Archive for the ‘Guest blog’ Category

guest blog: worship, justice & ethnomusicology

Monday, November 12th, 2012

Part 1 

Mathew Nathaniel is one of the pastors at New Horizons Christian Fellowship (Hemel Hempstead) and lectures on Worship and Justice at WorldShapers – the educational arm of the church which is currently transitioning into becoming a Christian College. He’s just about to return to India for a four month sabbatical. During it he’ll spend time with his family in Tamil Nadu and record an album which will bring together modern western worship music with traditional classical Indian music – it will include the first worship song about justice written in Tamil.

Liz caught up with Mat following a Worship and Justice Day he was running to find out about his journey as a Christian and a worship leader; what he has seen about God’s heart for justice and the nations; how his views on worship have changed; and what he wants to see change in the wider church as a result.

Mathew Nathaniel

I started this journey as an ambitious Indian teenager – keen to accomplish things in the field of biotechnology so that’s what I studied at Bangalore University. But by the end of my degree I felt there must be more than this. I had grown up in a Christian family – my Dad was an Anglican vicar – but when I experienced more of a personal relationship with Christ at University my direction started to shift.

I felt God was leading me to use my musical gifting more for him and my pastor played a vital encouraging role in this too. I was passionate in my ministry and although I was living and working in Chennai I felt led to travel to Chittoor – my home town which is about 100 miles away – every week just to be there for an hour and a half every week to lead young people in praise and worship and to just take care of them.

In the spirit of ecumenicalism, I really wanted to bring the fifty or so churches in Chittoor together. So I prayed and asked God for a strategy of how to do this. This led me to approach the churches with the idea of forming a mass youth choir. Thirty of them responded and we had 115 voices.

We advertised the six monthly concerts across the town and because it was the young people, everyone wanted to come – irrespective of their denominational background. There were Baptists, Roman Catholics, Brethren, Charismatics… between four and five thousand people came to these events.

It was a beautiful image – all these churches together in one place – one voice finding a way to come together.

As a result of these events, people became more open to giving freedom to the Holy Spirit in their churches and the Bishop of our Anglican diocese wrote to everyone saying they could add half an hour of praise and worship into their existing services – it was the end of previous restrictions and it was amazing to see.

About this time God started to lay Jeremiah 1:5 on my heart but I was cynical about being a ‘prophet to the nations’. I didn’t even have a passport! I thought it was just my emotions. I want to seek first the kingdom of God; I want to follow Jesus not seek blessings or status. I react badly to the use of this kind of language – I much prefer conditional promises… instead I say “let me follow you Jesus and then see your favour or blessing”.

But then in 2007 I received a call from my mentor asking me whether I would come to England to study at WorldShapers. I was offered a free education and visa and my parents said yes to me coming. But then there were all sorts of problems with me getting a passport.

I refused to pay a bribe when God was offering so much for free and there was a delay. With these difficulties, I wondered whether it was really right to come. But when my mentor said it might not be a blessing for you, but it will be a blessing for us, I said yes straight away.

During my first year at WorldShapers I started to see many things differently. I was around Christians who were thinking about things, not just accepting what they’re told. It was a real mind-opener and I was introduced to social justice.

But the real turning point came in my summer holidays at the end of the first year. I was back in India and reading Isaiah 58. I became disturbed to the core. I didn’t sleep well for three days. Then I called some of my closest friends and asked them what they thought God is trying to say through this passage. I was broken.

I asked them to take me somewhere there where no one wants to go – we prayed and then we started driving. My friend Yohan said he knew a place and took me to a leprosy mission centre. We introduced ourselves and explained that we didn’t even know why we had come but that we just wanted to.

We spent two hours with the people there, listening to their stories. When we came out I asked my friends, ‘do you have the same joy I have?’ Something was different – I didn’t feel disturbed anymore.

I knew what God was saying – that he, the God of the broken hearted would choose to come here rather than to my crazy worship event with thousands of people.

I came back to England to study my Masters in worship and found myself at Christian Aid’s Worship and Justice Workshop. The vicious circle of disturbance began again. I blame Liz! And also Andy Flannagan… his song about ‘We are blessed to bless a world in pieces’ was like nothing I’d ever heard before.

My brain was going off like a tuning fork – can a song like that even be accepted in the church I was thinking? And what Liz was talking about in terms of a transformation of the heart being needed really stood out.

I went away and wrote my thesis on Worship and Justice. I was asking what are the factors in our churches preventing this being prioritised in our worship, and in our actions?

I spent a lot of time looking at the theology of suffering, but meanwhile people were asking me why did I have to come to the UK to learn about suffering?

Surely I could have learnt about justice in India? But I was always taught the survival of the fittest. The suffering overwhelms us there and can create apathy. Where do you even start in India?

Some parts of the church say suffering is pre-destined; that you should just accept it. But I don’t need to determine God’s will if I see a person in need. If they are in need I move into action.

He has given me enough wisdom to simply respond. My thesis encourages believers to yes make their sung worship outward focused, but also to put their faith into action – to live it as a lifestyle.

That was why I created a model of doing worship where there is teaching on justice, followed by action, and then a return to sung worship.

It’s not the whole story – just a flavour of how worship and justice can go together – but I was wanting to find a way to communicate the concept expressed in Tim Hughes’ song, ‘Keep us from just singing, move us into action…. fill us up and send us out’. OUT – out of these four walls.

Worship is not just about music; and it’s not just about edification or encouragement either. It can’t end there.

guest blog: worshipping with just investments

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

Helen Boothroyd has been passionate about justice and peace issues all her adult life, sparked by studies in A level geography on urban poverty in early 1980s Britain, and developed at University as she learnt about the even greater economic and social injustices faced by sisters and brothers around the world.

This passion led her to be a resident staff member of the Iona Community; to co-author and edit Holy Ground: Liturgies and worship resources for an engaged spirituality; and to her current work as Social Responsibility Development Officer for Churches Together in Cumbria and the Church and Membership Relations Officer for ECCR – the Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility.

In this guest blog she urges us to ‘speak truth to power’ and to recognise that we have to tackle injustice at the big picture level – as well as reaching out to those affected on the ground. And she challenges us to consider how individuals and  churches can examine their investments and pray and act for wider change (particularly during National  Ethical Investment Week – 14- 20 October 2012).

Helen Boothroyd

I believe now as I did when I first encountered it then that life-sucking poverty in the face of obscene wealth is a moral scar on our human landscape and that tackling inequality, nationally and globally, is essential and urgent in the struggle to overcome poverty.

I am a member of the Iona Community whose justice and peace commitment includes the words “We believe that the Gospel commands us to seek peace founded on justice, that costly reconciliation is at the heart of the Gospel and that work for justice, peace and an equitable society is a matter of extreme urgency”. I do indeed believe this passionately.

