Category Archives: Events

Enough for all and more besides…

CTC’s Communications Officer, Andy Walton, spent time at the Community Lunch at St Peter’s, Bethnal Green.

Across London, CTC’s partner churches are involved in innovative, creative and exciting projects. Sometimes, though, a remarkably simple idea can be the most effective answer to a problem.

A few months ago, the congregation of St Peter’s, Bethnal Green held a Money Talk. A Money Talk is a simple tool used by congregations to assess how the ongoing economic downturn is having an impact in the local area. The answers coming back from church members showed that there were major concerns. One of these major areas of impact was food.  Grocery shopping is getting more and more expensive, and it’s becoming hard to feed a family with healthy meals.

That was when St Peter’s hit upon the idea of a community lunch. It wouldn’t involve anything complicated. Instead, everyone would be asked to provide a good helping of nutritious food, provided they could afford it. After the once-monthly family service, the food was gathered together, warmed up and served to anyone who’d been at church that morning – and more who had been invited by members of the congregation.

Comm lunch

With some small adjustments to the seating arrangements, the church was turned into a place for us to eat and share. More than 100 people were present for the service and many stayed to share some time with eachother. The diversity of those present was represented in the food. We ate cuisine from around the world and enjoyed good local baking too!

One of the most important elements of the day was the surplus of food.  There was more than enough left over for us to fill many containers and take food home for the coming week. In a small way, we had provided an answer to the concerns raised at the meeting a few months back. It’s still hard to afford to put a good meal on the table for the family. But with the community lunch hopefully becoming a regular event, it may be just that little bit easier in future.

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From an east end pub to St Paul’s Cathedral…

Centre Director Angus Ritchie blogs on our spring programme, where we will be taking theology beyond the walls of the church:

Community Bible Studies

Over the last 4 months we have been studying the Bible together outside the usual ecclesiastical settings.  Andy Walton has blogged on these Community Bible Studies – in which we are finding that God is speaking to us in fresh ways because we are making the effort to read His word deep in the community.   We will be meeting next  at noon on Monday 4th February in the Hudson Bay pub, Forest Gate, with the Revd Chigor Chike (from the neighbouring Emmanuel Parish Church).  The Bible Study finishes at 1pm – and those who have time to stay are welcome to have lunch together.

Lent Programme

The Centre’s programme for Lent includes a mixture of contemplation and action – beginning with an afternoon on Silence: Practicing the Presence of God with speakers from the Roman Catholic, Coptic Orthodox and Anglican churches.

We have also launched Seeing Changea Lent course which includes an innovative mixture of Bible study and community engagement.  (A version of the course is also available for other times of year.)  Churches participating in the course will spend three weeks reflecting on the Biblical story of the prophet Nehemiah, before moving into action with a Money Talk held either in the church building or elsewhere in the neighourhood.

You are warmly invited to the Sunday evening (6pm) service St Paul’s Cathedral on 17th March, at which those involved in Seeing Change will be leading intercessions for all affected by the financial crisis, and all working for a more just and compassionate economic order.

February also sees the annual Presence & Engagement Lecture – which is this year given by the Dean of St Paul’s, who travels south of the river to St George the Martyr SE1.  At 7pm on  Monday 18th February, he will give a talk entitled Guardian or Gatekeeper? Faith in the Public Square and the role of the Church – and this public lecture is preceded by an afternoon workshop on Making Sense of the Census.  Full details of both events, and a Near Neighbours workshop later in the month, are on the CTC website.

Bible study… But not as you know it.

How does a diverse group of people come to be gathered round a large table in an east London cafe discussing and debating the words of Jesus?

The Contextual Theology Centre works with many excellent churches. But when we decided to develop a new bi-monthly Bible study series, we wanted to find a space which wasn’t traditionally used for that kind of activity.

We considered various options before settling on the idea of taking our Bible study on tour around the various communities we work in. Nowhere was off limits. We aim to visit libraries, community centres and even parks (weather allowing!) But the first two studies have taken place in two of our favourite cafes.

The October study considered Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well and took place at Kahaila cafe on Brick Lane. Surrounded by their exquisite coffee and cakes, we discussed the meaning of this incredibly poignant and important passage.

