Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Referendum Cafe

Fraser and Cheriel from our evening congregation came up with a brilliant idea.  Cheriel tells us all about it:

"About a month ago my husband and I ran a free pop-up cafe in the centre of Reading to give people a public forum in which to discuss the result of the EU referendum. It was the weekend after the referendum result, and we had planned it for a week and put it on. We had been surprised and taken aback by the Brexit vote, and were concerned by a few things in the immediate aftermath:
1. Many Remain voters were angry and upset, and some voices from the Leave side were protesting that they felt maligned and misrepresented in the media 2. Everyone seemed to be talking about the referendum with their family and friends, but there didn't seem to be any spaces for constructive public discussion (and Facebook tends not to be the most constructive of spaces) 3. Despite the almost 50/50 split of the vote, the vast majority of our friends and family seemed to have voted the same way as us.
Put together, this seemed to suggest that the split of the vote was not only driven by individual opinion, but also by a vast difference in perception, both of what would be best for the nation and the voters on the other side, and by social (and quite possibly economic) differences.

This has been said a great deal since, but the referendum highlighted some very profound divides in our country. We wanted to do something that would strengthen civil society in our local community and enable people to put a human face to the opinions and perceptions of the other side of the vote. The wisdom of the Bible tells us that 'a soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger' (Proverbs 15:1) and that we should 'put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace' (Ephesians 6:15). We wanted to bring something of peace and hope at a time when it would have been easy to respond in inflammatory ways.

We spent the week planning and praying for good weather, begged and borrowed tables and camping chairs from Reading Family Church and our friends, recruited other members of the church to help man the stall, and filled out the necessary paperwork from the council. On the Saturday, we set our gazebo, table and signs up on Broad Street in the morning and were immediately in business. Lots of people stopped because they were intrigued by the offer of free cake and homemade lemonade, and a good many stayed to chat. While rain did put a damper on things for a little while, we estimate that by the end of the day we had spoken to over 120 people and families.

We spoke to people on both sides of the vote, and tried to encourage conversation. Many Remain voters spoke about a sense of devastation and outrage, while Leave voters spoke about optimism and feeling unfairly judged. On both sides there was apprehension about political uncertainty ('The UK has no government'). We spoke to immigrants from Europe who felt disappointed, unwelcome and angry. Wherever possible, we tried to encourage the people we spoke with to consider what the vote said about society and local communities in the UK, and what we could most productively do as individuals and as a community moving forward. One of our friends, a Remain voter, had a long conversation with a couple who had voted Leave about the thought processes and motives that had led them to vote the way they did. They came away with the realisation that, though they had chosen opposite sides of the vote, they had very similar interests at heart.


While not all conversations resulted in that degree of convergence, we found ourselves challenged and humbled by differences of opinion in the people we met. The conversations we had helped us to consider more deeply the importance of speaking our perception of truth lovingly in public debate. We hope and believe (at least, from the feedback of others) that many people came away from the pop-up cafe feeling a little more encouraged, a little more understood, and a little more willing to seek a constructive, diverse conversation. We all find it hard to be truly neutral about issues that affect us deeply, but with a little loving work we could perhaps create a society where we can deal with difference in ways that strengthen our communities."

Reaching our town is not all about 'the church' centralising and doing outreach, it is about Christians who are the church taking the initiative and bringing the gospel through their own unique way.  The bible is clear, 'Blessed are the peacemakers' and that's what Fraser and Cheriel and friends were doing that day being peacemakers.

Monday, 22 August 2016

Reading Festival This Weekend

Well it's the August Bank Holiday which means this week some 80,000 extra people, from all over the UK, will start to descend on Reading for the annual music festival.  Aligned with the festival in Leeds, this is the biggest event that hits our town each year and is one fo the cornerstone events in the British music calendar.
For years now churches in Reading have played their part in the festival by helping festival goers who find themselves in problems, by feeding hungry revellers and of course, buy offering them the good news of Jesus.

