Welcome to Easter Lunch Club

With a team of four working away in the MBC kitchen and the same number front of house doing the same this is how Lunch Club marked the start of Easter. 

A hearty (but healthy) lunch followed an introduction and welcome from Rachel, a talk from Shelley and then a good half hour making Easter crafts. 

Amid laughter and smiles crafting hand made stained glass windows, Easter cards and carefully cut out crosses added a real feeling of togetherness to the event – ironically held just 24 hours before the new team behind MBC’s Stepping Stones meet again to dot more i’s and cross more t’s ahead of relaunching the church’s mums and tots ministry.

The importance of these chalk and cheese projects sitting as they do alongside our regular Sunday services, Beacon, craft group, housegroups, bible study, an up to the minute website etc. etc. cannot be over-stated for each, in its own special way is doing two things; 1. building the kingdom of God and 2, putting MBC, a local church firmly where it belongs and that’s at the heart of our community.      


Florin Fodor at Manastur church in Cluj tells us how they are supporting Ukrainian refugees

As we have watched hundreds of thousands Ukrainians entering Romania, we have asked GOD what we can do to help and love the refugees. In response to His guidance, many of you prayed and provided funds to support our mission among them. We thank you so much!!!
In attachment you can read an update on our activities.
Please continue to pray for:
– peace in the region
– many of the Ukrainians who are now in Romania to hear the Gospel message
– human resources (interpreters into Ukrainian/Russian, counselors, teachers for Ukrainian children)
– material needs to be fulfilled
– planting an Ukrainian church in Cluj (on a mid-term)
Thank you for partnering with us through prayer, finances and encouragement. We are thanking God for all that you do for Him, out of your care for the Ukrainians who are suffering at this time.
With gratitude, Florin and Dana Fodor

MBC’s support for Ukraine – please sign up now

Despite it being everyone’s wish to throw open their homes to Ukrainian refugees we realise that for many of us this just isn’t possible.

However, for those that have decided they can – and most if not all of the refugees who arrive in Leeds will have come to us via our church links in Romania will also need support. 

Schooling, finding nurseries, learning a strange language, registering for healthcare, arranging benefits etc. etc are just some of the practical difficulties these people will face, and from what we see and hear the majority of this will need to be done by either the churches these people are being linked with or by the people they are staying with. 

At this moment in time our priority is setting up a support network to support the supporters. In other words to appoint someone to coordinate our effort; to arrange lifts, to arrange a rota of people who can cook and bake, to visit, in fact to do all the things you would normally do but more so. 

The one thing we mustn’t forget, though, is that the vast majority of these women and children will not only be miles and miles from home and from those they love; they will be scared of shadows. 

Taking in refugees is a massive and potentially long term commitment but so too is supporting those at MBC that support them.

If you feel able to help (in any way possible) please speak with Shelley or with any member of the Leadership Team just as soon as you possibly can, that way through our links with churches in Romania and via an organisation named the Sanctuary Foundation MBC will be able to do its bit.  


All change! clocks forward 1 hour this weekend

When I was a child the only way I could ever work out what you did and when you did it was by remembering this simple verse: Spring forward – fall back, and I have to admit that today at the age of 73 I still rely on it. 

So this weekend – at 2am on Sunday 27th of March to be precise – we all need to alter our watches and clocks and bring them forward by one hour. 

Don’t say we didn’t warn you. 

Sunday 27th March – Mothering Sunday. 11am here in church and on YouTube

Sunday 27th March                     Jesus knew who He was  

Who do you say Jesus is? How important is it to know who we are? (Mark 8:27-30)  

It’s Mothering Sunday so there will be opportunity to remember all those who have been a mum or who have been special to us.

11am here in church and on the MBC YouTube channel.  

