Finding Faith Afresh Songs of Praise


Finding Faith Afresh

Diane Louise Jordan interviews Alpha Course pioneer Rev Nicky Gumbel, and visits churches taking new initiatives to invite people in.


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Transcript


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The idea of Sunday being a day of rest isn't really the norm any more.

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A lot of the things done during the week can be done on a Sunday, too.

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Yet there are still lots of churches using initiative and imagination

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to invite people into church in this 24/7 world.

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And this week, I'll be finding out about some of those initiatives

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and also meeting some of the people who've accepted that invitation.

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This week - the newest Methodist church in the country.

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I meet the man running one of the biggest initiatives

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for getting people into church.

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How a summer festival inspired a fresh expression of church

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and lively praise and worship songs from around the UK.

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Later on, we'll be marking International Day of Peace

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with a special prayer from the newly-appointed Archbishop

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and Bishop of Liverpool.

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And the Bishop of Liverpool is also leading a new church

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initiative beginning this month.

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The Season of Invitation,

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when Christians invite their friends to church.

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Ten years ago, we had this simple idea called Back To Church Sunday,

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where church people were asked to invite someone they know

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to something they love.

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And many tens of thousands of people have invited their friends.

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We've moved that on now and we call it the Season of Invitation.

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A season of five occasions.

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End of September, Back to Church Sunday,

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Harvest, October, Remembrance, November,

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Christmas starts December and Christmas Day.

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And research shows us that if people are invited a number of times,

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there's more chance they'll stick with the church, make friends there

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and maybe find out more for themselves what it's all about.

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I came here through a friend

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who I used to go to church with when I was small.

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I've stayed because I've been made to feel so welcome

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and involved in everything the church does.

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I came to church because my wife started coming

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and when I came, I wanted to learn more.

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And I've stayed because it's helped me to live a better life

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and be a better person.

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We came to church to baptise our youngest child

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and we never left.

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And that was 32 years ago and this really is our home.

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Whether you're walking into church for the first or the 1,000th time,

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the redemption and welcome that's at the heart of Christianity

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is open to everybody.

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And that just happens to be the theme of tonight's first hymn.

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A modern version of the 1904 Welsh Revival hymn,

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Here is Love, Vast As The Ocean.

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CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

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In Warrington town centre,

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the members of one congregation

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have stumbled on a friendly way to invite newcomers.

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The promise of coffee, cake and choruses.

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# Hallelujah

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# Hallelujah

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# Hallelujah. #

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5½ years ago, a group of people met together

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with the premise of wanting to go

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to a local coffee shop to start a church there.

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That began a brand-new church community

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which is now known as New Song Network Church.

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What we didn't expect was for it to grow so quickly.

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That so many people who have been un-churched or de-churched,

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those that had walked away from church, come back.

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We now have 190 people meeting for worship

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and a brand-new church community was born.

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The newest Methodist church in the country.

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We are New Song Church!

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CHEERING

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Until six months ago,

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new member Gill Clayton hadn't been to a church since childhood.

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I always felt there was something missing.

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That there was more to life

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than striving for the bigger house, the bigger car.

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But nothing ever fit the bill.

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Nothing ever felt that I could say to myself,

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"Phew! You've made it."

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I was despondent.

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I felt, "This is it. This is all there is to life."

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Gill tried reading the Bible

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and soon afterwards had an unexpected experience

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early one Sunday morning.

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I was woken

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and there was a voice very clearly saying to me,

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"Get up. Get up and go to church."

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So I got ready and I went.

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Gill was made welcome by Jackie, the minister,

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who invited her to the next service of New Song Church.

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I wouldn't have gone if she hadn't of made

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such a personal invitation.

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So important.

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That greeting, that sense of belonging.

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"Come on in, you're home."

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God met me in the people that I met at New Song.

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In the people who drew alongside me that night.

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God...met me there.

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CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

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Perhaps the most well-known initiative

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bringing new people into church is the Alpha course.

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And this is Holy Trinity Brompton, where it started 25 years ago.

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It's a course that many people have been to, including me,

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and I've come today to meet the man who's responsible for it.

