Belvoir Style

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Style (n.) noun

The Oxford Online Dictionary explains the word "style"
  1. "Style" (noun) - a manner or way (example: generosity, that’s just her style)
  2. "Style" (noun) – a distinctive appearance (example: Alfa Romeo has a style all of its own)
  3. "Style" (noun) - fashionable elegance (example: that hotel attracts guests because of its style)
  4. "Style" (noun) - a manner or way

What is our Belvoir way or style?

  1. "Style" (noun) - a manner or way
For many of you the Belvoir way has become your church lifestyle, spanning many decades of belonging and serving and witnessing to the wider community of Belvoir and Belfast and beyond. That is part of the Belvoir style – an instinct to rise from the rubble of a bomb blast and to re-build and get on. For many of us more recent belongers we have been drawn warmly into the Belvoir style, embracing it willingly and wanting to see it grow and flourish into the future. Being placed beside a ring road that connects the whole city, Belvoir style has meant a welcome that extends beyond Belvoir. The attraction was and is the style of this faith community, a faith community that meets in this bright airy church building, sitting in its wide open, attractive setting, with views of forests, hills, houses, city, big yellow cranes, countryside and Tesco. This open environment is much more than space and décor – it is attitude and outlook. It is expressed in a desire to explore what we believe, how we believe it, how we live it, and how we share it.

"Ready, fire, aim" (Tom Keightley).

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2. "Style" (noun) – a distinctive appearance

What is distinctive about us?  We are Anglican but have never felt that rigid adherence to all traditional practice is more important than trying to be relevant and engaging.  Creative use of liturgy and the patterns of worship have always been a feature of Belvoir style.  An openness to all is at the heart of who we are.  The doors of the parish are as wide as the field at the front of the Prodigal Father’s farm house.  It does not matter who walks up the lane towards us, the first reaction is an unconditional embrace.  Of course, we believe that the evangelistic and discipleship processes of being part of this family of God will begin to shape and mould every one of us.  However, a refusal to put an entry requirement or height restriction on the door is worth fighting for.  This applies to all the controversial categories that exist in our contemporary society – age, gender, wealth, education, sexuality, race, political preference, upbringing, faith, dress sense, football team choice…all are welcome.  Could I add that being welcome is not quite the same as being welcomed?  A handshake and a smile may be the beginning of a welcome, but it will rarely be enough.  Making sure someone is welcomed will demand much more from us who are already here.  Welcomed means knowing and being known, it takes us from belonging to being part of helping others belong, becoming a giver rather than a receiver.

3. "Style" (noun) - fashionable elegance

Belvoir style is not about being posh or classy. Fashionable elegance speaks of genuine-ness.  It is not about pretending to be something.  Belvoir style means something similar.  Integrity is an important idea, yet also in short supply, in our world.  It means lives that are integrated, the different parts fitting together as they were intended to – how we act reflects what we believe, our believing is reflected in our words, how we act is the same as what we say.  Our Belvoir style must be at least all of that.  We live out what we claim to believe.  Our concern for the poor, both locally and globally, must be reflected in our annual accounts (see later – it wonderfully is).  If we pray for peace we must only use words of peace in our daily conversation.  Belvoir style is a verifiable integration between belief, words and practice.  We have set ourselves a high bar here, but there is little value in setting a bar so low that it takes little effort to clear it.  Being the family of Jesus was never meant to be a stroll in the park.

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Style (v.) verb

1. To arrange in a particular way
"the gardens were styled for easy access"

2. To shape in a particular form
"the yacht was styled for speed"

3. To designate with a particular name, description, or title
"the new manager had a styled herself 'business coordinator' "

Styling the future

So, let’s consider future Belvoir Style. This is a long-term look at how Belvoir could develop its style and its place
1. among the parishes of our Diocese and the Church of Ireland
2. alongside the other churches that make up the Body of Christ in South and East Belfast
3. as part of the global catholic (catholic simply means in all places and throughout all time) church, choosing carefully where and how we use resources to support others.

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Styling Belvoir Worship

The "annual" Anglican style is to follow the story throughout the year in the Bible Readings at public worship.  We do not have to follow these rigidly, because there will be times when we need to address other issues or subjects of interest.  However, the three festivals of Christmas, Easter and Pentecost provide us with three pillars around which the whole gospel story unfolds.  This year (2018/2019) there are other moments at which we will pause – Harvest, Remembrance, Transfiguration (our parish birthday), St Patrick’s Day, Mothering Sunday, Fathers’ Day, Commissioning for summer missions and Summer Madness.

