Sabbatical Week 2 – An urban conversation: meeting Stephen Kneale in Oldham

Friday 6th June meant a train and tram trip up to Oldham which, headlines as the most deprived town in the England, where Stephen Kneale is pastor of Oldham Bethel.

The area (Glodwick ward) was originally white working lass but has seen first of all afro-Caribbean immigration and then in the 1970s Bangladeshis and Pakistanis meaning that there is primarily a Muslim area. It’s typical of a lot of inner city areas, terrace houses and Mosques -are church buildings are also there but how full they are on Sunday and how much the reflect the local population is open to question. Continue reading


Sabbatical Week 2 – Worship for Everyone at Gas Street

Week 2 -and weekend 2 offered some sharp contrasts. On Friday, I visited Oldham and met with Stephen Kneale, pastor of Oldham Bethel. The church is in a deprived community and is trying to do all it can with very few resources (come back tomorrow to find out what Steve and I talked about).

On Sunday I visited St Luke’s Gas Street. This is the headline Church of England plant in the city centre of Birmingham. A lot of money has been invested into purchasing and renovating a building and a large congregation brought together within a couple of years complete with staff team headed up by well-known worship leader Tim Hughes.

St Luke’s Gas Street is an example of the “Resource Church” approach and anyone who has read my musings on over time will know that I’m not a big fan of the concept. Theologically, I’m also on a different page to the HTB (Holy Trinity Brompton) approach. So, what was I doing there? It’s a good question and to be honest whilst others visited out of curiosity, in its early days I stayed away. The last thing you need at church is a grumpy person sat at the back who has come to find fault with you! I did have the opportunity to sit and chat over coffee with one of their leaders early on and to pray for each other. So before I go any further, I want to say publicly here what I said to him in private. My prayer is that Gas Street will be fruitful.  We need churches in this city that are fruitful, that are preaching the Gospel and where people are growing in Christ. Even when we disagree with other believers about some things, where there is a unity on the good news that Christ died in our place and rose again for us, then we can pray this for each other. Continue reading

Sabbatical: Refreshment, Reading and Visiting

So my sabbatical started a week ago. On the advise of a few people, I didn’t dive straight into study but took time this week to pause and reflect. This meant enjoying quite a bit of time with the phone off and away from email.  You know, life can be quite peaceful without email!

We spent a few days down in Kent. Sarah’s sister has just had a baby boy and so we got to spend a bit of time with the family. This also meant a visit to Rochester Baptist Church where I spent 10 years as a member before going to Oak Hill.

It was encouraging to see that the church is still growing. Every time we return we realise that there are more people that we don’t know. I would say that the majority of church members are people we wouldn’t remember and who wouldn’t remember us from when we lived in Kent. That’s a good thing. Continue reading

Dave’s Sabbatical Reading List -Urban Subversive Fulfilment

So, as promised here’s my reading list linked to the Urban subversive  Fulfilment project.  Some of these I’ve read already and to be honest I’m not sure if I’ll get through everything here but going to give it a good try! Thanks to people like @Litabny and Mark Pickett for their recommendations. Continue reading