I’m currently reading through parts of the book Mission Shaped Questions, edited by Stephen Croft.
Chapter 11 by Martin Warner. It is no secret that that society in Britain is becoming increasingly unchurched – that is, there are increasing numbers of people who have not had any significant contact with a church, except minimally at school. This means, he claims, that society has little understanding of the concept or experience of God. Where then should Christians start when attempting to communicate with those from outside the church?
Our starting point as Christians seeking to invite our contemporaries to explore the enterprise of prayer and spirituality is no longer the divine, but the human, that which, as Christians, we believe is made in the image of God. (p175)
As humanity is made in God’s image, there are aspect of himself in all of us. We must then seek to find what it is that gives is, as humans, authenticity in our humanity – experiences which counter societal individualism to present something ‘good’ and ‘true’.
He gives a couple of examples. Everyone sees the need for a holiday, otherwise they would burn out. Often people go somewhere relaxing or different – we need a rest. This, Warner claims, is a human experience of Sabbath – setting aside time to recharge and reconnect with ourselves and families in the midst of a busy world.
Another example is that of grief or trauma. Everyone recognises that a time for healing is required, and there is a need to ‘get over’ whatever it was. This healing is often done through talking. In almost every Christian body, community and talking is central. Community, fellowship and communion with God and others brings healing is small and large situations and points to the healing from God.
There was one great quote at the end of the chapter, when Warner had turned to talk about the sense of spirituality created by art, and the fact that we as people are attracted by beauty. Often artists attempt to communicate things that are not easily put into words and that point beyond themselves. Warner was opening an exhibition at St Paul’s Cathedral in London. Right opposite St Paul’s across the river is the Tate Modern Art gallery which draws thousands of visitors every week. He was challenged by a reported who claimed that art galleries are the cathedrals of today.
It was an interesting point but not persuasive. We at St Paul’s are fascinated by the possibilities that the Millennium Bridge opens up between our two buildings. But what we also find interesting is the fact that galleries are filled with images all looking for a narrative; we have a narrative and are confident and content to allow images to illuminate and enrich it. (p183-4)
So – the thrust of that chapter was about identifying aspects of humanity that resonate with and authenticate our lives, to ask why they resonate, and to point to God. The possibilities for fresh expressions are endless.