We started a new series at church today looking at 1 Thessalonians and pondering some of the basics of the Christian faith. It was a good start - people were very positive about the message and there was a good atmosphere. So I have high hopes that God will use this letter to lead us into fresh encounters with him.
It was good after the service to talk to a church leader from another south London baptist church who are embarking on a neighbourhood groups policy like the one we've been considering, but who are much further along than we are. Indeed, in the new year they are hoping that their Sunday gathering will happen in a variety of places in small groups with a monthly central gathering to tell stories and encourage one another. Sounds great to me.
We joked about what 'central' means in this context. It seems to me that central to following Jesus is sharing his story where we are. So a small group of Christians and others out for a bike ride and pub lunch are at the centre of mission; as is a group organising a BBQ in their road; and another group doing the gardens of older people in the community who aren't as nimble as they used to be; as is a group of families gathered in Starbucks for brunch, conversation and mutual support. If each group exists to share the good news in some way, then it is the centre of 'church'. The centre is on the margins of the large group, at that place where faith is being experienced by those who don't yet believe.
A while back we had a Baptist Assembly on the subject of centring the margins. It was about creating inclusive communities where everyone had a voice. It was a good assembly (the first one with Prism!). But I wonder whether we ought to be thinking in terms of marginalising the centre, recognising that Jesus does his best work on and just beyond the edges of the community of faith.