follow us

To receive all new posts by email just enter your email address below and click "submit"

Sign up to follow by Email..

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Some interesting theological reflections on estate and urban ministry

 

In the current issue of Anvil there are some very good reflective articles which are worth reading. An excellent piece from our friend Al Barrett references the CUF web of Poverty and ABCD is implicit.

 

https://churchmissionsociety.org/sites/default/files/wysiwyg/Anvil_Complete_Volume_33_Issue_3_2017_email.pdf

 

 

 

Shalom

 

Greg Smith

 

Development Co-ordinator Together Lancashire
Email:
greg.smith@together-lancashire.org.uk
Phone - Mobile 07726177044

I work only part time - my normal working days are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday so please contact me on those days if possible.

 

Postal Address and registered office : Together Lancashire, Diocesan Offices, Clayton House, Walker Office Park, Blackburn BB1 2QE.

 

Registered Charity no 1147848 Registered company no 07966145
Together Lancashire Website
http://www.cuf.org.uk/together-lancashire

 

Monday, 20 June 2016

Together Lancashire - New Online Resource Strategy.

Together Lancashire, as a partner in CUF's Together Network has recently undergone a re-branding and as a result we have a marvellous new website and other online resources.

 

Do have a look at our website here

http://www.cuf.org.uk/together-lancashire

 

On the IN YOUR AREA   pages you can find out what we are doing though our local networks in Preston, Blackpool, Blackburn and Morecambe.

 

On the WHAT WE DO pages you can find out the themes and methods of our work.

 

 

We remain committed to providing an extensive information service, relevant to Christians and others who are involved in social action and community development across Lancashire. This will now be consolidated with regular updates on our

 

Together Lancashire Facebook Page.

 

You can access this as a web page here https://www.facebook.com/together.lancashire

 

Those of you who are regular facebook users will know that by "LIKE" -ing the page every post we make will appear in your personal facebook feed.  You can also make comments and submit guest postings.

 

IMPLICATIONS FOR OUR EXISTING ONLINE RESOURCES

 

Up to now Together Lancashire has used multiple channels for online communication and information sharing including Facebook Groups, blogs, external web sites, and google group email lists. From now on we will make much less use of them.

 

The Facebook Groups   

 

 

 

These will remain open and anyone who is a member can post messages in them, though we will only rarely use them, (posting as Greg Smith rather than as Together Lancashire) and only for sharing items which have strictly local relevance.  We may also continue to share and cross post some items into other facebook groups such as Morecambe Churches Forum, Blackpool Food Partnership etc.

 

Our Blogs

 

Up to now we have been regularly posting information items on three blogs

 

Together Lancashire in East Lancashire http://bunleytogetherlancashire.blogspot.co.uk/

 

Together Lancashire in Blackpool

http://togetherlancashireinblackpool.blogspot.co.uk/

 

PCAN BLOG 

http://prestonchristianactionnetwork.blogspot.co.uk/  

 

These blogs will no longer be used or updated but will remain online as an archive of our work.

 

Our fourth blog is

 

Together Lancashire - Stories and Reflections

http://tlstoriesandreflections.blogspot.co.uk/

 

This blog will also be frozen as it stands but we intend to continue to collect stories and reflections and publish them on the stories / blog pages of our main website.[G1] 

http://www.cuf.org.uk/Pages/News/Site/together-lancashire/Category/lancashire-blogs

 

We are always looking for new writers and new stories so

 

 

Our External Websites

 

Together Lancashire has been responsible for setting up and maintaining the websites for

 

Feeding Lancashire Together       http://feedinglancashiretogether.org.uk/  

 

Preston Christian Action Network   www.pcan.org.uk    or http://pcanprestonchristianactionnetwork.yolasite.com/

 

Homeless In Preston  www.homelessinpreston.org.uk    or

http://homelessinpreston.yolasite.com/

 

These three websites will continue to exist as long as yolasite offers a free web hosting service, but they will be minimally maintained and updated, and we do not guarantee to continue with the dedicated domain names when the registration expires.

 

 

 

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

All are Welcome

A reflection on her own blog from Sally Coleman on the meaning of communion in the context of the Comfort Zone drop-in in Blackpool.
 
