Croydon is the new Corinth

By - Wednesday 15th October, 2014

Taking a break from evangelising about #Croydon #TechCity, Jonny Rose compares our town to the ancient city-state

In 49 or 50 C.E., the Apostle Paul arrived in Corinth with a burning desire to spread the gospel (literally, ‘Good News’) of Jesus Christ: proclaiming the forgiveness of sins, freedom for the oppressed and reconciliation for those separated from God.

His choice was no mistake: Corinth, the capital of the province of Achaia, was a city of great social, cultural, and religious diversity, and for all intents and purposes was on the up.

As Paul arrived at Corinth, he would have seen rock piles, ruins of ancient city walls. Rome had destroyed the old Corinth in 146 B.C.E. The city Paul entered was therefore young – not even a century old.

In 44 B.C.E. a decree of Julius Caesar had re-founded Corinth as a Roman colony. Whatever Corinth had been before, it was now going through a period of significant rebranding, rebuilding and regeneration.

“As Paul arrived in Corinth, he would have seen rock piles…”: post-riot Croydon rebuilt.
Photo by Peter Trimming, used under Creative Commons licence.

The Corinthian economy was more wide-ranging than that of many other Roman colonies. In addition to agriculture, Corinth was known for manufacturing and trade, especially of bronze, and the Isthmian games. Corinth would eventually be named as one of the three economic centres of Greece by Plutarch, a writer of the second century.

Paul’s visit came at a significant time for mission work.

The new capital was growing rapidly, eventually peaking at more than half a million inhabitants in the late second century. In the mid-1st century its population was perhaps half that, a melee of state officials, military veterans, traders and mariners from east and west, hucksters, prostitutes and religious charlatans of every stripe. All were drawn in by the growing wealth of this Roman boom town. All desperately in need of hearing the Good News.

Paul and the early church in Corinth

Paul’s first stay at Corinth lasted for eighteen months, where he first met, lived and worked with Aquila and Priscilla, who had been among the Jews ordered out of Rome by Claudius.

When Paul first came to Corinth, he naturally sought out a synagogue, as was his custom, to begin his Christian evangelising: discussing the scriptures with Jews and Greeks alike.

Paul returned after a later missionary journey and remained for another three months.

The Corinthian Christians were the recipients of two Epistles (letters) from Paul, written several years later, after Paul had moved to Ephesus. It is clear from the letters that the church at Corinth reflected the cosmopolitan nature of the city, as they struggled to express their new faith within the cultural milieu of the city.

And yet express their new faith they did.

The result was a burgeoning (albeit fractured) house church movement with groups of believers meeting in homes across the city with congregations including a cross section of society – rich people, tradespeople, slaves, former slaves.

Croydon: London’s most important Christian missionfield

So, to modern day Croydon.

You don’t need to have indulged my smorgasbord of hyperlinks to see why I think Croydon is like Corinth; a young, dynamic town not hidebound by tradition, a mix of ambitious dislocated individuals seeking to make their name and achieve success.

Over the next five years, Croydon is to be the site of a £3.5billion regeneration initiative: Westfield will complete a £1.5billion scheme (making Croydon Europe’s largest urban retail destination), and 9,500 new homes, 28 new public squares and spaces; and 7 new hotels are to be built. The potential development of second runway at Gatwick would only serve to augment these positive changes happening in Croydon and beyond: boosting not only the area’s retail, technology, construction and tourism sectors but also acting as boon for local employment.

Paul was not intimidated by a big, bustling, cosmopolitan hub, with no dominant religious or intellectual tradition, and neither should Christians or church-planters considering Croydon.

Croydon needs evangelical Christians, like Paul, who will live and work in the area, draw alongside non-believers and contend for the faith winsomely, gracefully and confidently.

I’m hugely impressed by former Royal Marine and Iraq veteran Will Dobbie who – initially knowing little about the area – felt called to move his family to Croydon to set up Redeemer Croydon and became increasingly aware of its strategic importance:

There are others like him. Tom and Lesley who moved here to set up Croydon Vineyard. I also see that achingly-cool Antipodean export Hillsong will be setting up in Croydon early next year as well.

“The harvest is ripe but the labourers are few”: Croydon is Europe’s largest town – nowhere else (to my mind) does the opportunity and challenge of Jesus’ words ring truer.

Croydon is the new Corinth. Now we need more Pauls.

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Jonny Rose

Jonny Rose

Jonny Rose is a committed Christian who has lived in the Croydon area for nearly twenty years. He is an active participant in his local community, serving at Grace Vineyard Church and organising Purley Breakfast Club, and was ranked "Croydon's 37th most powerful person" by the Croydon Advertiser (much to his amusement). He owns a lead generation company. He is the Head of Content at marketing technology company Idio, the founder of the Croydon Tech City movement, a LinkedIn coach, and creator of Croydon's first fashion label, Croydon Vs The World. Working on Instagram training and a Linkedin lead generation service. Views are his own, but it would be best for all concerned if you shared them. Please send your fanmail to: jonnyrose1 (at) gmail (dot) com

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  • Anne Giles

    What do C.E. and B.C.E. mean? Normally, it is BC and AD.