Through the bible in 60 minutes

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If you are looking for an easy overview of the bible, something to help you get to grips with how the different books of the bible all fit together, then this short series by David Cooke (author of ‘through the bible in 80 days) is a great starting point. ‘Through the bible in 60 mins’ is s series of 6 x 10 minute sessions.

Part 1 ‘Foundations and Covenants; Genesis and The Law’ is below.

The rest can be found here: https://youtu.be/e27mCqtsEM0





Reframing the goodness of God

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We say that God is good. We sing it so often ‘you’re a good good Father, it’s who you are..’ But what do we mean? What does Gods goodness look like in his dealings with me? As i reflect on what is good for my own children it’s clear that they wouldn’t choose much of it! A lot is met with resistance and misunderstanding. The ‘goodness’ of my decisions as a parent are often questioned by my them. I am far from a good Father, I concede. But what might the actions of a truly good Father look like to his children?

We often tell one another ‘God is holding you in his hands’, usually conjuring images of cradling a child, of comforting us – and that is not wrong, it is certainly not less than this – but surely the goodness of God must include yet go beyond comfort in our time of distress and help when we cry out in need? What other ways are we to see ourselves as ‘in his hands’ and what strength and joy can we draw from it?  

Consider a sword-smith – shaping and tempering a sword. Blow by blow, in and out of the flaming furnace. Slowly, patiently, with infinite attention to detail, he shapes the instrument in his hand. Being ‘held in Gods hands’ feels slightly different in this image! But what a joy. Held in the creators hands, those hands that shaped the stars and planets, now shaping me! Held in the almighty hands of Him who is committed to changing me from one degree of glory to another; changing me into the image of his Son, Jesus. How often do I turn to God in my toughest times and thank him? How often do I ‘consider it pure joy’ – as we have recently been encouraged to do by Phil Wallis in his message to us. (James 1:2-4)

Or consider a surgeon – What if there are things in our lives, known or unknown, that we are better off without (not difficult to imagine) but that we are very attached to (again, not difficult to imagine) would it feel good to have them removed – ‘amputated’? I have always liked the image of God as a surgeon, for obvious reasons! During my years in Orthopaedic surgery amputation was always the most difficult operation to come to terms with. Handing over the removed part of a person to be bagged and incinerated felt unnatural – is unnatural. But even in this, was the knowledge that without it, without the operation, very often the patient would die. How much more do we need a heavenly surgeon cutting away things in our lives that can lead to death. (Mark 9:43-47)  

C.S. Lewis, writing during one of the toughest times in life, says this about the goodness of God:  

‘…suppose that what you are up against is a surgeon whose intentions are wholly good. The kinder and more conscientious he is, the more inexorably he will go on cutting. If he yielded to your entreaties, if he stopped before the operation was complete, all the pain up to that point would have been useless.’ CS Lewis. A grief observed.

The author of Hebrews exhorts us to not forget that a loving Father disciplines his children:

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”
It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Hebrews 12:5-11

Whatever the reason may be that we go through struggles and pain, it is not because God is not good, but precisely because he is. And because God holds us in his hand, wherever the blows come from, whether it’s external circumstances outside our control, persecution, mental illness, physical illness, or even our own bad life choices, he is able to turn the sword to just the right angle so that each blow shapes us perfectly. (Romans 8:28).

We have a good God. What that looks like for us may be difficult to see at times but, we can be sure, that when we look back from eternity, we will see the hand of a loving surgeon, a skilled sword-smith, saving us and shaping us into his likeness. Let’s not wait until then to praise and thank him!

Real life

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 “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.
John 17:1-5

Robert Murray M’Cheyne was a nineteenth century Presbyterian Minister and Missionary. He dedicated his life to Jesus, and was a tireless, profoundly spiritual evangelist. There are many accounts, by those who knew him, that indicate M’Cheyne seemed to carry with him the very presence of our Saviour, wherever he went. A fellow minister wrote of Robert:

“..his living presence was a rebuke … for I never knew one so instant in season and out of season, so impressed with the invisible realities, and so faithful in reproving sin and witnessing for Christ.”

