What's New?

Order Now!

Simon Allaby’s new book Greater Love is now available to order.

It has been created as a book for Remembrance Sunday and contains twelve short stories that reflect on conflict, sacrifice and where we can find true peace in God. Each story is accompanied by a simple illustration, a Bible verse and questions for reflection.

In his foreword, former Royal Marines Commando, Rev Tim Saiet, writes: ‘At last an accessible book which includes faith and stories of sacrifice – a brilliant book that I will pass on to my friends’.

Ideal for both Christians and not-yet-Christians, Greater Love is an excellent resource for Remembrance Sunday Services, and also as a giveaway for churches and individuals to share with friends, family members and enquirers.

Prices

Up to 14 books - £1.00 per copy (plus postage and packing*)

Orders of 15+ books – 60p per copy (plus postage and packing*)

*NB postage and packing for orders placed before 30 September is only £1.00

To place an order, contact Simon Allaby either by This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by phone 07837 637113

The Voice - Autumn

Welcome to the Autumn edition of The Voice!

This issue is packed with interesting articles and updates. There's a bible study by Edith Row, focusing on Women in the Bible, and in particular the story of Dorcas. Rosedale officially opened their new community garden and Copthorne have celebrated 200 years of worship in East Grinstead. 

Ben Quant provides information about the forthcoming Annual Conference in October, Cindy brings us an update about her created Matthew Mouse, and Gordon Hamilton contributes an account of the Induction of Rev Helen Cameron as Moderator of the Free Churches Group.

There are updates from Sierra Leone, featuring the new Health Centre and more on Ibrahim and the Bethesda Orphanage.

All in all, plenty to keep us occupied.

To read, click on the link below - and enjoy!

The Voice - Autumn

 

 

Queen Elizabeth II

As the nation mourns the death of the Queen, the Connexion Community give thanks to God for her life as His remarkable servant, and for her unfailing faith and dedication to duty.

Our thoughts and prayers are with her family, and we pray for God's blessing upon King Charles III and his forthcoming reign as our Monarch.

 

Photo credit: Press Association/ Danny Lawson

Crying out to God

Paul Woodbridge explores the Psalms as a means to express sadness.

Some scenarios

How have you felt over the past two years? At times, despondent and wondering what was going on? Where has God been during the Covid pandemic? As we have been prevented from doing all we would like to do both as churches and individuals, how have you responded?

And how do we react when things go wrong in our lives, when unexpected suffering happens, and we’re tempted to ask ‘Why God?’ But isn’t it rather ungodly to be negative in difficult situations? After all, didn’t the apostle Paul say, ‘Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: rejoice!’ (Phil.4:4). And that was when he was in prison, itself an unpleasant experience. 

I became a Christian in July 1965 (together with my parents and sister). As I look back over 57 years as a Christian and think about my life and work, I also think about what has most hindered Christian growth. It’s the whole issue of suffering, especially the type of suffering that seems to have little purpose and causes great sadness and grief both to the sufferer and family and friends, and seems pointless. I have struggled to know how to deal with this.

Let me give you some examples

1. The sudden death of the Principal of Oak Hill College, where I taught for 30 years, Mike Ovey, on 7th Jan 2017 at the age of 58, provoked sad emotions in me and in the whole college, just at a point in the college’s life when Mike was about to embark on new initiatives. What was God up to??

2. The sudden death of a 27 year old student in March 2000, leaving behind a wife who had been struggling with post-natal depression and 2 young children. What was God doing? Where was he in these tragedies?

3. My mother had dementia for the last 5 years of her life. It changed her character and personality, she became angry and bitter, even telling the pastor to ‘bugger off’ when he came to visit her. It was the first time I’d ever heard her use that language!

How does God want us to react to such scenarios?

Can we be angry with God? Can I express my anger in prayer? Can I express my utter frustrations with him, when I cannot see the point in some suffering that I or others are going through? A former colleague at Oak Hill College, Eric Ortlund, begins to suggest a way for us, both individually and corporately.

Imagine you are going to church. The worship band is on stage. You see on the screen all the normal information: Copyright Vineyard Music, 1998; in the key of B flat, written by Brian Doerkson. The worship band starts up, but you notice something strange, because the song says a lot of things to God that sound rude:

'Lord, how could you let that happen? Why did you abandon me? I'm one of your own. Why didn't you protect me? If you had been there, this never would have happened (John 11:21)! And this hurts your cause too, Lord. People are scoffing at you in your absence. Come and visibly intervene for me! But no matter what, I will trust you forever. No matter what, you are my God forever.'

