Being Interrupted: Reimagining the Church’s Mission from the Outside,In

“Like the child who makes a sandcastle at the edge of the seashore, only to have the tide gradually erode its structure, I was gradually taken back (or forward?) by the ebb and flow of wave upon wave of encounter, suggestion and challenge; by the constant gracious ‘beckoning’ and invitation to think differently, to live differently, to listen to and encounter others and God differently, that Al and Ruth’s writing embodies; in their own words, ‘by allowing room within ourselves for wild, uncontrolled flourishing’”.

– Revd LynneCullens, St Mary’s Rectory, Stockport

“But both ‘Brexit’ and COVID-19 have exposed divisions in our society that go much deeper than an abstract question of international politics and economics (EU membership) … These deeper divisions have come to public visibility through other crises in our national and global life. All four of them ‘broke’ in the year 2017 – the ‘Windrush Scandal’ (race), the Grenfell Tower tragedy (class), the #MeToo movement (gender), and 15-year-old Greta Thunberg’s solo school strike (climate change) – and all four of them, at the time of writing, are anything but resolved.”

– The authors, from the Foreword to the book.

21st Century Britain is a fragmented, anxious place, grappling with its loss of national identity in ‘the ruins of empire’, and with sharp and deepening inequalities – symbolized tragically by the horrific fire which engulfed the Grenfell Tower in June 2017. To these national anxieties are added the pressures of Church decline: numbers, money and influence all seem to be heading in the wrong direction.

Being Interrupted aims to build bridges across the many disparate communities within the Church while encouraging it to rediscover its ability to see and listen to those at ‘the edge’. According to the authors, the Church’s response to the teething problems in our society isn’t found in dry
‘data analysis’ and ‘bullet-point strategies’, but rather in a creative approach rooted in the ‘human’ and inspired by the contributions of all Parishioners, especially those who are often ignored such as the poor and the disadvantaged.

They might not have degrees in theology (or, indeed, any degree) but their spontaneous points of view will help the Church consider its Ministry in a different and refreshing way. The book covers many current topics such as what it means to run a Parish in a Housing Estate – coauthor Al Barrett, is rector of a church in the Bromford Estate (Birmingham) – learning to be generous in a society where resources are increasingly tight; why children must play an active role in shaping the Church’s Mission; and setting a rare example of a very diverse community able to live in harmony and to
turn its many conflicting interests into strengths.

Through careful and unsettling readings of five passages in Mark’s gospel, and many real stories from the Bromford Estate, Being Interrupted paints a vivid picture of an ‘alternative economy’ for the Church’s life and mission; from Mary Magdalen washing Jesus’ feet with a precious (very expensive) ointment that she couldn’t afford, to a Community Passion Play and the friendships made at ‘The Real Junk Food Kitchen’, the authors trace a journey that interrupts the Church’s normal flow, with a breaking-in from the outside of the “Kin-dom” of God.

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