Robert M’Cheyne died of Typhus, in 1843, at just twenty-nine. Yet it has been claimed that he achieved more for Jesus in his seven years of ministry, than many could achieve in a lifetime. 

He remains well-qualified, then, to advise Christians on how to realise a measure of peace on earth. The words that follow are M’Cheyne’s, and in them, we might find solace today, as we are confined to our homes, praying to be ‘passed over’, as Covid 19 approaches peak contagion levels:

‘Learn much of the Lord Jesus. For every look at yourself take ten looks at Christ. He is altogether lovely. Such infinite majesty, and yet such meekness and grace, and all for sinners, even the chief. Live much in the smiles of God. Bask in His beams. Feel his all-seeing eye settled on you in love and repose in his almighty arms… let your soul be filled with a heart-warming sense of the sweetness and excellency of Christ and all that is in him.’

Andrew Bonar, Memoir and Remains of the Rev. Robert Murray M’Cheyne (Edinburgh: William Elephant and Co., 1864), p.257. 

 

M’Cheyne knew what it was to have life, real life, eternal life.

As we approach Easter we find ourselves looking at Jesus’ last days leading up to his death. On the night before Jesus died, he was with his closest friends, and he prayed for them. His prayer includes some of the most profound things he ever said. Perhaps the most wonderful is this:

Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” John 17:3

While we wait for a return to normality in these astonishing times, we would do well to heed Robert M’Cheyne, and focus ten times more often on Christ, than on ourselves and this world. We would do well to use this time – relatively free from meetings and commitments and social engagements, and all the other distractions that usually consume our time – to read our Bibles and draw close to God in His Word. For it is in the written Word that we see the Living Word (John 5:39). This is life. Real life. For Christians, there is no life other than to know Jesus. It is in looking at Jesus, and not at what is going on around us, that we will know peace in the storm.

Covid 19 is not sovereign – in spite of its corona (crown) epithet. The true crown is worn by our eternal Saviour and before Him, all disease and pain and fear are diminished and ultimately, they are powerless. Our life – our real life – is eternal.

Let’s spend what time we can, deepening our relationship with Jesus and our Heavenly Father, by soaking in God’s Word and reflecting on what it means – really means – to be saved, and delivered from death.

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.

1 Peter 5:10.

Hope and Help

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For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

Ephesians 2:10 NLT

We are made for a purpose. There are many stories in the Bible that describe people who find themselves in circumstances that were far outside of their control:

  • Joseph sold into slavery in Egypt and later caught up in a famine affecting the whole land
  • Daniel was taken into captivity in his youth and forced to serve a conquering empire.
  • Moses set adrift on a river as a young baby to find himself in a position to lead his nation out of slavery
  • Esther in the court of the Persian king as her people are under threat of being wiped out (Esther 4:14)

But circumstances didn’t define them, God had a special purpose for them as the verse above also promises he has for us too.

In this time of international crisis let us not be defined by that, but let us be asking of God, how then, in the midst of this, can you use me? For me there are two words that have kept coming back these past few weeks: “Hope” and “Help”.

  • Let our prayer lives be fuelled by the HOPE we have in Jesus. He is the ultimate HOPE because he is faithful and will never fail us (Romans 5:5). Let us call on him day and night, with every circumstance, every need, every opportunity, and every anxiety. Let the hope we have in Him, affect every act and conversation we have with others and let our prayers be ones that hope for change in this situation from the one in who ‘all things are possible’ (Matthew 19:26).
  • Let us look for ways to HELP. Some of these will be as opportunities arise: So for example, today we were able to respond to a request for funds from the Wallis family regarding medical equipment needed in their local area in Zambia. However, let’s also be proactive, looking out for the vulnerable and ways to serve them and joining in with our communities’ efforts to help (e.g. foodbanks).
  • And of course, let us finally ask for HELP from one another as we need it over the coming weeks. Whether that it is just a quick call for a chat or prayer or more practical needs as people self-isolate or experience financial hardship. My own family has been so blessed by offers of help from neighbours and church family for shopping as we have been in isolation for the past two weeks. 

