Why is the Feast important?

posted in: Bible, Events, Hope Church, Luton 0

What is the Feast?

One of the many privileges I have had as a youth leader in Luton is that as well as leading an amazing group of young people, I sit on the leadership team of an organisation called ‘The Feast’.  Most of you have probably never heard of ‘The Feast’ well it was set up with the key purpose of bringing together teenagers from different faiths and cultures to build friendships, explore faith and hopefully, change lives.  

The Feast creates a safe place where young people can eat together, socially interact and share their thoughts and feelings in an honest way; it facilitates discussion with the young people sharing about their own faith or discussing current issues from a faith perspective. In this process, the groups are not out to convert each other, instead they are given the opportunity to build friendships and find common ground with those from different faiths and communities. Many of us, despite living in Luton, may never have set foot into the home of someone from a different faith background, never shared a meal with them, never tried to build anything more than a superficial relationship with them.  

 

My question to us is why not? What stops us from building relationships with people who are very different to us? Could it be fear? A lack of time? A feeling of superiority? We certainly cannot blame a lack of opportunity.  Living in Luton we have opportunities to build friendships with people of different faiths that so many other places don’t have – are we making the most of it?

 

Jesus and his death on the cross is the bridge between us and God.  In the same way, we are called to be bridge builders across the many chasms that exist in our society. The Feast is a vehicle that allows us to do this.

 

Why is the Feast important?

We as a nation are facing a time of increasing division between people of different religions and cultures. From American politics we are bombarded with images of building walls and travel bans and as a nation ourselves we are living through what Brexit looks like, what it means to be British and the horrific attacks committed by broken people in London and in Manchester. It is into this mixed up, uncertain climate that the work of the Feast is so valuable.  

The story of the Good Samaritan is one that should provoke and challenge us as people of faith.  Here was a man who stopped to help a neighbour, a Jewish neighbour who no doubt saw him as inferior, who would undoubtedly have disregarded him in any other social context.  This however didn’t stop the Samaritan, he sought no recognition, no glory – he was simply motivated by love and compassion for his fellow man. It is this story that Jesus told which lies at the heart of the Feast. Demonstrating in a tangible way what it means to bring the Kingdom of God to earth.  

Many of us living in Luton would say we live amongst people of many ethnicities and religions, however, the reality is that many of us simply live parallel lives with them.  We may see them and perhaps be acquaintances with some but really we share little relationship, depth or community with those from other religions.  Most of us may never have even been into the home of someone from another faith or ethnicity.  

 

How can you get involved?

 

  • Pray for the work that the Feast does with young people in our town, particularly during these times when we need to stand for building relationships not walls. When love and peace should motivate us not hatred and fear.
  • Volunteer your time to support the work of the Feast
  • Donate to the work of the Feast

 

For more information go to www.thefeast.org.uk

 

Written by Linda Geevanathan

Deposits of Faith

posted in: Jane Reynolds, Living Faith 1

Returning from church on Sunday fresh from the word about God giving deposits of faith, I sat down for a few minutes to pray about the questionnaire Rob Lampard and I were going out to do around Biscot on Monday morning.  

I ask God to reveal some of the people we were to speak to. As I did three different descriptions came to mind which I wrote down. We were not going out to specifically ‘treasure hunt’ or pray with people, it would be an extra, if opportunity arose. I can’t not take these opportunities but I was very conscious of not causing offence, we were there to build bridges and find out information. It has been years since I have been treasure hunting or prayed with people on the streets of Luton, but God gave me a picture some years ago of people praying by the Co Op in Biscot and I want to discover just what that might mean.

Monday came and one of the first people we met along Biscot road was a guy in jeans and a red jumper. This wonderful treasure did not want to talk about his views on Biscot, that didn’t matter, another time perhaps. I was able to chat with a wide range of people from diverse ages and cultural and religious backgrounds, and I began to understand a measure of the feelings people had towards they area. Some people talked openly and invited prayer into their situations. Others struggled to find the words in English.

After an hour or so Rob and I parted to return to our respective homes. It was on my way home that I had my best conversation. I found myself walking behind a lady who had declined to answer the survey because she had to get to the dentist. I was drawn to her dress, one with bright flowers.

 ‘That’s the flowery dress’ I realised God was saying. (Yes it was on my list)

”But she didn’t want to talk she is on her way to the dentist, she will think I’m stalking her’

This young Muslim lady with her child stopped at the bus stop. I walked by.

‘That’s the flowery dress, just tell her I love and care for her’

‘Ok’ 

Turning round I walked back to the lady.

“I’m sorry to disturb you. I promise I’m not stalking you, it’s just that I feel God wants to tell you he loves you.” 

I had her attention and she wanted to hear more. I explained I was from Hope Church and about the dress. She wanted to know if I read faces and I explained that I believed God speaks to us today and that God had given me a picture of her dress the day before when I was praying. As we talked she revealed why the massage was important to her and how perfect the timing was. 

