On Thursday, the Summer School centred around community – the world in one city.
David Smith considered the Roman church community which Paul appeared to know very well, possibly because of the eviction of Jews that we read about in Acts 18.
David also spoke about the impact conversion to Christianity would have had on the lives of the new believers; he urged them to be counter-cultural and model an alternative way of living. For the slaves among the congregation that would mean no longer thinking of themselves as ‘sub-human’ but as a child of God.
This is an important message for us as modern-day readers of Romans too, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2)
Alan Black and Tim Spring took the participants through the various layers of culture everyone possesses (dress, gestures, customs, values, world view etc.) which we will need to understand when reaching out with the gospel – different approaches for different people.
We must be careful to not cross lines and offend people but these same lines also shouldn’t become barriers. Tim emphasised the need to understand people’s story – a story in their inner being that explains their world – and the necessity of connecting with that story. Spend time with people and ask questions to learn about them and their faith.
Charlotte Mayhew and Anouska Barnes stressed the need for perseverance in their session on evangelism at the school gates. Relationships are key and you will always find something in common or topics which can be conversation starters.
Many worlds in one city
The afternoon was spent in the East End, with Henk van der Meer, a London City Missionary, getting to know an area that has seen many, many worlds coming to the one city over the years – Huguenots, Jews, Bangladeshis and others – all leaving traces of their presence in the buildings and streets there.