Posts Tagged ‘Gemeenskap’

Wandel in die Daaglikse Lewe van ‘n Spesifieke Plek

Written by Jannie Swart on . Posted in Tussenin

Die mees treffende oomblik vir my tydens laas naweek se ASM konferensie was Sherry Maddock se aanbieding oor die verhaal van Communality, ‘n gestuurde gemeente inisiatief in Lexington (Kentucky, VSA).  Wat veral treffend is van hoe Sherry die verhaal vertel, is die integrasie van trinitariese teologie met vlees-en-bloed verhoudinge en die intriges van ‘n spesifieke plek.  In haar verhaal is daar nie sprake van ‘n ideologie, ‘n model of resep, ‘n lynregte etiese navolging, duidelike strategiee, of die romantisering van gemeenskap nie – slegs die realiteit van ‘n vertroue op God se teenwoordigheid en aktiwiteit deur middel van verhoudinge en te midde van die alledaagse lewe van ‘n doodgewone gemeenskap en plek.  Ek wil haar graag self aan die woord stel, en dit so volledig moontlik doen, al is dit ‘n bietjie langer stuk om te lees as gewoonlik (ek het dit net hier en daar met ‘n paar paragraaf of twee gesny):


“When I asked Roberta what we should do, she said to me ‘Well, we’ll have to take it one relationship at a time.’” Roberta and I had just crossed a threshold, passed through a gate from the neighborhood garden into an adjacent historic cemetery. It was the end of a long day and we were cleaning up tools from planting all kinds of berry bushes the urban orchard. As soon as we were through the gate, she said to me “you know, I’ve lived in this neighborhood all my life and I’ve never stepped foot on this property. We weren’t allowed here.”

Two years ago, Geoff and I initiated a project to put a community garden in an empty green space a block from our house. It was a place we passed by every day and its wide-open potential called out to us. The desire for a community garden was birthed out of personal encounters in our backyard garden when we met neighbors and shared our produce. We live as missionaries in a low-income, historically African American neighborhood in downtown Lexington. Living next to an apartment building, it didn’t take us long to recognize that not everyone had the privilege of land and a place to grow food, especially in our urban context. As we thought about a community garden, we also imagined that a shared space of growing food would get neighbor next to neighbor and introduce fresh organic produce into a place classified by sociologists as a food desert. What we didn’t about was the long, regrettable history of the place around us.

The grounds of what is now a community garden and the historic cemetery next door are owned by an old, prestigious Episcopal church. From the time the cemetery was established in the early 1800s, it was off-limits to the freed slaves and later residents who settled nearby. Neighbors knew they weren’t welcome and a stark separation of black and white stood for almost 200 years.

When we proposed to the church this idea of a community garden, one with small allotment-style plots for nearby residents, it was received with enthusiasm because, as we came to find out, it was part of an answer to the church’s recent commitment to racial reconciliation within the East End. This garden offered an unexpected opportunity for the church to break with its past, and by opening the gates to those living around it, forge new relationships across socio-economic and racial boundaries.

One relationship at a time…when Roberta and I walked through that gate a few months ago, I felt like something small, but very real, changed in the cosmos. She’s a fifty year African American woman, mother, grandmother, a neighbor, and now a friend. I am a younger white woman from somewhere else.

The garden brought us together – what beautiful experience of recapitulation.

We planted seeds and watered them. We put in raspberry bushes and learned more of each other’s stories. Together we crossed over a dehumanizing barrier that had spanned her lifetime. In my conversation with Roberta that day, when I acknowledged and lamented the segregated history of that place, her answer of how to move forward was so simple and profound – one relationship at a time.

It is this newly-born, boundary-crossing relationship with Roberta that is generated by a missionary commitment to dwell in the daily life of a place.

In our life together in this small missional community called Communality, we are learning a lot. More than anything else, I think I now recognize after 10 years, that reality, God’s kingdom reality, and mission are built and based on relationship –

· Relationship with a Triune God

· Relationship with one another – in the world and in the church

· Relationship to the place around us


In the early years of Communality, we worked hard, applying the tools and training of missionaries to our local context. We studied demographics and ethnographies and asked questions about the language, the people, and the place – who hasn’t heard the good news of Jesus, who’s left out in this city. We looked closely at the place around us and learned as missionaries do and we spent a lot of time on the streets. We oriented ourselves outward and cleansed ourselves of the urges to organize neat, tight programs and build something centralized that would have to be maintained.

