Sunday, April 21, 2013

Christian Friendship

A lot of people have been doing a lot of work on behalf of all of us as a church at Highbury.

The last Sunday in April is a significant day in our church calendar.  It is our Gift Day.  All that we do from the upkeep of our property to funding Felicity and Me in ministry, Carolyn as children’s worker Bridget our caretaker, Grace our cleaner, our organists, heat, light. Publicity you name it is all down to what we as a church family give.  We don’t get any other funding.  We don’t do a lot of fundraising, though what we do is lots of fun.  We look to the giving we all share.  In a regular planned giving by standing order month by month, or through our envelope scheme week by week, The Responsibility Is Ours – and if you want more information about TRIO, our planned giving scheme have a word with Roger.

Then in the year we have two special appeals, at Harvest it is shared half for Highbury’s mission and half for a world mission project.  And the last Sunday of April, next Sunday, our Gift Day when we make a special appeal for giving that will focus on our mission project employing a children’s worker.

And there is a bonus.  Because if you pay tax you can gift aid your giving – and the church will receive 20% more than you have actually given.  It is a wonderful scheme.

And that’s one of the reasons why a lot of people have been doing a lot of work on behalf of all of us as a church at Highbury of late.  To qualify for gift aid we are rapidly reaching the point when we need to register as a charity. Last year we claimed all of £10,000  in Gift Aid.  To register as a charity we need a Governing Document approved by the Charity Commission and by Her Majesty’s Revenue and       And that’s what a group was working on on Friday afternoon.

The Deacons as Managing Trustees will have quite specific responsibilities.   To enable them to  fulfil that function there will be a smaller group of five deacons.  And then to focus on Worship, and Pastoral Care, and Mission and Outreach and Discipleship, to focus on Children’s work and on Youth work we are going to be looking for people with a real heart of each of those areas of work to help us dream dreams and shape our church for today and tomorrow.

Someone asked me how I felt about the process the other day?  I sense a buzz and an excitement about the prospect of developing my ministry into a team ministry and seeing a new vision for the church here at Highbury.

And so on Saturday the Deacons will be meeting together to see how the work is going on those governing documents and in particular to focus on the Ministry Leaders and what it is we shall be looking for.

It’s an important time – if we can get things as right as they can be what a difference that will make.  And that means our prayers are really important.

So remember the Deacons on Saturday in your prayers.  And then next Sunday alongside our Gift Day we are going to have a Day of Prayer.

Over to Mary to describe what it is we shall be sharing.

Mary Buchanan on Prayer

What is the vision?

Highbury – a place to
share  Christian friendship
explore Christian faith and
enter into Christian mission
with Christ at the centre
and open to all

Over the next few Sundays I don’t just want to explore what that vision means to me, more importantly I want to look into the Bible and explore what God’s word to us is through these particular words.

And so today I want to share with that vision that Highbury should be a place to share Christian friendship.

I have been recalling one of the worst moments in my experience of leading worship this last week.  It was in Shropshire on an occasion when I had asked one of the youngsters to do a reading in a family service with a big congregation – something like a festival service – I think a Harvest festival.

I asked her to come to the front to read.  She opened the Bible and began – and as she read I realised she was reading the wrong passage.  Sometimes I would just let it pass.  But this was a passage full of violence and harshness and apocalyptic happenings.  I had to stop her and I realised what had happened.  She was reading from Mark 13, an apocalyptic chapter.  I wanted her to read from Matthew 13 – the parable of the sower.  All she had to do was to turn from Mark to Matthew.

Usually I would have gone over to help her find the place.

I couldn’t do that.  She was holding the bible against her stomach and her fingers were doing the reading.  She was blind.  Her mother caught measles during her pregnancy, as a result this young girl was born blind.

I for one am pleased that the writer of that pernicious article that led to the epidemic we are seeing now in Swansea and could so easily emerge elsewhere and who had financial interests in a pharmaceutical company producing single vaccines has been struck off the medical register.  The science leaves no room for doubt MMR is of vital importance for everyone – it’s not too late for any children to have it at any age.  The evidence of that awful day in my earlier church leaves me in no doubt as to the seriousness of measles.  The wonderful thing that day was that our youngster simply stopped, found Matthew 13 and continued reading a passage she had not prepared before hand absolutely beautifully.

That’s not the only epidemic at the moment.   On Saturday, 13th April there was an article about another epidemic that is just as rife, though not so recognised.

It begins, “A loneliness epidemic is harming the health of people over 50 – and campaigners say isolation is worse than smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

Research by the Office for National Statistics has revealed that 34 per cent of people aged between 52 and 59 feel lonely often or some of the time.

46 per cent of people over 80 who were surveyed said they feel lonely.

Of the people aged 60 to 69 questioned, 29 per cent said they felt isolated, while 32 per cent of people aged 70 to 79 said the same.

We lose at our peril one of the simplest things church is about.


