Community ministry

I have always maintained that it is our role as preachers not just to speak about Jesus but to speak like him. By that I do not mean, of course that we pepper our speech with verily, ye and other anachronisms.  No, what I am thinking of is that effortless way of flitting from heavenly truth to earthly reality and back again with such a deftness of touch that you can hardly see the join.  The parables are the finest examples of this, where Jesus sets an earthly story and a heavenly truth alongside each other, and allows some spiritual truth to emerge from their synergy.

Last night it was my privilege to act as host in our church to our fledgling local business community. Everyone was there – from beauticians and business analysts to motorcycle specialists, counsellors and cake -bakers. All in all about 100 people turned up , eager to meet each other, swap business cards, make connections and pledge some support for each other in testing economic times. What a privilege for the church to act as such a meeting point.  Those of you who read my post on sacred space will know that Saenredam would have been delighted!

What to say, on such an occasion, though? In my opening remarks I confessed that I had spent my lunchtime making a pilgrimage  to a local site of interest – the memorial to an 18th Century cobbler. Timothy Burnett was a local businessman who felt greatly aggrieved that the rich and privileged should have enclosed the local parkland – denying right of access across it for ordinary people. This meant that local residents who wanted to access each others’ businesses, or to go to church, had to take the long way round. Declaring himself ‘unwilling to leave the world a worse place than I have found it’ – he took on the Earl of Halifax in the courts, won his case for public access – and a footpath was built. Just over a century later a memorial (pictured below) was erected in his name-  a reminder of a local trader with a conscience who served his fellow men.

From there, as you can imagine, it was a short step to declare the church’s commitment to community involvement, and my own pleasure at hosting such a gathering where business people could help each other out. This little thought cannot have lasted more than a minute – but it certainly sparked a lot of conversations before the evening was through.

Perhaps the most important of them was with one of our local businessmen who said that it’s all about the ‘C’ word. The ‘C’ in question, in case you are wondering, was ‘community’ which is probably why mentions of our exciting November event were warmly received. More of that tomorrow