Lessons from a dry stone wall

In Him [and in fellowship with one another] you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. Ephesians 2 v 22 

Brick walls are made using identical shaped blocks glued together with mortar, but dry-stone walls are just a stack of stones- stones of different sizes and shapes, laid together, one on top of another. The stones are placed slowly and carefully, tightly packed together, locked under their own weight, by the skilled and experienced eye of an expert builder. There are no gaps between the stones so that the stones in each layer look like interconnected jigsaw pieces. Dry-stone walls really have two walls or sides, built very close together and ‘in-filled’ with smaller stones. As the twin outer sides are built, they form an ‘A’ shape, with the wall at the base being a little wider than the wall at the top for stability. Each layer of wall has large stones (tie-stones or through stones) at key places, holding the two sides together, with the essential smaller stones packed in between them. 

As I have thought about these beautiful walls, perhaps there are lessons about ‘being church’ that we can learn from them and their construction. 

Specialist builders use the stones that they have or that can be found in the fields nearby. It would be lovely to have perfectly formed and shaped stones, but very unlikely that such perfectly flat, squared off stones would be available and just where they need them. So, the builders must use what they have-stones with bulges and bumps, and a vast array of odd shapes too.

The wall is only held together by the sheer weight of stone, and so it is the skill of the builder that is crucial when he selects and fits the stones together. Each stone is used to its maximum benefit by a master builder. 

Many different stones are needed- face stones for the front, filling stones, through stones (for strength), cover stones, capping stones (the protective stones at the top) and so on. Every kind, shape and size of stone is essential and needed.  

The large, flatter ‘through’ stones are essential for the wall’s strength and must be placed at regular intervals to hold the sides of the wall together. Without these stones the wall would bow and might collapse.  

As a guiding principle each stone rests on two others and each stone has to support the stones on top of it. 

The brilliance of the dry stone-wall is that it can flex and move- it is flexible! As the ground settles or moves a well-built dry stone-wall will simply move with the ground. So, good construction is vital. 

The dry stone-wall is fundamentally held up by friction and gravity. The friction between the stones keeps them from sliding apart and the sheer weight of the stones means that it will stand firm.  

The good builder steps back at regular intervals to look at his work. Is the wall pleasing to the eye, is it standing true and is it following his marked-out guidelines? 

He’s (God) using us all—irrespective of how we got here—in what he is building. He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now he’s using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day—a holy temple built by God, all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home. Ephesians 2 v 22 The Message 

So, you are no longer outsiders or aliens, but fellow-citizens with every other Christian—you belong now to the household of God. Firmly beneath you in the foundation, God’s messengers and prophets, the actual foundation-stone being Jesus Christ himself. In him each separate piece of building, properly fitting into its neighbour, grows together into a temple consecrated to God. You are all part of this building in which God himself lives by his spirit. Ephesians 2 v 22 JBP 

And now you have become living building-stones for God’s use in building his house. What’s more, you are his holy priests; so, come to him—you who are acceptable to him because of Jesus Christ—and offer to God those things that please him. 1 Peter 2 v 5 Living Bible 

Welcome to the living Stone, the source of life. The workmen took one look and threw it out; God set it in the place of honour. Present yourselves as building stones for the construction of a sanctuary vibrant with life, in which you’ll serve as holy priests offering Christ-approved lives up to God. 1 Peter 2 v 5 The Message


Father God you are the master builder and you have set Jesus, your Son as the chief cornerstone. 

You are building your church with living stones, people of different identities, cultures, backgrounds, shapes, and sizes. We are imperfect and sometimes rub against each other, but all are needed. I am needed. 

You have placed us here in our church carefully and deliberately. This is the place where you want us to be. May we support each other as we stand in this place of your choice. All are needed. I am needed. 

We are imperfect, with rough edges, but we are yours. 

I may be concealed in the centre, I may attract attention on the outer edges, I may be a significant ‘tie stone’ or a cap stone but I am needed.  

When storms come and rock and shake your church, may we flex and bend and stand secure. You have built well. 

Build us Lord. Amen

Jane Coates

Pastoral care

As we begin this new year and consider MBC’s values and vision going forward, the Leadership Team and The Pastoral Care Team have been considering the next steps in the pastoral needs of the fellowship and how to meet those needs. The current Pastoral Care Team, established three years ago after some initial training with the Association of Christian Counsellors, have worked faithfully over this time and have established a committed and consistent base from which to build into the future. We are now looking to expand the Pastoral Care Team and to invite those people within the fellowship who may consider themselves to have gifts within this area, to speak with members of the Leadership Team, Jane Coates Pastoral Care Lead, Shelley Dring Children and Families Lead, so that we can meet as a new team for initial support, encouragement, and guidance. There are new people joining our fellowship and new requests and referrals for support coming to the Team and yet we currently have a limited capacity for connection, support, prayer support and involvement. 