With time our numbers grew, but not by very much.

We are a small group of people, 25 maybe 50 at best.

We belong to the tribe of new monastic communities.

Although we have no strict geographic boundaries in our community, we do live near each other, and often we live with one another.

Communality has no common purse, like some sister new monastic groups, but we share our resources as needed.

We meet weekly, on Sunday evenings and continue to experiment with the practice of the “priesthood of all believers.” There is no minister or pulpit.

We do our best to be committed to the ethics of




Civic engagement


And an outwardly-oriented life

In our midst, God has created a new kind of family

In mission together, we discover (as we’ve learned from our theological mentor and friend, Mary Fisher) our triune God is a God who creates space – at a table and in a garden. Through relationship, this space-creating God makes all things new.

Our work as missionaries is based on relationship and we join God in what God’s already up to.

Our efforts are framed by a quotidian rhythm of dwelling in the daily life of a place.

As an organization, we do not have a mission statement or a written agreed-upon purpose. We hold to a set of shared convictions, six commitments of our life together:

1) God’s mission of blessing is for all people in all places

2) We find our purpose in participating in the mission of God

3) Mission comes before the church

4) Community comes before congregation

5) Grounded community – we are a placed people

6) We attempt to live out the priesthood of all believers

…and after many years, we are still working out what these mean.

From our decade together, we’ve learned to live in the mode of action/reflection. We are learning to trust one another and imagine a future together, bound by mission in a specific place.

As missionaries in North America, we are bridges between the church and the world.

Our experiences in mission are diverse, with work that

· spans refugee resettlement and serving the homeless

· caring for those with addictions and friends with mental illness

· We’ve backed environmental initiatives that oppose the devastating practice of mountain top removal in our region

· and supported living wage campaigns and affordable housing projects

· We educating ourselves about the possibilities and goodness of a local economy and we labor in community gardens for the sake of food justice and reconciliation with creation.

We read Scripture with a missional hermeneutic and often disagree.

With intentional effort, we’ve cultivated an acute skill of being good students of our culture, living with a sharp awareness of the world around us – locally, nationally, globally. We are driven to ask questions about the state of this world that God so loves.

Together we are residents of a place and we are just beginning to uncover the meaning of that, and we find that every covenant in Scripture includes God, people, and a place.

Our understanding of fidelity and perseverance is expanding and deepening, mostly by the grace of God.

Over ten years, home has been redefined for us and claimed back by God’s creative kingdom purposes. We find that a continuum of integrity must stretch from our kitchen tables to city council.

We live, convinced of these words from Kentucky’s poet and prophet, Wendell Berry, who writes of God’s economy , claiming it is one that

“does not leave anything out, and we can say without presuming too much that the first principle of the Kingdom of God is that it includes everything; in it, the fall of every sparrow is a significant event.”

Through much experimentation, we work together to integrate every aspect of our life to serve God’s purposes in mission – the social, political, economic, environmental, spiritual, and physical elements as people, residents and followers of Jesus in Lexington, Kentucky.

With the Living Spirit of God in us, repeatedly we are challenged to have the courage to be co-creators and innovators because in mission, we live in the presence of the transformative power of the gospel.

Together, we walk against the raging stream of hypermobility, rootlessness, independence and individualism that so thoroughly characterizes our culture.

We are dwelling in the daily life of a place.

After 10 years, we’ve made plenty of mistakes from which an abiding humility is given as a gift.

But many good and beautiful things have happened too.



Die “Emerging Church” skuif na Sosiale Netwerke en Kreatiwiteit

Written by Jannie Swart on . Posted in Tussenin

Doug Pagitt, van Solomon’s Porch in Minneapolis (Minnesota), was die derde aanbieder by die afgelope naweek se ASM byeenkoms in Chicago (sien vir bydraes oor die ander aanbiedinge).  Sy tema was “The Emerging Church: Mission and the Great Emergence”. Doug se aanbieding is gebaseer op die verhaal van Solomon’s Porch, waarvan hy vertel dat “when people join Solomon’s Porch, we don’t ask them to make us larger, but to change us as a community”. Hy verwerp die oortuiging dat die Christelike beweging ooit kan terugval op vroeere vorme, en pleit vir die openheid dat nuwe kulturele uitdrukkings altyd die gestaltes van kerkwees moet kan vorm. Hy meen, “the old and new always live in dialogue with each other in a particular place and time; there is no one cultural norm or one fit for Christianity, and it is not a heterogeneous movement”.

