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Believe it or not, this week sees the start of spring.
And we've got some lovely Christian stories of new beginnings,
as well as meeting some of the baby animals here on a farm in Derby.
So cute! Welcome to Songs Of Praise.
This week, I'm seeing new beginnings on a Christian-run farm
that's changing lives.
We try not to be religious,
but I believe that being a Christian is about loving people.
JB Gill meets a couple on a church-run marriage course
as they begin their new life together.
I had to teach her to load the dishwasher.
He actually did!
And we reflect on the life and work of evangelist Billy Graham,
who died last month.
Our hymns are from across the UK,
including one to celebrate St Patrick's Day.
There's plenty of traditional music to come.
But we begin with a modern song
that celebrates the new life Jesus brings.
# And if our God!
# Our God is greater, sing!
# Oh-oh-oh! #
One place to find new beginnings is here at Highfields Happy Hens,
a farm near Derby that's home to thousands
of free-range chickens reared for eggs,
some pygmy goats and newborn lambs.
It's run by Christians Beryl and Roger.
So we get about 12,000 eggs a day.
And we're sort of labour intensive, so it's all manual collections.
The farm is also a training ground for local young people
who've needed a fresh start in life.
And it's this which truly motivates Roger.
Everything around here is about creating jobs
that can make people feel good, really. About themselves.
When they first come they can be very quiet,
no confidence whatsoever.
But, after a few weeks, they start coming out of their shell.
All their anger goes.
-Coming out of their shell - no pun intended!
Sorry about that!
Young people James and Chelsea have both benefited from working here.
So, James, tell me -
what opportunities does being here on the farm give you?
Well, it's given me a chance to interact with new people
and I love all the animals. I've loved animals all my life, really.
It's just made me grow as a person.
Made me more into a man, rather than a teenager.
Just given me loads of opportunities, really.
Chelsea, how have you changed as a person since you came to work here?
I remember, when I first came here, I was very anxious and dead shy.
I like seeing new animals born,
I like doing all the treatments for the animals.
I just generally love caring for the animals.
Roger and Beryl are just great employers.
And just give everyone a second chance in life.
If you've not had a good life,
you've always got that second chance.
Roger, why do this? Cos it's a lot of work, isn't it?
Why on earth are you putting yourself through all this?
Basically, my mum left home when I was five
and I turned into a very angry, aggressive, nasty young person.
And I went to boarding... had to go to boarding school.
And I've got a letter from my then headmaster
that said, "Society needs to be protected from people like Roger."
I wasn't a bad kid.
I was an angry kid.
I was a hurting kid.
So you see something of yourself
-reflected in some of these young people?
I mean, later on in life, I became a Christian.
And there was no question in my mind
that I wanted to spend the rest of my life working with young people.
Come on, boy!
Most young people want to learn
but they need to be in the right environment.
We try not to be religious,
but I believe that being a Christian is about loving people.
I've never lost the mystery of what goes on in birth of any sort -
planting a field of corn and watching it come up,
seeing a lamb born.
And seeing a young person's life change,
that really is... that's special.
# All creatures of our god and king... #
Not far from this farm is the city of Derby.
Now, like many English cities,
it was once home to a thriving Methodist Mission building.
That's now closed but a new, exciting,
fresh expression of church is emerging in its place.
On a brand-new estate, the Methodists have bought a modern house
to replace their ageing church building.
Instead of formal church services, they'll use it for local activities
like community lunches and Bible studies.
Leading this new programme of events
is Ali Stacey-Chapman, whose first task is to befriend
the residents of this inner city community.
I'm a pioneer missioner,
which is a very churchy term for a not-at-all-churchy job.
And the pioneering is about doing things differently,
going in, trying things new.
It's literally as fresh as it comes!
-One of the great things about this job
is that I live next door, so I've worked out it's about ten paces.
So no excuses for being late for work!
The project may be new,
but it's inspired by an historical figure, Susanna Wesley,
mother of famous Methodists John and Charles.
There's a lovely story about her that,
at one point where her husband was away,
he'd employed a useless curate to look after the church
and Susanna Wesley didn't approve of the curate.
So she started services in her kitchen.
And I gather she had 200 people for these services.
So she was pioneering, if you like,
a new way of being a church in her time.
And that's one thing we see ourselves doing here.
It's exciting to be new somewhere,
and it gives you the opportunity to rely on the local community,
and that's just such a blessing.
And it's a real joy to be able to live alongside people
and to share life and to be a part of this community.
I thought we would follow a bit of series for Lent.
It's really early days here in the work but I love my job.
I do feel like it's one of the best jobs in the world.
We give you thanks for the story of this city.
We wish Ali well as she starts her new job.
Now, if you didn't already know, today is St Patrick's Day.
So our next hymn on the theme of Christian dedication
is from the famous poem known as St Patrick's Breastplate.
# I bind unto myself today... #
For four decades here on this Derbyshire farm,
young people who have needed a fresh start for a variety of reasons
have been offered a brand-new beginning by owners Roger and Beryl.
But, at 75, Roger is well past retirement age.
For the last decade, he's wanted to hand on the farm
but hasn't found anyone who shares his Christian vision for it.
That is, until now.
Paul and Amanda Munro, who've worked with homeless people in Derbyshire,
have felt the call to work here
and, in a leap of faith, are happy and able to start immediately.
We would love to be able to just build on the foundations
that Roger and Beryl have laid already, really.
And just continue the work that they've started here,
being able to just give hope and new opportunities to young people.
We're just praying for more support that we can pick up the mantle,
so to speak. And move forward with the same kind of work
that Roger and Beryl have already achieved here.
And in this season of Lent, you two must be spending
a lot of time in prayer and reflection,
cos this is a big decision.
