Here's the latest in my series of posts for small missional communities about creating and sustaining community:
This next post in the ‘ways into small missional community’ series starts with the observation that some mix of shared ritual, words and images seem to be vital for a sustained sense of community. The gestures we make, the words we say, and the songs we sing shape us. I only get to see the football team I support very occasionally now but when I do get there it’s as much participating in the ritual of the support as seeing what happens on the pitch that makes feel that I belong. [The famous but now precariously placed Sheffield Wednesday, if you’re asking.]
I’m currently working with Nightchurch at Exeter cathedral. One of the projects we are working on is the idea of creating a Nightchurch night prayer. The idea is to create something simple that we can use regularly as community, and get to know so well that it becomes part of us, keeping us to our calling and focussing us not on ourselves but on the Jesus that we seek. If you sense that creating a community liturgy [liturgy = public work] might be a good idea for you, here’s a few pointers...
It’s important that any liturgy or ritual invites participation, that it reflects your calling and your place of belonging. Try to create something that is 'in tune with' the space that you use. Make it simple, and not too wordy. Don’t reinvent the wheel - draw perhaps on some of the patterns in the liturgies that you already have in your tradition. But also look to create something new that reflects the experiences, the language and the culture of the people in the community and in your wider setting. It must make sense here and now.
Create this together. Of course there will be a few who have particular skills in this area - perhaps get them to shape something after an initial session together - and then get everyone involved again in a re-shaping. Don’t be afraid to let it evolve as you use it. And create space for stillness. It’s vital that we keep coming back to that point where our words cease, our actions stop, and we allow the great liturgy-maker to do something unexpected, something beyond our expectations, something truly ‘marvelous in our eyes’ [Psalm 118.23]
peace to you