On Saturday 2nd December a number of people from St Chads joined those from churches in the inner city of Birmingham and those with outer estates in their parishes like St Chads for the Church of England Birmingham’s 2nd Urban Congress. The day entitled ‘Sharing Stories of Hope and Holding on’ was attended by 79 people who listened to three main speakers and then had opportunity for table discussions and questions to the speakers.
The themes of the day included thinking about the city as paradise; Canon Dr Paula Gooder of Birmingham Diocese spoke about the journey from the garden of Eden and all that was good about it, to the heavenly city, with even more riches contained within. What does it mean for us to view the city as paradise? How does it change our view of where we live? – if we are not to escape to some other wonderful place, but be part of the process of rooting heaven on earth, and transforming our area to more fully reflect the city as paradise.
It was a thought provoking day, and one that really challenges our perception of where we live and the importance we attach to place. As we approach Christmas we are reminded of the Incarnation – God coming to be with us – and the importance God places on place, as he came to dwell with us. In a society that often sees things a disposable, how would we and those in our community live differently if we see the city as paradise, a place that will, and is becoming, the place where God and people dwell together?