Everything we do, we want God, really,
to be involved in that decision-making process.
If God's not involved in this, we're wasting our time, really.
So, yeah, it's really important
for us to sort of take that time of reflection.
Our next piece of music is nearly 400 years old
and expresses those deep times of reflection
that many Christians have during Lent.
# Drop, drop slow tears
# And bathe those beauteous feet
# Which brought from heav'n
# The news and prince of peace
# Cease not, wet eyes
# His mercies to entreat
# To cry for vengeance
# Sin doth never cease
# In your deep floods
# Drown all my faults and fears
# Nor let his eye see sin
# But through my tears. #
Today we're celebrating new beginnings
and one important start in life is marriage.
JB Gill has been finding out how couples can prepare.
Anyone who's ever planned a wedding will tell you
that there's just so much to organise.
I mean, there's the outfits...
Ooh, lucky me!
..and, of course, the cake.
But a marriage is about so much more than just a wedding.
Many churches offer courses
to help couples get ready for their new life together.
The wide range includes the Marriage Preparation course
designed at Holy Trinity Brompton in London,
and now used in churches like this one in Bolton.
It's been compared to a great tree growing right up
through the centre of...
The Marriage Preparation course is five practical sessions
that cover everything from resolving conflict
to keeping the love alive.
It's for any couple.
So whether they're engaged, or they're just exploring marriage,
or whether they're a little bit older or little bit younger,
it is for absolutely anyone.
Couples watch the five main sessions on video
and then chat privately together.
Steve and Julie are soon to be married
and are glad to be learning new skills
like effective communication, handling finances,
and dealing with family life.
I think like with anything in life, you want to be prepared.
So if, you know, you want to be a doctor, you go to uni.
If you want to, you know, do anything in life,
you prepare for it. So why not go on a marriage course?
What's your experience of marriage?
Well, I've actually been married before.
And, unfortunately, it didn't work out.
So this time, you know, I really wanted it to last,
I wanted, you know, the foundation to be strong.
And you know, my mum and dad stayed together, they're still together.
And they've been my role models, really.
And so, this time round, I want to be like them.
I want it to last forever.
But I think for us the spiritual aspect really comes into it.
So, for example, things like prayer can come into it.
We've prayed on the back of certain things, you know,
discussed certain things and then prayed into that.
So I think it's been really beneficial.
It's really deepened the spiritual connection between us as well.
Do you promise to love her, comfort her, honour...?
After all the preparation,
Steve and Julie celebrated their wedding at Kings Church in Bolton.
And, a few weeks later, they've been reflecting on their big day.
It was amazing. The bride was beautiful!
And they've been putting what they learned on the course into practice.
I was single for quite a long time before I met Stephen.
So I've been used to living the single life, you know,
so to come to live with somebody after all that time
can be quite a challenge, you know.
You know, we do things differently.
I had to teach her to load the dishwasher!
He actually did!
I'm reminded of the scripture
that says a three-corded strand isn't easily broken.
And certainly as Christians that's the case with us.
You know, we're putting God right at the centre
and as we look forward, into the future,
God is going to be with us every step of the way, guiding us.
-And creating a stronger marriage with us.
One person who believed that anyone could have a new beginning
through faith in Jesus was evangelist Billy Graham,
who died just three weeks ago, aged 99.
One of the most influential preachers of our time,
the American evangelical Billy Graham
shared the gospel with an estimated 210 million people.
There is only one way that men can get to heaven. One road.
Jesus said it was a narrow road. He said the gate was narrow.
And it's the cross. And I must come to his cross.
It was in 1954 he first came to the UK
and filled the Harringay Arena in London every night for three months.
Thousands became Christians.
In 1966, a young Cliff Richard used Billy Graham's Earls Court rallies
to declare his faith in public for the first time.
# It is no secret
# What God can do... #
In the 1980s, Billy Graham spoke at Mission England,
in stadium events across the country.
It's not easy to follow Christ in 1984.
But he does promise his peace and his joy and his strength
and his power and his love.
And he promises you eternal life.
Such was his success, he met the great and the good across the world.
But, right from the start, he never took personal credit for his work.
I despise all this attention on me.
I wish we could publicise the meetings in some way
in which my name were not used.
I'm not trying to bring people to myself.
Nor am I trying to interest people in me.
But I know that God has sent me out as a warrior to preach the gospel.
And I must continue until he gives the signal that I'm to stop.
Billy Graham himself was unafraid of death,
considering it merely a change of address.
I'm looking forward to death.
Because I want to go into that glorious new world
that I believe everybody that knows Christ is going to go.
And I'm going to have all the answers
that now I would like to have answers to.
For example, where did evil come from?
Why does God allow evil to have such tremendous influence
and power in our world?
Why all the murders, why all the kidnappings and the sex crimes?
And the wars?
I'm not looking forward to dying.
I'm looking forward to what happens at death,
when I go into the presence of Christ.
In the coming months, we hope to make a special programme
about Billy Graham and we'd love to hear stories
about his influence on your faith.
Details are all on the screen.
And our next hymn, sung today in an American version,
was one of his personal favourites,
telling the Christian story of salvation.
# And can it be... #
That's almost it from Derbyshire.
We've seen whether it's a local community, a farm,
or even a couple getting married,
everyone has a chance at a new beginning in life.
Next week, for Palm Sunday, Sean Fletcher visit St Albans Cathedral,
to learn about Britain's first Christian martyr.
And Josie d'Arby samples the original Easter treat, the Alban bun.
Well, this little one's almost asleep,
but, before we go, the final hymn
is all about the guiding hand of God through every season of life.
# Be thou my vision... #