Editorial – Sept 2019

by Chris Butler

Who would you consider to be the greatest role model for your Christian life? I’m sure that many of us know of many mighty men and women of God, yet perhaps most of us would list the Apostle Paul as the greatest Christian who ever lived and the one they would most like the emulate. In fact, Paul often held himself up as a pattern for all Christians to follow. “Imitate me,” he urged, “just as I also imitate Christ” (1 Cor 11:1). He knew, of course, that he could serve as a godly example only if he faithfully followed the Lord Jesus.

Throughout September our services at the Rivers Team will focus on the life of Paul. We will be looking at the full extent of his life – his conversion, the change in his life, the training he received, his empowerment by the Spirit, his leadership and his preparations for those who would follow after him. No matter what stage we are in our Christian walk, whether a new convert to the faith or a church leader, there will be something from his life that we can apply to our own.

Paul’s life has inspired countless ministers, teachers, missionaries, and evangelists. If you read through the book of Acts it’s easy to see why. The exploits of Paul will take your breath away. He made three long missionary journeys throughout the Roman Empire, planting churches, preaching the gospel, and giving strength and encouragement to early Christians.

The apostle was a spiritual father to many and his inspired letters to the churches he founded formed half of the New Testament, thus becoming the foundation for Christian theology, but despite those achievements he endured enormous physical hardships. He was whipped, beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, stranded, and faced dangers in the city and the country. He was also made weak through tiredness, hunger, sleeplessness, and the “thorn in his flesh” which continually tormented him, but he soon realised that it was through these weaknesses he was made strong as he depended more and more upon the Lord for his strength (2 Cor 12:9).

No other churchman has had a greater impact on Christianity. And Paul’s attitudes, motivations, and methods are elements that we can reproduce in our own lives to help us impact lives the way he did. And as we copy Paul, who himself was copying Christ, then we in turn will become role models for the next generation of Christians who follow after us.

Doggedly Defending Despite the Dangers

Bob Luntby Bob Lunt

A human rights and religious freedom defender working in South India recently shared his thoughts on the current climate in the country.

My experience has considerably worsened since Modi’s government came to power in 2014. The government relies heavily on the backing of Hindu fundamentalists, which has led to an increase in the threat to religious minorities, particularly Christians. In Tamil Nadu where I work, human rights defenders have faced extreme hostility. Some have been shot, raped and threatened by both government and non-government people. And now Modi has won a landslide victory in the 2019 elections.

I work to defend the rights of people of all faiths. Those who support Hindu supremacy in India argue that human rights defenders work against the country’s interests, but this simply isn’t true. I’m proud that my country has such a great constitution, which protects fundamental freedoms. India was among the first countries to adopt the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.

This is why I find it so sad that, as human rights defenders, we now face the threat of violence on a daily basis. I hear noises outside my house at night, and banging on my windows. It’s tragic that in India, a country of such diverse cultures, languages, religions and beliefs, these things now happen to those of us who are trying to uphold the basic human right to practise one’s religion or belief of choice.

The government uses the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act to target human rights defenders. The law deals with people who are considered to be working against the state, and some human rights defenders have been accused of being members of terrorist organisations. A person can be detained without bail for six months under this law, which can be extended. We constantly live in fear that another of us could be the next person charged.

I’m also constantly harassed and monitored by the authorities. I give a speech somewhere or go to speak with victims of human rights abuses, and before I get home I’m called by the authorities asking how the trip went – a constant reminder that my every move is being watched. The support of the international community is really important. Training for human rights defenders, like CSW’s Defend the Defender project, is vital to our safety and work.

Source: Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW)

Spotlight on Mission – Discretionary Fund

spotlightAs part of our Mission Giving there is a fund so that we can respond to specific needs such as natural disasters and families and individuals who over the year have been in need in various ways, and giving from this fund has helped in a small way. Please pray for the many groups that help people in times of crisis that money sent will be used wisely.

Thank you on behalf of our Mission partners to all those you who during August at our Team Services supported them, they really do appreciate our help over the year.

Don’t feel that this is the only time you can give, pop an envelope in to the collection plate clearly marked for our Mission Partners at any service across the Team and it can be added to the fund.

Hansi Jain our missionary link in Nagpur, India, working with families and children from the slums and running a school.

CPAS are patrons of our churches and are an evangelical organisation, working to support local churches in mission.

Tear Fund is an evangelical Christian relief agency working through local churches in the poorest parts of the world.