I can’t understand how it’s possible to be a follower of Jesus Christ without feeling called to try to change the injustices of the way the world works.

These injustices aren’t natural; they’re created by people. And people can change them. People like us. Ordinary people working together for justice. I think that’s what Christians are called to do.

Most of the big justice, peace and environmental issues of our age focus around the unholy alliance of money and power.

Behind the arms trade; behind trade and tax injustice; behind the resistance to tackling climate change; behind the scandal of the global AIDS lottery – behind all these are transnational global companies: some worth more in dollars than many countries and with vastly more power than most of the governments whose strings they pull on the stage of global politics.

So if Christians are to have a real effect on tackling the injustices of the world I think we need to engage with these companies.

It’s tempting to say we should have nothing to do with them. That we should simply fight against what they’re doing to hurt the poor and the planet.

But if we take this purist line do we stand any chance of bringing about real change? I don’t think so.

Did Jesus ignore or fight those who stood in the way of the coming of God’s Kingdom? No. He talked with them, argued with them and challenged them – in keeping with the tradition of the Hebrew prophets.

I think we need to do the same.

We need to speak the truth to power. Based on knowledge not on ignorance; a genuine understanding not just a preconception. We need to believe we can make a difference. We need to look for real ways in which to effect change.

One of these is by decisions about what we do with our money.

We’ve seen the difference we can make as consumers, particularly through the spectacular success of the Fairtrade movement.

We can also make a difference as investors.

When we open a bank account, when we pay into a pension fund, the money we commit will be invested in the stock market, in project finance, in companies. We may not think of ourselves as shareholders but nearly all of us are one way and another.

Most of us don’t know what our money is invested in. But we can find out and we can make choices: to change banks, to choose an ethical pension scheme, to engage with those companies our money supports and ask them to improve their policy and practice.

This is true of us as individuals and individual congregations. And it’s also true of our denominations. The big church funds have millions of pounds invested in the stock market. They therefore have a powerful shareholder voice.

I work for the Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility (ECCR). ECCR promotes economic justice, human rights and environmental sustainability. We do this by undertaking research, advocacy and dialogue to encourage companies to meet higher standards of corporate responsibility and transparency, and by assisting faith communities and their members to encourage companies to do this through ethical and positive-impact  investment.

There’s lots of information about our publications, current work and actions people can take to support it at

We’re a membership organisation and very much welcome new members, both individuals and organisations such as dioceses, Churches Together  groups, religious orders and justice and peace groups. I’d be delighted to hear from anyone interested. You can email me for more in more information about joining ECCR at

Just like Fairtrade Fortnight, National Ethical Investment Week (14-20 October 2012), now in its fifth year, gives the opportunity for people and churches to explore how they can make investment choices that help bring about a more just world.

This year ECCR has again worked with UKSIF (UK Sustainable Investment and Finance) and CCLA  (a specialist investment management company for faith organisations and charities) to produce an Action Guide for Churches for National Ethical Investment Week (NEIW), which has just been published (July 2012). You can download this from together with a longer anthology of additional resources. (Both feature the Sanctuary’s wonderfully relevant worship resources.)

The Guide outlines some of the ways in which your church groups could get involved in NEIW through:
• Publishing Church church newsletter articles on ethical investment.
• Focusing an act of worshipyour worship around the issue.
• Holding a study group or talk.

I hope that many Christians will be able to use these worship resources in their churches this October to show that we are all called and empowered to make a difference and effect real change in our world through the choices we make about our money.

Sometimes we can feel overwhelmed by the scale and complexity of the injustices of the world. But let’s remember that every one of us can make a real difference through the decisions we make every day.

It’s individuals and communities that suffer from injustice. And it’s individuals working together in community that can bring about change.We are more powerful than the sum of our parts. Our small actions are a vital contribution on the journey to justice.

The Sanctuary’s resources featured in ECCR’s publications for NEIW are taken from our Written prayers for economic justice If you’ve been challenged by Helen’s article, you might like to look at these, and our creative prayer for rededicating our finances as well as ECCR’s resources.

guest blog: praying for, and engaging with, our media

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

Our friend Peter Crumpler has been working between the church and the media for almost 40 years. From writing about his West London church as a sixth former to spending seven years as Communications Director at the Church of England’s national offices until he left to begin training for ordination. During this time he’s also set up a charitable trust to encourage churches to work with the media, published a guide to help them communicate, spoken at conferences such as New Wine, and is even squeezing in some freelance communications work whilst training to be a Vicar!

Peter’s experience and career demonstrate his passion for seeing the church play its part in “ensuring we have a thriving media which is committed to truth”.  In this guest blog he calls us to pray for the industry and its professionals (particularly on, but also beyond, 20 May 2012), and challenges us to take action to build better relationships and communications with our media.

Peter Crumpler

I was on the telephone to my local BBC radio station, where a young journalist was asking me some background questions ahead of my being interviewed on the station’s evening drive-time programme.

“Let me understand this,” he said. “You’re asking people to pray for the media?” I said, yes I was. There was a pause. “Are you serious?” came the incredulous voice down the line.

And yes, I am.

I’m encouraging churches across the UK to pray for the media, particularly on Sunday 20 May, which has been designated as a special day of prayer for the media by the Church and Media Network

You can find out more about them, the day of prayer, and the resources available on their website, and I’d also encourage you to look at this resource I’ve produced for the Sanctuary which includes some of the same material, and will be available as a permanent resource on their prayer resources page.

But why?

The British media is under the spotlight as never before. Illegal practices by some journalists have combined with tough economic times and pressures from new technology to make these challenging times for everyone working in the media. As the young local radio reporter illustrated, they feel pretty unloved just now.

Yet, as a Christian, I want to affirm the media’s vital role in our society – giving a voice for the voiceless, keeping the powerful to account, highlighting unjust practices, calling for justice, and keeping people informed. They bring us strong opinions to challenge our own, and stories to entertain us.

I want to support the highest standards in the media, and back the vast majority of people working in the media as they try to keep integrity and truth in focus.

Working in the media is an honourable profession, and one to which I’d love many more Christians to consider their calling.
And I also want to affirm those who work with the media in our denominations and churches, to help journalists and commentators interpret the Church’s role in our society.

I want to see a thriving media – from national newspapers to community radio, from websites with massive global reach to specialist publications, from TV networks to local blogs and engaging Twitter streams – plus much besides.

How local churches could use the 20th May or other prayer events to engage with their local media

• Let the local newspapers, radio and other media (e.g. news blogsites) know that you will praying for them on the day. Consider sending them a news release telling them what you’re doing – they may tell their readers, listeners etc.

• Ask them what they would like you to pray for them – and be ready to use those topics on the day.

