Prayer and reading Scripture, both individually and together, are the key to making us people who can transform cities. So said Paul Williams in Manchester.
He was speaking at a masterclass on the theology of the city ahead of the Gather Movement Summit.
Paul’s talk ranged through living in the city in both the Old and New Testament, to our experiences today.
Many of us, he said, spent our times in ‘non-places’, transitory places such as shopping centres and motorways. But, he added, the pandemic had caused us all to ‘learn to dwell, to make home in places and find connections between home and neighbourhood’.
We are, he said, sent into our cities by God. But there are challenges in that: not assimilating, not behaving like heavenly tourists, but really knowing our place, knowing our people and living in a way that is transformational and missional.
Christians, he said, ‘felt the pain between what is and what we pray for’. That was clearly expressed in people’s reactions. When asked, the 150 people gathered at the event said that they found being a Christian in the city to be ‘overwhelming’, ‘frustrating’, ‘isolating’, ‘lonely’, ‘awkward’, ‘exciting’ and ‘hopeful’.
Paul Williams said that that was clearly expressed in the loss of trust in leaders. ‘Our civilisation has gone through a profound loss of faith in humanity,’ he said that made us feel ‘that we can’t trust any authority figure to behave decently, honourably.’
But, he said, the Bible ‘gives us a different model’ and hope. Where we live is both a place of mission and potential transformation, as well as a place of difficulty and frustration. And he called on the audience not only to get to know their cities fully, but to pray for them and to root themselves in Scripture in order to see societal transformation come about. The aim, he said, was to ‘liberate’ our cities, but also to ‘lead our cities towards their true destiny’.
The Gather Movement is a network of more than 8,000 churches and charities in cities and towns in the UK, working to see change in their locations, whether through food banks, addressing child poverty, or empowering people in their faith.
This is the first opportunity that Gather Movement members have had to come together since before the start of the pandemic.
Author: Hazel Southam, 21 June 2022 (Last updated: 29 June 2022)
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