Monthly Archives: July 2012

Reflections and Prayers for Sun 5 August

This Sunday’s Gospel reading is John 6.24-35
Jesus said: “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.”

Throughout August, we continue to read from John 6.  Last week we heard about Jesus’ authority over the physical creation, and his meeting of the physical needs of the crowds.  In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus calls the crowds beyond to understand the meaning of those events – to see them as ‘signs’ which disclose who he is.  They are only truly understood when people recognise them as an invitation into relationship with him.
Christians are called to see the whole created order as a ‘sign’ – not simply as something to consume or possess, but as a gift. The world comes to us from the generosity of God, and is given that we might grow in fellowship and in delight.
This is the vision at the heart of George Herbert’s poetry, and hence of many of our best-loved hymns.  We see it in his poem Matins, and most famously in The Elixir:

A man that looks on glass,
On it may stay his eye;
Or if he pleaseth, through it pass,
And then the heaven espy.

What would it mean to us to see the whole creation as a ‘sign’ – full of God-given opportunities to grow in communion with him and with one another?  
Prayer Intention

Pray for projects which help Christians to delight in and treasure God’s creation – such as A Rocha (featured on CTC’s Presence and Engagement website).  Pray also for the Church Urban Fund’s initiative on Greening Your Church Community Project

Southwark steps up to welcome the Olympics

Near Neighbours partners in Southwark have welcomed the Olympics Games to the area, by cheering on the flame as it passed through. As anticipation reached fever pitch, the torch relay passed through the Parish of St George the Martyr, and members of the congregation were joined by many others from the area, including those of other faiths.



The goal of Near Neighbours is to bring together people of different faiths and backgrounds – something which of course happens during the Olympics. We were delighted to help facilitate such a fantastic event. Young people enjoyed craft activities and face painting, while everyone present took a pledge which emphasised the importance of hospitality, compassion and generosity.



Among those enjoying the event were The Bishop of Woolwich, Rt Revd Michael Ipgrave and Baroness Hanham, a Minister from the Department of Communities and Local Government, which funds Near Neighbours.




Below are some video interviews with some of those who took part.






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On the eve of the Olympics

The Contextual Theology Centre is involved in a range of activities related to the London 2012 Olympics.  From its foundation, CTC has worked with churches in London Citizens to secure a series of ‘People’s Guarantees’ for the Olympics, on jobs, wages and housing – and the Highway Neighbours project is helping local churches around the Centre to reach out to support their communities.

Our ‘Contending Modernities’ research project with the University of Notre Dame is studying the impact and raison d’etre of Christian, Muslim and secular engagement in community organising – and today, Centre Director Angus Ritchie has blogged for Notre Dame on Faith-inspired community organising and the London Olympics.

Reflections & prayers for Sun 29 July

This Sunday’s Gospel reading is John 6.1-21 (or 1-15)
When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” …Philip answered him, “Eight months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up. “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”
Earlier this month, we looked at the importance of taking people and their gifts seriously.  We see the same here: Peter is dismissive of the boy’s offering, while Jesus sees its potential (not least in the way it sets an example of sharing). 
Last week, we looked at the importance of the balance between material and spiritual feeding.  Jesus knows that the crowd need food as well as sermons.  We can’t witness to God’s love, if we don’t show that love in our day-to-day behaviour. 
As the Letter to James says: Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. Ministering to people’s physical needs – whether feeding the hungry, or building a world where they aren’t hungry again – is one way we make the Gospel a reality, and open people’s lives to the power of the Spirit.
But we cannot live by bread alone.  The value of sharing goes beyond the purely material.  When we share of what God has given us, we are drawn into the communion – the love – that is at the very heart of God.  Today’s Gospel reading not only teaches us about the human generosity and sharing that draws us into the life of God.  It also points us to the feast of the Eucharist – where God’s self-giving in Jesus takes flesh for us in bread and wine.
Prayer Intentions
Pray for David Barclay, starting work on 1 August at the Contextual Theology Centre on its Call to Change initiative with the Church Urban Fund.  Pray that this work will help churches to engage with their neighbours to build generous and just communities. 

Pray also for all communities affected by the Olympics – and for local initiatives such as Highway Neighbours helping people support one another in living with its impact, and enjoying the historic events.

Come and join the Olympic torch fun with Near Neighbours in Southwark!

If you’ve got Olympic fever, why not come and celebrate the passing of the Olympic torch through South London?

Near Neighbours is bringing together people from different faiths and backgrounds to witness this unique event in Southwark.

The event takes place this Thursday, the 26th July on Borough High Street (SE1 1JA). St George the Martyr Church is hosting the celebration which will include activities for all the family. Whatever faith or background you’re from, you’ll be more than welcome to join the rest of the community!

