Living differently

We live in an apparently divided and competitive world. Our leaders are vulnerable human beings within a prevailing culture which separates the winners from the losers, the strong from the weak.

We build our towers as high as we can. We build so that we can impress our neighbours not in order to serve them; upwards not outwards.

The world economy is one in which we compete to influence what people think, feel and believe. It is a tough and often brutal economy of ideas.

The important trading routes are no longer international shipping lanes but the optic fibres and satellites uploading and downloading ideas; each trying to corner the market.

God has given us a different reality. It is not a product that can be bought or sold, not a lifestyle choice or the next big idea. You can’t buy shares in the God’s reality. God’s reality is the world made as he/she intended. And it is here, if we look for it. Surprisingly nearby.

God’s world is one in which we are able to live together, share ideas and work towards communities without fear, free from poverty and injustice; where all people are valued for who they are and have a place at the table. It is not a divided world and doesn’t separate the winners from the losers.

This world is the real world because God came to make it real.

Jesus was and is a real person who engages with people at a personal and intimate level. He is the everyday messiah. He is divine and yet takes an interest in people as they go about their daily lives without favouritism. He brings hope to the worst of us. The early church with its examples of hospitality and community living has endured and is important to us now.

How can we choose God’s vision in the everydayness of our lives? What does it mean to model God’s reality in the way we live and work together? Is it enough to trade ideas and win arguments – or do we first need to quietly and modestly become the idea? Living differently.

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Hope on the Edge – Prayer Our City

Wellsprings Together Bradford and Welfare Reform Impact Bradford are local organisation (or which I’m a part) help inspire and coordinate poverty responses among the faith groups. Twice a year they put on an event called Hope on the Edge at Bradford Cathedral which aims to bring together those working to alleviate poverty and transform communities.

On Sunday May the 7th our gathering this time will focus on HOPE for our Bradford Episcopal Area. Representatives of churches, groups and organisations from across the district are invited for a time of creative reflection and prayer.

You will be able to engage with a range of varied prayer styles – explore stillness; reflect through art and music; pray corporately, urgently and creatively.  Listen to Stories of Hope emerging in Bradford – seeds that indicate the new potential in times of adversity and disappointment.

Join us for an evening of creative prayer in Bradford Cathedral on Sunday May 7th from 7.00 pm to 8.30 pm.

Just turn up or let us know you’re coming on this link

More info info@wellspringstogetherbradford.org.uk

 

What makes a flourishing city?

Went to an inspiring evening at Bradford Cathedral last night bringing together a wide representation of people representing the City. Flourishing City asked what it takes for a city to flourish. There were some very influential people there including senior management from the council, church leaders, faith groups and activists. Here are my notes.

Jerry Lepine the dean was great. I have to applaud his enthusiasm for the subject of ‘city’ and the welcome he gave. He introduced the evening by saying the cathedral belongs to the City – “it is your cathedral” he said.

We are not about just delivering big shiny boxes, we must step back and allow the next generation to come through endlessly curious, telling stories and connecting people.  [Kersten England]

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Reconnecting with ourselves, with each other and with God

I went to Wakefield today to do some mission planning work. Unusually I took a break to get lunch from a very impressive sandwich shop. The friendly owner was eager to share thoughts about how Brexit would impact on the local people. I took my sandwich to the cathedral which provides a welcoming and accessible space for prayer and reflection.

wake

 

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Who is my neighbour?

A really wonderful discussion last night led by Bishop Toby Howarth and organised by the Thinking Faith Network in Thornbury, Bradford.  The bishop took the parable of the Good Samaritan and the question to which it responded.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’ … and, Love your neighbour as yourself.

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Places of Welcome in Bradford

POW-smallAs part of my job I am working towards setting up a number of places of welcome across Bradford. Places of Welcome is a specific idea pioneered out of a city wide consultation in Birmingham about what makes a city welcoming. The Diocese of Birmingham then set up the Places of Welcome network.

A Place of Welcome has a sign outside a building saying come on in. Places of welcome is not a new idea but what I like about this version of it is that it’s a very clear and simple proposition based on five principles; It has a very clear set of values and an ethos to which supporters can readily subscribe. Continue reading “Places of Welcome in Bradford”

Voices in Craven

Getting back into the swing of work after our holiday in Venice. A tough transition!

A20422118284_a71f54989c note from Rev David Houlton one of our rural officer for the diocese gave me great joy.  All this month there is an initiative called Voices in Craven which is encouraging local people to engage with their local churches.  Throughout June there will be a number of vocal performance events of various flavours – these range from Jazz performances to traditional church music.

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Rejoice that there are spaces where people of can come together and begin to find a relationship

I was interested in the newly appointed Bishop of Dorking, Jo Wells’ comments about social media 

Twitter is turning the world into a place where people hurl abuse at each other quicker than they can think or even speak, the Church of England’s newest bishop has warned.

I think we should also rejoice that there are spaces where people of can come together and begin to find a relationship with each other. Continue reading “Rejoice that there are spaces where people of can come together and begin to find a relationship”

Appreciating the environmental activists

A very interesting Appreciative Inquiry session today with people involved in environmental mission around Yorkshire and beyond. The intention was to talk about their passions and what have been their best successes.  Here are my reflections while sitting in Asda in Keighley marking time before another meeting!

In a Christian context I feel that care for the environment is always warmly talked about but not always understood as an essential part of church mission – environmental issues take a back seat when we think of the call to worship God, make disciples and tend to the poor. “people put environment in a box” was what one person said.

Environmental issues take us beyond our immediate and local concerns and in many ways connect all of us. “Jesus died for the whole of creation not just people” was how someone put it reminding us that creation is not just global but cosmic. Our theology should be a cosmic theology – so let’s share a bigger gospel. As we are primarily called to worship God we can say that we are worshiping Him WITH all of creation.

Environmental groups are quite rightly associated with campaigning for greener energy procurement, the reduction of carbon emissions and other critical issues concerning the planet’s survival.

“Care for the environment is not an option – we are doomed otherwise” was one contribution. Christians and the church, though, can offer a different model of hope.

From a Christian point of view the motivation cannot be just be about survival but about worship. Our duty is to care for the environment not out of fear but out of love for the creator.

The question of church growth and evangelism is preoccupying the diocese. So does environmental concern equate to an evangelical mission opportunity? One person suggested that when it comes to the environment God is already at work in the hearts of many people – whether Christian or not. There is a natural God given longing towards caring for the environment which is shared by all of us; the church can help interpret that longing and help people understand God already at work in people’s lives.

On the question of care of the poor (which tends to gain resources and attention from our church communities), environmental concerns are relevant. The scourge of mental health problems brought about by repressive and unhealthy environments is shocking. The absence of green spaces where people feel safe, cramped and badly maintained homes and unclean streets all take a part in defining poverty. Ironically our church building far from enhancing the local environment are a hazard in themselves and draw resources away from poverty action. So yes, local environmental groups have a part to play in transforming our communities and those who live in them.

From our conversations today I can see that care for the environment has big part to play in healing and reconciliation within our communities. There are many examples of local environmental groups that have brought different sections of the communities together – growing and sharing vegetables, creating safe and beautiful community gardens, arranging for local people to walk and talk together. The work with young people and schools is commendable.

We can engage with our neighbours in helping to improve the local environment. In doing this we can build relationships which are essential to reaching people with the gospel message. “We have lost the practical agenda”, says one, but by engaging in environmental issues we can re-connect with our neighbours.

“It is really depressing where we are at the moment but we as Christians can bring a message of hope. We can be a catalyst in the community, inspiring the practical and spiritual”