Friday, April 13, 2007

The Freeway

"[...] The story of our church plant here in Hamilton. Five years ago a few of us came up with the idea to start a church community that would be full of people that actually gave a crap about each other. And that was a big reason why we started the Freeway. For a lot of us who had been around the church our experience was that people talked a very good game about Jesus and his grace and his love and his love and his hope. But when push came to shove we didn't really know anyone. And for some of us our experience was that anyone who didn't believe everything, signed on dotted line and know the secret handshake that we were pushed to the outside and we couldn't be part of church. And so some of us - it really made us want to create a place, to create a space to create a community where people could really honestly journey together regardless of looking the same or thinking the same. And that is a big part of the reason why we started this little adventure called the Freeway. And at first [we talked a bit actually in our group over here] about the fact that we were church planting for a denomination - the Salvation Army. And with that came a certain model, ,a certain set of expectations as to what the church would look like and what church planting would look like. And we didn't really have a lot of the same expectations. And so in the beginning stages we were working in a model that we knew which I would say at this stage was like hyper-contemporary. So at that stage we thought church planting looked like you go in like a bunch of rock stars , move into a town and drama business by creating really funky worship gatherings and lots of hi-tech stuff like a U2 concert. And you dazzle people with your incredible smile and your astonishing ability to exume the scriptures in a manner with which they can really change their lives. What we found out was that we really sucked about [it]. Our projector kept dying, I'm a crappy preacher, and Melissa's smile only goes so far. So we realized that what we were trying to do still wasn't us. The cool journey about the Freeway has been over the past 5 years it's been a journey of figuring out as a community who we are and what we are about. And trying to shed some of the dead skin of things that we thought were expectations on us that weren't from Jesus, but were from other places: either culture, or the church or where we get our paycheck from. So ours has been a story of brutal failure and huge success all rolled into one. So at the beginning our form of creating community or building community was small groups because evidently when you want to build community you have to start a small group ministry. That's what you do. So we did that and we sucked at that too. And even the small groups that we did that worked pretty well still never fit us. And through the process of going throught that and trying to programmy type things we realized that what we really wanted to do was learn how to be friends. It dawned on us that none of us really knew how to have deep organic relationships. So that became the new thing that we wanted to try. And we didn't know how to do that. We didn't know how to tell people how to do that, and we didn't know how to model it because we had never seen it. So we decided that our process of community would be really slow-going. So rather than inviting to come to the church, inviting them to small groups, we decided we'd try to figure out how to live right and be missional and do it together. So we started to throw parties, and hang out and encourage mentoring, and tried as much as we could in a loosey-goosey way to learn how to be friends and model what friendship looks like. A few of the programmy-type things that we have done which we would consider really big keys to community building for us - one would be spiritual retreats. We do them twice a year and we do a camping trip once a year. And those have been amazing. Because we decided not to do spiritual retreats where we would pulled in speakers and we would go for, like, the pomp and circumstance, the hop-la, the whole thing. Instead we decided to go away for weekends and spend time together. And explore some worship practices that maybe we didn't normally. And to play games and laugh and burp and fart and high-five and throw things at each other. Through spiritual retreats and organic-friendship trying what we realized is that we didn't and haven't found the secret of how to build community and not hurt people or not be hurt. And I think what we are figuring out is that ther eis no such thing as deep community without hurting each other because that's what we do. But we are starting to get to the point where we are building enough community that we can get beyond the hurts and still try to stick together. The Freeway is a story of failed relationships too. There's lot of people that don't come anymore . And it's not because they moved their way or got better jobs but because they did - weren't able to be community with us. And there's other stories of people who probably wouldn't be part of any other church community if we weren't here. And we are their community. And so we have been great and we suck. What I want to say about community [...] is that we('ve) tried to figure out the secret to what it means to live in the community of the Kingdom in a particular context with a particular group of people who God happens to send your way and we haven't figured out the secret yet. So we just keep plugging away and trying to learn how to love each other. For those of you just who are starting to do church planting or who are thinking a bout church planting or who are in a current context that you're like beating your head against the wall saying 'there has to be something different' . There is. And it's bloody hard work and it's discouraging and it sucks, but it's amazing. "


The Freeway:
333 King Street East
Hamilton, Ontario L8N 1C1
Phone: 905-296-1424
E-mail: info@frwy.ca

See also the (impressive) 100 Huntley Street video on Youtube:

Extract from Resonate Audio podcast