Dear Church Family
I spent yesterday morning in prayer - on my own at home when I first awoke and then for the rest of the morning at two meetings in St Cuthbert's House of Prayer. During that morning we prayed for many things, many people, many churches. We prayed for hearts hungry for God. We prayed for kindness and compassion for followers of Jesus. We prayed for invitations to events to be offered. And we prayed for the upcoming mission events of this weekend and for the gospel to be proclaimed.
The bible passage at staff prayers which we used as a basis for our prayers was Isaiah 61:11: 'For as the soil makes the young plant come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.' Interestingly, that passage was then returned to in the later session. And then a later-comer came and prayed, feeling they needed to pray out of a particular verse - that very verse! So, church family, maybe we should be using it together, this weekend, as inspiration to pray over our city. Let's be praying that York would be a place of 'righteousness' - of right living, right decisions and right relationships. And that York would be a city of 'praise' - where young and old know God in Jesus Christ and give him their praise. In these May days where so much life is springing up in gardens, parks and hedgerows, let's be asking the Lord to similarly cause 'righteousness and praise' to grow - to 'spring up' in York in our day.
This Sunday we're pleased to welcome Canon Roger Simpson as our speaker at 9am and XI services. These are guest services, so if you can, do bring someone along who doesn't normally come to church. Then in the evening, at 7.30pm we'll be gathering with other churches in York Minster for a special 'Thy Kingdom Come' beacon event, which we're hosting and at which Archbishop Sentamu is speaking.
Enjoy the weekend, and let's keep praying. For nothing of lasting significance happens without prayer.
PS. I spoke on prophecy at The6 a couple of Sundays ago, and at the end of my talk I shared what I thought was a prophetic word about a new renewal in our nation. Details can be found by clicking here.
Dear Church Family
We're now in the 11-day period between Ascension and Pentecost. This is the season that, for the last few years, our two Archbishops have been asking the church to set aside to pray for a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit, to equip us for mission. There is much going on! The most important thing is that we pray, and invite. Please be doing these two things.
So please pray. During these few days there are all sorts of events happening on our city to help us to pray. To find out more about these, click here. Some of these city-wide prayer events are taking place in St Cuthbert's House of Prayer, including:
- Friday 11th May (tonight): 6-7pm 'Gather' prayer event
(plus similar 'Gather' events each night at 6pm in other churches)
- Tuesday 15th May: 10am-12noon 'Worship, Bible Reading & Prayer'
- Wednesday 16th May: 11am-1pm 'Worship, Bible Reading & Prayer'
- Thursday 17th May: 10am-12noon 'Worship, Bible Reading & Prayer'
- Friday 18th May: 10am-12noon 'Worship, Bible Reading & Prayer'
In addition to these prayer events, and an evangelism team being based in St Helen's Square for much of the week, there are lots of smaller evangelistic events taking place in our city with most churches doing something to share the good news of Jesus. In our church, you should find that your Belfrey Group will be doing something missional in the next few days, so please do join in and invite friends and family to come. There are also a few centrally organised things that you might like to invite guests to, including:
- Monday 14th May: 12noon-4pm 'Reading of Luke's Gospel' in St Michael le Belfrey Church (drop in any time!)
- Wednesday 16th May: 12.30pm 'Lunchtime Service' in St Michael le Belfrey Church with gospel message from Paul Myers
- Thursday 17th May: 7.30pm Warren Furman telling his story of why he now follows Jesus, at The Vicarage, Jubilee Terrace
- Saturday 19th May: 9.30am-11am 'Men's Breakfast' with Roger Simpson & Archbishop of York
Saturday 19th May: 10.30am-4pm 'Family Fun Day' at The Storehouse, Mansfield Street
Saturday 19th May: 11.30am-3.30pm 'Royal Wedding' shown on big screen in church, with cafe
- Sunday 20th May: 9am & 11am 'Invitation (guest) Services' in St Michael le Belfrey Church
Finally, this great season of prayer and mission will end with a special 'beacon event' service in York Minster on Sunday 20th May at 7.30pm which should be a great evening of celebration, with the Archbishop of York speaking.
So pray and invite. Those are the two main things being asked of us doing during this Thy Kingdom Come season. For 'If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will heal their land' (2 Chronicles 7:14).
Dear Church Family
What a wonderful, wonderful service we had in St Michael le Belfrey Church last Sunday evening. Not only did we baptise six people and confirm forty-eight, but two people made professions of faith, one of whom was confirmed that very evening! We also heard a moving testimony of healing that had taken place the week before. Bishop John and Archdeacon Sarah very much enjoyed being with us, and the presence of God was strong. Let's be praying for an even greater expectation that the Holy Spirit will be moving as we meet in our congregations and groups, filling us to overflowing for a life of discipleship.
