Mustard Seed (Feat. Skylar Grey)

‘With faith like a mustard seed, you can move mountains’
If I’ve heard that once, then I’ve heard it thousands
and thousands of times, if I had been countin’
each time for a penny, I’d need an accountant
to keep track of the stack of cash that had mounted,
but it’s never been my desire to be surrounded
by money. No, cash doesn’t get my heart pounding
but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to move mountains!
Pennies, pounds, paychecks, profits all leave me cold.
‘All that glitters is not gold’, and gold’s glitter grows old.
‘And what profit it a man to gain the world but lose his soul?’
but that doesn’t mean I’m completely free of the stranglehold
of foolish pride, vain ambition, losing myself in competition–
I’ve wanted to be known as a Cambridge mathematician
or an apostolic leader with Youth With A Mission –
but give me a moment, this is holy contrition

For once, once in your life
For once push your ambitions aside
And instead of moving mountains
Let the mountains move you
For once, once in your life
For once just stop to open your eyes
And instead of moving mountains
Let the mountains move you

So I lift my eyes up, and I look to the hills
and I’m reminded that there’s only one thing that fulfils
the longing of the human heart—it’s not dollar bills,
or sex, drugs, hip hop skills, all those cheap thrills.
No there’s only one thing that can satisfy,
it’s being known as His own by the Lord most High
who loves you so much that he came and died
on a hill, on a cross, he was crucified.
And the mountains of guilt and the mountains of shame,
all the times that we’d murdered, molested and maimed
and then pointed the finger, played the blame game,
and then tried to act like nothing had changed–
he took all those sins on his innocent frame,
and died for our sins, in fact he became
sin so that we could be called by his name,
and through faith be righteous, and be born again.

For once, once in your life
For once push your ambitions aside
And instead of moving mountains
Let the mountains move you
For once, once in your life
For once just stop to open your eyes
And instead of moving mountains
Let the mountains move you

So this is my confession, here’s my sinner’s prayer
for all the times that pride has snapped my ankle in its snare.
Ambition’s my Achilles’ heel, catching me unaware,
ssseducing me into a game of spiritual solitaire:
but if he’s without a legion, then what’s a legionnaire?
And the Christian life’s a team game, cuz this is warfare!
And we need to fight together, and humbly learn to bear
each other’s burdens till the time we meet Christ in the air.
This isn’t an altar call, I’m just preaching to myself,
If I don’t start with me, then why would someone else
have any reason to believe the things that I might tell
them that they should believe. Yeah, what’s a bible belt
when your pants are round your ankles, and you’re stumbling towards hell!
I speak in tongues, but have no love—I’m just a clanging bell.
A mustard seed is all you need to save your soul from hell
but you need to plant that seed, and then water it as well.

For once, once in your life
For once push your ambitions aside
And instead of moving mountains
Let the mountains move you
For once, once in your life
For once just stop to open your eyes
And instead of moving mountains
Let the mountains move you

The YWAM Cambridge story thus far

In 2006, the founder of the largest missionary fellowship in the world was invited to come to England and speak. His reply was simple: ‘I will only come if God gives me a word for England’. Loren Cunningham prayed — and God gave him that word. It was a word about a coming wave of mission that would go forth from the British Isles to the ends of the earth. Loren came and proclaimed the word in five different cities on five consecutive nights: “I believe Britain is ready for a new surge in missions”. Loren reminded those listening of Britain’s missionary heritage and declared that this coming wave of mission would be even bigger than anything that had been seen in the past. YWAM England called it the Global Passion Tour.

It was more than just an inspirational message–it was a prophecy, from a man whose adventure in hearing God’s voice has led to millions of young people being trained as missionaries through the YWAM Discipleship Training School, and who prophesied that the Berlin Wall would come down years before it actually did. As a sign and seal of this ‘Next Wave’, God gave YWAM England a million-pound sailing yacht, which was purchased with the largest one-off gift ever received in the history of YWAM England.

Assisting with the organisation of Loren’s Tour was a reserved Englishman by the name of Andrew Taylor. He had done his DTS almost three decades previously, after the Church of England had responded to his sense of a call to the ministry with the advice that he ‘go and get some life experience’. He had stayed in YWAM, led the Operation Year (an attempt to restructure the classic five-month DTS into a full gap-year that would fuel YWAM’s pioneering efforts in English cities), married Connie–a fiery ginger-haired evangelist from California, pioneered (with his wife) the first ever YWAM school in Estonia, and had spent years contending in intercession for revival to break out in Scotland. But he was finding that his administrative abilities — of which YWAM has a continual shortage! — were causing him to be locked into a more limited set of roles than he might have liked, and was wondering whether he might finally have enough life experience (!) to be accepted into Anglican ministry.

Andrew was marked with a conviction that Loren’s word was true, and the promised next wave of mission would come — but that they couldn’t stand passively back waiting for something to happen, but must take this promise and pray it into fulfilment. The Taylor family was coming to the end of a chapter, having spent the previous couple of years in Kent seeing to the affairs of Andrew’s deceased parents. Where should they go? How could they best respond to this incredible word from the Lord? What place was there that had seen this sort of missionary movement in the past, that they could go and pray for that ‘well’ to be unblocked? How about Cambridge — birthplace of England’s Reformation, and the launchpad of the missionary Cambridge Seven –; might God open up the door for them to move to Cambridge?

….

Meanwhile in the summer of 2006, a missionary kid by the name of Peter Prescott had just discovered that he had been accepted into the Mathematics course at Cambridge University — despite failing to quite achieve the results for his Conditional Offer. (This kid would be me!) My parents had been Cambridge students twenty years before, and had met and married and moved to the Philippines to plant churches and reach Asia’s billions with the simple gospel of the love of Jesus. Now, having encountered the fiery power of the Holy Spirit in my final year of school, I was heading to university with a sense of being sent back from Asia as a missionary to England.

But upon reaching Cambridge, I soon found myself struggling: struggling with the workload, struggling to make the most of those fleeting student years which too many describe as ‘the best years of life’, struggling with personal discipline, struggling with pornography, struggling with the question of what all this study was for, struggling to achieve any sort of missionary impact. By the time that I hit second year it was clear that I had neither the motivation nor the mathematical brilliance necessary to thrive in my chosen degree.

In my second year, I was involved in a week of 24/7 Prayer in which I encountered the presence of God in a way that marked me with a burden to continue to pray for night-and-day prayer and worship to rise up in Cambridge, and to do whatever I could to convey the love of Jesus to those around me. Not long afterwards, Andrew and Connie Taylor arrived in Cambridge. I remember being introduced to them by a mutual friend in the very house that hosted that life-changing (at least for me!) week of prayer. We didn’t spend too long on formalities—within minutes we were crying out together in passionate prayer for the power of God to break through and bring a revival that would propel students out in mission to the nations.

