What's New?

News from Karl and Karen

It’s now almost a year since Karl Relton wrote to the Trustees to explain how the experience of lockdown at the Countess Free Church in Ely had led him and his wife Karen to explore a different way of being church. As you may remember this led to them taking a step of faith and moving to a housing estate in Leicestershire to begin a more incarnational ministry. Karl was in touch recently with an update on how they have been getting on.

News Update from Karl

Life here on the new estate has been at a radically different pace compared to classic 'church ministry', but not necessarily any less intense. We settled in quickly joining community activities and volunteering to get to know people. At the same time, we were prayer walking the estate asking God to lead us to people who were spiritually open.

In October this led us to invite round a young couple from Asia who had some experience of the Christian faith from childhood and were open to exploring more spiritually. We also befriended another young couple from Asia and have had great conversations while our friendship develops. To help with this I have been recording stories Jesus told as YouTube Short videos, which they love watching. Click here for link to Lubbe Stories

In November, on a very wet Remembrance Sunday morning, we met another guy of similar Asian heritage. He was very open and agreed to do discovery Bible studies with me, making comparisons with Eastern religions. Earlier this year he asked Jesus into his life, and I am now discipling him and he is learning to be a witness to others - praise God!!

There are other stories to tell ... but you can pick up that God has led us mainly to people from or originally from India. That’s the beauty of this way of working - we would never have guessed or planned that. I should say that Leicester is very multi-cultural, and the new estate reflects the ethnic mix including high number of Indian heritage. We are loving that, as are our taste-buds!

We’ve also been encouraging other local Christians to pray for their neighbours, and I produced a mini-blog: Myths of Personal Evangelism to help with this. Click here for link to Myths of Evangelism 

With blessings

Karl and Karen

 

Ministerial Vacancies

Our new tab for  Ministerial Vacancies, which is located at the top of each website page, has now gone live.

The Connexion churches and chapels span from the South East and the Midlands to Manchester and St Ives in Cornwall. Although each of our 21 churches has a distinctive personality, they all share a common desire to build a supportive, expanding, spirit led Christian network, which honours the legacy of the Countess of Huntingdon.

We welcome applications from those who may be interested to join one of our Connexion Churches - and/or the board of Trustees. 

Currently there is a vacancy for a new Pastor at Rosedale Community Church, which is a small but growing evangelical church in Cheshunt, Hertfordshire. 

Rosedale is looking for a passionate, spirit-filled individual or couple with a heart to care for their congregation, guiding them in fulfilling their vision of being a Christ Centred Community and inspiring them to reach out to neighbours.

The position is full-time and includes a five bedroomed Manse. The application deadline is 31 August 2024, with a proposed start date of July 2025.

Click on the link for more details New Pastor at Rosedale

For an informal chat prior to application please phone Simon on 07952 860811. Or find the details at. www.rosedalechurch.org

Teach us Friendship

Tony Derrett, one of the Elders at Mortimer West End Chapel, writes this week about the value of friendship.

Do you have any real friends? By that I mean, a friend who sticks closer than a brother or sister. Someone who turns up to help you when you are in need. 

In my life, the friends I've had seem to have largely come and gone. At school, then at college, then in the workplace and even in previous churches I've attended. They were friends for a season and that was ok, I guess. All part of my training in growing up?

One way to spot a real friend - I define this as someone who really cares for you - is when their love for you is unconditional. They don't just ring you up asking to borrow something from you. They are not being nice to you because you're in the same 'club' as them and share the same interests.

Their friendship towards you is not dependent on your attendance to an event they invited you to. You can 'let them down' and they still love you.

Once, in my short life a friend rang me to ask me how I was out of the blue. I nearly fell off my chair!

God's Invitations

In the first two of our 'Invitations' posted on the notice board at the back of the Chapel, God is inviting us to know Him better.

This week, as I was thinking about friendship and discussing it with my wife Judy, I had a wave of revelation about my friendship with God. Something that I've known for a long time but it came stronger and deeper to me this time around.

Psalm 146: 3 says 'do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save'. Jesus in John 2: 24-25 does not entrust himself to the 'many people who saw his miraculous signs'. 'He didn't need man's testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man'. Basically, you can't trust a human being 100%. They are flawed and will eventually let you down at some point. So don't get upset when this happens to you.

On the other hand, we have a relationship with a God who says we are His friends. This friendship is eternal. With someone who will never let you down. It's the most amazing, intimate and wonderful thing that could ever happen to a human being. To be friends with God. An Outrageous Love!

