Forming and Transforming

The last few weeks I have pondering the difference of Forming and Transforming.   In my previous pioneering context the role was very much about transformation in communities.    Being in an established community with groups, services and activities already  in place meant that we looked at ways we could help transforming places and situations.   When you are pioneering in a new housing development with (at the start) very few people and no community activities you spend more time thinking about forming completely new things.

This kind of seems a perfect match for pioneering, after all isn’t that what its all about – pioneering new ways of doing things?    Starting with a blank canvas means there is no set way of doing things because in reality there is nothing at all!  There is an initial openness from many people because they want to see something new and exciting happen!

I think that means in theory that starting from scratch should be easier and in reality there are many things that are easier when you have a blank canvas.   You don’t have to put up with inherited ways of doing things and people who don’t want to change what they are doing because they have always done it that way.   The reality is we quickly pick up a certain way of doing things and so it’s not long before you do run into that issue!

But….. there has to be a but ….. when you have the blank canvas it’s very tempting to start things that you think are a really good idea (and being a bit of a ‘firestarter’ its very tempting for me), however if you haven’t got the people from the community with you then it won’t work but on the other hand if you don’t try something then how will you get anything going?   You have to start somewhere so I guess this is where to some extent you need not to be afraid of failure, especially in the early days when the first people are moving in.   Some things will work, some won’t and that’s ok.   As long as you learn from the failures and don’t repeat them then they aren’t failures, they are learning curves and we all need them.

At the moment I’m looking into what to buy for the Community Cabin that will arrive next month, I don’t quite know what it will look like yet and it’s hard to get my head round the space from the plans but this is a point where the blank canvas pops up again.  I need to do something, create something but still have only a small idea of what this community is going to look like or be.   So how do we kit the cabin out – what is its purpose?    We haven’t mapped out a specific set of values as a community yet (because I want to do that with the residents not by myself or the Action Group who don’t live there).  However the Action Group, who set this whole thing up,  along with myself have come up with an impact statement of what we hope will happen over the next few years, so that’s a good as place as anywhere to start I think!

We are inspired to join in a story with our stories, creating a flourishing community that is cultivated by participation, hospitality, active learning and engagement.

Designing a Community Cabin that embodies this will, I hope, leave enough room for a Spirit filled creativity to emerge through the community whilst ensuring we can embody  values we feel are important at the start.  Ultimately I think this is about being sure of who you are but being open to fuse with other peoples ideas and create something new that speaks of who you all are.

So first things first, coffee ……..

 

 

 

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Love

At the weekend I had the amazing pleasure of attending my nephew’s wedding.   He married the most welcoming, friendly Irish man I have ever met.   It was the first time I had been to a same sex wedding and having done the whole theology thing (a number of times) about working out whether I agree with it or not I didn’t think too much about it and happily went along knowing that I felt that it was something that God would bless.   What I wasn’t prepared for was how my own white, middle class, privileged up bringing would be challenged.

 wedding happened on the back of the riots in Charlottesville as well as a running joke in our family about how decidedly middle class we are (whether we like it or not).  As I sat and enjoyed this wonderful service where two people who so obviously loved each other committed themselves to love and care for one another, I thought about how much more meaningful it felt than many other weddings I had attended.  Why?  Well I think it was because when you have been discriminated against, (whether it’s because you’re gay, poor, black, gender unsure, a woman ……..the list goes on) moments of celebration seemed even sweeter because you know it hasn’t been an easy road to get there. It wasn’t just another wedding, it was a celebration of what love really is and love can overcome so many things.

One of the speakers spoke of the London Gay Men’s Chorus and how they sought to work against LGBT discrimination all over the world.   How some of the members had fought for the right to have same sex marriage as well as against the harassment and regular discrimination they face.  I thought how when we get things handed on a plate to us, we don’t appreciate them as much, how they can often seem more disposable and how we think we have a right to have such things.   The reality is we feel it is our right.  But it isn’t.  As a follower of Jesus it certainly isn’t my right to ignore these injustices just because I don’t face them.  Jesus didn’t, he stood by those who faced discrimination and loved them and welcomed them into his Kingdom and the Kingdom is undoubtedly the richer for it.  I know I certainly am.

