Showing posts with label St Neots. Show all posts
Showing posts with label St Neots. Show all posts

30 March 2013

Procession in St Neots

This year's Good Friday procession makes me wonder if there might be better ways of reaching people in the town. Rather than trying to engage people in what we are doing, can we find ways of getting them to engage us to ask what we are doing and why?

Good Friday march in St Neots
Every year, Churches Together in St Neots holds a Good Friday procession to the Market Square where a combined service is held.

We'll return to consider how this impacts the local community in a moment, but first I'll describe the occasion.

This year the numbers were significantly lower than usual, perhaps because it was a bitterly cold day. The group of believers gathered outside St Mary's, walked to the church gate on Church Street, turned left into the High Street, and gathered in the Market Square.

The procession involves a simple banner stating who is walking (Churches Together), and a wooden cross as an emblem and statement of the events being remembered, the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ. The walkers are silent because it's a solemn occasion, and there's a police presence because the walk takes place on the road rather than the pavement.

Once assembled in the Market Square there is a conventional church service with hymns, Bible readings and several short messages delivered by leaders from some of the churches represented.

Impact on local people - I didn't walk in the procession although I have done so in previous years. Donna was keen to walk and I took some photos and then joined the meeting in the Market Square.

I wanted to support Donna by walking with her but felt that Papa was guiding me not to. I've been rather uneasy about the walk in previous years; this time I felt more strongly that it was not the right thing for me to do. My sense on this is that by walking we are creating a minor inconvenience to the majority of people in St Neots. Most are not believers and I don't want to be remembered as a person who just gets in the way and holds up the traffic.

The purpose of the walk is partly to witness to those around that we are followers of Jesus, and partly to reach them with the good news he brought. But I feel sure that it is not be very useful and may even be counter productive. Better, perhaps, to try to engage with people in a less traditional and more effective way.

There are other things to consider. What do people make of the banner stating we are 'Churches Together'. I wonder if, rather than suggesting we are united, this doesn't confirm to many that we are a set of separate organisations. It doesn't really emphasise that we are one church, but rather that we are several.

The solemnity of the entire event, although understandable, is not likely to seem attractive to everyday people. To connect with the population we surely need to be more fun, more colourful, more interesting and more relevant.

Some alternatives - I certainly don't intend to criticise. I'm glad that there are people in the town who are willing to turn out on a cold day like this, to stand up and be seen, and to make the truth known to anyone who will listen. But I suspect few pay any attention.

Most people think they already know roughly what Christians believe and they don't see us as attractive or interesting. They typically presume us to be fuddy-duddy and irrelevant to the ordinary lives of ordinary people.

But there are alternative ways to reach people that are much more effective; alternatives that will play on the natural curiosity that is common to all people everywhere.

A few years ago there was a passion play in the town, and that got a lot of attention and made a real impact. I'm glad to see that there's a plan to repeat it in 2014. It's a colourful event full of action and interest and sound and colour. Many people followed the play from place to place in the town and watched.

Another alternative focusses on free hugs and the many other similar activities we can try. Once again these engage people's interest. As far as I could tell not a single person stopped to watch or listen to today's meeting. A few people watched very briefly as the procession passed by. But joining in with the free hugs a few weeks ago I was struck by how many people wanted to ask about it and listen while we explained.

Instead of trying to engage people it may be far better to do something unusual and intriguing so they will want to engage us. We need to spend less time and effort doing what people expect us to do, and put far more time and effort into doing what they do not expect.

Questions:

  • Imagine yourself as an unbelieving onlooker. Which would you find more interesting, a clearly religious meeting in the middle of your town or someone giving away labelled fruit?
  • What could you do locally to encourage people to come and ask you questions?
  • Which will people find the more approachable, a group of forty or a group of two?

See also:

24 February 2013

On the Market Square

We offer 'Free Hugs' in St Neots Market Square and get a variety of responses from the local people. Along with those who disregard us and won't engage there are some who want a hug and others who want a conversation as well. One conversation went considerably deeper. Hearts were touched.

Cold day on the Market Square
Yesterday I met Mark and then Tendai for coffee and prayer at Cornerstone. We were joined briefly by Steve from New Street Baptist Church before heading out to the Market Square to offer 'Free Hugs'.

