#40acts challenge leads to over 2.9million acts of kindness over Lent

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Stewardship’s Lent challenge, 40acts, which launched on Ash Wednesday, has led to a wave of over 2.9million acts of generosity over 40 days.

The challenge, which comes to an end this Saturday, asks people to do one simple generous act each day over Lent.

This year it had 75,000 people taking part, making this year’s challenge the biggest in its five year history.

Over the last 40 days participants have cleaned graffiti off local buildings, left free chocolates in gym lockers, wrote letters of encouragement to those in prison, surprised strangers with flowers or bought coffee for them in cafes, and invited the neighbours around for ‘pudding parties’ in an attempt to ‘give out’ rather than just give something up for Lent.

One of the most popular challenges of this year’s 40acts was #chocolatetuesday, where thousands of people slipped chocolate bars into people’s handbags, gave out free chocolates on trains and buses, or bought in sweet treats for their class at school.

The challenge encourages people to make living generously a daily habit and gives participants the opportunity to be generous not just with their money, but also with their time, their words, their skills and their hugs!

40acts concluded on Holy Saturday, where those taking part were challenged to do one last anonymous blow-out act of generosity that stretched them beyond their comfort zones.

The award-winning 40acts challenge run by charity Stewardship provided tailored materials to ensure schools, churches, groups, students, families and individuals could take part.

Ruth Bartholomew, who took part in 40acts this year with her husband and three daughters said: “We chose to do 40acts as a family so that we would have activities that we could do together and to show kindness within our family and also to our community members.

“It has had a positive impact on us all. Through all the acts we have taken part and in particular by delivering flowers, cakes, and treats to our neighbours, we have positively influenced our community and opened doors to more meaningful relationships with those we share life with.”

40acts also has a huge following on social media where those taking part share their actions for each day and encourage each other. This year the 40acts Facebook group more than doubled in size from 12,000 to 25,000 and its Instagram community tripled from 900 to 2,700 sharing their photos online. 2000 new Twitter followers joined the conversation, creating a community that supported and encouraged each other.

Alexandra Khan, part of the 40acts team at Stewardship, said: “It’s been a phenomenal year. The 40acts community is an incredible mix of people from all over the world. We’ve loved hearing their stories, seeing new friendships forged, and watching a ripple of generosity happen throughout Lent. For the last 40 days, the motto was ‘do Lent generously’. But now? Now it’s time to ‘do Life generously’.”

You can view Stewardship’s video to conclude the challenge here

Taken from a Press Release

Online Mission and Ministry: A Theological and Practical Guide by @revpamsmith

pam-smith-mission-ministry“Many clergy and churches are now taking to the internet and social media to promote their churches or ministries, but few have thought through some of the difficult pastoral and theological issues that may arise.’Virtual vicar’ Revd Pam Smith guides both new and experienced practitioners through setting up online ministries and considers some of the issues that may arise, such as:Are relationships online as valid as those offline? Is it possible to participate in a ‘virtual’ communion service? How do you deal with ‘trolls’ in a Christian way? What is it appropriate for a clergyperson to say on social media?”

I reviewed this book before publication, and here’s what I wrote:

‘Pam Smith has an enthusiasm for sharing the gospel of God rather than worshipping technology. She challenges those who fear online ministry both theologically, and with practical advice, identifying opportunities and areas that need respectful thought. In order to meet people where they are online – Pam emphasizes the need for resilience in our own Christian development, and highlights quality interactions over quantity. I recommend it to all who are interested in or involved in online mission and ministry.’ –Dr Bex Lewis, Research Fellow in Social Media and Online Learning, The CODEC Research Centre for Digital Theology

Officially out on 19th Feb, but already available in ‘certain online stores‘.

‘Fathomless Riches’ by @RevRichardColes

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I was given Fathomless Riches: Or how I went from Pop to Pulpit at the Church and Media Network Conference earlier this year (even got a signed copy!). I read it last week, splitting it over about 4 evenings. Here’s a handful of sections that I grabbed screenshots of:

The unwisdom of loving a particular institution, whether that be the BBC or the Church of England:

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The dangers of returning to study in such an intensive place as ordination training college: IMG_20141204_080011

There’s some thoughts on the body here … what it would be discover one’s own body in all its”loveliness”:IMG_20141207_140524

Hah, everyone thinks they are going to be found at at some point! (Imposter syndrome – acknowledge it and move on)

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A modern day take on the story of the Samaritans – beautiful:

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And this piece on the care that must be taken re: how we know each other (also possible re e.g. support groups!)

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Thank you Richard, I enjoyed it, and recommend it to other people – it’s a real. honest account of a life lived in the spotlight in different ways, and in continuing on the discipleship journey, as we all are – just some do it more publicly than others!

‘Citizen’ by @AwakenRob

1794824_10154732177950161_9058088988011595710_nSo, I met Rob earlier this year at Spring Harvest, and it was a nice surprise to receive this in the post a few weeks ago with an invitation to read/review… this morning I picked it up, and read it quickly, and appreciatively!

The overall question that Rob is asking is what does it mean to live as a citizen of God’s kingdom, living as ‘resident aliens’ (Hauerwas’s term) on earth?

