Calling the faithful city back to the faithful God


The Fire Lily

The Fire Lily

I wasn’t a great science student at school, barely scraping through two exams aged sixteen and only waking up in lessons when unusual words were introduced: The Uriniferous Tubules was going to be the name of my band, if I ever had one, so biology classes weren’t wasted! Years later I enjoy watching Chris Packham’s TV programmes but in truth more for the dry, witty banter than for the naturalism. Principally people, ideas and words inspire me, so I am surprised to find myself reading Britannica Online about pyrophytes – plants adapted to tolerate fire.

Some plants have thermal insulation, some keep branches high up away from fire, some protect buds so enabling them to resprout in the wake of fire. There are plants whose seeds are coated in resin which need fire to melt the resin and those which need chemical signals from smoke and charred plant matter to break seed dormancy. Certain fire lilies flower naturally only after fires and use ash-fertilised soil to bloom both speedily and prolifically.

I realised I’ve written two poems in recent times on this subject: After the Fire and Fire Poppy (partly inspired by the 2018 wildfires in California). The idea of Beauty for Ashes has been used as a title by others for helpful books and ministries. Ellis and Boyce’s orchid or dandelion psychological studies have also had utility for me. But metaphors aren’t perfect, and people aren’t actually plants. So, please don’t think I’m saying that pain is good, that we should seek trial by fire or that some people only thrive through pain. Pain is painful and healing is preferable to suffering. But life’s challenges and trials can overcome dormancy ‘like a seed in the smoke’ and ‘flowers can push up through a grate’. 

In the Old Testament Isaiah emerged fruitful from lip-singeing coals and Daniel’s furnaced friends were ‘not destroyed by the flames’, neither did they smell of smoke.  Flowers that bloom after fire are arguably even more beautiful than they are surprising. ‘After the fire the seed grows, after the fire new life glows, red.’ 

Snapshots of Jesus

Snapshots of Jesus

Every day we meet, bump into and work with, tens, hundreds, maybe even thousands of people. We exchange brief pleasantries, have deep and meaningful conversations as well as sit in silence alongside them. Every single day we encounter people, whether they be friends, family, colleagues, acquaintances or complete strangers. 

I recently read that ‘no meeting is a coincidence’. These every day encounters are not accidental, they are predestined and ordained by the God who created each and EVERY one of us. It strikes me that every meeting and every encounter is a God-given opportunity to share a snapshot of Jesus. The kind smile, the helpful gesture, the listening ear, the word of encouragement, the offer to pray.

What snapshots of Jesus do we ‘hand-out’? What images of Jesus are we giving to the people around us that we ‘bump into’ each and every day? 

I challenge you this week to start your day considering the snapshots of Jesus that you portray. What do they look like? Are they a true likeness of Jesus? 

“And He said to them, Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to all creation.” Mark 16:15 

Sunday Night Telly

Sunday Night Telly

Major TV channels going head to head with rival big budget productions is nothing new but usually, maybe due to intrusive adverts or plain snobbery, I’m a BBC girl through and through. And yet this time my Sunday night viewing is Vanity Fair on ITV rather than Bodyguard for which so far the BBC has been garnering higher viewing numbers. In truth I’m a sucker for a quality adaptation of a classic nineteenth century novel, in this case by William Makepeace Thackeray.

Although the vanity in question is partly the futility of excessive pride and shallowness, a meaning which may well ring true in our very modern age, it is even more a sense of everything being meaningless. Thackeray says that, “all is vanity, nothing is fair” and we can trace these ideas back two centuries before Thackeray to John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress where “Vanity Fair is…full of all sorts of humbugs and falsenesses and pretensions”. Even further back we can read in EcclesiastesVanity of vanities, says the preacher…. all is vanity. What does man gain by all the toil…?” Cheery stuff, but certainly a thought I’ve had from time to time! Thankfully for me the latter writer goes beyond the ‘what’s the point’ sentiment and brings God into the equation, saying “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart…” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

All is not lost if you are watching the small screen Bodyguard instead of Vanity Fair:

“And here’s why: God gives out Wisdom free, is plainspoken in Knowledge and Understanding. He’s a rich mine of Common Sense for those who live well, a personal bodyguard to the candid and sincere. He keeps his eye on all who live honestly,and pays special attention to his loyally committed ones.” (Proverbs 2.6-8 MSG).

