New wineskins

Founder of Sankofa Collective UK, Dr Lisa Adjei, shares our Reflection of the Month for September 2021...

Can you believe we’re in September already?! This year is racing through. I love the month of September because it feels like a mini new year. We’ve made it to the last quarter of the year and it’s a great time to take stock and reflect. The last 18 months have certainly been full of change, grief, lament, and the unknown. I know that leading in a season like the one we’ve been through is far from easy, but we’ve also seen many Churches in the UK adapt quickly, serve their community brilliantly and welcome lots of new people with an online church. Yes, you can pause here and breathe out! 

As things continue to re-open, I want to encourage you with the words of Jesus in Matthew 9: 16-17 (NIV). “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”

What have you been doing that needs to stop?
What do you want to continue doing?
What gaps have you seen and what do you need to start doing?

I love that Jesus used analogies that everyday people of his day would have understood. Like the unshrunk cloth and the new wine, they don’t mix well with the old materials.

In the process of making wine during that time, the juice of the fruit would be poured into wineskins and left to ferment. The thing about fermentation is that bubbles are produced, with building pressure on the walls of the wineskin, any cracks or tears are exposed because wine leaks through. Pressure has a way of showing us so much and exposing what was always there. The choice is ours, to attend to the things that it reveals or to ignore them. 

The pandemic highlighted the deep systemic social inequalities present in our society, we saw a greater exposure of the racial injustice that was already there in the Church and wider society, the alarming effects of the way we’re living on the Earth with more floods and fires all over the globe, the familiar fear that gripped so many women and girls as we watched the story of a young girl kidnapped and murdered unfold. For me, it’s clear that the way we are living as a society is not working. This isn’t the ‘love your neighbour’ flourishing that God has called us all to. We are in need of new wine and new wineskins. This isn’t about more projects or longer services but really taking time to think about the way we are doing life. That as we return to the truths of our faith, how can we build better? 

In recent months, I have found myself often saying ‘the landscape of the church is changing’. It has been encouraging to meet with leaders from a wide variety of denominations across the Church and to hear a similar sound and heart. A genuine desire for unity, a humility that acknowledges we’ve got lots of things wrong, a passion for working collaboratively and cross-generationally, and a call to keep the way of Jesus central. These are new wineskins. I get a sense that we’re in a moment, where there is a real opportunity for new beginnings. 

So, What have you been doing that needs to stop?
What needs to continue?
What gaps do you see? 
What do you need to start doing?

Dr. Lisa Adjei is the Founder of Sankofa Collective UK, a community of Christians walking together towards racial justice.  The name Sankofa means; we should reach back and gather the best of what our past has to teach us so that we can achieve our full potential as we move forward. Whatever we have lost, forgotten, forgone or been stripped of can be reclaimed, revived, preserved and perpetuated. Dr Lisa worships at Trinity Baptist Church, London.