Dear Church Family
As we head from Easter towards Pentecost, there's much going on in our nation and church. As disciples we're called to 'be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer' (Romans 12:12). So here are some things I'd love us to be praying for at this time:
Give thanks for our rich political history and for the democratic process of elections. Pray for our nation as we prepare for the election announced this week, which will take place on Thursday 8th June. Pray for helpful campaigning and the election of MPs with integrity and wisdom.
Give thanks for the church in our nation and for our two Archbishops - Justin and Sentamu. Pray for that churches of all denominations will engage in the special 10 days of prayer for mission, starting on Ascension Day (25th May) which will culminate in many 'Thy Kingdom Come' prayer events in Cathedrals on Pentecost Sunday (4th June) - including the event in York Minster in which we are leading.
Give thanks for those who encountered the Lord during Lent and Easter, especially at services and the Easter Café. Pray for our Annual Meeting coming up on Thursday 27th April, that as we look back and look ahead so the Lord will inspire us and equip us to be serving his transformation of the North in our day.
Give thanks that we're made for relationship - with God and others - and be thankful for the Lord's Presence, and for those with whom you share your life. Pray for a couple of people you know who are struggling, asking the Lord to draw close and help them.
As you pray, may you know that 'the Lord is near to all who call on him' (Psalm 145:18).
Dear Church Family
Good Friday was a bad day for Jesus but is a good day for us. He suffered the most horrendous death in order that we might become adopted in God's family. So do join us in St Michael le Belfrey Church today for family worship at 10am and for Three Hours at the Cross from 12noon-3pm, as we remember all that Jesus did for us on the cross.
We're expecting lots of guests in church on Saturday as we open our doors again for our Easter Cafe. Please be praying that many encounter Jesus and if you're able to help serve and welcome people, please do come and join us.
Easter Day is a day to celebrate like no other! We have services at 6.30am (followed by breakfast) and at 10.30am. After that many of us will spend the day with family and friends. Please do be looking out for those who may be on their own on Easter Day. Could you welcome them into your home?
As we celebrate this weekend the new life Christ has won for us, please be praying for those who are just beginning the journey of discipleship. I had the privilege last Sunday of leading a man in a prayer of commitment to Jesus, and he's planning to be baptised soon! Most weeks there are stories of people in our services and outside of church who are giving their lives to Christ. What an honour to play a part in their story! Let's be praying for more.
Please also pray for Lee Kirkby, who this week has been appointed by New Wine as their Head of Ministry for Youth. It's great that Lee can serve the wider church in this voluntary role, and shows the confidence that New Wine have in him and the work going on here at The Belfrey. Ben Doolan also serves on the New Wine team, leading the Young Adults work as well as serving on their National Leadership Team. Please pray for them both in these roles, and as they oversee the work at The Belfrey amongst children, youth and 18-30s.
May each one of us and our families know the presence and power of the crucified and risen Christ with us this Easter.
Dear Church Family
It was great having Paul Harcourt, National Leader of New Wine with us last Sunday and Monday, at our Equip Leaders Day. Paul reminded us that the heart of God is most beautifully seen on Good Friday - as Jesus hung on the cross, sacrificing himself to win our forgiveness and freedom. The bible offers a number of pictures to help us understand the cross, but the most dominant is that of sacrifice.
The sacrifice of the cross is simple, but oh so profound. Christ died in our place. In mine, and yours. And that's why next week - Holy Week - we have short services in St Michael le Belfrey Church (Mon-Thurs at 7pm) to help us consider and be thankful for the sacrifice that God went through for us. Led by various Belfrey Groups, these will include bible readings, some music and time for prayer and reflection. The Thursday will include Foot Washing and Holy Communion.
Easter weekend is a special time for us as followers of Jesus. If you're in York, do join us at one of our services on Good Friday, welcome guests at our cafe on Easter Saturday and come and celebrate on Easter morning the remarkable and joyful news that Christ is risen! The fact that Christ is risen means he's alive and present and real. We don't just worship a dead man, but One who is with us, for us, and can be known and experienced. As we encounter him again this Easter may the Lord give us many opportunities to show and tell of his love to the many around us who are far from him. He longs to draw close - and wants to use us to be his ambassadors. What an honour!