Lessons from hands, cups, jugs, basins and pans – by Jane Coates 

The Pharisees, along with some religion scholars who had come from Jerusalem, gathered around him. They noticed that some of his disciples weren’t being careful with ritual washings before meals. The Pharisees—Jews in general, in fact—would never eat a meal without going through the motions of a ritual handwashing, with an especially vigorous scrubbing if they had just come from the market (to say nothing of the scourings they’d give jugs and pots and pans).  Jesus answered, “Isaiah was right about frauds like you, hit the bull’s-eye in fact: 

These people make a big show of saying the right thing, but their heart isn’t in it. They act like they are worshiping me, but they don’t mean it. They just use me as a cover for teaching whatever suits their fancy, Ditching God’s command and taking up the latest fads.” Mark 7 The Message 

Jesus had just come from the marketplace where He had healed many, when He was met by an official delegation from Jerusalem, some ninety miles away, people who were there to judge His credentials and His possible threat to the status quo. The Pharisees and officials had instantly noticed that the disciples did not follow the required traditions before preparing to eat. These oral traditions were complex, requiring more than simple hand washing for purposes of cleaning the hands, but elaborate ceremonies and rigid rituals, requiring special prayers during the hand washing process, with a final rinsing of the hands and elbows using water that had been preserved in a stone basin for this sole use. There were complex rules for the preparation of the utensils also. Jesus correctly concluded that these men were more concerned with image, appearance, ritual, and their man-made traditions than with a heart searching for God and His law. Jesus tells them that they have skilfully sidestepped God’s law to hold on to their own traditions and concludes that ‘their heart is far from me’. Jesus then explains that it is from within, and not from without, from the heart, that evil intentions and thoughts come. 

For the Pharisees and law makers, contact with the marketplace and the people who gathered there, spoke of contamination, from which they had to be cleansed. For Jesus, the marketplace was where the needy and sick were to be found and where He could bring His grace, healing, and kingdom values. What a contrast! 

Jesus makes it clear that in His kingdom He is looking for a heart and life transformation and not a ‘going through the motions’ way of living. The phrase ‘going through the motions’ is a powerful one. Jesus is looking for authentic being and living. For those of us who have been Christians for a very long time, then perhaps it is helpful to occasionally ask the question ‘what is the state of my heart?’ Why do I do or don’t do certain things? Have I fallen into patterns of behaviour and being that may need a major review and overhaul? And am I going to the marketplace to bring the light and love of Jesus? Or do I remain at home in the safe place where I do not need to be troubled? 



Jesus, I don’t want to be a ‘going through the motions’ follower. 

I ask for your Holy Spirit to stir me up and transform my life. 

I ask for your forgiveness when I settle for anything less than a true commitment to you. 

Change me from the inside out.


Why will you perish?  (Ezekiel 33.10,11). A talk given by Haddon Willmer at Stainbeck URC

The key word in today’s reading (Luke 13.1-9)  is ‘perishing’.    

People told Jesus the news of the day to Jesus.  They tell him of people who were not just killed by Pilate but had their blood mixed with their sacrifice, shaming and polluting them in their death.  Some perish through deliberate human evil.  We today see people perishing at the hands of Pilate-Putin

Other people perish in accidents – a building falls on them… cars collide…lightning strikes…no one can be blamed, it just happens.  

Such events draw our attention to perishing as significant characteristic of human existence.

They disturb our complacent assurance… violent death shocks us, because perishing happens suddenly,  visibly, inescapably, cruelly – the bomb falls, the building crumbles, people living in the habits of innocent daily routine disappear.

Jesus does not allow us to say ‘they perish because they are bad sinners, we are safe because we are better’.

He says, we will all likewise perish, one way or another, unless we repent, unless we turn and get on a different road.

Perishing sometimes happens blatantly in death.   Death is definite, irreparable;  it obliterates, it ends something good, it diminishes the world, God’s creation   – no wonder it shocks us.

But perishing also happens to people before they die   – under the pressures of life,   we lose heart, the will to live, we perish inside, and we can go on like that for years… we are dying slowly long before we die physically.

When a curtain perishes, it may go on hanging in place for years, but a little tug will be enough to tear the rotten fabric.

