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HOPE 2014 was an initiative originating from HOPE Together, a team of visionaries headed up by the former executive director of British Youth for Christ - Roy Crowne. HOPE 2014 was supported by the Evangelical Alliance and had the backing of an unprecedented range of denominations, ministries, movements, conferences and networks. Hope continues, even to this day, to grow and encourage churches to step up and out and bless the communities in which they serve.
HOPE Together encouraged churches to work together in unity to serve the communities they are established in. To do and not just to talk about doing, to love and work for the benefit of the community both in word and action. This took steps of faith - and continues to do so - and proved to be a catalyst that causes a rhythm of mission beyond the initial work of 2014.. Roy Crowne, HOPE’s Executive Director, said at the time:
"Let’s embrace the moment – the time is now. Imagine what can happen in 2014 as churches across the country pray and act together. We are stronger together than apart. Yes, we’ve got to demonstrate the love of God, but we are also committed to telling the story of what Jesus Christ has done and our own faith story."
Under the banner 'HOPE Across the New Forest' churches throughout the forest worked together for the benefit of their local communities. We found that this shift in stance was a positive one as Christians were seen to work together in unity to bless their communities - sometimes to the detriment of themselves. In New Forest towns and villages including Bransgore, East Boldre, Lymington, New Milton, Milford-on-Sea, Ringwood, Tiptoe, Totton, the village of Winsor and all across the Southampton Waterside; churches aimed too and indeed brought FRESH HOPE based on the love which God brings through Jesus Christ.
At the time looking forward towards the HOPE events LEAF Chairman Phil Cole said:
“this is a great opportunity for us to impact our communities. At a recent community fun day in Bransgore we received a fantastic response from the community as we chatted to them about what we were proposing to do on the HOPE 2014 weekend. It really does promise a level of community impact that we’ve never seen before”.
One of the multiple events planned was a Moorlands College 'Weekend of Mission' There was music events, family fun days, community clear-up projects, barbecues, youth events and so much more which took place throughout the area. Moorlands used the weekend experience as part of their applied theology degree and committed over 150 students to work within the local community that weekend.
Lecturer, Andy Du Feu, who heads up the family, youth and community work training at Moorlands told us at the time that "the nature of our theology courses is applied, and we take every opportunity to earth what is taught by sending students out!" Asked why Moorlands thought it was a good Idea to get involved with the LEAF HOPE 2014 Initiative he said "Moorlands has a strong missional heartbeat, that echoes the passion driving the LEAF HOPE 2014 initiative. Every year, students are equipped and sent out en masse, and the opportunity to do mission on our doorstep in the New Forest is one that we could not pass up."
So it came to be that over 150 students flooded the area with acts of kindness during that years weekend of mission (which ran from 30th May to the 2nd June). It was hoped at the time that this would also inspire future involvement too, as students and churches alike caught the vision to serve the communities of the New Forest.
After the completion of the weekend mission both students and churches were asked to contemplate the effect of the work done over that weekend. One church leader summed it up by saying "Our church and community hadn't seen anything like this for over 150 years! We asked the community around if we could help in anyway and indeed helped people with their overgrown gardens and some clearing work. Plus there was the children's work and community action. I don't think we will be the same again."
Asked how the Moorland students reflected on their involvement Andy said "Some of the best work is done in reflection, and every student will take time to ask critical questions of their own involvement, their role in the team, their hidden motivations and theological convictions. This is done both formally, through the practice modules, but also informally, within their tutor group and quiet times."
Another success of HOPE2014 was the fact that churches within communities started talking to each other and planning evenings together. From the churches in the Waterside to the churches of Ringwood, new networks and friendship were forged and the communities around those churches were blessed. At Ringwood Pastor Adam Skirton pulled together a team from the 11 churches of Ringwood to plan a Community Fun Day.
The Ringwood Family Fun Day, as it became known, was - as still is - in principal a FREE event for people to come along too. Reps from the united churches visited and invited businesses of the area to get involved by promoting 'their contribution within the community' and in true community spirit giving away FREE advice, haircuts, facials, massages, food, sandwiches, burgers, hot dogs, teas and coffees, cream teas, cakes and ice creams. Plus using the opportunity to demonstrate their skills in arts and crafts, card making, hat making, painting and picture framing, photography, video editing, flower arranging, Zumba, dancing, weaving or whatever the business or charities gifting was. Plus there was - as still is - live music from The Stage, including many local Christian artists and bands. Of course you can't put on a family fun day without the staples of fete stalls, bouncy castles and inflatable’s, face painting and much, much more.
You can read more about the massive success of this now bi-annual Ringwood event on their Facebook Page and on the Press Realease that went out at the time. Just follow the links.
If you want to read more about the event at the time follow the links below.: