Credo – October 2022

Here’s my latest Credo article that appeared in today’s Newark Advertiser


There’s an interesting story in the New Testament. You’ll find it in the Acts of the Apostles, which tells about the period of time just after Jesus was on Earth.

A high-ranking Ethiopian is travelling home from Jerusalem. He’s the court treasurer and he’s also a eunuch. He’s been to Jerusalem to worship and, on his way home he’s reading the Old Testament book of Isaiah, but struggling to understand it.

Philip, one of Jesus’s followers, is told to go over to the Ethiopian and he explains the passage to him – telling him that it all foretells Jesus. The Ethiopian is convinced by the explanation and is immediately baptised.

In my year as national President of the Congregational Federation I am speaking to a large number of churches on the theme of Hope. The hope I have for the future of the church is based on the need for there to be a change in the way the message of Christianity is communicated.

And I think that this story has some lessons to teach us about how we might proceed.

The first thing is in the way Philip reaches the Ethiopian to talk to him. He doesn’t just sit there waiting for the Ethiopian to turn up – he goes out and finds him where he already is. I’m firmly of the view that this has to be the way that the churches need to communicate with people. Just opening the doors of your church on a Sunday morning and waiting for people to come through the door very rarely works.

Secondly this Ethiopian is interested in seeking the truth. He wants to learn – he’s keen to understand – but he needs someone to explain things to him in a way that he can relate to.  He’s got the scripture, but he needs to have the chance to ask a question – not to sit quietly and remain puzzled. To be involved in a conversation. There are lots of people seeking spiritual guidance in our times – but just preaching at them from a pulpit isn’t likely to help them.

The third thing is that the Ethiopian is an outsider. He was a Jew – that’s why he was in Jerusalem in the first place, but he’s also a eunuch and that meant he couldn’t enter the temple to worship. But that doesn’t matter to Philip. How many people do we exclude from coming into contact with the Jesus message – because of their social standing, because of their sexuality, because they can’t believe some of the things the churches say they must believe to be let into the circle?

I’m committed to breaking down these barriers. Let’s get together in a pub or in a Film Discussion group. When we meet up let’s listen to each other and learn from each other rather than one person telling everyone else ‘the truth’. Let’s allow absolutely everyone to be included in the discussion; that’s what Jesus did.

And then there will be hope for the church.


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