From St Francis of Assisi to Matt Redman

by Justin Lau

Sunday Morning, Freshers’ Week, 2012: I was in the Durham Students’ Union visiting King’s Church Durham, delighted to be singing the latest contemporary worship songs which I knew very well, e.g. Matt Redman and Tim Hughes, Hillsong and Bethel.

Then suddenly: “Oh Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder”—wait…were we singing a hymn? I’d only ever been to churches which either sang only contemporary songs or only hymns. What’s going on?!

Fast-forward five years to find myself leading worship at Kings.

Previously disorientated me has adapted significantly since. My setlist can now comfortably include Joachim Neander’s 17th-century Praise to the Lord, the Almighty alongside Hillsong’s 21st-century Forever Reign (both brilliant songs!)

I still have a personal preference for contemporary songs. Current musical aesthetic trends combined with accessible lyrics produce uplifting, soul-stirring anthems. Repetitions can lead to deeper meditation and revelation (think United Pursuit’s songs that emerge from spontaneous, prophetic sessions).

But I’ve learnt the importance of hymns. Whether it’s tapping into theologically rich lyrics that unabashedly proclaim the gospel, or joining together with generations and generations of Christians throughout the centuries, it’s a tradition that mustn’t be neglected.

Leading worship at this year’s freshers’ Sunday was a joyous privilege.

We’re a thoroughly boisterous, singing church (one fresher said it reminded him of Soul Survivor, a Christian summer festival). Think steady strumming of the acoustic guitar, locking in with tight drum and bass grooves, complemented by the atmospheric wails of the electric and the delicate riffs of the keys.

And we enjoy worshipping together regardless of what songs we sing. Hands will be raised high in the sky whilst belting St Francis of Assisi’s All Creatures of Our God and King (just as enthusiastic as Mr Bean in our Alleluias). I’ve even thrown in a cheeky key change for Isaac Watts’s When I Survey the Wondrous Cross (admittedly amid a few chuckles, but all in all, sung with exuberance).

There’s no one sole way to worship God. If we truly love Him, shall we not also look for even more ways to worship Him? There’s so much we can learn from each other, regardless of our backgrounds and our preferred styles of worship.

Yes, let’s sing hymns that contain tried-and-tested truths (i.e. how the Holy Spirit has been working).

Yes, let’s sing contemporary songs that prove relevant to our present lives (i.e. how the Holy Spirit is working now).

As we sincerely seek to praise His name, may our worship experiences be ever more powerful and reveal greater glimpses of God’s goodness.

Making a Home on Mars

by Chris Rousell

Hospitals are not places I’d recommend spending any great length of time. No matter how much effort is put into their décor, there’s always that expressionless, sterile feeling to them which sits uncomfortably in the pit of your stomach. For those unfamiliar with hospitals, they are alien environments. Alien environments in which everything is new, in which everything seems out of place. Codified language and peculiar uniforms; a frenetic working atmosphere. At least that’s my experience. Prior to moving to Durham I worked as a Care Assistant at my local hospital. Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, nothing could prepare me for the culture shock I was about to endure. A deer in headlights.

Yet, as the days, weeks, and months progressed the hospital began to feel less Martian and more, dare I say, homely. The nods of mutual understanding as you bump into other staff in the corridors at four in the morning. The rhythmic melody of the sphygmomanometer. Having to wait just that half a second longer than you’d expect for your swipe card to open the second entrance to the Emergency Department.

For the extremely large majority of you, none of this will resonate, but I suspect that’s because you’ve not walked down many hospital corridors at 4am. The gradual progression from feeling uprooted and moved to an alien environment only for it to become so at ease that its quirks are lovingly embraced, however, is perhaps a bit more familiar.

Being a city with a university interwoven into it, many of us living in Durham will be acutely aware of this journey. The initial memory of the cathedral emerging into view as you crest the hills. Suddenly acquiring an entire corridor’s worth of flatmates from all corners of the earth (and all corners of Surrey). A culture that works hard and plays harder. It’s familiar to so many of us because we’ve been there, done that, and (quite literally) got the t-shirt. Where before Durham was a foreign country, it is now home.

