Chris Lane is Tutor and Lecturer in Theology at St Mellitus College, North West. Below, Chris tells us about his recent book Ordinary Miracles: Mess, Meals and Meeting Jesus in Unexpected Places.
It was around 19 years ago when I moved into the Langworthy estate in Salford, as part of an Eden Project linked to The Message Trust. Langworthy was known around the country for high levels of crime and deprivation. When we moved in, one third of the houses were abandoned and boarded up, and the place had a lawless feel to it. The estate agent told us she didn’t think we should live there, and refused to show us round! But we were convinced that God wanted us there, and that God wanted to change the place for the better.
As time went by and we started to see the place change and people come to faith, then after 5 years planted a church in the estate, a few people told me I should write about what we were seeing and learning. My reply was ‘I haven’t got a clue what I’m doing, I’ve got nothing to say!’ Today, 19 years on, I still feel a bit like that, but last year I started to sense it was time to write up some of our story, and my theological reflections on what we have seen and experienced. And that’s what Ordinary Miracles is. It’s about finding hope and beauty in the darkest and most difficult places. It’s about meals, mess and miracles. It includes some material from my MA work on Jesus’ meals in the gospels, and how this helped us in providing a welcoming community especially for people who wouldn’t normally come near a church.
My hope is that people will read it and decide to carry on loving their churches and communities, even when it is really hard. My friend Chris Russell wrote that the book inspired him ‘not to be impressed with Chris or Langworthy - but to be more committed to Christ and the local church He has called each of us to’. That’s what I want. I would also love it if it helped people to take more seriously Jesus’ call to live our lives with people who are poor and marginalised. In the book I write that ‘you might find young, talented musicians, instead of trying to become a ‘worship pastor’ in a megachurch, devoting decades of their lives to investing in disadvantaged young people in a forgotten estate…you might find a change in the number of people ‘feeling called’ to the most exciting areas of the country and to the big, impressive churches, and instead pioneering radical new forms of church in inner-city and rural communities, or among asylum seekers and other marginalised groups’. These are some of my hopes for the impact the book might have.