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Exploring the nature of God, the faithful response of Christ-followers and the future of the church in light of the COVID-19 virus crisis.

Jesus brought good news to the poor and the early church lived out his teaching – feeding widows, rescuing orphans, and helping victims of plague and famine. What is the Christian response to what we are seeing today?

Each session will comprise of two 15 minute talks followed by group discussion. The sessions run on consecutive Saturdays between 11 am and 12 noon. Please sign up for each session if you can. Joining instructions will be sent out at least 24 hours before each session.

There is no charge for this event – we are encouraging participants to make a donation to the HOPE worldwide COVID-19 response at https://www.hopeworldwide.org.uk/ by selecting the ‘COVID-19 International Relief’ option at https://www.hopeworldwide.org.uk/donate/


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Overview of the three sessions:

Sat 30 May: Session 1 – Why do these things happen?

Why does suffering happen? Where is God in it? How can we grow and develop as we go through times of trial?

In this session we will explore what key passages from the Bible say about these and other related questions – starting with the creation account. We continue by considering the ministry of Jesus, and how the writings of the apostles and prophets give us hope now and for the future as they point to the ultimate hope.

(Session Coordinators – Chris Birtles and Simon Dinning)


Sat 6 June: Session 2 – How do we respond?

How can we respond to what we’re seeing? What doors is God opening because of the virus? How do we best serve others and bring hope?

In this session, we will look at what we can learn from the way the early church responded to times of trial, and consider how our prayers, gifts and resources can help bring hope.

(Session Coordinators: Andy Ezeilo and Robert Payne)


Sat 13 June: Session 3 – How may we live differently in the future?

In what ways may followers of Christ want to live differently as a result of the pandemic? Can we perceive the Spirit prompting us to think and live differently? How does the virus change the way we think about our mission, lifestyles, social responsibilities, and our impact on the planet?

In this session, we will consider how the world is changing and what role Christians and churches play in responding to and bringing about change.

(Session Coordinators: Dr Andrew Boakye and Malcolm Cox)

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Our session coordinators

Chris Birtles. Member of the Thames Valley churches of Christ.

Chris graduated in Economics and Politics from Exeter University and became a police officer in London’s West End. He was baptised in London in 1988. When he started dating Caroline in January 1990 he had little idea what a momentous and fruitful year it was to be. They became part of the Thames Valley church planting, got married and celebrated Sir Alex Ferguson’s first trophy as manager of Manchester United. Thirty years later Chris and Caroline are still living in Hampshire as part of the Thames Valley church in which Chris serves as a trustee. Chris has a particular interest in ‘big picture’ theology – seeing the Bible as a continuous narrative. Chris works in finance and in his spare time enjoys the beautiful heathland of the Surrey/Hampshire borders on his bike.


Dr Andrew Boakye. Member of the Thames Valley churches of Christ.

Andy Boakye (BSc. Medical Biochemistry [King’s College London] BA Theology, MA Biblical Studies, PhD New Testament Criticism [University of Manchester]) is a Lecturer in Religions and Theology and the author of Death and Life: Resurrection, Restoration and Rectification in Paul’s Letter to the Galatians (2017). He was formerly theologian in residence for a University chaplaincy, serves as admissions officer for the Department of Religions and Theology and is chair of the religions and theology research seminar. He has recently appeared on the BBC Radio 4 show Beyond Belief and the Channel 5 documentary “Crucifixion Mystery”. His new book, co-authored with Professor Peter Oakes, is titled Rethinking Galatians: Paul’s Vision of Oneness in the Living Christ, due for release in late 2020/early 2021. He is husband to Chi and father to Aaron and Storm. When he is not researching the origins of ancient Christianity, he is either training in the gym, cheering on Tottenham Hotspur or listening to obscure rap music. His recent podcast Euangelion: Interpreting Scripture and Life has a complete series on Galatians and is available at https://anchor.fm/andrew-boakye.


Malcolm Cox. Minister to the Watford church of Christ and part of the staff of the Thames Valley churches of Christ.

Malcolm Cox is currently minister to the Watford church of Christ and part of the staff of the Thames Valley churches of Christ. His original degree was in music (BMus, Birmingham University). This has been supplemented by a diploma in Theology from the London School of Theology. After teaching for a couple of years (with dreams of being an opera singer), God called him into ministry. After training in the London International church of Christ, he spent five years as minister to the Manchester Christian church. He has served in multiple capacities as evangelist, teacher, worship leader and many other roles. Malcolm has travelled extensively in these islands and abroad, teaching, preaching, training and leading worship workshops. His book, “An elephant’s swimming pool: a devotional guide to the gospel of John” was published in 2008. A prolific author, podcaster and YouTuber, he focusses on the triple priorities of spiritual disciplines, effective teaching and corporate worship. He writes songs in the classical and worship chorus traditions. His wife of over thirty years, Penny, is a GP in London. They live in Croxley Green, West of Watford. Their daughter, Lydia, is married, and their son, Fred, works in IT for the charity Action for Children. His spare time is taken up with reading, walking and keep a close eye on the progress of Luton Town FC – the place of his birth.


Simon Dinning. Member of and teacher to the Belfast International church of Christ.

Simon Dinning is currently completing his MSc in Biblical Studies through Rocky Mountain School of Ministry and Theology. He also runs his own Biblical Teaching and Apologetics ministry www.thatbibleguy.org which has a special emphasis on answering the difficult questions related to God and the Bible. His recent YouTube series on the book of Isaiah has been viewed over 6,000 times.
His passion is to communicate God’s word clearly, and to bring the gospel, to those who have yet to be convinced of it’s truthfulness.
Simon has spoken on many occasions throughout the UK and Europe, including Belfast, Dublin, Manchester and Switzerland and he lives in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Simon has been married to Nadine for 15 years and is a father of 4. His first degree was a BSc Hons in Physiotherapy and he worked as a Physio for several years in many clinical settings including running his own personal training/Physiotherapy business. He now works as an auditor and Clinical Coach of the government’s new disability assessments.
In his spare time he loves to spend quality time with his family and train in his home gym


Andy Ezeilo. Member of the East London International church of Christ and leader of worship.

Andy Ezeilo lives in East London with his wife of 27 years Sandra, where he also attends a local church fellowship. They have two children, a son in Birmingham and a daughter currently in Madrid, Spain. He has a background in science (PhD. in Neutron Scattering, Imperial College, London) and currently runs his own business. His teaching interests are predominantly in the areas of Bible interpretation and practical Christian living.


Rob Payne. Member of the North London International church of Christ and coordinator of the work with the homeless at HOPE worldwide.

Rob Payne is the Director of Homeless services at HOPE worldwide with many years of teaching experience and development partnerships in education, charity and church contexts. As a former Physics teacher and Christian minister, he particularly enjoys exploring the relationship between faith, history and science. He is married with two young children and loves the great outdoors.
To read more about the work of the homeless services of HOPE worldwide, please visit the programme website – for a recent sermon by Rob related to his work at HOPE worldwide click here:

Birmingham International Church of Christ, “Compassion of Jesus – Good News to the Poor.” The compassion of Jesus is good news to the poor. Seeing, hearing & responding to those in need. By Rob Payne from Hope Worldwide.


Event sponsored by the Thames Valley churches of Christ. and HOPE Worldwide.

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The talks will be streamed live on YouTube on the Thames Valley church channel.