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Librarians conference marks 40 years

A gathering of Christian librarians and information service specialists met in London recently for a conference and to celebrate a 40-year anniversary …

A gathering of Christian librarians and information service specialists met in London recently for a conference and to celebrate a 40-year anniversary …

Members of Christians in Library and Information Services (founded in 1976 as the Librarians’ Christian Fellowship) heard from two invited speakers: Nick Spencer of Christian think-tank Theos, and Will Morris from St-Martin-in-the-Fields Church in Trafalgar Square, writes Diana Guthrie.

Nick’s talk ‘Doing God: ten years and counting’ charted the work of Theos which has been researching and publishing information about the place of religion in public life for the last 10years.

He revealed some surprising statistics which challenged received views about religion in the UK. We need to distinguish between church affiliation and church attendance, he explained, and one of Theos’ conclusions is that more people are now claiming ‘no religious affiliation’, rather than settling for ‘C of E’ as in previous centuries.

The rather depressing UK statistics on church attendance tend to be based on Anglicanism, but it has long been known that other expressions of Christianity are growing, often at the expense of the established Church. But whatever the statistics, religion cannot be sidelined as moribund, as immigration and globalisation are bringing in strong, though not necessarily Christian, religious influences.

Will Morris spoke on ‘What does it really mean to be a Christian in the workplace?’

God is interested in all of his creation, he said, and he created the world of work. We’re told in the Bible that at the end of time, everything will be made perfect, not just our spiritual lives – ‘a new heaven and a new earth’. We are called to work with God towards the perfect creation, and that includes the world of work. It may be a struggle to find God in some jobs, but it is necessary to find something that will push the work towards the perfection of creation.

Witnessing can be as much about doing or not doing as about speaking, and even a hostile workplace can offer space for acts of kindness. Churches should be enabling people to work towards this, but if their focus is on the form of worship or the building, that gets in the way of bringing God to those outside.

How do we Christians find answers to, for instance, ethical challenges at work? Will  suggests that we work out for ourselves which are our core beliefs, and what we are prepared to negotiate on; we can witness by being prepared to absorb pettiness. We can usually let people know our beliefs in an unobtrusive way.

In reply to a question about compartmentalised Christianity (where our beliefs are kept in our private lives) and finding support in the wider world, Will said that support systems have greatly changed, there being lots of new ways of keeping in touch with fellow Christians through IT. But face-to-face contact still plays an important role, especially for older people.

One member of the audience remarked that a building he’d worked in seemed to become a much better place to work in after some Christians had prayed for each part of the building.

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