Time to think differently...

Time to think differently...
Leading through crisis

Saturday, 4 July 2020

Covid, Bridge Church and 4th July...

I want to bring you up to date with developments both in the government Covid guidelines and our response as a church family.
Many of you will be aware of the new guidelines for worship in churches from 4th July: 
 In brief:
  • Maximum of 30 people
  • No standing
  • No singing
  • No refreshments
  • No touching, no hugging
  • Quarantine items touched
  • Leave promptly
  • Avoid large gatherings
  • Continue to stream
…Not really Bridge Church!
 I have been in touch with Trinity school – they remain closed for hiring.
With this in mind, there are no plans for us to meet physically all together soon on Sundays or as small groups, prayer groups, bible studies etc.
We will however continue to have lots of opportunities to meet online.
To help with this, I am pleased to announce that Elliott Goggins has been appointed the new Bridge Church Digital Online Editor.
This is a part-time staff appointment to help Pete in the production of Bridge Online.
I am missing us all being together, but am glad for some lifting of Lockdown restrictions enabling us to see friends and family. We can meet with one other household inside and up to 6 people outside.
Let’s safely build the Bridge Church community...

Friday, 12 June 2020

BLACK LIVES MATTER & CTNA                                                         JUNE 2020

An Open Statement of Christians Together in the Newbury Area (CTNA)
  • As Christians Together in the Newbury Area we affirm our belief that every individual is made in the image of God and has equal standing in His eyes.
  • We affirm the dignity of every human being.
  • We affirm Jesus’ commandment to “Love our Neighbour” which includes ALL, regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, disability, creed, cultural background, colour or political view.
  • We celebrate the diversity of different ethnic groups in West Berkshire.
  • We acknowledge that many carry deep wounds from past injustices.
  • We confess, and are sorry, that the Church as an institution has, at times, failed to live out the love of Christ.
  • We acknowledge the need to listen to those who have grievances and to have the humility to recognise that we can unconsciously cause distress or pain to others through our attitudes and behaviours.
  • Our calling as Christians is to share the love of God with our friends and neighbours in West Berkshire and to share the Gospel of Christ which makes possible a break with the past and a new start through repentance and forgiveness.
  • We want to contribute wherever we can to building a better, more loving, more respectful, more understanding diverse community in West Berkshire.
  • Please contact us if you think there is any way in which we can help. 
Mark Landreth-Smith, chair of CTNA
Will-Hunter-Smart, vice chair

Tuesday, 2 June 2020

Racism in my town...?

As a result of recent terrible events, I wanted to learn more about what it is like living in my town as a person of colour. Is their racism in my town? Have any of the people I know been victims of racism where I live? This was also partly born out of TD Jakes' comments on the weekend: "Silence is the worst enemy". I was challenged by that.
These are some of the comments from residents of colour in my town this week:
  • Racism is everywhere
  • You know it is there
  • It is woven into the fabric of British society
  • I have been subjected to racism at the station and at the petrol station
  • We experienced racism from the neighbours. That is partly why we moved
  • I have been called ...... numerous times
  • Young people make fun of my accent
  • My boss is racist
  • It is subtle here
  • We expect it
  • There is still the colonial attitude - the white man knows best, the black man has nothing to offer.
  • There is systemic inequality
  • I feel it all around me
  • Racism is embedded in the system
  • It is unconscious, with no ill-will
Those I spoke to also said they knew many lovely, warm, friendly white people in my town.

Jesus said: "Love thy neighbour".

