by Beks Rothnie (20s-30s Development Leader, Urban Hope, Coventry)
2 – Urban Hope Stories 2 (19th June 2017)
‘K’ attended Bardsley Youth Project and other Christian youth work as a young person. She stopped attending church activities for a while. In her 20’s she reconnected with a lot of people from her Bardsley days through Coffee Tots and began to attend Urban Hope.
‘K’ suffers with coeliac disease and was a fussy eater. Her diet contained virtually no fruit and vegetables. Including ‘K’ in any catering was virtually impossible! ‘K’ also suffered with mental health issues.
Over time ‘K’ grew really close to a number of people at Urban Hope and she discovered a personal faith and love for Jesus. During this time ‘K’ continued to be a familiar face at Coffee Tots and was eventually convinced to take part in the cookery course they run. To be a positive example to her young son ‘K’ was encouraged to try new foods as they were made on the cookery course and due to the excellence of the cookery teacher all the food was gluten free so ‘K’ was safe to do so. ‘K’ discovered a whole new world of food and tastes she hadn’t previously enjoyed and discovered that she quite liked them and as a result now includes a lot of vegetables in her diet, although she still avoids fruit!
‘K’’s mental health has also improved with an increased support network. ‘K’ attends a small group where she is really supportive to the leader and takes on responsibility. ‘K’ also regularly cooks for shared meals at Urban Hope and one of her favourite meals is a curry with butternut squash in it! ‘K’’s life looks so different to a few years ago – Jesus has transformed her in so many ways.
‘R’ has four children from 2 – 11 years old. ‘R’ has been a regular at Coffee Tots for some years. ‘R’ attended a catholic church with her children who also attended a catholic school. As you can imagine four children make quite a noise at Mass – ‘R’ found it impossible to keep attending due to negative comments from the priest about her children. ‘R’ started attending Urban Hope with a friend she knew from Coffee Tots who was already a member of UH.
‘R’ felt comfortable very quickly at Urban Hope and soon shared that she regarded herself an atheist. She attended church with her children to keep them in catholic school as she had gone through catholic school herself and saw it as a positive experience. ‘R’ often, though, participated in prayer times and mentioned that prayer had been answered. As leaders this left us in a very interesting place! As I began to put small groups together as part of my Acceler8 role, ‘R’ attended so regularly she couldn’t not be invited to one. As part of her small group ‘R’ asked a lot of questions and as a group they prayed together and pulled apart a lot of the Bible. ‘R’ reported more answers to prayer and started to refer to God in a positive way – as someone who had a personal relationship with him. One Sunday at Urban Hope she was sharing some of her thoughts and beliefs and Greg Bartlem, Vicar of Urban Hope said “she was obviously on fire for Jesus”. ‘R’ is an example of how love and acceptance in Christian community really can change someone’s heart and mind.
1 – Urban Hope Stories (23rd January 2017)
‘Z’ first came to the attention of Urban Hope through his contact at Bardsley. In his late teens he began to attend Bardsley Church (run by Urban Hope at the youth project) on a Wednesday. ‘Z’ attended residential trips and Greenbelt with Bardsley and Urban Hope and grew strong relationships with members of Urban Hope. Through this time ‘Z’ had many conversations with various members of Urban Hope as he softened towards faith in Jesus and became more committed. ‘Z’ was unfortunately homeless for a number of months at the end of his teens up till his 20th birthday.
Throughout this time he was hugely supported by the staff at Bardsley and by members of Urban Hope, he often came to Bardsley for such basic needs as being able to have a shower. When attending the youth project ‘Z’’s relaxed demeanour and friendliness often helped new attendees integrate. ‘Z’ was very concerned about when he would have to leave the youth sessions at Bardsley as alongside Urban Hope it had become his family and stability. ‘Z’ was very much part of the inspiration to start “older group”, based at Bardsley but in partnership with Urban Hope. The aim of “older group” was and is to provide a space for young people that have come through the youth project to continue exploring and developing faith building on the strong relationship that started in the youth work but a place to move on too.
