Dear Church Family,
A few of us have been off recently with various winter illnesses and especially a viral infection that's been going round. Thank you to everyone who prayed for me, as I've missed most of the services over the last couple of weeks. It's good to hear what the Lord has been doing amongst us as we gather with, I understand, a notable increase in people coming forward for prayer at services, and numbers at XI particularly increasing after a period of decline. May that continue!
Thank you to everyone who renewed their financial giving last month. This has really helped us with our planning and looking ahead. On present figures, if these pledges become realised this equates to nearly a 4% increase in income for the year, which is good, as we're praying and working for a 5% increase in income by the end of the year. If you've not yet pledged for the year, or you have but need to adjust a standing order, please do that soon. Thank you.
This Sunday at our two morning services we will welcome speakers from YOYO, the excellent mission organisation that works in York schools, who we support as a mission partner. And The6 welcomes back Bishop Graham Cray, who will be speaking and also baptising and confirming a number of candidates. We look forward to seeing Graham, and welcoming the candidates into the life of our church.
Please keep praying for the Alpha courses that have just got going - one on York University campus for students (on Tuesdays), one here in York in the Belfrey Hall (on Wednesdays) and one in Brandsby. Please pray that people would be inspired to follow Jesus.
Being a disciple is just that - it's following Jesus. It's going where he goes, saying what he says, and doing what he does. May you and I be praying and encouraging others to start following Jesus; and in our groups and as we engage with the spiritual disciplines of prayer and fasting, may each one of us be growing in our discipleship, day by day.
Dear Church Family
How are you doing with the fasting challenge that's been put to us over the last few weeks? We're learning together what it means to fast. Some of us will find this easy, and some more difficult. A few won't be able to fast from food (for medical reasons) so you'll need to choose something else. If you've forgotten to fast, or found it hard to find a time, or just found it really difficult, don't worry. Have another go! Like most disciplines, we learn by keeping going - like riding a bike, we might fall off a few times, but the answer is to get back on and try again.
We talked recently in our Belfrey Group about fasting. As well as discussing some of the difficult things about it, some talked of answers to prayer on a level that had surprised them, and they were wondering if there might be a link! If you have some encouraging answers to prayer that have taken place whilst we've been fasting, please do email me and let me know. I'd love to hear!
This Sunday (10th Feb) Sophie Dearden, who heads our House of Prayer team in St Cuthbert's, will be speaking in the third of this prayer series, on 'The Freedom of Fasting', and we'll have a new fasting challenge to consider, so if you're away this weekend, do make sure you catch up online in the week. We'll also be reminded about the forthcoming Alpha course, about to start this coming Wednesday evening. Please be praying about Alpha and who you might invite,
The following Sunday (17th Feb) we have speakers from the schools charity YOYO with us in the morning, and Bishop Graham Cray with us in the evening at The6. That evening service will include baptisms and confirmations, so if you're a follower of Jesus and are not yet baptised, or if you're part of our church but have never been confirmed, you can do that next weekend. You may know others who'd like to be baptised or confirmed too. To find out more, or to show interest, please contact any of clergy or email Ruth Somerville. It will be great to welcome Graham back to our church as new members of our church family make these important and life-changing promises, and as we hear our Father speak his words of love and affirmation over us.
We have such a good Father. A kind, caring, strong, forgiving Father. From him, all good things flow. May we honour him with our words and actions, and keep pointing people to his Son, Jesus Christ, who is our Saviour and Lord.
Dear Church Family
As we work and pray for much good cultivation to take place this year, so it's good to make use of the many missional opportunities available.
The most obvious ones, that are easily missed, are the ones God puts in from of us every day - in our home, with our neighbours, at work or when we're with friends. As we share our faith in all sorts of ways, so there are various things coming up to which you can invite people. These include:
- ALPHA: a 6-week course on Wednesday nights in the Belfrey Hall starting on 13th February. It's for anyone who wants to find out more about following Jesus. It includes a meal, a film and discussion groups. If you invite someone to attend, why not consider coming with them to the first session, to make them feel at ease and to introduce them to a few people? More details can be found by clicking here.
