I love the start of the New Year. Rested and refreshed from a Christmas break, I love the sense of anticipation and energy with which people return to normal life.
One of the things I am most looking forward to during 2015 is talking more about the changes that ChristChurch London has undergone recently, and hosting further Beneath the Surface seminars.
We held the first seminar in November to provide a context where we could consider together some of the recent changes that have occurred in the life of the church and to talk further about the implications for us. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive and I’m grateful to everyone who attended or got in touch subsequently with comments and questions.
We looked at some pretty big issues: how Christians can contribute to national change, our involvement in the life of the city, the need to be accessible to those who are seeking faith and the roles of leadership and structure in the life of the church.
In the first half of 2015, I am going to be hosting another three of these seminars. Each seminar will consider different issues and have lots of time for us to talk together.
We are doing this in order to answer the following question; “What does the church look like when it is faithful to the scriptures and 2000 years of Christian history and also relevant to the fast-changing world of the global city in which we live?”
This is an urgent task. Whilst church attendance is rising in the capital it is shrinking in the rest of the country and in much of the western world. For example, the Bishop of Blackburn recently talked about the fact that his diocese could virtually vanish in the next decade.
I do not think that this is because the person of Jesus is irrelevant or because faith is no longer welcome in society. On the contrary, I think he remains incredibly attractive and faith remains necessary to flourishing communities. However, I’m not sure that we have always done a good job at presenting Jesus or demonstrating his relevance. This is something that we need to remedy fast.
The urgency is because of the speed and scope of change that our culture is experiencing at present.
Technology is moving at warp speed and is not just changing how we process information but changing how we learn, how we think and how we relate to others.
Travel and communication is making the world seem smaller. Cities that were pretty monochrome only a generation or two ago are now overflowing with people from different nations. This morning I had breakfast alongside Americans, walked to the office behind a group of French children, passed a number of Pakistani men leaving the mosque, queued this evening in the supermarket behind a Russian mother before being served by a Bangladeshi store manager. This is the pluralistic society of the 21st century. Christendom is over and every faith group and nationality has a say in how we live.
Academics have reminded us that these changes have gone hand in hand with new perspectives in terms of how we think, how we define right and wrong and how we treat one another. Ideas do have consequences and the world is changing fast as a result.
Such change requires an ability to rearticulate faith in contemporary language without losing any of its essential content or power. As we learn to do this, I’m confident that we will find huge opportunities ahead. The cities of the world have not lost their thirst for faith; they just need churches that will help them access it without too many obstacles other than the message of the Cross and the news that the God of love came to set them free.
The first Beneath the Surface seminar is on Sunday 1 February. Do check out the information below and join us if you are able.
Tectonic plates lie deep beneath the Earth’s surface. We give them little thought day-to-day, but when they move, our whole world changes. The Beneath the Surface seminars will consider some of the ‘tectonic’ shifts we have made as a church and the difference they might make to our lives. Each seminar will run from 13.30-15.00 in the Mermaid Theatre and will cover a wide range of themes:
Feb 1: What vision should we have for what the church can accomplish? How should I live in a pluralistic society? On what do I rely in order to think clearly?
We will also be presenting our Annual Report at this session, outlining a summary of our achievements and expenditure over the past year.
Apr 19: What does it take for us to enjoy the good life? What’s gone wrong with the world and how can it be put right? How do I craft a vital spiritual life?
Jun 28: What does it mean to create a church for those who are not yet part of us? What are the key concepts for creating community? How does change come about in individuals and communities? And how can we leave a lasting legacy in this city?
Image: Iceberg by Ben, used under CC