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Parkrun Church

Parkrun Church

There’s something I do every week at the same time that I love, to the extent that my enthusiasm for it spills over to others. I love to share with them how it works, the wonderful sense of community that goes with it, and encourage them to come and see for themselves.

It’s parkrun, and it happens every Saturday morning at 9am at Worcester Woods Country Park with around 500 people usually taking part.

If you don’t know it, parkrun started with a group of people getting together to do a 5km time trial on a Saturday morning in Bushy Park in 2004. Since then it has grown in numbers and reputation from this modest start to now have over a million people registered and parkruns held in 422 places every Saturday morning at 9am in the UK, as well as in a dozen other countries. All of this is delivered by volunteers, and nobody pays a penny. The founder, Paul Sinton-Hewitt, has received many awards including a CBE. His ambitious vision is that every community that wants a parkrun should have one.

Five years ago my brother-in-law mentioned parkrun to me. He’d started doing it in Cambridge and had seen that there was one in Worcester too. So my eldest daughter, Harriette, and I went along for the first time in October 2011 – almost exactly 5 years ago. Since then, I have done parkrun 200 times (out of a possible 262 I think, not allowing for Boxing Day and New Year’s Day specials), which reflects how smitten I am.

From the start, I was very taken by how well-organised it was, the sense of community and how friendly and welcoming people were. It is a very supportive, non-judgmental environment. In fact, it has a lot of the attributes I would hope for in a healthy church – but a different dress code! Quite a few people from St.Peter’s Baptist Church run it regularly, and I’ve got to know lots of new people as friends through it.

I hope you can see the parallels with church. They are certainly not lost on me. In fact, I think that church could learn a lot from parkrun. It is wonderfully inclusive, very welcoming of newcomers, a strong and supportive community, it’s good for you and it has the ambition to change the world.

These two worlds came together for me this year when I ran the Worcester 10k. When I opened my race pack, I saw that my number was 1633 and it had “John” printed on it. It made me smile as John 16:33 is a Bible verse that has a lot of significance for me. In it Jesus says to his disciples; “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world”. I kept that in mind during the race, especially towards the end when it seemed very appropriate!

john-drew_worcester-10k

____________________________
The Bible has several references to running. Here are a few;

Hebrews 12v1-3: . . . and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.

1 Corinthians 9v24-26: Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly . . .

Philippians 2v13: Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labour in vain.

John 20v24: Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.

Ball, Goal, Ball, Goal?

Ball, Goal, Ball, Goal?

I know two people who coach sport, grass-roots football and elite hockey in their cases, but the idea of coaching others has gained currency in many other walks of life, including the workplace. I enjoyed an opportunity last night to join a team coaching discussion, not with the sporty types but with practitioners who are called in to coach boards of directors and other organisational teams. As I reflect on the evening there are some great take-away messages. Put simply coaching is helping and enabling others to get the best out of their skills and abilities, whereas mentoring is more about advising and passing on your accumulated wisdom. A coach acts like a catalyst for others.

So, if I was to coach a team I might think about team dynamics, personality types, team roles, what motivates people, what are their individual strengths, what are the blockages to working as a team, or in fact are we just a group of individuals doing parallel tasks at the same location? I was reminded of The A Team, a uniquely diverse set of individuals who accomplished amazing things, albeit fictional, when they worked together as a team – all for one and one for all – like Dumas’ famous musketeers, like the real heroes of Hollywood’s The Great Escape.

I’d hope that as I get older I progress at coaching others to be the best version of themselves that they can be, whether that’s family members, work colleagues, or people in our church family. Wherever God has put you, amongst friends, with colleagues, as a leader or as a buddy, mentor or coach maybe ask how you can be a better team player today. Or, in the words of Hebrews, let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds.

A Gospel a Month

A Gospel a Month

I am taking up the challenge to read a gospel a month and wondered if there were others out there who would like to join me. My aim is to do this at least until Christmas but possibly for the rest of my life. Whatever other bible reading programme I am following I figure it shouldn’t take too long to read a gospel as well. For me, it’s about getting to know Jesus better and making sure that He is first and central in my life.

This month is Matthew.