The Barnabas Fund works to support Christians around the world who are persecuted for their faith.

Rotherham Holiday Aid is a local charity seeking to provide holidays for some of the neediest families around Rotherham.

Samaritans offer 24 hours a day confidential telephone service, giving emotional support to people who are experiencing feelings of distress,
despair or suicidal thoughts, and is a registered charity based in the UK and the Republic of Ireland.

Rotherham Street Pastors are a group of trained volunteers from local churches who care about their community. They patrol the town in teams of men and woman, usually from 10pm to 4am on Friday and Saturday nights, to care for, listen to and help people, showing, in practical ways, that they are loved by people and by God.

Catch up of more recent news/development and specific prayer requests of any of them on their own web sites.

 

Editorial – August 2019

short

A Break From Work, Not Worship

by Eddie Short

August is traditionally a time for family holidays, for taking a break from work, relaxing and recharging our batteries. Which, of course, is a biblical principle. After the creation narrative in Genesis 1, we read at the beginning of Genesis 2 that God took a break on the seventh day, setting it apart and blessing it. It is good and right to balance our work – both secular and serving God – with time off to reflect, recharge and relax.

Time away on holiday is also a great opportunity to experience different expressions of church. We are part of a global fellowship of believers, which means however far we travel, in this country or abroad, there is likely to be a Christian church within easy reach. Visiting other churches, especially those in different parts of the world, gives us the opportunity to broaden our horizons and strengthen our faith. There is something quite spiritually profound in worshipping with a group of complete strangers from another culture who share the same faith in Jesus. Over the past couple of years I have had two very different, but equally positive, experiences of visiting churches while away on holiday.

When Nic and I were visiting Nashville a couple of years ago to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary, we visited a ‘mega church’ on the outskirts of the city. The worship was more like a concert than a church service; not something we’d want to be a part of on a regular basis, but great as a one-off. However, it was the sermon from a visiting preacher that I really connected with. It spoke directly to my situation at the time and afterwards I looked him up online. Since then I have found the podcasts from the church he was in the process of planting to be a huge blessing.

Then, earlier this year, we visited Norway over Easter. While we were there we attended, as a family, the Easter Sunday service at the Anglican Church in Bergen, which is also incidentally called St. Mary’s. This turned out to be a joint service between the English-speaking Anglican congregation and the Norwegian-speaking Church of Norway congregation. While the sermon was (thankfully) in English, the liturgy and hymns were in a mixture of the two languages. Being part of this multilingual celebration of Jesus’ resurrection was both poignant and affirming: Jesus defeated death for all people, of all nationalities, from all over the world!

At both of these churches, and the many others we have visited while traveling, we were made to feel very welcome and included. So, the next time you are away on holiday, I’d encourage you to seek out a local church service and expand your ecclesiastical horizons! And, even if you aren’t going away, there is an opportunity to worship at three different churches throughout August without leaving the team! There will be just one joint service in each of our four churches on the four Sundays of this month. This isn’t an excuse to have three weeks off, but rather a great opportunity to experience all four of the congregations that make up our team and also to get to know the wider church family a little better.

I won’t be there, as our family is spending the summer in America. But I will be joining you in worship, visiting yet another new church…

Editorial – July 2019

Ilsa Aug 2014 1 - CopyWhat am I doing here?

by Monica Walker

It is just 44 years this month since I arrived in Rotherham to face a new job, new home, new friends and new church and after a few months I began to ask myself “what am I doing here”? But God had a plan!

I feel a bit the same as I begin to write my first editorial for the magazine, “what am I doing here!” I am however, reminded of so many bible characters who must have said or thought the same thing. What am I doing here!

We have recently finished a sermon/study series on the book of Exodus and in it we’re told Moses had to contend with grumpy complaining Israelites, so he probably had similar thoughts as the they objected to everything he had to say, even though they were promises from God. There must have been times when he thought, what am I doing here!

God has His plans and we are told they are…just and upright.

Sometimes God’s plans are disturbing, we get uncomfortable with change but change can also be exciting. We are facing many changes in the way church happens in our Diocese and Team very different from what we have known and our comfort zone will be shaken.

We don’t always understand or see the sense in the challenges of God’s plans but it is at these times we need to hang on in there and trust our faith in the Lord Jesus.

As this magazine goes to print, I will be with friends in Scotland, friends I would never have known if I hadn’t moved to Rotherham all those years ago.

