Sunday, 10 May 2009

My Parish Church

I didn't have a preaching engagement in the District this morning so headed over to the local Anglican Church with Annie and Luke. Our local Parish Church is St Christopher's, Luke has begun getting involved in the Youth groups that they run. St Christopher's has a very healthy number of young teenagers and a is a very friendly and locally rooted congregation. The Vicar of the parish is Toby Howarth who is also Bishop's advisor on Inter Faith Relations and the church is seriously involved in creative engagement and dialogue in the Muslim majority area that it serves. Here is how Richard Sudworth - author of Distinctively Welcoming who is training on the Pioneer Ministry track at Queen's and also Chairs the Springfield Project at St Christopher's - described their work at Greenbelt last year:

St Christopher's, Springfield is an Anglican parish in inner city Birmingham with a Muslim majority community. The church runs a project providing nursery, family support, stay and play and childrens\' club facilities to diverse members of the parish. In serving the Muslim, Sikh, Hindu and no faith families in the area, key points in the church's calendar and in the rhythms of the project have provided opportunities for creative expressions of the Christian story. In appropriately ethical ways, the church has been exploring ways of learning from South Asian spiritualities in a Christ-centred journey that facilitates connections with our community and honours the search for God that is so real for many in our context. Over recent years, a vital relationship of dialogue has developed with the large mosque facing the church. The very nature of our environment , gives us a keen sense that we should foster a spirituality that is faithful to our texts and tradition and equally committed to be a blessing to all in our city, whatever their faith. The congregation consists of old and young, white, black, South Asian, professional and non-professional and believes that diversity within the church is part of the gospel we offer to the world.

Coming from within the evangelical tradition of the Anglican Church, St Christopher's, with its fresh and creative approach to ministry in a Muslim majority parish, is a challenge to both the wider evangelical tradition and the traditionally more liberal theologically influenced Christian Inter Faith movement - its work challenges stereotypes and questions long held assumptions.

One of the creative initiatives at St Christopher's is the Youth Encounter Programme headed up by Andrew Smith . He did a very good session on YE for a course at Queen's that I ran recently and was preaching this morning. He didn't disappoint with a cracking sermon on John 15 1-8, the service was led by Andrew's wife Sarah who is the Head Teacher at the local C of E Primary School.

We also heard this morning the latest about a new development coming out of Youth Encounter called The Feast. This initiative is hoping to deepen and develop some of the work begun by Youth Encounter. It will be seeking to foster deeper dialogue and friendship between Muslim and Christian young people in Sparkhill and Birmingham - check out the aims and objectives of the project and the interesting Guidelines for Dialogue used in Youth Encounter and The Feast's work with young people.

Although I'm not traditionally identified with the evangelical tradition, I am really glad that St Christopher's is my Parish Church and I am thankful that in the likes of Richard, Toby and Andrew I have excellent inter Christian dialogue partners in the exploration of what it means to live Christian discipleship in a multi faith world.

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