First Year of Understanding Islam

We are coming to the end of our first years training on “Understanding Islam”. Around 20 people from across the country have gathered to learn more about Islam to enable them to be more effective reaching out to their Muslim neighbours in our multi-cultural nation.

They have received teaching from Muslims from different backgrounds, Imams and lay people as well as from Christians with vast experience of working with Muslims in this nation and overseas.

Those who attended said they found the following particularly helpful.

  • How Muslims feel about being a Muslim in the UK and what life can be like for Muslims.
  • Quran teaching from an Imam
  • Differences of Honour/ shame as opposed to forgiveness/guilt
  • Muslims are as diverse in their understanding of their faith as are Christians.
  • How history has led us to where we are today, understanding the last 100 years of history and politics.
  • The importance of contextualising stories and language.
  • Muslims are interesting people.

Would you like to know more about Islam and Muslims? Do you know other people who would? In which case please consider signing up for next year’s course.

There are 10 Saturday sessions between October and July all held at Hope Church Centre.

Further information is found at www.hopechurch.co.uk/understandingislam

To register an interest or ask any question email: jane@hopechurch.co.uk

The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion

posted in: Book Reviews, Tony Thompson 1

I rarely read a book twice, however I have just finished rereading The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt. You may think it is a curious choice, a book on Moral philosophy by a secular Jew! However, I have found it very helpful and relevant. I therefore want to share and apply some of his thoughts.

One of his premises, backed up by academic research, is described by the picture of us as elephants being ridden by a rider. The elephant represents our intuition, emotions and feelings whilst the rider is our intellect and reasoning. His point is that most of the time we are ruled by our feelings and use our reasoning to justify and reinforce our feelings.

He draws out the implications of this as follows –

We do moral reasoning not to reconstruct the actual reasons why we ourselves came to a judgment; we reason to find the best possible reasons why somebody else ought to join us in our judgment.

…….you can’t change people’s minds by utterly refuting their arguments.

If you really want to change someone’s mind on a moral or political matter, you’ll need to see things from that person’s angle as well as your own…… talk to the elephant first. If you ask people to believe something that violates their intuitions, they will devote their efforts to finding an escape hatch—a reason to doubt your argument or conclusion. They will almost always succeed.

Having seen the heated debates going on around me regarding the hot political issue of our time, Brexit, I am convinced about the relevance of this. People try to change others minds by reasoning but all that happens is we throw more and more facts at each other and no-one’s minds are changed. We doubt the truth of facts from the other side whilst accepting everything from our side. As Haidt says when we want to believe something, we ask ourselves, “Can I believe it?”” In contrast, when we don’t want to believe something, we ask ourselves, “Must I believe it?”

From a political perspective I have concluded that we need to listen to others much more and seek to convince them much less. I don’t see much of this happening, but I am convinced that it is the major need of our day and something that we as Christians should be modelling. It is something I am trying to do.

The application is obviously wider than politics it also applies to evangelising, us seeking to share our perspective on overall truth. Reasoning by itself doesn’t work. We need to listen to others perspective, allow people to get to know us, to like us. Only then will people be willing to listen. We then need to go beyond telling people what the Bible says is right or wrong, we must explain why it is right or wrong.

 

Written by Tony Thompson

People of Hope – Lady Jay and Exercising Her Authority

posted in: Hope Church, People of Hope 2

My name is Jackie Brooks, affectionately known by some as Lady Jay (at least I hope affectionately!) I joined Hope Church in 2010 because I wanted to join a local church that was community minded. My first awareness of Hope was a leaflet through my door when I lived in Marsh Farm offering services like grass cutting to those who needed it, you can’t get more community minded than that! It was a couple of years later that I visited Hope and it was a culture shock for me because I was raised in a black majority church with a strong Pentecostal tradition, and to my mind the worship was the most sedate I’d ever experienced apart from some early encounters with the Roman Catholic church. I didn’t know how to be or what to do. I did, however, receive the warmest and most loving welcome I could have asked for and by the end of the day had arranged to attend a cell group meeting and had informed my pastor that I had found my place in a local assembly. Don’t get it twisted though, I was still honestly questioning God as to why He had chosen to place me in such an unfamiliar environment. Now I am assured beyond doubt that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. I have been on a personal and spiritual journey that’s not over yet, and that thought is so exciting!!

After being in the background for a while, completely unsure of what I was supposed to be doing, I finally understood that God just wants me to be me. I am so grateful for the encouraging and affirming God-centred people, who have just come alongside me as God has stripped away false beliefs and thoughts I had about myself and about Him. He has brought me into a position of authority that He expects me to exercise in wisdom and that’s been a somewhat overwhelming truth to absorb. It was relatively recently that a very good friend reminded me that all the words in the world mean nothing without action and perhaps the time had come to put my money where my mouth is and that this point in my life is ‘where the rubber meets the road’. This was a very powerful word for me about walking my talk.

