We finally started our experimental church about three months ago. Cecile and I have been talking about this for years. We discussed it with many people, visited a few house churches and attended some talks about the subject. More recently we discussed the idea with my cousin Wessel and his wife, Kathrin. We knew the time had come to just start.
This is really what this blog is about, to figure out what the next church should (or could) look like. Last year in March I wrote about the long nextchurch journey here. Most of what I wrote on this blog since I started it just over two years ago, was preparation for this church experiment.
The first time we got together (it was the 2nd of September this year), we were five adults (Cecile and I with my cousin and his wife and a friend) with five small children, all under the age of 6! We simply had a meal together and started talking. We talked mainly about what we were looking for in a church. We did talk about previous negative church experiences but decided that we didn’t want to dwell on those. We were not getting together to criticise other churches. Rather we wanted to experiment being the church in a fresh way.
One of the things that came out of our discussion was that we were looking for a space to just be ourselves, to be accepted unconditionally and to accept others unconditionally. We needed a safe place to ask difficult questions, doubting questions, a place where we could explore avenues that might lead us to other answers than the simple, straight-forward answers we grew up with.
Another critical issue for us was to deal with the legacy of apartheid and to be serious about reconciliation and related issues such as racism, diversity and poverty.
When we started, our gatherings were very informal and unstructured. They are still very informal but have become a little bit more structured over the past few weeks. We always start with a meal. After some time of “normal” unstructured conversation during the course of the meal, we start talking about the question of the previous week or we identify a new question. We generally allow ourselves a lot of time to talk through the issue before we get to the next stage, which is usually to take the question to the Bible. We might not even get to the Bible on the same night that a new question or topic is being discussed.
I am planning to write more about our recent discussions that centered around the question: Why do black people live in small houses and white people in nice, big houses? Since we started with five adults and five small children, our group has grown to about ten adults with seven small children. One of our group members is a domestic worker and she asked the question that dominated our most recent conversations.