Jesus at the Door

The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field.

Jesus: Matthew 9:37

How often do we meet people and the first conversation we have with them is about Jesus? Well, possibly on occasion. But how many times does that first interaction build to us introducing Jesus to them?

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Last Saturday, a group of around 20 of us headed out to Piccadilly Gardens asking God to give us these conversations. First, we met together for some training by Scott McNamara, who developed this tool during his time working on the streets of Northern Ireland. After hearing his story, learning the structure and a quick practise, we set off to give it a go ourselves.

Related imageThe opening is simple: ‘Have you seen this picture before and do you pray?’

Assuming the answer is positive, there follows a succinct  9-point conversation frame, taking people through the message of Jesus, how much He has done for them and how much He longs for a real relationship with them. In short, how He is standing at the door of their hearts, patiently knocking, but only they can open it.

When we met up 90 minutes later, amazing stories began to emerge. In all, 12 people met Jesus for the first time and are now in contact with members of MV.

12. In 90 minutes.

The beauty of this tool is not just it’s simplicity, it’s that it seeks out those who are ready or already searching for Jesus. It’s not a platform for religious debate or a lengthy apologetic of Christianity. If people are ready, we continue. If not, with grace, we walk away.

It is, after all, Jesus who saves. If they’re not ready, chances are even the most well rehearsed argument won’t persuade them in that moment. The pressure is off, all we have to do is ask the questions.

This is not a free-heaven-pass hand out either. One of the most important moments was ensuring we would have some way of contacting the people we met. The enemy will fight to win them back; we need to fight harder to keep them. We’re out to make disciples; people who will run the race, not stumble at the start line.

The stories which came out of that afternoon were truly humbling. Young people struggling with depression and anxiety looking for hope and finding it; a guy intrigued by us praying for encouragement at the half way point was invited over and in turn invited Jesus into his life; a lady who had had a song in her head for weeks, discovered it was in fact a worship song and gave her life to Jesus. One of us, after deciding to walk around the area and pray for everyone else, felt convicted to just give it a go once, met a guy, chatted through the card and he gave his life to Jesus. They agreed to call and catch up later, after the football, of course.

Of course there were many others who weren’t quite ready or flat out not interested, but it’s alright. It just wasn’t their day.

It didn’t end there either. The following day, four more people opened the door to Jesus.

Where now? We’ll keep in contact with those we met, keep loving those Jesus sends us and keep going out to the lost to find those ready to open the door. After all, Jesus’ parting words were: ‘Go and make disciples…’ Go. Go, and surely He is with us.

What a journey to be on.


If you haven’t invited Jesus in through the door of your heart, now is always the best time to do it. Here is the prayer we used on the street and it’s all you need to start this incredible journey with Him:

Dear Lord Jesus,
I open the door of my heart
I say sorry for my sin
I chose to follow you and make you Lord of my life
Fill me with your Holy Spirit, in Jesus’ name,
Amen


If you’d like to jump out of your comfort zone, ask the question and see what God does, we are heading out again this week: please visit http://www.mvuk.org.uk/JAD for details.

In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit

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When we got married, it was witnessed by as many of our friends and family that fire regulations would permit. Yet the moment I decided I would make that very public promise passed by very quietly; first through my own heart and then between me and the man I love under a tree in Oxfordshire.

Just as we stood in front of our loved ones and promised to always choose each other, in baptism we publicly choose Jesus. Not just in the stillness of our own hearts, but for all the world to see.

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At Manchester Vineyard we have had the the privilege of baptising two wonderful people this year. Here is one of their stories:

Lucy

I’ve been to churches before but they either didn’t offer baptism for adults or I simply wasn’t there long enough! When Paul talked about baptism at Manchester Vineyard I felt like this was the right season for me.

I was brought up in a Christian family. I’ve been in church all my life. I would have been around 13 when I accepted Jesus into my life, personally, but I fell out of church somewhere between 18 and 24. Although I have always known Him, life got in the way.

My baptism came at a crucial time, it was like God was calling me back and it was a chance to make a declaration of my faith in front of everyone.

When I got up to speak it surprised me how many people’s eyes were on me! I felt comfortable sharing my story although it was a real blur. I’m glad I had it all written down. People said it went well!

Because I’ve stepped out and because I knew I could make that declaration in front of people to say ‘this is what I believe,’ it has inspired me to step out more in other ways. In terms of my relationship with God, it’s not like everything is different now – it’s more like a full stop on what you’ve done before and you’re walking out in a different way.


