LONGINGS, HOPES AND DREAMS

LONGINGS-HOPES-DREAMSHi everyone. Here is another epistle just bringing you up to date with a few things and sharing some items for prayer.

SABITI

Our brother Sabiti is moving back home having completed his Masters at Bath University. His family live in a refugee camp and his father is very ill needing treatment. I would love to give him a gift from us all to help him and his family and to bless him on his return home. He is staying with Chris this week before flying off next week. We will pray for him this Sunday and hear more before he leaves.

HELPING OUT on Sundays

We really need help on Sundays in a few areas and I wonder if you could think about whether you could help:
• CRECHE – helping occupy the youngest children during the talk to help parents
• HOSPITALITY – welcoming people and making sure everyone is looked after
• RECORDING THE TALKS – help needed each week to record the talks
• PROJECTOR – making sure the songs come up on the screen

None of these things are massive in themselves but they help enormously! Please, please think about offering.

MONEY - RESOURCING THE MISSION

In the last email I wrote, “Everything we do costs something, even if it’s only time. At the beginning of this term can I ask you to reconsider your GIVING to the church’s mission. We have a calling from God to serve, to connect and to bless the families of Twerton – people of all ages - and we need finances to fulfil this task. If you are already make a monthly gift to the church please consider increasing your donation. If you don’t make regular gifts, how about firming that up an making that a regular commitment. If you have never given much before consider giving a proportion of your income to support the mission. A helpful and biblical guideline for giving is the ‘tithe’ – a 10% contribution. Ask God about it all and he will direct you as to what would be a good way to respond to the needs of the church.”

I don’t want you to miss this! Alan told the PCC this week that we are down about £400 per month this year. On average it costs £10 per person per week to do the things we are currently doing and we know we want to do more! Giving is an act of worship.

GOD’s BUILDING – PCC UPDATE

Having heard back from our Architect about the state of the structure of the building, we have arrived at a critical moment in our journey together. We can no longer just patch an aging structure and need to find significant resources to update and upgrade the structure, inside and out. The size of this task is so massive that it is forcing us to ask big questions about the purpose and use of the building and to seek God about his vision for its future. We have been offered help from the Diocese to undertake a fundamental review of the building and will need to develop a comprehensive plan and vision together for the way forward.

I can’t overstate how significant this is for us all. However, despite the size of the task and issues, I am very hopeful that God will use this ‘crisis’ for his glory and to see many more people enter his kingdom. This is not the end of St Michael’s but a new beginning!

However, we all need to be involved and we all need to PRAY! This is a massive task for us and we need to be united in prayer and in vision if we are to get through it!

I will say more about it all NEXT SUNDAY – ST MICHAEL’s DAY – 29th SEPTEMBER

CHURCH WEEKEND – CONFIRM YOU ARE COMING NOW

As in previous years we have booked ASCENSION church for a weekend of teaching, worship and ministry. A team of us are working hard to make sure that it will be the best one yet. We are delighted that TIM BUCKLEY will be speaking on the theme of going DEEPER with God and that there will be a full Children’s programme to help them deepen their own relationship with God too alongside the adult programme. The date to block out in your diary is OCTOBER 12th and 13th. A full programme will be coming shortly but book out the whole weekend as we want to be able to relax and enjoy time together in the evening as well as during the daytime.

ROSE COTTAGE / REC HOUSE / LIFE365

The visions are taking root and they are growing! It’s a new term for our key projects too and so do pray for Barrie, Ruth, Mark and Luke as they continue to develop the work and make connections with people. Pray too for the funding of these projects, giving thanks for what has already been gifted to us. So much has been achieved so far, but there is so much to continue to do.

WELCOMING STUDENTS

Although the number of students living in Twerton is on the rise we have yet to see many take root in our church family... Perhaps this year things may change. Do look out for new Students as the arrive and welcome them into our home. It’s so key that they get included into a church family quickly before they drift with everything else that goes on for them in the first few weeks of term…

HOPE AND A FUTURE

I am full of hope looking forward. God is moving among us and through us. Let us recommit ourselves to him as we begin this new term together. To him be glory forever.


