Refocus: a day with the Wilberforce Academy

Dan Strange

On Saturday, Crosslands Director Jen Charteris and Crosslands Forum Director Dan Strange were at the Emmanuel Centre London for the climax of the Wilberforce Cultural Leadership Programme (WCLP), a partnership between Crosslands and Christian Concern. Dan writes here about the cultural critiques explored, but also the construction of cultural artefacts in that space. 

As well as the fifteen students who have taken the Wilberforce Cultural Leadership Programme over the last few months with Dan and Jen, we were joined by around another fifty men and women who had been on the weeklong intensive Wilberforce Academy last September where Dan is a faculty member. Saturday saw WCLP delegates present the cultural artefacts they had been working on collaboratively in small groups.

This was their final assignment, having already completed a written evangelistic conversation, a number of leadership exercises, and a cultural exegesis and analysis based on Dan’s book Plugged In. These final presentations were not concerned with simply with cultural critique but with cultural construction.

The presentations were a real encouragement, both thoughtful and creative. Although they couldn’t be there in person, the Jamaican group which contains a number of GPs, responded to a current campaign by equalityja which encourages gender-inclusive and -affirming medical forms. The delegates created their own animated video arguing medical reasons for having forms that are clear about biological sex.

Another group created their own advertising campaign in response to the recent ‘I Test’ HIV testing campaign, exploring the themes of identity and control.

The third group presented a sketch focusing on a middle-aged woman writing to an Agony Aunt about her loneliness with flashbacks to key points in her life when she had met Christians.

The last group presented a poem and film, wonderfully uniting the themes of the delegates’ own individual assignments including the trade union song, ‘Bread and Roses’, and Beyonce’s song ‘Church Girl’.

As well as these presentations, Prof. Jonathan Burnside delivered a lecture based on his recent article ‘The Book behind the Throne’ exploring how the Bible will be shaping the King’s Coronation, and Dan gave an exposition of Isaiah 41 exploring themes of idol construction and identity: shaky idols are the product of shaky selves, but God’s people have a solid identity because it is given to them by a solid God.

It was a great day of fellowship, learning and most of all praise to the Lord of all creation. The Wilberforce Academy and Wilberforce Cultural Leadership Programme will be running again in 2023/2024.