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.

 

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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Shake the Dust off your Feet

Being Lubbethorpe’s Pioneer Community Worker has been mostly great.   New challenge, new place, new people, brilliant.   Whilst there have been some times when things have seemed a bit slow getting off the ground, now it’s picking up pace and it won’t be long until the people move in.  Exciting times.

On the whole the everyone has been really receptive to me and the part Churches Together are playing but occasionally you come across someone who is really offended by the Church, which means me, because I work for ‘the church’.   I often wonder what ‘the church’ means to them.   After all Christianity (and other faith traditions actually) is this whole bag of views and contained within it are many different ways people behave as Christians.    Lately I’ve been pondering how I react when I unwittingly offend someone because I work for ‘the church’ and they think they know what I think or what I’m going to do!

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Should I defend myself, try to explain I am not one of ‘those’ Christians or should I water down my Christian roots and just keep quiet and not say anything.    When Jesus sent his disciples out on mission he gave them instructions ‘if people do not welcome you, leave …. and shake the dust off of your feet’ (Luke 9:5).   In reality that isn’t easy to do (and sometimes not practical)  but I think what good advice that is. How much baggage do we hold onto, how often do we try and solve an issue with someone when they simply don’t want to hear what you have to say.   The result is usually you loose sight of the main thing because a small issue has got in the way.   It’s a bit like this blog.   I’ve had some brilliant things happen lately but I’ve ended up blogging about a small thing that is bothering me.    I think this is me getting it off my chest and hopefully moving on.

More exciting news next time but for now proof Spring is sprung and New Life is on its way in New Lubbesthorpe ….

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Building a Team

At the moment I’m trying to build a team.  People who will join in this thing called pioneering, people who will ‘get it’, people who are happy to not know the end at the beginning.

I love the fact that Lubbesthorpe is a cross denominational project.   I’m very at home in my Baptist roots but have lots of friends who come from different traditions and love the diversity of that so I’m really keen to see that the Team is balanced across a number of different church flavours.   Some might see that as hard work, after all amongst Baptists there are usually more opinions than people and I don’t think that’s different elsewhere, so why on earth would you want to add even more diverse opinions into the mix!   Well I think part of it for me is the belief that every Christian tradition needs to learn what it is to be church in our fast changing world.   None of us have the monopoly on that and we all need hear, learn and respect each others opinions and thoughts.    I hope we will all be able to do just that and take back what we’ve learnt to our different home traditions and maybe see the birth of a new way of being church not only in Lubbethorpe but in other places too.

Initially the team will be a Development Team made up of people who want to help in the early days.    They might leave once we have people who live in Lubbesthorpe join or they might even want to move into the area but ultimately the aim is for the Team is to comprise of those who live in Lubbesthorpe.  Some of whom won’t have a faith or are just exploring, some who might even come from a completely different faith tradition, after all we are of course on the edge of one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the country.

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It is often said Pioneering on a new housing estates is about forming community rather than transforming community (which pioneering so often is).    How that community forms will to some extent be affected by the values we model and live by. Loving and respecting all whether they are the same as us or different, whether they have a faith similar to ours or not is I think an important key value to model right from the beginning. There will be more values to be discovered and that will take time as we have people join us and we get to know each other.   I’m visiting people who are interested in joining the Development Team at the moment, that’s quite exciting!   I’m looking forward to having people alongside me who are happy with not knowing the end of the beginning and want to venture out into the unknown!  Happy days.

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Being the Guest

Since starting in Lubbesthorpe my days have been filled with being the guest in other peoples ‘places’.   As yet I have no home/office/community space in Lubbesthorpe so I always rely on others hospitality.

One of those places is the Council Offices.   They always offer me such a warm welcome and it is easy to feel at home there, especially when I’m asked ‘how are things going’ and ‘how can we help you better’.

I also frequent local coffee shops, pubs and hotels and last week I found myself in a hotel café waiting to meet up with a charity who want to work with homeless families to build their own homes and become a community.    They were seeking people of faith who would join them in their dream (despite not being people of faith themselves).  They recognise faith is important to living a balanced and happy life and were extending an invitation  to me as ‘a person of faith’ to join them.  Although I haven’t got the time to join them, I was blessed by their excitement, enthusiasm and openness towards me and the Christian faith.

 

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As I sat in the café it caused me to think of the slightly nomadic lifestyle I lead at the moment and whilst I’m looking forward to having a community space in Lubbesthorpe there is something about not having a ‘home’ and always being the guest rather than the host, that is worthy of reflection.

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Meeting people on their ‘turf’ or in a local cafe means if you don’t feel welcome then you are left with a slightly unnerving feeling and ultimately you leave and don’t return.    When I move into the ‘community cabin’ or ‘posh shed’ (or whatever it is we call the first community space) I hope I will remember what it’s like to be the guest. I think that will make me a much better host but I also hope that I will continue to be the guest in many ways.   Why?  Because I believe that if at times I’m still the guest then the people of Lubbesthorpe will be a people who be welcoming and hospitable to one another and that as the community grows, it’s hospitable and welcoming nature will become the norm for the community.

As I reflect I’m also reminded that when Jesus sent his disciples out on mission they were always the guests.  They didn’t have a house they called their own, they relied on others hospitality so I’m not the first by any means to be in need of others hospitality!   However, I also get the feeling that maybe Jesus is reminding me about being prepared to receive from others, that they have as much to give me as I want to give to them (or potentially more!).   That, is certainly worthy of more thought for another day!