It began with the conviction that it was time to move on from Nazareth. I’d always known that this would come at some point—indeed Mum had frequently reinforced it. She often recalled the stories of Bethlehem and Egypt, and her special poem that we called ‘Mum’s Message’ had frequently been a source of spiritual inspiration. We’d also kept up to date with stories of cousin John’s life in the desert, and news had reached us that his ministry in the Jordan valley was growing fast—indeed there were folk from Galilee, and even a few from Nazareth, who had ‘taken the plunge’!
From Blackpool to Birmingham, supporters of Jesus Shaped People(JSP) came to Bradford Cathedral at the weekend to celebrate its expansion across eight dioceses and to witness the launch of the next stage, a new charitable trust to develop it further.
JSP began in the parish of Tong and Holme Wood in Bradford in 2005 and it has now been adopted by some 70 churches from Birmingham to Blackpool and primarily helps communities in deprived areas. Large social housing estates are a special priority for JSP, but it has also proved to be effective with churches in more prosperous areas.
The Joy of Christmas lies in the wonder of God choosing to step into our world, in simplicity and vulnerability – so that we can step into the world of his alternative kingdom. God chooses to ‘be re-shaped’ as a tiny human child, and in doing so offers us a route for our own ‘re-shaping’ – inspiring us into becoming a ‘Jesus Shaped People’.
Jesus Shaped People (JSP) is moving on. Having begun life in the Parish of Tong and Holme Wood in Bradford in 2005, in the past four years it has been adopted by other churches, and generously supported by the diocese of Bradford/Leeds and the Church Commissioners. Now a new Charitable Trust has been established that will oversee future development.
Until recently my knowledge of St Francis was limited to rudimentary memories of stories describing his relationship with the natural world. My picture of him was of a holy man for whom the ‘birds and the bees’ had a special relationship.
All this was to be transformed three years ago when I led a first pilgrimage tour of Assisi. This was to be extended substantially in April 2016 by a further visit to Assisi, plus a few days at La Verna – the extraordinary Franciscan mountain retreat established in Francis’ later years.
We've been hosting Jesus Shaped People Celebrations around various churches in Bradford for some time now. But they have all been events that have been fundamentally aimed at adults
That's going to change with the next planned Celebration on Sunday May 22nd.
For the first time ever, we are having an All Age Jesus Shaped People Celebration. It all takes place at St Michael's Church Cottingley on Sunday May 22nd.
The Reverend Henriette Howarth has been licensed as a priest in the Diocese of West Yorkshire and the Dales, with specific part-time responsbility for Jesus Shaped People.
This newly created role strengthens the Jesus Shaped People work, as Henriette will be working to develop new and existing resources, as well as liaising with churches who wish to start their Jesus Shaped People adventure.
In this picture we see, from left to right, Betty Pedley, JSP Childrens Adviser, Henriette, JSP Programme Leader Gordon Dey and Bishop Paul Slater (Bishop of Richmond)
Andy Delmege, the JSP co-ordinator for Birmingham diocese was a contributor to the 'Growing with God' conference. Here is a gallery of photographs that gives a flavour of the event.