Greetings just before the dawn of August! Are you aware of HeartEdge?
Here is a good sweep through its rich variety of group work in progressive Christianity
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From: HeartEdge <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Sat, 31 Jul 2021 at 08:15
Subject: HeartEdge July / August update
To: Peter <email@example.com>
Schools out for summer – in the Northern hemisphere anyway – so the July / August Mailer has as a stack of ideas, encouragement and resources relevant to those HeartEdge 4Cs – commerce, culture, compassion and community, including:
Extracts from new books by Jarel Robinson-Brown and Sam Wells • Sarah Rogers on the uses of flow, in your church building – and the Visual Commentary of Scripture • Azariah France Williams and Winnie Varghese and guest Sam Lindo, with the new (G)race Podcast – on faith and activism • Dave Nicholson on churches building cooperatives as part of mission – plus resources from the School for Social Entrepreneurs • Find out about our new regular online support ‘clinics’ • August and September diary dates!
Do share with your friends if useful – or sign up here to receive every month. And enjoy – we’ll be back in September…
Church in a global pandemic: Where next?
“Could Covid be an opportunity to also look back in order to see what might still be useful from the old normal? In terms of theology, the hope expressed in the last question can take place in several ways…” How will theology and the church be impacted by Covid-19? Clues here from Jione Havea in an extract from this new book ‘Doing Theology in the New Normal’ here.
“… I wonder if every one of us is an exception. If so, we’re in good company. The Bible is full of exceptions. If you’re a minority, imagine being in Babylon during the Jewish Exile. If you’re feeling like God’s forgotten you and you’ve been written out of salvation’s script, try being transported a thousand miles and living without all the signs of God’s presence – land, king and temple. The book of Daniel is about obscure people, faraway people, exceptions, those who don’t fit the script. And yet they trust in God. It’s a story about a people who lost their home, lost their hope, lost their security, lost their families, lost their heritage, lost their land, lost their story … and found God. Could that be us? Let’s find out…” Read the full extract from ‘Introduction: A Theological and Pastoral Framework’ by Sam Wells here, taken from ‘Finding Abundance in Scarcity: Steps to Church Transformation’, Edited by Samuel Wells, published by Canterbury Press and available here.
Harvest is coming… and HeartEdge
Lots of liturgy and ideas here for a Harvest festival service – via the Green Christian network – here. Trussell Trust in the UK have a bunch of useful resources you may find helpful – find here.
If you want to know more about HeartEdge or to catch up on ‘Living God’s Future Now’ our festival of theology and ideas – and events we’ve recorded – have a rummage through our YouTube channel here. Fund Christopher Landau on a theology of disagreement, and whole series on Creation Care, God in contemporary music, plus sessions on Art in Worship. HeartEdge practitioners dig into the book ‘God’s Companions’, with the author Sam Wells. Miranda Threlfall-Holmes talks ‘How to Eat Bread’ – her new book, and Director of the Oxford Centre for Religion and Culture, Anthony Reddie on black theology and transforming church here. Have a look and do leave a comment.
CultureFlow… and support for your cultural project
How to curate spaces in your church? It’s all about how to spot and use the flow – says HeartEdge Cultural Development coordinator Sarah Rogers: “Churches often have a natural flow, colour themes in the stained glass, patterns in the floor tiles, floral motifs and shapes that repeat throughout the building once you start looking. Taking advantage of these existing themes and details to build or expand a cultural identity is a great place to start. The building is one of your main assets and figuring out how to work with the light and space is an important first step. Start by taking photos of the church space you want to work with or in, at different times of the day, so that from the very beginning your project will be integrated and connected to the building and visual history. Even a small detail will reflect something unique to your church and add to the curation and signposting of new exhibitions or in developing an ongoing arts programme…” More here.
From September join Sarah Rogers for our new monthly HeartEdge ‘Culture Clinic’, for anyone and everyone looking to develop their church cultural activity – from setting up a gallery space, developing gigs, hosting comedy or movie nights. Stuck for where to start? Got ideas you want to fly? Check in, and then book further 1:1 support. Monday 20 September, 14:00-15:00 BST, detail here.
A Visual Commentary on Scripture
Art and the bible and stories? We love the Visual Commentary on Scripture. Our very own Jonathan Evens’ can be found here with a look at Hebrews 11 in the New Testament via the paintings of Colin McCahon – New Zealand’s foremost painter. The VCS is a free online Bible commentary in dialogue with works of art. It helps its users read the Bible in new ways through the illuminating interaction of artworks, scriptural texts, and commissioned commentaries. Watch this to find out more.
