Christian Today Digest - Spring 2013

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From:-
TORCH TRUST, Torch House, Torch Way, Market Harborough, Leicestershire, LE16 9HL, U.K.
Telephone: +44(0)1858 438260, Fax: +44(0)1858 438275, email: info@torchtrust.org
The Torch Trust for the Blind, registered charity number 1095904.

Contents

Welcome!

Welcome to this first edition of Christian Today Digest for 2013!

As I write, we brace ourselves for yet another cold blast of weather! But into March, the scintillating Siberian wind carries with it the comforting hope that spring is just around the corner. Wonderful! And we shall enjoy it all the more for having braced ourselves against cold temperatures for longer than we'd choose through this winter! And what about the seasons in our lives? This morning I came across this lovely thought on the web:

The winters in our lives can be brutal and debilitating, but they are necessary to deepen and strengthen our roots in Christ Jesus. Through him, spring and revival will come, all the more refreshing and renewing after a barren winter. That's a promise. God's plans for us are for good, not for evil. The clouds may cover the sun, but the sun is still there. We may not always "feel" God is with us, but he is. Faithful and true, he will never, never, never leave us or forsake us.

So let's look even further ahead, to summer and autumn. If you know someone who has recently been diagnosed with developing sight loss, they may be interested in a "Moving Forward" weekend. We plan two such weekends: June 28-30 and October 22-24, both at Torch Holiday & Retreat Centre, Hurstpierpoint, West Sussex. These breaks are especially designed to support and encourage people who are new to the "sight loss journey".

For more information or to book either of these events, call 01273 832 282 or email holidays@torchtrust.org

We trust you enjoy the usual mix of Christian news from around the world in this magazine.

Jill Ferraby and the editors

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Bible translation projects

Wycliffe Associates is seeking volunteers to teach English to Bible translators around the world. English is a huge part of Bible translation work because of the international make-up of the teams involved. It is the common language used for communication between translators, advisers, consultants and supporting agents. Commentaries and academic resources are mostly in English and translators must know English to conduct checks of back translations to ensure the accuracy of Scripture translations.

Wycliffe is stepping up efforts to recruit volunteers to its English Language Learning programme with a view to accelerating its Bible translation projects.

The programme exists to "remove the barrier of English" in the Bible translation process, explains Robert Harmon, who directs the programme in Papua New Guinea and the Pacific region.

"Each translation is impacted by the English language," said Dan Kramer, Wycliffe Associates director of education services. "Those involved with translation work must know English to have an impact."

The English Language Learning programme is running in 18 countries across Central and South America, Africa and Asia.

According to Wycliffe, it takes five to seven years of English language learning to gain academic competence in English.

Volunteers can participate from home or by travelling overseas on short-term and long-term mission trips to assist groups of native translators in learning English. They do not need to be professional teachers and are given a curriculum to work from. Home-based volunteers can sign up to communicate with a translator via the internet twice a week over a 40-week period, or email a translator once a week to improve the translator's English skills.

"Our goal is that students will progress to assistants, then to teachers, and eventually to leaders who will be able to take over and maintain ownership and leadership of the training program in their country," says Harmon. "This will allow local Bible translators to have access to resources in their country where they can receive English language learning and maintain support through local churches."

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Bishops take up bicycle challenge

Two Church of England bishops will be cycling 172 miles in two days for Christian Aid this spring. The Suffragan Bishop of Swindon, the Right Reverend Lee Rayfield, and the Bishop of Ramsbury, Dr Edward Condry, aim to visit 16 locations across Wiltshire over 12 and 13 April.

The cycling is more than just a test of strength as the pair will be raising awareness of poverty issues and Christian Aid Week.

Bishop Rayfield said: "As well as the physical challenge, we are undertaking a pilgrimage of Wiltshire. This is a journey in solidarity with the poor around the world and a way of thanking and encouraging those who volunteer on their behalf every Christian Aid Week."

The bishops will set off from Trowbridge at 8am on 12 April and visit Christian Aid supporters in Salisbury, Royal Wootton Bassett, Chippenham, Swindon and Bradford-on-Avon among other towns.

Christian Aid Week takes place this year from 12 to 18 May under the theme of "Bite Back at Hunger". The countries of focus are Zimbabwe, Bolivia and Kenya.

