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Britain’s leading Black and multi-ethnic community-focused publication promoting

ISSUE 106

and supporting unity, faith and family values

Inspirational Black Christian Millennials

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EMBRACE THE ENERGY OF SYNERGY: FIGHT AGAINST YOUTH CRIME KAREN GIBSON STAYING GROUNDED

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Welcome to Issue 106 As we move from what has been a record-breaking, glorious summer, with temperatures way above the norm for the time of year, I welcome the next season and, dare I say, some much-needed rain! June was a busy month celebrating the 70th anniversary of the arrival of SS Empire Windrush on 22 June 1948, with hundreds of passengers on board who had travelled from Jamaica for 30 days to begin a new life in the UK. There were celebrations all around the country, and in this issue you can read about the Spirit of Windrush – a Service of Thanksgiving at Westminster Abbey, organised by the Dean of Southwark and Windrush Committee, and chaired by Bishop Joe Aldred which was attended by over 2,000 people. The service was followed by a special reception in the gardens of No 10 Downing Street, hosted by Prime Minister Theresa May. We have interviewed some great people for this issue: record-breaking, chart-topping Sarah Téibo; multi award-winning vintage mentor, Sherry Ann Dixon; Rev Olufemi Babatola, founder of House of Hope Christian Centre, and Karen Gibson, now recognised as Britain’s ‘godmother of gospel’, after her choir nearly stole the show at the Royal Wedding, the Spirit of Windrush Service, and their performance at the Windrush Downing Street Reception - not to mention the amazing success of the choir’s rendition of Stand By Me, which has resulted in over 10 million YouTube views and a record deal. Our focus this issue is on the Ascension Trust, who are celebrating 25 years of working to meet the practical needs of communities through their many initiatives. These include Street Pastors, a network of over 12,000 volunteers, and their latest initiative, Synergy Network, for those who are seeking to make a difference to their communities and the cities of this country, through community cohesion and a wide spectrum of organisations seeking to reduce serious youth violence. What makes Keep The Faith unique is that the entire contents of the magazine are written by our readers and members of the Black and minority ethnic Christian community, by people who want to share, educate, help and make a difference. So why not become part of our team too? If you enjoy writing and have something to share, or want to find out how you can support us, get in touch! We would love to hear from you. In the meantime, enjoy this issue and... Keep the Faith!

ISSUE

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NEWS 04 In the news 07 The Spirit of Windrush 08 Marking Windrush Day

GOSPEL MUSIC

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24

10 Gospel Factor talent show returns by Joy Roxborough 12 Gospel lessons from a Royal Wedding by Juliet Fletcher

INTERVIEW 16 Sarah Téibo keeps walking by Milton B Allen 18 Karen Gibson - Staying grounded by Marcia Dixon 22 Reverend Olufemi Babatola by Tayo Fatunla 24 A long road to travel by Sherry Ann Dixon

FEATURE 26 Safeguarding has a new name by Annette Williams 28 BHM: Lest we forget by Dionne Gravesande 29 Embracing the energy of Synergy in the fight against youth crime by Shirin Aguiar 36 Millennial Leaders 40 Busting the dangers of internet gaming by Joy Roxborough 42 “Are you about dis ting, fam?” by Sheldon Thomas

COMMENT 46 The church coexisting with robots? by Rev Stephen Brooks 48 What’s behind the dramatic rise in refugees? by Rev Wale Hudson-Roberts 50 Food for Thought by Marcia Dixon 51 An eduucation in beauty by Esther Kuku 52 I am a hypocrite! by Gary Clayton

Enjoy!

Shirley McGreal

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The Publisher would like to thank Juliet Fletcher, Joy Roxborough, Shirin Aguiar, Milton B Allen, Dionne Gravesande, Sheldon Thomas, Rev Stephen Brooks, Rev Wale Hudson-Roberts, Marcia Dixon, Esther Kuku, Gary Clayton, Amanda Hamilton, Keno Ogbo, Lucy Stevens, Vanessa Grossett, Grace Gladys Famoriyo, Dr Harvey Kwiyani, Tayo Fatunla, Sherry Ann Dixon, Professor Anthony Goodman,Joe Ware, Rachel Brown, Erin James, Diverse Media Group, our supporters and advertisers. The opinions expressed in this publication are not necessarily those of the Publisher.

LIFESTYLE 54 How to take someone to a Small Claims Court by Amanda Hamilton 55 Essentials for Entrepreneurs by Keno Ogbo 56 A leap of faith by Lucy Stevens 58 Should I stay or should I go? by Vanessa Grossett 59 Personal Trainers and Preachers by Joy Roxborough 60 Developing Leaders: Is the anointing all you need? by Grace Gladys Famoriyo 61 Lusting is not virtuous by Vanessa Grossett

MISSION 62 A prayer-conditioned world by Dr Harvey Kwiyani www.keepthefaith.co.uk


04 NEWS

Church faces Charity Commission inquiry PROJECT LAB 2018 WINNERS Proof Bakery and the Healthy Church Initiative fought off stiff competition to win Cinnamon Project Lab 2018 at The Mercers’ Hall in London. Project Lab 2018 aimed to find community projects that respond to social needs in Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic communities, with a desire to replicate what they do in churches across the UK. London-based Healthy Church Initiative, led by Shola Oladipo, provides health intervention, which educates and transforms nutritional health in Black African Caribbean churches and communities. Proof Bakery, founded by Chernise Neo, operates from Coventry, and enables churches to support refugee women into work through a bakery business, where they sell and deliver artisanal bread subscriptions to local church collection points. Thanks to the Mercers’ Company, the projects will each receive a development grant of £30,000 plus entry onto the Cinnamon Incubator Programme, where they will benefit from expert coaching, world class training, targeted marketing, and access to industry and government contacts. In addition to the top prizes, more than £9,000 was pledged on the night from guests at the event to support the development of the other three finalists: Breaking Bread, Living Loss and Proudtobeme.

Lord Ahmad appointed as the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy on Freedom of Religion or Belief The role, which supports the Prime Minister’s commitment to religious tolerance in the UK, will allow Lord Ahmad to demonstrate the country’s commitment to religious freedom, by promoting inter-faith respect and dialogue internationally. Lord Ahmad, who is also Minister of State for the Commonwealth and the UN at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, will promote the UK’s firm stance on religious tolerance abroad, helping to tackle religious discrimination in countries where minority faith groups face persecution. The appointment underscores the Prime Minister’s commitment to tackling religious prejudice in all its forms, and follows the government’s recent announcement of a further £1 million funding for places of worship that have been subjected to hate crime attacks. Rachel Brown Find us on Twitter and Facebook: @KeepTheFaithmag

Charities regulator, the Charity Commission, recently opened a statutory inquiry into Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministries International (MFMMI). The church, which has a focus on prayer and fasting, has approximately 40 branches across the UK, and promotes the Christian faith using various means, including events, Bible studies and the distribution of educational print and media. The reason why MFMMI has come under Charity Commission scrutiny is because they have repeatedly failed to submit returns and financial information to the Commission on time, and its accounts for 2014 and 2015 were qualified by its auditors. The Commission has been in active engagement with the trustees of the charity since September 2017, having been made aware of potentially significant losses to the charity. The Commission has identified concerns as to the adequacy of the trustees’ oversight and control over the individual branches. The Commission also has concerns about the trustees’ failure to promptly report serious incidents to the Commission and to the police. In order to address these concerns, a statutory inquiry has been opened, which will look into the following: • the governance, management and administration of the charity by the trustees, exploring - the extent of financial loss to the charity, and the circumstances which led to the losses - whether adequate steps were or are being taken to recover such losses - whether reasonable steps were or are being taken to safeguard charity funds and assets - the adequacy of the trustees’ oversight and control of the charity’s branches - the adequacy of serious incident reporting by the trustees • the extent to which the trustees have complied with their duties and responsibilities under charity law • whether and to what extent any issues or weaknesses in the administration of the charity - were as a result of misconduct and/or mismanagement by the trustees, and - require rectification by the trustees or the Commission Once the inquiry is completed, the Charity Commission will publish a report detailing what issues the inquiry looked at, what actions were undertaken as part of the inquiry, and what were the outcomes.


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06 NEWS

More than 5,500 UK churches convert to renewable energy

As temperatures soar around the world, raising concerns about climate change, more than 5,500 churches have put their faith in clean energy – with church leaders encouraging more to follow suit. Fifteen Anglican cathedrals, including Salisbury, Bristol, Sheffield and York Minster, are among the buildings now using 100% green electricity tariffs. The places of worship that have seen the light of renewables come from across the denominational spectrum, and include the Church of England, as well as Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, Quaker and Salvation Army congregations. Based on the average annual church electricity bill of £1000 - a figure provided by national church buying group 2buy2 - British churches have diverted more than £5 million from fossil fuels to clean energy providers. Other churches have turned to renewable electricity through the Big Church Switch campaign, a partnership between Christian Aid, Tearfund and the Church of England’s Environment Programme. Parishes can sign up to the scheme run by 2buy2, which then pools the combined buying power to negotiate the cheapest possible tariff. Often the renewable energy tariff is cheaper than the fossil fuel-powered one they were on before. Information about the Big Church Switch can be found at www.bigchurchswitch.org.uk Joe Ware

Ascension Trust Evening Worship Celebration AND 25 Years Thanksgiving Service & Graduation Ceremony, 9th and 10th November 2018 Ascension Trust is a Christian inter-denominational organisation with a passion to empower individuals to work together within their local community and nation, to contribute positively to society, and to improve the quality of life of the disadvantaged and vulnerable. Ascension Trust initiatives include Street Pastors, pioneered in London in 2003 by Rev Les Isaac OBE, which now has over 12,000 trained volunteers, and the 60/40 project - a joint initiative of Ascension Trust, the Methodist Church and London City Mission that exists to care for, equip and empower teenagers in Lambeth, to name but a few. Ascension Trust will be holding its Grand Evening Celebration and its special 25 Years Thanksgiving Service & Graduation Ceremony - both to be held at the prestigious Emmanuel Centre, Marsham Street, London SW1 3DW. On Friday 9th November, 18:30 to 20:30, Ascension Trust Evening Celebration will be a gathering together for worship and celebration, with artists Graham Kendrick and band; Lou Fellingham is confirmed, as well as IEC Band. There will also be performances by The Darvell Community Singers. On Saturday 10th November, 14.00 to 17.00, there will be a special 25 Years Thanksgiving Service and Street Pastor Graduation Ceremony. The event includes worship from worship leader Jake Isaac; a performance by the Metropolitan Police Choir, and an address by Mr Ram Gidoomal CBE – Patron of Ascension Trust. Attendance at both events is free of charge, but places must be booked in advance. There will be an opportunity for donations. For more information, visit: www.ascensiontrust.org.uk. Find us on Twitter and Facebook: @KeepTheFaithmag

A nine-year-old girl, Anjali Masih, was reportedly gang-raped and killed on 5 August in Gurdaspur, Punjab, India. Anjali Masih was playing with her friends when three men lured her away with the promise of a guava. Anjali Masih was then gang-raped by the men and strangled to death with a telephone wire. A local pastor said that since Anjali Masih’s parents had recently become Christians, he believed her murder was a warning to others who might consider changing their religion to Christianity. He also reported that an increasing number of people in that area have been converting to Christianity, which has resulted in much opposition and violent threats. According to local Christians in the area, Christians living nearby are very fearful and afraid to carry on with their daily routines. India is number 11 on the Open Doors World Watch List. Most persecution comes from a variety of radical Hindu groups wanting to cleanse their country. Converts from a Hindu background bear the brunt of the persecution in India, and are constantly under pressure to return to Hinduism. Radical Hindu groups are increasingly enjoying impunity when they harass Muslims or Christians. At least eight Christians were killed last year, and nearly 24,000 physically assaulted. As a result, fear and uncertainty among Christians is increasing. Henrietta Blyth, Open Doors’ CEO, said: “This vile targeting of an innocent little girl because of her religion is absolutely abhorrent. Sadly the rape and murder of Anjali is part of a worrying trend of increasing violence against Christians - especially converts - across India.” Erin James

The girl’s father is comforted by local women (World Watch Monitor)


NEWS 07

Westminster Abbey celebrates the Spirit of Windrush

O

ver 2000 people, some representing three generations of Caribbean people in the UK, were present at a special Service of Thanksgiving, held recently at Westminster Abbey to mark the 70th anniversary of the landing of the Windrush. People in attendance included: Sir Kenneth Olisa OBE, Lord-Lieutenant of Greater London, who represented the Queen; the Right Honourable Theresa May MP, Prime Minister; Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, and the Most Reverend and Right Honourable Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Primate of All England and Metropolitan. Other church leaders, who were present, included: Pastor Agu Irukwu, leader of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, and Bishop Blake, head of the Church of God in Christ UK. The service, conducted by the Very Reverend Dr John Hall, Dean of Westminster, commemorated the arrival of the Empire Windrush at the Port of Tilbury on 22nd June 1948. More than 500 men and women from the Caribbean were on board, and the ship’s arrival heralded the start of mass immigration from the Caribbean to the UK. Those who took part in the service included the Reverend Prebendary Rose Hudson-Wilkin - Chaplain to the Queen, Chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons and Priest Vicar of Westminster Abbey - who read Jeremiah 29:4-11; Jayden Hamilton, who read 2 Corinthians 4:6-9; gospel singer, Carla Jane, who sang ‘Faithful One’; a 70-strong choir, directed by Karen Gibson; the

Performers from the Hebe Foundation

Guests outside Westminster Abbey

Reverend Rose Hudson-Wilkin

Windrush Soloists sang ‘Psalm to Windrush: for the Brave and Ingenious’, a new anthem by co mposer Shirley J Thompson, commissioned for the service, and performances by young people of The Invitation - a dramatic exploration of the invitation from the British to Caribbean citizens - and Mixed Welcome, dramatised testimonies of the first Windrush settlers in Britain. The Reverend Canon Joel Edwards, the first Black man to head the Evangelical Alliance, gave the main address. The service was held amidst the ongoing Windrush scandal, which saw people who once lived in Britain, unable to return when they went to the Caribbean on holiday or to see loved ones because, according to the Home Office, they didn’t have full British citizenship. Rev Joel mentioned this in his address,

Karen Gibson

stating: “The word ‘Windrush’ has evoked a great deal of emotion and even anger across our political landscape.” He went on to map out the successes, the difficulties and the resilience of the Windrush Generation, and how they have been undergirded by their faith. He continued: “Like the Hebrews, the people of Windrush are resilient…History has taught us that this is often the price of citizenship.” His address concluded on a hopeful note: “We may be perplexed, but Christian faith is all about future hope. And Windrush resilience arises, supremely, from the conviction that God our Help in ages past will always be our Hope for years to come.” The Dean of Westminster wore a cope, especially commissioned for the occasion by the Church of England National Committee for Minority Ethnic Anglican Concerns.

Guests outside Westminster Abbey

Rev Joel Edwards


08 NEWS

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Downing Street reception to mark Windrush Day The great and the good within Britain’s Black community attended a special reception held at 10 Downing Street to commemorate the arrival of The Windrush in 1948. Baroness Patricia Scotland, the first Black Attorney General of Great Britain; actress and author Floella Benjamin; Bishop Joe Aldred; Juliet Fletcher, founder of the Gospel Music Industry Alliance; Vanessa Kingori MBE, Publishing Director at Vogue, and Rev Ronald Nathan of the African Methodist Episcopal Church were among the guests who enjoyed canapés in the sunshine. Those in the crowd were welcomed by Prime Minister Theresa May, who used the occasion to expand on the reasons why the government has approved of a national day to celebrate the arrival of Caribbean communities to Britain. It will be called Windrush Day and will take place every year. She stated: “22nd June will forever be marked as Windrush Day” and shared why the government will be providing funding to help charities and local communities mark it. She continued: “Windrush Day will provide an annual focus for celebrating our Caribbean community, apologise for the Windrush fiasco, and recognise the contribution of the Windrush Generation.” The ‘Windrush fiasco’ alluded to has seen some Caribbean people and their descendants, who were born in Britain, being rendered unable to work; prevented from renting property, and even denied NHS care. Some received letters from the Home Office stating they have no right to live in the UK. May said, “It was completely unacceptable. I am deeply sorry for what has happened to some members of the Windrush Generation as a result. We let you down, and the government is working urgently to put this right.” The Prime Minister also recognised the contributions of individual people from the Caribbean, citing Jamaican-born Alford Gardner, who is a pillar of his community in Leeds, and Karen Gibson & the Kingdom Choir, who sang at the Royal Wedding, stating: “A Black gospel choir, taking a central role at a Royal wedding in the heart of Windsor Castle, was a powerful demonstration of the extent to which Britain has changed over the past seven decades.” The Kingdom Choir provided the entertainment, with a repertoire of songs, which included: ‘Stand by Me’, the song they sang at the Royal wedding in May, and which has been viewed over 10 million times on YouTube. Image captions 1. Dr Yvonne Thompson CBE 2. Baroness Doreen Lawrence and Baroness Floella Benjamin 3. Diane Abbott MP and Cllr Anntoinette Bramble, Deputy Mayor Hackney 4. Dr Daniel Tulloch, Shirley McGreal and Paulette Simpson 5. Shern Hall Methodist Church Steel Band 6. Karen Gibson & the Kingdom Choir Find us on Twitter and Facebook: @KeepTheFaithmag

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10 GOSPEL MUSIC

H S T N E L A T R O T C A GOSPEL F C E S E H T R O F S N R RETU G ospel Factor was back again for its second year at the Bethel Convention Centre in West Bromwich, and what can I say? In the words of 13-year-old Leah Dawkins, who compered the show with Roma Thompson, the event was ‘lit’! From an amazing line-up of talented young people, 17-year-old Rebecca Campbell came out on top, walking away with £1,000 in prize money for her rendition of ‘His Eye is on the Sparrow’. Letisha Orr (14), who sang Tremaine Hawkins’ ‘I Never Lost My Praise’, came in second place, and Tamoy Phipps (20) sang Destiny Child’s ‘Stand up for Love’ and was placed third. Organised by Lebert and Janet Dawkins, who also run the charity ‘Blessed 2 Bless’, which caters to the needs of the homeless across the West Midlands, Gospel Factor is a platform they have created to give young people an opportunity to showcase their creative performing talents. This year, the competition saw a wider diversity of performances and even non-performance art forms,

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from young people like 15-year-old Dominic Small, who displayed his intricate, photographic drawings. Receiving her trophy, Rebecca said that it was really for everyone. “I feel really grateful, happy and privileged to have won,” she said. “I didn’t actually expect to win, because everyone’s talent was so amazing. I’d like to thank the team at Blessed 2 Bless for all their support, for the wise words and the exercises they gave us to help us prepare for the event. I’d especially like to thank Janet and Lebert, who were so instrumental in the whole process, and for giving so many young people a voice to share their ministry with others.” The £1,000 prize money was donated by Bishop John Francis of Ruach City Church. Letisha also expressed her gratitude for the exposure gained from participating, as well as the opportunity to minister to people. “Even though it’s over,” she said, “I still feel the adrenalin rush and I like that feeling.” She said the most difficult part of preparing for the competition was in rehearsals,

because she usually did not like to go full out when practising, but preferred to let God take control on the night. She said she was looking forward to singing at more events and reaching out to even more people. Tamoy said she gained so much more from entering the competition than simply singing. “I felt so gratified,” she said. “It is the first time I have ever performed, and actually felt such a connection with my audience.” About to begin her third year studying drama at university, Tamoy said in the future

she hoped to do more work helping other performers. Gospel Factor judges’ coordinator, Trevor Minto, who was also one of the five judges, said: “We had a difficult task of judging the multi-talented contestants. The event had us on a cliffhanger. We had to pool our combined skills of judgement to arrive at the worthy winner, Rebecca Campbell. Children and young people are certainly not afraid to display their talents to the glory of their Creator, Father God.” Lebert, founder and CEO of


GOSPEL MUSIC 11

HOW COND YEAR Gospel Factor, said: “I am elated at the level of talent that was presented in the show this year. The contestants gave such outstanding performances that the judges had to work really hard to arrive at their decision. I am excited as I contemplate what next year may hold, as I believe each year will be better than the last. As we move forward, I would love to see more support for our youth from the wider community, church and the contestants’ families. This is for them and for their futures and I am committed, under God’s direction, to keep running with this vision. The youth are the future, and we value them and the gifts they have been blessed with. “I would also like to take the opportunity to give special thanks to Bishop John Francis for such generosity in blessing us with the prize money, and to my entire team who have worked so hard on the planning since last year.” Manager of the Bethel Convention Centre, Michael DaCosta, said: “I believe the event has a great future ahead, and I believe that the word