A possible Belvoir Style Sunday programme:

  • The Belvoir Style demands that we develop what has gone before. 
  • Creativity and participation are key elements of the Belvoir Style.
  • Prayer events may also happen around the key moments e.g. Community Sunday in September, launch of summer missions early in January, our Transfiguration festival in March, and in the month of June (receiving Pentecost and going on summer missions).

The Belvoir Welcome

All are welcome; but that could be just a slogan, a starting point.  Sunday mornings are a crucial first contact for most people.  Imagine a Sunday morning service as an "open house" for your neighbours in your own home.  A neighbour you have never met wanders in – what would you do? 

Well, if you are already here in Belvoir, this is your home and you are that host. 

Welcoming is not the task of some "trained" team.  It is what families do naturally in their own homes and without embarrassment.

We visited two churches this summer.  Both had coffee available.  In one a complete stranger invited us to go with her to the coffee dock.  In the other no one invited us or even explained where you go – we had to make the journey alone.  If I had been on my own I would not even have tried (Janice made me stay).  But guess which church we would go back to?

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Being welcomed
Belonging
Participating
Contributing
Welcoming

Welcome must then lead to belonging and friendships – the process has begun.

Discipleship – Belvoir style

At every baptism we speak of the church family as a discipleship environment.  We declare ourselves to be "the village that raises the child".  Real family lasts doesn’t stop when the child is raised – it embraces all of life from birth to death. This will mean developing patterns of discipleship and mission, programmes and relationships that offer opportunity for belonging and growth at every stage of life.  Here is the long-term dream:

Young families

Baptism preparation, parenting, pre-schoolers, creche, parent/toddler, Sunday Club, Brownies and some equivalent boys’ activity.

Youth

Post-primary activities for boys and girls, youth group for junior school and senior school, mission activities, preparation for relationships (including understanding sexuality), singleness, marriage, family, work, leisure.  This department would cover the transitions from school into… apprenticeship, work, further study and training, moving away from home, returning to home and church on occasions, finance, budgeting and decision-making.

Twenties/thirties

This age-group clearly overlaps with youth.  The challenges will include

developing relationships, singleness, marriage, life values based on Biblical principles, family life and parenting, finance, work/leisure/home balances, post-adolescent spirituality and appropriate experience of God

Forties/fifties

The challenges here will revolve around the relationship between faith and work/family/relationships/time/resources.  Areas of discipleship should include…

job/career development and faith, parenting (with teenagers), family, development of life – both singleness and marriage (there may also be breakdown of relationship), "empty nest", changing family life, caring for older relatives, finance, preparing for end of work, making a difference (all the mid-life questions), spiritual understanding that addresses the big questions

GenBP Generation Bus Pass (the new mid-life)

At the minute this is everyone over 60 although age is not the main consideration here.  There is huge opportunity for fresh starts in this age range…new relationships, changing work and employment experiences, finance, exploring discipleship and spirituality that reflects life experience, new balances of time and commitments, caring for relatives/friends

Care generation

Keeping accurate data on who is growing into this category, opportunity for good relationships, health and safety awareness, spirituality when mobility to and from organised programme may be an issue, contact, visiting, connections, practical assistance

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Belvoir Style Administration 

Our office is an integral part of the developing future.  Administration is ministry.  It is about caring and providing.  We are presently upgrading our office software to a system called "Churchsuite".  The benefits include a system that

  • Allows all our staff access to the system and database from our phones (wherever we are),
  • Changes and updates can also be made by all staff wherever they are.
  • Names and addresses can be tagged as required and access permission given to appropriate people e.g. names on flower rota could be accessed by flower rota organisers without them having access to the whole database.
  • Finances can be recorded and processed for HMRC and Gift Aid.
  • Pastoral care can be organised, reminded, recorded and monitored.
  • Church calendar and use of buildings can be made available as required.

Processes that are always becoming more complex and requiring more expertise:

  • Child Protection (and recently Vulnerable Adult Protection)
  • Fire Safety training
  • Food hygiene
  • Data protection

Our office Administrator is a key member of the team – ongoing training and support are essential.

Belvoir Style Mission

This is our commission!

We have four "frontlines" of mission.

Personal – we each have family, friends, neighbours and colleagues.
The parish – out of a population of nearly 3000 in this parish, about 500 are involved in church life (five churches). Mission is much more than getting people to church services, but even those figures illustrate the size of the opportunity. Engaging locally will be a major challenge.
Our city – we are developing stronger links to inner city East Belfast by supporting The Larder in St Christopher’s. We want to support the ministry of All Nations and its work among ethnic minorities. There is always the need for us to engaged in the peace-building processes of our province.
Overseas – we are committed to completing the building project of the Indian Christian Mission Centre. Habitat for Humanity has always been one of our major interests. We will continue to send summer teams to these and other projects as appropriate.

