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Something New

Nitekirk and New Year


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I bought a sharp pencil yesterday to celebrate the New Year. And also because I’ve also just started a new job. That’s a little mad, I know – three kids, three jobs may not be the most sensible arrangement – but it’s also exciting to start something new at this time of year. Or almost new.

Over the past year, I’ve been doing a little volunteer work with Nitekirk. I think I mentioned it to you back in February. This is a ministry begun by Greyfriars Kirk and, together with two other local congregations, they host a monthly open night at one of the central city churches. I’ve taken on one of the co-ordinator positions, gathering volunteers and facilitating their work. Each month, the volunteers craft and curate the open space that is Nitekirk, offering music, poetry, art, contemplation and welcome to all who enter the church. To borrow a phrase from Geez Magazine, this is church for the unchurched and overchurched. An open space of stillness.

This feels like a very good thing. Like the old advice that writers should write the book they want to read, I’ve been given a chance to help craft the church I need right now.

Several years ago, I walked the Camino in Spain and when I came home a friend asked me what I would miss most after my pilgrimage was finished. I told him that it would be the practise of sitting in churches. Which was ridiculous. At the time, I had an office in the church where this friend was the minister and a key to the sanctuary in my pocket. Not only was I there a lot anyway, I could also let myself into any time that I liked. He laughed. But I didn’t sit in the church very much. Somehow, the key wasn’t quite enough. I needed an open door.

Nitekirk is a little like that. It is an open door, a quiet space, an excuse to sit in church. It isn’t church as you know it. While the evening begins and ends with music and shared words, most of the evening, the time and space are your own, for contemplation or conversation, as you like and as you need. This is the midwifery approach to the Gospel. God will be among us and within us. God will meet us. Worship, like birth, happens.  We were formed for this. Given encouragement and space, worship and mission will emerge among us. God will meet us – as we accept the invitation and inhabit the space.

That takes work and it can feel like a risk. It’s very much a departure from my usual love of structured worship (and yes, more cerebral theology), but maybe that’s a good thing. Sunday morning will still find me and my family singing with the organ, but one night a month, I’ve committed to this new faith experiment. We’ll see what changes come.

It’s my prayer that I can inhabit this space as well as coordinate it. The table around here is going to get messier over the next few months and that pencil is already showing its use. Plum and I will carve out new routines together. I pray that the stillness and peace I work for can find its way into my home as well. A stream finding a new passage. And I pray that my new work will deepen rather than drain me. For a new year, new work, new ways of being and listening, new community, new refreshment for our daily work of love.

About the author

Katie Munnik is an Ottawa writer currently living in Edinburgh, Scotland, with her studying husband and three growing children. Each Monday on the Messy Table, she writes about the practical theology of parenting and the practice of reading lectionary. You can also find Katie on twitter @messy_table
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7 Comments

  1. avatar
    Sharon says:

    Much blessings Katie on your new endeavour. You are the perfect person for the job! Your children will learn much about God’s path for them as they watch their mum answer His will.

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    Lorna says:

    Katie: Nitekirk. Tell us more! How does one be in contemplation in God’s space with music and art around? Sounds intriguing! Is it similar to a Quaker meeting? Congratulations upon your new ministry and call. Do various Churches host a Nitekirk?

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  3. avatar
    Katie Munnik says:

    Thanks, Sharon and Lorna, for the encouragement and blessings.
    Nitekirk rotates among three sanctuaries, though the planning team is broader than that with members from many churches and denominations and none at all. Here’s a what it looks like: Throughout the sanctuary, there are places of activity – perhaps a circle of chairs with pictures to consider or Scripture passages, prayers and poems to read or note cards to write on, art supplies to focus your creativity. Last month, a Polish artist invited us to try egg tempera to create icons. In one corner, clergy from the Episcopal congregation offer private conversation and anointing. We often have a choir or musicians to add their gifts to this space of worship. In the centre, there is a place to gather at the beginning and end of the evening for songs from Taize or Iona and there is also something there to give visual focus: perhaps a cradle made from a cardboard box or wooden trays of sand and smooth stones laid on the floor in the shape of a cross, or an art installation of a door made out of lights and ribbons. Between 8pm and 11pm, people come and go as they like, joining in songs or sitting in silence and enjoying the space. At one end, there will be tables where you’ll find simple food, tea and coffee and quiet conversation. Part art gallery, part Messy Church, part meditation centre, part coffee shop, part refuge – all church.

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    Lorna Reply:

    Thanks Katie for this description. Awesome. How is the Gospel or Scriptures incorporated into the evening? Does a portion of scripture become the focus for the evening? How do you advertise these events? Do the Churches receive a lot of homeless people? Many questions :)

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    Katie Munnik Reply:

    It all depends on the theme. For example, this month our theme is HOME, so we’ll be drawing inspiration from the story of the Prodigal Son, using Rembrandt’s painting and Henri Nouwen’s reflections as sources for contemplation.
    We advertise with leaflets in local churches, cafes, galleries, shelters, community projects and also via facebook, etc. I’ll be developing a website over the next few months that will help with that, too.

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  4. avatar
    Gerry Sarcen...Retired clergy like your approach says:

    A very low key approach to a wonderful truth…

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  5. avatar
    Ian Victor says:

    Nicely done, Katie. Bravo!

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