“Believing that they were one in Christ encouraged those early believers to find relational common ground in their faith communities. As we reclaim this belief in oneness, we will rediscover an experience akin to the early Christian congregations.
Curtiss Paul DeYoung and others, in United by Faith
The Faith Dividend
The World Service of the BBC recently reported on a remarkable project in the city of Philadelphia, USA. The project is called P.A.R which stands for People Advancing Re-integration. Not a very snappy name but an amazing enterprise.
George and Mimi Lindberg are a Christian couple who began this charity and the idea is to help prisoners to re-integrate into society after their prison term has ended. The Lindborgs became aware that Philadelphia had one of the highest rates of imprisonment in their wider state and that most prisoners tended to re-offend.
PAR runs a project that takes unused or outdated electrical equipment such as computers and strips out the components, recycling some elements and selling the rest as scrap. Prisoners come onto the project, earn a wage, develop some skills but more importantly gain dignity, build relationships and experience love and acceptance.
The BBC interviewed prisoners who were part of PAR and they spoke movingly of how the fact that they were valued and given dignity and love turned their lives around.
The State authorities also have employment programmes that are designed to offer employment and develop skills. The re-offending rate in the State programmes is 67%. The re-offending rate in PAR is 5%. You could call that the faith dividend. It is the difference that love makes. We need more George and Mimi’s in our world. We need more Christian love with practical outcomes in our societies.
Faith in London
Bible Society has a research organisation called Theos and the Times newspaper recently reported on some of their work under to headline, “Sin City? Pious London is actually the capital of conservatism”. By conservatism they meant conservative in terms of social attitudes and moral convictions.
This headline and the research that it refers to, reflects a massive shift that has taken place in London over recent years. 62% of Londoners identify as “religious”, and 25% attend a religious service at least once a month as compared with 10% in the rest of the country.
One of the factors that lies behind this significant shift is the influx of migrants from other parts of the world who arrive, either as committed Christians, or become Christians shortly after arriving in the UK. 48% of Londoners who identified as religious were from black and ethnic minority backgrounds (BAME).
We can be glad to receive these extra “missionaries” in our land. It is a great help. However, it is not just reinforcements from other lands that tell the whole story. There are many growing churches that are reaching out successfully to white indigenous young people. Some of these churches are well known, such as Holy Trinity Brompton (HTB) and Hillsong, but there are many other churches that are not so well known who are also having a huge impact. Perhaps more importantly, many of these churches are just full of young people from many ethnic backgrounds. These inter-cultural expressions of church look like being the new future.
Perhaps even more important, there are some signs that the trends that have begun in London are spreading to other parts of our land. Our larger cities are on a similar journey and so too are our larger towns. I hope we can carry more reports on what God is doing in different parts of our land.
Life in Lockdown for a Campus Ministry
The Canvas Ministry Team are part of a global ministry known as Globalscope. It is an initiative originating from Christian Missionary Fellowship (CMF). Canvas Birmingham and Canvas Nottingham are part of the FCC family.
It was good to talk with Tom Gallant, team leader at Canvas in Birmingham, this week in the wide-open spaces of Rowheath. What does it look like for a campus ministry such as Canvas in Birmingham to function during lockdown? Much of the ministry is oriented around hospitality creating a home-away-from-home for students, as well as invitations to events such as Bible Study and Alpha courses. Obviously, that cannot operate in the same way during lockdown.
However, that has not brought the ministry to a standstill, it has just meant a different style of operation – mainly using media such as Zoom for connecting. During normal times Canvas works with a group of 60 to 80 students, many of whom could be thought of as “guests”, checking out what’s on offer. During the lockdown that has changed. The number of students in regular contact has halved and tends to feature those who might be thought of as more of a group of core students with a greater degree of commitment to the Canvas community and to exploring faith.
So, the new style has brought with it an opportunity for deeper relationships. It’s a different feel but it may bring with it a more solid foundation, possibly leading to a new opportunity to expand and outreach in the coming months.”
Introducing Marion Kenyon
As our regular readers will be aware, we have been featuring members of the Strategic Board each week for a number of weeks. This week it’s the turn of Marion Kenyon. This is what she has to say about herself:
“In my day-to-day life I am the Chief Executive of a charity based in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire called NewStarts. We are a poverty and homelessness prevention charity, passionate about supporting individuals and families to become who God created them to be. Outside of that I am a member of BURN 247 Birmingham, praying and prophesying over the city, Chair of the Frankley Carnival, a Parish Councillor on the New Frankley in Birmingham Parish Council and an FCC ordained minister. I am married to the most patient husband called Roger and together we have many adventures. I love gardening, reading, painting and am a reasonably good leather smith. Lastly, but by no means least, I am a passionate follower of Christ and love the fact that FCC is a place where different traditions can feel at home”.
Till next week, Martin Robinson….