Living in a Field of Hats

some ramblings and reflections on working with students in Herts and Beds.

Ten things I learnt this weekend May 24, 2010

Filed under: Church,Random,Update — Sarah @ 11:42 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

I had the absolute pleasure of spending last weekend with the Juniors (8-11’s) from Belle Vue Baptist’s Brigades. Thought I’d be different and update with a list of things I learnt. So in no particular order . . . .

1) Tents don’t have to be small and cramped (one person to a four man tent is very spacious!) and camping in good weather is actually kinda fun – though only if good weather and spacious tent can be guarnteed (with showers and toilets near by!)
2) Essex has pretty parts (which I forgot to photograph but trust me they exist!)
3) The basic truth of the gospel is something that we never move past, and the wonder of the awesomeness of it never passes
4) Kids are cleverer than I sometimes give them credit for. E.g. Me: Apart from Jesus does anyone know of anyone else who ever rose from the dead? It’s impossible isn’t it? 8 year old: What about Lazarus?
5) Kids really do get a lot of pleasure from a relatively small hill and find playing on it for 5 hours over the weekend perfectly acceptable fun.
6) I love the sun!
7) I hate being woken up at 4am by teenage girls talking thus only having 3 hours sleep.
8 ) Listening outside the girls tent when they’re having their midnight feast can be very enlightening!
9) I love Top Gear so much, the basis for my three sessions was inadvertantly based on the Top Gear cool wall . . . . !
10) God really does give us what we need, even in the situations where were convinced its the last thing we need. I was so tired going into the weekend I was convinced it wasn’t the best idea, but I’ve come back feeling physically shattered but completly refreshed and recharged in many ways. It’s awsome.

All in all a great weekend!



Ferndale in Focus April 28, 2010

Filed under: Christian Life,Church — Sarah @ 10:06 pm
Tags: , , ,

I meant to post this when I wrote it (in Feburary!) but forgot, but came across a copy of the church magazine today and reread it and saw just how apt it is for the church situation and how God is really working through tough times with us keeping our eyes fixed on him. woop!

New Verse for a New Year

The more observant of you will have noticed that the verse on the frront page of Ferndale in Focus has changed from the verse which Jon Delves introduced to us back in January 2009 to “Whatever happens, as citizens of heaven live in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” from Philippians 1:27.

A couple of weeks ago I was informed that it was down to me to pick the verse for the year and I really didn’t know what to choose. Flicking through my bible I ended up reading through Philippians and came to 1:27, the verse in which Paul summarises what he is writing to the church at Philippi about.

I guess its fair to say that in the last year Ferndale as a whole has been through some tough times and they continue. But that’s also true for so many individuals that make up our fellowship. That’s why I chose this verse as a verse that I thought was relevant to Ferndale in 2010.

Paul was writing to a church that had had and was having a hard time. They were learning that life as a Christian was far from easy. In this verse though, he is encouraging them to keep going because of the hope that we have. A few verses later in chapter two he points us to the lengths that Jesus was willing to go to for us. Jesus, as God himself, chose to become God for our sakes. He chose to die on a cross, with all the humilation that came along with that (Roman citizens weren’t allowed to be executed on a cross because it was seen as being too barbaric . . . in fact the word “cross” wasn’t even said in polite society!) He did that for us!

Though His sacrifical choices, we as those who have rejected God are able to become friends of God by trusting that Jesus has created a way for us.

So when Paul writes that we need to live as citizens worthy of the gospel, it’s not about us doing the right things, or saying the right things. In fact it is about us looking to the one who came from heaven and gave up all for our sake. Amazing!

So this coming year, things may well continue to be hard for us as a church and as individuals but ultimately we can rejoice in the fact that Jesus has enabled us to know God and that we are unified in that! We can trust Christ in all situations because He has done all that needed to be done. We go forward as people united around the good news of Jesus to love and serve the people around us.


