Praying together using Zoom

One of the benefits of the coronavirus pandemic this year has been to prompt us all to experiment with new ways of meeting together. Hazel Aucken has been using our series of spiritual exercises designed for small groups of Christians who wish to learn to pray together. She has sent the following report:
“Over the past few weeks, I have been delighted to see three self-selected ‘stars’ grow in courage and confidence, thanks to the ‘Praying Together’ spiritual exercises that Roger sent out during the first coronavirus lockdown. I work as curate in a benefice of four rural villages. The largest of the four churches has no tradition of open prayer, nor even small groups. There is one Bible study group, but its members prefer to pray in silence or have the leader pray audibly. My training incumbent, like myself, comes from churches where prayer meetings are a source of rich blessings, and we both want to share that with others. She therefore gave me the opportunity to start a prayer school, and I began by recruiting the licensed lay minister and his wife to provide sympathetic, experienced encouragement and support.
“I advertised the 8-week course in our benefice magazine and via the weekly benefice email, and waited to see who appeared. Allowing the faithful, available and teachable people to step forward in this way made my task much easier. When we began, Caryl, Lindsay and Stella were complete novices at vocalising their own prayers even on their own, never mind in front of others. Consequently, it was with some fear and trepidation that these three lovely ladies joined us on Zoom for the first session. Nevertheless, they were willing to have a go and by the end of the evening each had prayed for something they wanted God to do for them, despite the symptoms of stage fright they all shared. Without exception, they wanted God to improve their self-acceptance, courage and confidence – in Caryl’s case to get her to the end of the course without bottling out!
“God is certainly answering their prayers, as is evidenced not only in our meetings but also in the fact that Lindsay prayed a beautiful prayer in the benefice morning prayer Zoom last week, Stella has volunteered to lead the whole service one Monday, and Caryl is still with us and has surprised herself by praying spontaneously without having to write it out first. That was for the family of the Kurdish-Iranians refugees who were all drowned, and despite the raging toothache she had that evening. We all insisted on praying for her, though she didn’t think it was important enough, and the next day, I recruited Roger as well. The following week, as a non-believer in miracles, she had to cope with the awkwardness of reporting to everyone that she had woken up pain-free the second morning after our prayers! I am looking forward to seeing everyone grow further over the last three sessions – and beyond, since all have agreed to join me in leading our Advent Sunday service on Zoom.”

Praying in small groups

We have now produced a complete series of notes for those wishing to experiment with small prayer groups in this way. They are designed particularly for use with people who may have little confidence in their own ability to pray in a group, and we have been encouraged to find that the Lord is as present where two or three meet together over Zoom as he is when they meet together in the time-honoured way!
The series has been written by Roger Morgan, and can be downloaded following the links below:
  1. PRAYING TOGETHER – download
  2. PRAYING FOR EACH OTHER’S NEEDS – download
  3. PRAYING WITH SCRIPTURE – download
  4. PRAYING WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT – download
  5. PRAYING FOR NON CHRISTIANS – download
  6. PRAYING FOR ONE ANOTHER – download
  7. PRAYING FOR SHARED CONCERNS – download
  8. PRAISE – download
Roger has also written a series of notes for individual prayer, designed particularly for use during the Covid pandemic. If you would like copies of these please do let us know.
Posted 20th November 2020

Creative solutions to difficult situations

Supporting the ministry of local churches in the UK

We are increasingly encouraged by the resolute and creative ministry of the many churches we support through our EQUIP programme for church leaders – especially in North Wales, the East Midlands, Kent, Gloucestershire, Bristol and here in Somerset. We are standing with each one of them as they focus on their hope – not just of eternal salvation, but for the future ministry of their church once the pandemic is over. To this end, each church leader has writtten a hope statement based on God’s promises to them; we are praying with them as they encourage their churches to prepare for the harvest which is to come.

As we pray into the future, we are delighted to read the latest national prayer polls conducted by ComRes, which show that people who have never previously prayed are beginning to do so, and that the provision of online worship has seen a doubling of numbers attending, with a rise from 11% to 24% of the population participating. The increase is greatest, it seems, amongst young people! Details available on the ComRes website here.