….

Around that time, a number of people were beginning to talk about the possibility of a permanent ‘house of prayer’ being established in Cambridge. It was even suggested that a certain old Anglican church, inhabited by a very small congregation, might be converted and made available for such a vision. Andrew wrote an email to a couple of the key people involved, suggesting that there be a meeting to pray and discuss the possibilities that lay ahead. That email was forwarded on to a few others interested in the vision, who forwarded it on to a few others—and about a dozen people (rather than just the three or four initially invited) appeared at the appointed time and place (Inge and John Ruddock’s flat), eyes bright with hope for what might happen. As we started to pray, the Spirit fell – and by the time the meeting had to be brought to a finish, we all knew that God had just started something that must continue. Neil Prem (himself a former YWAMer who had just moved to Cambridge) summed it up in sharing a prophetic picture about the first of a series of flaming beacons being set alight, and we decided to continue meeting on subsequent Friday lunchtimes.

Over the next year or so, those Friday lunchtime prayer meetings continued (and in fact still continue at the time of writing) – occasionally, the strong sense of the Spirit’s anointing would dwindle somewhat, and someone would suggest whether perhaps we should cease to meet in this particular way. After all, we were all busy people and this particular meeting didn’t fit neatly under the remit of any one of the various ministries that we were involved with. But whenever this thought would surface, the next time of prayer would invariably witness a renewed outpouring of spiritual zeal—clearly God was committed to this thing that he was bringing to birth!

So two distinct yet interconnected ventures were beginning to take shape: YWAM Cambridge, and the Cambridge House of Prayer. Andrew had been accepted by the Church of England to begin training at Ridley Hall in Cambridge – the first step in his being ordained as a pioneer minister, and then appointed to lead the Cambridge House of Prayer. Connie was thus the de facto leader of YWAM Cambridge, whose ranks were joined by Andy and Collette Henman and their two daughters—almost a year after deciding that God was calling them to Cambridge, they had finally managed to sell their house in Derby and move. Neil and Esther Prem however had decided that they were not called to be involved full-time with YWAM Cambridge.

….

I graduated, was commissioned as an evangelist by a church in Cambridge, and given a small living allowance to release me to share the gospel and mobilise prayer and evangelism. Except that between graduating and starting work as an evangelist, I had married a beautiful Indian girl called Taryn – and her visa to join me in England was denied. We were forced to spent three of the first months of our married life estranged on opposite sides of the globe, in heartbroken bewilderment as the principalities and powers of international immigration bureaucracy prevented us from seeing each other. The situation could have left us broken and disillusioned. Instead, we pressed into the heart of God, and found that our experience was an echo of a spiritual reality. Just as I longed for my bride to come and join me in England, so Jesus longs for His Bride to come and abide with Him in the place of prayer. Taryn took the psalms of lament and poured out her heart before God (we would later record and release as ‘Songs of the Bride’). I took God’s word to Pharaoh and paraphrased it to synchronise my prayers for my personal situation and for revival in the nation: ‘Thus says the Lord, Let my Bride come to me!’

We appealed the decision and eventually it was overturned: Taryn arrived in England the night before Christmas. Then came the challenging task of learning how to serve together in the work God had called us to. This was my fifth year in Cambridge–this was Taryn’s first time in England. I was rushing around the city, doing whatever I could to connect with kingdom-minded Christians to pray and reach out. Taryn was rushing around behind me, doing whatever she could to work out to work out what was actually happening.

One morning Andy Henman drew us both to one side, and told us he’d been praying for us. ‘And I feel that God’s saying you need to step back for a season, to lay a foundation for your marriage and ministry’. He suggested that doing a YWAM Discipleship Training School could be an appropriate way of doing this. That evening as we talked and prayed about Andy’s advice, we agreed that he was right about us needing to step back for a season. After investigating several possibilities, we finally heard about a one-off ‘Wilberforce DTS’ that was starting that September at YWAM’s forty-acre Harpenden base. Wilberforce had been a Cambridge man, and his heritage of ambitious faith bringing reformation to every sphere of society (as well as battling the slave trade he had also founded dozens of other societies for social reform) had been something we had already spent a large amount of time praying into, and when we went to visit the YWAM Harpenden base everything seemed to fit into place.

We signed up for the DTS, and were then invited to stay on as staff, before returning to Cambridge to help start the first YWAM Cambridge DTS.

….

The first thing we were involved with as YWAM Harpenden staff was the School of the Circuit Rider. Inspired by the early Methodist revivalists, this was a two-week crash course in simple evangelism and fiery faith. On the YWAM Cambridge side of things, Connie had been leading ‘Call of the Wild’ summer mission trips from Cambridge to China each summer for the previous few years, but was persuaded to put those on hold and instead mobilise people to be part of this Circuit Rider school.

As well as staffing the school, myself and Taryn, were appointed leaders of the outreach team sent immediately afterward to London. We were hosted by the London Burn 24-7 team, who were doing non-stop worship during the Olympics in a north London church that had also made their vicarage available to host visiting teams. We began each day with a couple of hours of prayer and worship, and then from that place would scatter in pairs out to the streets of North London, ready to share the love of Jesus with whoever we encountered. And whenever we regrouped, there would be incredible testimonies of what God had done—souls saved, bodies healed, the kingdom advancing!

I woke up early on the final day of the two-week outreach, with a burning sense that this was the day I would see revival come. That evening we took our team to join a youth group in Brixton. The numbers were disappointing, the kids unruly, the meeting the antithesis of what I expected ‘revival’ to look like. But after it had finished, myself and another girl on our team had the chance to pray with two of the boys, that they would encounter Jesus. And – at first I thought they were making fun of us – as we prayed they began to describe what both of them were seeing: ‘I see a man in a white suit’ – ‘Yeah, and he’s got a gold scarf’ – ‘That’s right, and gold shoes!’ – ‘His hair is white’. They were describing Jesus, as he appears in the first chapter of the book of Revelation, but as only two kids who had never read that chapter of the Bible could.

It was our first experience of missionary leadership, and it felt like we had tasted something of the authentic glory of the presence of God. The outreach came to an end, and we returned to Harpenden longing to experience that again: ‘What if in Cambridge we had a house where we could live in worshipping community, and see revival break out from that place of intimacy with Jesus?’ But of course, even just a four bedroom house in Cambridge would cost perhaps half a million pounds—far more than we could even dream of being able to afford.

….

