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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Project Connect - Update on Building Works (John Blackbeard)

We moved into the refurbished church in early January 2018. What has been happening with the completion of the building since then?

Unfortunately, our builder, Westco, went into liquidation shortly after we moved in and so were not able to complete the last few things and are not able to fix the inevitable snags that occur with a refurbished building. We have thus had to explore different ways to get the snags fixed, but at the same time not jeopardise our contractual position as Westco is wound up.

At first we tried to find a new contractor that would take over and complete the project as that would have been the simplest outcome contractually. After several attempts, this proved unsuccessful. We then started to look for individual subcontractors that could fix specific snags. There is a long list of snags and some are big and serious while many are small and not serious. The bigger ones are:
  1. The heating system was not installed correctly and the control system did not work. We have experimented with several options but in the end asked the project heating engineers to redesign the electrical wiring and control system. This has been done and an electrician has almost completed rewiring it. We hope to have it up and running well before the cold weather arrives.
  2. Ceiling planks outside the welcome area. As you may have noticed, some of the ceiling planks came loose and were in danger of falling down. We had to redesign the fastening system and apply the new design to each and every plank.
  3. Automation of doors to the welcome area and some other doors on site. These were never connected up and a company has now been contracted to complete the connection and commissioning.
  4. Bollard on the driveway. This was not completed and commissioned. We had to install the outstanding components and commission it and we are now better able to manage access to the site.
  5. Glass doors to the two vestries. These were badly installed and the doors sagged on their hinges rendering them unfit for service. A company has been located that will reinstall them and we can then also connect them up to the access control system.
  6. Ventilation in the two vestries. No ventilation was included in the design and while comfortable and warm in winter, the vestries are too hot and stuffy for use in summer. We are planning to install a window in each vestry to overcome the problem.
  7. Top windows in the church. These are a great new feature of the refurbished church as we can open them in hot weather to let out the hot air and cool the building (hot air rises). We were very grateful to have them this past summer. Unfortunately, the windows were not installed correctly in the frames and will all have to be taken down and reinstalled. The electrical opening mechanisms were also not fitted correctly (three have since failed) and will need to be replaced. We also experienced another unusual problem with the windows. Some pigeons decided they were an ideal access point into the church so they could build their nests in the new organ! Thanks to Steven Wheatley who explored several different tactics to keep them out and finally solved the problem by fitting spikes at strategic points to keep the pigeons out but at the same time not disturb the good aesthetics of the windows.
  8. Rain gutter downpipes. With the first heavy rain, it became obvious that the design of the gutters and downpipes were inadequate and water overflowed the gutters at some points and is starting to mark the outer walls of the church. The designer has visited site and we await their redesign. After agreeing that, we can install the additional downpipes, hopefully before the winter rains set in.
  9. Baptistry sealing and operation. We were thrilled to have a baptism service in February. It proved an interesting experience as we discovered that the sealant round the edges was not complete and we had to do that before we could fill the baptistry with water. We also had to have safety barriers made. We experimented with different pumps and piping arrangements to empty the baptistry and now have a good system that works so we look forward to many more baptisms.
  10. Hearing loop. It was not installed correctly and while it does provide some benefit to hearing aid users it is nowhere near the design level of performance. Thanks to many hours of testing and analysis by John Bowen, we now know where and to what extent it is defective. Discussions with a specialist hearing loop company are progressing to test and, if successful, install a high level hearing aid loop.
  11. Ventilation in the welcome area. The new welcome area with all the glass walls is light and appealing and is a good showcase to the high street as we had planned. We have also started using it for several meetings such as Worker's Lunch and Women's Bible Studies. While the sun warms it nicely in winter, it gets too hot in summer so we plan to install some opening windows or even air conditioning to cool it on hot days.
  12. Tap in welcome area. The tap fitted was a boiling tap, but proved unsafe for children as it could be activated and produce boiling water even if switched off. We had to replace it with a new warm and cold water tap.

