"Is there a spare Christian around?” asked Rabbi David Hulbert at the latest Three Faiths Forum event, held at an Orthodox Synagogue in Ilford.
It was one of their 'Scriptural Reasoning' evenings which they do every now and then, where the attendees are asked to gather in groups of 7-10 to talk about three texts from the three gathered faiths (Judaism, Islam and
Christianity), and in my group we needed one more Christian to
come over and join us.
It was a great evening, with deep, curious, respectful, challenging conversations around Who is God and How our faith must show in our ethics, our behaviour towards others.
We also got a tour of the beautiful, very recently built synagogue, with
more conversation about prayer spaces and times.
The equally long-and-grey-bearded orthodox Rabbi and the Imam who works for Scotland Yard in counter-terrorism exchanged thoughts about facing east for prayer, about what else we can do for peaceful community living, and then invitations.
In case you’re intrigued, these meetings are open to anybody! Do come and join next time!
“Is there a spare Christian around?” – It’s such a great question!
In our secular society where not many people care about God and discovering His great works in this world; where God is put on the back burner (if at all), or kept imprisoned in family history (“my grandfather was a chorister…”); where people sometimes don’t know who to talk to when they’d actually like someone to pray for them or to tell them about the Christian faith.
Let’s make sure we are noticeable Christians, and that there will always be “spare” ones around when needed!
Come and join us for training to become better capable of using our skills where we are, on our 'frontline'.
So this year, we take this challenge ON, in Lent, learning about whole-life discipleship, instead of giving something UP.
Anyone want a spare copy of the booklet?
A happy new newsletter to you! Ah, and a happy new year 2020! I am wishing you much love, grace, joy in our Lord, courage for the future and an open heart for all that God may hold for you this
Stay connected in prayer to the One who stilled the storm, and trust Him to lead you through unfamiliar terrain.
For some of us, this year will be quite decisive. For some of us it may seem to be much the same. For some of us this year continues to be the walk into the unknown which already started last year.
For some of us there is great promise. For some there is dread, and fear of loss. I pray that for some of us there will be excitement in how our God may want to use us for His purposes this year – despite or even because of our shortcomings.
Let us reach out in prayer to the One who appointed even Peter!
On February 14th there is an annual commercial event which we as Christians have the freedom to ignore (ditch the “coupleterror”, the card/ restaurant/ red flowers etc).
But we also have the option of using it as a reminder of the importance of LOVE. Love that we need like daily bread to be happy. Love like a seed that God planted into our lives and that yearns to be cultivated and practiced and pampered, because only then it brings forth joy and all the other good
things in life: friendship, happiness, the ability to ask for forgiveness and the grace to forgive.
Why not make that day an effort to tell those whom who love that you really do love them, and have a celebration! Invite them for coffee! Have a pizza delivery, decorate your table!
We know LOVE has many faces and kinds: let’s include especially someone who may feel unloved and who possibly is difficult to love, because they make it difficult for others to love them - maybe we can do on that day what we are supposed to do every day anyway: try and see them with our Lord’s loving eyes.
Be mindful of the widowed grandmother, the divorced friend and others who live on their own, or of those who are caught in a cycle of poor decisions.
Be thankful in all circumstances. 1 Thessalonians 5:18.
Valentine’s Day can be a good reminder of how we have been loved and who has loved us. Let your parents and grandparents know that you are grateful to have them as examples of how to love your own children and spouse.
Call your friends to tell them how much you appreciate the love you’ve shared through laughter, shopping sprees, Harry Potter marathons, and sleepovers.
A faithful source of love is precious, and whether it is familial, platonic, or romantic, it has the capacity to inspire, encourage, and heal.
Too often, we ignore the opportunity to share Christ’s love through the simplest actions. Our faith sends us into the world to love unconditionally, but if we are not exhibiting that love, how are we going to make disciples in His name?
John the baptist was sent preaching “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” (Mk 1,4)
People came, listened, were very sorry for their wrong decisions in life (they “repented their sins”), were baptised in the river Jordan and got themselves ready for the coming of the Messiah.
