Messenger Extra – February

Cold outside but warm inside
Welcome to Messenger Extra

Dear Friends,

Welcome to the February edition of Messenger Extra.

  • ‘I want the judges to know who I’m singing to’
  • Man, gorillas and God
  • ‘COVID-19 and the wilding of the Church’ – what sort of leaders do we need?
  • The Sunday Times op-ed and the Adventist caricature
  • Messenger subscription

‘I want the judges to know who I’m singing to’

Photo: BBC Songs of Praise.

Huddersfield Fartown member Tara Goddard reached the final of the first ever BBC Songs of Praise Gospel Singer of the Year competition, broadcast last Sunday evening (7 February) from Gorton Monastery in Manchester. Singing for the semi-final the hymn ‘Pass Me Not’ by Fanny Crosby, and for the final ‘His Eye Is On the Sparrow’, by Civilla D. Martin, for Tara this was not a performance, but a ministry. ‘I want to show the judges that I’m not just a singer, but I know who I’m singing to . . . for God.’

Hosted by Mark De-Lisser, with acclaimed musicians Alexandra Burke, Heather Small, and David Grant serving as judges, Grant emphatically affirmed Tara’s purpose.

‘If you crack a note, if a note’s flat, if a note’s sharp, that’s not what this is about. This is about what you give, about the passion, the dynamic, the commitment, and it’s about the integrity of the performance. You had all of that – and you have got to let go of your concerns that perhaps it’s not flawless – because what you give is enough.’

Heather Small commented that through Tara’s singing she could see ‘the joy, the commitment and the love for God’. Likewise, Alexandra Burke clearly saw Tara’s belief in God and added, ‘As you show a great use of vocal range, this is the time to let go.’

Tara’s husband Pedro, who knows more than anyone the purpose of Tara’s ministry, agreed with the judges: ‘I know that she has a blessing she can give to other people.’
To see Tara singing in the final, go to:

Rhythms of Grace – man, gorillas and God

Following the story of Malcolm X in the January edition of Messenger of how he experienced a moment of grace when he came into contact with a faith community we love and know well – David Wright shares another Rhythms of Grace story.

On the grey and gloomy afternoon of 30 December 1985, forty people stood quietly beside an open grave, singing the words of a hymn written by an ex-slave trader. They were there to honour the life of the zoologist Dian Fossey, who had dedicated her life to preserving the lives of mountain gorillas, and who had been killed two days earlier. The hymn was ‘Amazing Grace’, by John Newton; the location was the Virunga Mountains in Rwanda, Central Africa; and the person conducting the funeral service was Elton Wallace, an Adventist minister from the nearby mission station at Gisenyi, and a friend of Dian Fossey.

In his biography, Woman in the Mists, author Farley Mowat describes Pastor Wallace delivering the following short but powerful eulogy: ‘Last week [that is, Christmas] the world did honour to a long-ago event that changed its history – the coming of the Lord to earth. We see at our feet here a parable of that magnificent condescension – Dian Fossey, born to a home of comfort and privilege that she left by her own choice to live among a race faced with extinction. . . . She will lie now among those with whom she lived, and among whom she died. And if you think that the distance Christ had to come to take the likeness of man is not so great as that from man to gorilla, then you don’t know men . . . or gorillas . . . or God.’

‘COVID-19 and the wilding of the Church’ – what sort of leaders do we need?

Dr Steve Aisthorpe

‘Re-imagining’ was a key word in Newbold’s first Diversity Lecture of 2021 on Tuesday 9 February. After environmental disasters, God works in nature, giving it an infinite capacity to bounce back. Similarly, God can work through leaders who model and encourage a re-imagining of the church in the wake of the pandemic.

The speaker at the lecture was Dr Steve Aisthorpe – Mission Development Worker for the Church of Scotland – a specialist in leadership, a committed environmentalist, and an experienced mountaineer! His lecture was an extended exploration of the metaphor of ‘wilding’ as it might apply in these days when the pandemic has affected the Church like an earthquake or another natural shock.

At the heart of Dr Aisthorpe’s vision is a Jesus-centred church where all relationships are coloured by adventurous discipleship. It’s a different picture perhaps from the highly organised, top-down institutions many think of as ‘the church’.

During the 40-minute Q&A session which followed the lecture, questions flooded in from church leaders and followers. ‘Where to start?’ ‘How to relate to congregations split between traditional and progressive members?’ ‘How to reconcile vision-casting and the uncertainty of listening?’ ‘How to cope with unimaginative and non-listening leaders?’ ‘Is there a future for church buildings and cathedrals and the institutional church?’ ‘Is there a danger of doctrinal impurity and schism?’ There wasn’t time to answer all of them, but clearly Dr Aisthorpe had stirred up a lot of re-imagining – especially in the mind of one questioner, who asked, ‘Is the Holy Spirit maybe more like a wild goose than a dove?’ The full recording of the lecture can be seen at:

Helen Pearson
Diversity Centre Coordinator

The Sunday Times Op-Ed and the Adventist caricature

Rod Liddle once served as the Editor of the Today programme, broadcast each morning on BBC Radio 4. Working for the BBC required having the gift of impartiality. However, since writing an Op-Ed column for The Sunday Times he’s felt less restrained. In his 7 February column he is highly critical of the Church of England and its leadership – particularly of its role during this pandemic – and quick to note their huge decline in worshippers over the past five years.

In contrast, he notes the rise of ‘other churches’ and worries that the C of E will follow their lead in order to gain more followers. Well known for his hyperbole, to take him too seriously is a mistake, but it was his caricature of others and who they include that caused me to do a double take:

‘Other churches, meanwhile, are thriving – largely the you-will-burn-in-hell, writhe-on-the-floor gibbering chapters: the Pentecostalists, the new churches, the Baptists, the Seventh-day Adventists.’

‘That’s who we are – really?’ I couldn’t but give a wry smile to that; and, to join the hyperbole, I almost choked on my cornflakes! And perhaps we shouldn’t take too seriously an opinionated but un-informed columnist who loosely stereotypes others to make a point (some call it lazy journalism). On the other hand, for the sake of the Gospel, the serious mis-caricature is not so much about the Adventists, but about the God we serve. We know it is not a ‘you-will-burn-in-hell’ message – quite the opposite – but if Liddle’s perception, however untrue, is shared by our friends and neighbours, we’ve got some serious work to do to change that perception.

We could make a start with a letter to the editor:

Messenger subscription

The February edition

We have been very encouraged by the positive responses of those who received by direct mail the January edition of Messenger, and we’re busy processing all of the updated addresses, requests for electronic versions, and requests for copies for other members.

Our aim is to send one printed copy of the Messenger to the household of every member who wishes to receive it. We realise that the first mailing did not reach all such households, and we would be grateful for your assistance in getting our information up to date. If you know of any members who want a printed copy of the Messenger, but haven’t so far received one, please let us know.

Also, please note that if you want to keep receiving the Messenger by post you will need to let us know, either by returning the card that is included with the magazine, or by sending a brief email to:

This is a major new initiative to give help and support to all of our members in these strange and challenging times. We really appreciate your feedback and your assistance as we work with the church clerks to make it a success.

Peter Oppong-Mensah and Pastor John Surridge
Distribution Coordinators

Messenger Extra is the online newsletter, published digitally two weeks prior to members receiving the full print or digital edition of the magazine. To comment about anything you read here or in Messenger, please send your message to:

Best wishes,

David Neal


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