Supporting the ministry of Rooted in Jesus in Africa

We would also like to draw your attention to our latest Rooted in Jesus blog post, which covers news from our partners in Africa. In brief:

Hectorina Tsotetsi writes about her new socially distanced Rooted in Jesus groups which meet to worship on a mountain in Free State, South Africa

Brian Keel shares the new work with Rooted in Jesus being done in villages around Kisumu, Kenya, by a network of Pentecostal churches

Alfred Mugisa sends an update on the difference Rooted in Jesus has made in South Rwenzori, Uganda

Pez Raobison and +Todd & Patsy McGregor share the challenges and opportunities of Covid in Madagascar

+Moses Zungo writes from Maridi seeking our prayers for South Sudan

John Onyao gives us some troubling news from Karamoja, Uganda

There is much to hope and pray for!
Posted 14th September 2020

Jesus doesn’t do lockdown

Rooted in Jesus in the Diocese of Natal

We were delighted to receive a report from the Rooted in Jesus ministry in South Africa, this time from the Diocese of Natal, where Revd Bruce Woolley has written a very encouraging account of how the Rooted in Jesus group at his church continues to meet via Whatsapp. There are some inspiring testimonies from group members, some of whom are finding a much deeper faith than they had before. The world may be locked down – but God is not:
“The enemy has succeeded in keeping places of worship closed temporarily but he has not succeeded in preventing the St Luke’s RinJ from their weekly fellowship via social media. Every Thursday I look forward to spending time and discussing the word of God with my fellow RinJ members. Learning the memory verses has helped me to overcome trying and negative situations during Lockdown.”
We have posted Bruce’s report on our blog here – https://rootedinjesus.blog/.

EQUIP – supporting church leaders

EQUIP is continuing to meet via Zoom, with regular phone calls to each of the 50+ members. God has given us four words: faithfulness, endurance, hope, and promise. We are encouraging our EQUIP members to be faithful to the Lord, and to each of the people and tasks to which they are called. Faithfulness implies endurance, because no one is finding things easy and everybody needs encouragement to keep going. To endure we need hope; it is also true that as we endure then we find that our hope increases. EQUIP members have been asked to write a short hope statement which will then become the basis for our prayers about the future. Hope for a Christian is not wishful thinking because with God our hope is underpinned by promise. God has given several promises about our ministry which is why we know that our hope will not disappoint us.
We have continued to produce a series of spiritual exercises. The first series is for personal use, and the second for group use. The group topics so far are:
Praying together
Praying for each others’ needs
Praying with scripture
Praying with the Holy Spirit

Prepare

John Benson has produced a booklet called Prepare to help churches think through their plans. John covers the following issues:
What is the Lord saying to us?
What are the lessons we have learned?
What are we preparing for?
Where do we begin?
John reminds us of something C.S. Lewis said: “God whispers to us in our pleasure, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” Again, do let us know if you’d like a copy.
Posted 11th August 2020

Lesotho Diocese hosts a Rooted in Jesus refresher workshop

We have just received a report from Revd Dr Joseph Morenammele of the Diocese of Lesotho in Southern Africa, where a refresher workshop for Rooted in Jesus was held in June. Joseph says: “The training went very well with 39 attending from 5 parishes. The guide provided by Growing the Church was very helpful in running the day’s programme. Parishes were given opportunity to report on what they have been doing since the training they had in 2019. A lot was shared, being both positive and negative. It was very encouraging to hear from people who had divided into small groups about the ministry that they had been exercising in their parishes in the meanwhile.”

