Life Together: Living In and With the Community


A few weeks back I had the opportunity to sit with a number of local leaders here in Calgary as we discussed the ways in which we could missionally live within each of our communities and seek Kingdom transformations within them. Listening to a number of speakers including Dan Meades of Vibrant Communities, Paul Sparks of The Parish Collective, and Mayor Naheed Nenshi; I had mixed feelings as to the movement of the church to truly address the full potentials of their abilities. Don't get me wrong please, I see the church (or at least some churches) becoming more missional in their relevance and intentionality; I'm just not sure they're willing to step fully out into doing it in a revolutionary impacting way. In any case, Harv Matchullis asked a number of questions recently in which to further the dialogue we started a few weeks ago and I thought I would take the opportunity to explore them a bit here.

Tell us at least one key learning you took away from the event and how it has impacted your actions.

I'd like to think that we already are mindful of the needs within our community but, the honest truth is that I realize I spread our missional outreach far beyond our local context. The realities are that Expressions is a significantly small community made up of only 6 people at its core; most of which has dividing ties with other church communities and living within different neighbourhoods. Does this prevent us from being missional? No, there has been many missional activities to which we have engaged over the last few years including Mustard Seed involvements and our Mars Hill Adventures at the Body, Soul, and Spirit Expo. Yet, it's one thing to which I recognized we were lacking while listening to the local leaders discuss what it means to do life together. We need to become more intentional and focused on our local impact and outreach.

This is something I continue to work on, pray for, and endeavour to engage. In some aspects I am attempting to network with others to try and identify some of the local needs. In other cases, I am in deep prayer that other local leadership might join within Expressions to try and build a community movement which can intentionally inspire community transformation within the reaches of our local SE neighbourhoods. To put it simply, we need more local people within our movement!

Tell us what you have done with your learning, or what you are planning/thinking of doing. (You might help spark/inform someone elses’ action plan).

Although I do not believe  my physical challenges are a full encompassment of my identity nor the sole calling of ministry I feel drawn too; I recognize a deep lacking of reaching out to those who have both physical and mental challenges in life. A few years back I remember talking with a local transport expert in City Hall and they estimated that 12%-16% of the city's population was considered to have a disability in some form or way. Locally I see this number daily from Josh, a mentally challenged lot associate in Safeway, to a young greeter in our local Walmart who is in a wheelchair. Most people in our community will not recognize this but there is most likely someone living with a physical or mental challenge on every block in our SE neighbourhoods.

A few years back I started a ministry called Re:Genesis to try and build an environment where these people could gather and find encouragement, inspiration, and common life developments. I was unable to continue the group with a lack of finical support and local advocacy. Still, I would greatly like to resurrect this ministry and endeavour to bridge God's Kingdom to those who face challenges in life within our local SE neighbourhoods!

To do this I recognize we would need a few things in place.

  1. Support and Advocacy to communicate the involvements of the group. - Newsletter Ads, word of mouth, local church leadership support.
  2. Financial Aid to support ministry. - Food supply, Ad campaigns, Space provisions.
  3. Space to Host Group. - Local Hall provision.
  4. Volunteers to support in set up and preparation both of space and meals.

This is perhaps just one endeavour to which I have thought of exploring. I also hope that I might be able to partner with other ministries so as to bring more leadership into Expressions movements.

“What ‘help’ would really help you move your idea/plan forward?  Is there anything we can do to help you think it through or find the help you need?”

This is perhaps the hardest question I've had to contemplate in relation to the Life Together Event.

To the local church in the McKenzie Town/Douglas Dale area: Do you have any space to which a small crowd of 15-30 people might be able to gather in that is wheelchair accessible?

To all those in church leadership: Would you share with all those in your congregations and local community who may face physical and mental/psychological challenges about this opportunity to connect in Re:Genesis?

To any and all leadership: Would you be willing to join within the Expressions movement to build community while seeking expressions of Jesus as Lord in life here in SE Calgary?

After Thoughts

These are perhaps just a few thoughts I've had over the past few weeks while contemplating the events within Life Together. I must admit to having many other thoughts as well which I just was not able to expand in here. Perhaps one though which I will touch on is the inspiration Paul Sparks brought with his example of communal living practices.

This is something which I think many of the church leadership in attendance seemed to dismiss to easily whether intentionally or not. Naheed Nenshi brought many things forward as to what we as a faith based organization could do within our communities (several of which I could write a whole other blog post on) yet; one particular one coalesced with Paul Sparks cohabitant living as Naheed spoke of the need for Secondary Sweats. Why are we so quick to dismiss our call as Christians to embody this coalescent practice of living? (Acts 2:42-47) Shane Claiborne said, ‎"Independence may be a cultural value, but it is not a gospel value and it does not work when the going gets tough. The gospel teaches us not independence but interdependence... community."

I suppose this is where I feel the church becomes fearful of stepping out of traditional practices of independence and health and wealth views to personal living success to become a radical revolutionary force that stands out in the community. How can we encourage and inspire our local suburban followers of Christ to take in the local neighbours and embrace life together.

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As I identified in the conference, within the suburban communities the locally identified people who are living in poverty are those who are working in the franchise corporations for minimal wages. Yet these people cannot afford to live within the communities to which they work! Because of this they spend long amounts of time traveling bus roots and train lines in an endeavour to spend just a few hours with their family's before having to go to bed and repeat the whole process the next day. There is no time for personal spiritual development, no time for personal health practices, and no time to be living in a church community.

Dan Meades answer is to boycott these corporations in an effort to support local businesses and enforce higher wage policies. Quit frankly, local businesses do not exist in the suburban outreaches of the city and by boycotting the corporate business to force closer only forces the employee to travel to a further community to find work. When I questioned him on this his only answer is, "There will always be someone else who is selling the swifter." In essence, the people who are working in these spaces will simply move on. If we are truly "taking in" the people within our local communities, displacement is not the answer!

I suppose what I am trying to say is that as followers of Jesus I think we need to spend some more time talking about what it means to be developing communities which cohabitate with one another. If these people and their families could not only work but live within the community that they serve, they would not only have more time with their family's but also be able to engage and belong to a spiritually family which follows Christ within their local neighbourhood.

I suppose that's all I've got for right now. :)