Have we sinned? – Silly question, of course we have! No-one is without sin. We’re made perfectly imperfect; all human.
But are we through the love of Jesus not made good again, loved, forgiven? – Of course we are!
So then, what’s the point? If we’re sinners and made good again at the same time, what’s the point in trying better? What’s the point in striving? What’s the true point of Advent, Christmas? Of any religious quest? Of our church’s existence? Ah, now we’re talking!
We’re here because He is here. Because He called us to be part of His work of Love, helping it to spread out into more hearts.
We’re here because we heard His voice, in the desert of our lives, in the lonely places of our hearts, in the desert of our congregations’ routines: “Repent your sins, and they will be forgiven!”
We’re here because we’ve seen this happening in our lives and in other people’s lives: love, hope and light growing on the compost of contrition and the vow to change; the decision to put our trust in God alone, and to submit to this adventure!
We’re here because we heard those words spoken to us: “Come, follow me!” And “I will make you fishers of people” (Mt 4;19), and so here we are, Walking the Way with Jesus today.
So, that’s the point: We’ve got a calling. We are found capable of preparing God’s way into the hearts of our communities.
So let’s prepare ourselves first before we go out to others: With our Advent Study course, with daily prayer and Bible-reading at home, with listening out to God’s voice in all this.
And in this new Church Year which begins on the first Sunday in Advent, let us devote ourselves anew to the (re)learning of five more Holy Habits: Making Disciples, Worship, Breaking Bread, Serving and Fellowship.
We are on a good and blessed journey, and we are already seeing people and places changed.
Make Way for the Lord!
Wishing you a blessed time of practice. And a Happy New Church Year!
Yours in Christ,
As the news comes in that Parliament was unlawfully prorogued, I hear a great big thunder from above – a commentary from heaven on the unbelievable drama we’re being part of since Brexit all started?
There is one good thing that came with the last months in this nation: people seem to have become more political. Demonstrating on the streets, signing petitions online. Maybe we have come to learn that democracy lives from participation, otherwise it’s meaningless; maybe we have come to learn that we have to put effort into creating the world we want it to be(come).
And there is more: Greta Thunberg delivered a strong speech at the United Nation’s Climate Summit, challenging the world leaders in their approach to the crisis of our planet. A determined prophetess, set on her course, not to be distracted, focusing on nothing less but saving the earth for future generations.
She managed to mobilise millions of young students and adults world wide to demand change. Again, teaching us that we need to put personal effort into and fight for the world we want it to be(come).
With these signposts for more political and environmental action we go into the season of autumn, and into the second half of our Holy Habit “Sharing Resources”.
We are called to find ways of joining our voices and our actions to be salt and light within our communities. We need to take an active part for the sake of God’s creation, and for the sake of God in creation (“see the lilies of the field…” Mt 7,28f.), for the sake of finding (again) an agreeable way of living together in this nation as well as with our next-door, over-channel and over-seas neighbours.
A song-line comes to my mind:
“Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me”.
I’d like to add:
“Let there be respect for mother-nature on earth, and let it begin with me.”
“Let there be fair discourse on the earth, and let it begin with me.”
Have a blessed October.
Yours in Christ,
(Photo taken at the Extinction Rebellion Friday student protest in September at Walthamstow Market).
Welcome back after the summer break – and a good start to all of those who are moving on for new exciting life adventures, like going to university, going to a new school or starting a new chapter work-wise or in any other way.
Leaving old and known things, places and people behind and starting something new is very exciting, but can be quite daunting, too.
Also, actually, for those who stay behind.
How is this new time in my life going to pan out? How are things going to be like? Will I cope, will I like it?
“One more step along the world I go…” – and we with them! Starting something new reminds us that life is all about development, transformation, even if we ourselves stay behind and go back to our routines and well-trodden paths.
“Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.” (Psalm 86,11)
Learning is at the heart of the Bible; at the heart of Judaism and at the heart of the Jesus movement.
