From The Minister

On average, homeless people die at 47, far below the UK life expectancy of 81 years. A homeless rough sleeper is 35 times more likely to attempt suicide than someone who has never faced homelessness, 13 times more likely to be a victim of violent crime and 47 times more likely to be a victim of theft.

Homelessness is on the rise in the UK, in Birmingham and in Erdington.

As Christians we have traditionally been at the forefront of trying to do something to help homeless people. This remains the case. But faced by a rising problem we need to rise too. We need to step up and be salt and light for our brothers and our sisters who find themselves without a secure place to live. Christmas is often a time when we feel even more challenged about this issue.

Unashamedly, I want to challenge us all. What can we do to help the people on our streets, in our community who have nothing, have no stable place to live, have so many problems that they have been through and still face such complex challenges?

Once again, there is a list either included with your email or available at church, of places and projects where we can get involved. Also, with other Christians in Erdington we are currently seeking to set up a weekly support project aimed especially at people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. It would be once a week during daytime. Could you help?

And, we are preparing ourselves to be ready to open our doors to individuals who would otherwise be sleeping out in the deep cold as an emergency measure when the need arises. Could you be part of our team of volunteers? We also remain committed to be one of the host churches for a Birmingham Churches Night Shelter next winter. Meanwhile, I urge us all to pray, do what we can as individuals, act and vote in a way that reflects our Jesus values on this issue and more widely!

God bless, Gerard.

From The Manse

In 1 Timothy 2:2, Paul gives this advice to Timothy:

Pray for kings and others in power, so that we may live
quiet and peaceful lives as we worship and honour God.”


Quite rightly, we pray for our leaders: the UK Government, leaders of other countries etc. For obvious reasons we will, I am sure, all have been doing this quite a lot just lately! And we need to keep on doing this – at all times

.
But in the line before this quote from Paul, he says,


First of all, I ask you to pray for everyone. Ask God to help and bless them all…“,


We need to pray for each other, as well as for politicians. As we move through the Brexit (or not-Brexit) process; as we continue with a General Election, maybe even another referendum, we need to pray for each other that we would have wisdom. If we just pray for our leaders there is a
danger we dump all the responsibility on them. Our faith is ultimately placed in God but there is a danger that we focus on one issue or something that frustrates/angers/irritates us about politicians or a certain perspective and we ignore the bigger picture that the Gospel gives us. We need to be
careful that we do not lose faith in democracy, politicians and good wisdom. We need to value and pray for our own role in how we are governed and at the same time value and pray for our MPs. So, we need to pray for wisdom for our leaders and pray for us as the people of the United Kingdom that God will give us wisdom in these challenging times.


God bless.
Gerard

This item first appeared in Six Ways News to receive the magazine direct to your inbox contact the editor.

From the Minister

On the 13th of this month, which we know as October, but also call Black History Month, we will also be focussing on sanctuary. This will be the day, God willing, when we mark our intention to be a place that is open, welcoming, inclusive and intentional about providing a safe place for people seeking asylum and that this should be in the light of our overall approach. In the struggle against the oppressive apartheid system, Nelson Mandela headed up a rainbow coalition from people from different backgrounds. Dr Martin Luther King Jnr also stood side by side with people from backgrounds other than African American.
My point is that in order to welcome some we need to welcome all; in order to welcome all we need to welcome some. If we say we are serious about being welcoming and inclusive, this needs to apply across the board, but sometimes it is good and it is needful to concentrate on and redress imbalances that need addressing.
This is why there is no White History Month! A bias against and disregard for the history and achievements of people of colour needs to be countered.
This is why, as Christians we need to have churches like ours that declare themselves as Churches of Sanctuary to assert that it can be very hard for people seeking asylum to feel welcomed in society today.
Jesus himself was a refugee in Egypt and the Old Testament is full of commands to welcome the stranger, the alien, the foreigner:
“Don’t mistreat any foreigners who live in your land. Instead, treat them as well as you treat citizens and love them as much as you love yourself. Remember, you were once foreigners in the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19.33-34). 

