Well my first week at Theological College is over! Amidst the welcomes, the first lectures and the communal meals disparate groups of people have come together to start to form a community. Living together, eating en masse and learning a new subject – these are major new challenges.
What has also struck this week, amidst the many challenges provided, was the opportunity to reflect on so many issues. ‘Reflecting’ is a bit of a buzz word in theological schools; well it’s everywhere in mindfulness and counselling. The challenge this week has been to be open and honest – you might expect that in a theological school; can we be such in all that we do however?
This led me to how we operate within ‘ministry’ – another buzz word. It started me thinking on my way into church this Friday morning. A ‘drop-in’ meeting had been scheduled with no real way of gauging who might attend, the church had asked for people to support this work. This was such a break from the traditional coffee mornings where those possibly who attend the church on a Sunday might be expected to pop in for a cuppa and a biscuit. For confidentiality reasons let’s just say the attendees were an eclectic crowd; nevertheless, the conversations were many and varied, including one populated with expressions of this person’s deep held faith in Jesus, amongst other phrases.
Birmingham appears, after just a month here, to be a diverse array of cultures and people who live in relative harmony. A glimpse of the Birmingham Mail, the local newspaper, highlights that the harmony can so easily be broken – shame they can’t mention the great news of positive relationships across the various areas within the conurbation.
As a Methodist Deacon, the call is to serve the people. This may not be in the traditional sense that of leading worship in a church setting – the proverbial 5 hymn sandwich. We should now expect to host sessions for refugees, the homeless, those in need of contact with the church, as well as the ‘normal’ offerings.
We need to be ‘out of the box’.
Hence I sat for a while in Birmingham New Street Rail Station, apologies of the knees above, watching the people as they scurried to and fro, amidst the Starbucks outlets, the Prosecco bar and the luxuriant John Lewis superstore. People sought information on immediate connections, grabbing a bite to eat literally en route and possibly snapping up a bargain (can you get a bargain in luxury stores?)
It seemed to be all quick top-ups, taking in snippets of information from the many screens (display boards and their mobiles) whilst they remain in their own world. Headphones, both discreet and garish, cut us off from the regular announcements and ‘music’. Are we yearning for a virtual world perhaps? Utopia?
Do people want such isolation these days? I don’t think so, as they have such rich and amazing stories to tell, as I found out this morning.
So if ‘Church’ were like a rail station what would it look like?
(1) We expect people to come to places sometimes difficult to access by public transport on a Sunday. Is Sunday at 1030 or 11am the right time for people today? Would, infact, the rail station be more appropriate? [Out of the box]
(2) They are expected to sit for up to an hour, sometimes longer. Would they appreciate ‘church’ in a few short bursts a few times a week rather than one session which we hope will sustain them 24/7?
(3) They are expected to follow a plan which may not be obvious from the noticeboard (Hymn Board). Don’t get me started when we invite people to say the Grace or ‘give the Peace’ without any guidance. Can we help them as they seek God?
(4) We expect people to be familiar with such terms as redemption, Trinity, salvation and possibly propitiation when much simpler terms might be used.
As I contemplate where God is taking me in the future I wonder where I will be, fit, work. Today has give me time to ponder where other people are, fit, work.