Hope Together - Inspire January 2011

Although Hope08 was a big success, it was never the intention to keep it going. Then the leaders realised something bigger was happening than just a year of mission. A new mindset was emerging. Clive Price reports …

A monster mural the size of three double-decker buses, a feast of free cream teas and a community bonfire and fireworks display aren’t usually part of a local church mission strategy.

But they were some of the ways congregations took part in Hope08 – the nationwide initiative that encouraged people to pursue mission in villages, towns and cities across the UK.

And they’re doing it all again.

A new four-year project Hope Together was launched this summer to reach the next level – mission as an established mindset for churches, groups and individuals all over these islands.

A range of resources will help congregations join together to make God the talk of the nation by 2014. The first of these, Hope For Easter, offers mission ideas, study material for small groups and youth, and senior Christian leaders answering the question, "What does Easter mean to me?".

"Our dream is that we’d see what Jesus sees,” said Hope Together Executive Director Roy Crowne. “He doesn’t see the differences in tradition or styles of worship – but he sees his Church, the body of Christ.”

And as typical of the Hope movement, work is already underway at a grassroots level. Hundreds of people attended the Hope Nottingham launch event this autumn to share the vision for their own city.

“The success we had in 2008 got us imagining how much more we could serve people in need – and bring people to Christ – if we truly worked together throughout the borough,” said Hope Nottingham Director Nigel Adams.

So what else happened that year?

The Easter mural was spearheaded by Loughborough churches, but the record-breaking painting was made by thousands of people across the locality. Schools and community groups put Christ’s story on 500 panels.

More than 700 free cream teas were served on Exeter’s cathedral green by a team made up of members from the cathedral, Sidwell St Methodists and Southernhay United Reformed Church.

The bonfire and fireworks display has become part of life in a Lancashire village – thanks to Longton Community Church. “This event is completely free of charge and our gift to the local community,” they state proudly.

Roy Crowne describes these as “special moments” for the nationwide initiative that “captured the imagination of everybody”. A key to success was people uniting under the Hope umbrella.

“It was the evaluation that shocked us all,” said Roy. “A report on Hope08 by the think-tank Theos made us realise what could be done – as churches came together under the purpose of mission.

“Any church that was growing or going forward was a church that cherished community involvement. And as we presented those findings to leaders, they said we were catalytic – but there’s still more.”

However, the Hope08 office had closed down and files had been shredded. It was never on the agenda to keep the machinery going. The key players had other plans.

“I was going to be off doing something else,” said Roy. “It wasn’t my intention to start it all again.” But the other Hope08 leaders asked him to take it on for another four years.

“For me the journey was all about discovering God’s will and realising people trusted this,” he added. “The big challenge now is re-engaging people and re-igniting vision where Hope08 happened.”

To do that, Hope Together is paving a four-year path to rediscover the rhythm of the Christian calendar, pursue the opportunities of festivals like Christmas, Easter and Harvest – and end with a whole year of mission in 2014.

“Jesus prayed that we’d unite in the purpose and mission of God,” said Roy. “Imagine across the UK, in communities large and small, churches working together – bringing Jesus’ story alive through word and action.

“That’s hope.”

Clive Price is an award-winning writer, qualified journalist and media consultant to Hope Together. He contributes to publications across the UK and Ireland. To get involved with Hope Together, register at www.hopetogether.org.uk.

Photo: The Loughborough churches’ Easter mural, designed by Chris Brightman. Photos by Graham North.

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