Hello readers. I would like to share my story with all those who feel very sad, alone or whose faith in our Lord Jesus Christ is wavering.
Recently in October 2014 I had an eye operation primarily to remove a cataract, at which time an existing condition, a damaged retina, was noticed. The surgery for the cataract went ahead and complications including distorted vision with multiple images followed and healing took a few months before normal vision returned. Sometimes throughout this period I felt like giving up and Christmas, usually a time of rejoicing, was for me quite literally a blur, I was totally frustrated and fed up. Everything was difficult. However a couple of friends, members from my Baptist Church were brilliant and helped me through. Prayers were a predominant feature and gratefully received.
Following this trial my two elder sisters were taken very poorly and I was called upon to provide each with help and support, physically, emotionally and mentally. My young grandson also needed my support and although this is often fun, it is demanding. I am the often referred to, sandwich carer, caught between two age groups. More and more I felt isolated, almost abandoned and, although ashamed to say this, resentful towards God. ” Haven’t I coped with enough over the past year?” Was my constant cry. “Do you really exist and if so why am I so alone now?”
I reached crisis point one evening whilst out for a much needed walk in the fresh air, whilst having a two day break from my caring duties. I was convinced that my belief in God was just an illusion, a myth, years spent pursuing a nonentity!
What a huge mistake I made! For looking up a beautiful rainbow appeared, getting brighter and brighter, right before my eyes. It came from nowhere and lit up the sky. I was awe struck, amazed. I turned away and then looked back. It had gone. It was an epiphany that has changed my life and restored my faith. I now feel lighter, am restored with my caring duties not weighing so heavily.
Thank you Lord for the reminder of your promise to us all.
Angeline Wheeler, Dawley Baptist Church, Telford. Shropshire
What are our priorities?
I don’t know if you got the latest job advert from BMS (12/5/15). It gave me great cause for reflection on where we are going as Baptists in this country.
The Home Mission Stipend for 2015 has been set at £21,700. For some families, where husbands and wives serve together, this is their only income.
At the same time BMS seeks to take on a “Mission Personnel Coordinator” on a salary “in the range of £30,684 to £34,484”.
Does it say something about where we are going when we value a personnel coordinator more than those who lead and feed our churches? Maybe not, but it made me think.
Re: Redefining the UK's religious landscape
I read with interest the article on "How black majority churches are redefining the religious landscape" by David Shosanya, in the Summer 2015 edition of "Baptists Together". Although written in modern sociological language, I agree with many of the sentiments, although the issue is not new, having existed since the 1950s in the era of widespread immigration. I have seen the issue at first hand, being the one white member of a church of 144 members in 2013, in which the white membership has either died out or moved away. I have written a history of this church, Harlesden Baptist Church, although I am not sure I know the answer to cross-cultural evangelism, any more than does than David Shosanya!
My conclusion is that culture is more important than spirituality, a conclusion which I think David Shosanya reaches, when he writes that "they (i.e. some African and Caribbean churches/ leaders) grasp the very real implications of the need to genuinely and sacrificially incarnate in a manner that is contextually relevant to white communities". I do not get the impression that there are many churches in this situation, as each fellowship aims to meet the needs of a particular community. I think that the idea of a multi-cultural church lies mainly in the future, in which black majority churches will be more like white churches, or both will be colour-blind. In 50 years' time, this may be closer to reality, although who can tell!
Another point which David Shosanya does not discuss is the diversity of new churches. I recently carried out a census of church fellowships in the Harlesden and Stonebridge area of North West London. This coincided with the area covered by a "Churches Together" group. Compared with the situation 60 years ago, there was a clear distinction between the established churches which were members of "Churches Together", the established churches which were not, and the newer churches. The last were by far the most numerous, although they were more transitory. Most of the newer churches are Baptist in theology, although they would not include Baptist in their title, and would come under the title of "African and Caribbean heritage" in David Shosanya's terminology. They would call themselves "pentecostal" or a similar title. Whether they are all growing it is difficult to say, as statistics of membership or adherents are scarce.
