Phil is one of the leaders of the church and heads up our cells.
We - Lou, James and Phil - shaped the summer series on Faith for our morning gatherings. We sat one evening and wondered what we could create. We chatted about our dreams for our gatherings and what sort of journey we could create for us all as we explored faith.
It became clear what we didn’t want to do but also what could be - what would it be like if we created a series that would cause us to engage with faith from the moment we stepped into the meeting place? What could we do to ensure we acted with faith on a Sunday morning?
It also became clear that we have a healthy mix of wanting to create a space for people to be challenged, inspired, informed, disrupted, welcome, and ultimately to feel validated and more able to live well with the challenges and opportunities that come with having faith and being faithful in this strange life.
So our creative juices flowed as we thought about the first few minutes of our gathering – encouraging people to come 30mins earlier, taking our shoes off, reflecting on questions to prepare for encounter, giving the musicians time and space to take us further in worship with music - raising the question of "how can we start something we're not supposed to finish?"
We were aware that summer means people can be absent, and thereby feel disconnected in various ways - communally, personally, publicly - so we wanted to find ways to embrace and connect, to intentionally move up a gear rather than getting to September and regretting 6 weeks of apathy!
So we engaged with a different structure for encounter – a 4-person panel talking about faith and fear; seminars on impacting our city, big challenges, money, justice, hope & love, character; talks that gave shape to our faith journey. These opportunities gave people in our community an opportunity to share their experiences, perspectives and wisdom. However the desire for us all to walk by faith was palpable in these sessions – a faith that is founded, focused and fashioned on the person of Jesus.
We know it was a short, focused series but we'd hate to think we've boxed the whole "faith thing" now - we hope we've got some threads that we can continue to weave with.
What’s next? We guess that's totally up to us - individually and collectively. We loved serving this up and have been challenged, gently and profoundly.
In terms of the meeting format, wethink we made some interesting and helpful changes that were appropriate and challenging for the times, but we'd be devastated for anyone to think they either preferred one way or another, or that a way of doing something becomes commonplace because it "worked" once before.
Family - let’s keep stepping out in faith!
Lou, James and Phil
Our community has been “leaning in” over these last few weeks through a series of meetings entitled “Living the Woven Cord”. It has been leaning in to understand more about the presence of the Trinity in our lives, leaning in to hear stories about how people have found God in the midst of great suffering, leaning in to creative expressions of worship that uplift and inspire our hearts, and leaning in to the legacy we walk in as God’s children, who weave Kingdom threads across our community and world, leading others into meeting with our risen King.
On our first morning, Roger Ellis helped us explore the wonder of the three-in-one:-
“God is Trinity and the beautiful, relational unity and love expressed within the divine three in oneness show us the way in life”.
We heard how God in Christ has gone before us into the darkness and suffering, defeating death and paving a way for us all into eternity. This set the scene for the moving stories we would hear in the second week, and Emma Derbyshire’s inspiring look at the Easter journey on the third meeting. If you haven’t heard Roger’s or Emma’s talks yet, we would really encourage you to do so. Here’s Roger’s and here’s Emma’s.
Our times together were also marked by inspiring art works, a beautiful original song by Emily Cook, and creative expressions of worship. Here are some of the works we saw: -
Created by Tom and Kat Fisher (with flower decorations by Karen Baldry) this work is based on the ancient Celtic symbol of faith. The triangular shape is symbolic of the three-in-one nature of the Trinity, the circle that of God’s eternal and all-encompassing character.
Created by Pete Hamilton and Julie Haydock, this symbolises the work of the Kingdom of God, like golden threads that interconnect our homes, neighbourhoods, schools, workplaces, and the links of our church across the UK and wider world. In the middle of the work is the centre of Chichester. The surrounding villages and towns are superimposed behind the UK and world.
Here are three works created live on Easter Sunday morning. The first is by Sam Harding, which explores the journey to the cross. The second is by Jo Burton, on the theme of the resurrection of Christ. The third one was created by Julie Haydock and children during the meeting: -
(Painting by Sam Harding)
(Painting by Jo Burton)
(Painting by Julie Haydock & children in the meeting)
For the third week, we created a new film about how the Kingdom of God is like golden threads that criss-cross lands and hearts, bringing the presence of Heaven to Earth. Here it is:-
(click on image above to go to video on YouTube)
We’ve written some more about what inspired Julie to write this prayer poem here at our blog on Prayerscapes.
On behalf of the church we would like to thank all those who have contributed to “Living the Woven Cord” series. Many people have been impacted and deeply touched by the testimonies and beauty they have heard and seen.
Neil & Julie Haydock
Click here to watch Phil's video with some helpful pointers and questions to help us really reflect on the teaching from last Sunday, in preparation for next week.
"Where was God?" Clearly many struggle to reconcile their belief in a loving God with recent tragedies. I respond simply, "God did not cause this." Then I ask the key question underlying every question concerning God's relationship to suffering, "What is our image of God?"
The answer in the New Testament is simple: God is love. And the most dramatic sign of God's love for us is Jesus. With Jesus, God has demonstrated the greatest possible love and given us the greatest possible gift, a gift that can sustain us in every circumstance, yes, even in suffering.
When believers turn to God to deal with suffering the first question we usually ask is why: Why did this happen? Often implied in the question: Why, God, did you do this to us?
But God doesn't answer this question. I believe it is the wrong question.
We have walked through the Christmas season and into a new year. John the Baptist exhorted us to "Prepare the way of the Lord and make straight his paths." We wanted to "make straight" our hearts so the Lord would enter without resistance - so we would really experience him.
If, like John the Baptist, we can let go and simply open our hearts to Jesus as our friend and Saviour something happens: we know God’s presence in a new year.
The prophet Isaiah gives us hope that the light can continue to shine in our lives even in darkness, the darkness we may experience in the start of a new year. "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone. You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing" (Isaiah. 9:1-2).
So the best I can offer to us for handling tragedies is to humbly seek the sign of God’s love – Jesus - and ask for his help. Jesus always is present to us when we call upon him in faith - indeed even more present when we call upon him in need, "Come to me all you who labour and are burdened and I will give rest."
God of love, Father of all, the darkness that covered the earth has given way to the bright dawn of your Word made flesh. Make us a people of this light. Make us faithful to your Word, that we may bring your life to the waiting world.
"And the light shines on in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it" (John. 1:5)