Author: Andy Walton
Date: 10 September 2014
By Beth Green, in association with The Revd Ali Taylor and The Revd Steve Taylor...
Since arriving at the church two and a half years ago, Ali and Steve have been spending their time encouraging their congregants (many of whom are of south Asian heritage) to bring their own cultural elements to worship, and exploring what it means to fully reflect the body of Christ. With 4 services, and 140 congregants, the church conducts 2 services to cater particularly to local Asian Christians, with one in Tamil, and another in Hindi.
The demographics of the congregation extend into the surrounding context of Alperton, which has been described not as a ‘multi-cultural community’ but, sadly, as a ‘multi-community culture’. Ali believes, however, that the church is at a distinct advantage in being the only agency that crosses cultural boundaries in this area.
This missionally-minded church seeks to reach out to those who haven’t heard about Jesus, and in Alperton that is a very real and large task. Many of the new immigrants, having come to the area in the last 10 years, have come from rural areas of south Asia, and have never heard the Christian message. Declaring itself to be a church that is “standing on the Rock of Christ, shining His light for all to see,” the leaders of St. James encourage their own congregation to live out the Christian lifestyle wherever they are, to pray for their (often Muslim or Hindu) neighbour, and to be obviously present – to be there when people gather.
In the case of St. James, this means being church in a very complex setting – being contextual takes effort, awareness and bravery in order to make it ‘right for the area’, the fruit of which are some rich reflections and lessons. In line with the parish system in which the Vicar is responsible for the spiritual wellbeing of his or her parish, Ali believes that she must be where her parish is – in this case, the temple! They maintain good relationships with the local Hindu leaders who are ‘open-minded and beautifully generous’. Ali’s role, she says, is to love her neighbours; to refuse relationship with them would be to dishonour them, and to dishonour them would be unloving.
Hospitality is not without challenge. When boundaries are crossed, healing of relationships takes effort. Differences remain real not just intellectually or cerebrally but in the practical outworking of spiritual experience. These should not be glossed over. But the fruit is there for all to see at St James, and in the rest of Alperton.
The hope for St. James is that it might see a ‘multi-community culture’ become a ‘multi-cultural community’ that more closely resembles the body of Christ.