• Invite a local newspaper editor or station manager to come and speak at your church on that day or at a midweek event near to it. Or arrange a special Churches Together or ministers’ event with the local media invited to talk about their role in the community.

• Ask people who work in the media in your congregation to take part in a service, to speak about how their faith impacts their work and the challenges they face.

• Get young people in the church involved, talking about how they engage with the media, and how they see the media as a potential career.

More than prayer – it’s about getting involved

One of the best ways to affirm the importance of the media in your community is to engage with them regularly. Keep them informed of what your church is doing locally, and how you are serving your area. (There are courses and books available to help you do this well, and most denominations have experienced people who can help.)

Give someone in your church the role of liaising with the local media, and getting to know them – as an active voluntary community group, you have lots to offer. Be inventive – the church person that took cream cakes into the local newsroom made a lasting impact!

Make sure the media know who to contact in your church when they need a view on a local issue. Be proactive in offering news and views.

Consider supporting campaigns launched by the media, and helping to raise funds for charities they are backing.

Do give the media, local and national, feedback – positive or negative – about what they broadcast, print or publish online. Make use of email, text, Twitter. All would be grateful to get your ideas about how they are doing, and to hear from readers, listeners and viewers.

All types of media…

Churches are parts of international and national networks – so a thriving global and national media matters to us. We want to know about our world, its celebrations, its problems and its joys, and we need a thriving media of all types to help us engage with it.

Churches are communities of believers rooted in local areas. So the local and regional media matter to us – they are vital parts of our communities, and help to hold those communities together.

In difficult economic and social times, we need a strong and courageous international, national and local media, working to the highest ethical standards.

We need to play our part in ensuring that we have a thriving media, committed to truth, and in affirming – and challenging – those who work within it.

I believe strongly that the media matter to the Church, and that churches need to engage with their local media and raise their profile in their community. I also believe that journalists need to have a better understanding of the Church – of all denominations – and that people in those churches are best placed to help them.

Some Christians are wary of contacting the media but, particularly at local level, the churches are often the most active community groups and have so much to offer their local newspapers and radio with news and features material. But the reporters are busy people and staffing levels are small these days, so be prepared to write the story for them in a style they can easily edit for publication and take photographs that can be reproduced in print.

Good advice on working with the media is available from the Church of England here, and from the Church and Media Network here. And information about excellent training courses is also available from the CofE here.

Social media versus traditional media

Now everyone’s a publisher – you can write a blog and publish it to the web. Or use Twitter to reach thousands of people. Or set up a Facebook page for your church and invite people to drop by to see what’s happening.

As well as praying for the media of all types, and getting involved with them, look at the ways that you can get involved with social media. Visit the Twurch of England on Twitter to see the wide range of ways Christians and churches are engaging with this powerful social media.

Whatever you do on social media, look at ways it can work alongside the traditional media and support your efforts to raise your profile.

A final word

The media are the 21st century marketplace for news, ideas and debate. It’s vital that Christians are praying for the media and playing our part. From joining Twitter to getting to know your local newspaper, there’s lots that churches and individuals can do to make a difference.

The challenge is to make that first move…

We hope you are as inspired and challenged as we are by Peter’s heart for the media, and the practical ways he has given for us to bless and engage with our media.

Check out his resource on the Sanctuary’s website
, Written prayer and Prayer Pointers for our media and visit The Church and Media network to find out more about getting involved with the 20 May and beyond.

guest blog: a call to care for older people

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

Our friend, Mary Milne, is a committed campaigner, whose passion and voice for justice come from a sincere faith that we are called to make a difference, and a deep compassion for others. In their years as colleagues at Christian Aid, the Sanctuary’s co-founder, Liz Baddaley, learnt a lot from Mary, and even now would say that the voice in her head telling her how important it is to campaign sounds distinctly like Mary’s!

Mary now works for Age UK, and in this guest blog shares some of her perspective on God’s heart for older people, and her hope that individual Christians, and church congregations, will get behind the campaign to improve the care system.

Mary Milne

I’d describe myself as someone who is trying to follow Jesus, sometimes more, and often less, successfully! And for me ‘justice’ issues aren’t really a separable part of my faith.

I grew up in a church community and both my mother and my grandmother modelled practical care which was rooted in faith but not explicit about it.

I have a childhood memory of being in my granny’s little Morris Minor giving ‘old ladies’ lifts to church. I can distinctly remember watching the road underneath the car where the floor had rusted through. One of the ladies we picked up was quite generously built and we always worried the floor would give way!

Looking back, I can see how important it must have been for that woman, who lived on her own, to be able to get to church. And for my then 70-year-old grandmother, the opportunity to contribute and support others must also have been valuable.

But it wasn’t until I got older that I started to make more ‘political’ connections and understand that some of the issues facing people living in poverty in both this country and around the world weren’t just the result of bad luck, but of policies which could be challenged. That was when I got into campaigning, initially on environmental and international issues, but more recently on older people’s issues here in the UK.

I think we are a very ageist society – older people are often dismissed as having nothing to say, or only being interested in knitting and flower arranging…

But when I worked on development issues, one of the things I loved was meeting people in their 70s, 80s and 90s who were passionate about making a difference to people living in poverty.

We are all living longer these days – it’s estimated that around a quarter of children born now can expect to live to 100 – which is something to celebrate. But public policies are going to have to take into account that massive demographic change. Some people want to portray this as a threat, but I think as Christians we need to speak up for the fact that we all – older and younger – depend on each other.

We owe a debt of gratitude to those who lived before us and built our society – and we hold it in trust for those who come after us. I think it’s significant that churches and other faith communities are often the only places where older and younger people come together without barriers.

Throughout the Bible long life is seen as a blessing, and as a source of wisdom. I love this verse from the book of Job (12:12) “Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?” (NIV) – if only that was as self-evident to us today as it was to Job!

My favourite older person in the gospels is Anna – who lost her husband at a young age and lived the rest of her life in the temple where she “worshipped night and day, fasting and praying” (Luke 2: 37).

I picture Anna as a strong and wise person who has taken the independence offered by her widowhood to do something special with her life.

Her closeness to God enabled her to recognise the Christ in the baby brought to the temple by his parents, and she “spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Israel”.

But the Bible is also clear that we need to care for ‘widows, orphans and foreigners’ – those were the groups who were most at risk in Jewish society.

Since I’ve been working at Age UK, I have realised just how vulnerable and neglected some older people can be.

Think about a woman living on her own, unable to get out, her only human contact from a series of different carers who rush in twice a day for fifteen minutes, getting her up and washing her with plastic gloves on – what must she think this means?

Or a man with dementia, confused and angry, feeling everything that he has been and done in his life slipping away from him.