We’d love you to join us for our baptism service this Sunday at The Dean Trust Ardwick at 10.30am.

Maundy Thursday

He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. 

By his wounds you are healed.

1 Peter 2:24

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At this most sorrow-filled time of the year, we gathered together for worship and reflection. Following Jesus from His final meal with His dear friends, towards the humiliation and pain of His crucifixion, how could our hearts not break under the weight of grief and pain.

Moving between four stations, we read and chose a description of Jesus either closest to our hearts at that moment or one which we needed most reminding of. Whether we need hope, protection, companionship or forgiveness, the answer to every human need can be found in Him. We reflected on the truly humbling act of Jesus washing His disciples’ feet – a moment when, facing the imminence of unbearable agony, His parting act was one of service, cleansing and love. Facing the cross, we too faced the reality that it is our shortfalls which created the need for this – the ultimate expression of love. His wounds for our healing. His death for our life. Finally, we sat, knelt, lay before the words of Isaiah (53:5):

But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.

We allowed ourselves to be immersed in the true, complete meaning of this moment – we are healed, we are whole, we are His.

 Jesus we trust in you. Your ways are higher than our own. 

img_8209.jpgWith the hindsight of 2000 years, we know the cross is not the end. We know there is a world beyond this moment; a world of freedom, of unending hope and joy. But as the hiding disciples lowered their eyes in shame, we cannot assume they felt any of these truths. As Steph so beautifully shared, they surely in that moment must have recalled the events of only hours before when their master had lovingly washed the feet at which they now stared. The reassuring words of Jesus that, yes, He would be killed but ‘on the third day he will be raised from the dead’ (Matthew 12:23) were lost in the pain of Golgotha. As we ourselves knelt at the cross last night, the weight of our sin which required this greatest of sacrifices was almost tangible. The thought that so often our words and actions take us as far from Him as His friends who ran and hid that night, threatened to overwhelm.

But only for a moment. Sunday is coming. This cross, this tomb, this death cannot hold Him.

It’s Friday, but Sunday is coming. Has come. He is with us, for all time, in every circumstance. His wounds have set us free and, to the end of time, we will praise Him for it.

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We’d love you to join us on Sunday to celebrate the wonderful hope and joy of Easter. We’ll meet, as usual, at The Dean Trust at 10.30am.

The Vision: 2018

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The Beginning

From the commissioning in June 2016, the journey officially began. We took to the road, found new homes (or at least houses), jobs and neighborhoods. We met in an upper room, worshiped and dreamed.

We found a venue, made a rota, bought the kit and started Sundays. Setting down and up a restaurant was not an easy task but we knew it was so worth it. We came for the one and soon the stories began to flow in.

We started small groups, we set up children’s groups, we kept our eyes on the vision of age relevant discipleship for everyone. Soon, we out grew our space and began to look for a new home.

100 venues later, Paul and Steph reluctantly decided on a place which would have to do for now. It was not ideal but we needed room to grow. In the face of uncertainty, they asked the church to pray and give. Not for ourselves, but to the city we came to love. After a humbling giving Sunday which surpassed all expectations, the phone calls started coming in. Venues changed their minds. Would we like to use their space?


A New Home

We moved into Dean Trust Ardwick, got to grips with the amazing new space, expanded the children’s groups, and prayed for and began delivering cards to the 10,000 homes around us.

Then our city changed.

On May 22nd 2017 the very heart of our community, our children and our young people, were targeted in a terrorist attack. The city mobilised to help the emergency services; blood was donated, equipment resourced. How was the church to respond?

Armed with a (borrowed) van, drinks, sweets and hope, we took to the streets. Bringing hope, bringing freedom, bringing Jesus.

From that day, our purpose and priorities remained the same, but our practicalities changed. In the months that followed, we bought our own van and it continues to resource and support our compassion ministry. This city has adopted us and we will do all we can to love those we now call family.


Sundays

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We have never been a Sundays-only church. We will always be pushing beyond the walls of where we meet. But meet we do, for it is here we are family, equipped, loved and ready to go out into the world.

During 161 days of teamwork, over 2,000 chairs have been put out and 2,000 drinks served. Over 23 days of fun has been had in children’s groups and the van has been filled with 1,000 nappies, 113 nearly new clothes and 500 items for our free Christmas shop.