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Jesus was tempted in every way, just like us.

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The Reverend Nicky Gumbel has been responsible for Alpha

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since the late 1980s

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and has seen it grow from a small Bible study group

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to an international operation

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in 169 countries and 70,000 churches.

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Alpha is an introduction to Christianity.

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It's designed for people who wouldn't normally go to church.

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And it's a way they can explore that

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in a really relaxed, unpressurised environment.

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Nothing is off limits. No question is too difficult,

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no question is too hostile,

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no question is too simple.

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Everybody can bring their questions. And that's what they do.

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People come with their questions.

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"Why does God allow suffering?"

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"What about other religions?"

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"How can you trust the Bible? Isn't it full of contradictions?"

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And then we discuss together.

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And most people come because a friend invited them

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or a member of their family invited them along.

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How important is it to have that personal invitation?

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On average, we have about 1,000 people who come on the course here.

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And they have all got lots of friends.

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So when they've finished the course, they say to their friends,

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"That was...I had a great time!"

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Why do you think that something that basically started

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in a Central London dinner party,

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why do you think that's had such an attraction,

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why it's affected so many people throughout the globe?

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I think it works because ultimately, it's about Jesus.

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It's not about Alpha.

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If it was about Alpha, it wouldn't work anywhere.

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But it's about Jesus. And I think the gospel is the same everywhere.

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Is Alpha the only way people can find God?

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I didn't go on an Alpha course.

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I met Jesus through reading the New Testament.

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There are many, many different ways that people can encounter Jesus.

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And we run Alpha here because we haven't found a better way.

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If we find a better way, we'll drop Alpha and run the better way.

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Lots of things have changed over the years.

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Because things that people found really easy a few years ago,

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they find really hard now.

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We used to have the talk on the Bible before the one on prayer.

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Because people didn't find the Bible hard 25 years ago.

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There was a sort of respect for the Bible.

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Now that's completely gone.

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People used to think, "Prayer? That's really boring. That's church."

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Now most people are interested in prayer.

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It's kind of like...it's almost a trendy thing to do, to pray.

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The Holy Spirit, people used to...

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That used to be really hard for people.

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The idea of an experience of the Holy Spirit.

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Now people are very open to experience.

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Looking back over these nearly 25 years,

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what would you say you're most thankful for in regard of

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how Alpha's helped the church to grow?

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It's had a huge impact on our own church.

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We've had literally thousands and thousands of people

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who have come to faith on Alpha and have joined the church.

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And then I've watched that in so many churches around the world.

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Catholic churches, Anglican, Baptist,

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Methodist, Salvation Army, Pentecostal.

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And that's an amazing thing to see, all the variety.

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I've been enriched by my experience of all those different churches.

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And I've learnt so much from them.

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It's just been a wonderful adventure.

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But what makes me most thankful about Alpha

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is watching people's lives being transformed by Jesus Christ.

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# The sun comes up it's a new day dawning

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# It's time to sing your song again

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# Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me

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# Let me be singing when the evening comes

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# Bless the Lord, oh, my soul

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# Oh, my soul

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# Worship his holy name

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# Sing like never before

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# Oh, my soul

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# I'll worship your holy name

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# You're rich in love and you're slow to anger

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# Your name is great and your heart is kind

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# For all your goodness I will keep on singing

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# 10,000 reasons for my heart to find

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# Bless the Lord, oh, my soul

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# Oh, my soul

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# Worship his holy name

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# Sing like never before

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# Oh, my soul

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# I'll worship your holy name

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# And on that day when my strength is failing

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# The end draws near and my time has come

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# Still my soul will sing your praise unending

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# 10,000 years and then forevermore

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# Forevermore

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# Bless the Lord, oh, my soul

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# Oh, my soul

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# Worship his holy name

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# Sing like never before, oh, my soul

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# I'll worship your holy name

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# Yes, I will worship your holy name

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# Lord, I'll worship your holy name. #

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Five years ago, with a tiny congregation

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and a building in disrepair,

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St Peter's Brighton was threatened with closure.