Getting to know the Neighbours

Riding on the back of the success of the first ‘Meet your Neighbour Night’ I’m planning a ‘Neighbours Get-Together’ next Sunday afternoon.   Residents are currently moving in at a rate of 6-10 per month.  Having a Meet Your Neighbour event for newbies once every 10 – 12 weeks feels about right at the moment, with something smaller in between, so we are just getting people to meet by the pond with some cakes and drinks as well as having some games.   We’ll see how it goes!

Whilst events are a great way of getting together, building relationships with people on a one to one level is really important too.    The most difficult thing about this at the moment is I don’t live there and there’s no coffee shops, pubs or community spaces as yet.  Other than community events the most likely place for me to meet people is by either knocking on someones door and introducing myself (this is easy when you have the Welcome Pack but more difficult from then on).

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Having said that Sales Office is a place where I bump into people and usually it’s people who are due to move in rather than existing residents.    Generally they are pretty excited at the thought of moving into their new home and are really interested in my role.  Bumping into them at that point is a great first introduction.   People will often contact me with any questions if they have met me, or if one of the sales teams passes my details on.  One lady rang me last week as they hadn’t made up their minds on whether to buy or not as they were worried about being isolated.  I could hear that through our conversation she became more confident that she would meet people and be able to make friends through community events.   I love conversations like this.   I do think the first residents are really brave, moving into somewhere when they really don’t know what it will end up like.   It must be daunting, so it’s great to have a job that helps reassure people.

The issues of not having a ‘home’ in Lubbesthorpe will go away when the community cabin arrives at the beginning of October.   Hopefully it will become a community hub.    I really love the fact that this cabin will move around the site as new people move in.   It means this role is always at the forefront of people moving into Lubbesthorpe, welcoming them and helping them get to know one another.   It’s also a neutral space.   One of the things I have noticed where I live currently is that people don’t like going to peoples houses they don’t know that well.   They seem to feel awkward.   Not sure whether it will be the same in Lubbesthorpe but in light of the above, I hope it will feel like the communities space, not mine.    Plus the gathering space will be bigger than a house which has to be a bonus!

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The bonus of not having anywhere is of course you have to think outside of the box, always helpful when pioneering!

 

Meet Your Neighbour

Our very first Meet Your Neighbour Night was brilliant!  It far exceeded my expectations, all but 3 of the occupied houses came and we also had a few people who are soon to move in.

 

After a worry we would have no marquee it arrived in plenty of time with the added bonus of a bouncy castle.  We also had games, plenty of food, face painting and balloon making.   It was great to see the way people chatted so easily to one another.   Whilst our team went around helping to break the ice with people overall people seemed to be very comfortable with introducing themselves to one another.   The event lasted about 2 hours and as we cleared up we watched as people stood outside their houses chatting to one another.

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One of the great quotes for the night was ‘ what are you doing next’.    Great to know that people want to get together again, my main challenge will to see how we can get people involved in growing ideas and making them happen together, rather than relying on me to organise things.

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They’re here!

It’s been too long since I’ve blogged!   A lot has been happening over the last couple of months so over the next few days I’ll try to fill the gap.

Firstly the most exciting thing is we now have people! 17 houses have residents  living in them. I’ve been visiting everyone within a couple of weeks or so of them moving in and dropping off a Welcome Pack.    I’m pleased to say the reception I’m getting is great.

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Sometimes I get invited in, sometimes it’s just a doorstep conversation, either way on the whole people are thrilled they have a Community Worker and are excited about the chance to meet new friends through what we are doing. This was borne out by the great turn out we had at our first Meet Your Neighbour Night, where 14 out of the 17 houses came. Brilliant…… but more about that in my next blog.

