Pilgrimpace's Blog

Urban Congress 2018 – Seeking the Kingdom in the City

More than 70 people from Church of England Birmingham’s inner city and outer estate parishes gathered for the day to reflect together on our life and mission as disciples within the city.


This year, the Congress had a very dialogical and conversational character – people spent a lot of time talking to each other in small groups, with those from the Diocese listening.  It felt very much that this was a living example of Robert Schreiter’s concept of The Community as Theologian.  We had fun, we worshipped, we ate together.  We watched these films about mission and the kingdom in some of our parishes.

St Thomas, Garretts Green

St John and St Peter, Ladywood

Hodge Hill Church

The Church and the Estates

Paula Gooder introduced some biblical images of mission for us and got us thinking hard about which most excite us in our mission.  Here are our reflections:

Go! Matthew 28: 19 – 20

– ‘go’ and ‘come’ are both encompassed in this.

– relational

– comforting

– journey through life

– who we touch


Seek the welfare of the city, Jeremiah 29: 7

– welfare

– shalom


Freedom, Luke 4: 18 – 19

– it is easier to be a giver than to receive

– the importance of being broken

– issues of Church v Kingdom

– people we know

– “difference”

– mission at home.


An Uncomfortable Kingdom, Luke 13: 19

– weed

– untidy

– what our church does

– plant on purpose?

– symbolic tree

– abiding place

– how do we accommodate it?

– is the Kingdom like Japanese knotweed?


Care for the Stranger Luke, 10: 33

– receiving help


Parable of the Talents, Luke 19: 12

– little brings a lot

– put it to use


The Ethiopian Official Acts 8: 26

– explaining scripture

– our lives challenge others

– instant results vs long journey


Touching Jesus’ Cloak, Luke 8

– we want more!


Workers in the Vineyard, Matthew 20

– God’s nature – rewarding last minute workers the same fair wage and dignity


Yeast and Leaven, Matthew 13

– don’t fiddle with it or you will break it

– doing things at the right time

– doing things in God’s time



– scared

– terrified

– obedient



– turned away

– no one listened


Widows and Unjust Judges, Luke 18

– persistence


God loves the world, John 3: 16

– love for everyone

– God loves us first


Jesus and the Lepers, Luke 17

– tending wounds


Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5

– social justice


Sending out: Luke 10

– why I am here

– things happen


Chosen by God to Bear Fruit, John 15


Sowing Seed, Matthew 13

– not knowing what soil we have

– prodigality

– it is up to God






– to see everyone welcomed

– our communities changing

– bringing people and communities together

– encouraging one another in mission

– looking inside – what is my purpose? what can I give?

– making Jesus accessible for all

– people coming together to share

– seeing God’s grace at work

– wanting Church to be different

– being joyful

– working with schools

– blessed are the poor




– the community working together

– including young people in church

– theology and suffering – called to engage and respond

– intergenerational learning, reverse mentoring





– “how to” guides

– more social media

– recognising the gifts that are already there

– mentoring / small cell groups

– sustaining with prayer

– working as churches together

– calling and releasing gifts

– working with all agencies


Simon Heathfield responded at the end of the day:

What are the things that matter?

What is God saying?

  1. Where is God’s sweetness?

– our parish

– our identities in God – this means seeing gift before deprivation

– let’s believe God’s identity in this place

– God has given us our identity, the authentic thing God calls us to be

– “there is treasure when you find what people have to give”

– what is the treasure in your place?


  1. Is your Church ‘come’ or ‘go’?

– building a culture of invitation

– ‘go’ = being changed


  1. Messiness

– how comfortable are you with mess?

– suffering?

– mustard seed

– Jean Vanier “I am struck by how sharing our weakness and difficulties is more nourishing to others than sharing our qualities and successes.”

– the conversation today has been really positive


  1. Who is driving the agenda?

– where is the agency?

– the agency, the initiative, the power come from outside

– giving you the vision God has for you


  1. How do you deal with issues of timing that you cannot control?

– mission as not-knowing

– taking the long view

advent journey – 2


Advent began for me a week ago with the Urban Congress in Birmingham.  80 people coming together for the day from our inner city and outer estate parishes to reflect together on Staying in the City: Stories of Hope and Holding On.

The pictures of the day are here

Reflections on how this day helped map the Advent Journey to follow.