So as we approach Easter, I invite you to pray this prayer with me:
Come Holy Spirit, and renew us in our Easter faith! Revive our city, our region and our nation. And may Jesus Christ - the One who was once dead but now is alive - be known and experienced by many this Easter-time. Amen.
Dear Church Family
Giving. It's basic to who we are and what we do.
As we approach Easter we'll be remembering how God gave his Son up to death that we might be forgiven and set free. And the Lord continues to generously give of Himself in so many ways to us and to the broken world in which we live, because giving is intrinsic to the nature of God. As disciples of Jesus we're called to do the same and to live a lifestyle of giving.
That's why we're pleased to put on our first EQUIP leadership day this Monday in St Michael le Belfrey Church, as we seek to give away what the Lord has given us. Please pray that goes well and that many leaders from York and the North are equipped by the Holy Spirit to lead their churches and communities into the future.
As we invest in each other through our midweek Belfrey Groups, so we're giving our time, our love, our wisdom and our prayers - asking the Lord to build each other up. Let's not underestimate the importance of this kind of giving and the support so many of us give and receive from each other in our church groups. It's so important! And at its heart is giving.
Every time we reach out in mission to someone in need, as we share words of life and acts of love, we're giving. Giving, because God first gave to us.
All good relationships are based on giving. When Sam and I spend time with a couple who are struggling in their marriage, usually something has happened so that one or other has stopped giving. When wedding rings are exchanged in a Christian marriage service couples say: 'All that I am I give to you, and all that I have I share with you.' That's promising a marriage based on giving - which isn't always easy, but it's how we thrive.
If you want some divine encouragement on giving, take three minutes to read and reflect on these 7 Scriptures on giving. You'll be inspired!
1) Proverbs 11:25; 2) 2 Corinthians 9:8; 3) Proverbs 18:16; 4) 1 Corinthians 13:3; 5) Proverbs 31:9; 6) Psalm 37:4; 7) Proverbs 3:9-10.
So let's keep giving. Giving to others. And allowing others to give to us. (That's important too!) It's through giving that we thrive as God's people. And let's make sure we're regularly encountering Jesus and being filled with his life-giving Spirit, for he has so much more to give to each one of us. Such is his generous love.
Dear Church Family
The terror attack in Westminster this week reminds us that we live in a world of uncertainty. The threat of terror continues to be real and present. We mourn with and pray for those who have lost loves ones. We give thanks that the scale of destruction and loss was not worse. And we rightly honour those who were killed.
Honouring others is very important. It's about showing respect, being thankful, speaking positively and much more. We need more of it in 21st Century Britain as we honour not just those who lost their lives, but others too. Indeed the bible challenges disciples of Jesus to model honour by honouring 'one another above yourselves' (Romans 12:10). For more on this, do read my blog: Pursuing a Culture of Honour.
One group of people the bible tells us to honour are parents: 'Honour your father and mother' (Deut 5:16; Eph 6:2). It's not easy being a parent - as I and many of us know! Showing love, respect and thanks to parents is the least we can do, given all the time, care and devotion parents give to the younger generation. That's why we're pleased at The Belfrey to encourage the honouring of mothers, motherhood and women this Mother's Day weekend. Our theme across all services on Sunday will be 'The strength of Mothers' and as we've done in the past we'll have beautiful spring flowers to give to all the ladies in church, as a sign of honour.
Stevie Wonder is a musician whose music I appreciate and respect. Not only is he very talented, but he's stood the test of time and produced quality contemporary music for over 50 years! Interestingly Stevie honours his mother as one of the key reasons for his success, saying this:
'Mama was my greatest teacher, a teacher of compassion, love and fearlessness. If love is sweet as a flower, then my mother is that sweet flower of love'.
What fantastic words! Let's see if this weekend we can all share similar words of honour to our mums, grans, aunts, female friends and all those who work hard at mothering. This weekend we particularly honour them. And rightly so.