Shortly before his 20th birthday ‘Z’ also engaged with a young leaders course run by Urban Hope in which he developed the leadership skills that had been identified while he was at the youth project. Since participating in the course ‘Z’ has led the teaching of Bardsley Church, returned as a volunteer at Bardsley, recently planned with me a whole teaching series at Bardsley Church based on Moses and continues to engage with the wider work of Urban Hope. Without specific 20’s – 30’s work for ‘Z’ to move on to ‘Z’ may have struggled to find his place in the adult community of a church.
‘G’ was first brought to older group (a follow on group from youth work run by Bardsley Youth which is affiliated to Urban Hope) by a friend. She was always willing to support and help with tasks such as the preparation of the food and clearing away. She quickly formed positive bonds with the members of Urban Hope that were there and always wanted to contribute to discussion times and joined in prayer times. During the times she was often helping with tasks ‘G’ would often start conversations with members of Urban Hope about faith. When she had been coming for about six months ‘G’ started attending Bardsley Church which takes place at the same venue but just before older group and it was through Bardsley Church that ‘G’ began to discover for herself the faith she had been brought up with in her foster family. Because of her willingness to serve we invited her to become part of the Urban Hope young leader’s course. After the first few sessions of the course ‘G’ began attending Urban Hope on a Sunday.
‘G’ has become an integral part of the community at Urban Hope and continues with the young leaders course. ‘G’ has led Urban Hope’s main Sunday meetings with support from the 20’s – 30’s worker, has taken on responsibility for the cooking of the shared meal at older group and Urban Hope (no easy task). ‘G’ is now part of the team that runs older group and is committed to being a member of an Urban Hope home group that is to start soon. ‘G’ is held in high regard by the leadership at Urban Hope and has supported many church members through difficult pastoral issues. Urban Hope has recently started to have more of an emphasis on sung worship and worship with music – a new frontier for our fresh expressions fellowship – ‘G’ will be taking a significant lead in this with the 20’s – 30’s worker 7 a 30 something– once they have all been kitted out with the appropriate skinny jeans!
‘P’, Grew up in a Christian family but as a Teenager, found himself drifting away from church, not least because his friendship group were very different from his Christian friends. We got to know ‘P’ at our Youth Centre but several years ago he simply disappeared from sight and stopped responding to messages. Then in 2015, ‘P’ suddenly reappeared 12 months later, he looked pale, unwashed and was clearly struggling, he told us that he’d not left his bedroom in months and needed help.
Since then we have spent lots of quality time with ‘P’ and watched him transform. It’s hard now to match up with the ‘P’ that thrives in deep bible studies in one of our home groups and works tirelessly to set up Urban Hope each and every week, a ‘P’ who manages his appearance and who has just been fast tracked by the Civil Service with the ‘P’ who wandered into our building, in desperate need for help. Only Jesus can bring about such radical transformation. ‘P’ is now a core member of our church.
‘N’, wandered into Urban Hope one Sunday afternoon having had many failed attempts to engage with churches who struggled to engage with her, not least because of her autism. Looking back ‘N’ says that she was cynical and hurt from her past experiences but somehow not yet ready to totally give up on God. Although she had taken several years out of church.
However, at Urban Hope ‘N’ speaks of finding a community that was different, who really cared and stood with her through some really tough times. These included when following a down turn in her mental health (after her husband was removed from the household by Social Services as he posed a risk to their daughter due to his own autism) she was sectioned and spent much of 2016 in a local Mental Health Unit. During this time she received almost daily visits from members of Urban Hope and spoke regularly to everyone via our Facebook page. At Greg Bartlem’s Installation as Pioneer Minister, ‘N’ spoke about how good she had found the pastoral care – a lot of which was given by church members in their 20’-30’s, this had literally been a life saver. As a church we play a full role in the families official support structures with Catherine Bartlem overseeing contact time between ‘N’ and her daughter (including on Christmas day!)
Clearly, everything isn’t yet sorted for ‘N’, she still faces some enormous challenges, however she is getting the opportunity to be part of a real family, for the first time in her life and her faith in Jesus is growing in big ways. With support, she has led Sunday afternoon church and takes a big role in helping people to engage with the Holy Spirit. ‘N’ has found a family and a great big God who cares for her.