Queen's counsel X

June 2002

Once a year, there is a residential week for part-time students at Queen's. Two out of the three years, we meet as Easter people, sharing the light and joy of the risen Christ, and stay from Easter Day until the following Sunday. For the other year, and in my case it will be in my third year because these things follow a cyclic pattern, we meet during Holy Week and follow the last events of Christ's life through death to life. My account of this experience may appear in number XLIII (43) of this journal, in March 2005, if you, dear reader, and I can wait that long.

Meanwhile, the subject that we were exploring in some depth during Easter Week this year was "Pastoral Issues and Social Responsibility". Apart from the daily round of worship, prayer, bible study and reflection together, we heard a series of speakers describe their work out in the community on topics including housing, community centres, chaplaincy work in prisons, hospitals and airports, the worker priest movement and social justice in church structures. We also went out in groups to explore this further and see how others are coping with areas of social concern, presenting this formally to the others towards the end of the week.

I was with a group that explored "Community Development and the Church". We visited the Carrs Lane Church Centre (URC), where the congregation gathers from all over the city on a Sunday, and heard what they do during the week to counteract the many social problems there are within the city. They run a free Counselling Centre for any who need it, the Fireside, a drop-in centre for people needing medical help, clothing and advice, and the Dale Pantry, a budget-eating place open to all. Their buildings also house a wide range of Agencies and Charities. One of these is Drugline, which seeks to support addicts at all stages through needle exchange, medical advice, de-toxification and counselling. They battle with funding and resources but they have a clear vision of being God's hands and heart working in the midst.

We also went to the Anglican Church of St. Paul and St. Silas in Lozells, an urban priority area just north of Birmingham City Centre. You may remember the "Handsworth" riots in 1985, some of which took place in the Lozells Road, just outside the church which was then a new building and, amazingly, unscathed by the violence. We arrived at lunchtime and were whisked away to the Sikh Gurdwara down the road for a very warm welcome, a spicy and very tasty lunch, a tour and experience of the women's group chanting their holy hymns. And this sharing is very much a part of the church's vision here - not, as a very small minority, taking Christianity to others, but being Christian whilst having a healthy respect for the faith of others, whatever it might be. This clearly worked both ways and we were told, for example, that a palm-cross had recently been received with interest and placed on a Sikh mantelpiece. In this way, identity is retained whilst appreciation of different approaches is enhanced.

We were told that this sharing extends to all kinds of social concern and action and we came away with the image of "bus-stop theology", meeting people where they are and attending to their needs with no demands or hidden agenda but at the same time building community and building the kingdom. The Anglican Church also acts as a neutral place where many cultures can meet for playgroups, summer clubs, council presentations on Road Safety and a host of other things. The notice board outside the Lozells church sums up the clear and un-provocative message that God is to be found everywhere (Psalm 95:6):

O come, let us worship and bow down:
let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.

This site was developed to contain work by Mike Fox relating to the WMMTC course
This page was last updated on 2002-05-18

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