There are a wide range of talents and gifts that the Team are looking for. You will certainly not be asked to commit to home visiting folk if this is not within your ability or expertise, but as a growing church we now need people who will pray with others on a Sunday morning, who can pray with people over the phone or the Confidential WhatsApp Prayer Link, who might phone someone during the week as a catch up, who may give help filling in complicated forms with someone, or who can meet up during the week and have a coffee. We need people who are ‘welcomers’, people who will spot that new person or couple and make that first important introduction, engage with them warmly from the very beginning and secure their contact details. Pastoral Care is certainly not counselling and many of us are ‘doing’ pastoral care every time we chat with someone at a home group, speak on a Sunday, give gifts, practical help, and encouragement, and offer lifts in the car. Frequently there is the simple need to be a ‘befriender.’ In many small ways we are demonstrating care, a practical concern, and the love of Jesus. Any involvement as a Pastoral Care Team member or volunteer can be on a short term or a longer-term basis and is entirely dependent on your time and availability. You will never be pressured into doing more than you are able or willing to do. 

We would love you to consider this aspect of service within MBC and explore any aspects of this role for yourself. We will be holding a Pastoral Care Meeting in February and we would love to invite you and include you in such a gathering together and so please do speak with us, contact us and express an interest in becoming involved. We  would love to have you join this essential ministry with us. We are also hoping to have some initial ‘uncover your skills’ sessions led by one of our members which will be a great start to a new venture. 

Jane Coates Pastoral Care Lead

An update on how our new vision agenda is coming along

This Sunday it will be two weeks since we officially launched New Year – New Vision, and we are pleased to report that in that time we have had face to face conversations with numerous people alongside texts and emails from others.

Most notably from all these contacts is a strong feeling that this really is the time to listen to what God might be saying, to be bold and to embrace something new.

So, if you haven’t yet sent us your suggestions or thoughts and you wish to do so please speak to any of us or address your comments to leadership.team@moortownbaptistchurch.onmicrosoft.com

We will be drawing all these together ahead of our Service on Sunday February 6th, and it’s at that Service that we will be suggesting a number of ways in which we can move forward.

Fresh Streams – Back to the Future 2 – Standing at the crossroads

To sum up the Fresh Steams conference in just a few words is almost impossible. In fact to be honest how in such testing times the organisers managed to stage such an event is little short of a miracle. 

That’s because between 2pm on Monday and 1pm on Wednesday, either in a conference hall or online they managed to engage with literally hundreds of delegates through seven main sessions of worship, prayer and teaching alongside producing sixteen online seminars.

Above you can see some pictures taken from the final session of the conference, a two hour session which included some really powerful one minute testimonies and an inspiring talk by Mark Elder Minister of Tarporley Chapel. Mark focussed on the demands and the pressures of leadership and how when you are running round like a headless chicken trying to do all those jobs nobody else wants God is always there for you.

From Roy Searle’s opening seminar on Monday lunchtime right the way through until the same time on Wednesday one message kept repeating itself. And that was that we are living in times of great change, times when although what we used to do is still relevant the way we (the church) do it is maybe not compatible with 2022. 

Shelley managed to travel to the Hayes Centre in Derbyshire on the Tuesday, and we have invited her to tell us just a little bit about what she experienced… 

“Fresh Streams conference took the theme of ‘Back to the Future part 2’ and followed on from last years online conference, much of which you can still watch on the Fresh Streams website. This year it was good to connect with others online and in person and to hear stories of the last 18 months from churches around the country.

We shared about God’s faithfulness but also prayed for our churches and their leaders and sought to find God’s perspective through hearing His word, creative worship, seminars and conversation.

There was also space just to be, and a sense among many leaders that life had been so busy in responding and trying to fix things in a rapidly changing environment that the ‘doing for God’ had overtaken the ‘being with God’.

As Roy Searle said at the start of the conference, ‘there is meaning in the waiting’. Despite the personal and corporate challenges people had faced over the last year (many talked about losing loved ones and diminishing numbers of volunteers) there was also a sense that God was doing a new thing amongst His people and there were stories of people coming to faith through encounters with God, a greater awareness of God speaking through prophecy and the real blessings of intentional relationships.”

