I have heard a number of evangelicals give two preconditions to inner city ministry which effectively rules it out as a future possibility. These preconditions are repeated with sufficient frequency to make me believe that they are now embedded dogma in conservative evangelical circles and need challenging.
The first is “I need to be near the countryside” and the second “my children must be happy in school and have a good education”. I’ll leave the second precondition until later and deal with the first here.
Assuming that the countryside is good for us as a way of escaping the concrete and providing relaxation, then London, Birmingham and Manchester are probably the only cities in Britain where inner city is not within a half hour car journey of the countryside. It takes 15 minutes for me to drive to where I play golf in the Staffordshire countryside most Thursday afternoons. On the golf course I relax, forget the stress of ministry and enjoy what God, not man, has made.
To check whether the “countryside” precondition is genuine or simply an excuse ask yourself:
- Would a lack of countryside rule out the possibility of me serving in a well heeled inner city church like All Souls, St Helen’s, Holy Trinity Platt or City Evangelical Birmingham?
- If I could choose between serving in two parishes in a city, one middle class and the other UPA, both within the same travelling time of the countryside, which would I be inclined to apply for?
- If a post came up in an inner city area would I seriously consider the merits of the church, the surrounding area and travel time to the countryside or would I immediately assume that it failed this precondition and rule out further investigation?