I have been a bit busy, and behind on posting to the blog! I started this post in the last week of November. This is what a day of missional listening was like in the early days:
I began by simply driving around the south end of Ajax, getting a feel for the different neighborhoods. I spent time looking at the age and condition of homes, noting where they are for sale, etc. I watched for clues about residents’ lifestyles, including children’s toys, basketball nets, Christmas decorations, leaves raked or not, cars in the driveway mid-day, diaper boxes in recycling containers, random storage pods in driveways, people out walking, etc.
Ajax is largely residential, with a few well defined areas of commercial and industrial activity, and so i noted where these divisions are. Neighbourhoods are generally defined by the age of the housing development, and sometimes named for the local school. There are a few strip malls here and there, and every single one has a daycare, or two, in it!
Ajax is really quiet during the workday. The vast majority of the people I see out walking during the day look retired, or on maternity leave. This all makes sense in a bedroom community, and a suburb where people travel by car.
These beginning steps of research are intentionally about observation, and not interaction, yet. This will help me determine what questions need to be asked, when I start doing surveys and interviews. I intentionally avoid jumping to solutions and ideas. Start with observation, then move to interpretation, and then evaluation and response.
I spent the afternoon with a couple I know in Ajax, who know a lot of history, and are well connected. They will be great allies in the area, and have offered a lot of help. They answered a million questions like:
- What is Ajax like?
- What are the neighbourhoods?
- Do you feel safe here?
- How has the neighbourhood/town changed?
- What do you think people in Ajax need?
- Tell me about your neighbours
I shared with them a great deal about the process of planting a church, and asked them to share it with others who were part of the last Anglican church in the area, and who might have misconceptions that we are looking to regather the same community, or replace it, replicate it, or otherwise. Instead, this is a creative new expression of church, particularly with the needs of young commuting families in mind.
A good principle of doing interviews like this is to always finish by asking if they’ll introduce you to others. They gave me names of a school principal, local politician, local businessperson and some members of the last Anglican church in the area. Best of all, they said they would connect me with their children, who both live in Ajax with young families. This is the beginning of a web of relationships that will grow quickly!