Invitation to The Gospel, Redemption and Shame on-line conference

Shame

The Transforming Shame Network facilitated by Catherine Matlock invites you to an on-line conference on Wednesday 14 October 9.30am-12.30pm to explore transformation of shame within the Christian faith. 

The morning is for church leaders, pioneers and those engaged in mission to explore the issue of shame theologically and missionally. It will be both an introduction to the concept of shame in faith contexts, as well as an opportunity for deeper learning and sharing for those already aware of the impact of this issue.

They have a wonderful group of speakers, offering us a range of perspectives, including shame within the bible, mission, sexuality and race, with space for questions and discussion. There will also be creative sessions, for example Harry Baker, a much loved slam poet.

Please find out more details and register using the link below:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSeI2Gi_to5zDV6XNtbF3q_V46e6LSAMibUkDEO8iaLD9CszDQ/viewform

The Street Connectors

Firs & Bromford Estate

Our featured blog this Friday is from the Street Connectors on the Firs & Bromford estate on the outskirts of Birmingham, near Spaghetti Junction.

The Street Connectors blog tells the story of how local people and street connectors are connecting people, places, ideas, skills, talents, hopes and dreams. The Street Connector programme is a local partnership between the Open Doors Community Foundation and Firs & Bromford Neighbours together.

Paul Wright coordinates and supports the project as a Street Connector Mentor. People who live on the estate take the lead and do the connecting for themselves.

Firs & Bromford Estate

Bumping places and creating community

On the Our Stories of Connecting tab you will find stories about what people can give and what people are passionate about. These are in the ‘bumping places’ where people might encounter one another as well as the public spaces such as the Village Green in the above photo. The stories are beautifully set out and easy to navigate your way around, illustrated with lots of pictures which show the strength of the community bonds. The whole idea is about being with not doing for neighbours, recognising the treasure of gifts and talents that are already present in the community.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought an extra dimension to consider when connecting people on the estate. After all, the whole point of the Street Connectors is to reduce social distancing! Some of the questions that the Street Connectors are still grappling with include:

“How does physical distancing not mean goodbye, farewell, and separation, but promote news ways of presence, closeness, lovingness, and nearness?

How does social isolation not mean loneliness, segregation, and seclusion, but would require new ways of thinking through radical inclusion, solidarity, and mutual support?”

More than ever this means focusing on what is strong within the community, not on ‘what is wrong’ when people have been told to shield because they are vulnerable. The first blog reflecting on how to respond as a neighbour to COVID-19 can be read here. More recent blogs reflect on some extraordinarily creative responses, the joy and the momentum generated in finding new ways to be present to one another, and the lament when something goes wrong. There are also stories of continuing resilience and hope too which can be found on https://streetconnector.com/ourstories/

Certificate in Christian Apologetics

Biola Uni logo

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.

For more details about the courses visit http://watch.biola.edu/certificate-in-christian-apologetics

 

Joe Hasler’s blog on working class culture and estates ministry

Bristol Estate

 

This Friday we introduce the blog of estates priest and practitioner, Joe Halser at http://www.joehasler.co.uk/

Joe grew up on an estate and after going to university, worked for 17 years as a community development worker and has been an Anglican priest for 25 years on estates in Birmingham, Essex, Liverpool and Bristol.

Firstly, there is a lot of rich reflection from Joe on the experiences of people in his community in Lockleaze, Bristol, as people gradually discern their gifts and what God is calling them to do. The documents on Joe’s reflections can all be downloaded from his website. An example you might want to look at here is

1. Accidental beginnings lead to core issues  This document tells the story of how the community began to identify the first of its local leaders. The other documents reflect on whether this process was specific to that particular estate or whether it was a journey that other parishes and communities could consider adopting or learning from.

Ideas for Liturgy and Learning on Estates

Joe generously shares plans he has developed for services which can take place outside the church building and are physically interactive. These can be found by clicking here.

He has also developed a Christian Basics course specifically for people on estates. He sensitively points out barriers to learning such as negative experiences at school and has designed the resources so that they can be accessed by anyone who has difficulty with reading.  The focus is very much on the physical presence of Jesus. These can be downloaded here.

Theological Models of Community Development

If you are a community worker or church leader on an estate you might want to take a look at Joe’s Theological Resources for Community Development

The brilliant thing about these papers is that Joe links perspectives drawn from liberation, feminist and Black theology to reflections on real experiences of communities working together to address serious issues. He goes into thorough detail about the reasons why concerns from people on estates have not been listened to by the local council and how people respond. An example is when children are seriously hurt and hospitalised by fast moving traffic on a dual carriageway.

