Author Archives: Kim Hartshorne

About Kim Hartshorne

Hi I'm Kim, I and some friends set up the Upper Room around 7 years ago to offer support to people who were on the margins and lacking company. I have lived in Cirencester over 20 years. I am married with two children and am training to be an ordained pioneer minister in the CofE. I have been a Christian a long time and Jesus has been my rescuer and friend in many times of struggle and darkness.

The Gentleness of God

Today I’ve been reading Psalm 107 and Hosea 11. Both have reduced me to tears as they communicate the gentleness and care of God for us, his people.

I was raised in a tradition that emphasised continually the wrath of God and his fierce anger due to our misdeeds. But no-one ever drew my attention to this passage:

“When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son…It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms; but they did not realise it was I who healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love; I lifted the yoke from their neck and bent down to feed them.” Hosea 11: 1, 3-4. It continues on is v9: “For I will not carry out my fierce anger, nor will I turn and devastate Ephraim. For I am God and not man – the Holy One among you. I will not come in wrath.”

The gentleness and kindness in this passage, God’s fatherly love for his wayward child, his stooping down to feed them, just filled me up with joy. And the rejection of wrath as a way forward in the relationship between God and his continually wayward people, filled me with hope for my own as yet rather haphazard journey with God.

In the Psalm, there is a repeating poetic refrain. First, the disasters that befall the people are described, they reach the end of themselves and “then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble and he delivered them from their distress.” This repeats through the passage four times, emphasising its’ importance.

The Psalmist describes a series of nightmarish scenarios – people who in a wasteland; who are hungry and thirsty; in darkness and imprisoned; afflicted and at the gates of death; in tempests on the seas; oppressed and sorrowful. Every kind of dire circumstance that could befall anyone is encompassed in this psalm. And every time, just when things could get no worse, the people cried out to the Lord, and every time he heard them and saved them.

The blessings they receive are all the basic building blocks of human life, security and wellbeing. In vs 7, the people are led to a city where they can settle. In v 14, they are lifted out of darkness and deepest gloom and their chains are broken. In v 18 when they are near the gates of death, they are healed by his word and rescued from the grave. In v 24 onwards, those who are in peril at sea and whose courage melts away cry out at their wits’ end -the storm is stilled to a whisper and they come into a safe haven.

Reading it, I was struck by how bad things get before the people call out to God – they really are at their wits’ end before they ask for help. How true to my life this is! I usually try lots of my own solutions first, only hollering to God for help once I am tearing out my hair!

I also noted how practical the needs were and the help that God gave – lifting the needy out of their affliction v41, bringing food and shelter, freeing the captives. This passage echoes some of the passages in Isaiah 61 concerning the coming of the Messiah. Verse 9 has a direct correlation to the Magnificat in Luke: “for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things. God knows we are human, at times weak and afraid, and knows our basic needs. He doesn’t disdain our humanity – rather, he comes to inhabit it in Jesus, to confer upon it a blessedness but one that doesn’t take away its’ frailty and need.

I don’t know how life is for you right now, whether your basic needs for security, kindness, food and safety are being met. Whether you are in need of freedom from darkness and gloom, or oppression and chains. If you are suffering, I hope you will find a glimmer of hope in these words and know that you are loved and noticed by God, and that you can cry out at your wits’ end and be heard.

Painting ‘The Scorpion’ by Stanley Spencer, shows the tenderness of a huge God for the smallest of his creation

Help!

HELP! We need financial help! Could you consider setting up a Standing Order for £10 a month to the Upper Room?

See the form attached

            Registered Charity Number 1095438                       

Title

Forename


Surname

Address

Date

Email address:

I am happy to receive a newsletter by email         Y/N

Please let us know what you are planning to give:

Monthly: £5 / £10 / £15/ £20 / other………………….

Annually in one sum……………… on date………………..

Image result for gift aid

I confirm I have paid the same amount or more in Income Tax or Capital Gains Tax this tax year and that

I am a UK tax payer and am happy to Gift Aid this

Donation     Yes / No        

         Registered Charity Number 1095438,

If you would like to set up a regular monthly donation to Hope Cirencester, for the work of the Upper Room, we would be very grateful and promise to use your money wisely to help those who are in need in Cirencester.

Please use the details below to set up an online Standing Order yourself, or take this to your bank and they will be happy to help you.

 BANK DETAILS

Name of Account                             HOPE CIRENCESTER

Bank                                                  Nationwide

Sort Code                                          07-00-93

Account Number                             33333334

Reference                                         0391/703961487             

Please fill in, tear form in half & return the left hand side to Hope Cirencester at The Upper Room, 37a Market Place, Cirencester, GL7 2NX. Keep the right hand side to set up your regular giving and keep for your records. We promise to use your donation wisely to help local people and we thank you for it.

Contact Kim on revkimbrown10a@gmail.com

if required.

Baptism & Confirmation at a Bishops Mission Order

Last week we had the joy of seeing Bishop Rachel baptising 7 and confirming 4 people into God’s church during the summer playscheme.

Here is the short liturgy we put together for the occasion. It was designed to be fit for purpose in a large setting where many people were unfamiliar; to communicate the welcome of God to those seeking him; to be clear what was happening at each stage; to use uncomplicated language as much as possible; to be clear about the big themes and actions within the service; to follow the original structure in the Common Worship baptism service and to carry an Anglican family resemblance. It took just half an hour and worked very well.  We are a Bishops Mission Order and allowed to write liturgy for missional contexts.