DNA - A NEW DISCIPLESHIP GROUP

DNAgroupTory and I are starting up a new group from the 6th June that meets every fortnight and we are calling it a DNA group – discipleship, nurture and accountability. The idea is that it will be quite an intentional group where we really try to help each other follow through on our desire to be disciples of Jesus. I am excited about it and although it will be quite strong commitment-wise I think that this will be why it will make so much difference to us all. The focus will be on us setting our own goals and working towards them together. To be part of the group I am also going to be encouraging everyone to be in a formation group of two or three alongside the larger fortnightly group meeting. I’ll explain more on the 6th.

We are going to launch it all on the 6th June with a supper at 7.30 at our house and the group will run up to Christmas – enough time for us to really get some patterns fixed in our lives...

How about it? It will be challenging... but it will be fab! I’d love you to be part of it...

I made a leaflet about it all and this is what I put on the back of it:

As we know, our real LIFE comes from Christ, from Jesus. We are constantly being drawn into a deeper relationship and dependence on him for everything. This is the journey of discipleship and worship that we are on and we want to make sure that we shape our community life around this goal. To this end we are starting a new small group for those who really want to start or re-establish a dynamic and disciplined way of life that will last.

Called DNA, the group will meet to help each other build a firm foundation for the rest of our lives and will be focused on discipleship, nurture and accountability. As we will be looking together at how to establish a 'way of life' to be part of the DNA group you will also be encouraged to be part of a FORMATION group as a vital part of your discipleship. Meeting fortnightly, rather than weekly you are also encouraged to block the dates out in your diary right from the start. as commitment to the group will be important. As we journey together for a period of six months (up to Christmas) we will work hard at developing our characters, knowledge and giftings as followers of Christ.

You may have been to Alpha or Cafe Theology, you may be new to church life or an old stager, but it's about really moving on and getting a new pattern for your life established and rooted in.


PAUSE / STOP / PLAY

pausestopplaysquareThe Easter holiday is almost upon us and I'm sure that everyone is looking forward to the break. At the centre of it all lies this incredible story about a man's last few hours and the days following his death. It's the pivot point of history, the tipping point of creation, and together as a church family we work hard to let the story have its way on us. We make time for this by gathering on three occasions over three days. Thursday night (PAUSE), Friday afternoon (STOP), and Sunday morning (PLAY). Join us as we walk through it all with the aim of letting it shape our lives, resource us with hope, and equip us for mission.


40 DAYS FOR LIVING

lent40LENT is an amazing world-wide phenomenon. Millions of ordinary people around the world will be using these 40 days to review and renew their
spiritual life in Christ and as a local church we will be joining in with it all and trying to make it our own. There are so many different ways of making the most of LENT and every generation has developed its own traditions but while this means that there are hundreds of ways to make it purposeful for us all it can also seem overwhelming. So we are trying to keep things simple. We start it all off with a powerful service on ASH WEDNESDAY and we will be travelling together right up to GOOD FRIDAY and then through to EASTER DAY. Join us as we journey together reconnecting with the most amazing story of God's love for our world.

One way you might find helpful is to reflect on your life by asking yourself four simple questions:

  • How is your worship?
  • How is your discipleship?
  • How are your relationships with others?
  • How are you involved in God’s mission?

Worship, discipleship, community and mission are the four markers of all disciples and all churches. They are an expansion of the two commands to love God and love our neighbour. Worship and Discipleship are our ways of loving God. Community and Mission are our ways of loving others. Why not use these four simple questions to review your life over the next forty days of LENT?

To help you in this I have produced a little booklet which you can download and print off...

Seven LENT BOOKLET


CAFE THEOLOGY

cafetheologycupI just wanted to draw your attention to Cafe Theology which will be starting next Wednesday evening (23rd January) 7.30pm and running for 6 weeks in Rose Cottage. Cafe Theology is a chance to come and discuss and find out a bit more about some of the fundamental truths of the Christian faith in a really informal relaxed way over coffee. Each week someone different will come and lead a discussion leaving plenty of space for questioning, challenging, developing your own understanding and thinking. We will cover topics starting with Creation and the Fall and then Jesus, Atonement, Resurrection, the Trinity and Heaven/End Times. If you struggle to make sense of any of these things then this could be the place for you to find out more

The dates are: 23rd, 30th January, 6th, 20th, 27th February and 6th March. On 13th Feb (which is half-term week) we will convene in a pub and catch up over a pint!

We can take a maximum of 15 people and it’d be great if you could commit to coming to all the sessions.


