51 of 66 | The City of STOKE | An Oasis of Hope


THIS WAS STOKE | (See my Full 66 City Tour List by Clicking HERE)


The room next door were obviously catching an early flight this morning and wanted to let everyone know they were ready. Consequently, I was awake around 4:15am. Nuts.
Still it meant I was up, packed, charged and breakfasted by 8:00am and gathering some contact numbers for Stoke before soon checking out of my 3 night hideaway and getting on the road to that 14 mile long and 7 miles wide city of Stoke.

Safely on the ‘motorway’, cruise control on and hands free plugged in, I contacted UCB to see if I could get a bed for the night and an interview with one of the Directors. They would get back to me. I received a text later which said “Yes I could have a bed (UCB is better than any hotel) and yes I could have an interview with Carl Brettle at 13:45pm” This is a result! EVERYONE at UCB is ‘full on’ busy so to be able to get a piece of someone’s diary is verging on the miraculous.

Side comment here : Everyone at UCB has always blessed me greatly and have been exceptionally gracious to me and consequently, I highly recommend them to you.

I contacted a large church in Stoke and left a message for the Pastor. He had been out of the town and it seems there was no time for an interview.

I contacted BBC Stoke and left a message with the NewsDesk.They never got back to me.

I texted the studio of a local community radio station. No response.

I contacted the churches together secretary for the region and left a message on his answer phone. I heard nothing back today. Maybe tomorrow when it will be too late for Stoke.

I contacted Staffordshire University Stoke Campus and the secretary to the Chaplaincy there, I got the senior chaplain! Yes I could come and visit.

I contacted the Stoke Civic Centre and spoke to the Lord Mayors PA and requested to see him today. She thought he was out today. Later, the lovely lady got back to me and arranged for me to see the Mr Lord Mayor at high noon.

When I then rang York Minster, David the Rector not only would give me an interview, but would have me come and share from Colossians at evening prayer.

And finally, a couple of guys I already knew at UCB wanted to take me for lunch. Stoke seemed to be a city of favour for me today. Indeed it was. Here is how the day looked like it was shaping up:

• 10:45 Arrive in Stoke (there was a detour due to an accident)
• 11:00 Meeting at Staffordshire University Stoke Campus with Rev. Benedict
• 12:00 Meeting with the Lord Mayor of Stoke in his parlour
• 13:00 Quick Lunch meeting two good friends in the Potteries shopping Centre
• 13:45 Meeting with Carl Brettle a Director of UCB
• Later in the afternoon move into my room for the Night in Handchurch UCB and prepare for tonight’s message
• 16:45 Interview Rector Rev David of Stoke Minster
• 17:15 Share with the Folks at Stoke Minster from book number 51 Colossians

Now remember, Stoke is really a patchwork connection of six towns, hence the reason why its 14 miles long. That’s important because, if you put say a 7 instead of a 4 into your Sat Nav, then it could in fact take you quite a few miles out of your way whilst keeping you in the city. ( Yes. Of course I did!)

So, despite the detour on the road trying to down to Stoke, I did arrive on its outskirts with 15 minutes to spare in getting to my first appointment at the University. Indeed, the Rector had said I could park Free of Charge in the Minster, which was next door to the Civic centre and the Mayor’s office and only 5 minutes from the Stoke Campus.

I must say that Stoke is a challenge to some people, especially as its increased Brownfield sites make parts of it look like a clearance section after the Blitz. Councillor Terry, the Lord Mayor, explained to me that as a city they had prepared for inward investment by pulling down the old and abandoned industrial sites, then the cuts came and with those, the promised Government investment disappeared and consequently they were left with nothing but cleared ground. Actually I like that. You see, I wonder if Stoke is a place prepared? I mean, ‘Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts.’

For me, I love Stokes surrounding and stunning countryside, it’s central locality to the rest of the UK and its quick road system. I like the people as well. They are down to earth, real, affable, and say ‘Duck’ as a term of endearment. They are ‘as different from the rest of England as their own landscape!’

However, some people are not so positive! And I can fully understand people wanting to get out of the place as soon as possible This video did make me laugh!

Compared to the other cities in the area, Stoke is a bit of a forgotten city, a very poor relation. No doubt about it. However, I am convinced that it is a ‘place prepared’ and much investment will make it flower. Concerning Stoke, the best is obviously yet to come. Maybe I need my eyes testing.

I say this because I input a 4 instead of a 7 into the Sat Nav and it took me to the opposite end of the city. Instead of being 15 minutes early, by the time I actually parked the car, I ended up being 15 minutes late at ‘Faith House’ in the University.

Rev. Benedict raises a very serious question here about the cultural sin of ‘judging others’ in how we communicate the Word of God.