God bless.

Gerard.

From The Minister

“The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as a citizen among you; you shall love the stranger as yourself” Leviticus 19: 34

In a Church Members’ meeting earlier this year, we affirmed that we would do what we can to live up to the title of Church of Sanctuary”.

Why?
We are a church situated in a place where people from all over the world come to live and many of these people are seeking sanctuary, seeking safety because of war or persecution.

Why?
Because, as Jacinda Arden, Prime Minister of New Zealand said after the Christchurch massacre, “They are us”. Many of our church members are people who have sought safety here in the UK, or whose family have.

Why?
Because the God tells us again and again through Jesus and through the scriptures, that we must welcome the stranger.
What does it mean?

Being a Church of Sanctuary means that we do what we do already. We welcome, we include, we love. We see the humanity in all who come to us. We challenge hostility and hatred. We make space for new people. We are doing this already.
Already we have a Place of Welcome, ESOL classes, a foodbank.

Becoming a Church of Sanctuary means that we become a little bit more intentional about this and make sure that these core Christian values go right across the board.

We will be identifying a couple of people to oversee “Sanctuary” in our church.
On the 13 th October we aim to be formally recognised as a Church of Sanctuary and have Richard Reddie from Churches Together in Britain and Ireland coming to preach.

God bless.
Gerard.

From the Minister

This month, I am using someone else’s words. I am so concerned about the climate emergency that we are causing and was struck by this article by Andrew Horton from the Christian charity, Tearfund.

“You may have heard of Greta Thunberg, the impassioned young activist who is pushing to change the way we view our planet. If you haven’t, it’s probably worth your time to listen up.

Sometimes we need to stop and learn and listen to the wisdom of young people – after all, they are the generation who will inherit the world in which we live. As Paul encouraged his protege Timothy: ‘Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.’ (1 Tim 4:12).

Sixteen-year-old Greta wants to change the way we think and speak about the damage we’re causing to the world. She says: ‘You can’t solve an emergency without treating it like an emergency’. And on 1 May, that’s what MPs in Westminster did, making history by passing a Commons motion declaring an ‘environment and climate change emergency’.

It makes the UK the first nation in the world to declare a climate emergency. And with cyclones tearing through nations, droughts destroying crops and livelihoods, species becoming extinct, and plastic waste choking our sea life, it’s a move which can’t come soon enough.
Meanwhile, a new UN report reveals 1 million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction. As the BBC put it: ‘The devastating impact of humans on nature is laid bare.’

And then there are the more tangible, visible manifestations. Cyclones are becoming more intense due to this climate emergency. In recent weeks, Idai, Kenneth, and Fani have all destroyed lives, homes, and businesses in southern Africa, India and Bangladesh. This is an example of how the changing climate is physically pushing people into the grip of poverty.

During his lifetime on earth, Jesus challenged people, systems and structures that created injustice. Our faith is a response to the good news of the gospel and it demands a response in the way we live. This includes challenging the systems and issues that keep people trapped in poverty, including this climate emergency.

So, what are you and I going to do? What can we do as a church? How will we change what we use and how we use it? How can we make a positive difference? We can campaign and join with thousands of others on 26 June to tell our MP how much we care about the devastating effects of the changing climate on the world’s poorest people:

But we also need to change the way we act and think about the way that our choices can destroy the lives of others thousands of miles away.

And, of course, we can pray:

Creator God,
The earth is filled with your glory (Habakkuk 2:14) and yet we have not reflected your goodness to us in the way we’ve treated it.
Forgive us, Lord. Help us to respond quickly and effectively to this climate emergency we’ve brought upon ourselves. Help us to realise the consequences our actions have for our global neighbours, and to be good stewards of our beautiful world. In Jesus’ name, amen.

God bless.

Gerard.