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.