- MISSION WEEK: In the week running up to Sunday 17th March, Greg Downes will be with us, bringing a team from Wycliffe Hall, to help share in all sorts of mission opportunities in York. The team will be doing work on the streets, at the Wednesday Lunchtime Service and Never Give Up but would also love to visit Belfrey Groups and help us as we put on a variety of small events in homes to tell the good news of Jesus. So please be thinking about how you and your Belfrey Group can engage with this. On the Sunday at the end of the week, there will be guest/invitation services in St Michael le Belfrey Church where Greg will speak.
To help us prepare well for this, Greg will be with us this coming Sunday, speaking at all our services, whetting our appetite for mission. It will be great to welcome back Greg and Tamie and the girls!
Finally, this weekend (on Saturday) the new Dean of York, Jonathan Frost is licensed. We're looking forward to welcoming him to York Minster next door to us, and to the city, and I'm looking forward to us working with him in mission in York and our region. Please do pray for him and for his family as they settle into York.
Dear Church Family
As we pray and work for God to be at work cultivating good things in and through the life of our church in the coming year, so we're seeking for growth. For good growth. For kingdom-of-God growth.
As I was praying about this recently I felt the Lord remind me that growth comes through giving. Through the giving of our worship, prayers and testimonies. Through us giving the gospel (in evangelism). Through us giving love to others (in discipleship). Through our giving of time to see others mature (in leadership development). Through our giving away of people (in church planting). And also as we give our money to support the worship and mission of our church.
Cultivate & Financial Pledges
Giving is crucial to our Cultivate vision for 2019 because cultivation is activated by all these different types of giving. That's why we're asking everyone who belongs to The Belfrey to renew their financial giving for the coming year and to come to church this Sunday with a pledge for the year. This is to help each of us to plan our giving (as we're told to do in 1 Corinthians 16:1-2) and also to help the church in financial planning for the year ahead. So please do pray about your financial giving and then return your Pledge Form on Sunday (or if you're away, then drop it into the Parish Centre in the week). If you'd prefer to do this online, you can do so by clicking here.
On Sunday we'll be considering 'The Discipline of Fasting' - as we continue in the second in our new series. Andy Baker, our Associate Minister will be speaking and, amongst other things, will be encouraging us to give ourselves to this discipline as we learn together more of what it means to prioritise prayer and fasting . So let's keep practicing!
Giving. It's central to cultivation. It's wonderfully displayed by our cultivating God, who by the Holy Spirit generously gives all the resources and love we need for life, and it's most perfectly modelled by our good Father - giving us the best thing he had, in giving Jesus Christ.
May you discover in 2019 that growth really does come through giving.
Dear Church Family
This Sunday is Vision Sunday and I'll be speaking across our services in more detail about the year ahead and how there is much cultivating work that the Lord wants to do in and with us. Please do make sure you've picked up a copy of our Cultivate magazine, or read it online by clicking here. I hope you enjoy it - and don't forget to transfer key dates into your diary.
Between now and Easter every other week on Sundays we'll be focussing on prayer in general and fasting in particular. We began to think about this last Sunday. Don't forget that I set us all a Fasting Habit to Practice for the coming couple of weeks which was: fast one meal (per week) and use the time to pray. If you missed last week's sermon you can catch up online by clicking here.
We're looking forward to welcoming Gillian Shepherd onto our staff team, as she begins working with us on Monday as our new Impact Project Manager. Do look out for her and welcome her. I mentioned Gillian in the recent Impact video update, which, if you missed it, you can watch by clicking here.
Finally, let's not forget our nation and political leaders in our prayers, during these continuing uncertain days as they seek to find a way forward with Brexit. Let's keep praying for a good solution to be found and for great wisdom for those who've been given authority.
Dear Church Family
I do hope you've enjoyed our new Cultivate magazine! If you've not had a copy yet, do pick one up from church next time you're there. It's packed with information about the year ahead in our church.
There were many things about Jesus that captured the imagination of his followers, but there was only thing they specifically asked him to teach them - and that was to pray. As we go into 2019, there will be many things the Lord wants to do amongst us. One of the main ones is to teach us to pray. He wants to cultivate a greater culture of prayer amongst us. So why not ask him? Why not make that five-word prayer of the first disciples your prayer too: 'Lord, teach us to pray' (Luke 11:1)?
