Monthly Archive February 2020

Dave HallByDave Hall

Pixel perfect: Vote for your favourite church photograph

All nine photographs are superb – and visitors to CRE Midlands will be invited to choose their favourite.

Run by Ecclesiastical insurance, Parish Pixels is a national competition celebrating UK churches through photography. Judges have already selected nine regional winners but visitors to the Ecclesiastical stand at CRE Midlands can vote for the one they think should be the overall winner.

‘There are so many unique and fascinating items, stories and people in our churches and we are highlighting these,’ said Michael Angell, church operations director at Ecclesiastical. ‘The response to the competition has been fantastic and we received some incredible images that show why our churches are so special.’

Representatives from the regional winning churches, all receiving £1500, will be invited to attend a celebratory lunch in October 2020, where the overall winner will be announced. The winning church will receive £5,000.

‘We welcome CRE Midlands visitors to vote for their favourite photo at our stand,’ said Michael. ‘Our church insurance consultants will also be available to discuss any insurance requirements – including your church, home or vicarage – and financial planning for retirement.’

• Ecclesiastical insurance are on stand E32 at CRE Midlands

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Dave HallByDave Hall

Released prisoners: Government turns to Pastor Pete

Of 66,000 people released from prison each year, some 36,000 will go back behind bars – but now one CRE exhibitor has been approached by the government to help tackle the problem.

A Ministry of Justice pilot project is being run in four areas of the UK to try and reduce the re-offending rate by 10 per cent – and Green Pastures, a charity based in Southport, are a strategic part of the initiative.

‘It is wonderful to know that, at last, the government has approached the Church to help address a problem they have had for the past 40 years,’ said Pastor Pete Cunningham, founder of the organisation.

In 1999, Pastor Pete his son Andrew and Vicki Woodley, already housing the homeless in their church building, put their hands in their pockets and purchased two flats in Southport to give homeless people somewhere to live. The first recipients were a single mum and her child. Two decades later, there are now 400 people housed by the charity at any one time and thousands more have benefitted over the years.

In 2003, a chaplain from North Staffordshire found out about the work and asked Green Pastures to buy a property in Stoke-on-Trent – so his team could take ex-offenders from the prison gate to house and care for them.

‘Taking a step of faith, we bought a property for someone else,’ recalled Pete. ‘The results were amazing! As we provided more housing, the re-offending rate reduced. Now we partner with 80 other churches across the UK and house more than 1080 people. Many of our partners look after ex-offenders and a good percentage stay out of prison and become good citizens.

‘The model is simple. Any church or charity with a heart to house the homeless are welcome to talk to us at CRE Midlands and we will guide you through the process. Many people we house go on to have faith in Jesus Christ. This is our modus operandi – saving souls. Our properties and staff work to that end.

‘For those who cannot work with homeless people direct, it is possible to invest in the work with a good return – and you can be certain your funds are working ethically.’

• Green Pastures are on stand P65 at CRE Midlands

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Dave HallByDave Hall

Choral stage risers will hit the high notes

Now your choir can sing farewell to unsteady benches, stools and chairs – thanks to a product seen at CRE Midlands for the first time 

‘With SICO® Harmony Choral Stage Risers, you just roll each self-contained 3- or 4-step unit into place, lower the steps with one fluid motion to the floor, lock it to the next unit, and it’s showtime!’ said Bob Ferns of Lighthouse Audiovisual.

When in use, each unit rests on 10 to 12 solid points of contact, so the risers remain solid and quiet. Each step is fully carpeted and positioned to keep heels from slipping off the back edge.

‘A standard rear guard rail folds down for transport and storage and prevents unwanted opening when not in use,’ said Bob. ‘We also highly recommend our new side-rail system for extra safety, and increased peace of mind.’

The risers have a quick reverse-step system that makes it easy to change the riser configuration from traditional semi-circular arrangement to straight or other interesting combinations – without tools! 

The 3-tier riser takes up less depth and its top riser is only 24″ (60.9 cm) high, making it a safe choice for small- or medium-sized groups and young children.

‘When you have a larger group, or are setting up risers in a confined area, the 4-step unit features a top tier at 32″ (81.3 cm) – increasing overall capacity,’ said Bob.

• Lighthouse Audiovisual are on stand B35 at CRE Midlands

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Dave HallByDave Hall

A million set to pray for the Muslim world

It began 28 years ago in the Middle East – today, a million Christians across 37 different languages and nations will pray for their Muslim neighbours.

Thirty Days of Prayer for the Muslim World is an annual prayer guide with stories written by ordinary Christians who live alongside, serve and love Muslim people. This year the 30 days run from 24 April to 23 May. 

‘God is answering the prayers of many, as a growing number of Muslims are choosing to follow Jesus,’ said Dan Challis of CRE Midlands exhibitor Interserve, an international, non-denominational mission that has served Asia and the Arab World for 160 years. ‘More Muslims are changing allegiance to Christianity than at any time in church history. This phenomenon has gone hand-in-hand with an unprecedented global movement of Christians praying with love for Muslims during their fasting month of Ramadan.’