Matthew introduces Jesus, as a Jew of that time would expect him to be introduced, with his genealogy followed by stories of his father Joseph.

I remember reading this genealogy as a new Christian and thinking “How boring.” Now I read it and remember all the stories associated with those names. Abraham, Rahab, Tamar… good kings, bad kings, mixed up people, all real people with interesting characters and messy life stories, people who mattered to God and whose lives teach us about how God works in our world.

The people who first heard Matthew’s gospel were people who had grown up with these names and these stories. This rooted Jesus in their own soil, their own culture. Matthew is saying “Jesus is real, he was born here, he lived here and here and here. He is the Messiah you have been looking forward to. He is the one the prophets spoke about.”

    As you are reading with me, here are some questions for you to consider!


An angel came to Joseph in a dream and gave him a message from God. The magi were also warned in a dream. Has God ever spoken to you through a dream? Did you act on what He told you to do? Do you have a story to share?

Jesus’ contemporaries who were looking for a ‘Messiah’ met Jesus and found that he fulfilled many of the old prophecies but often did not fit their expectations of what Messiah would be like. What are your expectations of Jesus? Does your image of Jesus fit the real Jesus?

Heat and Dust, Lost and Found

Heat and Dust, Lost and Found

When the weather changes to beyond warm it can be hard to concentrate on little else and keeping cool becomes the object of the day. The recent hot spell we experienced reminded me of the film title Heat and Dust and reflecting on the storyline I mused awhile on free spirits, conformity, true freedom and how to attain real happiness and fulfilment. I guess it’s okay to let your thoughts run on in the heat!

When I was a teenager in the 1980s, in accordance with my musical tastes, I was very much a New Romantic busy writing deep and pithy poems such as ‘windmills, turning, only to arrive where we began’! Also at the time, but not on my turntable, was a Christian heavy rock band from Stockport which my brother liked – 100% Proof – I can’t remember much of their music, only the song title Freedom. Taking their musical cues from AC/DC they belted out this refrain: ‘freedom, freedom, how can I find freedom in this life?’. Well, those were the words I think they sang.

On Sunday I heard a familiar story, The Lost Son (the parable formerly known as The Prodigal Son!) Heat, dust, freedom, fulfilment, lost and found, they are all in that parable (or maybe it’s a parabola…).

In Psalms (32) I read today that ‘for day and night your hand was heavy on me, my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer’. We like to think of a light-touch God, not a heavy-handed one, but I think it’s talking about true freedom and fulfilment again…when we’re living out of sync with the truth it’s an exhausting place to be, we’re like a horse that can only be controlled with bits and bridles.

In the last book of the Bible God promises a future freedom from hunger and thirst and that ‘the sun will not beat down on them nor any scorching heat’. Phew! Where do I sign up?

Overalls of Love

Overalls of Love

(based on 1 Cor 13 and Col 3:12-14)

Where there is no love:
Speaking well in one or a dozen languages is just noise.
Having prophetic wisdom and knowledge is worthless.
Faith is of no value.
Giving away everything I own including my life is of no use.

Where there is love:
Patience and kindness abound.
Hurts are forgiven and forgotten.
Jealousy and boastfulness have no place.
Anger is rare and respect is everywhere.
Truth is.

Because love:
Protects and trusts.
Hopes and never gives up.
Succeeds.

Love knows us.
But one day;
We will know as we are known, we will see clearly;
Prophecies, tongues and knowledge will be a distant memory.
~
Have faith and have love. Have faith in love, in the one who is love.
Let love increase your faith. Let faith increase your love.
Have hope and have love. Stay hopeful, stay loving. Let love bring you hope. Hope for more love.
Have more hope for love.
Always love.

Therefore, because God has chosen you, made you holy and loves you deeply.
Put on the clothes he has for you: a shirt of tender heartedness, trousers of kindness, a jumper of staying humble, socks of gentleness and shoes of patience (no trampling in these shoes).
Put up with annoyances and irritations, put up with others being insulting or going behind your back: Forgive

Forgive as you have been forgiven.
Over all of this put on
overalls of love.

What moves your heart?

What moves your heart?

