BIRMINGHAM BEGINS TO BLOOM
12th April 2017
As winter changes into spring the daffodils appear and bring hope of a warm and bright summer ahead. Similarly, after months of prayer, sheer determination, resilience and hard work on the part of the Birmingham Mission to the Cities (MTTC) area advisory committee, there is hope that Seventh-day Adventists will have a greater presence in the city of Birmingham and make Adventism, once more, widely known and recognised in the community, leading to an increase in those who know about Christ and share the hope that we have.
A seed was sown when, during the 'Rebuilding the Walls' day of fellowship in Sheffield on 8 February 2014, the idea of MTTC was skilfully and enthusiastically presented to the NEC membership by Pastor Michael Simpson, Personal Ministries leader of the North England Conference.
That seed germinated when, on 24 January 2015, members from the Birmingham area were challenged by Eric Flickinger (Director of the Northeast Evangelism Training School), to support the Mission to the Cities initiative. This took place during an inspiring day of fellowship organised by lay members of the Birmingham Advisory and led by Pastor Steve Palmer. Particularly memorable were encouraging and engaging presentations by Pastor Des Rafferty (former ADC director) and Craig Gooden (PEACE outreach co-ordinator). These were further enhanced by uplifting music from the praise team and musicians, and a variety of choirs, groups and soloists. Inspired and challenged, there was a feeling that, after many years without the tent campaigns, the members were beginning to work together again to share Jesus' love and the hope of His soon return with the people of Birmingham.
Developing a strategy
A Mission to the Cities Birmingham steering committee was established to develop and implement an engagement strategy for the church community to be able to make a citywide impact in Birmingham. Following the acceptance of the committee's proposal by the NEC in December 2015 and a detailed budget in 2016, the committee developed, in July 2016, a strategy to engage and prepare churches for the launch of Mission to the Cities Birmingham in October 2016.
Mindful that Mission to the Cities was something that all the churches in the area needed to take ownership of, the steering committee developed a 12-week plan to help reignite the earlier enthusiasm shown when the initiative was first introduced.
An 'Open Inquiry' approach was adopted: it aims to involve all members in asking key questions about their personal relationship with 'mission'; how their local church is perceived in their community; and how we relate to the city of Birmingham as a whole. The aim was to begin to develop a collective understanding of these questions to be better prepared for action. A series of tasks, activities and interventions were carried out simultaneously in ways that would equip and target members who were interested in getting involved from these early stages. Resources, for example a Mission to the Cities Conversation Toolkit were also created, and an MTTC Birmingham website (www.adventistbirmingham.com ‒ affectionately named Adventist Brum) has been launched; it aims to feature people-focused stories from across the city plus events and initiatives that are community focused and driven by local Seventh-day Adventists.
Inspiring the Vision
The steering committee took the initiative to begin to champion the vision for MTTC Birmingham in all our churches. Each committee member was allocated a number of churches to visit and deliver a 15-20 minute presentation to inspire members and to enlist key individuals (ambassadors) who would be interested in moving things forward locally. The headline 'Love to our City' concept was presented as an initial platform for all members to be involved in mission. The presentation involved key dates including the area-wide day of prayer, the launch day of fellowship in October 2016 and dates for the area-wide initiatives scheduled to take place in 2017.
Day of Fellowship October 2016
Prayer was a key feature throughout the day on Sabbath 29 October and we were further encouraged by the presence of many NEC directors. Once again it was felt that the members shared a common desire to be involved in outreach activities within the city.
During Sabbath School, Beulah Plunkett (NEC Sabbath School director) and Bev Brown explored the concept of personal ministry in missions. Later on, the MTTC vision and total membership involvement were reiterated enthusiastically by Pastor Mike Simpson, and Pastor Richard Jackson (NEC President) reinforced the NEC aim to extend God's kingdom by 'nurturing each other and winning another'. He declared categorically, in a thought-provoking message entitled 'God wants us to grow where we are planted', that "all boulders that stand in the way of evangelism and growth, would be removed."
A showcase of MTTC evangelistic activities took place during the afternoon and offered examples of work already taking place in the area. Grace Walsh, NEC Health and Community Services director, had already been proactive in supporting the MTTC initiative and many reports of Health Expos were presented. In addition, there were reports of food banks, campus ministries, a needs analysis of the Birmingham area, a presentation of the MTTC resources (skilfully developed by Daniel Blyden and his team) and reports of initiatives taken to improve relationships between various groups of multicultural Birmingham.
HOPE FM 87.7 Birmingham
A 24-hour radio station featuring a wide range of high interest programmes will be launched on Sunday 16April and promises to be an effective method of connecting with the local community. The radio can be accessed online at www.hopefm.org.uk so members throughout the UK can tune in at any time.
The people of Birmingham solicit your prayers as they move forward in faith in the hope that the seeds planted will develop into a harvest of crops as we continue the initiative over the next two years and beyond. We intend to provide updates on a regular basis.
[MTTC Communications Team]