House of Pain in a House of God – Partnership for Missional Church in Nottingham
When you see the venue here and you see the work that people such as Kevin does here – you can’t deny how this community is brought together. This church brings people from all around the community and it gives them a purpose. Partnership for Missional Church challenges us to wrestle with our ideals of how to reach the community. And from that I think it’s very ironic that we have now got wrestling within the church. When it first started there were a lot of churchgoers who were probably quite worried about these musclebound brutes I think Partnership for Missional Church has allowed this church to loosen up and to be more free-spirited. This church before was here but people from St Ann’s didn’t use it. We had an old stigma back from when this church was basically 80 per cent people outside. Now I believe it’s 50/50 or even higher. Partnership for Missional Church is not a programme that you kind of run for six weeks or even three or four years and then you tick the box, you’ve done it. What I saw in Partnership for Missional Church was a kind of a scaffold that I could lead the congregation through to help them explore mission and explore discipleship. This is about a cultural change in the heart of the congregation. Partnership for Missional Church has definitely brought people together. Before PMC and breaking down all these barriers the church was just a building used for worship and one or two uniform organisations in the week. Now the church is busy all week. They see this church as kind of like the centre of the community, especially round here. St Ann’s is church for everybody. If you live in the community, obviously it’s a community church. I’ve always believed in God at work in all the world – always believed in God at work in all the world. Yet everything I’ve ever done has been about church. Well, why don’t we spend some time with our community finding out what God’s doing there. And telling them and encouraging them that God’s at work amongst them and joining in with what God is doing in those places. It removes the barriers because people realise there’s just no agendas. It is all about fostering great community spirit. I would I would say to anyone considering PMC: It’s not easy. I found the process tremendously difficult. On one level because it was really deskilling. I know how to make events happen. I know how to organise people. I can do that. Leading people in spiritual practices that actually shape their missional living was kind of new. We thought we were a church of the community. But when we started the process I think it came out that we were living in a cocoon. And there were barriers. It’s about really discerning the activity of God. It is about wrestling with ourselves as well, about why we might not want to go to some of the places we feel called to. And it gives space for everybody to wrestle with it. In our meetings, our PCC meetings, we always do what we call Dwelling in the Word, where we listen to the Bible being read and we go into groups and discuss what we’ve heard. Yeah, we’ve had the struggles but we’ve had the guiding, we’ve done a lot of the Dwelling in the Word. As far as most of the British wrestlers… they now call this church the spiritual home of wrestling. A few of the people from the wrestling are slowly discovering the church. They’d never been in a church, sometimes they wanted to pray in the church. That’s why one of our curate vicars invented a prayer station where they’ll come and just pray and light a candle. She did a really awesome thing of setting up this prayer station with wrestling-related prayers. I love it when they come here and they just sit in the church and find it peaceful, they find it a relaxing place. They can’t sometimes put their finger on whether it’s God or whatever but they just feel there’s something. We’re House of Pain Wrestling and for most people, I say: We’re going to wrestle in a church… For most, it would be a weird thing. But for myself and the wrestlers, we just think it’s awesome. It only seems natural that such a hub of community – we would get to perform here and help bring that community together even more. Partnership for Missional Church – it’s made us out there with some of the things we’ve done, making church relevant again. Part of the Partnership for Missional Church is paying attention to those places that are open to receiving you – and receiving that hospitality, rather than always being the ones to give it, right? Because we as church are the ones that give hospitality. We throw the party, we do the tea and cakes, we do the coffee, we welcome you into our space. But what if we’re humble enough to be received into someone else’s space? See where God is working. And join in. That’s PMC.