I quickly discovered that there are two kinds of people on the streets. There are those that behave as if you are completely invisible. And there are others who smile, engage in a brief conversation (or even a lengthy one) and sometimes accept the offer of a hug.

Some people want to know why we are offering hugs, or what the catch is. Some are not especially interested in those questions. Some accept a brief prayer or a blessing as well.

Relatively few younger people are interested in hugs, many seem quite embarrassed by the idea (perhaps because we are older than they are or their mates are watching). But there was one notable exception.

A guy was approaching on a skateboard and I waved my 'Free Hugs' sign and smiled at him. He jumped off his skateboard, beamed at me and said, 'Why not?' I had perhaps the warmest hug I got all day and he enthusiastically told me I'd made his day. 'More people should do this sort of thing', he said, jumping back on his board and heading off to the local skate park.

Good conversation - Towards the end of our time in the Market Square I had a long and lovely conversation with a local trader. She told me some things about her life, how she sometimes knows about things before they happen, and how she'd once been told by a pastor that she was cursed. Why do people say unkind things like that?

As we were about to leave I asked her if I could pray for her and bless her. She was OK with that and accepted a hug as well. I thought I detected tears in her eyes afterwards, unless it was just the bitter wind.

But it's not just the wind that can bring tears to our eyes. Bitter events in our lives can bring tears within our hearts as well. They blur our spiritual vision and prevent us from seeing what is right before us. We all need to know we are loved by a Father in heaven who truly cares about us.

Giving people a hug is always a good thing. But Papa can give us all the inner, spiritual hugs that we so desperately need, even though we sometimes don't know it.

Questions:

  • Are you connecting with people in the area where you live?
  • If so, how? Tell us about it, leave a comment.
  • Take a look at Chris Duffet's website, are there ideas here you could use?
  • Can you think of similar ideas for engaging people? Leave a comment to share them.

See also:

27 January 2013

Icy pond in St Neots - IMAGE

(Click the photo for a larger view)

An icy pond in the Riverside Park - Photo taken 22nd January 2013
We've had some quite cold weather recently in St Neots, with several light falls of snow. But now the temperature has risen and heavy rain last night washed the last of the snow away.

The photo shows things as they were just four days ago, but now there's squelchy mud everywhere. The first snowdrops are in flower and are early signs that spring will soon be on its way.

See other image posts.

08 January 2013

Cornerstone - Prayer for St Neots

< 27th May 2012 | Index | 15th January 2013 >

Two of us met at Cornerstone to talk about a Ffald-y-Brenin style house of prayer in St Neots. That's not going to work well with just the two of us so we're interested to meet anyone else who is like-minded. Meanwhile we plan to meet weekly to talk and pray further.

Part of the river front in St Neots
A friend (another Chris) and I met at Cornerstone for coffee yesterday to consider the way forward for a house of prayer for the town. We've discussed this before, last time we met at Costa some weeks before Christmas.

Chris feels quite strongly drawn to the Ffald-y-Brenin approach to the house of prayer, I'm feeling that I'd like to be involved but can't offer a large amount of time as I'm already so busy. We agreed to meet weekly for a time and see how it goes. Today we spent quite a while chatting about the situation and finding out a bit more about one another's views.

We prayed specifically that Father would send workers into the harvest here in St Neots and the area around it. In particular we asked for more people to be sent initially to join us in prayer. We also prayed for blessing on our local area and for protection for Cornerstone in the midst of some difficulties they've faced recently, for the manager Paul and his wife Michelle, for the staff and the volunteers, and for the customers.

Others in the area - If you're reading this, and you live in or near St Neots, and you feel called to pray for the town, please drop me an email - chris@scilla.org.uk . We'd love to meet you!

We also thought about visiting other groups of believers around the town, the Baptists, The River, Open Door, and two of the three Anglican congregations got a mention. I'd like to visit every group in the town. There are at least a dozen of them.

Chris and I plan to meet in Cornerstone again next week, and after that we'll probably decide what to do as we go along. It's going to be an interesting journey of discovery in praying for St Neots.

