let Glasgow flourish by the prayers of His people

 

A city of refuge

We are called not to retreat from the city, but to be set apart from it spiritually. At Refuge, we thus seek to be this kind of biblically-grounded, alternative community of God’s people in the midst of the rapidly secularising, post-Christian culture that we inhabit: a city on a hill. A city of Refuge. A shelter from the storm.

We are also called to love our city. ‘Should I not love that great city?’ God asked the prophet Jonah—cities are full of His image-bearers, after all. At Refuge, we love Glasgow—we love our great city and we love its people.

 

Our dear green place

Glasgow itself means ‘Dear Green Place’ (derived from the Celtic glas and cu). Indeed, built on the banks of the River Clyde and spanning a great valley between the Campsie Fells to the north and the Cathkin Braes to the south, Glasgow is literally a dear, green place—it’s urban grain interspersed with generous pockets of verdant parkland. However, from a spiritual perspective, Glasgow is anything but a dear, green place: it is a parched, desolate landscape. The city has long since abandoned the rich theology of its motto, ‘Let Glasgow Flourish by the preaching of His Word and the praises of His Name’ (inspired by the founding call of St Mungo) preferring a truncated, secular version, ‘Let Glasgow Flourish.’ 

 

seeking the flourishing of the city

However, despite the faithlessness of the city around us, at Refuge we place our trust in the steadfast love of our God. We pray that He would not abandon the city even though the city has largely turned from Him. We recognise that our providence is, to some extent, bound up with that of the city in which we inhabit, and as a church we regularly pray for our city before our Sunday service of worship—which incorporates the preaching of God’s Word and the praises of His Name—and during our Sunday evening prayers. This is in accordance with God’s call to His people through the prophet Jeremiah:


But seek the flourishing of the city where I have sent you [...] and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its flourishing you will find your flourishing.
— Jeremiah 29:7 (adapted from ESV)

Indeed, in order for Glasgow to truly flourish, it must return wholeheartedly to God, and this is what we earnestly pray for. If we are to re-appropriate a theology, then, for Glasgow's motto in the light of the text from Jeremiah, then it may be more befitting to 'Let Glasgow flourish by the prayers of His people.'

It is our hearts' desire to see Glasgow flourish in this way. 

 

Restoring the streets

The once magnificent, industrial powerhouse that was the Victorian metropolis of Glasgow had been, in its day, the ‘Second City’ of the Empire. To a large extent, post-industrial Glasgow has had to reinvent itself, but there remains much brokenness—a monumental hangover from the post-war period—in large-scale unemployment, atrocious deprivation and poverty, and the associative, resultant social problems: broken families and domestic violence; alcohol and drug addiction; gang culture; homelessness. 

From the outset, a burden has been laid on the hearts of Refuge to partake in the Kingdom work of bringing restoration to the streets; to share the good news of the gospel of Jesus; and to serve those on the margins of society. In this way, we seek to get to know our neighbours in order to love them, and to understand their spiritual and practical needs. As a church family, we seek to stitch ourselves into the cultural fabric of our beloved Glasgow, whilst nevertheless maintaining our spiritual distinctiveness.

 

Spiritual mapping of the city

A concrete example of how we are pursuing a contextual understanding of the spiritual needs of our city is in the Merchant City Prayer Map that we developed for our 2016 Mission Week. The prayer map highlights some of the cultural narratives that we discern and which underpin our city's identity—a key to understanding how to creatively pray into these things.