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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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Dave HallByDave Hall

Moorlands extends its reach by degrees

The only Christian youth work degree with JNC professional recognition on the island of Ireland will be available from September.

Moorlands College and Youth Link: NI, the inter-church youth organisation for Northern Ireland, will offer a BA (Hons) course in Applied Theology (Youth and Community Work) with JNC at the centre.

‘We’re delighted that Youth Link will work with us in a new centre called Moorlands NI @ Youth Link,’ said Revd Dr David Hilborn, principal of Moorlands College. ‘Their vision, mission and ethos is entirely compatible with Moorlands which has been equipping Christians for ministry among young people, children and others for many decades. The prospect of extending that work is very exciting. Youth Link’s grass-roots knowledge of the Christian context in Northern Ireland and its wider reach and infrastructure mean that students pursuing this new Moorlands BA programme will be excellently equipped for a range of ministries among young people and communities within and beyond the church.’

Since 1948, Moorlands College, part of the Study Zone at CRE Midlands, has given Christians the knowledge and skills they need to impact the church and wider world. It offers courses in applied theology at BA (Hons) and MA level, including short courses and events. Their courses are about applied theology, designed to give students a biblical and theological foundation on which to build their life and ministry.

• Moorlands College is on stand SZ8 in the Study Zone at CRE Midlands

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Dave HallByDave Hall

Egg ‘with added Easter’ celebrates first decade

The Real Easter Egg is celebrating its tenth anniversary – and CRE played a big part in its successful launch.

In 2010, high street supermarkets refused to stock a product with the story of Easter in the box, so the Meaningful Chocolate Company brought its first Real Easter Egg to CRE Midlands.

‘We asked churches to crowd fund the project by placing orders,’ said David Marshall, founder of the company. ‘I had never been to CRE before – and what an eye-opener! Hundreds of stands offering important and relevant resources, thousands of active church members looking for ideas and inspiration. People wanted to taste the chocolate, inspect the boxes and meet the people behind the product – something you can’t do online. Orders flooded in.’

Ten years on, more than a million eggs have been sold and more than £275,000 donated to charitable projects. 

To help celebrate the role CRE played in the success of the project, a special discount code has been made available. Buy 12 or more original eggs and enter the code CRE2010 and you will get £3 off your order total. Visit the Meaningful Chocolate website.

Photo: EGGED ON: The Real Easter Egg, greeted with enthusiasm, at CRE Midlands 2010

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Dave HallByDave Hall

Be part of a ministry that pulls on the heart strings

A brand-new Puppet Ministry Starter Set will be launched at CRE Midlands – presenting churches with a fresh and creative opportunity to communicate the Christian message.

‘In an age when children appear to be more interested in a “small glowingscreen” and what comes out of their headphones, there is something simple yet effective about a puppet,’ said Ian Jones of One Way UKCreative Ministries. ‘They connect with people of all ages – in church, mid-week clubs or school assemblies. We also visit care homes and get a good reception from people with additional needs.’

Along with samples of hundreds of puppets, One Way will showcase their resources at CRE Midlands including storytelling, gospel illusions and toddler group ideas. The Puppet Ministry Starter Set will be available at 25 per cent off the recommended retail price.

Ian has used puppets in ministry for more than 20 years.

‘We never imagined the impact our work would have,’ he said. ‘We stillhave 12 children plus a range of adults in the team and more than 50 children have passed through along the way. Even in this day and age youshould never underestimate the power of a puppet!’

• One Way are on stand P36 at CRE Midlands

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Dave HallByDave Hall

Calling alert: how faith can get a good reception

A recent survey discovered that we spend three hours and 23 minutes every day looking at phone screens – the equivalent of 50 days a year.

Is there a connection between our phones and our faith – a question to be discussed by Nigel Bolitho of Oak Hill College in his seminar Connect your faith with what you watch, read and play (11am, Thu 5 Mar).

‘Phones are only one part of a changing culture,’ said Nigel. ‘There are many aspects in our day-to-day lives that can often seem unconnected to our faith in terms of our actions and attitudes – park runs to packaging, gaming to gastronomy, box sets to boxing.’

Traditionally, the church has responded to culture in a number of conflicting ways, outlined by Richard Niebuhr in his classic book Christ and Culture – such as being against or above it, or attempting to transform it.

