Book Release

We are pleased to announce that Sean Stillman’s book ‘God’s Biker: Motorcycles and Misfits’ is being published by SPCK and due for release on 20 Sep, 2018. It is now available for pre-order in local bookshops or via all the usual online book stores internationally.

Now available for pre-order

 

‘Sean has shown me constantly what lies at the heart of the Christian community.’ 

– Lord Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury, in his Foreword.

 

For more information please go HERE.

A Lament From Zac’s Place

On Tuesday evenings as a ‘church for ragamuffins’ community we gather together to study, discuss and grapple with the Bible. They’re often very frank and refreshingly honest times of faith and struggle. Quite often we methodically work through a book of the bible. When Sean suggested we looked at the book of Lamentations there were a few raised eyebrows!

However at the end of the series, which demonstrated a language for pain and suffering and finding God in it, each was invited to contribute to writing our own Lament. Liz patiently and skilfully compiled everyone’s contributions into what you read below. Enjoy.


Zac’s Lament

God, I feel worn out, frustrated.
I am too busy being busy to notice what people need yet I judge them because I feel I am the one who has to do all the work.
I am a let-down, embarrassed at the state I sometimes find myself in and crushed when those close to me see me like that.
My heart is heavy because my words have caused hurt to others;
I have brought disharmony to my family.
My parents have seen their hopes fade and they – and I – have seen the effects of addiction on those we love.
I see those who suffer from illness and those who mourn with grief so deep at the loss of their parents.
And with eyes that can no longer cry I give the word for my beautiful dog to be put to sleep.
My stupidity, naivety, fear and anxiety get in the way
and stop me helping others.
I’ve been taking God for granted,
missing out on the freshness of his love.
I wish time could be reversed; what if I had done things differently?

The city has a heavy spirit of despair, where is hope?
It has never recovered from past hurts;
many great shops have closed down
and money has been wasted on foolish projects.
Greed and materialism have taken up residence.
We’ve given up on our dreams and our passions.
Nobody cares about our environment or government,
because we believe we are powerless to change anything.
We experience a lack of community, concern and love
where the homeless are treated like nobodies,
people are rejected instead of embraced
and a huge amount of food is wasted.
An offer of friendship is seen as weakness
and there is no appreciation for those who help others.
Only the gossips, who find pleasure in reminding us of our past failings, thrive.

The world is round like the lives people lead, always coming back to the same conclusion:
where is hope?
We have the society we deserve, a throwaway society where racism, violence and rubbish abound, where it’s every man for himself. Self, self, self.
Governments everywhere act out of selfish interests
instead of for the common good.
Migrants, child soldiers, Syria, cruelty to animals, torture, rape, degradation of women, Palestine, injustice, fear, refugees, hatred, sorrow.
We have lost our passion for justice; we have lost respect for all living creatures.
Where is hope?

All who hope make hope.
Hope is finding a purpose, putting an idea in place when there is nothing left to salvage – and believing that it will come to pass.
Hope is in places like Zac’s where people talk to each other and treat each other with respect.
Hope is in drug agencies and churches beginning to work together for people instead of preaching at them.
Hope is seen in surprising places, in street children who should have none.
Hope is in people who care, people like us, people who will work 100% for God.
I believe God has a wider plan,
one that will use people’s gifts to help put things right,
one that through prayer, community and action will produce fruit.
When we love each other, when we allow ourselves to be the wild sacred beings God created,
we are powerful beyond measure.
With God’s help
we can be the change we want to see in the world.
God’s love and grace are overwhelming,
his forgiveness never-ending.

A Sonnet For Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday
 
 Now to the gate of my Jerusalem,
 
 The seething holy city of my heart,
 
 The saviour comes. But will I welcome him?
 
 Oh crowds of easy feelings make a start;
 
 They raise their hands, get caught up in the singing,
 
 And think the battle won. Too soon they’ll find
 
 The challenge, the reversal he is bringing
 
 Changes their tune. I know what lies behind
 
 The surface flourish that so quickly fades;
 
 Self-interest, and fearful guardedness,
 
 The hardness of the heart, its barricades,
 
 And at the core, the dreadful emptiness
 
 Of a perverted temple. Jesus come
 
 Break my resistance and make me your home.
 
 “From Sounding the Seasons, by Malcolm Guite, CanterburyPress 2012″
 
 

Sean writes from Ukraine

Visits to the Ukraine have always been rich experiences for me. There’s always an air of unpredictability about them.
 
 Back in 2006, I found myself locked in a police station, saw the A&E hospital department after a travelling companion was mowed down by a drunk driver and thought I was eating rat soup!
 I go there to encourage others, primarily my God’s Squad mates and their connected mission church community, (God’s Garage in Zhytomir), but I always return home richly blessed by them and their community. Their generosity, fortitude, resourcefulness, creativity and faith shine. Even more so on this visit with the dark shadow of what is happening on their borders with Russia. I spoke with guys fresh from the frontline, (still with ringing in their ears from blasts), others whose homes had been obliterated, heading west to safety and many more with a deep fear for what may come.
 This place and its people have crept into my heart over the years. I continue to pray for them and their nation and also be deeply moved by the work of God’s grace among them.