Paul described this kind of perishing very precisely, I Corinthians 13.1-3:

If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.

‘I am nothing’ – I am perishing!

When he commented on these two stories, Jesus  was not trying to explain why these people in Galilee and Jerusalem died so suddenly and horribly.  Rather he was speaking to the living people who were with him, who were in danger of perishing however healthy they looked.  He wanted to awaken them to where they were, on the road to perishing, and to tell them to turn, so that they didn’t drive blindly on to a bridge that wasn’t there, because it had been washed away by floods.  

Luke tells several stories where Jesus unmasks ways of perishing before we die. 

In Luke 12, we read of the Rich Man, who had a big safe pension, so he said to himself, I have ample goods laid up for many years, relax, eat, drink and be merry.   But God said to him, you fool!  This very night your soul will be demanded of you, and where will all your wealth be then?    Jesus said, So it is for those who store up riches for themselves and are not rich toward God.   Even in their plenty and their complacency, they are perishing – and they don’t give a thought to repenting, to turning round to find out what it is to be rich toward God.  The rich fool was wise enough to know that it is good to have enough of what is necessary, but not wise enough to see that you can have too much stuff to be good for you.    

In chapter 18, another story Jesus told is of the Pharisee who went to the temple and talked ‘with himself’, all the time assuming he was really talking to God.  In deep self-assurance, he boasted that he was pleasing to God, rich toward God, for he said, God, I thank you that I am not as other people are… thieves, rogues, adulterers, …  I’m not like this tax-collector, who is clearly a very bad sinner…  (We today, in England, might be tempted to say, We are not like those Russians.)  

All the while, the tax-collector hid in the shadows, could not lift up his head towards heaven, beat his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner – I am perishing, rescue me!

And the verdict of Jesus was…?   The tax-collector went back to his everyday living at peace with God, justified rather than the confident pharisee.  The pharisee was perishing even while he prayed.  His prayers shielded him from the truth about himself, life and God. 

Jesus does not condemn people like the rich fool and the pharisee.  Perishing is eating away at their life like a hidden disavowed cancer.  Jesus does not hasten to bring it directly to its end in death.  Jesus bends all his effort to opening their eyes to see they are perishing and to move them to do something about it, to turn, to repent.

But turning is not easy when you feel comfortable, assured that you are a good, capable, outstanding person, even a ‘world-leader’… or even just a ordinary decent person.   

The good news Jesus brought is not just a warning, You will perish if you don’t turn round. A mere warning, however urgent, leaves you with the task of turning yourself around.  We need help.

Jesus not only warns people but sets out to help them to turn from death to life, from perishing by themselves and at the expense of others, to flourishing with others in love and service.  So Luke 9 goes on to tell us the story of the unfruitful tree, which reminds me of our damson tree that keeps us waiting, year after year,  for flowers and fruit that never come.   

Cut it down, says the rich hard landowner – this tree is not profitable, I must look after the viability of my business, just like  P and O ferries  getting rid of these good sailors and don’t mind the abrupt cruelty and injustice.  Cut it down!    

Hang on, says the gardener who loves and understands living things, give this tree a chance – I will feed it and then let’s see what’s happens.  Trees are resilient, trees should be respected, they do their own thing in their own time, but they need help.  They need time.  They need a second chance.   

Jesus told stories like this, and he dealt with people like this – he did not say, Do this or you will be cut down immediately.  He said, Let me tell you  good news in stories so that you may come to  see life-issues more clearly;  let me  help you to accept that you are perishing,  but also,  that there is a different way to go;  let me show  how you can turn: I will help you to get on to a different path.  

The best story Jesus told to make this point which Jesus told is reported only by Luke, the story of the two sons. 

The younger son was on the perishing road from an early age.  He could not stand living at home, he wanted a high life, in wild freedom.  He got all he could squeeze from his father, went off to a far country, and spent all his money in riotous living.  It did not seem to him and his superficial friends that he was perishing, but that was the truth.   All the promise of his youth vanished in tatters.  A famine came, prices shot up, and he had no money and no helpful friends.  He got a miserable job looking after pigs, and he was so hungry he wanted to eat their food. 