(The booklet contains small icons/pictures at each stage but the website can’t show them or the layout)

Service of Baptism & Confirmation

With Bishop Rachel, Rev Kim Brown and The Upper Room Community

At St Lawrence Church, Chesterton

Thursday 2 August 2018

The Greeting

Bishop Rachel welcomes everyone and prays a prayer

Confession

We bring our messy lives and fragile hearts before God, asking for forgiveness & mercy

Bishop: We’re sorry for the wrong we’ve done

All: God, make us new

Bishop: We’re sorry for the mess we’ve made

All: God, make us new

 Bishop: We’re sorry for the hurts we’ve caused

All: God, make us new

Absolution

God sees our hearts and our lives. He forgives us + and offers us a new start through Jesus. Amen.

We Read The Bible: Mark 10:13-16

 Jesus Receives the Children

Some people brought their small children to Jesus so he could bless them. But his followers told the people to stop bringing their children to him. When Jesus saw this, he was displeased. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me. Don’t stop them. The kingdom of God belongs to people who are like these little children. I tell you the truth. You must accept the kingdom of God as a little child accepts things, or you will never enter it.” Then Jesus took the children in his arms. He put his hands on them and blessed them.

 Bishop Rachel gives a Short Talk  

 Presentation of the Candidates

The candidates, parents & godparents form a semi- circle around the bishop.

The bishop says to the congregation

We thank God for all who have come to be baptised today. Jesus loves them and welcomes them into his Church.

So I ask all of you here today: Will you help these people to become part of God’s family? Will you support them on their journey of faith?

All: With the help of God, we will

The bishop asks the parents, godparents and sponsors of the children being baptised:
Parents and godparents, you speak for the children being baptised today. Will you promise to encourage them, pray for them, and help them to follow Christ?

With the help of God, we will.

In baptism these children begin their journey in faith. Will you care for them, and help them to take their place within the life and worship of Christ’s Church?

With the help of God, we will.

The bishop asks all the candidates

Are you ready with your own mouth and from your own heart to affirm your faith in Jesus Christ?

I am.

 The Decision

The bishop addresses the candidates, sponsors, parents & godparents

We all wander far from God and lose our way: Christ comes to find us and welcomes us home. In baptism, we are responding to his call. Therefore I ask:

Do you turn to Christ?

I turn to Christ.

Do you repent of your sins?

I repent of them

Do you reject evil?

I reject evil.

 

Signing with the Cross

The bishop makes the sign of the cross on the forehead of each candidate for baptism, saying

Christ claims you for His own. Receive the sign of His cross.

When all have been signed, the Bishop says

Be glad in Christ. You are his for ever.

The priest says to the candidates

Stand firmly against evil, and remain faithful to Christ to the end of your life.

The Bishop says to them

May Almighty God protect you from the powers of

darkness, restore in you the image of his glory,

and lead you always in the light and obedience of Christ.

All: Amen.

Prayer over the Water

The candidates gather at the baptismal font. The bishop says:

We thank you, loving Father, for the gift of your Son,

Who, by the cross, forgives and restores us

from all our sins.

He calls us to share that good news with all,

and to baptize all who turn to him.

And so, Father, we ask you to bless + this water,

that those who are baptized in it

may know themselves loved by you forever

Amen.

Profession of Faith

We affirm our faith in Jesus Christ together

The bishop addresses the congregation

Do you believe and trust in God the Father, the One who made us and knows us?

All  I believe and trust in him.

Do you believe and trust in God the Son, who lived with us our human life, died for us and rose again?

All  I believe and trust in him.

Do you believe and trust in God the Holy Spirit, who brings life and newness to the world?

All  I believe and trust in him.

This is the faith of the Church

All   This is our faith;

      We believe and trust in One God,

      Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

 

 Baptism

The bishop pours water on each candidate, saying

I baptize you
in the name of the Father,
and of the Son,
and of the Holy Spirit.

All   Amen.

The bishop addresses the newly baptised

There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism; by one Spirit we are all baptized into one body.

All  We welcome you into the fellowship of faith.

The bishop marks the the candidates for confirmation with the sign of the cross, saying

Remember your baptism into Christ Jesus.

 

The Candidates for Confirmation form a semi –circle around the bishop

The bishop addresses each candidate by name and anoints them with holy oil saying

God has called you by name and made you his own.

She lays her hand on the head of each, saying

Confirm, O Lord, your servant … with your Holy Spirit.  Amen.

 

The bishop prays for all those on whom hands have been laid

Pour out your grace on your people, O Lord, and lavish your Holy Spirit upon them, that they may know themselves loved, blessed and found in you until the end of this life, and forevermore.

All: Amen.

Please sit down for the prayers

Prayers will be said for all who have been baptised and confirmed. Then we say together

 All   : Our Father who art in heaven,

      hallowed be thy name,

      thy kingdom come,

      thy will be done,

      on earth as it is in heaven.

      Give us this day our daily bread.

      Forgive us our tresspasses

      as we forgive those who tresspass against us

      Lead us not into temptation

      but deliver us from evil.

      For thine is the kingdom,

the power, and the glory

forever and ever. Amen.

 The Giving of The Light

All who have been baptized and confirmed gather to receive a lighted candle with the bishop, who says

God has delivered us all from darkness and given us a place with the saints in light. You have received the light of Christ; walk in this light all the days of your life. Amen.

We say together

 Affirmation

We rise up today,

clothed in the strength of Christ.

We go out today, loved,

to love and serve Christ’s world.

We do not go alone.

We will not be afraid.