Here’s a pic with some of our friends there after a gathering at God’s Garage on Sunday. It’s a mission work significantly influenced by our efforts over the years and one that you as friends and supporters of the trust have had a part to play in.

Summer at Zac’s Place

A few snaps from recent times with Zac’s folk this summer…
 
 Time sharing with Korean mission students at Nations in Llanelli


Nicky’s Baptism at Aberavon


Sian and Tony’s baptism in Swansea bay


Gritty Productions pilot theatre project featuring pro actors alongside those with experience of homelessness – Barry plays his part

Guardian Feature

A couple of months back the Guardian were looking for photos of church congregations to be sent in for a web feature. Liz sent the one below in and it made their main feature and prompted a follow up interview along with a couple of other churches covering several topical issues.


… here’s an excerpt from Sean’s interview.

“Often when you peel back all the layers, a lot of what people struggle with is not Christianity but church culture. A lot of the folks I spend my time with say that when they sit in church and look at the front it reminds them of a school assembly or going to court. When they realise what the Christian faith actually is, they discover that it’s not all that monster-like and much closer to what they’ve been looking for the whole time.”

You can find the full article here:
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jan/06/christianity-church-congregations-readers-stories

The Day I Went To Zac’s Place

We recently hosted a Fresh Expressions Vision Day at Zac’s Place – below is the text from Andrew Roberts’ reflection from his experience of his time with us. Andrew heads up FX training and development

A heart for God and Harley Davidsons (Andrew Roberts)

Andrew Roberts reflects on a visit to Zac’s Place in Swansea.

Some days we are reminded of why we do what we do. I recently experienced one such day. It was the day I went to Zac’s Place.

On arrival my first reaction was, ‘It’s just like the film!’ Having played the Zac’s Place clip from “expressions making a difference” DVD many, many times it was great to meet the people and see so much of what appears on the dvd. All of the characters who speak on the film were there.

If you ever meet anyone who is cynical, sceptical or dismissive when it comes to fresh expressions of church, may I suggest that – in love of course – you bundle them in the back of a van and drive them to Swansea. If meeting the ‘Zaclicans’ does not transform them then I don’t know what will.

I encountered a community of self-proclaimed ‘ragamuffins’ that is one of the most authentic Christian communities I have ever met. In my weaker moments I would gladly destroy many a church noticeboard that says ‘All are welcome’ because it is simply not true – unless the visitor totally conforms to the whims and wishes of the controlling powers.

At Zac’s, I instead met people really trying their very best to make all welcome and it doesn’t matter whether you arrive in a limousine, on a pushbike or simply walk in off the street. Of course, as we know from the film, there are bikers – big guys in leathers and combat trousers who love their Harley Davidsons. Please Lord, if there are any internal combustion engines in heaven may they growl like a Harley.

It’s well known that Zac’s Place offers an open door to the battered and broken and those with serious addiction issues but it also offers a real welcome to middle class professionals. There is no inverse snobbery, no resentment of those who have some of the nicer things of life – just real people trying their best to be real disciples of Jesus.

And then there is Sean. This was the second time I had met him and again I came away thinking he is one of the most Christ-like people I have met. Let’s be fair, he looks the part for starters but then he feeds the hungry, clothes the naked, heals the hurting, turns the other cheek and gets a beating when other bikers want to punish someone for the crimes of paedophile priests. Unashamedly centred on God’s Word, he likes nothing more to open up the Bible and offer to others the Bread of Life. He offers a striking reminder that we should give proper prominence to the role of the Bible in forming disciples.

I was there to do a vision day in partnership with Associate Missioners Alicia Baker and Sean, both of whom were superb in presentation and conversation. We had asked to go to Zac’s to try doing a day in a bona fide fresh expression of church and it worked extremely well. Zac’s went to town on the hospitality. There was coffee, cakes and sweets galore and a fabulous lunch of homemade soup, baked potatoes and salads. The standards when it came to timings and technology were very high – ragamuffin culture and the professional standards we aspire to worked very well together.

Perhaps most importantly, the learning was added to and enhanced by the venue – partly because:

people there were living and breathing a fresh expression all day;
Zac’s Place people joined in. So when we presented our learning/theory/models, we could test it straight away against the realities of that community – and I’m delighted to report that most of it fitted extremely well.
Discussion of values was particularly interesting, with the Zaclicans highlighting the importance of the value of transformation – both personal transformation (including conversion and discipleship) and the transformation brought about by the struggles for social justice. I came away challenged that we need to do more to explore, encourage and be part of prophetic witness and the struggle for social justice.

We talk about the need for culturally authenticity and this was a culturally authentic vision day. If we had been spouting nonsense we would have been told in no uncertain terms that we were doing so! Instead, it was a delight to see the members of Zac’s being affirmed in who they are and what they do.

At the end of the day Sean said how helpful it had been for the community to think through who they are and realise they are a valued part of this thing called the fresh expressions movement.

For future reference, work and planning, this way of learning in situ would be really good to proliferate. Sharing co-produced experiential learning takes things up a level! The Zac’s folk highlighted the value of transformation. Their living of the value transformed me. It was a wonderful day.

The original article can be found here: http://www.freshexpressions.org.uk/views/heart-for-god-and-harleys
Also explore the other pages of the FX site to see where we fit in, our contributions and stories.