21st December 2020

Reflections on the Parish Collective Learning Community

by Rev Ken Westwood – Senior Pastor, Aberfeldie Baptist Church


 I came to Aberfeldie in 2012 after 28 years of rural ministry.  The four rural congregations I served were embedded in their place and had local identity and focus.  In Hopetoun, where I last lived, it was comparatively easy to get involved in town life and I had a number of community roles.  I moved to Essendon in 2012 with the mindset of again serving the neighbourhood, only to discover that most people in our congregation live in nearby suburbs and do not readily identify with the neighbourhood of the church building, located in a residential street.  We are a small congregation with very few of our people in walking distance of our facilities which are well used by several community groups.  One of my roles is to connect as much as possible with the community groups who use our property. 

In the Parish Collective work this year, I have been challenged to figure out if the main application is for me as an individual in my community, or whether it is for our whole congregation within our local community.  The other leader from our church who joined me in the Parish Collective agrees that it is quite hard to apply all of the innovative Parish Collective approaches in an established church.  

Something I have taken from the Parish Collective is the affirmation that it takes a while to become established in a place.   After living in Essendon almost nine years, I know the names of people who live in homes near me and talk with them whenever I have a chance.  Another learning is that being a faithful presence involves simple actions like lending tools to the man across the road and sharing out our spare green waste bin with neighbours.  Even the silent presence of a basketball ring in our church carpark and the carpark itself as a place to ride scooters and bikes has had a community serving impact during the COVID-19 crisis.    

Yet another take-away from the Parish Collective is to remind people to consider the place where they spend their time as a place where God is already at work and to look for opportunities to be involved.  

[The Parish Collective Learning Community, facilitated by the BUV Support Hub Mission Catalyst team, is designed to develop churches or teams to be a compelling expression of God’s love and care in their neighbourhoods.  Focusing on recovering the imagination, practices and postures required for faithful Christian presence, participants will grow as the kind of leaders who guide Jesus followers into the embodiment of Shalom within the uniqueness of their respective communities].

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