New Year Baptism

baptismsquareWhat better time to be baptised than at New Year!  We are so excited about the baptism service coming up this Sunday afternoon. Baptism is all about new life.  God's grace has reached down to us and we are all invited to starting afresh in Christ.  Marking ourselves out as his disciples, receiving his forgiveness, love and life, and being equipped by his Spirit, we baptise adults by full immersion.  It's dramatic and powerful.  Everyone is welcome so don't miss out on this exciting service right at the start of the year.


New Year Prayer Weekend

prayerweekend

As we head towards Christmas and then the start of another year we are starting 2013 with a weekend dedicated to prayer. There will be a number of led and ‘together’ times as well as space for people to pray on their own or in groups (Why not come as a formation group for a slot). All activities will take place in the Rec House which will be set up with prayer stations and resources to guide praying. If you are unable to get down to the Rec House across the weekend we will be providing some foci for people to use to pray and of course listen at home.

It is a chance to get ourselves focussed at the start of a new year and hear what God has to say as well as a chance to pray for our communities, the Church, our neighbours and families.

Here is a rough outline for the weekend:


St Michael’s Church Prayer Weekend – 4th-6th January
The Rec House

Fri 4th January
7.30pm – An extended time of Worship, Prayer and Prophecy

Sat 5th January
8.30am – A led Reflection
9am-2pm – Prayer Stations (drop in for as long or as little as you feel able)
2pm-4pm – Creative Prayer for Families
4pm-7pm – Prayer Stations (drop in for as long or as little as you feel able)
7.30pm – Dwell (reflective/contemplative prayer time)

Sun 6th January
9am – Morning prayers (in the church)
10am-2pm - Prayer Stations (drop in for as long or as little as you feel able)
2pm – Prayer for Baptism Service
4pm – Sunday Live (in the church) – Baptism


Staying in the vine

‘Staying in the Vine’ is a course based on John 15 for those wishing to deepen their relationship with God. It explores the classic spiritual disciplines applied to everyday life in a practical and engaging way, and offers an opportunity to draw aside and to explore ways of deepening our union with God. (Some of you may have experienced a taste of this at the Dwell services at St Michael’s...) When we meet together we aim to create a safe place to come and rest, share and learn from the scriptures, one another and from those who have gone before and left their testimonies for us to learn from and practice.

Each session includes a time of worship, meditations and scripture readings with practical sessions, lots of sharing and some fun assignments.

Jim and I are really looking forward to sharing the course with you and passing on some of the tools we have found life changing, so please do let us know if you are interested in taking part.

The course is running at the Rec House in Twerton on Thursday 7.30-10pm on the following dates: September 20th, 27th, October 4th, 11th, 18th, and 25th, with the retreat day (at a special location!) on Saturday 27th of October. There will be a small cost to contribute towards materials and the retreat day, but if this is likely to be a constraint please do talk to myself or to Richard and we will sort something out.

Staying in the Vine does require commitment and there are assignments to do in between sessions so bare this in mind when planning your diary. It is really key that you commit to all the sessions, both for you individually and also for the dynamic of the group.

We look forward to journeying with you,
Anna


The Cause

The core question lying behind so much of what church leaders from right across the West find themselves talking about is what ‘Church’ means.  We are fixated with questions about what shape it should have, what organisational structure, what core values or what direction it should take.  That’s why we read so many books on emerging church, deep church, liquid church, cell church, café church, messy church, healthy church, simple church, organic church, purpose-driven church, seeker-friendly church, vertical church or provocative church.  We are desperate to find the answer to the question, “What kind of church is best?” And the reason we are asking this question again and again is that we somehow know, deep in our bones, that something is wrong in the way are currently ‘doing’ church.  Whichever tradition we are coming from, whichever stream, whichever background, all of us seem to be asking the same thing.  Is this it?  Is this really all there is to it?  Is this really ‘authentic church life’?

For most of us the answer is so obvious we have given up even asking it.  We knew years ago that the way we were doing church was done for, that it was on the way out, that it was dead, and so we joined in with others asking the same questions, prompted by the same uneasiness and dissatisfaction looking for a new way to do things, organise things, structure things.  Out of this came all kinds of experiments and movements and services and expressions - all initiated by radicals who were willing to try a new thing even if this meant that they had to leave the established form of church behind.  Others, no less frustrated or determined, chose to remain within the larger established structures but instead began to conspire with other subversives about how to change things from the inside.  Others, many others, just gave up trying and left.