Another wonderful thing about this relationship is that as it develops God teaches us how to be a true friend like He is. As we hang out with God, His divine friendship starts to rub off on us and we catch hold of this aspect of His nature and likewise become empowered to be friends to those around us. Our friendships go deeper and become more intimate, in tandem with our relationship to God.

So, this week my prayer for us as a small but significant part of His Great Church Body is – 'Lord please teach us friendship'.

New Pastor Vacancy

Rosedale Community Church is a small but growing evangelical church in Cheshunt, Hertfordshire. We are looking for a passionate, spirit-filled individual or couple with a heart to care for our congregation, guide us in fulfilling our vision of being a Christ Centred Community and inspire us to reach out to our neighbours.

We are seeking a pastor who is:

  • Warm, relational and who loves well
  • An enabler who can train, develop and encourage leaders from within the congregation.
  • Appreciative and supportive of the children’s and youth work and able to help encourage the teenagers to grow in their faith and serve the Lord
  • A leader who can bring vision and inspire the church body to run with it
  • An excellent communicator who can lead, preach and teach

The position is full-time and includes a five bedroomed Manse. The application deadline is 31 August 2024, with a proposed start date of July 2025.

For an informal chat prior to application please phone Simon on 07952 860811. Or find the details at. www.rosedalechurch.org

Scottish Revival

Joe Gregory, President of The Connexion, recently re-read the powerful story of a revival which took place in the Scottish Outer Hebrides in 1949. He has chosen to share the account here to encourage and inspire our Connexion members.

On the Isle of Lewis, there were two sisters, Peggy and Christine Smith, 84 and 82 years of age respectively, and they spoke only Gaelic. They lived in a humble dwelling by the roadside in the village of Barvas. Peggy was blind, and her sister was almost bent double with arthritis. Whilst they were too infirm to attend church services, they were not too ill to pray.

They were greatly burdened because they'd been told no young person attended public worship at their church. They decided to pray twice a week. On Tuesdays and Fridays they got on their knees at 10pm and remained there until 3am or 4am in the morning; two old women in a very humble cottage.

Then Peggy had a vision of the church crowded with young people. They persuaded their minister to call 'a session'. Seven men covenanted 'not to give rest nor peace to the Almighty until He made their Jerusalem a praise in the earth'. Those men also began to meet on Tuesday and Friday nights for some months.

One night in November a young man also began to pray, 'God, are my hands clean? Is my heart pure?' But he got no further. He fell into a trance and lay on the floor of the barn. Within a matter of minutes three other elders also fell into a trance. As a result, the minister and other intercessors were gripped by the conviction that a God-sent revival must always be related to holiness and godliness.

Are my hands clean? Is my heart pure?

An awareness of God seemed to grip the whole community. Little work was done as men and women gave themselves to thinking about eternal things, 'and God seemed to be everywhere.' In the little cottage the two sisters knew God had kept His promise and told their minister to invite a preacher to come and help them.

Duncan Campbell arrives

It was a man named Duncan Campbell who was called to lead a series of meetings. For the first week of evening meetings relatively little happened, though five young people found God.

On 13 December 1949, at the end of the meeting, all had left except Campbell and one other. The Deacon said, 'Don't be discouraged. God is hovering over us, and he'll break through any moment. I can already hear the rumbling of heaven's chariot wheels.'

He began to pray before falling to the ground in a trance. Five minutes later the local blacksmith came back to the church and said, 'Mr Campbell, something wonderful has happened. We were praying that God would pour water on the thirsty and floods upon the dry ground, and listen, He's done it! He's done it! Will you come to the door, and see the crowd that’s here.

Revival breaks out

Even though it was 11pm at night between six and seven hundred people had gathered around the church. They'd been moved by a power they could not explain. A hunger and thirst gripped them, and the meeting continued until 4am in the morning. Strong men were bowed down and trembled in God's presence. Nearby a dance was in progress but the young people ran from it, 'as though fleeing from a plague', and made for the church.

In a matter of minutes, the dance hall was empty.

Others who had gone to bed were woken by the Holy Spirit, got dressed, and made for the church. There had been no publicity except for an announcement from the pulpit on Sunday that a man would be conducting a series of meetings in the parish for ten days. God became his own publicity agent.

Over the next few nights hundreds gathered in different places, in churches and barns or in fields and homes. There was a prayer meeting every day at noon. All work stopped for two hours and people gathered for prayer. No appeals were made. People made their way to the prayer meeting to praise God for His salvation.

