Keep The Faith magazine issue 123

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ISSUE 123 BLACKTHEUK’S CHRISTIANMULTI-ETHNICAND MAGAZINE £4.95 where sold NEW NTCG LEADER TALKS LIFE, FAITH AND LEADERSHIP UK’S MOST FAMOUS GOSPEL CHOIR TURNS 40

Every child deserves a safe and loving home

There are thousands of children in the UK currently waiting to be placed with foster carers or adoptive families. We aim to help as many of them as possible.

Barnardo’s believes in children regardless of their circumstances, gender, race, disability, or behaviour. Our purpose as a charity today is to transform the lives of the UK’s most vulnerable children. We will support them, stand up for them and bring out the best in each and every child. We do this because we believe that every child deserves the best start in life and the chance to fulfil their potential.

In many areas of the UK there is a shortage of foster carers and adoptive parents with the same cultural or ethnic background as the children coming into care.

Black and minority ethnic children who are looked after can be further disadvantaged if their own cultural background is not promoted and nurtured. We believe all children have a right to enjoy their own culture,

practice their own religion and speak their own language. Here at Barnardo’s, we provide a service that recognises and values cultural and religious diversity during every stage of the process and beyond.

We are looking for loving, supportive individuals and families who are passionate about making a difference. If this is you, find out more about fostering and adopting with Barnardo’s today.

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Editor’s

Dear Readers

There’s a lot of anxiety in the air due to the cost-of-living crisis, so this Christmas/New Year edition of KeepTheFaith aims to inspire, uplift and give hope – all very much needed at this time.

In his Christmas message, written especially for KeepTheFaith magazine, the Rt Rev Karowei Dorgu, Bishop of Woolwich, reminds us that the birth of Jesus signifies hope for the world, and how important it is for all of us to trust God during these difficult times.

Dr T Ayodele Ajayi tells us how to overcome the challenges of this special season, by creating a Christmas Mental Health Self-Care Plan; Olivia Williams gives fitness and health tips to see us through the rest of this year and the next; vegan chef, Kirly-Sue, provides advice on stress-free cooking and recipes for a Christmas spread – vegan style; and Carol Stewart shares how to set and achieve our New Year goals.

We have interviews with Bishop Claion Grandison, the new head of the New Testament Church of God, who shares his plans and aspirations for his tenure; and award-winning businesswoman, Claudine Reid MBE, provides insight to the secret of her success and how her faith, coupled with the love of family and faith community, helped her overcome breast cancer.

You’ll be inspired by Jan Owbridge’s testimony of getting a new lease of life on turning 70, and enjoy a feature about LCGC – one of Britain’s most famous gospel choirs.

Gospel News; tips on how to earn an additional income in these cash-strapped times; and ideas on how to make 2023 your best year ever also contribute to what I hope you’ll agree is an inspirational, festive edition. Hope you enjoy. Have a great Christmas and see you in 2023 Marcia Dixon

Marcia Dixon

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04 Find us on Twitter and Facebook: @KeepTheFaithmag CONTENTS ISSUE 123 06 Father requests healing prayer for his son via social media 06 Businesses win investment worth £100,000 at Angels’ Den event 07 New report explores well-being of ethnic clergy in CofE 07 New film to help young people reject being fake 07 PCU GiftBOX focuses on Millennials and Gen Z wealth creation 08 MNRK... Spreading contemporary gospel around the world! By Milton B Allen, Global Gospel Link 10 The LCGC X Factor 40 years on By Juliet Fletcher 14 The Gospel Shout By Andrew and Shireen Morrison 16 Christmas is here By the Rt Rev Dr Karowei Dorgu 18 The church leader envisioning a great future for NTCG KeepTheFaith interview with Bishop Claion Grandison 22 The businesswoman who wants God to increase her capacity for more KeepTheFaith interview with Claudine Reid MBE 24 Your age is just a number to God By Pastor Jan Owbridge 26 The singleness issue By Marcia Dixon MBE 28 16 days of action... By Dionne Gravesande 28 Inclusive church - making room for everyone! By Victoria Lawrence 30 Set yourself up to achieve your goals in 2023 By Carol Stewart 31 A time for racial justice By Richard Reddie 32 Food 4 Thought By Marcia Dixon MBE 34 Beyond God’s reach? By Gary Clayton 35 When were you hungry? By Rev Ronald A. Nathan 36 Experiencing optimum health and fitness By Olivia Williams 37 Overcoming the Christmas blues By Dr T. Ayodele Ajayi 38 ‘Tis the season to practise self-care By Esther Kuku 40 Who will you Zoom this Christmas? By Paul Morrison 42 Have a blessed 2023 By Teresa Wilson 43 Give yourself an income boost By Patricia Stevens 44 Matters of the heart By Yvonne Brooks 45 Q & A with literary agent Vanessa By Vanessa Grossett 46 Cook with Kirly-Sue By Kirly-Sue 14 10 18 22

A DREAM TO HOUSE THE HOMELESS CAME TRUE A

t Christmas people start thinking more about homelessness. In this season of goodwill to all men, hearing about someone who’s become destitute is all the more stark and painful.

It can feel like an impossible task to tackle such a huge problem. Offering loose change, giving a listening ear, or even helping at a food bank can seem like it doesn’t go far enough. One person who is making a change this Christmas is Rose. Rose had a dream to house people experiencing homelessness, and equip them with life skills, support and guidance.

Without the finance available to purchase a house, it seemed impossible to fulfil what God had put on her heart. Fundraising to purchase a property takes time, and private landlords are not often aligned to the vision of helping homeless people. But it turned out that a call to our team at Green Pastures

was just the connection that she needed. We helped her identify a property, purchased it, and she was propelled forwards towards her dream. Rose founded Fresh Horizons.

Green Pastures trained and supported Rose’s team, and now they get to concentrate on doing what God has gifted them with. They are seeing impossible situations begin to become possible and lives are being transformed. It’s not easy to help turn lives around. But if you want to make a difference, and you’re ready to put in the work, Green Pastures could partner with you, like we are with Rose.

One man Rose was able to offer a home to was Thomas, who came straight from prison

as he had nowhere to go. Rose’s team supported him with a home, and expert care. Thomas has now moved on to his own flat, and is finally able to have his children come and visit. It has been amazing to see the difference in his life, and the Fresh Horizons team still have ongoing contact with him.

We’ve been housing the homeless for over 20 years. We help churches and Christian organisations lead by people like Rose right across the UK, offering a home to around 1500 people. If you have a heart to tackle the homeless crisis in your area we’d love to help you.

For more information go to greenpastures.net

An ethical investment that makes a difference whilst you make a return. As the cost of living crisis bites, your money can make a difference to those experiencing homelessness. We will use your money to purchase property for local Christian organisations to house and support those in need.

greenpastures.co.uk 0300 365 4500 Invest from £1000 Earn up to 5% annually Transform Lives Registered with the Financial Conduct Authority
While you’re earning up to 5%, your money can house the homeless.

Father requests healing prayer for his son via social media

Robert Bragg harnessed the power of social media and galvanised the Christian community to say prayers for his son, Robert Bragg Jr, when he fell very sick in hospital with an undiagnosed illness in October.

Robert, known for his previous role as a pastor, turned to social media because doctors had initially been unable to diagnose what was wrong with his son.

Robert recalled: “When I realised doctors had difficulty diagnosing what was wrong with my son, I knew I’d have to pray. However, I felt spiritually weak, and knew I needed the prayers of others to deal with the situation, so I asked a friend to ask their social media followers to pray that the doctor’s would make the right diagnosis.”

He continued: “The next day they discovered Robert Jr had an issue with his liver and he’d need a transplant, so I put in another request and asked social media followers to pray that a liver would be found quickly. The next day one became available, and Robert had a transplant. Following his transplant surgery, we asked people on social media to pray for his speedy recovery.”

Businesses win investment worth £100,000 at Angels’ Den event

One of London’s most well-known Pentecostal churches, The Tab in Lewisham, south London, showed its support for businesses recently by collaborating with lending firm, Fortress Capital, to host Angels’ Den, an event where business owners pitched for financial investment. The event was organised by The Tab’s Business forum.

Six businesses took part, of which three were successful, winning investment totalling £100,000.

Paperless forms business, SignTech, received £60,000 in exchange for 10% equity; sports technology company, NxSteps, secured £25,000 for 10% equity; and baked goods company, Jemz Cake Box, received £15,000 for 10% equity. Additionally, the three other businesses received support from the investors, which included website design and business consultation sessions.

Mike White, Senior Pastor of The Tab, said: “I feel really proud that we’ve been able to support some innovative businesses in this way, especially when investor purse strings are tight.

“The investment that these businesses have received is not the end of this story. I can’t wait to see how these small companies flourish and grow, both through the cash investment and with the expertise of our business experts.”

The Angels’ Den panel included Ashley Reading, CEO of Fortress Capital Partners and member of the Tab Church. Ashley has over 30 years’ experience in financial services. He sold Bounce, the life insurance company he founded in 2016, for an undisclosed 7-figure sum in 2021.

Robert Jr, who works as a Youth Works coordinator, is now journeying on the road to full health.

Robert Sr is pleased. “I have always believed in the power of prayer, but I saw God move in a powerful way during my son’s sickness. Even some of my son’s non-Christian friends let me know they were praying for him.”

He said: “We chose to invest in these businesses because we believe in the vision of the founders, and we have confidence in what they can achieve with the support they now have.”

As the recipient of the biggest proportion of the Angels’ Den £100,000 cash pot, Leke Babalola, CEO of SignTech, was happy with how the day ended. “It was nerve-racking being in front of the panel and presenting my business, but I’m glad that my pitch was successful,” said Leke. “This investment will be massively helpful in taking our business to the next level and growing in a significant way.”

Visit www.thetab.org.uk for more information.

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New report explores well-being of ethnic clergy in CofE

A team led by Dr Selina Stone, Postdoctoral Researcher at Durham University, recently published their research exploring the well-being of clergy from various ethnic groups.

The findings of the qualitative research, entitled ‘If It Wasn’t For God’: A Report on the Well-being of Global Majority Clergy in the Church of England, will inform Living Ministry, a Church of England project which is exploring how clergy of all backgrounds can flourish in ministry.

Writing on her social media, Dr Stone stated: “There is much work to be done at all levels to support clergy. Findings show that, while some clergy of colour are thriving, too many are dealing with discrimination, racism and mistreatment. The toll on their well-being ranges from the subtle to the overwhelming. The report is being sent to all those with responsibility for pastoral care in the Church, and the recommendations are clear. May action follow the many words.”

Dr Liz Graveling, who is overseeing the Living Ministry programme, said: “Dr Stone’s analysis provides a rich portrayal of the lived experience of UKME/GMH clergy and will give those with responsibility for clergy care and well-being much to reflect on. We are grateful to Clergy Support Trust for funding the research.”

The report can be downloaded from www.churchofengland.org

New film to help young people reject being fake

Leo Powell is a man of many hats. He is a Christian, Head of Year, a County Lines trainer and facilitator, and an emerging film-maker.

His debut film, Step Back, released in 2021 and starring actor-comedian Angie Le Mar, has to date racked up 2.5million views on YouTube. His second film, Bros for Life, released in 2022, has so far received 505,000 YouTube views. Leo is hoping his latest film, Falsehood, will amass a similar viewership.

The film, aimed at helping young people understand who they are and how to stay true to their personal values, features leading youth actors, Araloyin Oshunremi, who appeared in the Netflix Top Boy series, and Ricky Smart, who was a cast member of the Top Boy: Summerhouse series, plays A1.

Leo has high aspirations for Falsehood. He said: “My hope is that through this film, many young people, and even those who are older, will watch Falsehood and understand the importance of not living a lie and pretending to be someone they’re not.”

He continued: “I see too many young people resorting to falsehoods in order to fit in, which can eventually lead to them being caught up in risky situations. The main message I want to come from this film is: don’t be who people want you to be; be who God created you to be - the best version of yourself.”

Falsehood will be launched on the YouTube channel MYM in December. Visit www.leopowell.co.uk for more information.

PCU GiftBOX focuses on Millennials and Gen Z Wealth Creation

The Pentecostal Credit Union (PCU) recently launched GiftBOX, its newest financial product service aimed at encouraging Millennials and Gen Z to save and generate wealth.

Launch attendees included leading young influencers, creatives and entrepreneurs who heard talks from Jerome Whyte, founder of Belvedere Wealth Management; author and businesswoman, Jemma Regis; and Shane Bowes, CEO of the PCU.

Bowes stated: “The PCU has been in existence for 42 years and has provided financial services for the Windrush Generation and their children. We now want to reach Millennials and Gen Z and GiftBOX is a product that will make them aware of the benefits of being part of the PCU, as well as increase their awareness of financial matters.”

Aside from providing a range of financial benefits, GiftBOX will provide a range of activities, such as networking events and masterclasses on subjects like finances, entrepreneurship and wealth creation.

Bowes continued: “PCU recognises that a sense of community and relationships are very important for Millennials and Gen Z. GiftBOX aims to foster both by providing a range of in-person and online events so that members can learn, build relationships and generate wealth.”

Visit www.pcuuk.com/giftbox_news

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Shane

MNRK… SPREADING CONTEMPORARY GOSPEL AROUND THE WORLD!

MNRK Music Group is rapidly evolving into a premier international gospel label, with a strong presence in the United Kingdom, Africa, Brazil, South Korea, India and China. Its unique and eclectic mix of traditional and contemporary gospel music is tantalising listeners and radio presenters in an expanding list of territories.

Through its weekly tipsheet, radio presenters around the globe discover new and viable content for the pleasure of their listening audiences. According to Lady T: “MNRK has an amazing and rich catalogue of independent artists from across the globe. The tipsheet is an absolute godsend, as I get to discover up-and-coming releases and get to know each independent artist. No other outlet is doing this. As a radio presenter, it’s great to see a diverse sound of artists impacting the world with gospel music. For me, it’s a chance to appreciate the diversity in sounds and styles from around the world, but with one message - and that’s about God, His love, peace in Him, purpose, strength, redemption and mercy. MNRK needs to continue to champion more diversity from across the globe, as there is so much richness in talent out there.”

London’s own Brian Martin & Worship 4 Life is gaining traction in the USA and multiple territories around the globe. Dave Paul, of UGN Jamz, says: “MNRK brings an opportunity like no other to shine a light on the world through these amazing independent artists, as well as through their big-name legacy acts, like Todd Dulaney, Jon McReynolds and so many more.”

The promising 2023 MNRK horizon includes more music from Jonathan McReynolds (whose current single, ‘Your World’, is in the top five in the National Gospel Airplay Chart in the States), as well as an album from Todd Dulaney which he recorded in September. Looking a bit further out, gospel act, Shana Wilson-Williams, has new music queued up for release soon. 2023 looks to be an exciting new year, as there are some yet-to-be announced signings to the label as well.

With the big names aside, at the heart of MNRK are its independent acts. Clearly the independents of today are potentially the

stars of tomorrow. Perhaps the most unique aspect of MNRK is that it owns its own global distribution system, IndieBlu Music. In addition to their proprietary content, independent suppliers, such as NDAMIX Entertainment and Global Music Link, are suppliers through the IndieBlu Distribution platform. According to Felicia Day of NDAMIX Entertainment, an aggregator of premium indie content to MNRK: “I believe that music has the ability to transcend human souls and celestial beings. It is this expression of art that NDAMIX Entertainment inspires to elevate the talent of the independent artist.”

Jonathan McReynolds Todd Dulaney
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Shana Wilson-Williams

The Ministry Experience Scheme (MES) is a unique initiative that gives young adults, from all backgrounds, the space and time to test God’s calling on their lives. If you are aged 18–30 and looking for a year-long opportunity to explore what God is calling you to, then MES could be for you.

You will have the opportunity to explore your calling and learn more about yourself, whilst gaining experience of Christian ministry and developing your leadership skills.

It is free to do, with accommodation and living expenses provided. Local schemes are based in many locations across the Church of England.

Past participant Mary said of her time on MES, “When I moved from Moscow to South Devon, I was warmly welcomed and got a lot of support in adjusting. Over my year I have been able to preach, do school assemblies, pastoral visits and lead some services. My vicar entrusted me with the huge responsibility. I have learned about the breadth of the Anglican church and its richness in tradition and worship. This opportunity to explore my vocation is something I will treasure for years.”

Every person’s year looks different but is formed around practical ministry experience, such as kids and youth work; chaplaincy; community work; preaching; digital media or event organisation. The year also includes some theological study which can be tailored to you – it doesn’t matter if you have no prior experience or already have a theology degree.

Where is God sending you? Find out more at cofe.io/mes you are aged why not spend a year God through the Experience Scheme. more about yourself, your leadership skills. expenses provided.

For many, like Mary, MES has been a step towards ordination or other church ministry; others say they have a clearer sense of God’s purpose as disciples in wider society and the workplace.

Church of England.

MES is free to do with accommodation and expenses provided. Enquiries can be made now for schemes starting in September 2023. Schemes are based across the UK and Europe. Please visit our website to find out more (cofe.io/mes).

