The Holy Circus in Dialogue by Daniel Adams

The Holy Circus in Dialogue by Daniel Adams

‘So often when people say they are ready to dialogue, they mean that they are ready to talk. But dialogue involves listening as much as telling.’ (Thomas Groome)


The Rondebosch United Holy Circus has kicked off 2012 with two interesting and engaging series exploring community and worship: what it means to be a genuine community, and a community of people who specifically seek to worship and serve God together in light of Christ’s ministry. Central to our dialogue on community was the question: ‘what is important to make church a warm, welcoming community where everyone feels at home and can make a contribution by serving others in some practical way?’

Young people responded by saying that they think a community should be a place with open doors, where all are invited in, where homemade goodies are served, and people feel safe, warm and welcome. More than this, they believe that a Christian community should be the kind of place that cares for the earth: ‘we want a solar panel,’ and ‘we need to be more eco-friendly as a community.’ They said that a Christian community should be a place of shared experiences of play – ‘we want a Pajama Sunday’ and ‘more community activities,’ and ‘we want to bake for people in the community.’ They want to be more involved in communal worship: ‘to preach, pray, sing and read scripture,’ and ‘to paint, act and dance’ as forms of worship. But most of all, they see a community as a place where everyone’s voice can be heard, both young and old – ‘we want our voices heard!’

These comments were not voiced as complaints but as longings, hopes and visions for genuine community, for it is this last statement which resounds at the heart of all human flourishing, the desire to be truly heard. Not merely a hearing with the ears or a hearing of words alone, but an attempt to hear with the heart what the other person is attempting to communicate.

Taking up the theme of ‘dialogue’ this year, RUC has made a bold commitment to grow in our abilities, both in speaking up so that our voices can be heard in naming and transforming the world, but also is learning to listen, especially to those voices which aren’t often loud enough to be heard. For these are the two essential activities constitutive of dialogue, speaking and listening. It is this second task of truly listening which is often the most difficult, for as Thomas H. Groome (in Christian religious education) comments, ‘So often when people say they are ready to dialogue, they mean that they are ready to talk. But dialogue involves listening as much as telling.’

To be a community in dialogue we must truly learn to listen to each other, to the voices of young and old, to hear the hearts, concerns and dreams of others. Just as our communal worship is at its core a dialogue
the holy circus in dialogue of call and response, of speaking and listening, of us listening for God’s voice in Word and Sacrament and the community responding with its own voice in prayer and service, expecting God to listen to the cries of our hearts, we are hoping that RUC’s Sunday School and Youth programmes will embody the heart of dialogue as a core value of ministry. We are hoping to reframe these core ministries in light of a community in dialogue with God, each other and the world.

However, to name communal dialogue as a core value of Christian religious education, is to make a fundamental shift in traditional religious education. For, as Paulo Freire (in Pedagogy of the Oppressed) explains: ‘since dialogue is the encounter in which united reflection and action of the dialoguers are addressed to the world which is to be transformed and humanised, this dialogue cannot be reduced to the act of one person’s “depositing” ideas in another, nor can it become a simple exchange of ideas to be “consumed” by the discussants. Nor yet is it a hostile, polemical argument between men who are committed neither to the naming of the world, nor to the search for truth, but rather to the imposition of their own truth.’

Throughout 2012 and the years to come, it is RUC’s vision that the Holy Circus will become a key space for communal dialogue in the search for truth; a place of united reflection and action, in which the world is named, transformed and humanised as young and old encounter each other in communal dialogue around God’s stories and vision for the world. No longer can Sunday School remain a place where religious ideas are deposited by teachers and consumed by students. It must become a mutual place of transformation, where the valuable contributions of all are honoured and heard.

Throughout 2012 we are hoping to create more spaces for dialogue, for genuine community, for intergenerational encounters, where the voices of young and old alike can be heard, where stories, wisdom and imagination can be shared. We hope that the Holy Circus will not just be a ministry
for and to our children, but the catalyst for a genuine community of dialogue. We invite you into dialogue, both to share your story and to listen to the stories of others. Watch this space for your chance to join the Holy Circus in dialogue.

The next two months hope to be a shining example of this methodology. Responding to both the passion of our young people for creation, and Christ’s yes to this world in the resurrection, the Holy Circus will spend the next six to seven weeks in dialogue around the intersection between faith and creation care as we try and understand God’s vision for a (re)new(ed) creation.

Using a curriculum called ReNew, we will explore the parable of the Sower, and the relationship between spiritual growth and ecological care for the earth. This series will culminate in a youth-run eco-service on 10 June, the week of World Environment Day, and will hopefully be followed by a community outing of young and old, to plant seeds and seedlings in a community garden in one of our neighbouring communities. If you are interested in ecology, environmental issues, or spiritual growth, we invite you please to share your voice, your story and your time with the Holy Circus. We invite you to join the Holy Circus in dialogue!

Dan Adams