January 08 Inspire - Church Army
Richard Chambers shares how a new FREE Lent resource will help support mission and evangelism
Lent is a time when as Christians we can reflect on drawing closer to God and exploring our relationships with our neighbours. Many Christians will be discovering more about God and themselves by living sacrificially and following a Lent course.
For Lent this year, we’d like to encourage all Inspire readers to join with us at Church Army in using a FREE resource that is in an easy to digest format of scripture, story, Lenten reflection and prayer. This booklet Hope in Word, Hope in Action, features stories that are connected by one unbreakable spiritual thread: the life-changing hope that the Gospel brings to all people in all circumstances.
In 1882, Church Army was established to train evangelists and send them into the most deprived, and disliked, parts of the nation. Founder Wilson Carlile mobilised ordinary men and women to bring the hope of the Christian Gospel to people who knew only misery and despair. We want this booklet to reflect something of the breadth and scope of Church Army’s ministry today in the 21st century.
Working with some of our evangelists who are sharing the Christian faith through words and action in projects and with teams across the UK and Ireland, I have had the privilege of putting this booklet together. Some 40 of our evangelists contribute stories and reflections from the work they do, the lives they lead and the people they serve, grounded in inspirational scripture and prayer.
You will learn about exciting, challenging – and often heart-breaking – Church Army ministries, which will be new to you. But, most importantly, I believe you will be personally inspired by reading each of the 40 reflections, which as I was pulling the stories together helped me to see so many different ways of living out our Christian hope to those outside the Church.
For example, there is Bob Read – a Church Army Officer working in Hammersmith, West London. His ministry centres on an initiative he has established called "as 2 become 3". Bob's calling is to reach out to couples experiencing the birth of their first child. Bob finds that for many this time is often accompanied by feelings of uncertainty about the future, and usually causes parents to reflect deeply upon their own childhood and upbringing.
Using workshops and courses to demonstrate and offer words of hope, encouragement and direction and to help these new parents get a glimpse of what good family life could be, Bob’s work is making an impact; “Above all, this can be a moment in time when people respond to the gift of new life by opening themselves to God,” says Bob, “It is a unique stage for the eyes to be opened to our extraordinary God who is the creator and sustainer of life.”
Hugh Boorman looks at the film Star Wars and the relationship between Yoda and Luke Skywalker, writing about Janice, a hospital worker who experienced the power of prayer when a young patient was cured of CJD. Hugh writes, “Hope is believing the impossible. Isn’t it wonderful that our hope lies in a God who doesn’t measure the frailty of our faith, but just listens to our stumbling words.”
The ministry of Mandy Wright is based in rural Devon, and she reaches out to rural communities, in the hope of conquering their growing isolation. Mandy is committed to bringing farming families and the church together, at a time when those families feel totally ignored and exploited by supermarkets, government and society in general.
In her piece Hope is for the undervalued, Mandy encourages us to reflect on where we find our sense of worth and value and writes, “The challenge of the Church is to communicate by word and action that every person is of immense value to God.”
Artist and evangelist Colin Brown invites us to see God in life’s struggles and talks about his ministry in the studio he shares with non-Christian artists who suffer self-doubt and uncertainty about the future, and how he has been able to introduce prayer and the reality of a personal God to some of the artists he works alongside. Colin adds; “Where might you be able to see God at work in your life and the lives of those around you this Lent – especially in the midst of hardship and difficulty? Keep looking – and ask for the grace to see God there.”
Each of the 40 stories of hope in Hope in Word, Hope in Action invites you to share in a prayer with an evangelist that is specific to their individual ministry. As you stand alongside us in prayer, ask that the Holy Spirit will fill and sustain everything we do at Church Army to bring real hope to people with the Christian Gospel in words and action.
- Richard Chambers is Church Army’s Trust Fundraiser and is a member of St Alban’s Church, South Chatham in Rochester Diocese.
- To order your FREE copy of Hope in Word, Hope in Action go to www.storiesofhope.org.uk
- For more information on Church Army and the ministries we support please check out www.churcharmy.org.uk or call 0208 309 3519
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