Tag Archives: church

More HOPE in 2015

Hope logo

I’m excited by all that HOPE has been doing across the nations and know of people who have been working so hard to get their churches to connect with the communities they are based in. Here is a message from director Roy Crowne about the next steps.

HOPE – energising local church mission in villages, towns and cities

In Preston I met a grandmother, mother and daughter who came along to a Silent Night Carols event. All three became Christians that evening – they are now part of their local church. Changed lives and changed communities are HOPE’s goal – we want to see thousands of people becoming followers of Jesus nationwide.
These three women were the fruit of mission in Preston – not just a one-off event but a rhythm of mission that has run through the church calendar, with churches working together pointing people to Jesus with their words and actions.
Thousands of churches held special Christmas events – many taking the Silent Night Carols theme of peace and reconciliation. Let’s not wait until Easter to invite people back to hear more. Let’s get out into our communities, loving, serving and being Good News – and always being ready to give the reason for the hope we have because of Jesus.
We have been so encouraged by all that God has done in this past year. We love working with you. If you’ve not completed our survey yet – please do (see below). And do pray with us that God will show us his priorities as we move forward into 2015.
with loads of appreciation for all you are doing in Jesus’ name

Roy Crowne, HOPE Director

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Advent Sunday: on being waited for

There’s always a surprise, isn’t there?

Today is Advent Sunday but I’m not in church this morning. Our son Andrew returned early today from two weeks on mission to Uganda with his church, New Life, Romsey, and we had agreed to pick him up from Heathrow Airport.

We left while it was still getting light and drove up the M3, through the slowly clearing fog, arriving at Terminal 5 to discover that the one we were coming to wait for was already waiting for us.

That feels familiar somehow.

Platinum party

Jim Linwood's picture inside the cathedral.
Jim Linwood’s picture inside the cathedral.

This week I had the privilege of being able to premiere one of my hymns with a packed congregation at the stunning Coventry Cathedral.

We were there to celebrate the Platinum (70th) anniversary of Methodist Homes (MHA) and I had been asked to write a hymn to mark the event.

MHA is a charity providing care, accommodation and support services for older people throughout Britain.  Around 16,000 people are cared for:

5,000 older people living in care homes – residential, nursing and specialist dementia care;
2,000 older people living independently – in a range of purpose-built apartments with flexible support and personalised care
9,000 older people supported via live at home services in the community.

MHA’s mission is to improve the quality of life for older people, inspired by Christian concern.

The service included The Seven Ages of MHA – a trot through the organisation’s history – and a really appropriate sermon from their patron, Baroness the Revd Kathleen Richardson.

The service ended with singing the anniversary hymn and a cathedral full of Methodists singing to the tune Calon Lân is a great sound. I had been asked to provide a hymn that included recognition of MHA’s specialism – care of older people – but was a hymn of confidence in God. The text is:

Timeless God, you hold our story:

The old cathedral
The old cathedral
weave our dreams into your plan.
Make your Church a living witness
to the work that Christ began.
 
Come the day that love has conquered,
and the hosts of heaven sing,
may our lives on earth have echoed:
‘God is Lord and Christ is King’.
 
Gracious God, you offer wisdom
far beyond our human minds.
Yet you trust us, in our weakness,
to bring insight to the blind.
 
Come the day …
 
When our human powers falter
keep us focused on your call.
Strengthen us to share the message
of abundant life for all.
 
Come the day …
 
God eternal, hear our longing
to be heralds of your grace:
till Creation’s restless longing
finds its peace in your embrace.
 
Come the day …
Gareth Hill. Copyright © 2013 Gareth Hill Publishing/Song Solutions Copycare, 14 Horsted Square, Uckfield TN22 1QG http://www.songsolutions.org

Sunday sun shrine

A Sunday on the French Riviera and what to do? Our friendly neighbours told us that there was a morning market in Port Grimaud – just a 10-minute walk from the campsite – so we headed off to take a look.

Certainly no sign of anyone heading off to church although there had been some Twitter chat about appropriate hymns for the England team’s failure to beat America in the World Cup. How about “Draw me close to you” especially after goalkeeper Robert Green’s unfortunate Hand of Clod episode – the next line is “never let me go”.

Anyway, soccer musings aside, we walked into the millionaire’s playground to see how people spent a sunny morning here. Port Grimaud is like Venice – once you get past the security barriers. In fairness they only keep out unsavoury drivers; almost anyone can walk in, including us!!

Crossing the first bridge takes you into a square which is transformed into a market, slightly upmarket as you would expect. It was the first French market I’ve ever been to, for example, without a single Morrocan selling Bob Marley towels.

The next bridge, deeper into Port Grimaud, reveals the first glimpse of the boats and yachts to come and then another square of stalls. If you look closely you can see something of the Med’s past. One or two of the stallholders have that permanently-glazed look from the flower power days, one still had her hair held in place by a bootlace-thin strand of leather; another wrapped what looked suspiciously like a kaftan round her.

On to the harbour where some of the super yachts waited at the sort of shrine that’s reserved for the very few – the very, very rich. The kind who can afford to click a couple of fingers and send someone out to buy whatever they want whenever they feel like it. As we gawped, four Dutch girls persuaded someone else to take their photo posing alongside a yacht called Chocolat registered in London. As they studied the digital image they looked at each other, shrieked something in Dutch which had one recognisable phrase: “something from Sex and the City”.

The irony was that these extraordinary displays of super-wealth, six yachts backed up against the harbour like some defensive wall of overpaid footballers anticipating a thunderous free kick from out in the bay, were no more than 10 feet from the doors of the community’s ecumenical church.

The building that represents a man who had nothing but the clothes he stood up in opens its doors in defiant welcome to the obscenely rich and the desperately poor. In that place Jesus says to them ‘however you arrived here, and however much you carried with you, makes no difference.’

At this Sunday sun shrine, where we couldn’t even have bought the inflatable boat that sat on the top of the super yacht – see Joy’s optimistic posing next to it! – there was that wonderfully disruptive invasion of the Gospel that said: ‘I’m still here and I’m not going away.’

Sandcastles on the beach

My wife and I were on the beach with our grandchildren a couple of weeks ago and five-year-old Rhys sandcastles_smallwanted me to help him make a sandcastle.

He’d filled up the bucket with wet sand so we patted it down and tipped it out for him to begin decorating with pebbles. As he pushed on into the side of the little castle it began to break down and I warned him not to be too rough with it.

Without even looking up he said: “I know. It’ll fall down because it’s built on sand. The Bible says that.”

I asked him where he’d heard that and he told me about his club at church in Plymouth. Then, within seconds he had forgotten all about his mini-sermon and he was off down the beach on another adventure: to get more sand or to try to dam up the river.

For Rhys the Bible, the sandcastle, the pebble and the conversation about God were all one big picture – they were all a part of the big excitement that was his life at that moment.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could see everything we are doing as part of one great inseparable God-inspired picture?

Those of us who are Christians try in different ways to make contact with our communities and show them the love of Jesus. The difference is that often when we’re asked why, we never quite make the leap to slip in the Jesus part of the conversation. We never quite get to tell people that we are providing them with a meeting place, giving them a meal, getting their prescription, running their children’s holiday club because we believe that God is crazy about them and sent Jesus to earth to die for them.

I now it’s easy to be over-sentimental about our children and as a grandparent I can fall into that trap all too quickly, but Jesus used the idea of childlike acceptance of God’s love for us as the measure of faith. The reason we are in communities is to be the Body of Christ, visible through loving service. As you read through the stories in this edition of TCN, just reflect on where in his great big exciting picture God has put you. And who can you tell about it?