Annapolis October Update

Dear friends,

It’s been nearly two months since I have last written to you and since then the summer has passed to autumn. Days have shortened and leaves have turned. I wanted to wait until I had real updates to share about my progress and in the last couple of weeks two very important events have occurred:

1. The petition for my visa has been sent to relevant authorities.

2. I have been approved for tax-free donations in the UK. Stewardship account number:20127237. Givers in the USA can still go through Sent Network

Thanks to all your prayers and the hard work of the pastoral staff at Downtown Hope, I am much closer to fulfilling the work I am called to than last time I wrote.

I am also deeply grateful to all those who responded to my last email with offers to support. I am now halfway to my first goal of $1000 per month, which is my target before I make the move to America.

My visa will take up to five months to be approved, which is frustrating. However this waiting time is not a waste. I have found interesting work with a hospitality agency, taking me all over the country to work at events and parties of all sorts. In this work, I have discovered that God is still working on my heart just like he was through my degree studies last year!

This new stage in my journey has reminded me of a joke I once heard:

Q: What do you say to a theology graduate?

A: Yes, I would like fries with that!

What good is theology (the study of God, the Scriptures and the Church)? We live in a world which has continued to function without God, without Church and without clergy meddling in policy. Not only function, but to thrive!

Want to change society? Put a new device in everyone’s pockets, don’t preach to them.

+ I cannot feed a starving person with a morsel of the debate on the authorship of Ephesians.

+ The ability to parse verbs in a language nobody speaks any more isn’t a useful good in a world of illiteracy.

+ What a terrible lie, to hold out the promise of heaven to thosfae who live at the doorstep of hell!

Yet in our brave new millennium poverty has increased and wealth has clotted amongst only a few. Even the superbly researched and efficiently executed aid and welfare schemes seem to have only responded to the greater need, (indeed it is a precious work to do so) rather than question why the need exists at all.

It is tempting to dismiss such people as deficient, lazy or both. This is only natural if our value is determined by our performance: SATs, GPA, Hourly Rate, Net Income or house value.

It is also tempting to patronise those who lack these things often considered significant. “It’s not a handout, it’s a hand up” is the mantra of twenty-first century philanthropy. If we help the poor or disadvantaged back into our normal way of life, then they will be better off. Right?

Theology challenges these base assumptions. The Christian Scriptures establish a basis for valuing another person as a mutually created being, with the same God-likeness as me. The Christian tradition has also maintained that human beings have a proclivity to shrug off this God-likeness and despise it in others. Squandering the Divine Love bestowed upon me has ravaged my soul beyond hope. Yet thanks be to God that my story didn’t end there!

In love I was received and brought to life again. Helpless as I was, God nonetheless brought me to friendship with himself. Poor as my spirit was, I could share in the riches of Divine Love even though did not deserve it.

After all, it is the character of Divine Love to bestow itself upon those who have no hope of reciprocating appropriately. This of course is what Christians mean when they speak of grace.

Serving cheeseburgers and beer has given the opportunity to experience this grace.

See, Divine Love is not a sentiment or a preference. I have not found mere good will to be sufficient for me to treat even my colleagues with common decency, let alone gracious love. Civility is wearied through diminished energy and patience is contingent upon how much coffee I have drunk.

To work long hours for low pay. To truly care for those around me. To receive each person before me with the honour their belovedness warrants depends upon the great well of God’s love from which I can draw.

It has made the difference between ‘no, I will not work any harder because you are not paying me enough’ to ‘how can I love my colleague who has a much more demanding table than I do?’

This remarkable difference has been my inspiration for serving the Annapolis poor community. 

How can the God-given riches of the Church bless those who are patronised or marginalised by society? How can God’s daughters and sons be generous with the life-giving love granted to them? How would a Gospel-powered outreach programme be different to the great ideas of our preset age?

My theological training has given me a desperate yearning to press into the tangible reality of the love Christ proclaims. It is more than sentiment. It is strong and mighty. It is my desire to enable the Church to lean upon this sturdy foundation, to make Downtown Hope a clear demonstration to all the people of the city that the love of God far excels the sentiment of humans. Please join me as I begin this kingdom-building work in this one corner of the world God loves.

Your monthly gifts will allow me to be a consistent and committed servant to those who lack anyone who would commit to them.

If you would like to join me or discuss this vision I would love to hear from you and arrange a conversation.

Bless you this Autumn,
Ian

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