Catherine Butcher writes about HOPE, a Christian charity that is working to engage churches of all denominations and ethnicities to work together in sharing the Gospel across the UK
The Bible describes the Church at the end of time as ‘a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne’. It’s a dream that inspires HOPE, a Christian charity which brings together local churches of all sizes, made up of people from every age group, culture and colour in villages, towns and cities across the UK.
Executive Director, Roy Crowne, explains: “HOPE is a catalyst, challenging and equipping churches to do more together in mission – the whole Church, reaching the whole nation, for a whole year.
“We are focusing on 2014 as a specific year for churches to do more together, putting faith into words and action. That means churches serving communities in hundreds of different ways: supporting children, young people, families, singles, senior citizens; people in hospitals, prisons, schools; communities in crisis, as well as neighbourhoods having fun together.
“But it’s more than just good deeds. The challenge is to put our faith into words – to give a reason for the hope we have.”
HOPE provides inspiration, resources and connections to support and train churches and young people. For example, during the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations, the Big Jubilee Lunch team asked HOPE to get churches involved. HOPE responded by helping churches to host a Big Jubilee Lunch at the heart of their community, with a specially-written Diamond Jubilee Grace to say together before sharing a meal together, and Diamond Jubilee New Testaments to give away to guests.
Rev Yemi Adedeji, Associate Director of HOPE, says this was key to the involvement of Black-led churches: “Hundreds of churches followed the HOPE model, and reached out into their communities. Many gave away HOPE’s Diamond Jubilee New Testament. That led to more community engagement.”
He adds, “HOPE’s resources are showing churches how to engage in mission, and now many churches are preparing for mission in 2014.”
HOPE’s book, The Heartbeat of Mission, has given churches 224 pages of tried-and-tested ideas to reach out in mission, through a wide range of initiatives from foodbanks and family fundays to pancake parties and parenting classes.
For many Black-led churches, growth has been limited by immigration restrictions. As Rev Yemi says, “Churches are looking for new ways to reach out to the people in their neighbourhoods.”
Jesus House and its Pastor Agu Irukwu have been leading the way as one of HOPE’s partners, supporting HOPE and championing the HOPE vision.
On Friday 18 October, HOPE 2014 will be launched at the Festival of Life, hosted by the Redeemed Christian Church of God. This prayer gathering brings together 40,000 Christians every six months to pray through the night. The event starts HOPE’s prayer countdown to 2014.
More than a million copies of a specially-written prayer calendar are being printed and distributed by HOPE’s partner, United Christian Broadcasters (UCB), the broadcasting company and publishers of Prayer for Today. For a daily prayer email from UCB and HOPE, sign up on the www.ucb.co.uk/pft page.
As well as the launch at the Festival of Life, the Archbishop of Canterbury is hosting a reception at Lambeth Palace for 100 key Christian leaders, leading the nation in prayer in the months before HOPE 2014 and the year of mission.
“Mission is on the agenda of the Church,” says Roy Crowne, “and we can do more together than apart. HOPE is encouraging churches to work together to plan a rhythm of mission through the Christian calendar, so that mission is not a one-off event, but an integral part of the church year, with particular focus on Lent and Easter, summer fêtes and festivals, Harvest, Remembrance and Christmas.”
For Christmas 2013, HOPE is working with Sports Chaplaincy UK to equip local clubs and churches to stage community carol events. Pilot events have been held for the past two years, and this year more than 50 sports stadiums around the country are expected to host a carol event for fans and other members of the community.
Young people have a key role in HOPE. HOPE Revolution is running Mission Academies across the country to train and support young people. Mission Academies mentor young people as, together, they dream, plan and put mission into practice, learning creative and effective ways to share hope. HOPE Revolution is also supporting churches working together to hold regional missions to reach out to young people as part of a national movement of mission.
Visit www.hopetogether.org.uk for more details. Follow HOPE on Twitter @HOPEtogether, or like on Facebook at HOPE Together. You can order The Heartbeat of Mission online.