Did you make it to the Amazing Pilgrimage that walked from Christ the Cornerstone to Olney in celebration of the 240th anniversary of probably the world’s best known hymn: John Newton’s Amazing Grace? I wimped out and joined the walk at Sherington, which was a lot shorter! At the final service in Olney, which saw the church packed out, we reflected on Newton’s life and legacy, his involvement in the slave trade, his discovery of the grace of God shown in Jesus which turned his life around and made him a powerful advocate for the abolition of the slave trade. It was moving and humbling to hear Daniel, one of the speakers, note that, but for Newton and his supporters, he may not have been standing there telling his story to us. It was equally disturbing and challenging to hear Matt from World Vision describe the ongoing horror of modern slavery, which World Vision is involved in tackling.
The event began as a response by a small group of Christian friends who were being made redundant from their firm. Rather than be downhearted by that, they resolved to do something positive, raising money for charities for vulnerable people both here in MK and abroad, through the Amazing Pilgrimage.
I was struck most of all by the power of the grace of God in the life of John Newton, quite literally turning lives around and changing the world with huge long term positive effects for millions of people. It was noticeable that in all the hymns we sang, not just Amazing Grace, grace was Newton’s bedrock: this was what made all the difference in his life. The knowledge that he was loved and forgiven beyond all deserving turned Newton into a disciple of Jesus, working tirelessly to end the slave trade.
Perhaps what we were caught up in on the Pilgrimage itself, and what made it such a wonderful event to be a part of, were the echoes of that grace and discipleship in our own day: the grace which responds to redundancy with a witness that the love of God is greater than the temporary setbacks of life; the grace which empowers an organisation such as World Vision to continue Newton’s work against slavery; the joy which results from liberation achieved by grace 240 years ago.
In a quite separate meeting yesterday, I found myself discussing how we might develop discipleship through the idea of a Learning Hub. We quickly acknowledged around the table that whatever we might offer, real discipleship begins and ends with the Holy Spirit embracing us within the grace of God offered in Jesus, turning lives around for the greater good. If we wish to see MK: a City Alive to God, it is for that grace we need to pray.
pdf version to download – Mission Partnership Newsletter October 2019