Or his wife, struggling to care for him while her own health suffers, trying hard to remember what he used to be and fighting her own guilt at the resentment she sometimes feels towards him.

I think there is a call to Christians here – both for a personal response in our own attitudes, but also for a political (with a small p) response.

One really important issue is the care system. ‘Care’ is defined as the provision of help with everyday things like dressing, meals, washing etc, either in people’s own homes or in a residential care home. It’s something that has become particularly significant to me in the last couple of years as my husband’s parents have started to need care.

They are the lucky ones – around 800,000 older people don’t get the care they need. For others it’s the poor quality of the care that’s the problem. And for one in ten people, who have a long term medical condition, the cost of care can be catastrophic – over £100,000.

These problems have been growing for many years, and successive governments have ducked the issue as too difficult to deal with.

One of the reasons for this is that there just hasn’t been a mass of people calling for change. Most of us don’t even realise that adult social care is different from health care – until we, or someone close to us, needs it.

So that’s why Age UK is working with others in the Care and Support Alliance to collect 100,000 signatures on a petition to show the government that this is an issue that people really are concerned about.

And I think that the churches could play a really key role in championing this issue – just as they did with debt cancellation through Jubilee 2000 and the Fairtrade movement. So…

• if you can do one thing, please sign the Care in Crisis petition

• If you are part of a church community which would like to do more, you can order paper copies of the petition and a campaign report with more information – just email

• If you are available on 6 March, please consider coming to a ‘mass lobby’ of parliament

• And if you just need some practical advice about the care system, I’d recommend the very helpful people on the end of the Age UK Advice line: 0800 169 6565.

Sometimes as I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve struggled with the fact that I seem to be thinking of older people as somehow ‘other’ – almost as a distinct group. But of course we’re all on a journey from birth to death – some are nearer the start and others of us are nearer the end.

We don’t know how long that journey will be and where it will take us. All of us – older and younger – are made in God’s image and I think we need to invite God to challenge our attitudes to ageing.

I encourage you to pray for God’s guidance to listen to, respect, care for and speak out for our elders, in our own communities and elsewhere.

Please do both pray and campaign in response to Mary’s thought-provoking blog. The Sanctuary has published some prayers specifically inspired by this blog, and Age UK’s campaign, which we’d love you to use if that would help you and your church engage with these issues. (We also have some more generally focused intercessions for elderly people available here.

guest blog: worship, justice and politics (part 2)

Monday, February 6th, 2012

In part one of this guest blog, Andy Flannagan shared his thoughts on the relationship between worship, justice and politics. In this second part, he tells us more about the Christian Socialist Movement’s (CSM) work, particularly in encouraging those on the inside of the political system , and then crucially, challenges us all to engage with politics more fully.

Andy Flannagan

My bath has never got cleaner by me standing outside it, and shouting at it… as I explained in part one, I have come to believe that it’s not enough just to campaign, we need to get stuck in on the inside of politics too.

It’s hard slow work but the CSM’s network building and resources provide support and camaraderie for those who have been called to the inside. And I’m really encouraged that there are a growing number of people in their 20s and 30s who are really sensing that this is their call.

CSM’s passion is to see God’s kingdom come, and his will be done, on the left side of politics. There are plenty of people who can say yes to that sentiment! But I suppose our particular speciality is on supporting people to get specifically involved, especially in the Labour Party.

A lot of prayer and careful thought is required by Christians going into politics, and by the CSM too. What will we agree with and not agree with? It’s the same with anyone. Lots of people feel they couldn’t join a party because although they have common causes, there are things they disagree with.

But the truth is, there’s only one party which I 100 per cent agree with – and that’s the Andy Flannagan party! Perhaps unsurprisingly, it only has one member!

This seems to be a classic Christian thing – that we think we have to agree with absolutely everything to be involved in anything. But we are called to co-operate; to be somewhere where we’re stretched and need to pray and rely on God rather than retreating to safe-houses.

CSM’s mission is just this – to be there, stuck in, and supporting those who people are doing so. Politics is a really bad place to go it solo – there are lots of ambitious people – and it’s hard. There’s an African proverb I think is particularly helpful for understanding this which says “if you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together”. And that latter approach is what we’re aiming for.

There was a good example recently in Luton where a church leader was elected an MP, and the only reason this came about was by building relationships and working together over a long period of time.

In fact,  together and slow is is the only responsible way to do it to avoid burnout because it takes a lot of strength to change a culture – not just change policies – we want to see individuals raised up who think well of the other side and aren’t tribal, respect family, and resist becoming workaholics.

Of course, as with any area where we’re going against the flow, it’s challenging. And so we need to pray and be focused on Jesus because it’s all about his example of servant leadership – choosing not to shy away from the leadership we’re called to, but doing as Jesus did. Of course this is hugely sacrificial and trying to model a different kind of leadership can only come from connection – our energy needs to come from his Spirit. It’s hard to lead like that when everyone else is screaming a different way.

1. Tell us a bit about the left/ right Christian debate…

I am sensing an increasing number of folks who are ‘left’ of centre on economic issues, but more right of centre on social issues. There is definitely momentum there.

It’s hard for Christians who can often be pigeon-holed into “left” or “right” and we need to make sure that that space stays open, as those folks sometimes don’t feel at home in either major party. It’s also important to note that we don’t make law for everything we believe is right and wrong; some things are appropriate to be legislated and some are not.

Jesus embodied truth. God has a take on all things – and some of his followers have a passion or skill for campaigning on one, and some for another – and that’s fine.

For me it’s about taking a holistic and “both and” approach. I am happy to campaign on for example abortion and also to strongly critique capitalism, or support a living wage, which can seem like a contradiction to some, but left and right are just human constructions. We have to work with them of course, but shouldn’t be limited by them.

The same applies to the church. We need to regain a “both and” approach. I’ve been so inspired recently by Urban Neighbours of Hope which are made up of people living in the toughest cities and campaigning politically, working socially and praying for healing to transform them. They have realised it’s not an abstract decision – the people they are working alongside are politically, practically and spiritually oppressed – and to only respond to them in one way would be to not truly serve them. I’m encouraged to see many churches getting involved in this type of “both and” approach.

John Bell from the Iona community says “if God isn’t in the kitchen he isn’t anywhere”. And I think that sums up the big reason we’ve stepped away… as goes our language, speaking and theology, so goes our action. If we’re not singing about the kitchen, if we’re not including the work-place in our worship, we won’t have that perspective when we go out into it.

Our faith’s engagement with politics should be all about relationship building. But many Christians involved in politics get frustrated because as Christians we easily cast ourselves in the role of critic, commentator and voter rather than becoming participators. We shouldn’t see our responsibility in politics as just putting a tick in box every five years. Instead, we should be building relationships with councillors and MPs – and have much bigger swathes of prayer going on as we do this.

