Dear Church Family
At our Belfrey Group last night we talked about testimony. We began with Psalm 107:2, which says 'Let the redeemed of God tell their story' and from there began to talk not only about how we began following Jesus but also how we're seeing God at work today. It was wonderful hearing the stories. Some were things like having the opportunity to encourage another person, or seeing family just begin to show an interest in Jesus. Others were more dramatic - of healing and helping lead others to faith in Christ. What we all saw clearly was that the Lord is at work. Among us. Around us. And using very ordinary people like us in his extraordinary Kingdom work. What a privilege!
Sharing stories of what the Lord is doing is good for a number of reasons. We looked at four last night:
- it builds faith (see, eg. John 4:39)
- it creates resilience (Revelation 12:11)
- it brings joy (John 16:24)
- it's an opportunity for God to do it again (Habakkuk 3:2)
For these and many other reasons, let's keep sharing the stories. Let's do so as we gather in our groups and congregations, and as we disperse with friends, family and work colleagues. The Lord is at work. Let the redeemed of the Lord (ie. bought at the great price of the death of Jesus) tell their story. As we do so, not only are we encouraged, but God's Kingdom advances.
Have a great story-telling weekend.
Dear Church Family
Following Jesus is never done in isolation. It's always done in community. Always with others. Always as part of a church family. Always in partnership with others. As a church which regularly sees new people start following Jesus, let's be praying they find a great church family to be part of - and for many in York that will be with us at The Belfrey.
Our church family is constantly evolving and changing. It never seems to stay quite the same! It was good to see on video last Sunday seven of the New Wine Discipleship Year students who have joined us this year. As they settle into the family, please do look out for them and make them welcome when you see them! In recent months we've also been looking to add to our clergy team a designated pastoral leader. Having recently interviewed a number of good candidates for that role we still weren't convinced we'd quite found the right person to join us and so we didn't appoint. So the plan is to appoint Greg Downes' replacement first and then after that look again at the pastoral leader. It's important that we don't rush and have the people in the right roles!
Greg's last Sunday with us will be Sunday 26th November. Greg will be preaching across the day on that Sunday. We'll be having a leaving party for Greg and Tamie the night before, on Saturday 25th November in the evening in the Central Methodist Church hall. More details will follow a little nearer the time, but please do mark that date in your diaries now.
This Sunday morning (8th October) is the York Marathon and 10K run, with both routes going through the centre of York and right past St Michael le Belfrey Church. As in previous years we'll be providing a café and fun space outside church to help create a celebratory atmosphere in the city centre, to encourage the runners and look after those cheering them on. It's a simple and fun way to show God's love in action, so if you can, please join us between 9am and 10.45am. At 10.45am there will be a simple 15-minute Communion service in church for those who've been helping and anyone else who wants to join us. Later on that day, at The6, we'll be welcoming as our speaker Steve Gambill. Steve is Lead Pastor of Life Church in Bradford, which is a significant (and probably the largest) church in the North. Steve will have a special message for us so do come and join us as we welcome Steve to The Belfrey for the first time.
Have a great weekend as we partner together as family, serving God's transformation of the North.
Dear Church Family
It's 500 years this year since Martin Luther called the church to return to its biblical foundations and began what became known as the Reformation. As we remember this anniversary it particularly reminds us of the importance of the Bible and how God's Word is meant to shape the life of every disciple and the church, and as a result transform society. In these days when biblical values are regularly challenged and even criticised (both outside and even inside the church) this Luther500 anniversary is a good reminder to us all to be grateful for these battles of old and to be daily reading Scripture so that we can not only know what the Bible says but live out it's message through our lives. Next week Kensington Temple, one of the larger churches in London is holding a special Luther500 conference, subtitled 'Releasing the Power of the Reformation for the 21st Century.' It's great that Greg Downes is one of the key-note speakers. Please pray for Greg as he speaks and that all who attend are inspired to live biblically.
As I think of being inspired, so I'm writing this Friday Message from Wydale Hall where I'm away with the core team for New Wine Inspire conference. It's great to hear stories of people encountering the Lord and being transformed at August's Inspire, and we're excited as we make plans for 2018. Why not mark the dates in you diary now, and make Inspire a priority for your summer next year? The dates are 17-21st August, in Thirsk.