Let’s be led by our saviour Jesus, and not by circumstances, as we look at how we can respond over the coming weeks and months.

COVID-19 – Where do we look as Christians?

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As a healthcare professional working in the current challenges and future uncertainty posed by the new coronovirus I have to keep reminding myself of where i should be looking and to whom i should be looking.

Things to remind ourselves of as Christians:

We should be marked by Peace not Panic.

As Christians we should be characterised by peace even in the face of potentially anxious circumstances. 

‘You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.’ Isaiah 26:3.

Jesus said:  ’I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.’ John 16:33

Notice, it’s not the fact that we have no problems, or that everything is going really smoothly for us, that leads to peace. It is the fact that Jesus walks with us and that he has ultimately won the victory for us that brings us peace.

Where does our peace come from? At Ellis’s funeral recently we read from Psalms 139, which he himself read out and spoke from at Beryl’s funeral – Psalm 139 (v16) says ‘all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.’  Our peace comes from looking to God and trusting in His character and His promises. We do not need to panic. Steve Vincent has recently been looking at The Kingdom of God and in Daniel 2 we see very clearly that God is sovereign, he reigns over Kingdoms and nations, he also reigns over creation and nature, disaster and disease. God is sovereign, God is good, and He has promised that in all things He is working for the good of those who love him and have been called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).  

Put on your Kingdom glasses. We can trust God. 

Jesus tells us not to worry, because worry will not add a single hour to our lifespan.  Remind yourself continually: ‘It takes the same amount of energy to worry as to pray. One leads to peace, the other to panic. Choose wisely.’ Todd Wagner

We should be marked by Wisdom not Foolishness.

Yes, we trust God, yes, we do not give into fear, yes, we fix our minds on God and have peace, but that does not mean we should throw common sense out of the window and act foolishly.

We will serve those around us well if we are responsible, act appropriately, and follow the guidance set out by our professional bodies and government. It is foolish and unwise to ignore this and to somehow think that we are immune to diseases. With this in mind we have put in place measures, as a church, that we feel reflect the very difficult but necessary steps that the Government have encouraged us to take as communities.

Equally, it is unwise to go the other way and stockpile food, panic buy, and hide away from helping those around us to avoid being infected. Over the coming weeks and months there will be many opportunities for each of us to step into the gaps, as services struggle under the strain, to help the most vulnerable around us.

Acting irresponsibly and, at the other extreme, withdrawing from society, both lack wisdom and fail to act in the reality of what it means to live for Christ in a fallen and fragile world, where we are called to both suffer with humanity, and serve humanity, alongside one another for the glory of God. 

We should be marked by Hope not Despair.  

Our hope does not rest on anything we see going on around us. Our hope is not based on a belief that this virus will not turn out to be as bad as some think or that it will not kill as many people as some predict or even that our families will not be affected. Our hope comes from the gospel of Jesus Christ. As the world is ravaged by a new virus we should see, reflected in this, the reality of a virus that is even more rampant and ‘pandemic’ with an even greater death rate and far more reaching consequences, but for which God has already provided a cure:

Mark Oden writing for the Gospel Coalition summarises it like this:  ‘Humanity lives in the grip of a pandemic outbreak called sin… and the story of the Bible is the story of a God who entered a world infected with this virus. He lived among sick people, not wearing a chemical protective suit but breathing the same air as we do, eating the same food as we do. He died in isolation, excluded from his people, seemingly far from his Father on a cross—all so he might provide this sick world with an antidote to the virus, that he might heal us and give us eternal life.’ 