The next morning as I was reading my Bible, the seemingly impossible thought of such a house refused to go away. I was reading Romans, and tried to focus on the text. It was about Abraham, a man who received an apparently impossible promise from God, and who “did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God…being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised” (Rom. 4:20-21). What particularly caught my attention was that God sealed that promise to Abraham with a specific sign – circumcision. ‘What,’ I wondered, ‘might be the sign of God’s sealing this promise to me of a big community house in Cambridge?’ Immediately into my mind came ‘£100 – today’. And immediately unbelief rose in my heart – because it’s easy to belief vaguely that someday somehow it might be possible to have a big house. But it’s difficult to believe that by the end of today someone would give me £100.

Sometime that afternoon, no-one having yet given me any money (!), I decided to check my online bank account, just in case. And as I opened it I was astonished to see that the most recent gift was a gift for £100. I looked again – it was not £100 but £1000! I called up the generous giver to express my gratitude. They told me that they had given in response to a dream from the Lord: “God told me I should give it to you ‘for the baby’” – and they explained – “it’s not necessarily a physical ‘baby’, but some project that you’re beginning”.

A few months later, I was investigating possibilities for rented accommodation in Cambridge, when I came across a large guesthouse (with fifteen ensuite bedrooms) for sale for just under a million pounds. And as soon as I saw it, I felt God give me faith that to purchase it is possible. He gave me the verse from Revelation 5:11-12 (which immediately came to mind), “I looked and I heard… thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb…’” So I felt that we should be asking (in prayer and to whoever might want to partner with us) for a ‘thousand thousands’ – ie. one thousand donations of £1000 (which would make £1 million). And God had already given Taryn and me the first thousand pounds as a seal of a promise for a big community house in Cambridge.

As I started to share this story, several people immediately began to respond with their own thousand pound gifts. I was given an envelope stuffed with fifty twenty-pound notes; I received a cheque for a thousand pounds; I discovered another thousand-pound gift quietly transferred into my bank account. Within a few weeks there was about seventeen-thousand pounds sitting in YWAM Cambridge’s ‘House Fund’. It was an impressive release of supernatural finance – but it was nowhere near enough to purchase a property, and in spite of our attempts to tell the owner our story and invite him to become a part of our faith venture, we were unable to buy that particular property. In the meantime we continue to remind ourselves of God’s promise, and to steward the gifts that have been given towards the eventual purchase of a permanent property.

….

It was now five years since the Taylor family had moved to Cambridge, and YWAM Cambridge still had only two full-time staff: Connie Taylor, and Andy Henman. Growth was coming—but before God multiplied the numbers, He would first bring the breakthrough that would be imparted to those that would later come.

Global Outreach Day 2013 was the moment that breakthrough occurred. The vision for Global Outreach Day is that, on the Sunday after Pentecost, Christians all around the world should take the opportunity to share the gospel with those around them. Connie Taylor had invited whoever she could to join the Cambridge team in marking the Day with evangelistic outreach in Cambridge: Taryn and I were there coordinating the outreach for a team from Kona, Hawaii; there was a Wildfire team of Christian families from around the country; and several others—perhaps forty in total. In order to help this disparate collective connect with people and share the simple gospel, Connie had got hold of some elastic and six different colours of beads, and prepared an arsenal of Good News Bracelets.

We were still in a church hall for our initial time of worship and training, when there came the first testimony of someone giving their life to Jesus. Mario was a Portuguese man looking for a job, and had for some reason wandered in to the church building—when one of our team had used the opportunity to tell him about Jesus and invite him to put his trust in Him! And by the end of that day we had seen about forty people on the streets respond to the gospel by praying a simple salvation prayer.

….

We had decided that YWAM Cambridge’s first Discipleship Training School would begin in September 2013 – even if there were just three people signed up, better to get the ball rolling and see what might happen after that. We wanted to put a particular emphasis on prayer and worship, and to impart that breakthrough we had experienced in simple street evangelism. We didn’t want YWAM Cambridge to become just another training base, but we wanted to gather a team of faith-filled disciples of Jesus who could impact the city in the power of the Spirit to the glory of God! God had given us the words ‘Revival & Reformation’ with which to title our particular DTS – a tribute to Cambridge’s Christian heritage, and a declaration of faith that God would ‘do it again!’ – and we had agreed that if we were to have time to engage with life in Cambridge during the lecture phase, the DTS would need to be nine months long, rather than the typical five.

Taryn and I were still living in Harpenden, so Connie and Andy would drive over so that we could pray together about the DTS. Mike & Jane Askew had also been persuaded to help with this pioneering DTS: their three sons had all done the DTS and Mike’s retirement had given them the chance to theirs in Kona, where they had also subsequently staffed another school.

Also joining our DTS staff team was Bethany Breed. She had been to the city previously on a DTS outreach team that Taryn and I led from Harpenden to India, with a couple of week in Cambridge at the end. Our time in Cambridge was something of a challenge—it was the middle of the English winter, making any sort of outdoor ministry less appealing; and our accommodation had no shower, meaning we had to trudge across town in order to have a wash. But the outreach had the incredibly significant outcome of bringing Bethany onto the YWAM Cambridge team. She was an eighteen-year old American doing her DTS, and the day that we arrived in Cambridge, as we joined the Friday lunchtime prayer group (that I’ve already mentioned), she heard the voice of God telling her that this was where He was calling her.

….

As it turned out, the Revival & Reformation DTS didn’t turn out to be YWAM Cambridge’s first school. Cliff & Amaris Davis, from YWAM LA, were invited to consider coming to Cambridge by Vishal Mangalwadi, an Indian apologist who was connected with Christian Heritage. As it happened, Vishal ended up not continuing in Cambridge, but Cliff & Amaris were persuaded by Connie to come and run their Chronological Bible Core Course (three months of intensive inductive bible study). So YWAM Cambridge was having twins!

The CBCC began in mid-September with five students and another staff member, Heather, who Cliff had recruited for the school from YWAM LA. The school was hosted by John and Inge Ruddock, in their newly renovated Oak Villa, thirty minutes to the west of Cambridge in the village of Madingley. Meanwhile, we were still searching for somewhere to host the DTS – which had six trainees arriving in a couple of weeks! Our dream of buying a property had been put on hold, and our attempts to rent a house kept meeting with landlords suspicious of the sort of group (A family? No; Professionals? No; Students? Not exactly…) we were. Finally we found someone willing to let their house to us. The contract was ready to be signed—but it needed to be ratified by the YWAM England board, who happened to be on retreat in the Lake District and seemed impossible to contact. It wasn’t until three days before the school was to begin that we had actually agreed terms and been given the keys—and the house was still unfurnished! But through some miracle of divine provision, various local Christians donated the necessary beds and tables, and the house was furnished literally as the students arrived. When our first student arrived, she was shown to a room with one bunk-bed and told that she would be sharing it with three others—the second bunk duly arrived a couple of hours later, just before her next roommate.