 

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

A Theology for Methodist Action (MANW)

Peter Lumsden prepared this paper for the recent AGM of Methodist Action NW.

 

a. The over-riding principle: Justice

 

Why should we be concerned about the vulnerable?

 

It is because God is concerned about them. Whilst we recognize the universal call to love our neighbour, scripture particularly describes God's taking up the care and cause of widows, orphans, immigrants and the poor—those who have been called "the quartet of the vulnerable", those with least economic and social power. Today, this quartet could be expanded to include the refugee, the migrant worker, the homeless and many single parents and elderly people. God loves and defends those with the least economic and social power, and so should we.

 

Doing justice; God justifies things by restoring them to their true and full identity in Himself, as opposed to "retributive justice" which seeks only reward and punishment.

 

b. Recurring history: a call to support the vulnerable is followed by a slide to individualism and materialism

 

From the OLD TESTAMENT

 

The seminal event in the history of Israel is the exodus from Egypt. It is during this period that the covenant between God and the people is recognised, and it is through this period that one can see God relating to and supporting a people who are, literally, homeless. From this time on then, two words, which can be translated as justice occur again and again through the OT. The first of these is Mishpat – translated as justice (RSV), and elsewhere as judgement. Its most basic meaning is to treat people equitably, thus acquitting or punishing every person on the merits of the case, regardless of race or social status. BUT mishpat means more than just the punishment of wrongdoing. It also means giving people their rights. The justness, or mishpat, of a society, according to scripture, is evaluated by how it treats those belonging to the quartet of the vulnerable; any neglect shown to their needs is not called merely a lack of mercy or charity but a violation of justice, of mishpat. That is what it means to "do justice."

 

The second word is Sedeq which can also be translated as justice, but often appears as righteousness. Today this is often understood in terms of private morality, such as sexual chastity or diligence in prayer. However, as used in the OT, sedeq refers to day-to-day living in which a person conducts all relationships in family and society with fairness, generosity and equity.

 

These two words roughly correspond to what some have called "primary" and "rectifying justice." Primary justice, or sedeq, is behavior that, if it was prevalent in the world, would render rectifying justice unnecessary, because everyone would be living in right relationship to everyone else. Rectifying justice is mishpat. It means punishing wrongdoers and caring for the victims of unjust treatment. When sedeq and mishpat, are tied together, as they are over thirty times through the bible, the English expression that best conveys the meaning is "social justice."

 

From JESUS

 

Jesus' teachings are in a direct line of prophetic witness from the earlier prophets of Israel. In his first recorded public statement he quotes Isaiah: The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me . . . he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners (Isaiah 61:1). Later, when asked by the lawyer 'who is my neighbour', he tells the parable of the Good Samaritan, the conclusion of which is that in keeping the commandments, love – practical, caring love – must be extended to all (Luke 4, 18-19). Further, there is no 'them and us'; we can learn from those not of our 'tribe'. And then Matthew recounts Jesus' words about care for those in need: "When I was in prison….when I was thirsty"….etc (Matthew 25, 35-40).; here we are shown that in serving and meeting the needs of others, we are in a real sense serving God, not just in an abstract way, but directly, in that in being human, we are part of that which is God.

 

Jesus consistently ignored or even denied exclusionary, punitive, and triumphalist texts from the scriptures in favour of texts that emphasized inclusion, mercy, and justice for the oppressed. Indeed his arrest, trial and death are the ultimate example of God, in Jesus, associating with all who are suffering.

           

Wesley and Methodism

 

Wesleyan theology is often associated with the idea of 'holiness'. For Wesley this was not a purely individual matter; the spreading of scriptural holiness entailed 'the transformation of the economic and political order'. Holiness was in fact nothing less than a new creation.

