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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Questioning Evangelism (Ian Miller)

For those of us who find evangelism daunting, who better to listen to on the subject than someone who describes himself as a “reluctant” evangelist. I recently spent a day at the Evangelism Conference at All Souls Langham Place listening to Randy Newman on the subject. If you confuse Randy Newman the writer/speaker on evangelism with the eponymous singer you may find yourself unexpectedly on the receiving end of some thoughtful questions. Randy wants us to be able to talk about what other people want to talk about but to get to a place where we can relate it to the gospel. His approach is all about lovingly listening and asking questions. His observation is that we are often not good at listening – conversations can be two monologues with each person just vying for the opportunity to get their bit in and not engaging much with what the other person is saying. What he wants us to do is to engage in genuine dialogue which involves listening and asking questions.

Why are questions important? Randy pointed us to Jesus who was the master of the art of responding with a question which went to the real issues in someone’s life. For example, the rich young ruler asked “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answers with a question, “why do you call me good?” It turns out that the ruler thought he was good. Randy gave an example of someone close to him who would not talk about Christianity. During a long car journey and after a lot of listening, he opened up about the problems in his marriage. At that point Randy was able to say something briefly about human sinfulness and forgiveness in marriage – he was astonished when he was then given the opportunity to expand when asked, “what do you mean?” Someone who had shown no interest in Randy’s Christian faith was suddenly seeing that it might have some relevance to his situation.

Questions are also good because, as Randy observed, many people are either not thinking about God or are not thinking well about him. Perhaps God wants us initially to help people start thinking. Perhaps he also wants us to begin to expose the indefensible. I find people often boldly tell me their beliefs and the temptation is just to counter with a declaration of what I believe. Randy encouraged us to ask the question, “really?” I know I need to resist the temptation to say “a moment’s thought would tell you that is abject nonsense” and instead to ask, “that’s fascinating, why do you think that?” or “that’s interesting, do you think that helps us make sense of things we face in life such as….?” Or simply, “can you explain that to me?”

Randy’s talks were about ‘pre-evangelism’ – in other words, the ground which we cover before we get to a place where it is appropriate to introduce the gospel. He made a number of very helpful observations about the pre-evangelism stage - “stepping on the clutch before shifting gears.” Very briefly:

  • we might ask someone permission to talk about our faith, “would you like to talk about this?”
  • when engaged about gender and sexuality we might start by observing “is this all much more complicated than we think?” or “I wonder whether we both have a tolerance issue on this?”
  • we might respond to bold propositions with a “maybe” (which doesn’t dismiss the other person out of hand) before engaging the gears
  • we might clarify a question by asking a question. Randy gave an example of an atheist who said, “you don’t believe all non-believers go to hell do you?” His response was, “do you believe in hell?” The atheist’s response was “no” but another atheist who was present said, “yes” which led to a very fruitful line of conversation!

In an online talk which I have put together with Jason and Laura Swain (Making the Most of your Testimony), I look briefly at English culture and the boundaries we cross when talking about Jesus with people who are not believers. In that talk, I suggest that giving our testimony gives us the opportunity to talk about him in a way which crosses those boundaries in a culturally sensitive way. Perhaps lovingly listening to and sensitively questioning our unbelieving friends is another acceptable way of crossing our English cultural barrier to talking about Jesus. Why not listen to Randy’s talks which I understand will be posted on the Evangelism Conference website? Next year’s conference is on 6th October – why not diarise it and join me?

Toddler Mums' Summer Social (Suzie Eves)

As we enjoy the last days of summer sunshine, I felt it was probably about time I wrote up about the Toddler Mums' Summer Social held at St Mary's back in June.

Our Toddlers Ministry holds and pairs with various events over the course of the year - the Christmas Women's Social (look out for this in December), Nativity and Christingle services, cake sales, Easter specials, Teddy Bears' Picnic, courses (including Christianity Explored, Parenting, and conversational English). The Toddler Mums' Summer Social is actually for any woman associated with Toddlers - nannies, au pairs, childminders, grannies and mums. It's a time to get together and deepen relationships with a clear gospel message - that they can hear for themselves without distraction, the good news of Jesus and have time and opportunity to ask questions of their friends and the Toddler leaders.

There was a good crowd of us in the hall back in June, mingling over prosecco and delicious nibbles, and enjoying catching up without our gorgeous children pulling us away to demand more biscuits/dress up/intercept sharing struggles.

The theme of this year's social was flower arranging. A traditional and perhaps stereotypical or boring activity some might think but it's enjoying renewed popularity and we were very ably led by Naomi Khoo, one of our talented Flower Ministry team members, to try out unconventional means of displaying flowers. She shared tips and tricks and impressed us with her use of commonplace even roadside flowers dressed up beautifully in an assortment of containers - from nappy bin seals to stock pots!

While we decorated upcycled tin cans with various materials and gathered and twiddled with large amounts of flowers and foliage, Heidi Cooper winsomely shared her testimony and empathetic jokes about mum life. She highlighted an endless parenting question: "what is best for my children, what does my child need?!" And how a friend told her - God loves your children more - and how crazy that seemed to her at first, but then how wonderful. Heidi led us through the story of Jairus and his daughter, how it was a crisis point for him that led to faith, how gentle Jesus is and how powerful. How if he is God with power to raise from death then he is the most important thing we can teach our children about - he is the answer to the most important thing they need.

We had the passage to read in front of us and goodie bags with little leaflets to take away as well as gospels and books available for any interested to find out more! Heidi ended by saying: "Jesus loves me, he loves you and he loves our children, more than we will ever know.  Do find out more about him.  As we saw with Jairus's daughter, he knows what he's doing.  We don't need to fear, we just need to believe."

We pray for our Toddler members, young and old, that they would come to belief and we are so thankful to have the opportunity to put these events on and to continue the conversations started at them.

Our Toddler groups meet on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 9:45am-11:15am and are for children from birth to 4 years old. We also have a Baby Cafe from 11:30am on Wednesdays.

For more information about Toddlers or to find out how to be involved, please see the Toddlers page or speak to Rachel Meynell or any of the Toddler leaders.

Henley Update (Sam Brewster)

On Sunday 8th September, Trinity at Four celebrated our first birthday! It's been a wonderful first year for us, and we are hugely thankful to God. Thank you all for your continuing prayers and support.

Sunday meetings Our Sunday gatherings have been going well. We enjoyed our series of 'Summer Sundays', which included more time than usual for socialising over a series of different activities and events. With September, it's been great to see church family returning after the summer. We have loved seeing more of Jesus together in the opening chapters of Mark's gospel.

Children's and youth ministry We're blessed to have a good number of children every Sunday. Pray that we would teach them clearly, and model the Christian life to them faithfully. Pray also for Peter Greenman, who has started this term as our Ministry Trainee, with a focus on youth and children's ministry. We have also started a weekly youth group from year 7+ in conjunction with two of the other churches in town. This has started very well. Please pray that this would bear fruit in young lives, and for continuing unity in this gospel outreach.

Evangelism With our Sundays now becoming increasingly established, I would love us to develop a real 'evangelistic' DNA as a church family. It's easy for a new church's goal to be 'get established and viable!' But the goal must always be to be passionate ambassadors for Jesus, both collectively and individually. Please pray for us as we seek to grow in this as a church family. With this in mind, you might pray specifically for an evangelistic event we're running at a local coffee shop on Monday 7th October, and a Christianity Explored series following it.

The Brewster familyWe are all doing well! Lucy is expecting no. 3 at the start of April, so please pray for the various adjustments that will require. We always welcome visitors, so if you want to come and say hi, come along any Sunday at 4 pm! Love from us all, Sam, Lucy, Joanna and Amelie

Six months on (Bruce and Eunice Roberts)

So here we are, several months into our new adventure, having moved away in March after many years of living in Maidenhead and being part of the St Mary's Church community. We tried to say goodbye to as many friends as we could, but inevitably we missed a few folk on our last couple of Sundays.