The DTS continued to experience the manifest power of God as we stepped out in faith beyond the boundaries of our own human strength. The impartation of evangelistic effectiveness we were hoping would take place happened within the very first week, and each week there were testimonies of people responding to the simple gospel. We felt the tangible glory of God within touching-distance as we worshipped for two hours each afternoon. We went to Hull for a weekend to do outreach with Wildfire; we went to Norway for a week to join the Circuit Riders. We absorbed into our number a seventh student: the son of a local pastor who had tragically died of a recent heart-attack, and he was filled to overflowing with the irrepressible joy of the Holy Spirit. But it wasn’t all miracles and glory-stories—in spite of our prayers, our friend Inge died of cancer, after a long and painful battle against it.

….

In January 2014, YWAM Cambridge was joined by Gary and Caroline Morgan, the leaders of the Year For God, who moved from Holmsted Manor to Cambridge. The Year For God places young people from the Western world in DTSes in developing nations – Uganda, Bolivia, India – where they then continue on staff for the rest of the year after the initial five- or six-months of DTS is completed, thus making for a fully cross-cultural missionary gap-year. It is bracketed by a week of cultural orientation at the start and a week of debrief at the end—the only parts that actually take place in Cambridge. There are two points of entry each year: in August, and in February.

….

We sent our first DTS Outreach team out from Cambridge on March 3?th 2014, to Kenya—to work with the YWAM Atthiriver base, and to serve among the tribal Pokot people.

Taryn and I were unable to go with the team, as she was pregnant – and had been for the precise duration of the DTS! She gave birth to Isaac on May 28th – and we remembered the word we’d been given: “It’s not necessarily a physical ‘baby’, but some project that you’re beginning”. Our first year with YWAM Cambridge had brought forth both.

Our second R&R DTS began in September 2014, this time with nine students (though one left prematurely a couple of months in). As well as all the staff from the first DTS, we had two of our students from the previous year, Hannah, and Lukas, and also Simon, who had done a nine-month DTS with YWAM Coventry. YWAM Cambridge was now renting two houses on the same road, and Taryn and I had rented another for ourselves just around the corner.

We had planned to run a second CBCC—but Amaris had also given birth to a baby, and so that had to be postponed till April. And then she found she was pregnant again, so that too was cancelled! Instead we are planning on starting a full nine-month Chronological School of Biblical Studies, which will begin in September 2016.

Rather than the CBCC, we therefore made plans to start a classic five-month DTS in April 2014. Two more of the students from our previous R&R DTS—Akira and Haley were recruited to join the staff team, as well as Teresa from Germany, and Brandon from the USA.

But all that YWAM Cambridge had begun to do could so easily have been brought to a standstill.

In September 2015, the UK Visa Authority came to inspect YWAM England and found that our record-keeping was not quite up to the new standards. This meant there were three possible consequences: at worst, we could completely lose our visa sponsorship licence (meaning everyone on YWAM visas would have to leave the country, and no more could be granted—and thus putting in jeopardy much of YWAM Cambridge’s work); or, we could be down-graded and have our licence suspended (meaning those already in the country could remain, but no new visas could be granted for six months); or at best (but this seemed almost too much to hope for!), we might be forgiven and our Grade-A status maintained.

Just days before Christmas, we were told that it was going to be the worst-case scenario. After an appeal and much united prayer, that decision was completely reversed – and we were given the best possible result! This meant we could go ahead with the April DTS. Within days of the nine-month R&R DTS heading out on outreach – this time to Albania – this other DTS was beginning, with six students from England, France, the USA, Zimbabwe, India, and Israel.

Before we joined YWAM Cambridge two years ago, there were just two full-time staff: Connie Taylor, and Andy Henman. This September, it looks like will have about twenty, not counting families.

Looking forward, Taryn and I are committing to be in Cambridge with YWAM Cambridge for at least the next five years. Last summer, I mentioned that I was considering Anglican ordination — I have decided that God’s call to us to see YWAM Cambridge established means that I am not to pursue this any time in the next few years. I have however been selected by the Lausanne Movement as one of their ‘Next Generation Young Leaders’, which means that for the next ten years I will be mentored and equipped for the task of mobilising and releasing ‘the whole church to preach the whole gospel to the whole world’.

Two years ago, I tried to put into writing the vision God was giving us for YWAM Cambridge. I wrote that
By 2020 I hope to see, by the grace of God,

– non-stop 24/7 prayer and worship taking place across the city, involving a growing team of more than forty intercessors and musicians;

– daily evangelism taking place within the city;

– at least one hundred Revival & Reformation DTS graduates committed to serve at least two years in cross-cultural mission;

– at least twenty churches planted;

– summer outreaches taking at least forty students in international short-term mission each year;

– at least seven University of the Nations-accredited courses happening in Cambridge each year;

– seven other Revival & Reformation DTSs pioneered in other cities;

— and whatever else God might want to do.

We are making progress on some of these–on others there is still much work to be done.

Nevertheless, the vision remains the same. The vision is Jesus. The vision is an army of young people. The vision is night and day worship overflowing in mission to the ends of the earth. The vision is revival and reformation impacting every sphere of society and igniting Cambridge with whole-hearted love for God. The vision is an exponentially multiplying movement of discipleship that would fill the earth with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord. When I close my eyes, I can see it! And yet when I open my eyes, it still sometimes seems a long way off.

We cannot do this alone. We need your help. Will you join us in making this vision a reality?

You can contribute financially;
You can commit to pray for us;
You can come and join us.

Your partner in the gospel,
Peter

“What Church do you go to?”

“What church do you go to?” This is a common question when two Christians meeting for the first time discover that they live in the same city and worship the same God. But it’s actually a slightly complex query for me to straightforwardly answer–because there’s multiple Christian communities of which I’m part which I could happily call ‘my church’.

Church of the Good Shepherd.
The only one that actually has the word ‘Church’ in its name is the Church of the Good Shepherd, our local Anglican parish church (if you have the time you can peruse my account of my Anglican convictions here). We’ve been going here since just before Christmas 2013 — Taryn’s first service was the all-age Christingle service, which she did not know what to make of (for those of you who haven’t experienced it, it attempts to use an orange spiked with cocktail sticks to convey the Christmas story).

We generally go to the 8.30am half-hour communion service (where our family is always the youngest present), but on those days where we fail to arise in time we go to the 10am family service.

The Good Shepherd is a combination of all the threads that make up the tapestry of the Anglican church: liturgical, sacramental, evangelical, and charismatic.

The church that meets in our house.
One of the reasons we go to the brief early service at CoGS is so that we have time to get ready for the Sunday lunch followed by House Church that we host each week in our own little home.

Ever since my Dad gave me a copy of T4T to read I have been gripped by the fact that to see a multitude of people be swept into the kingdom of God we need a movement of simple, reproducible churches. And so we have been trying ever since returning to Cambridge to gather whoever we can for simple, reproducible discipleship (church!). We used a simple discipleship course that I’d put together to get started, and then have been inductively studying the Gospel of Mark together.