And then, the turning point – He came to himself:   he came to the self he had undervalued and wanted to escape from, he remembered life in his family home, and he reassessed his situation:    Even the servants in my father’s house have plenty to eat, and here am,  I a son of the house, perishing with hunger.

‘He came to himself’ – on the face of it that sounds much like the Pharisee who ‘prayed with himself’, but look again, it is quite the opposite.  The son came to himself, saw himself in the comparison of his Now and his Then, and didn’t boast brazenly but said,

I am perishing.  And it need not have happened.  It could have been otherwise.  But can it be otherwise tomorrow?  Am I too far gone?   Am I doomed to perish, dying friendless with these pigs?  Is there a chance of change? 

My father’s house is still there – yes, I can believe that.  But is it open to me?  I can’t be sure, but I can try, I will try, I will get up and go, and I will do what I can to make it easy for my father to help me live again – I will say, I know I am not any longer worthy to be called your son, but make me as one of your hired sackable servants.

So the poor man talked with himself, realistically, brokenly – and hopefully. And then he got on his tottering hungry legs and started walking home.  His talk with himself was finished and he knew it’s no good just talking, something must be done.  Steps must be taken.  

You know how the story ends: the Father sees the Son far off, and runs to meet him, and gives him a lavish welcome, something like Gabriella gave Nazanin a few days ago, so they could celebrate with a pizza they made together’

The father says, This my son was dead, perished, and he is alive again..

That is the good news of Jesus.  Plain warning of perishing, not focusing on perishing in death and what comes after, but on perishing going on now, long before death, perishing that can start in earliest years.   Jesus warns, but there is much more than warning:    Jesus gives honest self-understanding, the courage and strength to turn, the willingness to revise and correct what causes perishing, and then the positive pursuit of goodness, walking humbly with God. 

Two final notes: first, never forget the other, older son.  It is not clear at the end of the story whether he was going to come into the feast or not, whether he could be glad, like his father was, that his wastrel perishing brother had come back to life, or whether he wanted to persist with his grievance, and begrudge his brother’s return to life and refuse a slice of pizza. 

Luke often gives us stories like this, stories where people are left at the end hovering indecisively, hesitating to go with the story, not sure whether they really like it, as good news.   This story does not have a fully happy ending – perhaps it came out good for everyone, even for the older brother.  Perhaps he stayed out, hugging his grievance, perishing in his own steady domestic way.   You can stay at home and still be lost in a far country, but you don’t have to – the last we hear is the father warmly pressing his son to come in.  Ending the story that way subtly puts a question to every one who hears it – what will you do now?  Don’t assume you are the prodigal son, safely home for good.  Stand with the elder brother, ask yourself, Is it I?  What shall I do?  What do I want? 

Secondly, I started this talk by saying ‘Some perish at the hands of evil people – like ‘Pilate-Putin’.   I did so deliberately – Ukraine is constantly in my thoughts, and I expect in yours.  There isn’t time to say more about Ukraine now, but I suggest everyone needs to consider the relevance of today’s reading to the times we are living through.  The gospel of Jesus illuminates big politics as well as little individual lives.   We are all perishing, in various ways, whether or not we physically survive.  And we need to work at caring for the tree that is perishing, the tree of freedom and justice, of peace, truth and humility.  We pray and think and work for a turn from death to life, war to peace, waste to stewardship, misery to joy.  We need to turn, not only personally, not only religiously, but politically.  May God have mercy on us sinners. 

[and we mustn’t let the urgency of Ukraine be an excuse for demoting the urgency of net-zero – the climate crisis reminds us of another way we can perish, where we are called to repent, and to turn to other ways.] 