Lesotho RinJ training June 2020
Participants take a break in the sun

To find out more about this event and about the ambitious digital ministry being developed by Growing the Church do visit our blog site.
Posted 14th July 2020

Learning to innovate

Our EQUIP ministry has been going for over a decade now, and John Benson and Roger Morgan are currently working with nearly 60 church leaders and their churches. At the heart of EQUIP are learning communities aimed at providing support and encouragement for ministry leaders, making use of our own experience to help them build the skills they need. During lockdown our termly meetings have been replaced by monthly Zoom seminars which are much shorter and involve fewer people at each one. Our regular personal visits have been replaced with monthly telephone calls. We have also generated a series of spiritual exercises which our members can use for their own devotions or share with members of their churches.
In addition to the usual challenges of ministry, the coronavirus pandemic means that our church leaders now face the need to acquire new skills. Each person is bringing fresh ideas; each church is experimenting in different ways. EQUIP now has its own Workplace page (similar to a Facebook group) which everyone contributes to and learns from. Some of the groups have been joined by lay disciples who have travelled with us on ministry teams for parish missions and prayer weekends; they bring a different perspective and expertise, which is helping us to think creatively in this new situation.

Thinking on our feet

As a group we now have experience of many new ways of doing things. Most of our church leaders have replaced Sunday services with Zoom, Facebook and YouTube transmissions; many have been surprised at the numbers attending. Fellowship during the week comes through small group WhatsApp and Zoom gatherings. Rural clergy have been using their daily walks for open air evangelism, with encouraging results. Others are running Alpha courses on Zoom, sometimes with unexpectedly large numbers. One is inviting people to contribute to a book detailing how God has walked with them through this trying time, another has created a resource to help people maintain their mental health. Thousands of  phone calls are being made by ministers and members of ‘care through prayer’ teams. Village churches have taken the lead in providing many kinds of support for their communities. Parcels full of fun things to do are being delivered to children, generating interest in church from new families. Contact is being made with people who have never attended church, some of whom are asking when church will start up again. With the easing of lockdown, open air services are being planned, with the hope that some of those with whom the church has made new relationships will want to come. We trust and pray that we will increasingly see great fruit as a result of these initiatives. The signs are already there!

Looking ahead

We are now beginning to use our EQUIP Zoom meetings and phone calls to think ahead. One of our leaders said: ‘In recent times, church in this country has not been a big success. When the virus is behind us, I want to do it differently.’ Now is the time to think out how that will work.

What is EQUIP?

Roger writes:
“EQUIP has been going now for over a decade. I had spent 18 years teaching in Cambridge, culminating in my appointment as head of what is now called the Cambridge Business School and giving me many opportunities to advise businesses, large and small. I then spent 25 years in Anglican ministry learning how to lead churches to growth. In EQUIP I was joined by John Benson, whom I had known in Cambridge, back in the UK from Singapore after many years leading a church, supporting other leaders and pioneering mission to unreached peoples. Our aim in EQUIP is to make use of our experiences by serving as mentors to church leaders. It is a great privilege to serve in this way.”
To find out more visit our EQUIP page, or get in touch with us by phone or email.  And if you would like copies of our spiritual exercises in uncertain times just us know.

Posted 1st July 2020 by Alison Morgan

An update from Rooted in Jesus

News from Madagascar

The Church of Good Samaritan in Paoli (US) were able to include a video interview with Bishop Todd McGregor of The Diocese of Toliara in a recent live-stream service. Good Sam’s Rector Richard Morgan is one of our Rooted in Jesus team leaders, and travelled with Rooted in Jesus to Toliara back in 2013. Bishop Todd says that the diocese has  now grown from 11 churches to 110, and that there are perhaps 200 Rooted in Jesus groups meeting across the diocese. He also shares some of the hardship caused by the coronavirus measures, and asks for our continued prayers. To find out more click HERE.

