Our Development Director Tim Thorlby blogs on what happened at the second of the Centre’s new programme of seminars for local church leaders. The seminar marked the publication of our new Lent book called Just Love written by Angus Ritchie (CTC Director) and Paul Hackwood (Executive Chair of the Church Urban Fund).
On Tuesday 21st January, the Centre welcomed over 20 local church leaders and practitioners from across London to take part in the second of our new programme of seminars ‘Theology for the Local Church’. These seminars – which are hosted at the Royal Foundation of St Katharine in east London – aim to equip local churches with the latest theology and practice on a key issue and then to provide the space for discussion and reflection.
This seminar focused on some of the core messages of our book Just Love and also explored the group’s past experiences of Lent and how churches can prepare for Lent 2014.
Our experiences of Lent vary widely. Whilst most of us recognise the value of Lent as an encouragement to forget self and trust God more, the routes that we have taken to get there are diverse. For some there are tried and tested practices of self-denial and simpler living for a season. A twist on simpler living suggested by one busy participant was ‘sequential living’ – learning to live in, and enjoy, each moment at a time, rather than too much multi-tasking. Other common themes in Lent are ‘food’ and ‘community’, taking the time to eat together (even just soup) and even journey together on pilgrimages. Lent can be a time for building friendships and community. For those with muslim neighbours, it can also be a point of contact with a community that often takes fasting rather more seriously (in Ramadan)!
In the midst of seeking God in Lent 2014, Just Love encourages us to be both spiritually aware and also engaged in our social and economic context.
Paul Hackwood summarised some of the key material challenges facing the UK today, with growing poverty and inequality. As our nation’s wealth continues to concentrate into ever fewer hands, Christians are required to ask ‘what kind of society do we want to live in?’. And as we increasingly see the failures of both State and Market in providing satisfactory answers to this question, Paul suggested that the best way to secure change was through a social movement of people committed to bringing about a better society – through spiritual and material means. Just Love is meant as a contribution towards this aim.
Angus then unpacked some of the book for us. Each of the six chapters takes a Lenten gospel reading as its starting point and then offers both a theological reflection and a practical suggestion for action. The Seminar then divided into small groups and we discussed the first chapter (on the Transfiguration of Christ). We finished with a presentation from CTC’s SingSpire Co-ordinator, Tom Daggett, about the Cantignorus Chorus – a recent practical example of how one church has helped to develop a stronger community amongst some of its most neglected neighbours.
The Centre will be hosting a ‘Theology for the Local Church’ seminar at St Katharine’s every two months. Our next seminar is Tuesday 11th March (again from 10.30am, ending with lunch at 1pm) exploring how we can be ‘a church of the poor, not just for the poor’, and looking at how churches include homeless people. Our seminars are free, but we do ask people to register in advance, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to be kept up to date with our forthcoming events, please join our monthly mailing list.