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 the archive pages, which are 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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Mission Partner Update: Wayne Dixon

Dear St. Mary’s Church Family,

Thank you very much for your on-going interest, prayers and support over 33 years now. I am very grateful. Philippians 1: 3-5 means a lot to me; ‘thanks’ and ‘partnership in the gospel’ comes through and that is how I see St. Mary’s Maidenhead.

The last 15 months have been tough for us all in different ways. Recently, I had a positive Covid-19 test and that was scary. Thankfully I have been OK with minor symptoms though my taste is still not right. During the lockdowns most of my involvement with schools in Slough, Windsor and Maidenhead has been remote, this has been a learning curve for me, flexibility and adaptability come to mind. I have loved the Q & A sessions at Furze Platt Senior & Newlands Girls. And I had a funny incident at Desborough College when part way through an on-line assembly about the Bible & the F.A. Cup we had a power cut so the assembly couldn’t continue!

The Christian Connections in Schools (CCiS) newsletter comes out next month. In the meantime, here are a few things about my work for your information and to be praying about:

  • Please pray for more schools that are not yet involved with Easter and Christmas presentations to be involved with them in churches like St Mary’s and 8 other local churches. See this 3 minute clip about church-school links and pass it on as appropriate.
  • This link gives a little flavour as to some of what has been shared in schools over recent months.
  • Easter Cracked was recorded back in January and sent to various schools: https://youtu.be/lv07rOYbI4M
  • Pray for our headteachers and for Christian staff and pupils in their on-going witness where God has placed them.
  • There is an opportunity to pray for CCiS and Scripture Union on Tuesday 18 May 10.00-10.45am or 7.30-8.15pm on Zoom. If would like to join, email me and we can follow that up. Prayer remains the most significant contribution we can make to our schools.
  • Please pray for the well-being of children, young people and staff in all of our schools.
  • Please pray for wisdom and sensitivity going forward into the rest of 2021 for me. Schools are contacting me for in-person visits starting at the beginning of term.
  • Maybe as you read this, pause to pray for a school you live near, or attended, or maybe have children, grandchildren or other family at. Recently I was encouraged to hear of a praying grandparent who has forwarded the Easter Cracked on-line recording to other family members.

God bless and thank you very much as we continue to make Jesus known to children, young people and staff in our schools in this time of on-going challenges and changes. He is still risen! Jesus, the reason for the season, hallelujah!

Wayne Dixon

Easter 2021 (Will Stileman)

A good question sometimes reveals so much more than a bare statement. That was the case when Jesus asked Judas, the night before his crucifixion: “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” The short answer to that question was “yes he was.” But Jesus’ purpose in posing that question was to expose Judas’ hypocrisy. A kiss in every culture is a sign of acceptance, greeting, affection. Outwardly Judas was pretending to love Jesus, but in reality he was betraying him. When that disconnect between Judas’ outward persona and his inner life began, we do not know. But for three years Judas played the part of one of Jesus’ closest friends while in his heart he was nurturing resentment and distrust, which reached its climax at this point.

Whether we would call ourselves Christians or not, Jesus’ question to Judas gives us cause to reflect on whether there is a disconnect between our outward persona and what is going on in our heart.

It is easy for all of us to be living a lie. But Christ entered our world not only to expose such hypocrisy but to give us the antidote to it. Jesus died for sinners. He died for hypocrites. We don’t have to pretend to be whole and righteous before God. He knows what we are truly like better than we know ourselves. Yet at Easter we remember how Jesus died on a cross to take our guilt and shame so that we might be clothed instead with the purity of his life and heart. It is through accepting that God knows exactly what we are like and yet still loves us, and because of Jesus can accept us, that the power lies for us to live an integrated, whole life.

Mission Partner Update: Luke and Mary Foster

'Hola' from Chile

Luke and Mary Foster are our St Mary’s mission partners over in South America where they are involved in the ministry of the ‘Centre for Pastoral Studies’ (CEP), an Anglican training college in Chile’s capital city Santiago.

We were delighted to have Luke join us on Zoom for our March St Mary’s Evening where he provided us with a brief update as to how things have been going. Luke spoke about family life and ministry (with both CEP and the local church) which has, much like in the UK, required some adaption during the recent Covid period.

Luke began his update by sharing a pre-recorded video starring his children (Barney age 10 and Martha age 7) who were interviewed about what it’s like to live in Chile. There is plenty that is similar to England, like going to school and playing with their friends (pre-Covid), but also some key differences, like the climate and speaking in Spanish. The video also shared some footage of the inner workings of CEP, where Luke teaches students from all over South America who have come to learn more about the Bible, so that they can be sent out to teach and make disciples of Jesus back in their home countries and further afield.

