Friday, 23 December 2011

Light in Darkness - The real Christmas message

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light... For unto us a Child is born ... of the increase of peace there will be no end.

In the area where I live there has been a number of attacks (possibly up to 35) on people walking home.  It is reported that he attacks from behind and does not reveal himself.  Using a knife he forces people to hand over phones and wallets.  My children are very aware of this.  I train my children to be wise (so I will collect my 12 year old son after dark rather than he walk home) but also to live in Faith not Fear.  Yesterday an older man told my children as they were playing in the street that their Mum was going to get her throat cut next.  Fear for many generates more fear - the media is a particularly good example of generating fear - think Swine Flu.  Moments like that with my childrfen are great moments to impart Faith and wisdom.  Faith in the Light of Jesus means that the darkness is put out and more importantly the darkness can never overcome it.  Keeping our perspective that we are loved by God and He has the best plans for us means that we walk in the light.   

Isaiah 9 is a fab description of the new Kingdom of Light.  When we (King's Church) decided that we wanted to demonstrate that our Arms were Wide Open this Christmas we did not anticipate the remarkable response from the Church.  The headline is that over 250 hampers were donated but there are hundreds of individual stories of Light Shining.  Friends and families who worked together to help vulnerable families.  Individuals who spoke to their work colleagues and told them what their Church was doing.  The response was amazing, here is one account from a lady who works on the Olympic accreditation and Uniforms department. 

"They were so excited to know the great work that Kings is doing." and "I was overwhelmed by the response."

The Hampers provided the perfect practical application to our Christmas Series 'Arms Wide Open' which peaked last weekend with 7 carol services welcoming 2700 people.  I was delighted that Heidi Alexander MP and Sir Steve Bullock (Mayor of Lewisham) were able to join us.  

Jesus is the light that changes everything. I hope you know the light of Jesus in your life this Christmas Time. 

Have a great Christmas.  Thanks for reading my blog in 2011, I'll be back in the New Year!

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

What does the JRP do for homeless people at Christmas?

This is a question I get asked a lot at this time of year and whilst I fully understand the sentiment of people choosing to annually help the homeless, I am utterly committed to helping homeless people 365 days a year.  You need to know that I am careful that charity is not offered to people who will use it to avoid taking responsibility with the resources and information they already have - agencies like the Jericho Road Project see many people who don't need a charity hand-out as much as they need guidance about how to live better lives.  So, for example, I am not keen for our residents to be looking or expecting a charity hand out at Christmas.  Rather, I hope that out of relationship with others (work place, church, family, other groups and social settings) they would receive as well as give much at Christmas.  In fact, for our residents, it is relational connection that is often far more important than material items.  Our residents have to stand up and take personal responsibility; sometimes they learn that in order to repay rent arrears it requires personal sacrifice and not someone giving them a hand out.

Having said all that, I can now tell you what the Jericho Road Project does for homeless people at Christmas.  We keep the Feast meeting on Wednesdays until the 21st December when we will have a big Christmas Feast Event - we are preparing for over 150 people to attend this year!  Every person will get a full Christmas dinner, a Christmas present and great entertainment which is Karaoke.  These evenings are usually great fun but fairly intense for the team.  Thankfully, every year, extra people get involved and help out.  We have had companies and families saying they will get involved.  You are very welcome to help this year!  (But remember, homeless people need help all year not just at Christmas!)

And apart from looking after our residents we don't do a lot more in the Christmas/New Year period!  (It almost sounds shocking doesn't it!)  This is because there is great provision in London for homeless people during the Christmas time.  Another value I hold to in my work is that I don't want to reproduce what someone else is doing very close to us, I would rather channel our resources into things that we can uniquely do!  CRISIS at Christmas runs from about the 22nd for about 8 days.  Each year I refer people to CRISIS and if you are interested for this year you can apply here

This year, there is an additional bonus because the 999club in Deptford has opened their winter shelter already (1st December) and are staying open right through until March.  If you need to refer someone they should make their way to the 999club - ideally in the morning - and register with Iris. 

So, just to make it clear, we send homeless people to other places to get help at Christmas - this year CRISIS and 999club.  Thankfully, we have a housing project 365 days a year that can then take people from the winter shelter, provide support, help people stand on their own 2 feet, rebuild their lives and, who knows, they may be helping at CRISIS next Christmas!

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Arms Wide Open - SEVEN Carol Services

This year King's Church is running 7 carol services, this includes 4 whole church evening events and 3 site based morning events.  This is all running within the theme of Arms Wide Open which I think is such a strong theme that links the Message (preaching), the Moment (the carol services) and Mercy together.  The 4 evening carol services will be of the usual very high standard including traditional carols, children or Youth performance, drama and readings.  In fact this year we have asked some guests to do a reading at each service.  Sir Steve Bullock, Heidi Alexander MP and Keiran Lang who is the Young Mayor of Lewisham (and also attends King's Church) have all agreed to doing a reading.  As per previous years there will be short section near the end of the carol services that profiles the Jericho Road Project.  This year I am excited that I will be bringing a prayer and a short explanation of the project.  There will be a 'retiring' offering for the project as well.

So please do attend the carol services, Friday 7.30pm, Saturday 5pm and Sunday 5pm and 7.30pm.

Please look at the King's Church Arms Wide Open website which is looking great.  (Ben and Brett have done a brilliant job on the promotion of Arms Wide Open!)

Today I am meeting Heidi Alexander MP, who is supporting our promotion of Caring Christmas Trees.  We will send out a press release later today!  I am very pleased with how the sales are progressing.  The economic downturn is very real so I am delighted that we are on course to slightly improve our sales total of last year and I am hoping that we will raise about £4000 for the project.  Lewisham Life have mentioned us in their latest edition and I understand that in their enewsletter next week there is another mention.

Finally the Arms Wide Open Hampers project has seen such a fantastic response.  The community of King's Church has risen to this with arms wide open.  We have given out about 230 boxes in the last 2 weeks and I am expecting that we will collect about that number of full hampers in the next 2 weeks.  Boxes are to be returned by Sunday 11th December.  I am loving the stories of people from King's going into their offices and explaining that their church is collecting hampers and then the staff are deciding which items they will bring in.  I have increased the number of outlets for the boxes so now we are working with the social services teams working with at risk children, those on police protection and the young children teams, Lewisham Refugee Network, The Bridge School of English and the King's Church Pastoral care team. 

This Christmas the arms of King's Church are reaching out further than ever before.