This week Jennie Taylor spoke at the Central Gathering online. Jennie is a leader of Kairos Connexion, a network of leaders with a shared vision to put mission and discipleship back into the hands of everyday Christians. Jennie launched our new series exploring The Transforming Power of Life with God and talking about the life of Zacchaeus from Luke 19: 1-10.
Posts by Ben Askew:
On the 9th May and 13th June we are hosting The Simple Gathering.
We’ll gather 25-30 people (depending on household size) at the hall for an hour.
We will do this twice on both Sundays, at 11am and 3pm, so that as many people as possible can join in the fun.
There will still be some elements of restriction (no congregational singing, face masks for everyone over 11, no food or drinks served, social distancing), but we will be able to be with each other, worship together, hear stories, learn from the Bible together and make lots of room to wait on and listen to God in ministry. It’s going to be brilliant!
All ages are welcome, and there will be one or two activities that children and adults in a household can do together. You are also very welcometo bring a drink in a sealed cup and toys or books for younger children in your household.
Booking is essential – please book places for everyone in your household who will be attending.
You can do that on the following links.
We’ve been thinking about how to practice the Rhythms of Grace in a time of Lockdown. Our final rhythm requires a bit of creativity in the current restrictions. It is Eat Together.
“The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.” Luke 7:34
So much of Jesus’ discipleship seemed to happen around meals and he regularly got in trouble because of the people he ate with. The central celebration of Christian worship, one of only a few sacraments practiced by almost all Christians, grew out of the stories of the last supper.
We love to make space for one another as we eat together. Around a table strangers can become friends and people can find themselves opening up to each other. We practice hospitality to each other and those around us. We look out for those who might feel on the edge or excluded and invite them to eat with us.
This has perhaps been the hardest rhythm to practice during lockdown. There is a certain physical proximity to eating together that just doesn’t work when you are trying to socially distance. However its important to remember, even now, that food isn’t just about nourishing our bodies. There is something about it that feeds our whole being, and that is important to share.
Large shared meals are something that we can’t do right now, I can’t wait for them to come back! Some of us might not even feel comfortable meeting with one or two others for food yet. But there are ways we can eat together, you might just have to think a bit creatively.
What are mealtimes like in your household? Can you find a time to all get round the table and eat together? Is there a way you could mark Jesus’ presence at these moments? This could be a grace or thanksgiving at the start of the meal, or if a bottle of wine is being opened it could be a toast – “to the King, until he comes!” If your Kairos Community is sharing a meal of some kind – either in person or over Zoom – why not finish sharing bread and wine, reading 1 Cor 11: 23 – 26 and remembering Jesus.
Food is a big blessing. Even if you can’t eat with lots of other people are there ways you could practice generous blessing that involve making and sharing food? Do you have fruit your garden? Perhaps you could pick some and share it with others around you. Could you make a cake, some bread, some jame – or whatever it is you make, and use some of that to bless others?
Food justice is a massive area of mission and a place we could can learn how to share God’s love. Find out about the Harrogate Food Bank and Resurrected Bites and tell others about projects like these that help work for food that is fairly distributed. Research the provenance of your food and continue to support Fair Trade (it seems to in danger of spipping off some tables right now). Buy as locally as you can. At a time when we can’t eat together as much as we might like to we can still massively influence other people’s lives just by being thoughtful about what we put on the table.
Our attitude to food deserves some curiosity and thoughtfulness. If we are honest there have been points in lockdown where food has been shownt to be a bit of an idol for many people. Think about the panic buying and hoarding we heard about at the start of lockdown. Perhaps, like me you may reluctanlty admit that you have leant to heavily on the comfort from food or drink over the last few months. Sometimes we place too high a value on convenience for us as consumers and too low a value on where the food has come from, how it has been made and what the impact has been. Thinking and praying about how we eat together means thinking about what we eat and where it comes from.
I’m not completely sure how this fits, but as I am thinking about the way we eat together, I’ve also found myself being challenged about fasting. There is something about the discipline of saying no to ourselves in certain ways that might open up new ways of praying and better ways of eating together.