THE YOUTH ARE THE FUTURE, AND WE VALUE THEM AND THE GIFTS THEY HAVE BEEN BLESSED WITH. will spread that there is a crossdenominational Kingdom-focused event that provides our youth, in and out of church, with inspiration, motivation and the opportunity to show their creative and artistic expressions on such a platform. I certainly will be giving my full support for the event to continue.” Mr DaCosta described the event as one of the great highlights of his decade-long tenure as general manager of the conference centre. He said: “The sheer level of devotion from Lebert, Janet and their teams, in executing a very high class, professional event, added to the very special atmosphere of providing our youth a great opportunity to showcase their talents. And the talent was absolutely splendid!” www.keepthefaith.co.uk


12 GOSPEL MUSIC

Gospel lessons from a

Royal Wedding

JULIET FLETCHER

is a former BBC Producer and funding Executive of the GMIA

Well, we have spent the past fifteen to twenty years telling young gospel artists what it was like to have lived during the 1980s, when a select number of choirs, groups and soloists were signed to mainstream secular record labels. And now they have witnessed this for themselves, with the recent signing of Karen Gibson & Kingdom Choir to the UK arm of Sony Music, following the Royal Wedding. What lessons can we learn from this widely acclaimed achievement? LESSON NO.1 EXCELLENCE PROPELS YOU In real, harsh business terms, it was a no-brainer decision for Sony. The song, ‘Stand By Me’, had reached the Number 1 slot on the US Billboard Singles Chart, following 10 million YouTube views, and 2 billion people had zoned in to watching the Royal couple say “I do” and to hear a choir, made up of African Caribbean or African British Find us on Twitter and Facebook: @KeepTheFaithmag

people singing ‘So fine, so sweet’. It must have been as startling to the US viewers, to see the British audience listening to Bishop Michael Curry, the Black presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church - the American equivalent of the Church of England. With that perspective in mind, it’s the realisation of how the choir sang, combined with who they were singing for and how the public responded that has given us the resultant recording deal that makes this so special - especially since there are a number of British choir directors with choirs who have been performing to mass audiences and royal dignitaries for many years. My first experience of Karen and her ability to hone a group of voices occurred while I worked at the BBC, producing The Gospel Train. From circa 1993 to 1996, The Gospel Train became the first regularly broadcasted programme on BBC Radio 2, which toured Pentecostal and Charismatic churches and recorded a live evening of music with special guest artists; a host choir and band, and an individual from the local audience, who would give an evidentially proven testimony of what the LORD had done for them. Some of the local choirs were not up to scratch and, after consulting Noel Robinson, who introduced me to Karen, I began to see her incredible skills put to great effect. I remember a particular choir that was just unbroadcastable (if there is such a word). They wanted to sing a classic gospel song, and it didn’t matter how much they rehearsed, they sounded no better. In comes Karen and, in less than a month - and I think it was two-three rehearsals - they were relatively brilliant. So much so, that

when we had a team production meeting to choose songs for a compilation album of the series, that song was the first choice of the Senior Producer! Wow! What a turnaround that was. When I recommended Karen to other BBC producers, I had no qualms or nervousness. She delivered time and time again. Delivering quality at every level in every way. This is an extremely important attribute. None of us are exempt from it - no matter how long we’ve been doing what we do! There is no doubt about it, it is a wonderful personal opportunity for Karen Gibson to bring her specific style of choir directing, her way of delivering the choral sound of British Gospel, to new and wider audiences. I’m excited for Karen and the singers, because they are properly and perfectly dedicated to what they do - with a right motive. Of course, they must receive payment for what they are doing; they have mortgages and rent to pay, and families to dress and feed...


GOSPEL MUSIC 13 ACM Choir

For some, it may be part time, others full time, but we know ALL THE TIME PRAISING AND HONOURING THE LORD - regardless of the situation they’re in. Let’s not get it twisted: working in the music and entertainment industry - because that is where they are - is not a complete bed of roses, and even if it were - roses have thorns! What we certainly need to do is pray for them, as they spread the message of hope, love, faith and peace to people.

telling him how he needed one more song for his debut album, and this was the only one he had to hand that was mainly written as a gospel song. He sang it to the producers Leiber & Stoller, and they decided to change up the lyrics and arrange it to its current lyrical form. Bobby Womack told us that story, because he says that artists who had come out of gospel in those days, to follow the success of Sam Cooke, to become known as a soul stars, had written songs that were originally for gospel. Somehow, I feel Karen & Kingdom Choir have reclaimed Stand By Me and brought it back home to its original genre. What was very important about the song Stand By Me was the actual skilled arrangement of this golden classic. This was all down to the excellent vocal coach, arranger, choir leader and producer, Mark De Lisser. I visited Mark’s website - and you should too! - at www.markdelisser.com, where there is the treasury of an exceptional workhorse of a musical master. His website is an AMAZING record of who he is and what he offers. Mark

has done a lot of TV and radio work, but he has also established various choirs, including ACM Choir (founded as part of his work at the Academy of Contemporary Music). We do have excellent anointed, appointed, skill-trained professionals - individuals who have taken the time to learn the art academically, but have also deeply embedded the craft of their roots and spirituality into all they do. I think it’s essential that individuals like Mark are highlighted, celebrated and encouraged within our scene and beyond it. We need to encourage more compositions - both arrangements and originals - from our writers. We need a collective attitude about great songs, and making and matching songs with the RIGHT artists who can emotively, spiritually and physically deliver through performance. It’s a very sad but unfortunate fact that we have not been successful in profiling, sharing and re-recording songs of our British peers and contemporaries. Where are our nationally known British classic gospel songs? The answer must change in this generation.

Bobby Womack

LESSON NO.2 THE RIGHT SONG IDENTIFIES YOU I recall once, while I worked with the superstar vocalist, Deniece Williams, producing her BBC Radio 2 show, we went to the home of the late singer-songwriter and guitarist, Bobby Womack. He told us a few stories of his personal experiences, one of which was about the song, Stand By Me. Womack was a contemporary and friend of Ben E King, and he described King Ben E King

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14 GOSPEL MUSIC

As much as this is Ben E King’s composition, the Kingdom Choir/Mark De Lisser arrangement will always be identified, and probably choirs and other chorale groups will learn to sing that version. And we will be able to tell the back story to its powerful place in our timeline.

LESSON NO.3 THE POWER OF THE FRUITS This may be an odd philosophical lesson to some who will read this, but I believe there is a valid point somewhere in my text. I read a quote recently. It was someone else quoting the famed Christian apologist, Ravi Zacharias, who said: “The more we enjoy legitimate pure pleasure, the closer we are to the heart of God.” Now, this is a big, BIG statement to me. And I compare this question with the many stories I have read in books and watched in films about people who are unbelievers, some atheists, who have an NDE - Near Death Experience. It always amazes me that many and most of those people return to give their lives to JESUS, or at least become very committed to believing there is life beyond physical death. Most times, the first ‘good’ experience is being surrounded by LIGHT and atmosphere of pure LOVE, or to be filled with PEACE or some other intangible goodness. Often following those experiences, people become aware they are experiencing

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GOD or JESUS, without being told that is who they are experiencing. Now, bear with me, for here is my point… I’ve had a look at Kingdom Choir’s website, and there are three big words: LOVE, MUSIC, POWER. When you are surrounded by PURE LOVE, PURE MUSIC or PURE POWER or, as is sometimes the case, all three elements, you can only but look up and probably discover, as many have, that this is GOD, and GOD IS LOVE. GOD IS SPIRIT. And this is where the FRUIT of the SPIRIT, listed in Galatians 5, lets us know that by these fruits we will know who He is. Sometimes our religiosity can tie us down or limit a presentation in a formulaic manner. BE LOVE. BE LIGHT. God will make His Person known. In closing, I pay tribute to a much-loved Choir Director and Pastor, Andrea Robinson, who preceded Karen Gibson, from the late 70s onwards, as one of our first widely known directors with a skill to hone and shape voices, regardless of where they came from or the level of their ability. Andrea went to be with the LORD earlier this year. Karen and other choir directors, who attended her Homegoing & Celebration of Life event, realise they are part of a select rare breed of persons with exceptional skills and ability, who carry something very special. Prayer and public support are needed for

all our various Ministers of Music, as they engage in these great opportunities handed to them. Yet we need more constructive ways to empower each other, so that more of these opportunities are forthcoming and the influence of our music can increase. Let’s keep learning the lessons.

Mark De Lisser


www.keepthefaith.co.uk


16 INTERVIEW

N, B ALLE K N O T L I N I BY M IC L L MUS A B O L G

Sarah Téibo talks to Keep The Faith about making Official UK Chart history, touring overseas, and faith, love and family.

h a r a S o b i TKeéeps Walking

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S

arah Téibo made UK Official Chart history with an unprecedented debut at the Number 3 position on the Christian and Gospel chart. In a manner of speaking, she broke three records: she is an independent artist without major distribution; she’s female, and she’s gospel. “Being Number 3 on the Official Charts was definitely a pleasant surprise,” says Sarah. “I worked really hard on making sure all the admin was in place to report the release, and was just hoping to get somewhere on the charts; just some sort of recognition for the album, even Number 20 would have been a great result. So, to see the album ‘Keep Walking’ appear at Number 3 was truly mind-blowing, to say the least. I know several male gospel artists have been on the charts, but I’m the first female gospel artist to achieve this. I think it’s great, because one of my biggest drivers is encouraging other women to pursue their dreams. This is something I took from watching my mother’s example: she was an independent woman, who never allowed life’s obstacles to stop her from dreaming and pushing to see her dreams become reality. My sincere prayer is that more women would be encouraged to push through and have their albums make it onto the Official Charts.” ‘Keep Walking’ is the follow-up to her acclaimed debut album, ‘Walk With Me’. This amazing album incorporates a variety of musical styles and weaves them into a beautiful mosaic that speaks to her faith in God. It features guest performances from some of the biggest names in the USA and UK gospel industry, including Fred Hammond - the King of Urban Praise and Muyiwa.


GOSPEL INTERVIEW MUSIC 17 19

“The collaboration with Uncle Fred is an interesting story,” says Sarah. “It was definitely not something I could have imagined in a million years! It’s a long story, but it started with me looking for some support with Spotify playlisting for the original song ‘Like A Child’, released back in January. A friend of mine offered to assist, and sent it to a contact who could help. On listening to the song, he liked it so much that he recommended a collaboration with a US artist and, lo and behold, it was Fred Hammond! Fred listened to the song. He loved it and the rest is history, as they say.” Other artists featured on ‘Keep Walking’ include US neo-soul gospel artist, Lisa McClendon; afro-gospel artist, Andrew Bellow; UK rapper, Tneek, and Jason Nicholson-Porter, who reached a whole new audience when he appeared on BBC TV’s The Voice. According to Lins Honeyman of Cross Rhythms: “Sarah Téibo’s second album is a classy affair and no mistake. Possessing a sleek, soulful but never overstated r’n’b feel - courtesy of producers Luke ‘GKID’ Grant and Shaun ‘Hypertone’ Barrett - MOBO-nominated Téibo’s impressively creative vocal performance lifts songs that cover fairly basic themes of faith to another level. For instance, the opener ‘Like A Child’, the neo soul of ‘Safe In You’ and the Afrobeat-tinged ‘Blessed’ do what their titles suggest but, thanks to the sizeable skills of Téibo and a big cast of collaborators, everyone involved succeeds in turning each piece into something spiritually uplifting and artistically dynamic.”

‘Resilience, pulling through, fighting through – they are messages we need to keep hearing in music...’

Sarah aims to take her unique brand of God’s music around the world. She recently returned from her first tour of South Africa. “I was honoured to be invited to perform on the annual CCFM Radio’s ‘Great Gospel Night Out’ and the ‘Unity Music Fest’ at Athlone Stadium,” says Sarah. “What a wonderful place and incredible people.” She will be opening for Todd Dulaney’s first UK appearance at the Dominion Centre in London on 29 September. “Todd is one of the most genuine worship leaders I have come across in recent times, and I would have been at the concert at the drop of the hat, just to sit under his ministry and be led in awesome worship. To share the stage with him in London would

be another milestone for me on this musical journey, that I count an absolute honour. I’m really looking forward to it.” Sarah also plans to tour Nigeria and the States. In her words: “I would definitely love to tour in as many countries as possible. I believe, not just myself, but UK Gospel as a whole, has so much to offer. We’ll be doing a lot of work this year, and hopefully through 2019, to see this happen. “The ultimate venue I would love to perform at would have to be in the Holy Land, Jerusalem. One of the venues in Jerusalem that would be a dream come true to perform live at has got to be the Caesarea Amphitheatre in Israel, due to its unique setting – in a restored Roman amphitheatre in front of the Mediterranean. It’s not just about the audience and the ambience of the venue, but more so about the privilege of doing a concert in the Land of our Lord. What an absolute honour that would be.” Balancing an international music career is no easy task with a family, a job and all of life’s commitments. We asked Sarah just how she does it. “It is indeed a manic balancing act on a day-to-day basis. But I try to manage this in a few ways. For example, I compartmentalise my day: my 9-5 fits into the ‘work window’ and when I’m back home, office work doesn’t get my attention. Having put my kids in a routine from birth, they have a set bedtime, which has also helped when it comes to picking up on my

music and personal business in the late hours after they’ve gone to sleep. “I also try to plan things ahead. My iPhone calendar is my best friend because, once I identify a task that needs to be done, I schedule it in my calendar and set an alert - sometimes as much as 6 months in advance! I’m also an excellent multitasker and, rather unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you look at it), a workaholic! So, I derive joy from being productive.” It is both the joy of children and the sadness of loss that motivates Sarah to create songs whose lyrics aim to encourage and inspire. Some songs were influenced by the personal tragedy Sarah experienced when her mother died last year. Wrestling with grief, anger, sadness and loss, Sarah found solace in her faith, which in turn inspired her music. “People are lacking hope. People are fearful and uncertain about the future. We all face crazy trials that are overwhelming at times. “We need more positive, encouraging messages. Resilience, pulling through, fighting through – they are messages we need to keep hearing in music, and are messages I want to share with people: that no matter what, they can keep walking.” www.keepthefaith.co.uk


18 INTERVIEW

Staying grounded in a whirlwind of BY MARCIA God’s goodness DIXON 2018 will go down as an amazing, groundbreaking, historic year for Karen Gibson & the Kingdom Choir - and quite possibly for UK Gospel too. It was the first time ever that a Black British gospel choir had performed at a Royal wedding, when the Kingdom Choir sang during the marriage ceremony of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle (who is mixed-race) on May 19. Furthermore, the choir sang to the largest ever TV audience to see a British choir in action. Two billion, to be exact. Millions more watched the choir’s rendition of ‘Stand By Me’ on YouTube (10 million and counting), plus the millions who viewed it on social media. In addition, ‘Stand By Me’ went to Number 1 on the American Billboard Gospel Chart. It was the first time a UK choir had hit the top spot in that chart and, to top it all, the choir recently signed a record deal with Sony Music.

In an aside, Karen and the choir have even been described as style icons, due to their fashionable look. It’s a compliment Karen has enjoyed. “It’s very nice. We hired a very good stylist, Jeanette Young, who did a phenomenal job in a very short period of time.” As you can imagine, the past few months have been a whirlwind of activity for Karen. She shared: “I don’t really have a grip on what’s going on, if I’m absolutely honest. I mean, viewing

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figures of two billion people watching the Royal wedding. How do you even compute that? If you had asked me how many people would be watching this, I’d have put it in the millions. My brain can deal with millions, but billions?” The call to sing at the wedding came out of the blue. Karen was on a bus at the time and, after accepting the invitation, she knew it would be a gamechanger but didn’t realise how much interest in the choir would blow up like it has since the wedding, transforming her life and her standing in the process. She stated: “There’s been a change in my life. I’m rehearsing (with the choir) twice a week - it’s gone up from once every other week. We give lots of interviews. I’m recognised down the road, but I still feel like me. I go to ASDA; I get on the bus; I have to clean my house… I do the things that normal people do, so my world is still my family, my mum, my sister, my nieces, my nephews, my family abroad, and my church friends and family. I don’t want to lose that. I need to stay grounded. I need to stay connected with the people I grew up with.” Staying grounded for Karen means not only remaining connected to people she knows, but doing activities like taking time out to visit a sick 91-year-old woman, who looked after her as a child when her mother went to work. Karen desires to remain ‘normal’ despite the extraordinary things happening to her at the moment. “I’m not looking to be famous.

I don’t care about that. I do care about making music that will touch people, though, and that’s what this record deal will do.” Some of the current developments in Karen’s ministry were foretold via prophecies she has received over the past 10 years - some during her time studying in America, and some at other times in her life. She explained: “Many of the prophecies were very accurate, and are going back 10 years. Obviously God was trying to get my attention. Those words were very interesting, very encouraging, but I didn’t expect the exceedingly, abundantly and the suddenly that I’m experiencing now. I received so many words of prophecy, and I think I just got used to them.”


INTERVIEW 19

She added: “After the Royal wedding, it seemed that those words were pointing to this moment in time. But we are not sitting on the fact that we sang at the Royal wedding or signed a deal with Sony Records. There’s more work to be done.”

RECORDING ALBUM The choir is currently busy recording songs for their debut album for Sony. They were planning to release an album independently, prior to being signed to Sony, however the appearance at the Royal wedding changed their plans. Due out on November 2, the album will comprise of original songs penned by choir members, some covers and, of course, the classic ‘Stand By Me’. They’ll be performing in concert to a sell-out crowd at Union Chapel in Islington on November 28. Whilst Karen wants the album to do well, and play her part in promoting it, she is trusting God for its success. “None of this is my idea,” she says. “It’s God’s idea; He orchestrated it all. We’re just following the wind of God’s favour. And if He’s brought us this far, I believe He’ll take us through it.” What she is excited about, though, is the fact that UK gospel music is reaching a new, wider audience. She said, “Gospel music as a genre is powerful. I believe it reaches people where other music doesn’t. I believe music is power, but I believe gospel brings something extra because of the themes of love, joy, hope, reconciliation and victory. It’s

more than that, it’s also something spiritual.” And she’s buoyed by the fact that her fellow UK artists are encouraged by the choir’s signing to Sony. “If I were looking on, and it was someone else being signed, I would feel hope for the genre and the message. It feels, to me, gospel was popular but very underground. It now feels as if it’s being unveiled. I’ve had artists say their bookings have gone up since the Royal wedding. There will be a spill-over. We must manage it well. Steward the thing that we have to do.” Continued overleaf.....

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20 INTERVIEW

There’s no doubt that Karen, now 54, has come a long way since growing up with her Guyanese parents and siblings in south London. She attended Church of God of Prophecy (a Pentecostal denomination), where she was heavily involved in the music department. She started the Kingdom Choir over 20 years ago, after being asked to form a choir to participate in a BBC Radio recording. Since then, the choir has sung for numerous international figures, including Pope John Paul, who visited the UK in 2010; the late Nelson Mandela; Archbishop Desmond Tutu and her Majesty the Queen. Karen is a respected choir director/tutor in her own right, and has led gospel music workshops in Japan, Latvia, Poland, the US, Norway and Nigeria, as well as in the UK. She has also appeared on TV. Gibson was a judge on BBC2’s The Naked Choir and, in 2014, she directed Lewes Sings Gospel to victory in the BBC Songs of Praise Gospel Choir of the Year competition. Earlier this year, Karen and members of her choir were featured on the hit BBC series, Call The Midwife.

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‘...the choir has sung for numerous international figures, including Pope John Paul, who visited the UK in 2010; the late Nelson Mandela; Archbishop Desmond Tutu and her Majesty the Queen.’

One unexpected outcome of performing at the wedding is that it is inspiring young Black people. Karen shared: “I was told the story of a little girl, who saw the choir on the TV and said, ‘Look, mummy, there’s people who look like me.’ That story gives me hope. She’s four years old, and recognises there’s not much representation.” Karen is also inspiring people of all ages and races. Many approach her in the street to

tell her how much they loved the choir’s performance at the wedding - and to take selfies. Black people who approach Karen thank her for representing the community. And her fellow Guyanans have adopted her as their own. Whilst out shopping, one woman went up to Karen and said: “We are so proud of the Guyanese girls that have done good.” Karen has learnt much through this heady, busy and exciting time in her life and that of the choir. She concluded: “It has really revealed who God is, and He is who He said He is. You can live a life of Christianity and it becomes a life of theory, or you can live a life where you’re proving God daily, and I find everything that’s happened is a testament of His goodness, His reality and His love. And it points a finger to what He wants to see in the world.”