We shall not be overcome.

We are the beloved of God. 

Amen

Bishop Rachel will now bless us all, and pray a blessing on our food. After the service, please stay to eat lunch, share cake & celebrate together.

We blow bubbles now as a sign of our celebration and joy before God!

                       

 

 

Blog Post from Amber on Volunteering

Blog about my personal view of volunteering

I have been volunteering at Scope charity shop which is
a charity for disabled people and their families. I have
been working there just over 7 months.
I enjoy working in a team and taking on responsibilities
in new roles and making customers happy.

I volunteer because I enjoy making a difference to others
also because I want to better myself and get myself
ready for a paid job. I want to find out more about
charities and how they help those in need.

The new skills i have developed: I am happy working
due to the new skills i have learnt – becoming more confident with meeting
new people taking on new roles and. I never knew how
to use a till before until i started working in Scope or any
retail work. Now I have developed these skills I think I
would be great in a new place and paid work.

My hopes and dreams for the future is to get a part time
job to keep me and my daughter by, until I do an
apprenticeship at college and redo my English and Maths.
One day I’d like to work for myself and make lots of money and
move countries.

Upper Room Intern Scheme Launches

Several weeks ago, the Upper Room launched its first Intern Scheme with 4 students who are studying online for qualifications and self development, along with volunteering in the local community. They will help run our Summer playscheme aswell as support a local primary school. Each had a wide range of courses to choose from and have a learning mentor who supports them.

Several of them have written about why they are doing this and these will be published as blog posts shortly. Our prayers and best wishes go to Chris, Liam, Sam and Amber who are working hard to develop themselves and achieve their goals. God loves to see us flourish, and loves to see the last be made first.

 

Annual Report

Annual Report 1st March 2017-28th Feb 2019

Hope Cirencester is a registered charity governed by trust deed. Our registered charity number is 1095438. Our charitable objects are to share the love of Jesus Christ, and to alleviate need and distress in the Cirencester area. Our motivation is that we believe God loves each person and they are made in His image, unique and deserving of love, affirmation and practical support.Who Are We?

What Do We Do?

Hope Cirencester is a charity run with a Christian ethos, which provides practical and relational support and spiritual care for people in the local area who may be vulnerable or struggling, through journeying together as a community. The people who use our services may have suffered abuse or domestic violence, wrestle with addictions, have PTSD, long term health conditions, mental distress or be weighed down by debt. We may offer advocacy or accompanying to appointments, support people with the benefits system, literacy support or with practical tasks such as decorating. We also pray with people and offer spiritual support in the Christian faith tradition. We celebrate birthdays and achievements together and have fun on trips to provide ‘problem free’ time for people as this is proven to help people find the headspace to address their problems creatively (Mentoring & Befriending Foundation).

We offer services in a number of ways: two drop in sessions a week at The Upper Room, on Mondays and Fridays; we visit Gloucester Cathedral for Evensong regularly to explore our spiritual journey together; go on a summer day trip together and to Giffords Circus; we worship together at a monthly Eucharist service with a community lunch and celebrate Christmas and Easter together with services and parties.

We operate a help-fund that supports individuals who need emergency assistance.

We also offer help to people in need in Cirencester by supplying starter-boxes to those moving into housing from homelessness or domestic violence via Bromford Housing, and support young people who may need clothes for an interview or new bedding, via Chyp. All our services are open equally and to all who need them. We have a regular cooking group that cooks healthy low cost meals and eats together.

Where Do We Work?

Our work mainly takes place at The Upper Room, which is situated at 37a Market Place, Cirencester. GL7 2NX www.hope-cirencester.co.uk

Banking

We bank with Nationwide Cirencester branch, Cricklade Street, Cirencester. Our Honorary Auditor is Mr Anthony Doyle of 4, Dawes Close, Meysey Hampton

Cirencester GL7 5LE

Who are the Trustees?

Trustees are unpaid volunteers from a variety of backgrounds with experience in local charities and community organisations, family work, community development and education.

The Trustees are:

Rev Kim Brown                                   Chair

Kathy Folkestad                                 Treasurer & Secretary

Christine Greathead

Peter Ewart

Rev Katie Richardson

Will Mansell

Safeguarding                                                                            

Rev Kim Brown is the named person to whom safeguarding concerns should be reported. She is trained in Safeguarding by the Diocese on an annual basis and will liaise with the Safeguarding Team of the Diocese of Gloucester and the Social Care Team if necessary. The trustees and staff are all DBS checked and undertake regular training. We take the wellbeing of all our people extremely seriously; they are children of God and we commit to working transparently and in ways that are safe and caring for vulnerable adults and children who use our services.

How Is Hope-Cirencester Funded?

Hope-Cirencester is funded by a combination of grants from the public sector and

charitable trusts, local fundraising and donations from private individuals. We are

a-not-for-profit organisation and our Trustees and Volunteers are unpaid, although travel expenses are always reimbursed in order to create equal opportunity to volunteer and allow us to access a broader range of voices, life experience and skills.

The Trustees would like to extend their thanks and gratitude to all those individuals who have made a financial contribution to Hope-Cirencester this year.

A three year grant from Sylvanus Lysons to pay part of the wages of the Support Worker is nearing an end, in April 2018. Another three year grant from Sylvanus Lysons has been awarded to cover the costs of establishing an Intern Scheme and paying wages of an Intern Supervisor and an Administrator for one day a week for this purpose. The Diocese of Gloucester Mission Development Fund has offered a three year grant to start early in 2018 to cover an increase in rent of £5500 a year; this is due to Hope Cirencester taking over an additional office in which to run the Intern Scheme.

A copy of the audited Annual Accounts for 2017-2018 is attached with this Report. We have changed the time of year we report this year; usually we report in November but due to a very busy time now in Advent / Christmas we are holding our AGM in June from 2018 onwards. This year’s AGM will be held at The Upper Room on Friday 8 June following our monthly service of Holy Communion which starts at 12pm. The AGM will be followed by a buffet lunch. Please come!

 Reserves

Following discussion at trustee meetings regarding the increasingly difficult climate for raising funds, and an increase in responsibilities due to planning an increase in the number of paid staff, the trustees have adopted a policy to maintain a reserves balance of twelve months of annual running costs.

 How Do We Work?

We make decisions at our Trustee meetings, held every other month, which are attended by trustees, paid staff and sometimes volunteers and specialist advisers. Discussion takes place freely between all parties at the meeting; major decisions are made by trustee vote on the basis of the information discussed. We regularly ask people who use our services what they need and value, in order to keep our work relevant to those who need it.

During this period of reporting, two of our long standing staff members left and moved away. The trustees wish to extend their gratitude to Pete and Brenda Dyson for all their hard work and commitment to The Upper Room over the years and we wish them well in the new chapter of their life in the beautiful countryside of Shropshire. We would also like to thank Bernie Harding who works as a Support Worker at the drop-in. Rev Kim Brown (was Hartshorne) is an Ordained Pioneer Minister who works part time as Leader of the community as part of her curacy with the Diocese of Gloucester, who pay her stipend.

The Trustees would especially like to thank Kathy Folkestad for her expertise in preparing minutes and keeping our finances in order. The Chair would like welcome three new trustees joining the Board this year: Mr Will Mansell from Minchinhampton brings significant experience in business and the governance of charities; Mr Peter Ewart is a practising solicitor who also has wide experience in fundraising and charity governance; Rev Katie Richardson has lived in Cirencester for many years and is an Anglican Priest at Cirencester Parish Church. The Chair would like to thank and express great gratitude to the Trustees for offering their time, gifts and care to the running of the charity this year.  We are also extremely grateful to Mr Tony Doyle for auditing our accounts without charge.

We would like to thank Canon Dr. Andrew Braddock, (Director of Mission and Ministry in the Diocese of Gloucester) nominated Bishops Visitor to the Bishops Mission Order and Chair of the Council of Reference, for his support and guidance. The Bishops Mission Order has not met this year due to the vacancy in the post of Vicar at the Parish Church.

Partnerships

We partner with a number of agencies in the local community through which we offer practical support to vulnerable people. Partnering with Bromford Housing at Spring House and The Croft, and Cirencester Housing for Young People (CHYP), we provide kitchen ‘starter boxes’ and practical items such as bedding for people who move into temporary accommodation in emergency and who have no possessions with which to start a life. We offer our premises to the Cirencester Street Pastors to use as a base for their community patrols on weekend evenings and are grateful for a financial donation from them this year.

A Sunday youth group from Holy Trinity Watermoor in the local Parish uses our rooms on Sunday afternoons. Collaboration between The Upper Room and the Parish of Cirencester has developed a positive partnership, delivering a Summer Playscheme together at St Lawrence Church in Chesterton, and the Cooking Group cooking lunch for the staff at the Parish Centre when they meet there for the monthly cooking session. We hope to work more closely together when a new Vicar is appointed.                         

Summary of 2017 – 2018 in numbers:

Relief of Need

  • 87 drop-in sessions were attended by around 35 different people including 16 new visitors, with a total footfall of 525 visits.
  • 2 trips out, to Cotswold Wildlife Park in summer and a trip to Giffords Circus, for families, children and single people who rarely leave Cirencester due to financial constraint.
  • 52 Street Pastor sessions were held at the Upper Room
  • 2 starter boxes were supplied to people in need being housed at Spring House.
  • 4 sessions of a summer playscheme were run at St Lawrence Church Chesterton in August for local families from the Chesterton estate, attendance averaging 50 people a week. This year it was evident that there were many hungry children. In response we introduced a Breakfast Club, providing cereals, fruit and crepes. We are blessed to have a chef and his son in the kitchen: “Big Cook, Little Cook!”
  • Meals and boots were supplied to some of our friends who are homeless, along with care and conversation.
  • Intensive support was offered to several individuals who were dealing with significant debt.
  • Home Communion was shared with several individuals on a regular basis due to being housebound or suffering ill health or crisis.
  • We issued a large number of Foodbank vouchers this year; people in debt, holiday hunger or transferring to Universal Credit were the main reasons for this.
  • Several of our regular attenders suffered significant ill health this year and we accompanied them to hospital appointments in Cirencester, Cheltenham and Gloucester.

Redemption Stories: Changing the Outcomes

  • Advocacy and support continued to be offered to assist a number of individuals with housing and benefit related issues. The change to Universal Credit posed problems for us as it seems designed to not follow any identifiable pattern or system but varies for each individual; it requires a

huge amount of tenacity and resilience on the part of the individual to successfully pursue a claim and sustain themselves during the 4-6 week delay before benefits re-start; not everyone is able to do this and many suffer.

