Blog

The St Mary's blog is a mixture of news pieces and topical articles. Each month a number of these are collated into a printed magazine, Touchline. Blog items over three months old are moved to an archive, which is available when logged in. Views expressed here are those held by the individuals posting, and not necessarily representative of St Mary's Church.

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Quiz Night! (Brian Jones)

Eight tables from across the congregations competing for eight trophies, eight wooden spoons and eight Creme Eggs. It was the annual St Mary's quiz and this year your starter for 10 asked you to taste 12 flavours of Pringles and correctly describe each one. “Spot the Dog”, ”Black and White”  and other equally obtuse-titled rounds followed.

Previous triple time champions from White Waltham were absent so the home teams were all vying for top spot. Caution was needed though as this year a new round was 'Jeopardy' - one wrong answer and you lost all. Then there was the speed round, 40 questions in five minutes; what's the best way to play that? And finally, Phil’s famous computerised music round.

Four teams were in close contention for most of the evening with “Third Time Lucky” often just a point ahead. They did lose the lead towards the end but then bounced back to become 2019 champions. See the photo below to identify the brains of St Marys

Thank you to all who took part; Phil and Maggi Richards for preparing the questions and Joanie Jones and her team for providing the food. £340 was raised to support Mission Aviation Fellowship and Tear Funds appeal for the cyclone hit areas of Southern Africa.


6:30pm Men's Weekend Away (Jan Strydom)

It is always a highlight for me personally to attend a men’s weekend away. Although I’ve been away several times with the 4pm congregation this was my first time with the 6:30pm. All feelings of trepidation I might have had were totally unfounded as I felt right at home from the outset.
Friday evening was spent getting to know each other better. We had a great meal which is always a good time for lengthy conversations as well. After dinner we had the first of four sessions looking at the book of Titus. 

Saturday morning got off to a good start with a hearty breakfast and some activities. The weather was mostly dry and sunny so we had to play a strange game that I’m not very familiar with as a South African... The ball was too round and we weren’t allowed to pick it up and run with it or even bash each other. It was fun in the end; though not as much fun as we could have had! After a good lunch we went for a beautiful walk around the village and into the South Downs. One of the many highlights of the weekend.

The morning and afternoon sessions spent in Titus were very informative to us all. It's really helpful to engage in conversation in a relaxed environment with people that have a vast variety of experiences and knowledge of God’s word. It is also encouraging to realise that most people have the same challenges in life as you do, and that by getting to know each other better we are able to support and encourage one another.

We also spent time sharing and praying for each other. I found that these sessions, instead of being awkward or difficult, turned out to be a highlight. So much can be achieved through prayer and getting the opportunity to pray as a group made a big difference me personally. Some of my prayers have already been answered and I’m very sure that other men there will have experienced the same.

Sunday was sadly our last day. We did manage to fit in a lot. Two very good meals and another session in Titus. Over lunch, we spent a long time discussing questions that came up over the course of the weekend. I learnt a lot through open and honest discussion. We did not always agree on everything and I think that is a good thing. If we did, it would mean that we are getting complacent about things and especially our faith. 

The highlight of the weekend is that there are weekends like this to attend! It is awesome and I would encourage everyone to go on a weekend like this if they have the opportunity to do so.

4pm and White Waltham Men's Weekend Away (Paul Cook)

Back in February, myself and 7 other men from the 4pm & White Waltham attended the annual 4pm Men’s weekend away down at ‘The Pines’ near Pulborough, West Sussex. I have always enjoyed these events and this time was no exception - here is a tiny little taste of what we got up to:  

Bible 
– The theme for this year was ‘The Prodigal God’ – taking a fresh look at the heart of the Christian faith through a series of studies on the well known, but often misunderstood, story of the ‘prodigal son’ in Luke 15. We were challenged and encouraged as we read about the wayward son, his judgemental older brother, and the extravagant love of the Father for both of them.
 
Food – As usual for these weekends, there was plenty to eat. We were treated to the traditional ‘full English breakfast’ on both mornings as well as delicious lunches and evening meals. There was also plenty of chocolate to keep our strength up during the tea and coffee breaks!
 
Friendship – whether through washing up together, going out for a (rather misty) walk along the coast, or playing a (rather aggressive) version of ‘Irish Snap’, there was plenty of opportunity to share our lives together in a meaningful way. I found it a real encouragement to spend a few days away in fellowship with other Christian believers and deepen friendships with my brothers in Christ.
 
Perhaps you could consider joining with us next year! I would fully recommend getting this into your Spring 2020 diary now.

Easter Cracked (Celine Pham)

"Easter Cracked" happened once again this year! It was my first time helping for that event which logically follows "Christmas Unwrapped" that we held in December. The facilities here at church are such a blessing to host as many children as we had during three days. We welcomed eight schools from Maidenhead – more than 340 pupils in year 6 and their teachers – for two hours of fun and discovering the meaning of Easter.


Activities included: reading passages directly from the Bible, drama, question/answers time, songs, Easter egg hunt, prizes… For my great pleasure, I recognized many of the children who came for Christmas Unwrapped, and they too were happy to come along again at church. As leaders, we were pleased to see that the children did remember a lot of the things that we learned together about Jesus’ birth. The highlights of "Easter Cracked" are the time spent to explain Jesus’ last week on earth, the meaning of taking communion together as a church family on Sunday, and the meaning of baptism for Christians – with a real demonstration on stage!

I was pleased that the gospel was explained so well to the children.

Thank the Lord for the great opportunities that He gave us to run "Easter Cracked" this year. Once again, we have been blessed by having many volunteers to help so that everything went smoothly.

Please pray for the children and teachers, that they will reflect on Jesus’ purpose by dying on a cross, and that they have a sense of God’s love for them.

Pray that many children will come along to our youth group on Friday night - X and Shift-Focus - as they were invited to at the end of each session. 

Here are some questions that were asked during the sessions, how would you have answered them?
  • Why did Jesus ask God “Why have you deserted me?”
  • Why did Jesus have to die for our sin?
  • How did Jesus know what would happen?
  • Is Jesus still watching over us?
  • Do you think Jesus is ever going to come back on earth again?
  • How do we know that Jesus is alive, as we can’t see him?
  • Why was Jesus the "chosen one"?

And the results are in (Richard Crane)

If you were at church on 3 March, you may remember filling in a short survey about work. Over 300 adults responded, so thank you again!

We hope it got everybody thinking about their work, and how it relates to the Christian faith. The results will also help us to shape our ministries for working people in the months to come. This is the first of a series of articles exploring the themes that emerged from the survey.

Let’s begin with the big picture! Most of the congregation identified themselves as paid workers, either employed or self-employed. Interestingly, women at St. Mary’s are almost as likely to be engaged in paid work (60%) as the men (76%). And of course the minority who are retired or in-between jobs are still likely to be working in other ways, whether it’s managing housework or caring for family.

The fact that most of us are workers is both good news and bad news.

It’s bad news, because work is frustrating! Our experience of work is corrupted by sin (Genesis 3:17). We experience arguments, projects fail, equipment breaks down. We are left unsatisfied. And the results of the survey bear this out. Among the paid workers, 75% reported at least one of the challenges we listed on the form. The most common issue was “time for family”, reported by 44% of working men and 34% of working women. This is a serious challenge if we are seeking to love our families as God calls us to.

