There are subscriptions for tea, gin and the like – why not one for Christian books?
‘I bought a sock subscription for my dad and loved knowing he was going to get a new delivery from the suppliers every month,’ said Joy McIlroy, creator of Faith in a Box. ‘Then I thought… wouldn’t it be great to create a subscription service for Christian books!’
With Faith in a Box you receive £100 of books and gifts for just £17.99. The books lead you through the season of Advent and Christmas.
‘Lockdown and furlough gave me opportunity to take stock, pray and dream,’ said Joy. ‘I sent a tentative email to the St Andrew’s Bookshop team who were busy getting creative about getting Christian books into people’s hands. The team had also been thinking of a book subscription service. So began Faith in a Box… with me on board!
‘We imagine friends encouraging one another with a subscription as a gift, church members blessing their leaders with the Think box, grandparents signing up for the Growing Family box for their children, and book lovers treating themselves to some great bargains.’
Joy, the St Andrew’s Bookshop team and publishers Hodder & Stoughton believe the project will help people discover new books. With shops closed and major events cancelled in 2020, getting the word out about new Christian titles has become increasingly difficult.
‘By signing up to Faith in a Box, subscribers can get better access to the best products being released and some great bargains,’ said Joy. ‘But, more than that, we hope to see lives changed in a way that only books can. We hope to inspire, captivate and encourage readers! It has been really exciting planning these boxes and we hope that they will be received with the same excitement.’
Click here for more information about Faith in a Box.
A three-day online ‘retreat in daily life’ for lovers of Jesus and justice is planned for the new year (6-8 Jan 2021), designed to fit alongside your day-to-day responsibilities.
That’s the promise of Resilient Discipleship: Embodying spiritual rest when the world wants us to zoom – from Red Letter Christians UK. Led by a variety of ‘ordinary radicals’, this mini-retreat will be a moment to breathe and develop healthy patterns of spiritual nourishment in the strange times we live in. Participants will receive a pack by post containing a few items to help with this quest and will be encouraged to explore local spaces (where restrictions permit) to discover the sometimes-hidden reflections of glory all around us.
‘We will also enjoy daily reflections from experienced Christian activists, bringing us some spiritual food to chew on as we take some time out to allow God’s Spirit to lead us in re-creation,’ said Naomi Bennett.
Red Letter Christians UK is a relational network for those who want to live for Jesus and justice. It aims to be an open-handed network for people already living out a Jesus-centred approach to poverty, injustice, exclusion and social need in our communities.
‘We’re not interested in calling people OUT of existing churches, organisations or networks – we want to play a part in helping forge new and deeper connections amongst like-minded Jesus followers,’ said Naomi. ‘Our great desire is to inspire those who might be new to this vision of Jesus and justice, whether young or old, churched, un-churched or ex-churched. We’d love to help you meet co-conspirators and embrace what we believe is an essential part of a compassionate life lived with Jesus.’
Click here for more information about Red Letter Christians.
A free Bible resource has been created for churches and individuals approaching Christmas during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Produced by Christian charity Lifewords, The True Light connects the Nativity with the realities of Christmas 2020.
‘As the global pandemic rages, the usual festive trappings will be overshadowed by sadness and uncertainty – even with the hope of vaccination,’ said Steve Bassett, creative director at Lifewords, a regular CRE exhibitor. ‘We’ve created a resource that responds to our shared struggle and pain and speaks of the true light meeting us in the hopes, dreams and disappointments of our daily lives.’
A print and digital resource, with a 20-page booklet and online conversation, The True Light asks the question: ‘How does the true light find you this Christmas?’ Hard-hitting contemporary collages frame scripture episodes of how the true light came – to shift workers, grieving mothers, lost young people and those fighting injustice and fleeing oppression.
‘Through this resource we invite people to consider how the true light finds them this Christmas,’ explained Lifewords’ Elizabeth King. ‘In the original nativity story, hope meets real lives. We are encouraged that, whatever the situation, the true light is coming – and we are not to be afraid.’
You can use the resources individually, or share the story with your church, friends and neighbours.
Click here to order your free The True Light booklets (in packs of five).