THE LCGC X FACTOR 40 YEARS ON

For the next 12 months, one of Britain’s most famous gospel choirs, LCGC, will be celebrating their 40th anniversary. Juliet Fletcher explores the history and legacy of this amazing group

Can you remember the shock, surprise and thrill when, for the first time, you saw that group of young Black people singing gospel on a new magazine-style TV series, by Black people on Black people, called Black on Black? Of course, in the first instance, I’m referring to the first televised performance of the London Community Gospel Choir - LCGC, as they more commonly became known.

Yes, it really was 40 years ago! For younger readers, who might have been just a twinkle in your parents’ eyes, this is definitely a long

walk down memory lane for your grandparents and, for those so blessed, even your great grandparents. As someone who had the privilege of witnessing the ‘LCGC Day of New Beginnings’, my aim is to recall some of my observations; share key facts; and offer some reasons why, in my view, this incredible group of talented individuals were able to thrive, survive and give us - our British Gospel scenean internationally recognised and irrefutable musical legacy that was birthed out of our Windrush churches.

THE BEGINNING OF CHANGE

I remember, at the start of 2000, when I wrote an article for a special magazine that was marking the start of a new millennium, describing the 1980s as Britain’s ‘Golden Age’ of gospel. Channel 4, as the new independent fourth television channel launched in 1982,

aimed to be the broadcaster that championed and represented the mix of multiculturalism, reflecting the Britain that had flourishing migrant communities across the major cities.

LCGC’s performance was exciting, with their visual vibrancy and fresh, authentic, harmonic sound. Although it wasn’t the first time a gospel choir had appeared on TV or had become well known in certain regions,

DEBUT CONCERT MAY 1983

LCGC’s rise in popularity came at a place and time that fitted a new outlook for Britain’s burgeoning Black Church community. It was the fact that the choir members came from different denominations and fellowships.

Unlike choirs that preceded them - namely, choirs from up North, including the first really successful, recorded Black gospel choir, Birmingham-based Majestic Singers of the New Testament Church Of God (mid 1970s); followed by The Challengers Gospel Choir and Merrybell Gospel Choir - both from Church Of God (Seventh Day); the Inspirational Choir, made up of members from Pentecostal First Born Church Of The Living God and COGIC (Church Of God In Christ)

Mass Choir - LCGC’s first iteration was an amalgam of three choirs from different denominations and fellowships: New Testament Assembly (NTA), People’s Christian Fellowship (PCF) and Latter Rain Outpouring Revival (LROR). The four co-founders were John Francis (now Bishop of Ruach Ministries), Delroy Powell (now Administrative Bishop, NTA), Rev Bazil Meade MBE, and Lawrence Johnson (LROR). LCGC signalled a new paradigm that would change how choirs could and would form and integrate with British pop culture.

Over these 40 years, LCGC became known as “Britain’s most celebrated choir”, staying accessible to a broad stream of entertainment, cultural and educational opportunities that have helped to embed the songs and music of our churches beyond their four walls.

Let me make this clear: LCGC were NOT alone in entering the influencing spheres of media, music, arts and culture. But they are arguably the only outfit to live there, to function exclusively there, seeking to create selfsustaining infrastructures, so they can ‘breathe under water’. It wasn’t like that from the very beginning, however. This was an unfolding vision that appeared more apparent the longer LCGC remained in that place of ‘calling’.

MISSION vs CALLING vs MAKING A LIVING

I remember attending the committee meetings held at Bazil and Andrea Meade’s home in East London. Everything was discussed very democratically, but when it came to decisions, the core team were in no doubt: whatever was going to be achieved had to be EXCELLENT; it had to be properly ORGANISED; and the Choir had to SHARE the Good News EVERYWHERE. I recall Bazil’s words at the time: “We must sing everywhere!” Indeed, the mantra was ‘Every hamlet, village, town and city’. This was their mission.

One of Bazil’s fondest stories that he’s repeated numerous times occurred when the Choir sang at a mass festival. As they stood in their dressing room, holding hands and praying, giving God thanks for their gift of music, and sharing, they were suddenly joined by other

performers, including well-known musicians and singers. Afterwards, one artist expressed having never felt like that before, and said that in the future they would also have band prayers before going on stage to thank God for their musical gifts. Bazil said it spoke volumes to the Choir. Encounters like these shaped and motivated the Choir’s convictions to do what they do.

Before LCGC came on the scene, most choirs and musicians played for free or for basic expenses. However, as the demands increased upon LCGC, it was clear that liberties were being taken. The real and tangible value the Choir brought to every performance; members taking days and weeks of time out of their normal jobs; using up holidays and going back home with no compensation… it couldn’t continue. Negotiating became a new necessity. After all, payment was the norm for working in the music industry. There were many lessons LCGC had to endure, fighting for equity while countering prejudice, discrimination and outright racial abuse.

Nonetheless, as the demands increased and variable opportunities multiplied, it became clear that LCGC was developing into a well-oiled business entity. It was giving real opportunities for young people of faith to become professional artists - working and making a living, looking after their families, but above all leaving a mark of grace in people’s lives.

An outstanding contribution of LCGC over the years has been its consistent nurturing of individual talent of all types - from management, administration, teaching, technical, musicianship (both instrumental and vocal). The Choir helped to spawn professional careers and/or develop world-class status for many. Examples include female vocalist, Lavine Hudson, who became British Gospel’s first £1million record signing with Virgin Music; and Howard Francis, as a multi-talented creative, has written many songs for LCGC, including the iconic single, Fill My Cup, which made it into the UK music charts, and who has worked with

www.keepthefaith.co.uk 11
FIRST ALBUM COVER LCGC WIH RUSTY LEE 1985

established artists, like Mica Paris, Des’ree, Alesha Dixon, and Kiss FM’s DJ Swerve.

Other examples include band guitarist extraordinaire, Ronnie Jordan. He rose from LCGC to be known as a leading pioneer of a new sub-genre called acid jazz and, last but not least, Michelle John. She joined as a young teenager and excelled beyond singing lead. She has also worked with leading artists, including Eric Clapton, Annie Lennox (of Eurhythmics fame) and Samantha Mumba. Michelle also reached the finals of TV show, The Voice UK, and has spawned a successful (and long overdue) solo career to this present day.

Regardless of the ongoing tensions between mission/calling and commercialised engagement - experienced by all who have followed the path that LCGC has carved out - those of us who have eyes to see and ears to hear must admit we are standing upon the shoulders of the pioneers.

Tooting NTA became the base for an extraordinary night of music, when 70 original members gathered with four of the early musicians and delivered an AMAZING night of original and most popular songs that made the Choir famous! I joined in with the packedout audience, overwhelmed as we realised some of us hadn’t seen each other in 20-30 years. We acknowledged the mercy, lovingkindness and faithfulness of God. It was WOW!

THE X FACTORS THAT MADE 40 YEARS POSSIBLE

THE PIONEERS EVENT

Although LCGC had to learn many lessons over the years, there is so much more that has enabled them to enjoy the longevity that holds firm today. As I reflect on their years, there are factors I’ve noted about LCGC (see panel), which hopefully will help to encourage you to take a step of faith - accompanied by works of diligence and commitment - to achieve a vision or a dream that blesses your family, community and/or the world!

LCGC is entering a new phase, as its main founder, Bazil Meade, steps back to allow his legacy to continue through his son, Leonn Meade, as Creative Director, and a new CEO, Lionel Thomas, who will run the business aspects, making sure the work of the organisation continues for generations to come.

Visit www.lcgc.org.uk and sign up for the latest news and events.

List of key LCGC life-changing events:

• Black on Black TV debut, 1982

• LCGC launch concert at Kensington Temple, 1982

• HM Queen Elizabeth II 60th Birthday Celebrations at the Royal Opera House, 2012

• Bazil Meade honoured with an MBE, 2018

• LCGC first tour of Sweden (in chartered plane), 1983

• Live Aid concert at Wembley Stadium, July 1985

• Tours to Africa, Turkey, Israel and Morocco with the British Council, 2001-2018

• BBC Proms - first-ever Gospel Proms, 1998

• Supporting George Michael at Wembley Stadium, 1982

• Playing at Glastonbury, every Sunday through the 1990s

• Theatre production of Mama, I Wanna Sing, 1995

the
10 factors I’ve identified with LCGC: 1. Vision for reaching and blessing others 2. Commitment and diligence to the vision 3. Excellence and quality at every level, knowing your value 4. Strategy for infrastructure 5. Permanent base for operation 6. Developing and owning your own resources 7. Building connection and community with supporters and fans 8. Never giving up, while learning from your mistakes 9. Mentoring others to learn, improve and giving leadership opportunities 10. Collaboration and partnership to invariably create more benefits More facts on LCGC’s 40 years: The original band line-up: • Howard Francis • Wayne Wilson • Wyman Baker
Dave Charles • Denis Barrett • Ronnie Jordan My LCGC ‘Management Dream Team’:
Andrea Encinas
Yvonne White
Tony Williams My four favourite LCGC foundations:
Family Feeling
Legacy
Building a Base
Commitment to Excellence
On Saturday 12 November 2022, Lawrence Johnson saw
fruit of his labours after spending more than six months finding every original member of LCGC - a total of 120! Here are
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START YOUR YEAR WITH ‘ALL OUT WORSHIP’

2023 will see the launch of a new worship event called All Out Worship (AOW), featuring Maranda Curtis, Pastor William McDowell and others. Akosua DF talks to its founder, Juanita Francis

panel with pastors and worship leaders – now that should be fun. We want to explore how to work together better. We also have a session for musicians; one of the top UK music programmers will be teaching a class on how programming can be used to support Sunday services.

ADF: I do believe that the pastor-worship leader dialogue is very overdue, so I’m glad to hear that you’re including it as an AOW session. Are you able to give us the scoop on the guest line-up for the event?

New Year’s Eve crossover services remain one of the Church’s biggest evangelistic opportunities in the 21st century, and the importance of ending the year in God’s presence cannot be overemphasised. In like fashion, starting off the year with God is one of our Christian rituals, with many churches embarking on intense periods of fasting and prayer. People will also start the new year learning about worship at ‘All Out Worship’, a new event hosted by Juanita Francis.

Akosua DF (ADF): What is All Out Worship (AOW)?

Juanita Francis (JF): It’s a clinic for creatives. It’s a safe place for creatives to get refuelled, replenished and rejuvenated. It’s a place to be empowered and receive the “marching orders” to move ahead for the year. I must add that the event is open to anyone who has a heart for worship and who just loves being in God’s presence.

ADF: That sounds interesting. Can you shed light on some of the sessions/ workshops that will take place during All Out Worship?

JF: We’ll have sessions that deal with mental health. I did some research and was alarmed to read that creatives are among the most suicidal and depressed work demographic in the world. Another session will be a

JF: My mentor, Maranda Curtis, will be there; Pastor William McDowell is coming; and UK Gospel’s Niiella will also be ministering at the event. I’ll leave it at that for now!

ADF: This is a fantastic way to start the year. You’ve got me all excited now! Can you share your heart for the AOW event?

JF: Worship teams and creatives were heavily relied on during the pandemic because most of our church services had to be online. We came out of the pandemic, and creatives had to continue serving despite all they had personally endured during that time. The Lord

gave me a vision of a hospital ward that had creatives in the beds coding. I saw a vision of worship leaders on drips, and in the drips were the words ‘All Out Worship’ and different speakers’ names. God told me to create a safe space for creatives to be made whole. The Holy Spirit took me to Ezekiel 37 – the popular passage about the valley of dry bones. Bones speak of promises. God asked me whether the creatives could live again and my response was “ABSOLUTELY!” My heart for AOW 2023 is for creatives to live again.

The All Out Worship event takes place from 28-29 January 2023 at Ruach City Church, Kilburn High Street. Elder Juanita Francis is the host. Visit www.juanitafrancis.com for more information.

AKOSUA DF PASTOR WILLIAM McDOWELL MARANDA CURTIS

The Gospel Shout

The artist who’s unshakeable

UK Gospel rap artist, Reblah, has had one million YouTube views for his song, Unshakeable. He talks to Andrew Morrison about his music

Andrew Morrison (AM): Hey Reblah! Firstly, congratulations on reaching a million YouTube views for Unshakeable When you were recording this song, did you have any sense that it would grow to be this successful?

YOUNG PODCAST AWARD FINALISTS VISIT THE BBC

Seven school friends started a podcast called Young Kingz during the pandemic. It provided them with a lifeline, particularly as COVID-19 had meant the boys had missed out on large chunks of their final year at primary school - and quickly amassed a loyal following.

Earlier this year, the school friends were finalists in the Community Group category of the BBC’s ‘Make A Difference’ Award and went on a tour of the BBC, where they ended up being interviewed by award-winning radio host, Eddie Nestor. The creators of Young Kingz got to visit a range of studios - from BBC Sounds to BBC Radio 1Xtra.

The group of friends ended their memorable trip to the BBC by recording a special edition of the Young Kingz Podcast, which featured Amanda Star, a fellow podcaster and founder of Young Black Shining Star, a platform elevating young children of Black origin.

Reblah (RB): With this one, we were very intentional with the direction we wanted to take it in. We looked at it from a bigger perspective. Being able to have a jet for the video was only possible through the grace of God. Moving forward, I want my videos to be more Christianfocused and to have less of a materialistic emphasis, while still being relatable. It can sometimes be easy for believers to judge when they see us rapping next to a jet, for example. But I spoke to someone recently who wanted to sit down with me and know my heart, and he confirmed that the creation of Unshakeable was Spirit-led, and he now gets why we presented it as we did.

AM: Rap and drill are both associated with an intense flow, aggressive beats and strong messaging. By contrast, we often associate faith with serenity. Your music reflects a striking balance between the two. What inspired you to marry together the peace of your message with the ferocity of your sound in this way?

RB: I was trying to relate to a different audience. Even though, sonically, the song is a drill song, it’s still a worship song. What we do in Christ is always Spirit-led, and I like putting a mix of styles in all my music, so that it’s never boxed in. For instance, drill music wouldn’t usually have a singer to break up the rapping, but somebody who predominantly listens to worship songs will be used to hearing a vocalist on the song, so we wanted to combine the two. Beloved Music sings the Unshakeable hook beautifully.

AM: When you see how well Unshakeable has been received, do you feel additional pressure to recreate this success?

RB: I think, at the end of the day, gaining a million views is something which is just of the world. It’s here today and it’ll be gone tomorrow. It doesn’t necessarily define who I am. There may be a million people who have listened to the song, but how many people have devoted or given their life to Christ? The most important thing is discovering what we can do for Christ through the music. The accolades that

come with this are good, but they’re more about self-glorification.

Unshakeable has a phenomenal video, but it’s very easy to mistake it as being focused on material possessions. I had to realise that the call of God on my life is for me to reach a different target audience. For listeners who have grown up in gang or drug culture, this video gives the song a level of street credibility that helps it to reach those people. It can be used as ministry in so many aspects that differ from the traditional way of promoting Christianity. Unshakeable could easily be used as ministry in prison, for example. It reaches out to the lost, and I believe that Christ died for the lost.

AM: How important were your collaborators on this song?

RB: They were hugely important. Zelijah Tishbite was a visionary and really helped to make this project happen, as did the producer, J1W. Beloved Music did an amazing job with the chorus.

AM: What’s next for you in terms of new releases?

RB: I’ve got a song coming out soon, called Jesus Christ is Lord. I’m also working on a larger body of work. We already have Unshakeable, and now I want to create something ‘undeniable’!

Connect with Reblah on Instagram @reblahgram

14 Find us on Twitter and Facebook: @KeepTheFaithmag
VisionsTVOnline is a platform that promotes UK and international Christian music. To learn more about their promotional services, email info@visionstvonline.com and the team will be happy to help.

LIMOBLAZE: AN ARTIST ON THE RISE

Limoblaze’s song, Jireh (My Provider), has gone viral with over four million views

Andrew Morrison (AM): Jireh, your collaboration with Happi and Lecrae, has been a huge success. How important to you is working with other artists and fostering a sense of community within the industry?

Limoblaze (LB): Collaborations challenge you to create a sweet spot between yourself and the other artist. This pushes me to experiment. Sometimes, I can’t imagine my sound meshing with theirs, but then we end up creating something beautiful that I couldn’t have created by myself.

AM: In such a message-driven genre, how do you go about balancing a focus on lyrics with due attention to the sonics?

LB: I am a believer, and I continue to grow in faith. The message aspect of my music is a given. At the same time, I am very intentional about ensuring the quality of the music is up to scratch. I also make sure to have great

people around me, who are willing to give me feedback without any bias.

AM: When did you know that you wanted to create faith-based music?

LB: My friend introduced me to Lecrae, and I remember sitting in my room and listening to his songs on repeat, and I just broke down crying. I decided I wanted to be able to talk to God and talk about God in this way.

AM: Bearing that in mind, how big a moment was it to be able to release Jireh alongside Lecrae?

LB: I’m still a superfan of Lecrae but getting to become a friend and make music with him is something I am forever grateful for. He cares a lot about me and my journey - he’s basically a big brother to me.

