Many of the posts we write on the blog are intended to give our family, friends and supporters a peek or three into everyday life here in Iceland. Sometimes the blogs are about sharing some of the amazing cultural experiences we have had, sometimes they are about the people we meet and sometimes they are about the endlessly creative ways Icelanders mark the passage of time. Today’s blog post is related to none of the above and all of the above. Let me explain…but first, go grab a cup of something warm and comforting and cosy up on the sofa with us awhile…you may be here for some time 😉 When Chris and I first moved back to Iceland in January 2012, we didn’t have a clear idea of what we might be doing. All we knew was that it was time to go back. We knew there would be work to do (there is always a shortage of workers in the Church), but we weren’t sure what we would be doing. To understand what we have ended up doing, we need to travel back in time a little…or a lot. In fact, we need to take you back to when we first moved to Iceland in December 1999. Which, for the record, was the worst winter Icelanders had experienced in almost one hundred years. And, don’t get me started about the volcanic eruption that followed soon after our arrival in February and the massive earthquake in June 2000…Anyhoo, I digress.
One of the things that Chris believed God showed him was the vulnerability of the country Churches around Iceland, particularly in relation to how isolated they were from fellow Christians for much of the year. But, at the time, we were given other work to do and as many of you know, we spent four of the five years we were in Iceland growing Útvörður Íslands, a national youth movement that is still going strong under the banner of Royal Rangers, Iceland. Here’s a couple of photos from one of the monthly weekends we held.
Cycle forward to January 2012 and we arrive back in Iceland after a sojourn of seven years in England. Over a period of several months, and after talking to people around Iceland about the kind of support they would like, Chris and I believed that the time had come for us to get involved with supporting individual Churches around Iceland. As you know, Chris and I prepared a presentation for the annual Pastor’s meeting in March 2012 at which the work of supporting the small country Churches was given the go ahead alongside a plan to further develop the existing (but non-functioning) mission movement. For the past twelve months, Chris (with occasionally me alongside) has been travelling to a number of small country Churches including, the Church at Stykkishólmur, Höfn í Hornafirði, Vestmannaeyjar, Vopnafjörður, Ísafjörður and Kirkjulækjarkot. Chris has also been working in the Church in Selfoss (our home Church) and has just begun preaching at the Church in Keflavík – more about Keflavík Church in a later post 😉 Chris and I believe that supporting the country Churches has to amount to more than just the usual routine of blowing in, blowing up and blowing out. Our instincts were borne out when we talked to the people of the Churches and they confirmed that what they felt they needed was on-going support and commitment, including, teaching, preaching, fellowship and Church development. Over a period of time, Chris developed a model of Church development that he presented to each of the Churches and he asked them to prayerfully consider if they wanted him to work with them. All of the Churches Chris approached said they wanted to work with him over the longer term.
The past eighteen months have gone past in a bit of a blur as Chris has travelled literally thousands of kilometres around Iceland bringing individualised support to the Churches. Although they each decided to follow Chris’ model of Church development, each Church has specific needs. There are many aspects to the development work Chris works through with the Churches, but he begins the process by asking them to work through the following questions:
1) Where do you see your Church now?
2) Where do you see your Church in one year?
3) Where do you see your Church in five years?
4) What are you going to do to make the change happen?
5) What kind of Church do you want to be? A Church of maintenance or a Church of mission?
He then gets them to think about the process of development in terms of a wheel – the old-fashioned type with a hub and spokes. In this representation, Jesus is the nut holding everything together, the Church is the hub and the rim is our impact on our community. At the end of the weekend, Chris leaves the Churches with a large paper grid populated with the five headings how, what, when, where, and who. When Chris returns a few weeks later, he works through the completed grid with the Church, giving them ideas on how to get started with the implementation phase. The next part of the process is for the country Churches to come together twice a year for a time of fellowship, prayer, sharing and teaching. Because of the problems associated with travelling around Iceland during the winter months, the Churches on the East coast will meet and the Churches on the West coast will meet. It is hoped that in doing this, the Churches will forge stronger bonds and be more able to support each other throughout the year.
Although there is a lot of travelling and preparation work involved, it’s not all work and no play 😉 We believe an important part of supporting the Churches is to build relationships and friendships that we hope will last a lifetime. Because each Church is different, they way our relationships have developed is unique and special in each Church. Some of the friendship-building activities we have got involved with over the months includes:
As Chris travels around Iceland over the winter he’ll be talking to Church pastors and their congregation about their progress so far. Expect to hear good news and fireworks! Until next time, we leave you with a lovely photo of a recent sunset in the south of Iceland. Many blessings, Chris and Ethna 😉