I found myself at the launch of the Vital Signs report for 2019 recently. For those of you who haven’t come across Vital Signs before, it is an annual report on the key social indicators in Milton Keynes published by MK Community Foundation. The report makes interesting reading for anyone concerned with mission, as the picture of Milton Keynes that it paints is a major part of the backdrop against which mission takes place. Of particular interest this year, I noted the 84 Syrian refugees settled in MK since 2015, something in which the churches have taken a significant role; the fact that 1 in 3 children now live in poverty compared with 1 in 5 in 2013; that the Food Bank (another church backed enterprise) has seen a 10% increase in demand this year; that 1 in 4 people say they often feel lonely for long periods; that MK is the second best city for recycling and the fifth worst for carbon emissions.
Of course, it is easy to be fascinated by the figures, but much harder to address the social issues they represent. That is why I’ve asked Dr. Vasco Fernandes, one of the Community Foundation Board members responsible for the Vital Signs report to come to our next Mission Partnership Assembly on November 14th at Christ Church Stantonbury 7.30pm, to take us through the report and to help us find ways of engaging with the issues behind it.
Why is that important? Because we are called to live out the words of the prophet Jeremiah, “seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile and pray to the Lord on its behalf”. Behind the word translated ‘welfare’ here is the Hebrew word ‘shalom’, which embraces not just welfare, but peace, prosperity, wholeness, well-being, everything in fact that we would want the city to embody at its best. That text has been the inspiration at the heart of our vision for MK: a City Alive to God, so bringing it to life is central to who we are and to what God is calling us to be. Note, too, that Jeremiah asks the exiles to pray for the city. The natural tendency of the exiles would no doubt have been to express loathing for the city of their effective imprisonment, but Jeremiah looks to move their hearts towards concern for the city, to feel for it as they might have done for their home town. Prayer awakens that concern and so moves us to action. When we meet at our Assembly, we, too, will spend time in prayer for the city, so that we are moved in our hearts. I hope to see you there.
pdf version to download – Mission Partnership Newsletter November 2019