Learning God’s ways – whatever that may be, in any given situation. Knowing ourselves as Learners (=”Disciples”).
And so, we will continue on our journey together, practicing “Holy Habits” alongside the early Christians – and hundreds of fellow Christians (mainly in UK) who have embarked on the same journey with their churches.
The coming two months we will face the first disciples’ practice of “Sharing Resources” – which may raise some interesting questions for ourselves and our communal living.
We will then have a little break in November, reflecting on the Habits we’ve learned and practiced so far, and will live the Advent and Christmas season for what it is.
In January we will start our second year with Holy Habits, beginning with the habit of “Making new
disciples”, followed by “Worship”, “Breaking bread”, “Serving” and, last but not least, “Fellowship”.
“Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.” (Psalm 86,11)
Yours in Christ,
We are a welcoming, inclusive community, following God in Jesus, learning about God and caring for Creation, growing in faith and joy.
We aim to be witnesses to the love of God and the teachings of Jesus Christ, by supporting people within and beyond our community.
Does this ring true to you for our Forest Group churches?
This Vision Statement evolved as a result of our joint Elders Day on 15 June, where the holy number of 12 of us met for 3 hours to work together on the questions:
Our conversations were very engaged. There was a buzz in the air, when Elders exchanged in pairs on the question: How does your church feed you spiritually? And then: What would you like your
church community to be known for? If you asked random people on the streets: what would you hope they would say about your church?
As you are reading this now: How would you answer these questions? We’d love to know! Why not share your thoughts at your next church meeting?
The Elders answered: “Church is like extended family (support in difficult times, advice, caring community, witnesses around you); a place of learning to follow God in Jesus, intellectually challenging; growing in faith, practicing Holy Habits”.
And wanting to be known as: “A place that offers a different perspective: quirky; open to
everybody. Non-judgemental; people who make a difference because of their faith: active in community, caring for people (social) and environment; happy place full of joy; a place where you learn about God and can grow in faith; a place where you can help make a difference/ get involved (in wider community, wider world, environment).”
All this we wove together into the above Vision Statement.
We then wondered: What needs to happen to make that true?
A lot of our answers reflected the fact that we need to turn our attention outside: outside our buildings (use spaces outside our buildings and go out into the community), be better visible and
audible (become braver speaking about our faith); better advertising (become more public about what we believe); show and celebrate inclusiveness and diversity (eg in the films we choose for film
nights, or in linking up with other organisations for bigger events).
But also inside: more focus on our “core business” (Bible and prayer).
Small steps we can all take already today for making this come true were identified: Speak out about your faith. And/ or join a new (nonchurch) group and identify yourself to these new people as Christian (talk about your faith and church).
Bigger, more innovative steps had not really emerged, but may still come. We will keep thinking, praying and sharing, and have our eyes, ears, senses open to God’s lead.
We are on the way! Walking the Way with Jesus more jointly, more intentionally, more sharing in Spirit and resources.
Yours in faith, love – and hope,
PS: If you want to get involved more practically in our joint Forest “Mission Action” group, please contact me.
Our God, the God of Abraham and Sarah, of Ruth and Jonah gives stability over the ages, continuity and peace, and equally calls us out to follow him into unknown land.
The one who continually re-creates the world every morning calls us out to leave our fisher nets behind and go, trusting that our lives and the lives of others will be richer for it.
I can see God at work in our Forest Group, encouraging us to trust Him and His ways for us.
At Woodford church we are exploring the possibility of joining up with the East London and Essex Liberal Synagogue (currently in South Woodford), with whom we might embark on the journey of a joint future in using the building both as Synagogue and as Church, and possibly also becoming the new home for the London Interfaith Centre, which currently is in NW London, but due to close next summer.
This would be a very exciting new beginning and a great sign for the local (and farther) community, that God is One, but can be worshipped in different ways. That religions can work together and be friends, and that we can learn from each other about our God.
Please hold us all in your prayer as we continue our conversations both with Synagogue and Synod.