The Kingdom Choir’s album is due out on November 2. For more information, visit www.thekingdomchoir.co.uk.


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22 INTERVIEW

Rev Olufemi Babatola

Rev Olufemi Babatola is the founder of House of Hope Calvary Christian Centre in Old Kent Road, London. Tayo Fatunla and friends caught up with him to talk about his ministry, his work, family life, being a leader and even Brexit! Keep The Faith (KTF): For many decades, you have had a successful ministry, starting from Nigeria and stretching to the UK. How did you achieve this great success? Rev Olufemi Babatola (ROB): Entering the ministry isn’t an overnight decision; it’s about God using various means and people to prepare and inform you. I knew serving the Lord would be the best life even though, at first, I didn’t know exactly what would happen, but to God be all the glory.

Rev Babalola seated - interviewed by (L-R) Kingsley Omankhanlen, Joyce Awoniyi and Tayo Fatunla

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In (the former West) Germany, where I studied, the pervading spirit of the land convinced me there was no living God, but inside my heart the Holy Spirit was telling me that God exists. Thank God it got to a point that I knew something had to happen in my life, because I was displeased with the life I was living. I humbly prayed to God to reveal Himself to me, and it happened so unexpectedly. A few months afterwards, my friend’s wife came to Germany and shared the Gospel with her husband and me, and we got born again. This lady was God-sent. I finished my studies in Germany and returned to Nigeria. Quickly, God took hold of me, and my wife and I were introduced to Foursquare Gospel Church in Ibadan, Western Nigeria. Within nine months, by the grace of God, I was already on the church council. My spiritual growth was so rapid, and I was determined to serve God. Within two years, I became one of the leaders in Foursquare in Ibadan and got involved with planting and pioneering churches. While in Nigeria, I remember my senior pastor, Rev Dr Paul Jinadu, national leader of New Covenant Church in Britain, saying to me continuously for four years that God wants me in the ministry. My senior pastor saw what I didn’t see, and used every tool he had to develop me. I eventually preached and still remember my first message from 1978: ‘If My people that are called by My Name…’ That was how it all began and, by the grace of God, here I am today. I have tasted the goodness of the Lord and He is so good.

My spiritual growth was so rapid, and I was determined to serve God. KTF: Your wife has stood by you and your ministry as co-pastor all these years. What do you attribute your phenomenal partnership to? ROB: I know God has definite plans for everyone, and my prayer is that we should never miss this. When I first met my wife, something within me knew there was something unique about her and her family. I grew up in a family that was always fighting, but I got to know her family through her older brother. He was just like a father to her, and was my maths/physics teacher at college. He just developed an interest in me and, by the grace of God, introduced me to my future wife. When we got married, she was greatly instrumental to my growth because this wonderful


INTERVIEW 23

lady has always been part of the Scripture Union. Her brother’s wife was also strong in faith, and together they kept talking to me about Christ, and teaching me God’s Word when I became a Christian. She did that for a while and said: “Now that you are the head of the home, God wants you to take charge and full responsibility.” That was how I took up the challenge. She was always praying for me and I believe strongly that those prayers were actually spiritual seeds being sown. KTF: After many years of your impactful ministry and involvement in the Foursquare Great Britain and House of Hope CCC, you have now decided to step aside. Can you please tell us more about this decision? ROB: When you are growing old - either in age or in faith - God begins to direct your path in ways that will affect others. What is the use of attaining old age if you cannot impact others? About 23 years ago, my wife and I were in a leadership meeting with close to 300 people. There was a guest minister, who walked up to me declaring that God said He was going to use me to be a father to pastors. I began to notice this taking place, as we continued ministering all over. I believe strongly that, with what God has done for me - I have a greatly supportive wife and wonderful children and family - it’s time to broaden our support to other ministers and strengthen God’s work. We are very grateful that we are privileged to do this by God’s grace. KTF: Going by your modest background as a minister, how did you strike a balance between your family life and the work of the ministry, and what advice do you have for pastors and leaders? ROB: When you are in the ministry, the first priority is to love God, and the second is to love and take care of your family. I grew up knowing that family is very important, because they will stand by you during trials, when friends have run away and people you trusted have disappeared. When I got born again and was in the leadership cadre, I began to read about the lives of people in the Bible. As mighty and powerful as Eli was, he was careless with his family, and that’s why he fell. Family comes before ministry. I looked at the life of Moses and all the leaders, and more importantly, our Lord Jesus Christ, and came to the conclusion

that without the family there is no ministry. The ministry can only succeed if you have the attention, cooperation and total support of the family. We go the extra mile to help build homes and lives, but God will ask us to give an account of whether we trained and raised our family in a God-fearing way. Any minister who is not doing that is chasing shadows.

KTF: Throughout your ministry, you have married so many couples, blessed their marriages, and their marriages have stood the test of time. Marriage and family life are constantly under the radar and attack of the enemy, so what role should the Church continue to play to help build strong marriages? ROB: People must endure and endeavour not to take wrong steps. Foundation is very important in anything you do, for the Bible declares ‘He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favour from the Lord’. If you don’t allow God to lead and direct you in this very path, it will be a futile journey, because once you start, you cannot go back.

the will of god is for a man and his wife and for their children to stay strong together The Word of God is very clear: only death can separate marriage. Believers need to be very wary of misguided elements who erroneously teach and counsel people to stray in marriage and remarry. All the stories we hear about people leaving their wives and remarrying in the same church is not of God. The will of God is for a man and his wife and for their children to stay strong together, and to enjoy fellowship for the sake of the Kingdom.

The enemy wants to batter many couples and destroy their marriages and homes, because unfortunately many believers don’t seem to know the value of marriage. The Bible says ‘One shall chase a thousand and two, ten thousand.’ Can you imagine what a family of five, six or seven can do? We can chase millions! My prayer is that the good Lord will touch those who don’t have an understanding of what a marriage should be, and teach and help them. KTF: As a father and spiritual leader, what advice do you have for the nation and leaders at this time of Brexit, and the air of uncertainty in this country? ROB: Believers stand as the light to the nation, the beacon of hope and the light of Jesus to our neighbourhood. We are here to make an impact. We must continue to stand for righteousness and truth. God hasn’t called us to judge or condemn unbelievers or even our leaders, but we need to continue to pray for them, as the Apostle Paul tells us to, because every wrong decision can hinder us from preaching the Gospel. I want to say candidly that politics is dirty but, because the world rejected Christ, God has thrown everyone into the same boat, and we need to sort ourselves out. We must constantly and sincerely pray and intercede for our nation. There is a strong government influence over religion, and we need to pray unceasingly, because many Christians have sold out.

I believe that revival, an act of God and not man, will break out in this country, and neither Satan nor his demons can stop it. Hearts will be touched and marriages and people healed. God will do His great miracles over this nation. As far as Brexit is concerned, God is in control, as God wants to use Great Britain to evangelise Europe. Great Britain has experienced revival three solid times, in Scotland and in Wales. The next revival will break out from Scotland, and will sweep over this nation. KTF: And finally, what is your favourite Christian book? ROB: (laughs) My Bible is my favourite Book, and I love the song, ‘I am a friend of God’ by Israel Houghton.

Interview edited by Tayo Fatunla www.keepthefaith.co.uk


24 INTERVIEW

A long journey home Many Black people in the 1960s came to England as children, sent on their own to join family members in search of a better life. Keep The Faith caught up with multi award-winning transformational life coach and journalist, Sherry Ann Dixon, to talk about her journey from Georgetown to Clapham and back, on her first Caribbean Empowerment tour.

Keep The Faith (KTF): Can you give us an insight into life as a child in Guyana, and how it felt leaving at such a young age? Sherry Ann Dixon (SD): I lived with my grandmother, Mommy Irene, from an early age. I never understood why and, to be honest, I didn’t question why, because we were brought up not to ask questions. What I do know is that she brought me up as if I was her child, and took me everywhere she went. It would take hours to get down the street to the market, because she stopped and spoke to so many people. I can’t remember being able to object in any way, for fear of a pinch on the ear; little children must be seen and not heard! I was her little ‘prize’, and she made most of the dresses I wore because she was a seamstress. At the age of nine, I heard her and my mother chatting about me spending more time with my family, as I was going away and I needed to know how to wash my shirts and knickers. So I went for a while, and she taught me the necessary things a young girl should know. I am thinking of my journey at the age of 10 years old, as I stood waiting to board the plane in Georgetown. That was in the 60s, the Windrush Era, and I was so excited to travel to the land of hope and glory, Mother England. My family were all congregated, wishing me well, and my mother held my left hand longer than she normally did, and Daddy held the right hand very tightly. As the announcement came on for me to board the BOAC plane, Mommy Gloria (as I called her) bent down and whispered in my ear a list of things she wanted me to do and be: “BE good for Mommy; don’t cause any trouble for your Aunty Shirley (her sister, who I was travelling to live with); don’t stop studying hard - you are a good girl, and you need better grades. Don’t go anywhere without your aunt’s consent.” I, of course, nodded Yes after each request. The last thing she said was: “Walk straight, and don’t look back as you walk up the stairs to the plane!” I walked forward as fast as I could, like a true Brownie, military style. The air hostess showed me where to sit at the back of the plane, and I sat looking through the window at Mommy and Daddy, hugging. I knew they were sad, yet Find us on Twitter and Facebook: @KeepTheFaithmag

happy they were sending their first-born to a better life! But then control went, and I cried hard, like the way a 10-year-old would! Little did I know that was the last time I would see my baby sister, who was five years old, as she died of leukemia, and my mother because she died two years later of cancer. I never got to say Goodbye! I remember watching my mother at a very young age, having to deal with five young girls. She died at the age of 30, and only had one holiday with her friends in Trinidad. I vowed I would travel to see the world as soon as I could do so, and I did - as a celebrity make-up artist, and later as a magazine editor. Making time for me, even though I had two children, has always been so important. It’s a way of me connecting with my spirit and understanding self. I often think about her, and wonder what she would have been thinking about the work I do. Everything my mother asked of me I have delivered. I walked through BIG doors: from Downing Street, House of Lords, to the United Nations in NY, and every time I did these things, every speech I have made, I thought about her. I made a vow that I would be the voice my mother never had.


INTERVIEW 25

KTF: Why do you keep on motivating others when you can now retire? After all, you have done quite a lot. SD: I have always been the type of person who believed in reinvention. My mottos are “Never say never” and “I can and I will”. I entered the world of beauty whilst I was working in PR, after realising that nobody was representing the woman of colour – well… not in mainstream media anyway! So I decided to make that my job. I wrote articles and submitted them to magazines and they were printed. I then decided to study cosmetology part time, and became a cosmetologist and make-up artist, whilst working in a full-time job with two children. I felt that if I was to talk about the subject, then I had to understand it. Magazines and TV called me whenever they needed reference about skincare and issues with regarding beauty for the woman of colour, and I remember saying to myself “I will never ever say never” because anything that I wanted to do, with the grace of God, I will succeed.

KTF: So you were changing and reinventing careers again - another career move? SD: After a long stint as a celebrity make-up artist, I was offered the job as Beauty Editor for Pride Magazine and I found my joy. This position gave me the avenue to share my thirst for educating women about themselves. I learnt to speed-read, so that I could read material quickly, translate it and share. This job was a challenge, as every month I produced beauty, health and lifestyle pages and, trust me, they became popular. As I interviewed the celebrities, I would also share my information, and this made me even more popular with many of them, who are still friends. I became Editor but still kept a hands-on approach, and started writing features challenging women to empower themselves in order to be the best that they can be. I thought I was ready to retire at the age of 52, so I decided to work in Saint Lucia, and became the Editor in Chief of SHE Caribbean. Little did I know that I only needed a break. I returned to England, and started a group called Women on the Crossroads, which encouraged women to motivate and encourage each other along the way. I organised conferences and dinners through Women on the Crossroads, where I met so many talented women who just hid their natural skill because of lack of self-belief. So again I reinvented myself. I went on to study Confidence Building and Assertive Training and Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. I also had a radio show on Sundays, where I interviewed celebrities and local business people who shared their journey – the ups and downs – in order to encourage and motivate others. I became a qualified lecturer and moved from editorial to a motivational speaker quite naturally. In September 2017, I decided to take time out. It was my year of finding Me. I wanted to explore. All too often, we go along the journey of life, without asking questions about our past because many of us were brought up to not ask questions, and the lack of information about our ancestors Is taken to the grave. So, on this journey of discovery, I went on my own. I wanted

to find me - and I did! I booked my flight to Barbados to stay for three months, where I walked the beach every morning and sat on the veranda, drinking fresh coconut water every day in Hastings. I visited the places my great grandfather would have travelled as a child, before he too journeyed to Guyana with his parents. This Caribbean island was suddenly awash with excitement. I even went to Independence Celebrations, where my seat was not too far away from the Prime Minister, and then we had brunch in the Garrison. I spoke at many events, and the women of Barbados celebrated me with vigour. In December 2017, I went home to Guyana. I travelled there on my own with a bit of fear and trepidation. Guyana was ready for me. I did radio and TV every week. CWS produced two very big seminars, in which I was the keynote speaker. I spoke to young children in schools and young women in confidence building workshops, and the Minister of Indigenous Affairs took me to Rupununi, bordering the Brazilian Amazon to the Bena Hill Institute, where I spoke to the young indigenous people in the region. I was home, and home was enjoying me. I would like to think Mommy Gloria would be very proud. KTF: Is this your final career, Sherry? Are you ever going to stop and just do some gardening? SD: I am not sure I can stop! After seven months in the Caribbean I truly realised this. I am really enjoying the work I am doing. I truly believe, when the going gets tough, you have to reinvent yourself. Go sideways if you need to, but keep going, otherwise you will get bored and depressed. I have chosen to empower, motivate and stimulate anyone who wants to be the best that they can be. I am ME!

Sherry Ann Dixon www.womenonthecrossroads.net www.sherrydixon.co.uk www.keepthefaith.co.uk


26 FEATURE

Annette Williams

Bishop Joe Aldred

Safeguarding has a new name

A

nnette Williams is a Christian safeguarding advisor with the charity Thirtyone:eight (formerly the Churches’ Child Protection Advisory Service). Annette is the charity’s strategic lead on their work supporting BME churches in developing safer cultures. The charity was relaunched in July, and here Annette shares about God’s heart for protecting vulnerable people and the necessity of working together to create safer places. At Thirtyone:eight we’re inspired by God’s call to ‘speak out on behalf of the voiceless and for the rights of all who are vulnerable,’ as described in Proverbs 31:8, and from where we get the new name for the charity. We care about vulnerable people because we believe that’s what God told us to do. It’s central to everything we do, and are, and we believe this call is relevant to everyone. As an independent Christian charity we are here to help individuals, organisations, charities and faith groups to protect vulnerable people from abuse. We do this by providing a complete safeguarding solution, including a DBS service, training, policy support, consultancy, and a 24-hour helpline, making sure everyone is equipped and empowered with the tools they need. Since qualifying as a social worker in 1993, I’ve been working in safeguarding ever since, supporting vulnerable children and their families. I’ve experienced first hand how many churches and faith groups working in diverse communities require special support and advice in dealing with issues relating to safeguarding in their setting. Sadly, many of these communities can be perceived as ‘closed communities’, and sometimes children and young people experience abuse

due to a culture of dealing with matters ‘in-house’. Over the last 40 years that the charity has been working, we’ve found that safeguarding can sometimes be seen as a burden, an enforced requirement that must be met, but it is so much more than that. At its heart, it is about having a real and active concern for people, especially the most vulnerable in society, and ensuring that we are all creating environments that are safe, nurturing and enable people to flourish. Many faith groups in the UK, however, do not have a good understanding of what constitutes safeguarding or what being ‘vulnerable’ means, and that’s where we come in. We come alongside organisations to offer our expertise and in-depth knowledge of churches. At Thirtyone:eight, our vision is of a world where every child and adult can feel, and be, safe. It’s a big vision, but it’s what drives us because we believe that when a person or organisation shares this vision, transformation takes place, safer places are created, and people’s lives are impacted for the better. In March, we had the great pleasure of hosting a groundbreaking consultation event,

with leaders from BME churches from across the UK, to help develop plans to support and progress safeguarding structures in their church communities. Evidence has shown that many of these churches feel very isolated when dealing with these concerns, and the consultation looked at ways of keeping them informed of the latest developments and changes in safeguarding. We also looked at factors that exist in some of the more mainstream expressions of faith, and how to generate more appropriate responses to minimise discrimination and oppressive practice. Bishop Joe Aldred, who is responsible for Pentecostal and Multicultural Relations at Churches Together in England, who participated in the consultation, shared that “the responsibility for creating and maintaining safer spaces for everyone - especially vulnerable children and adults - is a sacred one in every local church. It is by ongoing training and vigilance that this can be achieved. I was thrilled, therefore, to attend and support the recent day conference convened by Thirtyone:eight for church representatives.” If safeguarding is a topic your organisation has been struggling with, or even if you’ve just started to become aware of its impact for your community, I’d love to talk to you about how we might work together, and tell you about some of the resources and support that are available. Organisations that become members with us get all the help, resources and advice they need from Christian professionals who care and understand. Members also get discounts on selected training and other services, along with all the benefits of being part of a supportive community of over 9,000 like-minded organisations nationwide. Join us.

Call us on 0303 003 1111, email us at info@thirtyoneeight.org, or visit: thirtyoneeight.org for more information Find us on Twitter and Facebook: @KeepTheFaithmag


‘Speak out on behalf of the voiceless, and for the rights of all who are vulnerable.’ Proverbs 31:8

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“Very knowledgeable, great experience and very supportive.”

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Equip your church to effectively safeguard children and vulnerable people from abuse. Get expert help and easy to follow advice from the UK’s only independent Christian safeguarding charity. Trusted by churches for over 40 years.

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Thirtyone:eight is the new operating name for CCPAS a charity registered in England and Wales (1004490) and Scotland (SCO40578). www.keepthefaith.co.uk


28 FEATURE

BHM – Lest We Forget! W e have a Black History Month because our conveniently faulty memories explain away the constant verbal degradation a Black person had to endure - and still has to endure. We ignore the statistically questionable system rigged against Black people that sees disproportionate numbers affected in the criminal justice, mental health, housing and social care systems. We gloss over the government complicity and the lack of recourse to justice. We have a Black History Month because it is too easy - and too convenient - for us to forget, so it was right for 2018 to celebrate 70 years of the Windrush generation’s contributions. Yet our annual observance of Black History Month (BHM) still brings a chorus of ‘Why?’ from both the innocently uninformed person and the malicious racists, often citing it’s time to ‘move on from the images of Europe’s colonial history’. But, let us be clear, we still have Black History Month because today’s society has a short memory when it comes to the wrongdoing against people of African descent. The collective ‘we’ vaguely remember the millions enslaved, and at times it feels like we forget the horror they experienced. We also forget the shock of being labelled property and all that comes with that. We forget the murders, the rapes, the forced labour, the beatings and the destroyed families. We forget that, once freed from slavery, every road to prosperity, every way to the pursuit of happiness was strewn with barricades of hate, injustice and violence. We forget that laws were written and enforced up into the 1960s that specifically singled out Black people for discriminatory treatment. We forget that the system built to serve the White majority has been left in place with few modifications, and that the success of the White majority in the system they built has been used to suggest there is some moral or intellectual failure on the part of Black people. If we don’t continue to write our story, then we leave it to others to tell our story – Lest we forget! I have no problem with using BHM to point to Black men and women who succeeded, to those who became standouts in science, medicine, law, education, industry, sports, business, music and other arts. But again, let us be clear, their success is not that borne of a level field or a fair system. Their success is that of extraordinary people, who pounded on the weaknesses and slipped through the few pores in the barricades that kept generations from their dreams. Their success required from them a strength and a determination that few of us possess. So, what has this got to do with the Church or Christian faith? Well, to put this in a religious context, overcoming the divisions of race has been central to the Church since its beginning, and the dynamic diversity of the body of Christ is one of the most powerful forces in the global Church. In reclaiming a gospel message, we learnt

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Christianity stands fundamentally opposed to racism in all its forms. The ultimate answer to the question of race is found in our identity as children of God, which applies to all of us, no matter our colour or creed. Can it be that the political and economic problems of race are ultimately rooted in a theological problem, if churches perpetuate the racial divisions, instead of understanding how our authentic baptism unites us above and beyond our racial identities? I think the Church has a big role to play in racial healing. If we say we belong to Christ, that mission of reconciliation is ours too. Britain sits as one of the most racially diverse nations in the world. This diversity is essential to our identity as Black Britons (both Caribbean or African), but it has also given us a history of tension and conflict. In Luke 4:18-21, Jesus Himself says that the Good News to the liberation of the oppressed has been accomplished with the advent of His ministry: “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Yet, long after Christ’s crucifixion, injustices still persist, and oppression reigns over humanity, causing me to reflect just how much can humankind redeem of itself? Much of the Good News Christ proclaims is found within the good seeds sown into ordinary people’s lives.