However, no matter which direction we have taken, whether we have stayed behind or jumped ship, it seems that we all are now arriving at a point of convergence.  No matter whichever place we started there is almost universal acceptance of the ‘need to change’.

Knowing you need to change, however, is not the same thing as knowing what to change or how to change.  And it is here that the conversation takes us.  If our churches are currently perfectly suited to getting the results we are currently achieving and yet we agree that we want to get different results, we know that the only option open to us is to actually change something.  But the question is what?

On reflection it is apparent that we have tried a few alternatives.

One thing we tried has been to change our worship services.  This has meant updating the music, including the children, making them more reflective, making them more youthful, switching off the lights, switching on the lights, turning up the music, turning off the music, making things messy, tidying things up, using videos, or drama, or dance, or tongues, or whatever.  We have taken out the chairs or replaced the pews with chairs, we have waited for the Spirit and commanded a blessing, we have embraced the silence and let the music fade, we have lit candles, dropped stones, and filled walls with prayers.  All of this good, creative, new, fresh, alive.  You can’t say that we haven’t been creative with our worship services.  We have become more Charismatic, more Catholic, more Celtic, more contemporary, but for all this renewal, for all our relevance, our longing for more remains.

Another thing we have tried is improving our image.  We have become more accepting, welcoming, loving, and forgiving, and less condemning, less frightening.  We have taken out the offensive or difficult things from our theology – or at least focussed less on them.  We have embraced the message that God really is love and we have embraced the outsider.  We have rejected the label which once fitted so well – judgemental.  We have become tolerant and accepting.  We talk about life, not hell, love not judgement, forgiveness not sin.

All this has been a good corrective but once again, though important and good, it has not been enough.

Another thing we have tried is getting involved in social action and community issues.  Recognising that God loves the poor and that Jesus was more radical than Che Guevara we have rediscovered our compassion.  We have marched for justice and to end poverty, campaigned for freedom and set up countless projects serving and loving the poor. We left the church buildings and moved into the neighbourhood.  And it has been hard.  Some of us have been burnt out, others have survived – but either way we still long for more.

And then we have improved our presentations, developed our websites, embraced new technology.  We have tried new ways of communicating trying out up to date theories of the best way to teach.  We have shortened the sermon or beefed it up and used videos and clips and stories.  We make people laugh and make people cry.  We call them into action and repentance and commitment.  We have become more relevant, intelligent, persuasive.

And once again it has all been good, vital even.  We know we live in TV/iPad world and we have become so much better at communicating our message.  But despite all this we still long for more.

And then there have been other approaches.  Rejecting the inherent consumerism of our day some brave believers have taken the scriptures seriously and revisited the theme of community, rejecting large programme driven church for smaller scale intentional community.  Radical communities where church is more about belonging than attending have tried to redraw the shape of church life and have brought a prophetic message to the wider body.

Once again this has been welcome and is a great thing, but once again, we have found we are longing for more.  We may find ourselves in a wonderfully tightknit community of faith where we are shaped by the rhythms of a deep spirituality, where relationships stand the length of time and where we live simply so that others simply live, and yet we wonder if there is more.  How come others don’t join in?  How come we always feel on the edge?  How come we never grow?

We have tried it all – new forms of community, new forms of mission, new forms of worship. How come we still feel we are getting it wrong?  How come we still wonder if there is a better model out there?  How come revival seems so far off?

More recently, however, some clever people have noticed something that might help us. Once you’re told it, it seems obvious and you wonder why you didn’t notice it before.  And it is this.  The reason church no longer works the way it used to, or even when we try new variations of it, is primarily because people have changed in the way they think, act, connect and belong.

Take political parties.  A few decades ago many millions of us belonged to political parties, got involved in local and national politics, marched, campaigned, wrote letters.  Today the membership has shrunk to an all-time low.  People just won’t get involved like they used to.

Take membership to societies, clubs, guilds.  A few decades ago you could still enter a town and find a whole array of community groups, sports clubs and voluntary groups alive and well doing the thing that they enjoyed doing most.  And people volunteered to be treasurer, chairman or secretary without difficulty.  Today the numbers of clubs, organisations and groups have shrunk to an all-time low, and those that still exist are running on an ever decreasing, over stretched core.  People just won’t get involved like they used to.

