Anabaptist Network of Organisations – Report from 10th April 2013

We have received a report from Noel Moules of Workshop and the Anvil Trust regarding a networking meeting held recently in Selly Oak in Birmingham. Christian Ecology Link members have participated in Noel’s initiative to encourage co-operation between Christian networks. Here is his report :-

Dear all,

I am sending this email out to everyone who was invited to the Anabaptist Network of Organisations day, held yesterday (Wednesday 10th April 2013) at the IMC, Selly Oak in Birmingham. I know that a number of you could not be there, but we wanted to share the experience with all of you in the hope that it will be an encouragement and in some way enable you to still feel that you were a part of the event.

There were about twenty-five of us in all and it proved to be a very special and worthwhile time together, which I hope that the body of this email will make clear. There was a huge amount of wisdom, energy, vision and commitment in the room and a real sense of building and strengthening valuable relationships with the others who were there.

The structure of the day was very simple with its content totally provided by the questions, interests and experience of the participants in the room. It was led and facilitated brilliantly by Jon Dorsett and Jill Mann from Leeds. They used two techniques.

The first technique was ‘Open Space’ (from 11.30 am – 2.45 pm, including time for lunch) where the participants are asked to invite others in the room to a conversation around a question that was of importance or real interest to them personally. We had three 45-minute ‘conversation sessions’ with up to four questions being discussed in each of the sessions. The eleven ‘Open Space’ conversations took place around the following questions:

· How might we listen to, reconcile and challenge an increasingly divided society?
· How should Christians respond to the current wars – over the last ten years – which our government is involved in?
· Is it possible to be engaged in the pursuit of justice and peace without ecological passion?
· What experiences have you had, or seen, where performing arts have been used in social justice action?
· How can I be free to be an inclusive person of faith while feeling swamped by other Christian voices, which don’t resonate with where my faith journey has taken me?
· How can I be free to be who I am when there is so much that needs doing?
· How can we help young people to feel valued within our communities?
· What is Anabaptism?
· What can Anabaptist principles bring to a movement of resistance – to cuts, militarism, neo-liberalism etc?
· What role does faith play, or could faith play, in the transformation of culture. How do you express that?
· How can we engage people in spirituality themes and thinking far outside the influence of the church?

From 2.45-4.00 pm, we then used the second technique of ‘World Café’ conversations, around the question, “What are the possibilities of a network of radical Christian organisations?”

This involved small groups of four or five people sitting around a small table and working with the question, often jotting down key points on a sheet of flip-chart paper placed like a tablecloth on each table – the groups changed twice during the time period and there was also random feedback all together at the end. The thoughts and suggestions gathered from these conversations were:

General observations:
· There were questions about the relationship between emphasizing ‘organisations’ or ‘individuals’. The fact that the group was made up of ‘individuals’ actually working for ‘organisations’ was very significant; they were not just any radical Christian individuals, but engaged in very specific tasks and goals.
· There were questions about identifying the possible differences between ‘A Network of Radical Christian Organizations’ and ‘An Anabaptist Network of Organizations’ – are they the same? What might be the overlap be (or not be)?
· There were thoughts that an affirmation of Christian identity in society was more dependent on authentic social transformation than on the people’s perception of the church: more to do with individuals than organisations.
· It was asked very practically if the network could be open to individuals as well as organisations?

A network of radical organisations had value:
· As a place to build relationships and trust, the opportunity to share wisdom and support – we are not alone
· A place to affirm an individual Christian identity outside the dominant church culture
· As a place of sharing expertise – a community of practice
· A space for learning that is life-giving and liberating
· A place to help us ‘discern the spirit of the age’ and possible responses, which is useful and easier to do together in a group
· A place to imagine new possibilities and expand our thinking
· A place to ask questions that you cannot ask elsewhere, space in which you can take risks
· As a place with a ‘grassroots’ liminal and ‘at the margins’ focus for change and social transformation
· A place to discover new appropriate language and ways of doing things, a place from which new ideas might spread
· As a group that could take action together (very occasionally) as we felt a situation required it
· As a group that could exchange practical information about resources and contacts that would be mutually useful

Some practical suggestions:
· The need to clearly state our values and our goals
· Use social media to keep in touch – Twitter, Facebook page etc
· Have a ‘presence’ at Greenbelt (stand?) to raise profile
· Share email addresses and details about our organisations
· Would you let us know of any other organisations that you think would value being part of this network?
· It was asked very practically if on future days there could be short times of stillness and quiet together throughout the day?

With a final opportunity to say what had been significant about our time together for each one of us personally, we expressed or thanks and drew the day to a close at 4.30 pm.

The feeling was that it had been a significant and worthwhile day. We were all very grateful indeed for the skill and sensitivity with which Jill and Jon had facilitated the day for us. There was a sense of looking forward to the possibilities of what future gatherings could bring.

As originally decided the next Anabaptist Network of Organisations day will be in about a year’s time. We have been offered the use of the St Ethelburga’s Centre for Peace and Reconciliation in London for that event, which we will eagerly take up. We will send out the date to everyone just as soon as it is settled. The idea at the moment is to alternate the venues for the day between Birmingham and London.

Thank you to everyone who was part of yesterday and made it so significant. Thank you to the rest of you for your support for the idea and we hope that you will be able to be part of our day in twelve months time.

Let’s all keep ion touch. Until then …

In friendship and shalom,


PS. For those of you who were part of the day I hope that you feel I have represented the thinking of the groups adequately, working from the ‘paperwork’ that was produced and my personal memory. If you feel I have misrepresented anything or failed to include anything then please don’t hesitate to let me know. Thanks.

Noel Moules
Programme Coordinator
Workshop / Anvil Trust



Author: | Date: 26 April, 2013 | Category: Reports | Comments: 0

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