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Monday, 1 June 2015

A Nazareth Manifesto

'At the interface of critical academic reflection and faithful church theology, we have no better voice than that of Sam Wells. He invites us to rethink, from the ground up, our abiding temptation to condescending “help and service” to others. He compellingly renders a more excellent way toward the transformative “with.”' Walter Brueggemann

Last Friday I was at the launch of Sam's latest book, A Nazareth Manifesto, which is an eloquent and impassioned ecumenical proposal for re-envisioning Christianity’s approach to social engagement away from working “for” the people to being “with” them. The book questions the effectiveness of the current trend of intervention as a means of fixing the problems of people in distressed and disadvantaged circumstances. Sam argues that Jesus spent 90% of his life simply being among the people of Nazareth, sharing their hopes and struggles, therefore Christians should place a similar emphasis on being alongside people in need rather than hastening to impose solutions.

This is a particularly significant book because Sam maintains 'that the word with is the most important word in theology.' The book 'is an enquiry into whether with is the pervading theme that runs through Trinity, creation, incarnation, atonement, the sending of the Spirit, ecclesiology, and eschatology.' Additionally, Sam argues that the human project in the West has been to secure life against limitation in general and mortality in particular, but that such efforts have only deepened the true predicament, which is isolation.' 

A Nazareth Manifesto comes out of Sam's experience of trying to lead influential institutions in ways that bring about empowering and dignifying relationships with people experiencing social disadvantage.

Jean Vanier said in his Templeton Prize acceptance remarks: 'A Nazareth Manifesto reveals that Jesus came to teach us, not just to do things for people who are homeless, but to be with them. Yes, that is the real secret of the church, and the secret of our communities, and hopefully one day it will be the secret of all humanity, to be with.

To be with is to live side by side, it is enter into mutual relationships of friendship and concern. It is to laugh and to cry together, it is to mutually transform each other. Each person becomes a gift for the other, revealing to each other that we are all part of a huge and wonderful family, the family of God.'


Sydney Carter - I Come Like A Beggar.

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