At the start of this new academic year, a fresh cohort of students is embarking on the path we’ve travelled along. They too, will be filled with the same awe and trepidation we all feel when beginning something new. Durham is a beautiful place to call home and it too, has its codified language, its peculiar uniforms (here’s looking at you, ‘stash’) and frenetic working atmosphere. My prayer is that we, as a church community, will do our utmost to help new students on this journey. That we’d recall our first time in an alien environment, recall our fears and concerns, and show them that they’re not in a far-off place at all. Because not only is God still with our new students, their family is right here too.

Interns on Mission

by Issy Davies

The start of September held a lot of information, timetables, and introductions for us Interns. Unsurprisingly, then, we were excited by week 3 to be bundled into the church van to head down south for something a little more practical. We spent the week with The Way Christian Fellowship in the seaside town of Hunstanton, in Norfolk, coming alongside them in mission. We were grateful for a week of action, and being so close to the beach was a joy for lots of us, but the week wasn’t totally without challenges.

The Way Christian Fellowship is an Ichthus Link church, like Kings, but is different in dynamic, with a smaller congregation and a more charismatic expression of worship. Before the week began, we discussed what it means to be united with other Christians and churches even if we differ in opinions or styles of worship; this was really helpful when encountering things that were new or different to us, and reminded us that there is joy to be found in being united with each other through worshipping Jesus and sharing his love.

The dynamic of Hunstanton contrasts with the fast-paced, academic vibe of Durham, which the majority of our team are used to. In comparison, Hunstanton has a much sleepier pace of life, populated largely by elderly locals and day-trippers, who seemed less keen on engaging in conversations about faith. This made creative evangelism harder than we expected; even those on the team who are naturally more enthusiastic about going out on the streets found the slower dynamic hard to engage with, and we were sometimes a little disheartened. However we all still managed to get a taste of it, preparing us slightly for the regular evangelism we’ll be doing throughout the year.

Our momentum as a team built up over the week, as we prepared for the weekend events: Saturday afternoon’s free cream tea, hosted by us, saw almost 70 homemade scones (and lashings of cream and jam!) disappear in two hours, with lots of people being invited into the church’s café space, close to the seafront. Many of these visitors opened up to us about their lives, and it was encouraging to see them making use of the church space and feeling so welcomed. Sunday morning’s outdoor church service in the bandstand similarly saw our teamwork shine through, as we planned and led the events together, and our collective confidence as a group grew.

Lots of laughter and free time spent on the beach also grew our unity and friendship as a team, and the week helped us to establish patterns of praying with and supporting each other, pointing one another towards God and sharing encouragements.

In spite of moments of tiredness, discouragement, and missing Durham, the week reminded me of what we’ve signed up for this year: to serve God and serve His church; to learn how to do this faithfully even in circumstances that are unfamiliar, and trusting God to bring fruit.

Now we’re back in Durham, and our team is complete! Justin has now made it to the UK, so praise God that all 7 of us are here and settled. Please pray for us this week as we start our placements and welcome students. Pray that we settle into our new rhythms and routines, and remain well-rested and enthusiastic to welcome new and returning students into the church over the next few weeks.

Week 1 as an Intern

by Izzy Chia

Last week, six of us in the 2017/18 Kings Intern team started off induction in a whirlwind of colour-coded timetables, self-introductions, administrative information, and yummy staff lunches. (Our seventh member, Justin, is currently in Japan, where he is sorting out his visa and hopes to join us in late September.) This year, the team is excitingly diverse – we represent six different countries (some of us more than one each!), studied everything from biomedical science to English literature, and have an age range spanning about twelve years. It’s wonderful to see how we’ve all come together with the common goal of deepening our relationship with God, and learning how to better serve His people.

