If you’re not on the mailing list to receive our updates you may have missed our review of 2017.
It’s mostly photographs, all you need to do is click on the image below to be taken to the album.
If you’re not on the mailing list to receive our updates you may have missed our review of 2017.
It’s mostly photographs, all you need to do is click on the image below to be taken to the album.
The consultations that we run as an Alliance can be frustrating to some. Those people who like to leave gatherings with a list of things to implement can be disappointed. The purpose of these events is not to set the objectives of individual organisations, but to listen to God and one another as we seek to define a larger context for ourselves.
I’m not sure it’s a perfect analogy, but I keep turning to sporting metaphors. Imagine players and a coach turning up for a game of football, only to find no pitch marked out and no idea what kind of game they are supposed to be playing. Through these consultations, we are trying to create some broad objectives and to mark out a rough pitch, before inviting the teams (or the Organisations) to take the broad framework to apply to their context. It may be that a game of American Football breaks out in one place, Soccer in another, and Rugby Football in another, that’s OK as long as the principles are applied and the teams playing have agreed upon what’s happening.
The point is, the Organisations take the broader principles and then ask what it means in their context.
The analogy is messy. I could have talked about us making up the rules, but rules aren’t what a consultation is about. Rules are another level of detail that comes further on.
As I said, some people struggle with these kinds of events, they like a nice defined list of objectives, but I love them. It’s the opportunity to really dig into an issue and hear perspectives from all parts of the world. Just to give you an example, at this last consultation, there were representatives from, Switzerland, Romania, Brazil, Hong Kong, Norway, Canada, US, Kenya, Cameroon, New Zealand, France, Slovakia, Singapore and Colombia.
Some personal notes
As much as I loved the consultation, this was the toughest trip I’ve made yet. Sophie, my youngest daughter had been ill for a while, but it got worse just as I left. She had a visit to the hospital on my second night away and is now being treated for a chest infection. I don’t like being a flight away from home when my kids are ill.
On the second day, I picked up an eye infection. The middle morning of the consultation I spent at the doctor’s surgery getting treated. By the morning of the final day the infection was clearing up, only for that evening the second eye beginning to show the same symptoms.
Having said all that, it was wonderful to be prayed for by so many friends and supporters and to know the peace that God gives when things are beyond your control.
Yesterday was fascinating. I spent the afternoon in London with a load of mission leaders talking about the theology of risk. The premise being that, the attitude of mission agencies and the western church is risk-averse, yet the areas of the world that could still reasonably called unreached carry a significant risk for Christians that want to work there.
Maybe I can write more about this in the next day or two. But, after the meeting, I headed over to St Paul’s Cathedral for choral evensong. I don’t go very often, but on occasion, I’ve found it provides an hour of calm and space for reflection in the midst of chaos. After the last two weeks of business, today it was welcome.
I arrived slightly late, in the middle of the singing of Psalm 88. Considering the conversations of the day about our attitude to risk, I was left wondering exactly what Heman the Ezrahite was going through to compose this…
Psalms 88 (NLT)
O Lord, God of my salvation,
I cry out to you by day.
I come to you at night.
Now hear my prayer;
listen to my cry.
For my life is full of troubles,
and death draws near.
I am as good as dead,
like a strong man with no strength left.
They have left me among the dead,
and I lie like a corpse in a grave.
I am forgotten,
cut off from your care.
You have thrown me into the lowest pit,
into the darkest depths.
Your anger weighs me down;
with wave after wave you have engulfed me.
You have driven my friends away
by making me repulsive to them.
I am in a trap with no way of escape.
My eyes are blinded by my tears.
Each day I beg for your help, O Lord;
I lift my hands to you for mercy.
Are your wonderful deeds of any use to the dead?
Do the dead rise up and praise you?
Can those in the grave declare your unfailing love?
Can they proclaim your faithfulness in the place of destruction?
Can the darkness speak of your wonderful deeds?
Can anyone in the land of forgetfulness talk about your righteousness?
O Lord, I cry out to you.
I will keep on pleading day by day.
O Lord, why do you reject me?
Why do you turn your face from me?
I have been sick and close to death since my youth.
I stand helpless and desperate before your terrors.
Your fierce anger has overwhelmed me.
Your terrors have paralyzed me.
They swirl around me like floodwaters all day long.
They have engulfed me completely.
You have taken away my companions and loved ones.
Darkness is my closest friend.
It has been pretty lousy few days. The car broke and is now at a second garage as they try to diagnose how much damage has been done to the engine.
The car broke and is now at a second garage as they try to diagnose how much damage has been done to the engine.
I’ve had a couple of days of difficult work conversations.
Add to that, there are a few aspects to my work that require all my concentration right now. I’m not sure I have ‘all’ my concentration to give.