But it’s also good news, because God made us to work (Genesis 1:28). Adam and Eve worked in the garden, and Revelation 22 describes believers working in the new creation, serving the Lord Jesus. And through our work here on earth, we serve the Lord Jesus too (Colossians 3:23-24). So whatever we do Monday to Friday, we can thank God that he gives us this purpose.

If you want to engage more with your workplace as a Christian, then why not take a look at our revamped “Workers” page on the website? You can find it under the “Adults” tab at the top of the homepage. We’ve added some helpful resources and links. And please don’t hesitate to get in touch for a chat.

Richard Crane   richard.crane@stmarysmaidenhead.org

A Sceptic Believes (Will Stileman)

"Thomas said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will never believe it.” (John 20:25)

It has happened to me on numerous occasions. I have asked somebody whether they have a Christian faith and the answer has come back “No, I am a scientist.” Such a person thinks there is an incompatibility between the world of science and the world of faith. Scientists are people who deal in the world of facts and evidence. They are hard-headed realists, whilst those who live in the world of faith are more suggestible.

Well I always wish that such people could meet Thomas because he is the epitome of your 21st century, hard-headed sceptic. Thomas destroys a very common reconstruction of the resurrection story: this claim that Jesus rose again came from a group of credulous people who were desperately looking for hope in a hopeless situation, that they were open to visionary experiences because their emotions had been so deeply touched. Such people do exist in ordinary life. People who are over-trusting, under critical and naive; and they exist in the church. But Thomas wasn’t one of them. That is why I'm glad that Thomas missed that first appearance of Jesus in the Upper Room. Thomas was your ordinary plain bloke, your 21st century sceptic who was not prepared to be deluded and go into areas of self-deception. But a week later, after meeting the risen Christ, Thomas declared “My Lord and my God!”

The Christian faith has its basis in history. There is a plethora of evidence to supports its claims. So if you are a Christian believer rejoice this Easter in the certainty of your faith. Christ died and rose again for you. We have a certain hope and a solid future because of Jesus. If you are sceptical, like Thomas, then consider the evidence of Jesus’ resurrection. This Easter at St Mary’s we are giving away free a short book called “Your Verdict on the Empty Tomb” to all honest sceptics and enquirers.

When confronted with the evidence of Jesus’ resurrection Thomas moved from scepticism to a living trust in Christ. Through God’s grace may that be a journey that many make.

Update on Trinity@4 (Sam Brewster)

Dear St Mary’s friends,

We’ve been in Henley since last August, and our new church family, ‘Trinity at Four’, has been holding weekly Sunday meetings since 9 September. That’s 28 Sundays so far. The good news is that we’re still going! In fact, we’re excited about how it’s all going, and very thankful to God for his provision. 

I send out general prayer updates every 6-8 weeks, so if you’d like to be added to that list, please just email me (.uk)

Here are a few highlights

  • Growing… people are growing in maturity, and a fairly wide range of people are enjoying, engaging with, and growing through God’s Word. We are also growing a little numerically, and typically have about 50-60 adults on a Sunday, and 30-40 kids.
  • Provision…  it’s been so good for our faith to have financially started from scratch. God has wonderfully provided for all of our needs so far on that front. We need to raise a little more in regular giving to maintain and grow what we’re doing. But all in God’s good timing. God has also provided key people to head up and run key areas of church life. We are especially grateful to Him for this.
  • Hard work… so I don’t think I was exactly lazy at St Mary’s, but I have to say things have stepped up a gear since being here. Partly this is just getting used to overall responsibility. But the nature of a new ministry is that it takes a bit of time before it’s possible effectively to delegate.
  • Additions to the team… We’re thrilled to have recently confirmed three new roles to grow our ministry team here.  A part-time administrator, Jo Patterson, who will start at the end of May; a Ministry Trainee, Peter Greenman, who will especially be involved in our children’s ministry. We’re also thrilled to have the Henshall family coming to join us at some point in the next 6-9 months. Vic will be heading up our music ministry.
  • Family… We are all in good heart. Lucy is enjoying heading up all the children’s ministry, the girls love church, and Amelie has settled well at pre-school. She will start in reception this September. For various reasons we’re going to be pretty stretched over the coming months, so would value your prayers. 

Visitors from Maidenhead to Trinity at Four are always very welcome! There are a dozen or so friendly faces who you will know from their St Mary’s days.

With love from us all, 

Sam, Lucy, Amelie, Joanna Brewster

Fellowship February (Sian Moorhouse)

During February, the 6.30pm congregation thoroughly enjoyed getting involved with "Fellowship February". And what was "Fellowship February"? Very simply, it was an idea put to the congregation to spend time with other members of our 6.30pm church family outside of our Sunday services. 

Josh and I had a lovely dinner with Rose and Harry. We already know these guys well but we had not seen them for a few weeks, and it was a great opportunity to catch up with them, see their new house and also, more importantly, meet the newest addition to their family.

Similar to Harry and Rose, Josh and I will be adding to our family in the coming months and so it was great to be able to spend time together with friends who had already experienced the same thing very recently. We chatted about what was going well, what was tougher, and we also got some great tips on things we need to buy!

Spending time with members of our church family, such as Harry and Rose, outside of Sunday services is a great way to deepen friendships. On a Sunday evening, I often find that there is not much time to have really good conversations. So, finding the time to meet during the week gives the opportunity to have better conversations, find out how friends really are, offer support if needed, and deepen relationships.

As it reads in 1 John 1 v7, 'But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin’. As Christians, we all have one amazing thing in common in knowing Jesus which brings us all together as one family, and this family is to be loved and enjoyed.

9.15am Congregation Hospitality Sunday (Alison Bird)

On Sunday 24th March around 50 members of the 9.15 congregation enjoyed being part of our new venture called Hospitality Sunday. Several other congregations at St Mary’s have already done this and we wanted to try it too.

Five families hosted groups of between 4 and 13 people in their homes from 12.30 – 2.30pm. Hosts were asked to provide a simple main course while guests were to offer to bring along puddings and drinks. 

The event was a huge success. Those involved said they so enjoyed getting to know new people and learning more about those they even thought they knew already. 

We will run more hospitality Sundays in the future and we hope many more members of the 9.15 congregation will want to be involved in this exciting venture.

Update on St Mary's White Waltham (Dave Atallah)

When asked "How is White Waltham going", I have been answering: we are small, fragile, and in remarkably good spirits. It would be lovely to get a few more people coming regularly. It is particularly difficult organising our fledgling Sunday School with a very small number of volunteers and uncertain numbers of children. But we have wonderful opportunities for mission, we have semi-regular occasions when the church is full, and many contacts and interactions in the community. We are positive for the future by faith; under Jesus we believe we will grow and reach more people with the gospel.

