Christianity should enjoy a worldwide boom in the new century, but the vast majority of believers will be neither white nor European, nor Euro-American.”
The importance of welcome
On the final page of this week’s Connection we feature Yvonne Attry. What we don’t say is that Yvonne’s parents came to the UK in 1957. Ezekiel and Adeline Attry were then a young married couple who came to find work. They also came as Christians and because they had been members of a local Church of Christ in Jamaica, they looked for a similar church in the UK. They found such a church near to the centre of Birmingham.
Ezekiel says, very movingly, that unlike many other West Indians of his generation, they came to the church and they stayed. They did not seek to join other churches that were being formed at that time, that consisted entirely of West Indians. They were a little unusual in that respect.
Why did they stay? Ezekiel says they were looking for a church that would give them a welcome and that is exactly what they found at Great Francis Street Church of Christ. So warm was the welcome that 73 year later, they are still serving in that church. Ezekiel has been an elder for more than 30 years.
It does not take years of training to offer new-comers a welcome. It should be part of our normal and natural response. It’s very basic but so important and all the more important when we are reaching across cultural and racial differences. For FCC that “reaching across” and providing a welcome is actually part of our very DNA. We can never be complacent in this area. Sometimes we have to work at it. But welcoming others is simply to follow the example of Jesus. It is our calling and our privilege.
Let’s continue to build community – a new table
Let’s continue to build community – a new table. The table is not a physical object sitting in some meeting room at the Town Hall. It’s not a visioning session, public hearing, or an online form. The table is out there. The table is our community.
From an article by Strong Towns
Two years ago, Charles Marohn, founder of Strong Towns, who advocate in USA and Canada for a radically new way of thinking about the way we build our world, wrote about how most public engagement is worthless. He thinks we have oriented local government vertically, to essentially be an implementation arm of government and county policy instead of servants of urgent local needs. You can think of local public engagement as peaceful pre-crowd control. How do we provide enough opportunity for feedback and engagement so that we can say that everyone was heard, but not so much that it actually refocuses our priorities from those that we hold internally?
Is this true of the UK?
‘Let’s invite people to the table’ implies ownership of the table and control of who is invited. The owners of the table, through their actions, systems, and processes – through the questions they ask and the ground on which dialogue occurs – generally decide who is invited to the table.
The table metaphor is a powerful one in Christian religious practice. An “invitation to the table” is an act of service, one with no preconditions. It’s a practice that humbly accepts people where they are and demands nothing in return for that fellowship. It is at the most famous gathering at a table that Jesus, in the Gospel of John, tells his followers, “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” He had just finished washing all of their feet, including those of the man who would hand him over to the authorities.
It’s not enough to merely send out more invitations to the existing table. If we’re prepared to truly be humble servants, if we’re ready to reorient our local governments away from the hierarchy of governments and towards the urgent needs of people within our communities, we actually have to redefine the table.
The table is not a physical object sitting in some meeting room at the Town Hall. It’s not a visioning session, public hearing, or an online form. The table is out there. It’s the streets people are struggling to walk. It’s the dangerous crossing they are forced to make daily. It’s the substandard house they occupy or the small business they are trying to start. The table is our community.
And we are called to engage with it, not in ways that are comfortable to us, but in a manner that exposes us to the urgent needs of our neighbours:
- Humbly observe where people struggle
- Identify the next smallest thing we can do to address that struggle
- Do that thing right away
It’s not the people that need to receive an invitation. It’s that the owners of the table need to recognize the invitation that’s been sent to them.
FORGE MIDLANDS WEBINAR Three: Exploring Forge Midlands – Topics and Overview.
Learn how Forge training can help you respond to Jesus in your context.
Thursday 13th August, 7.00-8.00pm via Zoom
Led by Trevor Hutton, National Director of Forge England and Wales
Hosted by Tim and Tammy Aho
Open to friends and guests. RSVP for Zoom links.
Please also note the following: Forge Midlands 2020-2021
Weekend 01: 25-27 Sep 2020
Weekend 02: 29-31 Jan 2021
Weekend 03: 23-25 April 2021
For Registration details contact Tim by replying to this email using Timothy.C.Aho@gmail.com or phoning 07939 680879.
Forge is a missional agency that trains and coaches people into the mission of God.
About Trevor see: https://nazarene.ac.uk/person/trevor-hutton/
Looking forward to hearing from you and receiving your RSVP for the webinars!
Tim and Tammy, and Trevor
Timothy C. Aho, DMin
251 Rotton Park Road, Birmingham B16 0LS
07939 680879 / 0121 213 5844
Rowheath Pavilion Church
As part of a gradual re-opening of “live” worship, the church at Rowheath has been holding worship in the park. It’s having an impact on the local community. This week, the Senior Minister, Mat Wilson shared these few words…
Yesterday at our outdoor service we had more people than the first one and it was a blessed time. I think the presence of the church is really growing here at Rowheath. We had a few prayer / comment responses and I just want to encourage you by quoting the one below.
“As someone who isn’t a Christian, being invited here today (to the outdoor service) has opened my eyes to those who believe in God. I wanted to say that whatever you believe, I support you, even if I am not thinking the same way as you!”
That and many other conversations mean that as we worship, we are welcoming others and being good witnesses. Sunday is just one part of this but what a blessing to gather together. Let’s make the most of it during this summer period.
Introducing Yvonne Attry
Continuing our series on introducing members of the National Council, this week we feature Yvonne Attry.
Having retired from full time nursing within the NHS I have been ‘drawn’ back, and occasionally work on a Nurse Bank in addition to some part time lecturing and assessing for a local college. This has enabled me to have a bit more time in my service as a Deacon at the Gt Francis St Church of Christ where I have been and am fully involved in all aspects of the Church’s life.
To help keep me ‘balanced’ I sing with a couple of choirs, love reading and needlework and of course touring with the choirs.
Till next week, Martin Robinson…