Monday, 15 October 2018

Mission 18: Curry, comedy and Christ

Mission 18 continued...

Friday evening saw around 55 teenage members of HT and their friends come to an explosive evening of Curry and Fireworks. Curry provided by Ruchitas (as good as ever); fireworks ignited by Tim Hart; good news about Jesus delivered by Rob Tearle (a member of the Mission Team). The evening was typically chaotic up until Rob delivered his talk, and we heard abut how Jesus is both real and relevant - not just a historic figure, but the one who shines his light into our hearts to reveal the darkness and who is light to reveal God's gift of life to us.

 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

Whilst this was going on, in the room next door were a bunch of men eating fish and chips and listening to Lee McMunn talk about finding 'rest' with God through Jesus - which doesn't mean inactivity! 

On Saturday morning around 80 women gathered in the hall for breakfast and a testimony from Christine Hartley (Mission Team member) about how Jesus had drawn her to himself and changed her life. I wasn't there, but her story made a deep impression on those who were, and it won't be forgotten quickly.

Throughout Saturday the team joined the HT regulars on the Market Bookstall in the centre of Redhill, offering free coffee & tea to passers by, and the chance to talk about some of life's big issues. Numerous conversations took place, literature was given away and invitations were given to Christianity Explored and to our services the next day.

The church hall was turned into a Comedy Club for Saturday evening, as Mark Palmer came and did a very (very) funny stand-up set. Mark is a comedian who's style of observational comedy is face-achingly funny. Around 120 people (including HT members and lots of guests) bought tickets. We followed that with a talk from Lee: 'Does God laugh?' - following a comedian with a straight talk was always going to be a 'big ask', but Lee was engaging and challenging in inviting people to know real joy through a relationship with the God who made us and knows us.

In our Sunday services we were joined by a few people we had encountered in the Market Place and on the street. Our preachers were Lee McMunn and Rob Tearle, and we heard testimonies from other members of the mission team. On Sunday evening we prayed for Trinity Church Scarborough as Lee told us about his hopes and priorities for coming months.

I am aware that I haven't covered all the events that happened during the Mission - the Oasis meeting on Friday morning, the two Home Groups who organised evangelistic events, the (superb) Timperley Cookery Club event...and others.

Behind all the events has been a Mission Planning Team: Sarah, Rachel, Steve, Verity and Sonya - all of whom threw themselves wholeheartedly into the organising of events, catering, hospitality etc.  (You did a tremendous job - thank you!)

Thank you to you if you had the courage to invite a guest to a Mission event - keep praying and taking opportunities to share the good news of Jesus!

So, a whole load of planning, time, effort, adrenaline, prayer and faith has gone into a few days of Mission! How do we evaluate it?

On one level there is a simple question to ask ourselves: Did we hold out the good news about Jesus faithfully, so that God, by His Spirit can take that and use it to change lives? 

I'm grateful that those who spoke in formal settings and informal conversations were working to that end, and that we can have confidence that God will continue to be at work in the hearts and lives of those who listened.

There is another spin-off of doing a Mission - and that is the maturing and reshaping of those who get involved in sharing the gospel. I know that for some of the 'home' team, this week has been an unforgettable and potentially life-changing one - as they stepped out in faith they have discovered gifts that they never knew they had! 

And finally... Maybe you were at one or two of the events and services and would like to talk / think more about what you heard. Here is a link to a course that we are running in coming weeks: Take a look at the video, and call the church office or sign up in the foyer this Sunday if you're interested.

Thursday, 11 October 2018

Mission 18: Good news from Scarborough to Redhill

Mission 2018 has been a long time in the planning!

A year ago we welcomed Lee McMunn to a Vision weekend in preparation for him to bring a team from Trinity Church, Scarborough to help us with a mission week in Redhill.

On Tuesday night the team arrived and met their hosts. 
On Wednesday they spoke at Timperley Under 5's, Rendezvous (and a lunch that followed) and then the Powerline Prayer Meeting.
Verity and Aneal (Holy Trinity)
with Richard and Lee (Trinity Scarborough)

This morning though, it was time to get out and meet the good folk of Redhill. We started early, collecting coffee from Starbucks to hand out from 6.30am to commuters and then school-run parents. We also handed out invitations to Sunday services and a Christianity Explored course - there was a good take up of the coffee and (from some!) a warm response to the invitations. 