Tomorrow we have a special day for men of all ages, in St Michael le Belfrey Church. This Men's Day includes great input from a variety of people, including Nathan Blackaby (Head of Christian Vision for Men) and Tony Porter (no relative! and Bishop of Sherwood). If you're not booked on, you can still come. Just turn up for a 10am start (ending at 5pm) for this free day of teaching, fun and friendship. It's great that Bishop Tony will be staying on and speaking at our 9am and 11am Services on Sunday too. Please pray for this weekend, for the speakers and attendees, especially those from other churches in our city and region as we work and pray for God's transformation of the North.
Finally, may I challenge each of us to be praying for one person who we can invite to one of the events taking place during the York Mission, taking place during the Thy Kingdom Come season (10-20 May). In church on Sunday we'll be giving out special prayer journals for each of us to use during those 11 days, to help us in our praying and inviting. It's great that there'll be lots of evangelistic events taking place during those few days, but we will only see fruit if we invite people to come, so let's all play our part in that and, we hope, see many people challenged and changed by the good news of Jesus.
Thank you for praying. Thank you for being part of our church. Enjoy your weekend.
Dear Church Family
Thank you to everyone who came to our Annual Meeting (APCM) last night. In particular congratulations to Alison Dawson was has become a Church Warden, and to Sophie Nabhan and Jenny Hough who were elected onto Church Council (PCC). It was good to look back, and look ahead. In particular I know people appreciated having time to hear about some of the new 'overflow' initiatives in which we are investing in 2018: Rosie Brabbs (going soon to be a youth worker in Scarborough), Ben & Ellie Doolan (planning to plant a resource church from us next year in Newcastle); J & T (just starting out in their mission abroad) and Beth Richardson, our new Tearfund ambassador (talking about our new Church & Community Transformation partnership with the Anglican Diocese of Kitgum in Uganda). Look out for more details of these exciting initiatives in the coming months. It's all part of overflow.
This Sunday we have the Bishop of Selby, John Thomson preaching at The6 and leading a special service of baptism and confirmation. Do join us and hear some great stories of people coming to faith, as well as seeing many people confirmed. At our morning services Paul Myers will be preaching on being filled with the Holy Spirit as we look at the early chapters of the Acts of the Apostles and prepare for Pentecost. It should be a great Sunday, so do consider inviting family and friends to join you in worship.
Let's be praying that the God of overflow continues to pour into us, and overflow out of us, as we worship, pray, share testimony and live for Christ, sharing his good news and showing his love in practical ways.
Have a great weekend.
Dear Church Family
Here are a few updates for your prayers.
Today the advert for our Associate Minister (to replace Greg Downes) goes live. Please do pray that the person the Lord has for us becomes aware of the post and applies. God has someone all lined up, so let's be praying that this process links us with them and them with us! Also in a couple of months time Mike and Emma Perkins will be moving to York so that Mike can join us as our new curate, ready for his ordination on Sunday 1st July. Please pray for them as they prepare to move and start with us, as they finalise housing details with the diocese and begin a new chapter of their lives.
On Saturday (tomorrow), Sam and I have invited those connected with our 9am Service (plus family and friends) to join us at for afternoon tea at The Vicarage from 3pm-5pm. If this lovely weather holds we'll be outside in the garden. Please do join us and pray for a lovely afternoon of food and fellowship.
This Thursday evening we have our Annual Meeting (APCM). As well as looking back on the year, we'll be voting for a number of posts (including Church Council). In the second half of the meeting there'll be an opportunity to find out more about 4 new initiatives which are all signs of overflow. The meeting is for all on the Electoral Roll and starts at 7.30pm, with pizza served before-hand.
Finally, in the week running up to Pentecost Sunday (20th May) the Archbishop is encouraging all the York churches to have a mission week, where we have a focussed period of outreach, sharing our faith about Jesus. At The Belfrey there'll be a number of central things happening, about which we'll let you know next week. But the main thing we'll be doing is outreach through our Belfrey Groups. All groups will be doing something to invite friends, neighbours and colleagues to hear something of the good news of Jesus. If your group hasn't started planning this yet, then you need to be doing this soon! It's great to be part of this bigger mission taking place at that time, which will all culminate in a final 'Thy Kingdom Come' event in York Minster at 7.30pm on Pentecost Sunday.
So please be praying for all these things. And enjoy the lovely weather, and the many signs of new life which are springing up everywhere.