Lots to give thanks and praise for:

  • Atallah family (finally) moved house in January - into the vicarage, into the parish, two minutes from the school where the children go. Loving feeling more part of the community, family enjoying it, and the ease of seeing people socially.
  • Thanksgivings - all baptism enquiries are offered a thanksgiving first. They can make as much or as little of this as they like. And then, after that, we meet to talk about the meaning of baptism and the Christian faith. This system is working really well as we say "we love your family, and of course we want to pray with you in thanksgiving" and "baptism is an important thing to do and to understand".
  • Messy Church - this has run for over a year on a monthly basis and always on Saturdays. In the Autumn, we experimented with putting one on a Sunday morning for a ‘messy’ all age service. This went really well so they now alternate between Saturday afternoons and more ‘normal’ service times (the next one is Good Friday). We are already seeing fruit from this innovation.
  • School connections – in both primary schools, we are running assemblies, church services, occasional lessons, and there are more opportunities now than I can take up by myself – opportunities here for other to come and join me, maybe you?
  • Reflection morning – we met as a church on a Saturday morning to give thanks for what has been, to look to the future in hope, and reflect in who we are as a worshipping, a fellowshipping, and an outreaching community. This was an opportunity to voice any questions or concerns, and was a wonderfully encouraging time of drawing together and acknowledging and rejoicing in our breadth of background and expectations.
  • St Mary's link – we couldn’t run Messy Church, or our Sunday School without regular helpers from ‘the big St Mary's’. We are grateful and, for a little longer, remain dependant on this help. If you could volunteer to be a helper in Sunday school, once a month or once a term, or would like to find out other ways to get involved in the most exciting parish opportunities in Maidenhead please be in touch!

Please pray for:

  • Joy in the gospel, confidence in church - this is growing and we have just had two invitation services (24th and 31st March) and been challenged to the faithful act of inviting.
  • Growth – in Christian maturity, to raise up leaders (particularly for upfront roles), and people turning to Christ, and people prioritising Sundays.
  • Little Roots and Messy Church - key community gospel outreach: for people to hear, understand and believe.
  • Future of parishes - wisdom and faithfulness as to what form our partnership takes.
  • Dave (and family) – there are a vast variety of things to do, coordinate or lead on, including on Sundays - for continued good time management, wise choices, and to depend, discern, and delight in God at work through His people.

Christmas Giving (Peter Crossley)

Some of you may remember that we considered Open Doors for our Harvest Giving last year, but decided to support ElShaddai Shelter for Refugees – and particularly those children who have arrived in Malaysia and have no parents (over 35,000 unaccompanied minors). So it seemed right that we should support the equally needy ministry of Open Doors with our Christmas Gift.

If you have read God’s Smuggler by Brother Andrew, you will know that he founded Open Doors International which has for 60 years served persecuted Christians and churches all over the world for following Jesus. And his later book, Secret Believers, tells of the terrifying true stories of men and women, born Muslims, still living in strict Islamic states, who have turned to Christ.

Our western minds and culture often struggle to properly grasp the hostility which believers face because they identify with Christ – threats, harassment, beatings, forced marriages, unjust imprisonment, loss of home and assets, torture, rape, and even death.  In many countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, persecution of Christians is intensifying, and often the most vulnerable are women.

For the last 26 years, Open Doors has produced the World Watch List: the only annual survey which ranks the 50 most difficult countries to live as a Christian. This includes where Christian's human and religious rights are being violated, and are where they are most vulnerable to societal unrest and destabilisation.

The World Watch List 2018 has identified 215 million Christians (1 in 12 worldwide) suffering severe persecution – over 3,000 were killed, over 1,250 were abducted, over 1,000 were raped or sexually harassed, and almost 800 churches were attacked. Islamic oppression fuels Christian persecution in 8 of the top 10 countries, and continues to spread, bringing Sharia law, militancy and persecution in Asia (Philippines, Bangladesh and Indonesia) and Africa (Egypt, Nigeria and Somalia). North Korea and Afghanistan top the Watch List with reports of extreme violence and human rights atrocities. Persecution and suffering is also rising in Central Asia and Latin America.

Insecure governments are using their country’s majority religion to marginalise Christians and other religious minorities, notably Hindu nationalism in India and Nepal, and Buddhist nationalism in Myanmar and Sri Lanka.

Open Doors is committed to stand with persecuted believers, so that they can be the light of Christ to their communities. Open Doors USA has worked in the world’s most oppressive and restrictive countries for over 60 years, equipping and encouraging Christians who are living in dangerous circumstances with the threat of persecution.

The apostle Paul, writing to the church of God in Corinth, tells of ‘the hardships we [he and Timothy] suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed’, he says, ‘in our hearts we felt the sentence of death’ (2 Corinthians 1:8). But these things happened that they might not depend upon themselves, but on ‘the all surpassing power of God’ (2 Cor 4:7).  Further on, Paul writes ‘we are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed’ (2 Cor 4:8-9).

Paul tells the Corinthian church that 'you help us by your prayers, the prayers of many' (2 Cor 1:11).

So how can we respond?

We can and must pray for our brothers and sisters who are suffering persecution. And to pray effectively, we need to be informed, and much that you need to know about Christian persecution can be found on the following websites:

And we can give. Not all are able to serve the persecuted church ‘on the front line’ but we can provided financial support for those who do.

Thank you, therefore, to all those who contributed to our Christmas Gift for the ministry of Open Doors, which amounted to £4,490.44.

Surely the Lord is challenging us to love and to care for those who are suffering for Christ’s sake in a deeper, more focussed and personal way.

1 Cor 12:26 says ‘we are one body. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it'.

Update from Toby Martin (Toby Martin)

Some of you might know that after finishing my time at St Mary’s, Beth and I ventured up to Boroughbridge, a small market town in North Yorkshire, for me to start working as a trainee pastor at an evangelical free church called Grace Church.


Temperatures may be lower and winter nights may be longer, but we have been loving the greenery out of our back door and the lack of traffic on the roads… in fact, two neighbouring areas just a few miles down the road were recently voted into the top five best places to live in the country!

Beth has been finishing her PhD and will soon be starting a job as a low carbon energy consultant in York – we’re very thankful for God’s wonderful provision in this. We’ve enjoyed being nearer to her family and also some friends from her school days who still live locally.

Working at Grace Church has been quite an adjustment for me in many ways: serving in a church of 70 feels quite different to serving in a church of 500+! But the church has been hugely welcoming and it’s been a joy to be a part of things. For two days a week, I study on an online distance learning Masters course in theology and Christian ministry, as well as some self study in Greek. For the other three days I prepare sermons (we’ve just finished a series in Philippians which I was very encouraged by) and get involved in church life.

In many ways the church is very similar in outlook to St Mary’s. It is an evangelical church, with an emphasis on Bible teaching, fellowship, and mission. But to give you an idea of some of the things that I’ve been getting used to over the last few months let me describe a typical midweek meeting to you…

On a Wednesday at 5-5.30pm, we congregate at one of our three “gospel communities” for a kids’ tea. (Happy chaos ensues…!) After the main course we take the Lord’s supper together, with the leader saying a few words. Then, after prayers, a five year old boy shouts “Pudding!”. After dessert and washing dishes, the kids go to bed, and all three “gospel communities” head over to congregate together for a Bible study, prayer and any church matters for discussion.

It’s an exciting time for Grace Church at the moment. We have recently outgrown the venue we meet in on Sundays and are planning to start meeting in a local secondary school. And a new “gospel community” has begun in the nearby town of Easingwold, following a Christianity Explored Course where a woman professed faith in Christ. We are hoping to plant a church there if the Lord provides a leader.