It was a big decision for us to leave, but we had felt for some time that it was the right thing to do - we have always wanted to live nearer to the south coast. We are so grateful for all the good wishes from our friends in Maidenhead and we feel very blessed that we have been able to move to such a beautiful area, on the Dorset / Devon border, just outside Lyme Regis.

We had visited several churches before we moved into the village where we are now, and it felt right that we should join the parish church of St Peter and St Paul, Uplyme. We were made to feel very welcome straight away, and we are already making new friends. The church has a good congregation, and a heart for the gospel and serving the local community. However, like many rural churches, it is not without its issues such as the loss of several younger families to more 'lively' places of worship. Also, for the first time in many generations, Uplyme Church which is currently in an 'interregnum', is not going to have a dedicated minister, and is now the Axe Valley Mission Community from September. This represents both a challenge and an opportunity, and we would value your prayers as our new church seeks to share the love of Jesus with everyone in the wider community. We are already getting involved in leading the music for the regular morning service, as well as singing in a 'festival choir' at Easter and Pentecost. We will be part of a new venture from September, when the church plans to introduce a more 'worship-band' style to the music.

We have a lovely home and, partly thanks to gifts from friends at St Mary's, we have begun to transform the garden, especially a 'cottage' border on either side of the path to the house. We are reminded of our dear friends in several ways - the poppies from seeds given to us by Maureen Boyd, the rose from the growth group we served for many years, the wildflower seeds from Stepping Stones which have bloomed in profusion, and the wonderful 'cottage-garden' plants in the front beds from the gift from the musicians. Our new contact details are on the St Mary's website, and we are always pleased to see and hear from old friends.

Change at the 4pm (Will Stileman)

Almost exactly a year ago Dave Atallah became priest-in-charge of St Mary’s White Waltham, whilst continuing to lead the 4pm Congregation at St Mary’s Maidenhead. It has been wonderful to have this arrangement with St Mary’s White Waltham, with whom we have had a close gospel partnership for the last 9 years. And with Dave at the helm that partnership, we trust, will continue to develop and grow. 

However, I always knew there would come a time when it would be right for Dave to focus all his energies on growing the work in White Waltham. That is where the Atallahs live. Melody, Katie and Jonny all attend local schools and Dave, wonderfully supported by Helen have thrown themselves wholeheartedly into that church and community.

So, I have been on the lookout for somebody who could in time lead the work at the 4pm Congregation. And with Ian Miller joining the staff team and supported by his lovely wife Tamsin and their four delightful daughters, God has provided us with someone who is qualified and competent to take on this role.

However, Ian is a training curate. That means for at least three years, he has a number of courses to attend and assignments to complete on top of the ministry he does here at St Mary’s. Ian is also already taking on responsibility for the Mission we are holding at the end of February next year. On top of that as many of you will know, I am away on sabbatical between Christmas and Easter and will not be in a position to give Ian hands on support.

So, what is going to happen is as follows: on 17th November Ian will visibly and officially take over leadership of and responsibility for the 4pm Congregation. However, wonderfully, Dave is not going to disappear to White Waltham. He will still be around to offer hands on support for Ian as he takes over the role. Dave will still be actively involved in things. For instance, he will preside at the Communion Services which Ian is not allowed to do until early July next year when he has his second ordination. He will also be a source of counsel and some administrative support.

This will remain the situation until just after Easter, at which point Dave will then cease his direct involvement with the 4pm Congregation and be full time at White Waltham.

So, on 17th November, we will commission Ian in his new role; but as I said, we are not saying goodbye to Dave until the Easter. And I want to take this opportunity to thank Ian and Dave for their help and wisdom in sorting out these arrangements. It seemed to the three of us that this was the best arrangement all round and I know that both Dave and Ian can count on the support of the whole of the St Mary’s church family as together, we work to know Jesus and make Jesus known.

Patient Perseverance in Making Friends (Louise Drake)

A couple of weeks ago, families at the 11am congregation joined together for another ‘Breakfast at the Bear’ as part of trying to get to know each other and build community. Around the table, we spoke a bit about the desire to build friendships and also acknowledged that this was often a slow, and sometimes daunting, process.

After that conversation, I reflected on my own experience of building friends in recent years. On moving to Maidenhead three years ago – from a town I’d spent all of my adult life and from a church community where I’d become a Christian – I found the transition harder than I thought I would... and I had expected it to be difficult.

This wasn’t a reflection on the church community at St Mary’s. Many dear people went out of their way to welcome us as a new couple and showed us great kindness. But the reality was, I missed having people around who knew me deeply, I struggled to know where to invest in friendship in such a large church, and I felt insecure and lonely.

From a few conversations that I’ve had with others, it strikes me that I might not be alone in feeling this. We might be new to church; we might have been coming for decades. We might be actively looking for friends; we might be carrying years of disappointment that those friends haven’t materialised; we might have lost good friends and are feeling rather weary at the thought of making new ones. I suspect that many of us hunger for the sort of friendship that the Bible encourages, and yet feel our experience falls somewhat sort.

I don’t have easy answers to this dilemma. The truth is, for many of us life is extremely busy, and we only have a limited amount of time to devote to friendship-building. Many of my dear friendships before moving to Maidenhead were formed when I was a student or sharing a house with people. On a purely practical level, we spent a lot of time together very quickly, hugely accelerating the process of getting to know each other. Now I am at a different stage of life, I realise that it is likely to take a very long time to build the same depth of friendship, and that is in itself a reminder to be patient and not lose heart.

But more significantly, at those times when I am tempted to lose heart (and they are more frequent than I would like to admit), it has been so helpful to remember that friendship is a gift from the Lord, and that has changed my perspective in a number of ways.

Firstly, I think we long for friendship because we long to be valued and loved. The wonderful thing is that we will never find anyone who has valued and loved us more than the Lord Jesus Christ 'who for the joy set before him endured the cross' (Hebrews 12:2). The joy spoken of in those verses is the joy of having people like us forgiven, restored and united with him in friendship eternally. 'Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends' (John 15:13). Even more than close community with each other, we need Jesus, and if we trust in him, he has given us the most precious gift of becoming his friend.

Secondly, I’ve found over the years that one of the great paradoxes of the Christian life is that if we pursue the gift rather than the giver, we end up being disappointed; yet if we pursue the giver – the generous Father who 'loves to give good things' (Matthew 7:11) – the gifts often follow. As Aaron Menikoff writes, "you don’t find community by looking for it”. Rather, it is when we seek to follow Jesus wholeheartedly, that community is created. So I joined a growth group and started serving with the children’s work, and I tried to set aside my worries about friendship, and ask myself instead, "how can I make a big deal of Jesus?" and "how can I be a blessing?", trusting that friendship will follow in time.

Finally, it has been helpful to remember that every friendship I have enjoyed now and in the past has been a gift from God. He has known what I’ve needed to keep going in the Christian life, and he has provided it. And I can trust him for the future as well. 'He who did not spare his own Son... how will he not also... graciously give us all things?' (Romans 8:32). God knows what I need and he is not ungenerous, so even when I’m in a season where it’s more challenging to build friendships, I can ask for his help, have confidence that he hears, and patiently persevere.

Looking Back (Celine Pham)

What an amazing year I’ve had with you here at St Mary’s, and I can’t believe that it’s almost the end… It’s my turn to take a look back and share with you my highlights and a glimpse of what I did here:

Work with amazing people... I thoroughly enjoyed working with you all for toddlers groups, Sunday School, 7Up, youth group... I enjoyed doing things that I never did before coming here, like dressing up for the 7Up parties, Bible story drama with Kate and the team for assemblies (what a privilege - we don’t have that in our public schools in France!), doing Bible teaching for children of different ages. I learned how God’s word can be taught and shared in so many different ways!

