20 May, 2006 11:40 PM
One of the things that is becoming increasingly common at the moment is for me to get emails from people wanting to know more about LivingRoom. Most of these are coming in as a result of people searching for terms like 'Melbourne emerging church' or as a result of word of mouth.
I guess once a church has been around for a while it can be expected - especially when it has a web presence.
As a result I thought I'd compile a bit of an introduction to LivingRoom to give some basic information on who we are and what we do. Hopefully this will help people to discern whether LivingRoom is a church they'd like to explore journeying with. It will also be a bit of an update for people who've been following LivingRoom over the last year or so from afar.
What is LivingRoom?
LivingRoom is a a group of about 30 people living mainly in the northern suburbs of Melbourne Australia who are seeking to respond to the call of Jesus to Love God, Love one another and Love our neighbor as ourselves. We call ourselves LivingRoom because we want to be a life giving space both for those who are a part of our community but also those who we have opportunity to live among in our daily lives.
Most of us would use the word 'church' to describe ourselves but we've also been called a variety of other things ranging from 'missional community' to 'faith community' to an 'emerging church'. We don't get too hung up on working out what we are or are or even on a lot of the logistics of what church should or shouldn't be like - rather we're keen to explore what being a follower of Jesus looks like in the time and place that we live.
Is LivingRoom a part of a denomination?
LivingRoom is supported and recognized by the Baptist Union of Victoria and was actually planted by them in March 2002. The BUV has been a wonderful support to LivingRoom over the last few years and generously gave us money to get going and has been very supportive and also incredibly permission giving since we started. Our relationship with them has been one where they've allowed us to shape ourselves and have given us space to form on our own - yet one where they've gone out of their way to support and care for us.
Why Did LivingRoom start?
This is a big question and one that would probably be answered a little differently by each member of our community. I can only answer for myself. In short - my desire in being a part of the founding group was to explore what church might look like if it took seriously the central teachings of Jesus in 'the language of the people living in my neighborhood'.
This idea of doing church in the 'indigenous' or local language is something we've learnt as Church to do over the last decades as we think about starting churches in different cultures to our own. When we start a church in a different culture to our own these days we don't force them to teach or worship in our language, we don't make them dress like us, we find symbols and connecting points within their culture to explain the gospel etc.
I guess it was my desire to be a part of a church here in Australia that started with this in mind. What does a church that speaks the language of people living in the north of Melbourne look like? To be honest, I still don't know the answer to that question but I'm sure enjoying finding out.
What do we believe?
We spent quite a few months at the start of the LivingRoom journey asking questions around 'values'. We came up with three pretty broad ones which I explain here. They are not rocket science - in fact they are very similar to what most churches believe.
What do we think about other forms of Church?
This is a question I'm asked a fair bit. One of the sad things about the 'emerging church' label is that some people think that this means we think we're a superior form of church or that we are angry and bitter towards the 'mainline' or 'established' church.
This could not be further from the truth. The original members of LivingRoom were all very positive about church. We had all had both good, bad and indifferent experiences of church at different times of our lives (like most church goers). None of us were particularly angry about church, in fact most of us were very positive about it. Having said this we all also felt drawn to the idea of exploring what a fresh expression of Christian community might look like. This was not because we thought the other expressions we'd been a part of were bad - but rather mainly did so because as we looked around us in the places that we worked, studied and lived we all had wondered how church should connect in these places in more relevant ways. We all wanted to be a part of a community that explored this.
Since beginning we've grown in size. Those who have joined us have brought their own varied experiences of church with them. Some are very positive, some have had little experience of church and others have been hurt through their experience with church. However through all of this we've remained very positive about other forms of church and work at building relationships between us and other communities of all shapes and sizes.
What does LivingRoom do week to week?
LivingRoom currently meets in two groups most weeks. We got too big in 2005 to meet in the one home each week so multiplied (which was always our plan for growing). Our two groups meet in homes (one group on Tuesday nights and the other on Wednesdays) in the northern suburbs (it rotates a little although tends to be largely in the homes of families with kids). We generally eat either a full meal or dessert together to start the evening off.
