Tag Archives: small group resources

Redemption Songs — Reviewed in Touchstone April 2017

Review

Redemption Songs: Prayers for People Like Us
by Mark Laurent

Reviewed by John Thornley in Touchstone April 2017

 “This book contains 71 prayers as poems by Auckland-based singer/songwriter Mark Laurent.

Mark is a Christian musician, poet, writer and communicator, and over more than 30 years, he has recorded many albums and published three poetry books and a children’s storybook. With his wife, Brenda Liddiard, he has done many tours of house- and church-based music concerts, in New Zealand and overseas.

Mark and Brenda live in a high-rise apartment in central Auckland, close enough for Mark to do busking on Queen Street. As he writes: “It’s good to keep in touch with life where it happens – with people where they are.”

This collection contains seventy-one poems inspired by the Hebrew Psalms, which provide ‘good jump-off points’ for the poems that express Mark’s ‘love, hopes and fears to God’.

As the poet writes in his introduction, “The songs are numbered instead of having titles, in the hope that this leaves a degree of open-endedness, so that God can say to you what you need to hear. Dip into them at random. May there be a few holy surprises here for you.”

The language is everyday and unpolished, with imagery drawn from the poet’s life experiences:

God holds us, just as I hold this stone
sees our hardness and our beauty
feels our weight and rough edges
knows our history and potential
we’re all miracles, waiting to happen
we should feel loved.

There is a strong confessional and salvation note in the poems, reflecting similar emphases found in the Psalms and the parables of Jesus:

I’m like a child coming home from school
tasting my mum’s home made baking
life seems a bit like Heaven –
now and then.

As reflecting the lows and highs on life’s journey, the feelings embrace both anger and frustration, compassion and hope:

When I look around me
it’s dog eat dog out there
and if you’re vulnerable or broken
they stare like you’re some kind of freak.
There will never be too many God songs
let’s keep on singing about the good stuff
get out the guitar – warm up your voices
it’s time to compose another one
the best and loudest anthem yet!

There are prayers for the individual and prayers for community, and we need both. Redemption Songs complements well Mark Gibson’s The In-Between Land: Psalms Poems and Haiku (2015). While Gibson’s prayers/reflections find a place for collective worship in civic and church venues, Laurent’s poems offer resources for those working in pastoral and counselling roles with individuals and small groups in such places as hospitals and rest homes, prisons and shelter homes. They are also good for personal devotions.

These two collections of poetry are published by Philip Garside Publishing, which is to be commended for making it possible for Christian poets in Aotearoa to be widely read.

Those wanting more information, including how to arrange a local concert from Mark and Brenda, can email him at mark@marklaurent.co.nz

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Click here to order Print or here for eBooks

 

Free Study Guide to Green, Ho! & Greens and Greys

A Free Study Guide by Rosalie Sugrue is now available for her books Green, Ho! & Greens and Greys.

The 9 page PDF guide is titled: A Novel approach to Bible Study: Personal Issues for Christians for Lent/Easter or whatever the Season.

Each of the 6 sessions looks at an important concept:
1. Values learnt in childhood
2. Faith in Youth
3. Sexual orientation
4. Suicide
5. Situation ethics and social justice
6. Mature faith

You will explore each issue by asking:
• Why did Molly do what she did?
• What would I have done in that situation?

Click this link to: Download your free PDF Study Guide

 

Free Study Guide to The John Wesley Code

Click here for a free PDF download of a 12 Session Study Guide to The John Wesley Code.

Introduction

In The John Wesley Code, James Stuart argues that John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, can help Methodists find a new vision for today if they are prepared to listen and learn from him. He paints a challenging portrait of Wesley, profoundly transformed and driven by the love of God, who chose to stand alongside the poor and dislocated people of his day and offer a message of healing, hope and personal transformation.
Because Wesley was so in touch with the presence of God’s grace and love in his life, he can offer us fresh, new ways for ministry in a post-modern society. This Leader’s Guide helps readers of The John Wesley Code to learn not only about Wesley but to also imagine new ways of being church today. Participants in study groups will have the opportunity to explore first Wesley’s practice of ministry, second his theology of ministry and third consider the kind of people Methodists and others can become because of the love of God at work in their lives. There will be opportunities through the study group for members to share with one another their emerging new visions for the church and to develop deeper relationships with one another that will last far beyond their time together. That is why it is recommended that the final gathering include a shared meal and act of re-dedication to Christian ministry and service.

Starting a Study Group

Format

This study guide is designed for six or twelve weeks of study and exploration using the book The John Wesley Code. The guide recommends twelve weeks to cover the material, however, the guide can be adapted to the needs and time constraints of the group. It is recommended that the first eleven sessions last about one and a half hours. The guide can also be used as a foundation for a weekend retreat alternating the sessions with recreation, rest, other activities and concluding with a meal of celebration.