AM: How does the experience of playing your songs live compare to listening to the studio-recorded versions?

LB: I play in countries that are not Englishspeaking countries, and they still sing every lyric! To have people sing your songs back at you is the best feeling. Seeing what the music means to them, it is satisfying knowing that I’ve been able to touch people’s lives in this way.

AM: What’s the most impactful idea that you have encountered recently?

LB: There is always an equation in what God is doing. That equation involves me and a few other things, but the only thing that is constant is God’s agenda. All the other factors in the equation can change - God can use anybody. So if He is using you at the moment, stay grateful, stay humble and stay obedient.

Visit www.limoblaze.com for more information

Visions TV Online presents show on U.S. radio station

Visions TV Online has teamed up with GODRadio1 in the USA to secure more exposure for UK Christian and gospel artists. The station is a Billboard-charted station and reaches a regular listenership of over 30,000. The Visions TV Online show goes out live every Sunday at 9am GMT, playing a wide range of different genres within Christian music, including gospel, Christian contemporary music, hip-hop, dance and electro, reggae and dancehall, R&B, chill-hop, and lo-fi. Closing each show is celebrity rapper of Big Brother fame, Jazzi P, who covers interviews with artists who have been nominated for The Music and Media Platform (TMMP) Awards.

Email info@visionstvonline.com if you would like your music played on Visions TV Online show.

1.

Gospel Heritage, Various Artists

Released under Platoon Records, this project features brand new music from a number of gospel stalwarts, such as Sinach, Juanita Francis, Tim Godfrey, Bishop John Francis, Becca Folkes, Sarah Téibo, Volney Morgan, Lurine Cato, Sharyn, Chevelle Franklyn and Isaiah Raymond.

God’s grace. The hip-hop artist joins forces with Still Shadey, Sharyn, S.O and more to deliver a reflective, up-tempo journey through mental health struggles and self-doubt, before reaching a faith-filled destination of gratitude.

4. Autumn Colours, Just Derrick

2.

Live From The Old Chapel, Philippa Hanna

This new EP from British singer-songwriter Philippa Hanna is, at its heart, a celebration of music as one of God’s greatest gifts to us. Speaking about the new project, Hanna muses: “I’m really enjoying exploring the way instrumentation can elevate our expressions of worship. Taking these songs to a different space creatively has been my way of giving thanks for them.”

3. Everything Left Unsaid, Triple O

Triple O’s latest album opens with a powerful, spoken-word conversation with Sophia Thakur about overcoming the feeling of not deserving

The Gospel Hydration team continue their streak of stellar releases under Hydration Records with this latest offering from Just Derrick. Autumn Colours will please any fans of Christian chill-hop and the emerging lo-fi sound.

5. Live at the Manor, Manor Collective

The Manor Collective comprises a number of exciting voices within the gospel space, such as Becca Folkes, CalledOut Music, Charlotte Kiwanuka, Elle Limebear, Féz, Jonny Bird, Junior Garr, Myles Dhillon, Sarah Bird and Tertia May. The collective dropped an accompanying Live at the Manor documentary, detailing the creative process behind the album on YouTube.

Our Top 5 tracks are available to stream on all digital platforms.

www.keepthefaith.co.uk 15
>>>>
Visions TV Online’s Top 5 Songs of the Month

CHRISTMAS IS HERE

In this Christmas message the Rt Rev Dr Karowei Dorgu, Bishop of Woolwich, reminds us to overcome life’s challenges by putting our trust in Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world

“Christmas is coming, is coming, is coming, Christmas is coming...” says the song I learnt in Sunday school many decades ago.

As we prepare for Christmas this year, I can confidently say that the Lord God has been good to us because we have been through such interesting and trying times. From experiencing many different crises, such as COVID-19; the cost-of-living crisis; the political crisis with three British Prime Ministers in as many months; and the national mourning on the death of Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Not to mention Putin’s war in Ukraine causing the greatest refugee crisis in Europe since World War II.

There have been some good news stories too. We have seen the ascension of King Charles III - a new monarch after 70 years. Long may he reign, and we wish him well in the Name of Christ.

have also blamed Brexit for the reversal of our business fortunes, due to fallen trade with Europe and the mass return of European workers to the continent. Whatever we say, these times are difficult and painful. These are worrying and anxiety-generating times we live in. It’s now obvious that some people will have to make difficult choices between what is wanted and what is needed; others will need to cut their contributions to charity, church, etc., while others have to decide

whether to eat or to heat. Some of our churches, libraries and community rooms/ centres are providing safe, warm ‘places of welcome’ for the community to use, in order to save heating their homes during the day. How wonderful!

In the midst of all these challenges, sorrows and joys, the Christmas season holds out to us all an offering of the reality of love, peace and hope in small bundles and sometimes in the most insignificant places.

We have also seen our first British Prime Minister of South Asian origin, Mr Rishi Sunak, a Hindu of Indian ancestry - an example of the diversity and beauty of the United Kingdom, where people from all walks and corners of the earth live together and flourish in our nation.

The cost-of-living crisis has been made worse by the Putin’s war in Ukraine. Others

16 Find us on Twitter and Facebook: @KeepTheFaithmag
Editorial credit: ComposedPix / Shutterstock.com

Our faith in Jesus Christ compels us to put our resolute trust in God for our daily sustenance. As the prayer Jesus Christ taught His disciples says: “Give us this day our daily bread.” The alternative to trusting God for our sustenance and daily provision through work and good stewardship is to be anxious and let the situation around us turn us into nervous wrecks. God forbid, because Christ in us is the Hope of glory, and He offers us this living hope as we come to trust Him for our salvation.

On that wonderful day, in the city of Bethlehem during the reign of an evil King Herod, a despot of the Roman Empire, the people were living in fear of the occupation of the Romans and were very anxious of what might happen next after the census he had ordered. God was present with them in their travails, but they didn’t know that for sure until the first Christmas.

God showed His face to them in Bethlehem (which means the House of Bread), that He was the God who provided all their needs (Jehovah Jireh - Genesis 22:14a). God’s provision for us doesn’t usually come as we expect, and this was no different. God showed Himself in the most unlikely form. The Baby Jesus was born in the lowliest of places - a borrowed animal shed - surrounded by unusual dormitory mates. His cot was an animal’s feeding trough, and the neighbours welcomed Him with neighs, boos and baas.

The Scripture says: ‘Who [with reason] despises the day of small things (beginnings)?’ (Zechariah 4:10a AMP).

At Christmas we celebrate the birth of God the Son, Jesus Christ the Messiah, the second Person of the Trinity, who walks with us, holds our hands and wears our shoes through empathy. God came in a small bundle to cheer up His people and lift their spirits. The people and angels sang glad tidings of great joy and the Gloria. Heaven and earth celebrated in unison. This is why it’s important to go to a place of worship this Christmas to sing the uplifting Christmas carols, and to worship Christ daily, because every day is Christmas in my books.

This Christmas, Christ invites us to a season of love, peace, goodwill and hope as we trust Him. The challenging times are real, so are the financial difficulties we face. However, God’s grace and mercies, as in Christ, are also real and tangible to all who reach out in faith. Christ offers all who look to Him hope, peace and love, in that He loves us so much He died on the cross to save us sinners and give us peace and hope in life eternal through faith in Him as Messiah. I am sure you may say it’s difficult to imagine. Remember, Christ is called Emmanuel - that is, ‘God with us’come what may, but it is possible to believe that He is with us.

That is why He came to be like us at the

season of Christmas, to show His eternal love for all humanity made in His image and likeness. So, as we say, Jesus Christ the Messiah was born on that first Christmas to save us from sin and all the challenges and troubles of our life here on earth. Hence the saying ‘Jesus Christ is the reason for the season’. There is hope instead of despair, peace instead of anxiety, and salvation to all who call on Him.

At this time of year, it is customary to look out for others in our family, friendship groups, the less privileged and wider community. And to care for God’s creation and the environment we live in. As we reach out to others, I am reminded of the need to share the joy, peace and goodwill to all people, because the Saviour has been born, whose birth we celebrate this Christmas.

God is with us, Emmanuel, speaking tons of love into our lives, giving us hope where there is hopelessness and reminding us that He is with us this Christmas and beyond. Remember, Christ in us is the Hope of glory. Do not fear. Trust in God and believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as your friend and Messiah, because He was born for this reason in this season. HE IS THE REASON FOR THE SEASON!

Merry Christmas and God’s blessings in the New Year.

Editorial credit: Drop of Light / Shutterstock.com
www.keepthefaith.co.uk 17
Editorial credit: V9 Media / Shutterstock.com

The Church Leader envisioning a great future for NTCG

Bishop Claion Grandison was recently appointed as Administrative Bishop of the New Testament Church of God (NTCG) of England and Wales, presiding over 130 churches. NTCG is one of the Black community’s historic Pentecostal denominations, founded by the Windrush Generation in the UK. Keep The Faith spoke to Bishop Grandison about his life, his faith and his hopes for NTCG.

KEEP THE FAITH (KTF): How did you feel when you learned you had been chosen to be the seventh Administrative Bishop of the New Testament Church of God UK?

BISHOP CLAION GRANDISON (BCG):

It was surreal. I felt humbled that my colleagues - male and female, young and older - had overwhelmingly voted for me to become the next Administrative Bishop of NTCG England and Wales.

KTF: What was your family’s, your mother’s and brother’s reactions upon hearing that you’d been appointed to the role?

BCG: As soon as the results came through, I left the room where the voting had taken place and quickly called my wife, Sonia, before it hit social media. She was quiet but probably relieved it was all over. If she’d had her wish, I wouldn’t be AB, as she quite preferred being in the local church. Both my mum and brother were happy for me. In my home church, in Jamaica, they literally made her a celebrity! She was swelling with pride.

KTF: In your first week in office, you decided to make public, to both your church and the wider Christian community, your vision for your leadership tenure. What were your reasons for doing so, and what kind of response did you get?

BCG: To be honest, I shared bits of my vision on the very day I was elected. I felt it was important for folks to know from the very outset that we were serious and passionate about NTCG and its future. So far, the response has been very encouraging from a wide cross section of people - even from those who aren’t part of our denomination.

KTF: NTCG was started by the Windrush Generation. Now, almost 70 years later,

the NTCG is still here, but in a different time, facing different challenges. What in your view are the three key challenges currently facing NTCG, and how will you be seeking to address them?

BCG: Like many other churches, NTCG is faced with a decline in membership due to parishioners who have joined other Christian organisations or completely left the faith. The truth is, you can’t stop people from leaving but you can give them a reason to stay. Like the story of farmer who, instead of building fences to keep his sheep from leaving, decided to dig a well in the centre of his field. As our mission statement asserts: ‘A relevant, relational Church, reimagining God at work in our communities and our nation’, we seek to address this haemorrhaging by creating a fresh approach to ministry at the very centre of what we do.

Our other challenges are around crime and the cost-of-living crisis. We will therefore encourage local pastors to become more involved with community groups that work in partnership with the police to ensure that residents, especially Black people, aren’t treated unfairly. In Croydon, where I still pastor, high-ranking Met officers meet with grassroots charities and church leaders every Friday to discuss, among other things, policing in the community.

As well as continuing to offer meals to our communities, we will also lobby parliament about the gaping chasm between the wealthy and the poor and insist that the poor are not an afterthought.

KTF: You spoke about your vision of seeking to be supporters of justice. Does this signify that NTCG will be getting involved in politics? If so, will it be with a little or a big ‘P’?

BCG: I strongly believe in being involved in politics without being political. In other words, we are for the poor and the marginalised, not for a particular party. We will praise politicians who act justly and call out those who are uncaring.

KTF: NTCG is seen as a denomination serving the Black Caribbean community. Is that the case, and what will you be doing to change that view?

BCG: Nothing at all. It would be a travesty if we ever stopped serving the community that has served us over the last 70 years. What we’ve seen over the last few years - and particularly during the pandemic - is that most of the nearly 300 men and women who queue up for lunch outside our church building every week aren’t from the Black Caribbean community. The church is focused on meeting the needs of its community, Black or White.

www.keepthefaith.co.uk 19

KTF: Can you share a little bit about your childhood, ie. where you were born, whether you have any siblings, your parents, and the role of faith in your life when growing up?

BCG: I was born in North London to Phillip and Adassa, both Jamaicans. I have one younger brother, Roger, who now resides in Toronto, Canada. My faith has meant everything to me, hence why I’ve been in the church ALL my life. My achievements haven’t been because of a career or a university education; it’s all down to my faith.

KTF: What inspired you to become a Christian?

BCG: As I said, I’ve been ‘in church’ all my life but my ‘come-to-Jesus’ moment was in high school in Jamaica. I had failed most of my exams and was feeling really lost. None of my friends knew I was a Christian and I was happy for things to remain that way. Then members of our school’s Christian fellowship encouraged me to join, and soon they realised Roger and I could sing. The rest, as they say, is history.

KTF: How did you get involved in church leadership?

BCG: It started in youth ministry when I was asked to be the leader for Hope group. I was 14 at the time, leading adults nearly twice my age and managing to gain their respect and loyalty. Later, I was responsible for starting a youth chorale, which took choir singing in a totally different direction.

On coming to the UK, I had many positions within the local church; however the turning point was Men’s ministry under the late Rev John Grey. He saw something others hadn’t and invested in my development. I owe him a great debt of gratitude.

KTF: You have been blessed to serve the Church in various positions, including serving extensively in the Caribbean, working as a youth leader and pastor. What key lessons about young people, leadership and service to others did you learn during this time?

BCG: Ministry overseas was quite interesting. I think I learned self-control and about courage under pressure. I also learned that I was more of a leader than I thought.

During my final year in the British Virgin Islands, the International Youth Director was kind enough to send all regional youth leaders a book a month on leadership. This was a gamechanger, as I was introduced to a whole library of books by John Maxwell and other notable leadership gurus. I learned that people are your greatest assets; ensure you appreciate them.

KTF: After a leadership stint in the Caribbean, you came to the UK and led Chrisma in Woolwich for 17 years and was at NTCG Croydon for under two years. In both instances, you launched initiatives to develop leadership and serve the community. What inspired you to do this and why is it important for the Church to be seen to serve the community in which it is based?

BCG: One the lessons I learned teaching leadership was that you lead leaders not followers. Followers always look for instructions; leaders look for opportunities. When we started the feeding programme in Woolwich, it was because some homeless guys had broken into the church and stolen all our equipment. The Lord said: “If you open your doors, they won’t need to break in, and when you open your doors, I’ll open My windows over the church” and He did. I remember one of our members sold her house and brought a cheque to me for over £20k. Another member got paid out by her insurance and tithed nearly £6k. These are two of very many stories.

When we arrived at West Croydon, the Croydon Council had declared bankruptcy, so in anticipation of the pending crisis, we started the Croydon Kitchen and the Holiday Feeding Club, supplying children with healthy meals during the school holidays.

KTF: When you became a Christian as a teenager and in all your years serving in various leadership positions, did you ever envisage that you would preside over a denomination?

BCG: In a word, no. However, as I progressed in ministry, I sensed that the Lord was leading me in that direction. This was all confirmed by many around me but also in dreams I had years later.

KTF: You have been married to Sonia for over 21 years. How does your wife feel about being thrust into the limelight, as she is now head of women’s ministry for NTCG? BCG: She’s a reluctant convert to the role. She never wanted to marry a pastor, full stop. But God has a sense of humour! To be honest, I couldn’t and wouldn’t do any kind of ministry without my wife.

KTF: How will you be spending Christmas and the New Year?

BCG: I haven’t thought that far ahead! Most likely with Sonia’s parents, as they aren’t very well now.

KTF: What special message of hope do you have for Keep The Faith readers?

BCG: I was going to say ‘keep the faith and the faith will keep you’ but, in all seriousness, it’s important that we don’t forget and forsake the traditions and tenets of our faith. Like fad diets, much of the new stuff that churches are doing in the name of progress work for a while, and then we go back to being obese again. You can’t go wrong on a healthy diet of fasting, prayer, meditation on the Word and private worship.

Visit www.ntcg.org.uk for further information about the New Testament Church of God.

20 Find us on Twitter and Facebook: @KeepTheFaithmag
“One the lessons I learned teaching leadership was that you lead leaders not followers. Followers always look for instructions; leaders look for opportunities.”

Sadly, due to a shortage of adopters, Black African and Black Caribbean children, and children with dual or multiple-heritage, often wait longer to be adoptedalongside sibling groups and children with complex needs. If you’re thinking about adoption, talk to us. All enquiries are Find out more on www.adoptioncounts.org.uk

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The businesswoman who wants God to increase her capacity for more

Claudine Reid MBE, one of the most well-known entrepreneurs to emerge out of Britain’s Black Christian community, recently published her first book about business. She spoke to Keep The Faith about her business journey, overcoming breast cancer and her plans for 2023

KEEP THE FAITH (KTF): What inspired you to write your book, Priorities of a Social Entrepreneur?

CLAUDINE REID (CR): It was a long time in the making. I have always wanted to write, but I just didn’t have the time, the inclination or the process to make it happen. Whilst the country was in lockdown during the pandemic, I had an overwhelming feeling of the importance of sharing our stories, especially the entrepreneurial journey. I connected with Camelle Daley and the rest is history.

