Celebrating Good News

Last week I found myself in an unfamiliar part of town whilst I was getting Vicky’s car serviced. The garage told me it would take a couple of hours, so I had brought a book, but I decided to go for a walk for part of the time.

As I walked along a quiet road, I passed a school and a banner on the railing caught my eye. It told me that the school I was passing was the winner of the Anti-Racism School of the Year. It told me also about its vision – ‘with open hearts and open minds enjoy learning and achieving together.’

I kept thinking about these things as I walked along the road and I thought the ‘church without walls’ could really learn from this place.

They had a good news story to share. They had won an award for being the Anti-Racism School of the Year. The world we live in is full of division. The news headlines are full of the war in Ukraine, the challenge it is to police the waters,  protect the borders and prevent small boats arriving on our shores from the Mediterranean. As the cost of living crisis continues to make it difficult to make ends meet, local people can feel angry and disaffected. Many sectors are striking, people feel powerless and that those in authority don’t care. There’s a perception and, sometimes, a resentment that people from other places are coming in and receiving benefits while the most vulnerable here have no one in their corner.

I don’t know what this school had done to win the award, but it was obviously taking the hard problem of racism seriously. It’s not easy when new people come into a class and, perhaps, don’t speak the language. It offers challenges to teachers and pupils alike. But, with those challenges come opportunities also. There are opportunities to learn about other countries and cultures, to make new friendships, to develop empathy and compassion as you consider what it must be like to arrive in a strange country and try to navigate their education system.

The school stated its vision about how this might happen. With open hearts and open minds enjoy learning and achieving together. I loved the way the school was celebrating this and saying to the world we’re really proud of this award. This is what we’re about in this small corner of this multicultural city.

As I walked, I thought about how best to communicate Good News to a world that has got accustomed to hearing bad news about the church. Much of the reporting seems to major in on declining numbers or scandals or how irrelevant or out of touch the church seems to be with the rest of society.

I thought of all that happens in any given week in the ‘church without walls’ and there are good news stories going on all the time. I thought of the work of the toddler group where parents and grandparents and carers are offered a welcome and a space to talk and share the challenges and joys of looking after children together. I thought about the Boys’ Brigade and the Anchor Boys and the joy and friendship these groups have brought to my own son.

I thought about services which pray for divine healing and how we have seen and heard stories of healing, and the difference it makes to people to know they are prayed for weekly at Communion on a Wednesday, or at the monthly service on a Tuesday night hosted by Divine Healing Ministries. I thought about outreach ventures to the local community like the Wednesday afternoon Ladies’ Friendship Group, or the Sanctuary Course offering people a safe space to talk about their mental health. I recalled the buzz in the hall as the Cregagh Crafters get together on a Tuesday morning and people come together to do craft, have coffee and conversation and support one another in doing so. In much the same way the Mothers’ Union, Messy Church and Sunday school offers people an opportunity to share faith and conversation and hope together.

The advances and development of technology have afforded new possibilities for those who are housebound to meet together for prayer and fellowship each week online or to share the worship of a church service.

You couldn’t fit all of this stuff on a banner when you think of it. While we might be aware of these things and know they happen regularly on our premises, do other people know? Do they know that, if they enjoy singing, they could come along and join our parish choir, or if they want to work on their fitness, they could find a group to do Pilates with?

Has anybody who feels disheartened considered the amount of money parishioners have raised to do very practical things in our world like drill wells for clean water and build schools in East Africa, saving many lives through Fields of Life? Do people know about the yearly financial support of agencies like The Larder Food Bank, or Christians Against Poverty, or the local Marie Curie hospice?  Are they aware of the efforts people have invested in to welcome a family from Ukraine and furnish and rent a house locally and seek to support people fleeing from unimaginable horror? Are people conscious that someone consistently offers to pray for any situation that might be troubling someone in confidence if they simply call the number in the parish magazine? Of course, there are the many followers of Jesus in our community who visit people going through difficult things or pray for them in a quiet and hidden way that no one ever hears about, but it makes an enormous difference.

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring Good News. (Isaiah 52 verse 7). 

Let’s not be ashamed to tell these stories.

A warm welcome awaits any who might be interested in participating in the next 8 week Sanctuary Course beginning on Wednesday 1st February at 7.45pm in the coffee bar.

Looking forward to speaking again soon.

Much love to everyone,


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