Many thanks to all of you for a wonderful and enriching time serving at St Mary’s. God used that time to bless and train me, and I am very grateful in this new context for all he taught me through you all.

Update from Windsor Fellowship Church (Pete Matthew)

Our vision as a church family is that we exist for the honour of God and the love of Windsor.  We pray this will happen as we’re built up as disciples of Christ and reach out with the good news of Jesus to our local community.

We’re about four years old as a church and it is exciting seeing how God has grown our church family.  This is shown most clearly in the growth of our children’s ministry, from no children three years ago to about 15 in our various Sunday School groups. Most of our growth has been through transfers from other churches which has been encouraging. Of course, we’d love to see more people coming along who are investigating questions of faith. Please pray that we’d see more enquirers come along and that they’d come to know Jesus as their Lord and Saviour.

We’ve been heavily involved with the recent Windsor Homeless Shelter which has been a wonderful benefit to the most marginalised in our community. It’s been great to partner with other local churches in this new scheme as we reach out to our community. We also have had several events to bring our friends to so they can engage with the gospel. Events such as the God Particle play and a Fashion & Faith evening, in addition to the normal Sundays and special times of year such as Christmas and Easter. Please pray we’d keep our focus on loving our community through care and evangelism.

After outgrowing our original venue, the Hopkins home (previously of St Mary’s), we’re now firmly established at the Windsor Youth & Community Centre. The joys and challenges of setting up a rented venue you will fully appreciate at St Mary’s after your recent building project! As with any new church family it can feel quite tiring as each person needs to be actively involved. Please pray for our energy and commitment and sacrificial service.

We now have four midweek Bible study groups. They provide such a good opportunity for care, discipleship, and encouragement. The normal practice is for these groups to follow the sermon series, but recently we’ve had a brief look at the wonderful evangelistic material, The Word One to One, to help equip us to reach out to those we know and ask if they’d like to look at the Bible with us.  Please pray that these groups would do that more and more effectively.

We recognise our great debt to St Mary’s, Maidenhead for their support, encouragement, and partnership. Thank you for your love and care and please don’t stop!

Roots of Jazz (Zach Penman)

Before the event on 1st March I would have described jazz as; 'American', 'old-fashioned', and 'saxophones'. And these words I kept in my mind throughout the evening, and they did change I must say…

The evening started with a drink and nibbles inside the church which was transformed from a normal Sunday service set up to a wonderfully decorated jazz lounge with chairs around small tables which provided an informal and relaxed atmosphere. The Roots of Jazz group lit up the church with wonderful warm colours which made great statements of the organ and our wonderful new church building.

And when the jazz started, wow! It was good: with the right mix of instruments, it was a joy to hear, and between each song a little talk about how jazz originated, where it came from and most importantly how Christ was praised through it. It told tales of African-American slaves hearing the gospel at the church their slave masters went to and how hearing that the news of Christ’s death on the cross was for everyone, including them, filled them with joy and hope of salvation. 

Songs included: 'Amazing Grace', 'Wade in the Water', 'Feeling Good' and many more. The music filled the whole church, and looking around, I saw people tapping their feet, swaying from side to side, and some even getting up and having a good dance! The evening was filled with laughter, this was a big thing I noticed. I remember thinking how amazing this is…we were all worshiping the Lord but so differently to what we normally do! It was a thrilling time and such hard work was put in by the musical group to lead a beautifully put together set, which allowed us to praise the Lord and also enjoy some great quality jazz. 

But even more so, the message was there, for everyone to hear. Christ died for all, he sets us free from our chains of sin. And the cross at the centre of the church with banners which showed chained hands being broke free, visually gave the message we long for so many people to know. It was a great event with lots of people bringing their non-Christian friends along which was a great joy. So let’s be thankful this event happened and pray that the message spoken will be remembered and acted upon whether it be this week, next month, or in years to come.

So, jazz did come from African slaves in America, so I was right to think that it was 'American'.  And André from The Roots of Jazz did play the saxophone extremely well so I was right about that. But old-fashioned? Not at all… with the message -  living, and the music - thrilling. So I would change 'old-fashioned' to ‘alive’. The message is living, for those slaves then and us now – we all need Jesus to set us free from our chains.

Praise God that the event was beautifully put together with all the decorations and set up to make people feel really welcome.

Thank God for The Roots of Jazz group which performed so well, their skills and gifts are truly amazing and it’s wonderful that they use them to spread the good news of Jesus.

Thank God that Steven Wheatley and the team did a fantastic job, putting in a lot of effort to make the event the best it can be.

And keep praying that these events can happen so that more and more people can hear the wonderful and truly life changing news that Jesus has come for all!

Book Sunday (John Furley)

Sunday 10th March was Book Sunday at St Mary's, where a selection of books were available for sale before or after the services. Jon Drake spent two minutes reviewing 17 books (full list at the end of this blog item). Watch Jon's 123 second review by clicking the video below.

If you missed the book sale, don't worry. The books are available at Quench, the Christian bookshop in Queen Street, Maidenhead, or through its online site Quenchshops or online through 10ofthose or The Good Book Company.

player


The books reviewed were: 

General books

  • 2 Kings: The Power and The Fury - Dale Ralph Davis
  • 7 Myths About Singleness - Sam Alberry
  • A Wilderness of Mirrors - Mark Meynell
  • Can Science Explain Everything? - John Lennox
  • Dying Well -  John Wyatt
  • Experiencing The Spirit - Graham Benyon
  • Knowing God -  J.I. Packer
  • Passion -  Mike McKinley
  • Shadow of the Almighty - Elizabeth Elliot
  • The Wonder of Easter - Ed Drew
Young Adults
  • Is This It? - Rachel Jones
  • Sex, Dating and Relationships - Hiestand and Thomas
  • The Third Day

Children

  • The Action Bible
  • Diary of a Disciple: Peter and Paul’s Story - Gemma Willis
  • The Garden, The Curtain and The Cross - Carl Laferton
  • Beginning With God Book 1

Update from Anna Adams (Anna Adams)

Since finishing my apprenticeship at St Mary's in September, the last 6 months have been an exciting and challenging new chapter for me. Having said goodbye to Maidenhead and all you lovely people, I headed back home to Dorset. 
Chris followed me down south, and he landed a youth worker role in a sweet, quaint church called St. John’s in Wimborne, whilst I immersed myself in wedding planning! St. John’s warmly welcomed us in, and though it was very short notice, we were able to get married there in November – and what a wonderful day it was! We were very blessed by all our friends and family and, despite the rain, there were lots of smiles, laughter, and scrumptious cake!

St. John’s kindly provided us with a home, and I am now getting to grips with housewife duties, (who knew you had to vacuum so often!).  As for church life, we are as busy as ever with three different youth group evenings a week which I have been able to help lead, and are putting all my skills I gained from the apprenticeship into good use. It’s been rewarding to see the young people develop, and it was a treat taking them to Portland for a weekend away, and for 3 of them to be confirmed and baptised this last week.

For work, I have started to do supply at a local Special Needs school called Beaucroft. I have been mostly working in the Early Years department, where there are a lot of severe difficulties and those with autism. It has been challenging and tricky to help accommodate their needs, especially as they are mostly all non-verbal, however it’s been equally rewarding to see them warm up to me as I become more familiar.

