SECOND OF TWO…PS…blogs from the Board of Contemporary Christianity on a way forward in 2019…with an opportunity for you to respond.
“Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” (John 7:38)
The months ahead will be critical for the future of this organisation-Contemporary Christianity. Following a discernment process with friends and supporters last year, a new thematic direction was established. With John 7:38’s vision of “rivers of living water” as our guiding text, we looked at what has been life giving and life draining from ECONI (Evangelical Contribution on Northern Ireland) to the present day and we reflected on Northern Irish Church life as well as the challenges facing us as a society.
A number of reflections on the passage resonated during our discernment process. Jesus’ ministry was near to the Dead Sea, where water was flowing in and not flowing out. Water can become stagnant without a channel to flow through. Polluted water can still flow. A city without water can have a devastating impact on its citizens and services. There are plenty of simple parallels to be drawn with the challenges facing Northern Irish Christians and wider society.
Underpinned by the radical principles of ECONI’s foundational document “For God and His Glory Alone” we believe our future should be to nurture a deeply rooted and radical faith for the common good among the Evangelical community, working in partnership with others. We identified… legacy issues; the challenge of living as a minority; and the fracturing relationships arising from Brexit and Borders as three key possible themes.
As Colin has written in his recent …PS… our current voluntary capacity as an organisation cannot support these or other pressing issues. We recognise as a Board that our present model of operation isn’t sustainable. Yet we want to seek to do justice to seek to find a way to move forward addressing issues well.
For 10 years we have been a completely volunteer organisation. It has been a big challenge over recent years to make a meaningful impact in an increasingly fragmented public square and church subculture. We have succeeded in creatively engaging in many ways with a limited range of activities. Creative engagement with the persistent divisions of communities, new and toxic fractures wrought by Brexit, post-truth politics, tribalism polarisation and bitter sectarianism are issues which need be explored whether by Contemporary Christianity or other organisations to impact Christians and Northern Ireland.
With the rich legacies of ECONI and Contemporary Christianity we need to see a next generation of leaders willing to take issues like these (or some of them) forward.
We believe to make this a reality we would need, by around Eastertime, to have evidence of
- Potential new Board members willing to rise to the challenge
- Some prospect of new volunteer admin support for the Board as our current volunteer hopes to retire later in the year.
This could enable a refreshed Board to get to work on shaping priority issues for a next chapter of work. They would probably then seek to encourage new supporters to make a regular financial contribution, and may seek some grants to advance the work, and possibly have someone working on our behalf.
ECONI emerged against the backdrop of the stark community division and political violence in Northern Ireland, with a group of Evangelical Christians arguing for a new response. Their conviction was that faithful witness must take seriously the biblical command to make peace and do justice. Where loyalty to political and cultural identities had obscured loyalty to Jesus Christ, Christians needed to rediscover what it means to live for God and His glory alone.
Thirty years on, sadly, the conditions for human flourishing in Northern Ireland 2019 remain threatened by many similar and some new issues. Any further expression of Contemporary Christianity must commit to no quick fixes or easy answers, and remain committed to taking risks that will involve stretching our faith, knowing that there is nothing in our world outside the scope of God’s grace, mercy and love.
Contemporary Christianity is far from the only channel from which “living water” could flow into Northern Irish society. There is a small organisational structure and some board members who need others to commit to something new and creative and fit for the challenges of the next 3-5 years.
Might that be you or might you be able to lead us to those people who under God could even be prophetically impacting as ECONI was on the N I Christians and society back in the 1980’s and 1990’s?
We want to hear from you.
Contact us initially at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s get a necessary conversation going. God alone knows where it could take us.
PS: Practically we will be moving from Ormeau Avenue to an office in the Inter- Churches Centre, (48 Elmwood Avenue, Belfast BT9 6AZ) in early February to reduce our admin costs.