So, the long awaitied Sabbatical is nearing (July to September), and plans are shaping up.
I have begun looking for suitable retreats to attend, and have identified one possibility of a six day Ignatian IGR on the west coast of Scotland in September. I am still trying to find something for July that is a different style, and ideally centred on urban or city spirituality. Some readers are in 'urban' networks, others in 'spirituality' or 'retreat' networks so ideas from them would be most welcome.
For the 'study' aspect, I have made contact with BUGB about some empirical research I hope to do into ministers' experiences of living with or through life threatening or life altering illnesses/conditions, under the working title 'Public Faith and Private Pain'... I am waiting for them to get back to me on how best to pursue that, but I also have Plans 'B' and 'C' if that avenue proves impossible. I'm not seeking any input for this yet, but may do in due course. The output will be either a conference paper or journal article.
Learning and Development
The area where I am especially eager to hear from others, is in identifying churches in city centre or town centre locations who are successfully serving their local communities through a kind of 'open doors' approach. Let me explain.
The Gathering Place is located in the buzzing West End of Glasgow, near one of the city's three universities, in the heart of a touristy retail and restaurant zone. There is a lot of residential property nearby, much in multiple occupancy, much housing students but also refugees and vulnerably housed individuals. Wealth and poverty coexist, with the attendant problems of addiction, loneliness and vagrancy. Our home base is well used throughout the week: currently at least three different exercise/fitness groups, three parent and baby 'classes' and a toddler group, three different addiction support groups (AA, NA and Nic Anon) some with plural meetings, a monthly open mike poetry group and then various ad hoc bookings for parties, choir rehearsals, craft days, charity fairs etc. We are, and are proud to be, one of the community spaces is a densely built area, and we are pleased for our building to be used this way. Alongside this run our own midweek activities, a couple of afternoon devotional meetings, and a programme of assorted week night meetings (not forgetting Deacons and Committee meetings!).
As part of my sabbatical, I would like to identify and visit churches with similar visions in similar locations. Ideally Baptist, but other traditions perfectly accpetable. My hope would be to spend a few days with each of these, to speak with them about how they understand their ministry/mission and to glean ideas that might help us, either in terms of 'best practice' or to develop our own ministry-and-mission. Bloomsbury Baptist (since I know you read this sometimes), you are on my 'to contact' list. Other suggestions very welcome.
Comments on this blog are a right pain, but the name of a church, a retreat centre or a contact *should* get through. Those who know me via other networks (email, FB, LinkedIn or even snail mail) feel free to use those as well/instead.
I am excited about what this sabbatical will bring, looking forward to being refreshed and renewed to serve the people I love in the corner of God's Kindgom that is the Gathering Place. Still six months off - but planning now begins :-)