VentureFX pioneer Lou Davis tells about the formation and development of a community in Scotland's capital city.
I had been working with the C3 community in Stockport but then applied for VentureFX and was sent to Edinburgh a year ago. At first I spent a lot of time getting to know what was happening in the city, speaking to people and going to different groups. I started by doing Twitter searches for Edinburgh and following people online to see what they were doing in the city.
I have always liked making things; it was a kind of family activity. As a result I always tend to gravitate towards creative people who also make things because it seems a very natural 'fit' for me. At Stockport I went on a pattern cutting course which eventually led to me taking a two year City and Guilds in Fashion and Textiles. At C3 we majored on craft groups but, in Edinburgh, I initially steered clear of doing the same thing so that I could discern what God was calling me to do in a very different situation.
After a while, I felt that making things and being creative was so much a part of me that I couldn't let it go. Things have since moved on and I have got myself a studio at Portobello, the city's seaside! It is great for making friends and building community as a creative hub, a place where people are creating artwork in all sorts of different forms.
At the moment the ministry is developing in three main areas:
- I'm developing a new Christian worship community called The Gathering. I'm doing this with other people from the Edinburgh and Forth Circuit and this is designed to help in exploring Christianity and creating a place for developing community. It is a twice monthly act of creative, community-inspired worship in the heart of the city. We start off with tea or coffee, cake and chat at 6.30pm followed by worship half an hour later and a trip to the pub afterwards. We also have a few smaller groups; we meet up twice a month to share a meal, get to know each other as friends and serve others. As a group we have already found ourselves serving the homeless of Edinburgh.
- I'm also involved with the YMCA in Edinburgh by helping with the drop-in events there. I attempt to play darts but keep hitting the wall!
- I work with different artists and creative types, going to meetings and already established networks. I work with other creatives under the name of Edinburgh Dreams and we have staged events and worked closely with YMCA Edinburgh and the City of Edinburgh Methodist Church. We've got some great plans for the near future, including photography, video, art, fashion and a public art project for Advent.
The concept of Edinburgh Dreams is to build community across the city, inspire creative activity and to build friendships across divides – social, economic and geographic.
I go through phases when I consider how things are developing. Some days it is very exciting and positive – usually when something has gone well – and at other times it seems like I'm just doing endless admin and not getting anywhere at all. But then I may meet someone new, have an amazing conversation about God and it's all worthwhile.
For me it has been really important to keep in contact with the friends I have made in other places. I make sure I don't lose those friendships because I have needed the backing and love of people outside the area I'm working in. Thankfully the Circuit is really interested in what sorts of things I am doing and I'm also grateful for their level of support for me. In the community itself I don't think everyone's totally aware of what I do, at the YMCA for instance I just say, 'I work for the church.' That's usually enough to spark a conversation where deep thoughts about the meaning of life are shared.
My post is initially for five years but it's very encouraging to see how things are already taking hold; whether it be through the friends that I'm making in the artistic community or The Gathering which has been meeting for just a few months now but is finding its feet. We currently get together in a café in the city centre and we do slightly different things each time we meet – music, video, conversation and creative prayer and we always spend time together just chilling out.
Previously I've been part of groups where we wore ourselves out trying to do good things when there were people, or groups in the town, already doing those same things. I didn't want Edinburgh Dreams to fall into the same trap so it has been really good to start slowly, to find out what is already working in the city. It has been really useful to see the work of the YMCA, for instance. That has been a real eye-opener and shows a completely different side to Edinburgh from the tourist city with its tartan shops and castle. There can be a lot of kudos attached to having a project with your name on it in some way but it's vital to look around and see what else is being done and how 'your' own project can best serve the people around you by linking up with others or sharing the load.