Jesus encourages us to pray “Give us today our daily bread”. How can your mealtimes and the food you eat at them better reflect the Kingdom of God? How might you, your household and your Karos Community join in God’s mission and you Eat Together?
“A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ Luke 14: 16 – 17
Have you ever noticed how often Jesus talked about or took part in celebration. So many of his stories of a the kingdom of God feature a party – in some the feast is the main thing that is being prepared, others end in a celebration. When Jesus turns up at a wedding the wine is miraculously abundant! When he tells stories about coins, sheep and people being found, the result is a joyful party.
Celebration is a key missional practice! It helps us mark what is going on in our lives, it teaches us to be thankful for every step forward, it helps create attractive environments others might want to join.
How might we use practices of celebration at this point in lockdown?
Find reasons to celebrate. We often practice thanksgiving in daily prayers or Kairos Communities because we want to have a habit of celebration. To know that at every point in our lives there will be evidence of God’s presence and love. Learn to look for and share reasons to be thankful. Find ways to teach others to do the same.
Don’t need much of an excuse. Celebrate the every day things well. Sing happy birthday to people in the community and bake cakes (especially new people or those on the fringes). Look for the milestones that people around you are passing and write cards, make phone calls or hold gatherings that mark these things well.
Make space to acknowledge what is happening. Celebrating well doesn’t mean always being falsely happy. Its more about making space to name and mark what is going on, and acknowledge God’s presence in those things. Right now to celebrate well you might also need to find words and actions that help people grieve or mourn. In this ongoing crisis celebration might involve as much tearfulness as it does laughter.
Invite others to celebrate. Some of us wait too-long to be invited to join a celebration. Perhaps we need to think of ourselves as co-hosts rather than guests. Look for people around you who could be invited to join you in celebration. This could be a (socially distancing friendly) get together if you are ready for that, but it could also be a phone call, social media post, surprise gift, letter.
How could you name and celebrate the goodness you see in others, especially those people who are not-yet Christians or beginning to explore following Jesus?
When do you join with the wider church to celebrate?
How do you make the most of testimony and thanksgiving as a household or community?
Do know how to throw a good party and have fun with people around you?
How could you create or join in with celebration this summer?
We have been exploring how we can use the Rhythms of GRACE to continue to share with everyone around us the good news that Jesus loves them and wants to be part of their life. This week we are going to explore our third rhythm: Asking Questions and Telling Stories.
Recently a number of organisations have noticed that people are more open to the christian faith than perhaps we had previously thought. The Bible Society recently discovered that there are many people who are interested in finding out more about the bible. Tearfund discovered that in the first few weeks of lockdown many people were becoming interested in prayer.
As we practice Generous Blessing with those around us and Receive and Release God’s Spirit – praying for and with our family, friends, neighbours and colleagues – we will find that some are particularly interested in the way we live and want to know more. We will discover that there are people of peace around us in whom God is already working, drawing them closer to him.
Asking Questions and Telling Stories means making use of empathy and curiosity to build strong relationships with people. It is about being genuinely interested in people’s lives, wanting to learn from other opinions and undertand other people’s points of view. It means not rushing to tell people what we think about everything but taking time to build strong friendships.
It also means looking out for and confidently making the most of opportunities to share the spiritual side of our lives with the people in our lives. If Jesus is good news to you and makes an impact in your life then it is totally natural to share that with others.
1 Peter 3:15 says “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” We’re not always great at simply describing our relationship with God to others. Recently we have been learning how to tell our own stories in 6 words – explaining the difference God has made in our life. This is a great thing to practice so that you are ready to share why you follow Jesus when an opportunity arrises. (If you want to learn more about that watch the video Neil made recently).
Sometimes a person of peace may not want to hear your whole story but would like to know part of it. Being able to identify and share the difference God makes in your life right now – answers to prayer, peace in the middle of difficulty, a desire for justice and goodness – means you can share these things with others at the right time. One way to be ready for this is keep an ongoing list of ways God is making a difference in your life in a diary or journal.
