This blog began with a question.
What does it mean to belong?
The question emerged from a listening exercise I ran in 2011 for a fairly small Anglican church in the South West of England, with a view to building a foundation for a vision for the church. 80% of the members (102 people, plus 18 children) took part in discussion groups and/or contributed through questionnaires, to have their voices heard and to listen to others as they explored who they were as a church, what the church meant to them and what they were looking for both in and as a church.
As expected, dozens of issues were thrown up, relating to areas from prayer to parking and including stories, suggestions, criticisms, affirmations, experiences, testimonies and dreams. But by far the most commonly mentioned and strongly asserted theme was belonging. It was raised in discussion groups and on questionnaires; by people who felt they did belong and people who felt they didn’t; by some who had been attending the church for over 70 years and some who had walked through the doors for the first time only months before.
In this blog I want to explore what it means to belong. More specifically, what does it mean to belong to a church? Who belongs and who doesn’t belong, and why? And is belonging what church is really all about?
In a sense, the ‘belonging posts’ on this blog are an experiment with the process of writing a paper. As I post my thoughts, I would very much appreciate your feedback and ideas in order to enrich it with far greater understanding than I could ever achieve on my own.