Dear Church Family
Some of us have been over in Manchester this week for the New Wine Northern Leadership Conference. It was held at Saint Philip's Chapel Street, which is a brand new resource church planted in the centre of Salford with a focus on young adults and the poor and aiming to be a church that plants more churches. It was inspiring to see this wonderful work of church revitalisation, which only began its new lease of life six months ago. It's a great reminder that the Spirit of God is alive at work in the Church of England!
This weekend I'm away with a team from The Belfrey leading a church weekend away for St James' in the City, Liverpool. They too are a relatively new church, developing a fresh model of being a city-centre resource church for their area. Please do pray for us, as we encourage them and teach on the theme of 'Encountering the Lord'.
This Sunday at St Michael le Belfrey we'll continue to explore the theme of worship as Greg Downes speaks on 'Thanksgiving' from Psalm 100. At all the congregations this Sunday there'll be an important opportunity to express our gratitude to the Lord for all he's done for us by giving to those in great need - to the East Africa Crisis Appeal - as 16 million people in South Sudan, Northern Kenya and Southern Ethiopia are facing desperate circumstances and the very real threat of starvation. Tearfund are one of the agencies working there, and have asked us to be praying for God to provide for the church in East Africa to minister to those in greatest need. They've also asked us to give what we can to help.
Thank you for your prayers and support of the work of God in the UK and abroad. The Lord is at work, even in difficult circumstances, and it's a privilege for us as a church to join in.
Dear Church Family
What an amazing trip I've had to Rwanda! I went out with a team led by Ric Thorpe, the Bishop of Islington to see some of the work with which Tearfund is involved.
Rwanda is a small, fertile and beautiful country in East Africa. It's one of the smaller African countries (about the size of Wales) and yet quite densely populated, especially in the capital, Kigali. The Rwanda of today is highly influenced by the terrible events of 1994, when a million people were killed in the Genocide. The people are doing all they can to ensure that such events will never take place there again and so there's a strong emphasis on reconciliation and unity. There's been a huge investment in the infrastructure of the country, from education to health care and the churches in particular are playing a key part in its future. I had the privilege of preaching in one or the parish churches in Kigali last Sunday and it was wonderful to see vibrant worship and people coming forward for prayer as they responded to the word of God.
Whilst there we visited a number of different parts of the country, meeting local people who'd encountered Christ and put their faith in him. But more than that - they'd begun to see their lives differently, embracing a new identity and realising that they'd been given God-given resources to transform not only their own lives and those of their families, but their communities too. Story after story was the same - in the cities and in the rural areas.
One man we met in his home was called Augustine. He was married with three children. He told us that his life had been rather meaningless and that he felt lonely. He was encouraged to join a small group in his church and they were trained and envisioned to see that together they could do great things. They read bible stories together and each committed to investing a very small amount of money each week to help each other. As a result of their savings over the last couple of years each group member has received a pig and then a goat (which all have bred). Now his small business is beginning to thrive. His children are going to school and the family receiving health care. In his back yard he'd just built two small buildings. One was for local evangelists to gather to talk and pray as they come and go to local villages to tell people about Jesus. The other was just finished. It was a cow-shed, but we noticed he didn't yet have cows. He said he knew one was coming soon and so he'd built the shed ready - in faith and anticipation!
When one of the Bishops we met was asked what God was doing in Rwanda he said 'God is showing us that we are rich.' He went on to tell us that the Lord had been showing them that transformed lives, rather than dependence on aid or hand-outs was the answer to their problems. This mind-set change was beginning to see remarkable fruit. As the church engaged in mission, and was trained (by organisations such as Tearfund) to lead small local groups so people were being empowered and lifted out of poverty. Churches were growing. Communities were being transformed.
The quality of the leadership in Rwanda was impressive - from the Vice-Chancellor of the University and Archbishop, to the local pastors and community leaders who were looking out for the poorest of the poor and helping them to think differently and through the help of local churches begin to make a living, feed their children, build a home and live for Christ.
I believe we saw glimpses of a remarkable move of God in Rwanda (which is also taking place in many other parts of the world too). It's a work happening at the grass-roots of society, often stimulated by tragedy, envisioned by the Scriptures and empowered by prayer, equipping transformative leaders who rely on the Holy Spirit. It was an honour to behold.