‘Peace and resolution cannot happen when we ignore, deny or suppress our racial history and journey.’ For Him, ordinary people included all racial groups, women, and those without power or influence of the masses. His charge was to plant the seeds of God’s Kingdom of liberation, and Jesus held to His principles without wavering, secure in the knowledge of bearing witness to truth and justice, and love for God and neighbour was the only lasting way to establish God’s Kingdom on earth as in Heaven. So, if Jesus’ imagery of the Kingdom of God is seeds being sown, He further makes the point through the imagery of yeast as a multiplier which, when you introduce even in the smallest measure, you can leaven bread or, in our case, our witness to power can change our society and our world. My point is this: more churches need to speak to audiences outside the Sunday morning session, speaking out to local and national communities, speaking out to governments and institutions by sowing seeds of racial harmony, particularly in a hostile Brexit and anti-immigration environment. Peace and resolution cannot happen when we ignore, deny or suppress our racial history and journey. It can occur only when we talk about it, engage it, embrace it, and be ready to be transformed by it.

DIONNE GRAVESANDE

Global Ecumenical Relations at Christian Aid


FEATURE 29

By Shirin Aguiar FREELANCE JOURNALIST

Embracing the energy of Synergy in the fight against youth crime The founders of the iconic Street Pastors have launched a collaborative network to take on the violent criminals blighting London’s Black communities. Synergy, the latest initiative from the Ascension Trust, is billed to be a multi-party collaboration - between churches, organisations, the police, the probation service, experts in their field and individuals of all faiths and none – and was launched in September 2018. Joining members will have the space to get to know other members, build up trust, and pool resources in order to work together. Current members include: African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church; Church of God of Prophecy; Micah Community Church, and St Mark’s Church Kennington, as well as individual members with relevant expertise. The initiative was launched in response to the horrifying rise in violent crime in London. So far this year, there have been 89 murders in the capital, of which almost 40 were African-Caribbean victims. The founders hope to attract further members over time.

www.keepthefaith.co.uk


30 FEATURE

The nature of the problem – a lack of synergy The Ascension Trust believes that a lack of synergy within the public and voluntary sectors in tackling violent crime means that most agencies tend to work independently of each other, without sharing intelligence or resources. This inevitably results in reduplication and overlapping of efforts among neighbouring community projects. The Trust argues that the lack of a coherent, strategic approach lessens the overall effectiveness of efforts to reduce crime and alleviate social problems. It believes that some of these groups could be much stronger by working together. By identifying best practice and specialisms among organisations and individuals that join the Synergy network, vulnerable groups, people at risk, and those in need of advice would be referred to the best outlets to help them.

A holistic approach to serious violence The Ascension Trust will partner with agencies that specialise in family and domestic violence; education and mentoring; gangs and peer pressure. Partners will work together with vulnerable families and individuals in a joined-up manner, taking a holistic approach to the problem. Reverend Les Isaac OBE, founder and CEO of the Ascension Trust, said: “What Ascension Trust has done is create a space for people to meet together and be part of something, but the real essence is that people are doing things on the ground; they trust each other; they are building relationships with each other, and they are working together.” Collaborating and strengthening synergy was best done, he said, by eating together, getting to know each other, and understanding each other’s worldview. As people develop a strong relationship, they begin to ask what they can do together to help each other.

L-R Bola Ojo, Rev Les Isaac OBE and Bishop Lenford Rowe

“TRUST IS A BIG THING” REVEREND LES ISAAC

Many people are protective of their vision or project, afraid that someone is going to run off with it or copy it, but, he added: “While you’re in that mood of protectionism, more young people are dying.” Bishop Lenford Rowe (also known as Bishop Len) is chair of Synergy, and described it as a collaborative approach to youth violence: “It arose out of the Synergy partnership, a collaboration of four agencies that are addressing different societal problems and contributory factors to youth crime. “Synergy’s vision is to create a network of professionals, practitioners, clergy and others who will work together to collaborate, coordinate and combine efforts, and find solutions to the root causes of youth violence.” He added that he was encouraged by the meetings held so far, and seeing church leaders coming together and showing a willingness to get involved. Chief Superintendent Community Engagement Dave Springer, from the Met Police, has worked with the Ascension Trust and the Street Pastors programme in five separate London boroughs for over a decade. He welcomed the new initiative: “I understand from personal experience the value of the community having an active role within a broad local partnership helping keep people safe. “We can all look back now on the way the night-time economy has changed for the

BISHOP LENFORD ROWE Bishop Len, former regional bishop and pastor of Church of God of Prophecy (CoGoP), is chair of Synergy. A mathematics teacher for many years in London schools, Bishop Len is a qualified Counsellor/Systemic Practitioner of the Wandsworth-based Pastors’ Network for Family Care, which provides mental health support. Bishop Len describes himself as a man who cares deeply for the good of communities, cities and nations. THE SYNERGY NETWORK Synergy is a collaborative approach to youth violence. It arose out of the Synergy Partnership, a collaboration of four agencies that are addressing different societal problems and contributory factors to youth crime. Synergy’s vision is to create a network of professionals, practitioners, clergy and others, who will work together to collaborate, coordinate and combine efforts, and find solutions to the root causes of youth violence. Our young people are dying. You go along the streets, and you see flowers and you know someone has died… Your heart races, tears come to your eyes, and there is no outrage, and you ask why? We’ve got to do something about this, it cannot continue. I am encouraged by the meetings we’ve had, and seeing church leaders coming together and showing willingness to get involved. Our churches are not merely places where Christ is lifted up, a good time is had by all, and we go out again; our churches are at the very coalface of our communities. We exist to help people, to open our doors and do well. The government has a responsibility to keep the nation safe, and the churches have their responsibilities. Synergy does not exist for the short term but for the long term. We want to put strategies in place that will bear fruit. Mentors, fathers and mothers are needed - people who care and want to make a positive contribution to what is a harrowing situation. And we need monetary help, people to put their money where their mouths are. The government must help, and the Mayor (of London) too – all of us pooling our resources together will make significant differences. So, I say to everyone, look around and see what’s happening: our beautiful young boys and girls are dying. Let’s stand up and fight this cancer together.


FEATURE 31

better in that time, and apply some of those lessons to building active and successful partnerships to tackle the problem of children and young adults getting involved in gangs and violence. I look forward to working with Synergy to develop just such an active partnership to prevent the tragic loss of more young lives.” The Bishop of Southwark, the Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, also commended Synergy: “As well as praying for London, it is essential that people of goodwill work more closely together in the urgent task of turning around the increasing cycles of violent crime which mar the life of our communities and impact destructively on so many young people. This is the vision of Synergy, and I have been active in my support from its launch in Clapham nearly 18 months ago.

The Bishop of Southwark “I have great admiration for Les Isaac and the work of the Ascension Trust, and I believe and hope with all my heart that Synergy will be a catalyst for good partnership working, which is now utterly vital to taking this life-saving initiative forward.”

The extent of the problem

For a period earlier this year, the murder rate in London was higher than in New York.

Mrs Bola Ojo is an elder at Bexley Christian Life Centre; a trustee of CRIBS (Christian Resources in Bexley Schools) Foundation Trust; works with the Sickle Cell Cohort Foundation; is a prayer coordinator for Bexley Street Pastors, and was head of Youth Services and Lifelong Learning in Bexley Council. “Youth services have changed, and many no longer exist, which is a shame and is one of the reasons why I accessed the Synergy network. I have a passion for change, and wanted to see what we can do for our young people, and what the church can do working with other faith organisations. Partnership, networking and collaborating are probably three of the most sustainable effective ways forward, especially as in relation to gun and knife crime, but also in the sense that, without these, we are losing contact with a whole generation of young people. “As people of faith, we know that God has gifted us in so many ways, and so many churches are working on their own and burning out, trying to tackle the issues they’re facing locally. Now wouldn’t it be awesome if there were a Synergy platform that enabled these organisations to come together, work together, while maintaining their individual expression of what God wants to do in their community? Together we’d be able to leave a lasting legacy and maybe influence policy in government both nationally and locally - about this desperate issue facing our young people. “Awful things are happening in our secondary schools. They are no longer as safe as they ought to be. I was in London last week, when the children came out from this particular school, the place was flooded with police officers making sure the children got onto the buses safely. Dispersal times can become a hotspot and potentially anything can happen. It’s a challenging time for bus drivers and members of the community, so the police are there as a preventative measure, to make sure the crowds clear quickly and people can get home safely. Police officers are even stationed in front of

REVEREND LES ISAAC

“It’s a combination of gun and knife, but there is a knife culture among this young generation. It’s random and it’s very hard to police it. Yes, there are known people involved in gangs, but there are many people randomly carrying knives, and police haven’t got that intelligence. “Parents are very worried about their children carrying a knife and becoming a victim of a knife, but not everything you see is gang-related. There are gang problems and adults, who are found grooming young children, starting them off carrying drugs and all kinds of things, storing guns or money in their houses for them. But there is a major problem.

THE SYNERGY BOARD OF REFERENCE: BOLA OJO

the local McDonalds, because of the unsociable behaviour of young people rushing in and making the place unusable for customers, and this is happening in many town centres across London. This is our London of today. “So what is the role of the church? I know School Pastors are trying to do something, but there is much more the Synergy network can come up with, effective ways to support parents, young people and the general community around these issues with crime. The number one need is for people who have time, who can be available at different times during the day. Time, rather than funding, is our most expensive resource now. If you have loads of volunteers who can make themselves available for two hours a day, working through the churches… you couldn’t possibly calculate that in money terms. The finance would come in the coordination, the training and the support. “If we could sign up available volunteers, you could then have a pool of workers who could help address these issues 24/7. Sometimes even when you have the money, you can’t find the right person. “Maybe because of the age I’m at now, I’m desperate to actually see the church do what it was created to do, for us to work together with government and a range of organisations, and to see this passion for change that we all have come to fruition. “There is a lack of moral outrage. We’re asking the community: where is the moral outrage about what is happening to our young people? We should all be up in arms in one sense, saying this is not right and that together we are going to do what’s possible to try and limit it happening in our society. “It’s awful what people are going through. It’s awful what parents are having to cope with. It’s unbearable when you see parents on TV having lost another child to knife crime. It’s not just the child that’s lost; it’s the family that’s affected, and just think of the whole potential that has been cut short.”


32 FEATURE

“Some of the problem is drug-fuelled, because young people can’t control their temper. It’s fuelled because young children are angry; they’re victims themselves; have mental health issues, a deep sense of hopelessness. A lack of fathers in the home and poverty both play a part. It’s fuelled by a lot of things. “We have a disproportionate number of these murders in the Black community, and there’s a lack of priority when it comes to our Black children being murdered. There hasn’t been a public outcry. This is a public health matter and there’s hasn’t been a public outcry.”

of strategic meetings followed, including a gangs summit in November 2014, when church leaders, the prison and probation services, practitioners and the police, began to look at the driving factors and the solutions. In a scoping exercise the following year, the founders of Synergy studied gang culture and youth violence, seeking to identify the factors behind the rise in these crimes. The resulting report provided a framework for a collaborative approach to youth violence. Reverend Isaac said: ““When we looked at what was happening, one of the first things that was obvious to us was, although there were many groups, activities and charities, they were not working together. There wasn’t enough collaborative work.” In 2015, the Trust brought together around

50 organisations and individuals to discuss working collaboratively. That event served to alert organisations about the need to work together and to raise awareness of the issues. “People might ask why it’s taken so long, but my philosophy is, if you’re going to do something, you’ve got to spend enough time understanding the problems and, most importantly, finding the solutions.” The Trust began discussions last year with its partners, including Delphine Duff, Operations Manager at the Young Adults and Gangs Unit at the London Community Rehabilitation Company, and Dr Anthony Goodman, professor in Community Justice at Middlesex University’s department of Criminology and Sociology. “We began to look at what we could do to prove to people that working together is far better

ASCENSION TRUST, SYNERGY PARTNERSHIP

Reverend Isaac emphasises that Synergy is for people of all faiths. An organisation wishing to join must have good governance in place, while individuals have to be credible. Synergy is about the whole community and is not divided by religion or race: “We’re talking about people who have a purpose to stem, stop and eradicate this level of violence in our society.” “The police can’t do it on their own, the government can’t do it on its own. Ascension Trust definitely doesn’t want to do it on its own, but together we can.” Ian Joseph, lecturer in Criminology at the University of East London, said: “A project of the Ascension Trust, launched in 1993 through the ‘Guns off our Streets’ campaign, the Synergy Partnership now builds on the nationally successful Street Pastors network. The coordination of local action as a communitybased, bottom-up approach to target and tackle gang-related violence is important for an effective, sustainable solution. “As part of a national strategy currently representing over 270 local schemes, it will also promote the sharing of best practice to enable scarce community resources to be efficiently rationalised in the most troubled violent crime hotspots – many containing large Black and minority ethnic communities.”

How Synergy evolved It was to prevent the loss of more lives that the founders of the Ascension Trust began in 2014 to question what they and the Church - and in particular the Black Church - could do. A series Find us on Twitter and Facebook: @KeepTheFaithmag

The problem of serious youth violence and knife crime has been apparent in London for some time, but potential solutions are more difficult to discern. Denial of the existence of serious group offending resulted in the problem becoming established, making its resolution more difficult. So when the Ascension Trust approached me to evaluate an innovative collaborative approach to dealing with young people at high risk of becoming involved in serious group offending, I was very interested. I had previously conducted research in young people, faith and identity, and I appreciated that young people were using many different sources to find out about their beliefs and identity. Many young people that I have researched and who are at risk of being drawn into serious youth violence, however, were very fatalistic, hypervigilant, and could see no future for themselves. The Synergy Partnership is a pilot project in two London boroughs, Newham and Lambeth - both of which have significant challenges for their young people, ranking in the top ten of the most dangerous London boroughs. The pilot projects aim to support and encourage young people to change and, in each area, two projects - one faith-based and one not - work together to develop strengths in the young people. The Newham component of Synergy has been working with young offenders aged 15-18 assigned to the local Youth Offending Service (YOS). Two workers have been assigned to the project, concentrating their services on 1:1 mentoring, and delivery of a six-week rolling group work programme to young men who are clients of the local YOS. Many of the young men have been identified as ‘not in education, employment or training’ (NEET); present challenging behaviour, and all have been identified previously by YOS as “hard-to-engage young men”. Workers will report outcomes of sessions directly to the young people’s caseworkers. Individual progress will be evaluated through outcomes stars.

The Lambeth component of Synergy is delivering a programme in a secondary school, to individuals who are known to be actively involved/at risk of the harm caused by serious group offending. It is providing a combined programme of a ten-week structured group work programme to Year 10 students, followed by 1:1 mentoring to individuals who completed the group work. In the early stages, all four projects were engaged in orientation days, which helped them to focus on and design a model of collaborative working. The Synergy Partnership has benefitted from the cross-fertilisation of learning and practice opportunities they have exchanged between them. This is noticeable in the favourable reviews received in both Newham and Lambeth projects. In the next phase, the intention is to obtain feedback from service users and professionals, to evaluate how the outcomes of the work have been influenced by the collaborative approach. Professor Anthony Goodman Middlesex University, Centre for Social and Criminological Research


FEATURE 33

than working in isolation,” said Reverend Isaac. The Ascension Trust raised £25k for a pilot scheme to get four different organisations to work together. This was followed by a meeting to share the vision of Synergy collaboration in Clapham last year, and Synergy was set up. At the end of 2017, Southwark Cathedral hosted a large gathering of interested parties, who were encouraged to sign up. Reverend Isaac emphasises that the Trust’s lead of Synergy is merely a legality to fulfil charity laws. The Trust has funded Synergy with the help of one or two churches: “We’ve taken that on. We just see it as part of our giving, some of it is not ring-fenced, so we said ‘Come on, let’s do something,’ as we believe in it. So we’ve carried the can, a lot of us work extra hours because we believe in it, and we’re just excited about it. Our Board is excited as well. It’s good stuff. “People are coming to me and I’m saying, ‘Don’t start another charity. Go and find somebody who has your heart and your passion and work with them.’ It’s not more charities we need; it’s more volunteers, more expertise pooling together. “I always say: before you talk about going somewhere else, just look at what’s happening locally. So you prove it first. It took three years before Street Pastors started to move outside London, nationally and then internationally. Give this another two years, and if it is working well, other people will want to do something similar, and I’m not really saying they’ve got to go through Synergy, I’m saying they’ve got to work together. Synergy is a brand, but if other people do other things, praise the Lord, I don’t mind. “I want to involve everyone. This is about collaboration. Wherever I go, I carry a method of collaboration. So, for me, we’ll push it in London, we’ll sample it in London, and we’ll look at evidence in London and learn, and if we feel it’s right to push it outside London, we’ll do that. “I’d like to see organisations say ‘We’d like

to be part of Synergy. How do we work together and bring our expertise to the table, and train others and encourage others?’ “I believe very much in grassroots. I’m not a politician. I live locally. I believe we’ve got gifts and talents in the local community, and I believe that when those - like the Mayor and others - see something like this in the grassroots, it is their duty to get involved and support it; help to support the infrastructure, and give resources for capacity. Because grassroots people are usually the first people on the ground, they have intelligence, they have expertise, they have skills. When the police and Mayor go home, the grassroots people are still there. “Part of what I’m constantly saying to the Met is, look, the police are there to prevent crime but the greatest asset that the police have is the community. The police are a professional body, but I’m constantly reminding the police that they are human beings as well. There is empathy; there is identifying with communities; there’s building those relationships, and for me it’s so important that we support the police service, but it’s also important for the police to build serious relationships with the community. I’m worried that with cuts and cybercrime and terrorism, what suffers because of the lack of community policing is the community. They only come in when there’s an incident, they do their stuff, and then they’ve gone to the next incident. It’s firefighting rather than prevention. “Working with the police is crucial and critical. But there’s a massive gap between wishing to work and actually working together. We need to bridge the gap with Synergy.”

committed by children as well. I’m concerned about everyone who has died, for example, that little child who was murdered up in Scotland (six-year-old Alesha MacPhail). I’m concerned about that, because there’s pain, but I’m beside myself as to why so many young Black boys are dying, and why so many are going to jail. “The thing is, when you ask yourself how many young Black boys at the Old Bailey have been sent to jail with long sentences over the last two years, it’s something like 500. There are staggering figures out there. And the Black community has to face up to the fact that we have a problem. And it’s not just for the government or the police to solve, we as a community have got to stand up and take responsibility. Some people are doing some good things, but there needs to be a sense of collective responsibility, and it’s not just children out there; they are our children, they are our community. Rev Les Isaac OBE

Background to the problem “The realities are the victims are not adults; they’re children who are dying. They’re not even 18 yet, and some of the crimes are being www.keepthefaith.co.uk


34 FEATURE

“When an eight-year-old child is being used to run drugs, that says something in terms of human nature - the soul, the social conditions, even the history. And so we first of all have to take responsibility for our actions, and then we have to look at the issues around it that keep perpetrating into these kinds of outcomes. “A charity helping young people in south London, and another organisation in north London which has been going for years, have both closed down. No money. There’s something wrong there. “Take stop and search. Let me tell you this: I believe in stop and search, I just don’t have enough confidence in how some officers do it. If stop and search was done in a respectful way, in a dignifying way, it could be a very effective tool. I’ve been on the bus myself and seen a young boy pull out a six-inch blade on the bus to stab a guy. I’ve seen it on the bus. I’ve seen young people having knives; I’ve seen it with my own eyes. So our police need the confidence of our community. I’m wondering, is it rocket science to say to the Met, ‘Look, on these given dates, we’re going to pull in some clergymen, some schoolteachers, some lawyers, and we’re going to do a stop and search across London, and we’re going to have these people with us, assisting us do stop and search.’ Is that rocket science? “If the police say, ‘Look, in the space of the next three months, we’re just going to say to you, during the week we’d like you to put aside a morning to be with us, voluntarily, you just come to the police station, we may go out or not, but we want to start in the morning at 7 o’clock. “’We have a car, we have a group of people we take with us - a clergyman/woman, a lawyer, a grandmother, different people from the community - and we go out, we set up and we do random searching of children going to school.’ If we do that for three months, I guarantee you’ll be amazed at the number of knives we’d confiscate. I also guarantee it will send a clear message to children: you can go out this morning, and it’s highly likely you’ll be stopped. And we tell the children we’re doing this because we are concerned about their safety, so when we go on the bus, we say, ‘OK, children, this is part of the process, we want you all to empty your pockets, let me see your bags.’ We do it in the leafy areas, as much as in the Find us on Twitter and Facebook: @KeepTheFaithmag

urban areas.” Reverend Isaac said he has not been out with the police, but is urging them to do something. “Prevent is the Met’s big thing, but to be honest there are too many cuts in the police, so I don’t really think the police can be effective on this, because they’re short of staff, bottom line. It’s like fighting a fire with just two fire engines.” Reverend Isaac continued: “Ask me how much the history of slavery plays a part, and I would say the legacy of slavery has a part. Drill music and all that are symptoms. When you deal with families who don’t know how to love each other, families that are broken up, kids who are unloved, men who go around impregnating women and not taking responsibility... “Children don’t feel loved and they are angry. All these other things - like Facebook and YouTube - just feed the appetite of these kids who are messed up. Kids are getting on there and telling each other what they’re doing; girls are sending their body parts to people, and children using these tools… these are all symptoms of the problem. Government and big companies should take responsibility over what goes on the internet, and close these sites down, telling children, ‘We’ve got your name, we’ve got your account. You’re on our radar.’