My family are doing well and it is lovely to have them so close by! Though it has been a quick turn around with getting married and starting life in Wimborne, God has provided us with lots of great opportunities, both in the church and school, and we are excited to see what God has in store for us!

Please pray for us as we continue to get used to married life, and for continual guidance for the youth work. Please also pray that I will settle into my work at the school, and that I’ll be a light for Jesus where possible.

We’ll always be visiting Tim and Kat, so I’m sure we’ll pop in now and then to say hi!

Until then.

God bless

Anna & Chris Adams

Maidenhead Care (Jane Taylor)

“Simple yet brilliant……”

Maidenhead Care is a ‘Good Neighbour’ volunteer scheme founded over thirty years ago by Peter Hudson, a former Maidenhead Methodist Church minister.

He drew together a committed group from different churches in Maidenhead, creating a management committee comprised of reps from all the churches.

It is supported by Churches Together in Maidenhead, is a registered charity and relies on clients’ and other donations for funds.

What we do

By volunteering, we assist clients with the day to day problems of life and thereby help maintain their independence by offering:

  • transport for medical appointments
  • help with shopping
  • practical support such as form filling
  • visiting the lonely and having a chat.

Other volunteers take turns to be Duty Officers, working in their own home, receiving telephone requests for assistance and linking the request to a suitable volunteer.  A portable office, consisting of a laptop and a mobile phone, is provided and full training is given for this role.  Duty Officers work, on average, one day or half a day each month. (All costs incurred by volunteers are refundable).

'Simple yet brilliant'

John Robertson, chairman of Maidenhead Care, speaking at the Annual Commissioning Service, held last July at St Mary’s, said “ The concept of Maidenhead Care is simple yet brilliant.  It is to become good neighbours to all in our catchment area and operate as though those we were helping lived next door to us.  We are ordinary people with a desire to help others and follow God’s command to love thy neighbour”

Volunteering and the future

The need for help from Maidenhead Care is now even more acute with an increasingly elderly population and many more people living longer or alone and away from family support. As many of our stalwart volunteers are ageing too, we need to increase our number of volunteers. During a year we receive over 2,200 requests for transport from clients who frequently say, “I just do not know how I would manage without Maidenhead Care.”

Currently St Mary’s provides half a dozen volunteers (the number has declined recently due to people moving away or suffering from ill health themselves).  Others from St Mary’s receive help from Care, some of them former volunteers.

Please do consider if you could help in some way – a few hours could make all the difference.  It is rewarding work and a chance to meet some interesting people too.

We welcome volunteers of all ages, including the active retired, temporarily unemployed and young mums with a little time to spare.  Whether you volunteer regularly, occasionally or in blocks of time (such as school holidays, term-time only), all offers are valuable and welcome.  How much time you give is up to you.

Making Contact

Do make contact if you are interested in finding out more:

  • St Mary’s rep: Jane Taylor (9.15 cong.) contact via the church office
  • Phone Maidenhead Care: 07538 418 448 (lines open 9am-5pm weekdays)
  • Email: office@maidenheadcare.org.uk

World Focus Lunch (Becca Stileman)

From Thai curry to ploughman's lunch

How do we find out about our mission partners?

  • monthly prayer news-sheet (available at church)
  • St Mary’s website – login and click on ‘Reaching out’ and then ‘Mission partners’
  • St Mary’s Evenings (second Thursday of the month)
  • wall map in the foyer outside Hall (with individual newsletters below map)
  • mission events.

There are two ‘food together’ annual events in the St Mary’s mission calendar – the summer Mission Barbecue and the winter World Focus Lunch which are attended by UK mission partners who are able to come and sometimes by international partners back on home leave. They are a wonderful opportunity to hear news of our mission partners.

Sunday 3 February was the World Focus Lunch. Some remembered it as the ‘Thai curry event’ as we had, in previous years, enjoyed a couple of delicious curries from the shop at the top of the High Street, sadly now closed. This year, we enjoyed a delicious cheese ploughman’s lunch with soup and bread and cheese and accessories aplenty (including chocolate brownies afterwards). Thank you to the Jobsons for a great spread.

We made greetings cards for our mission partners as we learnt more about them, having been challenged by the sermon at the morning congregations and an interview at lunchtime with Jamie Reid of Crosslinks. On 10 February, Jamie returned to speak to the 4pm and 6.30 congregations.

Giving to St Mary's - Gift Aid (The Finance Committee)

This is the third in a short series of articles on the funding of and giving to St Mary’s Maidenhead. In previous articles, we provided an overview of the ways we are able to contribute to the work and witness of St Mary’s and then looked in detail at the Regular Giving Scheme.  This month’s focus is on Gift Aid.

What is Gift Aid?

Gift Aid allows individuals who pay UK income or capital gains tax to complete a simple declaration to a charity, stating that they are a UK taxpayer. This declaration can be back-dated for up to 4 years.

As a registered charity, St Mary’s is then able to claim a tax refund, directly from Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC), equating to 25% of all sums donated under Gift Aid.

Is this a hassle for me to set up and maintain?

Not at all! You can make a Gift Aid Declaration to St Mary’s online, via the RGS self-service portal, in a matter of seconds. (Choose: ‘I wish to notify you of a change of tax status’). Helpfully, HMRC does not require a signature on Gift Aid Declarations.

The gift envelopes in the church Welcome area also contain a Gift Aid Declaration for one-off or occasional gifts.

Your declaration remains valid indefinitely unless you change your name or home address. You should inform us (again, ideally via the RGS portal) if you have stopped or will stop being a tax payer.

Will this involve my tax office?

No. The process need not involve any contact with your tax office.

If you pay income tax above the basic rate, please see the section on this below.

If I Gift Aid my donations – does it cost me more?

No, the amount of your gift remains unchanged. Instead, St Mary’s is able to claim a tax refund directly from HMRC equating to 25% of all sums donated under Gift Aid.

Exactly how much tax should I be paying to qualify?

You need to have paid or will pay the same amount or more of UK income and/or capital gains tax as all your benefiting charities will claim on your gifts in any tax year.  E.g. if you give £50 per month (or £50 x 12 = £600 per tax year) to all your charities, you need to be paying tax of at least £12.50 x 12 = £150 in that tax year.

How important is Gift Aid to St Mary’s?

In 2018, St Mary’s was able to claim over £130,000 from HMRC, so you will appreciate that Gift Aid is a key source of income for the church.

As we saw last month, in 2018, of the 249 RGS Members giving regularly, 204 had Gift Aided their giving.

I am a higher-rate tax payer – does this have any impact on my gifts?

Not for St Mary’s, but it could help you as the donor.

If you pay income tax above the basic rate, you are eligible to claim additional tax relief. If you wish to do this, you should include your Gift Aid donations on your self-assessment tax return or ask HMRC to adjust your tax code. You may be asked to send a copy of your RGS Annual Statement to HMRC as evidence of your giving.

What should I do now?

If you are an RGS member and a UK tax payer and have not yet made a Gift Aid Declaration, then please do so – it increases the value of your donation by 25% at no cost to you and collectively forms a significant and important element of St Mary’s income.

Next month: one-off or occasional giving.