Beginning induction has been wonderful in many ways, but most importantly in its focus on our walk with God. We were reminded that the year ahead will not simply be one of placements and busyness, but a time in which we learn more about being and making disciples. On Friday, Ruth led us in a thought-provoking session on Being a Disciple, where we looked at the qualities of good disciples and identified the areas we need to work on for ourselves. My favourite part of the morning was when Ruth made us award Jesus’ disciples points out of 10 based on their behaviour in selected passages, and we charted out the high and low points in their discipleship journey.

I was struck by how the disciples did not progress steadily towards Christ-likeness without faltering, but experienced many setbacks along the way. Ruth reminded us that this was normal and challenged us to be brave during the internship, as this year will bring both triumphs and tribulations. I was comforted by the knowledge that God knows I will mess up time and again, but that the overall trajectory of my Christian walk can still be one of increasing closeness to Jesus. Ruth’s lesson was inspiring and challenging, and has made me really excited for the rest of the teaching coming up this year.

On the practical side of things, we found out about our various exciting placements, went through the Kings vision and values with Mark Bonnington, and even had a sunny day out with Brian Bonnington, learning about the life of Bede in the Northeast. Our welcome to the Kings family as interns has been brilliant – we’ve been showered with love from the Kings staff and leaders and the wider Kings family. We’ve also received many dinner invitations and words of encouragement and are so grateful!

In the coming week, we will start our School of Theology sessions, as well as begin preparing for our first mission trip to Hunstanton, in Norfolk. The other interns and I would love if you joined us in praying for energy and good rest amidst our busy days, as well as safety during our travels, and Godly insight during our work and studies. Please also pray that Justin’s visa will be processed smoothly and speedily, and that he will be able to join us as soon as possible. Watch this space for more updates from the other interns in the weeks to come!

Our first week in numbers:

Minutes early on Day One: 20

Colours on induction timetable: 6

Cups of tea and coffee consumed: 42

Times someone described themselves as “excited” or “nervous”: too many to count

Blue polo shirts worn: 6

Chairs stacked: 300+

Finding My Feet

by Naomi Allen

Hello! This week I bring you something a bit different.

This poem was inspired by a pair of shoes that rubbed my feet until they bled. For a whole day, I was walking around with this pain, trying to tread lightly or position my feet in ways that would avoid further skin being ripped off. It’s not a nice image, I’m sorry, but it’s one that reminded me of how our journeys of faith can often be. We can be walking in shoes that used to fit, but just aren’t protecting our feet anymore. We can stumble onto the wrong path, trip into the mud, or simply not notice that we have lost the joy of walking. One of the most helpful things about the internship has been the space it provides to stop and look at our feet. Am I walking simply because that’s what the people around me are doing? Am I taking this journey seriously, am I equipping myself for what comes next?

As we near the end of the internship, it has been good to stop and reflect on all the ways that God has gently been helping me walk.

Finding my Feet
Weary feet tread trodden path,
Footsteps following the well-worn track.
Bruised by stones, pricked by thorns.
Hardened skin and dirty nails.
Shoes too tight, skin rubbed raw.
Step by step.
Slow progress.

Weary feet stop and wait,
Balance atop the rocky ground.
Pause amid the tangled nettles.
Shift from painful heels to twisted toes.
Watch others pass by on tired,

Weary feet move again,
For there seems to be another way.
Well hidden,
Off the beaten road,
Through trees and shrubs and branches.
No other feet are wandering here,

Weary feet step softly here,
Stones replaced by grass.
Padded footsteps.
Silent footfall.
Shoes cast away.
Fresh spring grass caresses wounded skin,
Damp and cool and alive.

Weary feet find healing rest,
Running water to restore.
White horses run the dust away.
Blood and mud and grime,
Washed downstream.

Weary feet stand soundlessly,
As scarred hands reach down.
As gentle fingers touch the stings,
And cuts,
And bruises.
And slowly, painfully,
Begin to make them whole.

Contented feet sit quietly,
No longer bearing weight.
In the presence of the one who walked
The way of thorns before.
Cleaned and cured.
Whole and healed.
Ready for a new direction.