I’m glad God has a plan and pray that we can all be obedient to listening and following His plan as we face the future for the Rivers Team with all its challenges and blessings.

So, we say “what am I doing here” in the Rivers Team in 2019? We are in this together, waiting to be part of God’s plan as we see it unfold for His people here in our communities.

“For I know the plans I have for you”, declares the Lord Jer. 29

Spotlight on Mission – Our Mission Partners

spotlightLast month we were remind who our Mission Partners are and the work that they do -

Hansi Jain – CPAS - Tear FundThe Barnabas Fund
Rotherham Holiday Aid – Samaritans - Rotherham Street Pastors

They all do amazing work sharing Gods love in word and action. Really appreciating the support that we give them through our prayers but they also need our financial support too.

Over the last year we have got out of the habit of reminding folk that each Team Service there will be a specific Mission Partners collection plate and for some that’s just something that has been forgotten.

With Four Team services during August:

4th St Helen’s
11th St Lawrence’s
18th St Mary’s
25th St Andrew’s

this might help us to get back into the habit of regularly giving to them.

We will make sure that there is a collection plate or our Mission Partners at all of them. Please try and give generously so that we can encourage and bless these groups.

On other occasions you might like to make a gift please just pop it in an envelope and clearly mark for our Mission Partners and place it in the Sunday collection

Thank you

For more information about any of our Mission Partners please see their individual web sites

Women of faith and risk

Bob LuntBy Bob Lunt

Praise God that women are coming to faith in Jesus across the Muslim world. Yet for many the personal cost is horrifically high, as they are marginalized and persecuted both for their faith and their gender. Please pray for women like these:

  • - Aizah* faced violent rejection from her family when she chose to follow Jesus. Yet now she wants to help other women who suffer for their faith and gender. “We want to have a safe house for women expelled from home after their conversion”, she says.
  • - Aasma* became a secret believer four years ago but her Saudi family have since married her to a Muslim. She prays in secret but has few chances to meet with other Christians.
  • - Nava* started following Jesus after meeting him in a dream, like so many Iranians. She is now boldly sharing her faith with others. “I know I’m risking my safety. But it doesn’t stop me. I can say wholeheartedly I am ready to suffer for Him.”
  • - Mansuri was rejected by her Bangladeshi family and community after marrying a Christian and becoming a believer. But through her husband’s witness her family came to Christ. She now runs a Bible study group for women after attending an Open Doors Bible class.
  • - Joyce came to faith in China from a Muslim background and was imprisoned for that faith in 2017. Now released, it is too dangerous for her to connect with other believers.

Naomi* is a pastor’s wife from Indonesia, where there is rising religious intolerance. Besides some violent attacks on churches, Christians experience discrimination and verbal abuse. Most members of Naomi’s church are from a Muslim background and face oppression from their families. “People who are forced to leave home for accepting Jesus have to live in other church members’ houses”, she says. “Their relatives only want them back when their economic situation improves. Their children are frequently mocked and intimidated at school. But we stand strong.”

Open Doors has launched a campaign called See. Change. to restore hope, dignity and identity to women persecuted for their faith and gender. Across the Middle East and North Africa Open Doors’ partners are establishing leadership development programmes for women to help them share the Gospel. And in situations like Naomi’s, Open Doors runs projects to help people improve their economic circumstances.

Source: Open Doors

*Name changed

Editorial – May 2019

by Carole Robinson

Try Honking not Bleating

At the time that I am writing this it is still the Easter Season. Fields are filled with the sight and sound of bleating young lambs and there are still some Easter Eggs on the Supermarket shelves, bur before long we shall be hearing different sounds.

At the end of summer when the harvest has been safely gathered in, the village of Treeton is blessed by a visit from a large skein of Grey Lag Geese. They come at the same time every year to glean on the grain that has been left behind by the Combined Harvester. I have no idea how they know what time of year it is or how they find their way to Treeton, but I was so impressed by them that I looked up some facts about the geese, these are just some of them:

  • The geese fly in V formation, this reduces the amount of effort each goose needs to lift them into the air and to keep them on the right track.
  • When the lead Goose gets tired it moves back and a new leader comes forward.
  • When a Goose becomes ill and drops out of formation other geese go down with it and don’t leave it until it gets better or dies
  • Throughout the flight the Geese at the back are continually honking to encourage the geese at the front

I think we could learn a great deal from the Geese, don’t you.