There are also many other small things that need to be fixed and we are fixing those as we go along.

We need to have all snags fixed by the end of December 2018 so that we are ready to offset the costs of the fixing against any final payment that may possibly be due to the Westco estate. (That is a simplification as contractually it is more complex, but that is the essence of it). Thanks to good project management, we had only paid to Westco the value of works they had completed so when they went into liquidation, we were left with a sum of money that was never paid to them. We believe this will be sufficient to complete all the remaining items and snags. We should therefore still complete the building and all snags within the final approved total cost.

The organ and AV systems were not part of the Westco contract, but also had to be completed after we moved in. John Bowen, John Croft, Jim Beswick and others have worked tirelessly to complete the AV installation and are now almost done.

As the main building refurbishment ran a few months late on the contracted program, we missed the slot that the organ builders had reserved to install the organ. They have therefore had to return to site several times over the past few months to complete the installation and tuning of the organ when they had some spare time. The organ casing at low level also remains to be completed and we are researching suitable materials.

So, as you can see, we have been and are still busy fixing the last outstanding items. The new church is great, and many have remarked on that, but when it is all finished, it will be even better. A big thanks to Neil McDonald and all those that have worked so hard to help us on the project and finally, we continue to thank the Lord for our super new church that we can use in new and different ways to praise Him and to reach out with the gospel.

Ministry Training Course (Marc Boulter)

What is the Ministry Training Course?

The Ministry Training Course (MTC) is an interesting and exciting course to grow in your understanding of the Bible and Christian service for a range of reasons:

  • Personal Christian spiritual growth
  • Leading small groups (youth groups, growth groups, youth camps, men's or women's interest groups etc.)
  • Preparing and delivering talks to a range of audiences about Jesus under the guidance of the Holy Spirit
  • Development of apprentices within the church

The course covers:

  • Bible reading
  • Expositions (or comprehensive explanations) by excellent theologians on books in the Bible and practical application - a strong focus on Christ as the giver of life and joy in our lives now and eternally sets the agenda
  • Doctrine, praying, and practical ministry
  • Workshops on how to prepare and deliver talks to a range of audiences
  • Biblical theology (Bible overview, study of the nature of God, and Christian beliefs)

The teaching is fun, stimulating and deep. No prior knowledge is required and no-one is put on the spot. The group-work is encouraging and supportive whatever your contribution level.

In addition there are guest speakers and singers on a regular basis - examples include:

  • Nathan Tasker talking about his life and singing
  • a presentation on 'Technology and the Bible' by Andy Geers who produced the excellent Prayermate app

Why do MTC?

It is a no-pressure course focused on enhancing our understanding of the Bible and seeking how we can use our skills and talents to grow Christ's kingdom with the help of the Holy Spirit - something all Christians are called to do.

There are about 70 participants on the course each year from gospel-centred evangelical churches across the south central region of England with a range of participant ages and backgrounds. There are university leavers, youth workers leading holiday camps, church youth leaders, prospective missionaries, parents of school age children, prospective ministers, retired executives seeking to support church work, prospective growth group leaders and many more.  Participants from St Mary's included Anna Boorman, Peter Wheatley, Dick West, John Blackbeard, Nicola Winson, Heidi Cooper, and myself.

I was fortunate to have the time to do the course to understand how I can be useful to God, soften my heart, and be able to hear God's plan for my life. My next steps are to do year 2 and also lead a Growth Group.

Where is MTC?

The MTC course runs over two years (though you can choose to just do one!) and is held at St Ebbe's Church in Oxford from 10:15am to 3:45pm every Tuesday across the academic year from September through to June. The organisers record the lectures and post them on the 'Dropbox' internet storage site so if you miss a day you can catch up online.

Getting there is really easy via train, car share or drive with park and ride.

The cost is £190 per term. If you would like to go but cost is an issue, please speak to one of the St Mary's staff team.

