Central to my faith journey is being the person God has created me to be. This might sound incredibly selfish. What about serving others, fighting injustice, self-sacrifice and so on?
When Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) I don’t think he was asking us to force anyone to become a Christian. I think he was modelling how to be yourself and by being yourself and not some caricature, you will attract others to following Jesus. As Catherine of Siena once said,
“Be who you were meant to be and you will set the whole world on fire.”
It’s about listening to God and listening to others as well as being heard. Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said, “The first service of love one owes to others is listening to them.” The first word of the greatest commandment in Deut 6:4 is שְׁמוֹעַ “Shema” which means “Listen!” “Hear O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD God is one.” And following on from that is the command to “Love your neighbour.”
I started my working life teaching RE and taught for 13 years. Although I enjoyed teaching, most of the time, I felt deeply unhappy and restless. One Lent I decided to take up exercise. A friend of mine persuaded me to try karate. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to hit people, but I gave it a go and found that I really enjoyed it! The karate gave me a new lease of life and energy and helped me to reconnect a part of myself that I suppressed. Eventually I found the courage to leave the security of teaching, the year I achieved my first brown belt grade.
I’d also heard an excellent sermon at the start of that academic year by an ex-Anglican priest where he had referred to a talk by JK Rowling to Harvard graduates about the importance of failure and the use of the imagination. I had become too comfortable, even though I was unhappy. I had forgotten how to be bold and daring. It felt like one of several nudges from God. It was time to move on.
Are you looking for a new course to stay connected with young people in your community? Read all about the ‘Stay Alert to the Spirit’ programme put together by Jesus Shaped People…
Despite our technology, wealth and 21st Century ‘know how’ we’ve been humbled by a virus, like an elite Premier League Football Club knocked out of the FA Cup by a team no one has heard of. How did this happen, how can we get rid of it, when will it end, how is it going to affect my future are legitimate questions. At Jesus Shaped People we felt there is another important question: What is God saying to the churches?
This ‘liminal space’ is a teaching moment and waiting time. The spectre of suffering, death, economic meltdown, loss, sudden change, and acute anxiety has at least temporarily arrested our attention and captured collective imagination.
Young people have been especially hit hard by the pandemic. ‘Stay Alert to the Spirit’ (SATS) is a 7 week resource that includes material/ideas for worship, small groups, sermons, teaching and intergenerational worship to be used in buildings or on line and offered free of charge. SATS is not an answer but a tool to help churches gather around this question; ‘What is God saying to the Churches’ and allow voices on the margins to be properly heard and be a part of the future.
We wanted to let you know that Proximity is heading back online for 2021!
Running from 7-8 May, Proximity is our annual Urban Mission Conference and it’s totally FREE. We’ll be joined by inspiring and challenging speakers including Bob Ekblad, Rachel Gardner, Josh Smedley, Andy Hawthorne, Sam Ward and Sarah Small who will help each of us explore God’s call to his church to Mobilise.
Over the two days we’ll be digging into the book of Philippians and will be equipped, inspired and challenged for urban mission through teaching, TED-style talks, stories and worship. Whether you’re just exploring the call to mission, or whether you’re in this for the long-haul, it’s time to mobilise!
A new 8 week online course on Wednesdays from April 7th, 7–9 pm
Gordon Dey from Jesus Shaped People has created an eight-week, Zoom-driven course entitled World of Jesus that draws from his experience of leading pilgrimage groups to Israel and Palestine over the past 30 years.
Gordon is offering the opportunity for people belonging to JSP linked churches to experience World of Jesus on Wednesday evenings from 7pm to 9pm between Easter and Pentecost, beginning on Wednesday April 7th. The course will give insight into the context of Jesus’ ministry—the geography and history, and the way people lived their lives under Herodian and Roman control and influence, using maps, photos and other graphics. Afterwards we’ll explore the impact of this on the church today in small groups and plenary questions.
There is no charge to those taking part, however donations in support of Jesus Shaped People are warmly encouraged! Information of how to do this is provided on the JSP website: www.jesusshapedpeople.net
A flyer is also available to download and print on the website that can be used as a poster. If you want to take part please book a place with Gordon: firstname.lastname@example.org. Your place will then be confirmed and you will be sent more detail about each of the sessions. Later those who book a place will be sent a zoom code.
Places are limited, so ‘first come first served’.
