Revd Dr. Al Barrett to address the NJPN Swanwick Conference
20-22 July 2018
“We are living in times of profound fragmentation. In the UK, the EU referendum divided the country between ‘Leave’ and ‘Remain’, but it also exposed divisions between people from different generations, ethnic backgrounds and socio-economic classes. Politicians claims that ‘the people have spoken’ immediately begged the question, ‘which people are you
listening to?’ And then in June 2017, in the tragic aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire, we discovered that the voices of the Tower’s residents had been ignored for years. How are we to do our Christian discipleship, in the ‘ordinary time’ after the EU referendum and the tragedy of Grenfell Tower, so that the voices we pay attention to are not just those in positions of opinion-forming power, or those of tragic victims, but also and most particularly those who, with their talents and passions, their struggles and their hopes, live daily on the geographical, economic, cultural and social edges? One common answer is that we the Church must ‘perform Christ’, shaped by the Eucharist, going out to serve our neighbours. Here, I suggest that such a response is not receptive enough to our neighbours, and fails to face squarely enough the tragic injustices of our times. I conclude by suggesting some ways forward for our Christian discipleship, more radically transformed by our encounters with our neighbours.”
Al Barrett is Anglican Vicar in Hodge Hill, East Birmingham, where he’s been involved since 2010 with an exciting grassroots journey of community-building in his neighbourhood. He’s recently finished a PhD reflecting on the journey so far, and seeking to develop ‘a radically receptive political theology in the urban margins’.
He blogs occasionally at thisestate.blogspot.com, and tweets @hodgehillvicar.