That's the situation we get in the Book of Psalms: a miktam, of David, to the tune of “Doe of the Dawn” - those titles head the hymns we approve and also the laments that strike us as rude. But both equally count as worship in the Bible, even though for many of us, asking lament-type questions sounds like the opposite of worship.

Could I suggest, knowing I'm generalising, that we in North America (and Britain) need to “biblicise” and complicate our worship by making lament a regular feature? To be a real biblical lament, it has to include a confession of trust and unconditional loyalty from the lamenter; without that, it's just complaining. But I also want to emphasise that, unless we lament, we're being unbiblical and unhelpful.

So, what does the word ‘Lament’ mean in the bible?

To Lament: ‘To mourn aloud, to express sorrow, mourning, or regret; to regret strongly’. And God has given us in the Psalms a way, a means, to express to him our sadness, frustration, grief, even anger, at what has happened to us.

Next I will explore some specific Psalms and see how they help us when we or others are suffering.

Paul Woodbridge 

Worship through Music

During the early days of the Covid pandemic, a group of musicians from Wormley Free Church set up the Wormley Lockdown Band.

The group started producing their own versions of popular worship songs and hymns that could be included in Wormley's online services during the period of church closures.

Since then, both audio and video versions of the band's recordings have continued to be available for all to enjoy.

To access click on the link below.

Wormley Lockdown Band Recordings

 

Matthew Mouse Newletter

Welcome to Matthew Mouse's first ever newsletter!

matthew mouse nletter p1

matthew mouse nletter p2

matthew mouse nletter p3

To find out more about the wonderful work of Matthew Mouse, visit his website

Memorial Service

Rosedale Community Church held a special Memorial Service on Sunday 17 July.

The service was open to everyone who have lost loved ones, but particularly remembering those who have died since the onset of the Covid pandemic in March 2020.

Rosedale is part of The Connexion's group of 22 churches and is based in Cheshunt, Hertfordshire. The church holds services every Sunday at 10.30am and Evening Prayers via Zoom at 7pm.

They also welcome members of the community - of all ages - for a variety of activities during the week, from Parent & Toddler Groups to Young and Heart and Walks for Wellbeing.

To learn more about Rosedale and their Pastor, Bethany Green, visit their website www.rosedalechurch.org and their YouTube page (see link below) which features a video about the church and weekly sermons.

Rosedale Community Church on YouTube

 

Preaching Pictures

Ben Quant, Connexion Trustee, writes about four different approaches to preaching, inspired by Thomas Long, author of The Witness of Preaching:

At a pre-pandemic minister's gathering some years ago at Heigh Leigh, we discussed what it was that attracted us to The Connexion, what made it special. Various responses were given, one of which was our commitment to the Bible and preaching.

Across our churches, on almost all Sundays, we will either sit down and listen to a sermon or stand up to preach it. The length may differ, as may its style and language, but the fact that there will be one is something that we take for granted and have in common. I wonder, though, how many of us have actually thought about what a sermon is? What is the point of a sermon? How do they work? Why do we listen to them? I suspect that for most of us, although we may have enjoyed or endured more than we can remember, bizarrely, the answer will be no. Perhaps you think that it's obvious what's going on, and that everyone sees it the same way. If that's so, you may be surprised to discover that this is not the case! In fact there is a whole academic field devoted to the topic of preaching, exploring what preaching is, how God speaks through a sermon, and the different ways or forms of preaching: the field of homiletics. 

Thomas Long, an American preacher, is one of the leading figures in homiletics over the recent decades. In The Witness of Preaching  he describes the main approaches to preaching through a series of pictures: the preacher as the herald, the pastor, the storyteller/poet, and the witness.

The Herald

This is the traditional understanding of preaching in evangelical circles. Here the preacher is seen as like a herald or town-crier declaring important news to those around them. They are given the task of announcing the good news of Jesus Christ as found in scripture to those to whom they are sent, believing that when the scriptures are faithfully preached, God will speak through its words to the congregation. This model of preaching emphasises the careful study of the biblical text and proclaiming it clearly, so that its meaning is conveyed to the congregation. Sermons are usually made up of a linear series of points, for example the classic 'three point sermon', with most of the focus on education rather than entertainment (although there might be humorous alliteration in the titles, or a story or joke to help make the point clear).

 the herald

The Pastor

Another common image is the pastor. This shouldn't be surprising, after all throughout the Bible religious leaders are compared to shepherds, those with the job of caring for the sheep. Jesus, of course, described himself as the Good Shepherd. With this emphasis on caring for others, inevitably some leaders bring this pastoral role into their preaching. This subtly shifts the focus from faithfully delivering the message of scripture, to discerning and meeting the needs of the flock; the purpose of preaching is to communicate the message of the Bible in such a way that it addresses people's situations and needs to help them live lives that glorify God.