MBC support for Overseas Mission in 2021 and Onwards

BMS World Mission

2021 was a difficult year for MBC. However, despite the divisions leading to people leaving the church and the Covid pandemic meaning we were “Online only” for half the year, interest in and support for BMS World Mission has been more than maintained. It was significant that the first Sunday face to face service after lockdown was conducted by our Mission Partners John and Sue Wilson from Paris.Here are the financial figures for the Calendar Year 2021:

                        Church tithed giving                    £5,720

                        Monthly giving                            £1,565

                        Birthday Scheme (annual gifts)   £1,326

                        One – off Donations

                                    General                            £4,345

                                    I will Stand appeal           £4,900

                                    Uganda Children appeal  £1,416

This makes a total of £19,272 which is £4,500 more than any other year!

The monthly giving came from just 10 people of whom 1 has died and 2 have since left.

The Birthday Scheme came from 24 people of whom 3 have died and 5 since left.

The donations include some very large gifts from just 4 people.

To all who contributed to any of the above a VERY BIG THANK YOU.

It has been impossible to track all gifts as some have been sent directly to BMS rather than through the church and there are an unknown number of regular supporters of the 24:7 scheme who give in this way. We thank God for you all.

In addition, thank you to all who support our Mission Workers through Prayers – using Engage magazine and the Prayer Guide.

We have received regular news and prayer requests from our Mission Partners John and Sue Wilson in Paris and Mark and Andrea Hotchkin Drs in Bardai Chad. Their letters are posted via this Newsletter on the MBC website and are available by email. You can receive Engage, prayer letters or give financial support through monthly STO or the Birthday Scheme by contacting our BMS Rep Roger Robson on roger.robson1@ntlworld.com or 07929100598.

Thank you.

Other ways to support the work of the Gospel overseas by our church are

Support for Christopher and Bela Singh

Chris and Bela work for Radio Worldwide /WEC. Instead of travelling overseas in 2021 Chris has been conducting courses using online media. Chris’s daily “Fresh” thoughts reach a wide audience with much positive feedback. The Singhs rely on the financial support of this church and individuals giving regular support. Their arrangements through WEC have changed recently so they need to increase this support. Please consider prayerfully whether you can help and speak to them in church or contact them on Chris 07751413276 or chrisrww@gmail.com and Bela 07969471073.

Support for MAF

Anyone with experience of Mission in more remote parts of the world in Africa, Asia and Latin America know of the vital role of Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF). They provide air transport for goods and people to areas otherwise difficult to access.

If you are interested in learning more of MAF and supporting them, please contact David Casson on 07747440113 or on thecassonfamily@ntlworld.com

We are part of a Worldwide Church. Please consider how you can share in these ministries in 2022.

In her blog Jane Coates returns to the Beatitudes

Blessed are the persecuted 10 The Beatitudes Matthew ch5 

“How enriched you are when persecuted for doing what is right!  For then you experience the realm of heaven’s kingdom. How blessed you are when people insult and persecute you and speak all kinds of cruel lies about you because of your love for me. So, leap for joy—since your heavenly reward is great. For you are being rejected the same way the prophets were before you.” Matthew 5 v 10-12 

During Covid lockdown periods last year we were not able to meet in our church building for a time, but for many Christians in the countries on the Open Doors World Watch List Top 50 countries where there is persecution, meeting in a designated church building is simply not an option. In many countries, to be a Christian is dangerous. Many Christians do not have the luxury of a building, as they meet covertly, in small groups, and often in the open at secret locations. In some countries, where there is persecution, increased surveillance measures are taken both inside and outside of their meeting places, or their buildings and churches have been closed or demolished by the authorities. Those becoming Christians, may be accused of bringing shame on their family, their community, their culture, and their heritage, and this may lead to the loss of entitlement to education, to employment, essential identity documents, a home and even to imprisonment and loss of life. Isolation is a common problem for many persecuted Christians and yet Jesus says that these people are blessed, that they are enriched, and that they should leap for joy that they have the privilege of suffering in this way. This is a very hard call! 