We are finding ourselves in a new stage of lockdown. You may well have the opportunity to spend time with people who you have not seen for a while or with new people you have got to know over the last few weeks. As you connect with people make space to ask some questions – How are you? What has lockdown been like for you? What have you been thinking about? Really listen and pay attention to the answers people give you. If you don’t feel that you have many of these opportunities why not ask God to help you and lead you to some people who are already looking for him.
One of the best ways communities can practice this rhythm is by making space for people to ask questions and explore faith together. Could your community run Alpha online, the Story of God or create another opportunity for friends to join you and discover more about God?
How are you practicing this rhythm in lockdown? We’d love to know!
We’ve been thinking about how we practice the Rhythms of Grace in Lockdown. In our last post we explored Generous Blessing. Today Helen helps us think about Receiving and Releasing God’s presence.
“Jesus breathed on them and said ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” John 20: 22
We celebrated Pentecost last Sunday – the moment that marks the beginning of the church. This moment is marked not by teaching or a new idea, or by service of others or by a public announcement, but by a powerful encounter with God in a hidden place.
The best way that God could think of to start the church was for the disciples to receive His power for themselves, then go out and share that power with others.
Centuries on we are a people who are still called to receive and release the Holy Spirit in the same way. We do this through worship, prayer, listening and ministering to others.
We want to be able to regularly breathe in and out, to spend time letting God’s presence pour into us and speak to us through worship, prayer and listening. We also want to be comfortable being ‘naturally supernatural’ and looking for opportunities to share the Holy Spirit with people around us.
This might look different right now to what we’re used to. Perhaps there are new ways God wants to show us of how to dig in and access his Holy Spirit for ourselves. I’m finding myself a bit stuck in just praying and worshipping in front of a screen right now! It’s wonderful to be able to do that with others, but I think God is calling me to look for new ways of finding him in my everyday life. What about you?
Likewise, maybe we are used to being able to pray and lay hands on each other in person which obviously isn’t an option at the moment. What are the ways we can use to still pray with each other in 2s and 3s, or as a community? If you are able, meeting up with another person and praying at 2 metres apart might be possible, or if you are dropping shopping or other things off to someone perhaps you could pray for and with them as you do that, or perhaps pray with someone over the phone? These things may feel a bit awkward at first but it’s worth pursuing them.
Finally, are there ways you can be praying for people who don’t know God’s power in their life? When we receive God’s Spirit we are empowered to share Him with others. What ways have you found to do that recently? What are you seeing God doing as you connect with those who don’t know Him yet? Do let us know – we’d love to share those stories to encourage the rest of the church!
Praying you’d know God’s presence with you in whatever your life looks like right now.
We are thinking about how we might use the Rhythms of GRACE to strengthen our Outward relationships as households and communities during this time of lockdown, distancing and anxiety. Today we are going to think about the first rhythm: Generous Blessing.
“Through you all nations will be blessed” Genesis 22:18
We are a people who are called to be a blessing. We seek to do this in practical and spiritual ways embracing generosity as a way of life. Encounters with Jesus were often joyful events full of blessing, the wedding at Cana, the miraculous catch of fish, the feeding of the five thousand. Jesus taught his followers to use what they had, even if it was only a little, and expect God to increase it.
This is an area where we are already strong! There has been lots of blessing and generosity shown already over the last few weeks. The responses to Blaze’s big climb and our call to pray about provision show that many of us are committed to financial generosity – thank you!
God is already stirring our generosity, how can we respond more fully?
Here are a few thoughts of what blessing could look like at this time.
Small steps go a long way! A generous blessing doesn’t have to be a grand gesture. A phone call, a note through the door, a batch of cookies or a text that says I’m thinking of you can be very powerful, so keep going with the small steps.
In times of grief we choose to bless. Many of us are coping with bereavement and loss, at a time like this blessing becomes even more important, but might look a bit different. Choosing to stay in touch with and walk alongside one another, and our friends and neighbours in times of mourning is a very valuable way of practicing generosity.