I’ve been on the bus myself and seen a young boy pull out a six-inch blade on the bus to stab a guy. REVEREND LES ISAAC

SYNERGY BOARD OF REFERENCE Bishop Lenford Rowe Church of God of Prophecy (Chair) Reverend Ron Nathan Pastor at Ransom African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church Delphine Duff Operations Manager Serious Group Offending, RJ &Youth Unit, London Community Rehabilitation Company, London Mrs Bola Ojo Prayer coordinator at Street Pastors Bexley, and head of Youth Services and Lifelong Learning in Bexley Council Mrs Caroline Miller Senior manager in the London City Mission Miss Julaine Hedman Trustee at Ascension Trust, former Chair of Ascension Trust (21 years) and former head teacher (30 years) Reverend Canon Steve Coulson Vicar of St Mark’s Church, Kennington Shirley McGreal Founder/Editor-in-Chief at Keep The Faith magazine Marcia Dixon Owner at MD Public Relations Ms Karen Allen Gang Changers UK Reverend Les Isaac OBE CEO and Founder of Ascension Trust

CURRENT MEMBERS:

“We should do this, but the reality is we’ve invented the World Wide Web without any moral conscience, without any laws. We say it’s a wonderful thing but, actually, it’s a tool for people to propagate their wickedness. The web on the whole is a good thing, you can communicate with people, but it’s also got a dark side to it.” Reverend Isaac does not believe the government and the Home Office are doing enough: “Our Prime Minister has a lot on her plate, and it would be great if our young people killing themselves was more of a priority. Perhaps the Home Secretary (Sajid Javid) is trying to get it right, but for me, working on the ground for 30-odd years, I’m saying they need to convince me that there’s some meaningful strategy, which is not only going to last four years. Come up with a 25-year strategy that says we’re putting in laws the next government has to pick up and run with. You tell me that. Because the moment the Conservative government goes, the Labour one comes in, and there’s a brand new approach. So the only people who are consistent here are the criminals and those who are messing up our children, and they’re getting more sophisticated.”

• Micah Community Church • St Mark’s Church, Kennington • Ransom African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church • Pastor Delroy Davis, leadership trainer • Reverend Alton Bell • Joanna Dale, youth trauma worker • Ben Lindsey, pastor • Angela Bacon, youth worker, prisons

How to join: Churches and individuals, who would like to be involved, are invited to the next Synergy event in November. The details are being finalised and will be available on the Synergy website at www.ascensiontrust.org.uk or phone the Ascension Trust on 0208 330 2809.

Changing Communities Together


36 FEATURE

INSPIRATIONAL BLACK CHRISTIAN MILLENNIALS, TAKE A BOW!

Tolu Adepegba

The Black Christian community is filled with talented, successful, godly adults aged 40 and under. Keep The Faith shines a spotlight on young Christians who are making their Christian light shine within the sphere of influence they have been called to. Check out our list and be inspired!

STEPHEN ADDISON

WILLIAM ADOASI Who is he? Founder of Vitae Watches and member of gospel group Reason for impact and influence: William not only runs a growing profitable charity, he uses some of the profits to fund a charity that provides education for schoolchildren in South Africa. For more info: Visit www.vitaelondon.com

William Adoasi Ruth Yimika Awogbade

JAMES ALADIRAN

Who is he? CEO of BoxUp Crime Reason for impact and influence: BoxUp Crime seeks to divert at-risk youth from crime, and inspire, educate and develop them into leaders by using boxing. Last year, BoxUp was a Project Lab winner, and received a prize of £30,000 to replicate the charity across London and the UK. BoxUp Crime is now operating in several London boroughs, and is seeking to expand. For more info: Visit www.boxupcrime.org

TOLU ADEPEGBA Who is she? Presenter on Premier Gospel’s Drive Time show Reason for impact and influence: Tolu hosts one of the most popular shows on Premier Gospel, Britain’s leading gospel music radio station. She also presents a popular podcast about life, faith and relationships called Kandid With Lady T. For more info: Connect on www.instagram. com/ladytolu Find us on Twitter and Facebook: @KeepTheFaithmag

Who is he? Founder of Prayer Storm Reason for impact and influence: Prayer Storm seeks to raise up a generation of young people, committed to prayer and fasting to bring about a spiritual awakening in Britain, and has reached thousands. They hold regular gatherings and also partner with churches across the UK to achieve their aims. For more info: Visit www.prayerstorm.org

Faith Child


FEATURE 37

SANCHIA ALASIA

GUVNA B Who is he? A MOBO Award-winning Christian rapper and frequent guest at Premier Radio Reason for impact and influence: He is the first UK Black rapper to reach the No 1 spot on the official Christian/Gospel chart. He is also an author and Christian rapper, who performs across the UK, Europe and around the world. For more info: Visit www.guvnab.com

YOLANDA BROWN

Who is she? Labour councillor for Barking and Dagenham Reason for impact and influence: When she became a councillor in 2010, she was the youngest person to be elected to the role. Sanchia was recently appointed as the Lord Mayor of her borough, and has made a commitment to promote diversity and inclusivity, especially in relation to disabilities. For more info: Visit www.sanchiaalisia.com

RUTH YIMIKA AWOGBADE Who is she? Founder, CEO and Editor of Magnify magazine Reason for impact and influence: Magnify magazine explores issues of faith, fashion and feminism, and how they relate to each other. She is also one of the youngest ever Christian women to serve as a board member of the Evangelical Alliance, and co-writes a blog with her husbandto-be, called www.theafolabis.com. For more info: Visit www.magnifycollective.com

FAITH CHILD aka MICHAEL AYO Who is he? MOBO Award-winning gospel artist and presenter Reason for impact and influence: With his unique brand of gospel pop/rap, Faith Child has become a staple at Christian festivals across the UK. A MOBO Award winner, he also has the honour of being one of the youngest ordained deacons within the Redeemed Christian Church of God - one of Britain’s fastest growing Pentecostal denominations. For more info: Visit www.faithchild.ning.com/

SHANE BOWES Who is he? CEO of the Pentecostal Credit Union (PCU) Reason for impact and influence: The PCU is the second largest credit union in the country, and is playing a key role in educating the Black Christian community about managing their finances, as well as encouraging economic development and providing a place for people to get loans and save their money. For more info: Visit www.pcuuk.com

Who is she? Award-winning saxophonist and recording artist Reason for impact and influence: YolanDa is one of Britain’s most well known female musicians. She has performed around the world; won numerous awards, including two MOBOs, and was recently commissioned by CBeebies to present a show. She will also be co-presenting with Clive Anderson on BBC Radio 4. On 14 September, she will be performing a concert to celebrate her 10th year in the music business. For more info: Visit www.yolandabrown.co.uk

Guvna B

APOSTLE ELIJAH ISRAEL CHANAK Who is he? Founder and leader of Qadosh Kingdom Movement Reason for impact and influence: Apostle Chanak leads a growing vibrant church, filled with enthusiastic and committed millennials desirous to impact their communities and wider world for Christ. The church hosts Holy Nation Summit, a popular annual conference that attracts up to 800 people from across the denominational spectrum. For more info: Visit www.qadoshkingdom.org

Shane Bowes YolanDa Brown

CAMELLE DALEY Who is she? Founder of clothing company, House of Ilona Reason for impact and influence: Her company specialises in making clothing for female clergy. Many of her customers come from America, but increasingly they are also coming from Europe. Camelle is keen to set clothing trends for female clergy, and has her eye on creating clothing for male clergy too. For more info: Visit www.houseofilona.com Apostle Elijah Israel Chanak


38 FEATURE

LEONDRE DOUGLAS

AA JONES Who is he? Founder of Kingdom Relationships Reason for impact and influence: Via his ministry, Kingdom Relationships, AA Jones hosts events in major cities across the UK, where he provides teaching for singles to help them to get the most out of their singleness. He also shares how Christians can build relationships that lead to marriage. For more info: Visit www.kingdomrelationships.eventbrite.com

EUGENE JORDAN

Who is he? Teacher and preacher Reason for impact and influence: Leondre is a young preacher, who is in demand to speak in churches across the UK. Head of Religion at a secondary school, Leondre has been earmarked as a Christian leader to watch. For more info: Connect on Facebook

Tola Fisher

Who is he? He’s a member of the famous Jordan Clan and a musician Reason for impact and influence: EuGene runs www.menandmarriage.com website and YouTube channel, which provide men with advice about relationships, fatherhood and marriage. He also operates www.benelgentelle.com - a popular website that provides men with a voice to share their views about key issues. For more info: Visit www.menandmarriage.com

TOLA FISHER Who is she? Editor of Families First magazine Reason for impact and influence: Tola is the first Black woman to be appointed editor of Families First magazine, the mouthpiece of the influential Mothers’ Union. Aside from editing, Tola writes a blog, which combines issues of faith, fashion and life. For more info: Visit www.christcouture.co.uk

AA Jones Chine McDonald

KIERRAN JARRETT Who is he? Motivational speaker Reason for impact and influence: Kierran, 25, has overcome cancer. Twice. During his bout with the disease, Kierran continued his studies at the University of Hertfordshire, graduated with a 2:1, and won the award for being the most outstanding student. He has published a book and also a video, which details his journey of overcoming cancer and has amassed over 500,000 views. For more info: Connect on Facebook

ANTHONY KING Who is he? Comedian and MC Reason for impact and influence: Any event organiser wanting a comedic host, more often than not books Anthony King. He is renowned for his edgy Christian humour and his ability to traverse both Caribbean and African Christian communities. For more info: Connect on Facebook

CHINE McDONALD Who is she? Head of Media and Communications at Christian Aid Reason for impact and influence: Chine made history when she became the youngest person to be appointed a Director at the Evangelical Alliance. Since then, she has forged an outstanding career in communication, and has recently taken up the post of Head of Media & PR at Christian Aid. She is also author of I Am Beautiful and a contributor to BBC’s Thought for the Day. For more info: Visit www.iambeautiful.co.uk

Nathaniel Peat


FEATURE 39

NATHANIEL PEAT

FIONA SMALL

Who is he? Founder of GeNNex and The Safety Box Reason for impact and influence: He’s a musician, martial arts expert, qualified pilot and motivational speaker. He leads GeNNex, a business providing inexpensive lighting for people living in the developing world, and is also CEO of The Safety Box, a charity that teaches school pupils how to combat violence. A leading BME Business Executive, Nathaniel has been listed in the 2017 Black Power List and the Financial Times Upstanding BE Executive List. For more info: Visit www.nathanielpeat.com

Who is she? Director of Young Mums Support Network (YMSN) Reason for impact and influence: YMSN was founded by Fiona in 2011 to provide support, training and counselling services to young mothers in deprived areas. Increasingly, the YMSN is called upon by the media to comment on issues surrounding lone parenting. For more info: Visit www.ymsn.co.uk

SETH PINNOCK

SELINA STONE Who is she? A lecturer in Political Theology at St Mellitus College, and an in-demand speaker Reason for impact and influence: She is a young academic who teaches undergraduates, postgraduate students and people training for the ministry. Selina is also currently studying for a doctorate on the subject of Consciousness, Hope and Power: The Nature of Pentecostal Political Engagement in Britain. For more info: Connect on www.facebook.com

Marcel Simpson Fiona Small

SARAH TÉIBO Who is she? Award-winning gospel singer Reason for impact and influence: This gospel singer/worship leader has become the first British female gospel singer to enter the official Christian music chart with her sophomore project, Walk With Me. For more info: Visit www.sarahteibo.co.uk Selina Stone

LORRAINE WRIGHT

Who is he? Founder of Midnight Oil and Head of African and Christian Engagement at Tearfund Reason for impact and influence: Seth has organised successful annual youth conferences, which have attracted young Black Christians from across the denominational spectrum. He has also released a well received album, recorded live at his event. He currently works for International Development Charity Tearfund. For more info: Visit www.choseninc.org

MARCEL SIMPSON Who is he? National Director of Youth & Discipleship at New Testament Church of God Reason for impact and influence: He provides leadership and direction for youth and young adults (aged 25 and under) at the largest Black Caribbean denomination in the UK. Every year over 2000 youth attend NTCG’s annual youth convention. For more info: Visit www.ntcg.org.uk

Who is she? Founder of the University Gospel Choir of the Year (UGCY) competition Reason for impact and influence: The UGCY has played a key role in inspiring University students to take up gospel singing via its annual competition, which recently celebrated its 10th anniversary. Lorraine also runs a music agency for Christian artists. Muyiwa is one of her clients. For more info: Visit www.ugcy.co.uk

Sarah Téibo


40 FEATURE

SIAN COMPUTERS: BUSTING THE DANGERS OF INTERNET GAMING JOY ROXBOROUGH

is a creative industries professional, writer and entrepreneur. Email joyroxborough@yahoo.com

T

hree years after launching a general IT business, Sian Computers in Bushbury, Wolverhampton, is reaching further into the community through the launch of its Community Interest Company that is providing a platform where people, particularly children and young adults, can enjoy internet gaming in a safe environment. General Manager, Robert Allen, said the initiative came about in response to feedback from and needs identified within the community. These needs were displayed in their starkest reality when Jasmine* (*name changed), from the local community, shared at the launch event the chilling story of how her seven-yearold son attempted suicide after being involved on age-inappropriate gaming sites. Mr Allen, who worked in environmental health for 20 years before setting up Sian Computers with his sons, Curtis and Kieron, said it was easy to discover the community’s needs because his church background had given him much experience of listening to people. “Many of the problems that young people are currently experiencing,” he said, “are linked to the decline in the number of community centres and hubs that used to serve their needs. With all that having disappeared, we initially started putting on gaming tournaments, with financial support from local businesses. “Parents and grandparents would come along to watch, and we soon discovered that they had their own training and IT needs. As a result, we began to offer courses, such as First Aid and

Health and Safety for everyone. In addressing the need for online security, we have also developed our ‘IT for Community Resilience’ course, in conjunction with one of our local partners. The course is free to attend, and will help adults to ensure their own safety when doing business online, as well as equipping them to be vigilant with regard to their children’s and teenagers’ safety whilst they are online. “We gradually became a community hub in our own right, and interest in our services grew further. So, in addition to operating a normal internet café with the usual surfing, printing and sales services, we are now also organising gaming tournaments in a bigger way and in partnership with more organisations, including local schools. “We have an after-school club that happens every Wednesday from 4pm to 6pm, and the tournaments usually happen during school holidays.” Jasmine said the facilities and services offered at Sian Computers have been a lifesaver for her and her entire family. “As a result of the business course I did here,” she said, “I have been able to start my own business, operating from home. This has been important for me, not just on account of the freedom and flexibility it has afforded me, but particularly in light of the catastrophic events that took place in recent times with my son.” Jasmine explained that her son’s behaviour began to deteriorate after he started accessing over-18 internet game sites when he was away from home. Things came to a chilling head when an outburst led to him being given a timeout on the stairs. In response, he attempted to hang himself over the bannister, and was stopped barely in the nick of time. Already aware that the behavioural signs her son had been displaying were linked to his interactions with the internet games, Jasmine made a check on the search

history of his tablet, and was shocked to discover that he had been searching ‘how to’ suicide sites. Choked with tears, Jasmine said, “I never knew that we could get through this. My son is in a much better place now, but the whole experience has made me even more aware of the problems that can be triggered when children access age-inappropriate game sites. It is important for parents to know what to look out for, and what they can do to put checks and balances in place to protect their children. I’d never like to know that another family ever has to go through what we have been through.” With recent reports that the World Health Organization is taking steps to include ‘gaming disorder’ in the 11th International Classification of Diseases, Mr Allen said: “Internet and video games have become so entrenched in our culture that it makes sense for us to find ways to ensure that people can benefit from using them safely and appropriately. We are confident that incorporating more social interaction along with the games is a key component in minimising the negative impact that their use has inadvertently created. I don’t think we all saw this coming in the initial stages, but it is clearly apparent now that the more plugged in we have become as a society, the more unplugged we have become from each other and from ordinary things, and from interactions that contribute to invigorating human relationships.” For more information, contact Sian Computers by email: siancomputers.comm.init.cic@gmail. com, telephone 079777 88093, or visit their offices at Sian Computers, Collingwood Road, Wolverhampton, WV10 8EB.


“Open my eyes, that I may see wonderful things.” - Psalm 119:18 Augustine has been living his childhood in darkness. Will you help a child see the wonder of God’s creation? Dear Keep the Faith reader, As a fellow Christian, I wanted to share with you how incredibly powerful it is to witness a child seeing for the first time, after eye surgery. As we carry out our work at Christian Blind Mission, we are constantly moved by the astonishment and wonder on the faces of children when the bandages are removed and they get their first clear look at their smiling loved ones. The photo to the right shows 6-year-old Augustine with cataracts, leaving him barely able to see. But cataracts aren’t difficult to treat. Surgery taking just a couple of hours could restore his sight. Just think, in this short time his entire life can be transformed. Instead of living with darkness, frustration and exclusion he could have light,

colour and a future filled with opportunity. He could start school and find a way out of poverty. He could even fulfil his dream of becoming a radio reporter.

Augustine has been living his life in darkness, due to his cataracts

Cataract removal surgery costs £95, but families like Augustine’s can barely afford even basic necessities, so I am turning to you in the hope that you can help. If you could send a gift of £95 today, you could pay for surgery for a child like Augustine. You could open a child’s eyes to the beauty of God’s creation. And we’ll send you an update on Augustine’s surgery.

His tearful question each morning: “Why can’t I go to school?”

God bless you,

Andrea Brandt von Lindau Programme Manager for Inclusive Eye Health

Your gift could help a child see and transform a life

Christian Blind Mission is a huge inspiration to me. It works in more than 50 countries, including some of the world’s poorest communities, to restore sight, mobility and independence to people living with disability. It’s putting Christ’s love into action for the most marginalised people. Will you join Christian Blind Mission by supporting this amazing work? Diane Louise Jordan, Friend of CBM

I will give:

£95

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Yes, I will give £95 to make a blind child see the wonder of God’s creation.


42 FEATURE

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BY SHELDON THOMAS

U O Y E R A “ S I D T U O AB ” ? M A F , TING

Where do you start, when there are over 80 murders in the capital alone, and just under half of those are young teenagers being killed by other teenagers? This number doesn’t even include the rest of the UK, which, I’m sure, would be nearer to 200. And what do you think the Media and the politicians are doing about it?