This year sees followers of Jesus in Reading unite again to come alongside the 80,000 to help, encourage and share the gospel.

Here's a link to the website Jesusdiedfor.me, to tell you all about what is going on.

If you are here in Reading and are a Christian, please will you consider getting along to get involved.

If you are a festival goer and a Christian, please look out for these guys and encourage them as well as being a good witness yourself.

If you are not a Christian, then why not take the time to see what Christians really believe as you spend time in between the bands that you have come to Reading to enjoy. You may just find yourself surprised, that this is exactly the sort of festival where Jesus would have found himself as he walked on this earth.


Monday, 11 July 2016

Praying for a colleagues knee

Flo Keith sent me this yesterday, it's a brilliant read:

A couple of Mondays ago, I went to one of my colleagues in the English Department after a crazy day at work and we sat and had a chat. She mentioned that she was going to her dance class tonight which was why she was working late (she also teaches dance at school!) but her knee was really sore. As soon as she told me, I felt prompting me to pray for her "Do it, do it," and with everything in me scared to, I just blurted out "do you want me to pray for your knee?" To my surprise, she said yes, so I asked if I could lay hands on and then prayed for the pain to go and a general blessing.

Now, she wasn't healed, but what happened after was just as awesome! She sent me an email about 10 mins later titled "The power of prayer" and this was her response:

Thank you so much for your prayer today, I really appreciate it. God was clearly listening – the one lady who usually comes to Fitsteps on a Wednesday has just messaged me to say she can’t come tonight, meaning I can have an evening resting my knee
:)

Have a lovely evening.

x

So God answers prayer in the most unexpected way, and when I asked her about her knee on Friday afternoon, she said that the pain had gone a while ago.

So it wasn't a moment of "Wow, immediate pain gone!" but in my opinion, still an amazing opportunity (plus now she's not in pain, and I have no idea where her walk with God is, but I think her email back and the language she's used is really encouraging!



Let's all be a little more like Flo and take the opportunities that come our way!

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Here are a couple of stories from our kids worker, Sarah:

I was at the chiropractor’s and I said something about church and she started telling me that she wished she’d been brought up with a faith. I told her I hadn’t been either, but that I’d become a Christian at 18 and was able to tell my story of how and why I’d become a Christian. She told me she has other patients who are Christians who have also spoken with her about their faith. I don’t know them, but I feel like we’re working “on team” to help this chiropractor come to faith J.

I was walking down London Road and a guy looked drunk and as though he was going to fall into the road. I considered walking past, but  decided this might be a Holy Spirit moment, so asked if he was ok and started chatting with him. We ended up walking along the road together chatting. I was asking the Holy Spirit if He wanted to say anything. I had the guy’s mum on my mind so asked about her. She is dead and he misses her and various other family hurts came out. I told him I’m a Christian, about Jesus dying for him and God being a good father. He listened and asked questions. I don’t imagine I’ll ever see him again, but I hope our conversation will have contributed to his understanding of our good God in a hurting world and maybe one day he’ll come to faith.


That's Sarah, just taking the opportunities that come her way!  Let's be praying for her chiropractor and this guy on London Road.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

A God encounter causes pain to leave!

Here's a story from one of our great students, Charis:

A few days ago, God challenged me in how I don’t need to ‘feel’ full of faith for God to move through me powerfully. Both humbling and exciting!

I was walking back from one of the Church’s mid week meetings, and two people stopped me and asked for money just outside the hospital. I didn't have any spare change, but one was in a wheelchair so I asked if I could pray for him. The lady with him got really excited, and said that she's a Christian, and that God totally changed her life after struggling with alcoholism. So I knelt down and ask him where the most pain is, as he suffered from wounds after serving in the army and now lives with a lot of pain. So I asked him if I could lay my hand on the area of pain, his shin, and told him that God could heal him. After a brief prayer, he looks surprised and said, "I just felt warmth all down my leg….. Can you pray for my other one?"

