May 7th…..Remember the poor

Where will you put your X on May 7th?  How are you going to decide?

If you have a secure job and want what is best economically for you then without doubt you should be voting Conservative.  You won’t go wrong with Labour or Lib Dem either.  If you are comfortable now then stick with the political establishment and nothing is going to change much – the colour flying over Downing Street might be different but our social landscape will remain the same.

However, if your desire is to see the poorest and most vulnerable in our society protected and empowered then maybe think of an alternative to the political establishment – and I’m not talking about the purple migrant bashers.  I would suggest that if you have a care and hope for those excluded from society then consideration should be given to a Green or Independent vote or maybe a spoiled ballot.

As a follower of Jesus I cannot bring myself to vote for my own needs and comforts.  “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:4)  If you love Jesus, if you love your fellow human – then don’t waste your vote selfishly.  Maybe you will come to a different political conclusion to me but do vote with your conscience.

West Bromwich vicar, Neil Robbie, has written a great and succinct post commenting on political thought processes with a different twist on who the poor could be.  Definitely worth a read for just 1 minute of your time.

If you have an hour then do invest it in listening to the late Simon Pettit’s biblical mandate for the poor.  This was recorded in 1998 and was a real watershed moment for the Newfrontiers famly of churches that I belong to – it provides a great introductory foundation on Christian teaching regarding the poor.

Election and Poor

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The Kingdom of God is here…..in Wednesbury!

If you’re not from the West Midlands  then chances are you have not heard of Wednesbury – unless you are an Ikea anorak.  Even most people in the West Midlands don’t seem to know much about the place.  Wednesbury is a small town of about 24,000 just off the M6 in the Black Country, situated between the bigger towns of Walsall, West Bromwich and Wolverhampton.  And only 20 minutes from Birmingham.

We have lived here for just over 12 months and we moved here because this is where God’s trail of breadcrumbs has led us.  We’re passionate about the local church have been helping to plant and lead Grace Church in Wolverhampton since 2011.  We are now beginning to gather a team to partner with us in planting a church here in Wednesbury.  It is a wonderful little town with a rich and proud heritage, a great community spirit and home to the tallest rugby posts in the world!

World’s Tallest Rugby Posts

At a first viewing it seems that Wednesbury’s rich Christian heritage is in it’s past but our perception is that the Kingdom of God is here under the surface.  The local church leaders are working hard but there is a great need for more Christian mission in this town.  There is a great need for those who follow Jesus to serve him and his church here in Wednesbury.

Are you passionate about Christian mission?

Do you enjoy getting stuck into local community life?

If so, why not give some prayer and consideration to making a big call and joining us!?  I can guarantee you would make a real difference here.  Do get in touch if you want to find out more.

Riots in Wednesbury at the preaching of John Wesley!

Boing Boing

When I came to work in West Brom just over five years ago the Baggies were one of my all time worst teams.  This was partly due to being a Villa fan. but I think mainly down to following Sheffield United on an away trip back in the mid 90s which started with the coach arriving way to early and having to kill a few hours as a 15 year old around The Hawthorns (really not pleasant at the time), and ended with a 3-0 drubbing for my second best team.  Bad day out.

However, since a big part of my life has arrived in West Brom I have developed a real respect and, sorry Villa fans, an affection for West Bromwich Albion.  They are a club that work hard, put back into the community, and really lift the local area when they are doing well.  I think in my first year here they got relegated but then came straight back up and it was great to be around the town when they got promoted.

But waking up this morning to the news that they’ve gone and sacked Steve Clarke is a bit of a shock.  I mean, come on West Brom, if you’re expecting to be a top-half team year after year then I think you’re a bit deluded.  Clarke has done a great job for you, you’re stable and had some great results and performances.  I know it worked great for Southampton dumping Nigel Adkins last year, the man who had got them promoted twice, but I must say it seems really cruel.  I just wish footballers got sacked after having 4 poor performances.

Anyway, I still want you Baggies to stay up but I’ll think it quite deserved if you do continue to struggle.  And I hope the board feel guilty for making a nice, hard working man unemployed this Christmas.

Friendship gives cancer a good beating at the YMCA

Today was a wonderful day at the YMCA as staff came together to put on a great morning of fabulous food and even better friendship.

Sadly it seems more true each year that each of us is affected by cancer.  And  it was as a result of the wicked claws of cancer that three people at the YMCA wanted to put on a Macmillan Coffee Morning.  When they all found out what the others were wanting to do and once they had put their heads together the result was brilliant.  People came in early, cooked breakfast for the whole staff team and loads of home baked cakes were brought in and sold (and eaten).