His name is Jesus, and He said:  “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” John 11: 25-26.

Our faith in Jesus provides us with a sure and certain hope, not just in the face of the coronavirus, but in the face of sin, and death and hell, and it is our privilege to share this hope with our world in the midst of darkness and despair, whenever and wherever God gives us opportunity.

‘…in your hearts honour Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.’ 1 Peter 3:15

Because of Jesus we can approach the throne of grace, the throne of God, with confidence, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16).  So let us lay hold of that privilege on behalf of our world and come before the throne of God, confident, that He has all that we and our world needs, both now, and always. 

Matthew’s House

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Sharing our vision and passion with a Uni Team  
Our Project Manager and a Volunteer speak on Human Flourishing 
Thom and one of our volunteers, Matt, addressed students at the Townhill Campus who are on a counselling course. During the event they spoke about the need for genuine relationship, regular connection and dignity. Four of the attendees even signed up to become Friends of Matthew’s House. We are grateful for such opportunities to raise awareness, but also thankful for the encouragement and support we receive in return.
We had to do something to survive and thrive
Welcome to Ellie Phillips, our new part-time Project Co-ordinator
The past 18 months has felt like 0-to-100mph. It has been hugely successful, rewarding and for many people life-changing. One of the most satisfying things has been the army of volunteers, supporters and Friends who have become one massive family ‘living’ within Matthew’s House. We love it! It has all been achieved with a single paid part-time project manager, who also volunteers hours and hours to make things grow and work. Thom is an incredible guy, with enthusiasm that seems to know no bounds. However he, like everyone, is human and we need to ensure that he ‘paces the race’. With this in mind the Leadership and Trustees decided that we would seek to employ a part-time project co-ordinator to relieve some of the pressure on him. It would be a dedicated role to support Thom in his Project Manager capacity.
We discussed extensively as to the best approach of finding the right person: How much or widely do we advertise it? What are the role requirements? etc. We knew that the successful candidate must understand Thom’s style, match him for energy and commitment, and grasp the critical nature of the role’s objectives – as the header says – helping Thom not just survive but thrive! With this in mind, we felt that it was appropriate to start our search amongst Matt’s Cafe volunteers. We also limited our initial effort to those volunteers who have operated in Matt’s Cafe for more than six months (as of March 2018). Limiting the search criteria was a tough decision, but we felt this struck the right balance. We were still amazed how long the list was, and we had numerous expressions of interest and applications. Last week we completed the final stage of the process and have been humbled by the calibre and attitude of all those who considered, applied and were interviewed for the post. We are pleased to announce that with effect from 1st May our new part-time co-ordinator will be Ellie Phillips.
Ellie has enthusiastically volunteered, raised funds and the Matthew’s House profile for some time. She has been an advocate for the art wall, cafe and Homeless Period project. Recently, she has completed a short tour on a social action project in Zambia. This appointment is vital for our long-term success. We are volunteer-driven and want to say thank you all for everything you all do! You really have been awe inspiring and our growth and impact in the city has been because of you and your dedication to Matthew’s House. Thank you for every hour you have dedicated to the cause, for every pound or penny you have raised or donated, for every Friend you have recruited, and for every smile and encouragement you have given! It means more than you know.
Record breaking is becoming the norm! 
Should we celebrate or be discouraged with the demand for our food
The first week of this month saw us set a new record of meals in one day. 152! This news continues to take us by surprise. It is very motivating to our teams, but it is also very sobering that the demand is increasing. In the second week we matched that record again, and then in the the third week it rose to… 169 meals in a single day! The total for that week’s hours was 430 meals over 3 days. That is a lot of intercepting, collecting, prepping, cooking, serving and hospitality! All done by volunteers. Amazing! We love our motivated, reliable, consistent, joy-giving volunteers.
Somebody recently asked how they could best encourage our volunteers. In one respect, the answer is to become a Friend. However, words are also very powerful. If you would like to send a message of gratitude and encouragement to our volunteers please email Thom@matthewshouse.org.uk who can share this directly with the teams.
