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 ]