Being a Church with no Walls

31 May 2020 by Rev Andrew Smith in: Formation and Discipleship Resources

During these times of COVID-19 restrictions we have become a church with no walls. Through decisions made not to meet in our church buildings, but rather to meet online or over the phone or by hard copies delivered to homes, we are discovering how to be church apart from our buildings – effectively making us a church with no walls.

Although the image of “church with no walls” has this particular relevance to our current situation, it is usually used to indicate welcome and inclusion of anyone who’d like to come along, i.e. there are no walls to keep people out. Equally, there are no walls to keep us in.

No walls to keep us in ….hmmmm.

You may not have thought of our church walls functioning to keep us in. Of course, we are not imprisoned physically within our church walls – kept there against our will. But our church walls can represent the limits of our relational reach as church. Mike Frost is aware of this in his handy little book “Surprise the World – The Five Habits of Highly Missional People”. That is why his habits about blessing and eating make the point of including people who are not members of our church. The habits are:
“I will eat with/bless three people this week, at least one of whom is not a member of our church” (emphasis added).

Because our congregations are familiar with much of the focus of our time, energy and resources being on the relationships within the walls of the church, we need to be urged on to relationships beyond the walls of the church.

In this COVID time we have already learned new ways to be “church with no walls” in terms of worship and caring for each other. Let’s build on these gains by learning new ways to be “church with no walls” in terms of growing relationships with our local communities.

Here are some encouraging stories of how this is already happening in the Presbytery.

Braidwood Community Church on the Radio
With church buildings closed for worship, and few congregation members with the capacity to connect with online services or email resources, the suggestion to the Braidwood Uniting Church of a church service on the local radio station made complete sense – everyone has a FM radio in the house (or at least in the car!). So began the weekly radio “Braidwood Community Church” on Sunday mornings. A relationship of trust has built up with the station so that original processes for vetting service content are no longer needed. The Uniting Church extended the offer to other local churches to be involved, and with them contributing to the weekly services it really is a community church. There has been encouraging feedback from listeners as far away as Melbourne, Central Victoria and Central NSW. Listen live to 2BRW Braidwood Community Radio 88.9FM Sunday mornings at 10am – “During this time of social distancing, the Churches of Braidwood present a 30-minute service”. (https://braidwoodradio.com.au/)
 
Hairdressers with their Ears to the Ground – Eurobodalla
We all know that hairdressers have their ears to the ground for what is going on in the local community. Hairdressers have a good reputation for listening to customers talk their way through a haircut. Eurobodalla Uniting Church has connected with a local hairdresser to gain an impression of the overall wellbeing of the community in the aftermath of the bushfires and now the COVID-19 restrictions. This will help form a picture of the local community to guide the church in how it goes about ministering through community chaplaincy

Eden Café Owners Judge Church ‘Cake Off’
St George’s Eden Uniting Church annual Mother’s Day cake competition took a turn this year with local café owners invited to be guest judges. Businesses and local community are struggling during these times of restrictions, and so another connection with the local community through this church cake competition was welcomed. The cakes were baked. Photos taken that could be sent around via email and social media. Then the cakes were submitted for the all-important taste test by the guest judges. 
These are three encouraging stories about congregations learning to be churches without walls – engaging in relationships with their local communities. How is your congregation learning and growing in being a church without walls?