When I say I had no faith, literally the whole time I felt nothing, no excited feeling, no 'surge of power' or anything! 

So I prayed for the other leg, and then he said he felt shooting warmth all through his leg this time. I asked him to stand up and walk around to see if anything had happened, and HE HAD NO PAIN! He didn't even want to try walking at first, but he got up and hobbled around, slowly, then more confidently. The woman with him said she hadn't seen him walk like that in a long time! She then told me that she went to RFC once and a woman prayed for her leg, and skin that was all black on her thigh got healed! After talking with them for a while about the goodness of God,  they say have a nice night and walk away.

I was so stunned that something had happened, I forgot to tell them more about Jesus, so 30 seconds later I felt like a bit of an idiot! But I thought it was incredible that God can use my lack of faith to reveal the reality and mystery of a present God, and that the lady with him actually knows the Lord so can tell him more and (hopefully) take him to Church! I have faith that God is gonna work in this guy's life!


It’s such an adventure to live to live in step with the Spirit of God! He loves it when His kids ask for the big things!

Amazing stuff! It's always good to take the opportunities that are presented to us.  You never know what God will do!

Monday, 23 May 2016

Many links over many years!

Here's a story from Sarah Rooke from our 9am congregation, I found it so encouraging when thinking about persevering in prayer and in love for friends who don't yet know Jesus.

"Although we were different as teenagers my friend Sarah and I were good friends all through secondary school.She knew I was a Christian and we would have the odd chat about this.During our late teens she and I talked on a more deeper level often coming back to my faith and how this played out in my life.She agreed to come on a Christianity Explored course with me and was struck by the love and welcome there, she often asked questions and kept coming. There was no conclusion for her following this and soon after she moved to Southampton.
We continued to be close friends, especially seeing each other more at times like when she had her first baby. Through various life events we would often quickly get to a deep and meaningful conversation especially  during the tough times.I remember clearly she said she couldn't have any faith or believe there was a God at one point and I felt so sad about this but prayed for her eyes to be opened spiritually.

Now in our early thirties we remain close and conversations have been around prayer this past year. We prayed for her to have a healthy pregnancy and baby,we prayed for a difficult housing situation and both of these prayers were answered in an amazing way -that she could see too! At my baby's thanksgiving a few weeks ago Sarah prayed something for her daughter and was very excited the next day that her prayer had been answered!Praise God! She has since started to go to the church on the estate she lives on and her children had been involved in youth activities there for a while. She went to a guest service about healing and her and her partner prayed with someone from the church after,they've been reading booklets on prayer they've been given and are booked to start Christianity Explored next week! We speak on the phone most days and it's so exciting to see God working so powerfully and how God can choose to use us or choose to speak directly with people without needing us- a real reminder that there's often many links over many years." 

It's good to share stories to encourage one another and it means we too can pray for Sarah's friend Sarah!

Monday, 9 May 2016

Being a good neighbour

This term I am running a group called Being Ambassadors as part of our life group system. It's basically an opportunity to share stories and be encouraged.  As part of that the guys involved have agreed to share their stories on the blog as well.  So here's the first from Glodine:

Something I am learning about being an ambassador for Christ is that I no longer have to put pressure on myself to see conversion or an immediate change in someone's life. With time I have come to appreciate that coming to faith is a journey and it is God's responsibility to get my friends saved, my role is to walk the Christian faith in a way that showcases who Jesus is through love, patience and grace. Earlier this week my neighbours gifted me with lovely flowers and a card that read 'Thank you for bearing with our renovations so gracefully!' This made me smile, encouraged me to keep loving people the way Jesus loves me. I am incredibly grateful for the wonderful people in my life.

Katie also sent this through to our what's app group:

Buzzing today after being at my cousins baptism in Birmingham, she bought loads of her non-Christian friends and people gave their lives to Jesus!  So exciting to see God moving everywhere we go.