Go For It

Telling tales

We’ve got a lot to learn from the masons.

For example, how do we grow as Christians? How do we enable others to grow?

These are key questions for a living faith and, even more so, for a living church.

Hot Chocolate isn’t, in itself, a church but a youth work organization. Nevertheless, we are a living, growing Christian community and we take discipleship seriously. It just always ends up looking a bit unusual.

Something we have found really helpful in recent years is a couple of essays by Stanley Hauerwas in Living Out Loud. He draws on his own experience as the son of a Master Bricklayer to understand Christian discipleship through the way masters of trades pass on their knowledge, skills and practice to their apprentices; the way a journeyman becomes a master in their own right.

In one he talks to two master masons, Vincent Palumbo and Roger Morigi, who worked on the Washington National Cathedral.

Palumbo reflects on how he learnt his craft and says “When you come from a traditional family you learn from talking”. He goes on to describe not training programmes or seminars or even conversations on the job, but meal times: the family sitting round the table talking about their day

. The natural sharing of their challenges, surprises, joys, and disappointments is an essential formative experience for the mason who wants to learn and grow.

Of course, for those conversations to be formative requires at least a couple of things. First, that the talkers and listeners spend the rest of their time doing the work, carving stone. If you’re not living the life the rest of the time then your sharing and your listening are going to be thin and fruitless. Secondly, that their desire and their satisfaction is centred in that work. The mason for whom it’s just a job doesn’t become a master and doesn’t make apprentices.

At Hot Chocolate we become disciples from talking. Our conversations together, whether in formal debriefs and reflective practice or in simple conversations, are filled with the passion for and experience of our work with young people.

This means they are about real life wrestling with grace, faithfulness, grief, truthfulness, generosity, hope, and more. When we sit round the dinner table (and we do that as often as we can) it’s natural to share and be shaped by our experiences of God’s kingdom being worked out in the community we make with young people. Discipleship can’t stop happening.

Is that how we experience discipleship in the rest of our church life? Too often it’s partitioned into structured environments and processes that undercut natural learning and, more seriously, separate discipleship from the living, from doing the work. One-way processes close down exploration of diverse experiences; curricula seek to apply abstract truth to lives instead of that truth being discovered in our resonant experience. Like a stone carver draws the shape and beauty out of rough rock, the best discipleship draws the truth of God’s work in us out of the rough material of our lived experience.

Dave Close
Director, Hot Chocolate Trust

About Hot Chocolate Trust

Hot Chocolate Trust previously received Go For It funding and continues to do great work in their community. The project engages with young people in Dundee, by offering hospitality and prayer. They also hold group discussions, reflecting on Scripture in creative ways, for example through music and art.

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This entry was posted in Creating work which is genuinely innovative and shares good practice with others, Developing new ecclesial/Christian communities, Meeting identified needs in the community, Nurturing Christian faith within and beyond the church, Tackling poverty and/or social injustice, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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