Questions:

  • Have you read the book about Ffald-y-Brenin ('The Grace Outpouring', link below)?
  • Are you involved in praying for the area where you live?
  • Can you pray out of blessing and call blessing down on those around you?
  • Are you in touch with other groups of believers in your area?

See also:



< 27th May 2012 | Index | 15th January 2013 >

30 December 2012

Cine film of Eaton Socon in 1939

Here is a stunning piece of colour movie film from 1939 showing some of my local landmarks, The Crown Inn and the Akbar Tandoori in Eaton Socon. The photographer drove along the Great North Road from London to Grantham, stopping to take these images on the way.


The Crown in 1939 and 2012
I recently found a YouTube video of a journey along the Great North Road from London to Grantham in August 1939.

As I live in Eaton Ford (just a few hundred metres west of the route) it was fascinating to see some local landmarks that I know well.

On the right, side by side is a still from the 1939 film and a photo taken yesterday, both show 'The Crown' in Eaton Socon. The main changes are an extension beyond the further chimney, removal of the ivy, the addition of a porch, the signs, two chimney pots and the loss of the telegraph pole.

The Akbar in 1939 and 2012
And here on the left are two further images, this time showing a tea room, now the Akbar Tandoori Restaurant.

Once again we can see some changes, but the scene is still very recognisable.

The YouTube video is shown below. It starts in London and 'The Crown' pub appears at 2 minutes, 37 seconds. This is followed by the old RAC sign for Eaton Socon, and then the tea house (now the Akbar Tandoori). The next shot shows a farmhouse beside the road near Southoe, then some open road followed by the Buckden sign and some shots in Buckden itself. After that there is a view of the Brampton Hut Hotel and then the journey moves on beyond my local area.

It would be interesting to know what camera and film were used to take these cine shots. Is it early Kodachrome brought over from the USA to record Britain just before the Second World War? Or was it a European process, perhaps Dufaycolor?



Questions:

  • How much has the area where you live changed in the last 73 years?
  • Are you aware of the local history of your town or village?

See also:

29 August 2012

Prayer meeting at Cornerstone

It was exciting to meet with others today to pray for the town where I live. We met at a local bookshop/cafe and talked and prayed over hot drinks and a light lunch.

My friend Jim invited me to a prayer meeting at Cornerstone. I was excited to discover this is another example of people obeying Jesus across organisational boundaries.

Ros had suggested meetings to pray for St Neots, and in particular for the business people in the town.

Jim had responded with some enthusiasm, Paul had offered a meeting place,  and this was the third meeting (I was unable to go along last week as I had a dental appointment). Dot also joined us, as did Paul who owns and manages Cornerstone. Jo has been involved previously but was unable to come today.

People and organisations - I'm not part of any organisation, considering myself to belong to the church in the town where I live (although I meet with one of Open Door's small groups). Jim and Paul are involved at the River, Dot meets in Bedford and Ros in Cambridge. Jo is from St Marys, Eaton Socon so there are six of us from five different backgrounds.

For me this diversity is encouraging and delightful and very much in line with what I believe Jesus is doing in Britain today. There is a growing and deepening trend to just do whatever we are shown to do. Our allegiance to One Leader (King Jesus) sometimes causes us to act in simple ways that were less likely in past generations when the denominations acted mostly independently.

Brief notes from the meeting - We had a useful and enthusiastic time of prayer. Ros reminded us of Ezekiel's vision of the deepening stream of water coming from the Temple and the trees on either side. (Ezekiel 47:1-12) Our life depends on this river, if our supply is not from the Holy Place we will be dry and ineffective. We also thought about the Kingdom and our need to live as subjects of the King. We are only in the Kingdom if we are obedient. That's what the Kingdom is, the realm where the King rules and is obeyed.

I'm looking forward to more of these Wednesday lunchtime meetings.

Does anyone have other simple, encouraging examples of working together across dividing lines in the church? We all want to see the Kingdom grow and extend. We all want to reach the lost and encourage our brothers and sisters. How is this happening in your own experience?

04 February 2012

Praying for Britain

Some of us are thinking we should begin praying for Britain, for England, and for our local area. Megan first suggested the idea after reading John Richard's prophecy (item 4 in the list below).