What is faith? January 8, 2010

Filed under: Church — Sarah @ 3:57 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Have spent today looking for illustrations of faith for Girls Brigade Parade on Sunday where we’re looking at Hebrews 11. Was using my old trusty friend google and came across this from Piper which I thought was really helpful

Your daddy is standing in a swimming pool out a little bit from the edge. You are, let’s say, three years old and standing on the edge of the pool. Daddy holds out his arms to you and says, “Jump, I’ll catch you. I promise.” Now, how do you make your daddy look good at that moment? Answer: trust him and jump. Have faith in him and jump. That makes him look strong and wise and loving. But if you won’t jump, if you shake your head and run away from the edge, you make your daddy look bad. It looks like you are saying, “he can’t catch me” or “he won’t catch me” or “it’s not a good idea to do what he tells me to do.” And all three of those make your dad look bad.

But you don’t want to make God look bad. So you trust him. Then you make him look good–which he really is. And that is what we mean when we say, “Faith glorifies God” or “Faith gives God glory.” It makes him look as good as he really is. So trusting God is really important.

What a great illustration, especially to explain faith to children!


Light in the World November 1, 2009

Filed under: Christian Life,Church — Sarah @ 4:38 pm
Tags: , ,

This morning at church we looked at Matthew 5:14-16:

14″You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

Bonnet, the pastor of Brethern in Christ church that shares Ferndales building was speaking and it was brilliant. He explored so many ways in which we are called to be light in this world! |The one that really struck me however was about ‘Doing the Unusual’.

He made the point that we often as Christians ‘do the usual’, so do what other people do. Do what is culturally acceptable.  And we do! This links into conversations I’ve had friends this week to do with Halloween and how we as Christians should celebrate it. i.e. do we totally avoid any dealings with it, or make a value judgment depending on what it is we’re doing. e.g. spending time with non Christian friends which has some Halloween content such as pumpkin carving and dressing up? I think I’d tend towards to the second but can understand why people would go for the first because we are called to be children of light . . .

But back to this morning, Bonnet gave the example of Desmond Tutu’s conversion which really struck me. Desmond grew up in South Africa during the apartheid so was used to the fact that he had to give white people the right of way whilst walking. According to wikipedia (not the most reliable of sources but pretty accurate this time I think) the story is as follows:

“One day”, said Tutu, “I was standing in the street with my mother when a white man in a priest’s clothing walked past. As he passed us he took off his hat to my mother. I couldn’t believe my eyes — a white man who greeted a black working class woman!”

This white priest did the unusual! He looked beyond the cultural norms and loved his neighbour, even though it would have been seen as awful.

This felt like such a challenge!



“This world has got to be hell” October 13, 2009

Filed under: Christian Life,Church — Sarah @ 4:00 pm
Tags: , ,

The title of this blog is a direct quote from one of the guys on the Alpha course I am running with local 16-25’s at the YMCA.

We were looking at the question of “Why did Jesus die” and got on to discussing sin and what is actually is then to heaven and hell.

His argument (which makes a lot of sense if you misunderstand sin!) is as  follows:

“Jesus died on the cross over 2000 years ago for sin and yet now in 2009 there is still rapes, murders etc so what did it actually do? Surely nothing, and therefore the world in which we live now is actually hell and heaven is to come.”

It makes a lot of sense! We were then able to talk about a load of these issues, and agree that this world is awful and hurtful (bear in mind that many in this group have seen the worst that the world has to offer). The gospel seemed ultra amazing spoken into these broken lives. The goodness of the gospel and the ability to mend brokeness.

The idea that Jesus died to take sin away is an interesting one. If that’s the case then of course Jesus failed (as a certain chart song released this week says – Robbie Williams Bodies. Have a read of Peter Dray’s blog on that). It’s the idea that Jesus was paying a price that most shocked the group. That sin was serious enough to have a price, death. One guy in the group, who is lovely and nice and thoughtful and considerate etc, was genuinely shocked by the revelation that he was as much a sinner as anyone else!

Being able to point them to the cross and the truth of what happened there was such a privilege! (especially as the goodness of the gospel was a reminder I desperately needed that night!). And seems that exciting things are happening!


Church is boring June 19, 2009

Filed under: Christian Life,Church — Sarah @ 11:39 am
Tags: , ,

Just came across this video on youtube . . . .

