By Dr Stephen Harrison.
Twenty-five of us sat in a circle in an airy and bright classroom at Churchie one Saturday morning in 2019. We gathered in the room to explore ideas for growing the Church. There was an uplifting energy in the room, with people hopeful and eager to share. In another room nearby a larger group of 55 was discussing, “What might Christian communities look like beyond the parish model?” In fact, there were 20 groups of varying size simultaneously gathered across the campus excitedly sharing their thoughts and ideas in an exercise called “open space” dialogue. This wonderfully innovative addition to Synod proceedings saw all kinds of topics discussed.
The Synod community loved the open space experience. Ninety per cent of post-Synod survey respondents reported that open space improved their Synod experience and engagement. People valued the opportunity to have a say without judgement; the collaborative nature of the conversations; and the passion people showed for making a difference. The beauty and genius of open space are that it gives everyone a chance to provide input and only those who want to participate are present.
“Open space”, simply put, is a way of listening to each other and engaging with each other more carefully, more intentionally, more actively and more deeply than usual. It is a process for bringing people together to dialogue about and discern things that matter to them. You can learn more about open space in this very brief introductory video.
Synod’s open space dialogues in 2019 served to start important conversations about the future of the Church. Within our Diocesan community, groups are continuing to use innovative approaches to dialogue, such as open space and talking circles, to explore important topics. Last year a talking circle was hosted to follow up some of the Synod open space action items around inclusion and respect.
The Synod group who explored “What might Christian communities look like beyond the parish model?” desired to go further. In 2020 plans for further work was slowed by COVID-19. It is time now time to take the next step.
On 6 November The Rev’d Bronwyn Pagram and The Rev’d Gillian Moses, in collaboration with the Parishes and Other Mission Agencies Commission (PMC), are running an open space dialogue exploring the topic, “What might church look like beyond…?”
The question is provocative and deliberately open. The open space gathering will enable people to bring their own focuses to the dialogue. Do you wonder what ‘church’ might look like if there were alternatives to parishes, or if we gathered more frequently outside buildings, or if we worked in entirely different ways.
This free event is a great opportunity to share your own ideas, help others build on their ideas, and to explore together how and where the Holy Spirit is calling us. Morning tea and lunch will be provided so we can also enjoy fellowship time together.
The “Open Space dialogue: What might church look like beyond…?” event will be held on Saturday 6 November from 9 am – 2 pm at St Aidan’s Anglican Girls’ School (11 Ruthven Street, Corinda). Register by Wednesday 3 November via eventbrite.
First published on anglican focus on 18 October 2021.