Urban Expression Bristol News
Welcome to the fourth UE Bristol newsletter, and apologies that it has been so long since the last one. This is just a short update, and there will then be more news in the autumn.. In this edition, Mike Pears brings us up to date with news and Ben Payne shares some reflections on recent events.
Team Updates – and welcoming new team members
We have two teams. One based in the Lawrence Hill / Easton area and the other in Knowle West. Both have had new members this year!! James and Sian Manning and their children Amy and Ben joined the Lawrence Hill team in January and James Newman arrived in Knowle West mid-May. Having arrived to move in at 9.30pm one Wednesday in May, James was up and ready to make bread at 7am the following morning! Do pray for them all as they settle down into very different life-styles and learn what living as part of small incarnational team is all about.
The challenge of being involved with the Urban Expression journey
There is no doubt in my mind that being part of a small Christian community in an urban area is at least as much to do with receiving and learning as it is about giving to and blessing others. The challenge remains however, with everything else that is going on, to simply find time to develop the habits and skills that enable us to reflect and learn. One of our reflecting and learning spaces is a small reading group. We have recently been reading a book by Terry Veling who talks about a man called Gustoavo Gutierrez, born a ‘half caste’ in Peru in a poor village and growing up with severe physical disability. He says:
There is a little man in Peru, a man without any power, who lives in a barrio with poor people and who wrote a book. In this book he simply reclaimed the basic Christian truth that God became human to bring good news to the poor, new light to the blind, and liberty to the captives. Ten years later this book and the movement it started is considered a danger by the greatest power on earth.
The movement was the Liberation movement in South America; the book was the first book on liberation theology.
We liked this sense of ‘a little man in Peru’. It kind of resonates, I think, with how we often feel in Urban Expression teams in Bristol – like ‘little people in Bristol.’ It’s not an easy way of living when the felt need is to somehow be ‘big’ and ‘significant’ and ‘effective’. But that is the Jesus-way that I believe we are exploring. And I think we are slowly (and painfully?) learning what this smallness looks like – something like ‘yeast in a batch of dough’ which eventually leavens the whole lump (Matt 13:33).
Connecting with what is going on in Urban Expression.
Being connected with others around the country on similar journeys has been so helpful in keeping going. There are two main UE gatherings every year – in March and November. This March we hosted teams from around the country in Knowle West – and as always the eating together and catching up was I think the best part of the day (the sessions were of course good too!).
The Crucible Course is also a good way of learning and reflecting. It runs three times per year and is based in south Birmingham, so easy to get to. As I am writing this newsletter on a Crucible weekend, I’m aware that there are a bunch of people from Bristol there now.
A new UE initiative this year is called Urban Embrace (24-26th June; Manchester). This is a conversational space (with lots of good food!) where we explored two key areas in relation to urban ministry. First, what we have learned about community formation over the years. Second, how we understand and engage with ‘places’. Should we understand the ‘transformation of place’ as part of our mission?
Find out more about these on the UE web site www.urbanexpression.org.uk
Getting in Touch
If you want to find out more about Urban Expression, do feel free to get in touch with Mike Pears (pears a_t pobox d_o_t com; 0117 9423529) Please note, however, that Mike is on sabbatical from September to mid-December this autumn, so best not to phone then!
Some thoughts from Ben Payne
Recent events in Knowle West have reminded us of the incredibly difficult challenges that many people on our estate face. A local 17 year old boy was murdered by two of his peer group and it has understandably caused a lot of distress. Not only are people saddened by the death of a young man at the hands of his friends but it also further increases the lack of trust that many people have in each other on the estate.
Different members of our team have previously worked with one of the boys involved and as a result were aware of the incredibly difficult family environment he grew up in. Sadly, it seemed almost inevitable that he would end up involved in more criminal activity and it is difficult to see people progress towards that whilst feeling that there is nothing more we can do to help or intervene.
Please do pray for the families directly involved with the murder that they would find comfort and peace and have the right people around them who can support and encourage them.
Our team were left with the challenge of how to respond to such a tragedy, asking ourselves again what we can bring to this community. After prayer and reflection we decided to host a space in one of the local churches. Our intention was to work with the local church to provide a place where people could come and light a candle, say a prayer, talk to someone about how they are feeling, or just sit in quiet. It has challenged our thinking on what we can offer to the local community and how we can work alongside and support the local church in being present on the estate. We do not do this from a place of knowing all the answers, but from sharing the pain and even hopelessness that the rest of the local community feel. We hope that by joining together, we can continue to bring a glimpse of hope and look for signs of where God may be at work.
One of the more regular events that many of our UE team are involved with is a monthly family breakfast. This has allowed us to develop good relationships with people across the estate and has grown to be very popular in the local area. We often see 80 or more people coming to share breakfast together and there is a fantastic and unusual mix of people from across and beyond the estate. It feels very much like family when everyone comes together to share their stories and catch up on the past months happenings, perhaps giving us a glimpse of what the Kingdom of God looks like. The fact that we gather round bacon, sausages and cups of tea makes it all the more enjoyable!
This newsletter is put together by Linda Wilson: email linda.wilson a_t blueyonder d_o_t co d_o_t uk