21/02/2016 Songs of Praise


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21/02/2016

David Grant visits the Post Office church and the congregation in a tent to see how the Church of England is coming up with creative ideas to encourage new members.


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A recent survey discovered that attendance

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at Church of England services had fallen below a million

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for the first time. Some churches are being forced to close.

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Many lie empty and others are sold and often turned into flats.

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So what's being done? Well, there is some good news.

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On today's Songs Of Praise,

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I'll be discovering the creative things that people are doing

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to keep their church at the heart of the community.

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And no, you're not seeing things - the church IS a Post Office.

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We meet some members of the Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service,

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who are firefighting for Christ.

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I don't need to be in a church to serve.

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We can all serve our communities in whatever place we're at.

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-One, two, three, go!

-DANCE MUSIC PLAYS

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And Josie's in central Manchester at a church

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taking worship music to the next level.

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And where the pastors seem to want to steal our jobs!

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Welcome to Songs Of Praise this morning!

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It's great to have you with us.

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We have some great music,

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including a performance from one of Scotland's finest - Barbara Dickson.

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And it's the second week of Lent, so, for those of you who've given

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something up, here's a hymn of encouragement.

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Visit any village, town or city

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and the one thing you'll find is a church.

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They're an important part of our heritage.

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The Church of England has 16,000 of them around the country.

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But there's a problem - fewer and fewer people

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are attending the services and, although people may like

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the idea of their local church and its sense of history,

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they may not want to pay for its upkeep.

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I've come to St James's Church in London.

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Like many, their day begins

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with early-morning prayers for parishioners.

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Oh, Lord, open our lips and mouths...

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For years, they were a very small congregation

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worshipping in a huge empty church, until their vicar -

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the Reverend Andrew Foreshew-Cain - came up with a plan.

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Is this a church or is it a Post Office?

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It's a church, a Post Office and it's a whole lot more.

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Come on inside and I'll show you.

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MUSIC: Please Mr Postman by The Marvelettes

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Wow! It's really noisy! BUZZ OF CONVERSATION

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-It's like it's a Post Office and so much more!

-So much more.

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How do you get a Post Office in a church?

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We had a tweet in 2014 from the local estate agent.

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They were looking for a shop front for the new Post Office and I said,

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"I haven't got a shop front, but I've got a really big church."

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And that's not the only thing you've got here.

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Oh, no, we have all kinds of things in here now.

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We have a cafe and we employ a bunch of people there as well.

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-This play centre...

-And the big play centre.

-..is huge!

-Big and noisy!

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Local mums were saying there wasn't much in the area for them

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to do with their kids and it seemed a perfect marriage.

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We get 3,500 people a week through the building.

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What do you think of people who think that churches should be

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a place of worship and quiet contemplation?

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Well, I think they can be at times,

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but they can also be places of life and enthusiasm and engagement.

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-And that's what this place is.

-So, you have all of this,

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all of this engagement, you also have all of this,

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-the high altar...

-Everything.

-..the services that are happening here.

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So how do you maintain it as a place of faith?

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When we built the place, we consciously chose not to

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separate out all of this from the worship space.

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-Yes.

-So it all flows in, one to the other,

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so God is watching over everything that we do here.

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That's an important message, I think, to send to people

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who come in here - that all of life is important to God.

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And we have Sunday worship, when all of this is closed, and it is a place

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of quiet contemplation and prayer and worship.

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And the congregation appreciate that.

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When Andrew came up with this idea, I thought he was mad.

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Just look, I mean, it's absolutely amazing.

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It's become a social hub for the neighbourhood.

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The play area, personally, I don't like it.

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But I do understand its purpose as well.

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What it does, it brings people into the church,

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who actually absorb the ambience of the church, whilst conducting

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sort of secular activities, like going to the Post Office.

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The church is about family and community.

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That's exactly what this is.

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The congregation has doubled, which is nice.

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It was from a very low ground.

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We're about 40-50 people on a Sunday now.

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And we're now getting children and young families coming,

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which we didn't get before.

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And do you think that that's as a direct result of them having come in

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-here first?

-I'm sure that's exactly the reason why they're coming to us.