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Reflections & prayers for Sun 22 July

This Sunday’s Gospel reading is Mark 6.30-34 (or 30-34 and 53-56)

Because so many people were coming and going that the disciples did not even have a chance to eat, Jesus said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.

This passage shows the two sides of Jesus ministry to people – the feeding the crowds, and the disciples, require is spiritual (rest, quiet, teaching) as well as physical.

That’s the way God has made us – flesh and spirit. Jesus’ teaching and his actions show the importance of both. He has no time for religious leaders who use ‘spiritual’ language to justify material inequity. But he warns us that material food alone isn’t enough. This is a balance we need in our own lives – and in the kind of world for which we are striving to build for others.

Christian teaching on the ‘Sabbath’ is a case in point. Jesus’ example makes clear that we are not to make an idol of particular regulations – The Sabbath is made for human beings, not humans for the sabbath – but having times of ‘Sabbath’ is essential in the Christian life. Without such times, we lose perspective, and more and more rely on our own resources rather than God’s grace. As Pope John Paul II reminded his clergy, without a time of Sabbath, we become ensnared in the ‘idolatry of work’, forgetting that it takes its places in a wider life of wonder, love and praise.

Prayer Intentions

Pray for all involved in Christian ministry in demanding contexts, such as Britain’s inner-cities – among them the staff of the Church Urban Fund and the Contextual Theology Centre (CTC) – that they may balance their work with times of rest and refreshment. Pray for Sr Josephine Canny, Chaplain to CTC’s Jellicoe Community as she helps the Centre’s interns find this balance in a context that is new to many of them.

Reflections & prayers for Sun 15 July

The Church of England lectionary gives Mark 6.14-29 as today’s Gospel – whilst the Roman Catholic lectionary gives Mark6.7-13
The Christian poet T.S. Eliot prayed “teach us to care and not to care”.  There is much wisdom in this prayer.  We need to care deeply about our faith, and our service of God – but also to remember that in the end, things depend on God not on us.  Christian ministry – something shared by all the baptised – is always offered in response to the divine initiative.  Our calling is to respond faithfully and passionately.  It is God who gives the increase.
In Mark 6.7-13, Jesus invites his disciples to place their lives in God’s hands – to take risks, and leave the consequences to their heavenly Father.  It’s difficult to get this balance right – we’re not meant to be careless and irresponsible, but at times we must step out in faith, and not let life’s baggage weigh us down.
Mark 6.14-29 tells the story of a saint who knew how to ‘care and not to care’.  No-one could doubt that John the Baptist has a passion for the Kingdom of God. It is the driving force in his life – leading him to a powerful preaching ministry in the desert, and a fearless speaking of truth to the powers of his day. But John also knows that his work is not the central thing.  He is willing to step back as well as forward: whether he is centre stage or out of sight is determined, neither by vanity nor his timidity, but by what will point to Jesus Christ.  As John lies in prison, and then faces his death, he has done what he can – and left the rest to God.  Little can he have known how, 2000 years on, his words would still be pointing people to Christ.
Prayer intentions
Last week’s General Synod discussed the church’s response to last year’s riots.  Pray for all who, out of the media glare, continue to minister in areas affected by the disturbances – and who seek to address its root causes.  Pray for the staff and partners of the Church Urban Fund and the Contextual Theology Centre as they seek to support this work.

Reflections & prayers for Sun 8 July

This Sunday’s Gospel is Mark 6.1-6 (Roman Catholic) or Mark 6.1-12 (Church of England)

Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. “Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him that he even does miracles! Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offence at him.

It’s sometimes hard to adjust when someone in the family moves from being a child to being a ‘grown-up’. We may trap others in stereotypes of how we’ve known them in the past – or how we thought we knew them. And most of us will have been on the other side of this, when we moved from childhood to adult life, and struggled at first to be taken seriously by those who knew us as a baby.
The people of Nazareth won’t let Jesus be himself – they trap him in their stereotype, not seeing his full humanity, let alone his divinity. We can make the same mistake in our churches today, confining those around us in our stereotypes, failing to see the full humanity of every member – judging some age groups, or classes, or races, before we get to know them.

One of the key practices of community organising is the ‘one-to-one’ relational meeting – encouraging people to get to know those they might otherwise just nod at in the next pew, so stories could be shared and gifts discovered. The face-to-face relationship, based on the reality of the other person, not our stereotype of them, is absolutely central to the life of a flourishing church – a church which can have a transformative impact on individuals and communities.

Pray for the team of summer Jellicoe interns at the Contextual Theology Centre – who will continue that process of building relationships and discovering unacknowledged potential. And pray for the Nehemiah Interns working for the Near Neighbours programme (in which the Church Urban Fund and the Centre are both key partners) as these much longer-term interns, drawn from and rooted in inner-city neighbourhoods, seek to deepen face-to-face relationships across the faiths.