I am intrigued as to why some people find the diversity of Christian denominations a problem when they can happily accept multiple chains of supermarkets. They all have in common the sale of food and other items. Some might claim to major on quality, while others emphasise price. Some are known for the speed at check out. Some provide greater choice of products. But they are all about provisions.
Christian leadership is often associated with church-based roles. However, there are many individuals who, like me, live out their Christian faith in leadership roles beyond the stained-glass windows of our church buildings. I enjoy opportunities when I can openly combine my faith in Jesus Christ as my Saviour and my day to day work, so I jumped at the chance of delivering this year’s Germinate Lecture, Salt, Light and Feet of Clay: Celebrating the ministry of lay people.
CPO was founded over sixty years ago by three tobacco advertisers who came to faith and wanted to use their gifts to help the church do better in conveying its message to the wider world. For some the idea that good design, carefully chosen words or a campaign with a strong visual identity might have anything to do with mission is hard to compute. But Jesus told his followers to ‘go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them… and teaching them to obey everything [he] commanded’ (Matthew 28:16-20). Our world is noisy and competition for a hearing is fierce. We do the gospel a disservice if we don’t deliver it in a clear and engaging way.
Everyone thinks their community is unique – and they are right! No two rural communities are the same. The Highlands of Scotland, the west coast of Wales and the uplands of Cumbria and Teesdale are as different from the Fens, the Somerset Levels or the coast of Fife, as feta cheese is from cheddar cheese. The ingredients are similar but the look, taste and experience of the finished product are very different.
One of the perennial challenges facing rural churches is how to engage effectively with children and young people, to find ways of connecting them with the story of Jesus and the life of the worshipping community. The Benefice of Lower Swale in North Yorkshire was facing just that challenge so they decided to start small. Literally.
The creation stories in Genesis 1 and 2 are endlessly fascinating. The language of God’s creation is at once both breathtakingly beautiful, and mysterious and strange. We hear God talking, speaking thought and intention into the cosmos, which coalesces into reality. All the things we know and encounter have their origin in the breath of God, God’s creative Spirit, bringing all things into existence from nothing. And from these first things all else unfolds in the course of God’s good time, from cosmic black holes to new species of creatures on our planet. We are still discovering the miracles of God’s creation.
My wife, Pam, and I have been in North Yorkshire for around two years. It’s a challenge being priest-in-charge of nine churches; the joy has been the depth of welcome we have received not just from the churches but the community, and particularly the pubs! Two in particular have been outstanding in their welcome, grace and generosity towards us; I won’t name them, as there is a little bit of rivalry between them, and customers are loyal to the particular pub in their village!
In February 2017, ‘Whitby Men Doing their Stuff’, an article featuring SAMS Men’s Shed near Whitby, appeared in Country Way. This Men’s Shed was the first in North Yorkshire and used the old schoolroom behind Littlebeck Methodist Chapel, deep in the picturesque moors on Wainwright’s Coast to Coast walk (whitbysheds.co.uk). It was an unlikely place for a Men’s Shed; now in its fourth year, is SAMS still doing its stuff?
Teenagers. They can be elusive and mysterious, apparently living life glued to screens and electronic devices. It sometimes seems as though there’s no way to interact with them, or engage them in church life and faith.
From an early age, we teach children to make decision about their own lives, from what clothes they wish to wear to their favourite yoghurt. Fast forward a few years and from the age of thirteen young people are making life-changing decisions that affect their future. So how can we make church a place where young people can begin to exercise responsibility and leadership, and play their part in making decisions about the mission and ministry of the local church?
Rural Mission Sunday is an opportunity to celebrate the life of the rural church and the real difference rural Christians can and do make in their communities. This year we are thinking about what it means to live out our faith in everyday life and we’ve chosen three Bible passages which we think help us to reflect on three key facets of doing that:
- The story of Jesus inviting Peter and Andrew, James and John to follow him and become ‘fishers of people’ (Mark 1:16-20) reminds us that every one of us is called by Jesus.
- When we read about the early church, gathering in people’s homes and in the temple, (Acts 2:42-47), we’re challenged to think about how we might deepen our discipleship.
- Reflecting on the tale Jesus tells of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), we discover a surprising example of the power of everyday faith.