 

Towards the end of his life, Wesley may have concluded that the holiness project had failed; if so, he judged that to have been at least partly due to the growing material prosperity of Methodist people. His great lament was that as riches increased so there was a decline in holiness. Wesley's 'gain all you can' and 'save all you can' were often taken in isolation from 'give all you can'. Wesley even wondered if; … true scriptural Christianity has a tendency, in process of time, to undermine and destroy itself? For wherever true Christianity spreads, it must cause diligence and frugality, which in the natural course of things, must beget riches! And riches naturally beget pride, love of the world, and every temper that is destructive of Christianity. (Causes of the inefficacy of Christianity, Works VII: 290).

 

However, following this apparent failure of Wesley's social vision, further renewal came in the formation of the primitive Methodists (1811). Their aim was to return to the original vision of Wesley, concentrating on the rural poor, and stressing the political implications of discipleship. Perhaps under the influence of the 'prims', from the late 19th century through to 1945, Methodist Central Halls were built in the main towns of the U.K. These were multi-purpose in concept, with social and community activities as well as worship taking place. Some even rented out shop space at the front to bring in funds. During this period other Methodist organisations were created to safeguard the vulnerable, such as National Children's Homes (1869) and Methodist Homes for the Aged (1943).

 

The post-war period

 

In the second half of the 20th century as social conventions came under universal scrutiny, church attendance certainly began to decline, and by the end of the century, religion was essentially seen to be essentially a private affair. We should though remember that it was in this same period that a huge step in what might be seen as the mishpat of Britain occurred with the founding of the welfare state, being the culmination of the efforts of Temple, Tawney and Beveridge, to avowedly "slay the five demons of want, disease, ignorance, squalor, idleness". It is not without significance that as students at Oxford these three were encouraged to spend time with the poor in East London, an experience which had a lasting effect on them.

 

The concept of mishpat and sedeq, linking law and justice, can also be seen in the philosophy of Tawney who noted that morality has to have a divine connection, or underpinning, since without an absolute at its root, it drifts to relativism. Lord Denning, in 1953, also stated that the severance of ….law from morality, and of religion from law…..has gone a long way……. The severance has, I think, gone much too far. Although religion, law and morals can be separated from one another, they are still very much dependent on one another. Without religion, there can be no morality, there can be no law. He noted that many people see it's (the law) function is to keep order, not to do justice.

 

It is however difficult to argue with the contention that the concept of common good and good society has been subverted, if not quite replaced, by a rampant consumerism and individualism. Yet already the signs were there of a loss of these principles. Temple in 1942 wrote "Maximum output is not a true end of human enterprise; the end is fullness of personality in community; nothing economic is a true end". This has reduced the profile of the church in the arena of social justice, and has even brought it into conflict with government, perhaps most notably with the publication of Faith in the City in 1985. This report came in the year following the Anglican church's statement on mission, 'The five marks of mission '. Two of these are of particular significance for those concerned with social justice.

 

· To respond to human need by loving service

· To transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and pursue peace and reconciliation

 

More recently, as indices of poverty indicate an increase in the divide between rich and poor, the church has become more active in the area of social justice, with organisations such as Church Urban Fund providing support for grass-roots initiatives, and the Methodist Church, Baptist Union and United Reformed Church forming the Joint public Issues Team. The election of Pope Francis in 2013 has also seen a stronger message from the catholic church. In the very first mass he celebrated as pontiff, he said: "The message of Jesus is mercy… it is the Lord's strongest message." This has culminated in declaring 2016 a "holy year of mercy".

 

Methodist Action (MANW)

 

Methodist Action espouses the universal principles of 'doing justice' and of encouraging human flourishing, through neighbourly loving action; supporting and working with people, enabling them to move from crisis and need, to their full potential in the community.

 

For over thirty years, the Methodist Church in Preston and the surrounding areas have sought to assist in meeting the needs of homeless people or those at risk of homelessness. Those activities have been focused largely upon the services provided by Central Methodist Church in Fox street: in the early days in the form of a soup kitchen, developing into a night shelter (the Fox street shelter), and latterly through a community for 20 men housed in the lower ground floor of that Church. As the work has progressed there has been a movement away from front-line volunteer provision to facilities and staff operating at a professional level funded by local and central government grants.