KTF: What are the key points/lessons you want readers to take away from your book?

CR: There are many I tried to fit in, to make it as educational and inspirational as possible, but these are the main ones:

1) Life is not linear; things do not always go in a straight line

2) There will always be competing priorities

3) Each priority requires a strategy and a framework

KTF: How does it feel to be one of the most well-known social entrepreneurs and businesswomen within the Black faith community, as well as being highly respected within the secular business space?

22 Find us on Twitter and Facebook: @KeepTheFaithmag

CR: Gosh! The goal has always been about service to those whom I’ve been called to serve. The recognition and the respect came because I was working. It wasn’t what I had been looking for, but I do understand it came as a result (of the work I’ve done). I’m not even sure how to answer this, because to whom much is given, much is required.

KTF: What inspired you to go into business?

CR: That’s funny because I’m not sure it was about ‘inspiration’! It was more about a calling. I got into business to support my husband’s vision. The reason I stayed is because of what I became in the process. I could see that God was using business to stretch and challenge me in order to grow and increase my capacity for more.

KTF: You were headhunted for your role as Chair of Lloyds Bank Black Business Advisory Committee. What was your initial response when approached for the role in 2019?

CR: The short answer was: “OMG! Why me?!” After I got over the initial shock, excitement set in about the possibilities and the impact we could make in the Black entrepreneurial community.

KTF: What would you say are your main achievements since taking on the role?

CR: I would say supporting the bank to create and implement recommendations from the 2021 and 2022 report findings, which all led to supporting the Black business community, by creating an eco-system of support for all stages of the life cycle of business. I would also add raising the profile of the contribution of Black entrepreneurs to the UK economy.

KTF: You are managing director of a business – PJs Community Services –

that was started by two Christians. What steps do you think churches can or should take to encourage greater entrepreneurship in the Black community?

CR: 1) Engage with the business community by showcasing the important role business plays in society; for example: job creation, social mobility, community and generational wealth; 2) Celebrate the progress of the entrepreneurs, showcase their work, and create opportunities for them to network and promote their goods and services; and 3) Invite successful entrepreneurs to share their stories to amplify the message.

KTF: How has your family helped you in your journey to business success?

CR: They are my number one support network. They keep me grounded. I would not have been able to do the journey without their unwavering support.

KTF: What role has your faith played in your life?

CR: My faith is like insulation, a hedge of protection keeping me sensitive, stable and safe from the external challenges of life.

KTF: How will you be spending Christmas?

CR: Like every other Christmas: with family and food.

KTF: What are your hopes and plans for 2023?

CR: That God will increase my capacity for more.

KTF: In your book you talk about your experience of breast cancer. How has being diagnosed, undergoing a mastectomy and breast reconstruction affected your approach to life and business?

CR: It brought home the understanding of my mortality and the time we have here on earth. It made me live life more intentionally and challenge myself to do bolder things. It also increased my trust in God and my appreciation of my family and loved ones.

KTF: What would you say is your greatest achievement as a businesswoman?

CR: Firstly, leading and sustaining a company for 30 years - through two recessions and a global pandemic; secondly, creating over 10,000 jobs; and thirdly, walking through the challenging times and seeing my spiritual, emotional and mental muscles grow.

Visit www.claudinereid.com for further information. Claudine’s book, Priorities of a Social Entrepreneur, is available at www.amazon.com

www.keepthefaith.co.uk 23 Claudine with her children Theo and Timone Claudine with her husband Patrick
“My faith is like insulation, a hedge of protection keeping me sensitive, stable and safe from the external challenges of life.”

Your age is just a number to God

I recently passed my 70th birthday and it was almost a surprise to me! How did I get here? I don’t feel as if I am 70. I keep telling people that 70 is the new 40!

God has no problem with age. He reassigned me in the last year – in fact, in the latter half of 2021 He told me: “2022 is when you are off the bench!”

I had heard a message a couple of years previously that a player ‘on the bench’ was still a member of the team. I told the preacher I felt that’s where I was. He said: “Jan, you won’t be there long!”

After I heard from the Lord, I waited for Him to open doors, which He did! I was invited to preach at a ladies’ conference, which led to speaking at a couple of churches; I wrote some books and was invited to do a TV interview to promote one of them, which led to an invitation to speak at a women’s conference. Throughout 2022 I have travelled and preached and generally been busier than ever.

Previously I was the principal of a Bible college in London, and the Lord began to speak to me about putting it online. This led to REAL LIFE Bible College (www.reallifebiblecollege.com).

Did you know there is no word for ‘retirement’ in Hebrew? I’m glad about that. I am more excited about what God is doing

than ever before, and I know that He hasn’t finished with me yet.

I’m told that the inventions that have impacted humankind for good have all been instigated by someone aged 65 and over. Those of us who are a little more advanced in years have plenty to offer. When you’ve served the Lord as long as I have, you learn a thing or two. There is a wisdom that only comes with age and experience, and I feel I still have a lot to give to the body of Christ.

I am not someone who looks down on youth and modern ways of doing things – I actually embrace them – and believe that every generation has something to offer.

Moses wasn’t a spring chicken when God called him to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt’s bondage; and Abraham and Sarah were certainly not young when the Lord called him to be the father of many nations. We could recount many biblical accounts where age was simply not an obstacle for God.

My husband is 78 next month and together we are more excited about life than ever. We are never bored with life. We are extremely active in our church, running Legacy – a gathering for the over 55s. We both serve on the host team regularly, and recently I have taken on the role of Service Team Leader –organising all the teams that serve the church for Sundays. Of course, we are involved in the regular meetings in church too. On top of this we are still involved in a business, which keeps us busy. We have two children (closer to 50 than 40 now) and five grandchildren. We don’t have time to get old!

Age is, for me, very much a state of mind. I realise the body is ageing but I definitely don’t believe in ‘growing old gracefully’!

Kenneth Hagin once said: “If the barn door needs painting, paint it!” I made the decision

you
People approach getting older with trepidation. Not Pastor Jan Owbridge, who just turned 70. She shares that when
serve God, He’ll give you something to do - no matter your age.

to lose weight by changing my lifestyle when I was 66, determined not to hit 70 overweight. I keep healthy and reasonably fit. We walk and go tenpin bowling to help that. I don’t feel 70, so I don’t act 70. I know it isn’t easy for everyone. Many people suffer with all kinds of ailments – and I don’t make light of that – but I do believe that much of what we suffer, we bring on ourselves by our expectations. I don’t expect to get sick, so if sickness hits my body it comes as a surprise and I reject its right to remain.

From a Pastor’s Pen, which was so well received, I followed it with another one: More from a Pastor’s Pen, which covers another 30 days.

Actually, at the beginning of this year, the Lord gave me a few books, including Covenant Authority, which has been a favourite subject of mine for many years. I believe if people understand the covenant they have with Almighty God, the devil will never have his way with them again.

When God created us, He created perfect hardware and software. Then a virus got in – the devil – and caused problems in the workings. Jesus came back and gave us God’s Factory Reset – the title of another book and a guide to reloading the correct software with instructions for its use.

The final offering on the book scene this year is a rewrite of a previous book which had sold out and was out of print: Word on Woman. This book hits all the Scriptures the men don’t want to look at, in case the women are right, and which the women don’t want to look at, in case the men are right! The Lord told me if only men are set free, it’s only half a truth; if only women are set free, it’s only half a truth; the whole truth will always set the whole body free!

So why am I saying all this? Maybe you have felt like you are too old to follow the call of God and need some encouragement. A friend of mine, in her mid-seventies, discovered her call to evangelism. She is on the streets reaching out to the lost, travelling to Africa to preach on the streets, and living life abundantly. She made up her mind not to allow obstacles stacked up by convention and people to scupper her call.

Keep The Faith tips on ageing gracefully:

1. Keep active. Walking is a great exercise to undertake as you get older. It’s inexpensive and easy on the joints.

I made the decision many years ago to get my mouth in line with the Word of God. When someone asks how I am, I always says “Great, thanks. I’m always great!” The Bible says we create our world with our words, so I choose to create a world where I am happy, healthy and long-lived. Sometimes it would be easy to look at what is happening in the world around us and feel down or depressed, but I choose to look to Jesus, the author and finisher of my faith.

To help others have a brighter outlook I penned a 30-day ‘reflections’ booklet, called

2. Eat healthily. You know the score: stay away from huge amounts of carbohydrates, eat your veg, fruit, protein, and drink plenty of water to keep hydrated.

3. Don’t say No to fresh experiences; there are always new things for you to see and do.

4. Stay connected. Maintain your relationships with friends and family, and don’t be fearful of building new friends.

5. Stimulate your mind; read interesting books; do word puzzles that stretch and challenge your brain; take a course and learn something new.

6. Continue to trust and believe God. Ask Him to increase your faith and show you what new assignment

He has planned for you at this mature stage of your life.

Pastor Jan Owbridge is a speaker, author and a Legacy Life pastor at Alive Church, Lincoln Central. Download a free copy of her book, Reprogramming Your Mind God’s Way, at www.janowbridge.com
www.keepthefaith.co.uk 25

For as long as I can remember – over many decades – the large number of single women in Britain’s Black Pentecostal churches has been a major talking point, mainly because they’ve found it difficult to find partners who share their faith.

Throughout my career as a writer and journalist, I have covered this issue many times – partly because I am currently single myself – but also because, over the years, I have received numerous correspondence from Christian women sharing the challenges they’ve experienced finding a like-minded partner. They have also spoken about dealing with their sexual desires and asked for advice on coping with the emotional pain and disappointment that can accompany singleness, especially when an individual is desirous of marriage and children.

To be fair, the issue of singleness is a talking point throughout the Black diaspora in the US, Canada and the Caribbean. And it’s a topic that impacts women of all ages. In fact, whenever single women get together, all the above – and more – are likely to be subjects for discussion. This has been true for me whenever I broach the topic on my social media platforms, especially Facebook. I put up posts about a wide range of issues, but my posts about relationships, marriage, singleness and finding a partner tend to generate the greatest interest, comment and engagement.

Of course, there are singles who just love their life and welcome the opportunity to serve God without the responsibilities of a spouse and children, but there are those who find the single life wearisome, depressing and unending. So... after years of being encouraged to write my own book I decided to produce one exploring this topical subject. Black, Christian and Single is the result.

I thought the best way to broach this topic was to ask believers of all ages – millennials, middle-aged and mature – who are either single themselves; minister to singles; or pastor singles, to write essays on various facets of the single experience. I would venture to say this book is the first of its kind to collate the writings of Black Christians here in the UK on the issue.

THE SINGLENESS ISSUE

Marcia Dixon MBE has just published her debut book, Black, Christian and Single. She shares the inspiration behind its publication and the impact she hopes it will have on the Church

Black, Christian and Single touches on various aspects of singleness that are common to all singles, such as dealing with sexual temptation; online dating; being divorced and single in the Church; as well as provide insights on running a singles’ ministry. It also looks at some of the reasons for the large proportion of singles, and one pastor has shared how he dealt with the issue of ‘enforced singleness’ in his congregation.

‘...in spite of the disappointment of not achieving a long-held dream to get married, Christians can remain faithful in serving God and sharing a gospel message’

There are numerous individuals in our churches who provide a listening ear and a comforting shoulder for people – mainly women – to cry on whenever they feel overwhelmed or depressed by their single status. There are also individuals, who, fed up with following the church mantra to “Wait on God” for a spouse, leave the church to find the love and have the family they desire.

The writers touch on some of these scenarios, as well as highlight how, in spite of the disappointment of not

achieving a long-held dream to get married, Christians can remain faithful in serving God and sharing a gospel message.

Dr Carol Tomlin has written the foreword for the book, and contributors are A A Jones, Andrea Best, Andrina Davis, Cherlene Wilson, Ganel Simms, Joan St Louis, Jeuanita Swaby, Joy Adams, Ola Nubi, Pastor Dave Daniels, Roney Henderson, Shermara Fletcher, Shenelle Markland, Theresa Beckles and Zina Arinze. All are Christians and are involved in church.

Black, Christian and Single has several aims. One is to start a comprehensive, large-scale conversation on an issue that is heartfelt by many and also explore potential solutions. Also, as a by-product of that discussion, it’s my hope the Church will revisit how Christian men and women relate to each other; the importance of unity between the genders; the key role of marriage in building resilient, prosperous communities; and how the Church can effectively reach men with the Gospel.

More than anything, however, I want Black, Christian and Single to increase understanding about the life and experience of single Christians; give hope and healing to singles discouraged by their status; and serve as a reminder that life is always worth living whatever one’s marital status – especially when God is one’s focus.

Black, Christian and Single is £12.99 and will be available for purchase on Amazon.

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BIBLE IN A YEAR | PSALMS 135 136; 1 CORINTHIANS 12 THURSDAY | 1 SEPTEMBER WHEN WE GATHER TOGETHER enmark is among the happiest countries in the world, ac cording to the World Happiness Report. The Danes weath er their lengthy, dark winters by gathering with friends to share a warm drink or a gracious meal. The word they use for the hygge helps them offset the impact of enjoying less sunlight than their counterparts at lower latitudes. By circling around a simple table The writer of Hebrews encourages gathering together as a com munity. He acknowledges that there will be difficult days—with challenges far more significant than the weather—requiring those who follow Christ to persevere in faith. Though Jesus has made cer tain our acceptance by God through our faith in the Saviour, we may struggle against shame or doubt or real opposition. By gathering together, we have the privilege of encouraging one another. When we’re sharing company, we’re able to “spur one another on towards love and good deeds,” which bolsters our faith Gathering with friends doesn’t assure us of a ranking on a hap piness report. It is, however, something the Bible offers as a means to bear us up in faith under the common frustrations of life. What a wonderful reason to seek out the community of a church! Or to open our homes—with an attitude of Danish simplicity—to nour ish one another’s hearts. How has gathering together with others encouraged you? Who can you encourage with an open heart? Thank You, God, that can encourage other believers and be encouraged by them when we gather together. For further study, read Understanding the Bible: The Letter to the Hebrews at DiscoverySeries.org/Q0427 Get FREE, daily Bible reading notes from Our Daily Bread, and find hope and encouragement for each new day! ourdailybread.org AN2203 SEPTEMBER | OCTOBER | NOVEMBER 202 2 You are my refuge. Into your hands I commit my spirit; deliver me, Lord, my faithful God. PSALM 31:4–5 Join the community on Facebook! @ ourdailybreadeurope ( Start your day truly inspired. ( Uplifting refreshment for your soul. ( Bringing you closer to God each day. A FAITHFUL COMPANION, NO MATTER WHAT TODAY HOLDS. Get your free copy at: odb.org/ktf uk@odb.org ~ 015395 64149 ~ odb.org LEPROSY STILL EXISTS. BUT £24 WILL CURE SOMEONE LIKE ZAINA. Find out more by visiting leprosymission.org.uk or calling 01733 370505 “ ” I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. JOHN 10:10 NIV Registered Charity No. 1050327 |A Company Limited by Guarantee Registered in England and Wales No. 3140347 www.keepthefaith.co.uk 27

16 DAYS OF ACTION...

In the UK, two women are killed every week by a current or former male partner! This is devastating news and should concern all of us. As someone who has worked with women affected by or who are survivors of domestic abuse, I want to play my part in speaking up about this issue.

According to the Centre for Social Justice, domestic abuse is a public health crisis. It affects more than two million people - 1.6 million women and 757,000 men - a year. It blights more lives every year than prostate cancer, breast cancer and dementia combined. Despite its prevalence, only 17% of victims report this crime. Gender-based violence affects millions of women, some of whom do not have the capacity - or the capability - to advocate for themselves because of the tenuous situations in which they are living or the laws of the countries in which they reside.

Sixteen Days of Activism is a campaign individuals and churches can get behind to help raise awareness about genderbased violence. Sixteen Days is an annual international campaign that kicked off on 25th November (International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women) and will run until 10th December (Human Rights Day). Started in 1991, the campaign continues to be coordinated both as a call for the prevention and for the elimination of violence against women and girls. The global theme for this year is ‘UNITE! Activism to end violence against women and girls’ and I am encouraging congregations and churches to get involved.

My work with Restored - a Christian response to violence against women - tells me it can be hard to know when behaviour has become abusive within a relationship, but this list of questions (taken from the UK government website) is a good guideline. If you answer Yes to any of the following questions, you might be in an abusive relationship.

Does your partner, or former partner, ever:

• belittle you or put you down?

• blame you for the abuse or arguments?

• deny that abuse is happening or play it down?

• isolate you from your family and friends?

• stop you going to college or work?

• make unreasonable demands for your attention?

• accuse you of flirting or having affairs?

• tell you what to wear, who to see, where to go and what to think?

• control your money, or not give you enough to buy food or other essential things?

