Urban Expression Newsletter June 2013 Urban Expression is an urban mission agency that recruits, equips, deploys and networks self-financing teams pioneering creative and relevant expressions of the Christian Church in under-churched areas of the inner city.
News from Harold Hill Rich Shorter writes: The Woolwich murder came home for us with the news that one of those responsible was apparently from the Hill. Facebook was where I saw understandable emotions and anger spill out from my local friends. Many expressing their support for British troops and outrage at what had happened, but many also taking a right- wing extremist view in response, including some leaders in local Christian organisations! This led Alison and me to pray hard, as we wanted to challenge this response, but how? In the end we decided to offer people at our community meal the opportunity to sign two cards. One to the family of Lee Rigby and the other to the local Islamic centre. An honest conversation about people’s thought’s, fears and concerns then took place. We didn’t put pressure on everyone to sign both cards, but in the end everyone did. I then intentionally put on this on facebook: ‘Rich Shorer is well chuffed to have been part of a honest, open and mature conversation at eat123 about how we should personally respond to this week’s news. We as eat123 are sending two cards: one to the family of Lee Rigby to express our deepest sympathy and one to the local Islamic centre to offer the hand of friendship and peace.’ This caused many people to ‘like’ this and to comment, but I did also get some comments on FB and face to face about why we could do that! After more talking, I got this text from a lady who had been humble enough to
spend time re-thinkimg the issue and where she was getting her information from. ‘Well, I can ask for forgiveness in allowing myself to be consumed by what others think, by not looking at the bigger picture and only what is spread by small-minded people rather than for myself doing research before I judge! I would not like to be judged if there was a crazed person with bipolar that killed someone. I wouldn't like to be tarnished because of the actions of someone else. So in light of what I have been shown and further looking at other clips, not just the ones that promote the hatred for Muslims or the ones which promote the hatred the Muslims have towards us, I am somewhat ashamed that I got caught up in others’ opinions when I should have formed my own. Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.’ I told her that Jesus loves her and loves her humility to change her mind. Facebook users who ‘liked’ the comment from all over the country will have also encouraged those at the meal that they did something good.
News from Manchester Gary Serra di Migni writes: Last week we took the unprecedented step of putting up Access flyers in the staff canteen and locker rooms where I work as part of our ministry. Previously, people have come in response to personal verbal invitations to those we think might be 'ready'. Putting up these flyers is a universal and indiscriminate invitation. The flyers, which mention God in bold print, are
the first explicit public statement within the workplace of what UE Victoria Park and I are about. This will have helped to dispel some of the mystery. Those who talk to me know what we do; only God knows what those who talk among themselves imagine we do! The simple act of putting up God-oriented flyers was a risk: during the four years I've worked there, all kinds of social event have been publicised in this manner (even a ghost hunt!), but never anything mentioning God or Allah. I'm pleased to say, the response was the same as with any other kind of flyer, PTL! No controversy, no snide comments; it was as though Gary putting up a flyer about God was the most natural thing in the world. I can't help but observe that this wouldn't have been the case if I'd put up a flyer within a few months of starting. This is the result of four years' worth of building relationships, trust, and walking the Gospel. This is the core of urban mission. In Juliet Kilpin’s words, 'They don't stop asking "When are you leaving?" until after the first three years.' As a result of the flyers, J, K, and D have all expressed an interest in coming to the next Access. Please pray for J, K, and D.
News from Hackney (London) Rob Schellert writes: As I write this, we are playing the waiting game as our baby girl is expected to come any day now! Vickie and I are super excited and can't wait to meet her. Please pray with us for a smooth birth and for grace as we transition into parenthood. A few weeks ago some anarchist and squatter friends helped organise a baby shower for us. It was a truly memorable day as people came early to bake all kinds of cake, put up handmade bunting and set up for what would be a great afternoon. At the end of the day, we were in awe of what had transpired. Never in a million years could we have imagined that
we would be having a baby shower thrown by anarchist friends. We thank God for allowing us to become part of their lives! Recently, a friend of ours who runs a weekly anarchist radio programme, asked if I would be interested in coming on her radio program twice this summer to talk about Jesus and faith/spirituality. We have known this friend for several years now as she first came to our Arts Exhibition a few years ago and was very angry during the panel discussion. Since then, we have managed to become good friends and one time she confessed that she actually liked Jesus and has asked me to consider doing a baby dedication for her child. The idea is for me to come on the radio show the first time to talk about Jesus and the second time just after my book Without Borders – Following Jesus to the Margins comes out (later this year) to talk about the book. Please pray that these episodes will stimulate conversation and more interest in Jesus. Finally, we have taken a hit financially in the last month or so and will be taking another when Vickie goes on maternity leave. Please pray for new sources of income, work etc.