As MBC’s Ukraine appeal passes £5,000 here’s a message from Cluj

We have received this newsletter from Rei Abrudan who is pastor of VIA church in Cluj, Romania and also has links with a charity in the US. We have known Rei for many years including when he was youth pastor at Manastur church in Cluj. This gives some more news of the situation with the refugees in Romania and how VIA church is responding.

After three weeks of visiting some of our friends and partners in the US, we are back in Romania, trying to catch up on things and adjusting to a somehow different reality and the consequences of the war in Ukraine. Some of the first things we noticed is the large number of cars, registered in Ukraine and the voices that speak russian or ukrainian on the streets, restaurants. etc. No one is talking about COVID anymore… as if it never even existed. But as you talk to Romanians, younger or older, many of them express their fears openly. Fear of poverty, war, death, fear for their children and for the future in general. 

We want to give you a short overview of the current situation and then we’ll share a short testimony of one of the leaders involved in this work.

Since February 24th, when the war started, over 400.000 refugees came to Romania. More than 100.000 remained here for unlimited time. The rest of them travelled further, to the western part of Europe. Each day, there are more and more people arriving in Cluj-Napoca, our city: either by train, by bus or personal vehicles.

The people’s reaction to this crisis is incredible. Everyone wants to give a helping hand…individuals, companies, NGO’s…and the Church is absolutely amazing. It really works like a body, in which every part takes responsibility & action for what’s needed. 

Some IT companies here in Cluj were built or were renovated during the pandemic, but due to the work from home policies, they are still not used by the employees. Our church was offered the possibility of renting an entire floor (pictures in the attachment) where we can host up to 50 people (mothers and children) for a few nights (up to one week). We are also providing them 3 meals/day.


Seeing how things develop, we think that this is just the beginning of a very difficult period for our neighbours. It breaks your heart to see so many families that had to separate…many mothers with small children, kids of 10-14 years who were sent alone as their parents remained in Ukraine, hoping that things will eventually get better, etc. In Ukraine, things are geting worse each day: the stores are empty, they have less food every day; due to the bombing, they have electricity and water supply issues. If you want to send supplies in Ukraine, but you don’t have a strong connection at the border, or you don’t operate through a well-known and politically approved organisation, the chances are that at the border, they will promise to deliver the supplies, but eventually they will redirect them to the Army.

Even if we came back to a different reality, it’s so obvious that God is in control! There are many people who are scared and emotionally consumed by this situation, but we have the certainty that God is working through all of this. We receive so much encouragement from people who were accommodated here and are now in Spain, Germany, Italy, etc. One of the moms sent this message just the other day: “We are so grateful that you exist! Your prayers are so effective; our border crossing was unexpectedly smooth and protected. We fell in love with you, Romanians and Romania became for us our second home country!” Considering the long history of disagreements and hostility between our countries, this is such a powerful and redeeming statement!

We’ll let Marta, our dedicated team lead of volunteers, share her perspective and some of the stories on the field:

“Today I met with another family from Ukraine. I don’t know for sure how many I’ve met with so far, but this could have very well been the thirtieth family. Or the fortieth. Or the fiftieth.

The emotion is always the same.

Every time there are tears and hugs; it is hard. Even so, each meeting made me even more determined to continue to meet them. To continue giving more of myself so that, maybe, just maybe, I can help make their journey just a little easier. A journey they never wished to go on and that they took with a torn heart and broken plans. A journey they don’t know when they’re going to return on to what is left of “home”. A journey that makes them leaves everything and everyone they loved behind. A journey that tells life stories, written by war. 

Two grandmothers, three women and four grandchildren, on a day like any other, start hearing bombings and shootings. Before they could realize what was going on, the house windows are shattered by bullets. It’s a wonder no one is hurt. As they were, they get into a car and drive away as far as the eye can see. The parents of one of the kids and other members of the family are left behind and are now trying to escape the country. Right before we met with them, they had heard from their spouses that a bomb exploded in a bus station. Nine people have lost their lives. Shaken, they left for France. They have an acquaintance there, but they have no idea what are they going to. Or for how long. There’s no telling how tomorrow will look like for them, or for the rest of the family that was left behind.

