Urban Tracts is a series of papers on urban mission and ministry commissioned in the lead up to the 40th anniversary of the Faith in the City report. The Brixton disturbances of April 1981 prompted, among other things, Archbishop Robert Runcie to set up the Archbishop’s Commission on Urban Priority Areas. This led to the publication of the Faith in the City report in December 1985 with its recommendations for church and nation, which proved a great stimulus for urban ministry across the whole UK church. In 2021 the issues of social inequality, racial justice, and the failure of the Church to flourish and grow in urban settings have not gone away.
To mark the upcoming anniversary, the William Temple Foundation is commissioning and publishing a new Temple Tract series on urban mission and ministry. The tracts are aimed at practitioners and church leaders, offering reflection and experience from authors who have been involved in urban mission and ministry. We aim to highlight resources and lessons that are relevant for Christians in urban areas today and renew the challenge to the churches.
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Series Editor and Foundation Research Fellow Greg Smith has also been working with a number of others to develop a new website of resources for people interested in urban mission and ministry at urbanmissionuk.net.
John Drummond Clark tackles a common issue for urban Christians and churches; how to engage with, build relationships and dialogue with Muslims who live in their city. Drawing on many years of experience he advocates a Friendship First approach, which allows members of both faith communities to talk honestly about differences of belief and culture, while working together for justice and the shalom of their city.
Erica Dunmow reflects on her experience and learning as a national urban mission networker, in particular on overcoming the barriers to constructive mission relationships between mainstream denominations and Black-led and Black majority churches.
Hilary Russell, reflecting on over forty years in community work, offers her personal perspective on church activity, evaluating urban regeneration programmes, voluntary organisations, diocesan and national review bodies, and Christian social action and campaigning.
Jenny Richardson explores how radical theology enables learning through reflection on life experiences in a constantly changing urban context, the fresh discovery of the transforming power of God’s Spirit, and the impetus to engage in action to bring about transformation. She advocates the process of learning as key for the transformation of individuals, the church, and the wider world.
Israel Olofinjana examines the urban ministry and leadership of Daniels Ekarte in Liverpool and draws out its implications for the urban ministry praxis of African Churches in Britain, especially as it relates to Britishness, migration, and multiculturalism.
In the latest instalment of our Urban Tracts, Sally Mann recounts her experience of staying put and ‘living deep’ within the Bonny Downs community in East Ham, London. She points to Jesus’s very particular locality in Nazareth, and reflects on the importance of both storytelling and place-making for communities such as Bonny Downs.
In the second of our Urban Tracts, Paul Keeble charts 25 years of the charity Urban Presence. Keeble argues passionately for the importance of long-term, ‘incarnational’ presence in inner city neighbourhoods, as opposed to short-term and episodic ministry from a distance. Manchester provides the context and a number of case studies for this work.
This first instalment of our Urban Tracts series offers an overview of urban ministry since the early 1980s and draws out some important lessons from the last 40 years. Are there distinctive characteristics and key principles that are transferable to new places, new times, and a new generation of practitioners? As we head, post-pandemic, towards a ‘new normal’ for urban society and the church there are exciting opportunities to be grasped, says Greg Smith.