Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

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May 2019

May 13, 2019

Thoughts From The Cottage

Dear Friends

Have you ever thought about writing the story of your life? Maybe you think that no-one would be interested. Maybe you think it would be too much work. Maybe you think that your life has not been interesting enough. The truth of the matter is that when we have conversations with people we talk about our life, family, holidays, health, difficulties, joys and so on. We find that some people only want a synopsis whereas others want the full story but most want something in the middle.

In our Talking Jesus course we have reached the session about telling our story. In it we are encouraged to think about the people we want to share our story with and then prepare it with them in mind. It should not be our whole life story but should concentrate on the recent past. The language should be simple and jargon-free focussing on the difference God has made in our lives. Furthermore we need to remember that it is a conversation not a sermon. We will have to respond to questions and not just pick up the story where we left off. To help us the course booklet suggests that you identify:

  • your audience, the five people you are already praying for
  • an example of God’s work in your life
  • what happened that made you turn to God
  • the difference God has made

then you rehearse your story and look for opportunities to share it.

This is an intentional approach to faith sharing, not a reactional one. It involves going to people rather than waiting for them to come to us. Some of us will be uncomfortable with this approach but it is the only approach that will see sustained significant growth in church attendance as more people come to faith and then join the pool of people sharing their faith.

The biggest resistance to this approach to evangelism is us, ourselves, not those outside the church. If people know that we are people of faith then they will expect God to feature in our lives and in our conversations. They will not be surprised to hear us talk about prayer, worship, faith or Jesus. In fact they may be more surprised if we do not do so! The big questions are how we get over our lack of confidence in faith sharing and how we avoid being lured into a false sense of political correctness by those who tell us we must not say or do anything that causes offence and hence cause the dilution of the Word of God. Try and watch the BBC interview with Father Martin McGill to see what difference can be made by an individual speaking out for what they believe. In it he said “But I’m also very conscious that as a baptised Christian, there is a prophetic role. It’s part of my call.” Notice, he did not say as a ‘priest’, he said as a ‘baptised Christian’. That is a challenge to all of us who want to change the world and regularly pray ‘Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth’.

Ian Ring

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April 2019

May 13, 2019

Thoughts From The Cottage

Dear Friends

My health problems have given me the opportunity to reflect upon life and faith. Many old adages I was told and much advice I was given as a young preacher have come back into mind. Some of you will know the sort of things I mean but to repeat them here would be foolhardy, after all I am still your Minister for a while longer yet! However looking back over my ministry I can clearly see high points and low points, ups and downs, meandering pathways and straight roads. I can see things which I now know to be distractions and other things which I though were distractions but were probably helps placed there by God. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

In Luke 9:51 we find these words ‘Jesus steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem’. There is a determination there, a single-mindedness, a purposefulness from which we can learn. Jesus was not prepared to let anything or anyone deflect him from his mission. For one reason or another we do not find it as easy as Jesus. There are many reasons for this but are they real reasons or are they excuses? Sometimes our concern not to offend people stops us speaking or doing God’s word but both Paul and Peter tell us that the Gospel is an offence to unbelievers. Sometimes we fall into the trap of democracy (seeking the mind of the people) when the church should be a theocracy (seeking the mind of God). Sometimes history, tradition, the pursuit of new ideas, social pressure, pride or stubbornness get in the way of serving God. We need to root out all that prevents from truly walking in the footsteps of Jesus.

When Jesus set his mind towards Jerusalem a journey of mixed fortune and mixed emotion began. He immediately told would-be followers the true cost of discipleship (Lk 9:57-62). He sent 72 followers out on a mission, a form of in-service training (Lk 10:1-24). He told parables, taught about prayer, explained Scripture, prophesied about the future, interpreted the current news stories, healed people. You will find it all and much more in Luke chapters 10 to 19. Read it and be inspired, read it and get a sense of the urgency in Jesus. Finally he arrives at the gates of Jerusalem and receives a heroes welcome (Lk 19:28-40). Triumph, joy, journey’s end? No!