We have yet to see the little group that gathers in our living room multiply into a movement that will fill the city with the glory of God — but that is what we are praying for!

YWAM Cambridge.
Then of course there’s YWAM Cambridge, our missionary family. YWAM is not a church denomination — but nor does YWAM consider itself to be a parachurch organization. Ah– no sooner have I begun writing than I’ve fallen into the trap of saying ‘YWAM considers itself’, as though the mission has some self-consciousness of its own, rather than simply being a family of people with a variety of different understandings of how what the mission is relates to what the church is.

But there’s a helpful line from the YWAM.org Values page: We are called to commit to the Church in both its local nurturing expression and its mobile multiplying expression.

Which is to say that we in YWAM are called to love your ‘normal’ (? !) ‘local churches’, while standing confident in our identity as an equally important expression of the Church.

[Ten days after I published this post, YWAM England founder Lynn Green posted his own thoughts on the relationship between YWAM and local churches, which are interesting to read in the context of this discussion.]

Cambridge House of Prayer.
And I need to mention CamHoP as well, because as we have spent some time discussing as a leadership team, if the Cambridge House of Prayer is called to be a ‘fresh expression of church’ (my view is that we should think of Houses of Prayer as ‘fresh expressions of cathedral!’) then it is essential that we do not shy back from calling it a church.

It may be a ‘different’ sort of church, it may not be competing with other churches for exclusive members, but it is not anything less than ‘a church’: two or three gathered in the name of Jesus, committed to trusting, praying, and obeying the word of God corporately and individually.

And…
So those are the ‘churches’ in Cambridge that I regularly attend. And I haven’t mentioned ‘my’ church in Luton — New Covenant Fellowship, where I still sometimes get the opportunity to preach. Or Taryn’s church in Delhi, DBF Central, which prayed us out from India as we departed to England as missionaries. Not to mention that although we’re no longer members, I am still very fond of my old Cambridge church, CPC.

But what I really want to say is that all of us as Christians are called not just to attend some church or other, but also to multiply the kingdom of God by discipling whoever you can to grow into a greater measure of faith and obedience, while standing in humble solidarity with all the other expressions of the church in your city and across the world.

It might be that the church you go to has a fantastic multiplying small group strategy, in which you should get involved and seek to be trained to lead a small-group whose members would themselves become small-group leaders who would multiply other leaders–and on ad infinitum. But if your church doesn’t have such a strategy, that doesn’t mean you need to leave your church–but it does mean that you will have to take more initiative to start some group in which you can gather people to come and be discipled.

Leading out in discipleship in non-negotiable
I am convinced that this is a non-negotiable aspect of the Christian life. How exactly you do it is up to you, though there are a few constants that you’ll need to think about. First, there’s the question of who you can disciple. In theory, this is easy: EVERYBODY! If they don’t know Jesus, then you can be the first person to really explain the simple gospel message to them; if they do know Jesus, then you can try to mobilise them with a vision for multipying discipleship.

Second, there’s the question of where to meet. Anywhere will do — you don’t need a religious building to talk about spiritual things. Though some places are obviously better than others for a group of people to have discussion and fellowship.

Third, you need to find (or more likely, create!) a time in your weekly schedule that you can commit to being free, and that will also work for the others who you want to come and join you.

Fourth, you need to work out what discipleship material you are going to use. There are a thousand different possibilities, but my conviction is that in the long-term, the only material you need, and actually the most powerful, is the Bible itself. And in the short-term you want a fairly brief course that will help take people from where they are to a healthy engagement with the Scriptures. If it’s helpful then you are more than welcome to try and use my Simple Christianity course — and feel free to adapt it however you see fit. Or there’s the Alpha Course, which is probably the world’s best-known introductory discipleship course for not-yet Christians. Or it might be that what works best in your situation is just to invite whoever you can to the church service that you regularly attend, and then afterwards invite them home to a meal and ask them what they made of what they heard–but it’s essential, that you don’t neglect this latter part, because if you’ve been a Christian for a while, and you’re inviting someone who is a young or not-yet Christian, then there will certainly have been a long list of things that were interesting to you but unintelligible to them.

Conclusion: ‘Be the Church you want to see in the world.’
So anyway, that’s my answer to the ‘where do you go to church?’ question. Which is probably just a long way of me saying that I believe that the church is first and foremost not a place we go to, but a people of which I am part. And those who are part of the church have been commissioned not just to go to a religious service once or twice a week, but to GO and find whoever they can, and invite them to COME and encounter the transforming love of God.

Sightseeing in Hyderabad

Since we were in Hyderabad for Taryn’s Thatha’s ninetieth birthday celebration, and we had a free morning, I thought we should go see some of Hyderabad’s sites! Hyderabad is the sixth most populous urban agglomeration in India, (isn’t ‘agglomeration’ a good word?), and with almost eight million people, it is about the size of London.

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We were staying on the OM site, on the opposite side of the city (technically in Secunderabad, not Hyderabad), so to get to the old city we had to take an auto for about an hour. Which brought back all the old memories of having to guess at what a fair price might be to go to a place you’ve never been before, and trying in vain to persaude the auto-wallah to just put on the meter and let you pay the standardised rate.

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The Chaarminar (the name just means four (‘chaar’) minarets) is a beautiful building, but somehow in flicking through the tourist info I had been expecting something similar to Delhi’s enormous mosque the Jama Masjid. Which it is nothing at all like, nor was it ever intended to be. It’s pretty–but unfortunately my main impression was just how small it was, compared to the misinformed expectation that had formed in my mind.

We climbed half-way up one of the towers to the viewing platform, from which you could see the nearby Golkonda Fort. ‘Could we please go all the way to the top of one of the towers?’ I tried asking the guard. He shook his head, and pointed to the rusty padlock which ensured that inquisitive tourists would ascend no higher. Why not? ‘Suicide’. Well, in that case, fair enough, I suppose.

golkonda
We returned to the bustling street and finally found an auto that was willing to take us to Golkonda for a price we were willing to pay. As we traveled, we realized that if we were to make it back home in time for lunch (and we couldn’t be very late because we were getting the train back to Bangalore that afternoon), we could spend about two and a half minutes at the fort.

We decided to call it twenty, and make a swift tour of a place that was the polar opposite of Charminar’s petite perfectly preserved prettiness. Golkonda is a huge, sprawling ruin–and if we had had time to climb its ruggedly chiselled steps, then we would have been gifted a glorious view of Hyderabad’s old city. Unfortunately, no time for that! We didn’t waste too much time haggling with the auto driver home and arrived just in time to join everyone for lunch!

