Greenbelt: Small is beautiful

31 May 2007

by Jonny Baker

IN FEBRUARY 2001, a group of young adults got together at the request of the Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Revd James Jones. They were charged with compiling a report about young-adult-oriented worship initiatives in the diocese, and making recommendations about what could — or should — be done to address better the needs of those interested in exploring questions of faith, but not in going to church.

As part of this, the group decided to meet together to worship. In fact, they carried on meeting after the report was published. A year later, Dream was born, with the strapline: “re-imagining church”.

Dream began in city-centre alternative-worship-community style: music, visual projections, stations, and ritual. But, after a couple of years, rather than organise large, impressive worship gatherings, Dream reconfigured as a series of small groups.

There are now six small Dream communities (one is pictured, above). There is also a “Dream 4 Kids”. These small communities and their worship together is not an add-on extra to “normal” church — it is church.

Each group’s worship has a different flavour. What unites them is their shared ethos rather than a particular style. A Dream might include discussion, music, prayer, contemplation, and creative participative ritual, sometimes around a meal. Often, these creative rituals are very simple, such as looking at an image of different landscapes — mountain, desert, canyon, and beach — to reflect on the landscape you are walking through in your own life, and as a way of facilitating discussion and prayer.

The Dream website is highly participative. Users share ideas for worship on a “dream to go” blog. There is also a Dream Lectio page with scripture postings.

In years gone by, this might have been called “cell church”, but that had become slightly formulaic and predictable.

Increasingly I meet people who are getting together in small groups to work out their Christian faith and worship within that group. Some are connected to the Anglican Church. Others have moved beyond the denominational edges. They are relational; the worship is often simple and creative; and they are fuelling the faith of those involved.

Dream led worship at Greenbelt last year, and will be back this summer in the New Forms café.

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