When this relationship building and prayer happens, opportunities open up, people start asking for prayer – we need to be a people who bless, support and challenge.

It’s a heart-breaking truth that most MPs will tell you that the rudest letters they get often from Christians. I’m not saying all Christian letters are like this, but the ones that are detract from the faithful service and witness of those trying to work inside the system.

My advice, if you’re looking to get stuck in, would be to not get obsessed with the national politics and soap opera of Westminster, because there is so much more opportunity to impact your local area, especially in supporting people who are getting involved. We don’t have to agree with people all the time to pray for them, or for the outcomes of elections, or to join together as a church in doing this. We can confidently bring any issue before God and simply pray “your will be done”.

A great example of this happened of recently when many church leaders in London met with Ken Livingstone, and he listened to their concerns and then shared his passion and vision. There were three incredible presentations – from Christians Against Poverty, SPEAR Hammersmith who are getting young people into employment, and XLP youth work in South London. It was amazing to see the church engage in this way, and to witness the impact it had on Ken and how he spoke for rest of the day.

2. What message do you want to send to Christians who are wondering how to engage more in this area?

It’s all about following Jesus. Jesus who was in constant connection – worshipping, praying, drawing aside – but then in the midst of action; listening, seeing and doing whatever God was doing. He was not about maintaining the status quo. Instead, he challenged the religious and political leaders of Israel, and made some quite incredible points with regard to Caesar!

The sermon on the mount was a total reorientation of the world… time and time again Jesus stood up on behalf of the downtrodden and marginalised and that is who he spent his time with. And that’s what God’s heart is. I don’t see that as an innate bias towards those in poverty. God sadly has to be biased towards the poor, because we’re not. We’re obsessed with celebrity and power-brokers. He knows our potential selfishness – and that’s why laws like Jubilee existed in the first place.

We need to really pray for, and support, our leaders and politicians. At the current time, what I most often find myself praying for is wisdom, discernment, bravery and encouragement. I don’t believe that the world’s economics are going to get better with mere tinkering. But it’s going to take bravery to dismantle systems, creating potential uncertainty and trauma before things get better.

But I believe and hope that someone may be able to do that. They have to. Because analysts are already saying the bottom one billion people on our planet are cast adrift, that they simply can’t catch up. It’s going to take extreme bravery to live differently.

If you’ve found this as inspiring as we have, you might like to subscribe to Andy’s blog. You might also be interested to visit the website of the Conservative Christian Fellowship.

guest blog: worship, justice and politics (part 1)

Monday, February 6th, 2012

Andy Flannagan describes himself as being “married to my lovely wife Jenny, living in central London trying to work out how to be downwardly mobile, and spending lots of time with neighbours, writing and singing songs, and leading people in worship. And part-time I work as the Director of the Christian Socialist Movement, seeking to be a prophetic voice to the left side of politics and encouraging people to get stuck in with seeing politics as mission

Andy has worked for Youth for Christ, led worship in a diverse range of settings including Spring Harvest and Greenbelt, and written challenging worship songs whose lyrics break the mould. We have long come to highly respect his journey and insights into many matters close to our hearts, and so we are delighted to publish some of our conversation with him about the relationships between worship, justice and politics in the first part of this guest blog.


Andy Flannagan

1. Why do you think worship so important?

I think it’s because it’s what we’re designed to do. We should be in a relationship with our creator. In the New Testament, the Greek word most often used for worship is “proskyneo” which means “to come towards and kiss” and expresses a beautiful combination of reverence and intimacy. The church swings like a pendulum from one extreme to the other, but the two are meant to come together.

Worship is not a means to an end – and that’s the real danger – we use it as a means to gather, or to talk about themes, or to sell worship music. But we’re called to worship because we’re created in the image of God; we’re created to know him and enjoy him.

There’s a story of two young men walking out of church on a Sunday morning…. they get into the outside world, and one of them says “I didn’t really get much out of the worship this morning”. The other thinks for a moment and then says, “Oh, I wasn’t aware it was for you”.

It’s a funny story, but it grabs me in the gut… in all the discussions we have amongst ourselves, you could, as an outside observer, be forgiven for believing it was for us.

But we worship because of the glory he is due. We need to regain a right orientation of who he is and who we are because that drives everything else: the decisions we make; what and who we value; how we ascribe worth – literally our “worthship”. Every decision we make from admin to buildings reveals our priorities.

That’s why worship is central. If that relationship is not at the spine of our lives, everything else falls apart.

2. What’s been your experience of discovering that worship and justice are so closely related?

Well, it’s very much a journey I’ve been on which I think has been thankfully much more about God than it has been about me.

Justice must come up as we worship because we worship all aspects of God’s character. If we’re not worshipping the ‘God of justice’ aspect, we’re getting a skewed view of him. There’s been a lot of focus in modern worship songs on the more romantic or beautiful sides of God’s character. These are true and wonderful but they are not the full story.

And justice and righteousness are twin pillars of his kingdom. Hopefully, as I’ve got to know him more, I’ve got more passionate about justice because he is the God of justice.

I have been very blessed to meet amazing people and read helpful books which have helped me encounter the heart of God.  When I was a student, I took part in two or three of Tearfund’s summer programmes and these submerged a white Northern Irish boy into Plaistow, a part of east London, where at the time, there were forty different ethnic groups.

As well as these programmes opening my eyes to poverty and injustice in the UK, various people came and talked to us about global economics and explained to us how some nations were locked in poverty because of the way the global economic system is rigged in favour of the rich.

Crucially, the Bible, and passages such as Isaiah 61 came alive in these situations. At one point, everywhere I went Luke 4, where Jesus quotes Isaiah 61, seemed to appear, and I really felt God challenging me for that to be true in my life. I felt led to use my voice to free captives, see people healed, and encourage others to do the same.

Another key moment was when I spent the summer helping some people who were working in the centre of Cairo with people living on a rubbish dump which the government denied existed. I was still a medical student at this point, but I came back with songs and poems… and thought “how can this all fit together

Soon after I heard the then Director of Operation Mobilisation say that what was most needed was not more missionaries, but more senders – people who have a heart for ‘away’ but who are gifted in communicating it to others at home.  It landed in my gut – and I knew “that’s what I’m called to do”. 

A lot of people were, like me, making that transition in the 1990s, as an awareness of issues such as debt and trade began to increase. A lot of us started to see that the compassionate Good Samaritan response alone is just not enough.

There’s a Martin Luther King quote about someone needing to go back and improve the security on the road to Jericho. It will probably mean boring discussions on structure and legislation – which are so much less exciting than helping people directly – but I believe that more and more of us are called to be called in committee rooms.