So, tired and frustrated, I opened my Bible and read Psalm 34 (NLT).
I will praise the Lord at all times.
I will constantly speak his praises.
I will boast only in the Lord;
let all who are helpless take heart.
Come, let us tell of the Lord’s greatness;
let us exalt his name together.
I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me.
He freed me from all my fears.
Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy;
no shadow of shame will darken their faces.
In my desperation I prayed, and the Lord listened;
he saved me from all my troubles.
For the angel of the Lord is a guard;
he surrounds and defends all who fear him.
Taste and see that the Lord is good.
Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!
Fear the Lord, you his godly people,
for those who fear him will have all they need.
Even strong young lions sometimes go hungry,
but those who trust in the Lord will lack no good thing.
Come, my children, and listen to me,
and I will teach you to fear the Lord.
Does anyone want to live a life
that is long and prosperous?
Then keep your tongue from speaking evil
and your lips from telling lies!
Turn away from evil and do good.
Search for peace, and work to maintain it.
The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right;
his ears are open to their cries for help.
But the Lord turns his face against those who do evil;
he will erase their memory from the earth.
The Lord hears his people when they call to him for help.
He rescues them from all their troubles.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted;
he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.
The righteous person faces many troubles,
but the Lord comes to the rescue each time.
For the Lord protects the bones of the righteous;
not one of them is broken!
Calamity will surely destroy the wicked,
and those who hate the righteous will be punished.
But the Lord will redeem those who serve him.
No one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.
Verse 10 really stuck out, ‘Even strong young lions sometimes go hungry, but those who trust in the Lord will lack no good thing.’
I went ice skating with Amy this morning as an early birthday celebration – I’m going to be away for her actual birthday. The kids are fine, healthy and happy. Tany’s doing well, we can encourage and support each other, even when things are tough.
And while work and car issues are frustrating, difficult and costly, we’ve never been left short of what we need. Yes, we’ve been ‘hungry’ for a while, but never completely without.
Having not posted for a while, it’s time for a quick family update from the last few weeks.
Let’s start with the church weekend away where we thought about our involvement in the local community, discussed philosophy into the evening, Tany and I went for a jog together (we’ve never been able to do that before), we flew kites (see photo) and climbed through a bouncy castle obstacle course. Of course, this turned into a race and I managed to pull a hamstring, I’ve never done that before, it really hurt.
The next weekend was a trip to Southampton to celebrate my 40th birthday with family and friends.
We had a garden party at my parents’ house with a good number of family members. I’m very blessed to have all these people in my life and the group seems to be growing every year. I remember being a child and coming to these things and playing with my cousins. Now it’s our kids playing.
This was followed by a few hours at the Southwestern Arms with more friends from Above Bar Church.
All this celebrating was swiftly followed by a virus that I couldn’t shake. One moment I was fine, the next I was in bed, for days. I just recovered in time for our family holiday to Norfolk.
We did lots during the week, steam train rides, fish and chips, swimming (in the pool – this was still the UK), ice creams every day, but the best part was watching my girls playing together.
We followed a week away with a week at home. I did some DIY around the home, not as much as I’d planned, and Tany helped with Lighthouse (a local church holiday club) in the morning and worked a little in the afternoon. Amy got to officially go to Lighthouse as she starts school this year, she had a wonderful time, as did Sophie who was in the creche.
That was supposed to be it. After a busy two weeks, we were going to spend the final weekend of the holiday with Tany’s parents and go out for a quiet meal on Friday evening. Only, Tany had saved a surprise.
We got to the grandparents’ when I was given a card telling me that we were flying off to Dublin that evening. I thought something was going on, maybe a night in London, but this was more than I expected. That wasn’t the end of the surprise though.
I told Tany that my best birthday present would be an evening in a pub with friends, so we could talk, catch up on life, reminisce. So, waiting for me in Dublin was Adam and Kate, Joe and Jenny, friends for years, guys I love more than I can say, who just came to hang out for the weekend.
This wasn’t our first visit to Dublin. Tany and I (with Kate and Neil) were there 12 years ago! We’d just started dating. Clearly, we’ve hardly aged.
Last Thursday I was in London, a little under a week after three men went on their crazed attack on London Bridge and around Borough Market.
I wanted to visit the area, to pray for those who had been directly impacted by the violence, to pray for my country as we work out how to respond to yet another act of terror and also to pray for the church in this area, as these communities try to work out how to bring light into a dark situation.
Of course, on Thursday there was still a significant police cordon around Borough Market. Some roads and businesses were closed, as was Sothwark Cathedral which stands right on the edge of the market.
On the opposite side of the road from the market, just where Borough High Street turns into London Bridge, there’s a space that has been covered by flowers. Some from those who were there last Friday, but mostly from people who wanted to express their feelings of sorrow and loss.