 

Methodist Action was formed in 2009 by the Methodist church, initially to manage the work associated with Fox street. Since then its work has expanded beyond the original brief of homelessness and has taken a more holistic form. The current suite of projects reflects the changing pressures and areas of crisis which 21st century society is now experiencing including poverty, housing & mental health. The results of this at an individual level can be isolation, addiction, crime, lack of employment opportunities and potential disengagement from their community. The focus of Methodist Action is on the human person, providing directly, or facilitating through others, support to individuals and families in a variety of forms. This could be from a roof over their head, to a meal on the table. Primary support is given in order to address the immediate need, in order to encourage stability and allow time to address the root cause of the crisis, and recognising that such crisis could be experienced by any one of us. Support beyond initial crisis is a partnership, so that issues might be addressed with and by the person concerned. This might be achieved through co-ordinated working between different Methodist Action projects, or partnership working with specialist external organisations.

 

The charity retains its historic roots and governance structure in the Methodist Church, a church for whom social action is its blood. The framework for service provision and how it relates to its partners is also reflective of the principles of the Methodist Connexion, a connected community with different roles and responsibilities contributing to the whole.

 

 

In its ethos and in its work, Methodist Action It provides a living example of Jesus; it is a prophetic voice rallying a church and providing a focus for justice; and it is recreating the provision and support for the vulnerable which was such a strong feature of early Methodism.

 

Peter Lumsden

January 2016

 

 

The Justice Creed.... Brian McLaren can be found here

http://www.brianmclaren.net/emc/archives/imported/the-justice-creed.html

 

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Daring Greatly through mission... with the courage to step outside the box

 

This piece was first published on the Baptists Together "Daring Greatly" blog series and is republished with permission of the author


Sandra Crawford writes:

Daring to walk alongside…

I have heard too many stories recently of Christian teenagers who have taken their lives (or attempted to) because they are struggling with their sexuality and think the church, their family and God will reject them.  Whatever our theological position on sexuality, if we are leading young people to kill themselves then we are wrong.  I make no apologies to those who have heard me say this before, and I will keep on saying it.

20 years ago I stepped into my first full time role as church youth worker in Manchester.  I duly fulfilled my own expectations and those of the church and began to head up an all-singing-all-dancing youth and children's programme with the aid of many superb volunteers.  However, I became unhappy that our primary aim of youthwork was to deliver cup-a-soup versions of the Gospel (pre-packaged, only takes a few minutes, easy to swallow, and soon forgotten) which ultimately tried to rescue young people from their world into the church.  Although hundreds of children and young people came through our doors regularly, there were also many who didn't fit in and left, or were banned due to their behaviour.  Those who didn't fit were often those who struggled to find their place in the rest of society too.  It struck me that this didn't seem to be the way Jesus did things; he seemed to go out of his way to spend time with those that society rejected.  Many of the young people who didn't fit our big youthwork were from broken families, failing in the education system and living with a depth of suffering that many church volunteers were not trained for.  They did not need to hear a message which highlighted their brokenness, they were already well aware of that, and a conversion to a middle class gospel and church was irrelevant to them.   
 
Stepping outside the box for me has been stepping out of the big numbers game and deliberately and intentionally working with a few.  I'm part of a small church, to enable me to be here and serve as youth specialist minister I have a second ministry role as a regional minister, but my primary calling in both roles is to work with small groups of young people surrounding them with a community of adults.  I see my calling as one of walking alongside young people, and encouraging others to do the same, to nurture something that is already placed there by God from the beginning of creation.  If we believe we are made in the image of God then each of us is significant, and are signs and symbols of God himself.  I'm trying to encourage small groups of trusted adults to gather around young people, to provide community, security, and a secure base, all of which provide significance.  The intention is not to spoon-feed a cup-a-soup gospel or pour in religious knowledge seeking to address the dodgy moral wellbeing of a young person, but rather to spend time exploring, understanding their perspective, their world and demonstrating the gospel within it.

Walking alongside a young person as they struggle with significance, as they consider their sexuality, as they navigate our ridiculous 'one size fits all' education system, is a huge challenge and is often heart-breaking and emotionally draining. To do this well, you can only walk alongside a few. 
 
