At the Reformed Episcopal Church’s past General Council, our Presiding Bishop Ray Sutton encouraged us to do “front porch ministries” – ministries, low pressure events, groups, and just good fun that attracts people through the church doors that normally would not come. The hope, of course, is that people, once in and making new friends, would feel more comfortable coming to church and that some would end up getting more involved. (At the same time, one should provide ministries and opportunities to people for the love of God and of them. Invitations to get more involved should be timely and low pressure, not suffocating.)
In my term here, now coming to an end, at Oxford, I’ve seen front porch ministries work very well at Pusey House. Just one example is their Scriptorium.
Begun earlier this year, the Scriptorium is very simple. On Tuesdays and Thursdays (now expanding to Wednesdays as well by popular demand), people may come to the Pusey House library for a structured time of study and work. We begin at 9:25am with a very brief time of prayer and reflection, then for as much of the day as they like until 5:15 or so, students may write or study quietly together at tables or separately elsewhere in the library. There are tea breaks at 11pm and 3pm and a (free) sandwich lunch break at 1pm.
And that is pretty much it. I know that may not sound terribly exciting. But many like the combination of structure, quiet company, and social breaks in studying. The numbers coming have grown markedly - which pleases the Librarian. And some of those end up getting involved in other ways at Pusey House.
We had a notable example of that last night. David Bennett first came to Pusey House through Scriptorium. He ended up liking the place so much that he asked if he could do the book release at Pusey House for his book A War of Loves: The Unexpected Story of a Gay Activist Discovering Jesus. To their credit, the House chapter decided to take the risk of controversy and said yes; and the release event last night went very well bringing in around eighty people. That included some who disagreed with Bennett’s thinking during the Q and A, but all disagreement was civil and respectful and contributed to the discussion.
And that is just one example and far from the only time this term that Pusey House has been darn right crowded. Movie nights with discussion following have brought in people, including two young women that came back a week later for our Advent service. Lectures have brought in an interesting variety. And there’s more. (And it does not hurt that Pusey House is often generous in serving food and sometimes serves a drink or two as well.)
By the way, if you are in or will be in or near Oxford, I recommend getting on the Sacristan’s e-mail list to be informed of events. For that, e-mail pusey dot sacristan at stx dot ox dot ac dot uk .So I’ve been impressed beyond expectations during my term at Pusey House. One reason is the variety of events that the house has going on and all the different people that attracts. I’ve long loved Pusey House, but now it has become a very busy and often crowded place, even noisy at times. Good! I suspect the Lord is using that to make His Kingdom just a bit more crowded, too.