Oli Higham

Greater Glasgow June 16, 2017

When we started White Canvas one of our questions was, “Where will the articles come from?” We knew there were lots of people doing pioneering work across the country but how did we find them? Would they be willing to contribute? Would they want to be part of the conversation we were trying to foster? We’ve been blown away by the number of contributors, the wealth of thought and the engagement of our readers. It’s been fantastic. So to our contributors, let me start with a huge thank you!

Now let me speak to our readers…do you ever feel like you don’t really have much to contribute on this subject? Please say “yes.” I don’t want to be the only one who feels like they’re an imposter at the party of pioneers.

I spend time around amazing people. People who have planted churches. People have had established communities of believers in places no-one else was willing to touch. People who have broken the mold and are creating new and exciting expressions of church. People who think deeply on the theology of mission, incarnation and ecclesiology. I listen to podcasts of the most wonderfully inspiring people. I read books and want to scream a massive “yes” as people put words to the half thoughts that bounce around my brain. I spend time with people who overflow with wisdom, passion and love.

And I’ll be honest, I feel like a fraud in amongst it all.

Who am I that I should join in this conversation?

Do you ever feel like that?

I really hope it’s not just me that disenfranchises myself from the conversation. I really hope there are others whose hearts are full of passion and yet feel out of their depth in it all.


And I’m not new to this all. I’ve been part of award winning youth work (hats off to Linwood Parish Church for their visionary stance on youth-work) and experimental formats within a traditional church (again hats off to New Kilpatrick Church for their heart to lead the way on what church might look like in the future). I’ve been part of an attempt to work ecumenically across denominations and congregations (which failed miserably in the end, but that’s perhaps a story for another time). I’ve been involved in the arts and explored my faith in those spheres (being involved in spoken word poetry before it was cool.) I’ve grown up in a church plant and seen the 26 year journey of how that’s evolved. I pastor a church and often get told it is refreshing seeing someone doing things differently (I’m not sure what I do that is that different). I lead a community of artists and creatives exploring faith and the arts, a venture which has allowed people to reengage with church and faith. I’ve led Bible studies in the pub. I’ve been involved in all sorts of different things that have had a pioneering edge and a missional focus.

So why do I still feel a fraud?

I look at that list and think “yeah maybe I do have something to say in this conversation.”

And yet I still feel like I shouldn’t have a voice at the table.

As I reflect on this, I’m struck by a simple idea.

All of this is new.

No easy answers

All of us are trying to work it out. There are no easy answers to what the future of the church will look like. There are no hard and fast guides on how to do what we need to do. It is the nature of pioneering that we’re all feeling our way forwards. Trying things. Experimenting. Failing. Succeeding. Failing some more. Succeeding some more. Even those at the forefront of pioneering must still feel like they are stepping into the dark without a torch most of the time. If all the answers had been found there wouldn’t be a need to pioneer.

If you’re connecting with White Canvas Collective it’s probably because you recognise the need for change. We need to change and adapt quicker. To some degree we have adapted too slowly to the challenges of post-Christendom. We need to take seriously the urgent challenge to pioneer and explore the future of the church here in Scotland.

But it’s not change for change’s sake. We need to change and adapt well. We need to do this well. The challenge is not just to do anything but to work out how we, the church together, might exist, behave, and share the good news of a God who is making all things new.

Learning on the hoof

To do this well, we need to learn from one another. None of us have all the answers. We need to create space for all those involved in this to have a voice at the table. We need the learning and experiences, big and small, of all of us. We need space where we can learn what works and what doesn’t work. We need to not bury ourselves away in our little pocket but pool our learning. We need, as one body, to create the future of the church in Scotland.

So, let us do this not as fractured and disparate congregations but as one church.

It is why White Canvas exists.

It is why, in spite of not believing I have much to say, you’ll see more articles from me.

if you would like to contribute to White Canvas, we are always looking for articles: get in touch through the Facebook Page and share what you have for the benefit of others in the boat!

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Oli Higham

Oli Higham

Oli is the pastor at Rock Community Church. Born in Brighton but long term resident of Dumbarton with his wife, Aliona, and kids, Sofia and Theo. He is really into Jesus and to a lesser extent comic books, spoken word poetry, street art, Arsenal FC, rugby, cooking and coffee.