2019 is the year of a general election in Canada. Political parties are starting to field candidates to run in what is always “the most important election we’ve faced in a generation”. This Saturday I went off with others in the household to spend the afternoon listening in on the three candidates running for the local party we support. The presentations and debates were mostly about climate change and the dire situation of both the planet and human life. It seemed that the basic message was leaning into the apocalyptic. We are heading to hell in a hand basket and there’s little time, if any, to do something about it. There were bright spots in the meeting. Some talked about alternative means of transportation. Others wanted to know how to reach out to (it all sounded like a meeting of a congregation in the church basement), wait for it, “the young people”. But overall, the tenor was a bit dark and end-of-the-world-ish whereas what I was hearing from the younger set in the room was a desire for a community of conversation, a meeting of people among whom they could seek together spaces and actions of hope.
As I headed home with my new membership badge and commitment to participate on-the-ground even though this party is woefully unaware of the dynamics its faces I was going through a simple log of the places and stories of hope I’d been connected with this first week of the New Year. I want to share these with you – they’re sites you can go to to check in where there continues to be this amazing ferment of ordinary people who believe there’s another story from the “hell-in-a-handbasket’ gloom and doom apocalyptic tenor of our time.
Looking for Lydia: My first suggestion is a little book just written by a friend in the east, dockland area of London, Sally Mann’s book is called Looking for Lydia https://www.amazon.ca/Looking-Lydia-Encounters-shape-Church/dp/1790341183/. Sally is the fourth of five generations living in the East End. She has a PhD in sociology and is a Baptist minister with five lifetimes of stories in her community. She connects Biblical characters, like Lydia, with her people to demonstrate how simple, ordinary people re-shape the world. Here are a group of Christians whose hope and resilience have come from commitment to their community over generations. They are seeking deep transformation in the places they live – bringing structural changes like good education, just governance, and improving the health and well-being of all their neighbours. Here are grounded lives bringing hope in dark times. The darkness isn’t the theme or the subject; it doesn’t shape their lives or responses because there is another story at work.
A New Center is Being Born: One of the few “public theologians” remaining in North America today is David Brooks. This week a dear friend, Mark Lau Branson, sent me this link from the NTY of an op-ed Brookes had just written – https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/20/opinion/centrism-moderate-capitalism-welfare.html – I encourage you to give it a read to see, again, that under all the headlines of dire troubles (which are true) there lies this other movement so easily missed in all the media hype and instant news. For me, this ferment comes not from human wishfulness or nostalgia but the Spirit of God.
Journal of Missional Practice – Conversations. Check out the January issue of the JMP http://journalofmissionalpractice.com/category/issue-11/. Here you’ll connect with conversations and stories from people who live in the midst of displacement and fear but with a radically different account of what is happening in the world. Listen in on these places of the Spirit’s ferment.
Finally, an interview. Maurice Glassman’s Confessions which you can listen in on here: https://soundcloud.com/unherd-confessions/maurice-glasman-rec.. Glassman, is a rather anomalous member of the British House of Lords as a Labor peer. Listen in on his reading of the world in which he finds himself. Wonderful insights and wisdom that invite us to live in a different story from that of the apocalyptic.
Let’s live in our local communities as people of God’s ferment. Let’s be listening to and looking for the ways the Spirit is fermenting different futures in our neighbourhoods and be ready to join God there.