So, it continued for several years, and it spread to many of the islands. People who had never been near a meeting before were suddenly gripped by the Holy Spirit, stopped work, and gave themselves to seeking God. Men were found walking the roads at night in distress of soul, while others were found during the day among the rocks. Social evils were swept away as by a flood, and whole districts were completely changed. A wonderful sense of God seemed to pervade the whole place. Duncan Campbell described the atmosphere around Barvas as 'a community saturated with God'.

Duncan came for two weeks and ended up staying for two years!

Conclusion

When revival came to Lewis in 1949 the churches had no choirs, organs, musical instruments or padded seats. There were no meetings for children, young people or Mums and Tots, no Holiday Bible Clubs, no power points or transport laid on, and very few had cars. But God performed miracles and brought hundreds, if not thousands, to Himself. It seems the catalyst was prayer, prayer and only prayer. That was it. God did the rest.

As I have travelled around The Connexion I have been moved by the faithfulness of the folk in our churches. Be encouraged by the events on Lewis which began 75 years ago. Persevere in prayer, seek holiness, it can and does make a difference. Just one or two people can have an impact, like Peggy and Christine Smith. Looking at their example we can appreciate the fact that age is no barrier when it comes to helping the Kingdom of God to grow.

Joe Gregory

 

 

Easter Family Celebration

At the weekend Bolney Village Chapel (BVC) switched their usual Sunday morning service for an afternoon Easter Family Celebration.

About 40 adults and children came and enjoyed a variety of craft activities, including making Easter gardens and decorating biscuits, before a short all-age service. The family event finished with an Easter egg hunt followed by hot dogs and cup cakes.

BVC were delighted to see so many people there including several families from their parent and toddler group.

Who are you not reaching?

It is the second family celebration BVC has held, prompted by a challenging question from the Connexion Conference speaker, John McGinley. In his bookThe Church of Tomorrow, John asks‘Who are you not reaching?’

For BVC the answer to this question was young families.

John’s suggestion is that if you’re not reaching a particular group with your current activities then maybe you need to do something different...


Simple but true.

The new activities held so far have successfully proved John’s point. BVC is looking forward to the next family event in the summer and reaching more people!.

Let's Start from Here

Simon Allaby has just published a new book of stories ‘Let's Start from Here’ in collaboration with the Daylight Christian Prison Trust.

Daylight is a Christian charity that exists to share the Gospel with prisoners, to support prisoners during their sentences and to provide practical post-release support to reduce the likelihood of reoffending.

There are 20 stories in the book and copies will be sent to every prison in the country after Easter.

Copies of the book will also soon be available from Simon’s Turn the Page website.

To find out more about Daylight Christian Prison Trust visit their website

 

Roofbreakers

Annette Stuart is a Roofbreaker at the Countess Free Church, Ely. Below, she provides us with information about this important initiative.

What’s a Roofbreaker?

A Roofbreaker is a church disability champion, who chats to disabled or chronically ill people in the congregation about any barriers to them accessing church life, and feeling wholly part of the church community.

The Roofbreaker scheme is an initiative run by a Christian disability charity, Through the Roof (TTR). The name comes from the account of the paralysed man in Luke 5. Annette first heard about the charity through the Rich Tea Community Group, for adults with learning disabilities, that she helps with at Ely.

TTR wants all churches to catch the vision for disability inclusion. Below is some information about what they do, and why it matters.

 

Breaking down barriers for church disability inclusion

The last recorded survey suggests only 5-10% of disabled people hear the gospel in their lifetime (Lausanne Committee for World Evangelisation).

In the UK it is estimated there are 16 million disabled people who do not benefit from God’s love through belonging to a church community. (Family Resources Survey, 2021-22). TTR is working with churches to ensure that everyone’s presence and gifts are valued.

One example is Laurie, who uses a wheelchair and an assistive device to communicate. Laurie’s church welcomed and encouraged him to take an active role in church life, which has been hugely beneficial. Laurie said, 'I am writing magazines, helping out with a special needs group, emailing prayers and talks of services and helping with social media'.

Everyone has unique God-given gifts to share.

Who are Through the Roof?

Members of Through the Roof are passionate about disability inclusion in Christian life. Their mission is to transform lives through Jesus with disabled people. For 25 years the charity has been:

Enabling Faith: Equipping churches and Roofbreakers (local disability champions) to empower disabled people to participate and belong in Christian life.

