This blog is the first of two ..PS…blogs from the Board of Contemporary Christianity on a way forward in 2019….with an opportunity for you to respond.
‘In recent days one verse of scripture keeps recurring in my mind, and keeps coming to me in conversation, memories and in my reading. Jesus said…
“Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (John 12.24)
Jesus tells us specifically that out of his death will come life; that out of the cruelty he will endure will spring a movement founded on grace and love.
But another layer to His words is the broader truth that new beginnings can come out of endings; sometimes the door needs to be closed on specific events or places or relationships if we’re truly to move on (horrible phrase… ‘develop’ or ‘progress’??), and have God’s seed grow and flourish as He intends. Jean Vanier says this in his simple but wise book ‘Life’s Great Questions’ (SPCK, 2015):
“Loss is an integral part of life. Life is an evolution of loss opening us up to newness. We lose our spot on the basketball team, and we discover that in playing at a lower level we can enjoy the sport without the pressure of winning. We mess up on an exam, and something is lifted from our shoulders as we face the reality that we are not the cleverest, the most academic. But that does not change who we are fundamentally… There are many examples, but you can see that all of life is an evolution of loss and opening.”
This truth is a consolation and source of encouragement to the Board of Contemporary Christianity. We are going through the process of determining what comes next for a fruitful and much loved organisation, trusting that as its present seed falls and dies, God may have new beginnings in mind that we can’t yet see.
The organisation isn’t closing in its current guise because we still have a vision of what could be achieved. Our Province, the United Kingdom and Ireland are wrestling with multiple challenges such as persistent divisions of communities, new and toxic fractures wrought by Brexit, post–truth politics, tribalism polarisation and bitter sectarianism ; and we are all approaching the one hundredth anniversary of Northern Ireland as a state. There are a host of issues which need to be explored by people who consider they are followers and disciples of Jesus.
The reality is that as a purely volunteer based organisation, the Board believes we don’t have the resources to do justice to even a few of these challenges in a way that properly honours the legacy of the significant baton passed on to us from ECONI.
Do we want the impact of this organisation to end? In truth, the answer is No. Yet Jean Vanier’s beautiful words resonate with us, as in coming to this decision after months of wrestling, our sadness is real – but we do glimpse a rainbow! Seeds fall from which new life springs and we worship a God whose strength is made perfect in weakness.
We have a door which is ajar for a new beginning. We now need to see if there is any group or individuals who will rise to the challenge to take the seed of our legacy and water and energetically nurture it in the expectation of new fruit.
We want our supporters and friends to know our current thinking.
In particular we would value your help and your views on how whether we should keep going or close. For us to keep going we will need more people committed to make things happen. Keeping going will commit us to being involved in wrestling with the multiple challenges affecting our communities and choosing which challenges to address.
Email us to firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts. Each one will be acknowledged and considered carefully.
If you feel exercised about the challenges facing N Ireland at this time and would like to commit to writing a possible… PS …for wider circulation we will consider publishing it.
In the next couple of days we will post a further PS from our Board Chairperson, Jonny Currie in which outline some of the practical responses the Board feels we would need to have to move things forward.
Would you please pray for God’s guidance at this important time.
And as we extend this invitation we do so mindful that autumn is always followed by spring and that from small remnants God can do big things.
Colin Neill is a Contemporary Christianity Board Member