St Mary’s Finance Committee

Brexit and beyond .... (Will Stileman)

Brexit has been dominating the news for many months and will continue to do so. Rightly so. The country is massively divided over the issue as are both the Conservative and Labour parties. Whether we end up by staying in the EU or leaving, divisions are likely to continue with far reaching consequences.

How should Christians respond to this crisis? I have been reflecting on this and thought I would make a few suggestions:

1 Remember where your true citizenship lies. The apostle Paul in his letter to the Philippians writes: 'But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.' (Philippians 3:20) Whatever their political convictions and national identity, a Christian’s first loyalty is to Jesus and the Kingdom of God. Although as a British man I am concerned about the prosperity of my country, I should be (and I hope I am) more concerned about God’s kingdom.

2 Pray for political leaders. Paul writes to his colleague and friend Timothy: 'I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – for kings and all those in authority' - Why? Why is it so important to pray for those in authority? Paul goes on to give the reason - 'that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.' (1 Timothy 2:1-4). We pray for our leaders so that we may live in peace and godliness and the gospel has the best opportunity to spread. Again, are our prayers and political decisions motivated by the priorities of the gospel?

3 Work to maintain unity. Brexit excites strong feelings and opinions amongst some. There are marriages, families and friendships that tragically have been broken by people’s differing responses to Brexit. However, Christians should be able to maintain their unity despite diverse political opinions. Our Prime Minister and MP, Theresa May, is working hard to establish a unity that doesn’t exist; but Christians enjoy a unity that is given to them by Jesus. So, Paul writing to Gentile believers in Ephesus, urges his readers to 'Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.' (Ephesians 4:3) He doesn’t ask them to make the unity but to keep the unity. Jesus unites us to people of different ages, sex, nationalities, temperaments, and politics. And in submission to Jesus we must make every effort to maintain the unity that Jesus established at the cost of his blood shed on the cross.

4 Be concerned for the poor and vulnerable. My worries over Brexit concern how it might affect the poorest and most vulnerable in society. The elites are unlikely to suffer. They have savings and investments that will insulate them from a major turn down in the economy. We must always be ready to support those among us who suffer financial hardship or other difficulties. 'If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.' (1 John 3:17-18)

No-one knows how things will end up in the days and weeks ahead, but Christ does and he is king. He has not left us in the dark about what our attitudes should be and how we are to conduct ourselves in these days of political uncertainty. May we trust Christ and be faithful in our witness to him in these uncertain days.

Foodshare (Gemma Stephenson)

The St Mary’s church family have been donating to the local foodbank for quite a few years now. The green collection bins are generously filled on the first Sunday of the month by all congregations. I collect the food just after the 6:30pm service has started and deliver the donations directly to Foodshare the following Saturday. The Foodshare volunteers are always very thankful for our donations and there is always a queue of local people using this amazing provision. They seek to help individuals or families where one or more person in the home is not able to eat at least one full day during a week because they cannot afford it.If you want to know what the foodbank is most in need of you can check the bottom of page 2 of the Maidenhead Advertiser each week.

Thank you for all the donations you make every month, you are making a real difference to local lives!

Proverbs 14:31 says 'whoever is kind to the needy honours God'. Throughout the Bible, you can see God's immense concern for the poor, the vulnerable, and for the lonely. In our small way, with these donations, we can extend the love of God to our community.

Look out for the food-bins on Sunday 3rd March! 

What's it like being on the PCC? (David Brunt)

Hear from David Brunt who was elected in 2013.

My wife Sandra and I have been at St Mary's for nearly 28 years. During that time I have been on the Parochial Church Council (PCC) for two different stretches. PCC members serve an initial term of three years and then are eligible to restand. I am just coming to the end of my most recent period of service.

The purpose of the PCC is to work collaboratively with Will to direct the church’s mission to know Jesus and to make Jesus known. We do this by overseeing the spiritual life of St Mary’s, the church’s legal, financial and operational responsibilities, and by making decisions for the church’s future direction. To be effective as members of the PCC, we must be seeking to walk closely with Christ Jesus, and make decisions based on God's principles and wisdom rather than our own personal viewpoints.

PCC meetings are held on the second Tuesday of every month from 8pm-10pm. The PCC can’t achieve everything in these meetings and so it delegates some of the detailed work to committees. Sometimes there are temporary groups formed to tackle certain challenges and we are encouraged to use our individual giftings and take part in these as the need arises. Everyone on the PCC is expected to contribute actively and some of the ways I think I have done so are through helping develop some of the church polices we now have (such as HR and IT policies), contributing to good governance as a PCC, ensuring accountability, and improving our ways of working as a church.  Others have said they have appreciated how I often offer challenge to hone our decisions!

By being on the PCC and giving of your very best to help the running of the church and enabling its ministry is a great way to serve and is very fulfilling. If you are interested in standing in the 2019 election at the Annual Parochial Church Meeting on 25th April all the details you need will be in the church Welcome Area from mid March.

Introductions... (Will Stileman)

In January, Ian and Tamsin Miller, with their four daughters Lucy, Lizzie, Becca, Hannah and their dog, Scamp, moved to Maidenhead and have joined us at St Mary’s. Ian will become our new curate, when he finishes his theological training at Oak Hill in the summer. As a family, they are currently attending the 4pm congregation. Lucy and Lizzie are also a part of the 6:30pm congregation.

Lucy and Lizzie have both started at Newlands this term (school years 10 & 9 respectively). Becca (year 7) will also move to Newlands when a place becomes available. Hannah (year 5) likewise will move to a school in Maidenhead when Becca has a place. Please do make them welcome and pray for each member of this family as they settle into a new area and as the girls adjust to new schools.

Before training for ordained ministry, Ian was a barrister in London. He led the Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship and was involved in the lunchtime ministry of the Fleet Street Talks. We are looking forward to Ian beginning his ministry amongst us. Nearer to his start date, I will outline what Ian’s particular responsibilities will be.

The other person to introduce is Val Sanderson. Val has taken on the onerous task of providing me with some part time secretarial support. She began this new role in February and will be coming into the church office on Tuesdays and Thursdays. With Val’s help, I hope to be better at keeping on top of all my responsibilities.

Val is married to Don and they live in Chesham, where until recently Val was the parish administrator. Val is also the mother of Jennie Kemp who with her husband Phil, and their children Beth and Chris, attend the 9:15am congregation. Val will be worshipping with us at the 9:15am congregation on Sunday mornings and looks forward to getting to know us better.

Please do pray for both Val and me. This will be a steep learning curve for both of us! Val’s e-mail address is: 

Evangelism - Living Out Loud (Jason and Laura Swain)

We've had the privilege of running the Disciple Making Movements course a few times and it is always so encouraging to hear stories of how it's impacting lives beyond the course. Here is one testimony from John & Terry Driscoll.

We attended the six week course run by Jason and Laura Swain on how to speak easily about (and live out) our faith. Jason and Laura made us welcome and the course was friendly and very accessible. We were reminded that people are different, and so we must share the gospel in different ways and in different contexts. Whether or not we share through "Bringing", "Confronting", "Reasoning", or "Hosting"; a simple invitation to come to church might be all I can manage, but that's fine. I remember the very first week and at the start of the course looking at Romans. Romans 1:16 reads 'I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God and to salvation'. That made me think about my commitment to share the gospel and realise that I was comfortable to speak to people about my faith. Jason and Laura provided some very practical ideas and a framework to speak about Jesus in a conversational manner.

