I expect you have already heard my biggest piece of news since I last wrote – Alex and I got engaged! I’d love to fill you in on some of our journey, and we invite you to join and support us, particularly in our exploration of mission and where we sense God is calling us. With our pioneer mission training, we are both increasingly drawn to the concept of fresh expressions of church, where you are encouraged to start by listening to and serving those outside the church, before exploring spirituality more deeply with them and growing a worshipping community in their context. This makes ‘mission’ feel a little more manageable, as we can start from where we are here and now.
Alex and I share a desire to engage in our local community in this way, and are excited about seeking opportunities to do this together. Examples we have talked about include opening up our home for community meals as a basis for relationship building and gently sharing our faith; providing a quiet space/chapel for people to escape the busyness of life and spend quiet time in a way they feel comfortable; and offering low-key Bible conversation groups for people who are interested and seeking. We are also keen to learn from people who are in some way practising missional community living, something to which we believe God may be calling us in the future. I’ll give you a taster of some of the places we’ve been to in recent months:
- We had a few days being wonderfully hosted by The Oaks, a community/discipleship house for ex-offenders (a Message Trust ministry near Manchester). The household welcomed us warmly and shared their lives with us so openly for the short time we were there – sharing stories of their former lives of crime and addiction, and how God had transformed them. Their passion for God and for loving others shone through!
- Alex joined me on a residential module of my course called ‘Missional Entrepreneurship’ which was held in a Christian community called Pickwell Manor in Devon. The week consisted of thinking through how a mission project/dream could be brought into being, culminating in a short pitch to a Dragon’s Den-like panel, who gave feedback and pledges of support. Alex and I presented a dream of a residential New Monastic community (with daily rhythms of prayer, community living, and loving service to the local community) for a mix of members including ex-offenders and others on the margins of society. We received encouraging feedback, as well as wise advice to put the brakes on while we plan a wedding and have a little marriage time before launching into community living!
- We spent some time at Hilfield, a Franciscan friary in Dorset, where we were welcomed to join their daily rhythms of prayer, communion and eating together. Breakfasts in silence were a new experience for me! It was great to get some time away to pray and reflect, as well as experience Franciscan spirituality first-hand. As an aside, we’ve been enjoying weekly ‘compline’ (a traditional form of night prayer) via video link with the dispersed Young Franciscan community we’re part of.
- More recently, Alex and I attended an event at Lambeth Palace, where we heard Archbishop Justin Welby and Shane Claiborne (Christian activist and New Monastic community leader) in conversation about What if Jesus really meant the Stuff he said? It was encouraging and inspiring to hear these lead figures from very different contexts talk so passionately about mission and community.
It is exciting for Alex and me to be dreaming about where we sense God is leading us, both in the immediate term (from when we get married this May), and longer term. I’d love to let you know how you can support us and be part of our journey if you would like…
- Financial: We rely partly on financial support from individuals giving monthly. After we get married, I intend to continue working at Yeldall part-time, as well as studying at CMS (at a slower pace, to free up more time for local ministry). Alex is fundraising for his unsalaried prison ministry in Wormwood Scrubs and Pentonville and local ministry with me. Between us, we are currently short of approximately £700 per month, based on renting a 2-bedroom place on a council estate in Northolt, where Alex currently lives and where we plan to start married life.
We’d be so grateful if you would think and pray about whether you could either increase what you currently give, or start supporting us in this way. Let me know if you’d like to chat more, or you can sign up directly (with the option to gift aid) through this Stewardship page: https://www.give.net/20188522.
- Prayer: Alex and I have a lot of change and uncertainty on the horizon, which is both exciting as well as a little anxiety-inducing! We’d love it if you would join us in praying for God to lead us really clearly; to provide the finances we need as well as a suitable place to live; and for an ability to remain focused on our relationship with God and with each other over and above wedding planning!
- Keeping in touch and sharing ideas: Please sign up to this blog if you would like to receive my occasional posts in your email in-box and hear our news. We’d also love to hear from you if you have recommendations of people or places you think we should visit or connect with.
I will close with a prayer which I came across recently and has been a comfort to me in times of uncertainty:
Help me journey beyond the familiar and into the unknown.
Give me faith to leave old ways and break fresh ground with you.
Christ of the mysteries, I trust you to be stronger than each storm within me.
I will trust in the darkness and know that my times, even now, are in your hand.
Tune my spirit to the music of heaven, and somehow, make my obedience count for you.
Thank you so much for your love.