I can see God at work at St James, with Gerald and Mariana breathing new wind into church and congregation; their faith and humour refreshing our gatherings and inspiring us to think wider.
And in Chingford I see God at work in church members taking on more of what used to be the church secretary’s responsibilities, enabling the church to share and work more as a team.
“See, I am making all things new.” (Rev 21,5)
And in the church’s decision to re-organise their lettings system; in asking something new to develop and embracing that.
At our Joint FG Elders Day coming up on 15 June we will be looking to discern a vision for our churches, for our Group. This will carry us into the future that God holds for us, help us focus and guide our actions.
Where do you see God at work in our communities? Do look out for it, and share with us!
With love and blessing,
Why go along with Holy Week? Why would it be really good to follow Jesus into the chaos and pain of his last days on earth? Why would we do that?
It’s not “fun” (or is it? Palm Sunday might still be okay; some churches use a donkey!). It would be a lot nicer to just leave that whole week out and skip over to eggs and Easter.
Problem though is that the bit before Easter is actually pretty fundamental to followers of Jesus.
Without at least scratching on the deep emotions and experiences of desolation that Jesus (and his disciples) must have gone through, our Easter joy will not be too profound. And if our Easter joy is not too profound, maybe that’s a sign that our faith might not be too deep either.
So maybe it would be a good idea to go along with what the churches offer, and see if some of it touches our heart and connects us to our real-time life experiences here? Which in turn would bring God a lot closer to our senses and make him/ her somewhat more real.
Palm Sunday has a great deal to do with the psychology of masses, with their wish to idolise but then to turn around and claim the opposite, if influenced that way. Where are we in that crowd?
Maundy Thursday is the Quiet Day at St James' – a good opportunity to take time out and reflect, whilst being safe from having to talk… And the joint evening service at Chingford Methodist Church, where Jesus’ Last Supper will be remembered, where some disciples will share their thoughts and memories in meditations and where some feet (or hands) may be washed. Can we allow ourselves to be served that way?
Some churches have a wake through the night into Good Friday, they watch and pray with Jesus and the disciples (who, of course, nodded off…). If you can find a church that follows this ancient tradition – this would be a very deep experience of a different kind, lonely, probably, and yet connected.
Maybe see if you can find someone who has ever done this sort of prayer.
And Good Friday: quiet and probably evocative morning meditations in our churches, followed by the walk of witness in Chingford, this year on the road, carrying the cross publicly, handing our Easter eggs with little Easter greeting notes to people in shops and streets. Then a short act of worship on Chingford Green.
How does it feel like to show up to this and publicly be associated with that Jesus of Nazareth?
The Saturday can feel quite empty after all this. It’s time of waiting. Time in limbo. Hushed Easter preparations, getting everything ready for the big day.
Whoever can, do go and find a church which celebrates the Easter Vigil: A worship often starting at 3am in darkness, Easter fire in front of the church.
It is such an experience: in the liturgy being carried through from the creation of the earth (darkness) to the making of humans and the first sin (apple, disobedience) through the history of Israel and her prophets to the birth of Jesus, then his death and finally, with the arrival of the Easter light from the outdoors fire, the spreading of light to all candles, and an immense awe and joy goes round.
The victory of life over death, of light over darkness, of love over hatred is thoroughly celebrated, sung, admired, proclaimed. Then Eucharist and breakfast.
Our reformed Easter Sunday is a bit of a slimmed version of this. We do it in a non-conformist-way, the other way around: breakfast, Communion, worship.
What matters is the joy. What matters is the deep laughter, the relieved giggle that life has triumphed over death.
This is soul food, our core; Jesus lives, God loves his world, and we have experienced it! We are experiencing it, it flows on from us to others.
I really hope and pray you go to worship this Holy Week – if not here, then wherever you are.
Yours, in Christ,
It’s not the end of the world, only of the world as we know it. Who knows what will be?
