A docklands regeneration project in Glasgow is now home to hundreds of people – and The Glasgow Harbour initiative known as authentic (?). Church of Scotland minister Alex Smeed, one of the authentic (?) leaders, explains how churches in the area set it up in response to a call for new ways of 'doing' church.
We started by asking ourselves the question, 'What does living out God's kingdom look like for the people here?' The 'how' of listening led us to observe and investigate our surroundings through an 18-month mission audit – not only to understand the culture of individuals moving in but also what their homes, cars, and the type of local shops being built said about them.
The audit firstly focused on qualitative data which included us intentionally spending time in the area itself to try and ascertain who the residents were, what kind of culture they came from, what hours they kept and where they worked.
The second, quantitative, aspect was a much more book-based analysis. We looked at old Ordnance Survey Maps of the area, researched history books as to previous land ownership to glean how it had changed over many years and to see where we could go in the future – to find what were the 'keys to the gospel.'
One of our key questions was, 'How do we take the mission audit's conclusions and turn them into a positive reality?' A hankering for community was identified as important but the design of the buildings, with many security features for residents, actually inhibited community – particularly as there were no communal meeting places in the development.
Some of our team moved into a flat in the harbour to have a place on site where people could be invited for a meal and generally practice hospitality. We continue to explore ways in which they can gather people together, including the launch of our authentic (?) curry house as a 'pop-up restaurant' and the development of a greater internet presence in order to promote online community.
The authentic (?) curry house runs one Saturday night in every month from 8pm to 10pm, usually at The Annexe in Partick, where there's room for 30 people to have a four-course vegetarian meal and drinks. We charge £10 for the food and drinks, including our home made mango lassi and chai! I am the chef and my wife Sally does everything else.
As authentic (?) we're also looking at things like having a regular running community. We would also love to offer free, organic, fairly traded beautiful coffees to people as they leave for work in the morning. All these sorts of ideas are things that we are pursuing, we believe in a God who blesses and so we want to pursue that, we want to embody that in everything we do.
Eventually we hope to grow the team to round about eight. Those who do join spend quite a long time with us as sort of a journeying process, making sure that we share values and vision and that our basis of faith is common before we start working together. We like to be very close within the team, that we spend a lot of time in one another's company and nurture and care for each other but we also want to maintain our outward focus and keep that missional outlook in everything that we do.
We are doing all of this hand in hand with other Christians in this area so that we can be as effective as possible, living out the unity of that body. Part of our vision is to see people reconnected with God, seeing that relationship restored and so we're going to be intentional about the way that we invite people to experience God, to live a life that is transformed by a relationship with him. It's about having the integrity to talk about that, to invite people into a place where they can explore in a contextually relevant way what it means to follow Jesus in this area.
If you feel you might be being prompted into a new missional context and would like to find out more about joining the authentic (?) team, contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org.