Monthly Archives: February 2013

Prayers for Day 16 of Lent

Pray for SPACE Project – which works with young vulnerable women as part of Soul Survivor Harrow’s outreach. It provides one to one listening, mentoring and signposting, and True2U (an 8 week programme that improves the self esteem of girls at risk of disengagement with education, risky sexual behaviour, and mental health problems).  The Church Urban Fund is supporting an expansion in the programme.

Pray also for the staff and the partner churches of the Contextual Theology Centre, as they discuss how their community organising work can engage with and support vulnerable women in east London – especially those who are commercially exploited.

Gospel Reflections for Sunday 3 March

This Sunday’s Gospel reading is Luke 13.1-9.  It is not an easy reading – a warning to ‘repent or perish’ followed by the parable of the fig-tree, which concludes with the words: If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.

Judgment is not a theme that Christians can evade.  The Gospel is about grace – about a God whose love for us does not depend on what we do or how we behave – but it challenges us to respond to that free offer, not least because life without that grace is barren and destructive.  As Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it:

Cheap grace is the mortal enemy of the church. Our struggle today is for costly grace. … Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which has to be asked for, the door at which one has to knock. It is costly, because it calls to discipleship; it is grace, because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly, because it costs people their lives; it is grace, because it thereby makes them live.

The Old Testament reading set for Sunday (Isaiah 55.1-9) reinforces the message.  It speaks of the destructiveness of a life closed in on the self – and the invitation to find fulness of life by turning instead to God and to his ways of justice and of peace.

It is not a kindness – to our neighbours or ourselves – to evade the reality of the choice which God places before each human being.  We respond to God, not merely with the words we speak, but with the way we live, and the things we set our hearts on.  As one writer has put it:

my God is that which rivets my attention, centres my activity, preoccupies my mind, and motivates my action

The disciplines of Lent are life-giving, not life-denying, precisely because they are about the costly process of weaning us offmaking idols of the good things in creation.  In focusing us on the one true God, and setting our hearts on his Kingdom, we find truly abundant life, and we learn to enjoy – and share – his gifts aright.

This is not only true in our individual lives.  One reason the Contextual Theology Centre has launched the Seeing Change course this Lent is precisely because we need to learn this lesson corporately as well as individually – and wean ourselves off the economic idols that are costing us all so dear.

 

 

Prayers for Day 15 of Lent

Pray for the Pilgrims Heart Trust, a new partnership between churches and charities in Slough and Reading which is being supported by the Church Urban Fund.  It will enable more effective support of homeless people in the towns, including arts training and mentoring workshops, to help people move towards work.

Pray also for the work CTC is doing with churches in Shoreditch and Forest Gate, to explore the ways in which social enterprises can support young people seeking work.  Last Friday, CTC co-ordinated a ‘Tech Jam’ training young people in web development and social media. Pray for those who participated, and for Helen Moules and Daniel Stone as they evaluate this and explore future work with Freeformers (the social enterprise which delivered the event).

Investing in the transformation of London

The Bishop of London has officially launched the London Missional Housing Bond. The Bond is seeking to raise £2million to enable a partnership of churches and Christian organisations to buy houses and flats. These properties will then be rented, at affordable rents, to church workers serving in our capital’s most deprived communities.

The Bond was launched in the Mercers’ Hall in the City of London – the historic home of commerce and finance. The wealth of the City contrasts starkly with the deeply ingrained poverty to be found in the areas which will benefit from the Bond – including the East End; worlds apart, yet less than a mile away. The purpose of the Bond is to begin to reconnect London’s wealth with its disadvantaged communities, through the church.

House prices in London have now reached astronomic levels, even in the most disadvantaged communities in inner London. It is arguably now a social crisis. For churches attempting to promote the social transformation that is so badly needed, the price of housing has become a major obstacle to mission. Churches cannot afford to house their youth workers, community organisers and interns in the same neighbourhood. These staff often commute long distances or even move to work somewhere else.

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The Bond tackles this problem head on.  By raising funds (starting from £5,000) from a range of investors – individuals, churches, institutions – it will be possible to buy houses and flats outright and then rent them to church workers at more affordable rates than anything the open market provides. The business model allows the payment of a modest rate of interest to investors (up to 2%).

That is why this is a social investment. Investing in the Bond will not make you rich! It will, however, enable local churches in some of London’s most deprived communities to take on workers and kick-start much needed missional projects. Investors will know their money is working hard giving a social return.

The Bond is being delivered by Affordable Christian Housing, a long established Christian housing association based in London. They are working on behalf of three key partners:

– The Diocese of London, overseeing a network of parishes

– The Eden Network, which places teams in estates across London

– The Contextual Theology Centre, which supports churches across East London to engage in integrated mission to their communities.

These partners will oversee the Bond, decide where to buy the houses and select tenants.

