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 HeartEdge Mailer | August 2019

HeartEdge is an international ecumenical movement. 

  • We are churches and organisations developing mission. 
  • We focus on 4 areas - commercial activity, congregations, cultural engagement and compassion.
  • Join us! Details here.

Each month we email you stories and ideas related to our focus: commercial activity, congregations, cultural engagement and compassion. We keep it useful, inspiring, practical.

This month:

  • Shane Claiborne and Omar Saif Ghobash on distorted faiths. Bonnie MIller McLermore on children in church.
  • Alison Morgan on physics and faith, plus Michael Leunig on art and Russell Brand and Bishop Stephen Cottrell on repentance.
  • Tips on trading, and funding - and writing that business plan.
  • Plus from her new book, Ally Barrett on preaching, imagination and improv'.

"A monthly smorgasbord of ideas,
focused around HeartEdge 4C's."

"Having a sense of being in control of one’s life is critical to well-being..." The number of Scots who died in road accidents last year was 160; the number who died from misuse of drugs was 1187. Harry Burns writes a short, powerful piece on Scotland's 'deaths of despair' - here.

"There are lots of versions of Christianity that don't look a lot like Jesus..." Some thoughtful insights on how Christian and Muslim faiths become distorted - and what to do about it - with Shane Claiborne and Omar Saif Ghobash recorded in conversation here.

"If we wish to save the world, we must first look after ourselves, or we have nothing to offer..." Simon Parke is an author, speaker, consultant and wise sage - This is another thoughtful blog. Challenging, encouraging words here.

“There is no such thing as a pure gospel – there is only a gospel enfleshed in culture and context – the gospel has to be embodied in a cultural context…” Martyn Snow is onto something reflecting on a recent Church of England General Synod, debating fresh expressions of church after a 'business as usual' budget presentation. Have a read here… 

“Conflicts are far easier to escalate and messages to be misinterpreted when communicated via email. Therefore, if it is bad news, think back to rule #2: is email the right medium?” Work with others? Use email? Here are ten tips to reduce the stress of email at work. Useful! Here

"Where do you find this?! Always something useful, every month. It's become essential for our team." 

"Before you start, you need to work out whether your trading idea is viable – in other words, will it generate enough income to turn a profit?" Trading looks tricky - and a big shift for a church. Where to start? We like the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) 'Know How' pages, packed with gems. Get started here

"If you are unsure whether your project meets the funder’s eligibility criteria, a quick phone call to double-check that yours is the type of project that the grant-maker would be interested in supporting, can save an enormous amount of time spent..." Useful funding top tips from the Directory of Social Change (DSC) here.

"Think of organisations like a balloon. Uninflated, the skin isn’t stretched, with lots of capacity to expand. But this capacity is finite. Each time the organisation says ‘yes’ the balloon inflates and grows. Its skin stretches to accommodate the new air. The pressure increases. There is only so much air that can be put in a balloon before the skin gets stretched too tight. Unless the pressure is released, sooner or later the balloon will burst." The wisdom of saying 'no', more often. An important blog (one of a useful series) via DSC here.

"The content of a business plan needs to be tailored to suit its purpose and your organisation; templates are not always the best route to take..." Tips on writing a business plan here.


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“One thing has become clear: The yearning for belonging is not enough, in itself, to create a sense of home… If the sudden emergence of secular communities speaks to a desire for human connection and a deeper sense of meaning, their subsequent decline shows the difficulty of making people feel part of something bigger than themselves.” A piece on the reported decline of atheist church - with insights for churches - here.

“The gospel always invites us to look forward - who under Gods guidance are we meant to become?” John Drane back in 2013 on reimagining church, with lots useful for today… here

“Sometimes our ability not to see children is striking. We miss how deeply they think, how much they’re engaging major life issues, how profound their insights can be, and how much they can contribute…” From the US, Bonnie Miller McLemore on missing children in church here. Some challenging insights you may want to explore more deeply - have a read here "Adulthood by definition involves growing up, out, and weary of play. Adults outgrow some of the best kinds of play, in much the same way that our capacity for wonder fades. Living with children keeps play alive, and we adults are fortunate when kids invite us to run in this direction." More from Bonnie here.