As Dan points out, it is one thing for a Muslim to begin the journey of faith in Christ but another to keep pressing on in the journey, year after lonely year. 

‘If they are rejected by their birth community, without really finding a new community in Christ, they are left isolated and vulnerable,’ said Dan. ‘They need Christ’s followers to be a new family to them.

‘For the first time in history, believers of Muslim background are becoming a significant stream in the world Christian movement! But in a generation’s time, will the stream still be growing stronger? Will today’s believers be multiplying the message through their Muslim friends and families? And will each one of us, today, play our small part in this vision? Will we love, encourage and equip that precious believer of Muslim background whom Jesus has entrusted to us?’

• Interserve are on stand P8 at CRE Midlands

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Dave HallByDave Hall

Mike’s mission: Supporting your mission

A man who spent ten years as a pilot in Africa is hosting the first-ever Mission Resources Exhibition (MRE) in two weeks’ time – alongside CRE Midlands.

Flying missionaries to and from isolated areas for Mission Aviation Fellowship, Mike Frith was amazed at the difficulties they faced. So, 20 years ago, he set up OSCAR – One Stop Centre for Advice and Resources – to provide areas of help for mission workers.

‘We try to help them in any way, whether they need a car when they are in the UK, specialist training or any other area of life,’ said Mike.

And mission workers at CRE Midlands can get advice from many different experts at MRE (Wed 4 Mar only), held in the Oak Tree rooms at NAEC, Stoneleigh Park.

‘We will be in a separate building just yards away from CRE and have gathered together specialists who can take the leg work out of finding relevant information,’ explained Mike. MRE will welcome mission workers, those considering mission work, missionaries returning from their places of work and non-UK Christians coming to the UK as Christian workers – directing them all to areas which will serve them best.

OSCAR’s independence from any other organisation gives it a unique position in the UK mission scene.

‘We don’t promote one organisation or service over another but give an unbiased representation of those that operate in any particular field,’ said the 55-year-old who is celebrating 20 years since launching OSCAR. ‘Visitors to MRE will be able to take advantage of the notice board giving information on the many vocational opportunities currently available.’

Mike will also lead a seminar ­– Mission: serving as senders – at CRE Midlands (11am, Wed 4 Mar).

A pre-registered ticket to CRE Midlands allows free entrance to OSCAR’s MRE where the exhibitors include:

• Access underwriting
• AFVS (Advice For the Voluntary Sector)
• All Nations Christian College
• Big Church Day Out
• Christian TEFL
• Durbin plc
• Ichthus Motor Services
• Key Travel
• Kingdom Bank
• Lee Abbey
• Mission & Relief Logistics Ltd
• OSCAR
• Redcliffe College
• Salt Insurance
• Shunem Trust
• Stewardship
• Syzygy
• Talent Trust Consultants
• Thrive Worldwide
• Whitefield Christian Trust
• WRS Limited Insurance Brokers

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Dave HallByDave Hall

Be old, be strong: ‘Acidic ageism’ in churches condemned

Should churches asked older parishioners to leave to attract younger families?

It was widely reported to have happened at Grove United Methodist Church in Minnesota recently.

Louise Morse, media and communications manager of CRE Midlands exhibitor Pilgrims’ Friend Society, believes ageism is all too common within the UK church.

‘Older people have lived through decades of acidic ageism,’ she said. ‘Many have left churches because the churches are deliberately reaching out to younger people.’ She told Premier Radio that the decision is ‘unscriptural’ and sends a ‘dreadful message to atheists’ that the older generation do not belong. Referencing the books of Peter and Titus, Morse believes that different generations come together for a healthy church.

‘The Bible says that the glory of the young is their strength,’ she said. ‘The glory of older people is their wisdom and there’s no way you can learn wisdom unless you live through experiences. You can acquire knowledge, but you don’t learn wisdom. God has made specific roles for older people to cascade that knowledge to the young.’

Louise’s book What’s Age Got To Do With It?, which shows readers how to recognise and combat ageism, will be available on the Pilgrims’ Friend Society stand at CRE Midlands 2020.

• Pilgrims’ Friend Society are on stand E12 at CRE Midlands 2020

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Dave HallByDave Hall

Big hitter to open CRE Midlands

Timmy Mallett, best known for ‘Mallett’s mallet’ on children’s TV shows, will open CRE Midlands (10am, Wed 4 Mar) – and then talk about his 2,500-mile cycle ride and pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.

The ride, in memory of brother Martin, born with Down’s syndrome, forms a central part of his new book, Utterly Brilliant: My Life’s Journey (SPCK), which Professor Brian Cox describes as ‘vivid, beautifully written and often moving. If you think you know who Timmy Mallett is, you’re in for a rewarding surprise!’

Timmy Mallett

‘When I set out to cycle this route, from my home in Berkshire to Spain, people automatically assumed I was doing it for a variety of charitable reasons,’ said Timmy. ‘But it was all about reaching your potential just like Martin did each and every day. So it was a personal challenge, to see if I could do it.

