Last week we experimented with hosting a charity curry night in our home. It was as idea hatched with our friend Jack Monroe on a road trip to Birmingham one week-end in October. With a cookery book packed with budget-busting, austerity-appropriate recipes due out imminently, she was in an ideal position to cook a nice load of food cheaply. And with a new home with some large flexible space, we were in a perfect position to host.
Jack has documented the evening and the recipes on her blog here. We had a really fun evening, made new friends and raised £200 for one of our local food banks and homeless charities. It is already looking likely to become a regular event, with the next one planned in January. Just think, if we manage one a month we will be on route to raising £2000 in 2014. That’s got to be good news!
And with the embarrassingly fast speed with which new food banks are opening it is imperative that we raise the profile of food poverty in the UK and ask why they are increasing so rapidly in the seventh richest country in the world. If you haven’t added your name already, please sign #Jackspetition and show your desire for UK hunger and the rise in foodbanks to be debated in parliament later this month.
Why was it that, having just heard an enthusiastic man speak passionately about selfless people who take enormous risks to share the story of Jesus in communist countries in Asia, I found myself cringing at a photo showing a person playing a guitar in front of a small congregation of people?
Up until that moment all I had was admiration for their courage, their sacrifice and determination to go to people living in inhospitable conditions and share hope and initiate life-transforming projects amongst the poor and marginalised. But as I saw the guitar something dawned on me – this popular instrument is responsible for the globalisation of churchianity as I currently know it. We all know that guitars in most church contexts are only used to perform 4 chords and to rendition the obligatory middle-of-the-road soft rock/country tones of the evangelicals, and I knew that this small group of people who were journeying into faith were, in all likeliness, singing the same songs and tunes sung in churches all over the world. And a little tear formed in my heart.
The guitar is a weapon of Christian globalisation – it is a powerful leadership tool that commands respect and attention, that dominates its context and imposes and controls what people are expected to do. I am sure no well-meaning gap-year student or long-term missionary has any desire to unleash such arsenal, but I wonder, if guitars and Western songs, even historical hymns, were banned when sharing the Jesus-story in pioneer contexts, what beauty and culturally-wondrous worship would emerge? Would local people cease to follow the flute of the pied piper and, instead, create their own songs and expressions of worship and wonder?
Contextualisation is a loud cry of the missional and incarnational church movements … and the humble guitar is, in my humble opinion, one of its greatest enemies. There are few places yet untouched by this globalised worship. Perhaps mission agencies have a responsibility to create nature reserves around such peoples, protecting them from further unnecessary pollution and disturbance and enabling the story of Jesus to emerge from the cultures that already exist?
I was delighted today when I read my copy of The Urban Bulletin that Terry Drummond, the Bishop of Southwark’s adviser on Urban and Public Policy, had kindly written a review of the book I recently wrote about the work of Urban Expression. I was also happy to hear from the publishers that the ebook version is now available. You can find it on Amazon and other main outlets or at Troubador.
Terry Drummond writes:
The importance of the Church in urban communities can never been under-estimated and is even more important when half of the world’s population live in cities. The presence of Christian disciples offering worship, service and outreach can frequently offer the saving grace that ensures that individuals and families are given a space for personal development.
In reading this book I was introduced to a group that I had heard spoken of for many years, but without ever having any contact. Urban Expression, which one of the founders Juliet Kilpin describes in this book, is an example of the Church at work through the ministry of believers who have made a commitment to living out the incarnation in urban communities.
The chapters are a combination of the descriptions of the history of the development of Urban Expression, followed by the testimony of different members who have been a part of the various outworking over 15 years. The chapters all end with a prayer and in every case these are reflections that can be used by the reader to open themselves to a deeper relationship with God.
The importance of Urban Expression is, in part, found in its ability to work outside the structures of the institutional Church. The members commit themselves to living out the Christian message by sharing a life in community that is rooted in worship, that leads to outreach in the local community. The message of St. Francis ‘preach the Gospel, use words only if you must’ are reflected in these pages. The sharing of meals and parties that bring people of different cultures together is an example of how, through knowing their neighbours, the members of Urban Expression build a sense of community.
The Christian underpinning and commitment may not always be known or recognised by the community who come to take part in meals and parties; it is more important that fellowship is shared and life together is celebrated. The importance of the celebration is that in most cases the ministry is with people for whom poverty and exclusion are a part of their daily existence.
In the Gospels, Jesus eats and parties with tax collectors and sinners, much to the annoyance of the religious leaders. In this way he ensured that His message was shared with those who were excluded and criticised by those with power. In the same way Urban Expression brings the message of salvation and grace in to communities where the institutional Church is not always strong.
It is important that the message of Urban Expression, with its commitment to living out the incarnation, is celebrated and shared with the wider Church. It is of equal importance that we recognise that it is in a wide mix of expressions of faith, both formal and informal, that Christians continue to serve in urban communities. There is no one right way of ministering, just a glorious mix of people working together in seeking to bring the message of the kingdom to urban communities.
In Urban To The Core Juliet Kilpin, with others, tells a story of how the Christian message can be lived out by those who are called to a life of community that serve in a neighbourhood and brings the message of hope to many who are all too often caught up in hopelessness. The reader is invited on a journey of exploration and at every stage they will be challenged to a deeper understanding of what living out the incarnation can mean for those who are called to live in urban communities.
Twenty years ago, whilst in the process of having my calling for ordained Baptist ministry tested, I was asked by a key interviewer if I was a man in a skirt.
This week-end we saw a woman in a skirt take the most prominent role in the Baptist Union of Great Britain.
If this rate of change continues, I wonder if in another twenty years we might see man in a skirt in a position of Baptist leadership? ;-)
Today Althea bounced back to health and headed off to school. The jacket potato and banana from the Storehouse obviously did the trick! The day was pretty standard for us both in terms of food (i.e. not much!), although I decided to use up a few things in our last supper this evening, especially the remaining chicken pieces and the kidney beans I eventually soaked but never got round to using! I also added a reduced pack of green veg as we have really missed those. This took us ever so slightly over today’s budget, but I think we came under most other days, so think we are still within our joint £10.
My husband Jim wanted to do a little experiment this afternoon and trawled the local High Street to see if any cafes operated a ‘Suspended Coffee’ scheme so that he could buy me a coffee. It’s a scheme whereby someone buying a coffee in a cafe can buy an extra one for someone in need. The availability of suspended coffees is noted by staff and someone in need can come in and ask if any are available. If they are, they can receive a free coffee. You can hear more in this BBC news video.
He could not find any cafes which understood much about this concept, let alone any that were practising it. After some confused conversations a member of staff at Starbucks eventually remembered that they do accept payments for suspended coffees and that this money goes to a national charity in partnership with Shelter. Sounds like a helpful way to donate to a charity which does excellent work, but it still left us wondering where people can buy a coffee for any of the many needy people in our town.
We have enjoyed our final meal of the Live Below the Line challenge. It has taught us much. I will post some further questions and reflections tomorrow, but the most important thing now is to decide whether to stay up until midnight to enjoy a bar of chocolate or not?!
half spoon of sugar 0.5p
Tea bags x 3 1p
Milk in tea 8p
Althea’s jam sandwiches that she didn’t take to school yesterday – free
3 chicken pieces 51p
Quarter onion 3p
20g kidney beans 10p
Tinned potatoes 7p
Green veg 37p
Corn flakes – free from Storehouse
half spoon of sugar 0.5p
Milk – 8p
2 slices bread 4.5p
2 Bourbon biscuits 3p
3 chicken pieces 51p
Quarter onion 3p
20g kidney beans 10p
Tinned potatoes 7p
Green veg 35p