+Todd May 2020

New editions and translations of Rooted in Jesus

We have been using the time afforded to us by the coronavirus restrictions to press on with new translations and editions of Rooted in Jesus. Thanks to the hard work of our partners, we have been able to format the translations into our house style, and the following books are now available:
  • Rooted in Jesus Book 1 in Thok Naath, the local language of the new Diocese of Gambella in Ethiopia, where groups are already meeting following the conferences held earlier in the year
  • Rooted in Jesus Book 1 in Masai – this is an updated edition for Tanzania and Kenya, incorporating the changes made since the original translation back in 2005
  • Rooted in Jesus Junior Team Manual, Swahili edition, now going to press for the first time in Arusha, for team members and diocesan coordinators in Tanzania
  • Rooted in Jesus Junior Books 1 and 2 in French, with books 2-6 to follow – for use in DR Congo and in Burundi
  • Rooted in Jesus Junior books 5 and 6 in Swahili – these have now been printed in Arusha, and are available from the RinJ office there to dioceses already implementing the programme

These are difficult times, but we continue to place our trust in God, and to thank him for his many blessings.
Posted 1st June 2020 by Jessica Lewin

Ministry during Lockdown

As we enter the next phase of our national lockdown we would  like to share some of the insights and good practice which is emerging amongst the sixty or so church leaders now meeting with us regularly in small Zoom groups.
3d keyWe hope that a day will come when everybody will have been vaccinated and the pandemic is a thing of the past; perhaps in a year’s time, perhaps longer. It now seems that it may become possible to reopen our churches to some extent before then, but it is clear that the day when ‘normal service’ can be resumed is still a long way off. In the meantime Christian ministry will not change in its essence, but methodologically it is required to be very different: we are all acquiring new skills. And the new avenues we are exploring now are likely to influence what comes after that, in ways that are hard to imagine, but which might bring long
lasting and radical change to our models of ministry.

Caring for one another: keeping in touch

Since the restrictions began, the obvious and most familiar tool for many of us has been the telephone. Some people love it, others pick it up only reluctantly. But people need pastors, and a simple phone call remains the easiest way to keep in touch with individuals. We have made a list of the people we wish to support, and ring them regularly – usually once a month.
Those of us who are doing this find that the conversation is most fruitful if it is structured. So I might start by listening and sharing; how is life for my sister, my home group member, my friend? I want to listen with empathy, but also share honestly how life is for me. I then move on to talk about ministry: who are my friends concerned about, trying to help, praying for? I ask ‘Who is on your heart? Who are you giving your support to?’. We all need encouragement and advice; we all need to share what we are doing with someone who is interested. The third and final part of the conversation moves on to spiritual matters. ‘Are you managing to connect with God?’. I listen, share, make suggestions, and we pray together. I am also writing a series of short spiritual exercises – let us know if you would like to receive these regularly.

Meeting together, virtually

internet-1028794-webWe need to form groups of about 6 people who will meet together over the internet, probably once a month; Zoom is proving to be the most popular platform. EQUIP members are running groups for enquirers, for children, for adult Christians, or for leaders. We have formed eleven Zoom groups for the 60 members of EQUIP, and in the groups we discuss the same three subjects as the phone calls: personal concerns, ministry to others, and spiritual life. Meetings go better if prepared in advance, so we send out suggestions for ways to prepare for the Zoom meetings by email. In this way we are seeking to follow the discipleship model of Jesus: people grow best when they travel together in groups.

Finding new ways of being church

Finally, we need to find ways of keeping our church communities alive, measured through the presence of love, joy, power and thirsting for righteousness.
  1. Regular worship. Many of our churches are having virtual gatherings in place of Sunday services. But there is an obvious danger – that we end up offering something which only goes in one direction. Within EQUIP we are focussing on developing online church so that it flows both ways, and becomes both participatory and interactive. Some churches are sending out services on Facebook or YouTube and following them immediately with Zoom meetings for discussion and prayer, using Zoom’s facility for dividing people into groups. Some are creating group pages through Workplace or Facebook, which allow invited members to join and make posts (which can be moderated if necessary). This gives everyone a chance to communicate with fellow church members, sharing their news, needs and opportunities.
  2. Serving the community. We are called to be salt and light in our communities, and each church needs to find new ways of reaching out to the local community. YouTube seems to be the easiest way of doing this. A church might hold a weekly event, advertised through Facebook. The event can be mostly pre-recorded, and include several items which together make up an hour or less. Items can include a talk, a testimony, a high quality musical item, a children’s talk, and information about how people can get involved in what the church is doing for the local community. The main aims of these events should be to provide take-home wisdom, and to share the gospel and its relevance to people’s needs today – which means trying to avoid religious language and practices!
  3. Prayer support. It remains important for everyone who has an active ministry to others to be able to recruit prayer support, with the aim of keeping in step with God’s word and seeking God’s help. Prayer can be done through phone calls or whatsapp groups, or via Zoom.
ioannis kounadeas - web.com
It’s all a bit of a learning curve, but all of these paths are being followed by one or more of our EQUIP members. Some have already reported significant results – most commonly an unexpected increase in the number of people attending church in this new virtual world. We are hoping that before long all 60 of them will have made significant progress. I think we are all finding, as this situation goes on, that we are seeing new possibilities for ministry, not just in the short term but also in the medium and even long term. Who knows, perhaps this
unexpected pandemic will force us to make changes we
should have made long ago…
If you are a church leader and would like to join with us, please do get in touch.

