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18 December 2013

Smart move for Christmas

Smart move for Christmas

The Christmas story is being re-told for smartphone users in a new project by the Vitalise fresh expression of church in Wolverhampton.

Using the gifts that God has given them has prompted many talented members of Vitalise to use dance, drumming, rap and drawing - among other things - on a blog which can be accessed via QR Codes around the city centre.

By scanning a code on their smartphone, people will see how the creative arts have been used by the Wolverhampton-based community to reflect characters involved in the Nativity.

The Christmas QR Codes blog http://www.vitaliseqrcodeschristmas.wordpress.com has been created by Vitalise, predominantly made up of young people and adults under 30, as their 'Christmas present' to the city – something that can be given away for free. Posters advertising the QR Codes are displayed in coffee shops, university and hospital chaplaincies, YMCA hostels and many other places.

Deborah Walton took on the leadership of Vitalise earlier this year. She said she was struck by the fact there was quite a mix of young people whose connections with church ranged from regular and ongoing to none at all. What struck her was that many didn't have an opportunity to express their faith in the way they would want to.

"If they are part of a church, they might get asked to make tea or coffee or welcome people when they arrive or help with children's work but many are not using their own gifts. So when I came, I started by asking them: 'What are you good at? What do you really enjoy doing?' It was sad to hear some of the responses. 'I'm really good at dance but I guess you are never going to need that' and 'I'm good at rapping but you don't have that in church do you?'"

So we began to think, "How can we communicate the Bible in a way that's missional? How can we use what people want to do for God? How can we make the most of our unique context? How can we give back to Wolverhampton?"

Deborah sat down with a member of Vitalise who is gifted at strategic thinking and started to brainstorm ideas around creativity and Christmas.They decided to look at key figures such as Mary, Joseph, Gabriel and the shepherds and asked members of their community to pick a character that spoke to them and decide what they wanted to do to interpret their story. Some ideas didn't work out but they allowed for that to happen and in the end all the submitted material could be used.

"It's amazing because some of those involved have been genuinely on the margins," says Deborah. "Some were the people who sat at the back and didn't join in but this has been quite a transformational project. It has enabled some people to make a massive statement of faith to their friends and family because it has allowed them to say something about their faith they may never have said in the normal way of things.

"It is very important to me that this isn't seen as a one-off project and my hope and prayer is that these gifts of expression can continue to be used to speak of God. I am often asked things like: 'Why should there be fresh expressions of church?' My response is that it is really important because we are able to engage differently which is what we have done with this project which would have been much more difficult in an inherited church context."

Vitalise attracts support and resources from the Church of England, Methodist Church and Youth for Christ. They serve people from a wide range of church denominations, backgrounds, age groups and ethnicities.