Many encouragements... One of the things I truly appreciated was hearing kids and teenagers pray with their own words and personal faith. It was amazing to see how God loves and takes care of every individual, no matter which stage of life they’re in. I’ve also been really encouraged by the staff team prayer times each morning, and their willingness to make St Mary’s a church family environment, with people taking care of and supporting one another.

Go deeper into areas that I am passionate about… I have been amazed to see how God prepared my time here and the many opportunities that I had to learn more about Biblical counselling. I learned a lot while the church was running the Real Change course with a group of us from all congregations, and during a biblical counselling conference that I went to with Rachel in May.

Looking back over the year, I’m really grateful for the staff team and the mentors that they have been for me. I learned a lot from the Ministry Training Course in Oxford and enjoyed spending one day a week with other ministry trainees. I had many great moments throughout the year working with Zach and in the office, in one-to-one Bible studies, at Christianity Explored, with my growth group, during summer camp at Sparkford 3 and with the young people…

And now… What am I about to do next? Many of you will already know that I got engaged last April to a Frenchman called Simon! Going back to France, I’ll happily continue to plan the wedding (that will take place next May). I will go back to my job as a nurse in a medical clinic in Strasbourg. Simon and I are looking to find a new church in the same area, and we will start a new biblical counselling training course together during weekends.

Please pray that I will fully trust the Lord for this next chapter in Strasbourg, that I will be able to get to know people and make friendships. Pray that as I get back into secular work, I will have opportunities to speak about Jesus and share my faith with colleagues and friends. And lastly, please pray for this engagement time until the wedding with Simon, that we will put God at the centre of all our plans for the future.

Mission Partner Paul Wheatley (Paul Wheatley)

H’s eyes open wide as he covers his mouth and gasps at the claims of Jesus: “I and the Father are one…” So he does claim to be God after all! While the class descends into chaos at this outrageous statement, another student, M, jumps to Jesus’ defence arguing that we can no longer deny this – we’ve seen it ourselves in these stories. After just six months of studying God’s word, from creation, through all the brokenness of the Old Testament, to Christ’s wonderful life, death and resurrection, H has decided that Jesus must be the one the prophets spoke of – the one who finally opens the way for us to have a right relationship with God. And yet how can he possibly follow this Saviour? His family will kill him, he says.

I praise God for testimonies like this from my year working in Chad with Africa Inland Mission (AIM). I’ve been using the Bible to teach English to Muslim men and it’s been the most exciting year. It’s an immense privilege to walk a few dozen of these guys through a broad Bible overview, looking at the many challenging truths that present such huge dilemmas to these Muslim friends about their religion and their state before God. With their foundations built upon obedience and law, with no assurance whatsoever of their salvation, these 6 months of class are a great opportunity to push them towards a decision - continue under tyranny and suppression, or be liberated in love and grace. And all this in the context of an English class!

But as in the case of H, there are challenges. The consequences of following Jesus in a place like Chad can simply be terrible. So while we praise God for a relatively open context for such work, Jesus’ call to take up our crosses aren’t too far from literal for many people here. But God is good and faithful - pray for H and the others facing similar choices to know this.

So as I think about my longer-term return to Chad, I’m so grateful to St Mary’s and my church family for the role you’ve all played during my time at Bible school and then in Chad. Your prayers and your giving have been so valuable in helping those friends hear the gospel, almost always for the first time. You’ve given them chances to consider the truth about Christ and whether or not to follow him, and that is huge. So please don’t stop! Please continue to pray, and even to give. Don’t hesitate to contact me at if you want to know how to do that in the best way.

Introducing .. James Howick (James Howick)

Though I started at St Mary’s on the 9th September I know that many of you will not know who I am, so let me put that right. My name is James Howick, I am 34 years old, I grew up in a Christian family and have three older sisters.

For the last four years I have worked in Haywards Heath where I was a ministry trainee at Christ Church. This was a wonderful time of growth as well as testing and discerning God’s gifting and calling on my life. This led me to work as the community youth-worker for a charity set up by Christ Church. During that time I had the joy to reach out to young people from the community, many of whom were from disadvantaged backgrounds and broken homes. That joy was mixed with sadness as I didn’t often have the opportunity to teach the Bible to young people.

This has led me, by God’s providence, to St Mary’s where I will not only have the opportunity to teach the Bible but also to study the Bible at Crosslands seminary, a training course based around independent study. I relish the opportunity to teach the Bible, whether that is at Pathfinders, X-Focus, Shift Focus or youth growth groups. I pray that young people may be confronted by a God who speaks and acts by his word and so see the work of the Spirit in their lives as they grow in maturity, becoming more like Christ.

Please do come and introduce yourselves to me - it will be a great help to me as I seek to get to know you all in the coming months! I am very much looking forward to meeting you.

Praying for ... Students (Heather Evans)

The exciting world of university outreach.

Last September marked the end of an era – for the first time in five years, no-one in our family was starting or returning to university. It felt strange not to be gearing up for a new student year, not to be heading off to Nottingham or Norwich with a car full of student clobber.

All of a sudden, I felt out of the loop. No more conversations about Christian Unions, hall-groups, dial-a-doughnut or lunch-bars. No more talk of carol services or mission weeks. A page had turned.

‘Christian Unions are mission teams that operate at the heart of university and college campuses. They are led by students, resourced by Christian Union staff workers and supported by the local church. Together, we are reaching students for Jesus’ Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship (UCCF) website – www.uccf.org.uk

Suddenly I knew what I needed to do. How about praying for those students who I knew were starting university for the first time? I pulled together a list of names and universities – a few from St Mary’s, the daughter of a friend, the granddaughter of a couple at the 11am service, the niece of someone at the 6.30 service. Soon I had a list. Time to start my research.

Let’s take a hypothetical student as an example. I’ll call him Ben. Ben is due to start at Cardiff shortly. He is likely to be feeling that heady mix of excitement, anticipation and uncertainty...

First step is to find out more about the specific university Christian Union (CU). The UCCF website is a good source of information, and most CUs have a website and/or Facebook page that you can access via a normal Google search (you don’t need to be on Facebook to do this). UCCF has printable, email, and PrayerMate (a free smartphone app that organises prayer points and sends notifications of who and what to pray for) prayer diaries that provide both general and specific information to pray for.


On the Cardiff CU Facebook page, I find that freshers’ events start on Monday 23rd September. Whether or not Ben is a Christian, I can pray that he will get involved with any or all of the CU freshers’ events: the hall groups pub quiz on Monday 23rd, bowling on 24th, ‘music and mocktails’ on 25th, the CU main meeting on 26th, ‘burger and story’ on 27th, a BBQ on 28th and ‘church search’ on Sunday 29th. I can pray that Ben will manage to get to these events and enjoy them, that he will be meeting other Christians, developing friendships, that his faith will remain strong, or that his interest in exploring Christianity will be kindled. That he will be settling into his accommodation, meeting others on his course and making friends. That he will find a church to settle at. Exploring the Cardiff CU website, I find that the main CU meeting of the week is on a Thursday and that there are regular hall groups and prayer triplets. More things to pray about as the weeks progress. Later on, there will be other events to pray for – a carol service, a mission week.

The student mission-field is huge; exciting things are happening in our universities. Over 29,000 students attended CU carol services nationwide last year, nearly 50,000 attended CU mission week events. There is so much to pray about and praise God for! Some of our St Mary's church family are heading off to the following universities this year - click on the university's name for a link to the university specific UCCF website: Durham, Newcastle, UCL, Exeter, Lincoln, and Southampton It would be great to extend our prayers to those brothers and sisters of ours taking their first steps of independence, that they would own and grow their faith and for the work of the CUs and churches they will be linked to.