I'm presently with Rebecca Smith and Patrick Corley in the Scottish Borders, leading the student residential for King's Church in Durham. They've asked us to teach them - on prayer. So we'll be exploring thanksgiving prayer, intercessory prayer, prophetic prayer and warfare prayer. Please pray that the Holy Spirit is powerfully at work - encouraging, healing, convicting, renewing and equipping these young women and men so that they become people of prayer.
This Sunday at our services we begin our new series - also on prayer (in general) and fasting (in particular). Every other Sunday we'll be looking at how we can go deeper in these disciplines so that together the Spirit of Jesus teaches us to pray.
Finally, please continue to pray for our nation as we make decisions about Brexit. In the midst of much uncertainty and instability, let's not be discouraged by forces of disunity, and instead pray for our political leaders and trust the Lord for the future.
Dear Church Family
Welcome to 2019 and Happy New Year!
I love the beginning of a new year. It's not only an opportunity to look back with thanksgiving but also to look forward with hope and anticipation.
As I look ahead to 2019 despite much uncertainty in our world, I'm excited about all that the Lord is going to do in our nation, our region, our city and our church. Much is unknown, but the Lord will be with us, guiding and leading us.
At The Belfrey, we've been praying and planning for this year for a while, so look out for the Cultivate magazine which will be in church from this Sunday. You'll be able to read about many things coming up in 2019 at The Belfrey which are both for you, and for you to invite friends and family to.
Cultivate is a helpful word, summarising so much of what I believe the Lord wants to do amongst us in 2019. There are many things he wants to cultivate in us personally and together in our church culture. Find our more in the Cultivate magazine!
This Sunday in church we'll also be letting you know about developments with our Impact project, as we prepare for the reordering of St Michael le Belfrey Church in the next few years. Things are going to accelerate this year with Impact, so we want to keep you informed of everything, including the launch of the competition to find a lead architect and also to introduce Gillian Shepherd, who's going to be our Impact Project Manager.
At we stand at the beginning of 2019, may this not only be a great year for us as a church, but for you, as you discover afresh that following Jesus really is the way to life in all its fulness.
Dear Church Family
Christmas Day is fast approaching, as we prepare to celebrate the Saviour's birth!
If you're away from York visiting family or friends at Christmas, may you travel safely and share with those around you the comfort and joy of Christ. If you're here in York, we have our usual services this Sunday, followed by a Crib Service at 2pm on Christmas Eve, and then one service on Christmas morning for all the church family at 10.30am.
As we celebrate the coming of Emmanuel - God with us - some two thousand years ago, it's thrilling to hear stories of people encountering God with us today, especially at this time of year. Just last Sunday a woman shared with me how a prayer she'd been praying for four a half years had been wonderfully answered. A young man from a Muslim background came to church in the morning for the first time and then came back again in the evening. He sensed the presence of God and took a bible to read wanting to find out about the person of Jesus. Another woman told me of the healing she'd received in her body and the confidence this has brought her, since she was prayed for a few weeks ago at one of our services. And a man who took Communion told me afterwards how this was the first time he'd received Communion in fifty years, because now 'he's coming back' to the Lord. God is indeed with us!
As we approach the end of 2018, and with no Friday Message next week, may I take this opportunity to say that it's a great privilege to be Vicar of our church. I so value our church family, from the youngest to the oldest. At the recent Christmas café person after person from outside of York told me to pass on to the rest of the church their thanks at our welcome, hospitality and kindness and many said that if they were in York, they'd be part of our church! Most important of all, of course, is Jesus Christ himself - the One who came to save us, because we couldn't save ourselves. He's the reason for the season. He's the Lord of our church. May each of us celebrate his birth with passion and love in these coming days.
Have a very happy Christmas.
Dear Church Family
What are you grateful for this Advent?
It's lovely to be able to reflect on the Advent stories at this time of year as we prepare for Christmas. Much of our material comes from Luke, who at the beginning of his gospel account tells us that he's 'carefully investigated everything' and prepared 'an orderly account' (Luke 1:3). As he faithfully and meticulously writes about all that happened he intentionally includes two songs - the song of Mary (1:46-56) and the song of Zechariah (1:68-79). And at the heart of both songs is gratitude.