Since the course, I have felt confident and more able to speak about what my faith is actually about. Just this week I was able to share the gospel with a member of my rowing club; I would normally have left the conversation there, but this time felt enabled to text him offering to meet and go through our discussion in more detail, if he would like. I saw him the next day and he called out to me that he would come back to me about meeting up, I was encouraged!

The course has left both of us more able and prepared to share our faith whenever the opportunity arises in a natural and relaxed manner. We have no hesitation in recommending Jason and Laura's course to anyone who would like to be able to speak about their faith, it will provide a springboard for conversation!
John & Terry Driscoll St Mary's Maidenhead

Disciple Making Movements is a "biblically-based strategy to teach people, families, ethnic groups, and societies." Or more simply put, we want our friends, families, and communities to know how amazing our God is and how they can have a relationship with him. Two of our key values are that God's words are best and we simply want to "live out loud" as we showcase our great God. We hope it's a really practical and encouraging and fruitful course.

Another 6 week course will run on Tuesdays during the ladies' growth groups. Please chat to us if you want more information.

What is the electoral roll? (Sara Hewins)

This weekend, during church services, you will be encouraged to sign up to be on the Electoral Roll. St Mary's Electoral Roll is the register of its voting members: it's a list of those qualified to attend and to vote at the Annual Parochial Church Meeting (APCM) and to stand for election to the PCC. Church Representation Rules require that every Parochial Church Council (PCC) maintains an Electoral Roll. Note that being on the roll is not the same thing as being a 'member' of St Mary's... you are that by being a regular attender and considering St Mary's as your spiritual home.

Who can be on the Electoral Roll?

The only qualifications required are that you are 16 or over, have been baptised and that you have attended St Mary's for at least 6 months.

Why join?

Signing up to the Electoral Roll is an important way of confirming your commitment to St Mary's and comes without additional obligations. If you wish, it can enable greater involvement in the life of the church at parish, deanery and diocesan level. It does help the church show its strength and the number on our electoral roll affects our representation on the Deanery Synod so it's great to sign up.

What happens next?

Every six years all names are required to be removed from our church Roll and we therefore have to prepare a new Roll. If you wish to be on the Roll we need you to complete a simple form. This process has started and until 31st March forms will be available at the back of church after every service for you to complete. It will only take a minute or two to do.

So if you wish to be included on the new Roll please be sure to fill one in and pop it into the marked box in the foyer.

Would you invite your work colleagues to pray? (Richard Crane & Dave MacFarlane)

Dave MacFarlane lives in Uxbridge but commutes to Maidenhead as a social worker for the Royal Borough. Dave is a regular at the Tuesday "Local Workers Lunch" Bible discussions that we host, and he often invites his colleagues along too. He inspires us not to hide our faith in fear, but to live openly as Christians in our workplaces. And he has a surprising suggestion for introducing friends to Jesus! Dave writes:

"I was asked recently what I thought was the most effective entry to sharing the gospel with people who don't yet know Jesus. Christianity is different to all other world religions, because it invites believers into a genuine, two-way relationship with the God who created them. It's not about following certain doctrine or adhering to certain rules: first and foremost it's about professing faith in the resurrected Jesus and choosing to follow Him day by day.

"So, if we're focusing on how we introduce people to Jesus, we need to remember we're not introducing them to a religion, we're inviting them to discover relationship with a person. And how better to do that than opening up a conversation?! The Bible would commonly refer to this conversation as 'prayer', remembering of course that this is just ordinary communication with God, in the same way that you and I may have a chat over coffee.

"So, how do we kick off this conversation? Well, I have found that this is becoming easier and easier, as modern society undergoes some form of spiritual awakening. Hard, cold, atheistic philosophy has been found out as not having the answers to life that it once promised. Instead, we find a generation of anxious millennials searching for peace. And where are they looking? Meditation and mindfulness: a Western-take on once predominantly Eastern methods of 'emptying oneself' and 'finding internal peace'.

"Now I know what you might say: that this is a crying shame that they're all turning their back on God and looking elsewhere. I would argue the opposite. They never knew God, and their mindfulness is their way of looking for Him. The step between this and what Christians call 'prayer' is not as great as we realise; the only difference is that we know who answers at the other end.

"Which takes me back to my introduction to Jesus. I often have discussions with people about my prayer-life; when I pray, how I pray, what I pray for, and answers to prayer that I've seen. It opens an easy conversation about Christ and about the relationship with Him that is on offer, often encouraging others to go and try it themselves, whether they believe it fully yet or not. It is my earnest belief that God does honour those small steps of faith and those small prayers prayed, even ones of uncertainty, and I have seen many return for further discussion when they've found that 'there might just be someone out there after all!'"

Harvest Giving (Peter Crossley)

"To know Jesus and to make Jesus known"

This is our vision at St Mary's, not only through our 'local' church but also through our external mission worldwide. It is a privilege and a blessing to be part of this ministry through our Mission Strategy Committee (MSC) and Mission Partners Support Group (MPSG). As you might know, the MSC proposes our annual Mission Budget for approval by the Parochial Church Council (PCC) each year in October.

The PCC also looks for recommendations from the MSC for our Harvest Giving (and a little later our Christmas Giving). At our last MSC meeting we considered a number of worthy charities, deciding upon Open Doors which has served persecuted Christians and churches around the world for 60 years. Our minds were drawn to their support for widows and orphans who have lost their husbands or parents because of their Christian faith.

Also, to find a second more personal connection, I was asked to contact our Mission Partners, Tim and Rachel Green who serve in Malaysia with Interserve. We sought their guidance on an appropriate charity, material need, or project that they knew through their ministry which we could support with the St Mary's Harvest Gift. Rachel directed us to the ElShaddai Centre, which is endorsed by UNHCR and helps refugees and asylum seekers "in transit" by providing education, primary healthcare, shelter, and skills development. Tim and Rachel are involved in a lot of refugee ministry and work closely with ElShaddai. Wherever and whenever they can, they talk about the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. And so the MSC proposed that our donation should be designated to the ElShaddai Shelter for Refugees, and in particular for children who have arrived in Malaysia who have no parents, and the PCC approved this for Harvest 2018.

You may have noted already, through our Weekly Contact in early November, that our Harvest Gift amounted to £5,305.

A very big thank you to all those who made a contribution. Please do get in touch if there is anything you wish to know about our Mission Partners and their ministry.

Giving to St Mary’s – the Regular Giving Scheme (The Finance Committee)

This is the second in a short series of articles on the funding of, and giving to, St Mary's Maidenhead. In last month's blog and Touchline, we provided an overview of the ways we are able to contribute to the work and witness of St Mary's. In this month's article we focus on the Regular Giving Scheme (RGS).

The Regular Giving Scheme (RGS)

Best for members of our congregations with a regular income

St Mary's Church is expected to spend approximately £688,000 in 2019. The Lord provides the finances for all of this, mainly through the generous giving of our congregations. We plan our spending carefully in order to make the best use of the resources God gives us. It is a great help for us to know how much income to expect from those who belong to our congregations, so that we can budget more accurately.