Find us on Twitter and Facebook: @KeepTheFaithmag

et’s have a look at the Media. Back in May of this year, the Daily Mail ran a two-page spread on how the Albanian drug barons are behind Britain’s youth murder epidemic. What can one say, but how ridiculous and typical of a media newspaper to try and blame immigrants for what is happening in the capital and in other parts of the UK? Allow me to educate the Media: crime families - or, as some describe them today, ‘organised criminal networks’ - have been operating in the UK for over 50 years and, believe me when I tell you, the ones who have been entrenched into British society don’t come from Europe, and they don’t look like me, Black Caribbean. For decades, these White British criminals have gone almost untouched. They have the business sense, the organisation, the power and systems in place to bring drugs and weapons in large supply into the UK, forging links with the cartels in Columbia, with Jamaican Yardies back in the 80s and 90s, and even the Mexican cartels. They also forged other connections to many other crime cartels throughout the world, and this didn’t happen overnight. With politicians, judges and some high-ranking police officers in their pockets, these crime networks have gone unchallenged for many years. It has only been in the last decade that we have seen that landscape change, where a small percentage of European and Asian criminals have begun to stake a claim. Whilst this may be true, to try and blame the Albanians is laughable, as the problems of London and gangs were already entrenched way before European criminals entered our borders. Again, like the politicians, the Media are just grasping at thin air and playing on the Brexit vote to stump the ill feeling in various communities, to blame the immigrants, when in fact Britain and only Britain - and our societal issues are totally to blame for where we are today with gangs and serious youth violence. I could say, “I told you so.” Unlike many organisations that have recently started, I have been knocking at the door of 10 Downing Street since 2000. This led me to my first meeting at the Home Office, bringing with me my documentary, ‘The Violence Must Cease’ that I made nine years earlier (1991). It prophesied the rise of youth violence in the coming years, if we didn’t address the problems of the 90s. To my surprise, I was quickly ushered out of the Home Office and told that gangs don’t exist and there was no gangs problem. Well, we all know how that ended up. Who is to blame for the current crisis? Well, I for one will not blame the police. The police were to blame for what happened in the 70s and 80s, which made many young men - especially Black boys - turn to gangs. (Back then, we used the word ‘posse’.) Some say this is the legacy we are now reaping.


FEATURE 43

THE BLAME CULTURE Politicians, media and communities are all blaming each other, and no one is willing to take any responsibility. So let’s start with the politicians. Almost all the MPs are more interested in making sure they get voted in the next major elections and, to make matters worse, most MPs cannot even relate to how most Britain’s live out their daily lives, so it makes it impossible for them to understand or accept there is a problem, let alone fix it, or, as one politician put it: “If the lives of young men involved were White middle class, would we have seen a different reaction?” So we elect people who do not understand us… Let’s forget about us, they don’t understand the White majority. They are far removed from realities of the ‘hard-knock life’, of the common man, and these are the MPs who are then asked to take the lead on forums and roundtable discussions on gangs and youth violence - on issues they clearly have no understanding of. An example of this was a recent meeting I had, where an MP from Chelmsford got very angry. This MP could not accept the truth that drug gangs were using county lines distribution networks, and grooming young children as young as 11 from Chelmsford into selling drugs, and then enabling them to set up their own gangs to bring drugs into schools in Chelmsford. Why? Most MPs, like this MP, live in a bubble, and they only react when it becomes a crisis. This usually takes the form of many reports, which have different titles, but literally say the same thing and change nothing. They continue with this approach, however, because it’s a system, and they are unwilling to change this system, which then makes it impossible for anything they come up with in these reports to work. Why?

Reacting – rather than preventing - is far more visible to the electorate that is going to vote in the next election. Prevention, on other hand, relies on using a more qualitative approach, whilst the quantitative approach measures data that already exists, eg. the number of deaths, suspects, and girls being sexually exploited. For over 10 years, I have been saying in every interview I have done, that gang violence disproportionally affects the Black community more in London than any other community, but because politicians fear to be labelled as racists by the Black community, they have refused to even address this, due to political correctness. What makes this situation really bad is that the Black community themselves have not acknowledged this.

‘How ridiculous and typical of a media newspaper to try and blame immigrants for what is happening in the capital and in other parts of the UK?’

Let’s look at the most recent stats, requested by Sky News under the Freedom of Information Act, for every police force in the country. These stats showed London was unique when it came to murder statistics. Almost half the murder victims - as well as suspects - were Black, despite the ethnic group accounting for just 13% of London’s population. White people in London make up 60% of the population, but only account for 35% of murder victims and 24% of murder suspects. Yet for decades, the Church and the Black community have been running scared to even mention or address this crisis. Instead, we have those in the community trying to blame the lack of youth clubs, but I have never known any gang members to actually go to youth clubs. I have even heard one Black leader actually state that racism is the underlying reason why so many young Black boys are killing each other and, whilst all this has been going on, the Church has become so insular it’s become embarrassing. Whilst this is true of many churches, there are some smaller churches that are trying to impact the community. Without the financial resources of the larger churches, however, they are limited in what they can do. Why is this such a problem? Simple. Most of the victims and

suspects are coming from fatherless homes, and the fact that 72% of male inmates (prisoners) also lacked fathers or positive male figures in their lives, this I believe should have placed the Church in a unique position - in my opinion, we have the moral high ground, but haven’t taken up this position. Is it just me, or is there not a correlation between absent fathers, the significant rise in violence and the increase in young men being imprisoned? Let’s have another look at some stats: 61% of Black households are absent of fathers, but here again we see the community not wanting to address this. It still continues to lay the blame elsewhere. We have mothers who have become scared of their own children; we have mothers who collude with their kid’s drug dealing, and then there are the mothers who are totally oblivious. What has been so alarming is how most mothers I have come into contact with have no idea who their children’s friends are; what their kids are getting up to on social media and, in some cases, do not even know where the kids are at night. I have seen children as young as 11 out way past midnight, yet the mothers and the community do not seem to want to address this. They are quite willing to blame everyone else for what is very clear to me - a case of bad parenting. I believe gangs and serious youth violence are not an enforcement problem, but a societal problem, one where colour can no longer lay claim to have exclusive rights to, as I found when researching Bowlby and Bowen’s Attachment Theory. Simply put, if your child does not form the right kind of positive attachments at a very young age (0–5), they are unlikely to develop emotionally and will struggle in later life to form positive relationships. This is not a Black problem but a UK problem, where, according to a recent UN report in 2015, children in the UK are more likely to grow up in a loveless home than children in Europe. One of the reasons it stated was that Britain has become a society where business, ministry and success have become far more important www.keepthefaith.co.uk


44 FEATURE

than spending the right amount of time with our children. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs also places the emotional growth of children as paramount, by stating that if the basic needs of children are not met - love, safety, shelter and affirmation then the likely chance of your child developing emotionally becomes very difficult, and is likely to lead to them developing relationships with negative peer groups. There is an old saying: If you don’t spend time with your children, then gang members, radicalised or far right groups will. Why? Because there is a gap, and unfortunately because of social media, YouTube, Facebook and Instagram, children are being groomed right in their bedrooms, via the mobile phone, and this medium has replaced the absent father and, in some cases, replaced some of the mothers too. Children are being parented by social media, which not only tells them to rebel, but smoke skunk, “Join my gang”, have sex and “Be in my video and we will give you a ski mask, and all you have to do is point your hands at the camera in the shape of gun several times.” Children as young has eleven are now smoking skunk, which not only damages their

brain cells (which cannot be replaced or fixed, unlike a broken arm), but will cause long-term mental illnesses, because skunk is not naturally grown but is made with chemicals. So not only is this a societal problem; we now have a mental health crisis as well. The use of social media has now spread this gangster lifestyle and has made it become a culture, one that doesn’t tow the colour lines, but means it is now entrenched into the fabric of British society. Over the last few years, we have learnt that gangs groom and exploit middle class White children; they do not discriminate. Gone are the days of grooming kids from some broken home in some decaying estate. “Are you about dis ting, fam?” can now be heard from kids in Salisbury, Chelmsford, Epping Forest,

‘The use of social media has now spread this gangster lifestyle and has made it become a culture ... that doesn’t tow the colour lines’

Hertfordshire, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire and Gloucestershire, whose mums are earning anywhere between £50,000 to £80,000 and dads are on £80,000 to £120,000 per year. These kids have learnt everything from watching trap and drill music videos of their favourite hood celebrity artists, who are actual gang members portraying themselves as MCs - even though they do have talent. To begin to address these societal issues, the government needs to have a vision for young people, where all children of all races - especially Find us on Twitter and Facebook: @KeepTheFaithmag

those from poor White communities - can see hope and a future for themselves. Poor Whites are doing far worse than any other ethnic group in regards to schools and, if this is not addressed, then we are leaving another gap for the far right groups to exploit on a far bigger scale than it is right now. Why? Because when you are uneducated, you are more likely to be manipulated by far right groups or groomed by gang members. Society needs to address: why do so many fathers find it so easy to turn their backs on their children? Why are local and central government afraid of prevention? Why are they afraid of developing new and long-term strategies, which are financially well resourced? Why has the Church not addressed the issues around absent fathers, bad parenting and the lack of love in British society? The simple answer to all the above is fear and the fear of change. For more information about Gangsline and the mentoring programmes, multi-agency training and school workshops they offer, visit www.gangsline.com.


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46 COMMENT

The Church coexisting with Robots?

REV STEPHEN BROOKS New Jerusalem Church, Birmingham

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here I live In Milton Keynes, people have been taken aback by white robots, as they travel independently about 4mph and can hold approximately 10kg of food or merchandise. JustEat have partnered up to use these robots to deliver takeaway food to customers. The robots travel from a local depot to the restaurant in time to pick up freshly prepared meals to then deliver to the customer. Once the robot arrives at the customer’s door, the customer is sent a unique code to unlock the robot’s box. Technology and artificial intelligence (AI) are fashioning how people interact with everything from food to healthcare - and religion too. Artificial intelligence is intelligence demonstrated by machines, in contrast to the natural intelligence displayed by humans and other animals. These tools are now being directed towards a plethora of difficult practical problems - for instance, diagnosing certain diseases, and analysing medical images, even outperforming human doctors in some tasks. Where I live, there has been a remarkable rise in the number of autonomous vehicles (also known as self-driving cars) – vehicles that are capable of sensing their environment and navigating without human input.

Technology is already enhancing religious practices around the world - from electronic Scriptures to robot priests – and different faiths have absorbed new ideas from the world of technology to enhance mainstream religious practices. Due to the high concentration of young people aged between 16 and 30 across the Middle East and Asia, Muslims can download apps, such as Muslim Pro, with daily prayer timetables, notifications for both sunrise and sunset, and an electronic compass pointing the way towards Mecca. Developers in Japan have developed a robot priest, programmed to conduct Buddhist rituals. Peppa the humanoid robot, complete with ceremonial dress, can perform a funeral ceremony for $462, compared to the one performed by a human priest for $2,232. Followers of Catholicism can plug into the Confession Chatbot app to interact in a life-like two-way conversation with a robot. While it could potentially remove embarrassment in confessing a person’s innermost secrets and guilt, where those interactions end up remains a concern in light of the Facebook-Cambridge Analytical scandal. Five hundred years after the Protestant Reformation, robot priest BlessU-2, with the ability to recite biblical verses and offer pre-composed prayers, was built for the small German town of Wittenberg to mark the anniversary of Martin Luther’s religious revolution in Europe. Faith leaders are increasingly concerned about morality and the ethics behind creating human-like machines. Social media’s addictive nature and the use of sexbots are just two examples of the reservations they have. Much more work remains to be done exploring what 2000 years of Christian ethics and social thought have to say about modern robots and AI. A small sample of these issues includes: • When an autonomous vehicle crashes, who is responsible? • Should lethal autonomous robots be permitted in warfare? • Should we support efforts to develop ‘artificial persons’ or machines that mimic humans or animals? • Are social robots appropriate, and if so, how are they to be used? • Should we use robots for child and elder care? • How do we navigate the privacy, transparency and justice issues that arise as AI is applied to big data? • How do we show care for those whose jobs are threatened by automation?


COMMENT 47

SAVE SOMEONE’S LIFE MIDDLESEX HOSPITAL

13:47

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These are just some of the areas where ethical issues arise in the use of AI. We will find a way forward not by asking what technology allows us to do; rather, by starting with questions about who we are as human beings, and what role technology ought to play. Movies like The Matrix, and Terminator paint a picture of a dark future where technology turns on humanity. These stories portray different variations on the ‘Frankenstein narrative’, in which technology turns on its human creators and threatens their existence. Many of these movies raise thoughtful questions about what it means to be human, exploring questions of identity, existence, free will and how we are distinct from our machines. Some have suggested that the advance of technology and AI will eventually solve all our problems. The term `technicism` is a word that has been coined to refer to the faith in technology as saviour or rescuer of the human condition. But not everyone shares an optimistic view of the future of AI, and warnings about the dark side of AI can be found in some surprising places. Stephen Hawking has warned that “The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race,” and Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX, has called AI “our biggest threat.” In response to the many ethical issues that arise in AI, several organisations have been established to engage them. The Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University is an example of one secular organisation, whose mission is to consider threats from machine intelligence. In 2016, the United Nations announced it would establish a Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics in The Hague. As Christians who care about God’s world, we must do more than wax eloquently about the issues or critique them from the sidelines. We need to actively join this conversation, which has already begun, bringing insights from Scripture and from Christian philosophy and theology to contribute to the common good. In particular, as we wrestle with these new developments, we must remember what Scripture teaches about what it means to be human, and the kind of world God would have us develop. The Lausanne Congress on World Evangelisation 2010 highlighted the need for “taking the whole Gospel to the whole world,” including the area of technology. It encourages us to “promote authentically Christian responses and practical action in the area of public policies, to ensure that technology is used not to manipulate, distort and destroy, but to preserve and better fulfil our humanness.” A Christian worldview recognises the reality of human creation. Jesus Christ, who is “the Word who became flesh” (1 John 3:2), reveals the value God places on humanity. In the new heavens and earth, we will not be disembodied spirits floating in the heavens, but we look forward to the “resurrection of the transformed body and the life everlasting.” Our call is to help point the AI discipline in the right direction, and help discern a responsible road forward in obedience to God. Left on its own, AI will likely veer in the wrong direction, putting efficiency ahead of people.

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48 COMMENT

What’s behind the dramatic rise in refugees? REV WALE HUDSON-ROBERTS

is the Racial Justice Co-ordinator for the Baptist Union of Great Britain

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ass violence is ranked as one of the main reasons behind human moving stories. Immediately, the likes of Syria come to mind. Desperate to crush the protesters involved in the Arab Spring (an autonomous pro-democracy uprising that started in Tunisia), the mainly young Syrians unwittingly kick-started a war in Syria that has seen at least 11 million Syrians displaced, as the Government crushed with impunity those who had the audacity to hope of an alternative reality. Those who live in Afghanistan and Somalia have also experienced violence on a grand scale, precipitating a forced departure from their homelands. The most recent collapses into mass violence and flight are from South Sudan, Sudan, Myanmar and Eritrea. State violence, followed by a search for security in foreign lands, are just some of the commonalities binding these countries. A further likely factor in the rise of people’s stories of moving from their homes to a foreign land has been the spread of democracy. Autocratic regimes seek to suppress - and ideally prevent - protests. It is too risky to wait until your opponents have acted; they might just succeed. Act on suspicion, they argue. Albeit this requires punishing the innocent along with the guilty; however, the spread of global democracy has emboldened some societies living even under the most oppressive regimes to protest against the absence of their human rights. Iraq and Libya are examples in question. I’m guessing that social media, with its capacity to provide people with a knowledge of the potential power of a well-established democracy with its inbuilt checks and balances, motivates societies to protest “Yes, we can” in the public square. It should come as no surprise that fleeing voices that are being crushed, even from their beloved countries, will attempt to find listeners in a foreign land. That we have been created in the image of God, who is liberating and life-giving, presupposes that those who bear His image, like refugees, aspire to be simultaneously liberated and liberator. As certain as I am that poverty, alongside other factors, is responsible for mass violence and autocratic regimes, I’m also certain that the need for the most basic human rights (such as food and shelter) drives those who are trapped Find us on Twitter and Facebook: @KeepTheFaithmag

‘Until recently, the world could be accused of turning a blind eye to the plight of refugees.’ in the cycle of poverty in their home countries to access resources elsewhere. Poverty is a killer. It can destroy individual souls and communities. Poverty and economic disempowerment are frequently inextricably bound; two sides of the same coin. In some cultures, the absence of state support forces the eldest child to provide for their hungry family, reinforcing the need for flight to secure employment elsewhere. It is for this reason that some of the poorer communities join their meagre resources, and designate the eldest, and most able, from among their clan or tribe to embark upon the most perilous journey to a developed country, in the hope of providing provision for their families. Until recently, the world could be accused of turning a blind eye to the plight of refugees. Countries simply waited for an emergency to rear its head, before responding and then contributing money to the United Nations humanitarian system. This money was spent on establishing refugee camps providing food and shelter. But then something unexpected happened, which kind of shook nonchalant attitudes. In 2015, vast numbers of people moved from the poorest parts of the world to the richest. For the first time in a long time, Europe experienced a movement of people from outside of the European Union. In 2015, over a million asylum seekers would come to Europe, the majority from Syria and other fragile states. But despite these unprecedented

figures, it took a crisis to lead the Media to highlight the refugee situation. For in April of the same year, 700 people died crossing to Lampedusa. This eventually resulted in the press calling it out for what it was: ‘a refugee crisis.’ You would have thought that this heartbreaking situation might have compelled the European Union to put together a coherent strategic plan to support the displaced communities. Instead, their responses are shaped by unilateral panic decisions, rather than a search for collective solutions. This lack of compassion should not be solely attributed to the EU and similar bodies. Yes, they continue to fail. But would I be right in saying that many of our diaspora churches remain indifferent to the plight of refugees too? In a famous moral thought experiment, students are asked to imagine themselves alone by a pond into which a child has fallen by accident and is crying for help. In other words, you are a bystander and not at all responsible for the accident. You are not a good swimmer. Is it legitimate for you to ignore that urgent cry for rescue? Refugees forced to leave their homes, because of unprecedented levels of violence, are analogous to the drowning child. Like the bystander, we have a responsibility to rescue. Our faith is undermined - and rightly open to severe criticism - when we fail to show practical compassion to migrants and refugees eking out an existence in exile. Lest we forget: our stories have also been marred by hostility in a ‘strange land’.


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50 COMMENT

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THOUGHT marciadixonpr.co.uk

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MARCIA DIXON

A leading PR specialist and journalist

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Black churches in your communities – more presence, please!

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ne thing Christians should recognise, as they mature, is that the Church and fellow believers do not have the monopoly on doing good in society. There are numerous people - some with faith, some with none - who are committed to being their brother’s keeper; helping the vulnerable and disadvantaged, and providing practical assistance to people in distress. With this fact in mind, the Black Church community shouldn’t shy away from working with individuals and organisations that are meeting a social need and doing good. There seems to be a general complaint amongst Black charities and community groups that the ‘Black Church’ is the least likely place they are likely to get support. Of course this is not true for all, but it’s sad that people perceive this, as it should not be the case. The Church should be one place where organisations working with the Black community should get support especially as our churches tend to be our leading institution. Black churches are rich in resources: they usually have their own buildings; access to a pool of qualified, skilled volunteers, and receive a regular income so can help to finance projects. More and more churches need to see themselves as part and parcel of the

communities where they are based. The Bible might describe us as ‘peculiar people’, in reference to the fact that our goals and life purpose are shaped by God rather than by the world, however that does not mean we should not be concerned about what’s happening within the wider world, and support those trying to make a positive difference. It’s imperative that the institution of the Black Church (ie. the leadership) is perceived as being concerned about addressing the major issues impacting the Black community, and is seen putting its faith into action and actively supporting those who are doing so. This means if community groups call us to play a part in alleviating social ills, we should rise to the challenge and play our part in helping to make our community a better place. Churches can give support by: • making a donation • encouraging church members to do voluntary work with a charity • allowing community groups to use their buildings • exploring ways to work with others to combat social issues Christians are called to be salt and light, and our light shines brighter - and we can add even more flavour - when we work alongside others who just want to make society a better place.

Ministering to the millennials During a recent discussion with a millennial, I sought their opinion on the expectations young adults have of the older Christians.