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December’s study took place this week at Cafe Verde in Limehouse. Staff from the centre were joined by a wide variety of people including a couple of parish priests and some Muslim school-pupils who were on work experience with one of our partner charities.

Led by the Centre’s Faith in Public Life Officer, David Barclay, we studied a less well-know parable – that of the Shrewd Manager.

Having read the passage together, we broke into groups to discuss our perspectives on the story, and how it might apply to our day-to-day lives. The economic implications of Jesus’ words were debated and we discussed whether the ‘rich man’ mentioned in the passage may in fact have been the contemporary equivalent of a banker or City trader.

Being in a ‘real’ environment rather than a place of worship means there’s a real buzz to the studies, and there always seems to be plentiful coffee and excellent food on offer. We’d love you to join us for future community Bible studies.

The next Community Bible Study – held on the first Monday of alternate months – will be on 4th February at 12 noon at a cafe in Forest Gate.  Full details on our events page shortly.  

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With good reason

This week sees the arrival of a new book by Centre Director Angus Ritchie – developing a significant new line of argument within Christian apologetics.  Published by Oxford University Press, From Morality to Metaphysics argues that atheism is unable to account for our deepest ethical commitments.

You can hear Angus discuss the argument with Justin Brierley and atheist Kile Jones on Justin’s Premier Radio show Unbelievable and the associated podcast.  On the show, Angus also discusses the implications of these kinds of apologetics for wider debates about the role of faith in public life – a subject he has written on for the University of Notre Dame’s Contending Modernities blog.

On 6th December, Angus will be debating these issues at the London School of Economics with atheist philosopher Julian Baggini and agnostic (and former Anglican priest) Mark Vernon – with the New Statesman‘s Jonathan Derbyshire in the chair.  This event marks the launch of Angus’ report From Goodness to Godwritten for the public theology think-tank Theos – which will summarise his book’s main argument, and applies them to questions around faith in public life.

November update from the Director

Events for Advent

The Centre has planned a variety of events activities for Advent 2012: a Quiet Afternoon on Mary: Prayer and Action (speakers ranging from a Pentecostal pastor in Newham to an Assumptionist priest in Bethnal Green); the second of our bi-monthly Community Bible Studies (on the theme of ‘Encounters’) and a debate on the religious foundations of morality at the London School of Economics.  Our Advent programme ends with Earthly and Heavenly – an evening of music and reflections on the Christmas story which will be held at the Royal Foundation of St Katharine.

New Resources

The Centre is working with the Church Urban Fund to develop a ‘Community Conversations’ programme – equipping churches to engage their neighbours in discussion and action on economic justice.  David Barclay is available to help churches host such events (davidb@theology-centre.org).  You can find out more here – where you can download the Centre’s resource pack on the financial crisis, along with a range of papers and media articles by staff and Fellows.

CTC is also engaged in a partnership with the University of Notre Dame, which is generating both academic research and resources for local use.  It is focussed on the way Christians, Muslims and secular people negotiate and promote a ‘common good’.  The first fruits of the partnership are already online: including blog posts on the impact of community organising on the Olympics and a new booklet on Muslim engagement in community organising.  In the next month, we will be publishing a report for Theos (the public theology think tank) on the religious foundations of morality, and its implications for the use of religious reasoning in public life.  CTC researchers are also preparing research papers on Christian, Muslim and secular motivations for community organising – and a second, more practice-focused report for Theos.

News: Justin Welby endorses Living Wage; Latest Near Neighbours Grants; Tax Justice Campaign

As well as weekly posts on the forthcoming Sunday’s Gospel readings (with prayer intentions for the work of the Centre and its partners), our new blog includes a range of stories and resources – including news of Near Neighbours (Eastern London), and projects which have received funding from its Small Grants Fund to build relationships between neighbours of different faiths and cultures.

Other recent stories on the CTC blog include our work with Christian Aid’s tax justice campaign; a report on  ‘Highway Neighbours’ (a project of local parishes in Shadwell and Wapping in response to the Olympics), and news of the Bishop Justin Welby’s strong endorsement of the Living Wage Campaign.  We’ll be posting again shortly on  an exciting new piece of work in Newham with our local Pentecostal and Roman Catholic partner churches, helping young people in the area to tackle gang violence.

