Rearranging the chairs (and the bookcases, desks…)


No, not a defeatist attitude…but something that has actually happened in the Centre this summer. Half the room has been reorganised, we have gained a new bookcase, and Phil Rawlings (who not long ago told us about his trip to Pakistan) has now given up the pretence of having a proper desk to work at.
So why is this important? It recognises that just as with the church and work with Muslims, resources are almost limitless – but sometimes you have to look at how you do things…

Phil – as anyone who knows him will affirm – is a fantastically busy man. He gets involved in as much as possible, and always has stacks of books, paper and other materials surrounding him. Now these resources tend to spread out across whatever surface he can find – and so a single desk will never be enough. Similarly, the resources at the Centre are always growing: we have four 6-foot bookcases, all completely packed with resource books on issues ranging from general Christian principles to the different sects within Islam – and that’s before we even mention the specialist Christianity & Islam collection at the NTC library.

So when Phil declared that he was giving up his normal desk a couple of weeks ago, it was a realistic and enabling decision. Removing a desk meant space for a new bookcase to house some of our resources that (until now) just don’t fit anywhere. Strangely, it also reduces the space for Phil to spread out – down to one large table in the middle of the room. With that comes a pressure: it is the one table where our MA students will end up for their seminars in January, giving a clear deadline and focus.

Sometimes, we can struggle to see the resources around us, because they seem so disorganised and don’t fit in to the way we expect them to work. People are one of the best examples, but there are many others: All around Manchester (and beyond) there are people earnestly seeking God and wishing to understand more about Him. Yet when many sit (or kneel) to pray, read or simply meditate on the things of God, they can feel they don’t have the full picture; and they may be scared to start asking questions publicly.

What we ultimately want to do is to rearrange those chairs – to help the seekers discover more about their God, their scriptures, the ways of another world-view and another faith. Why? Because nobody wants to see resources lie unused simply because there is no space or training for them – we do not want people to be limited in a similar way. Also, as we engage with those who have different beliefs, it helps us reaffirm who we are, and what is truly sacred.

If you are interested in learning more about Islam or Muslims in Britain, you can now register for the “Islam in Contemporary Britain” unit, which our Co-Director Phil Rawlings will be teaching this September (you need to select “Other unit”) then give the Islam unit title.



If you are interested in learning more about Christianity or Christians today, we have some resources you may be interested in. Take a look at the Christian Concepts category in our online shop, or get in touch!

One thought on “Rearranging the chairs (and the bookcases, desks…)

  1. Do those many books include “Heaven on Earth, a journey through Shari’a law” by Sadakat Kadri? It is an extremely readable and informative book. The writer deserves some kind of award for making such a dry subject as the history of Islamic law so lively. It fills in all sorts of gaps left by regular histories of Islam and offers helpful insights into the present day trends.
    I suspect that evicting a desk to make room for one bookcase is going to be a short term solution…..

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