We are all trying to gather ourselves together as we begin our charge through the week. Today began with breakfast [We all ate early today, as there was a tribe of 45, we think German, kids staying at our place. It’s convenient to get there before they do…] and Morning Prayer at 8:30 am. [That’s 3:30 am your time. Yes, I was thinking about you.] We were off to a church called St Edmund the Martyr. This little church, very close to the Bank of England, has existed in one form or another for more than 1,000 years in this spot. Some of its ministry is as a center for spirituality and a site for the development of church planting in London. At St Edmund’s we heard of the strategies the Church of England is using to try to re-engage with a huge community of non-Christians. [When you count EVERY known Christian in London, no matter the stripe, this number exceeds 7.5 million people. That’s a lot of people.] It’s amazing to see and hear of the deep creativity that’s going into this work, as well as a willingness to experiment and learn from mistakes. It’s also remarkable to hear of people and places that look around themselves and don’t really perceive a problem. As Scott said to as we were leaving, “I see why we’re here. We don’t want to end up in the same situation!”
We journeyed back to the Highbury Centre [our home away from home for the week] for lunch and presentations from a number of people. The first was Will Clarkson who is responsible for what is called “Fresh Expressions” in the south London area. One way to think about Fresh Expressions is it is throwing everything and the kitchen sink along with the cat, the dog, the goldfish, three balls and a pillow at the church’s lack of reaching de-churched and un-churched people. We then heard from a guy, Tim Thorlby, who does statistical research on these things. One of the things Tim essentially said is that when you’ve fallen as far behind the curve as the Church of England, it is A LOT of work that is left for you to do.
We heard of the work of a pastor who works essentially without a church – Frances Shoesmith, and an old friend, Annie McTighe, who also doesn’t have a traditional church building. Both find their work primarily in forming relationships and using non-traditional spaces to do their work.
Luanne and I had an interesting opportunity for this evening. We popped back into downtown London with two other classmates to St Paul’s Cathedral to hear the new Bishop of London speak about her faith journey. There have been 132 previous bishops of London, dating back to 186, Sarah Mullally is the first woman to serve in this role. She had a very fascinating back-story, having served as the chief nursing officer in the British health system before becoming a pastor then bishop. As she reflected on the numerous blessings and challenges ahead of her church, she noted that as the church works to speak to people in this time and if we get it right so that people will hear of the love of Jesus in ways that change their lives, this work will change us, too.
Peace to you from London!