We Need To Grieve

I recently met someone who has experienced the sudden, simultaneous death of close family members in a horrendous way. I can’t imagine ever personally meeting someone who has been through worse.

Despite bereavement and loss being all around us, I never really know how to deal with it, so I asked this person for their advice.

Here’s what I learnt from them:

We need to grieve for many things, not just bereavement.

Grieving is a process that lasts much longer than we acknowledge – often years.

Even for those people who do incredibly well at rebuilding their life and moving on positively through their bereavement journey, years later the pain can still be extremely deep – like a stab in the heart every day.

We need trusted people (who can cope with us opening the floodgates) to dare to keep asking us how we are really doing over the long term – not just in the initial first few weeks or months.

This conversation provoked me to consider what I need to grieve for. The length and breadth of my list surprised me:

Wasted opportunities in my twenties.
Infertility
An estranged son
A child with a disability
Unfulfilled hopes and dreams
How limited my skills and giftings really are
Loss of close friendships as the church grows
Good things it’s time to let go of in order to embrace change

What do you need to grieve for?
Why not make a list?
What stage in the grief process are you at?
Denial, anger, bargaining, depression or acceptance?

We need to grieve for so much more than just bereavement – even the results of referendums.

Written by Dean Fryer-Saxby

Dean

Is God Really In Control?

Recently I was preparing an alpha talk on How does God Guide Us? I love this talk I find it such an encouragement to reflect on and write down some of the examples from my journey with Jesus. In the week before the talk I had one of those interesting God Moments, you know the ones; you are busy cooking with a documentary in the background when all of a sudden it’s like the TV got turned up for a second; a sentence resonates and your whole body responds.

The scenario: a man’s wife and children are shot dead by his daughters boyfriend and he’s in hospital recovering.

Friends reassurance ‘God is in Control’.

Red light in me hears these words and shouts ‘No He’s not!’

Now my brain is awake ‘ Can I say that? Is that blasphemy?’

Time out. Step back.

Let’s think this through.

God is the creator and sustainer of the universe. He is present now, has always been and will always be. (Genesis 1, John 1:1-5) He knows us each by name, infact he knew us before we were formed in our mother’s wombs (Ephesians 1:4, Galatians 1:15) . He sees from the beginning to the end of time. He has plans for each of us (Jeremiah 29:11). He is good (Mark 10:18). He is over all things (John 17:2, Ephesians 4:6). He is in control.
(Isaiah 9:7, Mark 13:13)

So if God is in control how did this happen? Did He shut one eye for a second?

Of course not. God is not a created being like us, He sees all things (Isaiah 40:28). He is victorious and all powerful. We do however, live in a fallen world (Genesis 3). God sent His own Son as a sacrifice, as payment for our rebellion, so we could be in relationship with Him again (John 3:16). Whilst victory (through Jesus) is assured, the fighting is far from over. We are not all on the side of ‘team God’ and looking to live life His way.

God, in his love and grace, gives us free will (John 8:32, Genesis 2:19, Luke 22:42) . We are not puppets on a string. God does not control our individual actions, move our arms and legs or make us run. He is moved by injustice, wherever it is found (Micah 6:8). Selfishness and evil; ours and others, unjust and ungodly actions affect our lives. The enemy prowls around like a lion ready to pounce (1 Peter 5:8). Fact. God longs for us to stand up against these things (Psalm 103:6). He will use any situation to bring good; beauty from ashes (Psalm 50:2-6).

Sometimes we say things, however true and well meaning they may be, which do not convey the compassion of God or a full measure of understanding (psalm 103:8). Like the phrase ‘What will be, will be!’ We are not powerless. We can stand against the enemy schemes (Ephesians 6:11). God gives us the wisdom (Ephesians 1:8). Prayer, our weapon of warfare, is powerful. Prayer changes circumstances and situations (Mark 11:24, Exodus 17:10-12) . God does have plans and purposes for our lives and we can search them out (Jeremiah 29:11).

The situation was devastating. God knew. The God of compassion and abounding in love knew what was happening.  (Matthew 9:36) If he was a heavenly holy dictator he might have intervened but being true love and grace he did not (1John4:16,17). It doesn’t mean He is any less powerful. God our creator is always in control.

 

Written by Jane Reynolds

Jane

Reflections as a Church Leader following the referendum on EU membership

There has been much written over the last few days both before and after the referendum reflecting on the issues raised. I am fully aware of the reasons not to add to this mountain of words. Despite good reasons to keep silent, I am convinced that as a church leader I need to bring a Biblical perspective on the situation as I see it, these really are unprecedented times and I feel compelled to say something. However, I am aware this can be controversial.