Additional resources

There are many resources springing up online, but one of the most thought-provoking is ‘Everyone Welcome Online’,  a research report by Bob Jackson and George Fisher on the new scenery of online church, and the implications for the future.
Roger Morgan
Posted 13th May 2020

Ministry in difficult times

As we continue to seek the Lord here at home, we want to encourage you to pray for our brothers and sisters in Africa as they face the likelihood of the coronavirus spreading through their communities. People in many African countries are now being required to remain at home, and to refrain from gathering together in churches and church groups; and the reality is that many cannot remain at home unless they are also prepared to starve at home. Bishops and Rooted in Jesus coordinators have shared with us that people are suffering from fear and confusion, lacking information, finding it hard to get food, falling prey to conspiracy theories and false stories of cures, and worried for the future. But they tell us too that they are remaining steadfast in prayer, and encourage us to do the same. Please, one person wrote from Tanzania, whenever you pray don’t forget that we pray for you too.

Pixabay tree

A moving and encouraging report from Uganda

Many of us are seeking as ever to place our trust in the Lord, to thank him for our blessings, and to minister to others in whatever way we can. People seem open to talking about God, people tell us from around the country; and we are finding ourselves having some surprising conversations here in Somerset too, as we set out to buy our food or take our daily walk.
We have just published a moving and encouraging report from Uganda on our blog. It’s from a pastor named John, called to plant a new church in a remote area with no Christian tradition, sharing his challenges, his blessings and his prayers for us all as in our own ways we face the new coronvirus situation. Whatever difficulties we face, John faces more – and he does all this with very few resources. Read what he says here.

Moving forward together

Here at the Mathetes Trust we are working together on new books and translations for Rooted in Jesus. We are about to publish the Rooted in Jesus Junior Team Manual in Swahili, thanks to Gaspar and Abel in Tanzania who have translated it. Rooted in Jesus Junior is being translated into French, and we have started to work on Rooted in Jesus Book 5, which will be a transitional book which aims to help those who have completed the course continue to grow in their faith together as they minister to others. Translations into other languages are ongoing. Perhaps the Lord is enabling us to dig new foundations for the future.
So let us continue to remain rooted and grounded in the love of Christ. And let us be encouraged by John, who reminds us: “There are big missions and little missions. There are missions that require our skills and expertise and missions that require only a smile and a kind word.” The little ones, we can all do.
Posted 17th April 2020 by Alison Morgan

Staying at Home

‘For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven,’ Solomon famously wrote in Ecclesiastes. Well, we are living in a very particular season – having spent all our lives listening to the voices which tell us that it is important to keep busy, suddenly we are all being told not to be so busy after all. What to do?

home 123RF

Two centuries ago the essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson offered this guidance:  “This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it.”  We would like to suggest some things which you may like to do with it – in particular, some books that you may like to read. Having spent most of her life engrossed in a book, Alison Morgan has chosen five – a topical one offering a Christian perspective on the coronavirus, a theological one on the life of Jesus, a cheeringly pastoral one on birdwatching in times of crisis, one which suggests twelve modern women writers you may not have discovered yet, and one which is, well, just very funny.