For many of us reality TV and talent shows fill out our viewing diet. I’m not averse to some pop-diva-wannabes vying for record-deal supremacy, but when it comes to kicking back on some Spring Friday evenings, once every two years, BBC Young Musician can’t be beaten in my book. Grade Eight musical excellence is a mere starting point for entries, virtuosic performances abound and the question is who has that extra something that will make paying audiences flock to a concert hall in the future.

This is a simple poem I wrote on Saturday May 8th following the String final and Semi-Final:

Tied Beauty

Elegie on a city cello
sonorous toddler box not
eighteenth-century heirloom
shakes you and stills
your soul with singing
and tears arising
without requesting
Rachmaninov requisitioning
Reconditioning. Heart
sequestering beauty

One rendering of Psalm 23:6 says that God’s beauty and love chases after us every day of our lives and the Bible also says of the Psalm writer that his music on the lyre (harp) used to soothe the souls of those who listened to him. Apparently limbic centres of the brain can be activated by listening to music and music therapy is enlisted these days for many different reasons. Not everyone sees God behind the beauty we see and hear, and that is a debate for another day, but I’m with Hopkins the poet who, in Pied Beauty, gave glory to God for ‘dappled things’ and praised what he saw as God’s beautiful handiwork in creation.

Passion, skill, music, beauty, love – what moves your heart today?

What is your Ikigai?

What is your Ikigai?

Last week I discovered a whole host of Japanese words that have no literal English translation but instead describe a certain event or specific feeling. A few of my favourites are:

  • IRUSU – pretending to be out when someone knocks the door
  • TSUNDOKU – the act of buying a book and leaving it unread, often piled together with other unread books
  • YOISHO – a word without meaning, said when flopping into your chair after a hards day at work
  • IKIGAI – a reason for being, the thing that gets you up in the morning
  • What a thought provoking word – ikigai. In Japan the word is widely used to describe a healthy passion for something that makes us feel as though life is worth living to the fullest.

    The population of Okinawa Island in Japan is known as one of the longest living in the world, with men and women routinely living to exceed 100 years of age. At this age, they are still physically capable, fully alert and involved in the world around them. They work in their gardens and play with their great, great grandchildren. Their rates of disease are many times lower than much of the world and, interestingly, Okinawans don’t have a word for retirement. What they have is ‘ikigai’. A recent study asked the islands oldest inhabitants “What is your ikigai?” For a 102 year old karate master, his ikigai was to teach his martial art. For a 100 year old fisherman, it was continue going out and bringing fish back to his family three days per week. For a 102 year old woman, her ikigai was to spend time with her great, great, great granddaughter.

    Earlier this week I tried to answer this same question – What is my ikigai? As a Youth Minister my passion lies in journeying with young people and helping them see how precious and significant they are – created for a purpose and valued. The pressures of the world to succeed or to act or look a certain way quickly can overwhelm our children and young people and impact on them negatively. A further part of my ikigai is being mum to two beautiful children, seeing them grow, helping them through challenges, teaching and guiding them and loving them unconditionally.

    I believe in a God who loves us unconditionally, creates us uniquely and given each of us passions that give our lives purpose and meaning. I believe that the things that get us up in the morning help us understand who we are created to be. These are the things that spark us, that light up our soul, that fill us with joy, that stir an anger within to see justice win through. Sure, we might do lots of other stuff through out the week, but our passions show us who we were created to be! Why not take time today to answer the question: What is my ikigai?

    Invited to know the creator

    Invited to know the creator

    I was listening to the radio recently on the day when the death of the pioneering radio presenter Cliff Michelmore was announced. They played a recording of a broadcast he made during an election. In this he stated that during the election results he was up until 4am and, with just two hours break before continuing the next morning, as dawn began to break a small bird sang its heart out on the roof of the building in which he was trying to catch some sleep!

    This morning I think the same bird landed on the roof of my house. Its song was loud enough to wake me up! For such a small plain bird it had such a beautiful voice and, like Cliff Michelmore, I could not be angry at its presence. In fact, now wide awake, I decided that it was a good time to write this blog.