Next to the place where the flowers have been laid, there’s a wall that supports a raised pathway. The wall has been covered with multicoloured post-it notes. Short messages of love and hope from people trying to express something of their emotions and hopes.
‘Don’t fear, don’t hate, fight back with LOVE’, says one message. ‘London will come through using love and tolerance’, says another. Yet another says, ‘From Manchester with love’, more striking with it being days since the Manchester Arena bomb attack.
The themes of love and unity come through again and again as people try to process and respond what took place.
I walked on from London Bridge, along the bank of the River Thames, and over the Millennium Bridge and up towards St Paul’s Cathedral.
The dome of the Cathedral stands out above much of London’s skyline. Some of the newer skyscrapers have taken different shapes due to the various protected views that exist to this point in the city. It’s an impressive building that has stood in its present form since 1675.
It has also meant a whole lot to London. During the Blitz, there was a team of fire wardens posted around the Cathedral to protect it in the event of a firestorm. The feeling was, as long as St Paul’s was standing, London would survive.
Across the road, on Sermon Lane, stands the National Firefighters Memorial, a reminder of how much this city suffered during those months of the second world war. Over 40,000 dead, thousands more injured and a whole nation impacted.
For me, walking past this memorial, the Cathedral and various other churches that are dotted around that part of London, put more of the previous week’s events into context.
Disasters, large and small will continue to impact this world. No matter how well policed and protected our cities become, it will not put an end to those who want to do harm and who view death as the ultimate tool to bring about their agenda. How we process these events, reflect on them and consider what death my mean matters more than ever.
I’ve never been to a hustings event before. It’s when local candidates turn up to answer questions in the run-up to an election. We had five candidates:
The event was billed as a Question Time style event, with questions coming from the audience and candidates being given the opportunity to respond.
I took as many notes as I could but was typing on my phone and couldn’t keep up with everything, but here are some highlights:
Question on funding for schools
There seemed to be some doubt as to whether the Conservatives pledge to increase funding would actually work out, especially when population increases were taken into consideration. Lib Dems and Labour were pledging a funding increase. Green Party candidate gave a good response based on first hand experience as a school governor.
Radical Party gave some interesting statistics but also pointed out that we shouldn’t be following the US systems on education, but looking to learn from Scandinavian and German systems.
Question around the issue that, for the first time in years, the UK child mortality rate has increased
Conservatives said that we are still sorting out the Labour mess and that getting us out of the deficit was the priority. Greens, Labour and Liberal candidates were all able to say from direct experience, that the current system isn’t working, Liberals mentioning that as a housing lawyer she sees the first hand effects on families as a result of these cost cutting measures.
Radical Party candidate says that we rank 22 out of 24 on equality and it’s the people that don’t have a voice that suffer most. Also pointed out that our economic crisis was not caused by our spending but by our money being gambled by traders in London and New York – yet the ones paying are those at the bottom of the tree.
Question: How can Teresa May be trusted with Policing when she’s overseen a cut of 20,000 police officers.
Conservatives are concentrating on moving Police from the kind of roles that deal with crimes like burglary, where incidents are decreasing, to surveillance and intelligence roles.
Lib Dems say that community Police are needed to build trust within communities and gain the intelligence.
Labour wanted to be judged on their values of compassion, rather than on the misquoting of figures by Diane Abbott
Greens questioned why we’d trade with Saudi Arabia where there are links to terrorists.
Radical Party said that the public wouldn’t cut the number of Police.
Question on the future of EU migrants, from one who has lived here for 36 years working in the NHS
Conservatives say that they are pushing for a reciprocal agreement for British living overseas, but this won’t happen until we start negotiations over Brexit deal.
All other parties basically said that they should guarantee the rights of those already living here and not use them as a bargaining chip in the upcoming negotiations. The Radical Party went as far as to point out that young people are a huge asset to this party, and the Green candidate noted that for many young people they have grown up as EU citizens, it’s part of their identity.
Liberals pointed out that 10% of our doctors come fro the EU.
There was a question on affordable housing
Current ‘affordable housing’ is not affordable.
There was broad recognition that more joined up thinking was needed.
How will you help refugees
Conservatives are prioritising those in Syria.
Liberals pledge 50000 over the next five years and say that we should be proud to be helping. They also want a 28 day limit on people being put in detention centres.
Labour cannot shy away from our commitment to refugees
Greens, that decency and morality are key values and we should live up to these.
Radicals, we owe a lot to previous generations of refugees and we do owe something to our government for what they do overseas. We also need to collaborate more with international groups.
Then there were closing statements:
Labour guy said that we have an important national choice. Though, he was clearly campaigning to come second.
