Tuesday, July 19, 2016

'Evangelism Team Leader' - new post at Diocese of Bath and Wells

It wasn't so long ago that my Diocese released a course for all its churches, including a talk from a senior staff member who argued that local churches should 'forget about being missionary'. There was maybe an important point buried in there, but it was symptomatic of a wider complacency about evangelism, mission and church growth.

How things have changed - we're now recruiting for this:

This is an exciting opportunity to join the Diocese of Bath and Wells as we start to implement our new strategy which seeks to put mission and evangelism at the heart of everything that we do.

We want to appoint someone who is passionate about Evangelism who will inspire, teach, train and enable others in this ministry, working across the diocese at every level.

We are looking for someone who has:

- An understanding of evangelism and mission in an Anglican context
- Experience of developing church planting, fresh expressions or of pioneer ministry
- Ability to enthuse and inspire others
- Proven ability to develop evangelism and mission and enable numerical and spiritual growth

more details here. Great news.

Monday, July 18, 2016

"I was a stranger and you welcomed me": the Kingdom of God sighted in Stoke on Trent

Abbas Massih from Iran is dressed in a smart pinstripe shirt, a large metal cross hanging from his neck. Massih closes his eyes as Smith makes a cross with the oil of the catechumens across his head. Massih, from Tehran, has been in the UK for six months. He says he wanted to be a Christian for a number of years and had only been a Muslim because he was born into the Islamic faith. He talks of secret Bible study meetings at his home and his pregnant wife being beaten and losing her baby after authorities in the hardline Muslim country became aware of his Christian leanings.
Speaking in Farsi via an interpreter, Massih, who is now estranged from his family due to his conversion, becomes very animated when discussing his faith. The 27-year-old, who lives in accommodation provided by the church, says: “They welcomed me with an open heart at this church. It was not so much about the material help but about the emotional help that I received and it has made me feel connected to Jesus. This religion is so much more accepting. In Christianity I feel peace.”
read the rest here, the inspiring story of one church in Stoke opening its doors to refugees. Wonderful picture of the Kingdom of God.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Bible and Politics Fail



yes that makes sense, but I'm a bit lost on how the outfit works

Update (1 minute after posting), I just received booking confirmation for a day seminar on 'How to read the Bible (without switching off your brain)'. God has such a great sense of humour.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Do not be daunted.....

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Childrens mental health - 60% of referrals get no treatment

...figures, obtained under freedom of information legislation from 15 mental health trusts, showed that 61% of children and young people referred for help from CAMHS in 2015 received no treatment. A third were not even assessed for it. Only 20% of under-18s referred to Norfolk and Suffolk NHS foundation trust ended up undergoing treatment, a sharp fall from the 46% who did so in 2013. At Leeds and York Partnership NHS foundation trust it had fallen from 42% to 26% over the same period.

full article here, on the shocking state of mental health services for under-18s. The percentage of referrals getting treatment is actually declining over time, despite government promises to invest more, and put mental health on a par with physical health. 

Just imagine for a moment, 61% of children with a broken leg not getting an x ray or a cast, or 61% of children with asthma not getting an inhaler. Some of this stuff is life threatening. How bad does it have to get?

Saturday, July 02, 2016

Yeovil Churches statement: 'hear each other rather than fear each other'

A joint statement from Yeovil churches, which went out this week:

“As followers of Jesus we are committed to loving our neighbours. This is foundational to who we are called to be; a community of diverse people who reflect a God whose sacrificial love reaches out to each person, irrespective of nationality, belief, behaviour, or any of the other differences that so easily divide us. His love is unconditional, freely offered to the apparently ‘deserving’ and the allegedly ‘undeserving’. That is why grace is amazing.

Whatever the politics, and whichever side of the debate people are on, we encourage our whole community to seek to disagree well, to be kind and to hear each other rather than fear each other. We also pray that in the local, national and international arena, wisdom, justice and mercy will be at the heart of any discussions.

Regardless of how we voted in the recent referendum, as Christians we are committed to loving those from other nations who are here. We declare emphatically that they are welcome. We are resolved to show the same compassion towards them as we seek to show towards all other members of our community. They are important in God’s eyes, so they are important to us. And we will stand alongside them, and against prejudice, discrimination and hatred.

