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July 16, 2003

Village Life

Some of the local gathering points in our community are in the 'village' shopping strips. These seem like logical places to connect with our wider community. The question is how? buy? rent? use someone elses place?

Has anyone got some spare cash?

Don't worry, I'm not about to put a paypal link on my site or start a blogathon to raise money. I'm not seriously looking for money....well not too seriously.

We live 10 minutes walk from four shopping strips. There are no shopping centres (Malls) close by - we're in the inner suburbs and they are mainly out a bit further) and there is a real 'village' atmosphere in each of the strips.

Each village has its cafe's and arty little gathering points. Some of them have galleries, libraries, doctors surgeries, internet cafes, alternative healing centres, retro furniture shops, bars, pubs and one even has a cinema.

As I've been reflecting in the last few weeks upon the rhythms of our local community I've become more and more convinced that these local shopping strips are key connecting points for us. They are places where people gather, socialise, learn, relax, heal and explore spirituality.

Last night at Living Room I shared a little with some of the group about some ideas that are percolating in my mind. Nothing formal or ordered yet, but some urges really.

I've noticed that in each 'village' that shopfronts are periodically up for lease. Yesterday I saw three in just one street. As I walked past each one I found myself stopping and peering in the window trying to visualise the possibilities of what we could do with such a space. All kinds of ideas flashed through my mind.

Learning centres, Cafes, Galleries, Drop in centres, Tea Houses, Art studios, book shops - spaces for exhibitions, poetry readings, bands, food banks, philosophy discussions, book and movie clubs and story telling - just to name a few ideas.

Our area is very artistic, very alternative, very social justice oriented. There would be many possible ways to connect.

I got excited - I started to dream. But then two things pulled me back.

1. We are only 8 people (with only 3 working full time). We have less than $100 in our little bank account. Property prices in this area are out of control. A shopfront like the ones I'm looking at with a small residence at the back went for over $1,000,000 recently. Even to rent would be a massive monthly outlay. Would such an approach be a responsible use of resources?

2. As I look at the above list of dreams I can identify a place in one of the shopping strips where such activities are already happening, or could easily happen without us having to buy or rent our own space. Would another approach to join with other community groups, to go onto their turf, to build relationships there rather than to expect people to come to our little cool patch?

I can see the pros and cons of each way - wondering if you have any thoughts?

Posted by Darren at July 16, 2003 10:02 AM | TrackBack
Comments

I think I've stumbled across your site before - thanks for stumbling across mine. As I've been following blog links lately (which has been cutting in on my sleep time), I've been amazed at the things that God is challenging people with. It really has been encouraging to read them all. My prayers are with you.

Posted by: jenjie at July 16, 2003 11:18 AM

Interesting Darren - I would seriously qn the use of resources of any size group for the projects you mention. Joining with others seems like a good idea despite its limitations. I reckon renting is probably a better way to go all round -otherwise you risk getting tied to a building - you know the line 'we shape our buildings and then our buildings shape us'

Posted by: hamo at July 16, 2003 01:51 PM

I think it's an excellent idea worth further consideration. It'd be great if there were cool, self-sustaining cafe's run by Christians all around Melbourne... staffed by people gifted at connecting with people, who saw it as their ministry to build relationships with the locals and share God with them.

I'd see it having minimal programs, but having an environment where frequent spiritual discussions took place... and of course served good coffee :)

Posted by: Diddle at July 16, 2003 05:13 PM

Yep you're right Hamo. I'd really struggle to justify spending that much money on purchasing a building. I like the idea of renting - it allows flexibility (sorry I should say 'liquidity'...much more postmodern!).

Hmmm....the ideas are many....but I guess the challenge now is to listen less to the things running round in my head that seem very 'Darreny' and try to listen to the ideas that are running around in Gods head!

Posted by: Darren Rowse at July 16, 2003 05:35 PM

I'm not quite sure what to say. I don't want to steer you in the wrong direction. But the one thing I can do is pray for Holy Spirit inspired guidance and wisdom you, and so I shall!

Btw, I have loved the way that your section of Melbourne sounds since the last time that you described it!

Posted by: Rich at July 17, 2003 08:01 AM

regardless of what your final decision is, I love your vision. always good to see a leader with huge dreams who's not afraid to go after them!

Posted by: meg at July 18, 2003 01:29 PM

What resources? I strongly lean toward the "on their turf" option. I like to think that that church should not cost money. Living costs money. Generosity and benevolence cost money. Why should church cost money? There are other ways, and other things to do with that money (if you have it to begin with :) ).

Also, church cafes, etc. tend to duplicate what's already being done commercially. If the same kinds of things (e.g. getting to hang out with non-Christians) could be done on someone else's property, why bother building your own?

Posted by: Justin Baeder at July 18, 2003 03:57 PM

On a more historical/cynical note, I think churches tend to prefer to do things on their own, church-owned turf because we have this idea that people will be sanctified by our facilities. If we get them on the church campus, they will accept Jesus. Sounds kind of Willow Creeky to me.

Posted by: Justin Baeder at July 18, 2003 03:58 PM

I think "on their turf" seems like a good approach. While I don't even really understand too much about your post modern emerging church approach, a couple of simple ideas come to mind. You might approach a cafe or coffee shop seeking permission to provide it with some books or magazines for people to read while they are there, or even take home (perhaps something along the lines of bookcrossing). See if they would be open to regularly hosting a discussion group and publicizing it. I'd spread out activities among locations so no single place felt like you were "taking over".

Are there any sort of common areas in these shopping centers that you could use? Probably not, but if so that might be an option.

Posted by: Robert Williams at July 19, 2003 01:04 AM
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