“And they shall name him Emmanuel”

Nativity by Domenico Gagini, 16th century
Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’ All this took place to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
 ‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
    and they shall name him Emmanuel’,
which means, ‘God is with us.’
Gospel of Matthew, chapter 1.

A window of opportunity

Even as the Covid skies cloud over again, we would like to share some good news! Following the easing of international travel restrictions in October, two long-planned Rooted in Jesus conferences have just taken place in the Dioceses of Aweil and Wanyjok in South Sudan.
The difficulties of travel were more than compensated for by the huge welcome and hospitality which greeted the little team of four intrepid travellers as they finally reached their destination. Over the next fortnight more than 200 men and women, lay and ordained, were trained to lead Rooted in Jesus discipleship groups, and a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit left many saying their lives had been changed for good. The books had been painstakingly translated into Dinka Rek, coordinators were appointed and groups have already started.
It was an immense privilege to serve again in a place where trouble has been great but faith is strong, and we have committed ourselves to continue in prayer as Rooted in Jesus becomes established in these two dioceses. To read the full report do check out our blog post here.
In the meantime we prepare again to celebrate the coming of Jesus, remembering the words of the apostle Jude: “Build yourselves up on your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves in the love of God; and look forward to the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.”

Posted 13th December 2021

The Promise and the Light

If you are wondering what to read for Advent, or what to give your children in their Christmas stocking, we recommend a beautiful new book by Katy Morgan. The Promise and the Light is a retelling of the nativity story. It’s written for children aged 8-12, but it’s pretty good for adults too! From the very first page Katy pulls us right into the story, introducing us to Mary, Joseph and Zechariah as they experience the events of the first Christmas – not as cardboard characters but as real, living people with their own thoughts, feelings and voices.
The story is told in 25 short chapters, ideal for reading during the 25 days of Advent. It’s been very well received:
  • “Fed up with school nativities and sentimental Christmas cards? Then The Promise and the Light is for you. It’s a fantastic retelling of the Christmas story from the perspective of those who witnessed it first-hand. It’s historically informed and beautifully reimagined. The result is an engrossing tale through which the message of Jesus shines.” – Tim Chester
  • “If you’re looking for a family read-aloud this Christmas, or for a book for your kids to read for themselves, this book captures the wonder of Christmas while retaining the power of the biblical narrative” – Courtney Reissig
  • “Fire your imagination with a story full of wonder, amazement, confusion and shocks” – Ed Drew
Katy Morgan is an Editor at The Good Book Company, which is dedicated to helping Christians and local churches grow. She holds a master’s degree in classical Greek literature, and previously worked in a ministry role as part of a school chaplaincy.
The Promise and the Light can be ordered direct from the Good Book Company here. Or listen to Katy talking about the book in a ‘Faith in Kids’ podcast here. “It’s not preaching about Christmas,” Katy says; “it’s immersing yourself in Christmas.” The whole podcast is great – and Katy comes on about 7 minutes in.

Be Bold! A new resource

Roger Morgan writes:
I share the leadership of our EQUIP ministry with John Benson, who spent many years running a very effective Anglican mission in Singapore. From time to time we each write EQUIP booklets aimed at helping church leaders, and these are available from the Mathetes Trust. John’s latest booklet, which he calls Be Bold, seems to me to be particularly relevant in the present times.
John begins with Habakkuk 3.17-18:
Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the sheepfold and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Saviour.
Though the Covid restrictions continue and the churches are struggling, though restructuring brings no improvement and our mission bears little fruit, though the churches are nearly empty and there are few children or young people, though synods make ungodly decisions and people see no need for God or the Good News, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Saviour.
Starting from there, John calls us to recover the dynamic boldness that was a prominent characteristic of the early Church. He includes a Bible study which directs us to the boldness of Peter and John in Acts 4.13, to Paul’s description of the outcome of his bold preaching described in 2 Corinthians 3; and to many other places. Filled by the Holy Spirit, Paul, Peter and John were bold to speak the word of God at every opportunity, and bold to approach God’s throne and pour out their hearts and appeal for his power to accompany their preaching.
Bold to preach, bold to pray; needed for our churches in our times just as boldness has been needed every time the church has been overwhelmed with difficulties. If you would like a copy of John’s booklet please get in touch, and we will be pleased to pop one in the post for a nominal donation of £2.50 to cover costs.
To find out more about our EQUIP programme click here.
Posted 1st November 2021

Back on the road!

