In a speech in 2002 Bishop Laurie Green said this:
“I am arrested by the words of Jürgen Moltmann: He writes,
“We are not theologians because we are religious; we are theologians because in the face of this world we miss God. We are crying out for his righteousness and justice and are not prepared to come toterms with mass death on earth.”
In the face of this world we miss God. But he then goes on to say this:
“But for me theology also springs from God’s love for life – the love for life that we experience in the presence of the life-giving Spirit and that enables us to move beyond our resignation and begin to love life here and now. These are also Christ’s two experiences of God: the kingdom of God and the cross, and because of that they are the foundations of Christian theology as well: God’s delight and God’s pain. It is out of the tension between these two that hope is born for the kingdom in which God is wholly in the world and theworld is wholly in God.”
[From ‘Theology in the Project of the Modern World’, in A Passion for God’s Reign, ed Miroslav Volf. Eerdmans 1998]
Victoria Station is worse than ever. In the rush hour the crowds shuffle through entrances in columns of eight or ten people wide in and out of the station. Ten minutes of that is enough to create a yearning for a bit of open space or isolation and a respite from the constant bumping and jostling.
And in that is one of the most poignant conundrums of the city.
Crowds of people desperate for space and privacy and yet as individuals lonely and yearning for fellowship.
So why do we choose so many people for the role of Lay Minister who look, sound and act like partially licensed parish priests?
Wouldn’t it be great to have Lay Ministers who aren’t chosen because they can fill the church service rota but because they can fulfil a specific role outside the church?
In this schema, the ideal Lay Minister would be:
Extra-church – focused on an area of ministry outside the church where it would be valuable to be trained and commissioned
Representative – of the church in a formal way, probably because they are working within an organisation
Accountable – in a personal relationship with a partner within the church
In this schema, the ideal Lay Minister would not be:
A mini-priest within the church, a sort of priethood-lite.
I’m not denying that the work of the priest should be shared, and that some Lay Ministry is required to sustain the ministry of the church week by week. I’m just reflecting that I’ve never seen a Lay Minister who has been trained and commissioned to a ministry outside the church.
Let’s have Lay Ministers who work in schools, football teams, or with responsibility for particular High Street shops, or health clubs.
Charles Landry thinks deeply and writes eloquently about the formation of cities, and in his book The Art of City-Making he summarises his research into the characteristics, attitudes and qualities of admired city-makers. This is the list:\r\n
An ability to cross boundaries and think laterally
The ability to pick out the essence of a professional position and to see how it relates to other aspects
Practical and open to new ideas
An openness of thinking and willingness to hear other things
To be able to listen and hear
Open to suggestion and challenge
To be able to bring out the best in others, to facilitate, to draw together arguments and attitudes
People who know their place, have walked its streets, can feel what it is like
A sense of vision combined with realism , a patience garnered from having experience, a mix of drive and focus on the nitty-gritty, a tenacity to see things through.
\r\nLandry goes on to point out that people with these qualities can be found inside and outside the urban professions. Creative city making is not an exclusive professional club.\r\n\r\nLooking at it from the perspective of my own institution (the Church of England) that has every square inch of every city in the UK covered by a parish, and in some way therefore by a priest responsible for the spiritual and well being of that area, these qualities of city and place making described by Landry need to be found in more individuals in more dioceses and parishes if the church is to contribute to creative city-making and to help build a deep sense of settlement and connection within city boundaries.