Following the video introduction, Luke explained that this had been shot pre-Covid (making reference to the lack of facemasks and face-to-face teaching). Life has since changed with CEP moving to exclusively online teaching, enabling this ministry to continue. Despite these challenges, there are a good number of new students that have recently started this term from all across South America, including Peru, Argentina and Bolivia, alongside those from Chile. All of these students have a passion for knowing Jesus and making him known and after studying at CEP will be sent out to serve as pastors.

It was clear that family life too had been different recently with Chile being placed in a severe lockdown last year which resulted in the children not managing more than one full week at school all year, including a period of time where they were not allowed to leave the family apartment at all. Restrictions have since been lifted during the summer period (Chile being in the Southern Hemisphere) which allowed the family to enjoy a last-minute holiday in February and for the children to return to school and see their friends two mornings per week at the beginning of March. There is however much uncertainty over what the future may bring and with winter now approaching prayer is requested for ongoing flexibility, patience and perseverance.

There will be some further changes at CEP this year as two long term missionary families will be moving on, meaning that both Luke and Mary will be taking on even greater responsibilities. As Luke increases his teaching and leadership commitments, Mary will continue to co-ordinate ministry amongst the women of the church.

Following this update, we split into breakout rooms and spent some time praying for the following prayer points:

  • Give thanks for the ministry of CEP and that this is able to continue via Zoom
  • Give thanks for the new students recently joining CEP and pray for them as they adapt to belonging to the CEP community remotely
  • Pray for the Foster family and their wider church family as winter approaches with the risks of further Covid restrictions.

If you would like more information about the Fosters and the ministry of CEP please contact Paul Cook. (St Mary’s Mission Link

Living for God in the Workplace (Dave Singeisen)

It’s a balmy spring evening. Soon, the schools return, and I go back to doing my actual job for the first time since mid-December. What a wonderful time to have a talk, from Richard and Gracy Crane, about living for God in the workplace.

‘What does God want from our work?’ was the theme. It was a challenging but very positive evening. We are all human, Richard reminded us at the start; there will be frustrating and worrying times in our working lives. As Christians though - as new people in Christ - are we putting our identity in our work, or in heaven? Looking back over my scribblings, that was the central question I took away.

Richard preached from Titus 3:1-8. Devote yourselves, he reminded us, to doing what is good. Use your workplace as an extension of your personal ministry. While there is nothing wrong with having a comfortable salary, where are you finding your identity? Are we putting our trust in Jesus, or in that which moths and vermin will destroy? Are we striving for wealth for wealth’s sake or are we striving to use what God blesses us with, our talents and finances, to further his kingdom? Comfort may be nice but if we’re aiming to walk along the narrow path, we should expect challenges along the way.

The practical implications of this are quite exciting. Maybe asking, “what do you do?” is not the most helpful question upon meeting a new person? Instead of valuing ourselves just by what we do, we can find fulfilment by how we are using our God-given gifts in the workplace for his glory. It was really encouraging for instance, to hear from Gracy about her experiences and practical examples where she had to make the choice between following Christ or seeking glory in the workplace.

The evening generated a lot of honest discussion, which I am sure will continue, including how best to engage with diversity and inclusion initiatives, what the value of our working lives are in the context of eternity and what to do if you are undervalued or mistreated.

I left thinking that there’s no one single-fit model of how to be a Christian at work. It’s about seriously praying over that central question and asking how we can transform our working lives into an extension of our personal mission.

To that end Richard and Gracy pointed us to the workers area on the St Mary's website where you’ll find a few carefully curated biblical reflections on work, and St Mary’s help for workers (both prayer and an employment advice service). You can also click here for find a recording of Richard's talk. I'd heartily recommend it.

Mission Partner Update: SAT-7

At the St Mary’s Evening on Thursday 11th February UK Trustee Mark Haines updated us on the work of our mission partner SAT-7.

SAT-7 is a Christian satellite television network broadcasting in Arabic, Persian, Kabyle and Turkish across the Middle East and North Africa. Their mission is to make God’s love visible across the region through inspirational, informative and educational multidenominational Christian television. They currently have around 25 million viewers across 4 channels.

This year they celebrate 25 years since their first broadcast. Satellite TV is the primary source of information for most in the region but increasingly, especially among the younger demographic, many are also watching online via computers, tablets and mobiles. To embrace this change, on Monday 22nd February, SAT-7 PLUS is being launched. This will be the Middle East’s first on-demand Christian video streaming service (similar to BBC iPlayer). This will allow worldwide access to programmes and an easy means of sharing content with friends.