“As soon as you identify God’s purposes with those of yourself or your organisation, ordinary Christian principles — honesty, decency, etc — quickly disappear…” Insights and warnings from US conservative evangelicals, about the cult of leadership and decline of the US 'Young, Restless and Reformed' movement here.

"What is the church for? If the church isn't robustly saying 'don't get caught up in this stuff'..." Russell Brand and Bishop Stephen Cottrell on what the church should look like... "The church should look poor, simple, peaceful... and robust about saying repent... live your life differently..."  here. More from Brand and Cottrell here.

Russell Brand is in conversation with Greenbelt Creative Director Paul Northup at Greenbelt this weekend.


We are about
catalysing Kingdom communities,
We focus on developing 4Cs:

commercial activity, 
congregational development,
cultural engagement 
and compassion.

Join in, here!

"Metaphysics is not an alternative to physics or biology, but rather their completion; a perspective which helps us to make sense of the information we have discovered and continue to discover..." Alison Morgan writes on a renewed confidence in Jesus - reflecting on faith and science. It's a fascinating extract from her book 'The Word on the Wind' - with a forward by Rowan Williams - have a read here.

"So really, with my drawing, I think I'm trying to humanise the world a bit..." It's August Bank Holiday - which in the UK means Greenbelt festival weekend! This year highlights include Australian artist Michael Leunig. "We live in a world of cleverness where everyone's fast and hip and snappy and critical- and insufferable, in my view- then there's that little holy fool who's poetic and soulful, looking at things slowly and saying the simplest things that everyone else somehow just forgot." A helpful interview here. "The artist must express what is repressed... whatever is repressed... you're interested in the one's who are loosing..." More from Leunig on art and faith here

Amal - which means 'hope' in Arabic - returns to the festival, amplifying Muslim art and culture as a significant part of the Greenbelt experience. Have a read here.

"Kind of a ‘we shall not be moved’ moment. The greater collective good when measured will always, in my opinion, outweigh the bad. Love wins." Welsh troubadour Martyn Jospeh is on fine form here - down with lights up with the volume here. Find Martyn at Greenbelt here.

HeartEdge is also at Greenbelt hosting a panel reminding ourselves that the 'calling from the edge’ is what shapes our prophetic and political thinking best, enabling us to be most truly who we might be – as individuals, as society, and church. With Sally Hitchiner (Diverse Church), Fiona MacMillan (Inclusive Church), Bev Thomas (Amani Consultancy), Jackie Elton (Single Friendly Church) and chaired by HeartEdge's own Jonathan Evens. Find us at 3.30pm in Pagoda on Saturday 24 August here.

"A welcome, is the beginning of belonging, an invite is a warm request to inclusion, open palms or a close embrace can centre our longing." Can't make Greenbelt? Then nip along to St Ann's Church from now til 1 September for Status Cages and more - detail here

HeartEdge is a movement 
focused on renewal and mission.
Join us 

HeartEdge is an ecumenical and international network of over 90 churches and other organisations. We are growing an international support network for developing commercial work, cultural activity, compassionate response to social need and congregational life (the HeartEdge 4Cs).
Our vision is of a global movement renewing the local church, sustaining lively and dynamic communities in a thriving society.

We have an ongoing programme to resource our members, that we regularly add to. We want HeartEdge to be a useful community, a ‘go-to’ resource - a source of energy and encouragement.
Collaboration and sharing of experience is what makes HeartEdge such a valuable network – our interactive events are therefore particularly appreciated.

In May, we held a HeartEdge Introductory day in Amsterdam, working with two member churches in the Netherlands. In June, we hosted introductory days in Newcastle and Derby, alongside a growing programme of regular HeartEdge consultancy days with member churches. Contact us if you or your church are interested in hosting an introductory or constancy day.

