Did you know you were designed to thrive in community with other Christians and that we grow better together? Life Groups are the friends you grow, laugh, and serve with. The Christian faith is a life designed to be lived in community. Jesus called many to follow Him, from a large group, to the 12 disciples He spent more time with, to three in particular; Peter, James and John. Growing as Christians has a lot to do with relationships and walking with God through life with the support of other followers of Jesus. We believe that Jesus wants us to learn from Him and in some ways pattern our lives after Him. Jesus lived his life in 3 dimensions, investing in: Up: relationship with God In: relationships with His followers Out: Connecting with and making a difference in a hurting world Why Life Groups? For many years Christians have found that Home Groups have helped them grow in faith and get to know others much better. These often met weekly or fortnightly at a regular time. However, people’s lives have changed a great deal over the last 10 or 20 years and people find it very difficult to commit to a regular group which meets at a set time. Finding a space in 10 people’s diaries is often impossible. While Home Groups will continue for those who benefit from them, we feel something new is needed: Life Groups What is a Life Group? A Life Group is a much smaller group of people, of 3 or 4 who agree to meet on a reasonably regular basis (many meet monthly) but at a time and place which is convenient to them. They may be made up of 2 couples, 2 families or of individuals who think they could find time to be together. How are groups formed? 1. Sign up on the ‘interested‘ list and groups will be carefully put together by church leadership Or 2. Get together with others and let us know that you would like to be a group together How will the groups be resourced? The church will produce resources to be used in the Life Groups with a degree of flexibility built in. Where do we meet and how often? Convenience is the key word here. You may choose to meet over a meal, over a coffee or over a drink in the pub; wherever works for you! A group will only work effectively if it meets at least once per month, but can meet more regularly if the group members want to. What next? Have a chat with some other people in the church family, would they like to form a Life Group with you? If so let Nick know and he will talk you through getting started. Many people will not know who they could be in a Life Group with. No problem—just put your name on the list at the back of church and we’ll come back to you with a suggested group as soon as we can. With love in Christ Nick


Has there ever been a more attractive life than the life Jesus lived? God incarnate, here on earth for 30 some years. God with us, God for us, God dying and rising again for us. Looking at his life as recorded in the 4 Gospels, here we see someone who is more fully alive than anyone has ever been. Is there a way of life we can follow which can open up this abundant life (John 10:10) Jesus said he came to bring?
Jesus lived His life in 3 Dimensions and it’s the pattern He taught His first followers. This diagram points us in the right direction:

This triangular diagram is based on an understanding of the rhythm of Jesus’ life. His ‘3 dimensional’ life was spent facing Up, In, or Out.
One example comes in Luke 6:12-19 (NIV)
One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles: Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor. He went down with them and stood on a level place. A large crowd of his disciples was there and a great number of people from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coastal region around Tyre and Sidon, who had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. Those troubled by impure spirits were cured, and the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all.
The 3 dimensions are therefore:
Up - time alone with the Father, seeking Him
In - time spent with His closest followers and friends
Out - time spent engaging with the needs and pain of the world.
A healthy life as a follower of Jesus will involve all three of these dimensions and reflecting on them regularly.
How can we, as a church and as individuals learn to pattern our lives after the life of Jesus, living Up, In and Out?
1. Developing a rhythm/way of life which includes time for God, work, ourselves and others.
2.Gathered worship: Meeting together, as the Bible tells us, is essential to our lives as Christians. Following Jesus can only be done with others. Developing spiritual disciplines such as regularly gathering together (often on Sundays) encouraging each other, offering ourselves to God, learning and receiving from God and being ready for the week ahead.
3. In Community: In addition to gathered worship it’s important we develop our relationships with one another in other contexts where we can find support and a chance to learn and grow together.
For some this will be in our Home Groups which consist of 6 to 10 people meeting fortnightly during the day time.
We recognise that a regular group on an evening is very difficult for many people to fit into lives which are already extremely busy. Something more convenient is needed and comes in the form of our Life Groups to be launched after Easter this year. These groups of 3 or 4 people will meet once a month at a time which is convenient to them all. These groups may be made up of 2 couples or 3 or 4 individuals and may meet over a meal, over coffee or at the pub.
All these groups are resourced by the church with materials and a suggested structure which enables members to think about their lives as followers of Jesus.
Following Jesus is not something we can do on autopilot and as this year goes on we’ll be helping people find a way of life which works for them (for you!) as a follower of Jesus in your context and in the context of community. There will be lots of opportunities to come, but for now could a Home Group or Life Group make a difference to you – if so, look out for more information soon. And for all of us – where are we with the Up, In and Out three-dimensional life Jesus encourages us to live? Where are you strong and where do you need some help?
With love in Christ
Nick

With the imminent return of our parish priest, Nick, from his sabbatical leave, this will be my last letter with the silly title.