Image: Collage artwork by Jadan Reeves-Bassett
In this darkest of years, a new film can be used by churches and individuals to reflect the wonderful news that God sent light into the world (John 1.9).
Produced by Stew Smith, CPO’s new chief creative officer, Share The Light is a Christmas present to us all from the organisation.
‘When Stew joined us in August, he was asked to address the question “What will Christmas 2020 be like?”’ said Alan Hare, CPO’s chief executive officer. ‘Three months later we have his answer! We are delighted to invite you to join in our Share The Light campaign.’
The film shows Christians spreading light and bringing hope and love into our world. They do that in many ways – with friends and family, at work and in their communities.
‘The film has had an extremely positive reaction,’ said Alan. ‘The CEO of one well-respected Christian charity described it as “absolutely stunning. It grabs your heart and is a work of art… executed to perfection.”’
Churches and individuals can also personalise the campaign by using a QR activation code that links to the film and to up to two different weblinks or to a page with a specific message.
‘Some churches have already used this to link to their home page and/or their live stream page,’ said Alan. ‘Alternatively, it can link to a page with a Christmas message for everyone who has that QR code.’
A range of social media clips can also be used to share the campaign more broadly and swiftly.
To see the film click here
One organisation is determined to make it a cracking Christmas in spite of the limitations brought on by Covid-19.
Faith in Kids supports churches and parents so that children can engage with Jesus Christ and respond to him, having their hearts and minds captured by Christ’s words.
And this year they have created some unique resources to make that happen, including:
‘Let’s step out of our church buildings and celebrate the birth of Christ in ways we would never have considered before!’ said Ed Drew, director of Faith in Kids.
‘Too often churches are losing the hearts and minds of our children. Too many of the children who attend church grow up knowing Bible facts and a long list of Christian behaviours but without a love for Jesus Christ. Faith in Kids wants to see more children engaging with and responding to God personally. Children who are having their hearts and minds informed by Christ’s words, by God’s grace, will grow into teenagers who want to live for him.’
Click here for more information
Christian artist Hannah Dunnett produces distinctive artwork intertwined with religious texts – reproduced on greetings cards and calendars, mugs and bookmarks.
Each drawing is inspired by the scriptures and prayer and beautifully rendered in a unique style.
‘Hannah has become very well known over the past few years for her range of amazing designs which incorporate Bible verses into her paintings,’ said Marianne Needham-Bennett, founder of The Christian Gift Company. ‘We well remember the days of customers sitting on the ground in the cow shed at the New Wine festival, surrounded by posters. They were trying to decide which ones to take home!’
Today you can buy A5 cards, A3 posters, A4 prints, packs of notecards, notebooks, journals, colouring books, bookmarks and writing sets, all with Hannah’s designs on them. Also available are mugs, coasters, tea towels and two designs of great quality tote bags.
‘We also stock a calendar which has become a “must have” for many homes, now available in both A3 and a Slimline version, with a piece of Hannah’s artwork featured on each month’s display,’ said Marianne. ‘We have special offers on the website for the cards and posters and also some collections at a slightly reduced price. All the products are of super quality and, really, you can’t go wrong buying someone something for Christmas from the Hannah Dunnett range!’
Click here for more information
• Christian Gift Co. will be exhibiting at CRE National 2021 (12-14 Oct, Sandown Park, Esher, Surrey)
An organisation created to get children off the streets and learn about Jesus wants to help churches get back to ministering to children in a fresh way.
Urban Saints, originally Crusaders, sees the current national situation as an ideal opportunity for churches to take a fresh look at their youth work.
‘We should be thinking about how to welcome children and young people back again,’ said Mark Arnold, director of additional needs at Urban Saints. ‘And that includes including children and young people with additional or special needs.’
Mark, father to James who is autistic and has associated learning difficulties as well as epilepsy and anxiety disorder, is also co-founder of the Additional Needs Alliance, a vibrant and fast-growing online community. He is an enthusiastic national and international advocate for children and young people with additional (special) needs or disabilities and is passionate about enabling everyone engaging with them to be inspired, trained and well resourced.
