Iain Macaulay of Queens Park Baptist Church in Glasgow discusses the different ways in which the church has been embracing the cultural diversity found in Glasgow city centre.
Queens Park Baptist (QPBC) is a church of 500 people, located on the cusp of the inner city of Glasgow - probably one of the most culturally diverse communities in Scotland. The church itself is considerably diverse in every direction. As well as having people from over 20 different nations, it is extremely socially diverse, ranging from business executives and academics to people who were, until recently, living on the streets.
Under the vision statement of ‘Calling this City to Life’ the church is striving to bring life and change to Glasgow and to the nation as a whole. Although there are many who are disgusted by it, sectarianism is still endemic in Glasgow and the church is seeking to be a kingdom example that stands in contrast to intolerance all around. We asked Iain Macaulay, Senior Pastor at QPBC, to share about the impact that the church’s environment and vision had on the life of the church.
What benefits have you noticed as a result of the diversity within your congregation?
It’s always a challenge to connect with people different from ourselves and to build relationships with them, but as we become more multicultural and choose to celebrate that, it becomes easier for people. It’s almost as if the cultural diversity itself brings a level of acceptance – I don’t know quite how to quantify it - a sense of joy and an affirmation of the gospel, you see how it works in all sorts of different and difficult circumstances. One recent highlight was a Rwandan lady leading us in the Lord’s Prayer. As well as reciting the prayer, she shared something of the meaning that the request to ‘forgive those who sin against us’ had for her, having lived through the genocide in Rwanda.
Has it brought any particular challenges?
We don’t have one really strong community. Many people come to us looking to worship with people who share aspects of their own culture - for example we have an African community made up of people from many different African nations. There are other groups that are not large enough to form a community of their own. There is an Iraqi family in the congregation that don’t know any other Iraqi Christians in Glasgow so they are trying to integrate with people in the church and that in turn is helping with their wider integration e.g. asking questions about schools etc. Because of our size it is difficult for people to form relationships full stop, so recently we have tried to have regular pre-evangelistic events with a focus on community building.
What opportunities has your environment presented?
There is one story which exemplifies some of the things that has happened. Mary, an older single lady, has had a mission interest in Africa all her life. She has received missionary letters, prayed for people in Africa - your classic prayer warrior for mission. Then African asylum seekers started coming into Glasgow. She was tuned into the culture and certainly had a heart for the people. She helped with lunches at our drop in centre and then she invited people into her home, talking with them, praying with them, she found toys for their kids… She has become a mother figure for the Africans - a lot of our Africans are single ladies, many of whom have lost husbands or had very difficult backgrounds.
For Mary, the mission interest she has had over the years has really come home. Instead of having to go to Africa she runs all over the city jumping on buses, visiting people, helping them with asylum claims, comforting those in distress, arranging clothing, furniture and housing for families. It’s that kind of pattern that those who have had an interest in mission are now being able to express it in a very specific and practical way. Their interest in mission has almost prepared them for people coming into our country.
What are your hopes for how your ministry in Glasgow will develop?
We have quite a lot of expertise within the church in terms of mission partners and also those who have been overseas and are now based in the UK. There is some great work going on among the more embedded Muslim population but we don’t have the level of expertise and training to do that effectively. However, we are sensing that there are opportunities with second generation Muslims in Glasgow. Our goal is to find where we fit in terms of the Christian witness to different communities in Glasgow and to mobilise a team of people to work make that their focus.