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Probably the thing that I enjoyed the most was that my Person of Indian Origin ID card (which I have by virtue of being married to Taryn) entitled me to pay the nominal five-rupee entrance fee for Indians, rather than the inflated foreign price. It slightly baffled the guys at the ticket booth–but it’s nice to feel like I’m a part of this country :)

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Thatha’s Ninetieth Birthday Celebration

We are in Hyderabad, India, celebrating the ninetieth birthday of Taryn’s Thatha (the Tamil word for ‘Grandfather’). The whole family is gathered: all five of Thatha’s children, Jasmine, Justin, Jeenie, Nancy and Jeeva; all but one of Thatha’s grandchildren, Divya (and her husband Jeff–they have travelled from Malaysia), Ragini, Sheetal, Aveenash, Taryn (and me!–we have come from England), Micah, Abishek — and unfortunately Arpana wasn’t able to make it, for although she lives with her parents in Hyderabad, she has just started college in Manipal; and the three great-grandchildren, Thalia, Luke, and Isaac.

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(Photographs from Taryn’s uncle, Justin Rabindra–now a professional photographer in Delhi.)

Getting a Car (The Story)

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Since this blog is a sort of depository of my first-hand accounts of significant moments (and of course thoughts) in my life, and since finally getting a car last Christmas was probably one of those, I thought I might at last put down in writing the sequence of events which led to it.

Not having a car
It all starts with me not having a car. And more particularly, having missionary parents living at their mission HQ in Singapore, where they used the base car, which was only insured for over-25 year-olds. And when I came to university in England, I came to Cambridge University, which has draconian rules banning the possession of cars.

In Britain you are allowed to get a provisional driver’s licence at age seventeen, and it is something of a traditional birthday present for seventeen-year-old’s to be given a course of driving lessons, often insured on their parents’ car, so that before too long they can be drivers in their own right.

But in the situation I found myself, it was clear that there was no car on which I could straightforwardly and affordably begin learning to drive.

Getting ideological
So I accepted and resigned myself to this situation. But around the same time something else happened. I came across a book called 50 Facts That Should Change The World. Among these facts, I read that cars kill more people in the world each year than guns. Which is horrific. And thus was added to my disappointed carlessness a smug self-righteousness at my non-driving freedom from guilt by association with car-drivers.

I actually contemplated writing up a ‘why I don’t drive’ manifesto (though I never quite got round to it). For once you go down the root of questioning the necessity of the automobile, there’s actually quite an arsenal of arguments that you can amass against cars: environmental (they pollute), social (they isolate the individual from the travelling public), financial (they are expensive), political (urban environments designed for cars are inhuman and unwalkable).

Having a baby and changing my mind
But the reality of today’s world is that the car has conquered, and systems and structures are set up expecting the vast majority of–well, if not people, then certainly families, to have their own cars.

And having a baby was the litmus test that showed that my theoretical assent to the moral superiority of a carless lifestyle was not prepared to bite the bullet and count the cost when things got tough.

The debacle of driving tests
My plan was to do an intensive driving course and go from complete novice to having successfully passed my test in the nine weeks between the DTS leaving for Kenya on outreach and our son Isaac being born. But what I hadn’t reckoned on was the unavoidable long weeks it takes between booking a test and actually taking it: about four for the Theory Test, and another eight for the Practical. And of course you can only book the Practical once you have passed the Theory.

Anyway, I booked my Theory Test, I practised multiple choice practice tests and hazard perception demonstrations — and I passed. So I booked a Practical, and booked in some extra lessons to make sure that I would be up to scratch in time. The day came, I drove to the Test Centre — and lo and behold, I was told that my examiner had gone on strike, and so (even though there were other examiners doing tests for other people) I would have to go home and wait for an email to tell me when another test could be arranged.

The test was rearranged for a few weeks later, and again I booked in a few extra lessons to make sure nothing would go wrong. And on the afternoon before the Test, I had my final preparatory lesson, and I took my provisonal driving licence and accompanying paper counterpart so the instructor could make sure all was in order — which of course it was. Until, that is, I forgot to take the paper counterpart of the licence out of my trouser pocket before putting my trousers in the wash. So I discovered about an hour before the Test that the required paper counterpart was in tatters. In vain hope I tried to gently piece it back into something resembling what it once had been. The official invigilator at the Centre — a former police officer — was not convinced. I was sent home with a sound rebuke that these shreds of green mush did not ‘constitute a legal document’.

So again I had not been able to take my test. This time it had been my fault, so now I had to pay again and book another test. Having no real choice, I did so. And then, not more than a week before the date was due, I received an email telling me that my Test had been postponed until the 11th November at (wait for it!) 11:11am. Bizarre. This test I finally was able to take, and I passed with just three minor errors.

The gift of a Vauxhall Corsa
Meanwhile, we had been given a ’97 Vauxhall Corsa just a few days after my first test was meant to have taken place. It was from the mother of a friend of my parents, who was leaving Britain to return to the United States. It was quite old, but we were delighted to be gifted any sort of car really. It had a valid MOT, it was taxed for several more months, it would do us at least to start with.

Except that the kerfuffle over actually taking a driving test meant that by the time I’d got my licence, the Corsa’s MOT had expired, plus I had had to cancel its road-tax and file a ‘SORN‘. Once I had been granted my licence I was therefore still left facing something of a Catch 22: I couldn’t drive the car unless I was insured; I couldn’t be insured unless the car was taxed; the car couldn’t be taxed without a valid MOT; I couldn’t drive the car to get an MOT unless I was insured. Oh, and the battery had also died.

When I eventually called in Hamish to help me out of this predicament by helping me get a new battery and then driving it to a garage to have the MOT, I was told that the car had failed its MOT on eighteen counts and would cost far more to repair than it was worth. And what’s more, the garage that had done the MOT wasn’t even able to do the necessary repairs even if I had wanted them done.

So that was the end of the Vauxhall Corsa.

A Renault Clio Estate Sport Tourer
By this time I was ready to actually be driving a car. What I had hoped would take nine weeks had taken nine months.

So we prayed — initially hoping for God to give us something outright. I also started looking on AutoTrader, trying to get a sense of what the possibilities were. A few days passed and no-one had gifted us a fully functional Mercedes (or anything else, for that matter!) I felt like we should just go ahead and get something. Prayed again, asking God for guidance. What came to mind was the thought of a ‘Renault Clio’ from ‘a dealer on Milton Road’. I didn’t really know what a Renault Clio was, and I wasn’t entirely sure there would be any dealers on Milton Road. But investigation revealed that were three — and one of those dealers was selling a Renault Clio that looked like it would work well!

Except when I popped in to have a test-drive it materialized that it was the dealer’s branch in Bury St. Edmunds that had the suitable Clio. ‘No matter’, they told me, ‘we can have it driven to Cambridge for you to test-drive on Monday’.