A boat on Galilee, a good place to pray!Recently we've become aware of a series of events related to prayer for Britain. They're listed here in the order in which we heard about them. However, it was item 4 that provoked our interest in prayer.
  1. Prophetic opinion from Clifford Hill that there is a five year 'window of opportunity' for the church in the UK, there would now be about three years of this window left.
  2. Some thoughts from Clifford Hill, Wolfgang Simson, and Peter Farmer in the Millenials Meeting at Moggerhanger Park.
  3. A word from Mark Stibbe concerning the 'seven pillars of society'. There are details of the seven pillars online. It's an idea that goes back to the 1970s.
  4. prophecy from John Richards
  5. A second prophecy from Lance Lambert
As an initial response we plan to meet on Tuesday afternoon, 7th February at 15:00 to consider how we should take this forward. We will review the five items above, consider the practicalities of prayer and perhaps fasting, and decide if and when to meet again and whether to invite others to join us.

My feeling is that we should involve anyone in the St Neots area who feels led to take part. Whatever we do would probably be  non-denoninational, informal and very flexible. If enough people are involved we could consider meeting in a variety of places and at different times. Others may have different ideas and we'll know more after we meet on 7th.

Here are some factors that I regard as especially important as we go forward. There may well be others that we can add as we go along.
  • Love Jesus ever more fully and learn to listen better as the Holy Spirit speaks to us.
  • Love one another so that we can act in unity of heart and purpose despite any differences that might divide us.
  • Recognise that there is only one living Temple and we are all stones built into it.
  • Wholeheartedly give ourselves to whatever he shows us to do, even if it seems very costly or very stupid.
  • Understand Jesus' call to mission in the widest possible sense, and be ready to urgently reach those in our lives who need to hear the good news he has for them.
  • Keep everything as simple as the Father has made it, not adding the complexity that we may find more amenable.
  • Remember that the Father, the Son, and the Spirit are in charge and we are not. Give them the glory and honour and praise they truly deserve, and humbly exercise the authority we have in them (which we do not deserve).
  • Our prayer should be to bless (in the manner of Ffald-y-Brenin).
If you are interested in this and live near St Neots perhaps you'd like to contact me. You can comment on this post below or you can mail me (chris@scilla.org.uk). I will pass your comments on when we meet on 7th.

02 November 2011

THOUGHT - Some old letters

Sometimes I see something that takes my thoughts deeper than normal everyday life. It happened again this morning as I was checking some local news. A bag of letters left at a charity shop in St Neots told an unexpected story.

Article in the News and CrierThe News and Crier carried an unusual story about a large collection of Victorian letters. They'd been handed in to the Oxfam charity shop in St Neots High Street - what a surprise for the staff who spotted them!

It soon became apparent that these letters told the story of a family over a twenty-three year period in the Victorian era. The detailed tale of life is sometimes hard, sometimes happy, sometimes very sad. Here's a short extract from the News and Crier article.
Sarah’s letters are quite heartbreaking: she writes to Allen about the death of Louisa’s son Joe, and about her own son Adrian: “I cannot see him improve. I don’t believe he is worse. I myself am so afraid it might turn to consumption.”
And you know there has been a death when the paper is edged with black.
What sticks with you is their obvious love and respect for each other. It’s touching that, even in ink, their affection has been safeguarded for so long.

Isn't that amazing? Life went on then much as it does today and all that remains are some scraps of paper with a few things that the people wanted to communicate to one another. All those heartaches and joys, all that experience lived, condensed to a few words that were almost lost.

Will anything more than that remain of my physical life a hundred years from now? Probably not!

It brings life into sharp focus, doesn't it. Life is temporary and short, we can take nothing with us when we leave just as we brought nothing on arrival.

Here is something Jesus said two thousand years ago: 'Everyone who drinks this [well] water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.'

I think that in this short life words like that deserve a second look. What do you think?

(Those words are from the book of John, you can read more online.)

13 October 2011

SOCIETY - Food for free?

OK, who'd like some free, good quality food? Every year in the autumn there's a plentiful supply of free fruit ready for the taking - and almost nobody wants it or even realises it's edible.

