City Life

“Look at that street! Can you believe we live in this city?” said Alison the other evening as we walked home. And she had a good point.

Via Po Turin

Huw Williams | 17:36, Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Torino is a stunning place which really comes into its own at night, and as we looked down the vista of beautifully lit apartment blocks and shops running all the way down to Piazza Vittorio Veneto and the Po, I caught a glimmer of something forgotten.

You see, I'm not really a city boy at heart. Unlike my wife who is city born and bred, I grew up in a small village in North Wales and still sometimes find myself hankering for that quieter life in idle moments. But I've been living in cities long enough now to appreciate their good points (after all, we were just wandering home after a live performance of Beethoven's great Ninth Symphony – I don't remember many of them going on in Ruabon...) but this was a little postcard shot of what we are doing here.

Settling down to life and ministry in a new city can be an exciting, infuriating, exhilarating and a frustrating process all at the same time, and it reflects the environment we live in. Settling into a new city gives you a fresh perspective on urban life, and it seems to me that the best and worst of contemporary Western culture cohabit - often in startling proximity - in our cities. In most urban centres today we find ourselves surrounded by what C.S.Lewis would call glorious ruins - façades on buildings that have seen better days, churches that have seen larger congregations, black and white photographs on coffee shop walls that show us how this street used to look. And all the time there are the constant sounds and sights of construction works as we pull down and build up in a relentless, restless grasping for a better life.


It's not as though urbanisation is evil in itself. The Bible, God's word is a story which begins in a garden and ends in a glorious city. It reminds me of an Italian holiday we enjoyed a few years ago and a visit to Florence. Our first sight of the place was from a viewpoint high above the city, as the late afternoon sun settled on it with breathtaking poetry. Simply put, the city was more beautiful than anything my imagination could have created. And if our glorious ruins in this broken world can look so stunning, maybe it is our imaginations which need some expansion as we anticipate our final destination:-

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." (Rev 21:1-4)

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