Having left Coventry and the Britannia Hotel, I had a short meeting at St Martins in the Bull Ring in Birmingham central. St Martins is not a Cathedral but a Parish church in the most unique of locations. On one side the church is circled by a foot path complete with very new and a rather expensive ring of restaurants. Behind those restaurants, rising up like a Vesuvius of consumerism, is an enormous, and equally expensive shopping centre. I went in and came out, it was too big for me.
On the other side of the church is a very old and still functioning market for locals, most of whom are refugees, asylum seekers, and the poorer end of Birmingham city. Birmingham’s multiculturalism is almost incomprehensible. Large communities from all over the world and different languages being spoken as you walk down the street.
On one side of the church there is wealth and expenditure, on the other side it’s survival. I don’t think I have a seen a more stark contrast in a western context.
Subsequently the church is a kind of chaplaincy to both groups. It runs a dropin centre for street people, victims of drug abuse, and those with mental illness, while at the same time attending to the spiritual needs of the educated and successful. It really is a church between two worlds. Also, because no one lives in the area, it’s a ‘go to’ worship centre for people from all over the city. It’s not big but it is well attended and has a complex voice in its town.
Why the name? No one knows. Probably because it was the centre of town and is where cattle were bought and sold. The other explanation is popular but rather Spanish and, like American Football, not very English – Bull Fighting.