M, J + David, November 2009
Sometimes the only meaningful Christian fellowship you experience is in the after-church discussions. This particular exchange was cut off by the person who wanted to send us all home so he could lock up the building.

So you have a bunch of believers who get together on a Sunday morning. They may or may not be intimately connected with other believers — from your church or elsewhere. But what they do need is real fellowship, a sharing of their journey with God and the opportunity to seek the same from others.

How do you make it happen?

Do you subtly delay the official starting time so the people chatting can continue to enjoy each other’s company for a while longer? Do you pause between two scheduled songs and tell people to turn to the people around them and greet them? Do you offer tea and coffee and (if you’re particularly organised) home-baked goodies to lure people to linger?

I’ve got a radical idea.

How about you just skip the whole church service bit (without telling anyone in advance), and extend your normal coffee break time for the duration of a normal service? Do you think that would work?

Hans Ulrich Obrist is a Swiss curator, critic and historian. He’s a noted fire-brand in the art world, a visionary — someone to watch and someone to learn from.

In 1995, as a curator at the Museum of Modern Art in Paris, Obrist was asked to arrange an exhibition for Mind Revolution, a conference which was about the connection between the computer and the brain, between neuroscience and the computer.

Obrist recalls:

“I actually realized that that was … wrong, because to some extent why would we do a conference with artists and scientists who had never met, and who would feel put on the spot. Instead, we decided that the most important thing would be to create a contact zone, which wouldn’t put people on the spot, where something could happen, but nothing had to happen.”

“I feel very often with my projects that we cannot force things. One cannot engineer human relations. One can set the conditions under which things then happen. For that reason, we decided, a few hours before the event was supposed to take place, to cancel the conference and to just do a ‘non-conference.’

“It had all the ingredients of a conference — badges, tee shirts, bags with all the speakers’ CVs, a hotel where all the people would stay, a bus to pick them up in the morning and bring them to the science center, people at the airport picking the guests up, all of the logistics — but the conference no longer was there. It was just a coffee break. It was the invention of this idea that we should just do a coffee break…

“This came from that observation that obviously at a conference the most important things happen in the coffee break. Why do the rest? We’ll just do the coffee breaks.”

Canadian designer Bruce Mau wrote about this non-conference: “Apparently it was hugely successful and spawned many ongoing collaborations.” On the same subject he also said, “Real growth often happens outside of where we intend it to. In the interstitial spaces, what Dr. Seuss calls the waiting place."

What do you think?

What would be the result if this idea was implemented at your church?