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Then, in a church-planting initiative,

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a fresh team led by new vicar Archie Coates

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began to invite people in.

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About 30 of us moved from central London

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to see whether we could keep the church open

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and reinvigorate and grow it

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and maybe fix up the building at the same time.

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What we found is this great sort of spiritual hunger.

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And as we've gone to get to know people in Brighton

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and people have started to come,

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then they've got friends or family members to invite.

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Today, with its city-centre location,

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St Peter's attracts people from all walks of life.

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I was in addiction for 35 years, in and out of prison.

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I was just a real... Not a very nice person, to be honest.

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And I started coming to the services

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because I got a place just over the road.

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And it's not like that today.

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God has just so transformed me.

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A lot of my behaviours have changed.

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I actually do care for people now and love people.

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Why is this church special to you?

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It's just full of life and full of the Holy Spirit.

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What more can I say, really?

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Our next song is performed by a member of this church.

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He's also a pioneer of contemporary Christian music.

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It's Martin Smith, who, 20 years ago,

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wrote a song that is now a firm classic.

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It's, I Could Sing Of Your Love Forever.

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# Over the mountains and the sea

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# Your river runs with love for me

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# And I will open up my heart

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# And let the healer set me free

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# I'm happy to be in the truth

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# And I will daily lift my hands

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# For I will always sing

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# Of when your love came down

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# I could sing of your love forever

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# I could sing of your love forever

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# I could sing of your love forever

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# I could sing of your love forever

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# Oh, I feel like dancing

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# It's foolishness, I know

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# But when the world has seen the light

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# They will dance with joy

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# Like we're dancing now

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# I could sing of your love forever

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# I could sing of your love forever

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# I could sing of your love forever

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# I could sing of your love forever

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# La-la-la-la-la-la-la

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# La-la. #

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Going back to church isn't just about worshipping on a Sunday.

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It's a whole complete change of lifestyle.

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Retired magician, Des Hawkins,

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is one of a growing number of people returning to church in later life.

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I'm afraid I only attended church for Christmas, Easter,

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big occasions like that.

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-Hi, Simon.

-Hi, Des.

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-How are you?

-Good. How are you?

-Great, excellent.

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Des found faith afresh after a very simple initiative.

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A party invitation from his Christian neighbour, Simon.

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We invited all of our neighbours

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so that somehow we might have an opportunity to talk with them

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about encountering God through Jesus.

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I went to some of their meetings

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and asked lots of questions and got interested

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and I was totally convinced.

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It was... As far as I was concerned, there was no question.

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That was the way to live your life.

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And you didn't have to pass a test or do anything special.

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God was there wanting to be in your life.

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You just have to open the door.

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And thanks to Jesus, we're all... Everything is forgiven.

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We're... Even for me, it was wiped clean.

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So I decided I wanted to become a Christian

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and started attending church.

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And then, two years later, I was baptised.

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Des now puts his faith into action as a volunteer,

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entertaining local school kids

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at the Launch Pad Breakfast Club in West Sussex.

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Children come along and they have a good time.

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And actually, I have a good time.

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All of this, the Breakfast Club and all of this stuff

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all came about because my neighbour Simon

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put that invitation through my door.

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And that was the beginning of everything.

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Since 1989, the New Wine summer conference

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has been inspiring Christians

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to make a difference in their communities.

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In 2012, it moved one group of friends from Halifax

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to start a new initiative for people struggling on the edge of society.

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There were three of us who were here.

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We'd been working with our local food bank.

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We felt God was saying to us that we needed to provide something more.

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Not just meet the practical needs of these guys.

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But we had a real heart for ministering to them spiritually.

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The friends discovered they were each being inspired

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with similar ideas, which they believed came from God.

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God gave each one of us three little bits.

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When we put those little bits together, they became the picture.

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So the three leaders, myself, Linda and Cath

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decided to put an evening on every Saturday

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and call it the Saturday Gathering.

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There's a real sense of community and a real sense of family.

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We love each other dearly

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and we call ourselves a fresh expression of church.

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The Saturday Gathering for me is amazing.

