Our calling as a church

At the very beginning of the Bible, in Genesis chapter 1, we are told that God created humans in his image. This was the climax and pinnacle of his creation.

26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

27 So God created mankind in his own image,
    in the image of God he created them;
    male and female he created them.

The narrative continues describing the fall of man and its consequences. At the heart of the fall was a desire to be like God. Part of the consequences of the fall was a change was that the relationship between man and God changed and the relationships between people changed. The relationship between men and women was not how God original intended, similarly the relationship between different cultures.  This is described in chapters 3 to 11 of Genesis. A few key verses are shown below.

From Genesis 3

16 To the woman he said,

“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
    with painful labour you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
    and he will rule over you.”

From Genesis 11

Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.

They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”

But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”

So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel—because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.

The rest of the Bible, starting with the story of Abraham, describes how God is brining about a new creation, restoring of relationship between humans and God and between humans. The climax of this is the death and resurrection of Jesus which ushers in the new creation that will be fully realised at the end of the age.

Revelation 7

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.

In the meantime, we seek to see the new creation breaking into the present age.

Paul summarises the restoration of relationships between humans in his letter to the Galatians chapter 3.

28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

In the body of Christ, we are all one, all equal. Regardless of race; social position or gender. Don’t have to become all the same race, social position or gender. Don’t have to change – become like others – white middle class or whatever. White is not superior to black; male is not superior to female; cleaner is not superior to bank manager. Just as it was before the fall.

Equal doesn’t mean the same. We should not be colour blind. We should not be unaware of peoples cultural and educational backgrounds. We don’t ignore differences, we say they no longer create barriers to fellowship. We recognise each other as equals.

The focus in Scripture is on caring for the vulnerable. The powerful ignores differences – say we are all the same, ignoring the fact that we are not but that we should have equal opportunities and value.

In the light of these truths we want to be –

A growing community of people – from different backgrounds, stages of life and experiences, including the vulnerable – who are one family in Christ Jesus

Over the last few months I have preached several sermons which describe this in more detail. You can listen to these sermons on line.

An initial sermon describing that we are ALL one in Christ based on Galatians 3v28.

A sermon on racism.

A sermon on Men, Women and God.

 

Written by Tony Thompson

Open House Lounge: A Community Project on a Journey – Part 2

posted in: Hope Church, Luton 0

 

Open House lounge has changed over the years, it has grown in numbers, the amount of people coming in from outside the church with little church background has increased. Yet, the vision and ethos remain the same. We are welcoming to all, young and old, rich and poor, people of all faiths and none it is a safe place for people to come to. Open House Lounge continues to be a bridge between the community and Sunday services. If you have not been to Open House do come and visit on a Monday, Wednesday or a Saturday morning. You would find a warm welcome, a home from home, good coffee or tea and maybe make some new friends.

There are various activities that take place in Open House Lounge, we have a parties twice a year at Christmas and Easter. We have done a Christmas Day meal over the last couple of years, which has been well attended with great food. The Bridge Language school meet on a Wednesday and join us for lunch.  

People come to Open House for a number of reasons; they come to play pool and table tennis, some come to do Art or other activities; others come to meet up with friends and some come because they enjoy the food. Whatever reasons people have for coming, many return time and time again because they enjoy being part of Open House Lounge. It is also a chance to become friends with people from different backgrounds and age groups; no two conversations are ever the same.

At Open House Lounge we don’t have the answers to everyone’s problems but what we do well is provide a listening ear, sometimes we pray for people and we signpost them to other organisations that can help. At Open House Lounge we help volunteers gain experience that will help them find a job. A number of our volunteers have gained a level 2 food hygiene certificate which is a recognised qualification.

There are many ways that you can be involved, first of all come and visit. I remember Theresa talking about Open House on Saturday mornings and thinking that’s nice, I will pray for them but it is not something I would go along to. Then James, my husband, eventually persuaded me to come down. I was pleasantly surprised by the atmosphere, and generally how much I enjoyed it. So do come along and try it – you too might enjoy it!

Please do talk to me about volunteering, we need help with art and other activities, serving and making food. Do you have a special skill you would like to share with people? You would be welcome to come and share it with us. Get in contact: sarah.hopechurch@gmail.com

 

Find out about Open House Lounge and its opening times by clicking here.

Written by Sarah Hibbard

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Open House Lounge: A Community Project on a Journey – Part 1

posted in: Hope Church, Luton 0

Open house Lounge, the community project at Hope Church centre, started in September 2011 at the time Hope church building in villa road was opened to be used by the Church and the local community.

It came about after a member of Hope Church was given a picture of a roaring fire in a fireplace during a time of prayer around purchasing the building. She saw people who were blue and skinny coming in and warming themselves at the fire, as they warmed themselves they became fatter and their faces were full of colour they were well rounded and whole. She felt the fire represented the love of God as demonstrated by His people and the people became whole as they drew near to God’s love and warmed themselves at the fireplace. When she visited the building there was a fireplace upstairs like the one she saw in the picture and she felt it meant to start something in the building.