And this all connects with prayer and worship. As we realise that it’s the systems we need to change, we also become aware of just how huge and immobile the structures that we want to see changed are – and we’re aware of our smallness, and our desperate need for God’s bigness.

Anything we do needs to be coupled with intense times on our knees in prayer.  And when we pray we start to see what is behind the practicalities. We stop focusing on flesh and blood and labelling some people as “good” and others as “bad”, and instead we start coming up against consumerism; materialism; self-promotion; laziness; greed. We are called to tear down these strongholds, and seeing them as such keeps our focus on a spiritual battle.

As a campaigner, it’s easy to get focused on particular personalities or companies, and that’s why worship and justice together keep us in a good rhythm. Then we can see and speak out the truth, but we miss this stuff when we’re not in constant prayer. Ephesians 6:18 rings very true.

3. And how does this all relate to your heart for politics?

It all comes back to the importance of us being involved. We govern because God governs. We are called to lead, and govern. It’s not an option to just stay on the sidelines and pray… we’re called to be involved in leadership

Also for me personally, there’s a very pragmatic point. If you look at the distribution of kingdom resources in the UK and United States – though I’m not saying for a second that what I’m doing is more important than anything else – there is a lot more resource focused on shouting from sidelines and sending postcards, than on working for transformation on the inside. We need both.

I want to be encouraging lots more people to get stuck in and be salt and light… for most of the last thirty years, many of us have opted out and created another sub-culture, and I’m not sure it has worked. There has been a silo-ing of society and in the church we’ve become like that. Just as mainstream society has decided that it’s only people who are in economics who are qualified to talk about economics, we’ve decided if we don’t like some of what’s going on, we’ll separate.

There’s been some thinking recently about there being seven spheres of culture which various writers have examined. For example politics; the media and religion. But so much of the church’s teaching and training has been exclusively focused on growing better church leaders and worshippers, training people for the religious sphere, instead of developing Christians to be better in all seven spheres.

We need to grow people to be salt and light in those places and see them transformed too. We need to be present and to be in prayer – intelligent prayer – the kind of prayer that comes from understanding situations, sectors and the people in them.

Politics is not more important than the other spheres, but it is an incredible missional opportunity. If you bring creativity and optimism; if you turn up; if you do what you say you will do – it’s not hard to make an impact.

I think it’s all about ordinary people standing up and being counted, rather than just following heroes. Sure we can look back and be inspired by the stories of people like Wilberforce – for me there’s a scene in the film where he says he’s torn between whether to serve religion or politics and he’s challenged that perhaps he could do both.

But I think a lot more of us are called to that kind of straddling role – to help provide translation and make sure whole sections of society don’t float off separately, like the world of high finance did.

Look out for the second part of Andy’s blog, being published later today, which explores the work of the CSM more fully, and poses a challenge to us all to get more involved. (You may also be interested to visit the website of Conservative Christian Fellowship, which undertakes similar work in and for the Conservative Party.)

And if you’ve found Andy’s perspective on worship and justice particularly helpful, you might be interested to read this article that the Sanctuary published from him last year, based on an interview given to a masters student.

mission = prayer + action

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

We’ve recently had the great privilege of connecting with Theresa Stone, 24:7 UK’s Prayer and Commuications Co-ordinator, because of our involvement with helping to co-ordinate a three-month season of 24:7 Prayer in Ilkley and Wharfedale. Theresa lives in Raynes Park, West London, with her husband and friends who can “be” church together.

We’ve been inspired by her encouragement, passion for prayer, and heart for mission. In this guest blog, she tells us a bit about how these things all relate; her journey; working for 24:7; and an exciting new prayer initiative they have launched with Alpha for 2012 – Kingdom Come.

Theresa Stone

I have the wonderful privilege of working with some incredible people at the 24-7 Prayer movement; put simply 24-7 Prayer is a global, non-stop prayer meeting that began in 1999 among the young people at Revelation Church in Chichester who set up a 24-7 prayer room in response to wanting more of God. The idea caught on and travelled like wildfire around the globe!

“My job is to mobilise, encourage and catalyse prayer in the UK and I love it as it involves my favourite things: talking to people, hearing really good positive stories about how God is moving, designing resources, and then getting to write about how God touches lives and changes nations through the power of prayer on the 24-7 UK website!

“How did I get this job? Well it’s a long story! In short I have a passion for prayer, mission and justice birthed in two roles I previously held in communications, one at Micah Challenge International on their 10.10.10 campaign to see poverty ended globally, and before that I worked for a couple of years as the press officer at Christian Solidarity Worldwide, an international charity advocating in government and in the media on behalf of the human rights of persecuted Christians.

“All this came from my training as a broadcast journalist and realising that the kind of stories I really wanted to tell were not currently being written in news organisations!

“I remember working on justice campaigns at CSW and Micah Challenge, and prayer was always a key part of the advocacy element, but I think I was touched when an external communications consultant came into advise on a project and spent a lot of time focusing on the ‘prayer’ element.

“At first this frustrated me, as I am a big ‘doer’ and I wanted to change the world myself!

“Then after hearing an amazing lady called Janet Munn, from the Salvation Army speak at Raynes Park Community Church on a global call to prayer based on the same biblical call that bed-rocked the Micah Challenge 10.10.10 campaign, Chronicles 7:14: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” I just found myself crying and smiling at the same time, having that piercing knowledge that God was speaking to me about what he has desired from me. My heart.

“There is no formula to humanity changing situations…no press release, or story alone will bring about the kind of change I was desiring, without prayer.

“So prayer and action are uniquely linked in my role in life, which I see as catalyzing change for the better.

“Working for 24-7 Prayer has been a joy as it urges people not just to pray, but also to take action on injustice, go on mission and show the world how to ‘be’ not just ‘do’.

“I’m personally challenged to be even more hands on as we move into the future. I want to do as Mother Teresa did, and see the face of Jesus in the poor and despairing and hopeless right here and now, but not without prayer as the foundation.

“I love the fact that ‘unity’ in the Church is a key element of how effective we can be in the world. 24-7 Prayer and Alpha are resourcing a partnership Year of Prayer in the UK and Ireland called ‘Kingdom Come 2012’ or KC:UK/ KC: RL next year as part of our call to see this nation ‘living on prayer.’

“As nations of the world come to the UK and Ireland for the Olympics and Paralympics, we believe that God wants the Church to rediscover God’s compassion for the world, and to receive again God’s call to go into the world. It builds on recent years of non-stop prayer in Scotland (‘The Big If’) and in Northern Ireland and the republic of Ireland (What If’) We’re encouraging people to pray in all kinds of ways, in all kinds of places, holding regional events, prayer rooms, prayer walks, prayer staking. We’ve made a special online KC:ToolBox full of downloadable prayer resources to help them do this. We want to see prayer that spills out in mission and justice!