We are still a church plant, and a young one at that, but we are an army and a hospital – doing what we can with what we have.


Where To Now?

We must not get comfortable. We will continue to ask God to break our hearts for this city He loves. The area we now meet in has devastating statistics when it comes to child poverty and domestic abuse. Our ties then with Dean Trust and the local children’s centres will be vital in the coming years as we aim to meet the needs of the last, the least and the lost.

Key on our agenda will also be fostering a culture of invitation. Church, you yourselves are invited to jump in, with both feet, to what’s going on. Be involved. Attend events. Bring friends. Everyone is invited. Everyone is welcome.

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But most importantly, we want to fall more in love with Him who loved us first – with the One who who calls, equips and sustains.

To God be the glory, great things He has done.


Based on Paul’s Vision Talk 25/02/18 available at manchestervineyard.org

Out on the Van

In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in Heaven.

On the darkest day our city has seen for many years, we took to the streets to be a light. Jesus’ light. The light which brings life and can never be extinguished.

In practical terms, this light was carried by the team into the city in a campervan, borrowed from a generous local company. Armed with sugar, caffeine and hope, MV took to the streets and they met, chatted and prayed.

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Nine months on, Hetal and Pascale explained the impact that terrible night has had on our compassion ministry.

How did we come to have the van?

“Originally the van was a very useful way to take sweets and drinks into the city after the attacks. It gave us a real feeling of credibility too. It was a great place to base ourselves but mostly we wanted to chat to people and respond to the feeling the city had. Hopelessness, fear and anxiety hung over the city and it really gave us a chance to talk to people about Jesus and give them time to process what had happened.

We also went door to door taking handwritten notes and chocolates around the area where the bomber lived. We chatted to the people and police as there was a real sense of fear and shock there. It was so close to home for them and it was great to be able to take God’s love to them and come together with them as fellow Mancunians.

Afterwards we really felt like we should get a van of our own. Amazingly businesses and individuals outside the church gave really generously so it wasn’t church funded; it came from a community who saw what we were doing, saw it had value and enabled us to carry on.”

What is the van used for now?

“Now the van has two main functions: compassion and the work we do out on the streets.

We park up in Longsight Market and Ardwick near where we meet on Sundays and go out and do what we did after the bombing – give out food and drink, chat to our neighbors about Jesus and offer them prayer. We are just aiming to be a light in the city and a signpost to who God is.

We also use the van to collect and transport goodies for local families – our church’s area is the 150th most deprived part of the country, the bottom 0.5%, so we have partnered up with local children’s centres to provide practical provisions in the form of clothes, nappies and furniture etc. We fill the van once a month and give the centres what they need to support their families.”

How do you feel when you take the van out onto the streets to talk to people? It probably sounds quite nerve-racking to some of us!

“I try and remind myself what God has done for me and that I know Him because someone else shared the good news with me. Now we have a responsibility to go and do that ourselves. Yes it can be terrifying approaching people, but we go out to see people the way God sees them. When we do that, a real, genuine love flows out of us, and they can engage on whatever level they are comfortable with. We’re just there to love them. We’re just there to be obedient.

If stepping out of your comfort zone is to give someone a chocolate, then do that, if it’s to tell someone Jesus loves them, then great. It’s all about taking steps in faith and courage, whatever that looks like to you.

God said to love Him and love our neighbors. This is not an optional extra we’re doing for the sake of it, it’s part of our faith to share Jesus with others – this is one way of doing that. With the van we are facilitating ways people can do that, it’s not a stand alone ministry. We’re out as a team, we’re all there for each other. It’s a lot of fun and also a great way to get to know other people.”

Any other highlights?

“There’s so much spiritual openness in the area around the church, it’s amazing. We’ve also had so much favour in the city, for example policemen offering us protection from parking fines (not that we’ve needed it!) as they were so happy with what we were doing. We constantly manage to park in great places, legally, and for free. The traffic wardens seem to appear just when we need them to!

God’s hand’s been all over this – I’m sure the impact will be big because God is all over it. It’s a visible way to share Jesus with people and we absolutely love being part of it.”

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How to get involved:

  1. Fill in a hello card and tick ‘team’ and someone will be in touch
  2. Email van@manchestervineyard.org
  3. Listen out for notices – the van goes out every third Saturday of the month
  4. Grab a shopping list from the welcome area and help us fill the van every first Sunday

He’s in the Waiting

Christmas Eve is finally here. Whether you’re the organised, envied few who’ve had their amazon deliveries wrapped from mid-November, or the deadline driven panic buyer who maybe still isn’t finished, time is almost up.