My heart is to encourage a community of faith; a group of people of all ages and abilities, on a journey of searching, learning, discovering, and owning faith.  I have been amazed as I've watched the most unusual relationships strike up between young and old.  Bill is in his 70's, an ex-Navy guy who is covered in tattoos from all over the world who has struck up a friendship with a 15 year old lad.  The conversations began as they discussed his cool tattoos, and Bill has nurtured that relationship, a grandfather in the faith.  Bill would not see himself as a youth leader, but he is standing alongside, listening and encouraging a young person as they work out together what it means to be children of God.
 
I realise encouraging community in this way presents a whole heap of safeguarding issues, we have had to think on our feet and outside the box, whilst ensuring the safety of young people.  This is another continual journey.
 
However, I am convinced we need to encourage people to leave the safety and security of running a youth programme, step out from behind the games, and the pre-packaged versions of the Gospel and travel alongside a young person or two as they journey, often to dark places, showing them that they are made in the image of God, exploring with them what Gospel means whilst standing in the crap and darkness with them.  O wait a minute, isn't that incarnation?  Someone else spent a few years doing that.
 

 
Sandra Crawford is Baptist Youth Specialist Minister living in Leyland (near Preston) with her husband Tony, also a Baptist Minister, and two teenage children.  She is co-pastor at Leyland Baptist Church which is a small church with a big heart, running alongside the church are two charities: 'SLEAP' a homeless charity for young people and 'The Leyland Project' - 3 community centres serving two social housing estates.

Sandra is also one of the Regional Ministers for North Western Baptist Association, currently working alongside an awesome team of 15 young leaders from churches across the northwest.

She is currently highly frustrated having broken her leg and damaged her knee playing Bubble Football at a youth weekend in July, and is still hobbling around on crutches.  The picture is of Sandra, moments before; it was all going so well!
 

Friday, 10 July 2015

Intimacy and Action : Things I have learnt. Lessons for those serving the poor.

 

Jill Jackson .. reflects on the spiritual resources on which she draws in her work as a CAP centre manager, linked with Calvary Christian Centre in Lostock Hall near Preston.

 

I clearly felt God's call to serve within CAP (Christians Against Poverty). God placed such concerns on my heart when I was a teenager and then I had some words spoken over me about seeing people released with joy not material joy, but joy at what God had done for them.

The words of Jesus which mean the most to me are these from Matthew 11:28-30 and this is from the Message

"Are you tired? Worn out? Burn out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me-watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly."

I love Jesus invitation to us to come to him, to watch him and to learn from him. I find this so encouraging that from Jesus we can learn a way of life which is not burdensome. There is a way of freedom and life if we follow Jesus example.

In these words I find encouragement and challenge. There is the call to come to and be with Jesus for my own sake. But there is also the call to walk and work with him for the sake of others. Both of these give meaning and purpose and significance to both who I am and what I do. This is really important for us as we are involved in serving, to be validated by God himself. It is his call that we follow.

The call of Jesus in these words are split into three areas which I find helpful in looking at how I live and whether I am following Jesus' model for living. They are "Come to me" "Walk with me" and "Work with me". This can relate to the Up, In and Out relationships we can talk about Up relationship with God, In walking with God with others and Out the reaching out and working with God for the sake of others.

"Come to me"

In becoming a CAP centre manage nearly 7 years ago I was involved in a lot of action on God's behalf representing the church and CAP. With my increased social action I needed a greater intimacy with God. After a couple of years what I discovered was that I needed a deeper, richer relationship and walk with God. I found some of my evangelical tradition did not provide the depth and breadth of relating to God. I suppose I was on a search to find God again and figure out what church was all about. If this thing called Christianity was true it must work.

Instead of just reading my Bible to meet with God I found and discovered the benefit of silence and solitude. Encountering God through just being and being quiet. I did discover God again in the Bible but through the use of lectio divina-divine readings. I used a book called Solo which uses Bible passages and causes us to engage with the scripture in a more reflective way. I found this life giving, real and healthy. The use of journaling and reflecting on my week has become an important part of my routine for discovering those areas of life which do energise me and those which drain me. Hopefully I can gain wisdom from this regarding how I spend my time. Also Journaling and discovering prayers/poems others have written which bring me closer to God as others are able to express what is on my heart.