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Chickens for families in need

Mission without Borders supporters are giving up their loose change this Lent to provide chickens for deprived families in Eastern Europe. Every £40 raised will provide a family with a batch of 10 chickens which can then be used to keep a family alive and help them out of poverty.

Viorel Bulmaga received chickens for his family of three children in Moldova, one of Europe's poorest countries, where one in four people live on less than 80p a day. Before receiving the chickens, the family did not have enough food to eat. Now their diet has greatly improved and they are able to sell extra eggs.

"Being a family with three children, we couldn't make ends meet," he said. "The chickens are helping us become self-sufficient. We now have fresh eggs in the home and also meat."

MWB's UK Director, David Hardisty explains, "The Bulmaga family is just one of thousands across Eastern Europe whom we support. Most are so deep in poverty that they struggle to grow enough food for themselves.

"We provide families with training to breed chickens, then we supply the chickens, and follow-up with regular mentoring and support. MWB's Loose Change Chicken Challenge is a simple, fun way for us all to provide a family with a batch of chickens, essential food and a route to self-sufficiency."

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Church hall helps drug and alcohol users

A central London church is making its new hall available for drugs and alcohol users in need of support and care. It will serve drugs and alcohol users, their families and carers living in the Kensington and Chelsea area.

The hall at St Thomas' Church, in Kensal Town, was blessed by the Bishop of London. The blessing marked the end of a substantial refurbishment project conducted by the Blenheim Community Drugs Project (Blenheim CDP), which works with Father Michael Miller of St Thomas' Church. The renovation took three years and cost £740,000. Formerly used for yoga, the hall will now help to reduce the risks, harms and problems associated with drug and alcohol use.

Fr Michael said of the blessing: "This event was an opportunity to mark the end of a substantial piece of work which will provide real help for people in the local community."

Brendan McGrath, Area Manager at Blenheim CDP said: "It was noteworthy that so many of our objectives in relation to the work we deliver correlated with the aims of the church. We felt our ethical and moral compasses aligned and that a positive, collaborative partnership would be fruitful, which indeed has proven to be the case.

"Though in some respects it has been a long road to completion, Father Michael was always a positive driving force and a pleasure to work with in making this happen for the benefit of the entire community."

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Church Times celebrates 150 years

The Church Times is celebrating its illustrious 150-year history with a special edition of the paper out today.

The first edition came out on 7 February 1863 as a voice for the Anglo-Catholic cause at a time when clergy could be imprisoned for lighting candles on altars and wearing vestments. The paper was founded by printer George Josiah Palmer and would remain in the family for the next three generations, until 1989.

While it has always defended the independence of the Church of England, other causes championed by the paper would raise a few eyebrows among today's Anglicans. It describes its early attitude towards other denominations as "caustic" and also opposed women's suffrage. When a woman was ordained as a priest under crisis conditions in Hong Kong in 1944, the paper likened her bishop's actions to those of a "wild man of the woods". During World War II, it had some harsh words for conscientious objectors, labelling them "poltroons".

Today, Church Times is owned by the charity Hymns Ancient & Modern and continues to be independent of the church hierarchy.

Dr Bernard Palmer, proprietor and editor from 1969 to 89, pays tribute to the paper's heritage in an article for the 150th edition.

The anniversary edition also includes the results of a YouGov poll on Lent carried out as part of the paper's celebrations. The poll finds that Lent remains most popular among the under-35s, with 35% of 18 to 24-year-olds saying they intend to give something up, and 30% of 25 to 34-year-olds. By contrast, only 21% of over-35s said they were planning to observe Lent.

The poll found that, overall, a quarter of adults in Britain (24%) were planning to give something up come Ash Wednesday. Women were more likely than men to give something up - 27% compared to 21% - and participation is strongest in the Midlands (29%) and London (28%). The least committed region is Scotland, where just 16% plan to observe Lent. Chocolate was the most popular item to give up (10%), followed by alcohol (4%), smoking (3%) and meat (2%).

When asked to write down what they understood of the term "Lent", half (49%) said it was about giving something up, while 43% described it as the period before Easter. Forty per cent also mentioned that it was a Christian festival, while 28% said it lasted 40 days or six weeks. Overall, only 10% did not know what it meant.