  • We assisted a young mother by lending money for a deposit on a small house so she could move out of an unsafe environment with her young daughter. We assisted her with furniture, and support to deal with her landlord so the house was safe and met her needs. She is faithfully repaying the loan.
  • Several of our regular attenders who were previously unemployed found regular work and several others found regular volunteering opportunities; we rejoice with them!
  • A group of 3 attended the New Parish Conference in Birmingham; they spoke about how we build local connections and networks in order to support those in need.
  • The Cooking Group continued to meet monthly, helping people learn to budget and prepare healthy and nutritious meals on a tight budget, aswell as sharing social time together, laying the table and eating together. A magnificent Christmas meal was prepared and guests were invited to attend. The Cooking Group also provides lunch for the staff of the Parish Office.
  • Following research with regular attenders, we discovered that every single person who comes was hoping to find work or regular volunteering, but all were finding this difficult to attain, through lack of opportunities, confidence, skills or education. Upon further research and exploration, we have committed to launch an Upper Room Intern Scheme in the spring of 2018, to help people access online learning and qualifications, offer coaching and skills development, and to accredit volunteering that people do in the community. This will be offered in two stages: phase 1 will be for those under 30, and then phase 2 will be for those over 30. Funding from this has been attained from several funders. We will hold a celebration of achievement evening and award certificates annually.
  • Two people attended a First Aid Course and acquired a Food Hygiene Certificate.

Sharing the Love & Good News of Jesus & Exploring Discipleship

  • On Sundays, groups regularly visited Gloucester Cathedral for Choral Evensong, Holy Trinity Watermoor and Cirencester Parish Church for worship.
  • People who come to the Drop-In continued to invite family, neighbours and friends to come along to the drop-in and to trips out.
  • We held 11 Communion services followed by community lunches.
  • Our 2017 Maundy Thursday service with footwashing and supper held at the Upper Room was attended by Bishop Rachel and her husband Guy.
  • We attended the Abbey 900 Harvest Supper at the Parish Church together, bringing several additional guests.
  • During the Advent and Christmas season we shared the following together:  hosted an Advent Crafts Event at the UR; hosted a Christmas Party at St Lawrence Chesterton; attended a Christmas Spectacular at the Parish Church, given free tickets by Ian Carling; attended a Christmas Carol Service at Gloucester Cathedral; 6 attended an Advent Quiet Day at Harnhill Christian Centre; attended the Lights Switch on together.
  • We attended Harnhill Centre on the 4th Friday of each month for a meal they host there. People really love the environment and the hospitality.
  • Bernie Harding was Commissioned as a Local Pioneer Minister for The Upper Room on 7th December 2017 at a ceremony and buffet held upstairs at The Crown in Cirencester, attended by 50+ guests, comprising our Upper Room family, local clergy, and friends and family of Bernie, and Rev David Runcorn, Assistant DDO and Rev Andrew Braddock, Director of Mission and Ministry & our Bishops Visitor, attended from the Diocese of Gloucester.
  • This year we agreed to share in the planning of services and share the talks that reflect on scripture during our Communion Services more equally together as a group. There is much greater diversity and wisdom shared by this dialogical process.
  • Groups came to visit the Upper Room to explore our approach to mission and pioneering, from Regents College Oxford, the CMS Pioneer Leadership Training Course and Ripon College Cuddesdon. We received a Pioneer Ordinand from Ripon College, Susie Templeton, on an extended placement and Kim was invited to speak on the Ordinal at a Cuddesdon Ministry weekend.

Voices From The Upper Room 2017-2018

“I love our get-togethers. We are like one massive happy family”

A relaxing place to go and have good conversation. You can talk without being judged.

“I enjoyed the trip to the Wildlife Park. I love playing a part in the summer Playscheme. I love how we all come together as a team and we all look after each other.”

“I love the things we do together, especially going to the Cooking Group. I’m so grateful for the help I have received. too.”

You can talk about any worries you have. You can just be who you are.”

“I had a tough year & the people at the Upper Room made me feel like I’m someone again. I love you all loads. You have no idea what you’ve done for me.”

Financial Summary

The charity spent £20,887 this year (£25,685 last year). The largest areas of expenditure were on staff wages & costs (£9711) although these costs were lower than usual due to two staff members moving on during the year; and rent and office costs (£6167). Expenditure on direct work with people who come (trips; community support; starter boxes; cooking group costs) totalled £4258.

In terms of income, £2566 came in from donations. The grant from Sylvanus Lysons for staff wages will come to an end in April 2018. A new grant secured from Sylvanus Lysons will begin shortly after the end of the previous one, and covers staff and set up costs associated with the planned new Intern Scheme.

Delivering our Charitable Objects

All those who have benefited from our activities have been our target groups of people in need. People who use our services may suffer mental or physical illness, need additional support, be isolated, vulnerable or marginalised. These groups find it hardest to access support and often don’t have safe people to journey through life with when times are hard. The summaries on page 6-9 show how we have used the resources of the charity to meet the needs of people we serve. We commit to spending wisely the donations and grants we receive.   

Risk

The initial six year lease on our premises came to an end in February 2014 and a new 6 year lease was signed in February 2015. The lease allowed for a possible break of the lease at the 3 year point in February 2018, but the trustees are confident that the grant from the Diocese of Gloucester Development Fund allows the rent increase to be covered and therefore have committed to remain at 37a Market Place for the remaining three years of the lease, starting from February 2018. We hope to be able to move into other appropriate accommodation at the end of this three year term however.