The majority of St Mary's expenditure is recurring. For example, salaries are due monthly, bills either monthly or quarterly, and insurance premiums annually.  It therefore makes sense to match these regular expenditures to a reliable, regular, and predictable income.

What is the RGS?

The Regular Giving Scheme (RGS) is the name given to St Mary's offering scheme. You tell us how much you plan to give on a regular basis, which in turn, helps us plan. This is a pledge, allowing St Mary's to budget its expenditure responsibly; it is not a contract or obligation - you can change these arrangements at any time if your circumstances change.

RGS giving can be allocated to a restricted 'purpose' on request, however the vast majority is deposited in the main non-restricted General Fund, which funds:

  • The staff team
  • The Church, Chapel, Church House Offices, Old Vic, Parish Halls, Garden, Drive
  • Two staff houses and two flats
  • Ongoing activities of the congregations
  • Mission partners in the UK and overseas (12% of budget)

Who is the RGS intended for?

Any member of our congregations with a regular income. On joining, you become a 'RGS Member', however this is simply a term of convenience and does not imply any special status or privilege.

What are the benefits to donors?

RGS makes it easy for you to give regularly in a planned way, rather than having to remember each week, month or quarter. You can set up a standing order or arrange to make payments via telephone or online banking, but you can still pay manually by envelope should you so choose.

The RGS platform provides annual (and/or on-request) statements of your giving and, for information only, any Gift Aid St Mary's has claimed on these gifts, at no cost to you.

If you are a higher rate tax payer, you have the option to claim additional tax relief, via your tax code. More on this next month.

What are the benefits to St Mary's?

The main benefit to St Mary's is to help with budgeting and meeting regular expenditure, as we know what our income will be each month and quarter.

The RGS platform also makes it simple for St Mary's to reclaim Gift Aid from HM Revenue and Customs and to produce the annual statements.

How often can I give via the RGS?

You can give monthly, weekly, quarterly, annually or indeed, occasionally.

Here are some statistics. In 2018, there were 249 RGS Members giving regularly to the non-restricted fund, of which 233 gave monthly, 7 gave annually, 5 weekly, and 4 quarterly.

How can I give via the RGS?

We recommend that, wherever possible, payments are made either by standing order, internet, or phone banking.

A small number of donors give via CAF or another charitable trust scheme, usually as a payroll giving facility. This can provide a tax benefit to the donor but does not allow St Mary's to claim Gift Aid. These payments are usually transferred anonymously, making it difficult to provide a statement of your giving.

As a final option, envelopes can be supplied for cash or cheques which can be placed into one of the collection boxes in the Church Welcome Area. These envelopes are annotated with your RGS Number and are therefore confidential, but identifiable only by the counters. This method is more complex to administer securely but is provided for those who prefer to give cash or cheques and are unable to use electronic transfer.

Some further statistics. Again, from the 249 regular givers in 2018, 241 gave via Standing Order / Internet Banking, 5 using RGS Envelopes, and 3 by cheque.

Notably, 204 (of the 249 total number) Gift Aid their RGS giving.

How do I join the RGS?

A RGS Resources area is available on the church website containing more information, a self-service portal, and a couple of supporting forms that may be required for new members and renewals.

The Self-Service portal has been designed to take you, step-by-step, through most of the frequently encountered requests for services related to RGS, namely: to join the RGS, leave the RGS, notify us of a payment holiday, or if you need to make changes to your giving, tax status, address or to request ad-hoc statements. Most matters can be completed online, including Gift Aid Declarations, however depending on how you usually transact with your bank, you may need a new Standing Order form, so a little paperwork and postage may still be needed (although the portal has been designed to try to minimise this where possible).

Please note that St Mary's does not have a Direct Debit facility. You will have to set up a Standing Order arrangement with your bank. Standing Order forms can be sent via the RGS Secretaries for checking, but these are then simply forwarded to your bank. Donors remain in control at all times!

If you cannot or do not wish to access the online portal, please contact the RGS secretaries: Mike Walker or Carolyn Allen and they will help you join or make the required changes.

Next month: Gift Aid.

St Mary's Finance Committee

Making Jesus Known to Young People (Angie McDonald)

Angie McDonald speaks about her experience of our Friday night youth work, both as a parent and as a leader at X-Focus.

Over the last year or so I have been part of the X-Focus team spending term-time Friday nights playing sports, serving tuck, and teaching God's word to 11-14 year olds (Year 6 to Year 8). It's not everyone's idea of "How to spend my Friday nights".

My two younger children have both been members of X (and later, Shift Focus) and as their parent, I hadn't really fully understood the importance of this two hour Friday night slot. In fact, quite often it was a bit of an inconvenience trying to battle through the 6pm traffic. However, now my children have grown and moved on in their journey, I have come to understand the importance of them taking part in a social event that gives them the opportunity to not only share their faith but also grow in their faith.

As a member of the team, I have had the privilege of seeing the impact of biblical teaching in a relaxed setting, enabling members to be a Christian in a social environment. This has given many of our members the experience of Jesus as their core identity: which doesn't switch on and off depending on who we spend our time with.

As both a leader and parent, I would encourage our church family to do three things:

  1. Support the group in prayer
  2. Encourage your children to come along each Friday
  3. Get your children to encourage their friends to come along with them on a Friday night

If we as a church family, actively support X-Focus through prayer and practical support we will all be partaking in our collective mission to "Know Jesus and make Jesus known".

Eric, The Christmas Angel (Nick Fowkes)

The church became a real theatre for one night. Eric the Christmas Angel, dressed in a hi-vis jacket and L-plate (with additions from Maidenhead's very own seasonal Mexican-Christmas-hat pop-up shop) had St Mary's younger congregants, their friends and families rocking in their seats with laughter in this year's Christmas pantomime. It was performed by Duggie Dug Dug and cast, including the hairy duo Harry and Larry as narrators.

Despite being the worst student in the angel academy for five hundred years and failing his HTBABA (How To Be A Better Angel) course, Eric left behind scroll-dusting for Angel Resources and brought good tidings to mankind under the watchful - and increasingly exasperated - guidance of the Archangel Gabriel.  Eric was entrusted with greatly important angelic duties: terrifying Zechariah (full-time Aaronic priest, part-time comedian), confusing the Virgin Mary ("His name is to be Eric?") and advising Joseph ("So who is the father?"; "The Father."; "Yes, as I said, who is the father?" ...).

When he wasn't standing by the Naughty Cloud, Eric attempted to make Jesus a birthday cake, danced a waltz to the Macarena and replaced the entire Heavenly Host singing to the shepherds of Bethlehem. In all his escapades, there were plenty of jokes which children of primary school age found hilarious - and many adults, secretly. "What was the snowman doing rummaging around in a bag of carrots?"

After the interval - with sweets and drinks at bargain rates going like hot cakes - we were introduced to the pantomime baddy: King Herod (an identical twin of both Eric and Bethlehem's only innkeeper). Before dying twice (once quickly, once dramatically, neither correctly), King Herod gave us all a chance to shout "He's behind you" in a crazy alternative version of the Flight into Egypt.

Although subsequent research suggests that one or two of the details of Eric the Christmas Angel were extra-biblical, it was nevertheless a great evening's entertainment for all the family at St Mary's.  It was difficult not to laugh with so many children chortling in the aisles (and the nave).

"Sing Hallelula!" (sic)