The hope is that despite the injustice of power structures which appear to brush the cry of the poor under the carpet, changes can be made because people have risen up and asked for basic human rights like road safety and adequate housing to be taken seriously.

For anyone who sees their role in the community as a calling and a ministry, not just as a job or a place where they happen to be living, there is much food for thought in Joe’s writing to chew on.

Church Related Community Work in the United Reformed Church

United Reformed Church logo

 

Church Related Community Work is a distinctive and recognised ministry within the United Reformed Church and Church Related Community Workers play a vital role in the denomination’s community involvement. URC CRCWs are called by God, professionally and theologically trained and then commissioned to help the church to live out its calling.

If you are a member of the URC and feel called to ministering to your community you can read more about the role and the meet some past and present CRCWs on https://urc.org.uk/become-a-crcw/19-ministries/church-related-community-work.html

The United Reformed Church website also shares some very handy links to organisations that provide project development grants and funding on https://urc.org.uk/community-funding.html

Why Resource Christian Community Action?

Christian Community Action

In this era of living with a global pandemic Christians will be considering how to meet increased social needs in our local communities.

A great resource to guide you and your church is Resourcing Christian Community Action. Although this is run by the Church of England, the questions to think about before starting a community project, guidelines for managing costs, volunteers, assessing community needs and so on are applicable to any community-based organisation.

Why should Christians bother with social action?

First of all, the key commandment in our religion is to love God and love our neighbour as ourselves. (Matthew 22:39)

Linked with this is the duty to seek the common good because every human being is of intrinsic value and loved by God. We are also created to be in relationship with God, one another and the rest of creation.

“The pursuit of the common good is an aspect of personal discipleship but also part of God’s calling to the social and political structures.”

Malcolm Brown, ‘Church of England and the Common Good Today’

We will be held to account for how we show concern for our neighbours by God.

Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40)

If you would like to read more Christian teaching on social action you can click here.

Questions to consider before starting a project

So you have an idea for meeting a need in your local neighbourhood. It might be starting a foodbank, a job club, a youth group, a well-being activity for older people to prevent social isolation, as examples. A wider range of examples of community projects can be seen by clicking on Range of Activities.

The How tab on the Resourcing Christian Community Action website has links to all sorts of issues you will need to consider. For example, questions to consider include:

  • Have you got the support of your PCC?
  • What evidence do you have that you can meet local need for funders and/or potential partners?
  • Have you checked that noone else is already doing what you have in mind?
  • What will you need?
  • How will you measure success?

Resourcing Christian Action also has some excellent templates which can be used for planning how you will recruit and manage volunteers, how to measure and evidence the outcome of a project or service for funders and trustees steps to take if setting up a new charity or non-profit organisation

Community Activity

Further help

Finally, Resourcing Christian Community Action also lists links to all sorts of local, regional and national organisations which can offer further support.

If  you would like more ideas to facilitate a discussion with your church or local community feel free to download this PowerPoint ResourcingChristianCommunityActionv2

Your Faith and Your Finance in these Fragile Times

Your Faith Your Finance

 

Today’s financial news make for gloomy reading. Not only has the UK suffered the worse recession in the G7 nations, it is also the worse recession in UK history. The news is grim for employment too, with thousands of workers being laid off or taking voluntary redundancy in the wake of COVID-19.

Financial security in these times can feel like walking on shifting sands day by day. As revealed by the Joint Public Issues Team, it is the poor who are being hit the hardest. The number of children being fed by foodbanks has more than doubled during lockdown.

A double-whammy of austerity measures, cuts in public spending, and the rise of the gig economy have not helped.  With the rise of firms like Uber, the burden of risks and costs have been shifted from the employer to the worker,who is classed as self-employed. A good critique of businesses who view technology as a means of making profit with no sense of social responsibility can be read in last week’s Church Times article here.

So what can we as Christians do about this?

Finances

It may feel that we are losing power as big corporations increasingly seem to influence national policies and what the government decides to spend its money on.

However, there is hope that things can change and we do have power to make that change from the grassroots.

Your Faith Your Finance

Step 1get yourself informed!

Your Faith Your Finance is an excellent website which explains the ethical and spiritual issues around the use of money. It does not recommend specific ways of saving money or financial products. For example, do you want to avoid a bank that invests in products and businesses you consider  to be unethical, or do you wish to save with a bank that supports ethical businesses? Or would you apply a mixed approach?