On balance I think I prefer to live life to the full, rather than a life devoid of meaning.

What about you?

Anti-social September?

Anti-social September?

A little late to the party but better late than never as they say, I decided with a great deal of enthusiasm to commit to Scroll Free September.

Scroll Free September offers an opportunity to take a break from all personal social media accounts for 30 days during September. I am an avid user of Social Media – from engaging with friends to finding new recipes, posting pictures to share and catching up with the world. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – each one has its use in my day. I would like to think I have a positive balance and use it wisely.

But emerging evidence is raising concerns about the potential impact of social media on our mental health and wellbeing. In 2017, the #StatusOfMind report highlighted a range of potential negative effects of social media, including anxiety, depression, negative body image, cyberbullying and poor sleep. So, by going Scroll Free for a month, I get the chance to figure out what I miss, what I don’t, whether I do more of that I enjoy when I’m not engaged in social media.

I do have to admit to sharing a photo of my children on Thursday with a poem as the new School year began – something I have done every year and I promise I did not scroll! So far I have made time for real coffee and cake, instead of virtual catch ups, and have been out for a couple of pub lunches with friends. Actually spending time with people unsurprisingly means you get to know one another, warts and all, not just the happy highlights.

Social media has and will continue to attract masses of us because we benefit from the connection, the information, and the inspiration. However, we are called to make the most of our time and not squander it. We each have responsibilities and obligations, whether at home, in church, school, or the workplace – and as a follower of Jesus, I am committed to spending time each day reading the Bible and in prayer. Social media can encroach upon the ‘more needful’ things, including the importance of simply being present with family and friends. Wisdom would have us check our hearts and our schedules regularly. So another school year begins for my children and I think back to that first one nine years ago, I realise time passes by and today is an amazing precious gift .

God gives us everything we need, including the right amount of time – so let’s not waste today. Instead let’s treasure it and all the people within it.

Bathed in light

Bathed in light

What a beautiful week of weather we have had!

With the hottest day in April since 1949, temperatures reached over 29°C on Thursday. Finally spring has arrived and hopefully it will hang around…

…the snow is a distant memory and winter jumpers have been recommitted to the back of the wardrobe. It is the season of floaty dresses and flip flops!

And with that, we all seem a little happier!

There is something about being bathed in light that brings a sense of hope and delight. We are happier, the flowers bloom brighter, the sky is bluer, life seems more visibly abundant. Being out in the sunshine makes you happier not only emotionally, but physically as well. Research has shown that happiness, Health, and light are connected. Light promotes healthier attitudes toward diet and exercise, and gives us the our dose of Vitamin D which can be hard to get from foods alone. Vitamin D in turn promotes healthy cell and bone growth, reduces inflammation, and helps to stimulate our immune function.

Light helps you avoid danger. Light helps you reach what you are after. When you walk in the darkness, you may stumble over a log, or step on a piece of lego, or fall down the stairs, or hit your head on a low-hanging branch. Darkness can be full of threat. It frustrates your ability to attain your goal. But light changes all that. It exposes dangers and frees you from their lurking power. It opens the way to your goal. It is full of hope, and promises the glad fulfilment of your plans.

There is a beautiful verse in the psalms that says:

“God is God and he has bathed us in light (Psalm 118:27).”

God has illuminated us with grace, freedom, and joy. God is light and in him is no darkness at all. It is in drawing near to the light that freedom and hope and joy are found.

Carpe Diem – Seize The Day

Carpe Diem - Seize The Day

Robin Williams famously tells his young students to “Seize the Day” in the film Dead Poets Society because they will “soon be fertilising the daffodils”.

The Bible also encourages us to seize each day:

“Be very careful then how you live, not as unwise but wise, making the most of every opportunity because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5 v15 – 16)

As a church we’ve recently been studying what the Gospel looks like in today’s language, mindful that most people in our city aren’t actively seeking God or see a need for Him. Today the Gospel is still feed the hungry, care for the poor, visit those in prison but we can also use it to communicate love, hope, joy and truth to those around us ‘in their language.’ Whether its through music, art, sport, film, comedy or something else, there is often a shared interest from which we are able to introduce Gospel truths into people’s lives if we use some creativity and innovation.

