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 HeartEdge Mailer | September 2019

HeartEdge is an international ecumenical movement. 

  • We are churches and other organisations developing mission. 
  • We focus on 4 areas - commercial, congregation, culture and compassion.
  • Join us! Details here.

Each month we share stories related to our focus: commercial activity, congregations, cultural engagement and compassion. Inspiring, practical - the Mailer is a resource.

This month:

  • Sarah Corbett on activism, Mark Yaconelli on eating together and Ms Makkah on praying. Plus make your own coffin and art as prayer.
  • Winnie Varghese - on our eminent HeartEdge gathering in Edinburgh.
  • Setting up a cafe, developing arts projects or establishing a comedy night and social enterprise tips from Miss Macaroon.
  • Plus 'A Future That's Bigger Than The Past', a new book by Sam Wells.
 

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


Compassion
"We have a period where so many people are tempted to shrink and constrain the bounds of their kindness and compassion..." Recorded in September 2019, Brian McLaren, Anna Carter Florence and Pádraig Ó Tuama choose a Bible passages to preach on ‘The Quality of Mercy’ and it’s contemporary meaning. Watch the lot here.

“If we want a world that is beautiful, kind and fair, shouldn’t our activism be beautiful, kind and fair?” Check out Craftivist Collective and their different approach to activism here. Activist and introvert people in your church and community? Sarah Corbett talks about activism for introverts here - why not show this to your church group?

“Henri Nouwen says that ‘when we go back to the original meaning of the word “profession” (we) realize that it refers to 'professing' one’ own deepest conviction”.’ … We desperately need to rediscover our vocation, and deconstruct and reconstruct our professions in terms of our vocation.” Dave Andrew’s on professionalisation here.

Want to start talking about money, debt and financial inclusion in the local community? This resource booklet is a great guide for churches - here.

How to have an experience of God? “People become real and when dinner’s over they’ll say: 'can we do this again?' And if you keep meeting, over time, reality starts to show up and humanity starts to show up and through that a different experience of God begins to pervade the room…” Persist with meeting and eating - says Mark Yaconelli here.

Me: “So I walked around looking normal, carrying my chipper, being chipper, for quite a long time, before I realised that I needed help. Chipper is exhausting, you see. In a way I am grateful to the exhaustion, because without it I might still be walking around trying to carry my chipper…” Are you chipper? Lifesaving poetry from Anthony Wilson here.

 

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


Commercial
Social Enterprise tip? 'Surround yourself with the right people...' Lots of helpful insight and ideas here.

At HeartEdge we talk about commerce as part of the church. A good example of a company doing this is Birmingham based Jericho Foundation - linked to a local Baptist church - have a look here.

Starting a social enterprise from scratch? Coffee bar to studio, this covers loads here.

“Figure out your end goal… and the best structure. Surround yourself with lots of good advice… Pick your board wisely… Being a social enterprise you can apply for different grants…” Birmingham based Rosie Ginday set up Miss Macaroon aged 26 – she shares some useful top tips here.

“A well-planned approach to financing will help you to identify what types of financing are most suitable for your organisation.” More resources on raising the cash for that commercial venture here.

Start Up Donut offer help around social enterprise, including tips on market knowledge and clocking your context - key for any new social enterprise or business – the opportunities, threats, these are all vital for your business plan.

 

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Congregation

"Why is the Church of England feeling such a sense of panic right now? Because it’s facing numerical decline. Why is that a problem?" Renewal and Reform of the church? It's a phenomena gripping the C-of-E right now. Sam Wells writes here on how it may fulfil its responsibilities and take its opportunities to flourish - here.

Prisons Week is from 13th to 19th October 2019. Churches Together in Westminster produced a useful Prisons Week resource here. Lots of resources to engage your congregations here.

“Sometimes saying there is a problem is an important first step…” The realities of being a church minister - well worth a read here.

"It seemed a good idea to make my own coffin..." We love 'Dads Coffin', a short about one family confronting the mortality of an older relative. "Why have you got a coffin in your front room?" Watch here.

“My ego would prefer that I avoid solitude and silence. It’s easier for my impression-managing, image-projecting, self-justifying, and self-centered persona to stay in charge if I never leave the stage, never take off the mask, and never look in the mirror made of quiet.” Thoughts on why finding silence is both difficult and necessary here.

