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Jonathan Sharp

Drawing by Neil Spencer, CTH presidentNeil Spencer, CT President for 2004/5, opened the Annual Assembly with a couple of readings and handed over to Alan Bolton and Jonathan Sharp (Minister in the Headingley Methodist Circuit, Creative Arts Officer of the Leeds Methodist District). The evening centred around a sketch illustrating how the church is seen as the building, and helped the audience to see how the church is a safe stronghold for all.

Rev Jonathan Sharp with plasticine model made by Paul Tennyson.  Click to email JonathanAs Jonathan Sharp pointed out in the sketch: "When I was a child the Church provided me a safe stronghold, its four square walls were security, its steeple pointed the way, looking upwards every day and pressing onwards cheerily, sunshine on our faces; in troubled times its walls were rock, a bastion against storms of change and waves of questions; it was a time-capsule whose truths might be revealed much later by some inquisitive explorer; it was a cocoon from which one day I might emerge a free-flying butterfly; it was a Christmas card comfort blanket".

Various moments of humour peppered the evening. The sketch included light hearted lines such as:
"I'm sorry, it's just that the whole business of church buildings is a bit of a sore subject for me at the minute. Listen, here's a thing to lighten the atmosphere, then I'll let you get on. Don't worry . you'll like this:I say, I say, I say, what's the perfect Christmas present for the short-sighted minister? Stained glass contact lenses!"
Reply: (not really amused) That's not at all funny. In fact it is discriminatory and abusive. I'm afraid I find your attitude to this occasion and your respect for other Christians sadly lacking.
Speaker. "Sadly lacking"?! Wait till you hear this one!
There once was a pious young priest
Who lived entirely on yeast
For he said, 'It is plain
We must all rise again,
And I want to get started at least!'

The recognition of how the church comes across to others was illustrated with pictures, including a group watching people worshipping at the Great Yorkshire Show. Cries of "What must they think of us?" were followed by "What do we think of us?", and"What on earth are we doing for Christ's sake?".

Plasticine model of Jesus and the woman at the wellThe Assembly broke up into workshops, creating plasticine models, collages, writing "Psalms" and discussing various related topics.

These “psalms/poems/prayers/reflections” were created using the old Parlour game ‘Consequences' as the basic principle. Five members of the churches in Harrogate were each given a starting line. Each one penned a “knee-jerk reaction” response. When all had completed this, the papers were passed around and the exercise repeated – this time with participants responding to the first two lines. A silent response is acceptable (sometimes there are no words) and this silence is marked in the text by two horizontal lines. The exercise was complete once everyone had received back their initial paper.
Exercise facilitated by Rev Jonathan Sharp.

…they were welcomed by the church…
Acts 15v4 NRSV
Does today help the Kingdom to come?
If we love one another we 
can help the Kingdom to come.
As Jesus says, Love is the fulfilling of the law.
you felt that love?
No. Sometimes the Church has been lacking in grace,
exclusive where even Jesus would not be welcomed
How greatly we have been helped by the example of others!

The church is Christ's body…
Ephesians 1v23 GNB
We must do his work to
show his love on earth
seeking only to do his will
and bringing into the eyes of others the goodness of the world.
May I be his voice, his feet, his hands!
Could I smile at people more often?
Do we picture Jesus smiling at us?
… bearing in mind that Jesus enjoyed a good celebration …

We ‘need to start where people are and not where we think they should be.'
Basil Hume
So give us grace to understand
our need of our brothers and sisters
so that your love may penetrate their lives;
help us to think more of tier needs than our salvation, help us to share our plenty
for there 
is enough for people's needs
but not enough for people's greed!
Help us to do our bit to spread understanding…

Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain
Psalm 127v1
For Christ is the sure foundation,
our strength in all things,
to grow stronger each day in order to be the Church you want us to be.
Help us to be willing to change our ideas if needed,
to listen to our Father in heaven,
thus being willing to be silent so that we may 
hear his voice 
Help me to listen!

The church is sent… as sign, instrument and first fruits of… the reign of God.
We long for God's reign to come
in the hearts of all people.
Make us your sign and instrument.
What might be a sign?
Our love for our fellow men and women –
A love that must be shown to society at large.
What have I done to help others?
Not enough…

Jonathan & Alan's contribution concluded with responsoral prayers:

For all that God can do within us, For all that God can do without us, Thanks be to God
For all in whom Christ lived before us, For all in whom Christ lives beside us, Thanks be to God
For all the Spirit wants to bring us, For where the Spirit wants to send us, Thanks be to God
Listen, Christ has promised to be with us in the world as in our worship - Amen, we go to serve Christ.

The Assembly were offered a church image and presentation audit sheet for discussion within home churches or Area Groups (appended below).

Looking forward to Christmas the Assembly were encouraged to contribute to a "personalised" ending to this year's Christmas Advertising Campaign - expected to be broadcast on Stray FM during December. Further contributions to the Christian message broadcast most welcome.

Image and presentation

How are we getting the message across? Use these discussion starters to assess how your church - and those churches in your Area Group are presenting themselves. Some questions can be assessed using a score of 1-5, where 1 is low and 5 is high.  [See also the Dorchester extract via the Marketing archive]

Physical attributes - external
The appearance of the buildings: state of repair and external decoration
The notice board: how up to date?
How much relevant / irrelevant information? Crèche? Youth Groups?
Any awkward "competitive" statements ("Really powerful prayer meeting")
Opening hours and office hours?
Contact details? Telephone, address, website
How to find out more info (website or internal notice board?)
Directions to car park(s)
Links to other local churches ("nearest cash machine") and CTH?
Key access (remember village churches)
Who includes the youth fellowship in the 'tidying the church yard' rota?
How well does all this live out the church's stated Mission. Aim or Vision statement?

Physical attributes - internal
Internal appearance: state of repair and décor
Seating comfort and quality ("All-Harrogate church pew comfort index")
Welcome card; what's included? (Aeroplane info card)
Repeated info: office hours, church open hours, leader day off
Service times - including nursing homes, school assemblies?
Lighting: good, adequate or poor (think DDA - and VIP)
Prayer request area (tree? cards?) A clear - yet unseen ministry
List of other churches in your CT Area Group, contact numbers etc.
List of chaplaincies in Harrogate? (Schools, hospital, town centre, ASDA, forces)
How has your CT Area Group considered a "corporate" design for the Area?
State of the notice boards; who manages this essential attractor?
Where do you post notices for everyone? What about those for regular members?

Tariff of services: how much to get married here? Fees for using the photocopier?
Parish boundary map for Harrogate? (Anglican)
Leaflet racks for supported works (Missionary Societies, local charities)?
Toilets: how clearly signed? With flowers? Baby change area - and feeding area?
How would you appear on a "Mystery Worshipper" report from the Ship of Fools website?
How well does all this live out the church's stated Mission. Aim or Vision statement?