Looking forward

The trustees are pleased to report that following a thoroughgoing review of our operations and costs, our Bishops Mission Order and connections to the Church of England, and research with our regular community regarding their hopes and needs for the future, we are in a good position to face the future. We have recruited three new trustees who bring new skills and connections to help us deliver wise governance, and we are optimistic that we can successfully launch and deliver an Intern Scheme to help our young people face their futures with confidence. Two new grants have been received which give us security to develop this work and further grants will be sought this financial year. I am extremely grateful to the trustees, staff and volunteers for their hard work and resilience during this time of review, and to the Diocese of Gloucester for their support this year. The trustees are thankful that we celebrated ten years of the Upper Room being open, in February 2018, and look forward to the future with renewed hope and faith.

 

On behalf of the Trustees, Rev Kim Brown, Chair. May 2018 

 

 

A prayer of blessing

One of our young friends wrote this prayer of blessing for me last week at our Easter celebration. My eyes may have leaked a little <3

Easter Sunday message

Easter Sunday 2018

John’s Gospel reading today tells the story of Mary Magdalene. Mary came from Magdala, a village on the shores of lake galilee.

She was one of a group of women who travelled with Jesus & the disciples and supported them. We don’t know much about her – and the fact there are 5 Mary’s mentioned in the NT makes it slightly confusing – but we do know she was healed by Jesus and from then on, she committed her life to him.

In all the stages of Jesus’ ministry, Mary was there. At the accusation, the crucifixion, the death, the removal of the body and its burial – she is there. Last at the cross – first at the tomb. Her relationship with him is deep and she is traumatised, confused and desolate from what she has seen.

In our passage today, we see Mary at the tomb early in the morning. She had gone there to finish anointing and preparing the body, as it had only been hastily done before the start of the Sabbath.

The scene is one of confusion and uncertainty – she finds the stone rolled away – no guards are there – the body is gone but the grave clothes are there. As appalling as the burial must have been for her – this is even worse.

She goes to tell the men and they come and see. They are so confused they simply go home, no doubt fearing further trouble with the authorities.

But Mary can’t let it go – she simply has to be there…This is a completely understandable reaction when any of us lose a loved one. A sense of disbelief – of expecting them to come back through the door any minute and put the kettle on. For normalcy to return.

The disciples’ response is also a common one – of disbelief and denial, of just carrying on regardless, of simply not being able to take it in.

And her waiting and devotion means she sees the angels and then her Lord. Jesus says to her: why are you weeping? Although of course, he knew. The tenderness of this encounter is one from which we too can draw hope. Whenever we are grief stricken, confused and in despair – this is the approach of Jesus to each one of us – gently – to ask us what is wrong, to open up space to listen to us – to be available to us in our darkest hour…

And his next question – who are you looking for? –  directs us and points us to himself. Is it Jesus we are looking for? When we’ve tried everything else to soothe our pain, or ignore it through busyness – he draws us back to himself to find comfort and the peace that we need. As he makes himself gently available to Mary in her deepest sorrow, so he makes himself present to us – even though we may also fail to recognise him at first.

And as Mary recognises who this is, she clings to him, hoping to keep him here – have everything return to “normal”. Put all the messy business of the last few days behind them. She is desperate to restore order – to return to life as she had known it. But she cannot. They are caught up in the middle of a metamorphosis – a process moving from death to new life – that cannot be stopped but must continue. Jesus came – lived – loved – died – rose from the dead – he must ascend to finish the process that will change the world and all human life.

This is hard for Mary as she just wants the pain to stop –a very human response, where it’s hard to see that something bigger and life changing is happening – the death of one system and the start of another. As someone who has just gone through a very messy divorce, I can identify with Mary’s response, but perhaps it teaches us to look beyond our immediate struggles to the possibilities beyond?

Mary has to let him go. It is part of the journey of human life that we have to learn to let go. This crucifixion and resurrection story show us this – that God stepped down into human life, entering our story of life and death, joy and pain, in order to show us that the end is never really the end – suffering is never the last word  – to show us what happens beyond the grave. To bring us hope beyond our loss and despair.

Today we celebrate Jesus risen from the dead, having taken with him down to the grave all our struggles, brokenness and pain, our mistakes and sins – and bringing up with him in his resurrection, hope for the future. Death is defeated – it is no longer the final word – and his new kingdom is coming where there will be no more pain, no more sorrow, no more crying.

Jesus has gone ahead of us, to show us the way – to show us how it works, to show us where we are going next. And so today, we celebrate – the love of the Father, who sent his Son to draw us into a relationship of love, as he did with Mary. And this love send us out, to share that love with the world – that all who are lost or alone, may know that this is not the end of their story either. Amen.

The Pioneer Spectrum of Service

https://pioneer.churchmissionsociety.org/2018/03/pioneer-mission-is-a-spectrum/

Two experienced pioneers, Tina Hodgetts and Paul Bradbury, have developed this brilliant diagram and accompanying explanation in the link above, mapping the different areas of pioneering and the nuanced types of pioneer ministry going on in different kinds of work. It’s very helpful as to the broad sweep of pioneering.

Our work at The Upper Room probably fits across the two circles on the right  – building relationship & discipleship, and allowing the gospel response to emerge and shape a church community. We also enter into the Activism/social enterprise area slightly, working to meet social need and address social injustice in our town, albeit in small ways.

This diagram brings a moment to reflect on how much has been done, to feel we are in a place to map all the different strands of pioneer activity. However there is much still to do, and some feel that the kind of pioneering that emerges from long listening at the grassroots has fallen out of favour with the church hierarchy, as being too slow and too costly, and also perhaps not being doctrinally-controllable enough.