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We love the bright airy feel to our buildings, especially the worship centre and the family centre. Being able to see in and out while worshipping is part of the Belvoir style. Our worship feels connected to the world in which we are sitting. Lighting up our stained glass from the inside at night projects colour into a dark world. Our grounds are tidy and open to all, which again sends a message. Signage must always be contemporary and comprehensible to the passer-by (church people don’t need the signs – we already know what we are called).

However, there is always room to improve and shape our buildings to meet the demands of a developing programme and new generations who will come after us. We are living in a world where there are wonderful facilities and opportunities for nearly everything all around us. Our buildings need to be shaped for the things that will achieve our mission aims and that build the family of God.

I am hoping we can develop a ten-year plan (perhaps a plan that is always open-ended), to work our way round our buildings, redecorating, re-defining the uses and re-furbishing where necessary. Without pre-empting Select Vestry discussions we could be looking at kitchen, toilets, prayer facilities, children’s rooms, youth facilities, car parking…spread over a number of years this is all possible.

Belvoir Style Finance

In a faith community healthy finances are a reasonable expectation, since God said He would supply for all of our NEEDS. Belvoir finances are not mentioned very often. It is as if we don’t want to annoy people by talking about money. We certainly don’t want to sound as if we are just after everyone’s money. However, Jesus talked about wealth all the time. Misuse of wealth is idolatry, number one alternative to God.

Good news –
Belvoir Parish pays all its bills
Belvoir Parish is number one giver to foreign mission in the Diocese
Belvoir Parish supports many fund-raisers throughout the year
Belvoir Parish wants to do lots more
Belvoir Parish wants to support those in need in our immediate community

Many have invested in the past, so we could enjoy our present; let’s take the baton.

Could we increase our income as a church by 10%per year?

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Belvoir Style Environment

As a family of faith in the one through whom everything was made (in whatever way you interpret that) we are directly responsible for at least not destroying our world and maybe even trying to repair it.  The family of God should be demonstrably leading the way in caring for the environment and the people and animals who live in it.

On Sundays we only use compostable "disposables" or wash the real cups.  It would be great if we could persuade everyone who uses the buildings to do the same and then use the yellow bins so the compostables never end up inside plastic bags in land fill.

Have we ever considered solar panels on the church hall roof?  A wind turbine in that big space beside the carriageway?  Our new screens will eventually cut back our use of paper. 

Caring for people is all part of the same commission from God – learning disabilities, language, sight, hearing, reading, wheelchair access.  Belvoir Style has always been to shape itself for every need.  We are becoming aware of the complexity of need and ability.  We will always be working to be the most inclusive we can be.

Belvoir Style Creativity

The Bible begins with a story of a creative God, a creating God, a creator God.  Before the end of the very first chapter this Creator has created humankind, bearing the image of God and commissioned to share in the creative processes of the world.  We are to develop it, be fruitful in it, explore it and care for it.   Creativity is literally in our make-up.   The Old Testament has limited stories about the Holy Spirit, but one example is in Genesis 31 when a number of people were filled with the Holy Spirit who gifted them in arts and crafts for the building of the tabernacle.  The allusion to the church couldn’t be more obvious – the people who are the new tabernacle/dwelling place of God must also be filled with the Holy Spirit and be a people of gifting and creativity – it is an obvious way to display the presence of God.  Think of the contribution that Christian faith has made to architecture, art, music, theatre etc over many centuries.  I think Belvoir Style is already a catalytic creative Christian community for music, art, writing, theatre, arts and crafts, sculpture, dance, pottery, audio-visuals, movie-making etc.   Mission and discipleship can all be explored through creativity.  People can engage in and with the Christian community and its gospel in many more ways than we have so far imagined.

Example: a summer children’s holiday club where the children work on a series of songs and dramas around a Bible theme and then put on a performance for their families at the end of the week.

Example:  a group of senior citizens work together to make a series of podcasts on faith over fifty years.

Example:  an arts and crafts fair with a theme like "a new dawn" or "mending things".

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Belvoir Style Imagination

What about a GenBP gap year? Gap years didn’t exist when GenBP were twenty years old. Celebrate that early retirement with a gap year that recognises your life and professional skills and turns them round into ministry and mission opportunities.

What about Residential Care in Belvoir for Belvoir residents? When someone needs a bit more care than they and their family can provide, wouldn’t it be great if residential care could be provided within the community and within the church parish. How positive would that be for cared and carers?

Parish weekends away?

Growing in number? We average about 200 people every Sunday morning. If we added twenty every year, we would double in size in ten years! Twenty people every year sounds very possible (allowing for deaths and moves, it probably needs to be a few more than twenty.) If we each brought one more in the next ten years…