Harvest Sunday (Jon Drake)

Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.’ (2 Corinthians 9:7)

This Sunday, 22nd September, is our Harvest Sunday. At this time of year we consciously give thanks to God for all he gives us: physically, in the world he made and the harvest he provides and, spiritually, in Jesus our Saviour. One way we express our gratitude to God as a church family is with two special Harvest collections.

On Sunday we will have a collection of non-perishable foodstuffs which will be given to those in need locally through Maidenhead Foodbank. They help individuals and families where one or more person in the home is not able to eat at least one day a week because they cannot afford it. We work with Maidenhead Foodbank through the year with our monthly Foodshare Sundays. Please do bring your packets, tins, jars and all non-perishable food for collection at the front of church this Sunday.

Our other Harvest collection is a financial collection for the Malawi Disaster Relief Project administered by SIM Malawi, a Christian mission organisation dedicated to sharing the love of Christ in Malawi in both word and deed. (See Malawi Amoto e-magazine / 2019 Floods Update 1 at www.simmalawi.org ).

In March of this year, the tropical cyclone Idai devastated large parts of southern Africa. Many tens of thousands have been affected in Malawi, losing their homes and crops. As people are now returning home, SIM Malawi seek to provide them with food, maize-seeds and tools for winter cropping and help rebuilding their homes; all in the name of Jesus. As Steven and Jo Wheatley from our church were, until recently, mission partners in Malawi with SIM, they know the team who are distributing the aid so it seems right that we are supporting the Malawi Disaster Relief Project for our Harvest giving this year. We are encouraging gifts to be made via bank transfer, to the usual PCC account (Sort Code: 60-13-35, Account No. 64261883). Please use as reference HARVEST19. Alternatively, gift envelopes will also be available in the welcome area for cheque or cash gifts and for making new Gift Aid declarations.

May the Lord Jesus’ name be honoured here in Maidenhead and Malawi as we give from what he has so generously provided for us.

Revisiting the Big Christian Read (Heather Evans)

Back in 2003, the BBC carried out The Big Read – a survey to find the nation’s best-loved novel of all time. If it was before your time, or you don’t remember, Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings topped the list, followed by Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. On the back of the BBC survey, we carried out the one and only St Mary’s Big Christian Read. Over two hundred different books were recommended, and it is interesting to look back to see what we were reading and recommending fifteen years ago.

It would be great to re-run this and discover the books we are currently benefiting from. Which new books or new authors would you recommend?

2004 recommendations:

Christian basics / What is Christianity?

Winner: Mere Christianity – C S Lewis

Other recommendations:

  • Basic Christianity – John Stott
  • Evidence that demands a verdict – Josh McDowell
  • The cross of Christ – John Stott
  • Turning points – Vaughan Roberts
  • Knowing God – J I Packer
  • Beyond belief – Peter Meadows & Joseph Steinberg
  • Questions of life – Nicky Gumbel
  • My God is real – David Watson
  • It makes sense – Stephen Gaukroger
  • The God who is there – Francis Schaeffer

General Christian living

Winner: Purpose driven life – Rick Warren

Other recommendations:

  • The fight – John White
  • What’s so amazing about grace? – Philip Yancey
  • Reaching for the invisible God – Philip Yancey
  • Where is God when it hurts – Philip Yancey
  • Distinctives – Vaughan Roberts
  • If you want to walk on water, you have to get out of the boat – John Ortberg
  • Challenging lifestyle – Nicky Gumbel

Prayer

Winner: Too busy not to pray – Bill Hybels

Other recommendations:

  • Meditations and prayers books – Eddie Askew
  • Don’t just stand there, pray something – R Dunn
  • A call to spiritual reformation – Don Carson
  • Screwtape letters – C S Lewis
  • People in prayer – John White
  • Listening to God – Joyce Huggett

Evangelism / telling others about God

Winner: Becoming a contagious Christian – B Hybels

Other recommendations:

  • Out of the saltshaker – R Manley Pippert
  • Thank God it’s Monday – Mark Green

Relationships / Marriage / Parenting

Winner: The 60 minute marriage – Rob Parsons

Other recommendations:

  • Loving against the odds – Rob Parsons
  • The 60 minute father – Rob Parsons
  • The 60 minute mother – Rob Parsons
  • The parenttalk guides – ed Steve Chalke
  • How to succeed as a parent – Steve Chalke
  • The power of a praying parent – Stormie Omartian

Christian biography

Winner: The hiding place – Corrie ten boom

Other recommendations:

  • The heavenly man – Brother Yun
  • Joni autobiographies
  • Chasing the dragon – Jackie Pullinger
  • The God-dependant life – Joanie Yoder
  • Run baby run – Nicky Cruz
  • Cross and the switchblade – David Wilkerson
  • Child of the covenant – Michelle Guinness
  • God’s smuggler – Brother Andrew

Holiday Club 2019 (Charlotte Faulkner)

It was that time again; Mars and the Planets had aligned in the Milky Way and loads of other Starbursts and Galaxies were getting ready. Asteroids, Meteorites and Comets flew into orbit as did the Red Giants and the Green Nebulas as quickly as Ultra Violet Rays, while the Black Holes weren’t far behind.

It was time to go to

This year was a busy one — 12 teams of over 100 kids came to St Mary’s each day, many of which were not from church backgrounds! This was an amazing encouragement to us all to see these children coming back each day to learn more and have lots of fun. Their parents were later invited to come back at 12.10pm where we recapped all the things we had done that day, and the church would quickly fill up with people.

The day would begin with Professor Kate, who enlisted the help of Mr Universe and his three eager “Space Cadets” to help all the kids to learn the amazing news about God and Jesus. On Wednesday, we learnt that God is a powerful creator, our loving heavenly Father and the King of the whole universe.

On Thursday, Doctor Dave told us about the dangers of building a tower to heaven and trying to be better than God. Then on Friday, Tim brought us the amazing news that Jesus is our rescuer, coming down to earth from heaven to bear our punishment on the cross to make us right with God again. Later on, we had time each day in our groups to explore these ideas more and study the Bible together.

There was lots more fun to be had, with amazing crafts organised by the craft teams which included pom pom aliens, jet packs, constellation viewers and rockets. Over in the garden, we played loads of fun games with relays, skittles, 4-way football and much more. Everyone greatly enjoyed their sessions and the mornings flew by!

On Sunday, we had our usual Holiday Club service at 11am, where Mr Universe and the Space Cadets recapped on everything we had learnt during the week. Professor Kate came and taught us about Jesus from the Bible, that everything we had learnt throughout the week was only possible because of Jesus. Afterwards, we went out to enjoy the sunshine and each other’s company at the BBQ, with burgers, hotdogs and ice-lollies! It was great to see so many people come and share in the fun we’d had all week whether they were regulars to the 11am or families from Holiday Club.

I’d like to take this opportunity to say a HUGE thank you to all those who volunteered their time and resources to make Holiday Club happen this year –  group leaders and helpers, craft team, games team, musicians, AV, our speakers: Tim Adams and Dave Atallah, the drama team headed by Simon Eves, the people who organised the snacks and lunch for us all afterwards and of course to Kate Wheatley for taking lots of time to organise such an amazing week and for her teaching of the gospel on Wednesday and Sunday. Praise be to God for all these people and for another wonderful year of Holiday Club!

Looking Back (Zach Penman)

There are 525,600 minutes in a year and as it comes to the end of my year as a junior ministry trainee, I feel I ought to share with you all my favourite minutes, the minutes that taught me lots and most of all the many minutes of encouragement to my faith.


I must say how warmly welcomed I was, especially to things I had never done before. It was a joy for the whole year to be able to serve with lots of different people, doing lots of different things in lots of different ways all for the same cause. To the glory of our King Jesus.