I left her further on her journey with God, smiling and encouraged having brightened her day. Her face and countenance were changed. 

Me, I was humbled, encouraged and excited all at the same time as I praised and thanked God on my way home. 

Deposits of faith, no matter how small, when exercised grow. 

Looking forward to my next adventure in Biscot.

Written by Jane Reynolds

Healing on the Streets

posted in: Living Faith, Luton 0
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Many towns across the UK—and in the wider world—are welcoming teams of Christians onto their streets each week to pray for people in need.  In Luton we already have a number of people who pray in teams on a Saturday afternoon from 2 – 4 pm on Market Hill in the town centre.  It is part of what God is doing these days in the Church in the West as we seek to engage with people outside the Church.  

 

Healing on the Streets is a gentle and loving ministry that follows a model developed in 2005 at Causeway Coast Vineyard church in Coleraine, Northern Ireland by Mark Marx and others.  It is a simple but beautiful way to reach out to the lost and hurting on the streets of our town. Launched in Luton in 2011 by the Town Centre Chaplaincy  with the support of churches in the town including Hope, Healing on the Streets enables us to connect with people in the community every week, powerfully expressing God’s love. The teams comprise Christians from different churches in the town, all trained in the HoTs approach with two people leading. St Hugh’s in Lewsey also have a regular monthly session in St Dominic’s Square.

 

While sometimes we boldly approach people, we are trusting God to draw people by the Holy Spirit. Our total reliance is on the Holy Spirit, we can do nothing without Him. Prayer is a vital feature of what we do, and we have experienced how times of increased prayer have resulted in increased kingdom activity.

Healing on the Streets is a very accepting ministry – the streets are full of broken, hurting people, so we try to minister with gentleness and sensitivity. “He will not quarrel or cry out; no one will hear his voice in the streets.”  But we find also that we pray for many different sorts of people, and often for believers.

 

Whether they are healed or not, people who come to the chairs for prayer should be left in no doubt afterwards that God loves them, and that here are a group of Christ passionate people who truly care and show love.

 

We aren’t there to preach or argue, but to demonstrate the love of God.  We pray for people of all faiths and even on occasion for declared atheists!  After all God loves them the same.  Very often when we pray it is clear that people feel a sense of God’s touch.

 

Over the 5 or 6 years HOTS has been going in Luton we reckon that we have had around a thousand meaningful interactions with people.  Many of these are people who may not normally come near a church building. It can be slow on a Saturday, it can also be busy but it is always a privilege to have been able to participate.  There is always a need for committed team members and there are contact details below if anyone from Hope Church would like to join this ministry. Alternatively if you don’t believe that actively joining a team to work on Market Hill is for you, we would really appreciate offers to support us in prayer.  Prayer changes what happens on Saturday afternoons!

 

Contact details for volunteers:  info@lutontcc.org.uk

 

See also:  http://www.healingonthestreets.com/   Facebook:  HealingontheStreets Coleraine

 

Written by Geoff Simons

 

World Christians Quiz

posted in: History 0

We automatically look at the world from our own cultural perspective. I found that I was surprised by the answers to the following, it challenged my prejuduces.

 

1) What is the language of the largest number of Christians?

a) English

b) French

c) Spanish

d) Korean

 

2) Which languages have more that 10 million Christian speakers?

a) Russian

b) Quechua

c) Tagalog

d) Korean

e) Arabic

 

3) Which country has sent the largest number of Protestant missionaries abroad?

a) Brazil

b) Japan

c) Kenya

d) Papua New Guinea

e) USA

 

4) How many languages is the Bible translated into?

a) 2,500

b) 1,048

c) 318

 

5) How many Christian denominations are there in the world?

a) 260

b) 6,000

c) 22,000

 

6) What is the distribution of Christians between the ‘north’ industrialised, wealthy world nations and the ‘south’ poorer, less developed countries.

a) North 83%/South 17%

b) 51%/49%

c) 29%/71%

 

7) What is the proportion between ‘white’ and ‘non-white’ Christians in the world today?

a) 38:62

b) 81:19

c) 48:52

 

Answers

  1. Spanish (207 million) Though English is spoken by a far larger number as a second language
  2. All of them
  3. Brazil. All countries have listed over 2,000 Protestant missionaries abroad.
  4. Complete Bibles 318/New Testaments 1,048/Bible portions 2,500
  5. 22,000. 6,000 are numerically significant. There are 260 new denominations each year.
  6. North 51% South 49%. In 1900 that proportion was 83:17
  7. 48:52. It was 81:19 in 1900

Living Faith as it applies today!

I have been powerfully impacted by so much that has happened over the last week, the Three Girls programmes about child sexual exploitation on the TV and then the Manchester terrorist attack. Muslims are in the heart of both and some Christians have been speaking out against Muslims, telling them to put their house in order.