Windfall pearsWalking home this afternoon I spotted an ornamental pear on a housing estate. The grass beneath the tree was strewn with little pears, ripe but only about 5 cm long and 3 or 4 cm in diameter. They will lie there until they rot, or the birds eat them, or they're carted away with the fallen leaves by the local authority.

What a waste! I had an empty shopping bag with me so sorted through them picking out undamaged and unbruised fruit. I imagine I took about a kg of fruit altogether. Back home I gave the pears a good wash and then sliced chunks off vertically, avoiding the cores and rejecting any slices with internal browning. No need to peel them, that would be a tedious job with so many small fruit.


Washed and sliced pearsI filled a medium saucepan with the washed pieces, added some sugar, and stewed them until they were soft; they created a lovely aroma. Then I took them off the heat and pulped them with a blender. Now to taste some. Ah, they had an excellent pear flavour but were distinctly astringent. They would have made good perry, maybe the tree is a perry cultivar or just a seedling from somebody's discarded pear core.

Not to worry, I roughly chopped some dates, stirred them in, and reboiled them for a couple more minutes. I used two or three dates to each tablespoon of pear mash. Check the taste again... Lovely. (Hint: If you find problems of this kind, experiment with small quantities before changing the entire batch.)

The finished crumbleNext I put the fruit in an ovenproof dish and added a crumble topping. I used brown sugar to make the crumble as it has a nice, rich flavour. The finished crumble went into a preheated oven at 180 C, and thirty five minutes later I removed my pear and date dessert from the oven and made a jug of custard. Not exactly free food I suppose, but at least the pears were free. And far more flavour than any pears you could buy at the supermarket.

Some people are anxious about food collected in this way, particularly where wild fruits, leaves or fungi are concerned. Providing you are absolutely certain about the identity of the material there is no need to worry. But please - if you are not sure of what you have - don't eat it.

As far as pears are concerned, the shape of the fruit, its aroma, the slighty gritty flesh, the characteristic leaves, the size and habit of the tree - all these are strong clues to identity. This was a form of Pyrus communis and therefore completely safe.

11 October 2011

IMAGE - Wind damage

(Click the photo for a larger view)

Wind damaged tree in the Riverside Park - Photo taken 11th October 2011

This willow tree in St Neots Riverside Park succumbed to heavy winds recently. Today is still breezy, but warm. Some trees have already lost their leaves and others are following suit. But the bulk of our trees remain in their summer clothing and many of the plants are still happily flowering even this late into autumn.

Click the 'image' label below to see other image posts.

30 September 2011

IMAGE - Balloon over St Neots

(Click the photo for a larger view)

Balloon near the end of a flight - Photo taken 30th September 2011

We spotted this Virgin hot air balloon looking for a suitable landing site almost passing over our house in Eaton Ford, St Neots. The evening sunlight illuminates the western side of the envelope and the pilot is burning gas to gain height.

Click the 'image' label below to see other image posts.

29 June 2011

X-treme Camps - The problem

< No earlier items | The problem >

It's time to write about X-treme Camps again. This year's camp takes place at the end of July; although I'm only slightly involved this time I sense that Father wants me to write down some of the early history and review progress so far.

The first camp involving young people from St Neots was in July 2009 and this year's will be the third. But the story begins back in the summer of 2008 when I read an article in a local newspaper, the Hunts Post.

Local press articleThe article is no longer on the paper's website, but the gist of it was this. A couple in their thirties living in Mallard Lane in Eynesbury had been attacked by youths ranging in age from eleven to eighteen or so. Let's call them Joanne and David (not their real names).

Jo had become ill and needed a wheelchair. Dave had given up his job in order to become her full-time carer, and they were regularly seen in the area between their home and the town centre shops. They were good, friendly people struggling with a distressing problem and coping with serious difficulties.

The trouble began with name calling; a group of youngsters shouted out that Jo was a 'lazy cow' because she was in the wheelchair. At first, Dave had tried to talk to them and explain, but that only seemed to offend them and make matters worse. After a while the name calling developed into something more serious. The group began throwing stones at the house, hitting the front door and windows. The stones grew in size until one night a brick came through the front window and landed inside the house. Although the window was soon replaced it was broken again just a week later and in desperation Dave reported this to the police. The problem just got worse and worse.

