Towards a Big Vision for Bristol Leaders’ Gathering
There was a buzz in the foyer of Woodlands Church on the morning of 16th April, as about 35 leaders gathered for a Together for Bristol event. We were to discuss Towards a Bigger Vision for Bristol.
This gathering was a follow-on from the meeting held in November 2014 where key Church Leaders, as well as Christian leaders from the spheres and prayer movements, met to seek God for the next steps in ‘unity for mission’ in the Bristol region.
Rob Scott-Cook opened in prayer for us (followed by a short time of worship) and then read from Colossians 1, the wonderful passage that speaks of Jesus’ ultimate power and glory.
Roger Allen welcomed us and told of the growing ‘unity for mission movement’ across the Christian community. We were made aware of past citywide gatherings of Arise events, where we saw numbers in excess of 5,000 people such as at Ashton Gate Stadium, Castle Park and College Green.
Roger informed us of the overwhelming requests from November 2014 gathering, for a ‘season of prayer’ for the city. We took a few moments to be silent and then in small groups discussed ‘Towards a Big Vision for Bristol’. We identified the need to bring the kingdom of God to every sphere.
Today there was a particular focus on Politics and Social Action, in the lead up to the General Election. So various individuals shared and then we prayed for them and for various issues which they raised.
Key verses for Together for Bristol:
Romans 1v16. I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ because it is the power of God to everyone who believes.
Micah 6v8 What does the Lord require of you? To act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
Jer 29v7 Seek the prosperity of the city…if it prospers you too will prosper.
Sheena Tranter reminded us that this is a key time in our nation's history, and as we observe the political scene we ask the question: where is the Lord leading us?
Paul Hazelden, who facilitates Forum for Change’s Politics and Social Action sphere along with Homeless Forum, broadened our thinking by letting us know we need to engage more with the council and work together more effectively on the basis of what God is doing. Making it happen is God’s agenda!
He also disclosed aspects of the Faith Action Audits Survey that is being carried out amongst church based faith groups. Bristol is one of 60 surveys taking part across the UK with 350 churches so far taking part in our region. Paul is responsible for coordinating the audit in Bristol.
There will be a large launch event in London after the election, that will provide government with evidence and results of the impact and value of social action delivered by local churches and other faith groups that have engaged in outward facing activities in their communities. Bristol will do also do evidence gathering.
Paul too reminded us, that the UK is struggling with a major deficit with even more cutbacks to come. Much needed help has been withdrawn and this has proved painful for many vulnerable people who suffer the consequences.
“If we love what God loves we will love the city,” said Paul. “This is an amazing opportunity for the church – will we make the most of it and move into the gap?”
Paul Hazelden – Politics.
We were reminded that there is a regular prayer time for those in parliament and Christians in politics are planning to set up a Bristol group. We saw compelling video SHOW UP – see http://www.christiansinpolitics.org.uk/showup
We must vote – otherwise extremists will. Pray, vote and encourage others. Somebody will be elected, but there is someone God wants there. It matters who gets elected. Whether we do it well or a godly way – do it!
The Noise is only possible because hundreds of people give their time and energy and a lot more besides to make it happen. This statement can be read from the website of The Noise, and Esther Legg-Bagg, The Noise coordinator said, ‘If we believe that God cares about these communities then we need to demonstrate it’. We learnt that The Noise started up in 2001 and the leaders are committed to serving urban areas in the city. Its aims are to meet real and local needs and has grown slowly over the last 10 years or so. There were around 850 volunteers serving in north and east Bristol last year who came from 50 different churches with ages ranging from as young as five and as old as 85!
“We need to get out there,” said Esther, “and get involved with local people and communities. There are plenty of green spaces to engage communities, and many projects to be involved in.”
There is an obvious need for churches to pool their resources and work for the good of the city.
For further information about The Noise see the Promo Video for 2015 here:
Jenny Foster is Bristol and South West Coordinator at Bristol Fairtrade Network, and spoke of Bristol being voted Europe’s Green Capital. The first big event of the year was the Global Awareness Conference in January 2015, and Archbishop Rowan Williams, who was the keynote speaker, spoke on Climate Change: A Matter of Life. “Our behavior is having massive impact on the planet, and the poor bear the brunt of it,” he said. He also said, ‘churches and faith communities in the city have an opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to caring for people and the planet’.
Link to Rowan Williams' talk : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CoCB9iBzaMI
It’s quite remarkable that over 700 organisations form Bristol Green Capital.
During the course of her conversation, Jenny posed the question: how can we make a difference?
This is a list (though not exhaustive) of can-do’s:
Pray for climate change – the poor suffer more than anyone else.
Be a catalyst – start something that will carry through 2015
Film being put together on YouTube 4/5 July
Make up your own green list of to do’s
See websites for more information
Link to Green Capital Do 15 here: https://button.bristol2015.co.uk/
Marvin Rees spoke passionately about his aims and visions for the future of Bristol. He spoke about inequality in education and the inability of many to afford housing etc. “We need to make space for people to have homes,” he said. “The crisis facing people in the city are both economic and social.”
Marvin grew up in Easton, Bristol, in a world he considered wasn’t fair. He started to tune in to faith and politics, telling us that Martin Luther King had an immense impact on his life. “There needs to be radical redistribution of wealth and power,” he remarked, “and we need to have impact, and won’t do unless we are involved.”
He mentioned that a Jubilee year (50 years) concentrated on wealth and power – debts cancelled, prisoners freed! We can’t work from the sidelines but need to get involved. We struggle with compromise. There is a desperate need for churches to step over the line and get involved in our difficult world. Power causes a vacuum and if we don’t fill it someone will. Survey of Christians said that their top priority issues are poverty and inequality. If we looked around and found 40 people, we would mobilize the vote. Unless you are a member of party you don’t get to vote.
To sum up all that took place on this key day, we can say with certainty, there was a consensus of opinion we are being called for such a time as this.
A heroine of the Old Testament, Queen Esther, saved her people from slaughter. It’s a political story!
Our meeting was over, and Sheena prayed that God would birth things in our hearts and bring forth more of His purposes in our lives and in our city. We asked that God’s kingdom come to the earth and to our city, for we believe we are here for such a time as this.
, Big Vision
, Esther Legg-Bagg
, Global Aware
, Jenny Foster
, Leaders Gathering
, Marvin Rees
, Paul Hazelden
, Rob Scott-Cook
, Roger Allen
, Sheena Tranter
, The Noise
, Together 4 Bristol
, Together for Bristol