‘But this is not just a faith issue but how we should engage with the people and culture around us,’ said Nigel, whose college is part of CRE’s Study Zone. ‘Dutch missiologist JH Bavink identified five magnetic points we can connect between our faith and culture.’

Nigel will explore the work of Niebuhr and Bavink, and the apostle Paul’s approach when visiting Athens in the book of Acts, to help us answer the question.

Oak Hill College, based in north London, trains men and women for ministry in Anglican and independent churches, for pastoral ministry, work with children and young people and cross-cultural engagement, in Britain and around the world.

• Oak Hill are on stand SZ7 in the Study Zone at CRE Midlands 2020

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Dave HallByDave Hall

Stay tuned for another decade of music that ministers

Celebrating ten years of music for church-based occasions, artists from Ministry of Music will entertain visitors at CRE Midlands (Wed 4 March only).

Founder Mike Maidment, 58, points people in the right direction if they are looking for musicians for a youth event, school mission, worship service, cafe church or conference. With 35 artists and groups on his books, he has provided performers for more than 600 events.

‘Being in a band myself for 10 years helped me appreciate the problems faced by musicians and I also learned a lot about various types of venue,’ he said. ‘It helps me see how to satisfy even the most unusual request.’

During the past decade he has introduced new artists to the church circuit and provided engagements for many established artists. At Midlands CRE visitors will be able to chat about their particular needs, sample the wide range of artists and music available and listen to some of the ministry’s performers in action including:

Andrew Robinson, a singer-songwriter and worship leader based in Bedford who has been leading worship and performing for the past 20 years in churches and events in the UK and abroad

Out of the Ashes, a pioneering couple from Gloucestershire who use music as part of their mission to stand for joy and healing, energising weary Christians and rejuvenating ailing congregations with a message of love

Bean Baker, an experienced, versatile artist with a fantastic voice and a heart to lead people in worship. He can perform a wide repertoire of original songs and covers for all types of events including an acoustic set aimed at a café-style gig

Nicky Whyman, a singer-songwriter with a strong soprano voice and lyrical piano-led songs bringing hope and encouragement to audiences. Her personal testimony of being miraculously healed of multiple sclerosis further fuels her commitment and drive to inspire audiences

Canon J John said: ‘I am delighted that Ministry of Music exists to resource the church with Christian bands and artists for their worship and outreach. Be sure to seize these assets for your church and community.’

For Ministry of Music’s schedule at CRE Midlands click here

• Ministry of Music are on stand E31at CRE Midlands

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Dave HallByDave Hall

Priests in poverty: College is ‘life-saver’ for Fr Barry

Poverty among clergy may not be as big a scandal it was in the 1890s but the College of St. Barnabas is still vital to people like Fr Barry Thorley.

The college was founded by former missionary Canon William Cooper who described himself as ‘a broken man’ from the physical hardships he endured during his ministry in the Australian outback and wilderness of Canada. Back in Britain, he came across other former missionaries and older clergy living in abject poverty and ill-health, most notably in the Brighton Workhouse, and he determined to do something to alleviate their suffering.

This year marks the 125th anniversary of the founding of the college and Fr Barry Thorley (pictured), a current resident, said: ‘St Barnabas has been a life-saver. I’m no good at trowelling sentiment but it’s hard to exaggerate how much this place means to me.’

Poverty among today’s clergy means the college is still fulfilling its original mission and no-one eligible is ever turned away for lack of means. There is, for example, no requirement that a prospective resident must be in receipt of a Church of England pension. Financially independent of the Church of England, and pre-dating Church of England Pensions Board Homes, the college has an absolute capacity of 63, of which 28 are nursing wing beds – for which there is constant demand.

‘Our independence means we have to actively raise funds to achieve our charitable aims and objectives and our 125th anniversary gives a great opportunity both to increase awareness of the college and bring in some cash,’ said Mike Herbert, head of fundraising. ‘A number of events are being planned throughout 2020 to mark this impressive milestone.’

Mike is leading by example and doing a 125km sponsored walk from Gravesend to Eastbourne at the end of March, while another member of the staff will cycle 125 miles along the Pilgrim’s Way later in the year.

‘The college does a great job helping vulnerable elderly people in need,’ he said. ‘Continuing demand means our help in needed as much now as in Cooper’s day.’

• The College of St. Barnabas is on stand D1 at CRE Midlands 2020

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