A visit to a bicycle shop in Swindon (www.recycles-swindon.co.uk) taught me a lot about the potential value of things that have been thrown away. The bike shop is run by The Salvation Army so is not an ordinary bike shop. Like everything that The Salvation Army is involved in, this bike shop attempts to make an impact on peoples’ lives. Many of things in this bike shop that were once thrown away but, after some love and care, have been brought back to life.
The first things are the bikes. Many of the bikes had been thrown away. After being brought to the shop from the tip, there are things that are rusted, broken or snapped. With attention and skilled work, they are brought back to a state where they can be sold at a cheap price.
The other ‘things’ are the workers. The men and women who work on the bikes were once ‘thrown away’ too, whether by themselves or their loved ones. Now staying at The Salvation Army, the residents are given care and attention to bring them back to life. The shop is part of this, giving an opportunity to know the value of work, to receive training and to gain valuable experience before entering mainstream employment.
Recycles (www.recycles-ilford.co.uk) is the bike refurbishment social enterprise at Ilford Corps. Every Monday and Friday, we turn our main worship space into a bike workshop – with tool cupboards on the wall and everything! We get bikes that would have otherwise been scrapped and bring them back to a life – a fitting image of resurrection and the transformation that is possible in every person’s life.
I find these economic, justice-seeking initiatives to be powerful images of the Bible’s message of the possibility of renewal through Jesus Christ. In him, all things can become new.
May you know this possibility and may it be a reality in your life.
A week on Thursday, Ilford Salvation Army will open its night shelter for the 5th consecutive winter. During this time, hundreds of people have stayed in the shelter, which accommodates 28 people per night. For those 93 nights, during the coldest part of the year, the Corps building becomes ‘home’. However, we’re very aware that sleeping on a camp-bed in our upstairs hall doesn’t constitute fullness of life. Let’s take a look at Matthew 25 again:
“Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”
Where in our society do you see, on a frequent basis, Christians, Jews, Muslims, agnostics and atheists, young and old, people from all different social backgrounds choosing to come together to share common experiences and desires, despite all our differences? The answer is somewhere on the narrow spectrum of rarely to never. In a world which appears increasingly divided and suspicious of those who are not like ‘us’, the significance of such events should not be underestimated.
On Wednesday night, the South London chapter of Citizens UK met for its Delegates Assembly at the Salvation Army training college in Denmark Hill to do just this, albeit on a larger scale than your average monthly meeting. Nearly 250 people were packed into the main meeting hall, representing the dozens of institutions that make up South London Citizens. Four Salvation Army institutions were represented: William Booth College along with Southwark, Camberwell and Nunhead corps – and Major Mark Rose, Business Services Director of WBC, welcomed all at the start and was part of the event organising team. Continue reading “South London Citizens Assembly at William Booth College”
“Mummy, what church do we live in?” This was the question 4 year-old Nathan asked about a year ago and it pretty much sums up the values of our Salvation Army gathering in Mitcham, London.
It was refreshing to read about the importance of visitation in the report ‘Marching Towards Justice’ and in particular the challenge to the status quo that visitation isn’t about me – spending time with someone because I know best and want to support them – but it’s about us, where we “…encourage both parties to speak freely about themselves.” As a leader in the church it can be really hard to make myself vulnerable to those around. My experience is that my ego compels me to have to keep a bit of mystery around who I am. The reality, however, is that I am a believer who messes up, struggles with faith and questions the world I see around me – church included. Continue reading “The power of us: listening, vulnerability and making room for God”
‘We get 30 or so on a Sunday, but back in the 70’s it would have been 300.’ Carl [not his real name] is telling me about the local working men’s club he has attended for decades just down the road from where we sit at a coffee morning in the church building where my wife Jenni and I have spent the last few months on our summer placement as part of our training to be Salvation Army officers. He has lived in the same house in West Leicester for 70 years and was an engineer and cleaner for most of his working life. He reflects that Leicester has a proud history of industry, particularly in shoe-making and hosiery, but like much of British industry, it declined in the decades after WWII. Continue reading “Reflections from Leicester – institutions are key to strong communities”
Last night I attended a prayer vigil for refugees, with Salvation Army colleagues from across London. It was a remarkable gathering.
Look at this photo – what do you see?
Here’s what I see…
I see diverse people. Gathered in the courtyard of Westminster Cathedral 450 souls stand shoulder to shoulder. A snapshot of the diversity to be found in this great capital city. People of various faiths, ethnic and social backgrounds. Humanity in it all it’s jumbled, glorious, and wondrous mess. All belong, all needed. Continue reading “Praying towards justice – a vigil for refugees”
After one year of Salvation Army officership (leadership), I’m barely off of the starting blocks! With a background in international development within The Salvation Army I decided to make the jump, together with my wife, to our movements two-year leadership training programme in London. As novice preachers, rookie pastors, and enthusiastic community organizers we were sent to serve an unsuspecting congregation in the Yorkshire town of Keighley, (Northern England).
What is a justice-seeker? What do we dream of becoming? What characteristics should we desire and pray for? What should we be doing? Here are some personal reflections. Although far from this, I pray I might walk this path. When you have read it, have a go at writing your own version. Use it as a source for daily prayer.
Present: justice-seekers understand there is no justice to be done from a distance. Like the Good Samaritan, they go out of their way and take risks to recognise and know the suffering of others. There are no boundaries that they will not cross, nor comforts they will not dispense with in order to build relationships and understand others. They know that first and foremost change begins with relationship and relationship can only begin with presence. Continue reading “The justice-seekers dream… Spiritual exercise #2”
For 11 years I was the manager of The Salvation Army centre in King’s Cross, London. This was an outreach centre to men and women in pro
titution; including brothels, saunas, lap dancing clubs and street ministry. Just over 2 years ago, I moved to Rome to start a national awareness campaign within The Salvation Army and after a year the plan to begin a local community based outreach programme here in Rome.
And so it began – a threefold mission to bring and see change in this area of ministry: a response to the national and international movement; research for local possibilities of ministry; and discovering where we fit in by networking with other potential partners. Continue reading “Theory and Practice”