Monday, October 21, 2013

Grace Thoughts 7 - Unity

If your understanding of grace leads you to bring division to the body of Christ, it's broken. Time to think again.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Praying with Jelly Babies

This weekend we've had the pleasure of hosting a group of young people about to head off to Thailand as part of BMS World Mission's year out programme called "Action Teams"

During the church service they shared in last night they distributed mini packs of Jelly Babies to everyone and invited us to pray as we ate, using the guide below with each colour Jelly Baby corresponding to a different team to pray for. 

I share this here so you'll be able to join us as we continue to pray for the teams through the year.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Vacancy - Entrepreneurial Minister / Missionary in Wolverhampton

We're looking for a special individual, couple or team to come and work with us in seeing this wonderful city impacted by the kingdom of God.

If what follows appeals to you, then feel free to get in touch for a more full profile, and ways of finding out more.

An Opportunity in Wolverhampton

Tabernacle Baptist Church is a thriving, ethnically diverse, welcoming church in Wolverhampton. For the last two years we have been supporting, and then merging into our structures, a church in the city centre called the Church at Broad Street.

The Church at Broad Street had once been a thriving evangelical church, but has, over many years, dwindled and struggled. The purpose of the recent merger is to release new ways of mission and ministry into that part of the city.

The location is a tough one. The neighbours are fast-food restaurants, sex shops, a homeless hostel, a nightclub and a rock venue.

Close by is the University, with a guesstimated 5,000 students living in halls and homes within a mile radius.

So, what’s the opportunity? In partnership with Urban Expression, and underpinned by the values of Humility, Relationship and Creativity, we're looking for a person or people with an entrepreneurial approach to ministry, regardless of age.

The potential is vast and exciting.

Come and start church from scratch; come and develop a 7 day a week mission centre in the heart of the city; come and develop a venue that will become the focus for creativity in this terrifically generous but needy part of the West Midlands.

If you’re looking for an opportunity to be engaged in missional activity in a humble place, with people of vision and faith, then please pray about this wonderful city!

We're able to provide housing and cover ministry expenses and mileage.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

50 years of dreaming

Wednesday 28th August 2013 marks the 50th Anniversary of Revd. Dr Martin Luther King Jnr's famous "I have a dream" speech.

I wonder in what ways we need contemporary Dr Kings to rise up and speak on behalf of those who remain marginalised, neglected, denied their human rights, and left languishing in the misery of unkept promises.

As a mark or respect, and in honour of possibly the greatest Baptist preacher ever, I reproduce his most famous speech below.

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of captivity.

But 100 years later, we must face the tragic fact that the Negro is still not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land.

And so we've come here today to dramatize an appalling condition. In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a cheque. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of "Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness."

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of colour are concerned. Instead of honouring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad cheque which has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we've come to cash this cheque - a cheque that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now.

This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. 1963 is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual.

There will be neither rest nor tranquillity in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: in the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

The marvellous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realise that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall march ahead. We cannot turn back.

There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights: "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating "For Whites Only". We cannot be satisfied and we will not be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed - we hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave-owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama little black boys and little black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I will go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.

With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day, this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning: "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring." And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.

And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.
Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.
Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!
Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous peaks of California.

But not only that.

Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.
Let freedom ring from every hill and every molehill of Mississippi, from every mountainside, let freedom ring!

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: "Free at last! Free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!" 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

British Baptist leadership changes

There are some exciting posts being advertised at the moment, so I share them here to inform you, but also to ask you to pray with Baptists in Britain as many of our structures and those leading them go through a season of great change.

The new General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, Revd. Lynn Green, will be inducted into the post at a service at Sutton Coldfield Baptist Church on the afternoon of Sunday 22 September, marking the most visible shift in our leadership.

Alongside this, several of our regional associations are currently advertising, or have recently been searching for new Regional Ministers. Yorkshire Baptist Association and Eastern Baptist Association have recently closed applications.

