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Love Manchester

How one Vineyard church is loving their city

Paul Lowe, Senior Pastor of Manchester Vineyard, writes about how their church has responded to the attack on Manchester.

What a few weeks it’s been. I heard the police describe it as the most traumatic in the history of this city.

I happened to see the first tweet out by the news agencies and Steph and I with heavy hearts watch the news unfold, we stayed up throughout the night praying and grieving for this city and its people. For us personally, as many of you will know, not just the people, but the place has a significance for us. It’s in that arena that we both 17 years ago committed our lives to Jesus in a way that we’ve never looked back on.

We stayed up throughout the night praying and grieving for this city and its people.

For many of you, the last week or so has had a profound impact. Heart ache, fear, terror, outpouring compassion, speechless – would be just a few expressions I’ve heard.

AW Tozer, a remarkable evangelist and prophet said this, he said, ‘faith and despair can’t remain in the same heart. Take your choice, trust God or worry. You cannot really do both.’

As we emerged from the tears of the night when it happened, Steph said to me, ‘we exhale fear and we inhale courage’. Friends it’s so true. If one thing was pressing on us throughout the night it was this: as a church, how do we respond. How do we best be the church to the people, how do we be the hands and feet of Jesus to this city in this time.

We exhale fear and we inhale courage

As you will know, our intention has always been to love Jesus and love Manchester. If ever there was a time that that rang out over this city it’s now.

We spent the night praying for the right way to respond and are grateful to be among a growing community of people that did the same. We have been, and always will be, a church with a desire to respond to the needs of the city.

We are a church that has committed to loving Manchester, and that’s exactly what we are going to do – seeking to respond with love, hope and courage – not just because of this, but also in this. We don’t go round it, we go through it.

On the Tuesday morning, someone from our church contacted a number of camper van hire companies. We wanted a practical way to get people and resources in to the city. One businessman on hearing what we were trying to do and why offered us the use of his van free of charge.

Given it was midweek we, as quickly as we could, started to mobilise teams to go into the city. Now there were many appeals for help. One thing we found was as soon as an appeal was given the need was met. They needed blood, they had enough blood, they needed resources at a certain hospital, they had enough resources. Whilst we’ve seen the worst of humanity in the attack, we’ve seen the best of the city as it’s people have responded in generosity.

So we went to the people. We stationed ourselves fairly centrally and gave away drinks and snacks to anyone and everyone who wanted them. Why? Because that act of generosity opened the way for genuine conversations with people.

Whilst we’ve seen the worst of humanity in the attack, we’ve seen the best of the city as it’s people have responded in generosity.

We cried with people, we hugged people, we chatted with people, we spoke hope over people, we listened to people, before, I’ve used the definition of loving the poor as giving people a voice who have no voice. We gave people a place to have a voice and we responded with the hope and the love of Jesus.

Can I just share with you a few stories.

I chatted with a guy who had been abused as a child and had never told anyone, his depth of hurt and pain was deep. It’s a long story and in all honesty I don’t think it’s right to share it all but as we chatted and prayed, as we prayed for the love of the father to come over him he broke down in tears and gave his life to Jesus.

As we chatted with the police they shared how a number of officers had tried to quit, they’d seen too much and didn’t want to do their job given the dangers. As they’ve seen the out pouring of generosity of the city they’ve reconsidered. The police said to us they’ve never seen anything like it. They never seen anything like how we responded. They’ve never seen a group of people meet the needs of the demographic we meet on those days. They said many reach the homeless and other specific groups, but to be there for ‘average joe’ in the way we were was ‘unbelievable’. They invited us to do it more regularly.

At times if I’m honest, it felt like a drop in the ocean, it was Mother Theresa though who reminded people that ‘the ocean is made up of many drops’.

We are proud to be part of a community whose first thought is to love others, whose first thought is to do the stuff, whose first thought is to act and respond.

What I love is that this isn’t a ‘Steph and I thing’, this is an ‘all of us thing’. This is simply an expression of our love for Jesus to Manchester. We’ve always dreamt it would be that way.

This is simply an expression of our love for Jesus to this city

We didn’t share this on social media at the time as it didn’t seem right. But some of our church let us know that they were going to the street that the bomber had lived on. They were going with small gifts, some ‘Love Manchester’ cards and hand written notes for each and every house on the street.

Each handwritten note said this:

We appreciate that this may be a frightening and upsetting time for you. Here is a small token of our love. We are for you and stand with you as fellow Mancunians. There is always hope.

Our church has had countless conversations with people, with family, with friends, with neighbours, with colleagues, with those hurting, lost and confused.

We will be unrelenting in our pursuit of loving Jesus and loving Manchester.

We’ve been contacted with support and encouragement from Vineyards in five countries spread over 3 continents. Being part of a global family has been such a support and encouragement at this time.

How we develop our compassionate reach as a church will certainly have been shaped as a result of the tragic events of the last week or so. But let’s be clear about one thing, we will be unrelenting in our pursuit of loving Jesus and loving Manchester.

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