At 5pm we were back in the same spot on the corner of London Rd and Carlton Road, offering free chocolate bars and the same invitations. 

There is a packed program of events over coming days - our teenagers are having a curry and firework evening on Friday, there are men's and women's events, then Saturday includes an outreach in Redhill Market Place followed by a Comedy evening with Mark Palmer (and Lee will answer the question 'Does God Laugh'?). 

In all this our aim is summed up in our Mission Prayer:

Heavenly Father,
We pray for our Mission 18
We ask that you would meet with us in all the events, activities and conversations that take place during the mission.
We long to see family members, friends, neighbours and colleagues who do not yet know you, coming to a living faith in Jesus.
We pray that the gospel may be preached clearly, and that hearts will be prepared by your Spirit to receive Jesus gladly.

In the name of Jesus we ask that you would build your church and change many lives through this mission.  Amen

Join us for our Mission services on Sunday at 9.15am, 11.00am, 4.15pm and 7.00pm!

Naomi, Rob, Lee, Richard and Chris

Monday, 25 June 2018

In the footsteps of Jesus and Sonya

I am writing from Tel Aviv on the last night of an unforgettable trip to Israel - tomorrow I fly home. Tonight I'm staying in an Air BnB about 5 miles outside of the city on the number 83 bus route (that's all I can tell you). 

Jesus you will be expecting, but Sonya? Well, this morning, driving back from Tiberias to Tel Aviv, I took a deliberate diversion to Magdala and the Galilean Boat Chapel called Duc in Altum. I did so because since last year I have wanted to visit the chapel and see a painting that a member of Holy Trinity (Sonya!) spoke so movingly about following a trip there with a party from HT. The painting (below), depicts the encounter between a heamorrhaging woman and Jesus (Mark 5:25-29)

The encounter in Mark's gospel is told like this:

25 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. 26 She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. 27 When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” 29 Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.

The encounter, like the painting that attempts to portray it, speaks of Jesus as the healer, sent by God to restore and reconcile to Himself those who come to him in faith. The physical healing that the woman received is a picture of the salvation that comes from and through Jesus.

It is a striking painting because of its size, because of its focus on that secret and private moment as the woman exercises her faith, but also because of its location. It is situated in the geographical area that Mark tells us this encounter took place - on the shore of Lake Galilee:

21 When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake. 

The cobble stones that make up the floor of the chapel are part of an unearthed floor of the former busy market town of Magdala dating back to Jesus' time. 

The visit to Galilee - even more so than the visit to Jerusalem's buildings and historic sites - has been faith-affirming, and given me the privilege of walking where Jesus walked (the Sea of Galilee itself being the exception), and getting into my mind some of the geography and scenery of the Bible.

If today's visit to Magdala was good, then yesterday's trip with Rev. Prof. Peter Walker (Lecturer, Historian and Author)  was a 'Top-Ten-Days-of-my-Life' experience. His tour began with a Sunday morning Communion service on a boat on Lake Galilee, continued with a visit to Caesarea Philippi and the springs that are the source of the Jordan river, then lunch on the border of Lebanon and finally a visit to the ancient city of Dan which was a main town on a trade route to Damascus. 

As we visited sites with ever more ancient datings Peter pointed out that civilization has spread westward, and therefore a date that may seem like the dawn of time to us in the west falls well within recorded history for those in the Near and Far East.  He made this point as we stood in front - and in awe - of Abraham's Gate, dated c.4,000 years old, built on foundations even older.

I return to Redhill tomorrow reminded that our faith is a historic faith - you can visit the places where Jesus walked, talked, healed, died and rose again ('ve just realized that I've skipped over the Tomb visit...) - but that, like the woman in Magdala, we can encounter him ourselves and know his presence, power and peace in our lives today as we come to him in faith. And you don't need to visit the Holy Land to do that!

'Jesus said to her "Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering."'

Mark 5:34

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Joy in Jerusalem

Blogging is tricky without a PC and with limited wi-fi (spell-check just translated that to wi-if which is probably a better description!) in the hotel. But here goes...

It's hard to know where to begin to describe the last couple of days at Gafcon. 