Bringing Freedom: ‘Wheels for the World’ provides wheelchairs and bibles for disabled people in developing nations where 90% of those needing a wheelchair do not have one.

Sharing Fellowship: Christian-focused accessible holidays, retreats and groups bring fun and friendships for everyone. Through the Roof provides free resources, training and support to local churches to fulfil the great commission to – and through – disabled people.

The Roofbreaker project equips volunteers in local churches and ministries to act as disability champions – listening and responding to the challenges disabled people face, enabling them to use their gifts and talents to serve as equal members of Christ’s body: the church.

Are churches fully including disabled people - and disability aware?

In the UK, over 20% of the population are disabled people (Family Resources Survey, 2021-22).

Not all disabilities are visible, but disabled people are still underrepresented in UK churches – especially in positions of responsibility.

Fiona MacMillan, disability advisor in the Church of England and herself a disabled person, says, ‘We are more likely to be known by our needs than celebrated for our gifts’.

Through the roof can help your church or ministry to welcome and value disabled people more fully

They offer:

Free two hour Zoom Disability Awareness workshop for churches who appoint a disability champion or Roofbreaker.

Access to a free downloadable ‘Church Toolkit’ and ‘Removing Barriers' church accessibility audit, available to all Roofbreaker disability champions.

50% discount on Through the Roof resources to all church Roofbreaker champions.

Advice and support from one of three Regional Roofbreaker Co-ordinators covering the whole of the UK, to encourage disability inclusion in all churches.

Support through monthly emails, events, Facebook and Roofbreaker Networks.

 

For more information visit the Through the Roof website or check out @TTRChangesLives on social media.

Conversation Cafe

All of our Connexion churches are community spirited and in light of this Wormley Free Church is running a Conversation Cafe on Fridays between 1pm and 2pm.

Converation Cafe is a free, informal group for those who speak English as a second language and would welcome the opportunity to practice conversation.

The group is open to people of all backgrounds - and of all abilities!

To find out more visit their website page: Conversation Cafe

About Wormley Free Church

Wormley Free Church is a lively, growing, diverse church of all ages, based in Wormley, Broxbourne, Hertfordshire. They hold services every Sunday at 10.30am, which are recorded in live stream. As well as Conversation Cafe, they run a number of groups and events which are designed to meet the needs and interests of their community.

 

Image by pikisuperstar on Freepik

Trevor Jones Induction

Joe Gregory, President of The Connexion was delighted to be invited to preach at the Induction Service for Trevor Jones as the new Pastor at Sheppey Evangelical Church, following his retirement from Sheppey last year. 

The service was led by Andrew Higgins, who was joined by David Lockett, Chair of The Connexion Trustees and Bethany Burrage, Trustee and Pastor at Rosedale Community Church. 

Trevor spoke powerfully about his call to lead the church and his journey as Pastor so far. Like many of the great people in the Bible who were chosen by God, he wrestled with the Lord before agreeing to be the next Pastor of SEC. The key thing that the Lord made clear to him is that He would be with him, he would not be alone in his ministry. Trevor shared how all the practical details have been sorted out by God even though he still has to work for 4 days a week as a carpenter. 'The Lord has been changing me and my heart is for you', proclaimed Trevor in his moving address.

Trevor's wife, Julie, who is a prison officer and mother, also spoke with great honesty and humour about the challenges of now being the Pastor’s wife. Julie encouraged the church by saying that she recognised that there were people with gifts in the church and God was getting people ready to move out. She concluded with 1 Thessalonians 5:11, 'Encourage one another and build each other up'.

As Chair of the Trustees, David Lockett carried out the formal Induction part of the service, asking Trevor to acknowledge his call to ministry before God and before the congregation. In turn the congregation promised to pray for and support Trevor as Pastor. Duly inducted, spontaneous applause broke out in the crowded church!

Trustee, Bethany Burrage, who had travelled down from Hertfordshire, led the congregation in an impressive Spirit-filled prayer over Trevor and Julie, and greetings from other Connexion churches were heard before singing 'The Goodness of God'.

Joe Gregory, who has been a friend of Trevor for many years, preached on Jeremiah 1:4-10, which outlines the account of the Lord calling Jeremiah into His service, focusing particularly on verse 5, 'Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart'.

Joe emphasised how crucial it is that the local church members affirm and encourage Trevor and Julie. Adding that it’s worth remembering that all of our Pastors and Ministers in The Connexion need prayer and practical support with additional prayer for their families, concluding, 'It’s incredible how one or two encouraging words make such a difference. Say nice things, don’t just think them!'

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