Co-ordinator of our eastendspeaks programme, Caitlin Burbridge, writes about the build up to Christmas as a community organiser in Hackney…
Advent. It’s a time for waiting.
But what does waiting actually look like? What are we waiting for? It’s interesting to think that as the Shepherds were watching and waiting, they became expectant. When they were watching their sheep an angel showed up, and just as they were walking to Bethlehem to meet Jesus, they were expectant of something good (if perhaps a little terrified?). In waiting and watching we are open to discovering God in the lives of those around us.
It’s been a busy time for Hackney Citizens this last few months. We’ve been gathering in small clusters across the borough to train people in how to listen to one another, to listen to those in our congregations, and in our schools, and also to those who live in our neighbourhoods. I’ve been considering the significance of this.
Why are we motivated to listen? What are we expecting to get out of it? Are we just nosey? I’ve found in our training sessions that people are expectant of two things; that we will discover significant challenges faced by people around us, and that people around us carry significant values, motivations and ability, which are often under-developed and under-appreciated. Every time we start a listening campaign people are expecting to discover these things. However, it’s not just this. What I’ve realised through our training is there’s a hopeful expectancy that comes with knowing that when we listen together we have the capacity to identify a common issue and then act together for the common good.
This is what has started in Hackney. In Clapton we’ve launched ‘500 stories for Clapton.’ A campaign where schools and churches in Clapton are working together to listen to 500 people and identify the most common concerns of the neighbourhood. In listening they are expectant that they will identify a common concern that together we will act to change. Already people have been sharing stories of poor housing conditions, debt, and a disillusionment with politics-particularly among young people.
So do we create enough space to watch and to wait? Through storytelling we are discovering the heart of God in our neighbourhood. In our waiting we are allowing space to see what God sees, the challenges people face and to also see God’s hopes and potential stored in each person. Through listening we create space to partake in the divine nature. And when we do it together we listen with the expectant hope that together we can act to bring about justice.