This week a Chinese bookshop owner will be jailed for seven years for selling Christian books – mainly Bibles.  Chen Yu, the owner of Wheat Bookstore was sentenced in Linhai City Court, in the Zhejiang province of eastern China. He had sold more than 20,000 books to 10,000 customers before being charged with “illegal business operation”. In China, it’s currently an offence to carry out religious activity without the express permission of authorities. Alongside his prison sentence, Chen Yu is being made to pay 200,000 yuan – approximately £23,000. The books sold by Chen Yu include those written by Pastor Wang Yi, who has been accused of “inciting subversion or state power”. The Pastor was jailed for 9 years in 2019.Premier Christian News 

Jesus acknowledges that by following Him and His way this will bring us into conflict with a culture and society that does not recognize His values. This testing of our faith, the lessons and the rewards that persecution, conflict and challenge bring are for now, in the present, but also for the person with his eyes on the future, the heaven that is to come. 

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose” Jim Elliot A Christian Missionary who with 4 others, were killed in Ecuador in 1956.  

PRAY We pray for those who are persecuted for their trust in you. Give them your peace, your strength, reassurance, joy and hope. We pray for your church in China, India, Iran, North Korea, Nigeria, Israel and the countries known to Open Doors. Thank you, Lord, that your church is not a building but the men and women who love and seek to serve and follow you. But we thank you for our building and we pray for fresh vision and opportunity to use it for your kingdom. 

SEEK FIRST. The Cornerstone. New Year – New Vision. Starting on Jan 16th here’s our programme for the next four weeks

Last Sunday we launched our New Year – New Vision programme. Between now and February 6th we are asking you to talk, think, dream and pray about the direction of travel you feel God is wanting for MBC. Then, together by drawing your suggestions in it will be time to begin to shape a new future. 

In the meantime, here are the texts that Shelley and your Leadership Team have chosen to base the series on:

16th January – Seek first: The cornerstone.  Isaiah 28: 16-18     

23rd January – Seek first: Firm Foundations.  Matthew 7: 24-29 

30th January – Seek first: Warrior builders. Nehemiah 4

6Th February – Seek first: Living stones.  1 Peter 2:1-7


New Year – New Vision

With Christmas behind us, this coming Sunday we as a church will be moving on to a new theme. However, in addition to exploring new, exciting and challenging elements of the Kingdom we will at the same time be inviting you to help us by spending time thinking about, developing and implementing some if not all of the yet unknown elements of something we need you all to play a part in. 

If you were at our last Church Meeting you may recall that right at the bottom of the agenda was an item titled New Year – New Vision. Unfortunately, this item never got an airing as by the time we reached it the clock was past 10pm and it was decided that such a late hour was no time to launch such an important discussion.

So, two weeks into 2022 we are picking it up again and returning to New Year – New Vision which means that over the next month or so we are inviting you to think, to talk – either one to one, at Beacon, Craft Group, prayer or Housegroups, to dream but most importantly to pray so that during February we can all come together, and you can tell us, your leadership team what kind of church you feel God wants MBC to be.

The options and the opportunities are limitless. I could list some of them here, but I won’t because that would only set your minds wandering down some quite specific and dare I say some quite familiar pathways; and that’s the last thing we want. No, this challenge is far wider than that. It’s a challenge that invites each and every one of us to step out of our comfort zone and to take risks. It’s a challenge that instead of seeing us hankering for what has gone, sees us fixing our sights on a down to earth and relevant gospel that having sought God’s guidance we as a church have rooted in grace and truth.   

Not that long ago I was chatting with someone who was saying that despite all the disruptions of the last couple of years Moortown Baptist Church is actually in the perfect place to start afresh. “Just look at it this way” they said, “we own a big building with lots of rooms, and we are situated in one of or close by to some of the most populated parts of Leeds. Yes, admittedly we do have a reduced congregation but already that’s growing with both folk returning and people joining us from other churches. Financially, giving is holding firm. Week by week different people are stepping forward and offering to read, to pray, to run and to stream our audio/visual output, to talk about Jesus to our children and our youth and even to preach.”

In effect what I was hearing was that at its core what Moortown Baptist Church already has, but perhaps isn’t fully aware of is precisely what someone looking to plant a new, outward facing fellowship here in north Leeds would give their right hand for.

Okay in terms of formal leadership (i.e. paying a recognised BU accredited minister) MBC misses the mark but does that really matter when for much of the last eighteen months, and during an incredibly complicated period of face to face or online instability it’s been our part-time Children and Families Lead that has been de facto Minister.

We as a leadership team fully appreciate that not everyone will be ready to share our enthusiasm for throwing this challenge out there. However, if as we are hearing a majority of you do feel we now need to move on surely through coming together in conversation and in prayer this is as good a time as any to do so.

I’ll explain a bit more on Sunday.

John Sherbourne

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