I was told - in no uncertain terms - that whilst young people enjoy the fact that some older people are ‘trendy’; ‘look young for their age’ and are ‘young at heart’, what they desired most of all was older people who were mature; able to give wise advice, and who set a good example for younger people to follow. This insight brought home the fact that older people shouldn’t be ashamed of their age. At all. Instead, they should pray that as they age, their advancing years are accompanied with health; the desire to be an example; and wisdom and knowledge that can be shared with the younger generation.

Live your abundant life to the max As I get older, I’m hearing more and more that people I know or greatly admired have passed away. This kind of news heightens my senses about death. Believers should always be mindful of the fact that we will all eventually die and leave this earth. Being aware of our mortality shouldn’t make us become morbid and depressed. It should inspire us to draw closer to God, embrace life, and live it more fully; work to fulfil our life purpose; love others; do good for others, and do more of the things we enjoy. Even Scripture states that we should live our lives with our death in view. Ecclesiastes 8:3 says: ‘It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart.’ Being mindful of death should also make us major on what’s important, and pay scant occasion to what isn’t, as well as focus on leaving a legacy for those we leave behind, whether it’s our families, local community or the wider world. In the midst of life, we are in death. So let’s keep Christ in our focus. He’s with us in life and will be with us in death. Live your life purposefully, so that when you do leave this earth, those who are left behind will know you lived life to the max.


ESTHER KUKU

n o i t a c u d An e n beauty i Journalist and Communications Professional. Love God, love life, love people Twitter: @mew36

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hy is it that fuller lips, a curvier bottom and tanned skin are sought after, paid for and seen to be attractive on women who are not Black? But for those of us who were born with all these physical characteristics, the perception in much of the media is something different. I’ve been gobsmacked by the plethora of discussionbased articles in recent months, analysing whether Black women find it difficult to find love: are ‘unlikely to get married’ and - it gets worse - are ‘less desirable’. TV shows, like ‘Love Island’ and ‘Take Me Out’ have been flagged as clear demonstrations of media either consciously or unconsciously selecting women from thousands of applicants who generally look the same. While many White women are also excluded from this lack of diversity, as show producers abandon fair representation in favour of ratings, Black women are constantly excluded from the media’s ideal of beauty. Dee-Ann Kentish-Rogers is a dark-skinned Black woman with natural hair. She was recently crowned Miss Universe Great Britain. Let’s park the discussion around whether these sort of pageant competitions should even exist – they shouldn’t - and a beautiful, dark-skinned Black woman, who my daughters can relate to, winning doesn’t change the fact that these competitions are long past their sell-by date. However, Kentish-Rogers won. Her success was hailed as historic in much of the press. Why? Because it’s taken close to half a century to see a dark-skinned Black woman win. Much of the media we consume is fixated upon pumping out European standards of beauty. This is centred upon skin colours and hair types that exclude many Black women. Especially those of us with darker skin. Everyone was jumping up and down with excitement when Harry announced he was marrying Meghan - except one guest on a mainstream news programme, who piped up: “She’s not exactly Lupita” - referring to the Kenyan actress, Lupita Nyong’o. Every Black woman knows that lighter skin is still the preferred tone of Black in the media.

Photo: Miss Universe Great Britain Facebook Page

Things are changing, but we still have a long way to go. So, what can we do? All of us - Black, White, Brown - have a responsibility to educate our children on what real beauty is. Don’t let your child think they are better than anyone. Let them focus on being the best version of themselves. Buy toys that are representative of the world and society they are going to have to navigate when they get older.

I purposely went on a mission to ensure my children had dolls that are Black, Brown, White, etc. The concern is that, when you go to the shops, the shelves are filled with White dolls. You generally have to go online or research where to buy a Black doll. And then it’s usually twice the price…This is the same for reading books. We may need to start writing the books ourselves and challenge the status quo. Grown women struggle with looking in the mirror and seeing themselves as beautiful. Many prefer wigs that use European hair rather than embrace their natural afro. What hope is

there for our children? Physical beauty fades over time. True beauty comes from within. The Bible tells us that we are created in the image of God. God doesn’t do ugly. When He decided to make some of us dark-skinned, some light-skinned, some of us super thin, blonde, and some of us curvy with frizzy hair, He wasn’t tired. He wanted to put on display His amazing ability to show off the diversity of His creativity. Proverbs 31:30 says: ‘Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised’. 1 Peter 3:3-4 says: ‘Your beauty should not come from outward adornment … but rather from the inner unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth to God. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of the Lord will stand forever.’ Every Christian needs to raise up the standard of God’s Word in their homes. When it comes to practical day-to-day stuff, read Scriptures to your children, but also tell them every day they are beautiful and wonderfully and fearfully made. Finally, when you see something on the TV that isn’t right, don’t just sit there and accept it. Write to OFCOM. Join the Parent Teachers Association at school, and make your voice heard. Apply for board or trustee positions in major companies, so you can influence. It’s not all about being important in church. Our children’s mental health and future depend on us speaking truth to power in a variety of settings. Let’s do this! www.keepthefaith.co.uk


52 COMMENT

I’M A HYPOCRITE!

Mission Aviation Fellowship Copywriter and Editor Gary Clayton looks at some of the foibles and failings God’s people fall into. GARY CLAYTON

is Copywriter and Editor at Mission Aviation Fellowship: www.maf-uk.org

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’m a hypocrite! Although I spend much of my time writing about God’s grace and God’s work in Africa and the Asia-Pacific region, I was recently annoyed with someone who upset me. And yet I’m very much aware that the Bible tells us to forgive those who sin against us (Luke 11:4). “If you are offering your gift at the altar,” Matthew 5:23-24 reminds us, “and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you… First go and be reconciled.” And that, with God’s grace, is what I’ve tried to do. My wife Julie is quick to point out the irony of having a husband, who has encouraged others to ‘step out of the boat’ and yet is himself risk averse. It amuses her that, although I work for Mission Aviation Fellowship, I’m actually very nervous at airports. Julie is equally amused at couples who arrive at church – beatific smiles on their faces, but who she’s just heard quarrelling loudly with each other and yelling at their children – frantically pretending that all is well. And yet, as 1 John 1:8 tells us: ‘If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.’ “No one is good – except God alone” (Mark 10:18). As someone people sometimes refer to as a ‘professional Christian’, ie. a follower of Jesus who works professionally for a Christian organisation, I’m paid to write encouraging articles about the life-changing work done by Mission Aviation Fellowship’s

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128 light aircraft in 27 developing countries. But, when I recall what recently happened when something went wrong, and I totally lost it at home, I have to ask myself whether I practise what I preach. I might make a living doing Christian work, but do I actually live it out? I might talk the talk (or write it!) but, as the cliché has it, do I actually walk the walk? Do I spend too much time writing and editing – including this article for Keep The Faith – and not enough time with my wife and children? People are fallible. As James 3:1-2 reminds us, ‘We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.’ But there’s another problem we Christians can have – our attitude to work. Whatever we do, or whoever we work for, let’s make sure we don’t make work our ‘god’ – turning our activity into an idol that we can’t stop worshipping, even when it’s the weekend or time to stop. Our friends, family or children will lose out if we don’t. Sadly, in this 24/7 media-connected, goal-oriented age, we don’t always know how to take things easy, or take a break for the sake of our health. Yet God loves us for who we are, not what we do. He’s our heavenly Father, not the head of Human Resources. Of course, there’s work to be done if we’re to serve Him, as John 14:15, Matthew 28:20, 2 Timothy 4:2, Mark 16:15 and 2 Thessalonians 3 make clear, but the relationship between father and child is completely different to that of employer and employee. Jesus is Lord, not personnel manager. And yet sometimes we suffer from a martyr or a Martha complex (Luke 10:38-42), refusing to delegate or be still, and

The Clayton family

bearing burdens we should either lay down, share with others, or put at Jesus’ feet. I once knew a pastor who was so hands-on, he not only conducted and led the singing, made the announcements and did the children’s talk and the preaching, but he’d even get down from the pulpit so he could turn on the tape recorder to record his own sermon, before getting back up to preach! But the desire for control or perpetual motion can have a powerful hold, resulting in us becoming the kind of Christians – at home or at work – who try to prove that we’re counting the cost, but then produce the invoice and get others to pay for it by making them feel guilty! Yet Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest… For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). So let’s learn from Him, and find rest. We can often take on too much – spending our time fretting about what hasn’t been done, rather than concentrating on what the Lord asks us to do, and thanking Him for enabling us to do it. So, whether our ministry takes place at work, at home or in church, let’s follow Paul’s example in 1 Corinthians 11:1: “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” Our homes, churches and workplaces need servants, not slave-drivers. God’s people escaped Egypt to avoid all that! But bosses can be slave drivers. I’ve had 11 over the years (my current boss at MAF is


COMMENT 53 great, by the way!), and have had vastly differing experiences depending on their behaviour, demeanour and people management skills. One gave me the freedom to take risks, innovate and learn from my mistakes. Another was so hands-on that my work was painstakingly monitored, and time taken in the toilet by another colleague queried! One created an environment where creativity and initiative were encouraged. Another mixed flattery with thinly veiled threats; seemed to suffer from an advanced case of ADHD, and appeared to have joined the company as part of a particularly spectacular mid-life crisis. So, although the Bible tells us to submit to those in authority (Romans 13:1, 1 Thessalonians 5:12, Hebrews 13:17, 1 Peter 2:13), it doesn’t mean we should purposely blind ourselves to the faults of others – or our own! But if we are suffering, then I wouldn’t necessarily suggest that we do so in silence. Pray with Christian friends about it. Go to HR, if it’s appropriate to do so. Check with other work colleagues to see if the particular member of staff who’s causing you grief has a pattern of difficult, controlling or abusive behaviour. In one organisation, I discovered that the painful problems I was having with my boss had caused many others to leave. One, still working there, was serving in a different department because she’d asked to be transferred. So when I pointed this out to a sympathetic senior manager, my controlling boss was

moved sideways, and I eventually got a much better boss, a pay rise and a promotion. A Christian leader once said that although ‘burn-out’ may appear more honourable than ‘rust out’, it’s those who ‘last out’ who generally accomplish the most! So although the Bible refers to us running a race (Acts 20:24, 1 Corinthians 9:24, 2 Timothy 4:7), the question is, who’s in the driving seat? Us, Lewis Hamilton – or God? 1 Corinthians 3:7 reminds us that ‘neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.’ So is it possible that, in all our anxious

striving – which at times makes the Protestant work ethic look like a charter for slackers – we’re not allowing the ‘land’ (ie. our lives) to rest, while God attends to the growth? Perhaps everything isn’t all rosy in our garden, whether at home, at work or in church – however hard we try to pretend otherwise. Perhaps we need to treat our own little patch with pesticide, root out the weeds, or allow the garden of our lives to lie fallow for a season – to let go and let God attend to its growth. Perhaps we’re not allowing the allotment allotted to us to be tended as it should. Perhaps it’s choked up with the worries, weeds and cares of this life (Matthew 13:1-8, Mark 4:1-8, Luke 8:4-8). But if we don’t know how to rest or be kind to ourselves and others, then the results can be unfortunate. We can drive those we know into the ground, over the edge or out of the church – which I’ve sadly seen happen! So let’s take care how we labour and be aware of what we do. Instead of tending to a flourishing garden, we could end up labouring in an ugly wasteland – and it would be hypocritical of me to say otherwise.

Gary Clayton is married to Julie, and father of Christopher (14) and Emma (11). He is Copywriter and Editor at Mission Aviation Fellowship. To learn how MAF’s 128 aircraft help poor and vulnerable people living in Africa and the Asia-Pacific region, visit www.maf-uk.org.

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54 LIFESTYLE

How to take someone to the Small Claims Court if they owe you money BY AMANDA HAMILTON, NALP

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eing owed money is frustrating and unpleasant – especially if the debtor is ignoring all your phone calls and letters. If you feel you’ve tried everything and you’re still not getting anywhere, then you may consider using the ‘Small Claims Court’ process. This is part of the County Court and was originally created to enable a layperson (someone who is not legally qualified) to take another individual to court. The maximum amount of a claim in those days was £20. Nowadays, the maximum amount of a claim you can deal with yourself in the Small Claims Court is £10,000. However, before you take someone to court, pause a moment to consider the likely costs:

• There is small fee to file the claim; the amount depends on the amount of money you are owed and therefore claiming for. The fees start at £25. You can see the full fee structure here: https://www.gov.uk/make-court- claim-for-money/court-fees • What happens if the ‘defendant’ (the person owing the money) decides not to pay, or defends the action? What do you do? Well, if you decide to pursue the individual, it will most certainly incur further costs. If it gets to a hearing, then hearing fees need to be paid (anything from £25 - £410, if you issue proceedings online – slightly more if you issue in paper form). If the case goes beyond this, then you may have to apply for judgment against the defendant and possibly enforce the judgment using the help of a bailiff – incurring further fees.

If you do decide to proceed, then the first thing you need to do is to write the other party a letter clarifying why they owe you money, and that you are thinking of taking court action if the amount owed is not paid by a certain date (state the date clearly). All the necessary evidence must be provided to the other party with the letter, even though you know they have the facts already. Writing a letter before taking any action is a very important part of the process, and fulfills what is known as the ‘protocol’. Without having done so, you may jeopardise your case if it does end up in court. At this stage, it is also worth considering mediation. This provides individuals and businesses with a low-cost method of resolving a legal dispute, without the need to go to court. There is usually a fixed hourly fee to pay by both parties. If going to court is your intended course of action, then after you have sent the protocol letter and the time limit for payment has passed, you will need to fill in a Claim Form N1 - either online or by downloading and printing it. You then send the completed form to the County Court Money Claims Centre in Salford, and pay the court fee (mentioned above). What happens next depends on whether the defendant agrees to pay the amount, refuses to pay the amount, or ignores the whole thing! The defendant has 14 days to respond, after which time, if there is no response, you may decide to issue a county court judgment

(commonly known as a CCJ) against the defendant. This, in itself, has quite serious consequences for the defendant, because a copy of all CCJs go to a public company and may affect any credit searches made against the defendant’s name – a good and useful tool to add into any pre-action protocol letter that you send. Once you have the judgment, the defendant may still choose to ignore you and not pay. In such a case, you’ll need to consider enforcing the judgment, for example, engaging the services of a bailiff to seize property to cover the amount you are owed. You can action the entire process above without the help of a solicitor. However, if you feel you do need a bit of extra advice or support, then consider using a paralegal. Paralegals are less costly than a solicitor, and can help you in exactly the same way as a solicitor would. Check that your chosen paralegal is registered with a membership body like NALP, and holds the relevant paralegal qualifications and insurance.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Amanda Hamilton is Chief Executive of the National Association of Licensed Paralegals (NALP), a non-profit membership body and the only paralegal body that is recognised as an awarding organisation by Ofqual (the regulator of qualifications in England). Through its training arm, NALP Training, accredited recognised professional paralegal qualifications are offered for a career as a paralegal professional. See: http://www.nationalparalegals. co.uk and http://www.nalptraining.co. uk/nalp_training Twitter: @NALP_UK Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ NationalAssocationsofLicensedParalegals/ LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ amanda-hamilton-llb-hons-840a6a16/

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LIFESTYLE 55

ESSENTIALS FOR ENTREPRENEURS

You are an entrepreneur, hold it together!

S

tarting and growing a business can be challenging. It is exciting, but you will face a range of problems and difficulties you will need to overcome, in order to take your business to the next level. Most entrepreneurs will plan and strategise before embarking on any ventures. Many will read widely, from business-specific books to personal development or motivation/inspirational books, and this is really important. However, once you put your hands to the plough, the reality of staffing, finances, sales and paperwork may change your exciting dream to a continuous hustle, far removed from the books and speakers who promise ‘five easy steps to business wealth’ or ‘10 certain strategies to live life high’! So how do entrepreneurs cope with the reality of growing their businesses? One simple word: encouragement. Whether it is from yourself or someone else, encouragement matters, with one key result - it prevents you from giving up. This article explores three simple strategies for holding it together as an entrepreneur, through the difficult times or even the daily routine. Find and hold onto your truth One of the most important principles that guides my life is that the truth is the only thing that matters. Not the facts, and not the lies. Most people would agree that a lie is the opposite of truth, but want about facts? The Oxford Dictionary defines a fact as: ‘a thing that is known or proven to the true’. This is absolutely correct, but it is an incomplete definition. A fact is known or proven to be true after subjecting it to our senses: what we have seen, heard, felt, tasted or smelt. The ‘truth’ is somewhat deeper than that; it embraces a sixth dimension - a spiritual dimension.

A friend of mine, an ex agency owner, had struggled to pay staff salaries in the early days of his business. The fact (at the time) was he did not have money to pay his staff, but his ‘truth’ was that he knew he would get through this challenge, and grew a successful business. He believed this so strongly, that the facts did not deter him from continuing to build his business. This business was sold after nine years to the world’s largest independent b2b marketing agency, and is now listed as a Top 10 agency in the UK. Great results, because the founder chose to hold onto his ‘truth’, rather than surrendering to the facts. Remember your past victories Luckily, you are faced with challenges every day. Small challenges, big challenges, serious challenges, fun challenges. See your challenges as a good thing. From choosing your company name, to writing your first business plan, or even landing your first customer. You will be filled firstly with some trepidation, and then with a sense of victory and satisfaction when you overcome a particular challenge. Remembering these past victories will encourage you anytime you are faced with a new challenge. Remember, you don’t reach heights without climbing. Or, as commonly said: there are no TESTimonies without tests. If it doesn’t kill you, it will make you stronger! Build a support network With the advent of social media, most celebrities and successful business people could have thousands or even millions of followers, likes, fans, etc. But you do not need a thousand people around you. You don’t even need a hundred people - or even ten. One or two, perhaps three people, who care for you and believe in your dreams are enough to help you through some of your darkest hours as an entrepreneur. Don’t try to ‘do business’ on your own. Trust me, entrepreneurship is not a solo race. You need people who can support you with words of wisdom and truth.

KENO OGBO

is a Digital Consultant, Writer and Entrepreneur www.iamkeno.co.uk

Get encouraged practical tips to get started

1

Write your ‘truth’ down List down all the reasons why you believe in yourself and your success. Did you research your business? Have your learnt from others? Do you know your market? Have you tested your product/ service? Are you hardworking? Write these down, and remind yourself of your ‘truth’.

2

Keep a gratitude journal Get a notebook and record each victory with a tone of gratitude. Thank God for helping you make the right decision, for bringing you that new customer, or for giving you favour with a distributor. Decide to count your blessings, and you will find more victories to be thankful for. Anytime you are faced with discouragement, bring out your book and read your past victories.

Call someone who believes in you Have a list of the top three people you would call if you felt discouraged about a particular situation. When I started my business, I made sure I had a list of go-to people with whom I could share my fears, successes, questions and more. I kept them updated with my business growth, and their counsel and support kept me from giving up so many times.

3

Did you find this useful? Be part of a growing community of entrepreneurs by connecting with Keno: @spiralwebs @keno_ogbo www.keepthefaith.co.uk


56 LIFESTYLE

A LEAP OF

FAITH

By Lucy Stevens

W

hen fostering a child, who is of a different faith to you, the learning curve is steep and broad. There are all sorts of requirements that will need careful thought and consideration. There are dietary requirements to cater for; places of worship to suss out; festivals to diarise; customs to familiarise yourself with, and all manner of core beliefs to get to grips with. Understanding the psychology of a particular religion and its cultural nuances is critical to understanding your child at a holistic level. As Christians, we’ve found this element of fostering our Muslim child both fascinating and challenging, often in equal measure. Undoubtedly, learning about Islam has helped us to understand our foster son, Muslim friends and neighbours better. It has helped us to understand the beliefs and tenets that shape who they are. As we have gained knowledge, we have established a platform on which to pray for our foster son, Muslim neighbours and the Muslim world as a whole. As Christians, we have a set of beliefs ourselves and, at times, we have been both encouraged and challenged by the tenacity with which our foster son holds on to his faith. It has helped us to be intentional about the way in which we live out our faith: quietly, but determinedly striving to show love, mercy, grace and forgiveness. (Not always successfully, I hasten to add!)

