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Monday, 28 May 2012

Rediscovering Hope

The article below is from the summer 2012 edition of WEBA news which has just been sent out to all church secretaries. It launches our New Churches Initiative focus for 2012.

Our idea of hope is often based on certain ideas about aspiration (ie getting a job, personal achievement), but is that what Jesus means by hope? By living in community where hope seems all but lost is a way of rediscovering the depth of what hope is really about. In the process we find we have to deal with our own internal anxieties and prejudices – and get healed as we do that. That’s what I see as incarnational.  Rev Mike Pears

The WEBA New Churches Initiative is part of a dream to plant 10 new churches in 10 years. Like planting seeds, this is a task which requires great care and patience. This year’s focus will be Urban Bristol, where ‘seeds’ are now growing in some of the city’s most challenging areas.

Phil and Alice Lawrence and their three daughters moved to the Knowle West estate when Phil began his six year course on the Urban Ministry track at Bristol Baptist College. They are one of several families who have followed God’s call to work and live in that area, and form a ‘community of households’ to support one another for an incarnational approach to mission. The community have intentionally taken a long term view, letting relationships and opportunities develop organically. They are encouraged to see, growth is emerging in the gaps between the ‘community of households’ and the traditional churches on the estate.
Phil Lawrence
A local GP has run more than one Alpha course at his surgery; the most recent one attracted around 50 people. A café church was set up to cater for one group who’d done the Alpha course; this group of 10 has now grown to 30. Thanks to the enthusiasm of one local couple, an idea for a mens’ breakfast in the building where Knowle West Baptist Church used to meet has turned into a hugely

popular monthly event for everyone, with a full-on, all options fry-up that goes on all morning (there’s even black pudding). Recently people have started bringing instruments along to play hymns and songs during breakfast – and the church organ is getting some exercise!

Each of these groups feeds and cross-fertilizes the others, and there are usually conversations going on just outside the doors too. Phil uses the image of water splashing, an outpouring of the Holy Spirit that splashes people who are standing nearby. The challenge is what should happen next. “At what point do people become disciples?” Phil asks. “Do we drag them into a service? What should grow, the community of households, the church services, or the breakfast?”

As co-ordinator of re:Source Bristol, Mike Pears wrestles with what constitutes church, conversion, and discipleship in these contexts. What does hope mean when no one in your family has ever worked, and there’s a suicide in your neighbourhood roughly every six weeks? He recognizes that there are levels of depression and despair most of us never encounter, and that the challenge is not to deliver the gospel but to rediscover it in the light of these circumstances. For example, he suggests, “our idea of hope is often based on  a certain idea of aspiration (ie getting a job, personal achievement), but is that what

Jesus means by hope ? We can’t know until we live in community and discover for ourselves, dealing with our own internal anxieties and prejudices. We get healed as we do that. That’s what I see as incarnational.”

This year’s gifts to the WEBA New Churches Initiative will help towards a transitional, start-up fund for urban ministry in Bristol, enabling people to take bold steps like the one Phil has taken with his family. “We’re working in areas where no church can offer transitional support” says Mike. Through the New Churches Initiative we can provide that together.
As in previous years, we would like to suggest that each church gives £200, or £75 for smaller churches. Please make cheques payable to WEBA, marking them New Churches Initiative on the back, and send them to the WEBA office.

Churches and individuals can also contact us to set up a payment by Standing Order.

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