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.

From the Minister

For our anniversary service in April our speaker was Steve Bagnall from Birmingham City Mission. Steve spoke with gentle power both about his experience of homelessness and his work with homeless people. These themes were entwined with his story of becoming a Christian.
And there it is: there is no separation of faith and action as we pursue the path that Jesus has laid before us. Worshipping together is good and is vital but it is “a clanging cymbal” if we do not have love in it and we do not act to serve others, especially those who our society and our whole planet put at the bottom of our pecking order.

So for my part, it feels absolutely right that this month we support the work of Christian Aid through the Big Brekkie (Saturday 11th May), Circle the City (Saturday 18th May) and our usual door to door collection. It feels absolutely right that the Midland Opera concert on the 25th May is raising money for our Fellowship Fund. It feels right that we begin a 2 week series of Bible Studies on Wednesday 1st May on the theme of homelessness.
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
Jesus of Nazareth speaks as recorded in Matthew 25:35-36.

God bless.

Gerard.

From The Minister

These are times of what feels like unprecedented political, economic and social chaos. We are told we are very divided as a nation. In many ways we surely are: along the relatively new political lines of leave and remain; but less obviously we are divided in terms of wealth and poverty, faith and no faith, connected and unconnected, young and old.
We experience these divisions in our community, in our families and places of work/study. Difference is good, division can feel more dangerous and hostility and conflict can follow. And so what can we do about this as Christians?

I believe this is a time for us to make sure we really do let people see the ways of Jesus in how we live and what we say. So, now is a time when it is good to keep worshipping together, inviting others to do so, taking all opportunities to talk about the Prince of Peace in the midst of all this disturbance.

I believe this is a time for us to do all the practical things we can to be welcoming in such a hostile environment: things like ESOL or Place of Welcome and Foodbank or Job Club or Super Study Space. And it is timely that we are becoming a church recognised as a Church of Sanctuary. It was important also that some people from our church joined other Church leaders and community leaders in standing side by side with the people at the Slade Road Ghausia Mosque in order to show our support in the face of attacks on their building.

Sometimes the way the world is can feel so overwhelming and we can feel like there is nothing we can do. But there are things we can do – even small things! We need to keep on doing what we know we already know we should be doing. But even more so, I believe it is the time for us to “up our game”, to be more proactive in letting the Christ-light shine in our words and our actions. Our country needs us!

God bless.
Gerard.