Reconciling, Welcoming and Participating

During Holy Week we planted white and red poppy seeds in the grounds around St. Columba’s and Wyken. This is part of a national URC campaign to plant symbols of peace and remembrance with the hope that they will bloom on or around 4 August, the 100 year commemoration of the declaration of the First World War.

Of course seeking peace is not just about commemoration, it is about marking all that divides us today, and seeking reconciliation for a broken world. Fine words, but what does that mean in practice? It means welcoming strangers in our midst, especially those who have fled war ravaged countries. It means supporting the work of Christian Aid, who this year will tell the story of Anoon as she and her family returned to South Sudan to escape the growing tensions for South Sudanese in Khartoum. On her return all she found was bush and her son died from Pneumonia. With the help of CA’s partner Hope Agency for Relief and Development, Anoon was given the means to build a house and till the soil “giving her a sense of dignity and the chance of a life free from fear.”. Christian Aid Week is from 11-17 May and there will be opportunities to collect and donate.

At the end of the month there will be Council and European Elections. A chance to vote for the people who have an impact upon peace or divison within a community. Many of us do not know our MEP’s yet they make decisions that have an impact on human rights, migration, climate change, tax justice and the financial crisis. Closer to home our Councillors create the environment that can make a difference to creating work and homes within Coventry. We need to bring our faith into the political arena and use our vote and our voice to encourage policies that seek peace and reconciliation.

be blessed

Craig

Easter horizon

As I write we have just 2 weeks left on the Night Shelter. In the last 9 weeks we have provided 128 beds for 50 different guests, covered 105 volunteer shifts with 45 volunteers, provided about 200 meals and  must be over a thousand cups of sgar-filled tea, coffee and juice, We have received donations of bedding, food and money in the region of £2,500 and spent £700. We will hold the rest until we see whether we repeat the project next year.

We have heard many stories of homelessness, they can be sad, angry, uncomfortable, unjust. We have acted as a totally unsuitable Womans Refuge, mental health facility, drunk tank, last resort and we have had lots of fun. It’s not all plain sailing of course, people have been sent away too drunk to cope with, asked to leave because their behaviour is unacceptable, have left because they are not happy with others there. Volunteers have let us down and some have been more willing to engage with the guests than others. But most of the time the atmosphere has been good, the mood positive, the welcome genuine and shelter appreciated by those in need of such a place.

It’s been a privilege to be involved, and as some have noticed it’s provided a host of sermon illustrations! For it is in such places that we find community at it’s most raw, and we find the strength and warmth of the human spirit, and we catch a glimpse of God’s grace flickering through the broken pane. Best of all we have seen people take the opportunity to find new hope in their lives, move into permanent housing, come back as a volunteer, access job support, contemplate the life they wanted to live before they ended up on the streets.

Sounds like Easter is on the horizon ….

be blessed, Craig

 

First Monday at the Manse

“To start reading Revelation is to step into a strange unfamiliar world of angels and demons, of lambs, lions, horses and dragons.” (John Stott, 1990) Yet those who came along to the inaugural First Monday at the Manse decided that they wanted to look at Revelation whilst learning more about Jesus. So, with the help of John Stott’s book What Christ thinks of the Church, we are going to study the letters to the seven churches found in Revelation 2 & 3, letters which are less about angels and demons and more about the church of Jesus Christ. We will look at these churches, the issues touched on, how their life relates to Jesus’ life as told in the gospels and see if we can find revelations about 21st century church life and how we witness to Jesus today.

This new venture will replace Eve at Wyken and mark the end of the Tuesday Housegroup at St. Columba’s that has met for many years. We hope that putting the groups together with new people from any of the churches will help to create a more sustainable group than we have had in the past. My thanks to those who persisted with Eve but we now look forward to new life growing out of an ending and would really encourage everyone to come and join with us so that we can learn together and from each other.

Our Lent Gatherings will look even more specifically at Jesus. We will follow a course entitled Who Is This Man?: The Unpredictable Impact of the Inescapable Jesus. These will take place on Thursday afternoon and evening at Warwick Road and we would encourage you to come and join with friends from the ten Coventry URC’s for those five weeks.

Let anyone who has an ear, listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. To everyone who conquers, I will give permission to eat from the tree of life that is in the paradise of God. (Rev 2:7)

Kingdom people


Kingdom people seek first the Kingdom of God and it’s justice; 

Church people often put church work above concerns of justice, mercy and truth. 

Church people think about how to get people into the church; 

Kingdom people think about how to get the church into the world.

Church people worry that the world might change the church; 

Kingdom people work to see the church change the world.

(Howard Snyder, Liberating the Church, Inter-Varsity Press, 1983)

 

 

So, are we church people or kingdom people?

 

And if we are one but not the other – how does that change the emphasis of what we do and how we do it?

 

How much of what we read in this magazine relates to church work and how much to the Kingdom?

 

To what extent do our agenda’s balance church issues with kingdom issues?

 

How do/might our churches get into the world?

