Carlisle Vineyard have a big God-dream for their city. One of the things they are doing to move towards this dream is to provide listening spaces in their city. We chatted to Miriam to find out what they’re up to!
We love the story of Hagar in the Bible. In this story, God himself stops alongside a bush in the desert to see and listen to a servant girl, to let her know that her life and her family matter deeply to him. In one encounter, where she was truly seen, she moved from death to life.
In 2019, we started imagining how we might become a city that deliberately listens in order to bring life, to restore connection, to reduce isolation, and to increase wellbeing. Our heart was that as a community together, we might create spaces, where everyone would be welcomed, have their story heard, experience compassion, and feel seen and known, even through a small encounter.
We wanted this idea for listening to be simple, possible in any space, anywhere, by anyone who simply cared. So we began to provide people in our community with a couple of hours of simple training and equipping on how to begin a conversation and listen for real connection. Soon after, we were able to begin opening spaces anywhere in the city.
One of our listening spaces has been open since August of 2020 where we’ve been present every week for 2 hours in the city centre. With a team of 4-5 people each week, armed with ‘Bags of Courage’ (a free gift of some tea, biscuits, sweets and chocolate and a message of hope) we are present in a space, right in the middle of the shopping area, where people are ‘on the way’.
As people pass us by we simply get to ask ‘Have you had your free bag of courage today? Everyone needs a little extra courage. How have you been?’ Since August we have had the absolute privilege of meeting over 3000 precious folks, of hearing their fears, pain and joys, of praying together and enabling them to seek further support where needed. We have literally spoken to people from the age of 3 to 96, all walks of life, backgrounds, ages and experiences.
In this beautiful space we have been able to be there for people whether for 5 minutes or an hour, simply to put courage in their hearts, and to say, “You are not alone. Your story really matters, and you matter.” We’re here to keep hope alive.