Sunday, 24 May 2020

Resilient Leadership Through Crisis

Many of us are leaders - in the home, in the workplace, in church, in the community, in local government. There are a number of unique leadership challenges at the moment. During Mental Health Awareness Week I want to look at some of those challenges:

Phase 1 - Shock. This is happening to all of us. The shock of the C-19 pandemic. Then Lockdown. As leaders, we have been stripped of almost everything in terms of how we used to lead. For some there is a sense of loss - loss of how you used to lead, how you used to gather, loss of meetings, loss of how you used to communicate, loss of being with people.
Phase 2 - Change. After the shock, we have learnt to change. Fast. How to lead differently. Zoom\Webex. Lots of time on screen, rather than physical meetings. We have worked hard to adapt and to meet the expectations of others.
Phase 4 - Family. In addition to dealing with your own loss of pattern and frames of reference, we may be dealing with an emotionally charged home - partner working from home, home schooling the children, managing elderly parents from afar...even going shopping has changed!
Phase 4 - Loss. 40,000 people have died of C-19 in the UK. 40,000 families are grieving. A lot of people are loosing their jobs. The economic impact has come. Some experts say charities and churches will see a 30% loss in income. We feel the impact of what is happening around us. As leaders, we feel the sense of national grief.
Phase 5 - Restart. As we come out of this crisis a new set of challenges are before us - how to lead now and into the future? How to lead differently, to innovate, sustain, communicate and grow. We are trying to work it all out...

All 5 stages of change and challenge require large amounts of emotional energy. We are wise to not minimise the compound impact above.

So what is the anitidote? What does Resilient Leadership look like at this time?
1. Look after yourself. Read your emotional gauges. Listen to what your body is telling you. Make adjustments.
2. Watch your diet (food, drink, TV and Netflix!). Consume what is good for you.
3. Exercise. Everyday. Walk. Enjoy the outdoors. Get those endorphins going.
4. Invest in nourishing relationships - family and friends who do you good.
5. Rest. This season is exhausting. Sleep well.
6. Holiday. Even though you might have had to cancel the destination, take 2 weeks off to recover for the next big push.
7. Pray. This is bigger than you. God is bigger than you. He can help. Ask Him.

Finally, if you are struggling, please speak to someone, or to your GP.
You may want to read my blog series below: "Avoiding Burnout"... 

Saturday, 16 May 2020

Pasties, Cup Cakes and Covid

We have a pasties team and a cup cake team now. All trained. Cup cakes to care home staff, pasties to NHS staff, with more to come. We are looking out for the vulnerable, lonely and shielded. We have provided resources to a school, a hospital, the poor in India and individuals. The hungry are being fed. A bit. The CAP Debt Centre is seeing a growing number of clients. We are hooking up with West Berks Council and other agencies.
We have got into something of a rhythm as a church: Youtube streaming of Sundays with more people attending online than come through the doors. Interesting. Small Groups meet each week on zoom and webex. We are getting the hang of virtual meetings and keeping our sense of humour. Not closed. Definitely open. Praying lots.

Thursday, 14 May 2020

Is BBC One becoming a porn hub with Normal People?

The BBC One series Normal People has had a lot of press recently. We know why - Sex. A lot of it. Explicit sex and nudity. 41 minutes of it, according to one report (who has a stop watch for that?!). It makes me wonder:
Do people need that much sex on TV? Do people want that much sex on TV? Should we have explicit sex on TV? Evidently, some people are enjoying it. Some people enjoy watching porn. What about the young people and children who watch it on i-player? What does it say to them about sex and relationships? Will they think sex like that is normal? Will they want to watch more porn? What then for their relationships? What then for the nation...?