Advent is the Church’s celebrated period of waiting. In the rush to get ready, however, it can often seem anything but. Perhaps the only real waiting you feel you’ve experienced this year has been in that 36 minute queue for the checkout, or watching the last few seconds tick by on the office clock before you’re finally on holiday.

But really, waiting itself is intrinsic to our human experience. We are all waiting for something.

Maybe it’s a job which might finally bring us a sense of purpose; that special person who might make us feel complete; those two grey lines on a pregnancy test.

It might be difficult to appreciate the awe and overwhelming joy of Simeon and Anna (who witnessed that long awaited baby being presented at the temple) amidst the rush of wrapping, peeling, writing, driving. But we all know how it feels to wait; to long; to need.

We as a church marked this pivotal time with several unmissable events this year.


Beer & Carols 

This event never fails to deliver. With a name like that, what could it possibly lack! We were in a new venue this year but it was no less packed. Enthusiastic and mostly tuneful singing, a spectacular Christmas jumper competition and festive snacks galore were the order of the evening. We even found a lady called Carol! What a night.

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Family service 

But we must not let the grown ups have all the fun. With much enthusiasm, cream pies were thrown, huge, human sized presents were torn apart and heart-shaped balloons spread joy around the hall. Energetic and fun-filled worship interspersed hilarious clips and a thoughtful message: ‘What can I give Jesus?’

 

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Carol Service 

As much as the Family Service radiated joy, this time together captured beautifully the wonder and mystery of the season. Again the team worked tirelessly, staging and producing some wonderful media and drama pieces. It did not matter that we could not light candles (we do meet in a school after all), the lighting and sound were stunning. That 2000 year old story seemed closer than ever.

This time tomorrow, we will be celebrating that our King has come for us. The wait is over. Yet in some ways, it has just begun.

One thing we know, He is with us in the waiting, and we have more work to do.

And so, we’re 1

What a year. God is so faithful.

Today we celebrated one year since we started doing Sundays at Manchester Vineyard. Through tears of thankfulness and out-stretched hands of praise, we gathered together to thank God for the journey so far. [watch the talk here]

And what a journey.

From small but expectant beginnings in a flat in the Heatons, via the Rampant Lion, we have come to Deans Trust in Ardwick. What a wonderful space. The extraordinary journey the team went on before we arrived here is a story in itself; to approach 100 venues before finding home requires an incredible amount of faith.

But we trust in our God. He has provided beyond what we could have ever expected or imagined – and that’s just on a Sunday.

Outside Sundays, our family has grown into something staggeringly beautiful. People who have known each other less than 12 months are inviting each other to live in their homes during turbulent times; looking after one another’s children; giving their time, money and love in service of our city and one another.

God is building His Church.

Here are just a few of our key moments this year…

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There have been plenty of great times together. Bonfire night in the home of one of our families was truly spectacular. Such a wonderful evening and we cannot wait for this year. Stay posted for more information – it promises to be spectacular once again! [Get tickets here]

When the weather improved we took to the canal, with varying degrees of competency it must be said! Spending the best part of an hour in a boat with someone is certainly one way to build relationship!

Christmas, too, was an incredible time for us as a growing church. Carols were sung, both with beer and by candlelight, and the kids team lead a brilliant family service full of laughter and squirty cream (obviously.) What a time to remember the miracle of God coming to us, to rescue us and to bring us home.

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22nd May 2017 is a date none of us will forget. In the face of hate and evil, the church came together with the people of Manchester showing love and light in any way we could. Offering prayer, a listening ear, drinks and snacks on the streets within a day of the attack at the Arena, we were able to show how deeply we love this city when it mattered most. The response of the people of Manchester in giving blood, time and skills was humbling and beautiful – we were so honoured to be a part of it.

We are well on the way towards our target of engaging with 10,000 homes in the area surrounding our Sunday venue. Teams have been out delivering invites to our services, meeting local people and taking the light of Jesus into a place full of challenges.

We are a church who will always prioritise compassion and worship.

One final thing to celebrate – out of our response to the attack on our city in May, we have been blessed with our newest addition to the compassion team: The Living Room. We are so excited to see what will happen this year as we head out as often as we can in this amazing campervan! [More about the van & how we intend to use it here]

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Matthew tells us that Jesus sent His disciples out with these words:

As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.