As we move into the new academic year we rejoice at the new opportunities opening up to us all as we re-engage in face to face interaction with one another. Here in the UK we have a series of training and planning events in the diary for the next few months. New EQUIP groups are starting up, and face-to-face ministry is once again possible. We have a growing team of people who travel with us, and an Easter mission is being planned – it’s a good time to be giving thanks for what we have, and building new foundations for the future. If you would like to find out more about what we can offer, please do drop us a line or give us a call – our contact details are here.

Back on the road in DR Congo

As Covid restrictions begin to ease dioceses are now beginning to hold Rooted in Jesus discipleship conferences. We were particularly pleased to be invited by Bishop Elisha Tendwa to send a team to help him prepare the new missionary Diocese of Lake Tanganyika in DR Congo. Having used Rooted in Jesus to prepare a new missionary diocese in DR Congo a few years ago, Bishop Elisha Tendwa has now been asked to do it again, this time working within the Diocese of Bukavu. The conference was planned in partnership between RinJ UK and RinJ Tanzania, with team members travelling from Tanzania and Burundi. The conference was opened by the Archbishop and attended by 110 pastors, Mothers Union leaders, Youth leaders, representatives from neighbouring denominations, and the Diocesan Secretary and other central staff members from the parent Diocese of Bukavu. We have posted a full report on our blog here.

Putting down new roots in Tanzania

Two Rooted in Jesus conferences have also been held in recent weeks in Tanzania, one in the Diocese of Biharamulo, the youngest in the country at just 4 years old, and one in the Diocese of Victoria Nyanza, which is rejoicing in the appointment of a new bishop after a long period without one. The report can be found here, where you will also find a short devotional message shared by Revd Leonard Giligwa, the Rooted in Jesus coordinator in the Diocese of Victoria Nyanza, Tanzania. Leonard knows from first hand experience that life can be tough – and he offers us God’s love and encouragement as he meditates on a tree in his village.
As travel restrictions begin to ease, we are looking forward to further mission trips – starting with two conferences in South Sudan in November.

Posted 29th September 2021

Now is the time

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven, wrote the sage of Ecclesiastes – and on with the famous passage, a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to gather what is planted, a time to tear down and a time to build up…. For us, August is perhaps a time to draw breath, to take stock, to renew our energy and our courage, and to prepare for the new season of ministry which lies ahead. We give thanks in particular for some recent developments:
  • Our EQUIP ministry has come through the pandemic with increased numbers: 9 groups will start up in the autumn, mostly face to face but with some on Zoom. One local mission is planned, and three others are under discussion.

  • We have just published the first Swahili translation of the Rooted in Jesus Team Manual, which was first created twelve years ago to enable teams of Rooted in Jesus facilitators to provide enjoyable and effective training sessions for new group leaders. It’s been revised and updated over the years, but until now was available only in English. We are delighted to announce that it is now also available in Swahili. It takes its place alongside the Rooted in Jesus Junior Team Manual which was translated into Swahili last year.
Otherwise, the ups and downs we have all experienced over the last 18 months continue to encourage and challenge us:
  • We have been inspired by testimonies from group members in South Africa, where the Diocese of Natal has just hosted an online training course for Rooted in Jesus. One group member said:  “RinJ has taught me from the Bible how to forgive, how to move on, to be a different person.” Another shared: “I have got so much closer to God through Rooted in Jesus, and I have found a family. It has transformed my life.” Both came from a group which began by meeting in person, but changed to meeting by whatsapp during the period of restrictions.

  • And we continue to be challenged by the seemingly ever increasing difficulties of ministry in rural England. One of our new EQUIP groups aims to support clergy leading multi-parish benefices, with all the challenges of scattered rural congregations, high parish shares and the burden of maintaining ancient buildings. Ministry is never easy…
But in all this we remember Jesus’ words to his disciples: ‘The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you.’ That is our desire and our determination.
If you would like to catch up with the news on Rooted in Jesus in more detail, visit our latest blog. And if now is the time and you would like to join our EQUIP programme, please do get in touch!