Domestic violence and creating a safer sanctuary
Domestic violence and the church – how to respond? “A study in 2014 by academics at Lancaster University looked at the number of reports of abuse to a police force in the north-west of England during three football World Cups. They found that such reports increased by 26% when the national team won or drew, and by 38% when the team lost (other studies suggest abuse is worse when England wins)…” (read more here).
Sojourners invited pastors and parishioners to send sermons on domestic and sexual violence. Here, read quotes from each sermon, and learn how you can begin making your church a safer sanctuary for survivors. Search by location, scripture, or denomination here.
Sojourners has some excellent resources you may already know about – including, this – responding to research finding “90% of protestant pastors report encountering sexual or domestic violence in their congregations, but only 50% believe they are prepared to respond to it.” Valuable insight here.
Universal Credit and ‘levelling up’…
“Universal Credit is the UK’s main social security system, which replaced and combined six benefits from 2013. By focusing on promoting all work as good work, Universal Credit is trapping families in poverty…” Methodists, Baptists and the United Reformed Church pulled resources to create the Joint Public Issues Team – here’s their excellent briefing for churches explaining Universal Credit.
“There is still time for the UK Government to change course, and we urge you to listen to the voices of people struggling to stay afloat across the UK, and to do so…” The Poverty Alliance – an inspiring collective of partners including various church groups – in Scotland has written to Therese Coffey at the UK Government, to ask on what basis she chose to remove a £20 welfare benefits supplement to Universal Credit (read the letter here). A sign the UK ‘levelling up’ agenda is all-talk and to hold-tight for the return of austerity.
Finding Cooperation and Entrepreneurship“…
I have come across a wealth of examples of churches, often unwittingly piloting, searching for and exploring cooperative approaches to instrumental, exemplary and social commerce. The irony is they are often doing this in isolation, reinventing the wheel on their own, rather than cooperating together to replicate and grow good practice…” Read about Dave’s work with HeartEdge churches developing commerce here.
Want to develop commercial activity but not sure where to start? Need to expand income but unclear how? Join Dave’s ‘Commercial Clinic’ – an easy to drop-in space, share thoughts and arrange for further 1:1 bespoke support – on Monday 27 September, 14:00-15:00, via Zoom. Register here.
Join the Commerce Clinic
“There are a number of organisations who offer grants to social enterprises, charities and community projects as well as organisations who are offering social investment…” The School for Social Entrepreneurs has a whole set of resources for those setting out, exploring commercial development. Look here.
The School for Social Entrepreneurs will be joining HeartEdge in Penzance, Cornwall UK, for a day of looking at entrepreneurship and enterprise including cultural events, and trading. With Sam Wells, plus our own Dave Nicholson (commerce) and Sarah Rogers (culture) it’ll be a useful day! Details here. Unable to travel? Book and we’ll send you a Zoom code for you watch online.
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Find out more about HeartEdge
here and here – and join here.
Our weekly programme
returns from 6 September:
Monday: (two per month): In depth Bible Study with Simon Woodman, 19:30-21:00 (BST) via Zoom. Register here: Culture Clinic: With Sarah Rogers each third Monday – 14:00 – 15:00 BSTCommercial Clinic: With Dave Nicholson each fourth Monday – 14:00 – 1500 BSTTuesday: Sermon Preparation Workshop: Find Sally Hitchiner and Sam Wells in conversation and fielding questions. 16:30 (BST) here.
Wednesday: Community of Practitioners Workshop, 16:30 (BST) via Zoom. Fortnightly 1st / 3rd Wednesday discuss ‘God’s Companions’ with Sam Wells, or fortnightly 2nd / 4th Wednesday. Sharing ideas and encouragement. Detail on Facebook. Email HeartEdge to join in.Singer and activist Sam Lindo joins Azariah and Winnie to talk God, race, and connecting faith to activism, getting arrested and trial in court. “I was asked to move, and I didn’t… I got to proclaim that truth… Speaking to power literally was the path my faith had led me on… ” Stories and inspiration – including tips on cheeky, playful, non-violent resistance… plus a song.
(G)race is hosted by Azariah France Williams and Winnie Varghese.
Listen and subscribe here.Events – Living God’s Future NowAugustTheology Group with Sam Wells and guests: Sunday, 8 August 2021, 19:00 – 20:00 BST, via Zoom – Register here. The St Martin-in-the-Fields and HeartEdge Theology Group looks at the issues of the day and the questions of forever, with audience comments and questions.
St Martin-in-the-Fields and HeartEdge Theology Reading Group: Sunday 15 August, 19:00 (BST), via Zoom – Register here. Chew over Dante’s ‘The Divine Comedy’ with Sam Wells, St-Martin-in-the-Fields congregation and HeartEdge partners. This week – Paradiso!SeptemberOut of the Depths: Hymn, Psalm and Song Creating Workshop: Friday 3 September, 16:30-18:00 BST, via Zoom. Register here. Part of (Still) Calling from the Edge, the 10th annual conference on Disability and Church, the session explores calling from the edge in song and sound. Highly interactive, join to participate in collective music making.