Tuesday, 28 April 2020

The leader, the phone and the wardrobe

We have gone through the wardrobe. We have fallen through the looking glass.
A lot has changed in 6 weeks. The world has changed. How we lead has changed. How we communicate has changed. We have changed.
For some, an exciting, new adventure has begun. Narnia is full of colour, pixels and pixies, new animals and online possibilities.
Some never want to go back through the wardrobe. This is a challenge they relish. 
For others there is a sense of loss, anxiety, ill-ease. Narnia is frightening. The future is frightening. “I am falling slowly through the looking glass…”
The move from the study to the studio is intimidating. Frames of reference are gone, normal patterns of leadership have been frozen by the ice-queen. “I am speaking to a screen, not real people. How do I get back inside the wardrobe?”
Where is my frame of reference?
You might say Jesus came through the ultimate wardrobe. The Incarnate Son of God left the glories of heaven to come through the dust and dirt and darkness of our wardrobe world. Christ learnt a new language. He relinquished the mystical tongues of heaven and learnt earth speak – the language of carpenter, farmer, shepherd, tax collector, prostitute.
God came online.
What of the apostle Paul? He left the language of Gamaliel, his super IQ friends with religious high talk and learnt to be “all things, to all men, in order to save some”. He learnt to proclaim, debate, teach in homes, write, sit in the dirt and sew.
Paul went online.
Some are anxious, outside their comfort zone, afraid of Mr Tumnus and the lamppost. Worried about the future. Worried about their future. The leadership bar is impossibly high. 
- Get Lucy, Peter, Susan and Edmund to help you. They are more agile in Narnia. And Peter has a sword.
The leader still has a role to play. You still have leadership. You still have the call. Same as it has always been. Make disciples. Raise up leaders for Narnia. In slightly different ways.
The goal is the same.
Aslan is still King.
There remains no substitute for love.

Friday, 17 April 2020

My session with a leadership coach

I had a session with a Leadership Coach this morning. He coaches leaders in business and the charity sector. He had some very helpful observations and advice for me:

  • Don't have a survive mentality right now
  • Begin planning for the next phase
  • Don't expect to be running your organisation the same after this
  • There will be 5Q recession - that's how long recessions last
  • Your next 15 months are critical
  • Many businesses will lay off staff after furlough
  • Plan for 30% drop in income for your organisation
  • This will affect your operation
  • What do you want your organisation to look like after this?
  • What will you do differently?
  • What do you want it to look like in 15 months?
  • What changes in staff do you need to plan for?
  • What changes in volunteers will you need?
  • What radical and creative changes do you need to make in the next 15 months?

Wednesday, 8 April 2020

What is happening...?

Lots of people are sick. Lots of people are dying. Jobs are at risk. Uncertainty and anxiety everywhere. Lockdown. We have not been this way before. It is mind blowing.
What else is happening?
Some are slowing down. Some have stopped. That can be good. We are forced to stop and think; to breath; we are thinking about what is important; what we can do without; we are re-evaluating relationships; we are thinking of others; we want to help; we are trying to keep in touch with family; we are thinking about our world; the air is cleaner; we appreciate our health (and the NHS); there is spiritual awakening; churches are growing online; we are praying; we have discovered we can live without football!
We are changed. A re-set button has been pressed. We will do things differently from now on...

Sunday, 5 April 2020

Book Review: Joy in the Sorrow by Matt Chandler. Published in Christianity magazine

You might need the tissues near when you read this book. Sit down, find a quiet place and let it hit you. Gut wrenching, painful and beautiful in equal measure. Joy in the Sorrow tells the story of various people in TVC (The Village Church, Texas) who have encountered pain, sorrow, suffering, grief and loss. It is not an easy read. But it is a good and important read. The sudden death of a child, the death of a father, miscarriage after miscarriage, a life-changing accident…Pain and suffering on every page. Matt Chandler is also candid about his own journey - the brain tumour, the operation, gruelling treatment, depression, long recovery, 2-year prognosis.
Pause, catch your breath, reach for the tissue. Hold your loved ones tight. Phone your mum, tell her you love her. Phew. Now read on…more pain, more sorrow.
And yet this book is also filled with hope, joy, finding God, leaning into His Word, leaning into church family, discovering joy in the sorrow. This is a painful and necessary book. We will all face suffering, pain and sorrow. The question is, will we find joy in the midst of it? Will we find God in the midst of our sorrow? This book helps.
If you are going through a difficult time, this book is for you. If you know someone going through a difficult time, they will find comfort in the stories of others.
Matt Chandler is 10 years on from his tumour. He is doing well. Others in the book are still experiencing sorrow and joy. The final three words of the book are fitting for us all: “Run to Him”.