Looking ahead our main activities involve sharing, connecting, consultancy and development:

  • Bishop Michael Curry and Xolani Dlwati, Dean of HeartEdge member St Mary the Virgin Cathedral Johannesburg respond to four questions inspired by HeartEdge here.
  • Sam Wells on ‘being with’, social outreach at St Martin-in the-Fields and the ethos of the HeartEdge movement here.


  • Our HeartEdge website goes live soon. We've designed it for connecting with others and finding resource. It includes a simpler joining process and members’ section, to find resources and other churches like you. Useful!
  • TryTank Experimental Lab is expanding HeartEdge in the US by sponsoring the first year of membership for 20 US congregations to join the network - details here.
Sheppard Scholars:
  • Big thanks to Georgina Illingworth, our first Sheppard Scholar, who moved on in August. In September we welcome Jessica White to HeartEdge. Jessica joins other Sheppard Scholars working at St Peter’s & All Saints Nottingham, St Peter Mancroft Norwich, The Parish Church of St Cuthbert’s Edinburgh and St Martin-in-the-Fields.
Resource Church:
  • St Martin-in-the-Fields is a London Diocese resource church, with HeartEdge the resource offered. In October we welcome Revd Catherine Duce to HeartEdge, supporting the revitalisation of mission and ministry across the London Diocese, offering HeartEdge events and resources to the capital's churches. 
  • We want HeartEdge to do more. We are thankful for all you bring to the story, building a movement for change. We want opportunity to work together soon.
  • Contact Jonathan to discuss ways your church could tap into HeartEdge more fully, including Consultancy Days, visits, Mission Model workshops, and more! Email here.

2 - 3 October Edinburgh: 'On Earth as it is in Heaven', HeartEdge annual conference
  • US theologian Winnie Varghese
  • Asset-based community worker Cormac Russell
Our two-day gathering of HeartEdge community in Edinburgh includes Sam Wells delivering the annual Chalmers Lecture series. Arrive for the evening of 1 October for Sam’s lecture on ‘Entertaining Angels Unawares: It is More Blessed to Receive’. The two-day intensive then starts the following morning on 2 October prioritising practical input, ideas and resources. We’ve kept costs down and there’s a subsidised rate for HeartEdge members – we hope you’ll make it along. Register here for members rates. More details here, here and here.
  • 8 October Milton Keynes: Within Conference at Church of the Servant King. Hosted by the Watling Valley Partnership and Diocese of Oxford to explore a breadth of approaches to spirituality. Includes input from Sam Wells and St Martin's Voices. Tickets here.
  • 12 February 2020, Norwich: ‘At the heart. On the edge' at St Peter Mancroft. With Sam Wells and Edward Carter, the day includes theology, ideas, solutions and support for re-imagining Church. The programme developed jointly by the Diocese of Norwich, St Peter Mancroft and HeartEdge is from 10 am to 3.30 pm. Register here

