Near Neighbours partners in Southwark have welcomed the Olympics Games to the area, by cheering on the flame as it passed through. As anticipation reached fever pitch, the torch relay passed through the Parish of St George the Martyr, and members of the congregation were joined by many others from the area, including those of other faiths.
The goal of Near Neighbours is to bring together people of different faiths and backgrounds – something which of course happens during the Olympics. We were delighted to help facilitate such a fantastic event. Young people enjoyed craft activities and face painting, while everyone present took a pledge which emphasised the importance of hospitality, compassion and generosity.
Among those enjoying the event were The Bishop of Woolwich, Rt Revd Michael Ipgrave and Baroness Hanham, a Minister from the Department of Communities and Local Government, which funds Near Neighbours.
Below are some video interviews with some of those who took part.
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The Contextual Theology Centre is involved in a range of activities related to the London 2012 Olympics. From its foundation, CTC has worked with churches in London Citizens to secure a series of ‘People’s Guarantees’ for the Olympics, on jobs, wages and housing – and the Highway Neighbours project is helping local churches around the Centre to reach out to support their communities.
Our ‘Contending Modernities’ research project with the University of Notre Dame is studying the impact and raison d’etre of Christian, Muslim and secular engagement in community organising – and today, Centre Director Angus Ritchie has blogged for Notre Dame on Faith-inspired community organising and the London Olympics.
Pray also for all communities affected by the Olympics – and for local initiatives such as Highway Neighbours helping people support one another in living with its impact, and enjoying the historic events.
If you’ve got Olympic fever, why not come and celebrate the passing of the Olympic torch through South London?
Near Neighbours is bringing together people from different faiths and backgrounds to witness this unique event in Southwark.
The event takes place this Thursday, the 26th July on Borough High Street (SE1 1JA). St George the Martyr Church is hosting the celebration which will include activities for all the family. Whatever faith or background you’re from, you’ll be more than welcome to join the rest of the community!
This Sunday’s Gospel reading is Mark 6.30-34 (or 30-34 and 53-56)
Because so many people were coming and going that the disciples did not even have a chance to eat, Jesus said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.
This passage shows the two sides of Jesus ministry to people – the feeding the crowds, and the disciples, require is spiritual (rest, quiet, teaching) as well as physical.
That’s the way God has made us – flesh and spirit. Jesus’ teaching and his actions show the importance of both. He has no time for religious leaders who use ‘spiritual’ language to justify material inequity. But he warns us that material food alone isn’t enough. This is a balance we need in our own lives – and in the kind of world for which we are striving to build for others.
Christian teaching on the ‘Sabbath’ is a case in point. Jesus’ example makes clear that we are not to make an idol of particular regulations – The Sabbath is made for human beings, not humans for the sabbath – but having times of ‘Sabbath’ is essential in the Christian life. Without such times, we lose perspective, and more and more rely on our own resources rather than God’s grace. As Pope John Paul II reminded his clergy, without a time of Sabbath, we become ensnared in the ‘idolatry of work’, forgetting that it takes its places in a wider life of wonder, love and praise.
Pray for all involved in Christian ministry in demanding contexts, such as Britain’s inner-cities – among them the staff of the Church Urban Fund and the Contextual Theology Centre (CTC) – that they may balance their work with times of rest and refreshment. Pray for Sr Josephine Canny, Chaplain to CTC’s Jellicoe Community as she helps the Centre’s interns find this balance in a context that is new to many of them.
This Sunday’s Gospel is Mark 6.1-6 (Roman Catholic) or Mark 6.1-12 (Church of England)
Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. “Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him that he even does miracles! Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offence at him.
It’s sometimes hard to adjust when someone in the family moves from being a child to being a ‘grown-up’. We may trap others in stereotypes of how we’ve known them in the past – or how we thought we knew them. And most of us will have been on the other side of this, when we moved from childhood to adult life, and struggled at first to be taken seriously by those who knew us as a baby.
The people of Nazareth won’t let Jesus be himself – they trap him in their stereotype, not seeing his full humanity, let alone his divinity. We can make the same mistake in our churches today, confining those around us in our stereotypes, failing to see the full humanity of every member – judging some age groups, or classes, or races, before we get to know them.
One of the key practices of community organising is the ‘one-to-one’ relational meeting – encouraging people to get to know those they might otherwise just nod at in the next pew, so stories could be shared and gifts discovered. The face-to-face relationship, based on the reality of the other person, not our stereotype of them, is absolutely central to the life of a flourishing church – a church which can have a transformative impact on individuals and communities.
Pray for the team of summer Jellicoe interns at the Contextual Theology Centre – who will continue that process of building relationships and discovering unacknowledged potential. And pray for the Nehemiah Interns working for the Near Neighbours programme (in which the Church Urban Fund and the Centre are both key partners) as these much longer-term interns, drawn from and rooted in inner-city neighbourhoods, seek to deepen face-to-face relationships across the faiths.