Dear Church Family
There's always so much for which to give thanks in the life of our church! Here are a few...
This week we particularly want to join in with the honour and thanks given by the Archbishop of Canterbury to Tom McLeish and Roger Simpson, for their great service to God's church. Both were given Lambeth Awards last weekend. Tom received the Lanfranc Award for Education & Scholarship, as 'one of the outstanding scientists of his generation and the leading contemporary lay Anglican voice in the dialogue of science and faith', and Roger the Alphege Award for Evangelism and Witness, 'for his outstanding record as an evangelist both in the UK and beyond.'
Another long-standing member of our church (who wishes to remain anonymous) was invited in Holy Week to receive Maundy Money from the Queen, as recognition of their excellent work in the community.
In the last week James & Katie Webster have given birth to their first-born - Rupert Hamish Webster - weighing in at 8lb 10oz with both mum and baby doing well! We also know of at least two people who professed faith in Christ for the first time last weekend at church, experiencing the second birth that comes through faith in Jesus Christ.
This week I've heard two lovely stories of answered prayers relating to financial provision which have warmed my heart.
I'm also grateful for the love and care we share together as a church and for the many signs of us supporting and looking out for each other, being the body of Christ together.
There is always so much to be thankful for. The Lord is good to us. We honour him and each other.
PS. We're really looking forward to welcoming Arianna Walker as our guest speaker at The6 this Sunday. Arianna leads Mercy UK and is a gifted communicator. She's also our keynote speaker at our free Equip day conference the following day. If you would like to sharpen your leadership skills you're very welcome to join us in St Michael le Belfrey Church at Monday's Equip, which starts at 10am and finishes at 4pm. As we seek to be serving God's transformation of the North in this way, please pray it's a very helpful day for all who come, especially those from other churches in our region.
Dear Church Family
I'll be on holiday in Scotland by the time this Friday Message is published, which means it was written before Easter! Nevertheless it is a message for us, for today, as we go from Easter into the coming season.
The fact that Jesus is risen means that he is alive. We don't worship a dead Saviour but One who is present and now ruling and reigning at God's right hand. He is equipping and empowering ordinary people like us to extend his Kingdom here on earth as in heaven. What a privilege!
Here are details of a few things coming up that I commend to you, that will help equip us see God's Kingdom come.
The first is EQUIP. Equip is a free leadership day which we are hosting for our church, city and region on Monday 16th April. If you are involved in leadership in any area of life, this day is for you. St Michael le Belfrey Church is the venue and the day runs from 10am to 4pm. Our keynote speaker is Arianna Walker who heads up Mercy UK. There will also be some practical seminars led by seasoned leaders. You can just turn up on the day but even better would be to register for your free ticket by clicking here, which will help us gauge numbers and prepare refreshments. At lumchtime you can bring your own pack-up or make use of one of the many eating establishments in York.
Second, we have a special day for all the men in the church and beyond on Saturday 5th May in St Michael le Belfrey Church (10am-5pm). We have guest speakers Bishop of Sherwood Tony Porter, head of Christian Vision for Men Nathan Blackaby and our very own Warren Furman. This will be a day of inspiring teaching, sharing of practical wisdom plus lots of fun and laughter. You can sign up for your free day ticket by clicking here.
Third, my wife Sam and I would love to welcome those who are part of the 9am congregation to afternoon tea at The Vicarage (9 Jubilee Terrace, YO26 4YZ) on Saturday 21st April from 3pm-5pm. There'll be tea and cakes and an opportunity to meet old friends and new from our church family. There's no need to RSVP, just come.
As spring unfolds and we give thanks for changing seasons so we thank the risen Christ for his empowering presence, and pray that he would keep equipping us with all we need to be his Kingdom ambassadors in York, the North and to ends of the earth.
Dear Church Family
Today is Good Friday. Today we stand at the cross, and behold our Saviour - our rescuer, our helper, our hero. The One who took our sins and our sorrows and made them his very own. May we today we be ever thankful. Ever humble. Ever glad. Because our debt is paid and nothing can separate us from the love of God.
Sunday will be Easter Day. Christ is risen! Risen indeed!!! Sunday is a day of days. A day like no other. A day for feasting and fun. For praising and partying. For singing and skipping. At The Belfrey there'll be much jubilation and good-news sharing. Because of all days, Easter Sunday is a day of celebration and story-telling. It's a day for declaring what Jesus has done and telling our stories of faith. May I encourage us, especially as we gather with family and friends in homes and around meal-tables on Sunday, to tell our testimonies of what the Lord has done in our lives, and to share why we're following Jesus.