Really excting to hear that Sunday Monring BBC broadcasts have really challenged Chris Moyles view of church – it isn’t boring!


Singleness isn’t second best! March 27, 2009

Filed under: Christian Life,Church — Sarah @ 6:39 pm
Tags: , , ,

Now, just the word singleness conjours up may different images I’m sure. I’m guessing for a lot of girls aged 10-30 (and probably over and probably a lot of men as well!) it’s a hugely negative thing. Why? Because we are so often told by the media that its normal to have a partner – or to at least be really wanting one! I’ve really tried but can not think of a poisitve single person in the media. It isn’t seen as ‘normal’. As Christians we believe that the Bible is God’s Word and what is in it is from Him and totally true. So, why is it that so many Christians seem to ignore:

I wish that all men were as I am. But each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that. Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am.
1 Corinthians 7:7-8

Now, obviously this has to be taken compltely in context, and I am not trying to say that marriage is bad at all, because it isn’t biblically worse than singleness. They are both equal. However, I think that it is very true that in many churches today the prevailing view is that singleness is what happens before you find ‘the one’. It’s not a situation that people are expected to stay in much longer than their 20’s (and I do realise that I am only in my early 20’s!). This is expressed in so many different ways! I have lost count of the amount of times that I have been told people that “it’ll be my turn to get married next”. Where’s their proof?! People, and I’ve noticed it in married people and single people, seem to just assume that marriage is for everyone and that there’s something wrong with you if you don’t think like that.

The way many churches are set up can quite easily back this view up. For example having a 20 & 30’s group can actually give the impression (and it easily does give the impression) that if you over the age of 39 then you are no longer expected to be part of that group and in fact you should be in a relationship and participating in areas of church life more appropiate to your age – i.e. families

I’ve struggled with this for quite a while now in varying measures. It is hard being made to feel (99% of the time at least unintentionally) like I should be married, and should be expecting God to provide someone soon but I’ve known that there is no Biblical promise.

But, recently I’ve been thinking about this a lot. I’ve been thinking about my future, and the areas that I think God might be leading me in. There really have been times when I have gotten freaked out by the fact that a marriage and God’s will might clash (which is ridiculous I know!) But even thinking about not being free to be able to go and serve God wherever he might call me has been really difficult! This has led me to really pray about the issue quite a lot, and I’ve ended up having a lot of conversations with single Christian friends quite randomly which have been so helpful. And now, I think that I am in the place where I can actually whole heartedly say – “Yes I am single. No, it isn’t second best. It may last my entire life, it may not but either way I am happy with that. I am happy to be freed to serve God in places which I couldn’t if I was married. Whatever my situation my only aim is to serve and glorify God – whether that being single and more able to travel, or married and serving in a very different context.”

It has taken months to get to this situation to whole heartedly say that. This does not mean that it is easy in any way shape or form, but I know that the God we serve is good and He has a very definite will for me and I am happy to completly submit to that. If the Bible says that singleness and marriage are equal then why should I say different???


What is a real church? March 8, 2009

Filed under: Christian Life,Church — Sarah @ 6:02 pm
Tags: , , ,

cartoon-churchI’ve been thinking a lot recently what exactly is a church. I mean, obviously it isn’t the building and I do find it good to think of a church as just a rain shelter as my old vicar said once. And, a church is a group of people, who are all centred around Jesus Christ. But, it isn’t that simple sadly. We do add our own criteria to what a church should be as well.

Went back to my old church on Christmas Eve (the one which I went to when I was a child) and realised that in my mind I had completly written it off as a place where Christians gathered and instead had it pegged as somewhere where there was a lot of people who had done things that had hurt me when I was a teenager and that didn’t preach the gospel. Now, it is true that there are a lot of people in that church who had hurt me when I was younger but that was 9 years ago now, how should I now view them – now that I am a Christian which I wasn’t then!

I wrote them off very quickly in my head as a church that doesn’t preach the Bible, full of people who aren’t really Christians. This may be true but should I have done that? No! Although I was proved right by the Christmas Eve Christingle service having absolutley no gospel input I had already judged them before I arrived and were almost waiting for them to fall. There’s background and there’s reasons but that’s not the point.