Northern Baptist Association are looking for a new Regional Minister with a special responsibility for enabling mission in that area. More details here

North West Baptist Association are looking for a Regional Minister to help guide them through the next three years of organisational transition. More details here

And finally, for now, BMS World Mission is seeking a new Director for its International Mission Centre in Birmingham, the main training centre for Baptist missionaries here. More details here

Lots of change, but clearly lots of opportunity.

My prayer is that the right women and men sense the smile of heaven as they apply, and that this season of shaking and transformation might also be a season of renewal and refreshing.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

A prayer for those struggling to sleep

There's been a lot of discussion of abuse and threatening behaviour on social media in the last week or so. On of those caught up in the crossfire, for daring to voice her concern at the degrading representations of women in "Lads mags" and on page 3 of The Sun is the theologian / songwriter / journalist Vicky Beeching.

Tonight she asks for prayers as she seeks to find peace and sleep following days of abusive comments and threats. So, I reproduce this as my prayer for her, and also other women, speaking out, shouting back, taking social media back from the voices and comments of an evil minority.

 From "Celtic Daily Prayer"
a prayer from Anne Wadey

The sky is bright with uncountable stars.
I know they are uncountable:
I have tried this impossible task
these sleepless nights.

Where are You, Lord,
as the fog of fatigue
numbs me of all
but the desperate desire to sleep?

Comfort me, Lord, with Your presence
as the ever-watchful mother
soothes the fretful, feverish child.

Grant me the gift of sleep;
and be the guardian of my dreams,
that I may know You through them also.

Or if I must watch with You through
the long, hard night,
share with me the burden of Your heart
that my sleepless hours
be spent in purposeful prayer.

And if you bless me once more with the 
gift of the morning,
may I rise,
grateful to greet You,
ready to walk with You
into the tasks of the day.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Communion service at Baptist Assembly

This last weekend saw approx 1300 baptists joining together in a very sunny Blackpool for the annual Baptist Assembly; a time for us to gather in prayer, celebration and reflection about the life of our Baptist Union of Great Britain, and the work of BMS World Mission.

For the last few years I've had the privilege of being one of those who gets to shape some of the larger sessions, we have the somewhat utilitarian title of "session Design Group". It has been a thrilling experience seeing words we've crafted and laboured over be used in ways that have brought joy, peace, hope, laughter, as well as creating space for people to encounter God or access his word afresh.

This year I had the task of shaping a communion service that would be intergenerational, that is to say would speak in some way to people of every age. For various reasons there were some constraints (getting more than a thousand people moving around in a fairly full space can be tough, and we needed to include a sermon...).

Was it successful? In part, but not fully. Some things worked terrifically well for nearly everyone (I'd asked the Viz-a-Viz band "Taste" to perform in order to get people to dance, and they were amazing) and some things worked really well for some people (Creativity zones that blessed most of those who accessed them, but these were a minority of attenders overall). And there were some things that a lot of people struggled with.

When we came to actually break bread together, I had prepared a very simple way of doing this. My aim had been to re-empower the congregation by moving away from a lot of words from, the front, and for the invitation and explanation to come from amongst the gathered people. It was a way of reflecting that the power at work among us is Jesus power, not earthly priestly power. So, following a simple introduction we were then to have a question asked by a congregant, followed by everyone giving the answer. There was conversation afterwards about this, and a number of people expressed  desire to have the questions for use in their own setting, and to see how the script had intended the time to go. So I reproduce here the scripted part of the communion in the hope that it will enlighten the conversation about this part of the service, as well as provide a useful resource for the wider church.

Communion Question and Answer liturgy
In the passage we read, Paul says that every kind of earthly power is worth nothing when compared to Jesus. Paul speaks of wanting to know Jesus' power only, and to share in the life, death and new life found in Him.

As a reminder that we all share as equals in this meal, we are going to hear some questions that we will answer together.

Question 1Whose meal is this, and who can share in it?

Co-ordinator: We all say

Response 1 This table belongs to Jesus, and every person who hears His invitation to eat, drink, and begin a new life is welcome.

Q2 Why do we break and eat bread?

R2 On the night that Jesus was arrested, he shared a meal with his friends.

He took bread, and He broke it, and He gave some to each of them.

He told His friends that this was to  remind them of His body, which was going to be broken on the cross.