Saturday, 28 March 2020

Queuing to pray, not for toilet roll

During the Second World War, King George VI summoned the nation to prayer. He said this:

"I desire solemnly to call my people to prayer. I hope that throughout the present in crisis in Europe there may be offered up earnest, continuous and widespread prayer. If from every place of worship, from every home and factory, men and women of all ages and races and occupations, prayers and petitions rise, then, please God, the predictions of the ancient psalm may be fulfilled: The Lord will give strength to his people; the Lord will give the blessing of peace."
People queued, not to get toilet roll, but to get into churches to pray...

Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Covid, lawn mowers and false widow spiders

What a week! Hard to describe. Defies words, but lots have been used and a new one - Covid. For me, trying to lead a church remotely, online is totally different. For someone whose bread and butter is sitting with people, being with people, this is strange. Still, I am learning new things: Zoom, WebEx and online Sundays. And praying lots. In the midst of it all, I had the call that every parent dreads: "Your son has had an accident". Tom had turned his lawn mower off to get a stick out. In doing so, the blades reactivated and pulled his fingers and thumb in. Thankfully, the hand surgeon was operating that day and saved his fingers. In the next bed was a man who had a finger amputated after being bitten by a false widow spider - I didn't know such things happened in the south of England...What a week!

Tuesday, 17 March 2020

Covid & Bridge Church Newbury part 1

In the light of government advice, we have made the tough decision to cancel all meetings of the church, large or small for the foreseeable future. This means we will not be meeting on Sundays at Trinity school Newbury, or in any midweek physical group. We are looking at ways of connecting through livestream, Zoom, Webex, Skype and Whatsap etc. We will follow social distance advice.
We won't give in to fear, we won't stock pile or panic shop; we will keep praying, keep connecting, loving our neighbours and looking out for the elderly and vulnerable; we will stay close to Jesus, the Prince of Peace and demonstrate His love and peace everywhere....

Thursday, 12 March 2020

Highlights of Prayer and Fasting

Wow, what a 2 days. So difficult to distill accurately. We worshiped; we prayed for the UK (we need it!) - churches growing, churches stuck, new churches being planted in Reading and Swindon and elsewhere. We prayed for the Connect Festival happening in August. We heard of fantastic training opportunities. We prayed for other nations: India, Nigeria (where over 500 Christians have been killed this year); Turkey (where church leaders are being expelled) and for church plants to Beirut and Canada. We also heard marvelous stories of healings from Odiham, Winchester and Christchurch. Breathless stuff.

Wednesday, 19 February 2020

Thoughts of Jem...

Like many of our friends and family, we are reeling. Jemily has died aged 35. She was amazing - a godly woman, a great wife and devoted mother. A good friend.
Jemily came to Camberley from Woking, straight from school to do a volunteer year at the church I was leading. She was so good I asked her to stay on and join the staff. She lead an action-packed  Kids Club with Ivane, regularly having 90 children. But there was more to Jemily - she was an organiser. A very good organiser. I asked her to become the church administrator. It was one of the best decisions of my life. She was brilliant and helped grow a thriving church. She was beautiful, warm, loving, conscientious, reliable, able, with a good heart and sense of humour. Jem was a gem.
Around this time, a young man called Tim Brown arrived at the church, also from Woking. I asked him what he was doing. He replied: "I want to lead worship and to find a wife!". He did and he did. Tim Brown married Jemily. He is an outstanding worship leader and they have a beautiful daughter Mayana, aged 10.
We are all feeling very sad and have questions no-one can answer. But Tim courageously wrote, just hours after the death of his wife:
"God is good and Jem's death does not change that. He is a magnificent and faithful father".