So, you can now find me exercising my authority wisely in the car park letting you know that you need to pop down to the Lansdowne and be sure you have your permit displayed. Or, you might find me in the PA booth exercising my authority by displaying the song lyrics and making you sing along. Most recently, I have become part of the leadership team of the Northwest Community area group where we are family, rubbing along together, experiencing the joys, anxieties, frustrations and love that that entails. We’re a very diverse group and our leadership team alone has people from 4 continents. We thrive on being different yet the same and we are reaching out to as many people as we can inside and outside of the church, building a community in which it’s ok to not be ok, to be vulnerable and unsure. Our overarching aim is to walk and grow together in the mundane, the day to day and most of all to spur each other on to be the fullness of who God created us to be. We do this through both structured and unstructured gatherings that always include food, sometimes music, sometimes games, sometimes just talking, sometimes all the above. Regardless, there’s always love, there’s always family and everyone’s welcome whichever area of Luton you live in.

 

Written by Jackie Brooks

People of Hope – Catherine and Teaching in Luton

posted in: Luton, People of Hope 1

My name is Catherine Simons. I made a decision to completely follow Jesus 20 years ago. I grew up in Wheathampstead and had the privilege of being bought up with Christian parents. I trained as a primary teacher at St. Mary’s college in Twickenham and had my last two teaching practices in Luton.  

For the last 13 years I have taught in a large primary school (four form entry) in Bury Park. The size of the school is much larger than the average sized school. Many pupils speak English as an Additional Language and are starting to learn English when they go to the nursery. Pupils who receive Pupil Premium (funding from the government) and have Special Educational Needs is above National Average.

I felt strongly called by God to work in the school and live in Bury Park while I worked at the school.  I have taught Reception, Year Two and currently teach Year Three. I am currently a Year Team Achievement Manager and have started leading Art across the school. I have also had the privilege of having many Newly Qualified teachers in my year group and have mentored a couple of these teachers. 

I have always loved children. I had a really tough time at school when I was growing up.  I’m motived to see children reach their full potential, have confidence in themselves and their ability to succeed. I’m passionate about teaching and can’t imagine doing anything else.

I enjoy teaching but it’s definitely challenging and I have to work hard at getting a work/life balance. I have amazingly supportive friends and family who encourage me. 

Over the years, I have had many changes in my job and have had the challenges of aiming to reach National standards and meet the requirements of the new National Curriculum. 

I have strived to work hard, show integrity by being honest and doing my best. 

I enjoy and have the privilege of working with children and staff from different cultural backgrounds. I have had the privilege of developing good friendships in my job with colleagues. 

I have also had the opportunity to use the skills I have developed to teach children in Uganda and Sierra Leone during school holidays on a voluntary basis. It is a privilege to teach underprivileged children and provide them with opportunities to reach their full potential.

 

Written by Catherine Simons

Maundy Thursday and Foot Washing

posted in: Bible 0

Refreshing Foot Washing Gifting

 

What is more important?  – filling a gap by serving on the churches programme or fulfilling a God-given gifting?

 

This Easter I was asked what does Maundy Thursday mean and I didn’t have a clue!  I knew that it was remembering when Jesus washed the feet of the disciples and that was about it. But what I was being asked was what did the word Maundy mean?  

 

The Revolutionary Command

It comes from the word ‘command’ which relates to what Jesus said to His disciples after he had washed their feet.  “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. John 13:34  New Living Translation.’  There is something revolutionary here. Jesus is about to lay His life down as a sacrifice for the sins of the world and His ‘command’ to His disciples is ‘from now on guys you are to love each other in the way I have been loving you’  This is love in a new dimension.

 

I noticed that one colleague was going to bring a bowl, a towel and a jug to a service. They were going to do the whole foot washing business. Should I do that or should I explain the meaning behind this powerful gesture?  One guy had already said, ‘I can’t bear to have my feet touched!’ Jesus was making a point and establishing a precedent and not showing them how to wash one another’s feet. Some of us can breathe sigh of relief!

 

A Thrilling Faith-Grace Adventure

How do I possibly fulfil this new command?  This does not need to be daunting but can be a thrilling adventure. You see, God has given to each of His reborn children a commission and gifting which allows us to fulfil this new command. The commission is to do what Jesus did – ‘As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’ (John 20:21)  The gifting is to discover and contribute what the Holy Spirit has given. Jesus gives His disciples a clear instruction and then the means to fulfil it.  ‘Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good’ (1 Corinthians 12:7). Gifting given which washes feet.   

 

There is not a short supply because God has already given all that is needed. There is just the right amount of grace and faith given to each of us to function comfortably in our gifting. ‘to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift’ (Ephesians 4:7)  WOW! Grace is on each one of us in proportion to the measure of Christ’s gift to us.  And the right amount of faith too! ‘For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you’ (Romans 12:3)  We already have the right amount of faith and grace we need.

