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The church next to Tesco’s

News St Martin – Talking Points

Sunday 13 October 2013

Speaking at the Greater Churches Network in Leeds this week, community theologian Ann Morisy explored the changing position that these larger places of worship have in their locality.

The network has a total of 41 churches, including places like Bath Abbey, Doncaster Minster, Tewkesbury Abbey, Beverley Minster and Sherborne Abbey.  St Martin’s is part of this network.  

Ann Morisy is down to earth, passionate about the Gospel lived out in its social context, and says it how it is.  With less than 4% of those living in parishes connecting with their churches, she spoke about the church losing its place in people’s consciousness.  When asking local people about their city’s minster, one person said that they often got the reply, ‘do you mean the church next to Tesco’s?’  Our collective centre of gravity has shifted.

Our experience of community has also shifted.  She challenged us to become more aware of the changing flows and networks that now make up our society, and work to heal some of the fragmentation that many are experiencing.  Someone gave the example of an 80-year-old street pastor who had just won a community award.  This church was connecting because this woman and others were out at 2am where ‘stuff was going on’.  We also connect by offering an awareness of ‘something bigger than me.’  This ‘otherness’ stops us in our tracks, diverts our gaze away from self-reflection and self-gratification.

London and St Martin-in-the-Fields look different when you are in Leeds.  We look just like any other church involved in the flows and networks of life around us.  For many St Martin’s is a place of care and compassion and connection, a place that through worship and music encourages a deepening awareness and sense of the otherness and mystery of God, and for many others too, we’re just ‘the church next to the National Gallery’.

Revd Katherine Hedderly