Monday, 6 November 2017

World Famous Market Theology

I live in Bury - I don't normally say that because Ramsbottom is one on its own - it's a unique and sparkly bohemian enclave of surprises - but it's in Bury (despite what some people might like to argue and think). 

Bury as a borough is diverse, and in Bury town centre that diversity comes together in all its sometimes bizarre, often confusing, always beautiful, glory. I rarely leave Bury having not been surprised by what I have witnessed. Last weeks visit did not disappoint, as I walked up from the car garage, leaving my car to be serviced, I had the chance to spend more time there then I normally do.... with the slightly off key x-factor wannabe on the main street and the arrival of a new building to draw attention away from the shops left empty because of the aspiration of a town that tries really hard. 

Bury is famous for a couple of things. It's famous for its Black Pudding and it's also famous for its market. World famous actually. Sitting at the back of the second nicest shopping centre out of the two in the town, it stands proud as signs point to the coach pick up point where coaches gather to wonder why this trip is taken by so many from extreme parts of the country to this market in this town where things you could buy in most other small towns just like Bury (apart from the black pudding of course) can be bought. 

As I had a bit of time of unknown length last week to shuffle around Bury I thought I'd give it a go. For the second time in six years I entered the market. I shifted myself away from the meat hall and the fish hall (I've always avoided fish halls in markets) and I wandered, taking it all in. 

And as I wandered I wondered... what is it about this market that everyone loves? It's no different to the markets I grew up with. The clothes are the same. The shops with the biggest bags of sweets you've ever seen are the same. The stalls selling random gifts and velcro slippers and trainers with one letter changed in the name... they're the same. There is a nod to changes in the world as the phone case stall shines out with its jewel backed cases and the Christmas novelty wine jumpers of 2017 have pride of place at the front of the stall.... 

But nothing has changed..... so what is then the attraction of the world famous market?  

It tells of a time that was. As the world moves on, the old school weighing and measuring, the paying in cash, the sounds and smells of the market, it reminds us of how this country used to be. It reminds us of a time when it was simpler - when there were two TV channels and it was rare to have a home phone. It reminds us of the golden age that we look through with our rose tinted glasses and elevate higher than high can be. 

Nostalgia is not a bad thing, because the past is our story, the past is what makes us, the past is how we became the people we are today. The movement in the past helps influence us in the future.

But when nostalgia leaves us in a place where the world famous market is as good as it gets....? When nostalgia becomes a bubble where we're dropped off at the entrance and picked up after a walk round, not daring to leave the world famous part just in case the bubble pops..?

As I reflected on love of the world famous market, and how it would have once been the centre of Bury life,  I thought about church, and our love for the nostalgia of church as centre of society and how that influences the way in which we do many things. If we do this, people will come.... why? Well, we're world famous. 

But we're not, we live in exile, so often only turned to for nostalgic coach trips at weddings and christenings and as visitor attractions and quickly left behind with a bag of goodies (well not even that) to sustain on the journey home. As church sits on the margins of society, then just like it will with the world famous market, it is going to take out of the box thinking and imagination to journey into the future. 

Good job we worship a God who is a God of out the box thinking. This is God who didn't defeat evil with force and strength, but with vulnerability and death. This is God who brought fire in the upper room and gave the disciples the ability to talk in other languages so that they could spread the message to the world who didn't understand the words they spoke. This is God who is world famous because he made and saved the world. 

This is God. 

This is God who calls us to listen, and to leave everything behind and follow him. 

As the market continues to be world famous and separates itself as a museum in itself, continuing to be what was and will continue to be, and as we continue to hold it up high as how things shoulda-oughta be, we need to keep reminding ourselves to stop and look around and imagine and wonder.....  

Because how things have always been cannot be how they forever continue to be.

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