There were some unexpected definitions, however: "Christian religious festival. Clear out old things in a pancake." ... "Christians being on diet before important holidays." ... "The season is marked by the Western churches adopting the liturgical colour of purple or deep red, though any suggestion that this is the origin of the name of '70's progressive rock band 'Deep Purple' is purely speculative." ... "I should know, but to my shame, I don't." ... "How the EU is keeping Greece afloat." ... "Sumink (something) Jewish." ... "It is a type of tropical fish."

Some snippets from the Church Times over the years ...

On the assassination of Abraham Lincoln: Are we to understand that it was while in his box at the theatre on the evening of Good Friday that Mr Lincoln was struck down? We are afraid that that was the case, and that it was merely a poignant illustration of the laxity which prevails throughout the Union.

On the dangers of the Channel Tunnel: Mr Bright ... somehow forgot to explain ... why a population (ie the French) which one or more times in every generation goes to loggerheads with itself should not occasionally take the fancy to attack its neighbours.

On preventing smoking: What is wanted is a simple enactment that youths of immature age caught smoking in public shall be birched ... Of course there would be an outcry in some quarters against this wholesome discipline, but the general feeling would be in its favour.

On Winston Churchill: The activities of Colonel Churchill are a grave danger to the country: it will be a real disaster if he is given opportunities for continuing a political career in which he has already the worst of records. Few of our politicians have so much cleverness and so little wisdom.

A reflection by an exasperated editor: I comforted myself with the fact that I had a pulpit from which I could preach social righteousness, but this comfort was mitigated by the knowledge that at least seventy-five per cent of my readers were far more interested in the revision of the Prayer Book than in the destruction of the slums.

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New generation of entrepreneurs

One of the largest Pentecostal churches in the country is equipping young people to start their own businesses. Jesus House, in London, launched its new social enterprise, the Barnet Youth Business Incubator (BaYBI).

The project, based in North Finchley, is being run in partnership with youth charity Elevation Networks and Barnet Council. It will support around a hundred young people between the ages of 16 and 24 who are interested in running their own business.

Jesus House is especially looking to attract unemployed graduates to the scheme, as well as young people on the fringes of society and NEETs (Not in Education, Employment or Training). BaYBI will teach people practical skills, from how to register a business and open a business bank account, to how to manage their PR and marketing, and find suppliers.

Ayo Adedoyin, Head of Community at Jesus House hopes those who join the project will go on to provide employment for other young people.

"We are really excited about BaYBI. Jesus House exists to make a positive difference in people's lives and the BaYBI project is one way in which we can do this," he said. "It's our hope that the BaYBI will enable a generation of young people to fully develop their God-given talents, fulfil their potential and make a valuable contribution to society."

Kaio de Sousa, 22, BaYBI manager said: "We have already lined up budding entrepreneurs wanting to set up various businesses which include a web design consultancy, a music studio, a hair dressing saloon, an employment agency and a leaflet distribution company - this list is set to grow, once we launch and start working with more young people."

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New homes and churches for Christians in Sri Lanka

Barnabas Fund is building homes and churches for Christians displaced by Sri Lanka's brutal civil war. Homes are being constructed for Christian widows, disabled people and pastors who have spent years living in tents despite the conflict ending in 2009.

The civil war lasted more than a quarter of a century and devastated communities across northern and eastern Sri Lanka.

Among the recipients is a family of seven in which the father and three of the five children are disabled. The mother of the family told of how they returned to their village to find their home completely destroyed.

"During the rainy season we struggled with three disabled children," she said. "Now we have a roof over our heads, now we have a house, we feel safe."

The family are involved in the church and are opening up their house for meetings. "We want to be a blessing to this village," she said. "By God's grace, he brought us back to our village and gave us a new home. I give him a million thanks and praises."

One newly constructed church replaces the previous one destroyed by fighting in 2007 - that one had itself replaced the original church washed away by the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami. The tsunami struck as a service was taking place, killing 56 members, among them the pastor's wife and children. The destruction of the second church in 2007 forced the congregation to hold their services out in the open.

The pastor said of the newly built church: "We are very grateful and rejoicing in our Lord for this building. We are able to worship without fearing rain and weather."

Jude Simion, Barnabas Fund South Asia co-ordinator, said Christians are marginalised and often discriminated against in the distribution of government aid. "But widows, the disabled and pastors face additional problems," he said. "For example, when a disabled person lives in a tent, their health deteriorates. They need a specialist house with disabled access."

Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, International Director of Barnabas Fund, said: "Though it has been a number of years since the end of the war, Christian communities in Sri Lanka are still suffering from its devastating effects. The plight of many families, who lost loved ones in the conflict or are struggling with disability, is truly heartbreaking. As a marginalised minority, Christians rely on support from their brothers and sisters. We need your support to help them rebuild their lives."

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Next Bishop of Durham

The Diocese of Durham is in the process of selecting its next bishop following the departure of Archbishop Justin Welby, who left his position as the Bishop of Durham to become the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury earlier this month.

A public consultation meeting was held to help inform the process of selecting his successor. At the end of the process, the Crown Nominations Committee (CNC) will submit two names to the Prime Minister who will then pass on one candidate for final approval by the Queen.

The CNC will meet in May and again in June with an announcement on the next Bishop of Durham expected during the summer. He is expected to pick up where his predecessor left off in addressing the urgent need for mission growth and discipleship.

The Prime Minister's appointments secretary Sir Paul Britton said the people of Durham were looking for a bishop who would "continue to ensure that the Church is absolutely at the leading edge in the North-East, in building a more prosperous and populous community here, and who will also speak for the North-East in London".

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A little bit of hardship does the church good

by Rob James

It's become a common place to suggest that the British church is now living in exile, and it's easy to understand why. Like the Israelites of Jeremiah's day British believers are having to learn to live in a culture that no longer reflects, or even tolerates, traditional Christian values.

The recent debate over same sex marriage has highlighted this truth very clearly. I have never belonged to a particular party but I am fascinated by the political process. I am not fazed by heated arguments; in fact I enjoy the cut and thrust that goes with it. But I have a real problem with intolerance. I struggle to come to terms with those who refuse to listen to reason and try to silence any voice that differs from the prevailing orthodoxy. All of which explains why I was appalled to read that the Tory MP leading the campaign against gay marriage had become the target of death threats and abuse on social media.

In the same way I have been deeply disappointed to discover that my local newspaper (The Western Telegraph) has been very ready to criticise our two local MPs for voting against the bill, but will not even respond to my repeated requests to explain why they have not published my letter congratulating their political courage.

Having said that, I am not despondent. We have been here before and the Church has emerged all the better for the chastening experience. At the end of the eighteenth century for example evangelicals were excluded from national life because "They were regarded as narrow-minded, bigoted, lacking in humour, devoid of imagination, incapable of understanding the real world, occupying a subculture which normal people would not wish to enter" (Martin Robinson and Dwight Smith).

Given the current situation then, I would suggest we could do no better than reflect on the advice the prophet Jeremiah offered the exiles of his day. They were to settle down and make the most of what they had, even though they were living in a very inhospitable and sometimes hostile culture. They were to pray, and they were to do everything they could to ensure the prosperity of the place where they were. For their prosperity was linked to the prosperity of Babylon.

British Christians need to learn from this. We are where we are because this is where God wants us to be. He has not lost control of the situation. He is still in charge and we are not here by accident. For whatever reason he expects us to live for him here and now, neither dwelling nostalgically on the past nor whimsically dreaming of some Utopian future.

This is still God's world. We have a responsibility to argue our case but even more urgently to shine for him. We have a God-given task but this is not to be equated with filling our church pews. God expects us to live in such a way that kindness and graciousness become fashionable again. He wants us to live such authentically Biblical lives that our calls for justice will ring true. We need to begin to measure our success by the impact on our communities rather than by the number of people who turn up to our services on a Sunday.

It might be worth reflecting on the words of Tom Smail who once suggested that at its worst charismatic renewal was nothing more than "middle aged ladies giving thanks for daffodils".

We can get it wrong both ways, he suggested. We can go around doing good without being anointed by the Holy Spirit (and ultimately fail), or we can retreat from the world and shut ourselves up in some kind of holy huddle (a contradiction in terms). We are called to live "a third way". If we want to be like Jesus we must resist both temptations and ask God to give us the power and the compassion to win our communities for Christ.

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Church fun days boost Southsea congregation

A church in Southsea, Portsmouth, has seen attendance soar by 45 per cent since starting a fun day initiative. St Jude's Church holds a Funday Sunday every two months where people can come to church for breakfast and children's games followed by a family service.