There is an increasing enthusiasm for church planting – which can be done in a pioneering way if there is a period of listening – but is often just a ‘one size fits all your city or town doesn’t have a hipster guitar based church for students gasp how shocking lets rectify that in a very expensive fashion.’ A report circulating, which I have heard spoken of by 3 or 4 different people in different dioceses now, apparently shows that these plants create almost no new growth at all, after all the people who flock to them from other churches are taken into account, and they cost into the millions to start and run, requiring many paid staff who come from the planting church.

I think the problem is the huge power of the headline decline figures, which make stark reading of course. But the decline has taken place over several generations, over which time the cultural gap has widened between the ways in which culture/ society and church explore ideas, come to conclusions, debate, question, reject formal authority and hierarchy. I don’t see us as the church doing very much to address this yet – if we church plant, are we merely replicating these old models where ‘we’ behave as though we have all the truth and we will give it to ‘you’ if you behave, believe and belong, packaged up in a warehouse with guitars, beards, check shirts and good coffee?

I take heart from Archbishop Justin Welby’s comments about hierarchy, deference, power and clericalism following the sorrowful IICSA enquiry in recent days. And I recall that when Archbishop Rowan Williams launched the Mission Shaped Church / fresh expressions agenda in 2004 he spoke about a “principled loosening of structures,” of which we have barely yet seen a glimmer. This needs to relate to liturgy, to where authority is held and to where resources are deployed.

One of the things pioneers need above all else is to be trusted. Another is to be listened to. We are your science lab. We are working on the ground with people who have either never been near the church in generations (the majority of people we see) or those who were sent to Sunday school as children but drifted away before 11. We hear what they tell us about the church, the reasons they don’t think of going, the things that make them deeply uncomfortable – and the good news – the things they have responded to, the things that helped draw them into new ways of being and doing church, the things that help them understand the love of God in Christ.

The problem is the clash of cultures. The way things are currently done very rarely reach those who do not come. But we also have swathes of people who have grown up with and love the old ways. They want the new people to come in and help them maintain that way of being and doing, but they can’t. The cultural gap is simply too big.

One of the main places this shows itself is in regard to authority. In established church congregations, there is a clear hierarchy of authority and power. Everyone knows their job and their name is on a list held in the Bishops Office. No-one preaches unless they are licensed, no-one prays unless they are on a list, no-one offers the chalice unless… The Anecdote to Evidence report on church growth listed this as a practical problem – how can new people coming in begin to engage and get to know people, find a way of joining in and exploring life if they are never allowed to do anything in the life of the church? There will likely be no space in which they can share thoughts, ask questions about the sermon and what it meant, how people are living that out in their lives, explore any of the stages of faith that we all need to travel in order to mature as disciples. The steps that we take to ‘appropri-ate’ the faith, trying it on for size as humans must with a new belief system, are absent.  They are basically asked to get on a train that goes on the same journey each week, with no option to get off or explore the route. It is fixed, based on a set of assumptions that may never be made explicit, but that show we have this sorted, we know what we believe and we will tell you in complex ways if you can accommodate the cultural hurdles for long enough.

Aswell as a practical issue, It’s also a doctrinal problem around identity – do we really reflect the belief that all are made in the image of God, that Christ died for all, when we only allow a small regulated number of people to participate in what we hold most dear? Do we really show that this life of faith is about life in all its fullness, that there is enough blessing and grace to go around, if we tightly control access, creating inner circles and outsiders, based on social class prejudices as much as anything else?

The difference with pioneering could not be more stark. We are not positing any central authority, or any fixed ways and means of worshipping. Usually the work of putting worship together is shared and people are encouraged to join in as much as possible, to work together to create something that may reflect something of the journey of the group’s members, but also leaves many open ends. There is a sense that the Spirit is working among all of us, from the more recent to the longest attender – grace is expected to be present to us equally. None of us have earned any hats or badges. We are asking together what this Bible passage means, listening to the wisdom in the room and pondering the ideas that are offered gently. We are also usually very engaged in how this helps us, how this affects how we live, what does this passage ask of us? We are engaged in the work of practical theology. This is not an issue of academic or intellectual interest to us, nor is it an irrelevance.

People leading these kinds of church are usually leading from the middle, from being present to the people, available to them, able to listen to them and help them reflect back what they said as they think on their lives and God’s story. We have learned to be acute listeners and sleuths, spotting glimmers of the transcendent an holy in people’s lives, spotting gifts of discernment and wisdom and encouraging those to be developed and shared. It is a forensic process, like picking through a crime scene; working on the ground. We are not people who sit in offices, in the main, but are in among the culture we serve, aware of its messes and contradictions, its sins and injustices, its hopes and dreams. We are participant observers and in the main we live the joys and pains of our patch very personally – it is costly and almost unbearably joyful.

I was reminded last week by a monastic spiritual guide of the phrase Jesus said in Luke 22:27: “I come among you as one who serves.” Firstly, it is important to note he comes among us. That speaks of an immersive action, not as one who stands to the side or comes above people. Pioneers primarily come among the people they serve – they are as anthropologists at first, living among people in an open way, being available to them in normal relationships that are rarely mediated by authority. In fact I would say one of the marks of pioneering is this approach to authority – the only authority we have is that of being trusted by the people we journey with, such that over time they open up their lives, hearts, homes to us, invite us to their wedding anniversary parties, ask us to pray for their children.  These relationships are mutual – we love and are loved, we know and are known. We come among people as those who serve. And we cannot serve usefully until this work of being among is done, and continues to be done. It is long and slow.