“Prayer excites me as it often changes our hearts to ‘become’ part of the answer to the pain and the problems that we see in the world…. those who drink from the everlasting water of life will not be thirsty anymore. You could talk about the need for prayer and action, as the need for taking breaths as we swim. Spluttering and coughing in a swimming pool won’t help you rescue anyone who is drowning…you have to breathe ‘in and ‘out’ regularly, as well as moving your arms and legs.

“I’m still discovering what this means in practice, and how to live the kind of life that balances all the elements of action and dwelling in his presence.

“24-7 prayer develops rhythms of prayer that are lived out in community, for example, we all set our alarms to 12 every day, and pray the Lord’s Prayer together We’ve found that setting rhythms of prayer is one key to this lifestyle, but I’m becoming more and more aware of the need for me to thank God for all that he has done so far in my life as I try to live out the call 

“There isn’t a formula to do this, but I rest in the knowledge that relationships grow and change all the time, and as I go forward with my relationship with God, praying and thanking him, I can trust him to lead me to become more fully his, and more fully part of a dynamic change in this nation.

guest blog: towards a generous Christmas (part 2)

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

Ruth Grayson is the founder of CASC-aid – a campaign working against the secularisation of Christmas, and for an increase in charitable giving. We spent a fascinating afternoon hearing from her about what she is trying to do, and were challenged and inspired by her counter-cultural and compassionate message – we believe it’s one that needs to be heard.

In part one of this guest blog, Ruth told us about her own journey with Christmas. Here, she explains a bit more about what this has made her think we should do differently, including explaining CASC-aid’s courageous 50:50 giving model, and extending Christmas celebrations beyond 25 December.

Ruth Grayson

“I have heard it said that one third of the UK’s GDP is generated by Christmas-related activity.

“And yet we often hear figures from the UN and aid agencies that say that if we could raise something like £1billion we could rebuild Pakistan’s infrastructure after floods, or relieve the famine in the Horn of Africa, or rebuild Haiti.

“£1billion for each of these causes sounds like an astronomical sum, but the most conservative figure for the UK’s Christmas spending is £15billion annually.

“About three years ago, I led a workshop at a Methodist District Synod, and got people to think about what their overall household spending was going to be on Christmas-related activities. I had twenty five people in the session, mainly clergy and church workers, so probably not the best paid people in world, nor the most extravagant… The total figure for them all came to £15,000 – they were absolutely gobsmacked!

“I had recently come up with the idea of 50:50 giving – where half of our budget at Christmas could be spent on ourselves, and half given away. Straight away, with this principal, £7,500 could have been given from that room without anyone spending a penny more than they had already planned to.

“If twenty five people could make this much of a difference, think what a difference more people could make. I genuinely believe it would be easy to raise those type of £1billion lump sums that are needed – simply just by us all taking stock of what we usually spend, making a budget and then working out what it would mean to spend half of that and give more to charity.

“Poverty is not unsolvable. Charity begins at home – and I believe it starts with me. Jesus would say “What are you doing about it?”

“Christmas seems like an easy win place to start to me. If we can’t do it then, how can we ever live up to our Lord’s teaching that we should give up everything to follow him?

“But I think it can be so easy to let someone else do the work and assume that someone else is sorting out the big problems of our world, or that we’re too small to make a difference. We leave it to governments, big charities or other people.

“I truly think that we could raise a huge amount of the funds needed by changing to 50:50 Christmas giving. And this is one of the central messages of CASC-aid – both to reduce the amount of stress in the lead up to Christmas, and to get back to a more generous Christmas – and a fuller understanding of the scriptural basis for giving at this time.

“I do acknowledge that it can be difficult for parents to reduce their spending at Christmas, as it does impact on their children and how their peers view them – and it can be hard if grandparents or other family members have very different views. But I think that the key is working with the children, involving them in your decision-making and getting them on board – then the adults will fall in! Children have a great sense of justice and what’s right.

“I believe that our churches have a very important role to play in all this – and pastorally, they should be concerned about the stress and financial burden of our commercialised Christmas. I would love to see more of them preaching the message that you don’t have to spend a lot to have a good time, and that it’s a time to give gifts to God and share with the poor.

“After all, who are we worshipping at Christmas? Is it God? Or is it tradition?

“This isn’t about reducing our joyful celebration at Christmas – in fact it’s about increasing it… and in some cases, spreading it out.

“I don’t want to knock all the things that happen in churches in Advent and on Christmas Day itself – especially as many of these things lead to more people coming in – they are great. But I do think that the church could have an even greater impact by focusing less on cramming everything in before Christmas, and more on continuing them at a more sustainable pace through, and beyond, this time.

“We need to counter the mentality that Christmas is over and that’s it – it’s totally contrary to the Gospel – Jesus is with us always, he doesn’t just disappear on Boxing Day!

“That period between Christmas and Epiphany is also fairly dead – there’s nothing for families to do, children are bored, and arguments start. It would be a great time for churches to have their doors open, make themselves available, and put on activities for families and children.

“This Christmas, I’m praying that we all start to understand what it means to express the joy of the gospel through giving to the rest of the world

Ruth has also started something new this year – which is a special CASC-aid service for Christ the King Sunday (the last Sunday before Advent starts, 20 November this year). It’s also known as “Stir Up Sunday”. Download the service here.

guest blog: towards a generous Christmas (part 1)

Monday, November 14th, 2011

Ruth Grayson is the founder of CASC-aid – a campaign working against the secularisation of Christmas, and for an increase in charitable giving. We spent a fascinating afternoon hearing from her about what she is trying to do, and were challenged and inspired by her counter-cultural and compassionate message – we believe it’s one that needs to be heard. In part one of this guest blog, Ruth tells us about her own journey with Christmas

Ruth Grayson

My husband and I spent seven years in South Korea working as missionaries with the United Methodist Church USA back in the 1980s – and it was during this time, that my passion for the real meaning of Christmas started.

“While we were there, I actually hated their version of Christmas! Partly I missed my family back home, but also I didn’t like the lack of build-up to it. South Korea isn’t a Christian country (although around twenty five per cent of the population are Christians), so although Christmas Day is a bank holiday, not much happens for it, it’s really just a day off, and then everyone goes back to work the next day.

“So when we came back to live in the UK, it was quite a different experience to see how commercialised Christmas had become here – it was a stark contrast.

To begin with, I actually really enjoyed it – I got involved in everything that happened in the lead-up, and loved singing familiar carols again and going to all the Christmas services with my family. But as the children grew older, other pressures started to crowd in – particularly around the amount of money spent on gifts, and on the stress of preparations.

“I began to get worried that my favourite day was actually Boxing Day, because I could finally put my feet up and take it easy!