After dinner/dessert we generally do some sort of activity. This varies from week to week considerably and might range from a bible study/discussion to a reflective or meditative exercise, to a story telling night, to a topical exploration, to a tour of a persons life with reflections along the way on their Spirituality to... well as I say - it varies a lot.
We generally stick to a seven week cycle of gatherings which I've described elsewhere on this site here.
Two things that is a little different for some people who come along for the first time that have experience in other churches is that we generally don't sing and we generally don't have a sermon. This is not because we don't agree with these things - rather one of the things LivingRoom started around was the desire to explore new culturally relevant ways of doing teaching and fresh ways of worshipping God.
Also every 7 weeks the two groups come together for a 'big gathering' (catchy name isn't it!). In these gatherings we usually do some sort of vision casting or teaching.
What is Leadership Like?
When we started LivingRoom I (my name is Darren Rowse) was paid (via a gift from the BUV) to be a leader of LivingRoom (part time). This was on a decreasing basis over two years. We did start with the desire to be a very participatory community with everyone pitching in and from the early days this was the case. However when you have a paid person it can become easy to let that person pick up a lot of the leadership (for many reasons - some of them good).
So after two years I moved out of a paid leadership position into a voluntary one. We've also since started a small group of 'representatives' from the two groups. They don't like to be called 'leaders' as such but in many ways they pick up much of that role.
Our 7 week cycle is very participatory and is designed so that different people can exercise their gifts and talents in leading us from week to week.
I still do pick up some leadership roles although have pulled back on the amount of time I'm able to give LivingRoom in the last 12 months to allow others to pick up more but also to concentrate on other work and projects.
What are the demographics of the group?
We range in age fro 2 to early 40's. We have a range of professions from students, to nurses, to lawyers, to small business operators, to electricians, to missions agency workers, to academics, to teachers, to social workers, to artists....
I would say we're a fairly youthful group with a fair bit of energy. We have a number of children in the group who participate at varying levels depending largely upon their age. We don't have a 'Sunday School' but have talked from time to time about how to include our children in what we do. To be honest this is an area we need to work more on and are learning from other groups on.
Do we allow visitors?
This is a question that we're asked a bit. We don't have a building or a sign with our 'service' times on it anywhere which makes us a little difficult to visit but we are open to visitors. You will need to contact us first though to find out where and when we're meeting.
One thing it is worth mentioning however - as we are a reasonably small group having visitors does have a bit of an impact on us. These days it's not quite as big an issue as it was in our early days (when we were a group of 7) but it is worth keeping in the back of your mind that while we enjoy visitors and encourage them that at times its more appropriate than others depending upon what we're doing and what impact it might have.
For example, some nights we do more administrative nights where we talk about issues the group is facing and these nights might not be as appropriate for a visitor as others. Also in the early days we had a lot of visitors just 'coming for a look'. This was a little disruptive for us being quite small.
As a result if we get lots of visitors for a number of weeks in a row we sometimes have 'closed shop' for a week or two just to help us get some momentum and flow back into things. It's not a big issue - but we do ask that if you'd like to come along that you let us know and together we'll work out when will be a good time for both you and us.
If you'd like to come along with the intention of seeing whether LivingRoom might be a community you'd like to be a part of we do try to catch up with you for a coffee first if it's possible. This isn't to check you out (it's not an interview or anything) but simply because we find that if you know some of who we are and what we do that it tends to be a better visit both for you and us. I used to do most of these catch ups but these days I try to refer you to someone to do it. It also means when you come along that you know a face and name which makes the night a little less awkward - we know how hard it can be to join new groups :-)
The best way to get in touch is to email me via our contact form. Make sure you include you email address, other contact details and a little about you (where you live, your name and anything else you think might be relevant) and I'll endeavor to get back to you either myself or will ask another LivingRoomie to get in touch. We won't stalk you or anything - but rather would love to chat to you and discern together whether LivingRoom might be a place for you. If it isn't then we might be able to help you find other churches like us in Melbourne.
I hope that answers some of the questions that people have about LivingRoom. I'm sure there will be more and I'll update this page as I think of them. Feel free to ask more.