Sam Wells and Ben Quash in Conversation: Thursday 9 September, 18:10 – 19:10 BST. Register for a Zoom invite here. Join Sam Wells and Ben Quash on how to improvise on the kingdom. Ben Quash is a writer, broadcaster and Professor of Christianity and the Arts and passion about how the arts renew people’s engagement with the Bible and Christian tradition. Ben is directing a major 7-year project to create an online Visual Commentary on Scripture. He runs an MA in Christianity and the Arts in association with the National Gallery, London.
Called to the Feast: Friday 10 September, 16:30-18:00 BST via Zoom. Register here. Part of (Still) Calling from the Edge, the 10th annual conference on disability and Church, the session will help create an exhibition of images and words for an inclusive Last Supper, to be shown in an online exhibition during the conference.
Culture Clinic: Monday 20 September, 14:00-15:00 BST, via Zoom. Register here. Culture Clinic is the monthly check-in for anyone and everyone looking to develop their church cultural activity. Stuck? Ideas? Looking for support in developing church cultural engagement – from setting up a gallery space, developing space gigs, hosting comedy or movie nights. The clinic offers ‘how to’… helps with Sarah Rogers – HeartEdge Culture Development coordinator.
HeartEdge Southwest Day: 22 September 10:00 – 15:30 BST at St Mary’s Church, Penzance, TR18 4AQ and online: Register here for details and Zoom link. Join Sam Wells and guests for input and resources around mission, developing cultural activities and commercial enterprise in rural and coastal communities across the Southwest. With Sarah Rogers, Dave Nicholson, Transformation Cornwall and the School for Social Entrepreneurs.
Commerce Clinic: Monday 27 September, 14:00-15:00 BST, Via Zoom. Register here. Commerce Clinic is a monthly space for anyone and everyone looking to develop their church commercial enterprise activity. Stuck? Looking for support in setting up a cafe, developing your venue, running a Food Pantry or a social enterprise? The clinic offers ‘how to’… help with Dave Nicholson – HeartEdge Commercial Development coordinator.
HeartEdge Liverpool Day: Tuesday 28 September, 10:00 – 15:30 BST. At Liverpool Parish Church (Our Lady and Saint Nicholas), Liverpool L2 8GW. Register here. An ecumenical day with Sam Wells and guests exploring theology and the future of the church in Liverpool and the North West.
(Still) Calling from the Edge 10th annual conference on Disability & Church: Saturday 16 October 10.00 BST. Details here. A partnership between St Martin-in-the-Fields and Inclusive Church, hosted by HeartEdge. The conferences hold space for disabled people to gather, resourcing each other and the church. Uniquely ‘for’ rather than ‘about’ disabled people who are a majority of planners, speakers and delegates – this year’s conference explores call as challenge, lament and vocation via art, music, story and theology, in plenary talks, small groups, workshops and liturgy. It’s a cry for justice that marks 10 years of calling from the edge. ”Disabled people have a distinct prophetic ministry to the church. In order for the church to fulfil its prophetic ministry to society, it needs disabled people.” John Hull (Opening the Roof, 2012). Details @livingedgeconf #StillEdge and here.
Missed it? Find earlier Living God’s Future Now sessions at on the video section of our Facebook page. Last Word: ‘… to do what Christ would do.’
Jarel Robinson-Brown writes in an extract from his new book, ‘Black, Gay, Christian, Queer – the Church and the Famine of Grace’: About two years ago, while walking with friends at Pride in London, someone shouted at the top of their lungs in my direction: ‘Priest! Oh my gosh … a priest!’ I stopped and slowly turned around, at first unsure as to how this totally unexpected encounter was going to go. No one walking around in a dog collar today, given the Church’s abominable reputation for sexual abuse and scandal, can be certain of a warm reception! Was this someone who thought that priests (or all Christians for that matter) really ought to know better than to be present at an LGBTQ+ affirming event? After all, such people do exist. Or, was this someone with a grudge against the Church, perhaps someone who’d had a few and wanted to ‘have it out’ with a ‘man of the cloth’? They too exist, trust me. But no, this wasn’t it at all. Instead, the person who screamed and ran over to me was a mixed-race woman in her twenties, who sur- rounded me with a group of equally wide-eyed and astounded friends. ‘I can’t believe you’re here – are you, like, an actual priest?!’ Once I’d assured her that I was the real deal and not in fancy dress, a conversation ensued. She poured her heart out to me. She held me, and did not let me go. I was the focus of her attention. Actually, she spoke so quickly in joy and amazement that I could hardly get my head around all that she was saying, and I kept looking at my friend in equal amounts of surprise. None of us had planned this, or imagined it. As she held me, she told me the heartbreaking story about her experiences of growing up in the Church with a knowledge deep down that she was a lesbian and wanted to be open about this. She told me what various clergy had said to her, what views her family held, and how she and her partner had been made to feel as though they had no place in the Church. Then her face lit up even more … ‘This is my partner,’ she said, ‘I love her so much … our priest doesn’t like it, though.’ The smile vanished. ‘Actually, I don’t go to church any more.’ And then she went quiet, held in her partner’s embrace. Then, looking at me, she said, ‘Are you able to give us a blessing?’ At first, I hesitated. I was still choked up by the encounter, by their story, by the grace of God at work in that very moment. ‘Of course,’ I said, ‘I’d love to!’ There and then, I held them both, and God held us all, and I asked God to bless them, to comfort them and to nourish their love. It felt right, and proper, and the only adequate, albeit feeble, response to this request. When God’s people are hungry, we feed them.
