As part of our life together, we are committed to gathering for worship, celebration and connection in between our annual camp. At the end of July was our Winter Gathering, hosted by the Sangster-Olsen family at Fairfield Uniting Church.
8 families attended, sharing lunch then moving into some community singing – featuring camp favourites “The Canticle of the Turning”, “Faith, Hope and Love” and “Michael Row the Boat ashore” with improvised lyrics.
To “warm us up”, we did an activity called “Here I stand” – which involved moving around the space in various was – looking or not looking at each other, walking quickly or slowly etc. then stopping and stating “Here I stand in….” saying something literal or figurative, depending on how imaginative we were feeling!
Alex then led us through a “Tree Narrative Therapy” process, which invited us to draw and reflect on the people we come from, the things that give us strength in our lives, things that we are doing and becoming, things we have lost, and “bugs” that chew away at our attempts to live a good life.
Once we had drawn our trees, we set up an “exhibition” so that people could wander through the “forest” and learn about what other people’s trees were like. We were invited to ask questions about what people had drawn. This was a sensitive and courageous opportunity for people to share more deeply about what was really happening in life, and it was fascinating to discover many things that children and adults had in common with each other, and to talk about them. It was a wonderfully engaging process!
After our tree narratives, Robyn led the group through a kind of visioning activity, where we thought about our families and what kind of faith community we would like to be involved in. Three questions were asked:
- What would a thriving faith community look like?
- What would make your family want to be part of this faith community?
- What are the obstacles to your family being part of a faith community?
People wrote their ideas on post-it notes and placed them with each question.
Here’s what people said:
What would a thriving faith community look like?
- Music, singing, Music
- Eating Together, Sharing meals, Sharing meals together
- Looking after each other when they need it most
- Sometimes is may be a family video message to the next family to the next…
- Being, gathering, relationship, talking and listening
- Gathering together, Gathering together in person (from an older person)
- Rest and inspiration
- Exploring stories of our faith and making daily life meaning
- Helping us all to be all we can be in God
- People who are honest
- People spilling into rooms and singing happily together, sharing worries and joys or just being there!
- Sharing life at the deep place – vulnerable, strong
- Walking/sitting, singing/praying
- People who smile when they see each other after a while of no contact
- Sharing chocolate
- Vibrant fun, good simple food, unconditional acceptance
- A nurturing space
- An empowering experience
- Social justice embodied
- Embracing new people into it
- Known amongst the wider church
- Striving forward
- Upholding each other between ‘events’
- Standing for social justice and inclusive worship
- Sharing faith and life
- Being together
- Bringing together
What would make your family want to be part of this faith community?
- Commitment to each other
- Care for all ages
- Content for all ages
- Opportunities to sing, make music and tell stories
- Food and lollies
- Acceptance of all
- A continued sense of welcome
- Music class (building community through learning)
- Interesting engaging worship across age groups
- Putting faith into action
- Acceptance and places for all ages
- All age community
- Engaging worship and conversations
- Chances to be creative and discuss thoughts and ideas as a group
- Fun activities
- Authentic connection and authentic worship
- The chance to go on retreat
- Trust, friendship and challenging robust conversation
- Holidays together
- Tree planting
- Less words more action
- Impromptu times put it on the web
- A space to play
- Whole of family inclusion
- Adult weekends
- Life-giving friendships and relationships
- The joy of people worship together
- Another camp style meeting in the year
What are the obstacles to your family being part of a faith community?
- Other Commitments
- Other Commitments
- Already in an existing faith community
- Young people
- Ineffective prioritising – but this could change
- Feeling of lack of knowledge of how to express faith
- The challenge of supporting and leading in our existing faith community
- Fear/uncertainty that if we make the time to participate/attend, we will be the only ones
- Access – transport
- Ties to existing faith community vs preference to be with this one
- Recognising it won’t always be all of us as children get older
- Busy family life & making a mindset commitment
- Too many different commitments between family members
- Alone time
- Children getting older
- Teens wanting their own space
- No Chocolate
We closed our gathering with a simple arrangement of “Go now in Peace” from Together in Song using tuned and untuned percussion instruments kept at the church.
Through these gatherings we hope to build one another up in love, and experience together engaging, all-age worship. And chocolate.
Our next challenge is to find practises we can do while apart from one another – stay tuned!