Where to find the rich blessing of “Mutual Inconvenience” and holy discomfort

One of the greatest joys in my recent visit to Rwanda was the warm welcome we received from our African Anglican hosts who greeted us as family. They felt we were not just siblings in Christ, but direct family, because of the links between missionaries from Cambridge and the East African Revival.

But I have to say, a bit of that made me uncomfortable. In no way do I want to downplay the bravery and prayer of those early missionaries. But can we unashamedly celebrate all that the missionary movement did. Did they really allow contextual development? How do we square the painful side of recent colonial history, with the joy of lived out faith that we saw and shared in over the last week?

The easy thing to do would be to ignore the discomfort. To take the gift of family, and bury the shame of colonialisation ideology. But what if this niggle is the grit that will lead to pearls. After all, if we have learnt one thing from the Rwandan response to the Genocide, it is to dare to remember, in order to change.

A good place to start is to evaluate how multiculture we are

So, how contextual are we, really, in here in Northstowe? The answer, to our sorrow, is not nearly as diverse as we would like to be. Yes, we’ve started by drawing together European people from across many church traditions and none, working intergenerationally. Our age profile reflects that our of context. God has done amazing things here!

But we are largely connecting with people of a similar ethnic and educational background to our leadership. And we are much the poorer for it!

October is Black History Month. During the pandemic, we had spent some time trying to educate ourselves to be antiracist, by reading books, and watching videos. Including this one, where parishioners Nebiat Michael and Frances Umeh from the Catholic community of Our Lady of Fatima in White City, West London, join Father Richard Nesbitt for a conversation on a variety of issues concerning racial justice.

But we’ve failed to progress this further. So what now?

The Baptist Union have recently produced some really excellent video resources for anti-racism training.

In the session on Mission, the speaker, Revd Dr Israel Olofinjana, helps celebrate that mission history didn’t just start with the West. The early church established and grew in various parts of Africa, and missionaries from there hugely influenced the shape of British Christian, especially the Celtic strands which we find ourselves so often drawing on here in our new town.

One of the things I love about drawing on celtic Christianity is the early rootedness of it. The deep sense of worship and discipleship being woven into every action of every day.

And that’s a second strand that he highlights: a theological position of mission as contextual discipleship.

We have worked hard to promote this among those already connecting with us. But how can we demonstrate a commitment to this to those, perhaps of other cultures, who are wondering if it is safe to trying to worship or explore faith with us?

We say that we are “praying, exploring, and sharing”. We say that we seek to help people recognise where God is already at work in their everyday lives, and help them to worship him in a way that honours that. To do this better, I think we need more help.

We know God has always sent us the right people at the right time to help us grow.

What is God up to right now?

So how to move forward?

Revd Dr Israel Olofinjana celebrates where church are able to create inter cultural spaces that “mutually inconvenience each other” in order to build God’s Kingdom, while completely rooted in our Triune God. Three-yet-one. Diversity in Unity. He drew on the story of Ruth, and the mutual inconvenience, the changes, that the biblical characters there experienced, as they encountered God in the other.

Here, in our small emerging fresh expression of church, we are currently white majority. So I wonder, rather than us simply talking about antiracism and contextual mission, and until we have earnt the trust of those within our own community, can we invite outside speakers and worship leaders to help us demonstrate our desire to be “mutually inconvenienced” and challenged to grow in international whole life discipleship?

The obvious place to start would be inviting over our wonderful Rwandan siblings. It will be a couple of years before we’re able to host a return visit. But technology means we can be in closer touch that ever before.

So what if we were to ask for some Reverse Missionary input? What if their choir might send videos teaching our musicians just the right song for this season? And watch back our rehearsal to check we have it right before we use it live?

What if one of our pastor friends were to send us a short homily, recorded on her phone? To which we could sent back questions and comments, and open a conversation?

Let’s have a conversation Let’s share contacts. Let’s pray… and keep our eyes open for where God has already lined up the right person, just waiting for us to notice.

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