Another point which David Shosanya can usefully discuss is the role of the individual leader. One suspects that many of the newer churches are dependent on one leader. While they are present, the fellowship flourishes. Once they go, it does not. Many of the newer churches are not local, often being the outposts of churches abroad. The rise in the number of newer churches in recent years may reflect the extent to which the established churches did not meet the needs of immigrants, although it also reflects the fact that leaders often want their "own" church.
Another issue is that of geography. Virtually all the churches in the Harlesden and Stonebridge area have a majority of ethnic-minority members, and would therefore come under the definition of "black majority churches" (BMC). Only in the case of Roman Catholic Churches is there a strong white presence (from Ireland and Eastern Europe). It is difficult to be certain, as the LBA directory gives the number of members, but not their ethnic background, possibly for good or at least politically correct reasons. Presumbably this issues has been considered, but rejected. What this illustrates is that cross cultural evangelism is strongly influenced by where people live, although this may be less important than in the past, as people are more mobile these days.
It is interesting to have more articles like that of David Shosanya, although whether we shall have more information remains uncertain. I am not sure that black majority churches "are being intentional in creating environments where people from all cultures feel welcomed and affirmed", as David Shosanya says, although this may be an aspiration for the future.
Re: Into the heart of the sea
I refer to Theresa May’s statement on Good morning Britain (13-05-15) that migrants should be sent back to their home country. Whilst I do not condone risking lives into the heart of the sea, I think returning migrants is not a sustainable and permanent solution. Migration is not just based on the ancient ‘pull factors’ but by multi-complex reasons that incorporate poverty, persecution and civil wars. As long as water flows from the highlands to the lowlands, migration will continue and the solutions are far deeper than what the home secretary may think.
Sending migrants is not an easy solution as many of them don’t have any form of documentation and where on earth will Theresa May dump these unidentified poor souls? Some of these migrants might have been returned home before and are trying for the second or third time. This implies that returning migrants to their home country is ineffective, costly and requires co-operation and negotiation with other undesirable governments. Probably a strategy that draws its solutions from the root cause of journeys into the heart of the sea may end all these episodes of catastrophe into the heart of the sea.
Re: What does Mindfulness offer the Christian?
I have to disagree with you, my brother, that the roots of any movement, technique, ministry etc. can be ignored. Roots are neither unconnected nor insignificant to the tree.
Jesus Himself said, "A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruits, nor can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that does not bring forth good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
Therefore by their fruits you shall know them" (Matt 7:15-20). James added, "Does a fountain send forth at the same hole the sweet and the bitter? Can the fig tree, my brothers, bear olive berries; or a
vine, figs? So no fountain can yield both salt water and fresh." (Jas 3:11-12)
You can dress Mindfulness how you like, or overlay it with Christian words, but if its roots are Buddhist, its fruits, however attractive, will remain Buddhist.
By all means unstop the ancient spiritual wells that have become blocked and encourage people to meditate on the Word of God, and to there deepen their relationship with the Prince of Peace, but please be careful in equating that to Mindfulness. They are light & dark. Fresh water & salt. Figs & thistles. Truth & deception.
There are 2 excellent comments here, which will articulate my thoughts far better than I can:
May the Lord bless & keep you my brother.
Re: Baptist Union Council March 2015
How sad and indicative of a need of Union executives to control the affairs of Baptist churches in England and Wales that only 70 people attended, when a few years ago up to 200 did so, and the discussions in Council had depth and showed the collegiality of a union, and not the 'streamlined' box ticking so loved of the bureaucrats in the departments. My fears of a disempowered Council controlled by the staff has come to pass. How sad, indeed.
Michael Cleaves - ex-Council member
Re: Chris Ellis President's blog Higher Deeper Wider
Thanks Chris for your emphasis on going deeper with God this year. Our wider Kingdom vision comes out of allowing God to work deeply in our lives