Thoughts 12.05.20

Dear Belvoir family

EXILE is a state of enforced absence from country or home (that is the dictionary definition).
OK, we are not exactly in exile, but we are in a state of enforced absence from our previous way of life.

Once upon a time…about 700 years before Christ, the nation of Israel suffered an invasion from a neighbouring nation called Assyria. Over the next 150 years this invasion was repeated twice more by even bigger more powerful nations/empires. These decades of conflict brought the destruction of Jerusalem, the temple, the economic infrastructure, the agriculture, the pillaging of wealth and ultimately the deportation of skill, energy and youth. About seventy years after this deportation, thawing of hostilities led to a warming of new possibilities. In this time frame you will find Daniel and the lions’ den, Meshach, Shadrach, Abednego and Queen Esther. The Jewish exiles are now in a bit of a lockdown and a small minority in the Persian Empire (which stretched from Greece to the borders of India, Russia and Egypt).

We pick up the story in the Old Testament book of Ezra around 530 BC. Ezra is given permission to leave exile, restrictions were being lifted, and return to Jerusalem to start work on the temple (Ezra 2). Five years on a second wave of restriction is lifted, and they begin to re-shape their culture and religious festivals. The next phase includes the re-development of their agriculture with new plantations and plant species being brought in to revive a collapsed system (Ezra 3). Ezra 4 tells the story of opposition and the whole renewal process goes into reverse; fear and threat reign again. Nonetheless the candle of hope continues to flicker. A few years later and we see another wave of exiles returning and the re-building continues (Nehemiah).

Some things worth noting in all of this.
There is an underlying faith story going on here. This is God’s people rebuilding God’s life here on planet earth. We too are in a faith story – an upsurge of prayer and concern is all around us. Lists of NHS staff are stuck to our fridge doors. Rainbows are on our windows. Hahahahah: exercise has become compulsory! Fear has surrounded us and driven us to changed lifestyles in ways we would never have believed possible. Good stories abound – I was disheartened this morning by a news report that we, in Northern Ireland, did not actually need the numbers of gowns and masks produced on the kitchen tables of our homes. Then someone rang in and suggested that we could send the whole lot to a less fortunate country. Now that sounds like a God-idea. The atmosphere is alive at the minute with the possibilities of faith and the incoming Kingdom. I don’t want to go back to being embarrassed about telling someone I will pray for them. I have a new-found pride in belonging to that crowd of people who deliver all the food and make all those phone calls and make all those masks.

The reconstruction also interests me – they built in the same places as before, but they were building for a new era. That historic period has become known as “Second Temple Judaism” and covered the period leading to Jesus Christ. During this period, the Old Testament was translated into Greek for the first time and became an international text. The Dead Sea Scrolls were written, re-interpreting faith and life, and new movements such as the Pharisees and the Sadducees were forming and shaping their society. The timescales were so vast that we can barely get our heads around them – things moved slower in those days. Nonetheless…could we grab an opportunity and build for a new era rather than a return to the past? There will not be a moment when church services will suddenly be available again. But we could try to build within the government guidelines as they develop, taking every opportunity to shape and re-shape in every way possible. Some of you can remember living in post-bomb Belvoir in caravans and shipping containers, meeting in community buildings and in the open-air. Let’s capture that same spirit of innovation and apply it to parish life, not just services of worship. Remember a church is not a meeting or a service. Church is something we are, and with a joint purpose and a reason. There may be lots we can be and do long before we ever gather again.

They built for the whole of life, not just for religion OR culture OR economics. They recognised the interlocking nature of human existence and went for the whole caboodle. Virus-free food banks? Crowded airports and poisoned airspace? Re-opened operating theatres with 18 month waiting lists? Churches open for those who like that kind of thing? I listened to a podcast yesterday where a Lutheran minister called Nadia Bolz-Weber suggested that we need to re-calibrate. Recalibrate? When a ship is blown off course by a storm the navigator eventually has to recalibrate from some new landmarks so that a new course can be plotted. What might be the new landmarks of the church?

