Monday, 9 June 2014


No it's not a typo. Anyone who's read any document I've produced knows I'm capable of some hilarious or glaring typos, but 'framily' is not a typo.

It's hard to be 'framily' without eating together
It's a new phrase that helps explain what is both alien to our culture and at the same time the very thing our culture craves: friends that are as close as family. Forgive me if you've heard of it by I'd not come across it. It happened yesterday. We'd been in the park with friends on Sunday afternoon, kind of picnic, mixed with rounders and French cricket, enjoying the summer sun and friendships old and new. We'd arranged it as part of our missional community and in the end about 27 people came together to have some fun. Afterwards my family went back to a friend's house for pizza, she having been at our house for dinner the previous night. As we sat in the evening sun feasting on Domino's best Pepperoni and Hawaiian delights in her garden, remarking on a good day and weekend on the whole, our friend described us as "framily". I'd not heard the term before but instantly knew what she was trying to say, and I was touched, humbled and chuffed. It was one of those 'moments' that are worth marking and remembering.

The online Urban dictionary lists framily like this: when friends become like family, they're framily. closer than close, they may know you better than your own family. I don't think my friend has ever read Acts 2:42-47, and description of the early church functioning a bit like framily. "Framily" is a great new word to help us understand what we're trying to achieve and create at MBC: extended family. this concept is both theological and sociological. It is the biblical concept of belonging to a meaningful community and where the bonds created and faith in God that is shared is just like the closeness and love of family - and even as the urban dictionary suggests, sometimes closer. If you want to know, it's a Greek work 'oikos' that describes that kind of group that would meet in a 1st century middle-eastern household, that includes, servants, and friends, and wider relatives and cold be up to 35-50 people. It was also the fabric of culture. This 'framily' is also present in all the major growths of the Christian church around the world over 2000 years, from the rise of the early church up to 300 AD and the recent growth of the Chinese underground church in the latter half of last century.
A typical size of framily, including young and old.

"Framily" is also sociological, and describes the size of group between about 12 and 50 people in which you have a strong sense of identity, belonging and participation, and can know everyone in the group. Once a group grows beyond this the participation, belonging, contribution, value, and intimacy of relationship all decrease quickly. It's a huge concept and one we're doing everything we can to understand and live out, learning lots through success and failure in equal measure. It's hard, takes time, and because it involves people is unpredictable and sometimes painful. But is is also wonderfully inspiring and rewarding, and when it starts working, is truly divine.

I said earlier that it was both alien to our culture and craved for at the same time. Alien because of the changes socially over the last 100 years, the rise of the nuclear family (Husband wife and 2 kids), subsequent breakdown of that, and the English culture of "an Englishman's home is his castle". Individualism is a strong force in western culture that permeates everywhere.  And yet at the same time it seems that everyone craves for something more communal and meaningful, even if they can't articulate that, or don't know how to live that out, and navigate the challenges. Good sports clubs and choirs can create that kind of dynamic, but you really know you're in a framily by the time you spend together outside the official time you're supposed to.

Final thought: it's interesting that "framily" is in the Urban dictionary. Perhaps because with growing urbanisation there is growing breakdown of family and relationships and increasing loneliness, making it a ripe place for needing closer friendships.

Whatever we're doing, however we're doing it, and despite setbacks in our past maybe, let's press on and venture into this exciting, challenging dynamic of framily. As we invest time and resources into people, we might just find that we encounter God in our midst ...