Its odd how you mainly hear what you want to hear or what you are already thinking but the main things I took away from the Mission Apprentice Day held in Birmingham were that wasting time with people is never a waste of time and it is easier to build relationships shoulder to shoulder or side-by-side than face to face.
(Mission Apprentices are people who have been attached to 7 churches across the city exploring how to connect churches with their communities in a number of ways. The two year programme has been carefully evaluated and the findings were presented on Friday.)
I ended up having the same conversation at the Dave Andrews day in Birmingham held last month which inspired lots of us to think again about our involvement in communities. We talked how in relationships with teenagers great conversations happen when you are driving them somewhere, cooking, playing football – sit them down for a serious talk and you’ll get nowhere. Somehow conversation is much easier when its not the sole purpose of a meeting. Shoulder to shoulder is far more comfortable for us than face to face.
When Dave was last here about three years ago he talked about the differnce between the Yiddish words ‘schmoozing’ and ‘maching’. He said we need both but one is informal and involves barbecues, coffee shops and pubs. The other is more formal and involves starting groups or new initiatives. He added that schmoozing happens most when we are young adults and then disappears when family and work pressures kick in so middle-age is generally a time of maching. Schmoozing often begins again when we retire but in the times between we need to nurture it as it generates deeper personal relationships. You can read more about this in his book, Out and Out: Way-Out Community Work.
I think some of the success stories we heard from the Mission Apprentices on Friday arose because they had time to schmooze. I also wondered in the back of my mind if vicars generally get sucked into maching leaving a deacon free to schmooze – I will test that out over the next few years but I hope its true – bring on the coffee shops and barbecues!
Our next round of Near Neighbours grants open on Monday. In the last round we were able to support around 140 projects in Birmingham that brought people together both to mach and schmooze. We have got some new areas now and some ongoing support available to all our old areas. There’s a lot going on in this city at the moment so I really hope the grants are well used and people of different faiths can find the time, that will never be wasted, to hang out, shoulder to shoulder with their neighbour and continue to build the trusting relationships that knit our city together and deepen our appreciation of one another.