So on we go, giving in the full knowledge of what God has given us. Never stopping; never giving up. We will continue to write our part in the story of hope.

Here’s to the next chapter.

 

‘Different City, Same Story: I Love Small Group’

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It’s been a just over a month now since we started Small Groups – planting four across South Manchester. I’ve lost count of how many weeks it’s been since we left our Small Group in Nottingham and I really doubt I can express here how wonderful it felt to be back in that place once again.

Every week in the Trent Vineyard (and now in the Manchester Vineyard) notices, we were and are reminded that the best thing we could do, to be involved in the church, is to join a Small Group. It made total sense in a church of over 1,500 people. Even the most outgoing could never be known by everyone.

But even in such a large setting, it’s not about how many people you know or how many who know you, but about whether you yourself are truly known. Is there a group of people who you allow to inspire, love, encourage and challenge you? If your church has 30 or 30,000 members, simply grabbing a croissant together on a Sunday is never going to be quite enough to build that level of relationship we believe Jesus has called us to.

I loved our old Small Group. I wondered what the group here was going to be like, and looking back I completely agree with one of our leaders when he shared:

Different city, same story: I love Small Group.

We started small, but over the last month or we have steadily grown to include some of the most wonderful people. People brought up on the mission field; people with a heart for politics, teaching and media; people from near and far; people from all denominations and experiences of church; people who adore Jesus.

What a humbling experience it is to hear people, who have just met, share the beautiful highs and crushing lows of their stories. The enthusiasm with which they all spoke about the Bible and worship were so inspiring.

Of course there will be times when we face challenges together and have uncomfortable conversations, but we do it all the the aim of pushing each other towards Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.

Find out when and where the Small Group Gatherings are [here].

Out on the Street #1

‘No, thank you.’

Amazing how quickly the offer of free things can be met with refusal; albeit very British refusal.

The clocks changed last weekend, so contrary to the usual caffeine fix, we hit the streets of Manchester with hot chocolate sachets with an accompanying reminder not to get up too early.

We met, prayed, buttoned up and off we went. Five people in a big city.

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It was the weekend of Halloween so the feel of the Arndale area was festive with some very engaging characters to interact with. After splitting into teams, off we went and gave out our wares. We got some smiles, some ‘no, thank yous’ and had a few brief chats.

It was a nice feeling – a good start, I thought. Nothing spectacular happened but that’s okay, right? With empty bags, we turned our heads for home.

That is until one of us asked the rest if we’d be up for inviting people to church.

Hmmm.

I’ve reached a place where I’m perfectly fine to invite people I know to things – church, events etc. But for some reason asking someone on the street who I have no deeper connection with to come and be part of something is hard. And frustratingly I have no logical reason for why it should be so! If they say no, they say no; we pray they come to meet Jesus some other way. I, most likely, will not see them again. If they say yes, wonderful!

Why then is finding those opening words so hard?

After wondering around akwardly for several minutes, one guy did catch my eye. He was probably in his 60s with a fairly severe limp. In that moment, offering to pray for his leg seemed much easier than inviting him to church. After a lovely chat he declined prayer, but did take a flyer about church. So we ended up inviting him anyway. Funny.

On the walk back, I wondered for a long way whether it was the word ‘church’ I was struggling with. I completely love church, but I know how wonderful it truly is. If only the love I associate with that word was everyone’s immediate thought, starting these conversations might be easier. But then, I suppose, there would be very little need for them.

I was afraid my poor articulation of exactly what I was inviting people to would create a barrier. I do, however, feel ready to try again. Luckily there are many in our group to whom these things come much more naturally, but that won’t stop me trying to do it too.

Because, ultimately, the free thing we’re offering goes beyond hot chocolate, a smile or even friendship. It’s the knowledge of how utterly and completely loved we are by the King of Kings. Just like one of the business canvassers told us: ‘That’s much better than what I’m offering.’

Manchester Vineyard: Kids

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8.30am. This is not a time many people in their 20s would choose to see on a chilly Sunday. This particular morning was totally worth it though.

Progress in communications between us and our gracious hosts definitely made the morning run more smoothly. Not a salt shaker or fork to be seen up or downstairs. Having creatively rearranged tables and chairs (mostly to maximise space but also to protect little heads from faux-marble pillars…) we set to work creating the ultimate playroom.

