Dear Friends in Christ
Welcome to the summer edition of the T4CG newsletter. As we learn to live with the pandemic, underlying weaknesses are laid bare and everyone is uneasy. The Churches find themselves diminished and confused. Much of the economy is on life support, and cultural battles are raging. We are mourning the loss of loved ones, we are fearful and exhausted, all experiencing grief in one way or another. And there is a deeper grief: we sense, but may not be able to articulate, that our familiar ways, especially our transactional culture, are not going to be enough to see us through.
Somewhere deep in our memory is the tradition of covenant. It has atrophied as our culture of contract has dominated for so long, but there are stories that can help us recall. If the Churches are to fulfil their purpose in the new era, they will need to offer more than public prayer, feeding the hungry and burying the dead. They will need to recover their sacred sense of place and their covenantal role. Not as a church in a patrician sense as host, but as a distinctively Christian neighbour, alongside other local institutions also humbled by the crisis. A shared sense of vulnerability is drawing the Churches to re-root within local relationships. This will be the focus of our next webinar in September.
In this edition, Sam Tomlin a Salvation Army officer from Liverpool, tells how his local relationships have changed since he started walking to church. And Jonathan Herbert, chaplain to gypsies and travellers in Dorset, tells us how a dispute over a horse helped him tell the difference between contract and covenant. Meanwhile, Jenny Sinclair explores what we can learn from the covenant relationship between church leaders and dockers’ families in London’s East End at the end of the 19th century.
As the impact of job losses sets in, we will need to build up our civic immune systems. During lockdown we have all seen a surge of neighbourliness and new connections forming. But we will need more than this: understanding relational power will make us more effective. So we are pleased to share a new learning series from MetroIAF whose leaders are among the original community organisers in the US. Alongside this, political theologian David Muir draws on Pentecostalism’s understanding of the Pauline ‘principalities and powers’ to propose an authentic and distinctively Christian citizenship.
Durable, local relationships are what is needed to uphold community life and overcome division. As a first step, we can build on the spirit that emerged during lockdown: we invite you to try our new Let’s Continue to Build Community 4 session Guide for local groups free to download here.
Responding to the ‘Black Lives Matter’ moment, we have assembled a collection of links that support a cross-racial, cross-class solidarity, opening up a new narrative on race. Finally, we bring you our latest Signs of the Times round up, recommended books and podcasts, and news on T4CG’s young people. We hope you find these resources helpful as you reflect on the complicated times ahead.
Every blessing on your work
Together for the Common Good