A highlight of mine is leading the Toddler Easter Service. For someone who their last time at a toddler group was when they were a toddler – I rather enjoyed it. In addition, being given responsibility for that short service at Easter-time for all the toddlers and their parents, grandparents and childminders was a real pleasure and I am thankful to the Toddler team for their encouraging prayers and practical advice that they gave to me.


Looking back over the year I am reminded of many fun and challenging times in small groups, bible study sessions and great times of growth in the Ministry Training Course where I got to practice my speaking skills a lot, throughout the year. But it wasn’t all ‘heads down, work hard’. I enjoyed many fun moments having fun and being silly. A few I shall briefly mention.

With all that lovely snow we had in December Céline and I took the advantage of the tiny slope in the Church Garden and enjoyed sledging all of three metres down it.


I also enjoyed running around a field in the dark dressed as a zebra for the sake of a Junior Youth Weekend Away game…that wasn’t the only time I was dressed up. YES, I had the honour of dressing up in silly clothes every Wednesday for the whole year to ask questions from the bible talk at 7UP.


There were so many more fun times that there isn’t enough time to mention them all. I find myself being deeply encouraged each time I remember what Jesus did for me and for all people, when he died on the cross for us. And over this year as I have met with lots of different people from different age groups, backgrounds, needs and abilities. Working with all these people with all their different needs I was and still am reminded of the main need, the most important need that everyone faces: the need for Jesus. So my prayer from this year is the conversations I had, the conversations I will have as I move to Lincoln; let them point to Jesus and let Him be glorified through it.

So my plans now for when I leave are to head to University to studying Biomedical Science. It is a fun and exciting opportunity to go towards.
  • Please pray that as I look for a church I will be able to find Christian friends and get stuck in and gently find ways to serve
  • Pray that as I get back into academia that I will be able to enjoy the subjects and make good friendships with people on my course
  • Thank the Lord for the safety throughout the year doing many different activities and travelling to lots of different places

Staff Changes and a Sabbatical (Will Stileman)

As we start a new academic year, I thought I would outline a few significant events that will happen this year:

  1. Ministry Trainees. At the beginning of September we say goodbye to Zach Penman as he heads off to Lincoln University to start a degree in Bio-medical Science. We are so grateful to God for Zach’s servant-heartedness and maturity as he has thrown himself into many different areas of church life over the last year.

    Celine Pham heads back to France at the end of September. She has also been a blessing to us, adapting so well to a different language, country and church culture. It has been a joy to see her flourish during the year. She has even managed, despite the distance, to get herself engaged to a delightful Frenchman called Simon. The wedding will take place in May next year.

    Celine will spend September helping Charlotte Faulkner, our new Junior Ministry Trainee, settle into her new role (see the blog item, below, where she introduces herself).

    One of our priorities as a church is to train up men and women who love the Lord Jesus and want to grow in Christ. Our apprenticeship scheme enables school leavers, whom we think are suitable, to spend a year as part of the staff team gaining experience of and skills in church-based Christian ministry. We trust this will hold Charlotte in good stead whatever she ends up doing.

    We also run a similar scheme for recent graduates and other older adults which lasts for two years. Tim Adams and Simon Eves, along with a host of others, have been on this programme in the past. At the moment we have nobody taking up this opportunity. However, just this last week, we have had a few applications, so we will see how they pan out.
  2. Director of Music in training. We have been so blessed to have Matthew O’Donovan as our Director of Music for the last 13 years. Matthew has a full time, demanding job teaching music at Eton. Nevertheless, each week he chooses the music for the morning and 6:30pm congregations and most weeks will find him leading the music for at least one of the congregations (sometimes he does three!). Matthew has been ably supported by a host of other committed, competent, skilled musicians. However, this last year a number of our leading musicians have moved away or are serving in other churches. Bruce & Eunice Roberts have moved to Dorset. Vic Henshall with her husband Jamie and their two young girls have just moved to Henley to support Trinity@4. John & Katie Croft are supporting the work at White Waltham. Harry & Jess Stileman and Abbie Nimmo, who were all heavily involved with the music at the 6:30pm congregation, have also moved away from Maidenhead.

    Making sure there is a good musical lead at our four main congregations every Sunday, ensuring that we have music for our midweek ministry, developing our music ministry and bringing on new musicians has become too much for anybody to do on a part-time, voluntary basis. To that end the PCC, after consultation with Matthew O’Donovan and James Ainscough, have decided that we should appoint a full time trainee Director of Music. This person will work under the supervision of Matthew and James to develop our music ministry at St Mary’s.

    To that end I am pleased to announce that, in February, Tom Brewster will be starting this new role at St Mary’s. Tom is Sam Brewster’s younger brother. He studied music at Manchester University and is currently part of the staff team at St Giles Anglican Church in Derby doing youth work. He is married to Ruthie, a doctor, and they have a two year old daughter called Miriam. Tom has also been involved with the music at St Giles and moving to Maidenhead and taking up this role will enable him to develop his skills and gain further experience.
  3. Sabbatical. The nine years at St Mary’s since my last sabbatical have been full on and I am grateful to our Church Wardens and the Diocesan authorities that they recognise I could do with some time off. So, between Christmas and Easter I shall be having a rest.

    I shall be visiting South Africa for the first time for six weeks just after Christmas and then, on my return to the UK, I intend to catch up on some reading, prepare a sermon series in the book of Esther, visit a number of old friends I rarely have the chance to catch up with and do some thinking and praying about next steps for the ministry at St Mary’s.

    We have an excellent staff team, who can more than cope without me so I trust that this will be a good time for both me and the church. Remember that in the last week of February we will have Glen Scrivener with us for a week to lead a mission. You will hear much more about that in the coming months.

So, as we start a new term, “may our love abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that we may discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God.” [cf Philippians 1:9-11]

Introducing Charlotte Faulkner (Charlotte Faulkner)

Hello! I am Charlotte Faulkner and I will be starting as Junior Ministry Trainee here at St Mary’s beginning 27th August, which means I will be helping out with a variety of things including Holiday Club, 7 Up, X-Focus, Explorers and Pathfinders, as well as going to the Ministry Training Course in Oxford on a Tuesday.

I am 18, fresh out of Sixth Form, where I studied Music, History and English A-Levels and will be going to study Classics at the University of Nottingham in 2020. My interests are in reading, art and playing music, namely the clarinet and saxophone.

I have lived in Maidenhead my whole life, but have come from a non-Christian family, so never grew up going to church. I am now a regular at the 6:30pm service and have been a Christian since I was 13, which was only possible because of encouragement from friends to go to X-Focus and later Shift-Focus, as well as summer camps, where I got to hear of God’s amazing love for us.

This is why I am so excited to be able to help others to have the opportunities to hear about Jesus that I had.

While I will mainly be focused on kids' work, I will be around the church so if we haven’t met please do introduce yourself and let’s have a chat!

The Library (Heather Evans)

Heather Evans, retiring St Mary's librarian, talks about the role and joys of the St Mary's library.

How long have you been at St Mary's?

I first came along to St Mary’s in around 1989. I had grown up in Cookham attending a couple of other Maidenhead churches in my childhood / youth. After three years studying at Newcastle University I returned to live with my parents and took on a job running the library at Berkshire College of Agriculture.  A few years after returning home and joining St Mary's, Martin and I were married.

When did you start helping out with the St Mary's library?

Around 2003. I took the library over from Angela MacDonald, when it used to be in the lower lounge. I had two young children and wasn't working at that point. It seemed an area of service to which I could really contribute by using my work-skills.

Some people may not realise that St Mary's has a library, where is it?

In the hall - walk in through the sliding doors, follow the corridor past the kitchen, the library is in a small room on the right, nearly at the end.