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I feel really connected there to God.

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Saturday Gathering literally saved my life.

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If it weren't for them, I'd be six feet under by now.

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And now the story's come full circle,

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with the members of Saturday Gathering coming to New Wine.

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It's just amazing. I'm moved on. I'm a recovering addict.

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It's cleansed me of so much baggage I've carried for so long.

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It's like a miracle, really.

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This is my first time at New Wine. I think it's great.

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It's overwhelming.

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We're moving forward with the help of Jesus.

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Even if you're struggling with your whole faith,

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by the time you leave here,

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it's like you've had your eyes opened to who God really is.

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And it's just an amazing thing to be part of.

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Seeing these guys come out and give their lives to Christ,

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or go and ask for...praying for each other or ask for healing,

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you know, it's incredibly humbling.

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I'm just so thankful God has given us somewhere like New Wine

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where we can come, spend time with other Christians.

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And I guess it wasn't for New Wine,

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none of what you see with our community

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would really have happened.

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# What a friend we have in Jesus

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# All our sins and grief to bear

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# What a privilege to carry

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# Everything to God in prayer

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# Oh, what peace we often forfeit

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# Oh, what needless pain we bear

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# All because we do not carry

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# Everything to God in prayer

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# What a friend we have in Jesus

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# What a friend we have in him

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# For he knows us and he holds us in his hands

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# And his grace is never failing

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# And his love without an end

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# What a friend we have in Jesus

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# What a friend we have in him

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# Oh

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# Oh-oh

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# Blessed Saviour, you have promised

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# You will all our burdens bear

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# May we ever, Lord, be bringing

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# All to you in earnest prayer

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# Soon in glory bright, unclouded

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# There will be no need for prayer

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# Rapture, praise and endless worship

0:28:310:28:35

# Will be our sweet portion there

0:28:350:28:40

# What a friend we have in Jesus

0:28:400:28:45

# What a friend we have in him

0:28:450:28:49

# For he knows us and he holds us in his hands

0:28:490:28:57

# And his praise is never failing

0:29:000:29:05

# And his love without an end

0:29:050:29:10

# What a friend we have in Jesus

0:29:100:29:15

# What a friend we have in him

0:29:150:29:19

# Oh

0:29:190:29:20

# Oh-oh

0:29:200:29:22

# What a friend

0:29:220:29:24

# Oh

0:29:240:29:25

# Oh-oh. #

0:29:250:29:29

APPLAUSE

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Before our last hymn, we couldn't end without marking today

0:29:340:29:37

as International Day of Peace.

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And so we've asked the Anglican Bishop

0:29:400:29:42

and Catholic Archbishop of Liverpool,

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both new to their jobs, to lead us in prayer for peace.

0:29:440:29:49

Blessed are the peacemakers who say no to war as a means to peace.

0:29:540:29:58

Blessed are the peacemakers

0:29:580:30:00

who offer hope and healing, care and comfort.

0:30:000:30:04

Blessed are the peacemakers who help find answers,

0:30:040:30:08

who welcome, encourage and inspire.

0:30:080:30:11

Blessed are the peacemakers who see the good in others.

0:30:110:30:15

Blessed are the peacemakers who never give up.

0:30:150:30:18

Blessed are the peacemakers...

0:30:180:30:20

-Who give...

-And give.

-..and give.

0:30:200:30:23

BOTH: Amen.

0:30:230:30:24

Next week, we celebrate the glorious sound of gospel music.

0:33:270:33:30

David is at the Hackney Empire,

0:33:300:33:32

where six of the best amateur choirs in the country

0:33:320:33:35

sing with all their heart and soul

0:33:350:33:37

in the first of two special programmes

0:33:370:33:40

to find the Songs of Praise Gospel Choir of the Year.

0:33:400:33:43

Diane Louise Jordan interviews Alpha Course pioneer Rev Nicky Gumbel, and visits churches taking new initiatives to invite people in. The bishop and archbishop of Liverpool lead a joint prayer for International Day of Peace, and hymns from around the UK include 10,000 Reasons, In Christ Alone and Here is Love.


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