Immediately Jesus predicts the destruction of Jerusalem, it happened 40 years later. He cleansed the temple of evil and began teaching in the temple courts. No hiding away, no trying not give offence for him! Each evening he went out to the Mount of Olives for the night. Keep reading on through Luke 20 and 21. Then comes what we call the Last Supper of Jesus with his disciples, followed by his arrest in the Mount of Olives, His trials before both Herod and Pilate leading directly to his crucifixion and burial (Lk 22 and 23). It was over. The lowest of lows had been reached.

But it wasn’t. Luke 24 begins with the remarkable account of the empty tomb and the resurrection of Jesus. The lowest of lows and become the highest of highs. The resurrection began to draw people into the fledgling church and the Holy Spirit ignited the spark on Pentecost 50 days later. The church has never stopped growing since. Discover what it is all about with us this Easter!

Ian Ring

 

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March 2019

May 13, 2019

Thoughts From The Cottage

Dear Friends

If you come into our buildings during the week you will often find it a lively place with plenty going on, sometimes two or three activities simultaneously. Depending on the week between thirty-six and forty-seven hours are taken up with activities for all ages. On top of that are special events like tea parties, drama group plays, Christmas Cracker and other special activities. On average around four to five hundred people come through our doors each week. Somewhere in all this we hope to start a youth club soon. The majority of activities are community activities. However church-based activities are slowly growing through things like Messy Church, and to a lesser extent Café Church and Talking Jesus.

Alongside this we have a numerically declining, ageing membership and are anticipating Ministry Scoping being reduced from 50% to 33.33% when I retire in 2020. How do we reconcile this with the lively community use of the buildings and, perhaps more importantly, how do we work for church growth with declining resources?

Of course, we can see this either as a problem or as an opportunity. No prizes for guessing which view I take. As an optimist I naturally take the view that this is an opportunity. However, that does not mean that I know the answer to how this will work out, but I do know the one who has the answer – God- and I am prepared to trust him.

The opportunity of growing community and outreach work coupled with declining resources is that we will have to find new ways of doing things and not stick to the old familiar pattern that we know so well. This is, of course, scary because it leads us into the unknown and forces us to trust God more. The temptation is to come up with our own plan for managing decline and coping with the new situation. Wherever that has been tried it has simply led to further decline. Our starting point needs to be somewhere else. As a church we are led by God and the most important thing we can do is to seek God’s will.

A lot of prayer goes on in this church and for that we are all grateful. We regularly pray for healing, for guidance, for help. We regularly give thanks for blessings received. We ask God to bless our programmes and activities. In addition to this we need to engage in Listening Prayer. You will find a helpful resume of Listening Prayer later in this issue.

Essentially, as Christians, our role is to seek God’s will and then practice it. That is what we are asking for when we pray the Lord’s Prayer. It is what we seek when we come together for public worship. It is the desire of every Christian and every Church. Quite simply it is our raison d’etre.

God has a future for the Beacon. He will reveal it to us when we are ready to receive it.

Ian Ring

 

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January 2019

May 13, 2019

Thoughts From The Cottage

Dear Friends

I wonder what your thoughts are at the beginning of a new year. Have you made ‘new year resolutions’? Have you decided to change your wardrobe, furniture, car or house? Have you decided to take up a new hobby or interest? Have you decided to change your lifestyle, diet, political views or general outlook? Maybe you have decided that nothing will change and that what you were in 2018 will be what you are in 2019.

Things may change whether we plan them or not. 2019 may be better or worse than we think because of things we have no control over. There is a very real sense that we have to treat each new day as it comes, giving God thanks for it and seeking his help in living it. What is true for us personally is also true for the church. What will 2019 bring the Beacon Church Centre? The answer may depend on whether you are an optimist or a pessimist and you can’t opt out by claiming to be a realist because that is simply another name for pessimist. We all have a chance to shape the future of our church. Our input or lack of it will see to that.

2018 has been an interesting year. We have a seen a continued decline of numbers in our regular Sunday morning congregation but we have seen visitors, newcomers and an increased regularity from some. Financially we have made the loss that we expected to make. Messy church has grown and Friday Messy and Sunday morning Messy have been particularly successful. Community interaction has increased, particularly on Tuesday morning, at the Cracker and the afternoon teas with Beaconside school. We have been less active in CTB45 and we have fewer people doing key roles, particularly on a Sunday morning. So was it a good year or a bad year? You decide.