 

Right Gifting which Fully Loves is Fully Refreshing

But how do we find what our true gifting is?  We used to have an expression when our true gifting didn’t fit or wasn’t being expressed correctly.  ‘A round peg in a square hole.’

 

We could be mis-gifting like a round peg in a square hole or we could be right-gifting so that the peg fits comfortably. We could be monopolise-gifting by trying to do everything and control everything or we could be equip-gifting to enable others. We could be lazy-gifting and withholding by sitting on our gift.  We could be burn out gifting or harsh-gifting by going outside grace and faith. Sadly, we could be flesh-gifting so that it is from me, about me, and for me, instead of Spirit-gifting. Ideally, we could be harmony and refreshing-gifting by serving in our gifting with our measure of faith and grace. Now that truly washes feet, giving up status and position to be low in meeting the basic needs of others.  

 

Thank God we are in a community of loving brothers and sisters where we can trial our gifting to discover what our gifting actual is. Area groups are ideal for this so that our mistakes are not so public. But hearts are big enough to absorb our mistakes and pastoral leadership is on hand to guide us so that our gifting can be confirmed. Let’s not put a label on someone because it’s a kind thing to do and makes us feel good. This is a big issue with powerful and crucial implications. We are talking here about God’s own gifts to God’s own people which, when applied, makes the Body of Jesus on earth function as He intended it to. Right gifting which fully loves is fully refreshing.

 

Christ’s Love Realised by Faith and Grace

An obvious question when we hear this command to love is, ‘Am I loving my brothers and sisters the way Jesus does?’  Challenging isn’t it? But the awesome wonder of this is, we have been given the grace and the faith by the Holy Spirit to do it.  Like the disciples I need to remove any obstacles and be full of the Spirit and get on and do it. ‘Lord, let this river of supernatural life and love flow through me.’

 

One simple gesture – One straight command

The take to heart-action-point here is seeing Jesus fulfil the whole of His commission. He loved the whole of humanity with the love shared in the Triune Godhead. He did it practically by meeting the needs of the sick around Him, speaking out for those being judged and condemned and teaching the crowds and training His disciples. The whole of His ministry was captured in one simple gesture, washing feet. Jesus gives us this new commandment and He gives to us a vivid practical example of how to do it. By the power of the Spirit Jesus meets deep rooted needs. He washes away our ingrained sin so that the pure gold of His life and character shines through. He continues to do this through me.   

 

Facilitating Refreshing Foot Washing Gifts

Of course, it’s great that someone fills a gap which could actually lead to discovering a God given gifting. But it is not about doing our bit for the church. We are told that  ‘to each one .. is given..’ (1 Corinthians 12:7 ) It would be a crying shame if parts of our own body could not function. Actually it could be disastrous. Are we contributing our God-given gift so that the local Body of Jesus is healthy and functioning well?  Do we need to sit together and discuss what is hindering us and what will facilitate refreshing foot washing gifting?

 

I ask myself, ‘Are these bible verses we have considered true?’  Yes, they are. Then there is enough grace and faith for me to function within but not outside my God-given gifting. Amen?

 

Written by Robert Lightowler

People of Hope – Gill and taking time out

It strikes me how many things in life we take for granted.

Sunsets. 

Flowers. 

Shelter. 

Getting from A to B. 

Sunshine. 

Rain. 

Friendship. 

Companionship. 

Creation. 

Just to name a few. 

Yet, so often in life we get so busy, rushing from one thing to the next and not taking time to stop and notice the beauty that is around us. The colours of spring as the flowers begin the show their faces and the brightly coloured blossom appears on the trees. 

Too often, we are too busy, or we feel too busy. Maybe it’s filling our time on mobile phones, responding to emails, catching up on social media or watching too much tv to name a few; that we don’t find time to slow down, to stop, to be still and take in all that is around us. Now whilst there’s nothing wrong with doing the above; sometimes they can end up taking over. 

I for one am guilty of wasting too much time on my phone but recently whilst on holiday, I consciously made the decision to just enjoy what was around me, to soak in new views, experiences and the beautiful creation that surrounded me and not feel the need to constantly be taking photos. Don’t get me wrong; I took some pictures but I enjoyed just being present in the moment. 

It reminded me of the importance of self-care, of having time out from the pressures of life and to make time to stop and be. 

So often, I can find myself rushing from one thing to the next, complaining I don’t have enough time in the day but when I stop and look at all I am doing; I realise I do have enough time, I just have to make the choice about how I fuel my time and what I fill it with. 

Do you notice the beauty that surrounds you? Do you stop and take time to notice the flowers? The birds singing? Loved ones smiling over a coffee? The various shades of green that fill the garden? 

If you don’t, I challenge you to look up. To look up and find the time to see all that is in your sight, to find the time to appreciate the every day things so often we no longer notice; and as you do, I know you’ll be pleasantly surprised… for when we look, there is so much beauty to be found. 

For everyday may not be good but when we truly look, there is something good that can be found in everyday.

 

Written by Gill Peck

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