 

How do Kingdom issues impact upon the life of our churches?

 

Luke tells us that on Ascension Day “two men in white robes stood by them. They said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up towards heaven? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.’ Then they returned to Jerusalem …” In Jerusalem they “were constantly devoting themselves to prayer” and lo and behold the world began to change as the Kingdom of God began to emerge and so the story of the church began ….. how is it to continue for us within the City of Coventry?

 

Be Blessed

Craig�

Images

What does our image say about ourselves? And what do people pick up from an image? I’ve been playing with some images to use on some cards that will advertise ovarious events after Easter, they need to combine something colourful with something informative giving addresses and contact details and they might well end up on the homepage of this site.

So here are two ideas playing with the same images – a rainbow that was produced for our joint service at Wyken in March and cross that can be found in each church. In the first (Coventry Rainbow) you probably see things as you expect to see them …….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the second (Sky Blue Way) you don’t

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But the churches are aligned as you would see them on a map.

So which, if any should I use?

Encouraging Tomorrow Today

 

Hanging on my study wall is a piece of cardboard with a childlike picture of a church building painted on it. It was a gift from the people of  the United Church of Zambia in and around the small town of Isoka on the Zambia/Tanzania border, given to greet a group of young people who had travelled from the United Reformed Church to visit them. The warmth of that welcome and humbling feeling that people who lived such simple poor lives should bring gifts for people wealthy enough to travel so far from home has lived with me for almost 30 years – and often this simple painting can transport me back to that little church in Isoka.

 

 

And whilst the picture is of a church building, and the words proclaim it to be “The Church”, it is not the building I remember but the people, their lively faith, their singing smiling faces, their enthusiasm and care for their guests. It is the same when I think back to other churches I have belonged to – just over a year ago my work took me to the church I had belonged to from the age of 4 to 10. I hadn’t been there since we had moved on and it was strange to stand there and remember being a child in that place. There were bits about the building I remembered (although it was a lot bigger in my memory) but most of all I remembered the sense of belonging, friendship and involvement – reading the bible in worship, putting away the chairs, watching all the members sign the call to the new Minister (a Presbyterian thing we’ve lost in the URC) – knowing that in that place, amongst those people were some of the formative experiences that have kept me within the life of the church ever since. 

I know from much I’ve heard since coming to Coventry that many people in these churches have similar stories of people and experiences, all of which have helped to mould these churches into the places they are today. But what of tomorrow? and how are we encouraging tomorrow today? Who are the people that will stand in one of our buildings in 40 years time and say “in this place my faith was nurtured”? and who will be the people they give thanks for?

Let it be each of us.

Be Blessed

Craig

Wyken 22 February 2009

Mark 9:2-10
2 Kings 2;1-14;
2 Cor 4;3-6

Mountains as spiritual places experienced by Moses at Sinai, Elijah at 1 Kings 19:11

What are our own reference points?

Key: This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him

 

The disciples want to build dwellings –

dwellings/churches give stability, permanence, connection –

but down side – insular, static, maintenance burden – what are we to do? – listen to Jesus

Coming down from the mountaintop in amongst the crowd becomes involved in  conflicts of real life.

 

The mountain is place to dream…….. imagine ………. inspire  …….listen ……..

Where life can be transfigured, transformed

What is the Vision for our churches – each person; community, building: – what have we been created to be? what can we imagine? how will we inspire? 

Amongst all the voices we must listen to Jesus for “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him”  Around the Lord’s Table we come to a  place of storytelling, meeting, fellowship. Let us listen and dream.

Lenten Journey

Lent is often viewed as a journey – from the mountaintop to the cross, from the wilderness to the city, from doubt to faithful obedience. It is a time when we follow Jesus en route to Jerusalem and when we can make our own spiritual journey exploring issues of faith for ourselves.

Of course journeys also involve an element of waiting – for the time to come when we set off, or at the junction waiting for the lights to change, at a station for the train, at an airport for check in, for the taxi … and we all deal with waiting in different ways. For some it is an exciting time – full of anticipation; for others it is an opportunity, time to watch the world go by, or read a book or explore something different; for many it is tedious boredom – a time to be avoided at all costs!

In Lent we look forward with anticipation for the Easter story, yet step forward with apprehension on the road to the cross. On the way we take time to pause and look at the world in which we live and wonder at God’s response and our own reaction. From a personal point of view I look forward to this first Lent with you, wondering how it is marked in these churches, exploring your ways for the first time. We have organised two afternoon events at Stoke on 11th and 25th March when we will wait at the foot of the mountain and plan the journey to the city – it would be good if you could join us.

Our time of waiting to begin a journey together has ended and I’m delighted to be here with you. Now it is time to get to know one another and most of all to see what God has in store for us. I look forward to worshipping with you, finding reasons to socialise and working amongst you in whatever ways emerge. I like my tea in a mug, hot and strong and am partial to the odd biscuit or two – even when Chris claims I’m on a diet!

Be Blessed

Craig