Back in York the Lord it's great to see the Lord building his church, evidenced in at least seven people making commitments to Christ at our services last Sunday, plus some healings too. Please pray that these people who've taken first steps in following Jesus will stay connected with the church family and begin to develop strong foundations for a life of discipleship. This Sunday we celebrate harvest. As a way of celebrating God's rich provision it's good that we can give from our abundance to those who have very little, so please do bring non-perishable food items and toiletries to church so we can give to Carecent and Never Give Up, two inspiring ministries caring for the underprivileged in York. This Sunday I'll also be bringing a message that I believe has a prophetic edge, as we consider what the Lord is saying to us as we look ahead. Please pray that as we gather this weekend the Lord will pour our his Spirit, and that as we disperse we will each play our part in serving his transformation of York and the North.
Dear Church Family
It's a great honour to be a Vicar. Especially of a resourcing church like The Belfrey. Sometimes people ask me what I do. No day is the same. Yesterday for example - Thursday - was quite a long but good day. As usual it began with feeding the dog and letting out the chickens (we have 5 chickens now, which is very exciting!) followed by a mug of tea to sip as I read the Bible and prayed. I then shared breakfast with some of the family before going to St Cuthbert's for Staff Prayers. It was good to pray with the team as we committed the day and each other to the Lord. After that, rather than go back to the Parish Centre I spent the rest of the morning in the House of Prayer, praying with another 15 or so people at the 10am-12noon Revival Prayer Meeting. It was excellent - as we worshipped and prayed for our city and region, and then for the people of Mexico struggling after the recent earthquakes and for the Caribbean communities devastated by hurricanes. It thought to myself that it's good to be part of a people who are 'devoted to prayer' (Colossians 4:2).
From there I met up with Sam and we went to spend time with someone who we see every month who has a medical condition that has no medical cure. For over two years we've been going to their home every month to catch up and to pray. We're committed to this, as we want to support and Jesus also said that disciples 'should always pray and never give up' (Luke 18:1). Then back to the Parish Centre to catch up with one or two staff members and spend time with Ruth (who is such a brilliant Assistant!) going through some emails (she sees them all unless they're marked 'confidential'), planning diaries and looking ahead. Then back to The Vicarage to have a few minutes with the family and tidy up my evening talk, before driving in teatime traffic to Halifax.
I spent the evening at the Halifax Gratitude Dinner, where church leaders in the city were thanked for their hard work and dedication to the town. It was great to meet men and women who are serving faithfully and hear stories of how they're making a big difference, many in the most deprived communities in the area. It was my honour to be the after-dinner speaker and I hope what I shared encouraged them as they seek to see God's Kingdom come in Halifax as it is in heaven.
That was my Thursday. Today is different. As will be tomorrow. Maybe it's like that for you, or maybe most days are rather similar. Even if that's the case, don't forget that as followers of Christ, whatever we do we do in his Name, knowing Jesus is with us, encouraging us and equipping us to bring his Kingdom of right-living, peace and joy to others - as we walk in the Spirit (Romans 14:17).
May today and this weekend be a time when we, the people of The Belfrey, see more of God's good Kingdom impacting others - through our prayers and actions. May he open our eyes to see what he is doing, and raise our expectations to believe for even greater things in York and the North.
Dear Church Family
'September is the new January' - so wrote a columnist in a Saturday paper I was reading the other day. For many of us, that's how it feels at this time of year with so many things beginning or re-starting after a summer break.
That's true for many of us at The Belfrey. At our congregations and groups it feels like a new season beginning. There's lots going on. Lots to give thanks for. Lots to pray about. So here are some pointers for prayer, as we go into this season in faith and expectation:
Please give thanks for:
- excellent New Wine conferences over the summer ('United' gatherings in Somerset; 'Inspire' in North Yorkshire) and much Belfrey involvement on teams
- receiving more than enough income at Gift Day over the summer to support various mission projects
- 5 young people baptised last Sunday evening, on the back of Belfrey Youth Fest (at Wydale Hall)
- inspiring messages from Andy Roberts at last Sunday's congregations on 'Responding to God's Call'
- the 12 new interns who've joined us the New Wine Discipleship Year (7 at The Belfrey; 5 from other churches)
Please pray for:
- great connections with new people (especially students) who are starting in York around this time
- welcoming and inspiring congregations (9am, XI, The6 and Wednesday Lunchtime)
- friendly and encouraging Welcome Lunch for newcomers this Sunday
- supportive and missional Belfrey Groups - and for Ben Doolan as he takes on leadership of our groups
- comfort and peace for the family and friends of those who've recently died (Peter Shepherd, who's funeral was at lunchtime today; Richard Tagg)
Let's be praying with faith and expectation, with a sense of wonder and excitement, asking the Lord to do wonderful things in this season. When I pray I sometimes think of it rather like spreading out sheets of paper on a large table over which the Lord looks and responds. I think King David has something like this in mind in Psalm 5:3 when he said to the Lord: 'I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.' This kind of praying is echoed in a phrase from one of Chris Tomlin's lovely songs that we sometimes sing: 'We come in expectation. Waiting here for you.'