Church is a place where people of all ages, of all backgrounds can find not just a welcome but also a friendship.   They may seem incidental, but actually they are vital – Café, the monthly lunch, the monthly Friendship group, the lunches Richard organises.

Friendship is at the heart of our pastoral care – a friendly face to call.  Simple.  Ordinary.  But so vital.

Maybe for our outreach – I remember when we came to Highbury two elderly ladies used to come with Arthur – it was I think Linda who had been part of a befriending service and simply called on them to be friendly – and then they wanted to come to church.  And then Arthur gave them a lift.  Richard Sharpe’s son Jeremy was introducing us to the possibility of being part of something that would reach out and offer a friendship service – time to give to someone lonely.

Highbury, a place to share Christian friendship.

I think then there’s more to it than that.

Today we meet around the table.  This is when we remember not just what happened when Jesus broke bread and shared the cup.  We also remember the words he shared.  And among the finest of those words are some wonderful words about friendship.

John 15:12-17

That’s remarkable – Jesus suggests he is our friend, we are his friends as we if have love for one another … and that it is as we have that kind of love for one another that people will know we are his disciples.

So … a conversation I had with Carolyn prompted me to think, is there something special about Christian friendship?   Is there an extra dimension in the common ground we stand on the common experiences we have, the values we share?  Do we have a shared understanding about the way we look at life and its problems that draws us together as friends?

Carolyn then went on to suggest a number of things that make Christian friendship Christian.

As Christians when we come together in friendship we share a gratitude to God and a very real sense there is more to life than what we see.  We share an understanding that we do not control our lives.

That friendship isn’t limited to one geographical place – if Highbury is a place to share Christian friendship then the friendship we share here will be something that we share wherever we find a church – you are on a wavelength – It is as if there is an element of trust even when you have only just met.  You’ll find it when you visit another church in this country or on the other side of the world.  I well remember when Marion and Ron Taylor went to visit his family in Australia they took a whole pile of cards from Highbury and wherever they went they made a point of going to church on Sunday, giving greetings from Highbury and found an immediate friendship wherever they went.

Sharing Christian friendship means having a desire to learn from each other’s experience and knowledge of God – it involves passing on spiritual wisdom.   Sharing Christian friendship means we can pray together – maybe seeing a third person in that friendship.

Maybe the heart of Christian friendship involves being friends in the way Jesus is friends with us.  He is friends with us as he loves and forgives us – we are friends with him and share in Christian friendship as we mirror that love and forgive each other.

Christian friendship gives us so much comfort.

However, as Christians we also read in the bible that we are here for each other partly to help each other grow. We are to submit to one another (Ephesians 5:21 ‘Submit to one another because of your reverence for Christ.’) and be accountable (James 5:16 ‘So then, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you will be healed.’) to each other. We can rebuke one another without falling out of relationship.
In Proverbs we read that a real friend is grateful for criticism! Prov 28:23 ‘Correct someone and afterwards he will appreciate it more than flattery.’
Prov 27 : 17 ‘People learn from one another, just as iron sharpens iron.’

Carolyn suggested that we can almost think of three types of Christian Friendship:

  • Mentor friendship   We give to others by offering support, guidance.   That’s good …  but we must avoid the danger of getting stuck in a one-sided role only giving out our friendship.  There will be times when we are vulnerable, and in humility we need to seek friendship as someone else mentors us.  And so there is then

  • Mentee friendship.  That’s when we receive support and guidance.  That too is necessary.  But again the danger is we always feel we are on the receiving end.  We mustn’t stay in that place either.  experience of being vulnerable and receiving is part of our experience as we grow in wisdom and maybe catch that third dimension of friendship …

  • Mutual friendship – maybe that’s the spirit of true Christian friendship, the kind of Christian friendship we seek to celebrate here at Highbury.  The kind of Christian friendship that involves humility and mutual vulnerability.  The kind of Christian friendship that involves accountability and submission.

Have that kind of friendship and maybe the same mind will be in us that was in Christ Jesus when he said,

This is my commandment that you love one another.  You are my friends if you do what I command you

Do that and Highbury will be a place to share Christian friendship with Christ at the centre and open to all.

A Place to Share Christian Friendship

A listening ear
An open heart
A compassionate concern
A willing commitment
That’s what friendship takes
That’s what Jesus offers

Help us, Lord Jesus,
to be friends with each other
in a friendship
with Christ at the centre
that’s open to all

John 15:12-17

1 comment:

J Elliott said...

Not sure if Jesus would agree; I'm sure you can find other examples, but the parable of the Good Samaritan at least should challenge the idea that you can set (by analogy) Christian friendship above other flavours.

So much to pass on at Highbury

If you give a little love you can get a little love of your own

A blessing shared at Highbury

Now and the Future at Highbury

Dreaming Dreams Sharing Visions at Highbury

Dreaming Dreams Sharing Visions

Darkness into Light