 

TOPICAL

Where is God in a Coronavirus World, by John Lennox

The Good Book Company 2020
LennoxWe are living through a unique, era-defining period. Many of our old certainties have gone, whatever our view of the world and whatever our beliefs. Whether you are a Christian or not, the coronavirus pandemic is perplexing and unsettling for all of us. How do we begin to think it through and cope with it?
Katy Morgan is an editor with The Good Book Company, and tells us that just this week they have published a short book by John Lennox – the first Christian response to the current pandemic. John is an Oxford mathematics professor and well known writer on topics to do with science and faith. He writes in an easily accessible, conversational style:
‘It is quite surreal. Here I am, in my mid-seventies, sitting at home with my wife, watching a government health minister on television informing us that we may have to remain confined to our home in self-isolation for up to four months in order to try to avoid the coronavirus pandemic that is sweeping the world. It is hard to grasp that this pandemic has the potential to be the worst ever, and that all our current estimates of its impact are likely to fall far short of the reality. Its scale and scope sound like something out of a dystopian movie. And yet it is really happening…’
To find out more or to order a copy (now just £1.50!) visit www.thegoodbook.co.uk/where-is-god-in-a-coronavirus-world

PASTORAL

Waiting for the Albino Dunnock: How Birds Can Change Your Life, by Rosamond Richardson

Weidenfeld & Nicolson 2017
RichardsonThe poet RS Thomas said, while waiting to catch a glimpse of a rare albino dunnock, that ‘Waiting for birds is like waiting for God, but I don’t think I’d wait three hours for God.’ When Rosamond Richardson’s life went wrong, she found unexpected solace in birds. In this peaceful, meditative book she shares how she learned how to just sit and watch, making peace with the world, with herself and with God.
At the end of a year she wrote: ‘My year with birds had come full circle. New worlds had opened up to me, I’d learned more than I could ever have imagined about birds as physical and metaphysical beings, their ways and their history and their beauty. The mirror they held up helped me see my own life in new ways, teaching me as much about myself as about them. Waiting for birds and watching birds, I’d picked myself up and realised how interconnected and part of a continuum we all are, and of how beautiful and mysterious life is in its micro-detail and macro-immensity. I came to understand what it means to be human in relationship to nature, how wildness is embedded in the human psyche, and how the consolation of beauty is central to our mental and emotional wellbeing.’ She called it ‘ornitheology.’
I’ve always birdwatched, and birds are an integral part of my faith – indeed, I have one sitting here on my shoulder as I write. If this is a joy you have yet to discover, perhaps now is the time, with Rosamond as your guide.

 

THEOLOGICAL

The Stature of Waiting, by WH Vanstone

Dartman, Longman & Todd, new edition 2004
VanstoneVanstone’s classic work looks at the life of Jesus and suggests that it has two distinct phases, active and passive. We live in a world which values the active life, he says; and yet we have much to learn from Jesus, whose passivity in the second half of his short life was as powerful as his activity in the first.
Now is a time for waiting if ever there was one, and Vanstone helps us to understand the value of waiting. By waiting we become aware of our needs, and of powers and qualities in the world which otherwise would go unrecognised. Christian waiting it is a corrective to the public presupposition that human dignity is bound up with human activity, with initiating and creating and achieving and earning. We are creators with God, but also we must learn to wait with God. It’s a book for our times, I think!
For a summary click here.

BIBLIOGRAPHICAL

Twelve Great Spiritual Writers, by Liz Hoare

SPCK 2020
HoareLiz Hoare is Tutor for Spiritual Formation and Dean for Women at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford. If you are looking for something new to read, her recent book may tempt you. Each chapter profiles the work of one woman whose writings have touched Liz’s heart, illuminated her mind and sharpened her spiritual vision – novelists, poets, preachers, philosophers and theologians. Each, she suggests,  contributes something special to our understanding of the spiritual life today.
The writers profiled are Sarah Clarkson, Annie Dillard, Margaret Guenther, Ann Lamott, Ann Lewin, Margaret Magdalen, Kathleen Norris, Alison Morgan, Mary Oliver, Marilynne Robinson, Barbara Brown Taylor and Benedicta Ward.