Last Word: Preaching, Imagination and Improv!
In an extract from her new book 'Preaching with All Ages' Ally Barrett talks theological imagination, shoestring budgets and improvisation: Possibly the most pressing issue facing the contemporary world is the way the human race is destroying the very environment that sustains us. We consume more and more, ravaging the planet’s finite resources, and are seemingly unable to co-ordinate a genuinely global decision to turn things around. New technologies may contribute to solving the problems, but most commentators are agreed that what we most need is a change in attitude towards the material world. Because this issue affects everything, we need to think about it as we preach with all ages. Here are some dimensions that might shape our thinking:
  • How might this feature in the content of our preaching? Look through upcoming lectionary readings for opportunities to explore creation, care for the planet and respect for all life. Respond to the natural world: the rhythm of the days and the seasons, growth and decay, as well as aspects of the current environmental crisis.
  • How does our relationship with creation affect our thinking as we plan a talk? Try sitting outside or going for a walk while reading through and thinking about the readings. Pay attention to the sights, smells and sounds. Different sensory data leads to different emotional responses and different thought processes.
  • Can the congregation itself go outside, or bring something from the outside into church for the service? Find out about how Wild Church / Forest Church enables people to intentionally inhabit a natural or outdoor environment so that it is forming their thinking, praying and action.
  • Borrow natural objects as resources for our preaching, whether or not the theme is explicitly environmental. Stones, leaves, driftwood or fallen twigs and branches can all be used to create temporary art, to learn practices of quality attention-paying or to experience wonder. They can then be put back afterwards.  Items destined for recycling can be junk-modelled first.
  • The materials we use during all age preaching can reflect our values. Aim for fewer single-use items, especially those that can’t be recycled/composted, and less plastic, especially if it can’t be reused. If something’s going to be created during a service, how it will be disposed of once it’s no longer need will affect the materials we choose to use.
  • How might we avoid condoning wastefulness in our preaching? We convey by the way that we handle and use material things that there is a sacredness to all of creation, not just the elements that we call ‘holy’ in church.
“My previous church invited anyone not planning to eat their Christingle orange to leave it in a box by the door. We shredded the rind and froze it so we could make ‘Christingle marmalade’ with it later.”
What about all the churches and preachers that don’t have any resources, or the skill or time to make them, or who have to do everything on a shoestring? It should be possible to preach with all ages without any of the fancy illustrations, activities and visuals that we might be tempted to rely on. In this book I’ve included a range of different kinds of resources:
  • The gifts/skills people have offered 
  • Items scrounged from Scrapstores or repurposed 
  • Cheap and commonplace materials – especially if renewable
  • Drawing on people more than objects 
  • ‘Found objects’ specific to the context 
  • Making things myself
Many of the people who undertake children’s ministry and all-age preaching regularly do so on a shoestring, donating resources and hesitating to claim expenses. But working with shoestrings can be a good thing in itself.  There will come a day when we have to preach unexpectedly, or without any of the props that we might otherwise rely on – we can start practising for that day now! Resources may be finite, but imagination is not. One of the things we seek to do when we preach with all ages is to encourage people’s theological imagination, and the first step towards this is for us, as preachers, to let ourselves be more imaginative, working with what we have and treating it as a gift. When people’s imaginations are set free, they will also become more adept at seeing God at work in ordinary things and paying attention to the sacred in everyday life. 
Everything has potential
A key aspect of improvisation practice is use everything – we probably have more resources than we think. As preachers we can learn to treat everything as full of potential. This is what Jesus did. Someone would ask him about the Kingdom of God, and he’d reply, ‘The kingdom of God is like …’, and then reflect on something very ordinary that sprang to mind, an object that was right in front of him or an ordinary human action. This suggests two things:
  • Jesus was brilliant at reflecting theologically ‘on the hoof’ – we can learn to do this too.
  • There is, genuinely, something of the Kingdom of God in ordinary things. 
One of the joys of preaching with all ages is that it invites us into a process of learning to see the beauty in the ordinary, the joy in the unexpected, and the sacred in the material. Everything becomes holy ground.  Say to yourself (out loud if it helps), ‘The Kingdom of heaven is like…’ and then let your eye fall on something that is in your immediate field of vision. Pick it up, or look at it in more detail. Consider its form and function, its material and design, what it means to you and where you got it from. How would you use that object to explore something of the Kingdom? Try it with different objects until you get the hang of the process.  Once we are comfortable with the idea of being able to reflect theologically on the ordinary things around us, we will be well placed to be able to use them in preaching, and we can also help others to learn to do it, too.
"Preaching with All Ages - Twelve ways to grow your skills and your confidence" by All Barrett is available here. Ally is visiting tutor for all age worship at Westcott House, Cambridge. Her blog is full of resources here. She is vicar of St Mary's Parish Church, Buckden.

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