Every blessing for Passiontide and Easter.
Jesus Shaped People offers programmes and learning resources especially for smaller inner city, urban and social housing estate churches.
Estate churches are fragile communities, especially at the moment in the financial crisis brought on by COVID-19. With regulations and the pandemic situation changing day-by-day now might be a good time to pause and reflect.
How has your church community responded to the pandemic? What has this experience been like for you and for others? What has the experience revealed about inequalities and the structures of our society? Where is God in the experience? How might God be calling us to respond?
You can hear Laurie Green explain more about the process of getting stuck in and doing theology by clicking on the highlighted words above. Doing theological reflection always starts from experience.
A similar cycle of reflection, Gibbs Reflective Cycle, is explained in the video below by a German teacher who reflects on her experience of teaching German in a Spanish school. The starting point is grounded in experience, reflecting upon it, analysing it from different perspectives and coming up with a plan of action. This in turn leads to a new experience, further exploration, further analysis and refining the action plan.
An important point to note is that reflecting on experience involves listening to others as well as oneself, not diving straight into action. Another point to remember is to see the gifts that the people in your community already have, not just the difficulties that your community has to live with.
Despite our technology, wealth, and 21st Century ‘know how’ we’ve been humbled by a virus, like an elite Premier League Football Club knocked out of the FA Cup by a team no one has heard of.
How did this happen, how can we get rid of it, when will it end, how is it going to affect my future are legitimate questions.
At Jesus Shaped People we felt there is another important question: What is God saying to the churches?
This ‘liminal space’ is a teaching moment, the spectre of suffering, death, economic meltdown, loss, and acute anxiety has at least temporarily arrested our attention and captured collective imagination. To try and help churches we have created a resource that is not an answer, but rather a tool to gather around this question; ‘What is God saying to the Churches?
‘Stay Alert to the Spirit’ (SATS) is a 7 week resource that includes material/ideas for worship, small groups, sermons, and intergenerational worship and teaching. It can be used in buildings or on line and offered free of charge.
Joe Hasler is a priest and former community worker who has lived and worked on estates for many years. He blogs about his experience and has created resources on his website http://www.joehasler.co.uk/
Joe has written a reflection paper to indicate his desire to be engaged in a social evangelisation, alongside his desire for a prayerful and contemplative life.
He also reflects on the way COVID-19 has shaped church communities, discipleship and leadership.
The paper is entitled ‘Making Space for all God’s Children’.
If you would like to read Joe’s thoughts the link is:
English My Way is a programme designed specifically for people living in the UK, whose English language abilities are below Entry Level 1.
The aim is to help adults who have very little or no English language skills to become a part of their local communities. The course can be taught through a mix of tutor-led sessions, on-line learning and a volunteer group activity. You can read more about English My Way here.
Topics include the neighbourhood, catching a bus, a child’s school, looking after your health, phoning an ambulance, going to the dentist and going to a job interview. The situations are very practical. For example, one video is about learning how to return a faulty product from the market.
Now that some churches are getting the hang of using Zoom, it would be possible for a tutor to teach remotely too if necessary. The courses can be run at a pace suitable for the local group.
Finally from the English My Way blog page look out for the lovely video of an enterprising Muslim lady and her friend who prepare their market stall for the first time and use their language skills to interact with the customers. There are lots of other video stories on the blog too.
Are you thinking about learning something new whilst at home during the pandemic? Would you be interested in deepening how to explain the Christian faith to people who are not Christian?
Apologetics is the use of reasoned arguments to justify beliefs. Christianity has a long tradition of apologists who have defended the faith.
Biola University in the United States offer on-line courses, seminars seminars and training on the Christian faith. There is a free demonstration lecture on Arguments for the Existence of God which can be downloaded from the website by following the link above.
The Certificate in Christian Apologetics can be studied by anyone from any educational background. Each course comes with recommended reading and assignments which can be completed at your own pace.
This course reflects the perspective of traditional Christianity but its not about using circular arguments to assert the existence of God or merely stating an opinion. Its about looking at the use of reasoned arguments to make a claim.
Even if you decide that this course is not for you or someone you know, you might find it worthwhile to listen to the demo lecture to learn how to build a theological argument or how to evaluate the strength of different arguments. Its also a handy way to introduce an aspiring student to a university lecture in a different part of the world at a time where campus visits are not possible.