Gratitude was central at that first Christmas. In a world of much uncertainty, God was powerfully at work, and God's people were grateful. They allowed thanksgiving to well up inside of them and then overflow in word and action. In today's uncertain world, we're called to do the same. To be a people full of gratitude.
There's so much to be thankful for in our church at the moment. For our Belfrey Groups, where so many us find fellowship and kindness; where we pray, study the Bible and reach out in love to those around us. For our services, where we sing God's praise, hear God's word, and are encouraged and invigorated for the mission the Lord has called us to. And more specifically for the ministry of Ben and Ellie Doolan and all they've given in recent years, and now the future ministry of Andy and Hayley Baker, now that they've joined us, and for the encouraging words of our Archbishop at the recent licensing, reminding us to be people who pray and work to see revival - God's kingdom coming in word and action, in sign and wonder. For the welcoming Christmas café last Saturday, where so many came into church and were warmly greeted and in an atmosphere of love and kindness heard the good news of Christmas. And for the wonderful Carol Service in York Minster last Sunday night, where so many of our church family served in different areas and lots of people responded so positively to all they saw and heard. In my ten years here at The Belfrey I think it is the most positive response on the door that I have experienced - with over sixty people asking for letters having prayed the commitment prayer, and others smiling and laughing, others weeping, and some in awe at what they had experienced. All this and more makes me grateful, and I hope it does you too. The Lord is at work, and we give thanks.
As we prepare now for Christmas Day and the end of the year, do use this time to continue to be grateful. If you can, take a few moments to read the two songs of Mary and Zechariah in Luke 1, and allow gratitude to flow from you, for all the Lord is doing in our church and in your life. Notice too that both songs have a prophetic direction, thanking God for what he's going to do in the future but expressed as if he's already done it! You might like to do the same, as we end the year and look ahead to 2019. The Lord has plans for us as a church, and for each one of us. Be grateful for all he's going to do. And then agree to trust and obey.
Mary sang that first Advent: 'My soul glorifies the Lord ... for the Mighty One has done great things.' Zechariah sang: 'Praise be to the Lord ... because he has come to his people and redeemed them.' Like them, let's be people overflowing with gratitude.
Dear Church Family
Happy Advent to you all! I hope you're enjoying this wonderful season as we prepare to celebrate the coming of Christ. This is a time to get ready. To get ready for Christmas. To ready ourselves for Christ's second coming. And to get our hearts ready for Christ to come again to us, by his Spirit. It's all about preparation.
If you want five minutes of daily Advent inspiration you might like to listen to the short daily podcasts I'm putting out each day during Advent at present. If you have an Apple device you can access via the podcast app, and search for 'Advent Adventure', and you'll find it. Otherwise, click here and access via my Discipleship Blog.
Do join us if you can tonight (Friday at 7pm in St Michael le Belfrey Church) for the licensing service of our new Associate Minister, Andy Baker. The Archbishop of York will be leading the service and it will be great to welcome Archbishop Sentamu and Archdeacon Sarah, as well as Andy and Hayley.
On Saturday we have our Christmas Cafe in church. If you're not able to drop in and greet people, please still do pray for this, as the event normally impacts many people who pause from their York shopping and come and hear the good news of Jesus. The church will be open from 10.30am to 4.30pm as we serve our community and the many tourists who'll be in York.
Then on Sunday evening we have our Carol Service in York Minster, at 7.30pm. It will be great to welcome back Greg Downes as our speaker. He's prepared a special message and Riding Lights Theatre company have again produced fantastic bespoke theatre for the occasion. Do invite friends and family and wrap up, in case it's a cold night!
Please cover all these events in prayer, that people would come and encounter the living Jesus Christ - the One who is at the heart of this Advent and Christmas season.
Finally, do pray for yourself and those in your Belfrey Group - that in all the busyness of Christmas preparations there would be moments of love, wonder and awe, as we care for each other across the church family, and as we welcome the presence of Immanuel - God with us.