Monday, November 16, 2009

Blogging London #1: Reasons for Visiting

(These posts will be blogged at a special Site at York Street Anglican.)

I'm in London. So is Dr Laurel. Nice. The kids are safe (Stateside) and having a great time with their grandparents. We miss them. We also miss our friends at St Philip's ( I heard that yesterday was a wonderful time with Ugandan preacher Alfred Olwa).

And yet being here is a gift of the Spirit to us, and so we are thankful to God. I'm going to Blog my trip, if that's OK by you.

Why are we here? The first reason that we are taking a break. We haven't really rested since July 08. We've taken a few days, but that was all in a Trans-Pacific move: hardly a break. So we are in the US for Thanksgiving with Dr Laurel's parents. We also visited dear friends at Christ Church NYC. All this explains why we are overseas, but not why we are in the UK.

The reason for being in London? When I arrived at York Street Anglican, I realised the obvious: that Sydney has very few models for doing church in a *financial district*. The Cathedral is our only viable model, as far as I can see.

In America (New York City in particular), the 'city' is a huge area that is basically urbanised (rather than sub-urbanised). If you or your neighbours have a detached home or a backyard, it is 'suburbs'. If it doesn't, its 'city'. So there are something like 8 million people in the 'city' of New York. But many of them live in residential areas. So Christ Church NYC was on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, which is a residential area. Wall Street is a financial district. And the Upper East Side is as far away from Wall St as Roseville is from the City of Sydney. See the Google Map.

But when Sydneysiders think of 'city', they really do mean the Central Business District. And maybe Pyrmont and Ultimo. (The official 'City of Sydney' also includes some Inner Western, Eastern and Southern suburbs, but the city usually refers to the 40,000 or so that live in the CBD, as well as all the people who work, govern, perform, buy and sell in the CBD.) And the suburbs are basically 5 minutes drive away. Even if those homes are not large, they are still what you might call 'suburbs'.

So we are in a new situation.

St Philip's York Street is located in a Business District. I know this because every 'bus that comes off the Harbour Bridge stops outside my home. I go to bed knowing how many people are still at work in the Suncorp Building. I can 'touch' Centrepoint from our balcony. It's finance and cubicles all around us. There are lots of residents within walking distance of our church, but it feels like business and commerce.

So we quickly realised that there are not many growing, vital and innovative churches in financial districts. Not even in NYC. The one church I knew was in the same position is St Helen's Bishopsgate in London. There were a group of us at York Street that surmised that it would be a good idea to see St Helen's at some stage.

As it would happen, I met the Rector of St Helen's at the Engage Conference in Katoomba in October. I had coffee with William Taylor, telling him about the excitement of being in the city, the passion we have to reach both workers and residents in the city, and of the enormous potential of growing a church in this central space.

He invited us to visit London in his classic English way: 'Do come.'

So York Street have sent us here to look at their ministries (mid-week Business ministries in particular), as well as at All Souls, and the Co-mission Initiative.

Laurel has joined me to see things firsthand, have some down time, as well as look at how family and children's minstries are configured in this City.

So here we are as guests of William and Janet Taylor. We have just come home from a day of church. And we have lots to report.

But I'll leave that for the next post. Stop by soon.

Pic on Flickr by Anirudh_Koul.


Richard said...

Looking forward to hearing more! And praying it's a relaxing and refreshing time for you both as well :)

SeaPea said...

praying for you & laurel, justin. it was so good seeing you guys. hugs.

/Karen/ said...

Sounds fascinating! Hope it's a fruitful trip!

Bill said...

Yes, the challenges and the opportunities in Sydney are huge, among the commuter workers, but also among the dweller workers. May the Spirit reveal and inspire new ways to attract humble hearts. Bill

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