Interestingly, In the USA Fox News Reports today that
“A private Georgia university is reportedly requiring its employees to sign a statement indicating they are not gay or face termination. Shorter University, a private Christian university in Rome, Ga., is forcing its 200 employees to sign a “personal lifestyle statement” rejecting pre-martial sex, adultery and homosexuality or risk getting fired, WSB-TV reports. “Our goal is not to offend people,” Don Dowless, the school’s president, told the station. “Our goal is to declare who we are.”Dowless said if employees indicate a preference for any sexual activity “not agreeable with the Bible,” they will be terminated. “I think that anybody who adheres to a lifestyle that is outside of what the Biblical mandate is — what the board has passed, including the president — would not be allowed to continue here,” he told the station. Dowless reportedly says the pledge is legal because the private university does not receive any federal funding.”

Though students are reportedly not being asked to sign the pledge, some however, claim the requirement is a form of discrimination.“Who is one person to judge what somebody else does?” said one student, who spoke anonymously to the station. “It’s none of their business.”


Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2011/10/31/georgia-university-forces-employees-to-sign-statement-rejecting-homosexuality/?test=latestnews#ixzz1cRArTgek

I think Christians are caught up and held back on this horrible hook and the neglect of judgement is the reason for our lack of power in, and attempts at, real Evangelism. You see, an honest proclamation of the Scriptures means that you CANNOT get away from its judgemental nature, however, it is obvious that only forgiven people, devoid of any self righteousness, that can begin to express this whole truth of God’s Word. I wonder if the church might need to ask itself “in what way have we become self righteous?” Maybe if we deal with our self righteousness, we shall regain our integrity in proclamation?

I left Benedict and arrived on time in the Civic centre to meet the Lord Mayor and what a delightful and down to earth chap. Councillor ‘Terry Follows’ is ‘Stokie’, positive about and proud of his city. I think he likes its football team as well! (Are they any good? I’m not really up on these things. *)

The Lord Mayor is not a religious man, but he did pull out a gold nugget for us to get hold of and that is his observation of our lack of parental and church action with regards to church schooling. Biblical education must start at an early age and should be part of our Christian cultural life. I actually think that churches themselves can open their buildings and offer Biblical education to their members children and that this could be and maybe even should be a mandatory delight I wonder if the local church must rediscover its responsibility for religious education. I wonder if we have left Biblical education to the parents and if the parents have failed?

The Lord Mayor gave me great interview and a thorough tour of the Parlour and treasures of the Civic centre. Councillor Follows even gave me a parting gift of a Cup emblazoned with Stokes coat of arms to take away with me! Thanks Mr Lord Mayor for your time, interview, hospitality and gift. Just wonderful. In all ways, I am increasingly convinced that we as Christians should much more befriend, pray for and utilise the openness and service of our Civic Authorities.

I rushed away to meet up with my two good friends in Starbucks, where I was treated to lunch and some strange Starbuck brew which got me as high as a kite on its syrupy goodness for the rest of the afternoon. It was great to meet with these guys. They are part of my 66 City journey, praying for me every day and encouraging me greatly. I will embarrass them should I tell you more, but what a blessing they have been to me.

Carl Brettle is a director in UCB and I regard him much more as a friend and mentor than a contact. His vision is massive and his faith is great, so it was just super to chat with him and have him pray for me.

I left Carl at the UCB administrative centre and drove a few miles to UCB Handchurch, the home of the organisations Media Broadcasting section and checked into the room I was staying at tonight. I had to be at the Minister for 4:45 to interview Rev David and still had to prepare a few thoughts on Colossians. It was Halloween and in mixed up Britain, the message to be delivered in the heart of Pagan Britain was obvious. “Let the Word of Christ Dwell In You RICHLY!”

( P.S. note to self…You are in STOKE Minster and NOT York Minster! Wally.)

I interviewed the Rector of “St Peter in Chains”. I think this is an interesting name for the Minster of Stoke, where Rev. David readily acknowledges the need for HOPE in a city that can sometimes be quite depressive for many people.

It was a thoughtful interview, David knows his city and his people and brings a reality of HOPE to his Pastoral mission.

HOPE WORTH AND VALUE seem to be the churches communicable attributes to the people of Stoke. I wonder if these keys might just unlock Peter from his chains?

I returned to UCB and no sooner was I back than my two buddies came to take me out for some grub and good times. May I introduce you to the dynamic double act of the ‘2JAYS’ that are, Jim and Joel.

I have been blessed by being in Stoke. It’s been a bit of an Oasis for me and provided some real refreshing. Tomorrow is November, and I readily acknowledge that I have gotten thus far through the prayers encouragement and provision of people like these folk, of people like YOU. Thank you so much. For I am felling refreshed and ready for the final two weeks.

I got my head down about 10:00pm trusting that God had tomorrow and all my tomorrows in hand.

* Stoke City Football fans are fanatics and of course they are good! I just wanted to annoy a few ardent Stokies 

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About vrfarrell

Biblical activist
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