And of course it’s exactly the same for the local church.  Churches still exist, but the way people belong to them has completely changed.  Recruiting volunteers to run Sunday school or youth work or help with services seems harder than ever.  Organising church-wide events often seems an uphill struggle.  People just don’t get involved like they used to.

The church is declining not just because people have lost faith.  The church is declining because the way people relate, belong, think and act has changed.  And it is this change that means that community groups, political parties and sports clubs find themselves struggling for committed members too.  We have changed.  We don’t get our identity from these groups any more.

There is much to say about such a shift, but perhaps this is the most important of them all.  Despite the fact that people don’t commit themselves to organisations, parties or groups any more they do commit themselves to causes, ideals and visions.  And once they have a cause they will sacrifice their time, money and effort for it, as long as it doesn’t become an organisation or institution.

Now if it is true that people don’t join institutions or organisations but they do sign up to causes then perhaps there is life in the old church yet, as long as church gathers people around a cause.  Don’t invite them to join in the organisation, get them to share the same cause and purpose.

With this in mind, if we are to have a future, we will increasingly need to highlight and articulate the cause that lies at the heart of things.  And we will need to do this repeatedly and convincingly so that again and again, normal and sensible people decide to sacrifice everything for the cause that has taken hold of them.

Biblical, or Christian terms, for ‘sacrificing everything for the cause’ are words such as ‘repent’ and ‘believe’ and these are the words Jesus used when he invited people to join in his cause.  His cause was simply stated. It was to announce the arrival of Kingdom of God and to invite people to live their lives in under God’s rule as disciples of Jesus.  And the prize, the reward and the incentive for sacrificing everything for this cause, was what Jesus called LIFE – life in all its fullness, the life of the world to come which nothing could destroy.  Give up everything for this cause and you are promised life.  Loose everything for it and you will gain everything.  Leave everything behind for it and you will find everything you longed for.  Die and you will live.

This is what we need in the church.  Alongside all the other renewals and reformations we need a deeper understanding and vision of the cause which we have been given.  As we know, right at the end of his time on earth, after his resurrection but before his ascension, Jesus commissioned his disciples with one central task – to make disciples and to teach them everything he had taught them about the kingdom of God.

This is our task. This is our central cause.  It is to announce the promise of the Kingdom, to avail it to people, to make it accessible and to invite them into it.  And it is to entice them into Christian discipleship for the sake of finding life.  Everything we do must find it’s place subservient to this cause.  This must become our rallying cry and our number one passion.  To make disciples through the announcement of the gospel of the Kingdom.  This is our mission.  This is our cause.  This is what the church exists for.  Indeed this is what will make the church.  We go and make disciples.  Jesus will build his church.

One last thing.  Given that the cause is to make disciples, we must recognise that it is only possible to do this as a community, as a church.  We must remember that the cause of Jesus can only be articulated through a community of people who live out this cause together not simply through the lives of individual Christians.  Church is fundamental for the gospel to take root.  As Jesus prayed just before he was crucified, the world will only truly respond to the truth of the gospel when groups of people embody this truth in their community life and behaviour together – when they are one, when they are as united with each other as Jesus was united to his Father.

This is our cause.  We can’t do it alone.  We need each other.  Announcing the Kingdom and making disciples.


More than me

We live in a non-committal culture, where you can turn up to Church when you want, expect to be entertained and still keep all of your options open. This is not what St Michael’s Church is about.

St Michael’s is a Church which is unashamedly about re-centring our lives around Jesus; the man who was God and who spoke about a life that costs and a faith that is sacrificial. Commitment to St Michael’s therefore is not about facilitating your social or entertainment needs, rather, it is about engaging with Church as a spiritual discipline; being caught up into The Biblical Story together and the God that is bigger than ourselves. St Michael’s is a Church that seeks to proactively engage with, relate to and challenge the culture we live in. Our love for Jesus means that mission is at our heart and we seek ways of proclaiming and demonstrating the truth of his resurrection. God has a plan to bring about his justice and peace over the whole earth reconciling us to himself and to establish his kingdom rule on earth as it is in heaven. To this end we exist to share Christ’s message of good news within our community through relationship, action and word.

As part of this we are dedicated to equipping people to a life of discipleship and challenging each other to actively grow in faith and pursue a life of transformation. We acknowledge we can only do this through the leadership, empowerment, presence, counsel and healing power of the Holy Spirit.