So what do pastoral sermons look like? Although they are often expository like those under the herald model, they usually require more thought about communication techniques and the way the sermon is constructed (its form), because they're seeking to bring about change in their hearers, not just a greater understanding.

storyteller

The Storyteller/Poet

Once upon a time... There's nothing l like better than being told a story or reading a gripping novel. A good story has the power to transport you, to move you, to talk to you at a level deeper than words. Think of the difference between listening to a story and being told what a story is about. These are two completely different experiences aren't they! The first is full of life, and the second, even if it is accurate, totally lacks the punch or emotional impact of the story itself. 

Long's third image is that over the preacher as storyteller or poet. This approach seeks to take seriously the suggestion that most of the Bible is either a narrative, a story, or grows out of a narrative, the story of God's creation and salvation. As an approach it encompasses a wide range of forms.

When preaching, such preachers may try to pay attention to what the Bible is seeking to do to us on an emotional level as well as what it is seeking to tell us on an intellectual level, and reflect that in their sermons. They may craft their sermons not as a series of static points, but with a sense of flow or movement.

Others, rather than presenting the conclusions they reached in the study in preparing for the sermon, might recreate that journey, so that they too experience the whole 'story' rather than just the final page of conclusions. Often, just as a story might leave its listeners to work out for themselves what it means, these sermons are open-ended, encouraging and leaving room for their listeners to think through their own conclusions and responses.

Sometimes the sermon is a story, but it doesn't need to be, the key thing is that the preacher takes seriously the narrative nature of the Bible, the power of narrative, and the experiential aspect of a sermon.

witness

The Witness

Probably the most common form of storytelling is one that starts not 'once upon a time' but 'you'll never guess what happened to me today...' This final approach to preaching argues that this is the story the Bible tells. It is not simply a story amongst other stories, it is a very specific story, the account of God's dealings with his people as told by them. His people witnessed him and his acts and the Bible is their testimony.

The witness model of preaching says that as we read the eyewitness accounts of God, we open ourselves to encountering him for ourselves in their accounts. The preacher is sent by the congregation to scripture to have such an encounter on their behalf, and then to come back and share what they experienced and belief about that, 'you'll never guess what happened to me today...'  They can tell it in whatever form best fits, the important thing is that the sermon grows out of their encounter with God in the text.

An interesting aspect of this approach is that it allows for us to tell different sermons based on the same passage. Different witnesses of an event will always tell different stories because they have different points of view - for example the winner of a race will retell the story of the race differently from the person behind them who came second, or someone in the crowd watching them. You can see this of course in the Bible where we have four different testimonies to Jesus in the Gospels. This may feel risky, how do I know I've got it right, but allows and calls us to be honest in our preaching, this was my encounter with God and this is what I believe he said. 

Four different understandings and approaches to preaching, all with their strengths and weaknesses. I wonder if you recognised the preachers in your church? It may be that working out how they see themselves will help you to understand what they're trying to do so you can get the most out of their talks. If you're a preacher, which do you see yourself as being? Perhaps there might be value in trying on a different outfit sometime and seeing what it's like.

Ben Quant

 

The Voice - Summer

Welcome to the Summer edition of The Voice!

This issue features Ben Quant's excellent article on approaches to preaching and Paul Woodhouse's thoughtful account of the experience of being a Christian. There is church news from Hailsham and Copthorne and articles from Sierra Leone. Ibrahim tells us about his childhood life and how he came to live at Bethesda, Janet O'Shea gives us an update on the new Health Centre in Brama, and Magnus Bendu provides more heart-felt testimonies about the Sierra Leone partnership with The Connexion. 

Certainly worth reading. Just click on the link below and enjoy!

The Voice - Summer

Don't give up!

Every week Simon Allaby creates and records a Short Thought message for The Connexion website visitors.

Each message is 60 seconds long and Simon manages to cover a huge variety of topics to engage, inspire and entertain the listener.

This week's message 'Don't Give Up' inventively compares the challenges of the Eurovision Song Contest with the challenges of prayer. 

Click on the link to hear: Don't Give Up

The recordings are posted weekly and accessed by the SHORT THOUGHT button at the top of each web page.

Check in each week to be regularly entertained and enlightened!

 

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