community
The fabric of community life has changed in the UK in recent years: people now work longer hours and further from home; rates of depression, mental illness and addiction have soared. The apparent acceptability of public judgement and criticism of others, as seen in the papers, ‘celeb’ magazines and on social media, separate us from one another & sow competition. Poverty & struggle impact many.
We, at the Upper Room, live and work in a town that is polarised, socially and economically and has large pockets of deprivation. Poverty and the struggle it brings can take all the energy and joy out of life. The Social Clubs and local pubs have all closed down in recent years. We can lose hope for the future without others to journey with and daily life can feel overwhelming.
Isolation and anxiety impact the body and the mind. If we don’t have anyone to be safe being our real self & share problems with, we can eel fear, shame or humiliation. Vulnerability is counter-intuitive, but is the answer to connecting humans in relationship.
Redemption: Becoming Fully Human
From the earliest story of Creation, we see that “it was not good” for a human to be alone! Aswell as providing company, God himself hung out in the Garden with the first humans, so they had access to love and wisdom every day. To be fully human is to be in healthy relationships with God and others.
Jesus’ life is our example: he spent his time talking, eating, listening, being available to those who were marginalised & drawing them back into society.
As Christians – God’s children – we have a unique position in society to affirm the worth and value of each person, made in God’s image, and to value community life that is healthy and inclusive. To gather and draw people into life with God. The world we live in is the setting for God’s transforming action, now, via the Holy Spirit – we join in.
The power to be human is nurtured, consciously or unconsciously, by relationships…Health is indissolubly connected with relationships and concern. Loneliness has a direct effect on the processes of the brain. Stress and death arise through isolation.
…God is near those whose bodies suffer – despite us trying to grasp him with our heads, through understanding…God encounters us in the human body – touching is experienced as assurance, as confirmation of the self, and of healing.
E Moltmann-Wendell, I am My Body, Continuum, NY USA, 1995, pp23-24
I believe we become more fully human with any gesture of generosity, any time we reach out to another rather than withdraw into our individual suffering. To become fully human we need to keep opening our hearts, no matter what. At this time, when suffering and anxiety continue to increase…I try to remember to keep my heart open.
M Weatley, Turning to One Another, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Fan Franscico, 2009
Redemption: Through Community and Relationship
It has been our experience that as we journey together,prayerfully and honestly, sharing our vulnerabilities and struggles together, we have become aware of the power of community among us as a healing force. It has changed us. Rather than experiencing the healing of God directly or supernaturally, we have learned instead that if we push nto the experience of being fully human, we release a different power born of God- the power of loving community and relationship as a healer.
Before I came to the Upper Room, I just stayed in every day. I had really bad panic attacks and was drinking a lot. My support worker from the Mental Health Crisis Team told me about the Upper Room, three years ago.
Since I started coming I became a Christian & got baptised. Now I help people out wherever I can. I go to other groups and volunteer, and I’ve been for counselling. I fundraise for Christian Aid and help out at a local farm. I read the Gospel at our services & have been on trips. I’ve had help to sort out my flat, with curtains & carpet.
I like it because everybody was so nice and welcoming. You can talk about whatever you want. I like meeting new people. I feel better in myself and my self-confidence has increased. In future I’d like to get a full or part time job and get out of debt. I have learnt about the Bible, and to look after myself better. I show my faith by helping others and going to church every Sunday.
I didn’t have anyone to talk to before, about how I felt & my problems. Now I have more people to talk to. I’ve been coming for nearly a year. Since I came I’ve been to the drop-in, to people’s houses for Community meals, to Communion, Gloucester Cathedral and on a trip to the Safari Park. I’ve joined the cooking group & I helped every week at the Playscheme we ran in summer.
I like it because the people are nice and friendly and Pete makes me cups of tea! I think there should be more friendly and safe places for people. I feel much better in myself when I talk to the people there. Kim is very helpful to me.
In future I’d like to come on Fridays more often and maybe join the gardening group.
Group Activity: Restoring Connection Through Conversation From Margaret Weatley Turning to One Another, 2009
I believe we can change the world if we start listening to one another again. Simple, honest, human conversation…simple truthful conversation where we each have a chance to speak, we each feel heard, & we listen well.
What would it be like to listen again to each other about what disturbs & troubles us? What gives us energy & hope? About our yearnings, fears, prayers, our children?
I wonder if you believe, as I do, that this world needs changing. Human conversation is the most ancient & easiest way to cultivate the conditions for change..If we sit together & talk about what’s important to us, we begin to come alive.
..Conversation takes time. We need time to sit together, to listen, to worry and to dream together..I hope we can reclaim conversation as our route back to each other..Margaret Weatley, p9
In small groups, please think and talk about:
1) “How do we learn to live in a world that is increasingly chaotic?” M Weatley, p10 Fear & anxiety disconnect us from one another and paralyse us so we can’t make connection and change happen. Where have you noticed this fear/anxiety and what impact has it had in your own life? Have you seen it have an impact in your neighbourhood / community?
2) “We become hopeful when somebody tells the truth” M Weatley, p23 When have you experienced honest and risk taking conversations lately? Can you recall any that generated action or connection? How did that process happen?
3) “The cure for despair is not hope. It is discovering what we want to do about something we care about.” M Weatley, p23 What is there around you that needs to change? Which groups are excluded or what services are lacking for people? What would make a difference to your area & help people re-establish connections with one another? What do YOU care about?
What are you going to do to start these kinds of conversations back home? Write below:
Prayers – let us pray..
God has chosen to make his home in us;
We pray this seeps into our souls
and re-orders our view of ourselves and all others as redeemable;
worthy of hope and a future.
God has chosen this earth, that he made for the blessing of all;
We pray this seeps into our souls
And re-orders our behaviour, our patterns of greed & consumption,
and our care for the land.
God has chosen people who were far off to become His people;
We pray this seeps into our souls
and moves us to love and care for those who mourn,
are outcast or alone.
Lord help us to see ourselves and others as you see us;
To put our house in order with your help:
Opening up the dark corners of failure and shame,
and inviting your light & healing in.
As we remember God’s grace, we pray together:
All: We confess that our memory is weak,
That we look in the mirror, then forget who we are.
We are prone to wandering off, lost and alone.
We confess at times we find it hard to stick with You on this journey and sometimes come close to giving up.
May we remember that You gave everything in order to make Your home with us;
that You have given us a new story of freedom & liberation.
Make us a people worthy of your habitation,
Communities of compassion, kindness and peace.
We confess we have cupboards full of skeletons, drawers
bursting with mistakes, fears and pain that we try to hide
from You and from those who love us;
Forgive us when we judge others and don’t offer welcome,
At the same time as we cry out for Your forgiveness and belonging.
We are sorry and want to do better; help us amend our hearts and turn to You, and to one another.
We stand and say together:
We rise up today,
clothed in the strength of Christ;
We go out today, loved,
to serve and love Christ’s world.
We do not go alone,
We will not be afraid,
For we are not orphans;
We are the beloved of God.
M Weatley, Finding Our Way
B Brown Taylor An Altar In the World
W Brueggemann The Practice of Prophetic Imagination
G Arbuckle Refounding the Church
B Brown Daring Greatly
T Reynolds Vulnerable Communion
C Heurertz & C Pohl Friendship at the Margins
D Runcorn Rumours of Life
D Dark Everyday Apocalypse
C Ross (ed) The Pioneer Gift (available to buy today)