The power of us: listening, vulnerability and making room for God

Guest post by Capt Emma Scott

photo 1“Mummy, what church do we live in?” This was the question 4 year-old Nathan asked about a year ago and it pretty much sums up the values of our Salvation Army gathering in Mitcham, London.

It was refreshing to read about the importance of visitation in the report ‘Marching Towards Justice and in particular the challenge to the status quo that visitation isn’t about me – spending time with someone because I know best and want to support them – but it’s about us, where we “…encourage both parties to speak freely about themselves.” As a leader in the church it can be really hard to make myself vulnerable to those around. My experience is that my ego compels me to have to keep a bit of mystery around who I am. The reality, however, is that I am a believer who messes up, struggles with faith and questions the world I see around me – church included.

When my visitation becomes about the ‘us’, it truly is a sacramental space – a “means for God disclosing Himself in the world.” When we have a relationship built on trust and therefore in essence, truth, then any march towards justice is done so with a firmer foundation. In reality this means that those who attend our gatherings, the neighbours I live around, the teachers at my children’s school, my friends can really come to know me – my strengths and struggles, my joys and my fears, the things I laugh at and the things I cry at. When we live in true community, it creates in us a humble spirit and an environment that enables justice to take place because there is less ‘you and me’ and much more ‘us’.

photo 4Visitation is also a great way of engaging with a Power Analysis. There’s nothing more powerful than the art of listening. When we first moved to Mitcham we had the amazing opportunity to simply listen to our community for around 9 months. We learnt so much in this time but one comment will always stay with me. Joe has lived in Mitcham all his life and I met him on a bus (I was lost and didn’t know which stop to get off at!). While we were talking I asked him my standard question in those early days, “What’s it like to live here?” His eyes filled with tears as he responded, “No-one has ever asked me that question, they’ve only ever told me what it’s like to live here.” That small statement has gone on to be one of the most telling of all our conversations. Living where we do we can easily feel disempowered because we’ve not been asked the right questions. Our hope is that we can truly build relational power where people become a part of the whole. The biggest key to this for us has been listening and then visiting. It’s only when we’re in true community, that the relational power takes hold.

We’re constantly evaluating who we are (visitation and development) and what we do (power analysis and action). The constant for me, is relationship. It is through relationship that we encounter God. It is relationship that enables us to listen and understand the communities we find ourselves in. And it is relationship that enables us to take action that will impact change. And the hardest thing in this? It means everyone knows my faults too! What church do we live in?

emaCaptain Emma Scott is a wife, a mum and a Salvation Army Officer in Mitcham with her husband Mark. She loves sharing life with others.