(Source: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/ domestic-abuse-recognise-the-signs/domestic-abuserecognise-the-signs#how-to-recognise-domestic-abusein-a-relationship)

If you believe that you or someone else could be a victim of domestic abuse, there are signs you can look out for, including:

• being withdrawn or being isolated from family and friends

• having bruises, burns or bite marks

• having finances controlled, or not being given enough money to buy food or pay bills

• not being allowed to leave the house, or being stopped from going to college or work

• having your internet or social media use monitored, or someone else reading your texts, emails or letters

• being repeatedly belittled, put down or told you are worthless

• being pressured into sex

In the UK, domestic abuse is categorised by any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over, who are or have been intimate partners, or family members, regardless of gender or sexuality. This definition includes honour-based abuse and forced marriage and is clear that victims

are not confined to one gender or ethnic group.

The frequency and severity of domestic violence can vary dramatically. Just one encounter is considered as abuse, or it can be an ongoing pattern of behaviour. However, the one constant element of domestic abuse is the abuser’s consistent efforts to maintain power and control over the victim.

Domestic abuse can affect anyone regardless of ethnicity, age, gender, sexuality or social background. If you are suffering from physical, sexual, psychological or financial abuse, or are being threatened, intimidated or stalked by a current or previous partner or close family member, you could be a victim of domestic abuse.

As Christians and citizens of local communities, we need to call out this abuse and wrongdoing. We cannot and must not normalise violence behaviours; instead, we must come to terms with the impact of sexual and genderbased violence which is a long-term trauma that can become cyclical. It can take years for people to heal from trauma, so we are dealing with societies that are traumatised and whose whole terms of life have been compromised.

The Bible neither covers up nor ignores sexual assault. In fact, Old Testament law shows how the Lord takes up the cause of the victim and the vulnerable. Deuteronomy 22:25-27 safeguarded the survivor of sexual assault from being unjustly blamed or ignored. God was not silent about rape. He defended the woman who had been sexually assaulted. He believed and protected her - and so must we.

As we move into the Christmas season, let us reflect on the coming Christ. He is not a distant, detached Saviour. He has great empathy - the ability to truly understand and share the feelings of others. He cared deeply about how we as people feel and how we live.

Be safe this Christmas.

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November 25th saw the start of an international campaign to raise awareness of Gender-Based Violence. Dionne Gravesande encourages the Church to be part of this important initiative Global Ecumenical Relations at Christian Aid

Inclusive Church Making room for everyone!

For many years I have noticed and heard that some families who have children with additional needs don’t come to church and, when they do, they leave their children at home because they believe the church environment is not accepting of their children. Stories like these always touch my heart deeply, as I believe it isn’t the plan God has for the Church.

I don’t think the Church is deliberately excluding people, but rather it’s usually a case of a congregation not knowing how to provide appropriate support for those parents whose children have additional needs. Often, what usually happens is that families are asked to take their children out of the main church auditorium because they are considered ‘disruptive’.

Romans 12:13 says: ‘Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practise hospitality.’ This Scripture is a reminder to show hospitality to God’s people, especially those who are in need. I read somewhere that ‘a church that genuinely welcomes people, genuinely grows’. Showing hospitality to all is, I believe, the perfect reflection of the Early Church, where everyone’s needs were catered for and no one was left behind.

Children with additional needs often feel left behind by their church family. They don’t get invited to social activities, like parties, and their parents feel isolated and alone in their struggles. Nothing in our teaching or church programmes demonstrates that we care about their needs, and sometimes our church locations and environment, by default, automatically exclude these children and their families.

There are two major challenges parents of children with additional needs face when they enter our churches, which are ATTITUDINAL and ENVIRONMENTAL. These two factors can make their experience of church totally unpleasant.

Children with additional needs can experience negative attitudes from church workers – whether it’s the ushers, elders, Sunday School teachers and/or pastors. Their experiences can be compounded by the attitude of other children.

Negative attitudes to additional-needs children are often demonstrated when a child shouts in church, and these can be extended to siblings and family members.

There are also those instances when a

child with additional needs attends Sunday school. The teacher sometimes lacks the skill, right equipment or material to engage the child in the lessons.

In addition, our church environmentsour buildings and access - are not always wheelchair friendly, and our services - with their excessive lighting and high noise levels – are not particularly good for the sensory needs of a child living with autism. Space can be a problem too.

Just by making reasonable minor adjustments, we can make the church environment more conducive to everyone: the able-bodied, the physically challenged, and the families with children who have additional needs.

My work as founder of The Father’s Joy charity entails working with the vulnerable and advocating on their behalf. This has included running vocational educational programmes for widows, orphans and the homeless at our Empowerment Training Centre in Nigeria; supplying sanitary products for female prisoners in Malawi; giving practical support to the Eruwa School for the Blind in Nigeria; and working alongside churches – here in the UK and abroad – so they are better able to support families raising children with additional needs via our Angel Special Needs Programme.

We do this by running seminars to educate church leadership and congregations on what an inclusive church looks like and how they can better support children with special needs. We also host a WhatsApp group for parents, where they can pose questions or share their concerns about looking after a child with additional needs. We hold regular prayer events and we also have access to a holiday home in Spain, where primary carers and siblings can go to get respite from caring for loved ones.

The Father’s Joy is passionate about building a community where everyone feels a sense of belonging, is loved, and given access to all they need to flourish.

As we head towards Christmas, I implore you, please, to be intentional in including our children – God’s masterpieces – in your Christmas programmes, parties and activities. They have been created anew in Christ Jesus for the work He has prepared for them in advance.

Let’s help them become all that God has called them to be.

www.keepthefaith.co.uk 29
Victoria Lawrence calls on the Church to be more inclusive and supportive of children with additional needs this Christmas and in the year ahead
Victoria Lawrence is the founder of The Father’s Joy, a charity that empowers people through training and development here in the UK and in Africa. For more information email info@thefathersjoy.org.uk

SET YOURSELF UP TO ACHIEVE YOUR GOALS IN 2023

Leading executive coach, Carol Stewart, shares tips on how you can make reaching your goals a reality in 2023

Every year, at the beginning of January, millions of people make New Year resolutions, only to abandon them within weeks. A study from Scranton University found that only 19 per cent of people keep their resolutions.

Instead of setting New Year’s resolutions, set goals instead. Setting goals gives you a plan and tangible action steps to move you forward. As humans, we are goal-oriented, always striving to achieve something. Goals are essential to giving our lives meaning and purpose. Without them, we would wander through life aimlessly.

But why do some of us achieve our goals, whereas some of us don’t? Here are five reasons, together with suggestions of what you can do about it.

A lack of purpose

People often align their goals to external motivators, but intrinsically motivating goals that stem from your core values are naturally enjoyable, engaging, authentic and rewarding.

People who strive to achieve intrinsically motivating goals tend to work harder at pursuing them, increasing their chances of success.

Too vague

Merely stating that your goal is to grow your business, to get rich, or to lose weight is not very specific. What does this mean in reality? Is it to grow your business by one new client, by 20 new clients, or expand into new markets?

Make your goals SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-framed). This way you will know exactly what you want to achieve, that it is within your capability, and when you expect to achieve it.

Set goals for what you want to achieve. It is easier to visualise what you want, as opposed to what you don’t want, and it is also more empowering.

Overwhelming

If your goal is too big, it can feel scary. Also, the more you have riding on the outcome, the more fear you feel. This happens because our brains trigger the fight-or-flight response. This was fine back in the day, when fight or flight was necessary for our survival, but it doesn’t really help us now!

If you get overwhelmed at the thought of pursuing big goals, rather than trying to take enormous steps, break down what needs to be done into smaller steps. This will be less stressful and make it easier for you to achieve your goal.

Shiny object syndrome

Are you easily distracted by ‘shiny objects’ - things that tempt you away from the task in hand? Temptation is said to be the mother of procrastination, and with so many distractions around you, it is easy to be drawn in and give in to it.

Social media, checking emails, following link after link on the Internet, all these temptations lure you in and, before you know it, the damage is done. And you’ve wasted a whole day without achieving anything significant.

Procrastinators are said to be less healthy, less wealthy, less happy and perform worse than non-procrastinators. If you don’t want to be ruled by distractions, then eliminate or reduce them. Switch off social media notifications when you’re focused on working towards your goal. Turn off email notifications and only check them at certain times of the day.

Losing motivation

Not seeing results quickly enough, prolonged periods of boredom, having to do things they don’t enjoy doing (as well as the reasons mentioned above) are some of the reasons why people lose motivation. If you find you are losing motivation, here are a few things that may help:

Pray about it

• Give yourself small rewards when you have achieved particular milestones

• Make working towards your goal fun and enjoyable

• Plan for motivational slumps by identifying your triggers and putting processes in place to accommodate these

• Get appropriate help. Do you need a coach to challenge your thinking, help you overcome self-limiting beliefs and obstacles, as well as providing accountability? Do you need to outsource or delegate the tasks you are not good at? Identify who can support you and enlist their help

• Stop beating yourself up. There will be days when you go off track because sometimes life gets in the way. Just pick yourself back up and continue

If you find yourself heading for one of these five reasons, apply these tips and remind yourself of your big Why (the reason you want to achieve this goal and what it will bring you). And remember, you may make your plans, but God directs your steps.

Carol Stewart is an executive, career, leadership coach, speaker and trainer specialising in introverted women. She coaches women to lead with confidence, influence and impact. Her book, Quietly Visible: Leading with Influence and Impact as an Introverted Woman, is available at https://amzn.to/2Zeqty2 Visit www.aboundingsolutions.com for more information.

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A TIME FOR RACIAL JUSTICE!

Race for Justice is a new book that I edited, which aims to capture the ‘journeys to racial justice’ that the individual British and Irish church denominations and groups have been on since the inception of Racial Justice Sunday (RJS) in 1995. RJS marked its 25th anniversary in 2020, and this book was conceived to mark that anniversary.

I believe that Race for Justice is being published at a crucial time in our history, as it explores the racial justice-related challenges facing Church and society in Britain and Ireland. The killing of George Floyd in the USA in May 2020 resulted in nearly all British church denominations and Christian groupings condemning the murder and calling for change. The braver ones also decided to act, and established taskforces and commissions to both assess the situation and address the problem. Many church leaders later spoke about the challenging, painful nature of this important task. Race for Justice not only chronicles this recent journey, but also encapsulates what took place prior to this.

countries questioning their relationship with the one-time ‘Mother country’, Britain. These discussions took place after earlier Royal visits to the Caribbean by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and later the Earl and Countess of Wessex, which were meant to celebrate Britain’s historic and ongoing associations with that region but were overshadowed by calls for republicanism and slavery-related reparations.

In Britain, there are similar conversations taking place regarding enslavement, ‘freedom’ and reparations. Many Black Britons have joined with their Caribbean counterparts in calling upon the British Government to apologise for Britain’s role in African enslavement, and to effect reparations to the descendants of enslaved Africans. It is instructive to note that over the last decade, conversations pertaining to reparations have gained real Transatlantic traction. In the Caribbean, the Caricom countries (the English-speaking Caribbean version of the EU) have a ten-point plan for reparations involving Britain. In the USA, African American politicians and scholars have debated the issue in the US Senate, while in Britain, there is now an All-Party Parliamentary Group of MPs in Westminster exploring reparations and what they mean for the UK.

From a church perspective, virtually all the historic denominations in Britain are investigating their involvement in African enslavement, and the ways in which they may have profited from this nefarious endeavour. In recent months, the Quakers, the United Reformed Church and the World Baptist Alliance have all apologised for their roles in African enslavement and are exploring reparations.

undoubtedly inspire more young women and girls to play the sport, the notion that ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’ will arguably hinder some from participating. During that football tournament, the BBC spoke to young, Black and Brown British female footballers from the Football Beyond Borders education charity, who said they struggled to identify with the women currently representing the national side. These women also lamented that the team did not reflect the ethnic mix of the men’s international line-up. The English football authorities take real pride in celebrating the ethnic diversity of their squad, even though they appear reluctant to appoint a Black player as captain!

It is easy to regard racial justice as an unnecessary, nebulous affair - something affecting others, which is outside of our experience. Race for Justice was published around the time of the death of Her Majesty the Queen, Elizabeth II, which, among other issues, saw many African and Caribbean

These conversations form a wider discussion on equality, diversity and inclusion in British society that was catalysed after the aforementioned killing of George Floyd. As I write this piece, the men’s FIFA World Cup is about to take place in Qatar. Many in England want their men to replicate the success of the women’s football team at the Euros earlier this year. While the Lionesses’ success may

The desire for greater diversity and inclusion is very much part of the zeitgeist for our society. For some, it is linked to the culture wars, and is indicative of troublesome ‘woke’ folks who want to disrupt the status quo. For others, it is linked to the necessary attempt for greater inclusion, and the creation of opportunities for those on the margins. For the Church, this should mean that all those made in the image of God are given the opportunities to use their talents, skills and abilities to build up the Body of Christ, the Church. My book, Race for Justice explores how the churches can truly reflect God’s heart for justice and be places and spaces of equity that can show our troubled society what real justice looks like.

www.keepthefaith.co.uk 31
Richard Reddie, editor of new book, Race for
Justice, shares the role churches can play in creating a society where racial equality is the norm

FOOD THOUGHT

COVID

Two years ago, many people across the world had their first Christmas away from their families due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the worldwide lockdown that was put in place to combat the spread of disease.

On reflection, it was a very lonely and painful time for many, and now that the world has returned somewhat to normal, people are truly enjoying and relishing the opportunity to socialise in person with others. The COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown made us recognise how much we truly need to be amongst others; the importance of relationships; and why it’s necessary to treat each other with love, kindness and care.

This year we are entering a different type of Christmas season – one where people are feeling cash-strapped due to the cost-of-living crisis, made even more acute by the seemingly unstoppable increase in energy prices.

It’s going to be a hard Christmas for some, especially for the vulnerable, the unemployed and those on a low income, and it’s during times like these that the Church and its members need to live out their faith by offering words of encouragement and hope, as well as providing practical support to those in need. Scriptures says that we must.

The Word of God gives life and hope. King David wrote: ‘My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to Your Word’ (Psalm 119:28). We know there are many who are finding the cost-of-living crisis wearisome

and worrying, but we can comfort them with God’s Word and give them hope. Remind them God can provide – even during difficult times.

The Word of God makes it clear: believers must offer more than pious platitudes to those in need. James 2:14-17 states: ‘What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.’

Know who your frenemies are

There’s been a story that recently went viral on social media about Shanquella Robinson, a 25-yearold American woman, who went on holiday to Mexico with her friends and came back in a body bag.

An anonymously released video showed the talented hair braider being beaten by a woman she thought was her friend. At the time of writing, the Mexican police authorities and FBI are investigating the cause of her death.

The reason I’m bringing up this case is because, should God spare our lives, there’s no need for us to enter 2023 with frenemies. You know the ones – those individuals who pretend to be your friends but aren’t. In fact, not only do they dislike us, but they also don’t want anything good to happen for us either, and will take part in activities designed to pull us down.

There are so many ways Christians can offer practical support. We can do it on a one-to-one basis; volunteer at a charity/ social enterprise that helps those in need; or contribute financially to a good cause. This is what ‘loving your neighbour’ looks like.

Christmas is always a great time of the year to show the love of God in all its glory – in both word and deed. And with the current struggles we know are ahead, there’s no better time to do so than now.

GOD HAS THE FINAL SAY

As this year comes to an end and a new one is about to begin, people set their goals and make their plans on what they would like to achieve. There are even some individuals, who, when setting out their aims, create elaborate graphs to plot the actions they need to undertake to reach their goals. On one hand this is a good thing to do. It makes sense to know the work involved in fulfilling one’s plans.

However, whatever plans we have for 2023, it’s worth remembering that God has His plans for us too. Proverbs 16:1 says: ‘We may make our plans, but God has the last word.’

So, my word for you is yes, make your plans and set your goals, but be mindful that God might intervene and set you off on a different path. Proverbs 16:9 makes this fact clear: ‘You may make your plans, but God directs your actions.’

God will always have the final say.

Because people like this exist, it’s important to stay close to God. He will let you know who is for you, who is against you and will protect you from any evil schemes. God promises to not let our enemies or frenemies have victory over us.

If you find yourself surrounded by frenemies, here are some Scriptures to meditate on whilst you make plans to drop them.

‘If you listen carefully to what (the angel) says and do all that I say, I will be an enemy to your enemies and will oppose those who oppose you.’ (Exodus 23:22)

‘When the Lord takes pleasure in anyone’s way, He causes their enemies to make peace with them.’ (Proverbs 16:7)

‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ (Romans 12:20)

Amen.

32 Find us on Twitter and Facebook: @KeepTheFaithmag
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with the love of Christ this Christmas
‘Christmas is always a great time of the year to show the love of God in all its glory – in both word and deed.’

BEYOND GOD’S REACH?

The historian, Josephus, says Pilate offended the Jewish people by bringing imperial standards bearing the emperor’s image into Jerusalem; used the temple treasury to pay for a new aqueduct; and ordered those who protested to be beaten with clubs.

Later, when Pilate allowed his troops to slaughter a group of Samaritans near Mount Gerizim, he was recalled to Rome to face the emperor.

