I’ve been speaking at the church weekend away for Trinity Church in Aberdeen – a really up and coming church. They are currently meeting in a hotel, but they have just bought one of the biggest church buildings in Aberdeen. While there are many churches moving out of the city centre, they are moving back into it! I love what they are doing, they are very missional, have lots of young families, and students and there are lots of obvious signs of growth going on.
Trinity have an annual church weekend away, which they held this year at the Abernethy Centre in Nethy Bridge near Aviemore, deep in the heart of the Scottish Highlands, in the beautiful Cairngorms National Park. I was there speaking for the weekend, and we took the theme “Confident Christianity”. We started on the Friday night teaching people how to use questions and to have natural conversations about their faith – and they were a really enthusiastic and engaged audience! Then, on the Saturday and into the Sunday we looked at various topics such as “Jesus and the failures of the church”. That sessions aims to help people who are drawn to Jesus but are put off by things such as The Crusades, The Spanish Inquisition, and other times in history where the church has gone badly wrong. Then we looked at suffering and how we can believe in God when there’s suffering in the world? Next we looked at what it means to be human, and whether can be reduced to just being atoms and particles, or if we are than that – and that atheism’s answers to that are actually terrible, while Christian answers are brilliant! Then on Sunday morning we looked at the uniqueness of Jesus in a world of faiths.
It was great to be with them, because not only were all the sessions packed – but the engagement levels were very high too. There were loads of questions in the breaks too, in fact I hardly got a break because people wanted to discuss, and ask questions. We had two, hour-long Q&A sessions, but we could have gone on much longer – because we had questions on every topic under the sun.
Then what really made the weekend for me were some non-Christian people there too, who I’m always drawn to at these events! One lady who is new to the church, is really interested in the Christian faith; and asked some brilliant questions in the Q&A around the issues of truth, and how we can know what is actually true. It’s great to see a church which is such a welcoming community for someone who is searching, and is a place where people and their questions are really welcomed. I also had another really lovely conversation with someone who isn’t yet a Christian, but is very close, which is really exciting. It was really encouraging to this person engaging especially with the talk on the uniqueness of Jesus. The church seemed encouraged by the weekend – and it was a real privilege to be with them.
Andy Bannister is the Director of the Solas Centre for Public Christianity