As we share in the bread at the same time, it reminds us that we are one family eating together.

Q3 Why do we drink wine?

A3 Jesus told us He was making a new start for everyone.

We drink wine to remind us that Jesus bled and died so we could be forgiven, so that we could forgive others, and so that we could begin again.

Q4 What should someone do if they don't understand or feel ready to follow Jesus?

A4 They could sit quietly, and ask for God's help to understand. They could talk to Him about the things that hold them back from following Jesus.

As a sign that they are on the way to faith and understanding they could take and eat one of the grapes today when the bread is served.

Parents and carers can help their children decide. 

Q5 How long will we keep on sharing in this meal?

A5 Until Jesus returns, and everyone will see His glory, power and beauty.

Come soon Lord Jesus!

Before we eat and drink. let's thank God for His gifts to us.

(extemporare prayer preferred here)

So now, we will break bread together (lifts and breaks bread) and then drink wine together (lifts the cup). You will be served where you are, and as the bread comes there will be one server who has grapes, looking for those not ready to share in communion, but still welcomed at this table. If they don't see you, please don't be embarrassed to catch their attention!

Once we’ve all taken and eaten bread, we’ll then be served with wine. As a sign of our unity we will wait until we’ve all been served before drinking, then drink together.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Excellent news!

This article it repeated here with kind permission from The Baptist Times
Lynn Green elected new General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain
Saturday, 04 May 2013 16:18

lynn-green-assemblyThe Revd Lynn Green has been unanimously elected as the next general secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain.
There were no votes against and only a handful of abstentions when Assembly delegates appointed Lynn to the role during a packed Baptist Union AGM on Saturday morning. She will take up the post in September 2013 and will become the first female general secretary of our Union.
After receiving a standing ovation she said how 'incredibly humbled and honoured' she felt, and how through the whole process 'we have all been seeking God together.' She paid tribute to her husband Stuart and all those who had supported her ministry, adding, 'This is not about me. It's about all of us. We are the Union.'
She was the unanimous choice of the General Secretary Nominating Group, Assembly heard, and had been unanimously endorsed by Baptist Union Council which met for a special meeting at the Norbreck Hotel in Blackpool on Friday afternoon.
Jenny Royal, both the moderator of Trustees and of the Nominating Group, told Assembly there had been 'complete unanimity' among the group in bringing Lynn's name forward.
A number who were on that group explained why Lynn had been chosen.
Gail Richards, a regional tutor with the Northern Baptist Learning Community, spoke of Lynn’s own sense of call to the role, how accessible she was, and the vision she had for moving our Union forward. 'She is an inspirational lady... a great visionary... we were struck by how prayerful, spiritual and prophetic she is.'
The Revd Joe Kapolyo, a trustee and minister of Edmonton Baptist Church, highlighted how the group had come to a 'very solid agreement', adding how happy he was to commend the choice.
The Revd Jane Day, regional minister of the Yorkshire Baptist Association, referred to Lynn’s confidence in her Baptist identity, and her vision for Baptist to be 'a confident people'. She also mentioned the significance of the being the first female appointed to the role. When the choice was made 'it felt like we have made history’.
The Revd Dr Nigel Wright, principal of Spurgeon’s College summed the process up by saying, ‘We all converged with great clarity on Lynn Green. We are confident that Lynn is the person who will lead us to the next stage.’
Lynn is well known to many within the Union and is currently a regional minister with the Southern Counties Baptist Association team.
Previously she served as minister at Wokingham Baptist Church and was team leader there for 11 years. She has also served our Union in many ways over the years, particularly as moderator of the Staffing committee and the Mission Executive. She was secretary of Mainstream (now Fresh Streams) for a number of years.
lynn-green-being-prayed-forLynn began her working life as a Marketing Manager with Royal Mail Parcels International. She subsequently became the Corporate Identity Manager for Royal Mail. Most of her working life has been bi-vocational, combining the calling to ministry with her vocation as a wife and mother. She has been married for 26 years to Stuart, who is Head of Audit with The Garden Centre Group. They have two children and also care for two children as Friends and Family Foster Carers.
There were no votes against nor abstentions when Lynn’s name was brought to a special meeting of Baptist Union Council on Friday afternoon.
At that meeting Lynn said she felt incredibly humbled, and the thing that had kept her going was ‘a deep sense of God’s call’.
She said she had been blessed with people with have been able to be ‘possibility thinkers’ in ler life, then added, ‘But in a sense it’s not about me. It’s about us. God has called and appointed all of us.’
Current General Secretary the Revd Jonathan Edwards, who will leave his post in July, spoke warmly about his successor.
'I am thrilled that the Baptist Union has recognised Lynn Green as General Secretary.
'Lynn has been an effective local minister for many years and her gifts have been well used as a regional minister in the Southern Counties Baptist Association over the past two years.
'She has served on Baptist Union Council and moderated the Staffing Committee for a number of years during which time we have recognised her sharp mind and gracious spirit.
'I feel a deep peace and great excitement for the Union as Lynn becomes our General Secretary. I urge the Baptist family to pray for Lynn and to give her all the love and support that I have been privileged to experience for the past seven years.'
Elsewhere the Revd Roberta Rominger, the General Secretary of the United Reformed Church, who was an ecumenical member of the search group, voiced her support.
She said, 'I am delighted and very excited at this appointment. It was a privilege to be a member of the nominating group and to share in the unfolding process of discernment.
'It is clear to me that God is calling Lynn to the post of General Secretary and that she has all the gifts needed to enable the Baptist Union to embrace a new future. I really look forward to working with her as one of my closest ecumenical partners.'
Lynn is excited by God's call to this ministry and is looking forward to serving our Union in this new role of General Secretary. Her vision is to see the vision and values expressed through the 'Futures process' - "Growing healthy churches in relationship for mission" - become reality. She said our Five Core Values - being prophetic, inclusive, sacrificial, missionary and worshipping communities - must be reflected in our life together.
She added, 'I also believe that we need a humble confidence that God is at work in us and through us. There are so many amazing stories of what the Lord is doing out there; God has certainly not finished with us yet.
'Alongside pioneering new ways of being church, I long to see many more local churches being encouraged and supported to transition beyond inherited patterns of church into vibrant mission communities. In doing this, I hope that we will be adventurous, take more risks and above all, be Kingdom possibility thinkers.'