Most of us have resigned, given up even following the news. Who can bear listening to any more of this painful, self-inflicted topic, when so much else in the world and indeed in our country here lies
School pupils, following the astonishing example of a 16-year-old Swedish girl which caused a huge wave of imitation around the world, remind us these days of the fact that climate change ought to be our number one topic. That looking after the earth and changing the ways in which we consume, travel, produce energy and trade ought to be on the top of our list of concerns.
For the pure aim of preserving our amazing planet and its inhabitants of all kinds. Aren’t you, too, astonished, relieved and indeed concerned that these young people stop their lives (skip school), raise their voices (“this is much more important than anything else!”) and encourage us to join the
discussion? What can we do? What can WE do?
Did you know that according to Greenpeace in their press release 5th November 2018, “UK top supermarkets flood Britain with 59 billion pieces of plastic packaging every year? Over 2,000 items for every household in the country. Despite their huge plastic footprint, half of the supermarkets surveyed have no specific targets to reduce plastic packaging (...)”.
It seems appropriate that with all this we are going into the time of Lent. Of fasting, deliberately going without, of sharpening our awareness, reflecting upon the reality of dark and light powers in our life, in our country, and, in anticipation of the feast of Resurrection at Easter, concentrating on the force of Light and Good, God’s power, active here and now, though mostly unseen, overlooked, unnoticed –
the bad has a stronger press.
So come to our Lent Study Groups, let us join together in the power of the Lord, in seeking out His guidance for our lives us in the Bible, in praying together.
Indeed, our next Holy Habit is “Prayer”, and how much we need to pray these days!
With Faith, Hope and Love to you all,
Our first Holy Habit of Eating Together and our conversations in groups and at church bring up a lot of memories of meals shared.
One of the most special meals that I have been invited to was in Israel: my flatmate invited me to her family meal for Passover, to her grandparents’ house, who were survivors of the Shoah. I felt very nervous beforehand, and they must have felt so too, inviting a descendant of Nazi Germany into their home for their most holy meal.
When I arrived, they were very friendly, though all of us quite unsure. There was the heavy weight of history, a lot of unspoken questions and stories untold, and the holiness of the interfaith occasion: I had never been invited to a Pesach Seder (Passover meal), the meal that Jesus shared with his friends on the last day of his life.
I will never forget this. How they were so very welcoming. How the old tradition (the special set Passover liturgy, the order) of the meal took me in as well and, by sharing the old words and songs of the Jewish people, by sharing the special foods that go with each reading and the special cups of wine that go with each section, how this meal made me, a German and Christian guest, part of them.
t made me part of their story, and my story part of theirs. By inviting me and sharing this meal, we were able to grow together for this time, grow over and across the horrors of history and be together in God-time.
The meal laid the ground for what happened then: the grandfather started talking. About his time in Auschwitz. And how he managed to escape over the fence. How, by escaping, he had to leave his wife and children behind, knowing that they would be murdered. How he joined the partisans in the woods. How after the war he made to Switzerland, and how he there met his wife of now, got married to make sure life continued, and went to Israel.
Everybody was listening, spellbound. You could have heard a needle drop. Every now and then his wife, who was busying herself in the kitchen, came around wanting him to stop talking. But he wouldn’t. He wanted me to hear.
Later, my friend told me how rarely grandpa spoke about the past, and that her parents have never been allowed to hear these stories. I knew that in most survivors’ families, the children are left in the dark; only the grandchildren are allowed to ask questions.
Without the meal, this time of precious sharing of stories, of truth, of naked memories would not have been possible.
Without the bravery of my friend’s grandparents, deciding to open their home for me, none of this would have happened.
This was big, God-filled time. But even in the small, amazing contact can happen. Even in the small, over a cup of tea, offered in one of our homes to someone who has not been there before, God-filled time can happen. Stories can be told, hearts can feel a little bit happier, less alone, more encouraged.
This is good. Together we can do this!”
If they were able to open their home to me, how much more should we be able to open our homes to someone we know and who is not even an enemy. Have a cup of tea, maybe some nibbles can be found, and if not, it does not matter.
May God bless us in this time of practicing the holy habit of Eating Together.
Yours, in Christ