Cities are centres for all forms of human activity and culture, both positive and negative. The gospel speaks to and transforms all aspects of a city’s life.
Belfast is one such city with an official population of 333,800 people. It has a wider influence as the central hub and driver for the entire province of Northern Ireland (1.8 million) and every morning a tide of commuters doubles the city’s size.
Each day Belfast complexion changes; every day it’s a slightly different city as people move in and out. It is a strategic city.
Belfast is a city on the rise after decades of conflict; regeneration is transforming its “Quarters” and it’s a beautiful and fascinating place to visit with rich and deep culture. Yet more investments of all forms are needed to counter not only the usual challenges of cities (in terms of poverty, addiction, lack of housing, antisocial behaviour and inequality of access to education and health) but also Belfast’s pervasive scars (of many kinds) from its long history of strife.
If the gospel in a city leads to human flourishing, it’s obvious to us in Centre Church
that Belfast will be enriched by gospel-centred churches.
A recent study for the BBC/RTE found that over 200,000 people in Belfast had no significant relationship with a church and this disengagement is even more prevalent in the under 40s.
The Church in Belfast is increasingly suburban. Churches in the inner urban core are struggling and some are closing. Areas around the centre still have people living there but are disconnected from church. Younger populations in the future will move to the city centre to study. As the church moves out, civic society and investment is moving in.
In Centre Church we believe there is a need to share the gospel with these populations as well as applying the gospel to the public square and civic challenges. This is best done through a new gospel-centred, city-oriented church working as a hub with and for other churches.