Saturday, July 14, 2007

New kids on the block

At the City Centre Churches Together, last week, somebody handed my a promotional newspaper being handed out by a new missionary church group in the Tredegarville area. It's the same kind of colourful tabloid as the diocesan newspaper 'Croeso' It's called 'City News', and its news is vividly presented like the 'Daily Star' or the 'Metro'. The content is mostly testimonies by people whose lives have been transformed by their encounter with UKCG - the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God. The paper lists their presence in sixteen church locations around Britain, and they have activities in another fourteen places. Their website is impressive and professional in appearance (which makes me think about the shortcomings of our parish website), and the surprise is that they occupy the former Tredegarville Unitarian Church building, which has been empty and up for sale for two years, or available to rent for £3,500 a month. So who are they? I wrote to the Bishop to ask if he'd heard of them in the context of the World Council of Churches (of which he is an executive member), but he hadn't. After a little time scouring their website, I came up with the following story of their origin.

"The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (UCKG) HelpCentre was formed in 1977, in Brazil. Pastor Edir Macedo started by holding services under a small park shelter in Rio de Janeiro. His passion was to reach out to needy, less privileged people who were often excluded by established religions. As Pastor Macedo's services grew in popularity, he used cinemas and local halls to accommodate growing congregations, attracting people from the streets to the expanding movement. Today, the church is established in over 90 countries and has a membership of around 10 million.
Our motto is ‘Helping people to make a new beginning’. We are therefore committed to guiding you to discover your potential, to live a full and happy life, and to connect to God directly."

Their website makes it clear this is a Pentecostal church and it offers a ambitious seven day a week programme of activities for people in need of all kinds - financial, health, personal growth, family and marriage, spiritual cleansing, learning how to be prosperous. Prayer and practical help go hand in hand. Their publications exude self-confidence, as much as confidence in God. One CCCT member paid a friendly visit to their church to find out more, and his curiosity was met with courtesy and caution, so he didn't find out anything to add to what was in the newspaper. I guess they want to stay totally focussed on their mission, rather than get diverted into positioning themselves among the existing churches. When they are satisfied with their success, then it'll be time to relax a little and get better known.

It's time I paid them a visit, as they are based in the parish (just). I've already exchanged cordial emails with their press officer. I spotted an editorial error on the 'religious' news page of their website and dropped a line both to inform them that it misrepresented the story, taken from a BBC news web-page, and to welcome them to city centre mission. I'll be fascinated to discover what impact they are able to have (based on their state ambitions) on the problems of the drug addicted and homeless handful of souls that are both a reproach and a challenge to both city centre churches and social services.

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