I've been back from our France holiday for two weeks and a day today. It's amazing what you can fit into two weeks!
First of all Hope08. What an amazing event. 52 different social action projects taking place over the course of the week ranging from befriending to gardening to playground painting to packing peoples bags at Tescos. Then Hope in the Park where the Miracle Street guys who supplied the stage estimated the overall attendance at somewhere between 3,500 and 5,000. The weather was a miracle itself in that we must have had the best days weather in the whole of August - an answer to prayer in itself. The Church in the Park on the Sunday, where unfortunately the good weather didn't quite last! There were so many positives to the week. Churches in Bracknell working together for the most meaningful way in decades. Thousands of people who wouldn't normally go anywhere near church being served and enjoying an event which wasn't some sad christian do (you know what I mean) but a well run, well organised event which honoured God. A number of salvations and people signing up for Alpha courses (I'd always long for a much bigger thing, but we're told not to despise the day of small beginnings). And a real sense of us not being afraid to declare Jesus and own his name in a very public way, outside the walls of our buildings. Yes there are lots of things we will do differently if and when we do it again, but lets take time to stop and thank God for the amazing things he has done.
Then last Saturday I went with BenD to the Tearfund "Who Is My Neighbour" Conference at Jesus House in Brent Cross. Nicky Gumbell, Pastor Agu (who leads Jesus House) and Lynne Hybels all spoke really well on motivating the church to engage with the issues relating to global poverty, but for me the highlight was hearing Archbishop Desmond Tutu speak. He was so funny and so down to earth, yet at the same time so profound. For someone who is a Nobel peace prize winner, and who was so instrumental in the whole process of the dismantling of the apartheid system in South Africa without the country descending into a bloodbath, it was amazing to hear him making jokes about "fluffy little lambs" as he unpacked the story of the shepherd who left the 99 to reach the 1.
Then this Sunday morning just gone to have Lynne Hybels there to launch our HIV and AIDS initiative in Serenje, Zambia, was a real privilege. If you missed it then I really encourage you to listen to the podcast of her talk. As I said on Sunday we're going to be having two gift days on the 18th and 25th October, aiming to raise £100,000 to cover the costs of the first year of the project. Pick up a leaflet at reception if you want to read more details about the project and consider what you might give (hopefully we'll get all the details up on the website soon too, as well as the facility to give online).
I'll be posting some more on the things coming up later this week.