Where does that leave us at the start of 2019? Quite simply we have to grow the church, find more people to take on key roles, develop new initiatives, increase our financial income as well as supporting all the good work going on. In January we begin our ‘Talking Jesus’ course which will help us to gain confidence in talking about our faith and inviting non-churchgoers to come with us to worship and church events. It runs once a month from January 27th to the end of June – don’t miss it.

Under Louise’s guidance we will continue to develop Messy Church and hopefully begin a club for older children. To enable this to happen we need to expand the team of helpers. Messy Sunday mornings will be expanded and take place on Mothering Sunday, Father’s Day, Harvest and Gift Sunday. The uniformed organisations will be involved and Louise’s regular work with them will aid this.

We will begin the process of preparing for Ian’s retirement in the summer of 2020 starting with finalising our pastorate profile and discussing with Synod pastoral committee how ministry will be provided. More information on this should be available for the January Church Life Meeting – don’t miss it.

It’s going to be an exciting year at the Beacon Church Centre!

Ian Ring

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December 2018

May 13, 2019

Thoughts From The Cottage

Dear Friends

Once again Christmas is rushing up on us and the season of goodwill, turkey, pudding, mince pies, crackers, trees, cards, presents and carols is here. No doubt it will be a good celebration as we met up with family, digitally or in person, and share Christmas together. Amongst our festivities we may spare a thought for those for whom it is the first Christmas without a loved one, for those who are homeless or can’t afford gifts for their children, for immigrants experiencing Christmas in Britain for the first time and for those for whom Christmas brings back painful memories. It is also a time of hope and joy, a time wwhen peace and goodwill seems to be more prevalent that usual. Despite that our Christmas tends to look back to what was, not forward to what will be. Yet it is supposed to do both, to look back to the good times and forward to the good times.

As Christians the good times we look back to are the creation of the universe and God’s gift of it to us as well as God’s gift of His Son, Jesus, to the world. The good times we look forward to are the second coming of Jesus and our place in heaven at His side. Put together it is an amazing story and sets us apart from all other faiths. True we share a common heritage with Judaism and Islam but the place of Jesus is what is crucial in our faith. We are living in part of a story, we are part of the history of God’s relationship with the people he created. It as an amazing, wonderful marvellous story that spans the whole of eternity.

One day scientists might be able to tell us how the universe was created and as fascinating as that might be it will not provide the answer to why it was created. Anyway, we already know the answer to that. God created it for us to enjoy. It is his gift to his greatest creation, us. We are supposed to enjoy it, explore it, care for it and pass it on to the next generation. We screwed it up, we got it wrong and we ignored God so he sent us another gift, himself. He came as a human being and lived amongst us as Jesus. Born in a stable to an unmarried mother was an ignominious start which was followed by a night time dash to another country as a refugee family. A short itinerant ministry of preaching, teaching, healing and miracle working led to his death on a cross as a common criminal. Then the impossible happened. Dead and buried in a tomb he came back to life three days later. Here’s a story really worth celebrating.

But the story doesn’t end there. We long for the day when Jesus returns as King and the whole universe bows before him to acknowledge his sovereignty. Just as surprising as his birth in Bethlehem, witnessed by Angels, Shepherds and foreign Kings was so will his second coming be. It will be unmistakable and shatter all our preconceptions about this universe and its Creator. It will be beyond our wildest dreams, more magnificent than we can envisage and we will be part of it and spend the rest of eternity in the presence of the one eternal God.

Ian Ring

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November 2018

May 13, 2019

Dear Friends

I went for my six-monthly pacemaker check recently. Everything was fine. However it set me thinking. Many of us have regular health check-ups and the doctor or consultant might tweak our medication, change our tablets or make suggestions regarding diet, exercise or lifestyle in order to give us a better quality of life or to prolong our life. So what about our spiritual health, as individuals and as a church. How often do we have a spiritual healthcheck? If we believe that the spiritual dimension of our life is as important as the physical dimension then the benefits of a spiritual check up are as obvious as a medical check up.

