A few thoughts following a great day at the FX Blended Festival in Ely

Driving up and back in a day felt like the affordable way to do it but it made for an early start and a lot of driving. Seeing the sunrise pretty much made the early start worthwhile!

I had the post code for Ely College in the sat nav to make use of the park and ride service that Blended Festival had set up. As I got closer it took me round the back of a KFC drive-through. It didn’t seem the obvious place for a College. It seems that some of the post codes have changed so I put in 'Ely College' and tried again. There’s something off-putting when a postcode lets you down.

It’s not my first time at Ely Cathedral, but I’d forgotten how it dominates the skyline. A reminder of the influence of Christendom. Not quite a city on a hill but certainly the most prominent landmark for miles. Something potentially incongruous about an FX conference in a cathedral. Not that FXs can’t find their home in cathedrals of course, just that most FXs are small expressions of community based faith. Perhaps it's just the other end of the scale.

Having said that it was great to have use of this space for this conference and it allowed so many innovative opportunities. I wasn’t quite prepared for the cold temperature though. Will definitely wear more layers next time!

I think its Jonny Baker that describes pioneers as those with the gift of not fitting in. I wonder if days like these are an attempt to help us fit in, be part of the wider institution of the Church of England. Herding cats comes to mind. Personally I love finding places where I fit in, I need community. I’m not sure I find it in days like these. I meet people in similar circumstances and I hear from people who are on a similar path, but I’m not sure I find a personal connection. But maybe that’s just me.

The first session I went to was on New Housing and Urban estates. It was great to meet a few people engaged in a similar challenge. It was soon evident that there was a wide range of contexts. Ordained or lay. Church building available. Community building available. No building available. Live on the estate / live off the estate. Deprived / affluent. Despite the diversity it was clear that building a sense of community was key for these potentially soulless developments. Three words came out of this conversation: Community - Encounter - Discipleship.

I was looking forwards to the second session - Church taking Shape. This is a potential next step for our community. What I was hoping for was information / inspiration on how to go from being a community to being a church through making disciples. Instead the session focussed on how to grow church from a ‘small group’. The conversation I was hoping for was how to grow a church from a community group - and I guess I thought the answer was ‘discipleship’ but I was hoping that there might be an easier way. Either way, the conversation didn’t really fit in to where I find our community on the FX journey.

I booked a one to one consultancy session. I’m definitely an external processor and chatting through what we’re up to at SN and NSP was really valuable.

On my way to my consultancy slot I caught 5mins of an outdoor baking session. There was a real buzz and despite the cold weather it was obvious people were enjoying the session. Seemed it was one of those moments when you encounter someone sharing their passion.

In the afternoon I went to the Building Community and then Exploring Discipleship sessions. I felt that the community session focussed on 'faith community' (ie with a focus on prayer / discipleship) rather than a wider community that has the potential to gather disciples. My reading of the model: listen > love and serve > build community > explore discipleship > see church take shape would suggest that sharing faith together doesn’t really happen until after the community is established.

Exploring discipleship was a stimulating session to wrap up the day. A reminder that discipleship isn't about running a course but walking with people and spending time with them.

Incidentally, the updated version of the model has replaced 'exploring discipleship' with 'sharing Jesus'. I’m not convinced these phrases are interchangeable. It might just be me being pedantic, and I know both are important, I just think it changes the model.

I think it’s mike Breen that said - if you make disciples you always get the church. I know he was making a point about starting with discipleship not worship services, but I’m not sure it holds that if you share Jesus you get the church. I'd be interested in finding out the thinking behind this change...

Throughout the day the phrase ‘blended’ was dropped into sessions / conversations. I’m not sure it’s a comfortable fit if I’m honest. Blended for me creates a grey-green sludge - but perhaps that’s just my breakfast.

Perhaps my tweets capture some of my key moments...

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