Posted 11th August 2021

Out and about – and a new publication

As the country begins to awaken from its enforced hibernation, we have begun to travel again. Our EQUIP groups are still meeting by Zoom, but we are increasingly able to plan real, live events with and for those we support. Roger Morgan has just spent a weekend in Kent helping a tiny but growing village church prepare for its first ever parish mission, working with a determined clergy couple and a dynamic group of young church members. ‘We have not had a prayer opportunity until now, and people’s response was amazing!’, they wrote afterwards; ‘a lady who didn’t attend on Sunday said her friend (who did) wouldn’t stop talking about it!’ And that, of course, is what we want – a world in which people talk about what’s going on in the local church…

A new book for Rooted in Jesus

We have continued to work hard on Rooted in Jesus, with 7 conferences ready to go as soon as circumstances permit. We have printed additional books for the growing number of groups in Uganda, Kenya, Madagascar and Tanzania, and have published translations in several new languages as well as updating editions for some of the older translations. But the main news to share is that we have written a brand new book. It’s called Tools for the Job, and its aim is to provide an ongoing template for groups which have completed the 4 books of the Rooted in Jesus programme and are now engaged in various forms of ministry, but wish to continue meeting together periodically to support and pray for one another and continue to grow in their faith. To find out more please visit our blog.

The new world of Zoom

Zoom is one of the new tools we will probably all want to keep on using into the future. It’s early days, but we have been experimenting with virtual small groups and training events. Bishop Martin and Colleen Breytenbach have been running a Zoom Rooted in Jesus group in Cape Town, which is going very well – if anything, they say, people are able to respond more deeply from the familiar environment of their own homes. They are now designing the first Rooted in Jesus virtual leadership training, adapting the usual conference material into a Zoom-friendly format.
Here in England, Ian and Sue Cripps have had some very positive feedback from the Beyond Ourselves course which they ran over Zoom for those who signed up after a virtual enquiry event at which Roger spoke. ‘Each week, every topic and associated exercise has spoken to me and I have found my faith strengthened and enhanced’, wrote one participant afterwards; ‘Having experienced this course, I would recommend it to anyone who wants to explore their faith, whether coming from none or little faith, or having been brought up in a Christian family.’
So here we are in a new season. We’d like to close by sharing some news we received recently from Ven Hectorina Tsotetsi of the Diocese of the Free State in South Africa:
“Let me share the most exciting and shocking news that happened on the day of Pentecost, where [a member of our] RinJ small teams donated 50K [rand, ie £2.5K] as a testimony of life changing and thanksgiving to God. Her reason for donating such a huge amount of money is that she nearly died without accepting Jesus as Lord and Saviour. She thanks God for the transformation of becoming a new creation. God is good all the time.”
Indeed he is.
Members of Hectorina’s Rooted in Jesus group
Posted 1st June 2021

Sharing the gospel in Tanzania

We have been immensely encouraged by continued good news from our Rooted in Jesus friends, and we’d like to share some recent highlights with you.

The Diocese of Mount Kilimanjaro

In the Diocese of Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, where Rooted in Jesus first began, Bishop Stanley Hotay tells us that 420 new churches have been planted over he last decade, many of them among Maasai communities. Hundreds of people have been baptised in these communities in recent months, most of them after hearing about Jesus for the first time. We have been working with Mission Director Clement Manyatta to revise and reprint the Masai translations of the RinJ booklets, training has been provided for a new generation of leaders, and the pastors are preparing to start 50 new Rooted in Jesus groups. ‘Life must go on,’ Bishop Hotay said to us recently – and events are proving him right. You can watch his video report and find out more on our blog.

The Diocese of Toliara

Meanwhile in the Diocese of Toliara, Madagascar, the huge response to the gospel following the distribution of famine relief has continued. An astonishing 1900 people have been baptised, Rooted in Jesus is to be translated into a new local language, Antandroy, and 35 new leaders are being trained to establish groups in the new areas.

Looking ahead

Meanwhile, as the Covid restrictions are gradually lifted, we are beginning once again to plan Rooted in Jesus conferences. Some of these will be led by the national team in Tanzania, some from the UK and some from South Africa. We continue to work with our partners on new translations, and to pray for the Lord’s blessing on our shared ministry as we move into a new phase of our lives together.
To find out more about Rooted in Jesus do visit the website, sign up to follow our blog, or follow us on Facebook.

