Christian mission often focuses on spiritual and social renewal, but what about cultural renewal? That was the question raised at the Everything Conference, at St George’s Holborn, on Saturday 18th November. This was a day packed full of so much goodness that it would be hard for one person to adequately sum it all up. Therefore, we asked three. Here are Jess, Tanya and Ben’s reflections on a great day out in the Big Smoke.
“London is only bearable for a few days for a northerner. Taking a one day trip down, for the purpose of a conference on culture shaping seemed well worth it. The event consisted of a series of short talks from cultural influencers from all walks of life, from artists to politicians, rugby players to business men. Through this wide range of practitioners I was encouraged to broaden my understanding of the places in which culture is located and can be shaped by Christian influence, beyond just art and creative expression. The conference helpfully challenged my presumptions that politics, finance and business can’t be spheres of influence.
“Throughout the day, there was a continual call to push ourselves beyond the realm of our own comfort, by stepping into either places of power or places of oppression. For me, the biggest take-away came from Andy Crouch’s second talk of the day, in which he encouraged us to work through the ‘contingencies’ of our lives. He encouraged us to work through the circumstances in which we’ve been placed, and work to restore the image of God in these places. As a final year university student, thoughts of what I’ll be doing next year have been continually spinning in my head. One of the biggest things I’m coming to grapple with are the choices I could make. Will I go for the seemingly logical decision, a job or grad scheme which will allow me to live comfortably? Or will I take risks in my art form and push through with things that God has placed on my heart? Either way this conference has encouraged me to know that wherever I am and whatever contingencies I’m placed in, God has given me the potential to influence culture around me.”
“The Everything conference was an interesting experience for me. Set in central London, it was an early start for us as we drove down. However it was worth it, if only to hear the smorgasboard of culture creators from artists to athletes, politicians to peace makers. It was a lot to take in but I was hugely inspired by them all as they seem to be at the top of their chosen fields. I was particularly encouraged by their honesty about how difficult it is to create culture.
“The main speaker, Andy Crouch, in one of his talks during the day said that the world requires that we are excellent. However, he went on to explain that excellence is not merely skill or achievement but ‘skill plus patience plus risk plus suffering’. Patience is required to create something that lasts beyond having an immediate impact. Risk is also necessary as there is no guarantee of success. Finally, suffering is a crucial part of creating culture, that is, to be willing to go to the pain and to be uncomfortable in the process. These things together usher in true transformation. I think what I took away the most from the conference was that as Christians we can partner with God to create culture that restores the image of God in the world. However, this will cost us and we must be willing to embrace both the joy and the pain in order to leave a lasting legacy.”
“The Everything conference was a little bizarre for me: an intimate gathering in a medium sized church of no more than 200 believers, yet headlined by some heavyweight speakers, from Sputnik favourite Andy Crouch to Nims Obunge MBE DL, CEO of The Peace Alliance.
“There was so much content to muse on that I feel a little pre-emptive writing this reflection so soon. I think that what stood out to me most was how diverse the speakers were. Despite working in different sectors, the guests all had a unified vision of changing and cultivating culture for the better.
“It is most natural for me to speak of Hannah Rose Thomas, artist and peace activist. Thomas presented a recent collection of works in which she painted the portraits of persecuted Yazidi women. These stunning paintings utilise early Renaissance techniques in order to reference the Virgin Mary while depicting the plight of these Kurdish women.
“Thomas is creating compassionate and sincere work to a high quality. Her portraits have received positive press, including an exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery. I found it refreshing to see work which is, at the same time, considered, crafted and Christocentric.
“If the Everything conference achieved one thing it was to get me itching to create some new work. And also to don a cravat in the style of Nims Obunge.”