Let me start with the assumptions being made about democracy, what has even been called in some places “Christian democracy”.

As a Christian leader let me say very straightforwardly the Bible does not advocate one form of government over another. As Tom Wright says, God is not nearly so interested in how rulers get to be rulers as he is in how they behave as rulers.

Tom Wright goes so far as warning about idolising democracy, assuming it is perfect and that all the problems of the world would be solved if only everyone accepted it and that provided our leaders attain power by a popular vote, that’s all that matters, and that the only possible critique is to vote them out again next time round.

As Christians we need to be very careful about how much trust we put in democracy, how much hope we put in it. We must avoid idolising it, we must warn others about idolising it. We trust in the God of the Lord Jesus Christ, not democracy.

In truth there are a number of dangers in democracy. If the only goal is winning an election or a referendum we will use all available means to do so, include misrepresenting the truth, rubbishing of opponents using smears and innuendos, making promises that cannot be kept. This then leads to mistrust of those in authority and an alienation with the whole political system. However, as Christians we are called to honour and respect those in authority (Romans 13) whilst calling them to account when they abuse their authority. Let us be clear not all politicians are liars, most are honourable people who make massive sacrifices to serve their country. However, the nature of our democratic system can lead to abuse.

This leads into another key issue that needs to be faced.

Many have put their trust in an assumption that leaving the EU and taking control back from Brussels will solve all their perceived problems. Suddenly there will be more money for the NHS, more jobs for local people, more people like us around, more prosperity and so forth. This is highly unlikely to happen, at least in the short term. This is likely to produce even more disillusionment and alienation with the whole political establishment.

One of the major issues that has come out of the referendum result is how divided our nation is, not just that it is split down the middle. It would appear that most young people voted one way; older people another way. Those with university degrees voted differently to those without. Those in Scotland and London voted differently to those in other parts of the country. Most of our friends will have similar views to ourselves and will have voted the same way. We find it hard to understand why others have differing views as we don’t tend to know the people who hold them.

It is therefore very easy for us to caricature others, writing them of as racists and the like. For the sake of the future there needs to be a coming together, a listening an understanding of other people’s fears and concerns. We, the people of God, need to be actively engaged in this.

I have just finished a preaching series based on the Bible book of Habakkuk, in hindsight it has proven to be extremely relevant. One of the messages from the book that I brought out is that God is in control, but that doesn’t mean that he does things that we always like or even understand. I think that is an important point to remember at this time. We also have to hold on to the fact that God is bigger than the UK, bigger than Europe even! We need to be careful of the assumption that the UK, or England, is God’s special country and is loved by him more than others, has a special purpose that other countries do not. I have heard this spoken by Christians and feel it needs very careful weighing. Another point from this book is that our response must be in prayer. When things are confusing and difficult we have to talk to God about it!

I have come to the conclusion that as God’s people we need to stand up and be counted at this time, our country needs us, we have to be prepared to speak truth even when it is not popular.

That means challenging the idolisation of democracy; holding politicians and the media to account in their behaviour during and after elections whilst giving them due honour; helping people handle disappointment through unrealistic expectations.

It also means taking responsibility to pray for our nation; political parties; political leaders.

 

Written by Tony Thompson

Tony Thompson

History of Hope Church – A Year Out

Well, there is a lot to write but I guess I will talk about my Frontier Year Project year out with Hope Church. That year, to be honest, was a tough year, and it was the first for me to live away from my home town area. It was also the first time in my life I got mugged, which was a horrible experience, but I was thankful for the support I received from my housemates and the people at the church. It was a difficult year for many reasons. I was a very immature Christian with a number of issues relating to family and past negative choices. I was able to get a lot of help though from the counseling team at the church, and from the leadership. I must say, Tony, Wayne Nicky Parsons and others on the leadership team were a real blessing, giving me many opportunities to serve and bless the community of Luton. I was particularly thankful to God for the opportunities I had to work with the youth in the church and the local schools, and the opportunities I had. Nicky’s experiences in New York had added a real dynamic to the children’s work, and she is a very intelligent woman, who had fantastic ideas for Hope Church. Wayne, of course, made them the dynamic duo. His work with youth was awesome, both in church and with youth outside of church.

I am really thankful for Tony, whose vision for Hope Church was inspirational. He believed in church planting, He was seeking a multicultural church, right from the outset, which of course is necessary in a town as diverse as Luton. I believe his vision paved the way for the outreach to the Chinese students at the university. I was really excited to hear the news about Hope Church Centre at the old Polish ex-servicemen’s club. This is a central part of Luton and I believe will be strategic in reaching the surrounding areas, including beautiful Bury Park, where God is silently moving among the Muslims to bring many to Christ.

