For many churches the weekend away is a chance for the congregation to get away and be together and perhaps to receive some teaching and encouragement from an outside speaker. These are undoubtedly great opportunities for the church to deepen its relationship with God and one another.
When we decided to go away as a community for such a weekend, our leadership team met to pray and consider how to use the time. We came to conclusion that we wanted to make the weekend as open and accessible as possible to the many non-Christian people we were beginning to connect with. So we ditched the idea of an invited speaker, or a program of seminars and decided instead to make the weekend a relaxed and welcoming space to deepen relationships amongst the whole community, both those committed Christians at the core and those at the fringes uncertain what they believe.
For this, our second year, we took 75 people away with us – people drawn from the community of communities which is now Reconnect, Space for Life (an art and craft community of women) and the Community Dinner (a weekly shared meal for those on the margins of society). The vast majority of the weekend was relaxed, unhurried time in which to have fun, take a walk and have the sort of conversations normal life often prevents. Optional sessions included a chance to hear about an upcoming discipleship course based on our Rule of Life, ‘Open Spaces’, a participatory session for anyone with an idea to help make a difference in the community of Poole, and community worship, open accessible worship for all ages. For the latter we had a huge turnout with many engaging in worship with Reconnect for the first time.
The feedback from everyone was incredibly positive. There was a wonderful sense of community that for many was transformative and inspiring. We laid very little on, simply drawing from the gifts and talents within the community, and yet people left feeling they’d had the most amazing weekend. What I believe we have discovered is another expression of hospitality as a powerful way of demonstrating the gospel of Christ. We have created a loving, welcoming, inclusive space in which a community, centred on Christ, offer themselves and what they stand for without excuse but without any pressure or coercion. God, by his Spirit, did the rest.