Just as don’t ask just anyone to review our medication or perform medical procedures so it is with a spiritual health check up. We seek help from an expert and there are many helpful resouces available for a spiritual healthcheck. Two examples are included later in this newsletter for you to work on at home or with a trusted friend.

However just as regular exercise and a balanced diet help our physical well-being so there are certain things that help our spiritual well-being. These things include regular attendance at worship, regular reading of the Bible and regular prayer,

Thinking of prayer leads me on to another point that came up recently which may well help our church. When Sally Willet (Evangelism & Renewal Advocate) met the Elders recently she offered a session on Listening Prayer. I am aware that a lot of prayer goes on in this church and that many of our congregation have deep prayer lives that have sustained them through thick and thin. However, it is true that we are weak on corporate prayer. We devote a lot of time to business meetings and structures, both of which are very important for the life of a church, but I do wonder whether spending more time in prayer together may benefit the church. In ‘prayer together’ I don’t just mean praying for healing and cure of the sick, praying for local, national and global issues and thanking God for His goodness towards us. I mean time in prayer listening to God, tuning in to Him and discerning His plans for us and our church. This is where Listening Prayer comes in and a guide to Listening Prayer is included in this Newsletter.

Sally also talked about the welcome that visitors receive. This is a difficult area. Some people are gregarious and like to be involved in conversation others are more reserved and like to be left on their own. Unfortunately we can’t tell a persons preference simply by looking at them. Personal contact was mentioned as important, particularly for follow up. Perhaps visitors should be invited to sit with a regular worshipper. They should certainly be given a notice sheet and have the format of worship explained to them briefly. After worship someone should invite them to stay of tea or coffee and whatever the answer that person should ask them if they want to be kept in touch with what is going on at the Beacon. If the answer is yes then the person who has asked the question should take contact details and do the follow up themselves.

Ian Ring

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October 2018

May 13, 2019

Thoughts From The Cottage

Dear Friends

I came across this recently and I think it is worth repeating here. It helps us to understand what the Bible, the greatest book ever written is about. It is by Sam Larrabee of Bethany Church Student Ministries.

The Bible isn’t a book about how to be a Christian. It isn’t even a Book. It’s a collection of books, a library of books with something to say. It insists that the future is going somewhere, towards hope, peace, restoration, and love. That all of the broken things in the world are in the process of being made right and that one day there will be harmony on earth between people, nature, and God.

It’s a collection of honest stories, about love and loss, hope and change, brokenness, emptiness, and defeat, and finding God in the midst of it all. It’s a collection of books that tell a story about a man by the name of Jesus who was sent by God to change the way that we relate to one another and the way that we relate to God. This man Jesus lived a style of life that he called “eternal” a way of living that unleashed the full potential of what it means to be human, in perfect unity with God loving and serving others and creating peace and life through his actions and through his words.

The collection of books insists that Jesus was more than just a man though, that he was God revealing and relating to the world in a new way showing that his character was filled with grace and mercy towards the world. It tells the story of how Jesus had to die, and that through his death we can find new life, we can follow the path that Jesus created for us to live life like him, filled with sacrificial love. The final section of the Bible tells the account of Jesus rising from the dead, bringing in a new age and a new stage of God’s restoration process, a process that we’re invited to join.

It’s a story about all that humanity lost through it’s own brokenness and how God came down to put the pieces back together. It’s also an invitation to join him in that mission. The story finishes with a call to keep telling the story, to keep pushing it forward in hopes that people may find eternal life, hope, love, and may find their place in God’s family.

So the Bible isn’t a book about what it means to be a Christian, it’s a book about what it means to be human. Is this too over simplistic a definition of the Bible? Of course it is but no definition can tell the whole story, if you want the whole story you’ll just have to read it for yourself.

Is the Bible Relevant in 2018? Is loving your neighbour a good thing? How about serving the poor? How about caring for those who can’t take care of themselves? How about having a justice system that serves the weak and vulnerable? Those are all ideas that first came from the Bible and are ideas that we still struggle to apply today.

The Bible still speaks, it’s up to us to listen.