Doug onderskei tussen, aan die een kant, ‘n Christelike beweging VIR en MET postmoderne mense, en aan die ander kant, ‘n Christelike beweging AS postmoderne mense. Solomon Porch’s wil ‘n Christelike beweging AS postmoderne mense wees. Hy beskryf dit veral n.a.v. vier “kulturele komponente”, nl. taal, waardes, estetika, en media. Hy meen dat konserwatiewe benaderings gewoonlik tevrede is daarmee dat die estetika en die media van kommunikasie kan verander, maar jy mag nie raak aan die unieke taal en waardes van die evangelie nie. Daarteenoor is progressiewe benaderings gewoonlik te vinde daarvoor dat die taal en waardes maar kan verander, maar nie die estetika en media van kommunikasie nie.Emerging Church” benaderings dink al vier hierdie kulturele komponente mag maar verander (hy verwys veral na Phyllis Tickle se boek oor “The Great Emergence: How Christianity is Changing and Why”).

Doug meen dat daar ‘n belangrike kultuurskuif plaasvind in die Amerikaanse samelewing waarvan die Christelike beweging behoort kennis te neem.  Hy beskryf dit so:  “We are shifting from a knowledge based society to a creative based society.  We’ve progressed from farm metaphors to industrial metaphors to school metaphors… and now we move to a society of creators, empathizers, pattern recognizers, etc.” Gemeenskaporganisasie het verander van “bounded-set community organizing” (waar daar altyd reels vir toegang en uitgang is) na “center-set community organizing” (waar daar altyd iets in die sentrum is wat mense bymekaar bring), en nou tot “relational-set community organization” (met facebook as ‘n goeie voorbeeld).  In Doug se aanbieding het die “Emerging Church” skuif na ‘n sterk fokus op netwerke en informele verhoudings sterk na vore gekom, maar ‘n mens sou die vraag kon vra (wat ek in ‘n latere refleksie oor die ASM aanbiedings in geheel wil doen) oor kwessies van mag (sodat verhoudinge en gemeenskap nie geromantiseer word nie), en veral of hierdie soort tiperings dalk meer hiper-modern as werklik post-modern is (met ‘n belangrike Godsvraag hieraan gekoppel).

Pinkstergemeenskappe 1: Jy is nie al een in die vertrek nie

Written by Jannie Swart on . Posted in Tussenin

Ek het in my vorige bydrae begin wonder wat dit in hierdie Pinkstertyd sou kon beteken as ons opnuut weer nadink oor die plaaslike gemeente as ‘n beweging in die kragveld van die Gees (n.a.v. Coenie Burger se gebruik van hierdie twee Pinkster metafore in sy boek Gemeentes in die Kragveld van die Gees, asook hoe die “force field” metafoor funksioneer in werke van Michael Welker en Wolfhart Panneberg). Ek wil veral Coenie se stelling, dat “gemeentes is nie statiese voorwerpe op wie jy sekere goed kan toepas of aan wie jy sekere goed kan doen nie… (dit) is ‘n dinamiese beweging wat nie twee dae lank presies dieselfde bly nie, wat altyd aan die skommel en die beweging bly en nooit stilstaan nie” (bl. 147) in teologiese gesprek bring met insigte uit ‘n redelike nuwe boek van Peter Block (konsultant wat veral in die opleidingsveld werk – sien sy web sites by,, en  Die boek se titel is Community: The Structure of Belonging (Berrett-Koehler, 2008)waarin hy die vraag vra oor hoe outentieke gemeenskap (om te behoort) gevorm word, en hoedat dit transformeer.