Well – given that list of how we could share the gospel, my dad and I chose comedy! Over the past few months we’ve been sharing faith with a twist through the Faithfuncollide podcast. Within this, we try to show how Bible truths and principles can often be found in secular film and TV shows – talking in a way people can relate to and understand today. Each of the completed episodes has been posted on iTunes and Youtube showing, with a bit of artistic licence, how Elijah can be compared to Superman, David resembles Rocky, and Deborah is very similar to Wonder Woman!

Feedback so far has been positive – it really is amazing how God can seed snippets of the Gospel in plain sight within secular culture. Whilst we have ideas for more episodes, we would now really appreciate others joining with us in writing, acting and producing future shows, if anybody out there shares our passion for this kind of thing! In particular, having a third regular presenter on the show with us would be most helpful.

You can check the podcast out at:

Or you can email us at:

Andy and Barry Mercer

Starter for Ten

Starter for Ten

Around a hundred of us thoroughly enjoyed The Big Quiz last Saturday night, the first evening of the new 2018 SPBC social programme. I’ve never gone as far as joining a regular pub quiz team or registering to ‘be on a show’ but I am an unashamed lover of all things questionable. Earlier in the month I spent nearly a whole weekend watching old episodes of quizzes on the Challenge TV Channel – including Bullseye which I never even watched when it was on originally – although this TV marathon was due to family illness so I couldn’t recommend it! The only thing to beat a quiz is the synergy when a quiz features in a cool movie – one of my other loves – such as in a Starter for Ten (University Challenge) or She’s All That (Jeopardy).

Job, whose story is told in the Old Testament, does a lot of quizzing. Most quiz questions begin with what, when, who or how, but Job also wants to know why, especially in the face of his suffering and that of his family. I think that’s something we can all identify with to varying degrees throughout our lives. I believe that God does give us answers at times, but he also has questions for us. God, for example, asked Job ‘where does light come from and where does darkness go?’, a question with an answer maybe too convoluted for your average quiz show, even for Only Connect or UC which prize themselves on being a cut above average. God goes on to say to Job, ‘you are God’s critic, but do you have the answers?’

I could endlessly swat up on trivia but I have a feeling, like Job, that I’ll end up concluding that ‘I was talking about things…far too wonderful for me.’ The Chase is great and I’ll always love pursuing learning, but the small questions in life will always be Pointless by comparison with the really big questions. If you seek you will find, so maybe go searching today?

Memories that matter

Memories that matter

It is almost Christmas Day, and the run up to Christmas has been an interesting one, not least because of all the snowfall that led to widespread disruption last week. People snowed in, cars abandoned, church services cancelled, roads as ice rinks and many schools and colleges closed, it certainly made for a less than average few days.

Unlike many parents across the county, our children were able to go in to school everyday last week – albeit with extra layers and wellington boots.

As I packed up their snow day extras – gloves, boots, hats and scarves, I was instantly swept back in time to happy memories of being pulled to school on a toboggan by my late Grandfather, him knee deep in snow and me on a red sledge with blue rope, clutching my lunch, holding on tight. I fondly recalled my named wooden peg that kept my welly boots together under my coat peg and the massive snowballs we rolled around the school field and then back through the village to the village green.

Like my fond memories, when I picked my children up at the end of a snowy day at school, they too were full of stories, of hot chocolate, giant snowmen and snowball competitions, tales of the teachers ambushing the children with snowballs, but the children claiming the narrow victory. Their faces were rosy, their noses a bit chilly, but overflowing with warmth and happiness.

The little flashbacks to my own childhood snow days and my own children’s stories of their now ‘best school day ever’ reminded me of the importance of making memories that matter.

The Bible reminds us to be careful, and watch ourselves closely so that we don’t forget the things our eyes have seen or let them fade from our hearts as long as we live. It says to teach them to your children and to their children after them.

So rather than wishing the snow away, we decided to make some new memories with our children – walks in fresh snow, snow angels and a snowman wearing Dad’s wooly hat and a carrot for a nose.