Got round to thinking about the way in which we do judge other churches and other Christians (by we I’m meaning conservative evangelicals). It’s so easy to judge people on the ways in which they do things such as which version of the bible they use, which songs they sing, who their congregation includes and say that they aren’t a real church because of x, y and z. Basically that they don’t do things exactly the same way that we do.

How does this appear to outsiders? When we have very definite, judgemental ideas about how a church should be and therefore judge other churches how does it look to non Christian? Like there’s actually lots of different forms of Christianity who are all claiming to be the right, and only true believers of the gospel. Now, I’m not saying that there aren’t Christian denominations who do things that I think are totally wrong and not from the Bible but surely the main definition of a group of believers in the Lord Jesus Christ is the most important thing to look for before judging them as an unbiblical church?

As part of my masters, we have lots of discussions in the lectures about things such as baptism, salvation and so on. There’s a huge wealth of opinion in the room as there is Anglicans, Romanian Orthodox, Catholics, Salvation Army to name but four (I’m sure I’ve missed some one off!) and there’s no way that we agree in anyway shape or form on most of these issues. Interestingly a Buddhist/Hindu has joined our course recently and it was one of her comments last week that got me thinking about this again. For our assignment we have to write from our own tradition (denomination) point of view, and the Buddhist is meant to try and do it from a Christian point of view (as it is a Christian masters) and she said

“How am I meant to do it from a Christian point of view when you all disagree with one another and don’t agree on anything!”.

It’s a good point! What are we showing people about our attitudes to church when we all disagree? How can people see the beauty of the church when all they see is inter fighting between denominations. Surely we should be aiming to seek fellowship with other church traditions as much as possible, rather than looking for reasons why they aren’t bible teaching in the ‘right’ way, or worshipping in the ‘right’ way or even praying in the ‘right’ way!! We should look for the good!


My typical week . . . . December 8, 2008

Filed under: Church,Random — Sarah @ 9:00 am
Tags: ,

This is what Jon and I wrote for ‘Ferndale in Focus’ about our typical week. Now, not all of this has happened in just one week but all the events are completly true! Enjoy!

An Intern’s job description
For any of you who wonder what we do all week, or have heard we spend all our time on the internet, we thought we would give a guide to a typical week* in the life of an intern at Ferndale. This has been made anonymous, but mainly so you can try and guess who is who!

Morning: Get to church and get out the orders of service – which contain at least one (deliberate) mistake – to be given out. The minister’s wife and son arrive at 10.20 and begin to rehearse the songs for the morning. Intern 1 gets asked at 10.25 to photocopy materials for Sunday school. Intern 1 returns with the photocopies and then is immediately asked to go back and photocopy a large-print version of the order of service. The service begins eventually. Deacon 1 gets up to do the children’s talk and keeps everyone’s attention by waving his arms around like a whirling dervish. Contrary to what is on the rota, intern 1 gives the reading and intern 2 leads the prayers. When it comes to the time when the children go out, one of the children has fallen asleep on the lap of intern 2 and they have to carry them out, by which time they have perked up and proceed to run around. The service ends and everyone comes out for teas and coffees. Chatting continues for several hours and the children take it in turns to harass the 2 interns about getting the pool cues out.

Lunch: Round to the house of the minister’s mother-in-law for a lovely meal. We sit down to lunch and the minister asks whether there was any Swede. The minister’s mother-in-law rushes back to the microwave to recover the vegetables. Pudding is ice cream and intern 2 finds a piece glass. The minister’s mother-in-law looks horrified and writes a letter to the offending supermarket.

Afternoon: Watch several episodes of a programme which involves a group of strangers cooking for each other. Having nearly fallen asleep on the sofa, it is time to go out…

Evening: Arrive late to bible study, but are awoken by the rousing singing from the Ferndale Song Supplement. The minister takes the study, a lively discussion follows. More chatting follows, eventually leave around 8.30

And there was evening and there was morning – the first day.