We at The Belfrey are a people similarly committed to transformation - to serving God's transformation of the North of England. We too need to be envisioned by the Scriptures and empowered by prayer. We need to be equipping transformative leaders who rely on the Holy Spirit. As we do these things we should also be expecting a remarkable move of God in our region and nation, in our day. We have all the resources we need to see this happen. As Jesus said, 'Do not be afraid, little flock, for the Father has been pleased to give you the Kingdom' (Luke 12:32).
PS. Please be praying for the New Wine North Leadership conference taking place from Monday to Wednesday in Salford this coming week. Many of our staff will be there, and we are leading a special prayer gathering there, crying out to the Lord for our region. Also, coming up on Monday 3rd April 2017 (from 10am-4pm) we have our first EQUIP leadership day with keynote speaker, Paul Harcourt. If you're involved in leadership in any capacity at The Belfrey please come if you can. Tickets are free, but you'll need to sign up to show you're coming. You can do that at: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/equip-leadership-day-tickets-31485519035
Dear Church Family
Greetings from Rwanda!
I wrote this short message before I travelled earlier this week to Rwanda, in east Africa. Rwanda is a beautiful country, full of warm-hearted people with a troubled history. The people of Rwanda are seeking a new day for their nation and it's a privilege to be there at this time to see signs of real transformation. I look forward to telling some of the stories on my return.
Whilst I'm away let me tell you about one sign last year of God's transformative work in the North of England. It was the Inspire New Wine Conference. Inspire took place for the first time last August in Thirsk, just 40 minutes north of York. It was a great success with 1000 people attending - so much so that it's going to happen again in 2017 - from 18th to 22nd August! Capacity has been expanded for up to 2000 people, and this year there'll be a marketplace and a cafe, as well as worship, great speakers and seminars, and lots of space for fun and friendship and family time. The Belfrey is going to play a significant part in this short summer conference over a long weekend - and we'd love you to come!
Most importantly, please do book on! Ticket costs are great value and include everything (including camping) apart from your food. If camping isn't your thing, Thirsk is close enough for you to travel there and back each day. There's an early-bird discount (£95 for adults; £50 for 5-18yrs; children under 5 are free; but this rate is only available until the end of March). It would be great to camp together and to see many Belfrey folk there! You can book now, at:
Dear Church Family
I came away from church last Sunday so encouraged, having heard lots of different stories of people encountering God. These include someone giving their life to Christ after coming to Alpha; someone being filled with the Holy Spirit at work; someone meeting with God in a dream and having deep emotional wounds healed; someone receiving a prophetic word for the first time and a remarkable story of timely provision, just at the point of need. The Lord is so kind and so good! And men and women, and boys and girls in our city and region are encountering him in lovely and powerful ways. Let's be thankful and keep praying for more.
This Sunday we're pleased to welcome Roughshod Theatre Company (part of Riding Lights) who'll be performing at all our Sunday congregations. We'll be praying for them as they prepare to go on the road next month with their 'Reactive' tour, telling stories of small encounters causing a big reaction.
Our Alpha course on Wednesday evenings has had a good start. Please keep praying for guests and for small group leaders, and that this Alpha will help many encounter Christ and put their faith in him.
This coming Monday I go for 9 days with a team to Rwanda with Tearfund, led by the Bishop of Islington (Bishop for Church Planting). We're going to see some of the exciting and transformational projects Tearfund have been supporting. Please pray for an encouraging time, for the guidance of the Spirit and for eyes to see what the Lord is doing.
To supplement our usual Sunday speakers we're privileged to welcome some great guest speakers at The Belfrey. Here are three who'll be speaking in the coming months, so you can mark the dates in your diary and let others know too:
- 11th June: (Science Sunday) David Wilkinson (Durham Professor & Principal of St John's College, Durham) - at 9am, XI & The6
- 9th July: Banning Liebscher (US church leader & pioneer of Jesus Culture) - at The6
- 8th October: Steve Gambill (Senior Leader of Life Church, Bradford) - at The6
Have a great week in your Belfrey Groups.