Christmas time brings with it a whole heap of worldly pressure and families feel this all too often, but the bottom line is your children and family won’t remember what kind of present you bought them, how much money you gave them. What they will remember is the time you spent with them.

This Christmas, why not focus on making memories that matter, memories that will last, memories that your children can one day tell to their children’s children.

Some memories just happen in the stories and sequence of life, like unexpected snow days, but others are more intentional, they require thought, effort and the precious gift of your time.

This Christmas I pray you will make memories that truly matter.

Seeking Guidance

Seeking Guidance

I have been a Guide Dog owner for almost as long as I have been a Christian.   But, in early August, I retired my much-loved Jay for health reasons.  This meant that for the first time in 34 years I was without a working dog, so it was time to start using my Long Cane again.

Using a cane is very different to working with a dog – I perceive the environment in a new way (becoming aware of obstacles that I never knew existed) and both my identity and the way some people interact with me have changed.

As I’ve been thinking about this it has occurred to me that our Christian faith and working with a Guide Dog have some things in common:

  • It is easy to take both for granted and to forget that many people do not share the benefits and privileges we have;
  • They influence how we perceive and experience our world;
  • They are ever present;
  • Other people see us differently if they are aware of our faith or notice a Guide dog;
  • Each gives us a shared identity with others who are Christians or Guide Dog Owners;
  • Each is so much part of daily life that we take the security they offer for granted and don’t realise the positive impact they have on the way we live.

But there is one key difference – our faithful and loving God is everlasting and will never retire,  so we will never have to cope with life without him.

So just as I will appreciate my new dog all the more when we train in January, I find myself valuing my faith and relationship with God in a new way and wanting to share this blessing with others who don’t yet have it.

Noisy good news story!

Noisy good news story!

Every October half term I am part of something very special that hits the streets of Worcester called The Noise. For three days, local young people come together to make a loud noise of love, hope and joy!

With up to a hundred young people, together with their leaders, The Noise launches with a lively worship gathering full of worship, prayer, teaching & training. Over the next two days, groups are then sent out to serve in social action & community building projects. This year we will work with our local Foodbank, unpacking donations, stacking shelves, weighing stock and making up emergency parcels. We will head out into the Arboretum area of Worcester to paint community spaces and local playgrounds. We will play music and share cake and conversation with the elderly in local care homes and serving the elderly, which is always a real treat! There will be art workshops for local families at Worcester Cathedral and opportunities to engage with those we meet through drama and street performances. We will also run a pop-up community café on Worcester Hight Street serving delicious home-baked treats and warm drinks, all for free!

The days are action packed but the evenings are fun filled too, with times to celebrate, have fun and build friendships. This year we will have a Silent Disco and an exciting UV Party!

The Noise is an action packed few days, which undoubtably takes a lot of planning and preparation, but it is one of the most rewarding things I am part of. To see a hundred young people coming together wanting to make a difference –  giving up their time and showing a passion for serving others, really is amazing!

It is a good news story! Yet in a recent blog, the London School of Economics highlighted that there is a growing body of evidence illustrating our human tendency to prioritise negative news over positive news content. We focus in on fear and destruction, where people are hurting and broken, where war reigns and where hope is absent. And when we focus on the worst of things, it becomes hard to see the good. We become negatively shaped by end-to-end bad news stories.

In a world with seemingly little love, hope and joy, The Noise is so refreshing and encouraging. In Psalm 34 v12 David wrote:

“Who out there has a lust for life? Can’t wait each day to come upon beauty?”

In a few short weeks I will get to witness first hand, a really good news story. It will be a story that tells of the care and love that young people have for other people and the passion they have within them to positively impact on their community. When The Noise hits the streets you won’t have to look too hard to see something beautiful happening; to see places and people being restored; to see the lonely people being valued and loved; to see people coming together building friendships and making a difference. It is a little piece of heaven here on Earth.

I want to be a person who chooses to do good and chooses to see good in others; to wake up each day with a lust for life, seeking beauty and joy in the everyday! Each day there are countless opportunities to live out the good that is within us. Each day there are opportunities for that which is good to override that which is bad. Each day there are opportunities for love to override hate in our world.

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St Peter’s Baptist Church
Address: Eden Close, Worcester, WR5 3TZ
Telephone: 01905 767090


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