Radicals said that all the problems stem from those that have the power, that government needs reform.
Greens pointed out that we are the world’s second biggest arms dealer and yet we can’t help refugees or support the vulnerable. Community is one of their central themes.
Conservatives are proud of what they have done for the economy and the NHS.
Liberals want to send a message that there was a vote on EU membership, not a vote on how we would leave. They are open and tolerant.
What do I think:
John Howell is a smart guy. The Conservatives clearly think that they still have to sort out the debt before they can start spending seriously on all the local programmes that we need. To be fair, I’m impressed by how calm he was given that the Conservatives were clearly not the popular party this evening.
Oliver Kavanagh gave a good performance for Labour. I was disappointed that he was so clearly fighting for second place in the local election as this is such a safe Tory seat. Even if that’s what you think, you don’t say it. He clearly cares about the local community, which is good to see.
Laura Coyle was the most passionate of the bunch. Not just in the prepared bits at the beginning and end, but also when talking about local services and the needs of the community.
Robin Bennett gave a fine performance for the Greens. They seem to have lost some of the truly mad policies of the last election campaign and have some realistic ideas for this one. I was really impressed at how well he spoke on issues of schooling and health.
Patrick Gray did well for the Radical Party, they’ve got some really good ideas and know why they are standing. It was useful to have his clear, well thought out views tonight.
Today is the day of prayer for all those involved in the media, so please give some time to praying for those that work in this industry today. If you’re short of ideas of what to pray, take a look at The Media Net website.
While you’re at it, could you also pray for those of us that work in the media teams of mission organisations? Large and small, we have the privilege of a wonderful story to tell, the story of what God is doing in this world.
Pray that we would do this job well, for the glory of God. That we would steer clear from hyperbole and exaggeration and that we would be kept safe and healthy, especially when we travel.
I have a print photograph from the same place as the digital image accompanying this post. It’s from the Newseum in Washington DC, where there’s a memorial to journalists who have been killed in the process of doing their job. My photo is from 17 or 18 years ago. There were a lot of names on the memorial then, but the thing that struck me was that there was also a lot of blank space. They expected journalists to continue dying in the course of doing their work.
This Sunday, the Media Net are asking Christians to pray for all those who work in the media. Not just journalists, but all those in the media; the sound guys, photographers, writers, producers… Honestly, I can’t think of a time when this is more needed.
We maybe don’t realise how significantly the media influences our culture. It shapes the way we see the world, not just in the stories that hit the headlines, but in the choice of storylines in EastEnders or through the images that fill the advertising space at the bus stop.
And yet, for years Christians were encouraged to avoid media jobs because, ‘they require you to work on Sunday’, or, ‘because your morals will be eroded away’. At least, those were the reasons I remember being given for why I shouldn’t pursue a media career. I think we are now seeing the result of this advice – take the Christian influence out of a community and see where it ends up.
Only our media aren’t going anywhere. TV, radio, magazines and adverts shape our culture and we need to encourage and support the Christians working in this environment to shine like a city on a hill.
But, the day of prayer for the media isn’t just about the Christians. We need to be praying for others in the industry to strive for truth and wisdom in the stories they are involved in telling.
So, what do you pray and who can you pray for?
Personally, I’m going to Tweet some people that I have contact with in the media and ask them what I can pray for them. Some are Christians, others aren’t, but it’s not bad to ask.
If you need more inspiration, the following audio clip is Hazel Southam on the Signal podcast. She’s a Christian and a journalist who works for a host of outlets. In this, she explains why this prayer is important for her. Hazel worked with me five years ago when we were involved in Biblefresh.
The video below is from the Media Net. Why not share it now on social media or use it in your service on Sunday when you encourage others to pray.
Header image by Ross Catrow from Richmond – James V. Walker, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=36930260
Yesterday was a down day. Nothing especially bad, but by the time I got to bed I was tired, feeling flat and my body hurt from various bumps and scrapes. I needed something to make me giggle again.
Quite a few years ago, I was walking through Southampton one evening listening to the radio, when I caught this radio programme, Mark Thomas: My Life in Serious Organised Crime. I remember laughing so hard that I had to go and hide in the park next to the magistrate’s court to save my embarrassment.
The scene is set when a new law comes into force, saying that individuals need to get permission from the police to demonstrate in Parliament Square (a park opposite the Palace of Westminster, London, where the UK government is based). Mark’s friend, Sian, fell foul of the new law when having a picnic in Parliament Square and the police noticed her cake with the word ‘Peace’ iced on the top. That, they said, was a demonstration.
Mark said, ‘Any law that means we can be arrested over a cake, we must play with’. The whole story is now on YouTube.
For those of you unfamiliar with London, a copy of the map showing the area this law applies to is available here.