I could start by describing it as a very large family gathering:

2,000 Anglican bishops, clergy and lay members have gathered from around the globe. It has been said on a couple of occasions today that it is the largest gathering of Anglicans for over 50 years (not sure how to check that out!).

This morning we heard Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali preach on 'God's Church', and were reminded that to come to faith in Christ is not just a private, personal matter - we become children of a Heavenly Father and members of the family of the church. As Anglicans we are part of that great family of God brought into existence by the preaching of the gospel, joined together by faith in Christ, and shaped by the teaching of the Bible. Church membership isn’t an optional extra for Christians - it’s a given!

It is also a very diverse family: 

There are 50 nations present, representing more tribes, languages and people groups than I'd care to count. Today I have spoken to people from Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Canada, USA and France. Tonight, at a meeting of the U.K. Delegates, we heard from bishops and clergy from Myanamar, Chile, New Zealand, Uganda, Scotland (!) and Kenya along with an interview with a Palestinian Christian.

It is a very resourceful family:

It is sobering and challenging to hear the very limited resources that some of our Christian brothers and sisters have at their disposal - and yet we have heard stories of how God is at work in bringing people to faith through the preaching of the gospel in these places. When we give what we can give to God, he increases it and brings great things from it. Resources for the training of clergy and church leaders is a big need in many parts of the church. 

It is a family with a big calling from God: 

The theme of Gafcon 3 (having also met in 2008 and 2013) is 'Proclaiming Christ Faithfully to the Nations', and there has been some great teaching from the Bible and encouragement from testimonies to encourage us to that end. But proclaiming Christ fully and faithfully in an increasingly secular world - and it isn't just in the West that this is the case - brings conflict with the world. Gafcon is keen to encourage Anglican churches to stand firm, to remain faithful in the mist of the temptation to change the message, and to keep the Bible at the center of our life and teaching.

And finally...It is a joyful family gathering! 

It has been incredibly moving to sing God's praise alongside Christian believers from such a mixture of cultures and backgrounds. When the Archbishop of Uganda spoke in the large meeting hall this morning, the Ugandans in the hall spontaneously led us in a joyful song of praise that was deeply moving to be part of. This week we are being led by a superb African choir and musicians that bring depth and joy to the worship. 

Being together to hear great bible teaching, to be encouraged by the faith of our fellow family members, and singing praise in response - what's not to like?

I’m reminded that, despite the excellent food being served in the hotel, 'The kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit'! (Romans 14:7)

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Sabbatical travels and training


I am almost at the end of the first month of my sabbatical, and I have spent half of that time living out of a suitcase or backpack! Since the last blogpost I have travelled to Northern Ireland, Burton on Trent, Keswick and Margate for - respectively - motorbike racing, family celebrations, leadership training and Bank Holiday relaxing.

The Northwest 200                                                                                                 The residents of 2 picturesque seaside towns in Northern Ireland - Portstewart and Portrush - have their peace shattered for one week every year as roads are closed and thousands of motorbikes and bikers descend for the Northwest 200. It is NI's largest spectator event, and one of the world's fastest road races - with riders reaching in excess of 200mph on roads similar to Gatton Park Road and Wray Lane!
I travelled there with Trevor Nelson, whose mum lives in Portstewart just yards from the track. 
It is a tremendous event and one where - even as a spectator - you feel physically involved through the noise, the close proximity of the bikes and the smell of the fuel. It's addictive stuff, and the second time I've been. It is all set against the spectacular Antrim coastline which is worth the trip in itself. Missed the final day's racing in order to celebrate the following...

80th b'day celebrations!

Sunday, 20th May was my mum's 80th birthday, and Libby, Esme, Fergus and I travelled to Burton to spend the weekend with family. We watched the Royal Wedding and the Cup Final on the Saturday, then were joined by a houseful of family and friends to celebrate mum's birthday on the Sunday.
The sun shone, the prosecco corks popped and countless photo's were taken. A memorable day - happy birthday, Nanny Norma! 

7, of 8, grandchildren, and a small dog.

From Burton I caught a train to Keswick for the...

Each participant received a slate bearing this inscription .
The course title 'Leading from the Inside Out' was a clue to the way in which leadership is approached in this leadership training offered jointly by Keswick Ministries and Forge Leadership Consultancy

Rather than giving course participants 'tools' or 'techniques' for leadership, this course helped us consider who we are and how we might lead out of that place. We considered 5 'I's - Identity in Christ, Intimacy with Christ, Integrity, Inner Strength and Influence.