At the moment, the Rivers Team and the Church of England as a whole are facing great changes. Like the Geese, we need to work together as a team, if we are all working together for the same goal the job will be much lighter. During the season of Lent, we looked at the Early Church and learned how they worked together sharing everything they had, their possessions, and their gifts. Working together in unity made them more effective and their numbers grew.

We need to comfort the sick, and champion the used and abused in our society.

We need to support our leaders especially Margaret and Philip as their work load grows and we need to recognise and raise up new leaders. As we continue to grow as a church, let us remember to always to do more Honking than Bleating

Spotlight on Mission – Tear Fund

spotlightWE’RE CHRISTIANS PASSIONATE ABOUT ENDING POVERTY

Tear Fund Go – every year many people volunteer to go on overseas for a short time to help with a project and here are some reflections on two volunteers Julie and Earl.

At first glance it looks like their common ground is both being over the age of 65. But, after they shared their experiences of travelling with Tearfund, I discovered that it’s their courage and closeness to Jesus that unites this brilliant pair.

Julie didn’t know that she was a teacher until she was faced with a room full of people to teach in Zambia. She gave a lesson in how to care for others, listen well and resolve conflict. You may think that you don’t have the skills to be a volunteer, but if you’ve ever led a Bible study, hosted a small group or been through a challenge in your life then you’ve got experience and wisdom to share.

Julie learnt that it doesn’t matter how old you are, it’s about your strengths. ‘An older man was surprised to see me painting, and asked me my age,’ she says. ‘When he heard I was in my early 70s, his verdict was that I was strong.’

For Earl from Lincolnshire, the challenges started before he even left the country. First, where to go? ‘Cambodia seemed to stand out,’ says Earl. But after some research, he changed his mind. ‘I don’t do heat, and 28–32 put me off.’ Yet, within a few days… ‘God spoke to me through his word saying not to worry about conditions. He will help me cope in whatever circumstances,’ he says.
Next, the cost. Recently retired and on a pension, Earl had every reason to be careful. But a timely sermon confirmed the decision to travel. Did age ever factor into Earl’s decision? ‘Yes, my age did make me hesitate,’ says Earl. ‘But not my ability.’ Earl’s courage comes from his relationship with God: ‘It is not what we can do, but what God can do through us,’ he says.

Find out more about Tear Fund by visiting their website

They want to wipe us out

Bob LuntBy Bob Lunt

In November, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) brought six men and women from Burma to meet politicians, journalists and Christian leaders in London and Brussels. These religious leaders and human rights defenders from three ethnic groups shared their stories of Burma’s crisis and pressed for urgent action.

“We see human rights violations by the state and the military as crimes against humanity”, said one. Another explained: “Rape, sexual violence, torture and arbitrary arrest are some of the abuses meted out. The military want to wipe ethnic people out.” The six asked the UK to ensure that justice, human rights and accountability are at the centre of its relationship with Burma.

The country was ruled for over 50 years by military regimes which committed grave violations of human rights. It has also endured over 60 years of civil war between the military and many of the ethnic nationalities who seek autonomy. Religion and ethnicity are intertwined, and Burma’s minorities have suffered severe violations of their human rights, including that of freedom of religion or belief.

At heart is the question of Burma’s identity. Does Burma wish to be a multi-ethnic, multi-religious society, or a Burman, Buddhist nation which at best tolerates non-Burmans and non-Buddhists, or at worst seeks to repress, restrict and drive them out? In 2011 the military broke a 17-year ceasefire with the mainly Kachin Christian armed resistance, unleashing a major new offensive. In 2012 a campaign against the mainly Muslim Rohingya escalated, resulting in horrific violence in Rakhine State. In 2013 anti-Muslim violence broke out in other places. And in 2016 and 2017, renewed brutality against the Rohingya claimed hundreds of lives. All this despite head of government Aung San Suu Kyi’s expressed desire to confront religious hatred.

The chair of the UN’s Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar said: “The military has systematically targeted civilians, and established a climate of impunity for its soldiers. I have never been confronted by crimes as horrendous and on such a scale.” His report concludes that senior generals must be investigated for genocide and war crimes.

The genocide against the Rohingya is well known. But non-Rohingya, Christians, and even Buddhists who try to counter militant Buddhist nationalism, face severe danger. Yet the risk the six people took in coming to Europe to share their stories shows the flame of hope still burns.
Source: CSW

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