Mark spoke of the SAT-7 ARABIC launch of the first programmes made in Tunisia by a team of believers from non-Christian backgrounds. One series explained the Christmas celebration and the other is a discussion show. We were also asked to pray for the church in Algeria. Rising persecution over the past few years has led to many churches being forced to close. SAT-7 broadcasts church services that help Algerian Christians to worship and feel less isolated.

We are invited to participate in some upcoming SAT-7 events:

  • For Lent SAT-7 have produced ‘Free to Believe?’. This features 40 messages, one for each day of Lent, from viewers, some watching in secret, some still searching and wanting to share their story.
  • 23-25 March is the International Network Conference. This year will be virtual and will be a series of webinars featuring virtual studio tours and Q & A sessions with international staff.
  • 3 April from 4-5pm, is the Easter Family Celebration.

Information on all these can be found at www.Sat7uk.org.

St Mary's Buddy System 2021 (Jon Drake)

In November last year we launched the St Mary’s Buddy System. Our inspiration was scuba diving where divers pair up and support each other. In the same way a number of individuals or households at St Mary’s have formed pairs to support each other in the Christian life for six months through the winter.

Three months on this is a good time to think again about our buddy pairings. Many have said what an encouragement it has been to keep in touch on the phone. I have also heard what a blessing it has been for pairs to take exercise walks together. Well done for braving the mud and rain!

If you are in a buddy link, perhaps January has been hectic and you haven’t been in touch since Christmas. If so, this would be a great time to reach out to your partner and catch up on their news from 2021 over a phone call or exercise walk.

If you would like to join a buddy pair, it’s not too late. Do contact your congregation leader and we can suggest a pairing for you.

Here are some ideas of ways we can encourage in buddy pairings and in all of our relationships at church. They are all coronavirus lockdown compliant!

  • Take time to listen and to talk. It is so encouraging to be able to share the joys and burdens of life with a brother or sister in Christ. Romans 12:15 tells us ‘Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn’. When people share struggles with us, we may feel that we don’t know what to say. Often it’s enough just to listen and to share their grief or joy.
  • Show Christ-like love. We are all different and there are many ways we can do this. Taking time to talk and listen as mentioned above, sending cards, checking in on how things are going, following up on prayer requests. When we model the love of Jesus to one another it is a huge encouragement.
  • Pray for one another. It is great to ask how we can pray for each other, and to be ready to share things on our hearts that we’d like prayer for. We can take these away and pray on our own or pray together on the phone. I know a number of us have been getting into praying on the phone during lockdown, it works well and is surprisingly natural!
  • Talk about Christian truth. Colossians 3:16 says ‘Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom’. Every believer has a role in speaking God’s word to one another. It is great to find natural ways to share things that we have been learning from the Bible and especially truths about Jesus Christ. There is nothing more encouraging than speaking to each other about ourwonderful Saviour, Lord and Friend. If you are chatting to a Christian friend why not get into the habit of each sharing something that has struck you in God’s word.

Christian encouragement is hugely powerful. It’s great to see it happening in our fellowship. Let’s keep going. ‘Therefore encourage each other, and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing’ (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

Mission Partner Update: Jo Clifford

From the heat of Africa to the winter snows of Germany

Jo Clifford works for SIL, the technical arm of Wycliffe Bible Translators. Jo has a history of using aural and visual media to assist in bringing scripture to local tribal language groups and worked for many years in Tanzania.

Over the last 24 months Jo has relocated to Germany to head up a team of 30 people, mainly Americans based in Carolina USA. She shares a house with a friend from way back and travels to work in the nearby Wycliffe offices. Her task is to oversee the use of media in scripture translation worldwide, with the team operating in 40 - 60 different countries. Some of this is through radio programs and some through the Jesus Film along with other initiatives.

Originally her remit was to involve a lot of travelling, mainly to conferences but also to the base in Carolina. However, two days after arriving in Germany lockdown was declared and so all Jo’s work has been online since then.

Thanks to Zoom Jo was able to join us for our monthly St Mary’s Evening and share with us some of her work. She is still involved remotely in the work in Tanzania with the recent release of the New Testament in five new tribal languages, plus the books of Ruth and Jonah in two more.

(Note - it takes one person eight weeks to spell check just one of these New Testaments!)

  • Pray for Jo as she learns to live and work in Germany.
  • Pray for wisdom and guidance as she gets to know her team remotely.
  • Pray for her involvement in the “Digital Strategy Team” set up to see how digital media can be used at the beginning of the translation process rather than being tacked on at the end