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Jonny Holman

Hope 2014

By Jonny Holman

From the 2nd and 7th July the church engaged in an intensive week of mission in Wales and in Brighton. We partnered with other churches across the city, in Wales, and three from the USA, as we sought to show others how the love of Jesus brings life and light to even the hardest of situations.

I had the privilege of leading the Brighton ‘Hope 2014’ end of the mission, which many participated in. We began ‘Hope’ missions in the city in 2008 and having taken a break for a couple of years 2014 marked the start of our fifth ‘Hope’ mission, ‘Hope 2014’.

In an age when austerity is a watch-word in many circles and it is only too easy to find a charity which is struggling, the Church in our city bore witness to the kind of prophetic counter-culture that Jesus calls His disciples to be. As we built up to the launch, people shared testimonies of their missional community’s plans, as well as some of their own personal wrestles with God as they sought to be obedient to Him in participating in Hope 2014.

“It seems all too easy to give of our finances, but what really hurts is to give of our time”

One prophetic word which was brought to the church that resonated, and has remained with many, was, “It seems all too easy to give of our finances, but it really hurts to give of our time”.  Many responded to God’s call to participate. and over the four days we saw 215 people give a staggering 1,819 hours of their time to serve people in our city!

The mission had a strong emphasis on both showing and telling people. We ran 16 ‘practical’ teams which worked right across the city in schools, churches, people’s homes and supporting para-church organisations, like Brighton & Hove City Mission’s Basics Bank which serves some of the poorest people in the city. Operating in a more hidden capacity we ran another 6 teams including drivers, childcare, hospitality and prayer.

They brought life, light and hope as they went with their paint brushes, garden forks and even crow-bars!

I would love to tell you what each team did but that would be impossible! What I do know is that each team made a life-transforming impact in the place they served. They brought life, light and hope as they went with their paint brushes, garden forks and even crow-bars!

I know there are many who participated and saw God’s Kingdom coming in and through them, and it has left them hungry for more. Similarly I know of many who really wanted to join in but for various reasons could not do so at that time.

Hope 2014 was always meant to be a catalyst for something greater, not merely four days of intensive mission but to move the church into a lifestyle of mission; and to sustain this, the best vehicles we have are missional communities. So, my closing words are that we have not now reached the end of our mission, merely the beginning. If you enjoyed Hope 2014 and want more, why not check out one of our communities?

You can see more on Twitter @HopeBrighton and on Facebook.

Topics: Local Mission, Partnerships
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Jonny Holman

Alpha Review

By Jonny Holman

Just before Easter, we held the final meeting of our current alpha course. We gathered together to celebrate all that God has done in people since we began in mid-February. The strongest emotion felt by many was a clear indication of what God had done in creating a sense of extended family amongst a disparate group of people.

God’s activity during alpha has been incredible and far exceeded both my expectations and those of the alpha team.

In particular, the launch night will remain with me for a long while. Only two weeks before we launched we had only a handful of guests. At a Sunday evening prayer gathering I asked the church to pray that God would double this number, which would take us to just below the mid twenties. Within two weeks we were bursting at the seams. We launched with 26 guests [mathematicians will note that this exceeds the figure we prayed for], which spread us over seven tables!

In fact, I believe that God graciously brought just the number of people that we could handle at the time. There were certain points when we were very stretched for people trained and experienced enough to lead tables. So stretched, in fact, that some of our trainee table leaders were given the unplanned opportunity to lead tables by themselves! God came through yet again and helped them tremendously.

This was one of the biggest courses we’ve ever had and exceeds, by a long way, anything that we have seen in recent years.

By the first week of the course God had actually grown our numbers to 31 guests!

Week by week we had dinner together, explored a subject such as, ‘Who is Jesus?’, ‘Why did He die?’, ‘Why and how do I pray?’ and ‘Who is the Holy Spirit?’, and had time to openly and honestly discuss these subjects.

As is natural for alpha, some of those who began decided that it was not for them and decided not to carry on. But throughout the course our numbers remained strong, and by the time we finished we were seeing a solid core of people each week. Many of those who came decided to follow Jesus, either for the first time or as a re-commitment.

We had the privilege of seeing some of those people baptised on Easter Sunday, and many more are planning on doing this in the near future.

It has been a great joy for me to lead the alpha team once again and see so many of those who completed the course want to carry on meeting together to keep asking questions and grow in their faith.

Alpha takes a tremendous effort on the part of the church to make happen. Although I lead the alpha team it is something that only happens because of a huge number of people who work both behind the scenes and upfront to give sacrificially of their time. Volunteers graciously lead tables, cook, preach, serve food, shop, listen, love, challenge, wash up, clear up, pray, do admin, run presentations and PA, host, clean, invite friends and come each week with them.

Thank you to everyone who has helped make this course such a success.

In Jesus’ well known parable of the sower He talks about the various ‘soils’ people can be at different times and says,

“But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

As alpha has now ended please continue to pray for all those who have decided to follow Jesus that they would be good soil, yielding one hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown in them.

We run alpha twice a year, in February and October and our next course will be launching in October 2014.

Topics: Communities
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Jonny Holman

Alpha

By Jonny Holman

I’m Jonny and I have the privilege of overseeing Alpha at Holland Road.