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Because they are here, they are comfortable with the space,

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and, when they come back on a Sunday morning,

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they're in a familiar environment, which isn't intimidating,

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and they know is welcoming.

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When we think of traditional church music,

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it's often accompanied by a church organ.

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For generations, it provided the soundtrack to worship and still,

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of course, has a role to play in the story of Christian music.

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But as Josie's been finding out, there are increasingly

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churches up and down the country that are busy writing a new chapter.

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Welcome to Manchester.

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Not the most recognisable part of the city, I'll grant you that.

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But today, it's not about what you can see,

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-it's about what you can hear.

-MUSIC POUNDS

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And this is no ordinary warehouse.

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ROCK MUSIC PLAYS # Fearless! #

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Here we go!

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ALL: # We are, we are We are fearless! #

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It feels like you've walked into a rock concert.

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But it's Sunday morning and it's 10am!

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And this is the Audacious Church!

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# ..for Jesus! We are, we are, we are fearless!

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# We are living for Living for Jesus! #

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In a time when some congregations are in decline, Audacious has grown

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from 90 to well over 3,000 members in just eight years.

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Is there anybody here who's in love

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-with Jesus this morning?

-CHEERING

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Good morning, welcome to church.

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The church runs community projects and the services have

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all the traditional elements, including a sermon.

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I serve the man.

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-APPLAUSE

-And the man has a plan!

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But it's the very contemporary sound of the music that stands out.

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The Bible talks about having shouts of joy, um, clapping hands, dancing.

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And so, there is a real element of celebration in the Bible.

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I think, when you understand what Jesus has done,

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how can you keep quiet? We really feel like that's the case.

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We can't be quiet, we can't shut up and God is so great!

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-DANCE MUSIC PLAYS

-I want to see every single person

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off their feet! Front to back, one, two, three, go!

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Can you remember that first time you got here -

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-what was your first impression of it?

-Wow!

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When we first came, the music was a bit of a culture shock.

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But you just sort of go with the flow, I suppose, in a way.

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# ..we will shine the brightest! #

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I mean, as an African, we dance everything, we sing everything!

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I enjoy it, cos it's something different. It's out of the ordinary.

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# ..make us one, bring us light! #

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The music's new, the music's fresh.

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And that's why, you know, I certainly enjoy being here

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and why I know these guys do as well.

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-# Ray of light! #

-Here we go !

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To many, the songs in an Audacious service may sound radical,

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but, for the band who write them, the approach is nothing new.

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Key change, and you get off the stool.

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'When you look at William Booth and The Salvation Army,'

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and brass bands - that was, you know, the secular music of the time.

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And that was, you know,

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-their way of getting people into the church.

-Yeah.

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With something familiar, that they could understand and relate to.

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It's just all about finding a new and a fresh

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and a relevant expression of our worship and praise to God.

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When you're having the stage, the lights, the music,

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how do you ensure that it is an act of worship and not a performance?

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We're not coming here just to have own personal time.

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Like we're coming here to be a part of the church, part of the family,

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and we're worshipping together

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and so, there has to be an outward expression and you could say, yes,

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it's performance, but not performance in the sense of,

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"Look at me, everyone!" but it's actually, "Look at Jesus!"

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# We are, we are We are fearless!

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# We are living for Living for Jesus! #

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They may not remember a sermon, even though I thought it was brilliant.

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What they're going to remember is the songs that they're singing.

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And I think it was probably John Wesley who actually said,

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"We learn our theology through the songs that we sing."

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# We are living for Living for Jesus! #

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CHEERING

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Wow! That music would certainly wake you up on a Sunday morning!

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Now, our next hymn comes from South London and,

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whilst it may not be quite as loud, it's certainly just as heartfelt.

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SIREN WAILS

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We've all heard about trying to get the work-life balance right,

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but what about the work-faith balance?

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Sometimes it's all too easy to hang up our faith on the door

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on the way into work.

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But one group of Christian firefighters from the

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Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service meet up regularly to help

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each other deal with the difficult situations they are called to face.

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Fire, guys!

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When firefighters respond to an 999 emergency call,

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they have to be prepared for any situation,

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as Watch Commander Paddy Quinn from Omagh knows only too well.

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SIREN WAILS

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It's a house fire.