A small group of people started to pray and seek God as to how to open the building to the local community. Several key things came to mind as they prayed:

  • Everyone was welcome whatever age background race or religion
  • It would feel like home
  • It would be a safe place
  • A place to talk and be heard
  • To offer friendship
  • Peace and quiet if the person needed it
  • There would be refreshments
  • No pressure
  • They would make prayer available if people asked for it.

 

The project started small scale in a conservatory and took time to build. It was open every Monday and Friday from 10am to 3pm.

After a while it moved into the main hall of the building with an area for mums and small children, a pool table, table tennis tables and cafe style tables for refreshments.

Over the years there have been many different activities taking place alongside Open House.

  • Various art groups
  • Art workshops/craft fairs
  • Walking football group
  • Zumba
  • Museum visit
  • Board games
  • Table top Sale
  • Active Luton stall
  • Crochet, knitting
  • Children’s holiday activities
  • Men’s breakfast group
  • Mums lunch group
  • Foodbank

 

In 2016 we received a grant from Health courage,The Peoples health trust that enabled us to employ a part-time manager and project coordinator for two years up till that point the project was run solely by volunteers. The project also started to run another session on Saturday morning. The need for volunteers is ever present and many people have served in the project in many ways over the years, some of the original team are still there. They have come with many different skills and talents and we have been grateful for them all. It has been a joy to see many come in to use the Lounge and go on to be volunteers.

 

The original ethos of Open House lounge has never changed :-

To demonstrate God’s love by caring for and serving our clientele through an attitude of love and acceptance, we take time to listen and include everyone we want to provide a welcoming environment that helps people’s sense of well being and brings hope to those in despair.

What is the next part of the journey? Read Part 2 next week.

 

Written by Theresa Middleton

Barriers that prevent white churches receiving people of other races

Glenn Bracey has just published an academic paper based on research he personally conducted by being part of 7 predominantly white churches in America. He is a sociology professor who is also a black evangelical Christian. His research paper can be accessed at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/316355727_Race_Tests_Racial_Boundary_Maintenance_in_White_Evangelical_Churches

 

In being part of these churches over several years he was seeking to find out why churches continue to be racially segregated despite saying they want to be racially diverse. His conclusion was that unconscious, semi-permeable membranes exist that keep the churches mostly white. These membranes are created by key people within the church, especially leaders. (Whilst his research was amongst American white churches the conclusion appears relevant in the UK for white church wanting to attract non-whites, black churches wanting to attract white people).

 

The barriers or membranes leaders create include, tailoring services to attract white congregants e.g. the style of preaching, music, length of services, structure of services, dress codes, political and community activities, missionary interests, and theological emphases are consistent with white religious traditions or tailored to reach unchurchedwhites; having positive attitudes about whites and negative views of people of colour, discursive techniques for justifying racial inequality, and priorities that favour whitesmaterial and emotional Interests.

 

He also talks about his experience of an exaggerated welcome for potential congregants of colour. The

catch, however, was that the welcome was based on newcomersracial status and their willingness to use that status to serve the churchs perceived racial needs while not challenging the normative boundaries of white privilege and power within the space. He felt he wasn’t accepted for who was but as a black man. E.g. In one church he was asked to be in the worship group despites his gifts being elsewhere. He observed that “white evangelical ministers often attempt to increase membership by placing people of colour in highly visible positions as worship leaders, to predictably mixed results when used as a quick fix””

 

In another church before they even got to know him he was asked to mentor a mixed-race youngster who did not have a father figure even though the absent father was obviously white.

 

He concluded that, “In each case, the warm welcome was preconditioned by white evangelicalsperceived need for a new person of colour to play a particular racialized role in the white space.”

 

He also talks about other experiences that caused him to feel excluded, the white Christians being unaware of how it caused him and other people of colour to feel. These included following an emphasis on firearms during an ice breaker “Andrew cocked an imaginary gun and pointed it at me and the Latino first-timer next to meI call it my China Gunbecause when I shoot it, it just goes Chink! Chink! Chink! Chink!’” With each Chink,Andrew drew back with mock recoil and aimed at us again.”

 

He concluded “the whiteslaughter clearly demonstrated that they did not perceive how traumatic

being a person of colour figuratively shot by a strange white man yelling racist epithets might be for the two people of colour in the circle.”

 

This and the other examples of how he felt unwelcomed, would not happen in the UK. E.g. inviting him to help in an extended hunting trip for non-Christian youths, the violent imagery and extended isolation made accepting their invitation very difficult.

 

Others would, e.g. the shock he observed when he visited someone’s home for a Bible Study when they saw he was black, they had assumed he would be white. The time he stood at the visitors table before and after Sunday service at a large church. Approximately 1,000 congregants walked past him twice without greeting him at all. These white memberscollective performance of ignoring an obvious newcomer functionally denied a black visitor meaningful entry to the church and established

the church as white institutional space.

 

He says, “People of colour react to whiteshostile performances with fear, anger, confusion, disappointment, and a host of other negative emotions that discourage them from remaining in evangelicalswhite space.”

 

He felt the people involved were not aware of the impact they were having. “In these and other examples from our fieldwork, white evangelicals never showed obvious signs of anger or frustration with our presence.”

 

However, the result of all this is that the churches remained predominantly white.

 

Written by Tony Thompson

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