Hope Church people were truly a blessing. I know God wants to expand this church and I believe God has exciting things to come.

Written by James Suddrey (in South Korea soon to be back in England possibly)

History of Hope Church – “I met my husband”

I moved to Luton in 2002 and after trying a number of churches in Luton I saw a newspaper report on Hope Church. Keen to find a church where I could feel comfortable I went along to a Sunday meeting at the Sixth Form College. I was greeted by Dean Fryer-Saxby who quickly introduced me to two ladies, Ruth and Robyn. Fourteen years on I still consider the three of them to be friends.

I was invited to have lunch with some other people, I quickly realized that there were a number of people connected to the church in their twenties and thirties. It was very easy to make friends quickly. We would often meet together during the week, sometimes for food, sometimes to discuss more about God and our relationship with him, often to celebrate people’s birthdays.

It was at one of these occasions I met my husband, James. Ruth introduced James and I; Robyn was our bridesmaid and Dean with his wife Polly officiated at our wedding. We have been married just over twelve years which in many ways has gone really quickly.

During my time at Hope Church I have spent many a Sunday morning within Kids work. It is a pleasure and privilege to see children learn and grow. Most recently I have taught the Little Lights, our under threes, where we dance, tell amazing stories about Jesus and play with playdough. A lit bit more fun than my idea of the comfortable church.

Not only has it been a chance to see the kids grow in age and their relationship with God. The many friendships I have built up within Hope Church has helped me also continue to grow in my relationship with God. I have often read stories to the children about how much God loves them and my people within Hope Church have demonstrated God’s love to me.

Written by Sarah Hibbard

Sarah Hibbard

Sarah now works as our Open House Lounge Practical Manager

History of Hope Church – Family to a Travelling Kiwi

I discovered Hope Church on the internet as I was preparing to leave New Zealand, to move to the other side of the world.

I was researching for a place to base myself in the UK, and had come across this town called ‘Luton’. Having been so involved in my church growing up, I knew that I needed to find a place where I could be ‘at home’. Knowing I would not find a replica of what I was leaving, I instead looked at the possibilities where I was going, especially those that were different (in a good way!). Detailed story short, Hope Church was the second Church I visited once I landed in the UK, and there I stayed!

Hope Church became my home and my grounding for the two years I lived in the UK. Working as a Primary School teacher, and teaching in Hertfordshire, I was limited by time, and without Hope Church, I doubt I would have lasted as long as I did in my profession. Hope Church introduced me to wonderful people and I have great friends there, and many great memories. I was also able to get involved with a variety of different activities run by or in conjunction with the church such as Forte Voices, Open House, Breakout, and Newday, to name a few.

I had no spectacular revelation or moving event that God did while I was part of the Church, rather the biggest impact was through serving. I started out on the welcoming team which was great as a new person, getting to meet a whole lot of different people while they got to meet me. I don’t remember exactly what happened to cause the shift away from being a greeter (I think it might have been the recognition in myself that while greeting was great and I had been filling a need, it wasn’t utilising my passions), but I felt that the sound desk was where I needed to be.

I began learning the ropes of Sound Engineering under the capable tutelage of Nigel and Luke. Hope Church is so welcoming, caring, and centred on being/showing God to the community, I didn’t feel like I was standing on anyone’s toes when I expressed my interest in learning about it. When I started down this track, I knew my time staying in Luton was coming to an end, and while I only spent about 8 or 9 months serving Hope Church this way, the flow-on effect has been greater than I could have dreamed.

Planning on returning to New Zealand in September 2015, I instead found myself living in the kingdom of Bahrain. And it is here that I am currently using the skills God started training me with my time in Luton. Without my time at Hope, I wouldn’t have had the courage to volunteer for the Sound Team at my new church (a larger congregation), I wouldn’t have found myself being challenged musically and spiritually on the worship team, and I wouldn’t be my new school’s go-to person for audio requirements!

God knew what I needed, and he knew that I would receive it at Hope Church Centre in Luton. A step in my journey, a training ground for the future, choosing to visit, and then stay at Hope Church has blessed me. What is the best thing about Hope Church? It’s the people. The people prepared to serve, laugh and run events. The people who invite you to Sunday dinner the first day you attend, invite you to movies and games nights. The people who are God’s hands and feet, becoming a family to a travelling Kiwi.

Written by Anna Johnston

Anna Johnston

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