The Ayrshire Scheme

ayrshire‘The Scheme’ was a recent BBC Scotland fly on the wall documentary about life on the Onthank council estate in Kilmarnock.  Having grown up in Dreghorn nearby, and having gone to school there and in Kilmarnock, although the levels of poverty and deprivation were a bit better where I lived, the culture was more or less the same.  The Scheme showed a far from complimentary portrayal of life on Ayrshire’s housing schemes and missed out on some fairly crucial stuff, the good stuff about Ayrshire life.

I’ve long had the dream of returning home to Ayrshire and establishing church for Ayrshire folk.  Don’t get me wrong, there are some decent Jesus centred churches in Ayrshire.  It just so happens that most of them tend to attract the middle classes or the elderly.  I wrote a post some years ago called ‘The Church My Mother Would Go To‘ where I tried to imagine what a church would have to be like for someone like my mum to think about going.  My suspicion is that there may not be any, and if they are, they’re certainly too few and far between for the successful re-evangelisation of Ayrshire.

My hunch is that Ayrshire has had very few indigenous Church Leaders….I’ve nothing to back that up, but most ministers I’ve met from Ayrshire are rarely from there.  In fact, thats probably true of most locations.  The problem with this is that the culture isn’t understood.  Mission ends up ALWAYS being cross-cultural.  Now, sometimes thats needed, but its so important to have a focus on raising up indigenous people for mission in the locality.  One of Paul’s instructions to Timothy was to identify the local elders/overseers to parent the fledgling congregations.  The value of indigenous leadership.

So, what is there about Ayrshire culture that makes it ripe for planting missional churches?

– the communities are highly communal.  Growing up in Dreghorn was growing up in a large family.  Everyone knew everyone.  There was a strong culture of people being in and out of peoples houses.  An hour sitting in my mother’s living room would bring you into direct contact with maybe 5 folks who just walk in and out (on a quiet day), having a cuppa and a chat on the way through, borrowing or lending a tenner/cup of sugar/hair dryer/ lawn mower/ etc.

– the communities have a shared resistance.  By and large, Ayrshires estates are working class, and like many of these states, there is a strong character to the people.  This means that people don’t put up with shit.  The only ‘gospel’ that wins will be one that is real with life, expectations, hardship and that doesn’t ‘pussyfoot about.’  In my village, the folks that went to the local church were commonly known as the ‘fur coat and nae knickers brigade’.   Quite simply, folks who portrayed themselves as better than other folk, dressing up to go to church and being a pain in the arse all the rest of the time!  Ayrshire needs a real church for real people.

– the places huv goat thur ain langwidge.  If ye come across folk that disnae talk luk you dae, yer aware straight awa that they’re no yer ain folk and that diz, generally, pit their credibility doon.  It makes whit they say foreign or no fur thaim.  Ma mither wid huv too minny suspicions aboot folk that didnae talk oan her level, as wid hunners a ither folk a ken.  Now, Ayrshire folk are no daft and they’re no narra mindit in the main, but the gospel ayewis hiz a hard time wi extra barriers in the wiy.  The power a local folk saved and trained up wid bring a big chinge.

– Ayrshire isn’t really atheist.  My experience is that you find very few who don’t believe in God.  Of course, that doesn’t mean that they have the gospel or that they understand the implications of Jesus message, but God is not out of the picture.  Yes, you’ll certainly used the name of God in swearing terms, and in general terms people aren’t interested in religion, but the people are spiritual…it just so happens that the tea readers, psychics and spirtualists are doing better than the Christians in Ayrshire

My biggest dream is to go home and stay there.  I’d be best friends with anyone who’d make it possible!  But then, throughout the UK there are estates that are still largely under-churched….or that have plenty of churches but no local rootedness to them.  Our nations are in need of a radical movement of urban/town planting of faith communities enacting the gospel in real ways.  The call is there…are people listening?

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