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					Church without Walls
 A one month intentional experiment in doing church outside our buildings



For a period of one month
during 2009, congregations of
the Uniting Church Presbytery of
Tasmania are invited to commit
to living congregational life away
from our church building and
property.

The worship, fellowship, children
& youth activities, together with
meetings of the congregation
and other congregational activity
should be planned during this
month to take place in other
spaces.

Venue options for consideration include accessing community facilities (such as
schools, community halls, sporting clubs, large homes), using open/outdoor space
(such as parks, beaches, farms, mountains), a range of home/house-based activities,
and ‘3rd places’ such as cafes, restaurants, and pubs. Creativity in considering life
outside the building is encouraged!


                   Walls?
Why Church without Walls?
The intent of the Church without Walls experience is threefold:
   - experience life as a congregation without a building; intentionally focussing
       on people, community and different modes of gathering
   - engage more actively in taking the life of the congregation into the broader
       community (and perhaps to recognise more actively the ways the Good News
       is already at work in your broader community)
   - reflect on what our buildings mean to us; the role they play in shaping,
       enabling, or restricting our congregational life, and the messages they send
       about our understanding of God

There is no question that the Uniting Church faces many challenges in the rapidly
changing society in which we find ourselves. Our relationship to property, and the
efficient use of property in an equitable manner to resource mission is a significant
issue for us. This is an experience aimed at shedding light on this very question in a
tangible way – for congregations from rural, regional and city areas, and
congregations that are small or large, traditional or contemporary.

The concept for the Church without Walls experience emerged as a result of a desire
to see us creatively engage with what it means to be church in the 21st century.
Influencing factors include the Presbytery Getting Your Feet Wet theology of change,
the live-in Presbytery meeting at Dysart in August, and significant input during the
2008 Synod of Victoria and Tasmania meetings around our maximising the efficient
and effective use of property across the Synod. In no way is Church without Walls a
final answer to any of those questions, but it does provide opportunity for us to take
seriously the call to contextual mission and worship, and to bring a different
perspective as we continue to consider the property issues facing us.



Worship
Congregations should plan for their worship life to continue throughout the period –
using a range of means, places, and styles of meeting. Options might include whole
congregation gatherings in public places or community facilities such as parks, café’s,
community centres. Congregations might consider meeting as a network of smaller
cells in people’s homes. Ministers, elders and other appropriate congregation
members might resource these worship gatherings.



One Month
A month is sufficiently long
enough to cause us to have to
think about our whole range of
activities. Most structured
activities of a congregation will
take place at least once over a
month, while typical worship
patterns mean that congregations
will definitely need to find ways of
celebrating significant moments
such as the Eucharist in a creative
manner as well.



Cooperating
This Church without Walls
experience provides the
opportunity for neighbouring
congregations to work together in
the planning and preparation
phase, to share together in
worship and life during the
experience, and to debrief or
reflect together on shared, and
separate experiences. The
experience also provides the
opportunity for Uniting Church
congregations to invite other local
church congregations (of different denominations) to join them for part or all of the
experience. Imagine a community in which every church congregation lived outside
its buildings for a month!
Before and After
The Church without Walls experience may represent a significant challenge for many
congregations, and is not to be taken lightly. Congregations should allow an
extended period for talking, listening, preparing and planning for the experience. A
subcommittee of church council, or a special task-group of interested people might
be assembled to develop options and suggestions for the congregation’s life during
the experience.

Similarly, reflecting on the experience, and both the positives and negatives
encountered during the period will be critical. Such reflection will generate the
lessons able to be learned from undertaking such an experience. As a result of the
experience, congregations may opt to make ongoing changes to the times, places,
and styles of their various gatherings, and indeed to the structure and use of
property.



Support
Congregations will be able to access a range of support and resources during the
preparation, the experience itself, and during reflection/debrief periods.

A series of written resources will be made available to provide input to both the
planning and reflection processes.

The Presbytery Minister (Misison Development) and Presbytery Minister (Leadership
Development) will be available to support congregations both in planning for the
experience, and in reflecting on the experience to maximise the learning opportunity.

Synod Commission for Mission staff too will be available for advice and consultation.

A specific Church without Walls project website can be established to facilitate idea
sharing within and between congregations, and to be used for publicity before and
during the experience.




