I love our house group meetings! Last night we had a great meeting- it started with some great conversation over superb cakes and baking (thank you LT!) And went on to lots of laughs during a discussion time, some due to the sniping banter that goes on in our group between the men, and some due to photos being shown around of some of us are wearing outrageous or unusual clothing. I passed round a snap from my “Vicar school” days of me at a fancy dress party- but surprisingly my group had trouble spotting me as a character from “hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy”-it might have been the two heads!
All that happened in the context Sunday’s talk in our series on “the colours of spiritual health” because we’ve got to the “green of relationships”. Looking at
Col. 3:12-14 (Msg) So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline.  Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you.  And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.
Because it’s often in situations like a house group that genuine relationships can be created, and it’s in house groups that we choose to put on the right clothes or wardrobe of compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline.
At the end of a discussion I read out another verse that I’ve been thinking a lot about in this context of what healthy relationships should look like in a church, not just in the big meetings but especially in our house groups
James 3:18 (Msg) You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honour.
St Mungo’s has 25 house groups and for us this form of a small group is still the most effective and healthy method of pastoral care and spiritual development. In fact 80% of our church members are in one of our small groups! That is the stunning figure, but we do want to keep our groups healthy, and we want to make an increasingly healthy robust community – a ‘James 3:18 community’. But the verse doesn’t just give a vision for the possibility of such communities it gives a clue as to how to create them –and it’s through healthy relationships. The house group I’m part of is quite a “mongrel” group- but I honestly think its members do the hard work of learning what it means to get on with other people even if we are all very different! In fact one of the heated discussions was why the women speak lovingly and compassionately while the men are just brutally cutting to each other with derogatory comments and insults! We believe it’s making us more robust!
I am really looking forward to our “guys night in” on Friday when we are going to meet to watch the new James Bond Skyfall DVD together! When we last met to watch ‘The Magnificent Seven’ together it was accompanied by Mexican beer, and Nacho’s –and I provided the cowboy hats! This time we’re supposed to dress up as bond villains but I doubt we will drink the same as Bond drank are in the film – 50 year old McCallum whisky, Heineken (yuk!) and vodka martinis. But I do think you can at times help create a real relationship with another Christian chatting over a beer and a DVD clip as much as you can by reading the Bible and praying together. It’s all part of “learning to get along with one another.”
It’s also about the hard work of treating each other with dignity and honour! Once again perhaps the men’s behaviour in house group could be perceived as stripping away dignity – and one does have to be careful with humour and verbal sparring, yet it is a man’s sign of trust and getting along well! But I think treating others with dignity includes making sure we don’t do anything relationally or practically that actually erodes people’s dignity. Instead and we must proactively find ways to honour one another by word and deed to create a culture of honour, especially in our house groups.
I’m glad our house group is wrestling with these very real issues, and if you’re part of a small group I’d encourage you to really work on the green of relationships in that group to help develop a healthy, robust community.
At the end of our meeting – the men rushed back for more cakes, cookies and cruel comments – made ‘in love’ of course !