It’s not all that usual to cater for a 7-year age gap in one room, but even as a 20-something there was a ridiculous amount of fun to be had with pop-up tents, giant puzzles and endless toy cars. After the necessity of tea, croissants and prayer, we welcomed in the smaller members of our new church.

Yes there were a few tears. However, they continued only for a minute or so before separation anxiety was forgotten and buried under a mound of building blocks and weird connecting plastic things with some inventive name.

The children played together beautifully. It must just be said that 3-year-olds are the best at duck-duck-goose. Who knew?

Last week was one massive party. Quite rightly so. We are so overjoyed that each and every one of these children is part of our church and of course we should celebrate in style!

This week, though, we began to talk about our favourite topic – Jesus.

Part of the joy of working with little people is appreciating the simple beauty of many of the things Jesus did. Today was all about Jesus healing the lepers.

Naturally, they all accessed the story on different levels. Our resident 9-year-old was able to explain very clearly the signs and symptoms of the disease, whereas the smaller ones looked saddened more by the idea that they wouldn’t be allowed to live with those who love them. Regardless of their level of engagement, 3 of them put their hands up to receive prayer for healing. Within seconds there was not a small hand in the place (except for one cheeky monkey hiding in the popup tent) that wasn’t placed in prayer on the shoulder of one of their little friends. A beautiful moment.

For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.

This time we didn’t see any immediate signs of healing. But we’ll never stop asking. We helped each other to draw around our hands and on them wrote the names of other people we could help. One girl told me of a friend with anxiety-related tummy aches. As we keep modelling prayer and love, maybe this little one will be able to pray for her friend? Maybe invite her to Kids one week? Maybe she’ll meet Jesus too.

The boldness of children is a beautiful thing. Please pray for all of them as they learn more about the God who loves them and calls them, and us, to love others.

Vineyard Kids (currently for children aged 2-10 years) sign in at 10.15am each Sunday at The Rampant Lion Complex. We’d love to see you next week. Fun is guaranteed!

First Sunday Gathering

How many chairs should we put out? A question I’ve asked almost every month for just under 4 years. The answer was usually very simple – look at last year’s numbers and work with that.

But what do you do on your first Sunday? Your very first Sunday.

Aside from the logistical side, of course, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is who are the people on the chairs? Are they new to church? Exploring faith? Old or new friends? Are they hurting? Excited? What is it that led them here?

One thing was for sure – the Lord was in that place.

Many before have described coming to the Vineyard as coming home. For one lady, the relief of finding a church after 15 years of searching brought her, and those welcoming her, close to tears. Some of the team likened the experience to their wedding day – all a bit of a blur. You know you’re thrilled, of course, but the finer details tend to flash by, leaving you rather stunned.

The only thing that stunned me, however, was how natural the whole thing felt. I honestly felt we had been doing this for years – not hours.

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After serving the beautiful croissants and melon provided by our friends in the restaurant, and a brief time of getting acquainted, we begin with worship – as all things should. The sound was simple but beautiful and completely from the heart. After months without the regular privilege of entering the presence of God with so many others, it was a wonderful and replenishing time.

After a short break and a chance to chat, Paul and Steph shared their journey with us – holding nothing back. Crushing pain, incredible joy, struggles, confusion and peace were laid before us in a generous display of openness and integrity. The bar is set and we choose to hold nothing back.

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Throughout the talk, there could be little doubt that the smaller members of the church were having a great time downstairs. The IKEA toy department was empty, the party was in full swing and frequent sounds of pure joy echoed through the floorboards.

We finished with ministry, launching straight into praying for one another. Whether we’d met each other once, twice or five times was irrelevant. Wherever the Spirit works, we want to be a part of it.

Within what seemed like no time at all, the tablecloths were back on, the toys were back in their boxes and, were it not for the strengthening sense of community taking hold of all of us, you might never know we’d been there at all.

Please join us next Sunday. We’d so love to meet you.

Sundays are Coming…

Here we are. It’s September. Sunday services are now a week away.

After 60+ ‘no’s, we finally had our ‘yes.’ Welcomed as ‘people of peace,’ a bar positioned rather like a gateway to the city, opened its doors and welcomed us in.

It’s incredible that less than a year ago some of us had yet to even hear of the journey the Lord would shortly call us on. Now we’re putting our roots down in our very first Sunday venue.

