Thursday, May 07, 2009

Reviewing mission in the Bay

Another early cycle trip down the Bay this morning. First, to County Hall to pick up the video camera loaned to me, to record an interview for use in the Street Carers' training programme next month. Then, on to the Millennium Centre for a meeting with church representatives with an interest in the future ministry of the Cardiff Lightship.

Mission to Cardiff Bay's regeneration project began twenty years ago, and the Lightship became its physical as well as symbolic base. Although established as an ecumenical enterprise, the burden of responsibility for the ministry of the Bay Chaplain and the presence of the Lightship has fallen mainly on the region's United Reformed Church. Monica Mills, the present Chaplain retires just before me in 2010, and URC Wales thought it appropriate to review the achievements and changes of recent years, and pose questions about the future of this excellent initiative.

The meeting was well supported, not only by ecumenical church stakeholders, but also by the CEO of Cardiff Council and the deputy Speaker of the Assembly and the Millenium Centre's assistant director, all expressing their appreciation of the presence of a ministry to them that was outside the confines of their professional frame of reference. I hope this made the church representatives sit up and take notice. You don't get this kind of support unless you pay proper attention to the realities of your local environment.

I was unable to contribute anything to discussion about the future, as I had to slip off at the crucial moment to celebrate the Eucharist at St John's. I had to confine myself to emailing thoughts to its organisers later in the day. The occasion was well organised to encourage all participants to think about the meaning of mission in today's world of everyday work, outside the usual framework of involvement in the local domestic community.

The Bay is a crossroads for many communities of interest which are not based on geography but on opportunity, initiative and institutuons. The church is still learning how to relate to this melange of meetings and concerns. The desire to care for people pastorally and share the Gospel with them is a driving force that leads in all sorts of unexpected directions, as the Spirit moves. It's different in many ways from the accepted conventions of ministering in residential settings where the bulk of the church's present ministry is located, and exposure to it can make people feel nervous, out of their depth.

There's so much that the settled church has to learn about its own local mission from the existence of ministry shaped only by opportunity and initiative. Both need each other to express the full authenticity of service to the Gospel. I can only hope that today's meeting will help generate fresh support for the future of the Lightship and Bay Chaplaincy. The former is unique. The latter is typical of the church at the frontier of society, doing what it should be doing. Listening, reflecting, helping others to understand: 'What is the meaning of this City?'

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