The press came round to interview Jo and Dave, the story appeared in the paper, and I read it. Here's what I wrote in response at the time.

I simply couldn't leave things like this. I wrote an unsealed letter to Jo and Dave and asked the local police to pass it to them. A few days later Dave phoned me and we had a good chat, I stressed that I wanted to do whatever I could to help. Dave explained that they were about to be moved into housing in another town and I told him that I would pray for him and for Jo and that I would see if there was any way of engaging young people in the area in more useful and less destructive ways. I've lost contact with them since they moved away.

Now, I am not a youth worker and would be hopeless at engaging youngsters in anything. All I could do initially was pray and expect Jesus to show me what to do. Imagine my astonishment when he answered that prayer in a way that demonstrated he had it all planned out from the beginning.

< No earlier items | The problem >

19 August 2010

ANNOUNCEMENT - A letter from Cornerstone to the churches

Paul Shinners, the owner and managing director of Cornerstone, has circulated a vision statement and invitation to the church in St Neots.
A letter from Cornerstone
Here are some extracts.

Cornerstone is a cross-denominational company with directors from different churches and aims to bring Jesus into the high street and provide resources for local Christians and churches. However, its primary aim is to serve Jesus by blessing and loving the people in the area by representing him to them. This will present opportunities for the local churches around St Neots by providing a mix of affordable high quality coffee, fair trade food, meeting rooms, music, gifts, cards and counsellors in a welcoming and loving environment.

Cornerstone has been open for only a couple of days but we have had rave reviews on the quality and experience from both Christians and non-Christians alike!

However, there is an opportunity for more volunteers to be part of this exciting venture and for your church to be represented in Cornerstone to help engage in outreach with the local community in a non-threatening environment.

Specifically we require volunteers to help with any of the following duties:

- Book shop management
- Food preparation
- Coffee and drinks preparation
- Cleaning
- Counselling

We can offer any volunteers uniforms, free lunch and drinks, and travelling expenses.
I know that all of us living in the area and involved in small, organic expressions of church will find this an interesting opportunity. It fits particularly well with our own understanding of church and being actively involved with the people around us. We are here to love the Father, love one another, love our neighbour, and even to love our enemy. What better start could we have than a place like Cornerstone, designed to serve the local area with good food, good drink, good books, and good facilities for meeting?

So please bring this to Jesus in prayer, ask him if he wants you involved. If you need to know more here are some suggestions.
  • Watch the video about the making of Cornerstone.
  • Visit the website and read about it.
  • Come and visit for a coffee and a chat.
  • Let the staff know that you are considering becoming a volunteer and that you'd like the chance to ask some questions.
  • Ask to see the meeting room and other facilities.

17 August 2010

Cornerstone Cafe and Books


Cornerstone has been keeping me very busy for the last few months. This great little cafe and bookshop has prevented me updating 'All About Jesus' for some time, and just as I was beginning to think I could move on to other things again, I seem to be in danger of getting drawn in even deeper!

The Cornerstone websiteThe Cornerstone website will give you much more information about the project itself, but I'm going to share some more personal thoughts here.

My life is indeed, 'All About Jesus'. I want him to be King in my life, I want to be obedient to him in the way a loyal subject would be obedient to a mediaeval king. Kings had absolute power in those days, disobedience was not an option.

Yahshua (Jesus) is always benevolent, and the reason is simple - he loves me. He simply has what is best for me in mind at all times and will lead me and command me in ways that keep me spiritually safe. That doesn't mean things will always turn out well as the world understands and judges these things. Bad things happen to us in life. But the world doesn't comprehend the truth.

So I have a dilemma. I want to help and serve my friends (and it is good to do that). But my overriding priority must always be to serve King Jesus. Cornerstone is a wonderful project and it is most assuredly a project conceived and enabled by the King. He has shown me without any doubt that I was to be involved in the development of the shop. But what is he requiring of me now? It's not enough to do what seems good or necessary, instead I must do what I am told. That's why listening is so important in our lives.

And what he seems to be telling me right now is that he wants me to be involved in Cornerstone in some way, but volunteering to work in the shop may not be quite what he has in mind. I am still feeling my way in this. Cornerstone certainly needs people to do the work, in fact it needs many, many people. Am I one of them? In a way, yes, but perhaps not as I might expect.