Blessed with such an incredible group of organised, practical people, a rehearsal run was inevitable. We aim for the best. Having spent many years at Trent perfecting the ultimate chair curve, the optimum fill rate and the most perfectly brewed coffee, it would be amiss of us not to aim for the best once more. Not because we have the need to be ‘better,’ but because giving our best away is what we do.

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Simple things done well help not only bring newcomers into a welcoming and confusion-free space, but also releases team to spend as much time as they can connecting and building relationships.

With team members fighting viruses and fatigue, the energy nonetheless was incredible. Faced with two, fully laid restaurant rooms, we spent 3 to 4 hours positioning and re-positioning chairs, putting up speakers, creating safe and exciting kids’ rooms and welcoming hospitality areas. Once we were satisfied the following week would run smoothly, back it all went – chairs, tables, knives, folks and serviettes.

We have the venue. Now it’s time to ‘go out at once into the streets and lanes of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’ (Luke 14:21)

Sundays are coming.

The Early Days: Party Time

As in all things, Jesus’ way of forming relationships is without doubt the best way.

Want to meet people? Go find them. Go to events, spend time on the street, chat to the guy making your coffee. If it’s hot, put the BBQ on. Take cake to your colleagues. Invite people for dinner.

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Give people one of your most precious gifts – your time.

Historically speaking, maybe Jesus’ social calendar didn’t look exactly like that, but it was pretty close.

On Friday 19th August we had a lovely time in our usual Heaton Moor hang out. Possibly due to it being mid-August, it was quieter than previous meetings. However, this made it much easier to spend more time getting to know a few people better, hearing more of their stories and asking them more questions.

But that’s not all. It’s been so inspiring to see social media feeds filled with pictures of how this group of adventurers are blessing people. We haven’t yet launched small groups and haven’t met on a Sunday, but that’s not going to stop us being the hands and feet of Jesus in the meantime.

The Early Days: Loving Families

As a church, we love people – people of all backgrounds, experiences and ages. With the summer holidays well underway, it’s a perfect time to celebrate our children and their families. Here’s a brilliant account of what some of our smaller members and their adults have been up to…

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Our first family gathering took place in August 2016. The weather was absolutely glorious and one of the families of Manchester Vineyard generously opened up their home for the afternoon, to give some of the families connected with the church plant an opportunity to spend some time together.

It was an amazing time for parents to meet parents and kids to meet kids. Our hosts had no shortage of fun activities, from a trampoline to playdough – with, might I add, an impressive collection of playdough moulding contraptions!

As mentioned in previous posts, we’ve already had a couple of evening gatherings, aimed at the adults. At this particular gathering, I got to meet some of those parents properly, spent a bit more time hearing their stories and how they came to connect with Manchester Vineyard… And have a cream tea or two, which is always a winner in my books!

The kids absolutely loved it – some of them met for the first time, but they did a great job of sharing toys and playing together. The Vineyard has always had a desire to seeing Jesus move in the hearts and lives of children. I don’t have any children, but I am passionate about seeing them meeting Jesus. As this church begins to gather momentum and take shape, these children are very much a part of the journey with us. This first family gathering was, for some, where they began to build relationships with the peers and adults who will be encouraging them in their faith over the coming years.

I may have been eating scones, playing on the trampoline and making an assortment of playdough fruits, but from their perspective, they met as a church yesterday – and I got to be part of it!

The Early Days: The Upper Room

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And so we came to our first official Manchester Vineyard gathering on 15th July 2016. Even the location seemed fitting as Paul and Steph had spoken earlier of their fresh excitement when reading the book of Acts.

It was hot, loud (due to passing bus routes and the general buzz of a large group in small space all desperate to build a community and form relationships) but nonetheless wonderfully exciting.

It was here that those we’d met or who had found us through social media, heard Paul and Steph’s story. How they were from elsewhere but had met in Manchester during The Message 2000; how they had powerfully encountered the Holy Spirit; how the very next day, they had met each other; how their sense of calling to church plant had been confirmed though countless words and even a stranger on a plane who had yet to meet Jesus; how the number of words had grown to 70 in one year. There was no getting away from this. God could not speak any clearer.

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By the second meeting, two weeks later, we had already outgrown the venue. Students, teachers, project managers, medics, accountants, those who had known Jesus for years, those yet to meet Him, those struggling to find a church to call home – a whole spectrum of experiences met to hear about the journey and see if this was the place for them.

After sharing their story and outlining what joining this Vineyard church would look like, Paul and Steph summed up their vision:

If we could put our desire for Manchester Vineyard into one sentence, it would be that we want to gather together a group of people who will love Jesus and love Manchester.

