This House Believes…
...that Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church should sell up and move to the country. And not only because it will make it easier for those moving to Cambridgeto get to and from the church more easily!
What will happen if, as is feared, we lose the luxury ofbeing able to park near to the church on a Sunday? Will we still be viable to function as a church?
Well, here is a solution: why not flog the building and buy premises that are easier to reach by road and by public transport? We could have purpose-built premises withspace, ample parking and outdoor facilities. These are not the only advantages… But what would we lose?
The models of mission which we seem to want to use to reach the local community are based upon very outmoded forms of communication thatare never going to reach the young people (the 20 and 30somethings) who dominate the local area. Rather thandoor-knocking or leafleting these people while they work in their offices, themost natural ways of getting to know them are joining local gyms, frequenting local pubs and supporting local cafes and restaurants. But in order to do those things (even if we dare to perceive them as legitimate expressions of ministry and mission) we need to be of a certain age and a certain geographical location.
Other forms of mission? We have a ministry to homeless people of course. And to people in other kinds of need. But really, these do not occupy a major dimension of Bloomsbury’s ministry any more. To reach such people, we could maintain a drop-in centre in the city, and offer support to other local ministries whomajor on this issue. We could evenmaintain the Tuesday lunch here, but from a different Sunday worshipping site.
So what else is there to keep us in Central London? The occasional visitors to our Sunday services? The prestige that comes with being a central London Church? The provision of rooms for hirers?
If we believe being in Central London provides us with unique mission opportunities, we are very badly mistaken. To seize those opportunities would require nothing more than the virtually impossible task of changing our minds about what a church is, what pastoral care is, what mission is. Most of us from a certain generation will have strong views on such matters. But changing those views is likely to be less hassle than changing location –which, the cynic in me, suspects is more likely! No opportunities in London exist for us any more. Not without a radical, daring siesmic shift in our entire worldview.
Of course, the ability to change our minds (the mark of atruly ‘liberal’ person) is an impossibility not only in Bloomsbury and not only amongst Baptists. But if weare to have any kind of ministry in this place in the future, this miracle will have to come about somehow. And certainly not by democratic, brainstorming, managerialism – a worldview which only, ever, always provides ‘more-of-the-same’. But by a genuine, serious engagement with people who are both passionate about mission, and with whom we might profoundly disagree. This, after all, is the true essence of what it means to be a Baptist.
Contemporary models of youth work, of worship, of meal-provision, of pastoral care, of ministry and mission and social action, all are likely to create anxiety and insecurity for those who are comfortable with the tried and tested patterns which fit us like a happy pair of old slippers. But the ground beneath our feet is changing, and Bloomsbury once had a reputationfor identifying and responding with insight and passion.
Are we still Baptist enough to deserve our place in Central London?