I paid an early visit to the West End of the city in order to refresh my mind of what it was I saw as I spent a significant amount of time walking the streets there this time last year. I’ll be back there tomorrow afternoon.
There is nothing romantic about the West End. That’s not to say there isn’t beauty. What I mean is that the signs of broken shalom are blatant and in your face for all to see.
And the thing is, you can send in piles of money, start loads of projects and make some sort of dent; you can locate branches or campuses of rich middle class churches with the latest technology, best intentions and Christian courses; you can build fancy houses and hope for gentrification, trying to forget those who are trapped in the vicious cycle, but none of it works.
Why? Because it is not projects that people need, nor the latest course from Holy Trinity Brompton.
People who face the challenges found in communities such as parts of the West End are not objects who need things done to them. They are beautiful people, however broken, who need to hear their potential, beauty and significant value in a world that demonises them and calls them scrounges and wasters.
I’m no woolly idealist. I’ve wracked up a number of years working in communities like the West End and know full well that every shade of human character can be found there. I know about the crime, abuse, addiction, hate, sloth and all the rest.
But I also know that grace can reach to any depth, that life can be healed and restored, that the captives can be freed and destinies can be turned around.
God has some of his people in there already but not enough. There are so many in this city who need to put their ear closer to the bible and hear the call to Isaiah 61: 1-4 ministry to rebuild ruined places. Time for the church to slip off the polished shoes and get its boots on.