Sunday, April 07, 2013

A prayer request

Many of you ill have already read the terrible news that Matthew Warren, son of Rick and Kay, has died.

If I'd been at my home church tomorrow I'd have led prayers there for them as a family, and as a church.

Please join me in prayer for Rick and Kay, their other children and their grandchildren. Pray too for those you know who are struggling with mental illness, and please pray for Saddleback Church.

Beyond praying for God to be close to them, for them to know the reality of Him as the God of all comfort, the father of all compassion, I hardly know how to suggest you pray, but please do.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Passionately Pursuing His Presence

This year we're taking inspiration from Psalm 84.

We're regularly using this image from Anneke Kaai's remarkable collection of works inspired by psalms. You can buy these as a book, along with the Message translation and the artist's explanation, entitled "The Psalms, an artists impression".

Here's her thinking behind this piece, which we have turned (with the artist's permission) into a postcard to give to the folks here at Tabernacle Baptist Church Wolverhampton.

The poet lives far away and longs to travel to Jerusalem, to the Temple, to be close to God. 
He thinks of the birds that fly around the Temple grounds, building their nests, even in the Temple pillars.
This painting shows the head of one of the pair of copper pillars at the Temple entrance. The pillar was called Boaz (cf. 1 Kings 7:15-22) and had a lily-shaped capital, decorated with a pattern of seven interwoven chains and pomegranate shapes. 
A space high up in the capital provides a nesting place for the sparrow and the swallow—they can get no closer to God. The sparrow and the swallow are important in this psalm; therefore they appear disproportionately large. 
They are well camouflaged and blend in with the building so as to live discretely close to God. 
The psalmist envies them!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

GraceThoughts 6 - Stand

So, It's been too long since I blogged, and too long since a the last in the GraceThoughts series. Sorry.