Fullness of Life in the Neighbourhood

Monday, May 9, 2022, 7 to 9PM

Mark 12: 28b-31
…he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 

What is God calling us to as the church? We gather in faith communities to be formed in the Way of Jesus and to “practice” and embed new ways of being with one another; loving, forgiving, and affirming each other as  we experience the transformative unconditional love of God. We gather, too, to express our gratitude and praise to the Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer for the constancy and wonder of that breathtaking and  redemptive love, and to lift up together our needs and the needs of the world to God. But we are also called to love our neighbours…to be an embodied witness tothat love in the neighbourhoods in which our faith communities are planted. William Temple, former Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury reminds us “The Church is the only institution that exists primarily for the benefit of those who are not its members.”

What does that look like – to be an incarnate witness to God’s love in our own neighbourhoods? It is expressed in our desire for everyone in our neighbourhood to experience God’s fullness of life…a life marked by justice, equity and restored relationships where brokenness is acknowledged and redeemed into  wholeness. A foundational piece for us of this fullness is the recognition that God is already at work in our neighbourhoods bringing about the kingdom. It’s not our job to bring God to the neighbourhood; it’s our call to look for signs of God’s work and to come alongside that work and the people already doing that work.

How do we do that? Incarnational, mission-shaped people move out into their neighbourhoods, and they connect themselves to the rhythms and flow of life in their neighbourhood. The key to connecting to the neighbourhood rhythm is missional listening! Are you rolling your eyes because I’ve used that adjective “missional” again? I suspect you might be but bear with me. Missional listening is distinguished by several characteristics. First, the listener has no self-serving agenda; the only agenda is to listen to the stories of our neighbours, to get to know their joys and their challenges – and to notice where God appears to be at work in their lives. The missional listener is listening for places that connect to their own passions, to their own story,  and wonders with the storyteller about ways in which they might come together to deepen their connection through their shared passion or join together to deal with the challenge(s) they share in common. Essentially God is inviting us to notice the gifts and dreams already existing in the neighbourhood and connect them to our own gifts and dreams to bring about the kingdom, the restoration of fullness of life for everyone.

What might that look like or how might this unfold? A missional listener might hear a story about a local school that has no recreational equipment for use during recess, and they might connect the principal at that school with a community member who regularly provides soccer balls to schools in another country who had no idea that a school in his own community had the same need. A missional listener might hear another story from a parent who remembers the joy she felt when coaching her daughter’s soccer team, and the listener might hook her up with parents at the school with the new soccer balls who are looking for a recess coach or an after-school coach. A missional listener might hear a story about children at that same school not having seasonally appropriate clothing, and then might connect families with excess winter coats and boots who want to share with families at the school. From that connecting, a regular winter clothing depot might be established with parents sharing their stories as they work alongside one another to provide clothing for each
other’s children. From that sharing of stories might emerge the need for a drop-in centre for children and their parents on Saturday mornings which might mesh with a local church’s desire to provide space in their building to community members. And that might morph into a community garden which might generate a community kitchen which might bring into being a regular shared meal. And the story telling over meals might lead to a concern about an issue that parents share about the school in the community which could lead to a community meeting with school personnel. And in each of these connections, there is the opportunity to notice aloud where one sees signs of God at work, to offer to pray for someone else, to offer prayers for the shared work or gathering, and to talk about how the transformative love of God impacts the storyteller’s life. Out of missional listening comes community building, sharing of gifts, talents and passions, loving service to one another, and advocacy against injustice – and the opportunity to be an incarnate witness to God’s love in the neighbourhood and in each of our lives.

One of the most critical learnings for those of us new to missional listening is to hear people’s selfidentified needs rather than to enter these conversations with preconceived ideas about what people need or agendas about what we are supposed to be doing. Our call is to be present to people where they are – not where we want them or expect them to be. We must trust that God is present with us and that our interaction is on a holy trajectory. 

Just as The Church of Our Saviour The Redeemer’s missional listening followed God to soccer balls, then clothing sharing, a children’s breakfast program and more. Just as St. Aidan’s offered hot chocolate and conversation to moms waiting for school buses and then followed God to community partnerships in support of children and families; just as Church of the Incarnation heard parents and young people in despair and followed God into safe mental health space; just as St. James Fergus heard an ever growing need for meals and companionship, and followed God from a regular volunteer-provided meal to partnerships with local chefs and restaurants that feed hundreds; just as parishioners from Christ Church responded to a lack of children’s activities in Dain City by following the Spirit to a children’s theatre and summer camp that  encompassed prayer, God-filled scripts, and growing gifts.

And remember this isn’t just about a “parish ministry”. We each as individuals can be present to those in our neighbourhoods and workplaces, and allow God to change people’s lives through us. Just as one man’s invitation to a neighbour to join him on his front porch where they shared life stories over several visits led to an invitation to be present with the family as their matriarch was dying, to witness to the presence of God in the midst of their sorrow. 

Complete the Snapshot Tool and Register for the Consultation

Please complete the pre-gathering Fullness of Life in the Neighbourhood Snapshot Tool before attending the consultation. 

Please pre-register to attend the consultation before Saturday, May 7, as it helps us prepare for our session. Thank you.