While the grown-ups sit down to bacon sandwiches and coffee, the children can have their faces painted, play table football, or have a go on the Wii. This is followed by a 45-minute presentation on an aspect of Christianity that incorporates comedy sketches, messy challenges and lively songs.

There is the opportunity for the guests to text the leaders, with the responses appearing on the big screens during the morning.

Funday Sunday is intended as "church for people who don't do church". Word gets out through special invitation cards handed out to friends and family by members of the congregation.

The vicar of St Jude's, the Rev Mike Duff said: "I've been impressed by our congregation's willingness to invite their friends and neighbours to join them on our Invitation Sundays. Each time I see dozens of new faces, and we also hear how much people have enjoyed their time with us. Some have chosen to join our regular services, our Alpha courses or our midweek groups."

Funday Sundays have proved a massive success with the regular 200-strong congregation swelling to as high as 350 when the fun days are hosted. The event has contributed to a 10% increase overall in the number of people attending regular Sunday morning services in the last two years since it was launched.

Funday Sundays coincide with another evangelistic service at St Jude's called "Come and See", which invites people to participate in a more traditional service of Choral Evensong or Evening Prayer, followed by tea and cakes. This service typically attracts around 70 people and is held on the assumption that guests know nothing about Christianity.

Rev Duff said: "This was part of the vision we had to open up what we do at St Jude's to those who wouldn't normally come. Many people who would like to come to church would prefer something more traditional, so we try to make it a more reflective service, but just as welcoming. It all comes out of a desire to share the good news about Jesus, and a willingness to use our Sunday mornings and afternoons for styles of worship that will appeal to those who don't normally come to church."

In the coming months, St Jude's will be using Funday Sundays to explain more about baptism, Communion and wedding services.

Madara Sniedzina, who originally comes from Latvia, will see her children Alex, 4, and Elizabeth, 2, baptised on the Funday Sunday teaching about the meaning of baptism.

She said: "I like Funday Sunday because it explains things and makes it easier. I think it will be a more relaxed service for our family and friends who want to see our children baptised."

Funday Sunday leader Helen Bolton, a mum-of-three, said: "Whenever we have a baptism service, we often have lots of visitors join us on a Sunday morning. We thought it would be good to hold a baptism during Funday Sunday, which is specifically designed to be welcoming. Hopefully, we can help people to understand some of the symbolism that is used, and do so in a fun way.

"We also thought that Communion services can be difficult for people to understand if they aren't used to the language involved. Why is it bread and wine? What do we mean by it being the Body and Blood of Christ? I hope we can make those words come alive for people on the day."

Funday Sunday will take place from 10.30am on March 3, April 28, June 30, September 29 and November 24. Come and See services start at 4pm on each of those days. For more information, see www.stjudes-southsea.org.uk

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Origins of rare hymn book

A University of Manchester professor has spent the last two years researching what he believes to be the only surviving copy of a Chartist hymn book. Dr Mike Sanders discovered the National Chartist Hymn Book in Todmorden public library two years ago and set about investigating its origins.

He says the now obscure South Lancashire Delegate Meeting almost certainly compiled the tiny 165-year-old pamphlet.

His research uncovered appeals in the Chartist newspaper, Northern Star, for contributions to a new hymn book. In January 1845, readers were invited to send their ideas to an address in Manchester, while a second item in February stated that the production of a new hymn book had been approved by West Riding Chartists.

Helping confirm the origin of the find, another item was published in September saying the book, containing 16 hymns, was now available.

According to Dr Sanders, the hymn books were designed in an attempt to produce a standard hymn book for the movement, as a Chartist forerunner of "Hymns Ancient and Modern".

Dr Sanders has published an article on his findings in the Victorian Studies journal. He notes that the tone of the Chartist hymn book is different from mainstream Christianity of the time.

"The Chartists were Christians, but radical Christians who fought for justice in this life not the next," he said. "Hard times, they argued, were caused by man's selfishness rather than the Lord's judgment; quite a different message to that put out by mainstream Christianity. There was also an absence of warlike imagery prevalent in so much Victorian Christianity: the sentiments of Onward Christian Soldiers and Fight the Good Fight were just not there."

The strong social justice themes are reflected in hymns protesting against child labour and slavery. Rather than the crucifixion or Christ's glory, the focus of the hymns is a cry for liberty.

One hymn says:

The laws you must obey
Though made by cruel men
And all unrighteous taxes pay
Or fill the felon's den!