    We seem to live such busy lives and it is my own experience that if we are to find and know God we have to be willing and able to listen to his ‘still small voice’ wherever possible. This, for me, often comes from reading the bible, being outside and enjoying the countryside (in my view best done on a mountain bike in the Welsh hills), or marvelling at the creation and working of our own bodies and their complexity. Even with the technology available today and advancements in medicine, I am told that we still have no idea how the vast majority of the brain really works, just a very rough idea of which bit does what!

    The apostle Paul, when writing to the Romans, states that whatever we may think, since God’s ‘invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made’ we are without excuse for not taking time out to consider if He is important to us, or is relevant to our lives.

    Moses, perhaps one of the best known fathers of all time, was himself very hesitant and resistant to listening to, and being called by, God. When he met with God at the burning bush (Exodus 3&4) he made excuse after excuse regarding why God had made a mistake in choosing him. As his final comment he claimed “I am slow in speech and tongue,” to which God replied:

    “Who gave man his mouth and who makes his deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”

    As Moses later found out, God was indeed able to transform his ability to communicate with both Pharaoh and the people he had been asked to lead, despite both having good reason for despising him.

    We, too, should not be surprised that God, who created all the beauty and complexities of life around us, is also able to guide us and transform our thoughts and lives. We should, therefore, in our busy lives find time to seek him and know him. [Just like the bird’s song which woke me this morning, so God’s creation calls us to wake up and understand more about who he is and his love for us.]

    Waiting for Godot?

    Waiting for Godot?

    On Sunday evenings this month in church the theme is Patience, a ‘fruit of the Spirit’. Chaucer described patience as a conquering virtue whilst Aristotle talked of it being bitter yet having sweet fruit. Contemporary poet Liz Lochhead points to ‘a gleam of something’ when waiting for inspiration, ‘after a long nothingness, you grab at anything and this is food to you.’

    I confess to understanding these messages about patience but putting them into practice does not happen easily. I like the idea of delayed gratification but often find myself singing ‘I’m still waiting’ with Diana Ross, or even Freddy Mercury’s impatient, ‘I want it all and I want it now!’ Occasionally it feels like I’m Waiting for Godot, a tragicomedy in which Godot never comes, that Through the Looking Glass experience when there is ‘jam tomorrow, but never today’.

    I’m studying for a qualification at the moment and there is no short cut to success; I’m sometimes discouraged and it’s mostly about putting in the hard graft and engaging with the subject. I’m also waiting for the appointment of a new Senior Minister at church and the search is rightfully rigorous and painstaking. I can maybe even begin to see that there is a point to waiting and that patience is a virtue, is fruitful in itself. As Paul Coelho writes, ‘patience is so important – because it makes us pay attention’ and as George Eliot wrote in Middlemarch we should be very patient with one another because what may seem idle and weak to us in others may actually be a time of growth for them.

    I’m not really sure about the play Waiting for Godot but in the New Testament it says about God, ‘The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake.’ We think we’re waiting for him to turn up, turns out he’s already here, waiting for us to come to him. What are you waiting for?

    St Peter’s Baptist Church

    St Peter’s Baptist Church

    What’s In It for You?

    You can find me most days of the week at St Peter’s Baptist Church Centre on the St Peter’s estate because that is where I both work and worship. There’s no place I’d rather be, but what’s in it for you?

    I can tell you about the first-class activities that are on offer throughout the week: for coffee and food, for fitness, for friendship, for families (for parents and children of every age and stage), for older people, for those who do art, do craft, who just like a laugh, for those with life issues.

    You would be most welcome to just come in and be yourself any day of the week and to find out more about what is on offer here. Our lovely coffee shop is open 9am to 2pm Monday to Saturday and our inspirational Sunday Services are at 9am, 10.45am and 6.30pm.

    We are people just like you: Baby Boomers and Silver Surfers, Bosses and Workers, Young and Old, Scientists and Poets, Passionate and Restless, Creative and Questioning! Jesus talked about experiencing ‘life in all its fullness’ – whether you feel totally full-filled, glass half-full or even running-on-empty we’d love to talk with you and do life better, together.

    Contact Us

    St Peter’s Baptist Church
    Address: Eden Close, Worcester, WR5 3TZ
    Telephone: 01905 767090
    E-mail: info@stpetersbaptist.org.uk

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    Our policies can be found here.