How about reflecting on recalibrating our personal landmarks. I would suggest a new (or, maybe, very old) set of landmarks –
My relationship with the Jesus of the gospels. I have just finished reading “Simply Jesus” – it is like a bomb has gone off in my head.
My commitment to promoting the Kingdom of God through my work, leisure, finance and family – a re-appreciation of the tapestry that is life.
My street, my new-found neighbours, and my place in the human race – local and global.

The landmarks of a new society, what might they be?
The landmarks of a newly energised church family, what might they be?

Lots of love

Thoughts 05.05.20

Thoughts to get you Thinking

Dear Belvoir family,

Our media love to not just record the story but direct the story, don’t they?  As soon as they are weary of one aspect of something, they pursue the next thing, setting the agenda for the nation and its decision-makers, usually by a phone-in and then quoting those calls as if they are the Thoughts to get you thinking - Belvoir Parishnews.  Well, there is one aspect of the agenda that they can’t set nor control.  The inside of my head!  I can mess that up all on my own.

Coming out of lockdown is their latest big story.  How soon can I get a cappuccino and a haircut?
Coming out of lockdown seems to be mostly about how we can keep space between us and do everything just like we did before.   The issue is driven by getting back to normal, whatever we believe that was.  I have written recently about the need to consider going forwards rather than back and how positively different that could be.  

So, the assumption is that Government will give us space guidelines and we will try to set up school, business, church services, waiting areas in A&E, beds in corridors, roads jammed with cars, queues in airports, pumping poisonous gas everywhere, just the way it was before.  Then we will all be happy again (did you detect that hint of disbelief?)

I can’t change anybody or anything very much, but I can at least consider how I might want to be different (the inside of my head), and how we (our church and the inside of our corporate head) might want to be different together.  I know this next thought isn’t in the Bible, but the idea isn’t far from it.  In the last few weeks we have been watching the complete Star Wars trilogy of trilogies.  Yoda is just brilliant.  Like him I would love to talk.  “Young Skywalker, of your thoughts be mindful.”  Is it possible to actually take control of my own attitudes and thoughts?  (There is at least one Bible verse for that.)

Consider a bit of the Bible, Luke 4.  Lockdown for Jesus.  “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness.”  The word for “led by” has a number of meanings that are all very similar.  The primary meaning is its use with regard to animals – the leading of an animal to pasture or to work, something like that.  Some translations use words like “driven by the Holy Spirit” or “compelled by the Holy Spirit”.  There is no suggestion that Jesus was resistant, but clearly this was not going to be a holiday experience.  This was immediately after his very public baptism and the announcement by John the Baptist that he was the one.  Jesus could be excused for imagining that some sort of celebration or opening ceremony could have been organised, rather than being “driven into the wilderness”.  None of us would have chosen this present wilderness either.

The experience of wilderness for Jesus is captured in a very few short verses.  He was isolated.  He did not need to measure two metres from anyone.  There may have been several miles between him and the next person.  So alone was he that Matthew’s version (4:11) tells us that angels came and attended him.  How could we ever know (and don’t start making it up for your next post) how many people may have had the comfort of angels in their isolation?  Then Luke tells us that for forty days – six weeks – he ate nothing and that he was hungry.  Have you ever fasted?  Goodness, we send apologies about not attending an event/meeting because we haven’t had our dinner.  We’re a hardy lot, aren’t we?  The most explicit description of these isolated days was the attack by Satan on him personally.  Don’t imagine these “temptations” were momentary thoughts during a quiet afternoon sitting at the pool-side.  These were day after day, night after night, while hiding from wild animals, starving, weary, cold, sweltered, alone, wondering…wondering…wondering…

  1. Starving…I could make bread from rocks, I am God after all…what if I tried and couldn’t…maybe I am not god after all…who am I…can I be sure…what is this all about…
  2. Purpose…take over the world…how… and who…me, a carpenter’s son from Galilee…the kingdoms of the world…Roman Empire, seriously…does it matter how I achieve it, so long as we get the job done…who would ever know if the dark side and I play along together out here in the wilderness?
  3. The means…everyone else rules by might and status and power…why can’t I…I have the power…I could make it work…a bit of drama like Moses…a miracle or two, give them time to get their phones out…a procession through the streets on a white horse…a few well-orchestrated rallies…publicity, popularity, media attention, a good management team… Alone? Hated? Rejected? A donkey? Despised? Tortured? Crucified? Unknown? I can choose, can’t I?