Find your ways of connecting with God completely.

 

"Walk with me"

Jesus calls us to walk with him, but as we observe his life in the gospels he walks with his disciples in groups. If "come to me" is about developing intimacy with God one on one as Jesus did with time alone with his father early in the morning or late at night, then the "walk with me" is about walking with Jesus, with him but also with others.

Serving God as a CAP centre manager can be a lonely role. This is the case in much leadership and charity work. There is the need to take to heart the calling God has given us, but also to inspire others to take this on as their vision as well. When God impacts our hearts we are in risky territory as with this comes disappointments, discouragements and failures. We need to be able to continue with the calling God has given us through these times. Others who have some understanding of what we go through are crucial, so meeting with other CAP centre managers is crucial, sometimes just to be with other who "get it", sometimes for them to prayer for you on the journey. This being alongside others in the journey with Jesus and others is crucial. We aren't meant to do this work on our own and that doesn't mean just relying on God, but also depending on others.

 Find people to walk the journey with you.

 

"Work with me"

Jesus calls us "come to me" and then he sends and commissions us to "Go therefore and make disciples, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you and baptising them in the name of the father, the son and the Holy Spirit. And surely I will be with you even to the end of the age."

Those words of Jesus again "With you". Jesus wants to be with us as we work not for him or the church, but with him as we partner in doing what we see the father doing. We join in with what God is already doing. In this we need the help of the Holy Spirit to discern, to see and hear what God is doing. This is following Jesus' command "Seek first the kingdom and all these things will be added to you."

Keep seeking and you will find the kingdom of God. Keep pursuing the kingdom.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Right to Light

 

As he prepares to leave Preston after many years at the Foxton Centre Tim Keightley reflects on what he has learned, and is learning still.


Apparently everyone has a Right to Light. There is a set of regulations and guidelines that governs how this Right to Light has to be protected. Buildings have to be constructed in such a way that minimises any impact they might have on inhabitants of neighbouring buildings who must have access to an acceptable degree of natural light. This is one of the many nuggets of learning I have picked up from my first contacts with people working on the Project Lighthouse for Holy Trinity Church, Swiss Cottage, as I prepare to leave The Foxton Centre. www.thefoxtoncentre.co.uk/

The phrase strikes me as an apt title for this blog as I reflect on my time as Chief Executive Officer of The Foxton Centre since 1998. Everyone has a Right to Light.

Now I am not one to over spiritualise things. So, here I use the concept of Light in a very broad sense. Light understood as being to do with what makes for health and well-being, belonging, right relationship, inclusion and purpose; that is, all that leads to human flourishing.

I understand these interpretations to be somewhere along the same spectrum that includes encounter with 'The Light of the World.' Personally, I think all such Light has the same source.

I start from a basis of believing that this Light shines on, in and through all people. In my experience, this is true of many people; those of a faith different to my own and those who profess no faith.

The Christian's task is to be among those who ensure everyone has access to that Light.

In founding the Centre in 1969, Bryan Foxton was inspired by stories of Jesus Christ drawn from the Christian Gospels. These show Jesus spending time with and offering hope and inclusion to those deemed by the society of the time to be outcast.

The Foxton Centre of the 21st Century is a kind of dynamic equivalent of that approach. The word 'outcast' is rarely heard in modern parlance. But similar sentiments seem to underlie much rhetoric and practice associated with "poverty," "benefits scroungers," "welfare reform" and even "youth." The Centre contradicts this Zeitgeist. In even the most entrenched adult or disaffected young person, we see beauty and the potential for human flourishing. In other words, we see Light. My personal experience confirms this position.

In my time at The Foxton Centre, I have seen inspiring examples of loving care, of 'going the extra mile' of putting the other first and of sacrificial service, from professionals, volunteers, homeless people, those who misuse substances and young people from deprived backgrounds. Sadly, I have also encountered, from the same sources, prejudice, manipulation, aggression and deceitfulness, but, I am glad to say, not in anything like equal measure.