Urban Congress

Final preparations for Saturday’s Urban Congress. Very excited …

Praying for all the parishes from Church of England Birmingham who will be there

urban congress 2017


I’m really excited about the 2017 Birmingham Urban Congress on Saturday 2nd December.  This is for people from inner city and outer estate parishes in Church of England Birmingham.

It is a day where we will be sharing stories of hope and holding on as we reflect on Christ’s challenge to us to stay in the city.  We have some great speakers.  The day is free, but you need to book to make sure of your place.  You can do this through your Vicar or direct at https://www.cognitoforms.com/Cofebirmingham/UrbanCongress2017

I look forward to seeing you there.

being there


back from a very good Birmingham Estate Clergy Residential with twenty colleagues who I completely respect.  The excellent Tim Watson listened to us carefully and led our worship.  He crafted this poem from our words.

Being There

Being there

Not just ticking the boxes

But asking,

“Will joy come in the morning?”


Owning the mission

Despite capacity

Knowing our communities

Are first to feel the effects

Of austerity policies


Embodying generosity

Willing to share skills

And live out extreme generosity

good things for estate churches

Just to catch up on a few things that are well worth reading or attending if you are involved in estate churches.


sunset, estates South Birmingham

Malcolm Brown has written a good blog piece here that explains well the recent energy the Church of England has found for estate churches and begins to set out what might happen as a result.  I am very proud to be playing a part in this – and would be more than happy to hear any ideas or comments about this.

Here in Birmingham, the Inner City and Outer Estate Groups are holding our first Urban Congress on Saturday 5th November, Faithful People, Faithful City.  The congress will hear stories from around the Diocese and with the aid of our guest speakers will share some of the challenges and opportunities parishes experience in sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ in their communities.  There are full details here.  If you haven’t signed up yet, please do now – there are a few places left.

The National Estate Churches Network, which I am about to start Chairing, has it’s Conference in London on November 7th and in Rotherham on November 9th.  This year, Gillian Ahlgren will be helping us to think about Practical Spirituality: Transforming Lives and Communities.  It offers the opportunity to visit again the joy of estate church life and present important challenges to help us refresh our connections with the traditions of Christian spirituality and consider how they help make a practical difference to our loving our estates and communities.  It will be a practical day with the sharing of the wisdom in the room as we seek to unlock, and share, our own, and other stories and experiences to gain fresh insight and discover new ideas.                                                                                      Click here for more information and to register.

Exciting and creative times.  Love and prayers.

jesus shaped people – catching some insights

The comments below were collected during an evaluation of Jesus Shaped People in St Thomas’, Garretts Green, one of our Estate Churches in Birmingham.  They fill me with great joy and admiration, and I am so glad to be part of a process of helping parishes like this move forward.  I’m really looking forward to the discernment process to see exactly what this Church is being led into next.  

These are certainly worth spending some time pondering and praying through.  I will be referring to these in a talk next week, so I’m leaving them here for people to see.

  1. I felt closer Jesus, more at his level, more part of what he did


  1. We’re Jesus’ disciples today, were here to continue his work


  1. Jesus loves us and he taught love


  1. Jesus is involved in all aspects of life, not just in church or in service but in politics too.


  1. Being Jesus Shaped sometimes puts us in uncomfortable situations or places


  1. We have to be forgiving and show love and kindness, we should have open arms.


  1. Jesus trusts us to further the kingdom so we should trust him; even when we mess things up there is always hope


  1. There are distractions all around us in our daily lives; JSP bought me back to realise Jesus is always there and it has given me more passion.


  1. How do we talk to people about our faith, especially those on the fringes of church. How can we make the most of our contacts?


  1. How can we reach out to more people, especially those on the outside?


  1. We need to equip ourselves to do good things really well


  1. Church/faith is a good place to be; safe on the inside where we get protection and are supported.


  1. JSP confirmed a lot of what we already do


  1. Prompted me to think about the things we do and why we do them.


  1. Prophetic Challenge made me think about how we can share our story, we show God’s love in what we do but we need use words as well to speak about our faith and why.


  1. We are already quite Jesus Shaped but we need to communicate why we do what we do.


  1. Jesus wants us to enjoy ourselves with others (eg steam club) Jesus is with us there too – he often went to “parties.” It’s about being fully alive.


  1. We are ordinary people and it’s OK to do ordinary things


  1. Jesus always had an eye on people and an eye on God at the same time.


  1. There is a positive energy and peace