He arrived in March 37AD and, although some say he was executed by Caligula or committed suicide, others believe that the case was either forgotten, put on hold or dismissed.

The four Gospels, however, tend to show the Roman governor as both wilful and easily intimidated.

The second century theologian, Tertullian, described Pilate as someone ‘who himself also in his own conscience had become a Christian’ – with the sixth century church father, Augustine, writing: ‘It could not… be torn from his heart that Jesus was the King of the Jews, but was fixed there, as in the superscription, by the truth itself.’

It was thanks to this and the appearance of various apocryphal manuscripts that a number of Coptic and Ethiopian Christians eventually believed that Pilate became a Christian.

The fourth century Gospel of Nicodemus portrays him as a convert who blamed the Jews for Jesus’ death, while the fifth century Paradosis Pilati shows Pilate being martyred for following Jesus. (A similar story appears in the medieval Gospel of Gamaliel and the

Martyrium Pilati or Homily on the Death of Pilate.)

The fifth or sixth century Ethiopic Book of the Cock (or Rooster) shows Jesus curing Pilate’s allegedly deaf-mute daughters and forgiving the Roman governor for his part in Jesus’ crucifixion.

So, although the West eventually regarded him as a weak, capricious and cynical official who was probably punished for his sins, the Eastern Church tended to view Pilate more sympathetically.

Interestingly, according to Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835-1908), who some believed to be ‘the Promised Messiah and Mahdi’, Pontius Pilate ‘was actually a follower of Jesus’. The Islamic leader also wrote: ‘When Caesar of Rome came to know that Pilate the Governor had helped Jesus escape from death on the cross in a deceitful way… Pilate was thrown in prison… and then beheaded.’

Whatever the truth concerning the man who asked: “What is truth?”, the possibility of Pilate’s conversion – real or imagined –reminds us that no one is too far from Christ to receive God’s mercy.

The sympathetic 1961 film, Barabbas, even depicts its eponymous anti-hero as a reluctant convert – the rabblerouser, Bar Abbas (‘the son of the father’), apparently becoming a follower of Abba, our heavenly Father.

Perhaps there’s someone in your life who seems far from God or appears unyieldingly resistant to the Gospel. Maybe you’ve even despaired of a parent, sibling, child, spouse or close friend ever accepting Christ’s love.

The Bible reminds us ‘God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life’ (John 3:16).

Scripture is full of unlikely converts. Take Manasseh, the wicked king who erected shrines to Baal; made an Asherah pole; built altars to the starry hosts in the temple; bowed down and worshipped them; sacrificed his son in the fire; practised divination; and consulted mediums and spiritists (2 Kings 21:2-16).

Or what about Saul, who approved of Stephen’s stoning (Acts 7:55-8:1), and was determined to imprison the disciples (Acts 9:1-3)?

But Saul, as we know, later became known as the apostle Paul (Acts 13:9).

Manasseh, despite his evil practices, also had a happy ending. He eventually humbled himself; destroyed the altars to Baal; got rid of the image in the temple; restored the altar of the Lord; sacrificed fellowship and thank offerings to God; and told Judah to serve Him (2 Chronicles 33:12-16).

So let’s not give in or give up on our gospel witness and prayers. If God can call Manasseh or Saul to Himself, He can call anyone.

Although no one knows what really happened to Pilate, we do know that – for those who are still alive – there is hope.

The criminal in Luke 23:40-43 may possibly have spent a lifetime rebelling against God but, on the cross, he realised who Jesus was, and asked Jesus to remember him when He came into His Kingdom.

Let’s pray that Jesus’ response –“Today you will be with Me in paradise” – will apply to those we love who have yet to enter His Kingdom.

Gary Clayton is married to Julie, the father of Christopher (18) and Emma (15) and works for Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF). To learn how MAF’s fleet of 120 light aircraft serve people in some of Africa’s remotest and most isolated areas, visit www.maf-uk.org

Pontius Pilate is a complex character.
34 Find us on Twitter and Facebook: @KeepTheFaithmag

WHEN WERE YOU HUNGRY?

Two years of no rain - that is the absence of four seasons of short and long rains - is the reality in the Horn of Africa. This climatic catastrophe is further exacerbated by decades of conflict, mass displacement and severe economic challenges.

As I flew into Nairobi, I accessed a local television news item showing schoolchildren during their morning school break, digging up plant roots to supplement their meagre diets in Meru County in northern Kenya.

There is a famine of biblical proportions taking place in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and South Sudan that is intensifying outside of the vision of most Western Christians. This cataclysmic event is being ignored by the Western press as not yet newsworthy enough to be placed as a high priority for the nations or their multinational agencies, such as the United Nations World Food Organisation.

How is it that over 22 million people can be facing the looming threat of famine in the Horn of Africa, and we do not see them? They are invisible, as our television screens and other communication devices are awash with news and documentaries of the recent death of Queen Elizabeth II and the political shenanigans of the British Conservative party leadership struggles.

Each day, as delayed rains worsen the extreme drought in the Horn of Africa, more livestock are dying; food is harder to come by; children are dropping out of schools; and health centres are filling with mothers and their severely malnourished children.

Pastural communities, faced by the worst drought in half of a century, are pushing their livestock further south to greener pastures. They are encountering farmers whose crops are being eaten by the pasturing animals, and this is leading to ethnic clashes in Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan and Somalia.

Churches amongst the African and Caribbean communities in the UK have a responsibility to raise the call for urgent action by governments and international agencies to avert this looming crisis. Some church leaders are beginning to respond to the invisible suffering of the people of the Horn of Africa.

When Jesus spoke to the disciples in Matthew 25, He articulated the experiences of millions of God’s children who are hungry and thirsty, imprisoned and invisible. How is it that international development issues such as the above never make it to our prayer meetings, Bible studies, preachments and

worship convocations? It’s because they don’t fit in well with our desire for a ‘spirituality without warts’ - similar to our consumeristic desire for supermarket bananas without black spots on the skins.

The further away we can fill our lives with the good living we wish for ourselves - even if it is at the expense of our brothers and sisters overseas - the more we can bolster our ego that we are “blessed and highly favoured”. We need a new consciousness that must also allow global needs to become our issues, taking a higher priority on our agendas. This consciousness should start with a frank discussion between Black-majority churches in the UK and faith-based development agencies, who claim to be representing us and spending our missions and aid finances.

Ron Nathan writes about the major famine facing Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and South Sudan, and calls on UK Christians to advocate on their behalf
www.keepthefaith.co.uk 35
Rev Ronald A. Nathan is the Caribbean Consultant to the National Church Leaders Forum (UK) and Director of the Commission on Relief and Development of the Evangelical Association of the Caribbean and the World Politics Editor of the Star of Zion Newspapers.

EXPERIENCE OPTIMUM HEALTH AND FITNESS

On your marks, get set...GO!

It’s that time of year where the colder, darker days can leave us feeling pressured, burnt-out, and with lower energy levels than usual. With Christmas looming, we’re getting ready to indulge in all the festive foods and drink. But did you ever stop to consider those ingredients that cannot be pronounced, or the abundance of highly processed, ‘chemically produced’ sugar tucked away inside those delightful addictive dishes and drinks we are about to digest?

Be intentional

As we head towards the New Year with good intentions, it can be easy to fall victim to temptation as we overindulge, seemingly bursting at the seams, beyond the capacity of our stomachs.

Then comes the famous mantra, ‘New Year, new me’. How many times have we heard that phrase, where many decide that a New Year means New Beginnings and think: “I am a new creature in Christ, all things I ate yesterday that made me feel unhealthy and unworthy have passed away and a new life has begun”? Wouldn’t that be great, if only it were true?

During this time there is an urge to scroll through social media looking for an instant diet, or look through the address book for that good family member for the best ‘bitters’ to help purge out the system. Sadly, the father of lies is always trying to lead people astray - away from the healthy path - and, by the time the month of love appears, they will put down the sword of victory in exchange for the spirit of defeat.

So I ask you to pause and reflect and ask yourself why you’re waiting for the New Year when you can start creating healthy habits today! The good news is that starting early means you don’t have to train excessively when the New Year arrives. Remember, ‘the race is not to the swift’ (Ecclesiastes 9:11) and, if you start now, you can set yourself easily achievable goals.

Top tips for winter wellness

I am here to let you know that you’re not alone in the challenges faced this season. In fact, to provide you with a bit of inspiration, here are my seven top tips for your winter wellness:

1. Keep active as you enter the New Year. This will help ward off unwanted health conditions and disease that will age your body. Why not listen to your favourite praise songs while you’re doing the cleaning? Having God as your ‘cleaning partner’ will release the happy hormones, lower blood pressure, increase energy levels and clear out the toxins holding your body captive.

2. Use a health and fitness planner to ensure that you record the days of the week you wish to be active. Check out my FREE health tracker that will help you to keep on track, https://www.scriptfit.com/KTF/BONUS

3. Look for an exercise group or accountability partner to help motivate you.

4. Eating well is more than just eating salad for the rest of the year and into the next! It’s about eating a balanced diet consistently.

5. Chew your food properly, particularly throughout the festive season. This will help improve nutrient absorption and help you feel fuller, so you avoid overeating.

6. Practise fasting for improved blood sugar control, weight loss, improved mood and, of course, a more intimate and powerful relationship with God.

7. Increase your intake of zinc and vitamin D3. Zinc deficiency symptoms have similarities to COVID-19 symptoms! These include loss of taste and smell, loss of appetite, and low immune function. Sea moss is the perfect antidote, as it contains 92 of the 102 essential vitamins (including vitamin D3 and zinc).

Get started today

Did you know that sea moss (the main ingredient used for Irish moss drinks) is a great source of antioxidants and has a huge list of benefits? It helps suppress appetite (for weight loss), improves metabolism, boosts mental health, reduces inflammation (including fibromyalgia), and strengthens the immune system. Why not kick-start your health journey and sign up to the 30-day Sea Moss Challenge before the end of the year at www.scriptfit.com You can invest in some - available at www.scriptfit.com - to help protect your cells from viruses, such as cold, flu and even COVID-19 this winter.

It is never too late to do something good for yourself if you want to feel better, be healthier, live longer and live out a purpose that you were uniquely created to do.

Olivia Williams is founder of ScriptFit, a qualified health and fitness coach, personal trainer, weight loss and exercise specialist, nutritionist and public speaker. For more information visit www.scriptfit.com

Health and fitness expert, Olivia Williams, shares how to keep your health and fitness on track during the Christmas season and in 2023

OVERCOMING THE CHRISTMAS BLUES

Christmas is traditionally a season of goodwill, gifts, goofiness and glitter. The joy of Christmas, however, is not a universal experience, and Christmas can be an emotionally challenging time for many for several reasons. The end of another year can be a reminder of unachieved goals and unrealised dreams. It can resurrect sad memories of loved ones who have been lost to death, conflict or distance. Family reunions can be fraught with the complexities of managing difficult relationships, and the financial pressure associated with inevitable Christmas expenses adds more to the anguish this season can create. Feelings of loneliness, anxiety, sadness, depression, and even suicidal thinking at its extremes are probable outcomes. The easy accessibility to alcohol (which is itself a potent mood depressant) and disruption of normal sleep rhythms introduce another layer of complexity into the mix.

APPRAISAL

The ironic, emotional turmoil associated with Christmas can be curtailed by careful planning, and a review of past Christmas seasons can be a pivotal first step. Reflecting on what has caused you angst in the past can be insightful. For example, do you have a budget in place for your spending? Which family member or friend tends to be unkind in their manners or comments? How do you aim to deal with that? A good plan is to be intentionally kind and gracious, and to avoid any dramas or baits to pick a fight. By now, most people know the potential hot-point themes to avoid at their own family dinner table.

ACTION

There are a few things to consider when addressing potential emotional triggers. Loneliness can be a precipitant for sadness and anxiety, but joy can be found outside the traditional activities by keeping busy through selfless giving. There is sufficient research to back the notion that acts of kindness reduce anxiety and depression in the giver. A few ideas to consider are volunteering with the Salvation Army; singing carols in a nursing or

residential home; reading Christmas stories to children in a hospice; or serving Christmas dinner to the homeless via your local food bank or hostel. If you’ll be visiting family or spending Christmas away from home, it’s a good idea to liaise with the charitable service providers in the area you’ll be visiting. Do this weeks ahead of Christmas. Donating to a charity in honour of a departed loved one can also be uplifting.

AFFORDABILITY

If your Christmas budget is limited this year, putting a high premium on thoughtful, home-made gifts is an option to explore. Each year consumer debts are accumulated on account of Christmas overspending, resulting in a spike in feelings of anxiety and depression early in the new year. Rethinking Christmaswith the reminder that love, kindness, courtesy, empathetic listening, quality time and goodwill are among the presents we can offer - can be liberating. Christmas is an annual event, and it is always worth remembering to keep this in perspective.

deprivation. The point here is that physical self-care is equally as important as mental health self-care during the festivities. If you drink, set a limit within the healthy recommendation by the Department of Health, which is not more than 14 units weekly. If you are at risk of going overboard, agreeing a prompt or check from a spouse, family member or friend is a good way to plan ahead.

ALLOWANCE

It is key to factor in some downtime to be alone so you can reflect, relax and re-energise during the festive period. Planning a daily walk, keeping a gratitude journal and making time to pray and contemplate the year ahead are as crucial to emotional health as spending time with friends and family. Other activities, such as listening to worship music, talking with confidants, enjoying hot baths, gardening, or cuddling a pet, can also provide a soothing outlet and should be scheduled into your day.

Research has suggested there is a spike in the number of heart attacks and heart failures around the Christmas season, peaking on Christmas Eve. One study found a 37% increased risk on Christmas Eve and a 20% increased risk on New Year’s Eve. The plausible reasons are the stress, anger, anxiety, sadness, grief that are prevalent in the season. The other factors considered as contributory are a spike in excessive drinking, excessive food consumption, exposure to cold, night-time temperatures (from being outside), and sleep

For those with a mental health condition, it is expedient to adhere to your treatment; stay in touch with mental health service providers; and proactively seek the local contact details of service providers in the area you will be travelling to.

Let’s all make this Christmas a joyous and a fulfilling one.

Dr T. Ayodele Ajayi MBchB FRCPsych is a consultant psychiatrist, founder and convener of the Tripart Care Emotional Wellbeing Hub and has a YouTube channel called TriPart Care.
www.keepthefaith.co.uk 37
Dr T. Ayodele Ajayi shares how to cope with the challenges the Christmas/New Year season brings by having a Christmas mental health self-care plan

’TIS THE SEASON TO PRACTISE SELF-CARE

It’s the Christmas holidays and time for some rest and renewal. You’ve worked hard; it’s been a tough year for many, but now it’s time to laugh, love and have fun. Intentional downtime to rest and prioritise self-care will make you more alert, focused and creative when you return to the office.

Frankly speaking, rest makes us all better people who are more fun to be around!

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us have leaned into the important things in life and considering the bigger picture. Self-care isn’t selfish, and relaxation isn’t lazy. Christmas reminds us of what’s important, and nothing is more vital than our health and well-being. Therefore, we must remain in the present; focus on what we can control; and stay positive. Crucially, don’t worry. Be kind to yourself and appreciate who you are.

The Word of God has a lot to say when it comes to focusing on the positive and not the negative. Three of my favourite Scriptures that remind me we can choose to set our minds on God’s best are:

Hebrews 12:2 - ‘Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.’

Colossians 3:2 – ‘Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.’

Philippians 4:8 – ‘Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things.’

Determine what is your responsibility and what

isn’t and look for opportunities to laugh more during this festive period. We owe it to ourselves to do this; the last few years have been so intense. We deserve to laugh more, looking serious all the time isn’t spiritual! Sometimes you see Christians in church looking so straightfaced. Make sure you spend this Christmas hanging around funny encouraging people.

The Word of God says: ‘A happy heart is good medicine, and a cheerful mind works healing, but a broken spirit dries up the bones’ (Proverbs 17:22). Always remember, ‘the joy of the Lord is your strength’ (Nehemiah 8:10).

The great thing about Christmas is that it is known as the season of giving. Even though, as Christians, generosity is something that should be second nature to us, we can ramp up kindness at this time of year. Why? Because often, when we focus on other people’s needs, it prevents us from thinking about ourselves, so cultivate a mindful approach to the holiday season.

When spending time with your friends and family, wherever possible, look for people who may be spending Christmas on their own. Check on neighbours and spread some good cheer. Christmas is a catalyst that can fuel isolation and loneliness, and this time of year can genuinely be tricky for some – especially those who have lost loved ones in 2022 – and it will be incredibly hard. We may not always have the words, but just turning up on someone’s doorstep could make a world of difference to their day.

Recently, someone in our neighbourhood died suddenly; it was a shock. I went to the family’s home and mustered up some words...

and put a small financial gift in an envelope for them. It was a five-minute visit that let them know they are not alone. To the best of my knowledge, they’re not a Christian family, but in that moment, we showed them Jesus.

Be the hands and feet of Jesus this Christmas. In her book, Overload, Joyce Meyer says: ‘The moment we put the needs of another ahead of our own, stress begins to fade away. It’s nearly impossible to bless somebody else and worry about yourself at the same time.’