MANAGING RAMADAN

The most difficult aspect of supporting our child spiritually has undoubtedly been during Ramadan. Ramadan is a month of prayer and fasting, which takes place across the Muslim world every year. It is one of the five Pillars of Islam, and therefore of critical importance to most Muslims. When talking to our foster son, it’s clear that life in his home country changed significantly over Ramadan, and life had to revolve around this month of prayer and fasting. People’s work and sleep patterns would change to allow them

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to cope with the lack of food and water during daylight hours. He describes joy and a sense of spiritual togetherness and celebration at Ramadan, and afterwards during Eid. It’s a picture that I can relate to completely. But, of course, he’s now in the UK. Ramadan for our foster son nowadays quite often appears to be something to be endured, as he battles to manage school, homework, after-school clubs, exams, work experience and, quite often, hot weather and longer summer days. It seems to me a double-edged sword: it is a duty that brings the familiar and a sense of belonging, but it also brings into sharp relief everything he has lost, and all that has irrevocably altered. It has often seemed like an opportunity for control in a world over which he has none. It is a time when the loss and trauma are intensified through hunger and tiredness, and through the isolation of fulfilling this important Pillar in a Christian household. And yet there is a beauty in his devoutness.

intentional about our faith, whilst supporting our lad in his. Every day we’ll be faced with the choice between joy and the slog of duty. I can prepare a meal at 10 o’clock at night, with a smile and determination to celebrate the breaking of his fast with good conversation and lightness of spirit, or I can do it with a sinking dread of a sad, tired and irritable teenager sitting across from me at the table. I want to choose joy. Every day, I can choose to observe the restrictions our lad is labouring under and be jarred by them, or I can look for the beauty in his obedience and be inspired by it myself. I want to choose inspiration. Every day, I’ll have the choice between a sort of despair and an opportunity to demonstrate patience. I’ll aim for patience. And, if all else fails, I know there’s something we’ll all look forward to: a huge slap-up meal at the end of Ramadan, with new friends and new hope and a new realisation that you can choose love. One day at a time.

HOLDING FAST

Many Christians fast as a means of worship and prayer. For many, this is a weekly practice, for others it’s something they do less regularly or in a more structured way, at Lent for example. For me, Ramadan has become a time of intensified prayer for our foster son, for his future, for his family, for his healing, for a good and fruitful life in the UK. And, of course, for us as a family. Ramadan can put enormous pressure on a family that does not observe it, but wants to facilitate it faithfully and respectfully. We have been conscious that it has felt joyless for all of us in previous years. And yet faith, for me, has to hold joy, alongside the sacrifice and struggles. And so Ramadan is also an opportunity for us. An opportunity to be

Lucy works for EFS, a small independent fostering agency and, alongside her husband and two boys, fosters a teenage boy from Afghanistan, who came to the UK as an unaccompanied asylum seeker in 2016. When time allows, Lucy works for the writing business she started with her husband. Lucy has been blogging for The Fostering Network since 2015, and has chronicled her family’s journey from day one of the recruitment process up to the present day.


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58 LIFESTYLE

SHOULD I STAY OR SHOULD I GO? VANESSA GROSSETT

www.theauthorscare.co.uk ‘Dear Vanessa, I am a new author and, after nine months of waiting, my agent finally found me a publisher. To be honest, I didn’t feel they were the right ones for me, however I had waited so long for a publisher to take a chance on me, I went ahead and signed the contract; I did not want to delay things any further. Unfortunately my suspicions came to light when I started working with them: the editing was very poor, and the book cover looked very amateurish. I expressed my concerns to my agent, but she didn’t seem bothered, patronising me, stating they are the experts. Anyway, the book is out on the market. As a newbie, I was expecting them to help me a little. I know I must do the marketing myself, but I didn’t think they would abandon me and that is how I feel - abandoned. Every time I go to my agent, she brushes it off like it’s nothing. Vanessa, I don’t know what to do. I want to leave, but it took so long to find a publisher. Please, any advice you can give I will be grateful.’ I receive many horror stories from new

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authors about the problems they encounter with a publisher and/or literary agents. With this particular author, she had warning signs at the beginning, but chose to ignore them because she wanted her book to be out in the market. I can understand that; no artist wants their work just sitting there wasting away and, when an opportunity comes up to take it to the next level, they automatically take it. However, it is not always the right opportunity. Clients and I have been through this type of situation with some publishers, and it is unpleasant - especially for my clients. If you’re a new author in a similar situation as this, and you are extremely unhappy, these are the two main things you can do:

1

Leave the book with the publisher, continue to promote not only the book but also yourself, and work on your next book. That way, if you continue to promote, at least you are building up your readership and credibility as an author. Do keep in mind the royalties will still need to be split between publisher, agent and yourself. When you work on the next book, you would need to let the agent and publisher know that you no longer want to continue with them, so going forwards, their services won’t be needed. This will need to be an official termination letter, and then you can start afresh with the next book.

2

Start afresh early, and terminate contract with both agent and publisher. You will regain control of publishing rights, and in this case maybe it will be best to self publish, as most publishers don’t like to take on books that have already been on the market. I personally have had some clients choose this method when they were unhappy with a publisher. Please keep in mind, it might not make any difference with the sales, but you will be much happier. In my opinion, option 1 is the better option; at least you will have a book on the market, and it will also give you more credibility when you are ‘shopping’ around for a new publisher and/or agent. Sadly, not all working relationships are going to be a smooth ride, but if you can work it out, please do. Remember, even though you’re a new author, don’t let anyone take you for a ride. Think of your aims, what you hope to achieve in this industry, and know your value. Sometimes you have to let go in order to reach your God-given destination. I hope this helps some of you out there, who have gone or are going through a similar situation. With love Vanessa


LIFESTYLE 59

JOY ROXBOROUGH

is a creative industries professional, writer and entrepreneur. Email joyroxborough@yahoo.com

I

enrolled in an exercise boot camp recently and, oh boy, is it tough! Sometimes, the only thing that keeps me going is the sure knowledge that it is going to end before the evening is out, and that by the end of the eight weeks I’m going to have some biceps and triceps and whatever else to bare in my summer gear, assuming (of course) that the summer holds out. And, as my muscles ache after what feels like the millionth press up, squat or arm press, I find myself thinking that the particular manoeuvre could quite easily be used by torturers to victimise their captives.

L A N O S R PE D N A S R TRAINE RS E H C A E PR But, I have to say, we’re only two weeks in and already I have been seeing - and feeling - the positive results, and have been more than happy to go out in a vest top to soak up those vitamin D-inducing rays of sunshine that we have been so blessed with in recent days. Yes, I do like the end result, though not necessarily the process. I will certainly complete the eight weeks, but I have to confess that I have not been sticking strictly to the recommended dietary guidelines (no sweeteners, no dairy; unfortunately, I’m on a honey and sourdough pizza binge at the moment) and I will continue to slack off, go more slowly or stop altogether, whenever our trainer has her back turned on me during sessions. I do fully appreciate the sessions, honestly. But sometimes I wonder how our hardworking trainer must feel when she’s all pumped and energetic, and she watches us dragging ourselves through our paces, looking as if we’re about to faint from exhaustion - such a lacklustre regiment if ever there was one. It all got me thinking that in some ways personal trainers are a bit like preachers, in that both essentially tell us the same thing week in, week out, but because we often neglect to actually do what they say, we sometimes find ourselves struggling to get the results we long for. I wonder if they get fed up with what can quite easily come across as lack of commitment on our part, and if they ever feel as though they are wasting their time on us. Moses certainly felt exasperated at times with the people he had to

deal with - and rightly so. After all, isn’t that all any good leader wants: to see those they are leading achieve their highest potential, whether it’s spiritual growth or good health and a fine physique? But I think it would help leaders to be assured that their work is vital, if they realised their flock or regiment (or whatever) is, for the most part, doing their best, with their limitations, and their hearts are largely in the right place. Why else would they come back, week after week? And none of it is a waste of time. In the case of church, people will always need to hear the same message repeatedly, but packaged differently, because, just like the Israelites, as soon as they hit hard times they are quick to forget God’s proven faithfulness. In the case of exercise boot camp, the discipline of doing the routines together at a set time on a set day is the difference between doing it, even in a lacklustre way, and not doing it at all. It does, however, get to a stage where congregations and boot campers in the trenches have to take seriously the injunctions of their instructors. They have to realise that the road to hell - whether that is a burning pit or flabby abs - is paved with good intentions. The taste of sugar on your tongue or the discomfort of pushing through, whether with Bible reading and prayer, or that final set of presses, lasts only a moment. Keep the end results in view, and move forward. That being said, maybe now is as good a

time as any to join a local exercise boot camp and shape up for summer. If you’re in the Wolverhampton area, you’re welcome to sign up with the regiment that meets several times a week at the Heritage Centre on Clifford Street. You’ll get individual dietary advice and help to achieve your personal goal, whether that’s weight loss or, as in my case, weight gain, and generally you’ll finish the boot camp feeling more energised, toned and perhaps inspired to apply the same disciplines to your spiritual growth goals. For further information, contact our wonderful Sergeant Major, Candeece Harvey, on 01902 714051 or 07492 112250.


60 LIFESTYLE

Developing Leaders: Is the anointing all you need?

GRACE GLADYS FAMORIYO www.gladysf.com

I

have always been passionate about developing leaders because of the enormous responsibilities they hold and the challenges they face. Over the years, I have had the privilege of developing many leaders - through training, coaching and mentoring - in Fortune 100 and 500 companies globally, especially middle and senior management. So I know a thing or two about the value leadership development brings to organisations, such as improving team/department/organisation performance, morale, culture and much more. The difference is evident when leaders - great or small - are given the tools, knowledge, skills, support and confidence to lead effectively. Plus, we all know what it is like to be led by someone who, quite frankly, has no clue. After seeing tangible results with the leaders I coached and trained outside of the church, my desire has always been for church leaders to have such opportunities and to benefit from the different avenues of development. Is the anointing enough? To some, this statement may be controversial, but I am trying to drive home a point here. Some years back, I remember recommending to a leader - a prominent member - of a church I used to attend, that we run a leadership development programme to tackle some inherent issues we were seeing. The shocking response I got, along with a scowl, was: “What on earth can you possibly train leaders to do? After all, they are anointed.” Now, don’t get me wrong. I am a woman of prayer, strong faith, and rely on God’s anointing for everything I do. However, some inherent issues needed to be addressed. And the development of some (if not all) of the leaders would have addressed the issues, rather than assuming the leaders had the necessary ability and know-how, or were indeed ‘anointed’ to deal with them. With my leadership development hat firmly in place, along with a dollop of anointing, it was

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clear to me what the problems were and how to resolve them. However, my idea was cut down even before it could be considered. Time for an attitude change One fact remains: whether you lead in Christiandom or beyond, a leader is still human. Whilst we are fuelled by the anointing (that is, if we yield entirely to God), our human selves still need help in performing our roles, callings, etc. If that were not the case, there would be no need for schools, universities or training facilities, etc. Our minds need to be renewed. Attitudes and mindsets need to change. We need to learn skills to manage ourselves, the people we lead, and the team/department/organisation we are responsible for. We need to unlearn certain behaviours and discover new ones. This (and more) was pretty much what Jesus was doing with His disciples. He was mentoring, coaching, training and assessing their performance in the three years He had with them, so they were ready for what was ahead. When we look at the Bible, we see leaders who had training in one form or another. This included a time of preparation. Moreover, it did not stop when they assumed their role. So my question is: if Jesus saw fit to develop His leaders, why not us? We only need to glance through the Bible to see the sad consequences when potential leaders are not prepared or developed, such as Samson and Eli’s sons. Of course, leadership development is not a guarantee of leadership success, and nor is the anointing - Samson had God’s hand on him, but still messed up - but it places the leader in good stead, coupled with a robust support system. The Bible - A leader’s starting point When you look at current themes and trends in leadership development, a lot of them have their origins in the Bible: servant leadership, thought leadership, leading by example, becoming a visionary, leadership characteristics, emotional intelligence, managing diverse teams (or teams

geographically dispersed), managing conflict, managing different personalities, etc. In fact, Jesus – the most exceptional Leader who walked on earth - exemplified all of these. So the Bible becomes our starting point on our leadership development journeys, as it contains bucketloads of wisdom keys, principles and strategies for aspiring and experienced leaders. So we cannot dismiss the God factor when it comes to developing leaders. Furthermore, God, being the creative God He is, knew His leaders would need further support. So He gifted the Church (and beyond) with those blessed with the anointing to develop leaders. John Maxwell and the late Dr Myles Munro are prime examples. There are many more, but you get the point. They are - whom I believe to be - the gifts bestowed to the Church to ‘… equip God’s people to do His work and build up the Church, the body of Christ’ (Ephesians 4:11-12, NLT). In closing When everything is said or done, I am mindful that the anointing of God unquestionably makes all the difference. It gives us supernatural abilities to do what we are not able to do in the natural. Just ask Moses, Elijah and Elisha. However, the anointing is not a reason for ignorance nor for discarding the need for learning and continually developing ourselves. We should aim to be workers who don’t need to be ashamed (2 Timothy 2:15). Therefore, we have a part to play, while leaving room for the Holy Spirit to perform His part. In this day and age, when the spotlight is so heavily focused on the Church and its leaders, we have to play our role to ensure what the world sees is nothing but the light of Christ shining through us. So, in all your getting, get understanding (Proverbs 4:7)! Written by Grace Gladys Famoriyo – Speaker and Author of books, including: Overcoming Emotional Baggage; Quit Hiding, Start Living!; Bounce Back! and Healing A Discouraged Heart. www.gladysf.com


LIFESTYLE 61

Lusting is not virtuous VANESSA GROSSETT

www.theauthorscare.co.uk

D

ear sisters in Christ, before I begin this article I want you to know this is not an attack on you. This article is to make you self-examine, as we need to do better; we need to be the ones to build, and not be the pawn in the enemy’s games. Recently, I was on a business call with a young pastor from New Jersey, USA, concerning his book. I could sense in his voice he was very tense and nervous, but I thought maybe it was down to my British accent, or maybe it was his first business venture. When the business conversation ended, he let out a huge sigh, and started thanking me. He started thanking me for not ‘pursuing’ him. “It has become so hard to trust women that it’s difficult to know who is genuine and who isn’t, especially someone in my position,” he said. He then led me to one of his social media pages, where he had posted a selfie with his dogs. I read the comments from women who proclaimed to be Christian and, honestly, they sounded desperate - ridiculously desperate. Comments I read included: ‘Baby, you’re mine’, ‘What a sexy man you are’, ‘Ooooh la la’ and, when I looked at their profiles, these women proclaimed to love Christ, and some were pictured with their partners. I felt so bad for him and so ashamed, I apologised on behalf of these Christian women. He continued to ask that if he did like someone, how would he know whether or not she is genuine, and would she be able to cope with the attention he was getting. He thanked me again for allowing the Lord to use me to restore some faith in women. Ladies, wake up! This needs to stop. I know he is not the only man who has been or is going through this. Our brothers in Christ - especially those in ministry - have enough spiritual warfare going on, without Christian ladies adding to the fuel. Think about it. If some woman was approaching your son in a lustful, sexual way, as a Christian would you be happy? No! You would most likely say: “Son, you need to forget these types of women.” Sisters, before you comment on something, think about whether it will first and foremost be pleasing to God. He sees, and I know these lustful comments will not be pleasing to Him. If the man is struggling with pride or arrogance, you are boosting his ego – and his struggle - by making these inappropriate comments. How about commenting on the things he does for Christ? How about including some Scripture in your post? Secondly, if you believe by making inappropriate

comments it will make the man like you, then sorry ladies, you’re mistaken. They will like you for one thing only, but they will not perceive you as being wife material. In fact, it will put them off. At first, the pastor told me he admitted the attention was flattering, but then after a while it had become demeaning. Ladies, we can do better than this. We are supposed to be an example to the world. Let’s show them we respect ourselves. Even if a man is physically attractive, we don’t need to pay him any kind of attention at all. In fact, we should encourage them to grow deeper in Christ, and pray for them. At the end of the day, people portray what they want you to see, not what they are really like - especially on social media. The only man you should pay special attention to is the one God will give you as your husband. Whether you are single or married, let people see Christ in you. I am not saying we have to be perfect, however let’s not make that an excuse for not striving for excellence. Sisters, let us remain virtuous. Let us do things that are pleasing to God, and not be the cause of allowing our brothers to sin, or making them see women in a bad light. Be respectful, for at the end of the day, that is someone’s father, son, brother, cousin or even husband that you’re being disrespectful to. With love Vanessa

‘The you shou only man attentionld pay special God will to is the one giv your hus e you as band.’


62 MISSION

Praying for a prayer-conditioned world

I

grew up in a house that had a huge poster in the living room saying, ‘This House is Prayer-Conditioned’. Indeed, prayer formed the pillars upon which the home was built. Prayer was always first step on the way to getting anything done - anything. My family and community believed that prayer works. Of course, we still do. If you ask us, prayer changes the world. Through prayer, we invite God to intervene in our world; to withhold the tsunami of evil threatening to overwhelm the earth, and to heal and sustain us when we are overcome. Indeed, if all followers of Christ knew how much power they have in prayer, and dared to take everything to the Lord in prayer as the old hymn says, this world would be different. Praying people sustain the world. Without the prayers of the saints, the chaos we see in this world could be immeasurably worse. 2018 has been quite an eventful year. On my mind is the ongoing episode of violence in London and other cities across the country. Many people, especially young Black men, have lost their lives in the streets of our cities. There is an avalanche of evil rising against our nation. Yet, we also see God raising up a standard against it - praying men and women, boys and girls - who will switch off their phones and unplug their computers and televisions in order to spend time, bent and broken on their knees, speaking to God for the nations. Each tragedy that strikes encourages us to pray for the coming of the Kingdom, in which there will be no sorrow. Whenever we celebrate Black history, I think of the laments of the families of the slain Black boys in London. They join many others praying that God would break through and stop all this violence. But, for these and many other Black people down the centuries, prayer has been the source of strength when all hope was lost. For instance, for many generations, enslaved Africans in the Americas found strength to keep on keeping on and fighting the evil of slavery in prayer. Their prayer meetings took place in slave cabins in the bush, away from the master’s churches. It is in these places of deep desperation that lamentations and prayers gave birth to the genre of music known as African American spirituals. Whether they sang, ‘Kumbaya, my Lord’ (Come by here, my Lord), or “Swing low, sweet chariot,” they prayed and hoped for a better day when their tears would be wiped away. Especially for those who risked their lives to fight against Black oppression, be it Dr Martin Luther King (who maintained a prayer-centred day every week throughout his ministry) or Malcolm X (who was a practising Muslim as an adult), prayer was extremely essential. It was something they could not do without. Black history, itself, is not possible without the mention of praying fathers and mothers who made it from one day to another, raising their families, only through prayer. Prayer sustained and empowered our ancestors for resistance. A great example of this is the prayer called “The Symphony of Life” by Mary McLeod Bethune (1875-1955). She was born in a family of seventeen children - her parents Mary M had been slaves. She would grow up to cLeod Bethun e achieve many things and is remembered

as a relentless voice against inequality and oppression of Black people in the United States. She prayed:

Father, we call Thee Father because we love Thee. We are glad to be called Thy children, and to dedicate our lives to the service that extends through willing hearts and hands to the betterment of all mankind. We send a cry of Thanksgiving for people of all races, creeds, classes, and colours the world over, and pray that through the instrumentality of our lives the spirit of peace, joy, fellowship, and brotherhood shall circle the world. We know that this world is filled with discordant notes, but help us, Father, to so unite our efforts that we may all join in one harmonious symphony for peace and brotherhood, justice, and equality of opportunity for all men. The tasks performed today with forgiveness for all our errors, we dedicate, dear Lord, to Thee. Grant us strength and courage and faith and humility sufficient for the tasks assigned to us.

Every generation needs a prophetic voice that calls people for prayer to prepare the way for the Lord. Of course, when God is about to move in any nation, the Spirit of God stirs up people for prayer. It is significant that MAF are calling the nations together to pray For the Sake of the World at a time when it seems we need prayer more than ever. May our world be prayer-conditioned.

DR HARVEY KWIYANI MISSIO AFRICANUS LIVERPOOL.


‘If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land’ 2 Chronicles 7:14

The MAF Global Week of Prayer 4-11 November 2018 The world is crying out for healing, restoration, redemption and provision. We believe that change will only happen if people from across the globe stand together in prayer. Sign up to receive your free Week of Prayer pack for you, your church or group and join us in praying ‘For the Sake of the World’.

To get your 2018 Week of Prayer pack, visit

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Keep The Faith Issue 106  
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