Jesus consistently welcomed strangers and valued those whom others disliked.

He still does, and we stand with Him.”

Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Conservative Party at Prayer

Strange, I'd always assumed it was the Conservative party which would be destroyed by the EU referendum, not Labour (update: though Michael Gove might still manage that). There's still time, but there's also something very interesting about the line-up of potential candidates. 80% of them anyway:

Liam Fox: "a society that actually aborts 180,000 unborn children every year is a society that needs to be asking a lot of questions about itself. For me it's a simple personal belief. It says, "thou shall not kill", it doesn't say, thou shall not kill unless Parliament says it's OK. For the same reason I'm against the death penalty. However, I do accept...that if the majority of the population decide that it's something they find acceptable, I've got to live with that. But I'm not going to be quiet and I'm not going to pretend that my views are other than they are for the sake of political convenience."


Stephen Crabb: "There's something unattractive about politicians who wave a flag called faith, but at a personal level it's important for me. The Old Testament talks about 'widows and orphans' - shorthand for the poor and vulnerable.


"Not a bad guiding star for social policy. Jesus Christ oozed compassion."
elsewhere, wisely but sadly: Warning of a "creeping intolerance" towards Christianity and religion, the Conservative Cabinet minister said "hard-edged secularism" had created "an enormous chilling effect" in workplaces that prevented people talking openly about their beliefs.
"I have never found it easy as a politician to talk about my faith," he said. "In an age where every word is watched for something that can be construed as a gaffe, off-message or representing some bigoted or irrational attitude, it is a topic which many of us steer clear of.
"It kind of makes life simpler."

Teresa MayYou don’t think about it at the time, but there are certain responsibilities that come with being the vicar’s daughter,” Mrs May admits. “You’re supposed to behave in a particular way.” She was always tall and walked with stooped shoulders because she was self-conscious. She was quite a swot at school. “I shouldn’t say it, but I probably was Goody Two Shoes.”
She was brought up listening to Test matches on the wireless with her father. Her pin-up was – I kid you not – one Geoffrey Boycott. “I have been a Geoff Boycott fan all my life,” she admits, laughing. “It was just that he kind of solidly got on with what he was doing.” ....
The Mays have no children, one of those “ultra-intrusive subjects” on which she has been silent until now. “It just didn’t happen,” she says quietly. “This isn’t something I generally go into, but things just turned out as they did.” She admits to a sense of loss. “You look at families all the time and you see there is something there that you don’t have.” As a strong Christian, she believes in making the best of the hand you are dealt. 

Boris JohnsonBoris Johnson has said it would be "pretentious" to suggest that he is a "serious practicing Christian" even though he "thinks about religion a lot".
Mr Johnson, who is tipped as a future leader of the Conservative Party, has previously compared his faith to the radio reception of Magic FM in the Chilterns (a metaphor which Cameron later borrowed).

Nicky Morgan "I've always been a Christian, but I suppose I particularly renewed my faith about ten years ago, shortly after being selected in Loughborough."The Church there was so active, that it made me realise just how much the churches contribute to community life, and that was something that I appreciated. So that was the moment for me to not just be a quiet Christian, but to step up and to say publicly that I was a Christian involved in politics," 
Tim Farron should call a prayer meeting. I'm serious.

Update: the danger of posting any politics story at the moment is that it can go out of date very quickly. Michael Gove "It's because I am a Conservative I believe in the rule of law as the foundation stone of our civilisation. It's because I'm a Conservative I believe that evil must be punished. But it's also because I'm a Conservative and a Christian that I believe in redemption. (source). The National Secular Society aren't going to know who to brief against first...

Update 2: Andrea Leadsom: "I always try to ensure that I'm doing what I think God would want me to... I try and keep in mind that God's there and guiding my hand and helping me...I try to keep my beliefs and my faith through the work I'm doing." from Christians in Parliament interview.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

And now the good news

In a beautiful demonstration of hospitality, Justin Welby hosted an 'iftar' (meal for breaking the Ramadan fast) at Lambeth Palace, with Sadiq Khan and the Chief Rabbi.


