humbler church Bigger God - January 2022

HeartEdge is fundamentally about a recognition of the activity of the Holy Spirit beyond and outside the church, and about a church that flourishes when it seeks to catch up with what the Spirit is already doing in the world. There was a time when church meant a group that believed it could control access to God – access that only happened in its language on its terms. But God is bigger than that, and the church needs to be humbler than that. Kingdom churches anticipate the way things are with God forever – a culture of creativity, mercy, discovery and grace – and are grateful for the ways God renews the church through those it has despised, rejected, or ignored.

‘humbler church Bigger God’ is the new title for our ongoing online festival of theology, ideas and practice. We’ve developed this in response to our changing world. The church is changing too, and - as we improvise and experiment - we can learn and support each other. This is ‘humbler church Bigger God’’ - talks, workshops and discussion - hosted by HeartEdge. Created to equip, encourage and energise churches - from leaders to volunteers and enquirers - at the heart and on the edge.

The online programme includes:

  • Regular workshops: Church History (Fortnightly on Mondays), Sermon Preparation (Weekly on Tuesdays) and Community of Practitioners (Weekly on Wednesdays)
  • One-off workshops and series on topics relevant to renewal of the broad church including Contemplation as a Gift to the Church and Reconciling Mission: Being Better Neighbours.

January's humbler church Bigger God programme includes:

Church History course:

A new course providing an introduction to and an overview of church history. If we are to see a humbler Church and a bigger God, we need to deal with the history of the Church to understand where we are now, and why. The course starts on Monday 24 January and runs twice a month at 7.45 pm on Mondays until 25 July (see below for dates and topics). It will be led by Rev Ruth Gouldbourne who has been a Baptist minister for more than 30 years, ministering in churches in Bedford, London and Cheadle Hulme, as well as being a tutor at Bristol Baptist College. An Associate Fellow of Spurgeon's College, she is also Senior Research Fellow of IBTSC Amsterdam, and a Research Fellow of Bristol Baptist College.

The schedule is as follows: Week 1 - Introduction; why church history? Jan 24; Week 2 - The Fathers – who they? Feb 7; Week 3 - Creeds, Councils and Controversies Feb 28; Week 4 - Augustine towers over us all March 14; Week 5 - Christendom; love it or hate it, you need to deal with it March 28; Week 6 - A thousand years when nothing happened April 11; Week 7 - Middle ages; Light April 25; Week 8 - Middle Ages; Dark May 9; Week 9 - Middle Ages; Shadow May 23; Week 10 - Reform of all shapes and sizes June 6; Week 11 - Reason and romanticism June 27; Week 12 - Expansion and disintegration July 11; Week 13 - Reconfiguration – and nothing new under the sun. July 25. 

Register for the Zoom link at

Jesus Is Just Alright: Rocking the Church calendar

For over 50 years, pop musicians in all genres have explored the meaning and significance of Jesus in their music. The result is a rich collection of songs that consider important spiritual questions like faith, doubt, and prayer in unique and often provocative ways.

Delvyn Case and Jonathan Evens will, in conversation, mine this rich resource to share rock and pop music for Lent (4 January), Easter (10 January) and Christmas (18 January). Register for the Zoom link at

Delvyn Case is a composer, conductor, scholar, performer, concert producer, and educator based in the Boston area who has set up Rock of Ages, a website where he shares his research into Jesus and Popular songs.

Jonathan Evens is Associate Vicar for HeartEdge at St Martin-in-the-Fields and co-author of ‘The Secret Chord’, an impassioned study of the role of music in cultural life written through the prism of Christian belief.

Community of Practitioners workshop:

Wednesdays at 16:00 (GMT), Zoom meeting. Email to register. This is a space for practitioners, lay and ordained, to reflect on theology and practice. Each week, we alternate between 'Wonderings' and discussion of a work of theology. Books to be read include ‘The Hidden Wound’ by Wendell Berry and ‘Improvisation’ by Sam Wells. 'Wonderings' help us to reflect and pray on what has stood out for each of us in the last week. Newcomers are very welcome.

The Binding of Isaac According to the Elohist

Thu, 13 January, 15:00 – 16:00 GMT. Register at

For millennia, the Biblical story of Abraham and Isaac has provoked Jews and Christians to explore questions central to our religious lives: What is faith? What does God require of us? How do our Scriptures reveal those answers?

This ecumenical event explores these questions through the lens of a new musical composition inspired by Genesis 22 by American composer Delvyn Case. Participants will view a video of the world-premiere performance of this new work and then engage in small-group discussion about the ways it explores the complexities of this ancient story. Moderators include Delvyn Case, composer and hymn writer June Boyce Tillman, Rabbi Tzemah Yoreh, leader of The City Congregation, New York, and Revd Jonathan Evens.