Posted 4th May 2021

Making new disciples in the midst of armed conflict

We are delighted to be able to share some inspiring news we have just received from South Kordofan in Sudan – a people for whom Covid is simply the latest in a long, and far more devastating, series of challenges and hardships. We hope that you too will be encouraged to know that the Lord is at work in this most painful context; and that you will draw strength from it as we face our own, more modest, difficulties.

People requesting prayer in Salara

The Diocese of Kadugli held a Rooted in Jesus training conference 18 months ago, led by Andrew Evans and a team from the Diocese of Salisbury. Since then the challenges and difficulties of Covid have been added to the far more severe challenges and difficulties they have been facing for many years now. But the Diocesan Secretary and Rooted in Jesus coordinator Babuj Simon has just written to share the news of how Rooted in Jesus is making a difference in the town of El-Dalang – to such an extent that they decided to embark on an ambitious outreach to Salara, a town in one of the rebel-controlled areas. The church there was closed fifty years ago, the building converted into a college, and people were forced to convert to Islam.
Pastor Hassan Sudan, the Rooted in Jesus team leader in Salara, recently obtained access permission for a team of 20 people from El-Dalang and El-Obied to go to Salara, to pray for the sick and to share the gospel. Twenty two people gave their lives to Christ, including some key leaders from the community, and all were baptised. The team was led by Babuj, and most of the members were drawn from existing Rooted in Jesus groups in El-Dalang. To read the report and see for yourself please read our blog post here.
“Surely God is my salvation;
 I will trust and not be afraid.
The Lord, the Lord himself,
is my strength and my defense;
he has become my salvation.”
With joy you will draw water
from the wells of salvation.
Isaiah chapter 12
Posted 8th April 2021 by the Mathetes Trust

Taste and see that the Lord is good

How can we remain faithful to our calling to share the good news of Jesus with others? How can we best draw them into the radical community which we call church? Ian Cripps is convinced that it is through building relationships. He outlines some simple steps he has taken in his own town:

If we are loving God and loving our neighbour as ourselves we will form warm relationships. A warm relationship is when you and your friend know about each other’s circumstances, and so your friend knows you are a committed Christian. If you invite your friend to an interesting event, they will seriously think about attending. You have absolutely nothing to lose.
Working backwards from the outcome we desire gives us something which looks like this:
6. God invites everyone to enter into relationship with him.
5. One way of sharing God’s invitation is to provide an attractive Christian foundation course, followed by an invitation to  an accessible church service.
4. One way of sharing God’s invitation is to provide an attractive Christian foundation course, followed by an invitation to  an accessible church service.
3. The taster event is advertised through personal ‘warm’ invitations, through an announcement from your minister at your weekly online service and church website, and through neighbourhood media.
2. In preparation for this, ask for your minister’s support and email your church council or leadership team and church members outlining the planned outreach and its purpose. Invite some to serve as facilitators in the Zoom event and subsequent Zoom foundation course.
1. Find an experienced guest speaker and agree a topic.
I am a member of  the Mathetes Trust’s Equip programme. So I shared my thoughts with Roger Morgan, and then took my proposal to our minister. She suggested I work with our curate as co-leader. Just five weeks later we held our taster event!
We ran the event twice, once during the early afternoon and once in the evening, and received 34 feedback forms. We had invited participants to rate the event on a scale from 0 (a waste of time) to 6 (excellent). We were encouraged to find the average score was 5.2. Thirty of those responding said they would welcome further similar events.
We then invited those who had attended the taster events to sign up for a foundation course. We decided to use the Mathetes Trust’s friendly and accessible Beyond Ourselves course, and again we held it on Zoom. 15 participants (congregational members and their friends) and 5 facilitators accepted our invitation to attend. We used breakout rooms to keep the discussion groups small, matching each facilitator with three participants who were at similar points on their journey and asking them to keep in touch by phone. We plan to follow the Beyond Ourselves course with the rest of the series in The God Who is There programme.
Beyond Ourselves offers an interactive, jargon-free introduction to the Christian faith
If you would like to know more about running taster events and enquiry courses and feel we may be able to help, please do get in touch. Information about The God Who is There can be found on our discipleship page.
Posted 25th March 2021 by the Mathetes Trust.