From the very beginning of City Life Church's existence, we’ve had the rhythm of breaking from organised Sunday gatherings at particular times of the year, normally in-line with school holidays simply because those tend to be times when people are visiting family or away on holidays.
Over the years we’ve not always done a very good job of explaining why we do this. So we’d like to try and unpack some of the thinking behind this as it is a deliberate choice to have these breaks.
Here are a few of the reasons why we make this decision and what our thinking is.
Emphasising Rest - It takes effort to put on gatherings and for some people turning up to a gathering and being present requires significant energy. Rather than meeting on Sundays 52 weeks a year, we’ve tried to build breaks into our annual rhythm to give everyone space to pause. Resting is a significant part of being human, it’s something we’re not particularly good at in the west and church culture often rewards busyness over rest.
Creating Space - In many ways ‘free-style’ happens all year round. We often mention that the real life of a church community happens outside of meetings. When we connect with each other over a pint, at a toddler group or in shared workspaces. The unique thing about the specific times we call ‘free-style’ is that by not gathering on a Sunday we’re physically creating two to three hours worth of time and energy which can then be spent on other things. It’s a chance to head out on day trips, visit family for the weekend, hook up with friends.
Communicating what church is - We believe the church is a community of people, not a building or meeting/service. While it’s important to have regular, structured times to gather together, our church community is more than that. It’s why we call our Sunday meetings ‘gatherings’, they are gatherings of the Church. Hopefully, Sunday gatherings are a helpful opportunity to connect with God and with each other, we also want everyone in the community to have other practices and disciplines that help them do this across a week.
With that in mind, our vision for Free-style would be that this extra time and space would create opportunities for creativity, fun and rest across the week - whatever that looks like for you. We’re not trying to replace the gatherings simply with an alternative kind of meet-up in a different location, but imagine a whole host of different activities to engage with.
Some of these might look like ‘open’ events where you invite the whole community through the WhatsApp group. You might want to head out for a walk, meet for games in a pub, read through the book of Matthew, host a BBQ, go swimming - the list is endless (don’t let cost put you off, just get people to bring what they need). You might want to use the extra time to connect with specific people or no one. You might find it really restful to head away for the weekend or to spend the day at the beach on your own.
Ideally then, each week there would be 2 or 3 different things going on, although this will only happen if we all take ownership of it. Controversial there will be no rota. This is supposed to be an organic period of time where we don’t know what will emerge. This is a little risky as it’s quite possible that nothing will happen. That will depend on us. So get plotting. If anyone has any good ideas about how we can communicate with each other about stuff that’s going on, other than through the WhatsApp group then let us know.