We want to focus on prioritising intimate worship with God, being shaped and restored by Him, and sharing the Kingdom message and ministry of Jesus, through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit.

This is all for Him and all about Him and we just long to participate with Him as He builds this new church.

We worshipped in the intimate way the Vineyard had become characterised for back in the earliest days, asked the Lord to speak, prayed for each other and resumed getting to know as many people as possible.

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As we cleared away, I don’t think any of us doubted we’d made the right choice. There had been tears, battles (some ongoing) to find jobs, unnecessary complications finding homes – but God was there. We were expectant to see a powerful move of Him, even in those early days.


Wherever You call me, I’ll go
My trust is in You

The Commissioning

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One of the precious things about the group of people in this picture is that we all came together from completely different places: Reading, Cambridge, Suffolk, Northampton, Leeds… For a number of us, however, our paths met at Trent Vineyard, Nottingham.

There we all fell in love, be it for the first or hundredth time, with Jesus.

On the 26th June 2016, many of our number stood alongside Paul and Steph to be prayed out by the church family which had come to mean so much to us. You can watch the commissioning in full [here]. Some had already moved, packing up homes and lives and heading North. Some still remained in Nottingham, taking a little longer to finish well due to work commitments or marriage celebrations. However long this leg of the journey, all those standing here had one thing in common: God had called them to love Manchester.

Being part of the Vineyard means being open to the possibility that God may one day call you to another place. It means, as Wimber says, accepting that we are loose change in God’s pocket, ready to be spent as He pleases.

There is, of course, no guarantee this will ever happen, nor that if it does it will be a comfortable experience. The pain of moving away from loved ones, homes, careers, stability, should not be understated. For those of us for whom the very idea of change causes our heart to cry out in protest, this was not the choice we would naturally make for ourselves.

But our life is not our own.

And so, with no expectations for ourselves, but every expectation of seeing Jesus move, change lives and transform a city, we packed up our lives and followed His call to love Manchester.


In light of all You’ve done for me
I lay my life down at Your feet
King Jesus You’re worth it all

The Early Days: Team Gatherings

26 adults and 3 children (soon to be 4!)

By all accounts, a very large planting team. With families joining us from further afield than Nottingham, meeting all together was not always possible. However, during the early months of 2016, we had three incredibly valuable opportunities for most of us to come together.

~ Nottingham ~

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In April 2016, an emerging group of people huddled in a room at Trent Vineyard. There we took all we could carry from the wisdom and encouragement of John Wright. We then worshipped and prayed for the journey ahead. Knowing the road had already been travelled in a way by great men and women of God was a huge comfort to us all. However, as John and Debby had not long been made National Directors, to receive their blessing to be creative and try new routes and paths brought a great sense of freedom and excitement.

John shared a paper on Church Planting he’d written as they started out in 1996 – Ten Things by John Wright – which provided clear, honest, practical advice which reassuringly summed up our existing expectations. We left that place with a strengthened resolve to serve God with all we had, love and support our leaders, Paul and Steph, and generally get stuck into the fray.

Many times colleagues asked me before I left: ‘What exactly are you going to do in this church?’ The answer: ‘I have no idea’ may well have puzzled them, but it was incredibly liberating for me. We went with no expectations, only to be His hands and His feet.

~ Manchester ~

Our final meeting as a group, before we officially became Manchester Vineyard, took the form of a BBQ in the home of a couple on the team. We ate, worshipped and listened to Paul and Steph paint the vision for the next stage. The excitement and anticipation in the room was almost tangible and poured out through our worship and prayer. We couldn’t wait to see who God would bring to join our number, confident that 29 would not stay 29 for long!

~ Hull ~

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In early June we were invited by Hull Vineyard to join them on a Sunday morning. We were welcomed with open arms, tea and cake. Paul and Steph were invited to share the journey so far and then the whole group were prayed for by the Hull Vineyard family.

After a tour of their new building (accompanied by many: ‘oooh I like that!’ comments), we were fed delicious home cooked food until we couldn’t move and were given time and space to ask questions of the pastors, once again reassured in the knowledge that we are not alone on this journey. Moved with gratitude for their amazing hospitality, we prayed for them and headed home, wherever ‘home’ currently was for each of us.


Open up the gate make way before the King of Kings
The God who comes to save is here to set the captives free
For who can stop the Lord Almighty?