Drawing the strands together

What draws these diverse strands of activity together?  The Contextual Theology Centre exists to equip churches to engage with their communities.  From the street-by-street interactions encouraged by Near Neighbours, to the way we are engaging churches in community organising; from the very local work of The Shoreditch Group to the sharing of good practice of the Presence and Engagement Network; from the development of the ‘Jellicoe Community’ (of young Christians committed to prayer and social transformation) to our growing range of research partnerships, CTC’s activities are united by their concern for helping local churches to engage prayerfully, faithfully and effectively with their neighbourhoods.

Angus Ritchie

The Primacy of the Social and Ethical: Blue Labour Midlands Seminar

A number of CTC Fellows are involved in an upcoming seminar on Blue Labour.  Details, including how to RSVP to attend, are below.  The event organisers write..

The Primacy of the Social and Ethical – How Blue Labour speaks to the social, political and economic situation in the UK in 2012.

6 July 2012, 9.30am to 17.00pm at the Centre of Theology and Philosophy, University of Nottingham

Out of what materials can Labour fashion a compelling vision of the type of country we wish to govern and offer an effective orientation for assured political action?

The Labour tradition is not best understood as the living embodiment of the liberal/communitarian debate, or as a variant of the European Marxist/Social Democratic tension.  Labour is robustly national and international, conservative and reforming, Christian and secular, republican and monarchical, democratic and elitist, radical and traditional,and it is most transformative and effective when it defies the status quo in the name of ancient as well as modern values.

(‘Labour as a Radical Tradition’, Maurice Glasman, 2011)

The aim of this seminar is to gather Blue Labour thinkers, supporters and activists to explore and discuss substantive Blue Labour themes. The aim would be to deepen, enrich and expand upon the themes that constitute the emerging Blue Labour narrative.

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What Money Can’t Buy – an event with Michael Sandel

Nick Spencer at Theos has written an excellent review of Harvard philosopher Michael Sandel’s new book What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets.  This book explores the difficult questions of how the marketisation of everything leads to a devaluing of those things which money shouldn’t buy.

Michael Sandel will be in London soon for an event entitled: ‘What money can’t buy – the moral limits of markets’ hosted by St Paul’s Cathedral in collaboration with the London School of Economics and Political Science, JustShare and Penguin UK. This event will take place on Wednesday 23rd May, 6.30 – 8pm.

Is there something wrong with a world in which everything is for sale? Do market values dominate too many spheres of life? What are the moral limits of markets? Professor Michael J. Sandel will explore some of these pressing questions and Bishop Peter Selby will respond. Copies of Michael Sandel’s new book What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets will be available on the evening and there will be plenty of time for questions from the audience.

This event is free but a ticket will be required. Reserve your ticket now by emailing institute@stpaulscathedral.org.uk with your name, postal address and phone number (please note: this information will be sent to the LSE events team so that they can mail out tickets on the 10th May). Tickets will also be available on the door. You can find out more at: http://www.stpaulsinstitute.org.uk/Events/What-Money-Cant-Buy-The-Moral-Limits-of-Markets

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Beyond Individualism

The European Christian Political Movement is hosting a two day colloquium and conference on Friday 25th and Saturday 26th November 2011.  Entitled ‘Beyond Individualism: Why Civil Society Needs Christian Political Engagement’, the Friday will be a study day aimed at leaders in policy, politics, advocacy and academia, and the Saturday will be a broader conference considering issues facing Europe and how Christian thought might offer a response.

Speakers over the two days include Maurice Glasman (a Fellow of CTC), Philip Blond, Os Guinness, Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, and a number of politicians from the continent.

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The King James Bible at Westminster Abbey

There are a number of open lectures taking place in Westminster Abbey this October which promise a fascinating look at the public role and influence of the King James Bible.

Lord Judge, the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, is speaking, followed by Melvyn Bragg, and then Nick Spencer of Theos.  You can find details of the lectures, and how to book free tickets, on the Westminster Abbey website.

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