To be perfectly frank, I am not yet sure! My best guess as I write is that my role will be managing websites and helping provide direction. Straying into other areas could become a kind of disobediance. I need to be careful!

I am sure that over the next days and weeks it will become clear to me. It's not a matter of likes and dislikes, or of whether I am competent or not competent. It's a matter of obedience! I must wait to find out. Father, show me the right way forward.

19 April 2010

St Neots - Passion for Souls

Six of us met this evening to discuss an aspect of the work being done by Passion for Souls, a charity run by Paul and Michele Shinners to support the mission work they've been doing in parts of Africa. The Passions for Souls logoMore recently, Paul has felt the need to reach out here in the UK, and specifically in St Neots and the area round about. We were a mixed group around our dining room table, from several parts of the church in the town.

A series of interesting and encouraging circumstances were uncovered as we met. For example, one couple had viewed our house before we had bought it, and they'd considered buying it themselves at the time! An African crafts connection (Spring of Hope) had been made independently by Paul and by Donna. The Spirit gave me a thought about city walls which resonated with Claire, reminding her of other times of prayer for the town.

We listened to Paul as he outlined his ideas and the reasons for them. We had a chance to ask questions and hear answers from Paul and from Jim. We spent some time in prayer and all felt very encouraged and excited.

The next step is to give ourselves time to consider what to do. I am already confident that the Lord wants me to be part of this new development in the town and I think perhaps we all are.

As things go forward I should be able to be much more specific about the details, meanwhile - watch this space.

05 September 2008

Just do it!

Previous | Part 2 of a series | Next

We're in the early stages of planning for a youth camp for St Neots in 2009. We didn't decide to do this, it is just happening to us - and it's great! The riverbank in St NeotsWhy is the church sometimes so sluggish in getting things done? We'll come back to that question later, but first you should hear a little news.

Last Monday (1st September) we had a meeting to pray, discuss, and think about young people in St Neots. Jim, Sean and I were joined by Ben and Pete. After introductions, Pete told us about his background and explained about the camps he runs for young people in the Bedford area. By the end of the evening we had the beginnings of a plan, Pete had been proactive and booked space for a hundred young people next summer. We were astonished and encouraged. 'Just do it' is an effective way forward!

So, back to our question, 'Why is the church sometimes so sluggish in getting things done?'

It all comes down to an inability to 'just do it'. What prevents us? The answer to this lies deep in our understanding of what church is. The New Testament writers often refer to the church in a particular place, sometimes it's a city or town, sometimes it's a house, but significantly it's rarely anything between these two extremes.

Paul could write to the church in Corinth or Ephesus, but if he was writing today and addressed a letter to the 'Church in St Neots' or the 'Church in Cambridge' who would read the letter? Would it be delivered to the largest Anglican Church in town? Or would it go first to the Catholics, or the Baptists, or the United Reformed Church? Middle sized organisations of that kind were unknown in Paul's day, when he wrote to the church in a city he was writing to a single entity consisting of all the believers in that place.

But when he mentions the church that meets in Nympha's house or the church that meets in Priscilla and Aquila's house he knows exactly what he means. Not a gathering of 200 or 300 believers meeting in one place, but a small group meeting in an ordinary home. Clearly, a number of these small groups cooperated as the church in the city.

When we meet in large groups of several hundred we need a system of management and we need committees or a hierarchy to make decisions. Proposals have to be approved, resources must be made available, and discussions held to agree the details. This may take significant amounts of time. When we meet in a home decisions can be made there and then as we pray and share our thoughts and receive guidance through the Spirit.

Yahshua did not spend a lot of time planning. Instead he reacted to whatever he saw or heard. He always reacted in love towards the Father or towards the people he met, or both. Sometimes he reacted in anger, usually his reaction came in the form of teaching, questions, or action of some sort, but kindness and grace were present in everything he did - always. Everything he did was for the Father's glory, he healed the sick, he revealed the truth, he comforted the distressed and the broken-hearted. Not only did he bring good news, he was good news. Indeed he is The Good News. The good news is the news that the Messiah has come and brings healing and reconciliation.