"Third - create a dedicated space. At home, there's a corner where a rug is always out..." We love this reflection on figuring out prayer from Makkah - lots to learn from here.

Are you the activists in your church? Or do you know people who are? We link to this clever animation occasionally. Have a watch and consider showing at church or to a church group to provoke discussion about activists and what makes us tick here.

“Use a weekend night to host a kids’ bingo to raise money!” Put the ‘fun’ back into fundraising with ideas herehere and here. And some great fundraising ideas for your church here. Plus - if you haven't yet, download the very useful 'Crossing the Threshold' resource - groaning with ideas here.

 

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

commercial activity, 
congregational development,
cultural engagement 
and compassion.

Join in, here!


Culture
How do we better connect with our community and engage with people effectively? Lots of ideas on use of the arts here.

Partner your church with an arts project? ‘Curating the Visual Arts in Churches and Cathedrals’ is all about churches forming partnerships to deliver contemporary art exhibitions linking with larger cultural activities. They are tracking churches and sharing the learning here.

Comedy your thing? Churches are running comedy clubs. Fancy trying this out? Lots of examples to learn from here. Also, 'The Comedy Club', run by a church in Retford. "It's a great night out, with average audience attendance of 130". In London try the Union Chapel, ‘Live at the Chapel’ nights here. In the West Midlands, 'The Laughing Sole' have a cracking line up for their annual Green Lane Playgroup Fundraiser with Impressionist Jan Ravens - details here. Laughing Sole also run Comedy for Kids - here and comedy across the West Midlands - here.

Art as prayer "When we're hurting in some way (physically, emotionally or spiritually) and we grow weary of prraying over and over again for relief it’s perfectly acceptable to stop short of entreaty and simply tell God, I’m just sad.” Jis’ blue. Great reflections on Art and Theology here. Why is this important? “Art also slows us down: It invites us to gaze. Deeply. In doing so it fosters the habit of contemplation.”

We need more theological reflection on art here with support from Biola University’s Center for Christian Thought


"Wake up and get yourself to church..." We've linked to this song by Samm Henshaw earlier in the year. Something a bit joyful!


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

Events
2 - 3 October, Edinburgh. HeartEdge annual conference: 'On Earth as it is in Heaven' - kicks off this week. Still time to bag tickets here.

The practical, two-day intensive includes workshops, interviews and panels plus Sam Wells delivering the annual Chalmers Lecture and keynotes from asset-based community development worker Cormac Russell and writer, activist and Priest at Trinity Church Wall Street, New York City, Winnie Varghese.


According to Winnie: "Christians in the West, and I include myself in this, have several unique opportunities in this time. Our task, as it is in every generation, is to "do the theology" for our times. In the Western context that means interrogating our contexts and asking where we might seek Jesus, God among us, in this time. The simple answer is in the church. A slightly less simple answer is in the person most vulnerable to the structures of power. What brings us all together is that we are not seeking a simple answer. We know there is a complex, possibly difficult, inevitably challenging response that means that we test boundaries, language, practice, self understandings, and our preset notions of goodness and God.  Most literally, we seek salvation and reconciliation to a vision that might be like a vision God would hold for our communities in the contexts in which we find ourselves. I want to talk very concretely about the tools we have to do what is actually almost impossible to do, particularly in a political climate that invites us to be defended, on our toes, protected —we as Christians and leaders of Christian institutions are to be soft hearted, vulnerable, open, changeable, seeking of transformation —through the world. This is where we are told we give up our lives that we might have life abundant. Can we build institutions that live this way by shrewdly managing the abundant resources we steward, casting a vision broad and beautiful enough to be worthy of our tradition, and developing a collaborative network that invites wisdom back into the centre of our common lives?"

We'll explore these themes this week! If you can - do join the annual HeartEdge gathering. Next year the gathering returns to London 21 and 22 September, 2020.


Last Word: On Commerce
In an extract from new book 'A Future That's Bigger Than The Past: Towards the renewal of the Church', Sam Wells looks at how congregations consider going ahead with a commercial venture. 

How does a congregation strike the right balance and foster business that celebrates and announces the kingdom, rather than one that obscures or diminishes the kingdom?

I’m going to suggest four avenues of enquiry that a congregation might pursue as it seeks to evaluate whether to proceed with a commercial venture, and whether to continue with one in its existing form or to change it wholly or partly. 

