I Am Glad You Did that!
Over the past 24 hours a number of events have come to me leading me to ponder the contribution of community and house churches to wellbeing.
- “I am glad you did that!” This was an e-mail response I received from a close 80 year old relative whom I had phoned earlier to wish her a “Happy Birthday”. I had said “I do not want to bother you because I thought you would be inundated with phone calls.”
“No,” she said, “You are one of only two people who have been in touch with me today.
- Last night our Home Study group met for its fortnightly gathering. We have been meeting for some 25 years and comprise members with religious orientation ranging from the deep Fundamentalist to the way out Progressive radical. Nevertheless we still find satisfaction in getting together.
- I met with a couple of Uniting Church ministers from neighbourhood churches. We revealed and accepted our doctrinal differences and in a frank and honest discussion were able to share in our passion that the Jesus way of unconditional love be proclaimed in our communities.
- A small column appeared in the Courier-Mail (page 20) of the June 15th 2018 issue.
“Faith links to Long Life”
“Being actively religious could add more than six years to your life, a study suggests.
Researchers believe the social aspect of a religious community could improve well-being, and said religious rules prohibited unhealthy behaviour and promoted positive activity among the faithful.
In the study, led by Ohio State University, psychologists examined obituaries. An analysis of national newspapers found those of religious faith lived for an average of 3.82 years longer once gender and marital status were considered,
One can argue about the statistical basis of this study but it raises the question. What is behind this?” Is it “God is being good to us, and never mind the heathen”?
Or, has it something to do with the community and family-type responsibility which arises from groups gathering with a common religious purpose. Does community come before doctrine?
I am inclined to think that in today’s 21st century environment it does. This is the ethos behind the Milpara concept of integration of congregations with their secular local communities and of the nurture of smaller sustainable groupings as house churches.
Let’s see what we can do to respond to the loneliness which so many of us can feel in today’s busy world.
EMPOWERING WOMEN – HOUSE CHURCHES
The following extract was brought to my attention by Paul Wildman, one of our subscribers. It provided a new slant for me on the prospect of house churches being a valid option for conveying the Jesus message in a world where “Christian” has become, in a remarkably short time, a “dirty” word. Rodney Eivers
“It would have been out of the question for [Saint] Paul that such female co-workers should be condemned to subservient silence. Paul traveled with these women, depended on the support of female patrons, and organized numerous local communities around the hospitality of powerful women. Because first- and second-generation Christian gatherings took place in domestic settings, which, unlike the public sphere, were traditionally presided over by women, positions of authority in these “house churches” naturally went to women. Paul’s authentic writings consistently reflect that. Indeed, they take the essential equality of women as a given.”
Carroll, James. Christ Actually: The Son of God for the Secular Age (p. 223). HarperCollins Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Especially for past visitors to this Milpara website.
You will be aware that this website Milpara.com has been quiescent for several years.
This is mainly because your editor has had other preoccupations. One of those developing preoccupations is a growing awareness that the current model for congregations with the mainstream church denominations is unsustainable.
In early 2018, however, I became aware that other people may be seeing some merit in exploring an additional component. This would be something of a network of Christian groups meeting in private houses. They would be associated with a specific denomination but not tied to that denomination as a legal entity. So, although Milpara would continue to promote the “community” model of a church congregation as against a “doctrinal” model there may be virtue in stepping back from that primary structure – 50 to 100 worship attenders with one full-time minister. Instead we might generate a smaller more intimate “family” model of first contact with few if any administrative constraints. Of course, if the house church happened to grow (not its prime function) there may well be the opportunity to evolve into a standard congregation.
So you will find for the time being with Milpara that we may be making a fresh emphasis on the “house church”.
For a start you will find a page here which in response to a call for thoughts on “What the church needs to do to address its decline” by the UC Forum (. This provides some basic suggestions as to what the house church scenario might entail. We would invite you to join us in this venture e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org )
PS. On coming back to this website I have been reminded of the list of people to whom notice of postings is sent. If this is considered to be impertinent please let me know email@example.com and we shall remove your name. On the other hand there may be some who would like to be added to the list. Invite them to send their details to us.
It is hard to believe that it is two years since we had a contribution to this Milpara website. It is not that I see its purpose as any less relevant but life has a way of making other activities a priority from time to time.
While the nurturing of the integration of congregations with their local geographic communities remains a direction for Milpara I am coming round to putting more emphasis for the next 20 years on the facilitation of “house churches” which are seen as an option for the a future Uniting Church as described in Keith Suter’s Scenario Three – Return to the early church as small centres of “spiritual” focus. I am looking for young people with a 20-year vision to work with me on this venture.
What prompted this specific entry, however, was following a link to on-line article in the Guardian newspaper by Giles Fraser.
Mr Fraser notes that local churches are a hive of diversity. Indeed this is my experience going back to early childhood. It is this encompassing of a diverse community which impels me to promote the integration of congregations with their local geographic communities.
Here is the first paragraph of Giles Fraser’s article. You can read the rest by following the link.
“Reviewing the Christmas services it strikes me once again how diverse a group us churchgoers are. In terms of class, race, nationality, gender and sexuality, it’s hard to imagine any other regular collective gathering that pulls in such a varied collection of people. My church is a black majority church in a gentrifying area. University professors sit next to the people who clean their offices. The Ethiopian, Trump-supporting evangelical sings the same hymns as the chap with his fine collection of Jeremy Corbyn badges. The Romanian homeless guy prays alongside the person who is transitioning and next to the old Etonian ex-army officer. Many of these people have very little in common except their faith. But this is enough for them to treat each other as extended family. And I am proud to serve as their priest.”
In 2014 Keith Suter completed and published his Doctoral thesis, offering 4 scenarios of the future of the Uniting Church in Australia. This has become the subject of some discussion within the Church and is of interest to Milpara, which vision for a future Church that is vibrant, relevant and integrated with Australian communities. Suter’s thesis is long, but well worth a read. You can access it here.
You can be a part of this developing concept.
Milpara is an emerging community innovation set up by long term members of the Uniting Church to help put the Church back into the heart of the community and to help alleviate common issues such as isolation, loneliness and many other life challenges. Milpara is intended to both support and empower churches to open their doors to the local communities as well as work with the community to help create stronger, friendlier and more collaborative environments through events and networks. While this project is in its formative stage, we are inviting others to join us in developing the initiative. You can register interest or offer advice by contacting any member of our team. Just follow the links on this site.