Frequently Asked Questions
What about the community groups that use our buildings?
Congregations should in no way compromise the ongoing use of buildings by
community groups and tenants. This experience is intended to focus on
congregational life, rather than on declining community and other organisations
access to the facilities and venues they regularly use. As far as external users go,
buildings should remain open.

The experience may however provide the opportunity to deepen relationships with
building users by exploring together the intent behind the congregation’s month
away from its property. How might you invite your external building users to live
through the experience with you?
What about funerals? And weddings?
There will of course be aspects of the congregation’s life that would be prohibitively
difficult, or inappropriate to conduct elsewhere during this temporary experience.
The congregation and its planning team should be sensitive to such needs, and apply
collective wisdom to such decisions.

Is this a trial? Are we being tested to see if we can survive without
buildings so that they can be taken away from us?
No. This is an experience, or an experiment. It is not a trial. The church without
walls experience is intended to help clarify the relationship of the congregation to its
community, and to its buildings. The experience may well shed light on the
congregation’s use and attitude toward buildings, but in no way is it intended as pre-
cursor or trial period to having buildings forcibly closed or sold. It might just be that
we learn very clearly how important our buildings really are to us, and to our
communities – and what we would lose by being without buildings.

We have over 100 people attending worship on Sunday mornings. How
could we possibly meet in a café or somebody’s lounge room?
Differently sized and shaped congregations will face different creative challenges in
reshaping congregational life. Some may find they choose not to meet as a large
group – opting instead to meet as a network of small groups in different places.
Alternately, community facilities such as school assembly halls or sporting clubs
might be used. There are creative ways for congregations of every size to
participate in this experience.

Is this compulsory for every congregation in the Presbytery?
No. This is not a compulsory experience. This is an invitation to make a bold
decision, and for your congregation to engage in a risky experiment. You will not be
ordered to participate, or frowned upon if you decline the invitation. You will
however, be urged to seriously consider whether your congregation will accept this
invitation, and not to answer ‘no’ too quickly.

It’s alright for churches that are creative, have lots of money, or with lots
of young people. We aren’t creative. We have no resources, and no
minister. We wouldn’t know where to start…
There are creative ideas lurking within each of us. The Presbytery will support all
congregations who wish to participate by facilitating discussions, providing resources
and ideas, and assisting the congregations to prepare for their Church Without Walls
experience. You will not be alone before, during or after the experience.

How do we communicate this? And what will the people in our town think
when our buildings are locked up for a month?
We would encourage you to be creative, even playful. A sign at the front of your
church building would be easy to arrange. The local newspaper or radio station
would almost certainly be interested in this initiative. Consider producing low cost
postcards to distribute in people’s letter boxes letting them know of your activities for
the month. Perhaps a special Church without Walls website could be developed
jointly between congregations and advertised across the state. Telling your
neighbours about this experience will be a great way of breaking open conversations
about what church and spirituality mean to those who are not regular church-goers.
We could not do this during winter. It would be too cold to meet outside
our building.
We will negotiate the most suitable month for each of the congregations wanting to
accept this invitation. Perhaps it might best be either Autumn (perhaps best to avoid
Easter) or Spring – meaning that weather will not be a barrier to creativity. That
said, there are lots of places we can meet that are warmer than many of our church
buildings! All the congregations accepting this invitation need not necessarily
conduct their church without walls experience simultaneously – through opting for a
common date with neighbouring congregations might open up creative possibilities
for sharing resources and ideas.

Can we just hire the local community hall for a month and meet there?
Of course you could take a simple approach like that. And there would be valuable
lessons to be learned from the experience. We want to encourage you to think more
creatively however, and to try and meet in different ways, and in different places
during the experience. Mix things up a little, and shape your Sunday worship
services differently each week. For sure, use facilities in your community that are
available, and suitable, but be creative too. Stretch yourselves into a degree of
unfamiliarity and uncomfortableness…

Has this happened anywhere else?
To our knowledge, such an experience has not occurred elsewhere in Australia.
There will be lots of interested people watching on to see what is learned in the
Church without Walls experience within Tasmania.

Who can we speak to further about this? Where can we get help with
thinking this invitation through?
In the first instance speak with Scott Guyatt, Presbytery Minister (Mission
Development). Scott can be contacted on 03 6331 9784 or by e-mail
scott.guyatt@victas.uca.org.au. Scott will help you find the best person to support
your journey.

				
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