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30 October 2012

Chris le Marquand, Nexus

Chris le Marquand, Nexus

Chris le Marquand heads up Nexus, a group based at Emmanuel Church Oxford seeking to equip the church to engage with society by producing accessible and timely content and training. After his history degree at Oxford University he went on to work for a Labour MP in Westminster as part of the CARE Leadership Programme. He then spent 18 months at a political consultancy in London. Chris enjoys reading, running and Saturday night ITV programmes, particularly Take Me Out and The X Factor.

As a child what did you want to be when you grew up?

An astronaut. But I realised that was a bit too much like hard work, and since then I haven't really known.  
How did you end up in a job aiming to connect faith and culture?
A bit because I'm passionate about it, but a bit by accident. I did the CARE Leadership Programme a few years ago, then moved into PR and lobbying. Over time my thinking on what Christians could do in this area developed, and a project we started in our local church snowballed rapidly and became known as Nexus. Then when I was offered the opportunity to spend a good chunk of my time working on Nexus I jumped at it.
What's the point of your papers on the public spending cuts, the AV referendum, the Big Society, and religious rights and freedoms?

The starting point was a need in our own church for information on what the government was up to – cuts which affected members of the congregation, Big Society opportunities we could tap into, that kind of thing. But our bigger aim is to help equip the Church to engage effectively with the world around us, whether through practical service or by tackling some big questions head-on.
Where do you see the 'Big Society' idea lived out?

I think it's being lived out through voluntary groups, including churches, across the country. Our church here in Oxford is involved with a fantastic project called OXCAT (Oxford Community Against Trafficking) which is a brilliant example of the kind of thing the government wants to encourage – community and voluntary groups working together for good in their local areas. Incidentally I don't think the Big Society's a particularly new idea, but the fact the government's so keen on it is positive.
Besides politics, what other cultural spheres do you aim for?
We're focussing on those areas which impact the public square – academia, law, politics, environment, religious rights etc. There are some fantastic guys on our team with experience in lots of different areas, so we're hoping to speak quite broadly into a number of different issues of importance for the Church.
What is the most important lesson you've learned so far in life?
God is both sovereign and good. When things get tough it can be tempting to doubt one or the other, but He knows what He's doing.
What makes you angry?
Many things – too many, probably. But to pick one, I get very annoyed at legalistic Christians who would have people think their salvation and standing with God depends on their works. I'd extend this to Christians who make their party-political views an integral part of their 'gospel' – we don't see this much in the UK thankfully, but in the USA it's much more prevalent.  
What biblical text or personality inspires your work?
I'd say the Apostle Paul. He was comfortable speaking into any area of society he came across, whether academia, politics, business or religion, while also being committed to the mission and growth of the local church. I think that's a great combination.
What are your most and least green credentials?
I walk to work, and most places in and around Oxford actually, so I guess that's pretty green of me. Less good is the frequency with which I forget to recycle, something which one of my housemates keeps having a go at me for. Quite rightly.
Cultural highlight of your year so far?
It's got to be the Olympic and Paralympic Games. I went to a morning of the Paralympic athletics and thought it was absolutely fantastic. The atmosphere was fantastic, and there was a great sense of optimism and camaraderie. Superb.
Tell us a joke
What do you call a lady with big teeth that sleeps in the afternoon?
Siesta Rantzen.