What sort of books are there?

A whole range! Books on living the Christian life, prayer, evangelism, worship, mission, church; a full range of Bible commentaries for each book of the Bible, Bible study booklets; biographies. There are also books looking at personal issues – depression, bereavement, stress, self-esteem, counselling, family and parenting.

The books are for adults, including young adults. There used to be a children’s section at one time, but the books had become dated and weren’t being borrowed. But it might be worth trying again!

Is it only books?

Mostly. There are a few DVDs. There are also some sets of Good Book Company's Bible study booklets.

How do you borrow items?

There's a simple signing out procedure – simply enter your name and phone number in the purple ring-binder, together with titles of the books being borrowed. When returning books, just leave them in the grey box.

Is it only used as a library?

It is often used as a quiet / counselling / study room during the week.

What has your role been?

My initial task was to catalogue the library and draw up a spreadsheet of library stock – I was able to do this when we stored the library books in our garage during St Mary’s first building project. The library, with new bookshelves, was relaunched in its new location when the hall reopened.

I’ve occasionally written an article for Touchline, with details of new books added to the library and I’ve also spoken to Thursday Fellowship about the library and reviewed some books. 

Back in 2003, I ran a survey at church called the “Big Christian Read”. This was at the same time as the national “Big Read” survey was being carried out. I have found the results of that 2003 - they are interesting to look at - and I think will be re-published on the blog and in Touchline soon.

You are 'retiring' as St Mary's' librarian, but what does the role involve?

Basically maintenance of the system: taking in and assigning donated books to the relevant sections (cataloging in library-speak) and adding them to the library spreadsheet. Promoting the library, keeping the shelves tidy, logging in and re-shelving returned books and finally, occasional stock checks.

How much time does it take?

How long is a piece of string?! It's one of those roles which can be adapted to suit circumstances. My family have grown up with me looking after the library, and over the years have happily stamped books, stuck coloured labels on spines, helped maintain the spreadsheet and re-shelved returned books. There are no hard and fast rules, no deadlines. Apart from keeping an eye on returned books or any donations left in the library and generally keeping the shelves in order, all other jobs can be done at home. It’s actually an ideal area of service to take on and involve children, or for two or more people to work together.

Is it technical or involve computer skills?

Only the maintenance of the spreadsheet. All other tasks are non-technical. One thing which has slipped over the years, and which would be great to improve is promotion and raising the profile of the library.

What was your most memorable moment?

When I originally took on the library, the bookshelves were in a very sorry state. St Mary’s had agreed to fund new bookcases (IKEA was the original plan.) But then I just happened to be in Marlow and spotted an independent bookshop which was closing down. I nearly missed the small card in the window advertising the shelving was for sale. I negotiated the purchase of three matching tall solid wood bookcases, all with display shelving, meaning books can be displayed “cover out” on any shelf – and all for a cheaper price than IKEA!

What would you say to someone thinking of helping out with the St Mary's library?

Go for it – it’s a wonderful niche area of service, and one that’s great for a family to do together, or for an individual or couple who have retired.

An enthusiasm for Christian books and an understanding of the importance of how they help us grow in our faith is an obvious advantage, together with ideas for promoting and raising the profile of the library.

It’s a very rewarding area of service, particularly for someone who loves books – I think the fact I’ve done it for over 15 years illustrates how I’ve enjoyed it. But I think the time has now come for me to stand aside for a new person with new enthusiasm and ideas to take it on and develop it further.

I’ll be handing over my library stamp and coloured labels, but I’ll still be around at St Mary’s, and can help with the change-over, if need be. Alternatively I’ll happily step aside straight away if someone would prefer to take it on without any interference from me.

You've stopped helping out with the St Mary's library, but you are serving elsewhere....

I’ve been compiling Touchline since the beginning of 2019 and am also a sidesman at the 11.00am service.

Interested? 

Please do feel free to contact me and ask any questions. And if you are interested in being the librarian, or helping out please do contact 

The 9:15am Interviews (Gemma Stephenson)

As part of a series of Sunday morning interviews to get to know congregation members and cover some topics of interest, Rob Wingfield interviewed Gemma Stephenson.

Rob: Tell us a bit about your family.
I'm Gemma Stephenson and my husband Ben, daughter Molly and I, attend the 9:15am service.

What brought you to St Mary's?
Ben and I went to antenatal classes in 2011 ran by Debra Jonckers and we made great friends with the other eight expectant couples. We first came to St Mary's to attend the baptism of one of the babies, the daughter of a lady called Janet.

So you had Molly. How were those early days?
The early days of parenthood were pretty horrendous. Molly couldn't feed when she was born due to having an infection. She had a lumbar puncture at one day old and thankfully didn't have meningitis. She did however, have to stay in special care for a week to receive antibiotics to rid her of the infection.

Due to the stress of the situation and lack of skin to skin contact with Molly, I couldn't breastfeed. Once home, I became increasingly anxious, obsessing over what happened and blaming myself. I felt I was a complete failure because I wasn't able to give my baby breast milk which I was told numerous times "was best". My spiralling thoughts led me to complete insomnia for three solid weeks. When I began to have suicidal thoughts I called the Samaritans and eventually referred myself to the Community Mental Health Team. With the help of their psychiatrist and my GP I was admitted to a psychiatric Mother and Baby Unit in Winchester. As the name implies, Molly stayed with me at the unit.

While in hospital I would sit on my bed and cry out to God to help me. I wasn't a Christian but I didn't know what else to do. During my 10 week stay, other than immediate family, the only people to visit us were two women from our antenatal group. One of those women was Janet. She visited numerous times and would call me on the payphone. The only reason I could see for her visiting was her Christian faith. None of my friends who had known me for over 10 years were brave enough to visit us, but Janet did.

Upon discharge I received lots of different help and treatment. Janet invited me and Molly to Baby Cafe at St Mary's and a group of us from antenatal classes came every week. I started to come to the 9:15am with Ben and Molly in November 2011. Fred and Aileen Watts welcomed us the first week and everyone was so friendly and welcoming that we kept coming back. Ben and I attended Christianity Explored, Molly was baptised and I was confirmed five years ago.

I do still take medication and I do suffer with anxiety which causes me to worry and catastrophise on a regular basis. Following a shock at work at the end of last year I suffered with some insomnia again. I now have the skills to recognise what's happening in my head but it's still really hard to cope with at times.

My faith helps massively. When I am struggling I pray more and mine and Ben's growth groups pray for me too. It can be impossible to share what's going on in my mind but the Lord already knows. He saved me eight years ago and will always be there loving me forever.

SAT-7 Live TV Broadcast (Alison Bird)

On Thursday 11th July five of us from St Mary’s (Ann Casey, Ali Peck, Jo Jobson, Sara Hewins and myself) went to London to visit the offices of SAT-7 to watch their Iranian team put out a youth programme live on air. It was so exciting to go into the studio and meet the two presenters before the show began. They were both young and enthusiastic about their work, reaching out across the world to young people, sharing the Good News of Christ and helping them with their day to day problems.

As the show prepared to air at tea time in Iran and elsewhere the five of us ladies gathered in the operations room next to the studio and watched the technical team running the countdown of “10, 9, 8, 7, 6 … We are live….”. Then the screens in front of us came alive with the two presenters chatting happily in Farsi to the camera and to each other. On this day they were to interview a successful Iranian singer who seemed to be a big star in Germany. Of course we couldn’t understand a word they were saying so I might be wrong about this!

What struck me was that hardly was the programme up and running than viewers began to contact the studio with their comments and questions. A man at a screen behind us was collating all the messages coming in and SAT-7 would be personally responding to all of these. This gave the programme a whole extra dimension of excitement as those hearing the Gospel message could communicate directly with SAT-7 to ask questions and find out more. They could also ask for help and advice as they sent in their problems and other questions.