Why not join me in praying a prayer rather like this, for ourselves and our church family?
'Lord Jesus - teach us to pray. Teach us to ask. To trust. To wait. To come in expectation. May your Kingdom come and your will be done, here in York and the North, as it is in heaven. In this season. Amen.'
And may God bless you and your loved ones, in this new season.
Dear Church Family
A few months ago I heard a story from a man in church that caught my attention. Before they were married, his wife had begun to serve in the mission organisation YWAM (Youth with a Mission). The woman's parents worshipped in a traditional church and had never heard of YWAM and initially wondered if it might be some kind of weird cult, so they phoned a special cult help-line to ask for advice. The advice they were given reassured them, but also challenged them. It was this: 'Well, YWAM is a Christian organisation who believe pretty much what you believe. The only difference is that they're more happy about it.'
As I've thought about that advice it's made me wonder how happy I am about my faith. And at The Belfrey, does our worship, our witness and the way we live show that we're really pleased to follow Jesus? In particular, are we doing the three things that the Lord wants his people to be doing all the time? The three things that should be constants in our lives? According to the apostle Paul they are:
'Rejoice always. Pray continually. Give thanks in all circumstances' (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
We're to be people of celebration who keep on expressing joy.
We're to be people who pray. At all times and in places. Welcoming God's Spirit in every situation.
And we're to give thanks. Not for all circumstances - as some things are not good. But in all circumstances, because even when things are tough we can always find things for which we're grateful.
Living like this is a very positive way to live. People who live this way are a great encouragement to be around. They radiate God's presence and you want to spend time with them. In essence, they're people who are happy about Jesus.
So... let's happily rejoice, pray, and give thanks. For, as I Thessalonians 5:18 goes on to say: 'this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus'.
Dear Church Family
It's good to be part of the church family!
Please pray this weekend for the many youth in our church who are at Wydale Hall at Belfrey Youth Fest - for a weekend of fun and friendship and that our young people encounter God by the Holy Spirit and lay down their lives in the service of Jesus Christ. And please pray too for the interviews that will be taking place over the next few weeks for the post of Associate Minister (Pastoral) as we aim to strengthen our pastoral work as we look to the future.
I've spent quite a bit of time over the last week visiting people - especially those who are unwell and struggling. I know that many of us do this as part of our discipleship - supporting and looking after those in our Belfrey Group or congregation who are going through a particularly rough patch. If that's you - thank you. It's really important and shows the church in action - being the body of Christ and looking after those parts of the body that need special care for a while.
Someone who's thinking of becoming part of The Belfrey was talking with me just yesterday about our groups and why they're important. I talked of them being small communities of both mission and support - where we can reach out but also reach in and both give and receive. When groups do that, they function well. That's why we sometimes say that are groups are our first point of pastoral care. Because they are.
As I've visited people - in their homes, in nursing homes and in hospital - it's been good to hear people's stories. To listen to what's been going on and to see how they're doing. To understand what they're anxious about and what they're looking forward to. And, at some point, to read Scripture and to pray. It's important to read Scripture as God's Word speaks into lives and brings fresh hope and renewed perspective. And it's good to pray - to welcome the presence of God and to ask for his comfort, his provision and his transformation.
It's been good this week to see some situations improving - of health being restored and/or circumstances changing for the good. For others, there's not much sign of positive change at this stage, but nevertheless there's a clear reminder that (as Psalm 47:7 says) 'The Lord Almighty is with us, the God of Jacob is our fortress'. And for others there's preparation for eternity, seeing that the Lord is calling them home to eternity with him. That's been the case for Peter Shepherd, who, after a number of weeks of being cared for in South Park Care Home, died yesterday (Thursday). It was good to be with him just before he died and to anoint him with oil, to pray with him and declare over him those powerful words: 'Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever' (Psalm 23:6). That's the sure hope we're given in Jesus Christ and why, as we thank God for Peter, we can confidently entrust him into the hands of the Saviour.
Our church family is made up of people of varying ages, backgrounds and gifts. It's a changing family, a developing family and family held together by Jesus Christ. We're not called to follow Christ on our own, but as part of his family. So do pray, and give thanks, for our church family this week. It really is good to be part of God's family!
Dear Church Family
What a great weekend it's been at the New Wine Inspire conference! With around a thousand people on-site most days from different churches across our region, the four days were filled with worship, teaching, prayer, laughter and fun. The weather was pretty good (which helped!) and along with many others a large team from The Belfrey served in all sorts of different areas with passion, commitment and care. Thanks team!