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And, according to this, it's two persons reported.

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-The police had phoned it in.

-OK, sir.

-Michael, you got it covered?

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Even for experienced firefighters, like Paddy,

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it can be traumatic when the call is to attend a serious incident.

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Through the Troubles in Northern Ireland,

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the biggest loss of life in one incident was the Omagh bomb.

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CAR ALARMS WAIL

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Paddy was one of the firefighters on watch in Omagh back in 1998,

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when the Real IRA exploded a car bomb

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in the centre of the market town.

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For us, as firefighters, to have to go

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and deal with that, it was very traumatic.

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I'd never witnessed a scene like it.

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Especially since you knew people. People were asking me to help them.

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And it was just like the most impossible thing to do,

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was to help that day, because there was so much need

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and, as a firefighter, you felt so helpless.

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And it's something that I never talked about for years,

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cos of respect for the families and nobody needed to know the trauma.

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You sort of parked it in the back of your mind,

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but every now and again, it came back to you.

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-Robert initially asked me...

-Because of the nature of their work,

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Firefighters are encouraged to talk about their experiences.

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And one of the organisations in Northern Ireland

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that can provide support is Firefighters for Christ.

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Once a month, the group meets in Belfast and it's the job

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of one of the founding members to cook up a hearty breakfast.

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Primarily, Firefighters for Christ is about encouraging firefighters

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to live their lives for Jesus Christ. We have trained chaplains

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within Firefighters for Christ.

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We also have counselling facilities within Firefighters for Christ.

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People that are having issues - either family issues,

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finances, or just not dealing with life well.

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It's quite a difficult job,

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in the sense that there's a lot you can take home with you.

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What you've seen and what you've had to cope with.

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A lot of the times, you might be the only Christian on the station,

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not just the watch, but potentially the station altogether.

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So it's nice to have other guys there that have a faith.

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Firefighters for Christ is a worldwide organisation

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and, as part of their mission work, Paddy recently visited Uganda,

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where they support a children's home.

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These people are just so alive

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in their love of God and their praise of God.

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We're able to bring funds out to them, to bring clothes out to them,

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pay for the new roof on the emergency relief building.

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And they were also there to train local firefighters

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and deliver free life-saving equipment.

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Firefighters throughout the world are firefighters.

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We have a brotherhood, we have a bond.

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And, in that bond, we want to be able to save people. So, yes,

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we want to help them save themselves

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and save others with these practical techniques of rescue.

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But ultimately, our main goal is

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that we rescue their spiritual lives.

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'If you take Jude 23, it says exactly what firefighters do -

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'to snatch others from the fire and save them.'

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-Good morning, church.

-ALL: Good morning.

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3-0 seconds, 30 seconds!

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'Firefighters, we serve, because our name says service.

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'Whether it be in a really serious situation, such as the Omagh bomb.

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'Equally as important is when we go to an old lady

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'who's burnt her cooking and is in distress and we go and help her.

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'And it's shown me that I don't need to be in a church to serve.'

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We can all serve our communities in whatever place we're at.

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SIREN WAILS

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Great to hear the congregation in Bristol there.

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Now, we have some wonderful performers on Songs Of Praise

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and this lady has been entertaining us for many years, with hits such as

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I Know Him So Well and January, February.

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Here, singing a song from her latest album, Barbara Dickson.

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# My song is love unknown

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# My Saviour's love to me

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# Love to the loveless shown

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# That they might lovely be

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# O who am I

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# That for my sake

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# My Lord should take

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# Frail flesh and die?

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# Sometimes, they strew His way

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# And His strong praises sing

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# Resounding all the day

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# Hosannas to their King

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# Then "Crucify!"

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# Is all their breath

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# And for His death

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# They thirst and cry

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# They rise and needs will have

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# My dear Lord made away

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# A murderer they save

0:25:140:25:18

# The Prince of Life they slay

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# Yet steadfast He

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# To suffering goes

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# That He His foes

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# From thence might free

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# Here might I stay and sing

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# No story so divine

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# Never was love, dear King

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# Never was grief like Thine

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# This is my Friend

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# In Whose sweet praise

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# I all my days

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# Could gladly spend. #

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Earlier in the programme, I told you about

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the recent Church of England survey that discovered that numbers

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attending weekly services had fallen to their lowest ever.

