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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Thursday, January 30, 2003
    Doing new church
    Characteristics of the new church (from Small Ritual):
      - portability/modularity/brevity
      - compactness/playfulness/interactivity
      - community/pooling/sharing
      - narrative/metaphorical/allusive
    I think IÕve spent a lot of today doing new church. First of all in fascinating conversation with people deeply involved in proposals to transform famous Liverpool landmark St Lukes from a bombed-out shell of a building into the Liverpool Peace Centre, housing a memorial to civilian war casualties, exhibition space and the ubiquitous cafe, as well as many rooms for educational and conference use, and (befitting a city-wide project) an interfaith space. There would be a particular emphasis on peace education supporting the city's schools in their developing National Curriculum Citizenship requirement.

    Prime movers in this are the city council and the local branch of the United Nations Association. Since the bomb took the roof off St Lukes the council have cared for it. And since the UNA are a ÔneutralÕ agency representing much of what is important in global peacebuilding, they seem ideal partners. But schools, faith groups, local partnerships and many others are keen to see this happen, and committed to working at it together. Modularity / interactivity / community / pooling / sharing: this exciting idea fits them all.

    And later, it was all narrative / metaphorical / allusive at a meeting of the Focolare, an international movement of people committed to bringing about unity, born, like the United Nations, out of World War Two. ItÕs a unity of all peoples based on Christian foundations but embracing all who seek solidarity.

    We are fortunate to have a number of Focolare folk living in community, locally. They are good friends to us, and this evening they gathered others from around the region to share stories and especially to Ôreport backÕ on a major conference in Geneva at which the founder Chiara Lubich, addressed the World Council of Churches.

    Theirs is a simple idea - to re-discover the Gospel and to put it into practice in their daily lives. They are ordinary people living ordinary lives but by their commitment theyÕve developed a new current of spirituality - what they call the spirituality of unity - Ògiving rise to a movement of spiritual and social renewal which is markedly communitarian in nature.Ó Their value to us locally is evidently shared wherever they are, because a speaker at the WCC highlighted it: they Òcreate opennessÓ between people. A rare and special quality.