In hierdie Pinkstertyd fokus ons immers opnuut weer op ons belydenis dat geloofsgemeenskappe gevorm, instandgehou, gelei, en getransformeer word deur die Heilige Gees.  Maar hoe lyk die gemeentelike gestaltes van hierdie belydenis, veral wanneer ons dit waag om ons pneumatologie en ekklesiologie hieroor krities te integreer met insigte oor gemeenskapsvorming en -transformasie in die tydsgees en kulturele bewegings van ons hedendaagse gemeentekontekste?  Ek wil in die verband eerstens verwys na die interessante manier waarop Block die eerste hoofstuk van sy boek begin:  “Social fabric is created one room at a time.  It is formed from small steps that ask ‘Who do we want in the room?’ and ‘What is the new conversation that we want to occur?’  In community building, we choose the people and the conversation that will produce the accountability to build relationships, structure belonging, and move the action forward.”  Wat Block hier skryf mag dalk baie vanselfsprekend klink, maar die feit dat juis hierdie twee vrae vir hom so sentraal staan reflekteer ‘n fundamentele uitgangspunt vir gemeenskapsvorming en -transformering, asook die leierskapsbenadering wat daarby pas.  Hiermee beweer Block dat “the way (my kursivering) we bring people together matters more than our usual concerns about the content (weereens my kursivering) of what we present to people.  How we structure the gathering is as worthy of attention as grasping the nature of a problem or focusing on the solutions that we seek.”

Die fokusverskuiwing weg van ‘n oorwegende klem op inhoud na die manier waarop ons mense bymekaar bring onderstreep presies Coenie se stelling van hierbo, nl. dat ons nie gemeentes benader as objekte van ons goed uitgewerkte inhoud (selfs teologiese verstaan!) en strategiese planne oor hoe ons die gemeente sover moet kry om ons idees te implementeer nie.  Block noem dit “an argument for collective intelligence… against expensive studies and specialized expertise,” en skryf dan, “the essential insight is that people will be accountable and committed to what they have a hand in creating… this insight extends to the belief that whatever the world demands of us, the people most involved have the collective wisdom to meet the requirements of that demand… and if we can get them together in the room, in the right context and with a few simple ground rules, the wisdom to create a future or solve a problem is almost always in the room.”  Teologies verwoord:  dit veronderstel juis ‘n vertroue en respek vir wat ons in Pinkster bely, nl. dat die Gees reeds aan die beweeg is waar gelowiges rondom die Woord en in sy Naam bymekaarkom om geloofsonderskeiding in ‘n spesifieke konteks te beoefen.

Dit suggereer verseker nie dat inhoud onbelangrik is, of dat leiers nie ‘n besonderse bydrae kan maak tot gesprekke nie, maar dit verteenwoordig beslis ‘n relativering van eie agendas, opinies, en strategiee ter wille van ‘n verhoudingskultuur waarin almal teenwoordig deel kan wees van die onderskeidingsproses.  Soos Block inderdaad skryf (sonder dat hy dit waarskynlik pneumatologies of eskatologies bedoel!), “the future begins to show up as we gather.”  Dit vra van ‘n leier om te besef dat hy/sy nie al een in die vertrek is nie (my kinders hou daarvan om vir my te vertel “it’s not about you dad!”), en dat sukses nie afhang van hoe goed hy/sy gesprekke kan beheer of uitkomste kan manipuleer nie.  Block skryf, “it is the insight that authentic transformation does not occur by focusing on changing individuals or being smart about political processes, which are based on advocacy of interests, hardball negotiation, or finding where the power resides and getting them on your side.”  Van gemeenteleiers vra dit veral ‘n volle vertroue in die Gees wat die vertrek vul met energie en wysheid soos wat dit gestaltes vind in bewegings van verhoudinge en interaksies tussen mense.  Dit bied die uitdaging vir ‘n leierskapsensitiwiteit van hoe om deel te word van die vloei van energie, en hoe om die wysheid wat tussen mense tot stand kom te volg.

Inderdaad, in Handelinge 2 is dit duidelik dat die ontdekking van nie al een in die vertrek te wees nie tot grootskaalse verbasing gelei het!  Ek kon gister Handelinge 2 hardop in Afrikaans lees in ‘n erediens waar niemand anders dit kon verstaan nie, en terwyl meer as 10 ander tale terselfdertyd aangehoor is.  En alhoewel dit lekker was om my eie moedertaal deel van die oomblik te kon maak, is dit terselfdertyd opgeneem in die Gees se simfonie wat geskep is uit die groot verskeidenheid van ander wat saam met my in dieselfde vertrek was.