But better than any amount of money that was raised for Macmillan, which really is a worthy cause, was the sense of community and friendship that pervaded the building at Carters Green.  It was fun and moving to be together.  Two of our colleagues and friends who are living with cancer at the moment were able to come and visit and there was a great feel of togetherness.  Tears were shed, jokes shared, encouragement given and I am sure all were inspired.  I really felt the love of God among us, bringing unity and sticking one in the eye for cancer.

Well done to everybody who took time to make today possible.  It is a privilege to be part of the YMCA community.

Sleep Easy 2013

I probably wasn’t the only guy who spent a night sleeping under a bush in Wolverhampton this winter.  But I crazily did it out of choice, whereas others might have done it accidentally, having drank a drop or two more than might have been good for them whilst enjoying the Wolves night life, or out of necessity having nowhere else to go.

I was taking part in YMCA Black Country Group’s annual Sleep Easy funds and awareness raiser.  I think nearly 100 of us slept out in either Oldbury, Walsall or Wolverhampton and it was cracking fun.  Whilst we have raised a bit of money and given the timeless problem of homelessness a bit of an airing, we really cannot claim to have got close to experiencing what it is like to genuinely sleep rough:

  • Fear.  The things that made sleeping difficult were noise and discomfort from the hard ground and cold.  However, if you’re sleeping on the streets you’re gonna have that constant awareness that you are vulnerable to anybody who might decide to do you a bad turn.  The worse thing I had to worry about was whether a spider was gonna crawl into my cardboard box.
  • Food & Drink.  We were so fortunate because we were really well looked after.  We had the luxury of a BBQ, jacket potatoes with chili and tea, coffee or hot chocolate.  If you’re destitute you won’t even be able to afford any decent food let alone have any means to cook it.  You must wake up every morning with an absolute black hole in your stomach.
  • Company.  One of things that makes Sleep Easy so great is that you get to meet new people and spend time with old friends.  However, if you’re regularly spending time on the streets you are going to be crossing paths with a whole cross section of society – the best and the worst.  There must be a real sense of sticking by one another but at the same time those who have been homeless will often give examples of when they have been taken advantage of.
  • Boredom.  To be honest Sleep Easy is one of the most fun things you can do.  Staying up late and good company makes an excellent recipe for having a great time.  But the thought of not having the comfort of a home to go to and relax is really scary when you really think about it.   You wake up in the morning and spend the day wandering around trying to get some food and keep warm, and that is pretty much it.  For hour after hour, day after day, week after week, and longer if you’re unlucky.  It must utterly numb your mind.
  • Sense of Worth.  The luxury all Sleep Easy participants have is that we have a nice warm feeling at the back of our minds that we’re doing something for a good cause, something worthwhile.  However, if you’re sleeping on the streets then you’re likely not doing most of the things that society accepts as being worthwhile – you’re not working, you’re not making money, if you’re in touch with them at all then you’re not contributing to your family, you don’t have belongings.  Sleeping rough must make you feel utterly worthless.

So that’s just a few thoughts from me.  I would recommend getting involved in a local Sleep Easy next time one comes around.  It’s a great experience and really gets you thinking.

My box

Justice in the Riots

All this violence and anarchy gets my sense of justice swinging from one extreme to another.  I see the pictures of kids running wild with utter disrespect and self-indulgence and my anger gets my mind thinking about corporal punishment and retribution.  Then in my calmer moments I think of the individuals within the masses and the neglect that must have gone into their lives to send them to such actions.  Are we not all to blame?  And we not reaping the harvest of allowing the values of society to evaporate?

Part of me wants to cage them all like the animals they are acting like.  Leave the cages out in the elements for a few months in the middle of town.  Let the public mock them, beat them, humiliate them.  We might feel better for a while but it ain’t gonna heal the hurts of the community.

What would justice look like right now?

“You’re a miserable pipsqueak!”

Finally, an elected Member of Parliament showing some passion!  This is Tom Watson, the MP for West Bromwich East where I work at the YMCA.

It’s with reference to the Government withdrawing funding for nine schools in Sandwell to have new builds.  I understand that there need to be stacks of cuts if we’re to stabilise the country but to take this away from young people in Sandwell is utterly heartbreaking.  I have never experienced a community where so many people are working so hard together in such messy situations and if anybody deserves a break it is the people of Sandwell.

I am disappointed that Michael Gove has not fulfilled his promise to visit Sandwell.  I think this is cowardly behaviour.

Also, how funny that ‘miserable pipsqueak’ is such an offensive term…no wonder Gove is nervous of coming to West Brom, he’ll get a bit worse than that there!