Our day had begun by running around London trying (unsuccessfully) to find a 247 pray-er room in the heart of the financial district of London. Was struck by the opulence and wealth that seemed to cry out to me “you don’t belong here Andy”. Eventually we gave up and got on the train to Bromley by Bow.
The Bromley by Bow story is an inspiring one, a Church with a dwindling congregation, decided to do something radical with their building (rather than leaving this wonderful resource locked up for the majority of the time, as sadly so many Church buildings are). I remember hearing an archdeacon (a senior clergy person) ask a congregation “why have you stolen your building from your community?” -our buildings (and all our resources) are meant to aid the cause of seeing Christ’s “Kingdom come on earth as in heaven” and we have the privilege of being together as an outpost of heaven. The Bromley by Bow centre is a multi-award winning projects which has created a network of local community facilities together in one location, with a doctor’s surgery and health clinic, with educa-tion hubs that help teach English as a second language and computer skills to aid peo-ple’s return to employment. There is a crèche and a cafe, multiple art studios and at the heart of this beautiful develop is a spirituality and prayer room and stationed in the cen-tre of this was a Russian ikon of Jesus on the cross. The centre was buzzing there were people in every room doing something positive and hopefully transformative.
I thought of the networks of partnerships that had brought this centre together talking not just with other Churchy people, not just to residents in the community but also to councillors and those allocating budgets, writing policies and making decisions. Too of-ten as Christians we are afraid to enter the sphere of what could be termed political but we need to learn to speak truth to power afresh like the old testament prophets, we need like Joseph and Daniel to speak prophetically and wisely into the situations facing our nation and our local context. Jeremiah urges us as to “seek the welfare and prosperity of the city”. Often the call to be salt and light in our communities might result in sitting in stuff conference rooms with long council agendas, often tedious (and sometimes pretty dull!) but this work can and does result in transformation and blessing beyond what we will ever know this side of eternity.
I began looking at their notice boards (often a good place to look when trying to get a feel for a place), lots going on. I began looking for any information about the Church that meets here, I could not find anything (maybe I was looking in the wrong place) and even tried asking some of the staff who did not know either.
I wondered that despite so much structured work with professional workers that with an active and dynamic worshipping community at the heart of this building could be won-derful, as alongside peoples immediate needs is a need for community that loves and welcomes them, new networks of relationships that can give new opportunities and dif-ferent advice from what they have grown up with.
I wondered that in delivering so much wonderful provision whether the original commu-nity had lost its raison d’etre of making Christ known, although it is wonderful to feed, clothe, listen and love people we have a message of hope and good news to share with them, and it cannot be loving to with-hold this from them. The Bishop of Swindon, Lee Rayfield, used to say: “let people say their own “No’s’” -or perhaps they might say “yes” to Christ just no-one has given them to opportunity to hear and understand the Christian message in a clear and understandable way they can respond to.
So, plenty to think about as we began to try and work out how to get to our next destina-tion.