Monthly Archives: March 2012

Prayer Diary: Day 39 of Lent

Pray for churches in London as they work to support people likely to be displaced by the new housing benefit cap.  The Contextual Theology Centre and Housing Justice are both involved in helping churches to reflect and act on this urgent issue.

Pray also for central Birmingham churches who have been piloting a winter night shelter – in a strongly ecumenical project which is bringing churches in the area together. Supported by the Church Urban Fund, it is using the Housing Justice ‘roving shelter’ model where 5 churches will offer their space for 5 different nights of the week, with volunteers from the churches helping.

Pray for churches across the country as they grapple with these issues – praying, offering practical care, and challenging structural injustice.

Prayer Diary: Day 38 of Lent

Pray for the Parish of the Risen Lord, Preston as it discerns how best to use an old mission building to proclaim and embody the Gospel today.  St Matthew’s Mission is Victorian building from which various community groups currently operate (e.g. Street Pastors).  With support from the Church Urban Fund, it is carrying out a feasibility study to see how it can best renovate the building for new projects addressing the needs of young people, at a time of very high unemployment.  This phase of exploration and discernment will involve a practical pilot project involving a work club and a youth cafe.

In the 1920s and 1930s, St Mary’s Somers Town (now in the Parish of Old St Pancras) was home of Fr Basil Jellicoe’s ‘Magdalen College Mission’, which transformed the slums of the parish into affordable and decent housing.  Here as in Preston, Christians are discerning how a historic vision of mission applies to todays challenges.  The Contextual Theology Centre has founded the Jellicoe Community which seeks to embody Fr Jellicoe’s vision in a new generation of Christians, helping churches across north-east London engage in community organising.  Dominic Keech’s blogpost explains the work he did as a Jellicoe Intern in Somers Town last summer.  Pray for the Parish of Old St Pancras, and other churches which host Jellicoe Interns.

Prayer Diary: Day 37 of Lent

Pray for St John’s, Bierley in Bradford Diocese which is working with existing youth bus provision to support at-risk young females in Bierley. They plan to employ a sessional worker to become part of the mobile bus outreach, hoping to reach vulnerable young girls who are at risk through ‘hanging out on the streets’. The sessions will begin by taking place once a week, but there are hopes to increase this to twice a week. e:merge, an experienced youth work charity, will be steering the project – with support from the Church Urban Fund

Pray also for Andy Walton, one of the staff of the Contextual Theology Centre, as he begins to co-ordinate the CitySafe initiative at St Peter’s, Bethnal Green.  With support from Centre interns, the church has been reaching out to other local organisations and residents to identify ways to make the streets safer, by reweaving the fabric of relationships, trust and mutual support within the parish – and particularly by involving young people in the process.

Prayer Diary: Day 36 of Lent

Pray for St Philip’s Church, Bradford – ministering in an area with a great diversity of faiths.  The Church Urban Fund is supporting St Philip’s as it starts English classes for men who speak other languages, with the aim to build relationships between the church and local men of other faiths and ethnicities.  A pilot scheme has shown there is demand. The church aims to offer a 2 hour class each week, supported by church volunteers, and led by an ESOL qualified tutor. It will work with pre-ESOL learners who cannot access existing education provision, so that they can take first steps towards learning English.

Pray also for the work being done by London Citizens among the Chinese diaspora community: engaging churches and cultural associations in common action with other groups in civil society.  Pray also for the way this work has helped to inspire community organising in Hong Kong – and for the support the Contextual Theology Centre is giving to this process, with plans to launch ‘HK Citizens’ and engage a wide range of churches in this work.

Prayer Diary: Day 35 of Lent

Before Christmas, the Contextual Theology Centre produced a resource pack on Christian Responses to the Financial Crisis – endorsed by St Paul’s Cathedral and the Occupy camp on its doorstep.  The Centre is continuing to work with the Cathedral and people involved in the camp – to explore how the Christian vision of justice and stewardship can transform our economic order.  Pray for this work, and especially today for the sharing of ideas with Christians from cross the Atlantic, as Centre staff meet leaders from Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation.

Pray also for @the Bus Stop, a project in  East Bradford that will address the emotional and social needs of young people in six areas which rank within the 2% with the most economic deprivation in the UK.  The Church Urban Fund is supporting the project offering advice and support in an area with limited or non-existent provision for young people from any other agencies.  Pray for Wellsprings Bradford, the local Christian charity undertaking this and other vital pieces of work.

Prayer Diary: Day 34 of Lent

Please pray for Op Shops – a network of 7 church charity shops in the Carlisle area. These social enterprises aim to serve local people by selling good quality second hand goods, and offering pastoral support and evangelistic ministry. They provide safe places where the community can meet, volunteer, and in the future community programmes for specific needs.

