Not a Church?

I took the lead role in developing a presentation entitled Not a Church for one of the regional synod meetings of the Uniting Church in Australia. The presentation started with a reading of the tremendous children's book Not a Stick. There is also the sister book Not a Box. These are profound books but their theme is simple. As adults we often get ourselves stuck, only able to attach a literal tag to an object (“Where are you going with that stick?” “What are you doing with that box?”). Somewhere along the way our ability to imagine things differently is diminished, hampered, neglected.

But a child, without years of learnt thought-patterns, sees a trumpet, a wand or a house (“What stick?” “What box?”).

The themes of imagination and transformation from the books carried over to the Not a Church concept, raising questions like:

* What concepts and traditions from the word “church” are we literalising unnecessarily?

* Conversely what opportunities for transformation in our communities are we ignoring: “That can’t be church, can it?”

There was a video (attached below) to assist in the imagination process which showed how transformation is a relational thing. It doesn't seem to really work unless those who set out to be transformers in society are also prepared to be transformed. Hence we put a heavy emphasis on the transformation that occurs to those who might be seen to have the "greater power" in each situation ...the police officer starts seeing young offenders differently ....the "young person from the church" starts realising that "unbelievers" (her term) can belong too.

We received some wonderful responses. We also received some typical responses from (mostly) middle aged men who said that the transfomation we mentioned can't really be the same sort of transformation as occurs in a church because we weren't talking about the typical methods and mediations of the church. Ahhh ...the purity of the church strikes again.


  1. Hi Adrian,
    I enjoyed the video and the post. I am fortunate to get to be part of a not-a-church that I thought I would share as well. Here is an article from our local paper that captures it nicely.
    I wonder how many other not-a-churches are out there and what power there might be in finding each other and connecting?
    Amy (Memphis, TN, USA)

  2. Hi Amy,

    Thanks for attaching that comment about your wonderful work in Memphis. I'm sure there is power in continuing to connect these initiatives!

    We'll keep talking and sharng...