I have asked myself the question, how does Living Faith apply in this situation?

Firstly, I think that all communities need to look at themselves and get their own house in order before telling others what to do, as Jesus said in the sermon on the Mount.

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

Secondly, I believe we need to work together with others, listen to their perspective and seek to find solutions together rather than pointing the finger and making generalisations.

In Luton, this is happening around CSE. Christian and Muslim faith leaders are together seeking to raise awareness of the issues of CSE, working with the authorities and training people to spot the signs of exploitation and grooming. Recently we hosted a training evening with over 50 leaders from different faith backgrounds, including many Imams. I know Muslims are as horrified by CSE as Christians, I also know it is not an issue only within the Muslim community. More information can be found on www.faces.org.uk.

There are other initiatives we are associated with allowing Christians and Muslims to work together, breaking down fear barriers and hearing each other. E.g. Several Syrian refugee’s families live in Dunstable. Recently eggs were thrown at their homes and one of their children was severely beaten by white youths in what police are calling a hate crime. Nigel Taylor, leader of Hope Church South Beds visited to offer support to the families. Obviously, the families were frightened, he tried to assure them that not all white people felt the same and invited them all to a BBQ hosted by the church. It was a tremendous evening, appreciated by members of both communities. Further joint ventures are planned, some people from our church are also involved in this.

Our youth group is starting to meet regularly with other youth in the town from different backgrounds, mostly Muslims but also some Polish Catholics. They play games together as well as talk about their faith and what it means for them. Again, fears are faced and people are listened to.

But what to make of Manchester?

As David Aaronovitch said in the Times,

Muslim community leaders were deafening in their “speaking out” after Manchester, so I don’t think we need to be lectured again about that.

This is true in Luton as well as nationally. I know that it is heartfelt too. I also know that many Asians, not just Muslims but Christian Asians too, are fearful of physical and verbal abuse in retaliation from white people after Manchester. Whether this is a valid fear or not, we need to listen and stand with them, not allowing fear to win.

Many will have an Asian neighbour or work colleague, ask them about their fears, listen to them.

I have also pondered why did he it? My wife and I talked about it, we didn’t really come up with a definitive answer. I then read an article by Daniel Finkelstein in the Times where he asked the same question, and being cleverer than me he had an answer, which I found convincing.

He said that terrorists engage in acts of terrorism because they think they might work. And they’re right. Terrorism is evil and nauseating but not senseless……… terrorists think their cause is so great that they don’t mind what happens to them; some hope to get away with it somehow, and others think death’s finality is overstated…. They do what they do because they think their death is worth it. And they are sure that the death or others – even Manchester’s innocent children – are worth it.

He therefore concludes that, as long as terrorist attacks appear to advance a cause, publicise political aims and win tactical victories, they multiply. When they are resisted for long enough, they fizzle out. The examples of the IRA bombing campaign for a united Ireland and ETA’s campaign for an independent Basque state are amongst the examples given to prove the point.

How should we therefore respond? Not by discriminating against Muslims as a group, not by seeking to find root causes (e.g. why did the person feel oppressed and excluded). The only line of defence is resistance and defiance until they stop is all that we have.

Let us resist terrorism, do all we can to stop attacks, whilst recognising they cannot be stopped completely. Let us not play into the hands of terrorists, rather show them that it doesn’t work. Let us do that together as Christians and Muslims and people of no faith.

This is Living Faith.

 

Written by Tony Thompson

Dotism – Barriers between people

posted in: Tony Thompson 1

Barriers between people are as old as the fall and far from easy to deal with, that is the message of Genesis chapters 1 to 11.

One of the barriers we need to overcome is “dotism”, let me explain.

I came across a social experiment where 10 people to be interviewed at a company for a job. Before the interview a red dot painted on their cheek. After the interview, there was a debrief. Each of the 10 said the interviewer kept staring at the red dot on their cheek.

However, 5 didn’t have a red dot – they had a clear one that couldn’t be seen! Yet they still felt the interviewer was focusing on the dot! People feel self-conscious about whatever makes them insecure. E.g. weight, gender, any negative distinctive.

Do you feel as if people are focusing on your red dot?

I have felt this on several occasions, but was it really a red or was it just in my imagination? E.g. I visited an adventure centre in Hong Kong mostly frequented by mainland Chinese. The men were mostly smaller than me and wearing suits. I was wearing shorts and felt everyone was focusing on my bare, long legs!

I ran in an open athletic race in Watford, people were put into a heat based on their expected finishing time. Most of the others in my heat were teenage girls! I have been the only white person in a black church.

Or have you felt like the interviewer – wrongly accused of focusing on the red dot? Once I interviewed two people for a job – I  appointed the white guy rather than the Asian. Was I racist?

Barriers exist between people – not least because of dotism! We need to be aware of these barriers and work to break them down if we are going to build an inclusive culture.

 

Written by Tony Thompson

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