The first is to have a clear answer to the question, What counts as success? Assuming we are talking about an exemplary business – the second approach described above – the criteria must be sufficiently narrow to be achievable yet adequately broad to be worth achieving. They must include generating enough profit to sustain the ministry and mission of the church, in such respects as existing forms of income such as congregational giving are insufficient. But they may also include questions such as, is this enterprise bringing a whole new range of people into face-to-face relationship with the church and leaving them with positive impressions and experiences? Is the process of employment enriching the congregation by rubbing shoulders with people who are happy to work for a church but would previously have been unlikely ever to attend one? Are we together unobtrusively changing the whole notion of church, if we are celebrating the ministry of the Muslim finance head or the Jewish HR manager, and setting their contribution alongside the church treasurer or the occasional attender at the midweek service?

Such questions go way beyond asking if this church is now able to pay its bills. They recognise that a commercial enterprise has the potential to revolutionise a congregation for good. The polarisation between hard-nosed business success and sentimental failure is exposed as a false one. A commercial venture will inevitably involve, affect and benefit more people than originally envisaged. To establish such a project is to take a step of faith that those encounters will be beneficial ones. Which takes us into the second area of enquiry: does the church really believe it is called to an incarnate ministry, addressing the pragmatics of earning a living, sustaining employment, addressing pensions and sick benefits, transacting monetary exchanges, and making difficult decisions that can disappoint some and even hurt others? Jesus was a carpenter’s son; Paul was a tentmaker. Even the central figures of the Christian faith had to experience the reality of making money to live on, and presumably they found a way to make the practice a blessing. It may be helpful to recognise that conventional congregational stewardship is in practice an instrumental approach: the church takes no responsibility for how the money donated has originally been raised – whether by fraud or extortion or stealing or sharp practice or wholesome non-exploitative honest wage for honest work. Is not congregational enterprise, in full public view, more likely to be the way of integrity? Is not a scheme like this, in which a whole array of members can take appropriate roles, potentially an opportunity to witness like never before? Here is a living example of how the challenges of discipleship and daily life may be understood, pondered, and engaged. It is a living statement that salvation is not an escape from worldly reality but living God’s future in the midst of present circumstances. Such an enterprise can be a living sacrament of hope in such a way. 

This opens a third area of exploration: is the business making the congregation more honest – or less? There’s no doubt that professionalism and success take a bit of getting used to in a country that has seldom been in the habit of associating such terms with the word ‘church.’  There’s a way in which professionalism and success can keep a congregation honest because they dismantle the myth that the church lives on air; and they require and inspire everyone to maintain strong organisational standards about everything they do. But there’s also a way in which commercial profits can keep a congregation dishonest because they can make it possible to have a flourishing church life without the congregation paying all the bills, which is a luxury few churches can comprehend. Nonetheless it’s possible to have commercial activities and administrative practices that deepen and embody a congregation’s understanding of the kingdom, rather than conflict with or confuse it. Business brings into a church’s life, as customers and staff, a myriad of people who otherwise might not come near and a diversity of identity that’s dynamic and energising. By serving people and creating a staff team, a congregation learns what love and justice and flourishing mean when translated into economic decisions and regular habits of trade and employment. If the church wants want to pay good wages, it has to make sacrifices elsewhere; if it wants to sell fair trade lines, it has to ensure they’re attractive; if it wants to give disadvantaged people a step on the employment ladder it needs to give them appropriate support. It’s seldom easy: but the rewards go far beyond financial stability. 

Finally comes the question that absorbs all the other questions. Is this what the kingdom looks like? Subsequent chapters explore how culture and compassion reflect and embody the kingdom; but these don’t come as great surprises. For a truly holistic account, daily encounter with the incarnate reality of how people live and sustain their lives, and collective endeavour to keep a community going not with dramatic gifts but with careful, humble acts of common purpose is a beautiful yet pragmatic epiphany of graft and grace. It may not be necessary, possible, or desirable for every congregation: but it could be the single most dynamic step in revitalising the church for a future that’s bigger than the past.

 
'A Future That's Bigger Than The Past: 
Towards the renewal of the Church
'
by Samuel Wells is available here.

Sam Wells is a preacher, pastor, writer,
broadcaster and theologian.
He is vicar of St Martin-in-the-Fields
.  
 

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