Norwich Christians must join forces for the sake of our city

Opinion: Norwich’s Christian groups should get together to help shape a brighter future for the city, says Biddy Collyer

Baptised into the Church of England, then Chapel Sunday School, later attending Methodist evening services, another stint in the C of E, then Vineyard and finally, back to the Anglicans: a truly ecumenical experience of church and one which has only served to strengthen my opinion that there is only one Church. Different parts, but just one Body.

At the end of October, we will celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Martin Luther was right when he saw the need for reform, but sadly, this led to the separation of Catholics and Protestants; a split which is still to be healed. Since then the Protestant church has divided further around doctrinal beliefs.

What we need is a new Reformation where the different expressions of church come together to pray for their communties. Where we work in unity for our city, responding to its needs, rather than to expanding our individual church empires.

The truly good news is that across the nation this is beginning to happen. In cities such as Bristol, Manchester, Chester, York and others, strides have already been taken which are impacting their communities. No one can doubt the work of individual churches in providing support through their various activities. Indeed, it is recognised that 50% of social capital, such as volunteering comes through members of different churches, but as one city leader said, when approached, “What you do it impressive and laudable but not very strategic or coordinated.”

We cannot expect to be able to work with civic authorities to help transform our cities if we remain divided, each doing our own little bit in our own backyard. What is needed is a joint vision for the city, with coordinated leadership able to provide one telephone number through which the statutory authorities can approach the Christian community.

However, I am not talking about the church becoming a shadow social service. As Christians, we pray “Thy Kingdom Come.” A Kingdom which radiates with God’s love and His power to transform. Such transformation starts with prayer, with a people so concerned about their communities that they bring it relentlessly to God’s attention, calling on Him to open doors, to heal broken relationships, to bring hope where there is despair.

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When have we ever asked our local councils, “How can we help?” “What can we do?” “What is the vision you have for the city so that we can get alongside you?”

A call has gone out via the Christian website, Network Norwich, for people to come together to pray for our City Council meetings. Not to influence their decisions but to support them in prayer as they deliberate. It’s a good start.