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It's dwindling numbers like that

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that cause churches like this to close.

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St Alban's Acton Green in West London was empty for seven years.

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Now it's reopened as part of the Church of England's initiative

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to create 100 new congregations in London by 2020.

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It's quite an ambition.

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'The man tasked with achieving this

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'is Bishop of Islington, the Right Reverend Ric Thorpe.'

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In a church, I've never seen anything like this!

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'Here at St Alban's, they've come up with an unusual plan.'

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Why have you got a tent indoors?

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While they're fixing up the building,

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a tent means that the congregation can stay warm inside.

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'Well, that's a novel way of solving the problem

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'of no heating and a leaky roof.'

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Bishop Ric, how do you create a new congregation

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-where there isn't one?

-Well,

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in the Church of England, you need three things to start a new church -

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-you need a Bishop who says yes...

-Mm-hm.

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..you need a leader, like a vicar who's going to go

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and lead the new thing, and then you need a group of people

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who are going to follow that leader and start something new.

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Um, welcome to St Alban's this morning.

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-Um, how are you all doing?

-CHEERING

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And then, that leader - the vicar - says,

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"OK, we're going to encourage people to start coming,"

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and the services might start soon after that, and then,

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once those things are happening, then you're up and running.

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SINGING

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And we want to recognise that there are lots of different groups

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of people in London who we're not connecting with.

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And so, starting 100 new congregations is about saying,

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"Let's find those places, those people groups,

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"those networks and say, 'Let's start a church for them.'"

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And St Alban's has certainly found those family groups.

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Well, this church didn't look like it had a future.

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It was, er, going to be converted

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into residential flats - nine luxury flats -

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um, but the local community were up in arms about that

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and 5,000 or so signed a petition to save the church

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for the community and to be a church again.

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Um, I've lived in the area a long while, um, and it just felt

0:28:310:28:35

very important to keep this as a local community space.

0:28:350:28:38

-It's a good place for mums and fathers to be...

-Yeah?

0:28:380:28:42

..and basically get to know each other and it's a nice place

0:28:420:28:46

for the littler kids to bounce around and have fun.

0:28:460:28:49

What is it that excited you about coming over here?

0:28:490:28:52

I guess it was kind of the blank canvas, so the opportunity

0:28:520:28:55

to reopen it, start another congregation here and just put

0:28:550:28:59

your own flavour on it, really, take it wherever you want to go.

0:28:590:29:03

-ALL:

-# ..we surrender to the truth... #

0:29:030:29:10

When they come in, hopefully they find a welcome,

0:29:100:29:12

and community that they want to be part of.

0:29:120:29:15

And then, actually, at the end of the day, what changes

0:29:150:29:17

people's lives, what makes them stay, is Jesus, it's the Gospel.

0:29:170:29:21

The same Gospel that's been preached for thousands of years,

0:29:210:29:23

but it still changes people's lives today -

0:29:230:29:25

that's why people stay in church.

0:29:250:29:27

That's about it for this week.

0:31:130:31:14

Next week, Aled Jones encounters some Welsh pride

0:31:140:31:17

in Port Talbot as he discovers how the community there is

0:31:170:31:20

dealing with the future of their steelworks.

0:31:200:31:23

Now, we finish with a hymn that reminds us that,

0:31:230:31:25

although styles may change, faith endures.

0:31:250:31:28

David Grant visits the Post Office church and the congregation in a tent to see how the Church of England is coming up with creative ideas to encourage new members.

Hymns and music this week:

I Will Sing the Wondrous Story, performed by the congregation of St Mark's Church, Maida Vale Let Us Build a House, performed by the congregation of St Mary's Warwick Here I Am to Worship, performed by the congregation of Rauch City Church, Brixton O Jesus, I Have Promised, performed by the congregation of St Alban's Church, Bristol My Song is Love Unknown, performed by Barbara Dickson at St Andrew's Cathedral, Glasgow Faith, Hope and Love, performed at St Alban's Church, Bristol Yesterday, Today and Forever, performed at Salvation Army Sale, Manchester.