News from Cobridge (Stoke) Howard Jones writes: Some time back we were discussing how to mark Easter this year and the idea formed of another event in Cobridge Park. It’s a park that local residents remember with great pride and view now with great sadness. We thought that Easter Saturday would be the most appropriate day and wanted to give it a flavour of hope, and so ‘Hope Springs in the Park’ came to mind.
So we gathered a team of volunteers and arranged for face painting, info stands for local community groups, an Easter egg hunt, bhangra dancing and African drumming workshops, all free.
The centrepiece was a bit of community art, a large canvas frame that our friend Frank, a local community artist, would fill in with local residents. On one side were pictures of ‘broken Cobridge’, which would open out to show a colourful picture, based on what people said their hopes were for their community. We estimate about 300 people came, from all sectors of the community (they were even waiting for us as we went down to set up!). It was a brilliant, joyful afternoon, just a simple way of saying to our local community, we love and care about you and want Hope to be on everyone’s agenda.
News from Glasgow
What started as little more than a circle of stones and a shared kettle on a fire gradually morphed into a temporary community that offered ante-natal care, education, respite holiday housing in rudimentary huts and a recreation programme that included building an outdoor swimming pool.
We’re facing uncertain times in our context in Townhead; the future of the building we’re using is under review, and it’s possible we’ll find ourselves homeless within the next few months. Set against that, many of the young adults we work with are keen to get involved in making sure that SiMY continues, leaving me with a profound sense that something exciting seems to be taking shape. We are taking a group to the Iona Community centre at Camas, and I’m hoping that, just as it was for the Craigallian community, this time in the wild places will offer not only a respite from day to day life, but also a creative space to find inspiration for how best to nurture our community and help it become a place of security, healing and inspiration.
Neil Pratt writes: I had the dogs out for a walk the other week and came across a fascinating little snapshot of social history from Glasgow’s past. Tucked at the side of the path was a monument to the ‘Craigallian Fire’; one of the meeting places for many working-class people who sought freedom and adventure in Scotland’s wild places in the midst of the Depression in the 1930s.
Alongside our own work in Townhead, we’re continuing to offer support to Simon and Moira Baxter as they explore the possibilities for developing a Christian community in the Summerston area. They’ve begun developing relationships with folks who are active within the community and they’re hopeful this may result in some opportunities to get involved with some of the work already going on.
What is really inspiring about these folk is the way they went about building an incredibly supportive community out of these initial rudimentary meeting places.
Paul Ede and I will be travelling down to Urban Embrace later this month, and I’m looking forward to the opportunity to meet some of the Urban Expression folks.
Crucible This has been a very encouraging year on the Crucible course. Numbers participating in all three of the weekends have been good – over 40 each time. Many of these have journeyed with us and each other through the year and we hope they will continue next year. But we have also had new people at each weekend. We have tweaked the programme from last year and also introduced some new trainers. From the autumn, the Crucible course will be linked with the new ‘Equipped to Pioneer’ programme, which provides training for Baptists who want to be recognized as ‘lay pioneers’. A brochure for the 2013-14 Crucible course accompanies this newsletter – in case you are interested yourself or know someone who might be. Bursaries are available.
Other News Northern Baptist Learning Community have appointed new co-principals: Glen Marshall, chair of the UE steering group in the northwest of England and Clare McBeath, one of our team leaders in Openshaw. We look forward to growing links with the college. We have a new chair of our Glasgow steering group. Judy White is Mission Development Coordinator for the Baptist Union of Scotland and we are glad she has taken on this role. Juliet Kilpin’s book, Urban to the Core, which features reflections on UE’s core values from past and present team members, has received very positive reviews and is selling well. You can order copies from firstname.lastname@example.org. We are, sadly, saying farewell this month to our UE administrator, Doreen McIntosh. She has been with us for two years and has made a huge contribution, helping to run events, smooth communication and administer the
Crucible course. We will miss her, but we are delighted that she has been offered a new job in East London that involves community and church regeneration initiatives. Although our teams are self-funding, grants from various organisations enable us to fund a number of part-time coordinators and cover administrative expenses. We are grateful for ongoing support from (among others) BMS World Mission, The Jerusalem Trust and the Baptist Insurance Company.
Prayer Please pray for the ongoing work of all of our teams and especially for: • •
Those who have applied to join Urban Expression and are being interviewed. The UE Community Weekend in the autumn for team members, mission partners and others. Gary & Jo Fitzsimmons in Shard End, Birmingham, as they grapple with various health issues. Those who have been studying on the Crucible course this year that they will find ways of putting into practice the things they have learned. Doreen McIntosh as she moves on into her new job – and for wisdom as we review our administrative needs.
Further information For further information about anything you have read, to enquire about joining a team, or to contribute financially, please contact:
Urban Expression: PO Box 35238, London E1 0YZ email@example.com www.urbanexpression.org.uk Urban Expression is a registered charity in England (no. 1090734) and in Scotland (no. SC039100)