Archive for May, 2013


KilpinCover_SmallI 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.

Get your skirts on!

cordskirt1Twenty 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.

IMG_2008We 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?!

Today’s Menu

Me:

Porridge 2p

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

Passata 3p

Quarter onion 3p

20g kidney beans 10p

Tinned potatoes 7p

Green veg 37p

TOTAL £1.15

 

Althea:

Corn flakes – free from Storehouse

half spoon of sugar 0.5p

Milk – 8p

2 slices bread 4.5p

Jam 2p

2 Bourbon biscuits 3p

3 chicken pieces 51p

Passata 3p

Quarter onion 3p

20g kidney beans 10p

Tinned potatoes 7p

Green veg 35p

TOTAL £1.20

 

On Day 4 my daughter woke up with her sore throat worsening and turning into a cough – it’s been going round the school since last week.  I allowed her the day off school and encouraged her to go back to sleep.  Despite her resistance I dipped into our budgeted supplies to give her a more substantial breakfast than normal and a few extra snacks.  Having got into the swing of not eating much these last few days I was prepared to go without in order for her to have my budgeted food if needed.

I had already arranged with my friend Louise to go and visit my nearest food bank today.  She works at the Storehouse in Southend.  I have never been before but have heard great things and wanted to experience a little of what it is like to use it.  We agreed that she would let the door staff know I was coming as part of my LBLUK challenge and that I would return the bag of food after.

So at 11am I went to join the queue of 30 people already lined up outside the building, nestled at the base of two tower blocks. A few were chatting, but most stood quietly subdued.  Exposed, everyone was aware that onlookers from the surrounding streets and tower blocks could view us and all would know why we were there.  By the time the doors opened there was easily another 20 or 30 behind me for this morning’s session.  From today, an afternoon session has been added as demand has increased so much in recent weeks.

The retired woman queuing behind me explained how she has been coming for a year and lives 3 miles away.  The young mum behind her tried to keep her 1yr old daughter occupied while we waited.  At the door, as others gave their names, I had to admit that I was new.  I was given a form to fill in on which I stated that I was here as part of my LBLUK experience.  The staff member briefly acknowledged this and then explained what to do next.

I turned into the food bank room where 6-8 staff member were standing in between boxes and shelves of produce.  We filed round the room and at each section one of the  staff kindly explained how many items we could choose.  There was unlimited bread which had been fresh the day before in Sainsbury’s bakery and unlimited browning bananas.  There was a choice of compulsory items, mini corn flake cereal packets, or tinned kidney beans.  I went with the corn flakes!  In the next section, as I was told that I could choose 3 items from the boxes in front of me, my mind suddenly went blank.  What could I use with the limited supplies I had back at home?  Choosing food had become such a big decision.  I chose a softening red pepper, 2 bruised apples and a bag of out of date potatoes.  In the next section I could again choose 3 items – I went for a heavily dented tin of baked beans, a carton of eggs and a carton of Waitrose apple juice.  The staff were all so welcoming, patient and gracious – as self-conscious as I felt, these staff treated me with utmost dignity, patience and humanity.

There were other items I could have asked for – nappies, shampoos, deodorants and tampax.  Ladies, could you imaging having to ask people at the food bank, in front of a room full of people, to pass you a packet of tampax?  Like most of us I feel insecure going into an unknown environment and this no doubt raised my adrenalin and emotional levels.  But having witnessed so many people in the seventh richest country queuing an hour for food, and having hunger-induced fried-brain, this was my tipping point and as I left the room I struggled to hold my tears in.

Down the corridor the Storehouse provides a free cafe.  I met Louise in here to reflect on the experience.   The food (all donated I am assuming) was served and presented beautifully – various platters of fruit, a variety of filled rolls, cakes and pastries and hot bacon rolls.  Again the staff were fantastic with no hint of begrudging people food, more a desire to ensure everyone has enough.

I asked Louise how I should return the bag of food, but she told me that the Stoehouse wanted those doing LBLUK to keep them.  Part of me felt bad – am I failing the challenge?  But part of me was relieved.  Perhaps my unwell daughter could have a few treats to help her get over this cough and cold?  I returned home to find her asleep, so I popped a couple of the potatoes into the oven and when she woke she had her favourite meal, jacket potatoes and beans, followed by her favourite fruit, banana 🙂

I will stop this post here.  More reflections to follow.  The amount we would normally have spent on our weekly shop between us is begin donated to the Storehouse.

Today’s Menus

Me:

3 slice bread 7.5p

Tea bags x 3 1p

Milk in tea 8p

Jam 6p

Egg sandwich from the Storehouse – free

Fruit form the Storehouse – free

Pasta 3p

Passata 9p

Quarter onion 3p

Red pepper – free from Storehouse

Total 37.5p

(if items used from Storehouse were paid for, I suspect total would still have been under £1)

Althea:

1 egg 16.5p

4 slices of bread 10p

Jam 4p

Orange 30p

2 bourbon biscuits 3p

Jacket potato – free from Storehouse

Baked beans 12.5p

Banana – free from Storehouse

Pasta 3p

Passata 9p

Quarter onion 3p

Red pepper – free from Storehouse

TOTAL 75p