 

HUMOROUS

The Uncommon Reader, by Alan Bennett

Faber & Faber 2008
BennettThis delighted me when I first read it. The ‘Uncommon Reader’ is of course the Queen, who drifts accidentally into reading when her corgis stray into a mobile library visiting Buckingham Palace. She becomes addicted to reading – ‘Now where’s my book?’ is the leitmotif of the novel. We journey with her through a cornucopia of writers, and watch her values change as she reads – her reading is subversive. She becomes less inclined to accept the advice of those who have been used to giving it, and begins to question the status quo. We emerge full of respect for a Queen who we suspect has very little time for reading, and chuckling to ourselves at the thought of a world turned upside down. Which, of course, it is. The book is very, very funny – and as we know, laughter is good for the bones (Proverbs 17.22).
For more ideas visit Alison’s website, where you will find a synopsis of over 150 books you might like to try!
Posted 8th April 2020

 

 

A World Turned Upside Down

We would like to take this opportunity to let you know what we are doing to ensure that we remain faithful to our calling at this time of unexpected challenge. For us, as no doubt for you, life has changed radically. We are just over a week into making adjustments, and here is our first report.
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World Turned Upside Down, 17th century woodcut

EQUIP

EQUIP is a ministry which aims to support church leaders in the UK. It has meant a lot of travelling, and of course this has had to stop for the time being. We need a new way of working, and so in the last week we have set up 11 new groups which will meet via video conferencing using Zoom. The 11 groups will also be in touch with each other through a new closed Facebook page.
Roger has now had a lengthy conversation with each of the EQUIP members he works with (just over 50). We are greatly encouraged by their resourcefulness. Two have set up a hub – a place that is continuously manned and in touch with increasing numbers of people in their community, including many who do not normally attend church. One of our churches is in touch with lots of children who now receive messages and materials which will provide them with spiritual input. Lots of our churches are developing pastoral teams who will maintain contact with all their church members by phone and by email. Some churches have successfully involved their whole congregations in a virtual morning service. One of our members is sending out a regular ‘thought for the day’. We hope to share these ideas so that they can be used more widely.

ROOTED IN JESUS

Rooted in Jesus is our discipleship programme for Africa. We are grateful that the three teams due to travel to Ethiopia and Kenya (providentially early in the year!) were able to complete their missions; feedback is good, with groups growing in these dioceses. Unusually, all the rest of our conferences are scheduled for the autumn. We were expecting to travel to six dioceses with both the adult and the Junior programmes; planning is ongoing, with postponement perhaps the most likely outcome.
In the meantime we have been taking the opportunity to focus on the ongoing work of translation. We have received the Rooted in Jesus Junior Team Manual in Swahili, and a new version of Rooted in Jesus in Masai which will be printed in Arusha for use with the 300 new churches planted in the last few years by the Diocese of Mount Kilimanjaro. Translations are ongoing into various other languages too, both of the later books for dioceses already using the course, and into new languages for those looking ahead. We cannot tell what the impact of Covid-19 will be in Africa. Many African countries do not have well-resourced health services, but on the other hand the population is much younger than in the West, so may prove to have greater resilience. We hope and pray so.

PUBLICATIONS AND RESOURCES

The third strand of our work is the production of books and resource materials. Alison is now able to spend more time writing her book on the Psalms, which has a working title World Turned Upside Down (since before the coronavirus!!). She hopes to finish it by the end of the year.
Roger is designing a series of spiritual exercises. If you would like to receive these regularly please do let us know, and we will either mail them out or post them online, depending on the demand. It will be vital for all of us to remain spiritually buoyant as we cope with this virus.
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It seems likely that this situation will go on for some time. We are confident that God will use this time to change the church, strengthening it and equipping it to face the future once the virus has gone. In the meantime we remain trustful in our faith and steadfast in our prayers, ready to support and care for others. Every crisis, as we know, brings with it an opportunity.
Posted 1st April 2020