Another says:

Men of England, ye are slaves
Hark! the stormy tempest raves
'Tis the nation's voice I hear
Shouting, "Liberty is near!"

"This fragile pamphlet is an amazing find and opens up a whole new understanding of Chartism - which as a movement in many ways shaped the Britain we know today," said Dr Sanders. "As far as we know, this is the only copy that has survived. What is so fascinating is that hymn-singing was not the best known feature of Chartism, so this attempt to produce an equivalent to Hymns Ancient and Modern is significant."

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Speaking out for the deaf

Every person should have the human right to speak for themselves. But the reality is that vulnerable and deprived children in an isolated area of Ogongo, Kenya, have been denied this right. They are deaf, coming from a background of extreme poverty and hardship, including many AIDS orphans. Social prejudice often isolates them and puts them at risk.

Now, dedicated people in Kenya and Britain are helping to turn their plight around for a more hopeful future at Lambwe Christian School for the Deaf.

An urgent concern for these children has led Martin Mackenzie of Warwick to engage in several demanding activities. Because Lambwe Christian School for the Deaf is a project of Siloam Christian Ministries in Warwickshire, he began by tirelessly fundraising for this local charity in the area. Then came numerous, long and strenuous trips to the school itself.

Because of his passion to provide better living conditions, he successfully undertook the mammoth task of raising both the funds and means to bring electricity to this remote area. Now he is working equally hard to provide a source of safe water for this residential community.

But perhaps Martin's real achievement is more difficult to measure. It is the personal concern for each child faced with such disadvantages - and the determination to make a difference. Dedicated Kenyan team members work hard to lovingly ensure that children with special needs will have educational opportunities. Yet their ability to see a better future remains vital as Martin explains how he brought a pencil sharpener for each of the younger children.

"Very few of these children have any personal possessions and a little thing like this gives them a psychological boost. Each older child was given a 'Scripture pen'. These have little windows on each side of the barrel and every time the button is pressed, the barrel rotates to show one of eight different Scriptures. Again, this may be their sole personal possession apart from absolute essentials such as clothes or a toothbrush."

On his latest journey this autumn, he noted, "I have frequently prayed to see the children healed and talking. Today, whilst I was videoing, one of the year seven girls started talking to me. Obviously, I was surprised but realised that she couldn't hear me, at least not well, and she couldn't understand me when I asked her name. When I asked her if she could lip read, she signed, 'Partially'."

This special touch reflects a welcome breakthrough because some of the students now benefit from speech therapy. A new development, it presents a stark contrast to the background of most students as no one communicated with them prior to their coming to Lambwe.

Networking widely, Martin and others ensure that these vulnerable young people will realise their potential - and also speak out for themselves.

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Spreading the gospel across the capital

Church leaders left Methodist Central Hall in January feeling energised after an evening of praise, worship and inspirational talks on sharing the life-changing message of the gospel within their communities.

Crossing London Mission 2013 aims to equip London Churches of all denominations with the skills to step out into their local areas to deliver hope to the lonely and the broken. The first meeting of the year, titled "Inspire", was aimed at encouraging leaders and took place in Westminster on Saturday.

"Crossing London is not simply an event or a series of events, it is about creating a movement," said Stephen Gaukroger, Executive Chair of Crossing London. "Our vision is to see London change, person by person, street by street, community by community. There are issues around sexuality and morality, poverty and crime in our capital city. What's the answer? There is no economic or political solution for this, there is only a spiritual solution."

A series of events and training schemes will take place across London boroughs through the course of the year empowering Christians and developing confidence to speak openly about their faith.

Martin Durham, Director of Training and Discipleship, shared a few words about the vision behind the movement's training scheme, "Reignite your Faith".

"It is two-fold. One is to see Christians more assured about their faith. Second, is that we will be more confident in sharing our faith with others. One of my favourite definitions of evangelism is 'the overflow of our love for Jesus Christ'. I like it because it's true. When we have a deep assurance of faith, then we are more ready and able to share our faith. When we have little or no faith then it is increasingly difficult."

Dave Newton, director of outreach at Youth for Christ, shared his vision for young Londoners.

"If Crossing London is genuinely going to cross London, it has to involve young people. There are over nine million young people in our nation. What we hope to do is gather young people and inspire them so that they can make a difference where ever they are, in their communities, schools, colleges and work places. If we could train three thousand young people across the capital to actively go and share their faith it would make an incredible difference."