Matt’s Cwtsh! This is not a typo, but the proper spelling
Our newest room at Matthew’s House courtesy of Tesco at Llansamlet
This was completed last week and we have already used it for several meetings. It is a lovely small and personal space. When someone enters it as a guest, it tells them that we care. It says they are welcome, that they matter, that they are a human being and are worth the effort. It has provided us with a room where we can develop more support and friendship to the most vulnerable.
With the support of the store management at Tesco Llansamlet, their Community Chamption, Gillian, brilliantly led the refurbishment. It all started in January when they approached us with a heart to help with more than just food. They wanted to own a project, make it happen from design, to fitout, to completion. We had always planned to sort that room out and make the Cwtsh happen, but their generosity meant it has happened a lot sooner. Click here for the article on Wales Online.
We made ITV news… for all the right reasons! 
Broadcaster, Andrea Byrne, and her crew pop in and say hello.
The team from ITV News Cymru recently contacted our Leadership team and asked about the work and ethos of Matthew’s House. This led to them visiting, interviewing guests and giving us a prime slot on the news a few weeks ago. Hopefully will have a copy of that clip soon and we will share it with you.
Become a Friend
People often ask ‘what can I do’ to help Matthew’s House? The single biggest difference is not a large one-off gift, but rather a regular long-term smaller gift on a monthly basis. This helps us plan and make the most of what we have. We call these committed and generous folk Matt’s Friends (Obviously we never turn away large gifts either!). In this last month we grew by 6 friends, and we are so grateful to all those who stand with us this way! Please continue to share this means of supporting us. Click here.
Love takes time, Love is a verb, Love opens the way
These are common sayings by the leadership at Matthew’s House. One of our recent guests, having not long left prison, was on a tag. He always came to Matthew’s House for food and left with a smile. He was always polite and very grateful for our hospitality. One Sunday evening he turned up in ‘bad shape and under the influence’. A couple of volunteers helped him to a chair and gave him a hot drink and sat and chatted with him for some while. They were also aware that he was in danger of breaching his curfew (due to the tag). They encouraged him to begin the slow walk home, ensuring that he understood that breaching it would not make his life any easier. The next day he came in and he was so thankful for the support that he stayed most the day and chatted about the difficulties he’s going through. He even left us a note to share his love and gratitude to our project.
Volunteer Thank You | Steve and Richard | Superstars!
We like to give thanks where it is due! Steve Tanner and his nephew Rich Walters are two fantastic volunteers of ours! They have relentlessly given up so much time to Matthew’s House and have both been a regular fixture on our Cafe team for a very long time. Publicly we want to thank these two generous hearted guys for their help and support. He did ask us to say this at all, but Steve runs a company called Swansea Home Improvements. They have been brilliant to us and are always ready to help! If you need a kitchen, Steve is your man!
Supporter Thank you | Cold Truth Campaign Feb’ 2018
This campaign was an amazing success. We had 15 brave souls (aka supporters) take the plunge and set-up to sleep the night at the Tesco car park in mid-February. All of them were stars under the stars! The temperature plummeted to below -4 degrees centigrade. That is cold! But the fundraising rocketed to something close to £7,000. Amazing. We are so very grateful!
Friday Friends | Working with Olchfa Secondary School 
The staff and pupils at this school are amazing. For the past year we have developed a growing friendship with them, and have been encouraged by the way that the pupils themselves have engaged with Matthew’s House. They have raised funds and allowed us to share to each year group about homelessness, dignity and the priceless value of people. This then developed into a conversation about them doing more. A meeting took place with Olchfa Student Voice, who had lots of questions, ideas and vision for making more of a difference in the heart of Swansea. We are now trying to launch Friday Friends with the school. This is on a Friday (obviously!). It is once a month from 1pm to 2.30pm. It is aimed exclusively at people aged over 60 years of age, particularly those isolated by their circumstances. Students from the school will be brought to Matthew’s House, and provide entertainment, service and encouragement. The aim is to relieve the hardship of isolation that so many people can feel, particularly the older generation. We often don’t know the value of friendship until it is not there, and this expression at Matthew’s House is to give a taste of what some are no doubt missing.