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The Bond launch event itself was a resounding success. It brought together a diverse mix of bishops, clergy and potential investors as well as some of the church workers who might benefit from the Bond – youth workers, interns and community organisers. In this mix, we might perhaps also see the glimmerings of a second social transformation – not just of the deprived communities that stand to benefit, but also of the way that wealth is viewed and invested by those fortunate enough to own it. In an era of irresponsible capitalism, new attitudes to the use of money are needed.

Here we see the church playing an ancient role – bringing rich and poor together and reminding them both of their equality in the eyes of God. What markets and governments cannot do, perhaps the Church can?

For more information on how to invest in the Bond, please click here.

UPDATE: The Bond launch features in today’s Daily Telegraph City Diary (27/02/2013)

The Diocese Of London website now features the Bond and quotes for all partner organisations.

Prayers for Day 14 of Lent

Pray for Tim Thorlby, Development Director of the Contextual Theology Centre.  Pray that work he has been doing with Affordable Christian Housing, the Eden Network and the Diocese of London to develop a Missional Housing Bond may bear fruit – generating more affordable accommodation for missional workers in London’s poorest neighbourhoods.  It was launched yesterday evening at an event with the Bishop of London, who stressed the distinctive  and transformative role played by workers who live, work and pray in inner-city neighbourhoods, rather than ‘intervening from outside’.

The projects supported by the Church Urban Fund’s Mustard Seed Grants exemplify this point – growing out of the ongoing presence and engagement of the local church.  Today, please pray for About Time, a project in Plymouth which is working with Stoke Damerel Parish Church to provide a Time Bank and English Language Classes to refugees and asylum seekers.

Prayers for Day 13 of Lent

Pray for West Cumbria Money Advice (WCMA), who are responding to need idenitified by Allerdale Borough Council and deliver financial and budget training to local vulnerable groups. Support from the Church Urban Fund is enabling WCMA to purchase materials to deliver the training sessions.

Pray also for the Community Bible Studies CTC is organising in different parts of London this year – taking the Word of God into the wider community, and enabling a deeper engagement between Scripture and the inner-city contexts of its partner churches.

Prayers for Day 12 of Lent

One of the outcomes of the Contending Modernities project (see yesterday’s prayer post) is a deeper understanding of the experience of diaspora communities, and ways in which they can be more deeply engaged in action with other groups for the common good.  Pray for the work of the New Citizens Organising Team in London Citizens, and especially for the churches and chaplaincies involved in its work

Pray also for the parish of St Benet Fink, which is employing a Community Mission Apprentice (CMA) to form community partnerships to expand, establish and run projects for disadvantaged young people, the elderly, and establish involvement in Haringey Churches Winter Night Shelter. The CMA will build on partnerships that are being established with YMCA and Age UK to begin this work, doing the background preparation and work with volunteers necessary in setting up these projects. The youth and elderly work is particularly important in an area that has recently seen the loss of a local authority youth centre and has been affected by the 2011 riots, and has lost 7 elderly day centres.

Prayers for Day 11 of Lent

Pray for CTC’s Research Director Caitlin Burbridge, and for all involved in the Contending Modernities project, which explores how Christians, Muslims and people of no faith discern and promote a truly ‘common good’.  Pray that the research and publications of the east London project will enable good practice to be shared – and myths and fears to be dispelled.

Pray also for ‘About Time’ – a project in Plymouth supported by the Church Urban Fund, which is working with Stoke Damerel Parish Church to provide a Time Bank and English Language Classes to refugees and asylum seekers.

Prayers for Day 10 of Lent

Pray for Churches Together in the Launceston, who are working with the Church Urban Fund to set up a Money Advice Centre building on the work of the local food bank, to address longer term issues.

Pray also for CTC’s partner churches in Tower Hamlets and Hackney, who are involved each borough’s Foodbank – CTC’s Shoreditch Group playing a vital role in establishing the latter.  Pray for the work of the Centre, as it seeks to help churches relate this work of mercy to the Gospel call to act for justice – and challenge the root causes of food poverty.

Prayers for Day 9 of Lent

Pray for churches in Hastings and St Leonards who are setting up a Christians Against Poverty Centre, based at St Leonards Baptist Church.  From May 2013, with support from the Church Urban Fund, they will employ a centre manager for 2 days a week and train volunteer debt coaches. Other volunteers will befriend and support clients. They aim to support 40 clients in the first year. Partner churches are giving financial support to the project. They expect a proportion of their clients to be refugee/asylum seekers and people coping with substance misuse.

Pray for the Parish of St Peter’s Bethnal Green, and CTC’s Church-based Community Organiser Andy Walton who is based there.  Pray for the Community Meal taking place at St Peter’s this Sunday, after the all-age Eucharist.  The Community Meal will be a regular event, and is inspired and shaped by the Communion liturgy.  It will ensure local people have a square meal – and enable those who live in food poverty to take surplus food home.