Alpha is an opportunity for anyone to explore the Christian faith in an open, non-threatening setting over eight thought-provoking weekly sessions. It is low-key, friendly and fun, and is supported by all the main Christian denominations. It’s a great way to explore the meaning of life and also ask those questions you have always wanted to ask! What’s more, Alpha is completely free.

We meet on Monday evenings to share dinner and a talk, followed by open group discussions. It has been fantastic to see over 30 people joining us regularly on Alpha this time round. Together we looked at questions such as, ‘Who is Jesus?’, ‘Why did he die?’ and ‘What is faith and how do I have it?’.

I absolutely love Alpha, particularly meeting some really interesting people and talking about some really intriguing and important questions with them. We encourage people to engage seriously and critically with the evidence for biblical Christianity and make their own minds up about it.

Over the past couple of months it has been thrilling to see a number of people come to a place where they are convinced by the evidence and commit to placing their faith in Jesus. It’s equally a joy to keep talking to people who are still wrestling with the evidence and have further queries. I’m particularly grateful for people who ask honest and tough questions as it keeps me and my team in a place of faith that’s based on rigorous, careful thinking.

We run Alpha twice a year and it’s starting again in February 2014. You can find out more on our website, including how to register. If you’re unsure, you’re welcome to come along for one week and see what you make of it without any obligation to come back.

Topics: Other
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Jonny Holman

If you’re very new to Holland Road then you may not have noticed it so far but if you’ve been around for any length of time then you’ll almost certainly have spotted that there have been some hefty changes within our communications team since I took on leadership of it a year ago.

Under the bonnet

Much of this has been a continuation of behind the scenes stuff; figuring out how we can communicate better internally and how we can manage our work and the many demands placed upon a team that is mostly made up of volunteers. Some things however are very obvious external things – this website and online magazine both come to mind, but also things like developing weekly news (our weekly email newsletter), changes to Update (our weekly news sheet), the addition of our connections point to welcome new people at the front of the church and new external signage you will have seen.

Breaking new ground

All of these things mean that we’ve been breaking a lot of new ground as a team and as a church. This is never easy or straightforward! It means that sometimes we make mistakes and because of the nature of the work we’re doing often these are more visible than invisible. It means that sometimes things slip through the gaps and get lost. I recognise that this is especially hard when it happens to something you really like or are passionate about. If you’ve noticed either of these things then I (and the team) really appreciate you gracefully highlighting them at the appropriate moment. However, although change can be uncomfortable and even hard or puzzling I believe it is absolutely necessary.

Adapt and change

If we are to do our part in successfully communicating the gospel to a technologically savvy and post-Christian culture we have to adapt and change our methods (not our message) and our thinking. Here are a couple of small examples: which font you choose to use on publicity really matters (not for everyone) because it communicates something of what and who you are (this is especially important in a creative city like Brighton). The ease with which visitors can navigate around your website (or building) is vital because if it’s too complex they are less likely to return. You might be surprised at how long we spend thinking about this stuff!

So, here’s an opportunity: Would you like to get involved? I’m really interested in talking to anyone with availability and skills in the area of communications. Anything from graphic design, proof reading, editing or writing to someone who likes keeping displays tidy or is handy with a camera, good with social media or with Microsoft Publisher (I know some of these are quite specific skills). Daytime or evening availability are both ok. Comment below or contact us.

Topics: Other
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Jonny Holman

Recently we’ve been looking at what we communicate as a church and how we communicate it. As you can probably imagine this is no small task in a church of 400 people! In assessing the many and diverse requests we receive to communicate things to the wider body we’ve had a bit of a reorganisation and re-ordering of priorities.

What this might mean for some people is that things that have previously been communicated in certain ways are no longer done. Our aim in doing this is to make sure we’re prioritising the right things and providing other ways for people to communicate where appropriate. So what this looks like in practice is the following:

  • Weekly News (delivered straight to your inbox every Friday): Communicating solely about communities and other things we want everyone to come to/participate in such as Sundays, prayer nights or gift days. This is limited to no more than a few items per week.
  • Update (available to take on a Sunday): Largely similar content to Weekly News plus family news (births/funerals/engagements etc) and, space permitting, broader ‘community news’ that appeals to a narrower audience. For example, other prayer groups and strategic partners.
  • Direct email communications via specialist email groups (e.g. men@/women@/members@): Events appealing to their specific groups like men’s and women’s breakfasts, church meetings and their minutes.
  • The community notice board in the foyer: Everything else! This is a massively underused resource. Anyone can post notices here, events, rooms to rent, things to share, help needed with moving – anything really. We check this regularly and remove anything that is out of date or inappropriate.

We’re still working out the borders on some these things so please bear with us. We have other ways of communicating too – including Facebook, Twitter, the website, the online magazine, directly to and via community leaders and even face-to-face (as you can imagine it’s complex!). You’ll find lots of interesting, useful and regularly updated content on this magazine. Please feel free to comment on and engage with these articles.

I recognise that for some people though you may be a little disappointed that things that used to get in Weekly News no longer do so but I hope you’ll see that as the church grows we need to streamline and prioritise what we communicate to make sure the right things are getting the right emphasis and exposure. We want to retain an extended family feel in our communications but also help people see what the most important things are.

If you have any questions then do email Sue Walker in the office who helps coordinate much of this.

Topics: Other
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