diversity, collar wearing and generation y

gonna try to blog more regularly, but can't promise anything :)

long and short of the last few months of ordained ministry is that i'm really enjoying myself. woop woop i hear you shout. so i thought i'd tell you what ministry is like in this neck of the woods.


the context that i'm in is incredibly multi-ethnic - harrow is the most ethnically diverse borough in london - this means that there aren't particular pockets of large groups of cultures, but that every other person is from a different place or culture. in this context you find yourself, as an ordained person, part of that distinctiveness, people are overwhelmingly positive about seeing you out and about, everyone is different - this is just another part of that distinctiveness within society. i wear my collar most of the time and i find that this is the positive thing that i had imagined it would be.

before i was ordained, i thought i would wear my collar a lot. but you never know what that will actually be like until you're there, wearing your collar whilst you're going to the doctor (who told me that in my job i should get the flu jab), or when you ask the guy on the platform if this is the right one for your train (and he tells you that as soon as he saw you he wished he could tell you that seeing a woman in a collar was really great), or the children who randomly say hi to you in the street, cos they've seen you in school (parents look slightly bemused).
in general being a visible sign that God is still somehow there and part of the conversation that is going on in your community, is experienced positively in my context. God is not thought to be dead, or irrelevant, people are not hostile or even indifferent to the idea of God. it's not that everyone is falling over themselves to be followers of the Jesus way, but it is relatively easy to talk about God - especially when it's on the agenda instantly through the medium of your chosen outfit!


last night i heard bob mayo speak on his research into generation y - the generation our teenagers are part of - and what i've experienced in my context is something that came up in the research. the young people we meet are not programmed to be hostile to God talk, and nor are they hungry for the spiritual answers that we think Jesus can give. they are happy for us talk about God, but they remain benignly indifferent to what that might mean for them. but these are the questions that they are asking 'what does this mean for me?' - the young people of today are asking what God is wanting them to do, not in the individualistic moral framework way that christians have offered to generations past, but in a moral framework that is asking for social activism and significance that goes beyond themselves. 'what does this mean for me?' and 'what is the impact on the world around me?'.

i'm not sure that this research should be restricted simply to generation y. just as i wasn't sure that generation x definitions fitted me perfectly, perhaps the insights that bob mayo and his wife have brought to us about generation y, go further than simply that generation. perhaps we are all impacted by the need to ask the question 'what does this mean for me?'

perhaps we are all invited to be significant.

so what are we doing in our ministries and lives to offer the significance that is offered in God to people that we encounter? people are not, generally, hostile to God - this is a myth perpetuated by a seige mentality that finds battle metaphors easier to engage with.

so in a culture of the peace protest, the need to be significant, what could we (the co-authors of the non-violent resistence movement) possibly have to offer.....


Anonymous said...

If you walk into Harrow town centre you will see very few White British people under the age of 30. White British make up just under half of the population of Harrow (47.5% in 2010) but most of these people are 30+. Schools in Harrow will typically have only a handful of White British children in each year.

30% of the Harrow population is Asian and 7% is Black Carribean or African.

A simple walk around Harrow will reveal not a different mix of ethnicities and cultures mixed together but rather large groups of people all from the same ethnic group (and the same age group).

At the top of Wealdstone you have the Irish pubs and shops. Walk further down the road and you have the Sri Lankan shops and restaurants (nearby you have the Sri Lankan Muslim Cultural Centre). Keep going over the bridge and you have the large Harrow Mosque and the Arabic and Islamic shops. Sandwiched in the middle is the former Somali Cultural Centre and the Internet Cafe that is the new meeting point. Pass through a pocket of Polish shops and you'll enter Harrow Town Centre in which you'll find a mix of ethnicities (although not mixing together and very few White British people under 30 - in the Harrow Bus Station at 3.30pm it'll be packed with school children, but less than a handful of White British). Finally, up the hill and low and behold a large group of White British - including young people! - all wealthy, upper middle-class and upper class, public schoolboys and masters.

If you start in Harrow Weald but head in the other direction towards Stanmore you'll find a large population of Jewish people and the Stanmore and Canons Park Synagogue (which has the largest membershop of any synagogue in Europe). Keep walking and you'll leave Harrow and end up in Edgware which is 36% Jewish (or it was in 2001).

Your own Church is almost exclusively white, mostly middle class and, bar a small group of 'young people' almost all 30+ and most 50+.

Now the point of this comment is, firstly, not to point out that there are lots of different ethnic groups in Harrow but that there are lots of large groups and that a simple walk around the place will reveal that these groups rarely mix - each keeping to their own areas - whether it's on the Hill with fellow public school chums, in the Sri Lankan Muslim Cultural Centre, or enjoying a drink in one of the Irish(only) or Indian(only) pubs and bars.

Secondly, it is to point out that the overwhelming majority of 'young people' in Harrow are neither White British nor Christian. And these young people are not hostile to God talk because they come from ethnic groups with a strong sense of religion and religious community. Muslim and Hindu children are not embarrassed to talk openly about God and relgious beleifs, expectations, requirements, and so on.

If you want to reach out to the type of young person pictured in your blog post then you need to (a) Accept that, as a Anglican in Harrow you are part of an ever-dwindling organisization (doing nothing to attract young couples and children into the Church to replace the moribund congregation) and deemed irrelevent by the majority of the people of Harrow. And (b) Go to Watford where the majority of Harrow's ethnically Christian young people spend most of their time.

Jody Stowell said...

dear anonymous

as you have left a comment without your name and clearly have some connection with the church i don't feel able to reply. it would be much better to explain your connection with us so that a proper conversation could take place.

blessings, jody