Skip to main content

Interview with CTZN's Sidhara Udalagama


I sit in the 200 Degrees coffee shop off of Market Square in Nottingham, England. Like most afternoons, the café sings with the sounds of espresso machines hissing, utensils clanking and people chattering - people who are sat just a bit too close to this introverted blogger. There are other dens here in Nottingham where the caffeine addicted masses can get their fix – ones that are more spacious and afford more privacy. But 200 makes the drug tastier than most.

In walks my interviewee: Sidhara Udalagama, founder and director of CTZN young adult ministries, a part of Heart Church, Nottingham. Stylish as usual – but not particularly self-conscious about it. Today she sports perfectly manicured brown nails that help compliment her new engagement ring. You’ll often find her in heels that help conceal her short stature. But don’t let this Sri Lankan fool you with her size. She dreams BIG - and she has the passion to race after those dreams. She sits down and is unusually calm – especially considering the changes that CTZN is about to undergo.

Me: So, Sid, what is your relationship to CTZN young adult ministries?

Sid: I founded it and currently oversee it – giving direction to the running, vision and leadership. When I say I founded it, there was an existing ministry called Impact at the church that predated me. I inherited that ministry but changed both its direction and its name.

Me: What changes did you bring?

Sid: The ministry I inherited a year and a half ago was very successful at being pastoral. We took good care of the University students and young adults who were part of the church. I wanted to take what had been planted and give it a strong, outward, missional emphasis. CTZN exists to reach students and young professionals with the gospel. We also work hard to retain the foundations of discipleship and family that were already there.

Me: Why the name ‘CTZN’?

Sid: It comes from Ephesians 2.19 which says, ‘You are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.’ It struck me that our citizenship is in heaven and how that affects our citizenship here in Nottingham.

Me: I’ve heard there are some big changes coming to CTZN – that you will no longer be meeting at Heart Church. Tell us about that.

Sid: We’re going to take the 200 people who come along on a Tuesday night and split them into three locations. We’ll be at Jam Café, The Rum House and The Lace House – these are pubs and bars in the city centre and we’ll be meeting in these three locations simultaneously.

Me: Why are you doing this? Is this an effort to try to have a hip ministry? To be ‘down with the kids’?

Sid: If we were doing all this for just the hype and the vibe, I wouldn’t be doing it. It’s simply far too much work! Firstly, I’m doing this because I’m being obedient – I think this is what God has called me (and us) to do. But secondly, it is about us taking the gospel to where the people are. We cannot simply wait for people from the outside to stumble into our meetings. We are trying to make the gospel more accessible to the young adults of our city. This is about salvation – to see God change lives.


Me: What would you say to people who come to CTZN to worship but who feel uncomfortable with this change? What would you say to the young adult Christians who might be struggling to imagine how they can worship God freely in a bar?

Sid: I understand that reservation. I felt that the first time this idea came as well. But what I realised was that this is not about me and my comfort zone – this is about being missional. This change is about love, and love prefers others. If we only stay where we are comfortable, we will not see the things we want to see happen. We can’t let our comfort levels keep us from reaching out to the people God has called us to! We need to be brave. Some will find it challenging at first, but I have a sneaky feeling that we might get rather used to having church in a bar. This will be the new normal!

Me: Last question. What is the one message that you want to see communicated to all the young adults of Nottingham?

Sid: Find your identity in Christ. You are not an accident. You were created by God and for God. If you come to know his love – and become his son or daughter – it will change everything.


[CTZN meets on Tuesday night. Starting on the 23rd February, they will meet on alternate weeks at the three Nottingham locations mentioned above at 7.30pm. All young adults 18-30 (Christian and non-Christian) are welcome. More info can be found on their website CTZN.COM ]
__________________________________


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Dear Pro-Gay Christian Friend

[Response to the letter Dear Non-Affirming Christian]
Dear Pro-Gay Christian Friend,
Thank you for taking the time to write me. Sadly, it seems you misunderstand why I met with you for coffee. Please let me explain my motives by defining the words in my salutation above. Would this be too terrible a way to go about it?
Let’s start with ‘friend’ shall we? You rightly question this term as an accurate description of our relationship. For now, let's simply say I mean it as an expression of good will - but will return to it again at the end of the letter. Then there's this term, 'pro-gay'. By this, I don't mean your personal sexual urges. There have historically been – and are today – countless godly leaders in the church who have deep sexual and romantic attractions to people of the same gender. In spite of their desires, they remain celibate and teach orthodox views of gender and sexuality. In your letter, you repeatedly refer to me as a ‘non-affirming Christian’, but I …

Where I Turn Down a Gay 'Wedding' Invitation

Dear Katie,
I hope this letter finds you well. You’ve been on my mind lately as it’s been a few weeks since we’ve met up. We’re overdue to grab a coffee – I hope we can soon. I also want to thank you for thinking of me as you sent out invitations for what I know will be a big day for you and Joanna. I’ve known you since before you met her (two years ago now, is it?) and I appreciate all you’ve shared with me about how meaningful that relationship is to you. It was especially kind of you given my Christian faith. You've never directly asked me my views on gender or sex in much detail. But I think our conversations must have touched on it enough times to at least make you a bit unsure of my reaction when you sent the invitation. I have to say 'no' to your kind invitation. You know that I care for you and that I value our friendship. You know I don't reject you because you are gay. So, would it be too much to ask of you if I explain why my faith would make attendance at your…

Driscoll Returns, ‘Christian Today’ Melts.

Sometimes in the course of events, a peculiar thing happens that then triggers a response more peculiar still. This is what we now see with the return of Pastor Mark Driscoll to the church scene.
For those unfamiliar with the drama, Mark Driscoll was a church planter and Bible teacher who made a big impact in the least churched city in the USA: Seattle. Thousands professed faith in Christ through his ministry. But he left the church that he had started under dark circumstances. No, it wasn’t adultery as is so often the case with some of these big-name preachers. Rather, it was heavy-handed leadership―resulting in many spiritually crushed church members―that drove him to resign.
Now, three years later, he is leading a new church and many are downloading his sermons once again. This is not without some valid controversy―for reasons we’ll mention soon. But what is most noticeable is not his peculiar return. It is the reaction among those who lean left of classical Christian teaching: the …