As I write this today, the newspaper headlines report the tragic death of 27 year old Amy Winehouse, after a suspected drink and drugs binge. The popular singer who has spent years battling heroin and alcohol addiction was found collapsed in her flat in north London. On the next page of the newspaper in a two page spread is the story of former Eastenders star, Daniella Westbrook. The headlines read: ‘I used to worship Gucci and Prada....now I’ve given my life to God’. Daniella recounts how the drug, cocaine, nearly destroyed her life, costing her approximately £250,000 and leaving a gaping hole in her nose requiring reconstructive surgery. 

‘Ten years ago, her idea of a good night was being bent over a toilet in a West End night club, snorting line after line of cocaine. Her weight plummeted to six stone and she made repeated attempts at suicide.’ But now the Dancing on Ice star has found new life in Jesus having come to faith in a church in the US. She said, ‘Gucci and Prada used to be my God. Now I have given my life to the Lord. If you had told me two years ago that I was going to be a Christian, I would have laughed. I used to tell people ‘I’m way past saving’. But the first time I came to this church, I felt something so spiritual, so amazing I wanted to cry. After a few visits I found myself walking up to the altar to ask the Lord for forgiveness for my sins. It was an incredible experience. I have realised that there have been things I struggled with, like guilt, that I would never have found a solution for. Because there are things that a therapist cannot give me – that I can only get from Jesus Christ.’ 

Two young ladies, both famous in their own right, both tormented by struggles that led them into addictive and destructive lifestyle choices, and yet one found hope, freedom and salvation in Jesus and made the choice to walk down the aisle and give her life to the Lord. The two stories stand in stark contrast to one another and are a reminder to us of how desperately the world needs the Good News of a Saviour. As the family and friends mourn the loss of Amy Winehouse, there will be those who will wish they had done more to help her, support her, encourage her so that this tragedy could have been avoided, but alas it is all too late. What if someone had told her about how much Jesus loves her, might she too have found in Him new life and hope as did Daniella Westbrook and so be saved from the consequence of her choices? 

Whilst we enter the holiday season in which many of us will be taking a break from the regular routine of work and school to enjoy a season of refreshment and rest, may we yet never rest from the imperative of witnessing to our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Who knows but that there may yet be another troubled soul just across the road who desperately needs to know that God loves them, that He is on their side and is longing to come into relationship with them. These two stories back to back in one Sunday newspaper remind us that it could all have been so different for Amy Winehouse, if only…. 

The Alpha Course 

Whatever we are doing throughout this season whether at home or away may we be alert to the prompting of the Spirit should he direct us to share something of our story and journey of faith that will encourage and inspire others. And let’s not forget that with Alpha starting again on September 14thconsider who God may put on our hearts to invite along. It may be that they are just waiting for such an invite. 

Leadership News 

Many thanks to the team of Sarah, Louise, Jo and Alison who worked so hard to put the celebration lunch together for James and Catherine the other Sunday. We bid them a fond farewell as they prepare for their move to Bristol. Obviously their departure will leave a gaping hole in the leadership team. However, after nearly five years this presents me with an opportunity to step back and reflect on our leadership structures and review how we do things. So the leadership team will continue in its reduced capacity with no changes whilst we wait on the Lord and seek his leading for our future. 

It remains for me to wish everyone in our fellowship a desire to walk ever more closely with the Lord whether away on holiday or serving back here during August and to know an abundance of his grace and favour.

Stephen