In October of 2015, ForMission Events, alongside Parish Collective,

hosted the New Parish Conference!

‘Re-imagining Neighbourhood Renewal for the 21st Century.’

The conference was held in the beautiful surroundings of St Martins Church, in the heart of The Bullring in Birmingham, which truly captured an awe of God and a flavour of the Neighbourhood work that was being done, celebrated and encouraged.

With over 100 delegates and 20 speakers, the two days were vibrant and packed full of teaching, worshipping, story-telling and sharing with one another.

Our worship leaders, Andrew and Jenny Flannagan, inspired us with original worship songs and pieces of Biblical drama which captured the imagination of everyone in the room, bringing inspiration, encouragement and humility.

Keynote speakers, including Paul Sparks, Jill Rowe and Jean Vanier, inspired us all with stories about impacting your neighbourhood with the love of Christ, serving those who are in need and helping to build your community through innovative thinking and civic collaboration.

Story-tellers from all over the UK made us laugh and cry with stories on reaching out to the lost, heartbroken and lonely; making a difference in people’s lives through allotments, manicure and rehabilitation groups.

And our workshop leaders got us thinking on topics from dissent to inclusivity, to living alongside other faiths to working from the ground up.

When asked about the most beneficial elements to the New Parish Conference, participants responded with:

‘Inspirational stories and examples of missional discipleship in context’

‘Hearing people’s stories and being encouraged in what God is doing around the country/world and being re-energised to seek more in our locality.’

‘Developing a feeling and understanding of incarnational mission.’

And when asked how they would put to use what they had heard at the conference, they gave answers such as:

‘Many parts of the teaching have already been impacting my thoughts and prayers recently. I have also preached within the church on poignant thoughts from the conference.’

‘Reflecting on my purpose, and reflecting on how I engage with the community where I live.’

‘Think will be less project driven and look for the stuff that’s already happening.’

It was a delight and inspiration to gather with so many like-minded people, all passionate about serving and seeing change in their communities. We hope that the New Parish Conference planted more seeds on re-imagining neighbourhood renewal in the 21st Century, and that these have been taken back to places all over the UK, and the world, to serve a greater purpose in serving, loving and building many communities.

The neighbourhood calls, It beckons, It invites forward steps in long progression, The neighbourhood, This place, Crying out for presence, This place, Hungry for roots that mine the depths of this marginal, Fragmented, Contested space, The call rings out, “rebuild the walls long since fallen down”, Into this land

Into this land of promise build a road to love, And leave space for the irrelevant, Create a place that’s safe

Create a space rooted, A space that becomes a place, Recognise that this fertile ground is formed from people, Spreading roots and growing deeper into generative dirt, Tapping into a life, So profound, Where beauty and the practical, Are planted side by side, Flowers and vegetables, In all things God resides, This place of his making calls out, Beckons us forth into a new partaking, Our haste forsaking, The neighbourhood is a gift, A living garden, Take a breath, Breathe in shalom, Watch as hearts turn from stone to flesh, All things being made new, In this radical subversion of logic held as truth, Let the neighbourhood, Grow deeper into you, A splinter in the brain, Revealing new truths made known, In the small things, And daily disruptions that can be embraced, Cultivate grace, And seek out co-conspirators

Borne out of relationships of depth, Relationships that recognise, Each and everyone is beautiful, And that beauty calls to beauty, In the viral contamination of the kingdom, Deceptively alluring and unstoppable, So powerful is this contagion, The God of the neighbourhood calls us all, To collaborate and risk a fall, For God’s dream’s sake, God calls us to be people of reconciliation, A people who listen and build a rhythm, A rhythm of being, Doing, Pausing, A rhythm based on experimental connection, Of faithful presence amidst distractions, God calls and God is gentle, God does and God is loving, Slowly, slowly, slowly, God speaks – these words are holy,

“You will find me in the margins, With the misfits, And with your neighbours, Living with lives in turmoil, You will find me deeply rooted, In places where reconciliation, Is a quiet, subversive hymn, A slow, collaborative song,, Come join me in the neighbourhood, Where the kingdom grows on and on.”

The New Parish by Tim Watson (@beatliturgist)