I was struck by Rob’s questioning of what was a ‘successful’ life, as he sought to live a life true to God’s leaning, discern his passions, and to ensure that prayer was accompanied by action, challenging the gospel of individualism – aka ‘Golden Ticket Theology’ (Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory style), which focuses the question on ‘if I died today, where would I go?’, and doesn’t challenge our life on earth too much. Using the character of Frank:

He has not allowed Jesus’ gospel to permeate his being. Instead, Jesus has become an add-on when Frank has run out of options on his own, a go-to in times of trouble. Frank is trying to live the “Western dream” and bring Jesus along for the ride as well. (p27)

Rob’s emphasis is that yes, Jesus died to save you from something, but also for something. We are looking for transformational living, not just of our own, but also as a part of community (especially those who wouldn’t set foot in a ‘traditional’ church). We are called to reimagine our lives, reposition our values, re-identify who we are, and re-centre on Jesus (p29) – and in this – lose our fear – we should be the biggest risk takers on the planet… but we prefer safety, comfort, routine, etc (p100)

We long to be noticed, to be listened to, to be known and understood, and our identity – the way in which we see ourselves – is affect by all of these things. (p49)

Giving us a sense of citizenship through both his own journey from the States to the UK, and notions of citizenship in Jesus’ time, as they affect our identity – although this ideally should not be dictated by our present circumstances. As we claim our identity in Christ, we claim a solid identity – which breeds security. We gain an understanding of the word ‘ecclesia’ as it was in Roman times – an exclusive, and how Christians reclaimed the word to make it an inclusive meeting. Rob emphasises the importance of friendship in identifying the beauty of others, but also in ourselves, and cautions that in a modern world, it’s easy to have many friends and be incredibly busy, but avoid deep friendships.

On p70-71 Rob highlights the difference in the way we introduce ourselves. In Biblical times (and still in many cultures) people are introduced as part of a clan and identified as part of a line of descendants, whereas in contemporary Western culture we are introduced by what we do. What we do achieves us certain material goods and lifestyle, but we, as Christians, are unlikely to be satisfied by this because we were not made for this (and you know, having decluttered strongly, and done a lot of work on values, etc. this is far more satisfying = less things to maintain/upkeep!). Rob also challenges the denominational model that so many align themselves with: “What matters is that each of has found Jesus, and our citizenship is now in heaven” – however much the denominational lenses may differ. We spend too much time and energy arguing about our differences, than focusing on our unity… and that much of church growth is done at the expense of other churches, rather than a joint venture. Christlikeness does not happen by osmosis, but by practice… note Mahatma Gandhi… if we are Christians, it is part of our identity and therefore should inform how we live (see some thoughts on this from a talk I gave at Spring Harvest) – see also p139 re sacred/secular divide.

Rob talks about the dangers of inoculating the world with mild Christianity – we give the impression it doesn’t matter to us/makes not difference to our lives, so they go about their business. If we compartmentalise our lives, we end up living Pharisaical or secret lives. We like taking the benefits of living with Jesus – but often don’t see the full picture, thinking nuns/monks, etc. are those who need to do the full thing. This is all part of a process of sanctification of ‘becoming more like Jesus’.. a proactive, not a reactive process – one that involves spending time with other ‘citizens’, being honest, asking hard questions and examine your motives with more mature Christians. On pp 127-129 Rob calls on Rich Wilson’s session on discipleship in a digital age – noting that what people feed on tends to dictate who they become, that the world/information moves so fast that we have no time for questioning the ethics and impact. The top 0.05% of users on Twitter are celebrities, but are read by approximately 50% of users. They become ‘the cultural disciples of our day’.

I love Rob’s example of counter-cultural notions of success as p142 outlines – when choosing what grade to aim for at theological seminary, the tutor noted that those with other responsibilities such as family, should not be aiming for an A, as family was a higher priority. We are challenged as to whether we have an ‘association’ or a ‘relationship’ with Jesus – have we given into the priorities of the world? If we follow religion rather than faith, we echo actions and behaviours of others and feel that we are ‘doing it right’. WE need a life of intentionality.

These disciples became citizens and observers of the Kingdom way of life as they walked and lived with Jesus. He modelled for them what heaven on earth was to look like, and then he took them aside to explain it to them. (p158)

We are challenged that we should not be ‘outsourcing’ evangelism, but looking at what we as a community can do. We need to consider how many programmes, activities and Bible studies we are involved in, giving us no opportunities to be part of the wider world. The gospel is not just something you speak/profess, but something that you live and act upon. We need to identify what is broken in our world and begin righting the wrongs, even if it is at our own cost – God continually identified with the poor, and so must we. See Isaiah 58:3-9 in The Message.

Inspired? You should be … to read the whole book!

#SH2014: "There's no place for faith in our public life" with @drbexl

Today’s lecture “There’s no place for faith in our public life” at Spring Harvest (Minehead 3), around 100 people attended, and got some good engagement going (I missed out the middle discussion). The abstract said

Some people now argue that, because we’re living a post-Christian secular culture, Christians shouldn’t be allowed a voice in discussions on public policy issues. This lecture looks at our Christian heritage, the way society now views the Christian faith, and what the Church has to say in the realm of politics, the law, and debate on the big ethical issues.