It was an honour to pray for and commission J & T last Sunday in church, as they prepare to go from us as mission partners just after Easter. Thank you for your support of them as a church. I know they so much appreciate it. Let's keep them, and all our mission partners very much in our prayers this Easter season, as they share the good news of the risen Christ well beyond York.
We really do have good news! Great news!! Wonderful news!!! Let's not keep it to ourselves.
Christ once was dead, but now is alive.
Dear Church Family
As we approach what's traditionally known as Holy Week and then Easter weekend, may I encourage us all to do something to mark the season in our homes. You might, for example: put up fairy lights; make up a basket of Easter things and put it in your front window; bring in some branches and make an Easter tree; display a cross and decorate it; create an Easter garden, or make a banner that says 'Easter' or 'Christ is risen'. This visual reminder of this wonderful season will not only encourage you and your family but will be a witness to your neighbours and maybe a talking point too. For many people in our nation, Easter is a festival with no meaning, but for the Christ-follower the death and resurrection of Jesus is the very centre of our faith! Easter is such a great opportunity to point to the wonder of Christ!
To help us remember all that Christ has done for us, this year at The Belfrey there's an opportunity every day from Palm Sunday through to Easter Sunday to gather and worship. For more details, click here. In particular you might like to join us on Good Friday, either for the Family Service at 10am, or for all or part of 3 Hours at the Cross from 12noon-3pm. As usual we also have two celebration services on Easter Day - the first at 6.30am followed by breakfast in the Belfrey Hall, and then a church family communion service at 10.30am. On Easter Saturday we'll be welcoming the city and tourists into church with music and short half-hour reflections on the meaning of Easter whilst serving refreshments. Do come and join us if you can and especially come and chat to guests and make them welcome. Often the most lovely conversations open up with the opportunity to pray for people and show them the love of Christ.
Finally, don't forget to change your clocks this weekend! They spring forward at this time of year, so do move them ahead one hour on Saturday night, ready for Sunday morning.
May you and your loved ones know the amazing grace of Christ more deeply and profoundly this Holy Week and Easter season.
Dear Church Family
I was asked to speak at York Deanery Synod last week on 'Being a Resource Church'. It was good to be able to share some of the things we've been doing over a number of years to resource others, as well some plans that we hope to be doing as we look to the future. Since the days of David Watson's missions and Renewal Weeks from the 1960s and 70s, our desire as a church has been to reach out beyond ourselves and to share and give away what God has given us. This culture of resourcing is central to who we are. It comes from a God-given call. It is important and precious.
Any organisation that knows it exists for the benefit of others will often be distracted from resourcing. There are always pressures and influences pulling inwards which can lead to a loss of focus and a neglect of the things that are most important. Roger Simpson used to say this of small groups, that unless they keep looking out and aiming to gather new people, 'they tend to rot'! That's why we regularly talk about our vision at The Belfrey, when we're reminded why we exist and share what the Lord is saying to us. As we've spoken on serving God's transformation of the North in 2018 through being a community of overflow, it's been great to see people embrace afresh that vision and becoming enthused about making a difference beyond our church doors. We've seen people continuing to invite friends to church, and most weeks new people have made professions of faith. We've had a good response to our renewal of financial giving, asking the church to establish a new link with a project to lift people out of poverty through Tearfund, as well as wanting to send J & T abroad and Rosie Brabbs to Eastfield. And of course recently we've announced that Ben & Ellie Doolan will be going to Newcastle to start a resource church there next year! This is yet another sign of overflow and resourcing others. It's a great honour to be asked by the Diocese of Newcastle to do this and that their Bishops recognise in us a desire to be a resource church that can help another community in the North.
Resourcing others has at its heart the desire to give. The Kingdom is extended as we give our resources of time, energy, love, prayer, money, people and much more. It also involves trust. We need to trust that as we give away, so God will generously give back. As we overflow, God will refill. Jesus says (in Luke 6:38) this is how resourcing works. Many of us know this in our own lives. When we give little, we don't have to trust God very much to replenish. But when we give a lot - in a way that stretches us - we really do have to trust him to refill! There's no way to learn this except though practice. Giving away causes us to trust that the Lord will provide.
So as we become even more a resourcing church into the future, I'm excited by what the future holds. But let's not think that this will be easy! It will involve much stepping out in faith and trusting in God's provision. But, as I said in my Friday Message last week, we have nothing to fear. That's because our good Father is with us by his Spirit. He's the One who 'is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine' (Ephesians 3:20). So let's trust him and keep resourcing.