The Welcome Packs seem to be going down well, I think people are finding them helpful and I will be checking that’s the case as I bump into people and ask if they think I need to adapt them at all. We’ve been fortunate the Developer helped pay for them which is great partnership work. One of the best things people have said to me when I’ve dropped off the Welcome Pack is ‘wow it’s great that you are doing this job, it feels like someone really cares about us’. What a great thing to have said and it’s certainly made me feel welcome!

The packs include a folder with information about what we are doing, the area, the vision for Lubbesthorpe and other community information.   It gets delivered in a cotton shopping bag with our logo on, a key ring and a seasonal gift.   The packs will change over time as we learn what works and what doesn’t and adapt to the changes around us.  There will be around 6 – 10 people moving in per month from now on, with that increasing over time.    A third house builder has moved in on site which means more houses and by about 2021 there will be around 300 houses per year being built (market dependent) .   I don’t know how long we will be able to keep up the home visits when we get to that many but I do think it’s a really lovely way to welcome people so maybe growing a team of welcomers from residents will help us continue for a long time yet.

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I’m still bowled over by this brilliant job I have, it’s such a great opportunity to show love and care to the community in the name of Jesus.  Amazing!

Team

This week was exciting as a few people who had shown an interest in joining the Lubbesthorpe Community Development Team, met together for the first time.    We all bought food and ate Sunday lunch together.  The weather was glorious so we spent the afternoon in the garden getting to know one another and telling our own stories of how we had got to where we were.

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The Development Team is a bunch of people who will be able to help out practically with events and activities in the early days, who will be regularly praying for the development and will be learning from each other and our experiences.    There is a great diverse skill set amongst us with people who have previously been involved in cultivating new communities as well as being part of local community engagement stuff.    There will be times when we arrange community gathering events, put up gazebos (we have no indoor space yet), maybe run a bbq and potentially organise a ‘get to know you neighbour’ events.   I need people to help get those off the ground until we have built relationships with the people sufficiently to see them come up with the ideas and take more of the driving seat.

My role as Pioneer Community Worker is first and foremost to help build healthy community.   What that will look like will depend upon the residents, the activities they like engaging in and how they rub along together.   It will be about getting to know everyone, people of all faiths and none, people from different lifestyles and backgrounds whose commonality is the place they live.   It will definitely be about having fun together!   Although we have a Development Team I hope that we will quickly be able to engage the people who move in to help them create activities themselves, I’ll hope I’ll be a facilitator and be able to cheer people on rather than a ‘leader’ who drives everything.

In time we hope we may see some sort of missional community grow there but our priority is to listen, love and serve the community.   What happens next is in God’s hands and the people who move in.

Welcome

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been putting together some leaflets that will go into a Welcome Pack which we will be delivering to all new residents as they move into Lubbesthorpe.    I’ve spent a bit of time with recent house movers finding out what sort of information would have been useful when they moved, hopefully this will mean it will be helpful to Lubbesthorpe’s new residents.    It will have regularly be reviewed as things can seem to change quite rapidly!   The pack will also contain any information from other local groups and organisations and is produced in partnership with the developers.  Being open to working alongside others is important to helping healthy community form.   We’re here to listen, serve and love the community which means everyone should be included.

The first people will move in at the end of April,  I’ve already met a few of the new residents at a show home opening so have been able to introduce myself.    The plan is to visit them in their new homes after the first week or so to take the Welcome Pack with some small gifts just to say Hi!   Hopefully it will help them settle a bit, assuring them there is someone around to help cultivate a community and helping them to get to know their neighbours.

It will be a little while until I have somewhere to call my own in Lubbesthorpe, the Community Cabin or ‘posh shed’ is well on its way to being designed but the logistics of where it’s going haven’t quite been worked out yet.   It has to be in place by the 50th house dwelling so hopefully no later than the end of the summer.   In the meantime I have some space I can use at the weekends in one of the show home offices.    As summer arrives I will be able to hang around outside as there are some benches on a boardwalk across a pond which overlooks the countryside which I can sit and chat to people on.    Depending on how usable the outdoor space is we may even be able to put on some events outside.  You never know I might even get a tan with it!

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