The hearing church  

The church, says Calvin must “become accustomed to hearing men” (apologies for the specific gender reference, it was Calvin)

This is taken from his commentary on Acts 8, the situation of the Ethiopian, the eunuch who’d been shunned by the Jewish community and found belonging in the message that Philip shared, when he listened to the eunuchs plea for understanding.

The question is, how effective has the church heeded these words from Calvin? And whose voices does the church prioritise over others?

In what way might the voice of and from the marginalised shape the ministry and future of the church. But before that, is the church attuned to hearing? And hearing directly,  not just those who represent. Not just the voice of the youthworker (as if) but the voice of the young person, especially those, like the Ethiopian are disenfranchised by the establishment,  not because of curiosity, or knowledge, but by status, possibly race & sexual confusion. Regardless of what, he was the ‘other’.

When our ministries and churches proclaim relevance but don’t hear people how relevant are they? Is ‘our’ ministry anything if it doesn’t ‘hear’ men/women at all?

Since the Brexit vote, the call has been the church has forgotten it’s communities, what it might have done is served in those communities in its ministries- but has it heard their voices in the process of these ministries to help, but also contextually shape church around them.

If the church heard men, young men & women  in communities, other marginalised groups,  those sanctioned, those suffering mental health issues, those self harming.

What would happen to the church if it stopped and became accustomed to hearing men. Hearing the people in its activities and ministries.

It might be one thing to serve the poor. But if the church starts to hear. And follow where that hearing takes us. Beyond ministry to understanding and transformation, beyond transformation to belonging and acceptance.

We might not hear the same question as said by the Ethiopian,  but unless we create spaces to hear, we’ll not hear anything. If we’re too busy to make activity full then we’re to busy to hear.

If the Guests for whom the performance is for arent listened to and encouraged to provide contributions, then are the actors merely speaking to themselves?

If we don’t hear people. We might just miss out on the voice of God too.


Author: James

Currently I work part time for both Frontier Youth Trust ( and Communities Together Durham ( and am also self employed and do various aspects of youthwork consultancy, including training, writing, lecturing, seminars and written pieces, including organisational consultancy, community profiling and detached/youthwork training. Please do get in touch if I can be of help to you in your church, project or organisation to develop your youth and community work. I have contributed to 'Here be Dragons (2013), and two recent articles in the youth and theology journal and 'ANVIL' the CMS online journal. My recent employment includes, working for FYT as a youthwork development adviser, being the centre director at Durham YFC, and before this I was known as 'Mr Sidewalk' as I was the project coordinator for the Sidewalk Project in Perth, where I facilitated the delivery of 5 years of detached youthwork on the streets, schools and communities to engage with young people , and support through alcohol misuse issues. In 2017 I completed an MA in Theology & Ministry at St John's College, Durham, and in 2008 graduated from ICC (now NTC Glasgow) with an honours degree in youth work with Applied theology.

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