What he did we are called to do too. If we plan less but begin to react to whatever we see and hear he will work in us and through us to glorify the Father. Acts of heavenly kindness and grace will replace acts of earthly mind and will. This is a hard lesson to learn because it runs counter to intuition and common sense, but it's a lesson we must learn if we're to become more fully fruitful and effective in the Kingdom.

This is not to say that larger organisations cannot react quickly or spontaneously in response to specific issues, just that they find it much harder than small groups.

We need to learn to be like the Master, to be good news wherever and whenever possible. Not merely to speak the good news, but to live it individually by responding right away in love and grace.

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16 August 2008

Living in fear in St Neots

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I've just read a distressing news report about a local family that are having their lives ruined by thoughtless, cruel, young people throwing stones at their home, calling out abusive remarks, and even breaking windows. The news report is online, take a look for yourself.

Let's list out a few basic facts about the situation and about me. After all, I live in St Neots, I am involved whether I wish to be or not, I'm part of this community.
  • The young people doing this are probably bored, perhaps they have nothing useful to keep them occupied. They probably get swept along in the moment, they each want to outdo the others. It's cool to do this stuff. There may be one amongst them who leads them into stuff they wouldn't otherwise do.

  • The police are only able to respond to crimes that are committed, they don't have the remit or the people to deal with any underlying problem.

  • The church will feel sorry that this has happened, but will think, 'What can we do?'

  • The people being victimised can do little to help themselves.

  • The neighbours will feel, 'I'm not getting involved otherwise I'll be next.'

  • I'm thinking hard about what I should do...



Mallard Lane is not the most prosperous part of town, hardship is a reality for some and local people are struggling with issues which include vandalism. Here's a map of the area (you can also view a larger map). The pin in the map just marks the street, not the position of the household under attack.

So what can I do? What can anyone do?

Here's what I propose, I will begin by praying.

I'll share this story with the friends I meet with on Thursdays, we can pray together.

If you're reading this and would like to pray too that would be great. The main things I'm asking as a start are
  • That I'll be shown clearly what, if anything, I am to do.

  • That the trouble will stop and the pressure be lifted.

  • That the woman in the story will be healed.

That's a start. But in practical terms here's what I'm thinking.
  • Make contact with the people who are being victimised.

  • Invite them round for a BBQ some time soon.

  • Send letters to the local church explaining the background and asking for prayer and any practical input they feel led to offer.

  • Consider encouraging a meeting to include the victims, the police, young people from the area (if possible), the church, neighbours, other organisations that might be able to offer support, help, or advice.

So far I have little idea where the Lord will lead me in this, but I know it would be wrong to 'just forget'. I'll post to the blog again to let you know what happens next.

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17 July 2008

Photography, something I love

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We should all find, make, or steal the time to do at least one thing that we really, really love. Come on now, you know I'm right. In this modern age there are so many pressures on us that sometimes we struggle just to get from one day to the next. The trouble with that is simple. You will only live this day one single time, you have just one bite at it. So spend part of it doing something fun, or rewarding, or delightful. It's not decadent to do that, it's an expression of who you are, to yourself, to your family, to friends and aquaintances, and to the King of Creation too. Unless of course you think he's not interested in who you are, or think he doesn't exist. But even then, you still owe it to yourself and to those around you to express the real you.

Something I love is to capture images of things that impress me by their beauty, things that amaze me.

Here's a slideshow of photos I took during the last two months. I hope you enjoy viewing them as much as I enjoyed taking them. Leave me a comment and tell me which image is your favourite (and why).

You can also open the full version of the gallery with options for viewing the photos at much larger sizes, or even downloading the originals. Each picture tells a story, can you work out what it might be? Once you're in the full gallery you can comment on each picture individually if you want to.

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01 October 2004

Meetings in Eaton Ford (KN)


Every three weeks or so we meet to praise and worship our Creator and King, to enjoy being with one another in his presence, and to listen carefully to whatever he chooses to show us.

These have been truly wonderful times. We're not making any attempt to expand because we feel (so far at least) that he wants to work in our lives first. But we welcome anyone who would like to join us, whether for just a single meeting, or more regularly.

If you live near St Neots in the UK and would like to meet with us, visit our web page and get in touch.

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