Pioneer Practice

This is a free four-week webinar series with Jonny Baker and guests, run in partnership between HeartEdge and Church Mission Society (CMS). Sign up here for access to all the webinars, running on these dates:

13 January: Be You
20 January: See
27 January: Build
3 February: Change

Register at

As a pioneer, you see something — a possibility, an idea, a way that things could be better or new of different. Then you make something happen out of what you see.

This webinar series explores over four weeks how pioneering happens in practice. Its focus is how things happen on the ground. Each week Jonny will have two or three guests and get into the gritty day to day of how they pioneer. It’s ideal for you if you have started something or if you have an inkling or an idea you want to explore and get started. It would also be really useful to attend with a couple of others who you might pioneer something with. If you are a church leader it would be great for you too and do think of people in your church who might have the pioneer gift, whether they know it or not, and encourage them to come along.

That idea might be starting a new Congregation — the Church of England, for example, is encouraging every parish to pioneer one. It might also be an idea related to Compassion in your community. It might be related to Commerce as a way of making good in the world through enterprise. Or it might be related to Culture. These are the four Cs of the HeartEdge network.

If you can’t make a session, recordings will be made available for those signed up to the series.

Jonny Baker set up the pioneer training at CMS where he is one of the directors. He loves all things creative and especially is interested in how faith connects with the wider culture. He is an advocate for pioneers, encouraging and enabling people to give legs to their ideas. To that end, Pioneer Practice, his latest book distills the practical wisdom Jonny has learned over the years into short, full colour, easy to read articles and stories. He has been involved in youth ministry, alternative worship, emerging church, pioneering and will no doubt be involved in whatever else we call the waves of mission innovation in relation to post Christian Britain.

Theology Group and Theology Reading Group

The St Martin-in-the-Fields and HeartEdge Theology Group provides an monthly opportunity to reflect theologically on issues of today and questions of forever with Sam Wells. Each month Sam responds to questions from a member of the congregation of St Martin-in-the-Fields who also chairs the session and encourages your comments and questions.

Advance dates for Theology Group meetings online are: Jan 23, Feb 20, March 20. On 23 Jan the chair will be Wendy Quill. Register at

Additionally, the St Martin-in-the-Fields and HeartEdge Theology Reading Group meets termly to discuss a book together. The next online meeting of this group will be January 30, 19:00 GMT. Register at

Join Revd Dr Sam Wells for our termly theology reading group, hosted by HeartEdge in collaboration with St Martin-in-the-Fields. Sam will lead the discussion and ask participants to share their thoughts and reflections on the book. This term, we've selected Herbert McCabe's God Matters. A Dominican friar who discovered Marxism as a student at Manchester in the 1960s, he was famed for his wit and polemical tone in his preaching and writing. He worked particularly on Christian ethics, the philosophy of language and Thomas Aquinas, but the essays and sermons collected in God Matters cover themes from the problem of evil to the incarnation, Eucharistic theology to class struggle and hunger strikes. This event will be live on Zoom and participants will be emailed a link to join ahead of time.

Ableism in Church: Disabled People and Marginalization

Monday 31 January, 3.00 pm ET / 8.00 pm GMT, Zoom.

Ableism is discrimination and social prejudice which favours non-disabled people. Like racism and sexism, it classifies entire groups of people as 'less than.' In this conversation disabled ministers, academics and practitioners explore ableism and the church. Drawing on the disability rights movement's ‘nothing about us without us,’ parishes are called to heed the voices and experience of disabled people to understand and address ableism in theology, culture, and practice.

This is a new and much needed conversation for the CEEP network. It seeks to enable a listening process so that the presence, gifts and ministry of disabled people can be fully enjoyed by the church.

Register for a Zoom link at

Panelists include:

  • Sharon Betcher - Independent Scholar; Whidbey Island, Washington
  • Lamar Hardwick - Lead Pastor, Tri-Cities Church; East Point, Georgia
  • Miriam Spies - General Editor, The Canadian Journal of Theology, Mental Health and Disability, University of Toronto; Ontario, Canada
  • Tim Goode - Rector, St. Margaret’s Church - Lee, Disability Advisor to the Southwark Diocese; London, United Kingdom
  • Fiona MacMillan - Chair, St. Martin-in-the-Fields' Disability Advisory Group, Inclusive Church Trustee; London, United Kingdom

Find our archive of Living God’s Future Now sessions at -  

The humbler church Bigger Church series also coincides with the publication of Samuel Wells, 'Humbler Faith, Bigger God: Finding a Faith to Live By', a major new articulation of the Christian faith that sees criticism as a gift to foster renewal. (Pub date 29 April 2021)

“I’m not sure who else alive could have written this book. Scholars are not usually this accessible. Pastors not usually this sharp-eyed. Critics not usually this devastating. Advocates not usually so beautiful. This unusual book calls to mind Augustine’s heart, Aquinas’s mind, Day’s activism, Temple’s leadership. You say I exaggerate? Take up and read before you tell me I’m wrong.”

— Jason Byassee, Butler Professor of Homiletics and Biblical Hermeneutics at Vancouver School of Theology