A young family with three kids loves sleeping in. They are woken up by bombings. The spouse quickly finds his way to the flower shop they own and takes all the money he has on hand and pays every employee’s salary for the month. He returns home, takes his wife, kids and pack a few things and head to Europe. Maybe Germany. Or Great Britain. It doesn’t much matter where, as they don’t know anyone outside of their country. They’ll decide on the way.

A mom and her ten-year-old son arrive in Cluj after a five day journey. On the morning their city was bombed, the dad sent them away from home in haste. A military man, he knew quite well what was next. What he didn’t imagine was how dangerous the journey he’d sent them on was: minutes after crossing it, the bridge was blown up to prevent enemy tanks from reaching the city. Roads were blocked for days. They would travel 1km per hour and, on good days 5km per hour. Their blood ran cold when they saw, on the other way, hundreds of trucks loaded with military weapons. It took them five days, instead of just a few hours, to get to Cluj. They are now eager to go to Poland where an older son and brother studies abroad. They’re sure they’re going to be able to sleep on a twin mattress that can be fitted in the small dorm room.

Every day, there are new stories. Some I try to remember and some I wish I had never heard. They are overwhelming. But the war is ongoing and keeps writing avidly, moment after moment, life stories that will never be the same because of it.”


First Ukrainian refugees arrive in Romania – plus an update

Yesterday we hosted these 3 Ukrainian ladies in the picture, together with their children (in red, on the right, my wife Dana). Mrs Valentina and her daughters left Kiev by car 5 days ago. Only one of them a driver. It was the first time ever to drive outside of Kiev. Now she has to drive for almost 1,500 km (1,000 miles), in several countries.
When they crossed the border to Moldova, they had no place to stay overnight. But they were approached by a Cru staff who helped them and hosted them. This staff later contacted us in Romania and asked us if we could help.
While driving in Romania, their car got lost when they had about 50 km to our city. When they stopped the car, some local people approached them. They gave them a mobile phone, to call us, they encouraged them and gave them food to eat on their way.
When they arrived at our place, we offered them dinner and spent some time with them. They look so tired! They told us how worried they were because of the bombings in their city. Some places they knew well may not exist anymore.
Mrs Valentina mentioned she was not religious until now, but now she sees so clearly how God manifested His goodness on their behalf. She added that since they left their home, she feels like God gave them a guardian angel, who accompanies their steps.
Though they were willing to sleep even on a floor, we managed to arrange a nice house for them to stay overnight. For free. God is always surprising.
When we left, I asked permission to pray for God’s protection on them. They were very thankful. In the midst of such dramatic events, I saw His hand. I believe He has a plan for these women. He
protected them from accidents. He helped them meet a Cru staff in Moldova who had International contacts. It is no coincidence
that they came in contact with 3 evangelical families. It is not an accident that they felt loved and protected. God had to take them out of their country so that they would hear the Gospel, and had, for the first time in their lives, someone pray for them.
Maybe their travel is not just physical, but also spiritual. Let us pray that they will finally believe in God, who provided for them all along their way.
Please continue to pray for us. Today, someone called my wife and told her about a group of 60 Ukrainian children hosted at a camp, 100 km from our city. They are probably orphans. We were asked if we can help and provide for them clothes, toys, diapers, food, toiletries, money etc. In the next few weeks, we will probably have many more requests.
Please continue to uplift in prayer the requests we mentioned yesterday. We will keep you updated about what God is doing through us in this ministry.
Thank you again for your love and prayers.
Florin and Dana
Thank you and we appreciate all your support so far! God reward We as a church have started hosting refugees, for the first time they are accommodated in the families in the church who have extra space but we have also prepared our camp center in Belis to accommodate in the future even more people in need. In addition to accommodation, we are looking for everything they need from clothing, food and medicine. We had a special program in the church which all the service and prayer time was translated into Ukrainian.
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