"For me, family is like a deep root that I am connected to. I see church as another family that we belong to and I like to invite people to meet both these families whenever I can.
In our road, we have an annual summer street party and invite all the residents to bring and share food and hang out together in a car-free street. It ends in total chaos, with children covered in face paint and the local police and fire brigade joining in (because we invite them(!) not because we are breaking the law and starting fires...)
A couple of Sundays ago, I wasn't quite in the mood for sitting still in church, so I asked Sabina if she would join me and we went for a walk round the estate, near the Ark. We chatted to anyone we could find on the street. The first man was putting out his rubbish, he was Polish and we told him that the church had moved back into the area. He told us about his daughter who used to attend the Polish Saturday school. We then met a couple of mums with young children and told them about the Vineyard Kids groups, and then we saw an elderly lady and said 'good morning'. She looked a bit confused and hassled and explained that she only spoke Spanish. We attempted to ask her to church in very poor, invented Spanish and she replied but we didn't understand. Eventually Sabina worked out that she was saying 'I need to go now or I will be late for church!' Oh the irony, she was rushing to her church and we were holding her up!
Chance encounters can be great fun and lead to fascinating conversations. This week it was Wandsworth Arts Week and I took part in an open performance of a tea shop conversation. All very bizarre - I ended up sitting at a tea table with an Irish man, a lady from Battersea and an actress with a papier mache teacup on her head. The idea was to tell stories about life in Wandsworth, so we all did. I was asked to say what I liked doing in the borough, and I said 'cycling through the commons, going to the Vineyard Church, and buying ice cream on Northcote Road'. The audience then asked questions about the Vineyard as they didn't know what it was. It was so fun to chat about our lives and what we all love about where we live. Talking about our families is a natural thing to do, and I find that talking about church is an easy way to tell people what family you belong to. And the next logical and natural thing to do, is to invite people to meet your family.
You may know that we run a world prayer group, and the best bit of this is gathering stories from other countries. If any of the group meets someone from another country they can ask them what their country needs prayer for. This has led to amazing conversations about culture and life all over the world. Sadie and I met a couple from Venezuela who visited our church recently and we interviewed them and recorded what they would like us to pray for, for Venezuela. We are forming connections all over the world and suddenly prayer becomes so relevant and exciting when you are able to pray for a global family.
Sometimes people say they feel awkward talking about church to friends and colleagues, but my experience is that people are always happy to hear about what family means to you and will take an interest in what you like to do, even if it is very different from their life.
If anyone wants to come on a wander with me to chat with people, just let me know!”