Hope at Home

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Jared & Helen Hodgson run Hope at Home, a charity which facilitates a hosting scheme for survivors of human trafficking across the UK.  They believe that the church family is the ideal setting for someone to find freedom, be loved and accepted and discover who they were made to be.  They train and support Christian hosts and churches to welcome survivors into their homes and facilitate the placements between safe houses, survivors and hosts.  Working alongside other agencies, they are fighting human trafficking in the UK both practically by providing accommodation so that survivors are not re-trafficked and in terms of being part of the wider UK solution.

Stories from Jared and Helen

After months of hard work, we received our charity status in January 2018 and are already (March 2018) training three hosts in different parts of the UK.  We had aimed to have 5 active hosts in the first year, so this is very exciting and an answer to prayer.

God has opened doors that we never expected to be opened.  We set up this hosting scheme to fill a huge gap in provision of support and accommodation for survivors, but in doing so we have discovered that nobody else in the UK is doing this and so we are in demand with other agencies who want to work with us and see a rapid expansion of all we are doing.  We have been approached by those working with the Home Office to be part of a wider solution to this issue and are constantly stepping into the unknown!

Living without salary can be scary, but God has continued to provide for our needs including most recently a second car so that we are able to get to meetings and make visits without it impacting our taxi service for our boys!

Prayer Points

Please pray for funding for the project and for our salaries.  We are living on an ever decreasing redundancy pot and are applying for funding but this is very time consuming.  This is now both our jobs and if we have to look for other jobs, we won’t be able to run this.  We also need money for the project to actually function!  Please pray God continues to provide for us.

Please pray for more hosts.  It’s exciting to see God digging out those people with big hearts and spare rooms, but the need is huge.  Last year the need for for 5,000 people.  We have come to Jesus with our few loaves and fishes and know without a doubt that he will make a way for these 5,000 people to be fed and loved but it is so big that only he can make this happen.

Please pray for volunteers.  We need volunteers for admin, for filling in funding applications, for writing blogs and keeping the website up to date and for manning stalls at events.

Please encourage us!  It’s often a lonely journey and we often doubt and feel discouraged.  But we know God has called us to this and made a way for us so we continue to trust him.

Serving Sunday 18/03/18 Update

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And so the gardening portion of Serving Sunday was cancelled due to the weather but the fundraiser still went ahead.
It was a really successful event, with lots of people chatting and getting involved, both Gracechurch people and those from the local community. There were lots of different tables to use including face panting, nail art, crafts, guess the weight of the cake, and a quiz. So much cake was bought and consumed and about £200 was raised for the children’s ward at Mukinge Mission Hospital where Phil and Cath Wallis are serving in Zambia.
Thank you to everyone who brought cakes and biscuits, and other things to be sold to raise money. And thank you to everyone that bought anything. This money will be greatly appreciated to buy toys for the children that are in the hospital.

Building a Joy-Filled House of Prayer

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On Saturday 9th June, Carole Wilthew will be coming to present a workshop called Building a Joy-Filled House of Prayer.

It will be an afternoon of exploring our high privilege as partners with God in bringing heaven to earth through our prayers and intercession. This will be a joy-filled day with plenty of space to encounter God, be equipped in prayer and go home changed. If you want to build joy-filled cultures of prayer, come expectant and God will fill you!
Hosted at New Song Community Church, Broad Street, B61 8LW from 1:30pm to 5pm on Saturday 9th June.