I’m very pleased to publish a Guest Blog this week – from Derek Spicer. Derek is a wise and winsome octogenarian and part of The Belfrey here in York. Enjoy!
This week my 11 years old grandson lost what is probably his last ‘baby tooth’ while eating a burger! Although he did not seem to experience pain – he certainly continued eating the burger – he will need to be careful in ‘minding the gap’ as he cleans his teeth while awaiting the replacement to grow through. But, it isn’t toothy gaps that I have in mind.
Have you ever heard that voice on the London Underground urging passengers to ‘Mind the Gap’? My first hearing was at Bank station where the platform is curved rather than straight, meaning there are places where the carriages leave a significant Health and Safety hazard.
When reading Acts recently that warning phrase came to mind. In Acts Chapter 5 verse 28 some of the apostles are before the High Priest, who is reminding them of his earlier order not teach about Jesus, and he accuses them of disobedience saying, ‘you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching’. These followers of Jesus appear to have left no gaps about knowledge of him in the city of Jerusalem.
It set me wondering could those of us who follow Jesus in York be accused of filling our City with knowledge of His teaching? What happens in this city in the 21st century to let people know about Jesus? Have we left gaps?
My first thoughts were rather negative imagining there to be lots of very huge gaps, forming a spiritual Health and Safety Hazard that needs negotiating with care.
Then, after applying my mind and spreading my brain over a sheet of A4 paper, came to more positive conclusions. I do not suggest there are no gaps in knowledge of Jesus in York, but do believe there may be less than I first imagined.
Lists can be boring but please stick with this and see if you can add other ways in which the teaching and knowledge about Jesus is filling our city.
Obviously, the Minster and many Churches and Christian fellowships are at the core of teaching about Jesus; I have not counted them but they work in a variety of ways, some traditionally, others informally, to make Jesus known;
Have you recognised that some commercial activity contributes to this work? There are restaurants like Spurriergate Centre and The Bar Convent, soon to be joined by YWAM’s tea room; book shops St Pauls and The Barbican;
Charities in York are active in different ways. Some teaching, some serving in the Christian tradition, others breaking new ground appropriate to the 21st century, including Besom, Restore, Arc Light, The Archbishop’s Youth Trust, Gideons, Acts 4,35;
Less formal but actively serving are the ‘Never Give Up Group’ Street Angels, Healing on the Streets, each group making itself available where people may need prayer, help or support;
Pastoral care also takes place regularly outside church walls; the City Centre Chaplaincy, the pastoral support team visiting shops in the city and at The Designer Outlet; Hospital Chaplains, University Chaplains, School Chaplains, each filling parts of any gap in knowledge about Jesus Christ;
The Arts and Media contribute through Riding Lights Theatre, some programmes on Radio York, through a variety of choirs, music groups, and, of course, through the many stained glass windows evident around the city; Not to forget the York cycle of Mystery Plays which is to the forefront with its major production this year;
The world of Education is involved through many Christian Schools, St John’s University, Student Christian Unions, YoYo (York Schools and Youth Trust);
Children and Young people have always been a priority for churches. Many churches provide youth groups, children’s clubs, Messy Church, Kid’s Club, the Youth Bus being a recent addition for filling gaps around the city. In this year of celebrations Youth Workers from churches across the city combined to present ‘Hope Invasion’ a major event to try and ensure Jesus is known among the many thousands of young people in York.
At Pentecost, in keeping with Olympic year themes, One Voice promoted ‘More than Gold’ a wide range of activities making opportunities for people to discover what the message of Jesus might mean for them; by following up with Alpha courses and inviting people to join groups of Christians who meet week by week in local homes. Opportunities are available across the city for anyone wanting to explore or fill their gaps in knowledge about Jesus.
You will be relieved to know the list is ended, but I am convinced it is by no means exhaustive; please feel free to add to it. Maybe you are inspired to be creative and could begin to fill, in new ways, gaps of which you are aware?
Can Christians in York be accused, like those in Jerusalem, of filling the city with the teaching of Jesus? I guess not, because Acts tells of crowds coming to learn about Jesus from the Apostles. But be glad because many do mind the gap and come to hear about Jesus in York. Week-by-week He is transforming lives in our city. Those who share the privilege of telling or showing how distinctive the life of Jesus is, and what he offers, long to see crowds coming to Him to listen, learn and follow.
Many of us still need warning to ‘mind the gap’; maybe that’s you? If so I hope you will feel invited to one of many places in York in which you can find the teaching that could lead to you knowing Jesus.
Please do ‘Mind the Gap’ and find Jesus the safe platform to step on to.