The story of how Op Shops started is inspiring and instructive: it shows the imaginative ways in which churches can move beyond their own internal concerns (in this case fundraising for building work) to engage the wider community in loving and practical service – building relationships and sharing faith.

The Church Urban Fund is supporting the expansion of Op Shops, and is working with the Contextual Theology Centre on the wider issue of how practical service, the challenging of social injustice and the sharing of faith are each given there proper place in the life of the church.  Please pray for this work – and give thanks for the many ways in which practical and imaginative social action is helping to renew local churches.

Palm Sunday: Reflections on the Gospel


‘What do you really want?’  That is the question the crowds face on Palm Sunday, and the disciples face as Jesus goes to the cross.  In what do they place their deepest hopes and trust?

The credit crunch poses these questions to us all.  Our society is reaping the harvest of a financial system which has spun out of control – a system which placed its trust in things and disregarded people.  The Palm Sunday and Easter readings speak to us of a God who breaks through the narrowness and greed of human hearts, not to judge and condemn but to offer ‘the life that really is life’ (1 Timothy 6.19) .  The prayer requests we have been blogging as part of Call to Change show the ways Christians in this country are responding to that invitation – seeking build a more generous, hospitable society in which all can experience a fuller, richer life. 

Today’s readings

The Gospels for Palm Sunday readings are Mark 11.1-11 (Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem) and Mark 15.1-39 (the Passion)

On Palm Sunday, the crowd think they see a king – perhaps a military leader who will end the rule of the Romans.  But Jesus doesn’t meet their expectations. What they want is not what he provides.  This reality takes some time to sink in.  And in the disappointment, the voices turn from ‘Hosanna!’ (in today’s first Gospel reading) to ‘Crucify him!’ (in the Gospel of the Passion).

The readings for Palm Sunday pose the same question to each of us: ‘What do you really want?’  What do we seek from Jesus?  And are we willing to allow him to challenge, and to disappoint our expectations?  As the disciples learn, Jesus gives us what we need – which is not always what we want.

Prayer Diary: Day 33 of Lent

We have already blogged about Urgent Patience – an essay on Christian spirituality and social action, which has been issued as part of the Call to Change by the Contextual Theology Centre and Church Urban Fund. 

The introduction to Urgent Patience is worth quoting:

We love because God first loved us (1 John 4.19). Every Communion service, whatever its name, reminds us of this central fact of Christian life. We can only feed because we have been fed; we are sent out in the power of the Spirit because have first been called together as Christ’s Body. Christian action flows from gratitude rather than from obligation or from guilt. ‘Deep calls unto deep’ (Ps 42.7). The love poured out for us in Christ calls forth a grace-filled echo in our hearts.

Pray especially for this afternoon’s event on Receiving and Becoming the Body of Christ which the Contextual Theology Centre is holding in Bethnal Green.  Pray that this time of adoration and reflection intercession may build up all who participate – and be a blessing to them in their work for God’s Kingdom.

Pray for those involved in the Church Urban Fund, the Contextual Theology Centre and their many partner churches and projects – that this work would be grounded in gratitude and nourished by prayer and worship.

Prayer diary: Day 32 of Lent

In our prayers this week, we focus on Near Neighbours – a programme co-ordinated by the Church Urban Fund and the Church of England to build relationships across faiths and cultures.

Last November, the Hindu Christian Forum was launched by Archbishop Rowan Williams and Sri Shruti Dharma Das Ji.  It is one of the partners in Near Neighbours, and is holding a series of workshops and events to help Christians and Hindus work together at local level.  One such event was held in east London last month, and very well received.

Pray for this ongoing work across the Near Neighbours localities – and in particular for the work being done by the Contextual Theology Centre to deepen relationships between one of our largest Roman Catholic churches (SS Stephen & Nicholas, Manor Park – whose parish priest, Fr Sean Connolly, is our Assistant Director) and the local Hindu community.

Prayer diary: Day 31 of Lent

In our prayers this week, we focus on Near Neighbours – a programme co-ordinated by the Church Urban Fund and the Church of England to build relationships across faiths and cultures

Through social programmes rooted in their values, faith groups make an enormous contribution to our society. Many thousands of men and women of faith regularly volunteer for projects that benefit those in need or improve our environment.

Please pray for A Year of Service – an initiative that will help highlight and link up these projects during 2012. Every month, each of the nine major faith communities in turn will host a day of volunteering in communities and businesses across the country and will invite people of other faiths, and those without religious beliefs, to join in. Each community’s day of service will be linked to one of its religious festivals, or to an existing volunteering day such as the Hindu-led ‘Sewa Day’ or the Jewish-led ‘Mitzvah Day’. Each day will have a theme, such as visiting the elderly, feeding the hungry or planting trees.

Pray for the Near Neighbours programme – in eastern London and across England – for the ways in which it is supporting this initiative, and for the generosity and trust which will be built through the process.