Sue Sheriff has got the Divine Divas – now she wants the men!
I am really excited by the way things are going with Divine Divas (as featured on the expressions: making a difference DVD). BUT, even better, the men in our area have now had their first 'Divine Divas' style event!
We'd provided them with lots of suggestions for names – things like Divine Dudes or Heavenly Hunks, etc – but surprise, surprise, they weren't impressed. There are a number of men in their 40s and 50s (and over) in our congregations who we wanted to bring together, but this effort was more about reaching out to the men 'beyond the fringe'.
Tadcaster is a place with lots of 'old-fashioned ways'. For instance, many of our pubs have no entertainment licences and still use old opening hours, so men tend to gather in them for a bit of a chat. My husband Gary and my ex-churchwarden John Wilson often slip into one of the local hostelries so know many of the local characters. I can't say we often see these men in church, except for funerals, so we wanted to work more within their comfort zone.
To organise the men-only event, I invited John and a few others to join Gary and me for pie, peas and prayers one evening. Some were slightly cautious as they had tried to reach out to men before, but there was also a lot of vision and enthusiasm. We invited others to be involved, all of whom had friendly personalities and different gifts, skills and experience to share. These included a newly confirmed and enthusiastic Christian, a man who had a shop in town, good relationship with lots of church people, and someone blessed with technical knowhow.
Principles were similar to Divine Divas, namely a night of fun in a relaxed environment with a little taste of the difference a Christian faith can make. But there were a lot of things that were different. The Divas spend a lot of time on the trimmings, the decoration, making everyone feel special, whereas the men just wanted everything to be simple and down-to-earth. The joke was they reckoned I had written the 'minutes' before our introductory meeting even began. Not true at all; I had merely set a detailed agenda of suggestions after picking my hubby's brain about what the men of 'Tad' might respond to! The fellas also had plenty of ideas of their own.
Together we decided a Saturday night would work best. The venue? A small, local social club with its own bar that only usually opened on week nights. We decided to organise a quiz, with corned beef hash 'on the menu' for everyone who came along. A local curate, Rev Andy Grant – who had recently left the army – was lined up to talk for a short time about his faith when in military service and what brought him to the point of ordination.
With no name selected for the group, printing invitations was interesting. In the end they went for something like St Mary's Men's Quiz Night. The only point I insisted on was the making up of an invitation list and naming who was to personally give each invite. Most of the men wanted a casual handing out of the cards, but I felt people would be missed that way.
An unscheduled boost came with the broadcast of the Rugby League Four Nations Cup Final at tea time on Saturday 19 November – our chosen night. As a result of that, we opened the club early and invited the men to come to watch the match before we got started.
We had 60 names on our list and 30 men turned up, some bringing sons or son-in-laws. Half the group were churchgoers and half were not. All in all, not bad for a first attempt and it appears that everybody had a great time. I must admit I did try to persuade them to let me be there on the night, even offering my services as barmaid, but they said no! Probably the right decision in the end.
I hope to be allowed to attend the next planning meeting to help them work through a review and set the next event. After that, they certainly have all the gifts and skills they need to get on and plan things alone. It wasn't our intention to divide the sexes with these events – it has just kind of happened that way. However, we have discovered that it gives people room to talk freely, stops unwilling partners feeling 'dragged along to a church do', makes single people feel fully involved and sorts out babysitting problems.
My hope is that in spring/summer 2012 we will be able to have some kind of all age event; this could involve a barbecue, kids' games and maybe an activity like inflatable sumo wrestling! We would invite St Mary's Men, Divine Divas and Messy Church to come along. We could then get together for occasional integrated events but still allow room for each group to develop in its own way.