Evangelising and changing communities will also be happening through providing service to people. Simon Barrington is overseeing "Good Samaritan Week" which will be taking place in September.

"We want to replay the parable of the Good Samaritan, which Jesus told, by getting people out of their churches and into their communities," he said. "We also want to celebrate the story of what the church is already doing. There is some fantastic work going on. Street Pastors and food banks for instance. We often, in the papers and news, get criticised for the things that we are against. There is so much that we are for, practical love and caring actions."

Hugh Osgood, Chairman of the National Day of Prayer and Worship added: "One of the things I'm excited about is the legacy of this when it goes forward."

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Stop moaning, start doing

Instead of complaining about the ills of society, people can take action to bring about change, the Archbishop of York has said. Dr John Sentamu was speaking at the launch of his new book at Bishopthorpe Palace.

John Sentamu's Faith Stories reveals the positive difference 20 ordinary people are making to their communities.

"There is such a thing as society, and we all have our small part to play in making things better," he said. "We are interdependent beings living in community. If we do not dare to contribute our talents to help the flourishing of the common good, who will? Stop moaning and start doing something positive."

He criticised the "me, me, me" culture threatening to "poison" relationships and the nation's sense of community, saying that the only way to build a wholesome community was for people to live "differently, unselfishly and with hope in their hearts".

The Archbishop encouraged people to use their skills and passions to serve others, and Christians especially to live out their faith through practical expressions of love.

"Dare to be different. Dare to care. Dare to try. And dare to fail," he said. "We need to seek out justice, hope for better and aspire for more - not because we are superhuman, but because we are simply 'human'."

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Teaching kids about needs of others

More than half of teenagers say social media sites like Facebook and Twitter have made them more aware of the needs of others.

That's according to a new survey by World Vision.

The survey carried out this month found a huge increase in the number of teens agreeing with this statement, from 44% in 2011 to 56% this year.

Over two thirds (68%) said that in terms of helping those in need, adults don't do enough to set a positive example.

When it comes to who should have responsibility for addressing the hunger in their local community, 66% said they themselves should and 76% said the church and other religious organisations should.

The poll was conducted online by Harris Interactive on behalf of the Christian development agency.

The survey asked the views of 567 American youths between the ages of 13 and 17.

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The midwife who answered God's call

TV shows often draw their inspiration from real life and just as Chummy, the much loved character in Call the Midwife, heads to Sierra Leone as a missionary with Church Mission Society, her story draws parallels with real life midwife Eve Vause, who "got the call" back in the fifties.

In the first episode of the current series, Chummy, played by Miranda Hart, is seen sticking a stamp on an envelope addressed to the Church Missionary Society in Salisbury Square, London - the organisation's name and address at the time the series is set.

The experiences of the midwives in the BBC1 drama are familiar to Eve, who was pedalling around the streets of post-War Southampton as a midwife. However, she felt called to meet the needs further from home and in 1958, headed to Sierra Leone by cargo ship.

In the fifties, the difficult conditions meant that only short-term placements were permitted. However, unlike Chummy, who returns to Britain in the show, the year in Sierra Leone marked the beginning of nearly a quarter of a century in mission service on the African continent.

The call upon Eve's life would take her to Nigeria, Congo and Uganda, where she lived through the Obote and Amin years.

Recalling her experience in Uganda, she says: "One time I was certainly relying very consciously on God was when the army had been attacking our child health and maternity centres, and they had attacked and raped the midwives in one place."

When one health centre was evacuated, the midwives refused to leave. "They had the ward full of mothers. They didn't want to go," she says. "We knew the effect on the village would be devastating if we suddenly took their midwives away. So we left them ... but that was a time I was leaning dramatically on God."

Today, CMS is still recruiting healthcare professionals, including midwives, particularly for the training of nationals.

Penny Stradling, CMS vocational recruitment officer, said there was still an "urgent need" for healthcare professionals to share their skills. "The chance of a mother dying in childbirth is up to 100 times greater in some parts of Africa than in the UK," she said.

Eve has encouraging words for a new generation to rise up to the challenge of serving.

"The gospel is a gospel of wholeness - of body and mind as well as spirit," she says. "I think it's up to us to share the good news that we have in Jesus."

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