Helps for Leaders

  1. Be clear in announcing the time and place of the meetings. Try to meet in a pleasant, comfortable room where chairs can be set in a circle.
  2. Invite the group to choose their leadership style. One person directing the discussion through the twelve weeks, or two persons working together, or each member taking a session in turn.
  3. Each session contains several kinds of questions. Some focus on the contents of the book. Do not neglect these for it is important for group members to have some understanding of Wesley’s world. The second set of questions deal with the meaning and implications of Wesley’s ministry. And finally there are some questions which invite participants to share their own ideas and feelings.
  4. There are no right and wrong answers so participants should feel free to share their ideas without fear of being criticised. Most important is to encourage the expression and exchange of ideas and insights gained from the book.
  5. It is not imperative that the group address all the questions for each session. Try to focus on those which seem most important to the group.
  6. Encourage everyone to participate in the conversation and try to avoid having one or two people monopolise the discussion.
  7. The leader of the group for the session should keep the discussion focused on the questions for the session and if the group goes off on a tangent, gently move the discussion back to the question or move on to the next question.
  8. Each member of the group should take responsibility for what he/she says and encourage openness and trust by being willing to share. All contributions from group members should be treated with respect and seriousness.

Materials Needed

  1. The John Wesley Code: Finding a Faith that Matters, James Stuart 2008, Philip Garside Publishing Ltd.
    Every member of the group should have their own copy.Print and eBook (Kindle & ePub) copies can be ordered from:
    • Philip Garside Publishing Ltd: www.pgpl.co.nz and
    • Epworth Books Ltd: sales@epworthbooks.org.nz    www.epworthbooks.org.nz
    • Kindle eBooks can also be ordered from www.amazon.com

    Note that this Study Guide is also included as an appendix at the end of the eBook editions.

  2. Notebook, pen or pencil or other writing paper. Group members might find it helpful to keep a record of the ideas and insights they gain during the 11 (or 12) sessions. These could be shared later with the congregation.
  3. A light supper of coffee, tea and biscuits may be shared either during or after the session.
  4. A copy of the Study Guide notes for each session.

Ten Plays gets great review in Touchstone Nov. 2014

Review by John Meredith in Touchstone – November 2014

“The pattern of Sunday worship is generally fairly predictable, but congregations appreciate something different at family services and especially at Advent and Christmas.

This is scarcely surprising, since the birth of Jesus and the events leading to it shattered the expectations even of those who had long been watching and waiting for the appearance of the Messiah. We have become accustomed to nativity plays featuring grumpy innkeepers and shepherd boys on hillsides, but these 10 plays take us to quite a different realm.

After making suggestions about an Advent wreath and candles, Rosalie offers five meditations that may be used during the four Sundays in Advent, two meditations being read on one of these Sundays. The meditations titled ‘Christmas women’, are the voices of Elizabeth (Mary’s cousin), Anne (Mary’s mother), a woman traveller (one of many women on her way to Bethlehem for the census), the inn-keeper’s wife, and Anna (the prophetess).

These meditations are complemented with an Advent prayer for two voices. There are no bland words here, for the challenge is to think about what the coming of Jesus means for us in our world and what we need to do about it.

These Advent meditations are followed by a play titled ‘No Room,’ designed to promote the work of Christian World Service at a time when the annual CWS Christmas Appeal will be presented to many congregations. The play features two modern day families who learn that making room for Jesus includes making room for asylum seekers and that giving to CWS can help make lives better for people living in dreadful conditions.

There is also a play using 13 characters from the Christmas story with an activity of creating stick-puppets.

For Easter, the other major festival of the Christian Year, there is a play reading based on five women named in the Easter story.

Those looking for something different for Bible Sunday, Waitangi Day, Anzac Day or Wesley Day will also find it here.

One of the appealing features of this collection is the prominence of women throughout. The drama ‘Mahlah and Sisters’ draws attention to five little-known young women in the biblical narrative. Their stand for justice translates effectively to women’s rights and equal opportunities in today’s society.

In another play, voices of women from biblical times and early New Zealand history who used their initiative to build peace and harmony are heard in monologue.

As is stated on the cover, these are short easy dramas. Few props, staging or costumes are required.

Most of the plays work best with a combination of adults and children and lend themselves to reading without the need to learn scripts. All are readily adaptable for different physical settings and availability of characters.

They are highly commended as a resource for any church or group seeking imaginative ways of presenting gospel ideas and aspects of faith in action. Ten Plays is also available as an ebook.”


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