‘About 20 per cent of children and young people in the UK have an additional need or disability of some kind – that’s roughly 2.5 million,’ he said. ‘Every church youth group is likely to include children and young people with additional needs and many will need some support.’
A Mumsnet and Scope joint study shows that many of these children and young people, and their families, feel excluded from a wide range of social and other activities. Mark believes that inclusion is something that should be offered to every child and doesn’t stop at wider doors, ramps and disabled loos.
‘We should also be about creating a culture of welcome and belonging for all, as well as looking to develop the faith of every child whatever their ability or needs.’
Urban Saints lead training seminars on a variety of subjects including working with young people outside the church, disciple-making and wellbeing.
Click here for more information
During advent Ministry of Music will use Facebook and YouTube to share Christmas music videos and songs by their artists, including many festive favourites.
Each song will be accompanied by a daily Advent bible verse.
‘Although many of us are currently in lockdown we have the hope and joy of Christmas to look forward to,’ said Ministry of Music’s founder Mike Maidment. ‘Please feel free to share the videos within your own church and community via social media. We can also provide artists for your live or streamed services and events – for a donation only.’
Where live church services and events are allowed (following Covid-19 guidelines), you can also book an artist or worship leader for a service or event. A booking fee applies.
To celebrate 10 years of music ministry Ministry of Music live streamed two events last month featuring 28 artists. The full videos are available on their YouTube channel.
Click here for more details of Ministry of Music’s list of artists
Photo: Ministry of Music’s Voices Beyond from Manchester
With traditional Christingle events likely to be cancelled or radically different this year, the world’s first Fairtrade chocolate orange box, with relevant symbols, is now available.
The box also doubles as a charity collection opportunity with a slot for coins. Everything is plastic free and can be recycled.
With a few simple tweaks to liturgy, order of services or events it is now possible to run a safer, socially distanced or zoom Christingle.
‘The box has been on the drawing board for the past seven years but I thought now was the time to do a pilot,’ explained David Marshall, founder of Meaningful Chocolate Co. ‘The response has been overwhelming. We have seen people buying for whole schools, Messy churches and as stocking fillers. One church leader, based in Chesterfield, wrote: “The Christingle chocs are great. Just what is needed this year.”’
In 1747 Bishop Johannes de Watteville started the Christingle tradition in Germany. The Moravian Church then spread the tradition. In the UK, since the 1960s, Christingles have been used in Advent to share the Christmas message and raise funds for charity.
Meaningful Chocolate’s sugar comes from cooperatives in Paraguay and Belize. Most of the cocoa from cooperatives in the Ivory Coast (Kuapa Kokoo Co-operative Cocoa Farmers and Marketing Union Limited Ghana). Beans are also sourced from cooperatives in the Dominican Republic, Peru, Panama and Ecuador. The chocolate is blended in Belgium.
Buying products from Fairtrade producers enables them to obtain fair prices for their crops and have decent working conditions.
Click here for more information
• Meaningful Chocolate Co. will be at CRE National 2021 (12-14 Oct, Sandown Park, Esher, Surrey)
At a time when many people feel Covid-19 will rob them of Christmas, a new seasonal giveaway book has been published that opens a door for the gospel.
Phil Heaps, co-pastor of Highbury Baptist Church, has written Who Stole Christmas? – to show how the real message of the incarnation has everything we need.
‘The real Christmas has everything we need – a sense of awe and a balance between realism and hope,’ he said. ‘It also offers real joy, whatever life throws at you. If you want those things then this book’s for you. And if you want them for your friends, then this book is for them.
‘It’s only short. They can read it in one sitting and it might just be the best Christmas present they’ve ever had.’
Mark Roberts, managing director of publishers Day One, said: ‘Many people are fooled by a Christmas that leaves an empty feeling. This book will help churches bring the gospel to their neighbours.’
Ian Hamilton, professor of historical theology at Westminster Presbyterian Seminary, Newcastle, said: ‘Phil Heaps could not have done a better job in explaining simply what the Bible tells us about the true meaning of Christmas.’
Click here for more information
• Day One are exhibiting at CRE South West (17/18 Mar 2021, Westpoint, Exeter) and CRE National 2021 (12-14 Oct, Sandown Park, Esher, Surrey)