In every instance, the correct pastoral response is to do what Christ would do. What made this whole encounter possible were two things: first, the intersection of identities – Blackness, Queerness, Christianity – and second, our openness, presence and vulnerability in that shared space and moment. To be ordained, Black and identifiably Queer-friendly in a public space comes with risk but also opportunity. I wonder where else and in what circumstances would the woman I encountered have had her identity affirmed, her love encouraged and her existence recognised as a Black, Christian, Queer, person of colour in the UK? Which church would have had her and her partner (who was White) in mind when it seeks to be inclusive in its fellowship, mission and service? The truth is that Black LGBTQ+ Christians are far too neglected when the Church thinks of those for whom it exists and whom it seeks to include. How many people like this person I encountered, and even my younger self, grow up unsure about God’s love for us in our Black Queer Christian identities? What is so often forgotten is that it is through our enfleshed presence in places that are unfamiliar to us, or in which we are not expected to be found, that these moments of understanding, of grace and of communion become possible. It is in these moments that we realize that water can truly be thicker than blood. M. Shawn Copeland comments that human bodies are ‘the medium through which the person as essential freedom achieves and realises selfhood through communion with other embodied selves’. A severe drawback in our obsession with bodies as sites of sexual misdemeanor is that it has rendered us immune to all that our flesh can teach us – we have neglected the basic human sacrament of bodily interaction as we have become imprisoned by a rupture in communion, a fear of the flesh.
As I recall that encounter at Pride, I am amazed by the sense I had in that moment of both of us recognizing the necessity, there in Piccadilly Circus, of needing to own the truths we know but can seldom name: that of our Black Queer Christian existence, of our survival, our determination, the recognition of ourselves in the story of a stranger. I, as a Christian leader, had to allow the strength of the experience I heard and encountered to touch my heart. I had to be willing to be moved by the ‘other’. And pastorally, this encounter demanded of me more than mere sympathy, or a listening ear, or compassion. This was not someone ‘in need’ – she blessed me more than I blessed her, in fact. Rather it demanded a response of the heart not of the head, of love not of judgement, of grace and embrace. In this moment, the hip-hop idiom ‘real recognize real’ rang so true. Stories can be extremely powerful because of their ability to be places of honest and meaningful encounter.
When we share our story – our walk on this earth, the things we have known and seen, our hopes and fears with one another – God seems to make Godself present in a remarkable and transformational way. A large part of our story as Black Queer Christians is that we are taught, and given cues from the world around us, our families, cultures and even the Whiteness of so many LGBTQ+ spaces, to keep parts of ourselves, our stories and our true faces hidden. As those who are Black, Christian and Queer we often live feeling that so much of who we are sits in conflict with the spaces we inhabit, the families we belong to, the era we were born in. We learn too that not all ‘skin folk are kin folk’ as we live with the reality that those whom we might assume to be our closest allies find it impossible to embrace our Black and Queer identity. We learn that not all who are Black acknowledge the ways in which we face oppression on multiple levels, or even their part in that through their silence or through their action/inaction. We see over time the brutal reality that, in some big or small way, everyone in the world has a knee on someone’s neck and it takes nothing short of maturity, self-awareness and honest courage to acknowledge and own that.
Jarel Robinson Brown is a theologian and Assistant Curate at St Botolph’s-Without-Aldgate. He has served churches in Cardiff, South Wales and South East London, and most recently as Associate Chaplain at King’s College London. His book, “Black, Gay, British, Christian, Queer: The Church and the Famine of Grace”, is published by SCM Press and available here. Details about Black Pride here.
HeartEdge is an initiative of St Martin-in-the-Fields
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