Step 2 – money talks 

Think before you buy. Are you aiming to support local shops? Do you feel you have a duty to buy fairly traded products to support poorer countries? What impact does what you buy have on the environment or the well-being of the supplier? Like it or not destruction to God’s creation and poverty are linked together. More questions to think about can be found here.

Step 3 – help your neighbour out of poverty

1 Corinthians 12:26 reminds us that if one part of the body suffers, we all suffer. Do you know anyone who is worried about their finances or is burdened with debt? There are some great Christian organisations like Christians Against Poverty that have experts who can help. You can read more about them in our blog on Christians Against Poverty.

We can use our voice, our spending power and our vote to make a difference. There is hope. We have changed our spending power to make positive changes before. For example, over the last 10 years the production of goods containing CFCs which harm the ozone layer have dropped.

Changes to how we spend our money can be made. There is hope.

Bundles of free Bible Study resources from the Bible Society

Bible Society

If you are using August to plan discipleship courses for September in your church or community, the uncertainty of COVID-19 certainly makes things more complicated!

Don’t panic, there are all sorts of free learning resources out there and help is at hand. The Bible Society distributes free Bibles all over the world and provides lots of excellent resources for Bible study.

People can sign up for all kinds of study courses with the Bible Society, depending on what you need. Courses vary from a structured course called, ‘The Big Picture’, a Bible Study group, daily reflections and the #SheToo podcasts which explore violence against women in the Bible from a range of different perspectives.

For children there are the Bible bedtime apps and loads of free videos to help teenagers and young people engage with the Bible. Reel Issues is a free resource exploring links between themes in films, the Bible and everyday life.

If you would prefer not to do all your praying in front of a computer screen or with your phone free materials can be posted to you too. These include a free devotional learning journal.

Why not visit https://www.biblesociety.org.uk/ and find out more about the Bible Society!

 

Free Global Caring Films available to Live in Harmony with God’s Creation

Catholic Faith Exploration

Care for the environment may have slipped a little below the media radar during the pandemic but this does not mean that climate change has been reversed or gone away. Despite the fact that travel has been greatly reduced at this time, summer temperatures in parts of the northern hemisphere have reached record highs this year. Recently Canada’s last remaining ice shelf collapsed.

So what can we do about this?

If you or your church cares about God’s creation you might want to take a look at the free films and leaders notes that are available on the Catholic Faith Exploration website by clicking here. These films have been produced by CaFE on behalf of the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales.

“Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience. All of us can cooperate as instruments of God for the
care of creation.”

Pope Francis in his encyclical ‘Laudato Si – Care for Our Common Home’, June 2015.

Pope Francis

The videos are designed to be shared in Catholic Churches but can be used by any church group concerned about our planet Earth. A practical leaflet produced to accompany the course can be downloaded on this link How to care for our planet Earth

What is CaFE?

Catholic Faith Exploration runs DVD based courses designed to help people explore their faith in a relaxed, cafe-style setting. The idea is that hospitality will enable people to feel welcomed and able to talk about their faith with others. During the pandemic whilst it is not possible to meet physically the films can be downloaded and shared remotely at a cost of £20. You can find out more here.

 

 

Online Talking Jesus course free till end of August 2020

Hope Together

During COVID-19 the Talking Jesus course created by Hope Together will be free until the end of August 2020.

This is a practical 6 session course which can now be shared with groups online about how to tell others about Jesus. Simply click here and follow the instructions to register your group to the free course. A short video explains how this course gives people confidence to talk to friends and people they know about Jesus.

More about Hope Together

Hope Together is about showing the unconditional love of Jesus in our local communities, whether this be through setting up a food bank or working with local community organisations. Church members are encouraged to invite others to become a follower of Jesus.

The whole ethos of the organisation is grounded in prayer. You can visit https://www.hopetogether.org.uk/Groups/324633/About.aspx to find out more.

Hope Together’s response to COVID-19

Churches in Birmingham have created ‘We are the Church’posters to display in windows and remind people that the church is still present in neighbourhoods, even though we are scattered. You can download a poster by clicking on this link HOPE-Rainbow-Poster

You can also download this folder to share on social media. We_are_Church_Social_Media

You can click here to read about lots of other practical ideas for sharing love in your local community. This includes a short video on how to offer support to someone who is bereaved. There is also a Discover Bible app available which can be read in virtual groups.