SAT-7 Pars broadcasts to Persian speakers in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Europe. They can watch via satellite television and the internet. Support and prayer is offered via phone and messaging apps. There are a wide range of programmes featuring Bible teaching, Women’s, Children’s and Youth programmes, documentaries, worship and praise and also feature films.

It was such a privilege to be able to go behind the scenes to see SAT-7 Pars operating. We were greeted very warmly on arrival by Dave Mann, the Support Development Executive at SAT-7 UK. He spent a long time showing us round and answering our many questions. Then we were served delicious Persian tea and biscuits by the very friendly team.

We came away even more convinced than we already were that SAT-7 is one of the most exciting things happening in the Christian world today. It is watched by 25 million people across the Middle East and North Africa. It brings a message of faith, hope, love and peace to people watching from the safety of their homes. This way it can bypass strict Government censorship and reach people who might otherwise never hear the Gospel as Christianity is banned in their country or has been driven underground. SAT-7 broadcasts not just in Persian but also in Arabic and Turkish.

Here at St Mary’s we support the work of SAT-7. If after reading this you would like to know more or to give directly to SAT-7 please do speak to Ann Casey, our SAT-7 rep, or to any of us who visited the studio. We’d love to hear from you.

Can Science Explain Everything? (Book Review)

Roger Battye reviews the book 'Can Science Explain Everything?' by John Lennox after buying it at the Book Sunday in June.

This is a slim book introducing a large subject. I chose to read it as I thought that I knew the answer and hoped to find confirmation. I did, but more than that I found reasons both to support and challenge my views.

John C Lennox is a formidable writer, and debater. He is also a pragmatic Christian, who acknowledges that the Bible includes metaphors as well as incontrovertible truths. I found that reassuring, but some might find it controversial.

The book does not claim to be more than a summary of the issues. Here are some of the main points as I saw them.

Science and God are not alternatives. Science seeks to find rules governing how things occur and to quantify them. Put simply, this means establishing rules. As new discoveries are made, the rules may be modified, sometimes radically. Most people now accept that the earth moves around the sun.

But who made the rules? Whoever that was must have a complete understanding of science. It is not unreasonable to deduce that the rule maker has the power to decide if and when a rule may be broken. Miracles are examples of rules being broken. While it is appropriate that scientists seek a logical explanation for all unexplained events, they will not find one if the rule maker has made an exception.

Theists recognise God as the creator of everything. For Christians Jesus is a miracle. Neither of these statements should be seen as a threat to science.

It was interesting to see how many famous scientists were committed Christians.

Science may tell us, with increasing accuracy, 'how', 'when' and 'where', but only God knows 'why'.

My favourite quote from the book was the author’s response to Dawkin’s taunt that 'Christians were afraid of the dark'. 'No', he said, 'Atheists are afraid of the Light!'.

Anyone who has read Dawkins 'The God Delusion' should read this book and consider the other books listed at the end.

Jo Clifford (Brian Jones)

Jo has spent the last 10 years working in Tanzania helping to provide scripture in aural and visual formats for various local languages. Recently, many expatriates have been either refused work permit renewals or issued with a final two year permit. Jo had to leave the country last summer while appealing a refusal and has only recently been able to return.

It's been a time of huge uncertainty for her and her colleagues and she will now spend the next six months handing over her work to two nationals. It's also possible that she will be able to continue to provide assistance remotely from next year when she takes up a new role as International Coordinator for Media Services with SIL (Summer Institute of Linguistics) International.

What has Jo's work involved recently?

  • Overseeing the recording of two New Testament translations one in the Vwanji language and one in the Malila language
  • Hosting a Jesus Film team as they came to record the script of the film in two languages – Bungu and Malila
  • Recording the first parts of Bungu Mark
  • Training some Kinga pastors how to use the Jesus Film projection backpack
  • Taking part in planning meetings for the next financial year

And how best to pray for Jo?

  • Pray that she is able to continue to make the most of her time here in the UK
  • Pray for clear guidance for her future and wisdom to know where to relocate in Europe and for financial provision to meet increased living costs
  • Pray for her new role with SIL
  • Pray for peace in this time of transition and good relations with work colleagues as Jo passes on her work to national staff

The British Museum's Bible-related Artefacts (Becca Stileman)

A few of us had a real treat in early July when we went round the British Museum with Mark Meynell, who helped us to focus on a few key artefacts which are particularly linked to the bible. He also recommended a book which is available at the British Museum called – ‘Through the British Museum with the Bible’ by Brian Edwards and Clive Anderson. Here are my very brief notes of what we saw:

Ground Floor

Room 4: The Rosetta Stone is a broken part of a bigger stone slab containing a decree about the king (Ptolemy V, r. 204–181 BC). When it was discovered, nobody knew how to read ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs. Because the inscriptions say the same thing in three different scripts and scholars could read Ancient Greek, the Rosetta Stone became a valuable key to deciphering the hieroglyphs.

Room 6: The Assyrian Empire – The Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III - glorifies the achievements of the king and shows tributes coming from all directions. The second panel down shows a man described as Jehu offering a tribute to Shalmaneser III. In 2 Kings 9, God speaks to Jehu, one of King Ahab’s generals who became the next king.

Rooms 10a and 10b: The sculpted reliefs in Room 10a show the sporting exploits of the last great Assyrian king, Ashurbanipal (668-631 BC) and were created for his palace at Nineveh (in modern-day northern Iraq).

In Room 10b, you see panels depicting the Siege of Lachish (710 – 692 BC). Lachish was one of the chief cities of the kingdom of Judah and in 701 BC it was captured by the Assyrian King Sennacherib (704-681 BC). The siege followed the refusal of King Hezekiah of Judah to pay tribute to the Assyrian Empire and is mentioned in the Bible (2 Kings 18). Sennacherib’s army moved on to Jerusalem and besieged it but Jerusalem was not captured at that stage (2 Kings 19). Room 8: King Pul (Tiglath-Pileser III) was a well-known king of Assyria who was mentioned in the books of Kings and Chronicles (2 Kings 15 and 16, 1 Chronicles 5).

Upstairs to Level 3:

Room 57: Lachish, about 25 miles from Jerusalem and at one stage Judah’s second city, had fallen to the Assyrians in 701BC in the time of Hezekiah, king of Judah (see Room 10b). In Room 57 are the Lachish letters – pieces of pottery used as writing tablets. The letters were probably written shortly before Lachish fell to the Babylonian army of King Nebuchadnezzar in 588/6 BC during the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah (Jeremiah 34:7).

Room 55: The Taylor Prism is a six-sided clay document which contains the annals of Sennacherib, written down in cuneiform script in 691 BC. It provides an account of the besieging of Jerusalem in 701 BC, an event described in the Bible in 2 Kings 18-19 and Isaiah 36-37.

Room 52: The Cyrus cylinder contains the policy of Cyrus that exiles should be allowed to return home which is also recorded in 2 Chronicles 36:22-23.

What a day – what a lot of history! The history at the time of the artefact’s creation and the history of how the artefact was found, researched and translated. A huge thank you to Mark and, I hope, an encouragement for us to visit the British Museum, whether for the first time or as a follow-up and to do a bible overview when next on offer at St Mary’s.

Juan Carlos and Penny Marces (Emma Spear)

We welcome Juan Carlos and Penny!

Juan Carlos and Penny Marces are our CMS Mission Partners in Lima, Peru and from June 13th to 16th they visited St Mary's, joining in with a great many of the services and activities in the daily life of our church. 

Penny is responsible for children's ministry in Peru, in fact for the whole of the Anglican Church of Peru, and was keen to see how our Pathfinders learn - attending a lively 9.15am session! 