As I look back on the weekend and the many people who encountered the Lord and have now returned to their churches and parishes, what was going on? Well, at the heart of it all was love. The love of God. I had the honour of chatting and praying with lots and lots of people over the weekend and it was wonderful to see them encountering the Father's love. Some experienced his love for the very first time. I prayed with a man in his 50's as he gave his life to Christ, and as he did so and he wept as he said 'I'm coming home. This weekend has been just amazing. I'm coming home.' Some experienced God's love as their bodies were healed. One lady gave an emotional testimony to having slipped a disc twelve years ago and being in pain every day since, but in prayer over the weekend the pain just disappeared. She was overjoyed! Others were given fresh insight into situations as God's love filled their hearts and minds. Still others were renewed in worship as they saw afresh the gracious love of God in Jesus Christ, dying for them and filling them with the Spirit of love.
The people at Inspire were experiencing what John wrote about in his first epistle: 'See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God' (1 John 3:1). To see this and be part of this was an honour for me and all the team serving at Inspire. Church - thank you for praying for the weekend. It was strategic for our region.
May our good Father continue to lavish this same love on each of us, that we might be those who generously give it away through our prayers and actions, and see our city and region transformed.
Dear Church Family
I'm pleased to be able to announce that our new Youth Worker (replacing Adam Norton who's leaving us in a couple of weeks) will be Dave Kelsall. Dave has been part of our church for a year, serving on the Forge intern programme. Dave's background is in school-teaching and he's also worked for YOYO so he has good experience of working with young people. We're very excited about this appointment and to have Dave with us on a more permanent basis.
Many of us go to Thirsk today for New Wine's Inspire conference. This is a weekend conference for around 1,000 people from our region. The Belfrey is one of the lead churches at the conference, and many of us are helping with worship, talks, youth and children's work, prayer, stewarding and much more. Please do pray for all those who are serving, that we're able to encourage and equip the church in the North to be courageous and compassionate in its ministry and mission.
The Lord is pouring out new wine into his church (Matthew 9:17). The wine of his Kingdom, which restores, renews and revives. He invites all who seek him to drink deep and be refreshed. May I encourage you to use these summer months to truly 'taste and see that the Lord is good' (Psalm 34:8).
This Sunday there is just one service in St Michael le Belfrey Church - at 9am. If you can, why not consider joining us at Thirsk on Sunday? You can book a day ticket by clicking here. Thirsk is only 30-40 minutes north of York, and we're expecting a great day!
Dear Church Family
I love to read the writings of Heidi Baker, as I'm so often moved, challenged and inspired. She continues to lead a most remarkable work of the Lord in Mozambique. I'm presently re-reading her book 'Compelled by Love'. Here's an extract:
God once gave me a profound vision of a wedding feast. There was the most delicious food set out in every direction, as far as the eye could see. The wedding feast was perfectly set and ready, but the church was lulled asleep.
Jesus said, "Wake up, sleeping beauty! Wake up, sleeping beauty!" I saw Him kiss His bride on the forehead and wake her up. Then I saw as the Lord Jesus stood on this huge mountain of garbage. There He and I were dancing together among all those with bloated bellies, bruised bodies, and worms coming out of their toes and stomachs.
Jesus and I went around to touch each one. As we laid our hands on them, their bellies became flat. As we touched their feet, their sores closed and healed. Jesus took away their filthy, tattered rags. Then He placed beautiful robes of gold, silver, purple, red, and blue on them.
Everyone arose out of the garbage, singing and dancing, and they followed Jesus into the wedding feast. He showed them the beautiful food and said, "You get to sit at the front."
This is the way it should be. No one should have to live outside under a bridge. No one must be required to scavenge in the garbage for something to eat of to wear. No one should be so hungry that why have to live with a bloated belly. No one should starve to death.
But to feast at His table, we need to fully understand who we are, church. Like these African children, we scavenge like orphans when, in fact, the Father has already declared, "I want you. I love you. Come home to My feast. It is time to eat" ...
...The poor taught me how to hunger for God and to take spiritual communion. He invites us to eat and to drink of Jesus so that we become full. Just as we depend on food for our physical nourishment, we also need to depend on Jesus for the spiritual nourishment of our lives. We must feed on Him daily. Only then will we have fresh bread from heaven that we need to give to both the spiritually and naturally hungry.
May each of us use the summer months to be awakened to daily feed on Christ. He wants to satisfy our hunger. And he wants us to give us fresh bread not just for us to enjoy, but to give to a world starving for the bread of life.