Without justice there can’t be generosity. A belief in God’s desire to bless goes hand-in-hand with God’s justice. It’s been so good to see Blaze challenge us to remember the poorest in our world. Practicing blessing could look like standing up for those less privileged than us, in our own country and around the world.
Prayer is blessing. Our first rhythm connects easily with our second: Receive and Release God’s Presence. Bringing some people in your neighbourhood or family before God in prayer and asking that he would bless them is powerful. I remember the last time we dug into this rhythm and prayed for God’s blessing on our friends and neighbours. We began hearing stories of friends we were praying for getting new jobs, discovering provision and becoming open to the idea that God loves them – fantastic! I write names of people in the back of one of my journals and regularly pray God’s blessing over them.
Break out of the blessing bubbles. It can be easy to feel like we are being generous when in fact our blessing focusses mainly on our friends or people we know will bless us back. God calls us to bless all people! That means being thoughtful about finding ways to bless people who aren’t ‘just like us’ or might not immediately respond with gratitude. Ask God: who might I miss that you are calling me to practice Generous Blessing with?
How are you already practicing generosity and blessing?
Are there ways that God is calling you to embrace these practices more?
From Acension day (Thursday 21/05) to Pentecost Sunday (31/05) we will be joining thousands of other Christians praying for people to come to know Jesus throught Thy Kingdom Come. We believe prayer is powerful and something anyone can do.
We’d love you to join us praying “Thy Kingdom Come” this year. Here are 4 ways you could be involved:
Book an hour or more in the 24-7 Harrogate Prayer Room and use the resources there to pray for our town.
Connect with a Kairos Community on Sunday 31st May as they pray together in the morning – we’ll share more information about this at the Gathering this Sunday
Join Kairos, along with Harrogate Vineyard, St Lukes & St Johns and St Marks or a half hour of prayer at 6pm on Sunday 30th May. We will broadcast this on our Facebook and Youtube pages. Watch a short promo below:
As a church we aim to live as disciples of Jesus with healthy UP, IN and OUT relationships. We connect UP with God in worship and prayer, IN with each other as communities of disciples and OUT into the world in love, mission and evangelism.
As we all get used to the new patterns of life that we have developed at this time of crisis, a lot of us seem to be thinking about those OUT relationships. We are seeing that this moment has offered us exciting opportunities for sharing God’s love with friends and neighbours, but we are also noticing that we’re having to be more deliberate and creative about how we practice that OUT in ways that work for now.
The rhythms of GRACE are a set of practices that we have been using over the last couple of years to strengthen all our relationships and develop habits of mission together as households and communities. This is a good time to look at them again and ask how we might practice GRACE in these moments.
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. 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.” Matthew 11:28-30 MSG
The acronym GRACE reminds us that all things, including life together, are gifts of God. These rhythms are not intended as a strait jacket, to force all of us to be the same. Rather see them as tools to pick up, play with and put into practice. Let them guide you closer to God and further in love and mission. You needn’t force yourself to put them all into practice at once, but rather keep them as a guide asking God and each other: “How do we already do this? What could do with a bit more focus right now? What could we do next?” They are based on some of the practices we see Jesus modelling and training his disciples to adopt.
To remind you, the rhythm is based on 5 practices:
Generous Blessing – demonstrating God’s love by blessing those around us practically and spiritually.
Receive and Release God’s presence – being filled with God’s Holy Spirit ourselves and sharing that with others through prayer and worship.
Ask Questions and Tell Stories – Using empathy and curiosity to build relationships and making the most of every opportunity to share our stories of knowing Jesus.
Celebrate Often – Saying thank you for what God is doing, partying regularly and well (like Jesus) and celebrating even small steps forward.
Eat Together – Gathering with friends, neighbours and new guests around food and God’s story.
Over the next few weeks we are going to explore each of these rhythms of GRACE and think about how we can use them well to strengthen our outward relationships during lockdown.
For now I’d like you to think about each of these practices and ask…
* What is already working well in my life?
* Is there something I have stopped that I could take up again?
* Is this an opportunity to try something new?
Next – we’ll look at the first rhythm: Generous Blessing!