People and books tell me that this is no different than the relationships that parish priests have with their parishioners. From my own experience sadly I don’t find this to be true very often, in this day and age at least. (And in days gone by, when the social status of priests was much higher and often supported by connections to the landowning gentry, I don’t think it was the case in the idyllic era of Herbertism either.) There are the worker priests and some current examples of that such as Servants Asia. The modern notion of grouping parishes up into benefices has killed off (again see Anecdote to Evidence report) what small day to day interactions a priest could have had with her parishioners – now dashing from place to place in a car, only stopping for pre-arranged meetings in recognised places that rule out the sort of casual conversations about life and its struggles that we have when we come among people.

Time is the powerful energy that propels pioneering. And, to be honest, all ministry. Time and presence enable listening, followed by reflection, then moving / thinking / acting together with others. To accompany others as they journey to see Jesus is a long and complex work, given that people are starting from places that are a long way off, and they may have no framework of trust or belief for what is being explored.  The church culture around us at this point doesn’t always have the time, patience or anxiety-free-strategic-view to give permission for this, or be interested enough to hear what are seeing and learning. Perhaps that is because it isn’t providing efficient, instant, packaged, marketable, useable solutions to the issues of the day? Perhaps the cultural gap we are speaking into is growing greater, with clergy so stretched in maintaining so that existing system is sustained, that they are exhausted and even outraged by the apparent idiocy of our small projects – some of my recent interactions would suggest this.

I ask the church to persevere with pioneers – we come among you as those who serve.

 

 

If You Are Looking for Me, Let These People Go…

Good Friday Message

In John’s Gospel – read powerfully today – we see the accusers who come looking for Jesus. And he immediately responds – “here I am – I am He”

I’m struck by how direct and immediate his response was.

He knew his hour had come – he knew why he was there – and who he was. His identity shines forth in this moment.

Then he says: if you are looking for me, let these people go

In these words are contained the whole essence and meaning of Good Friday…..the identity and purpose of Christ our Saviour is laid bare…

The narrator then explains that this is so Jesus did not lose any that had been given to him by the Father. Jesus looks around at his disciples, family and friends surrounding him. He does not want any of them – drawn by the Father to him – to be lost.

Jesus looks out at us, disciples, family and friends of his – drawn to him by the Father – and does not want any of us to be lost.

And on Easter Saturday, as the tradition tells us, Jesus goes down to hell and looks out at those lost there – all people whose hearts were drawn by the Father – and he isn’t willing that any of them should be lost either.

The connection and partnership between Jesus and his Father is shown here – they are in this together, their plan for salvation is being played out.

Jesus is not at any point engaged in shielding his disciples – or us –  from his angry Father. He is not going to the Cross so that the anger of the Father for our sins is redirected onto himself. He is going to the Cross as part of a plan they have worked out together for the Salvation, ultimately, of the whole world. A plan that will defeat everything that stands against the love and goodness of God – death, disease, injustice, violence – will be taken down by this plan.

As John 3:16 tells us – “God SO LOVED THE WORLD that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish – or be lost – but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him! “

That’s a very clear message about the motivation of the Father and the Son – love propelled the events of Good Friday –  love led Jesus to step forward and make the sacrifice – love led Jesus to set his friends free that day in the Garden– and love is what enables us to be redeemed today.

As he steps forward, Jesus shoulders upon himself the weight of all the mess in the world – ALL the sin, ALL the shame, ALL betrayals, ALL the disease, death and violence that humans have made  – everything that stands in the way of the love of God being received by his world. He sacrifices himself, in order to divert the entire course of human history….

This was the only way that newness could come into the world – by taking on the violent, unjust and horrifying system – which he submits to – he shows us the way that God deals with sin. He subsumes it into himself and defeats it, so it cannot continue its course. The love found between the members of the Trinity overflows, and gathers us in. Love is the only thing that can defeat the powers of darkness.

We’ve been reminded again in recent weeks of what that kind of sacrifice looks like. Lt Colonel Arnaud Beltrame, a French military policeman, stepped forward in a siege in a supermarket and exchanged places with a hostage so she could go free.

He had been deployed in Iraq and won the Cross for Military Valour for his peacekeeping work there.  In December last year, he had taken part in a training exercise that simulated a terror attack in a supermarket. He was prepared and ready to commit to the work of that day and what it required of him.

The gunman had taken a hostage as a human shield when the Lieutenant stepped in and swapped himself for her. He also left a mobile phone on a table with an open line, so the police outside knew exactly what was going on.

His brother Cedric said of his actions: “He gave his life for strangers. He must have known he did not have a chance of surviving. His actions helped bring an end to a siege that left 3 people dead and 16 injured.”

He took upon himself the evil, darkness and suffering of that day in order to bring it to an end, in actions that his priest felt were entirely motivated by his faith…

Good Friday can feel quite an overwhelming day in some ways. It can be hard for us to hear the story again – to journey with Jesus through the pain and feel that we are responsible – implicated – in this story of horror and violence.

But even though we are, each of us, caught up in the events of Good Friday – this was always part of God’s plan. Christ died once, for all, and we are all invited into the new way of life being inaugurated today, and fulfilled on Sunday.

We are all invited into the love of the Trinity – the divine dance known as the perichoresis – where love eternally flows – is given and received – and we are invited to participate in sharing this overflowing life – of beauty – of reconciliation – in the world around us.

As recipients of such grace, we are invited to join Jesus and take up our own cross – to accept that we are also called to stand against that which marred the face of Christ – to stand for peace and not violence – to work for justice – to set people free – to contend for those who struggle – to share the love of the Father which is stronger than death. Amen.