Finally, please don’t stress about anything. When God is in control, stress has no place. Christmas is not about material things; I’ve been telling my children for the last few months: “You are getting one gift each and that is it,” because it’s not about acquiring ‘things’ and they need to understand that. This time of year is about family, friends and togetherness – nothing else. And one last thing: family are those you can be the true version of yourself with.

So, kick back, relax, recharge and determine in 2023 to submit every decision in your life to God. Live in peace and schedule in time every month to be kind to yourself.

Esther Kuku writes that we should use this Christmas and New Year season to rest, laugh, enjoy time with family and friends, and focus on self-care and mental well-being
38 Find us on Twitter and Facebook: @KeepTheFaithmag
and communications director.
‘This time of year is about family, friends and togetherness –nothing else.’

MAF is the world’s largest humanitarian air service bringing hope help and healing to those in need.

It’s been another tough year, hasn’t it? Practically everything costs much more than it did at the start of 2022. And fuel – of all kinds – remains incredibly expensive.

Sadly, the fuel that ensures MAF aircraft can bring help to men, women and children in the depths of their isolation is no exception. As prices rise, the cost of our lifesaving flights to remote airstrips continues to soar.

MAF has worked tirelessly throughout this year to ensure that the fleet continues its unique Gospel mission. However, unprecedented price rises are now taking their toll.

The situation is serious

This winter, we are asking for you to help fuel the fleet through the act of making a gift that will help us close the price gap and continue our transformational work. What’s more, thanks to a generous supporter, your gift will be DOUBLED, so you will make twice the impact if you donate today!

What your gifts translate into remains simple and vital: another flight to someone who is desperate for help, hope and healing. Will you help MAF today? We can’t take off without you.

Give today by scanning the QR code or visiting: www.maf-uk.org/ktf2

FREEPOST RTKH–HJEY–BTJL, MAF UK, Castle House, Castle Hill Avenue FOLKESTONE CT20 2TQ

Registered charity in England and Wales (1064598) and in Scotland (SC039107)

® Registered trademark 3026860, 3026908, 3026915

HELP US TO FUEL THE FLEET A gift of £30 will fuel a 12-minute flight Please consider giving a gift today. I want to Gift Aid this donation and any donations I make in the future or have made in the past four years to Mission Aviation Fellowship UK. I am a UK taxpayer and understand that if I pay less Income Tax and/or Capital Gains Tax than the amount of Gift Aid claimed on all my donations in that tax year it is my responsibility to pay any difference. Make your gift go even further with Gift Aid To make a gift by telephone, please phone our Supporter Relations team on 01303 852819 or you can give online at www.maf-uk.org/ktf2 £ Here is my gift of: to help fuel our fleet PLEASE USE BLOCK CAPITALS TITLE FULL NAME ADDRESS POSTCODE I enclose my cheque made payable to MAF UK Please debit my card account CharityCard, MasterCard, Visa (please circle card type) SIGNATURE DATE DD / MM / YY Card number (3 digits on the back of your card) Valid from date Expiry date CSV code GET THE INSIDE STORY! For over 75 years, MAF has been flying to the most isolated locations in the world. Tick the box to receive inspirational updates, real-life stories and interesting country facts you can’t read anywhere else. We are committed to protecting your privacy, and promise to respect your personal information and do all we can to keep it safe. This includes not selling
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As we enter this Christmas season - a special time of celebration, thanksgiving and time spent with loved ones and friends - let’s remember those who will be alone and those who can’t wait to say farewell to what may have been a year of huge challenges. The last thing they will want to do is to celebrate Christmas without any human connection.

So why not reach out to someone who might be lonely over the Christmas? More than ever before, we need to connect with one another. We all have it in our power to reduce loneliness for at least one person, whether that’s through making a phone call, sending a Christmas card or connecting with them using an online video platform such as Zoom.

If you’re planning to use Zoom to connect with someone, I would like to share some tips and tricks to help you get started.

First, head over to www.zoom.us in your browser. The platform is compatible with Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS and Android, but the layout may be slightly different depending on whether you are on desktop or mobile.

If you click on the ‘Plans & Pricing’ tab, then you will see the different plans available. Feel free to sign up to the Basic (free) plan that will provide you with virtual meetings for up to 40 minutes. You can have up to 100 participants, 1-on-1 meetings and meetings with multiple participants. When your time is up, you can simply restart a meeting if need be. The free option also includes private and group chats.

You can also sign up to Zoom’s Pro package for a small monthly fee that will unlock additional features, including an increase in meeting duration limits, cloud recording, storage and much more.

Now you are ready to start.

On the www.zoom.us click on ‘Your Account’ (top right) to manage your profile. You can change details under the ‘Profile’, such as your name, picture, default meeting ID, password and time zone. Next, click on ‘Settings’. Here, you can adjust settings implemented by default, including whether you want the waiting room (whether participants can join a scheduled meeting before the host arrives) to be enabled or whether video or audio are automatically enabled when you or participants join a meeting.

In the interests of security, you should make sure you use strong passwords.

Zoom video tutorials can be located at https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us, but to help

WHO WILL YOU ZOOM THIS CHRISTMAS?

Paul Morrison shares how to utilise Zoom to connect with someone over the Christmas season

you set up your first get-together, I have included some basics instructions below.

How to schedule your first get-together

1. Sign in to your Zoom web portal

2. Click Meetings

3. Click Schedule a Meeting

4. Choose the date and time for your meeting

5. (Optional) Select any other settings you would like to use

6. Click Save

How to start a test meeting

You can join a test Zoom meeting to familiarise yourself with the Zoom and test your microphone/ speakers before joining a Zoom meeting. Visit zoom.us/test and click Join.

How to start your first get-together as the host

As the meeting host, there are several ways you can start your meeting. Your upcoming meetings will be listed in the ‘Meetings’ tab of your Zoom desktop or mobile app. You can click Start by the meeting name. You can also start your get-together from the Zoom web portal.

1. Sign in to your Zoom web portal

2. Click Meetings

3. Under Upcoming, click Start (next to the meeting you want to start)

4. The Zoom client should launch automatically to start the meeting

What can I do in a meeting?

Once you have started or joined a meeting, you can perform the following actions from the menu bar.

• Invite more friends and family to join by email, IM, SMS (mobile users) or meeting ID

• Screen-share your desktop to show family photos and video clips

• Have a private or group chat

• Host controls

• Mute/unmute audio

• Stop/start video

• Leave or end the video get-together

I hope this will give you enough information to help you set up your online get-together with someone this Christmas.

Remember that Jesus came down from heaven to be with you. That is the true meaning of Christmas. Love so great that it knows no bounds or distance.

May the light of faith illuminate our hearts and shine in all our words and deeds, through Him who is Jesus Christ the Lord. Amen.

Paul Morrison, a global award-winner, is the UK education lead at Zoom.

He is founder of idare2inspire and chair of the professional advisory board at the University of West Scotland.

“Let’s show thankfulness to God through the way we reach out to others this Christmas.”
40 Find us on Twitter and Facebook: @KeepTheFaithmag

This Lung Cancer Awareness Month, Doctor Bakare urges the Black community to recognise lung cancer symptoms

• Lung cancer is the third most common cancer in England with around 39,990 cases diagnosed each year

• Around 89% of those diagnosed with lung cancer are aged 60 and over

• In 2019, lung cancer accounted for 12% of all cancer diagnoses in England and 20% of all cancer deaths

• Over 60% of those diagnosed with stage 1 lung cancer have a five-year survival rate compared to just 4% for those diagnosed later.

Lung cancer referrals were slow to recover since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, despite being a leading cause of cancer death. A GP is speaking out, during Lung Cancer Awareness Month, as new data shows that xx% of Black people do not know that a persistent cough for over three weeks could be a sign of the deadly disease.

Dr Seun Bakare, GP Clinical Lead for Urgent Care, who is supporting the NHS lung cancer campaign, is passionate about changing attitudes within the Black community, which can keep people from contacting their GP practice and delaying medical help.

“Some of us are apprehensive about seeing our GP if we think something is wrong, but if you or a loved one has had a cough for over three weeks, it’s time to make an appointment with your GP,” says Dr Bakare.

Dr Bakare understands that many people in the Black community believe suspected health problems, such as a cough, may work themselves out on their own and do not want to burden loved ones or seek advice before seeing their GP.

“We’re here to help, but we can only do that when you come into the GP surgery,” says Dr Bakare. “As the weather becomes colder, it’s quite normal to experience a cough or a cold. But a cough lasting more than three weeks could be a sign of lung cancer, so don’t wait around for it to disappear. It’s probably nothing to worry about, but if it is cancer, finding it early will make it easier to treat.”

Here, Dr Bakare answers some of the most common questions about lung cancer:

I thought only people who smoked who got lung cancer?

No. While smoking is a leading risk factor for lung cancer, it can also occur in people who have never smoked or stopped smoking.

Who can get lung cancer?

Anyone can get lung cancer - there is no single cause. People of any age and background can be diagnosed with the disease but it’s more likely to affect people over the age of 60.

What are the common symptoms of lung cancer?

As well as a persistent cough for more than three weeks, you should be on the lookout for coughing up blood, feeling out of breath when doing normal tasks and any aches or pain when breathing or coughing. Unexpected tiredness and weight loss are also common symptoms. If you or your loved one has any of these symptoms, please contact your GP right away.

What should I do if I’ve been coughing for more than three weeks?

Definitely make an appointment to see your GP as soon as you can. Your GP will ask about your general health and symptoms. They may examine you and ask you to breathe into a device called a spirometer, which measures how much air you breathe in and out. You may also be asked to have a blood test to rule out other possible causes, such as a chest infection.

What are the common causes of lung cancer?

As well as smoking, there are many risk factors because we are constantly inhaling chemicals from our environment. This could be in your workplace, air pollution or exposure to radon gas. Your risk may also be higher if you’ve had a lung disease before or if there’s a family history of lung cancer.

If you get an early diagnosis, what happens?

The GP will arrange for further tests to investigate the issue. This could be a chest x-ray, CT scan or bronchoscopy. The earlier you see your GP and a diagnosis is made, the earlier treatment can start - increasing the likelihood of survival.

About 1 in 3 people with the condition live for at least 1 year after they’re diagnosed and about 1 in 20 people live at least 10 years. However survival rates vary widely, depending on how far the cancer has spread at the time of diagnosis. Early diagnosis can make a big difference.

Where can I find more information?

For more information, visit www.nhs.uk/cancersymptoms

GP
Seun Bakare,
If you or a loved one has had a cough for over three weeks, it’s time to make an appointment with your GP”

HAVE A BLESSED 2023

The end of one year and the start of a new one is always a great time for reflection; to think about your present; and to plan how to make the forthcoming year a good one.

Here are some tips on how to make 2023 an enjoyable, fulfilling and purposeful year – with God at the centre.

LOVE GOD, LOVE PEOPLE, LOVE YOURSELF

Jesus said the most important commandments are to: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind,” and “Love your neighbour as yourself” (Luke 10:27). In 2023, aim to show your love for God by building a relationship with Him and serving Him with a pure heart, doing good to others and loving on yourself.

FOSTER GOOD RELATIONSHIPS

It’s so easy to love and build a relationship with God. Not so easy to do the same with people, though, especially when they purposely hurt, betray or malign us. However, having a deep relationship with God makes it easier to love others. If the people we’re trying to show love to are toxic or just plain obnoxious – and we don’t live with them - it’s best to keep our distance. If they are family, pray. Hard! And remember, if you want friends, it’s important to be a good friend.

LEAVE THE PAST IN THE PAST

We can accumulate feelings of shame, regret, pain and hurt as the years go by, and if not dealt with, they can foster resentment, disappointment, depression and even inertia. As we move into 2023, we should resolve to leave our past in the past. This may entail forgiving ourselves for our wrongdoing or poor decision-making, and forgiving others or making things right with those we have wronged. If we find it hard to leave the past behind, it might be worth receiving counselling, which can help us offload our burdens and trauma, so we can go through 2023 feeling emotionally free.

‘DOING SOMETHING NEW CAN BE DAUNTING BUT EXCITING; HOWEVER, THERE’S NOTHING LIKE BUILDING OUR CONFIDENCE IN GOD AND IN OUR SELF-BELIEF BY STEPPING OUT.’

TRY NEW THINGS

The phrase ‘stepping out your comfort zone’ is a well-worn one but so true. Life gets boring and stale when you do the same things all the time, and it’s good to participate in activities you’ve never done before. Leaving your comfort zone behind will inspire and uplift you in ways you never dreamt possible and open new doors of opportunity for you.

STEP UP AND STEP OUT

HAVE FAITH

Scriptures state that without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). Build your faith by studying God’s Word, believing it, and reiterating it when you experience times of difficulty and challenges in your life. It’s during such times you’ll experience God as your Comforter, Provider and Protector, and also as the One who answers prayers.

God is always inspiring us to either step up higher to pursue His purposes or our God-given dreams. When that time to step out arrives, we have to stand on those Scriptures that say ‘Fear not’; pray and ask God for guidance; and surround ourselves with wise counsellors who will give us the confidence to get out there and do what we feel led to do. Doing something new can be daunting but exciting; however, there’s nothing like building our confidence in God and in our self-belief by stepping out.

SEE THE WORLD

Travelling to different parts of the world remains

a great way to enjoy new experiences and see new things. Some can travel alone, whereas others want to travel but can’t find anyone to travel with. If that is the case for you, why not go on trips organised by either a church, a social club, a ministry or mission outreach? Not only will you have fun, but you’ll also meet new people and find the experience purposeful and spiritually meaningful.

FOCUS ON YOUR HEALTH

Your health is your wealth. If you lose it, you will struggle to achieve your goals and your God-given purpose. How do you maintain and improve your health? By having a healthy diet with fruit, vegetables, protein and healthy fats and not too much sugar or carbohydrates. Exercising is also important, even if it’s just a 30-minute walk each day. And take advantage of free NHS health checks for various illnesses - most diseases, if caught early, can be treated effectively.

PRAY

God is desirous to build a relationship with you, which you can do via prayer. Consider it as communication: you speak to God; He speaks to you. Share your hopes, fears, wants and needs. He’ll hear your prayers and answer them – and not always in the way you want! Be aware, though, that however God answers your requests (whether with a Yes, No or Wait), He will always have your best interests and spiritual growth at heart.

42 Find us on Twitter and Facebook: @KeepTheFaithmag

Give yourself an income boost

With the cost of living on the rise, Keep The Faith suggests ways you can earn some additional cash

The Media are currently filled with lots of stories on how prices for everything – including life essentials, like food, gas, electricity and petrol - are on the increase.

Price rises seem set to be a constant feature of life in the UK in the forthcoming months, so it makes sense to explore ways to boost your income.

Below are some ideas of how you can develop a side income during 2023.

Exploit your talent

Can you sew? Bake cakes? Good at graphic design? Make clothes or do alterations? If you have these skills, or others, you have the potential to make extra cash. You can sell your services to family, friends and/or advertise them on social media, or post your profile on sites like fiverr.com and people.com.

Recycle your old mobile phones

There is a market out there for your old phones - sites like compareandrecycle.com, sellmymobile.com and musicmagpie.com Each site will provide details on the steps you must take to get your phone valued, where to send it and how you’ll receive payment.

Get work on fiverr

If you have a skill set that people are willing to pay for, you should sign up to fiverr.com. It’s an international marketplace where people sell their services inexpensively. All you need to do is create a seller profile outlining your skills and services and publish it on site. If people are interested in your services they’ll contact you, tell you what they’re looking for and you give them a price. You’ll need a PayPal account to accept payment.

Be a mystery shopper

Businesses, especially those that are public-facing, often use the services of a mystery shopper – someone who poses as a customer to use a service or buy products of a particular business and then writes a report about their experience. If this kind of work is of interest, you can register with sites like mystery-shopper.co.uk, amberarch.co.uk or tern.co.uk for details of jobs.

Sell your old clothes online

Create a course

If you have an area of expertise you are qualified in, either through education or experience, you could create a course and sell it online. It takes time but is well worth it, and can prove lucrative. Search for information via Google on how to create and sell your course. Web platforms you can sell them on include udemy.com, kajabi.com or thinkific.com

Write, write, write

Can you write well? If so, you may be able to work from home writing articles for the web, blogs, adverts and more - and get paid too. Visit sites like upwork.com, uk.copify.com and peopleperhour.com for potential jobs.

Rent out your spare room

If you have a spare room in your home, consider renting it out to a lodger. You can earn up to £7500 tax free if you do this. You can find lodgers at general sites, like spareroom.co.uk or cohabitas.com, which specialise in helping people aged 40 and over find rooms or house-shares, or roomgo.co.uk

Complete online surveys for money

Do you spend a lot of time online? If so, you can make extra cash by filling in surveys. For a few minutes a time you can earn up to £3 per survey. Register to fill in surveys on various sites, including brandedsurvey.com, surveyjunkie.uk and valuedopinions.co.uk

You may have clothes in your wardrobe that you either don’t like anymore or don’t fit you anymore. If so, there’s someone might buy them. Apps like vintage.co.uk allow you to upload pictures of unwanted clothes and sell them. They also allow you to sell household items, like bedding and tableware. Other sites where you can sell pre-owned items include ebay.co.uk, preloved.co.uk and marketplace.asos.com. Some of these sites charge a fee.