After 50 years there is a ceasefire in the Colombian civil war

After 6 years of hostility, Turkey and Israel have restored diplomatic relations, in a deal which includes Turkey building a new hospital and power plant in Gaza

Coldplay were awesome

The Dead Sea is an amazing place

Tennis, Cricket, Rugby, Cycling, the Olympics, there's plenty of sports we're pretty good at.

Islamic State is losing

The Belarussian sense of humour.



We apologise for this interruption to the usual narrative, normal service will be resumed shortly...




Sunday, June 26, 2016

What next?

Still processing the referendum result, and not quite sure what to make of it. It's clear there's a massive trust deficit in the UK: politicians, economists, business leaders, bishops, unions etc. all queuing up to back Remain, and we voted the other way. Both sides appealed to selfishness and the rhetoric got more divisive as the campaign went on, amplified by the media (which prefers conflict to harmony). Social media and politics is now filled with blame and recrimination, with Corbyn now in trouble as well.

"I urge then first of all that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone - for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness." (1 Tim 2:1-2) The kingdom of God has a better future than the United Kingdom or the EU. 'Do not fear what they fear, and do not dread it' says Isaiah. 

We need to pray, we need to get stuck into the debate about what sort of nation we are, we need to be positive, and we need to resist blame and divisiveness. If we don't understand why someone voted the way they did, perhaps we should listen to them rather than blame them. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Queen Reacts to Brexit

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year : EU
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”
So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night.
And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.


these words were reportedly given by the Queen to her dad for the famous radio broadcast at the start of World War 2. They seem appropriate. The Hand of God is the best guide into an unknown future. 

Friday, June 24, 2016

Archbishops statement on the Referendum result

"...The vote to withdraw from the European Union means that now we must all reimagine both what it means to be the United Kingdom in an interdependent world and what values and virtues should shape and guide our relationships with others.
As citizens of the United Kingdom, whatever our views during the referendum campaign, we must now unite in a common task to build a generous and forward looking country, contributing to human flourishing around the world. We must remain hospitable and compassionate, builders of bridges and not barriers. Many of those living among us and alongside us as neighbours, friends and work colleagues come from overseas and some will feel a deep sense of insecurity. We must respond by offering reassurance, by cherishing our wonderfully diverse society, and by affirming the unique contribution of each and every one.
The referendum campaign has been vigorous and at times has caused hurt to those on one side or the other. We must therefore act with humility and courage - being true to the principles that make the very best of our nation. Unity, hope and generosity will enable us to overcome the period of transition that will now happen, and to emerge confident and successful. The opportunities and challenges that face us as a nation and as global citizens are too significant for us to settle for less.
As those who hope and trust in the living God, let us pray for all our leaders, especially for Prime Minister David Cameron in his remaining months in office. We also pray for leaders across Europe, and around the world, as they face this dramatic change. Let us pray especially that we may go forward to build a good United Kingdom that, though relating to the rest of Europe in a new way will play its part amongst the nations in the pursuit of the common good throughout the world."
full text here
I'm disappointed at the result, but in the long run our fullest prosperity depends not on our relationship with the EU, but on our relationship with the Kingdom of God. I pray that the referendum is a discussion-starter, not a last word, on what kind of nation we want to be, and on what our vocation is to our own citizens, and to the world.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Overthrowing the North Korean government by prayer

Kenneth Bae is an American missionary to North Korea and organises groups of people visiting North Korea to pray: "they took it as a great threat, they said that I was trying to overthrow the government by prayer and worship." He was arrested and sentenced to 15 years hard labour.

He was on 5 live's afternoon edition yesterday, follow this link from 1 hour 10 minutes in.  Bae has just published a book on his experiences. "We had a lot of conversation (with the guards in the labour camp).. they started wondering about why I believe, once they said 'you are the prisoner, we are the guard, why do you seem happier than us, where does your joy and hope come from?.... you are a very strange kind of prisoner, you are always singing, always praying.' "

Well worth a listen, grim insight into a very dark place.