So that’s what happened. It turned out to be a Renault Clio Sport Tourer. I drove it, I liked it, I bought it.

Va va voom!

(And I’ll leave you with this wonderful collection of Renault adverts.)

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“…the day Isaac was weaned.” (Gen.21:8)

The child grew and was weaned, and Abraham held a great feast on the day Isaac was weaned. (Genesis 21:9)

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We had a great time celebrating birthdays (not just Isaac’s but my dad’s as well) with my parents in Petworth, and then when we got back to Cambridge it was almost immediately (bang-smack in the middle of DTS debrief week) Taryn’s birthday, which we celebrated with croquet and a barbeque at Mike & Jane’s lovely Royston house. But I also wanted to throw our own party, and invite some of our Cambridge friends who hadn’t been part of these other celebrations.

The continuing busyness of YWAM Cambridge life and our own admittedly imperfect organizational powers meant that this took some desire to actually became reality–but last night we finally managed to rally a small group of much-loved friends to join us for a proper party complete with musical chairs, pass-the-parcel and a feast of chocolate brownies, ice-cream sorbet, forest berries, and (a-)political cheeses.

Coincidentally the day of the party so happened to be the precise same day that Isaac first went without his mother’s milk–“the day Isaac was weaned”.

There have previously been various strange parallels between my ministry and family life — Taryn having her visa denied and me realizing the longing of Jesus the Bridegroom for His Bride; the thousand pound gift ‘for the baby/project-you’re-starting’, which baby’s nine-month gestation turned out to precisely coincide with our first-ever nine-month Revival & Reformation DTS.

And this also felt like it was some sort of ministry milestone, as that morning our YWAM Cambridge meeting had had our final leadership meeting before we scatter in different directions over the summer. And during that meeting we had agreed that the School of Biblical Studies which we had hoped would be running this September, will have to be delayed a year until September 2016. What this means is that this coming year (2015-16) will be the first year since we started running schools two years ago that YWAM Cambridge won’t be pioneering any new schools. Instead we will focus on improving our systems, deepening our roots, and strengthening our foundations, even as we continue to run our three ongoing programmes: the 9-month September R&R DTS, the 5-month April Revival DTS, and the Year For God.

It’s as if YWAM Cambridge as a ministry is moving on from its infancy and being weaned into a more established mode of being.

On that note, Hannah gave me a word of encouragement a few days about how the mustard seed that I had begun sowing all those years ago had now grown into something to which the birds of the air could come and take refuge under its shade. And it so happens that on this same day that Isaac was weaned, our friend Norman finished making a (hand-crafted!) bird-table for us — which is now sitting in the corner of our back garden, offering refuge to red-breasted robins and chirping house-sparrows. And on the roof of the bird-table, as if it were some miniature chapel, Norman has carved two crosses. “I thought you’d like those, given that you’re so into all of that,” was his wry comment.

So–here’s to entering a new season of maturity!

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A week in Petworth

Our friends Tom and Alix were going away on holiday and asked if we would like to house-sit for them. And since Tom works for the National Trust, and they live in Petworth House‘s Cowman’s Cottage that meant a lovely little holiday for us–in the very week that Isaac was celebrating his birthday!

Petworth House is a magnificent seventeenth-century mansion surrounded by seven hundred acres of landscaped park. The House itself is a study in stately symmetry — its triple-deckered lines of long windows and speckled alabaster brick seem almost spare in their Classical simplicity in comparison to the sprawling Gothic turrets of Tyntesfield.

Within, the House overflows with the National Trust’s largest collection of art-works. The Gallery at the House’s North End is filled with marble sculptures and a bewildering array of painted landscapes, portraits, and scenes historical and mythological. But the artistic highlight of the house is not to be seen in the Gallery, but rather the ‘Carved Room’.

Here a visitor is met by the unflinching gaze of Henry VIII looking every inch the medieval monarch as he stands, hands on hips, in white stockings and a fur-lined black cape. His portrait is flanked on either side by two more full-length homages to Petworth’s aristocracy. Under each of these four accompanying portraits is positioned a luminescent Turner landscape, the skies of which glow golden with the captured light of their setting suns. And framing all these paintings, winding around them like some persistently creeping vine, are the carvings that give the room its name. The work of Grinling Gibbons, whose sole surviving portrait hangs inconspicuously in the corner of the room, the carvings are an elaborate reproduction of ripening fruit, blossoming flowers, musical instruments and heraldic insignia.

carved-room

Outside the house there is a fairly large garden (the ‘Pleasure Garden’) which you would walk through if you had driven to Petworth House and parked in the car park before beginning your visit (but since we were staying in the Cowman’s Cottage, this was not our experience). As well as the flowers, there are a couple of pieces of faux-Classical garden architectural ornament — an ‘Ionic Rotunda’ which provides both shelter from the weather and a pleasing view into the village beyond the garden’s walls, and a ‘Doric Temple’ adorned with a sentimental verse of poetry.

I describe the Garden only as ‘fairly large’ only because of the adjacent seven hundred acre landscaped Park, the geography of which has been very deliberately arranged for maximum viewing pleasure from the windows of the House. Indeed, two of the Turner paintings in the Carved Room are of the view that one would have if one were to be looking out of the window on the opposite side of the room. And apparently they were placed at precisely the right height so as to be at eye-level; the reason being that, in the days when the Room still functioned as a dining room, one could lose oneself in the beauty of Turner’s art without even having to glance upward from the conversation with whatever overbearingly dull visitor one was sat opposite.

The Lake, Petworth: Sunset, Fighting Bucks c.1829 Joseph Mallord William Turner

As the painting shows, the Park is home to what is, in fact, the largest herd of fallow deer in England. They are an impressive sight to behold, and well worth however long it takes you walking through the Park before you catch a glimpse of them. The walls of the Park are cleverly hidden behind trees to give the impression, at least until you get up close, that the Park is boundless and without limit, stretching eternally on.

Outside the walls of the Park lies the village of Petworth, whose charming air of matchless quaintness owes much to the thirty-some antique shops that have established themselves here. Here you can buy authentic antique furniture, 1920s Belgian chandeliers, elaborately engraved Victorian silver, military swords from last century’s world wars. Driving through the narrow streets of the village you will find the wealthy of South England puttering along in their fancy cars: an odd mixture of vintage automobiles and fancy sports-cars.

But even if all of this feels somewhat beyond you — I’m certainly not in the market for an antique mahogany dining table, and I don’t think I’ll be driving a Lamborghini anytime soon — there’s still plenty of amusement to be had in strolling into the different antique shops and asking what their most ancient item on sale is. When I asked the question they invariably didn’t have a clue, but generally gamely made something up, in an uncertain hope that in spite of appearances I might after all turn out to be a prospective customer. (And I did actually buy a Victorian milk jug — but that’s another story.)