Look at the result.  Luke 4:1 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit (before wilderness) becomes Luke 4:14 Jesus, in the power of the Holy Spirit.

How much I yearn to not just be filled with the Holy Spirit but to live and move in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Now, just in case you imagine I mean a miracle-working-celebrity-preacher, I actually mean the same changes as those that Jesus went through in his wilderness – discovering more fully who I am (my identity as child of God), discovering my purpose in being here (it seriously can’t be about cappuccinos and haircuts), and having genuine Godly attitudes to how I achieve that purpose (humility, servant-heart, sacrifice, no interest in popularity, free from pressure to be successful…the Jesus stuff).  He was one in a million, wasn’t he?

In fact, his hope was to be the first one in many millions…so

We have a few weeks more of lockdown or at least a few weeks of graduated unlocking.  Could we spend some time in this wilderness considering (before and perhaps instead of getting all caught up with spacing ourselves in restaurants, cinemas and churches) –

  • What sort of a person do I want to be?  UP
  • What sort of faith community do we want to be?  IN
  • How do we want to serve and influence the surrounding community (locally) and the environment (globally)?  OUT
  • How do we address the still-unsolved issues of our society and world?   OF

Lots of love,


Huddles meet online via Zoom. Would you like to join one?

Contact for further info.

Virtual Sunday School

Join us for our very first Sunday Club Scattered starting this Sunday at 12pm !! 🥳

We will be having Virtual Sunday Club for primary-aged children. And the 11-14’s are having their own gathering too. All on Zoom. You don’t need to download anything you just to make sure that you have sent an email to giving parental consent and contact details, then you’ll receive instructions of how to join the Zoom meeting.

⭐️ Sunday Club will be talking about Paul and Silas; why don’t you watch this video and find out more about them.

🌈 Keep sending in the painted pictures, we still have loads of church windows to fill! Perhaps this week we can do some A4/A3 paintings on the theme of Love (Philios and Agape). ❤️
📸 Feel free to upload a photo of the artwork to this post as well or post it in our Belvoir Parish Church Family.


Worship and Prayer

Join us for an informal time set aside for worship and prayer on the last Sunday of each month. This is a space to engage in whatever way works for you with some gentle leading in a flow of worship and prayer. All welcome. Come as you are. You’ll be able to join in here.

Reaching Out

R E A C H I N G   O U T
Even though our doors are closed we continue our mission to bring help and support to our local Belvoir and surrounding communities with three focused practical activities.
Shopping and messages support to the elderly and vulnerable.
This is when we receive a call from someone who asks for help to get essential groceries or prescriptions while they are self-isolating.
Food package deliveries.
This is when we receive a call from someone who does not h
ave the funds for food for themselves/family. We will help by providing and food package that has been put together by the South Belfast Foodbank.
The Larder Foodbank
We are continuing to support The Larder at St Christopher’s Mersey Street. During Covid-19 there has been a significant rise in the demand for food support. Although there is good food stock currently, this stock will quickly be depleted. You can help by continuing to drop your food donations to church so that we can move on to the Larder when needed.
Although the Church is closed we have made temporary provision for your food drop off by opening up the front porch area from the hrs 10am to 5pm Mon through Sat. There is also provision for drop off outside these times by leaving your food into a new brown bin located at the rear of the church building beside the office.
Current need:
▪️ Tinned Meals
▪️ Tinned Meat
▪️ Tinned Fish
▪️ Tinned Fruit
▪️ Tinned Potatoes
▪️ Tinned Deserts
▪️ Tinned Vegetables

Feel free to send us your paintings and artwork(A4 or A3) for our church windows – to brighten up and give hope and life through the church building. We have lots and lots of windows to fill !! They can be also be posted into the church through the gap in the front doors while out shopping. ❤️
B I G  T H A N K  Y O U to Carson Bell who is organising the Food Bank and deliveries !!
#foodbank #outreach #community #local #belvoirparish

Holy Week – Friday

Each day of Holy Week has a theme to it. We will be interacting on our Facebook page throughout the week.

Holy Week – Thursday

Each day of Holy Week has a theme to it. We will be interacting on our Facebook page throughout the week.