Juan Carlos, the Vicar General of Peru whose Diocese is - yes, you guessed it - the whole Anglican church in Peru, was keen to learn from Will, Jon and Dave about modern Evangelical Preaching in UK. His Bishop is a bright new figure in the Anglican church of Peru and he and Juan Carlos are breaking new ground in Bible-based, people-centred Evangelical teaching. 

They both attended St Mary's Evening and told us about efforts to encourage environmental awareness, children's Bible teaching, youth work and marriage guidance through Bible study.

The visit was concluded with a wonderful church BBQ on Sunday 16th June and the Lord smiled on us with blessings of good weather, plentiful food and happy company. We send prayers of a safe onward journey to Ireland and homeward to Lima.

To find out more about Juan Carlos and Penny Marces, or to receive their prayer updates please do contact [hidden] (9.15 service), Mission Link to Juan Carlos and Penny Marces.

Word Alive (Various Authors)

Word Alive - what is it?

Word Alive is a Christian conference held in Prestatyn, North Wales every Easter for six days. About 5,000 people attend from around the country and overseas. It's held on a Pontins site right on the beach and many families stay on site, but large numbers also book holiday cottages, B&B's and hotel bookings in the local area. A group from St Mary's go each year and we tend to all stay in the hotel next to the site, being together gives a great opportunity for fellowship as well as enjoying the conference itself.

How does it work?

Each day follows the same pattern. For adults there are two main morning meetings with a break in between and a main evening meeting. The main Bible talk, teaching from a book of the Bible, is repeated at both morning sessions so that you can go once to that and then choose a second series of talks to attend should you wish. The afternoon is filled with seminars on different topics which you can dip in and out of, or just enjoy some down time or family time. The main evening meeting is a get together for all adults and is very similar in style to a St Mary's evening service, just on a much bigger scale! Following on from this is the main student evening meeting (though non students are certainly welcome!) as the conference is well supported by UCCF and many university Christian Union groups attend.

Whilst adults are learning in their sessions there are sessions running for children of all ages. Pre-school children have groups for one of the two morning sessions. School aged children have groups for the entire morning and from year 3, an evening group also.

There is teaching for the mentally handicapped and for overseas students, teaching for church leaders and those doing voluntary ministries. Our own Sam Allberry was there this year talking on the issue on singleness.

There is a huge book stall run by 10ofthose and the week provides a great opportunity to just sit and read up on different topics. This year I read a book called "Gay Girl, Good God" and heard first hand how God had transformed the life of a girl trapped in the gay scene.

Why do we go?

Several of those who attended Word Alive 2019 write about why they went and their experiences of attending with young families, older families, without children or as a worker.

Katie Croft
We first went to Word Alive in 2008 when our eldest daughter was 7 and in year 2 at school, despite the varying Welsh Easter weather we have not missed a year since. When our girls have reached GCSEs and A levels we have asked if they still want to go, knowing that Easter is a key time for revision. Despite their dedication to working hard and doing well, we are always met with a resounding "yes!".

Hannah, our eldest, said that she loves meeting with other Christians from around the country and it has strengthened her faith to know that it's not just our family or our small community at St Mary's that believes the Gospel. The friends she's made over the years keep in touch outside of Word Alive for prayer and encouragement as they live for Jesus in the world. The teenage work is excellent and the girls have loved going to their meetings.

For me, the excitement of another Word Alive begins early and we can't wait to get there each year. If you offered me an all expenses paid holiday in the sun (which I would dearly love) in place of Word Alive, I would turn you down. What makes it so special? The teaching is outstanding and I love the opportunity for fellowship with the church family. We learn more about God, go deeper into subjects of interest ranging from "can I lose my faith", to "where to do Christians stand on the issue of medical ethics". I love the atmosphere of being surrounded by other Christians, the worship and the fun. It's a little foretaste of heaven.

What struck me most this year were Tim Chester's talks on "Enjoying God". Stopping to think about our one-to-one relationship with God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in turn was really life changing and encouraging. It can be easy to get carried away with learning Bible knowledge or with serving or just the daily grind of life, but just to stop and enjoy God, knowing in return that He delights in us (Zeph 3:17) was just brilliant. You can download Word Alive talks from their website if you would like to hear more.

Richard Crane
We never attempted Word Alive when our children were younger, but now we wish we had. It’s quickly become a big highlight of our family’s year - no exaggeration! Our two children (11 and 15) always ask us to book it again. The balance of Bible teaching and silly games is just right for them, and they also get to meet children from around the UK who share their experience of growing up in a Christian family. The kids and youth sessions each day look at the same Bible passages as the adults, which makes for some helpful conversations. And they always have plenty of spare time for the sandy beach next to the site or hanging out with their friends. It’s brilliant.

Thomas Walton
I have attended Word Alive several times in the past but this was my first trip for four years. It was a really encouraging time spiritually; singing God's praises with a couple of thousand people was really uplifting and hearing faithful and relevant teaching was challenging and thought-provoking. There were lots of different sessions to attend so there was almost always something of interest.

This year we stayed off-site, which meant the accommodation was nicer but less convenient for popping in and out or for attending the After Hours evening entertainment. It would be great to get a few on-site chalets as part of a group next year!

Suzie Eves
I don't know how you feel about toddler tantrums...? They're not usually my favourite parenting experience, but when your child has had "the best time ever" on their "Jesus Holiday" and throws one on the realisation that there won't be another of their groups to go to, my heart felt full. I had been slightly apprehensive before we arrived as Simon was serving (more on that below) so I knew I'd be doing bedtime with our two children (10 months and nearly 3) myself etc, and we were staying offsite, but once there and settled we had the best time and the days flew by!

There was so much on - both Pontins and the Word Alive organisers make a big effort to ensure the event is family-friendly: huge inflatables, face-painting, trampolines, swimming, go karts, and lots more are all available for free. There are age-appropriate Preschooler groups run in the mornings (I got to the main Bible meeting) - Tillie's group (our nearly 3 year old) was literally in a soft play centre and she hasn't stopped singing the songs she learnt there - and then, highlight of our day, the Families Together celebration at 5:30pm. This was a wonderful, faithful, accessible, encouraging, engaging and eccentric "Jesus show" (as ours put it) - songs, memory verse ("Preach the Good News, be ready at all times!"), silly yet theological sketches, jokes, dress up, games, craft, prayer - all centred around the book of 2 Timothy. Music and drama were led by Awesome Cutlery. The timing of this and the other sessions can be routine friendly for little ones - for example, we had a picnic during Families Together which was totally okay and a relief!

Staying onsite, or a bit closer than we were, would certainly be something we aim for next year as with young children, it's great to be able to use all of the facilities / nip back to avoid "adventure wees" in the park / for a nap. I loved being surrounded by fellow believers on such a huge scale every day, getting to the Bible talks and being challenged and encouraged anew, getting excited about Jesus with my family lots, and having some adult-only time at two of the late evening celebrations (note: thanks to the friend and babysitter we brought with us!).

Simon Eves
I'm still not sure exactly how or why, but somehow I managed to find myself serving on the youth team leading Bible Studies for 14-18 year old lads (I really know how to let my hair down and enjoy my holidays!). But it was honestly brilliant. We had over 200, 14-18 year olds crammed into our meeting room and it was incredibly encouraging to be a part of that work as you saw so many young people genuinely eager to grow in their walk with Christ. From a personal perspective, Word Alive seemed to be really great at looking after the teams and because I was serving it made it possible for my family to come and enjoy a very reasonably priced holiday. One of the great joys is that as a family we were all studying the same stuff so in Tillie's group, Suzie in the main sessions, what I taught the teenagers and what we looked at in the family / all age meeting was all from 2 Timothy and so we were all able to have conversations about what we'd been learning together.

Word Alive takes place next year 4th-9th April 2020. And for more information see their website.