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Exploring Relational Neighbouring
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By Rob Hueniken of Churches Together London


Dave Witt of True City Hamilton was the keynote speaker and spoke to over 70 attendees.


On Saturday, March 7th over 70 people came out to the Churches Together London event, held at West Park Church in London. It was a great morning of exploring and discussing the wave of relational neighbouring that is changing churches across North America. As our guest speaker, Dave Witt of Hamilton says: there is a strong "relational infrastructure" arising, that is connecting churches and ministries in new ways - that foster collaboration and listening, and encourage us to live out God's kingdom more faithfully and relationally.

Carole Verdun and West Park Church provided their beautiful chapel for the meeting. In welcoming the guests, I referenced Together LA, an organization in California much like Churches Together London and True City in Hamilton, whose vision statement reads very similarly: "To transform the conditions of those living on the margins, to live missionally within community, and to develop cross-cultural and multi-church relationships".

Steph Card warmed up the group and got us thinking with her paper clip exercise. There are a lot of things you can use a paper clip for, and in 30 seconds many people thought of 2 to 4 things. But together, as a group, there were 77 things - showing the strength of inclusiveness and community.

Dave Witt, from True City Hamilton, was the keynote speaker, and shared stories and encouragement from his 11 years of experience connecting churches and neighbourhoods. Dave was the speaker at the very first meeting of Churches Together London in 2010, so it was great to hear the latest changes and successes. In Hamilton they sometimes have a dozen churches working together on a project (truecityhamilton.ca). He referenced Nehemiah 3 and the rebuilding of the wall, in which each person - regardless of status or position – was helping to make things better together. Dave encouraged us to really know our neighbourhood, and to recognize the importance and potential we have by being relationally present.


Graham Buchanan of West London Alliance starts each morning with a prayer for his neighbourhood.


Our second speaker was Graham Buchanan of West Park Alliance in London. His work with youth and as the Community Connections leader has helped bring a strong new sense of community involvement, both within the church walls and especially outside - within the neighbourhood. When Graham said that he starts each morning with a prayer for the neighbourhood you could see people pause and then nod in recognition of having that mindset.

As with all Churches Together London meetings, there were times for discussion and sharing ideas. It is great seeing and hearing so many people talking about neighbouring and the roles, challenges and opportunities for churches.

We had an encouraging update, from Dale Mackness of Village Green Community Church and Dennis Funk of the Navigators, about the Community Initiative. This project, originated by the Christian Churches Network of London (ccnl.org), is now under the wing of Churches Together London. It is helping to create connections between church leaders and members within 14 neighbourhood areas within London, and actively fostering relationship-building between churches and neighbourhoods here in London.


There was a Q and A panel and times for group discussions.


We wrapped up our morning with an excellent panel discussion, including Jay Gurnett of Vision Ministries, Sue Gowan of Youth for Christ and CCNL, Graham Buchanan from West London Alliance, and Dave Witt of True City Hamilton. David Cottrill of North Park posed questions to the panel, and there was also a time for questions from the attendees.

Jay Gurnett said that people want to do something meaningful, and that often translates into doing something good in their community. He encouraged us to get out of our comfort zone, to take the risk of getting involved, and to work together.

Sue Gowan described her various roles as a Board member as being more hands-on than people often think. She reminded us that churches, traditionally and historically, have played vital roles in society and within community, and that we should be recreating that history daily.

Graham Buchanan talked about getting involved in community using the analogy of getting married. You don't propose to someone on the first day you meet - you listen, you get to know them, to understand what is important to them, and you earn their trust. Relationships take time and effort to build, but great things come from them.


Dave Witt of True City and David Cottrill of North Park helped get Churches Together London going in 2010.


Dave Witt said that our neighbourhoods would love for church members to be engaged. One of the beauties of collaboration is that each person and each church doesn't have to do everything. Churches are finding new ways to participate together in their neighbourhoods. And one of the beauties of neighbouring is that even a bit of participation can be good, so even small churches can get involved in their community.

It was a great morning of fellowship and seeing more clearly the growing opportunities for churches to participate and serve in our city. For more information on Churches Together London, as well as neighbourhood information, please visit churchestogetherlondon.com.