During Nick’s absence we have been greatly supported by other Team clergy and I have been happy and privileged to have been able to play some part in that. As well as some Sunday services and many Wednesdays I was particularly pleased that I was well enough to carry out the ‘occasional offices’ which I had said I would - a Baptism, a wedding, a funeral and memorial service, the interment of ashes and a Thursday evening ‘Be Still’ service and a Eucharist at Netherthong. All that until on the first of August I became quite suddenly very ill and spent four days in hospital and have since then been gradually recovering day-by-day with occasional set backs.
I think we sometimes tend to try to impose on others the things we do ourselves – because something works for us we think it would be good for them. My own daily practice of prayer follows a modified version of the Daily Office along with Bible Reading Fellowship notes, but while I’ve been ill my mind has just not been capable of that kind of concentration. And so my prayers have followed a very different and variable pattern – and in many ways that seems to me to have been a very positive experience. What I’m recommending in mentioning that is that we should not become too fixed in the way we carry out our spiritual exercises. The ‘Be Still’ services have been, for example, a revelation to many. Be ready to let circumstances direct the way you should go.
And one morning when I was feeling somewhat better the words of the hymn ‘New every morning is the love’ came to my mind and I sang it quietly to myself – words I presumably I had learned by frequent repetition many years ago during Sunday Mattins. I found it a surprisingly good experience. If you know the hymn I recommend your bringing it back to mind – it can be re-assuring and refreshing. And if, brought up since the days of Mattins, you don’t know the hymn may I suggest you look it up on line (where it may even be sung for you!) or, failing that, get a copy from church. It’s number 2 in the church hymn book. Its author, John Keble, knew what he was writing about. And it’s as relevant today as on the day it was written.
Finally thank you for all the prayers and support over the past month. Much appreciated.
Geoff Bamford

 

I was recently speaking to a few fellow church leaders
about days off. One said she hardly ever got a day off as there was just so
much to do. Another colleague quickly responded – ‘So, you’re placing yourself
above God are you?’

That got everyone’s attention!

He had a very good point. The Bible tells us that God
worked for 6 days and rested on the seventh – so giving us a pattern for a
healthy rhythm of life. If God rested one day in seven, isn’t it a bit arrogant
not to do so? It’s certainly unhealthy in all sorts of ways. That conversation
was a wakeup call to all of us involved: It’s all too easy to be doing so much
that we forget that the Sabbath principle isn’t just good advice it’s a command
of God – for our own good.

By Sabbath principle I mean the evident truth that we all
need rest from our everyday work. For Christians it means remembering what
Jesus said; ‘People weren’t made for the Sabbath, the Sabbath was made for
people.’ (Mark 2:27)

The idea is rest for the body and for the soul. It’s about
coming away from the pace of everyday life and seeking God. It is about doing
good as Jesus reminded us. It’s about reflection and it’s about listening to
God.

The longer I’m a Christian the more I realise that
everything depends on developing ways of listening to God in the midst of a
busy and demanding world.

There’s a story about a man was having difficulty
communicating with his wife and concluded that she was becoming hard of
hearing.

So he decided to conduct a test..... without her knowing
about it. One evening he sat in a chair on the far side of the room. Her back
was to him and she couldn’t see him.

Very quietly he whispered, "Can you hear me?"

There was no response.

Moving a little closer, he asked again, "Can you hear
me now?"

Still no reply; quietly he edged closer and whispered the
same words, but still no answer.

Finally, he moved right in behind her chair and said,
"Can you hear me now?"

To his surprise and chagrin, she responded with irritation
in her voice,

"For the
fourth time, yes!" (Pause)

The hearing problem is not with God. .....It’s with us!

The Sabbath principle is really all about listening to God
and it’s something we should apply more often than 1 day in 7. In a busy world
I myself find the need to establish a rhythm of work, rest, listening and
reflection each day. The reality is that there are days when this doesn’t
happen as I’d like it to. But I’m working at it!

Most of you will know that my Sabbatical begins on 12th
May for 3 months. The heart of this is about doing something other than my
normal job; it’s about a journey of discovery, reflection and rest. I think
above all it’s about taking time to really listen to God, about my own life,
about the life of my family and my churches. Specifically I’ll be looking at
patterns of discipleship in the early church and what patterns may work in the
very different world of the 21st century? How can we follow Jesus
with everything we’ve got in such a busy and sometimes confusing world?

I am very fortunate to be able to take this extended
period of time to do these things and I hope to return at the end of the summer
with renewed strength and vision for our churches as we enter the next stage of
journey together.

But, here’s a challenge for you all while I’m away…

Can you find a way of applying the Sabbath principle to
your life a little more? Can you find more time to come away from the everyday?
Time to rest from it? To seek God and reflect on your life?

One thing I know for sure is that if we don’t, then life
will tend to pass us by. Jesus said he came to bring us life to the full… how
can we hope to experience it if we don’t listen to Him?

With love in Christ and blessings to you all for the
summer

Nick