So if you’ve never been to Petworth, I encourage you to visit! I’m certainly looking forward to the next excuse we have to stay chez Tom & Alix!

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Proving Taryn Can Speak English

We are applying for my beautiful wife Taryn to be a British citizen, so that she will be on the same passport as myself and Isaac, and so that we will hopefully never again find uncooperative visa authorities trying to put asunder what God has joined together.

Like the Roman commander the Apostle Paul once met, we’ve found that you have “to pay a lot of money for citizenship” if you’re not entitled to it by birth. The cost of the application is £1005 — yes, one thousand and five pounds. Which is up £99 from last summer, when we were going to apply until we realized that we couldn’t find Taryn’s iGCSE English certificate, which was necessary to prove that she is indeed able to speak the strange and obscure tongue of this little island.

Eventually the certificate was found — in a cupboard in India — and expedited to our house in England, but by then we were busily entangled with the day-to-day activity of the DTS. By the time we’d reorganized ourselves we realized that we needed to wait two more months, because not only do you need to have been resident in Britain for the last three years, but you need to have been on British soil on the exact day three years before you apply for citizenship. And we had spent January and February of 2012 in Africa.

So we waited some more, and finally, with everything (we hoped) at last in order, we were able to book an appointment (for another £80) with the Cambridge Checking Service, who help make sure that your application fee is not wasted because of somehow foolishly forgetting to fully fill in the form — and who also conveniently copy and certify all your documents, so that we are not deprived of our passport and other certificates for the six months that it takes to process the application.

We arrived on Thursday (Election day!) for our appointment, glad to finally get this task finished with–only to be told that a A*s in GCSE English Language and Literature were not adequate to demonstrate that a person could speak English. ‘But we thought they were on the approved list..?’ — But it turns out that the English GCSE we had searched so long and hard for is only approved by Ofqual as a Level 1 or 2 qualification, and not the required Level 3.

‘What then?’ we asked. Taryn has been speaking English her whole life, and has done English at GCSE level, at IB level, and as a university degree. — ‘A university degree would be allowed,’ we were told, and so I raced out the Cambridge Shire Hall, leapt into the car, sped home, and started frantically searching for Taryn’s University of Delhi degree certificate. I grabbed all the documents I could find that could possibly be relevant and returned as soon as possible — our Checking Service appointment was allowed to last for an hour exactly, and an hour only.

I returned to find that Taryn had managed to print off confirmation from the Self Assessment Points Calculator that her “Bachelor of Arts/Science/Commerce” from the University of Delhi was a real and rigorous qualification. Unfortunately, the most convincing evidence I had found turned not to be the degree certificate I had hoped. ‘This is just a Statement of Marks — don’t you have the Certificate?’ We did not, and Taryn had a vague sense that the bureaucratic inefficiency of the University of Delhi meant she had never actually been given one. (Further research later confirmed that it does indeed take DU two years to give graduates their certificates — by which time Taryn had married me and left the country.)

We were told that we had to choose whether to take the risk of sending the application without a proper degree certificate — and perhaps thus losing our £1005 application fee — or doing the preferred IELTS test, which could be taken at Cambridge’s Anglia Ruskin university. We decided not to take the risk, and our hour’s appointment came to an end, without us being able to send off a complete application.

The one blessing was that we were able for a small fee (well, comparitively — £15) to book a supplementary appointment — to the total surprise of all the Checking Service administrators, who assumed that we were required to pay the full fee and book another separate appointment.

We got home, and got to work registering for the IELTS — which would cost its own £145, and which couldn’t be taken for two weeks, and then would need another two weeks after that before its results were ready. But a few days later, as I was sorting through some papers, my eye caught out an extra print-out of part of the Citizenship application form. It specifically stated that “if you no longer have your certificate” then you can send “an original academic transcript that is on official letter headed paper and shows your
name, the name of the academic institution, the course title and provides confirmation of the award”. I wasn’t sure whether to cry that the lady responsible for our Checking Service hadn’t been aware of this caveat, to rejoice that our lack of Degree Certificate wouldn’t be a problem, or just to disbelieve what I was reading.

I told Taryn. I emailed my parents to check — they agreed, this would therefore be fine. We emailed Anglia Ruskin to take advantage of their seven-day course-cancellation and money-back policy (they are still dragging their feet on this). And today we were able at last to successfully send off the application for Taryn to become a British citizen!

It could be six months before the application is approved, after which she will have to attend some sort of ceremony. It should all be straightforward, but nevertheless please pray with us that it goes through without any hitches.

The greatest irony in this is that the very day that we were being told that our evidence was not adequate to prove Taryn’s command of the English language, Taryn was also proof-reading the latest booklet by that quintessential Englishman and Anglican clergyman our friend (and, for the sake of Taryn’s application, a referee) the Rev. Dr. Andrew Taylor. Because her English is, quite honestly, pretty much as good as anyone in this country.

Becoming a Master of Arts

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Today I graduate to the degree of Master of Arts.

I will don my academical gown, and my ceremonial hood, straighten my white bow-tie, wonder if I have correctly guessed how on earth the ‘bands’ are supposed to be worn, and — after some ceremonial luncheon at Churchill College — make my way to the University’s Senate House

Now, some might say that the Cambridge MA graduand is nothing but
a poor player
that struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more: it [ie. the degree] is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

And it has to be granted that I have done nothing, other than remain alive, to earn this Masters degree that was not required for the Bachelor of Arts degree which I have already received. I had been under the impression that I was required to remain out of prison (duly done!) but even this turns out to have been superfluous — or at least, I wasn’t required to show or even state that I had not taken a recent criminal turn.

And perhaps I have some unspoken sympathy with those who would belittle this academic title (which, it surprisingly turns out, is of ceremonially superior rank to the other Masters degrees — such as ‘of Philosophy’, and ‘of Finance’ — for which one actually has to work) — for the record will show that I have taken my sweet time in actually registering for the ceremony which is a required part of the whole scheme. I was eligible for the title of ‘Master’ a good three years ago, but only now — on a sunny May afternoon, just a couple of weeks before the first birthday of my first son — will I finally receive the necessary blessing in nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti to seal such an accolade unto my person.

But if there is a time for everything under heaven, then perhaps as well as there being a time for entering unseen into the secret place, there is also a time for pomp and ceremonial circumstance.

At any rate, God seems to have brought the pieces together to make today a memorably celebratory occasion — Granny and Grandpa are able to join us at Churchill College for the Praelector’s Lunch, from which we will proceed to the Senate House for the ceremony itself. And once that is over, Jean-Paul and Ellie — who happen to be in Cambridge this evening — are taking us out to dinner. My wife’s wise words: “I think God’s affirming what you’ve chosen to do after graduation!

In which case I suppose this honour is not to be sniffed at!