“I wondered what that said about my faith and why it was that the day after we celebrate Jesus coming, we shut up shop and say it’s all over. After all, Christmas is about God coming and dwelling with us – staying with us.

“I also worried about how much people were spending.

“So, my family decided to start doing things a bit differently. We started putting “IOU” notes under the tree for each other, and then went shopping together in the Boxing Day sales. We also gave the money we had saved from spending less to charity.

“Christmas Day started to feel like it was about what it should be again – celebrating Jesus’ birth, going to church, and being with family. It took away the pre-Christmas stress of running round buying presents, and meant our charitable giving increased.

“I should mention that we still had stockings – you have to have some nonsense still!

“But it got me thinking… I started to do some writing about how churches were starting to jump on the band-wagon of the commercialisation of Christmas – how they were all so busy in the run-up to Christmas Day, and then after the Christmas Day service, locked the door, often until the New Year.

“And I began to talk about what churches could do before Christmas to take the pressure off, especially off ministers who often end up on their knees. What if we started to transfer some things to that period between Christmas and Epiphany? Then perhaps we could continue the celebration of the Christmas period, rather than it all being concluded on one day. After all, Epiphany is a celebration of Jesus being recognised by the gentiles – it’s about the message of the Gospel spreading around the world.

“So I did things like writing pantomimes for our church and this worked well. We found it gave children fun things to focus on rather than just feeling gloomy about the holidays being over and going back to school.

“I also started to get more pre-occupied with the gift-giving aspect of Christmas. I discovered that the origin for giving gifts to individuals comes from the pagan aspects of 25 December – and specifically from the Roman festival of Saturnalia, which Christmas was meant to replace.

“But in scripture, gifts are given to the baby Jesus (i.e. to God ) and John the Baptist preached that people should share their possessions to the poor as preparation for the Messiah coming.

“From this, I began to think about an idea of 50:50 giving at Christmas – i.e. giving as much as we spend on ourselves.

“Meanwhile, I was also spending a lot of time researching social and economic history in my work in Sheffield, and then focusing specifically on employment issues. I’ve also been involved in setting up various projects locally for the unemployed and homeless on a voluntary basis. So out of these things, I made a further realisation.

“Christmas puts so much pressure on people. It’s the greatest single cause of personal debt in the UK, a major cause of relationship breakdown, a key factor in mental illness, and one of the main causes of severe stress in the UK and USA  – and that sticks in my throat as a Christian.

“Christmas is for celebrating Christ’s birth so surely the church shouldn’t be sitting back and letting this all happen in the name of Christianity?

“So CASC-aid started to evolve out of all this – a desire to alleviate stress and debt; and a vision of getting back to the real meaning of Christmas – where we have time to celebrate God with us, and our giving is focused beyond ourselves.

(Look out for part two of this guest blog, coming tomorrow, where Ruth explains her vision for CASC-aid, and Christmas itself in this country, and tells us how we could get involved.)

guest blog: worship, justice and healthcare

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

Mollie Brown has just finished her second year as a Junior Doctor in Leeds. We caught up with her this summer to find out about how she puts worship into action in her workplace; how she keeps going when facing life and death situations; the injustices she sees around her; and what other Christians can pray about for the NHS

Mollie Brown

“To be honest I didn’t ever really want to be a doctor… and it certainly wasn’t about wanting to help people. But since I became a Christian, that has all changed.

“From the age of 16, I was encouraged by my parents and teachers to become a doctor or a lawyer. I thought being a doctor sounded more appealing because you’re around people, and I was really fascinated by biology. It makes me laugh now – but at the time it seemed a bit glamorous!

“Studying and training has been hard. But when I became a Christian at about 18, I really felt God wanted me to see it through. I started to understand that it would be a privilege to serve people. And now, actually doing the job – it has been such a joy to be there for people at some of the most difficult times in their lives.

“But it’s also been really hard – sometimes the only reason I can go on to the ward is because I know Jesus is with me, and he’s going to help me do the best I can. He really is my strength. It’s physically exhausting and there are such high stress levels.

“Even when I see something really traumatic, I have to keep going. But then I’ll go into the kitchen with my phone, and put on a worship song – I’ll sometimes weep and then I’ll just ask God to give me the strength to get through the rest of the shift. It always helps.

“Whatever I have seen that day, I can trust him with it. He gives me peace and helps me sleep when I go home.

“God has given me compassion for my patients and I don’t think I could actively distance myself from them, even though maybe I should from a professional perspective. God tells us to love people and to give everything, and I think if we honour him in doing that he protects our hearts.

“I see more of him through the people I care for. Every patient and staff member I see is loved by Jesus and he can address every single need. He inspires me to go the extra mile for people, and to do a really good job.

“I do really struggle with not being able to talk about my faith, which helps me so much, with patients. It was especially hard when I was working in GP – where it seemed as if 90% of people came in with no real physical problem.

“It’s really hard in hospital too – whether they come in with a lump, or their relative is dying, they often have such fear of death in their eyes. And most of the time, your hands are tied. All you can do, sometimes even all the chaplains can do, is make polite conversation, rather than pray with them.

“I really believe we need to see more of the Holy Spirit working in our hospitals – the difference prayer could make is mind-blowing, especially because so many people are desperate for comfort and answers.

“My husband Steve and I are about to go to Mozambique to serve with Heidi Baker’s mission organisation Iris Ministries for at least a year. But I still see medicine in my future because there are so may broken people out there – mentally and physically – and to be able to help them in any way that I can is a privilege. You get to be very intimate with them in the hardest time in their lives, to speak positivity, and to show them God’s love.

“You also get to see all types of people, and I’ve found it’s made me more passionate about justice and more compassionate towards the marginalised. In A&E you come across quite a lot of drug addicts, homeless people and prostitutes. There is a lot of stigma and it seems some health professionals have less patience with them because they see their suffering as self-inflicted. But when you chat to vulnerable people about their experiences, and realise what their lives have been like, you know you can’t judge. Instead, you want to be there for them in the midst of the hostility they are experiencing, and the fear they are feeling.

“And there are other groups of vulnerable people you see too – people struggling with mental health issues; those who are suffering as a result of domestic violence; and refugees. I’ve even seem some people who are going on holiday dropping their elderly relative off at the hospital with a suitcase.

“Please pray that God will breakthrough in our hospitals and our health service as a whole. And for doctors and other healthcare professionals to experience more of God’s presence with us; more of his wisdom in us to love and care for people as best as we can; and more freedom of speech about our faith.”

If Mollie’s blog has inspired you to pray for the NHS, why not use our Praying for the NHS visual prayer slides (available as PPT or PDF) or written prayer to respond.

Why not also:

  • sign up to the Christian Medical Fellowship’s email updates on public health issues and Christianity
  • set up a prayer group for any health professionals you know who would value support.