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Posts Tagged ‘Mez McConnell’

Apologies. We have had the lurgies. And hence the exciting 2014 regular posting phenomenon has gone a bit down the tubes, after lasting for all of about a fortnight. The Queen got sick and then kindly shared her bug with three of the four grown-ups in the house. BytheSea had the Daddy Bear version, involving treatment with antibiotics, I have had a Mummy Bear attack which has merely confined me to bed for four days, and the Vicar has had the Baby Bear lurgies and has felt terrible but still managed to lead a massive funeral and attend a 2 1/2 hr school governors meeting midweek plus all his normal vicaring duties.

Anyway, I’m pleased to report that we’re on the mend and I’m able to have a small blogging catch-up.

FIRST: The winner of the caption competition – randomly generated as I found it too hard to choose – is Shaun. Please email me at thevicarswifey [at] gmail [dot] com to claim your prize of an e-book of The Ministry of a Messy House.

SECOND: Book news: The Vicar reviewed my book (I’m relieved to say that he liked it) – and Claire Musters posted her review on Christian Today (she seemed to understand the writing process in the Vicarage perfectly).

THIRD: Ace apps – I’ve been meaning to mention a couple of excellent free apps – the Bible App for Kids and PrayerMate for iPad/iPhone and Android (free until the end of March courtesy of London City Mission). My kids are a little on the big side for the Bible App but they have enjoyed noodling about with it. It looks like a fun way to get kids familiar with bible stories. Recommended for ages 3-8. And PrayerMate is a truly excellent way to order all your regular intercessions. Over the years I have used various versions of prayer lists and abandoned/lost them pretty regularly. PrayerMate is a superb app which enables me to keep my list fresh and has some whizzy features like alarms and prayer diaries from mission societies (all in iOS, some still to come in Android).

FOURTH: I have come across a couple of interesting programmes on Alba – the Gaelic language BBC service which we can get on iPlayer. There’s a gentle series about ministers’ wives in Scotland (Bean a’ Mhinisteir) and tonight we’re going to watch Reaching Out with Hope (Na Soisgeulaich) which is about three evangelical churches in Scotland reaching out to their communities, including Niddrie Community Church, led by Mez McConnell of 20Schemes. Two of our children have Gaelic names, but that’s the extent of my knowledge, but it’s okay – the programmes are subtitled in English.

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At Cake and Chat, our weekly social group of school parents, church folk and random parishioners, we were talking about Iain Duncan Smith’s proposals to change the government’s definition of child poverty. Our parish ranks in the bottom 2.5% of parishes in the country for deprivation, so we are all familiar with poverty and its effects.

The general consensus was that poverty is not absolute – the amount of money someone has does not define how poor their life is, and especially how poor their children’s lives are. We see many parents with little money whose children are doing brilliantly – growing up with aspirations and discipline. And we know others whose children are not doing so well. Some of this is related to the amount of money available, but mostly it is to do with how that money is directed, and many other factors to do with the ability of parents to raise their children to escape poverty.

Jesus said

The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. Matthew 26v11

Poverty is in many ways an attitude of mind, but there will always be those who cannot escape it.  As Christians we follow the God who chose poverty so that we might become rich, and that is why we choose to live in the inner city – so we can offer the riches of Christ to those who know the reality of poverty.

Yesterday I listened to Mez McConnell’s story of grace (I’m going to be ordering his book too). He grew up in the most heart wrenching poverty – not just financially, but in almost every way you could think. What transformed him and turned his life around was not a government scheme or piles of cash. It was the gospel.

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In today’s Independent, Mary Ann Sieghart, who is not a Christian believer, eloquently defends the Church of England against recent attacks from Richard Dawkins, who appears to think that the church is a worthless and even malign institution.

One of Ms Sieghart’s reasons for that defence chimed strongly with me:

Social workers, teachers and doctors may commute into impoverished areas, but the vicar is often the only professional still living in the parish he or she serves. You don’t get more in touch than that.

Inner city vicars see it all

I am sometimes intensely frustrated as local friends deal with professionals who come into our parish to run things and advise people on their lives. Once you live outside an area it is very difficult to truly know the people who live there. The parish system of the Church of England is one of its true strengths.

Vicars know their parishes better than many social workers, councillors and politicians know their patch. Their houses are not open to callers, they are not mingling with local folk at multiple weekly events attended by the young, the old and the needy. Knowing people is about more than hearing their problems at a surgery or dealing with them in a professional capacity. It’s about being with them, drinking coffee and eating cake, weeping with them and just hanging out.

Christians in churches other than the CofE are also serving in the inner city and deprived urban areas – for example, Mez McConnell is pastor of a church on a housing scheme in Niddrie, the most deprived housing estate in Edinburgh.

I wonder how many of Richard Dawkins’ atheist pals have chosen to live in an inner city area to make a difference? How many of them are visiting the elderly and running youth clubs? God’s love motivates us to serve the folk in our parish and to live in an area that most people would be unlikely to choose as ‘desirable’. What motivates Richard Dawkins I wonder?

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