‘Along the way I started to experience personal reflection with little bits of my life flashing into my mind.

‘When Martin was born, they said, “He won’t make his teens.” Then it was, “He won’t make his 20s”, then not his 30s, or his 40s. I got fed up hearing that. At the end, the priest came to pray with him. Martin recognised the rhythms and breathed “Amen.” His life came to a gentle end. He had made it to 64 years and seven months old. My cycle journey was about reaching my potential like Martin always did.

‘It was a truly wonderful thing when I realised you carry your loved ones in your heart forever — and they don’t weigh a thing.’

Comedian and actor Don Maclean, former presenter of Radio 2’s Good Morning Sunday, will interview Timmy at CRE Midlands (11am, Wed 4 Mar), after which visitors will be able to get a signed copy of the book.

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Photography © Tim Rose Photography

Dave HallByDave Hall

Discover the café with your dreams on the menu

We all have dreams but do they ever have spiritual significance? One CRE Midlands exhibitor will help you find out.

Spirit Cafe in Birmingham has opened twice a month for almost six years. Visitors are welcomed, shown to a table and given a menu – but the items listed are not food but things that meet the need of spirit, soul and body. 

‘It is a church-based evangelism model I believe the Lord gave us,’ said founder and pastor Lori Arnott Lawlor. ‘It inspires Christians to actively win the lost, heal the sick and in normal language, share Jesus with other people.’

Each item on the menu offers a ‘free treatment’. People needing direction, healing and peace are put in touch with members of the treatment team who have been trained and continue to develop spiritual giftings.

As for those dreams – you will be encouraged to consider the time of day, colours that stood out, any person, place or thing that seemed ‘important’ and if the dream is recurring.

‘As always we rely on the Holy Spirit as our source,’ said Lori.

The church-come-cafe exhibited at the NEC Wellness Fair in Birmingham last November and Lori recounts how, of the 975 people who accepted an invitation to sit down for a coffee, more than 450 found it led to a life-changing encounter with God.

There are now more than 40 Spirit Cafes in different parts of the world including Canada, USA, Ukraine, Germany and Russia. Lori came to England from her Canadian home in 2000 ‘to make room for God in my life’ – and Spirit Cafe is the result.

At CRE Midlands the Spirit Cafe team will be available to explain their ministry and offer helpful advice to those who might take up the challenge of a similar project in their own communities.

• Spirit Café are on stand P59a at CRE Midlands 2020

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Dave HallByDave Hall

Stop spending on gear, start investing in skills

A large proportion of any church technology budget is best spent training the technology team – to get the most out of the system you already have.

So says Kieran Scotchbrook of CRE Midlands exhibitor Rock-Tech. 

‘Training is a long-term investment, the fruit of which you will see year after year as skills are passed from existing to new members,’ believes Kieran. ‘Training will help your team run more smoothly. In turn, you will retain more members as they feel able to serve more effectively.’

Rock-Tech visit hundreds of churches across the UK, talking with local leaders about the technological challenges they face.

‘We do find issues with AV systems, but even more regularly we find a skill gap,’ says Kieran. ‘Giving your team knowledge and skills is the most valuable thing we can offer – more than the latest mixing desk, speaker system or microphone.’

Once core skills are learned, a technology team will be able to apply them, time after time, overcoming problem circumstances and Rock-Tech will be at CRE Midlands to introduce a number of free training courses to churches.

‘We also offer personalised training sessions in your own building (if you have one) or at our warehouse, helping you work through the elements that make your services unique,’ says Kieran. ‘Come and talk to us.’

• Rock-Tech are on stand C3 at CRE Midlands 2020

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Dave HallByDave Hall

The pod in search of a church car park

It may be just 8ft by 6ft – with bed, toilet and USB socket – but for a homeless person it’s a potential life saver. The Amazing Grace Spaces pod – officially an urban emergency sleeping hut – has a coded lock to protect the person inside.

And now the man behind the project, Stuart Johnson, is bringing one to CRE for the first time, keen to find churches prepared to donate a car parking space on which to locate one of his creations.

‘I cannot believe no one has come up with this solution before,’ said Stuart who is delighted two churches have already ordered pods. ‘They are not the final answer, but while someone is waiting for permanent accommodation, they know they are safe from bullying or injury or losing the few possessions they may have. They also give members of a church the opportunity to minister to them in a loving and caring manner.’

Amazing Grace Spaces, based in Llanwern, Newport in South Wales, can also provide help with more permanent accommodation.

‘We want a world where the homeless are not sleeping rough on the street,’ said Stuart, who will celebrate his 60th birthday during CRE Midlands. ‘Any person faced with homelessness gets a safe place to sleep, as well as the support they need to avoid becoming homeless again. Our mission is to develop and provide innovative, sustainable and affordable accommodation and emergency shelter. We partner with other services to ensure homeless people have access to support and a safe space to recover.’

• Amazing Grace Spaces are on stand P54 at CRE Midlands 2020

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