Every person I have met has contributed to my learning, growth and development. Some people have been kind enough to say that I have 'done a good job' at The Foxton Centre. If I have, it is because of the help I have received and the learning I have taken from that along the way. Help has come from countless professionals willing to share their expertise. Help has also come from the countless marginalised individuals or community members willing to pass the time of day or share their stories of survival in the face of adversity.

I have learned that Pastoral Care is an action, not merely an attitude. Jesus encourages the paralysed man to get up and walk. Feeding homeless people is only part of the job. Enabling them to develop the skills and emotional intelligence to live successfully is another part. Challenging and changing systems that create inequality and social injustice is the rest.

What seems to be true is that Governments, systems, ideologies, and even frightened, prejudiced and damaged people (that's you and me) can conspire, knowingly and unknowingly, to deny people access to that light, or even to make it that 'people walk in darkness', as the Bible puts it.

The Christian's task is to be among those who ensure everyone has access to that Light.

I came to Preston with very little experience of working in and with deprived communities. I was, however, willing to step outside my sense of what I knew and therefore, what was safe. I was driven (called) by the conviction that an authentic expression of Christianity is to be in the middle of the mess. And Avenham, at the time, was a mess; people inhabited boarded up houses with mould growing on walls and sewage seeping through floors after heavy rain.

I don't think it is an exaggeration to say that there was also a sense of constant underlying danger and an air of hostility when walking the streets. The rebuild of much of the 'Avenham Estate' and the refurbishment of the high rise flats has combined with concerted efforts at community development from many agencies and authorities and has, in my opinion, contributed to Avenham being a success story. Let there be Light.

My first year at The Foxton was marked by a sense of having to swim very hard to avoid sinking as I felt I was very much out of my depth. Or to use another picture, at times I just hung on in there. I would like to be able to say that I prayed and received words of assurance. Actually, I hung on, believing that this was the right place for me. My faith, such as it was, was that I had to do what it took to develop the Centre's presence, potential and practice.

What I have learned is that true growth comes from true risk taking, from what is called stepping outside one's 'comfort zone.' There has to be training, preparation, support and risk assessment! But this is what it takes.

There are remarkable examples of Christians and churches doing this – but not nearly enough. When I read the Gospels, I read of world changing sayings, events and values. When I read about the acts of Jesus' followers post resurrection I see risk takers, with a radical, dynamic faith, out to challenge oppressive systems and ideologies.

Despite the increasing efforts of churches to be at the forefront of the response to austerity and welfare reform, I am still disappointed, frustrated and dissatisfied by the apparent failure of too many Christians to take risks for the sake of the Gospel.

I am aware that it is easy to appear to be preaching from the safety of having 'been there, done that.' It is easy to advocate Christians going beyond their comfort zone from the position of having done so in such a way that I am now within my comfort zone. If you get what I mean?

This brings me to my next step; which is to become the Executive Director of the Lighthouse Project at Holy Trinity, Swiss Cottage. (If you are interested, see relevant pages on www.htsc.org.)

This will involve me in working very closely with, and within, an open Charismatic church planted in 2006 from the church at Holy Trinity, Brompton.

Those readers who know me, know I am not a Charismatic!

I have truly enjoyed the freedom of developing The Foxton Centre beyond what I see as the confines of being a minister of a church. For seventeen years I have happily held a supporting world view in which I have interpreted the activity of The Spirit as being to do with prophetic action and kingdom building. In that world view my spirituality has been shaped and fed by reflective music (Choral, Taize) and by liberal/radical Christian values. My God has been very passive, non-invasive, in the sense that God is the one who equips us to get on with it. This God uses us as hands and feet. This is how God intervenes.

Now I am going to be with and within a Christian community that puts huge store in a regular, personal encounter with a life-changing, immanent Spirit; a supernatural, intervening God. This Spirit is out of human control (and therefore out of my comfort zone). As one colleague has remarked "God has a sense of humour."

I am also apparently going to work with very talented and possibly very rich people. It is they who (we hope) will provide much of the funding needed to develop the proposed six storeys high Lighthouse church and community facility as a beacon of hope for Camden. They too, so the theory goes, have the Right to Light.