Can a Congregation Transition (to the local)?

A lot of leaders ask me about the possibility or even viability of a congregation becoming local and dwelling among its neighbours. Chris Smith from the Englewood church responds to this in an interview I did with him for the Journal of Missional Practice. One of our Editorial Team, Mary Publicover summarizes the interview here, I encourage you to check out the link to the video.

A Church in Englewood and Place in our Culture (

Chris Smith is co-author of Slow Church and editor of the Englewood Review of Books. Here in conversation with Alan Roxburgh he describes how his own church transitioned from its life as a large city church into a vibrant neighbourhood church deeply embedded within its community. That church was able to make this transition because of its long history in that part of Englewood; the place was part of its identity. It chose to embrace this identity, even as the nature of the local population changed and became more socially and ethnically mixed. The church opted to remain in the locality even when similar churches were leaving the city for the suburbs in so called ‘white flight’.

The church went on to thrive within its local community, both in the depth of their life together, and in their relationships and care for the wider neighbourhood. Chris puts this down in part to their practice of conversation, an organised gathering of talking and listening which allowed room for conflict. Gradually, over a decade or more, the people in the congregation became more able to be present with one another, and more at ease with difference. Chris felt they were then better equipped to engage in an open way with the diversity of their surroundings, learning to resist the desire to fix or control.

This capacity to be present to one another has led to an appreciation of every person in the congregation as a gift from the God who is shaping them all within their context. Chris describes the economy of shared gifts and skills which has emerged involving individuals and also partnerships with local organisations.

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