It was a Bible-based approach, and each day began with a well-applied Bible exposition from Peter Maiden, a former International Director of Operation Mobilisation and now travelling preacher and Minister at Large for Keswick Ministries! 
Simon Barrington, of Forge Leadership, led us through most of the sessions each day, with input from Rev Dr James Robson, Ministry Director of Keswick. (James was previously part of the faculty team at Oak Hill College, and taught me on the Old Testament Studies module.)

An evening meal addressed by Joelle Warren, of Warren Partners, pointed us to how (and why) she has made Jesus' words 'Do to others as you would have them do to you' the basis of the way that she and her company operate. Perhaps Biblical ethics work...!

What have I come away from the week with? A Personal Development Plan, a list of action points to address - both during my sabbatical and after - much to reflect on and a renewed sense of calling to church leadership. Also a great group of 15 others who attended the course and who I hope to remain in contact with.

THANK YOU! to the team that put on this high-quality, inspiring workshop - particularly to Simon, James, Peter, Andrew and Carolyn. 
THANKS, ALSO to the Diocese of Southwark for a grant to attend this course, and to Kevan and Xueyan, my hosts at the Lincoln Guest House (which I unreservedly recommend!).

A few photos from Keswick...

Our lecture room with Skiddaw in the background.

At the top of Cat Bells,Derwentwater behind, with Andrew Towner

Derwentwater (taken on my 10K run...)

Monday, 14 May 2018

Guest preacher and blogger!

Gary Jenkins - former Vicar of HT - returned to preach yesterday. Although I didn’t hear Gary preach I have read his account of his visit on his blog, and you can read it here:

Gary is the first of a number of former HT Clergy invited to make a return visit to the pulpit during my sabbatical - I’m disappointed I won’t hear them live, but look forward to catching up via our website sermon page:

Thanks to Gary for making the journey back to Redhill, and for staying for the day!

Meanwhile, Libby and I paid a visit to St Saviour's, Guildford for their evening service. More to follow on our visits to other large Anglican churches in due course.

Saturday, 12 May 2018

Welsh mountains, lakes and weather

Week 2 of Sabbatical:

Have just returned from 3 days in stunning scenery around Lake Trawfynydd in Wales.

Libby, Esme, Fergus and I enjoyed a packed few days of outdoor activity and indoor loafing.

We experienced welsh weather of both extremes - beautiful sunshine on the day we got there, followed the next day by lashing wind and rain which beat us back from our attempted ascent of Snowdon (in trainers and coats more suited to Redhill town centre).

Trawsfynydd is also the site of a now decommissioned Magnox power station, which sounds grim, but even that has its own beauty when viewed from the lakeside cafe!

When it was active the power station produced sufficient output to provide for a city the size of Manchester.

Zip line adventure
The final day included a trip to the Slate Caverns and a hair-raising, death-defying, scream-inducing ride on Titan - the worlds longest zip wire! Travelling at speeds of up to 60mph over a distance of 2,000M, hanging from a harness clipped to a zip wire c.80M above a slate quarry. Memorable stuff!

Thanks to Alistair and Kath for letting us stay at The Beehive!

Trawsfynydd has a famous son in the Welsh poet Hedd Wyn, who was killed in battle at Ypres in 1917 aged 29.

His Christian faith made him a reluctant soldier, believing that he could not kill a man, and for a while he remained in a reserved occupation as a shepherd. Eventually the family had to send one son - Hedd Wyn was conscripted and was killed after only 3 months on the battlefield.

His poem 'War' contrasts the horror of Passchendale with the peaceful life he lived in Trawsfynydd - the seemingly godless experience of the battlefield compared with the relative peace of his former life.

Why must I live in this grim age,
When, to a far horizon, God
Has ebbed away, and man, with rage,
Now wields the sceptre and the rod?

Man raised his sword, once God had gone,
To slay his brother, and the roar
Of battlefields now casts upon
Our homes the shadow of the war.

The harps to which we sang are hung,
On willow boughs, and their refrain
Drowned by the anguish of the young
Whose blood is mingled with the rain