Sell your designer clothes and handbags. Some people love designer items. If you’re one of them, there are sites that specialise in selling second-hand designer clothes, handbags, shoes and accessories, such as rebelle.co.uk. You could also try cudoni.com and wearesott.com. Note you may be charged commission on sales.

Earn from your creativity

Are you a gifted musician, poet or singer? You can develop a good side-line earner performing at events – whether it’s at birthday parties, christenings, weddings, funerals, award ceremonies or business events. To get work, you can distribute business cards; advertise your services/talent on social media; keep your ear to ground and put yourself forward to perform at events; connect with event organisers or sign up with a music agency.

Whatever way you decide to earn additional cash, make sure you check out the terms and conditions and calculate whether the investment of your time and skill will be worth it.

Happy earning!

Welcome to new column, Matters of the Heart, where Yvonne Brooks, a pastor and ministry leader, will share her wisdom, compassion and insight with readers who are experiencing life issues and need advice on how to overcome them.

I can’t get over the death of my mother

I lost my mother from COVID in late 2020 and, since then, Christmas has never been the same for me. I have my husband and three children whom I love dearly, but I am finding it very difficult to get over the loss of my mother. We were very close. Aside from my husband, I always sought my mother’s counsel and Christmas was always a time when our families came together. As Christmas approaches, I can feel myself being overwhelmed with grief for my mother, and I’m fearful that I’ll sink into depression and be unable to celebrate Christmas. Do you have any advice to share on how to overcome my grief so that I can celebrate this season with my family?

Pastor Yvonne: I am so sorry to hear of your Mother’s death. Losing someone suddenly can be extremely traumatic and can lead to feelings of guilt and sometimes self-blame. I suspect, too, that because your Mum died during COVID restrictions, you may not have had the opportunity to mourn her loss in a way that would be appropriate for you and your family, but it is not too late to do something that you believe will honour her memory. If you haven’t already done so, it may help to seek a counsellor who will help you to understand and come to terms with the feelings you are experiencing.

Matters Heart

of the

Pastor Yvonne: I sense that each time you assess your year, there is a rising tide of panic in your subconscious, and this gives you a sense that time is passing and that you’re not going to be able to achieve your goal of being married and having children.

I encourage you not just to abstain from intercourse but to make a conscious decision that you will remain celibate until you are married. It must not just be something your church believes but your own choice.

Please take time to reflect on your relationship with your Mum, the things she would do and enjoyed, and what she would say to you if she were here right now. How would she expect you to handle life without her?

Your husband and children still need you and they are probably mourning her loss too. It might help for you to think of some of the favourite things that your Mum liked to do at Christmas, pull the family together and make it a central part of your Christmas celebrations this year. You can talk about her with the family, and remember and celebrate her life. You will be supporting yourself and your family. It’s OK for you all to laugh and cry together. You have my best wishes.

Then completely surrender your life to Christ - your sexuality, your gifts, talents and abilities, etc - ask Him to take over and actively pursue Him. Study the Word of God and convert it into actions that are realistic and practical. Your past behaviour has been self-sabotaging and will result in the opposite of what you desire. Please deal with that according to 1 John 1:8-10. Find somebody you trust to be an accountability partner and be accountable to them.

If you would like help with a problem, email editor@keepthefaith.co.uk Your details will not be published.

Pastor Yvonne Brooks is a co-pastor at New Jerusalem Community Church, Birmingham, and founder of Woman of Purpose, a ministry that encourages women to fulfil their purpose. She is also a speaker and author. For more details visit www.yvonneelizabethbrooks.com

When Christmas approaches, I reflect on the past year and start setting goals for the new one. I believe I let myself down badly this year. Since becoming a Christian six years ago I managed to abstain from sex, but this year I slept with two men. I feel incredibly guilty and feel I let myself and God down. Ever since I turned 30 two years ago, I have had a burning desire to get married and start a family. I’ve prayed about it and kept myself busy, but my longing to be married won’t go away. What can I do so that I don’t repeat this behaviour in 2023?

44 Find us on Twitter and Facebook: @KeepTheFaithmag
I let myself down and had sex with two men
Shanika

Introduction

I am a literary agent at The Authors Care Agency Ltd. My wonderful, talented authors include USA Today bestseller, Parker J. Cole, who writes historical fiction for Mills & Boon; Nichola K. Johnson, psychological domestic thriller author; and renowned vocalist, Lloyd Wade, who has a very successful music career and writes within the crime and thriller genre. The list is growing and I thank God for the great success achieved so far.

Tell us about your role as a literary agent

A literary agent’s main role is to sell their authors’ manuscripts to publishers. Agents are their authors’ biggest cheerleader and, at times, counsellor. Personally, I like to make sure my authors are doing OK, and if they have writer’s block, we talk through the manuscript together to come up with ideas. Usually, it’s a matter of the author just needing to take a break. I tend to help promote my authors’ books when they are on the market. I check royalty payments, statements and contracts. The role is very varied and I really enjoy it.

Why did you decide to become a literary agent and what qualifications do you have?

I have a degree in journalism. I particularly loved

studying English literature in school and writing stories. Thankfully, you don’t need a degree per se to be a literary agent, but a good knowledge of the industry does help, as you need to be able to network with editors and publishers. When I wrote my first book, I decided that, though I loved writing, it wasn’t something I wanted to do full time. The agency role suits me very well, as it is a behind-the-scenes type of role. I love promoting, uplifting, encouraging my authors and reading different manuscripts.

On the surface, it seemed to change with some publishers, and new Black authors were given a chance, especially after George Floyd. Fast forward a couple of years, though, and some of the same old attitudes seem to be surfacing again.

Now I am not saying that every book by a Black author must be accepted by an editor; however, I have witnessed the same subconscious collective attitude among some editors. In their mindset, they believe it’s difficult to sell books with primarily Black characters. They may also feel they cannot work with Black authors, especially male Black writers, due to underlying stereotypes they may have, so they come up with reasons why their manuscripts aren’t accepted. These reasons could range from the ‘writing style’ to ‘not having a place in the market’. Yes, the author does have to make sure the manuscript is strong when first presented, but I know manuscripts go through rewrites, with author and editor working together.

Sometimes agencies are reluctant to work with writers they do not know, so they are less likely to give new writers a chance, preferring to stick with writers they are already familiar with.

But there’s good news! There are some

editors who have moved forward, and publishers like Mills & Boon have definitely become more diverse. No, I am not just saying that because one of my authors writes for them! It’s true; they are willing to give new Black authors more of a chance, and the editors are great to work with. Make sure to follow their guidelines, though, if you decide to submit your manuscript. There are some great editors and publishers out there who will believe in you and your story; it’s a matter of being connected with the right one for you and then building a rapport.

Other good news: there are more independent imprints growing - some celebrityowned ones as well - to give underrepresented, unpublished groups a chance for those who don’t want to self publish.

I do want to make one point clear: not all Black editors will accept manuscripts. In this industry, it can be a case of who you know as well.

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to get into the publishing industry?

Get to know the industry, network and, most importantly, believe in your ability to execute the craft well, whether it will be as a writer or as an agent. Never doubt your ability to be successful.

It is good to join author groups, like Black Writers’ Guild, to get that support, advice and knowledge. Attend writers’ conferences and ‘Meet the Editors’ conferences.

Don’t judge any editor at face value. Sometimes the editor who actually accepts your manuscript may be completely different to the one you thought. God always brings the right people and the right connections for you and your authors.

Has the publishing industry really changed their attitude towards Black authors?
www.keepthefaith.co.uk 45
VANESSA GROSSETT

Cook with Kirly-Sue

Welcome to ‘Cook with Kirly-Sue’. I hope you will become a regular participant with me in discussing food and drink.

‘Cook with Kirly-Sue’ is a celebration of the foods I like to eat. Simple enough, right? But this is only a start, because I hope you’ll share your favourites with me and all the other Keep The Faith readers! I will always share tasty, easy-to-make recipes and cooking tips with you.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me via my social media handles, @KirlySuesKitchen

10 top tips for Stress-free Christmas cooking

I love Christmas, and with Christmas comes the memory of the birth of Christ which is celebrated with food. Traditionally we cook a lot of food at Christmas, and it can be quite a stressful experience. I have some tips that can help you to alleviate the stress and have a much more enjoyable time this Christmas. So go ahead and pour yourself a nice drink, put your feet up and have a read through, and get your Christmas food planning in order.

1. Organise in advance – This should be top of your list and is the most important tip. In the weeks and days leading up to Christmas, make sure you’ve got absolutely everything you need in advance – from the obvious, like roast potatoes and drinks, to checking you’ve got enough oil to cook with and plenty of fresh herbs for seasoning too. I recommend getting all your food and drink shopping done by 20th December. That way you can avoid a last-minute hectic trolley dash around your local supermarket.

2. Create a menu – Plan out all your Christmas cooking by starting with a menu. Go all out and plan breakfast, lunch and dinner for all the days you want to plan for in advance.

3. Start early – Plan out your schedule for shopping, cooking, etc. well in advance. Some people take a couple of days’ annual leave so they can get a head start with the shopping and cooking.

4. Ask for help – Cooking for Christmas can be quite a mammoth task, so ask for help. Perhaps you can divide the menu up and delegate a few dishes to each family

member so that one person isn’t left with all the work.

5. Declutter your fridge – Before you do your Christmas shopping, it’s a wise idea to organise your fridge. Make sure you throw out anything that is out of date and check you’ve got rid of most bottle or tubes. This will ensure you have plenty of space in your fridge for all the Christmas food that needs to be refrigerated.

6. Shop early – Some people like to leave everything to the last minute. However, that can cause a lot of unnecessary stress (and purchases), so get all your ingredients at least a week or two before Christmas. You can order online and have it delivered or divide the shopping list and get the non-perishables the month before and the perishables a week before.

7. Set the table in advance – Setting the table in advance can save time and stress or, if that isn’t possible, put all the decorations and items in one place so it’s easy to access when you are ready to set the table.

8. Have enough equipment – Make sure you’ve got enough oven trays, oven dishes,

pots and serving dishes. Some extra roll of foil and some baking paper will be super handy for helping to keep things warm before you serve dinner. Also, make sure to check that all your knives are nice and sharp, as this will make cooking faster and easier. My sister always has disposable plastic containers and bottles, so that excess food and drink can be divided up and taken home by guests.

9. Wash and go – Lots of people use every pot, pan, spoon and spatula in the kitchen when they are making a special celebratory dinner! Instead of leaving all the washing up until the end, you can wash up in stages. You can wash up after each course: after the starter and after the main course. Some family members hate to cook, but are happy to be on washing up duty, so see if one or two people would like to do that. If you have a dishwasher then even better – just keep loading and unloading as you go along.

10. Prep your oven – Your oven will be used more at this time of year, so make sure it is ready and raring to go by giving it a deep clean and also checking it is in good working order. This will ensure that none of your food is under- or overcooked.

46 Find us on Twitter and Facebook: @KeepTheFaithmag

Vegan Christmas Dinner/Vegan Jamaican

Recipe video on YouTube https://youtu.be/Z9ncTr2LAwo

VEGAN MEATBALLS

1 can cannellini beans

1/2 cup plain flour

1/2 small onion

1 clove garlic

Thumb-sized piece of ginger

1 tsp mixed herbs

1/2 tbsp Caribbean All-Purpose Seasoning

1 tbsp low salt soy sauce

• Preheat oven to 180C/160C (fan)/350F/ Gas Mark 4

• Drain and wash the cannellini beans and then drain again

• Mash the cannellini beans

• Finely chop the onion, garlic and ginger

• Add flour, chopped onion, garlic and ginger, soy sauce and Caribbean All-Purpose seasoning to the mashed beans

• Mix together until combined

• Shape tablespoons of the mixture into balls and gently fry for 5-10 mins

• Transfer to a baking tray and bake for 20 mins or until golden brown

GRAVY

1 sprig thyme

1 spring onion

1 small onion

1/4 red pepper

1/4 green pepper

1/4 yellow pepper

2 tomatoes

1 clove garlic

1/4 cup ketchup

1/4 cup sweet chilli sauce

1 tsp mixed herbs

Pinch of salt

1 tbsp Caribbean All-Purpose Seasoning

• Finely chop thyme, onion, spring onion, red pepper, green pepper, yellow pepper, tomatoes, garlic

• Heat 1 tablespoon coconut oil

• Lightly fry all the chopped veg for 3-4 mins

• Add 1 cup water

• Add ketchup, sweet chilli sauce, black pepper, mixed herbs and salt

• Stir well

• Add 1 tablespoon all-purpose seasoning

• Cover, reduce to a medium to low heat, and simmer for about 15-20 mins

MAPLE-GLAZED BRUSSELS SPROUTS

2 cups brussels sprouts

3-5 cloves garlic

1 tbsp coconut oil

Salt and pepper to taste

• Preheat oven to 180C/160C (fan)/350F/ Gas Mark 4

• Wash the Brussels sprouts and dry them off

• Cut them in half and remove any loose outer leaves

• Place them right onto a baking sheet

• Slice cloves of garlic and cut them into large pieces

• Toss the Brussels sprouts and garlic with coconut oil, maple syrup, salt and pepper

• Bake for 15 mins and then give a shake to turn the sprouts and garlic

• Cook for another 15-20 mins (total cook time will depend on how large your Brussels sprouts are)

MAPLE-GLAZED CARROTS

1kg Chantenay or other small carrots 3 tbsp sunflower oil 2-4 tbsp maple syrup

• Heat the oven to 190C/170C (fan)/374F/ Gas Mark 5.

• Peel and wash the carrots

• Place the carrots into a roasting tin and toss with the sunflower oil and some salt and pepper

• Roast for 30 mins

• Drizzle the maple syrup over the carrots, toss well and return to the oven for a further 20 mins

ROAST POTATOES

1kg Maris Piper potatoes 100g coconut oil or 100ml olive oil 2 tsp flour Sea salt, to serve

• Put a roasting tin in the oven (one big enough to take the potatoes in a single layer) and heat oven to 200C/180C (fan)/392F/ Gas Mark 6

• Peel and chop 1kg potatoes

• Drop the potatoes into a large pan and pour in enough water to barely cover them

• Add salt, then wait for the water to boil. As soon as the water reaches a full rolling boil, lower the heat, put your timer on and simmer

• Meanwhile, put 100g coconut oil or 100ml olive oil into the hot roasting tin and heat it in the oven for a few mins, so it’s really hot

• Drain the potatoes in a colander then shake the colander back and forth a few times to fluff up the outsides

• Sprinkle with 2tsp flour and give another shake or two, so they are evenly and thinly coated

• Carefully put the potatoes into the hot fat – they will sizzle as they go in – then turn and roll them around so they are coated all over

• Spread them in a single layer, making sure they have plenty of room

• Roast the potatoes for 15 mins, then take them out of the oven and turn them over

• Roast for another 15 mins and turn them over again. Put them back in the oven for another 10-20 mins, or however long it takes to get them really golden and crisp. The colouring will be uneven, which is what you want

• Sprinkle with sea salt and serve straight away

Kirly-Sue (aka Susanne Kirlew) is an award-winning published author, vegan social media influencer and TV presenter. Kirly-Sue was named as one of the Top 100 in the Lift Effects Star Awards. She has a total of 40,000+ followers across her social media. Visit kirlysueskitchen.co.uk for more information.

www.keepthefaith.co.uk 47
CLAUDINE REID MBE SHARES REASONS FOR SUCCESS BISHOP OF WOOLWICH SHARES CHRISTMAS MESSAGE IT’S THE SEASON FOR GOODWILL AND POSITIVE MENTAL HEALTH MAKE 2023 YOUR BEST EVER WITH OUR NEW YEAR TIPS ALSO IN THIS ISSUE:

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Articles inside

Cook with Kirly-Sue

7min
pages 46-48

Matters of the heart

3min
page 44

Give yourself an income boost

4min
page 43

Q & A with literary agent Vanessa

4min
page 45

Have a blessed 2023

4min
page 42

Who will you Zoom this Christmas?

8min
pages 40-41

‘Tis the season to practise self-care

6min
pages 38-39

Overcoming the Christmas blues

4min
page 37

Experiencing optimum health and fitness

3min
page 36

Beyond God’s reach?

4min
page 34

When were you hungry?

3min
page 35

Food 4 Thought

4min
pages 32-33

A time for racial justice

4min
page 31

Set yourself up to achieve your goals in 2023

4min
page 30

MNRK... Spreading contemporary gospel around the world!

4min
pages 8-9

The LCGC X Factor 40 years on

12min
pages 10-13

Christmas is here

6min
pages 16-17

The singleness issue

4min
pages 26-27

The church leader envisioning a great future for NTCG

8min
pages 18-21

The businesswoman who wants God to increase her capacity for more

4min
pages 22-23

Your age is just a number to God

6min
pages 24-25
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