Morning: Get up early at 8.50am and stroll round to church for prayers at 9 only to find the minister off somewhere and intern 1 isn’t in either so end up praying alone. Deacon 1 comes in (as indicated by the sound of a minibus pulling up outside) and asks “did I hear the kettle?” Make deacon 1 a black coffee. Shortly after intern 2 goes off to meet a bishop from some denomination or other at a varied location whilst intern 1 and the minister go round to an elderly lady’s house and begin moving furniture. Intern 2 arrives back just as the minister suggests we need an energy boost so…

Lunch: the team goes out to the White Horse and discuss deep theological issues *ahem*!

Afternoon: Back to the house with reinforcements (but minus the minister as he is making phone calls) to work out how to move a big sofa upstairs and a single bed downstairs. First though, everything else needs moving …… Minister eventually arrives, gets a shopping list and leaves again. Intern 1 is to be found lying on the sofa going through months of paper work and intern 2 is making the bed up! Intern 2 sent out for milk and bread, intern 1 is now playing on the recliner chair! Help the lady into bed to read and leave.

And there was evening and there was morning – the second day.

Morning: prayers with the whole team (!) and a staff meeting at 9.30 which eventually begins around 10.30 after minister answering the phone several times, including a wrong number 3 times(!) and visits from several members. Tidying of the downstairs office follows, throwing out various interesting trinkets. The sound of deacon 1 minibus pulling up is heard. He has a meeting with the local police officer and offers the services of intern 1 to make the tea.

Lunch: consists of cake and cup a soup on the go as intern 2 goes round to see how the elderly lady is getting on.

Afternoon: The minister is off on visits and there is some sense of peace as the interns get to spend some time in the office for the first time in the week. Intern 1 works on preparing a bible study but is soon distracted by making a flyer for an event and then talking in German to former intern’s wife. Intern 2 catches up with various other bits and pieces including ordering the paper on which this is printed. Office help comes into look through the church archives and finds various interesting stories relating to deacon 1. All the team come to hear them and have a chuckle.

And there was evening and there was morning – the third day.

Intern 2 doesn’t see intern 1 all days, who knows where they are but hears a rumours they’ve been banned from Southend library.

Lunch: Intern 2 goes to meeting with buffet provided at the Plaza Centre, which is delicious.

Afternoon: it is getting close to time to go home and intern 2 hasn’t seen deacon 1 all day. As intern 2 gets ready to go home deacon 1 arrives with plants that need putting in the church.

And there was evening and there was morning – The fourth day.

Morning: At prayers one of the members points out the many unpronounceable names in the bible reading. After prayers the minister and 2 interns go round to school for assembly. Minister does a demonstration using flags.

Lunch: The minister has a meeting with other church leaders. The interns take the orders for teas and coffees and make them. Have a few sandwiches left over from the meeting.

Afternoon: intern 2 is working on a project to which they were volunteered by deacon 1. Deacons 2 & 3 arrive to restock the paper towels, which have all mysteriously disappeared again. The minister has been at Asda and brings back various goodies to enjoy.

And there was evening and there was morning – the fifth day.

Morning: The minister’s wife and deacon 1 arrive to prayers 5 minutes late walking in at precisely the same moment. Mums and Tots is in full swing and the interns are getting plenty of cups of tea and biscuits. They also get their weekly food parcel from one of the members. The information for putting together the order of service for Sunday arrives nice and early at 11am. Intern 2 puts it together as intern 1 is still claiming they don’t know how to do it.

Lunch: Goodies from the food parcel

Afternoon: Café Gold goes ahead, more cups of tea and cakes. Deacon 1 arrives just in time for coffee and then informs the interns that he needs something doing for Sunday. A mad rush follows to finish it all before going home

And there was evening and there was morning – the sixth day

By the seventh day the interns had finished the work they had been doing; so on the seventh day they rested from all their work – unless there was a Sunday school meeting, or a Girls Brigade outing, in which case they did not.

*The week also includes making an average of 25 cups of tea for ourselves, plus quite a few for others and on average 3 visits every day from various people into the office.