growing collectively

I'm quite resentful that 'mutual flourishing' has become associated with what it has in the CofE, as it feels such a waste of a sumptuous phrase to only use it in that area of our church life. As a phrase it would be so useful for describing what I mean when I talk about a 'mixed ecology' church: where all sorts of Christian communities, led by all sorts of people in healthy, honouring relationships with each other, deeply love their neighbourhood and live in harmony with their place.


I love to think of our parishes metaphorically as allotments fields: where people are tending and growing in small patches so that together they are inhabiting the whole space. Many allotment fields are run by a collective of the allotment holders - no-one in charge, no-one more important but listening to each other's needs, trouble-shooting and solving problems by consensus and relationship. Most allotment-holders are incredibly generous with their produce, their tools, their hard-won wisdom and knowledge of that area of land. What if our church could be a bit like that?


Lots of people, lay and ordained, walking alongside each other as they grow as disciples and live out their faith in small, diverse communities; sharing tools and resources and wisdom; no spirit of competition but of the whole being more than the sum of its parts. Those trained in theology resourcing others, those ordained enabling the sacramental life of the communities, those with gifts flourishing as they share and serve and grow. Sharing responsibility and belonging to each other.


That's my dream for the parish: that those who gather in the building will be supported and empowered in their worship and fellowship by those who meet in the school, those who worship outdoors held in prayer by those who instead grow spiritually through the arts, those gathering online loving and honouring the children who grow in their faith in messy or sweaty or muddy ways (and maybe cleaning up afterwards.) Those who raise holy hands in sung worship, those bowed low before the censed-altar, those praying together in the workplace and those meeting the Spirit in silent contemplation in someone's home, united in sharing the good news, being good news for their neighbours and challenging injustice in society, and all of them caring for creation together.


Because our unique calling as the Church of England is to be the church for the parish, for everyone regardless of whether they come once a year, just for funerals, every month or never. In our complex and diverse world, it makes sense that meeting in diverse ways can touch the lives of more people in all of the four spaces of contemporary life and provide pathways to go on their faith journey with us.