Further details can be found at www.scgp.org.uk/training.

Reckless and Relentless (Beth Hutton)

The school gate attracts the same parents, twice a day, five days a week. By the time one adds in playdates, spontaneous after-school visits to the park and children's parties, it is easy to be doing a fair amount of life together as mums, dads and carers.

Regardless of our many differences with other parents, we will always have two things in common... firstly, we all have children; secondly, our greatest need, for all of us, is Jesus. With this at the forefront of our minds, it is exciting (and undoubtedly daunting) to consider our daily opportunities to 'go and make disciples' (Matt 28:19). The school gate is an exciting mission field.

That said, opportunities are not always obvious and not always easy to act on. The very suggestion of sharing our faith with others can fill us with fear and dread. Colossians 4 gives us a brilliantly practical step by step guide for how we can make the most of every opportunity. Firstly, 'devote yourselves to prayer' (v2) - it is God's work (not ours!) to change people's hearts so let us plead with him alone on behalf of these school gate families. Secondly, 'be wise in the way you act' (v5) - let us do our best to live distinctively and lovingly with God's Word as our standard - over time others will be intrigued to know what makes us tick. Lastly, 'let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt' (v6) - when opportunities arise, and they will, let us try to get Jesus' name into the conversation.

Sometimes it is easy to over analyse who we should be speaking to, what exactly we should say, or how we should invite someone for a coffee or to a church event. Or we can trick ourselves into thinking that we need to blurt out the entirety of the Good News of Jesus in one go so as to get it over and done with for the academic year. I am greatly encouraged by the image of the farmer in Jesus' parable of the sower (Mark 4) - he throws out seed recklessly and relentlessly - some of the seed falls on bad soil for sure, but some of the seed falls on good soil and goes on to give an abundant crop. Let us be like the sower at the school gate: reckless and relentless as we faithfully throw out the 'seeds'. Our job is to prayerfully sow the seeds as we live lives, and speak words, that witness to the truth and reality of our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us be faithful to this at the school gate. The rest is down to God.

What could God do in your workplace? (Richard Crane)

Those of us in employment may be aware of other Christian believers in our workplaces. Perhaps we even meet up with them socially, or support each other in prayer. But imagine if the Christians in every workplace in Britain were visible and recognised as bringing tangible benefits to their organisations? That's the vision of Transform Work UK, a national organisation who visited St Mary's on 9th July. We heard some inspiring examples from a range of organisations including banks, utility companies, business parks, and town councils.

Workplace Christian groups have often started as a tiny band of two or three ordinary believers, who found each other at work, started meeting to pray for their organisations, and eventually sought formal recognition as 'diversity networks' or joined up with multi-faith forums. This recognition opened myriad opportunities to serve their colleagues, which were actively supported by their employers. Ideas included placing a box for prayer requests in the cafeteria, organising a carol service, and even presenting a talk on Christianity during National Learning Week. And when these Christians became visible, it opened conversations with those who would never step into a church building. People who are burdened in their work and living without hope.

You can find out more at www.transformworkuk.org. If you work, then I'd love to discuss this further with you. Do get in touch!

Summer Musing (Will Stileman)

One of the things that we struggle with as a staff is when people come to us with requests to sort out lifts for people. We, of course, want to help but it is also quite an ask when we are having to deal with so many other things that come our way. So, over the summer, I have been giving some thought to this and I have come to the following conclusions:

  • It is important to keep on meeting with fellow believers and to be as active as we can in Christian fellowship and gospel ministry. The writer to Hebrews urges his readers "not to give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but to encourage one another - and all the more as you see the Day approaching."
  • If we are able to get ourselves to places safely using our own resources and abilities then we should. Galatians 6:3 urges us "to carry each other's burdens and in this way fulfil the law of Christ"; but a little later on Paul in the same chapter also mentions that "each one should carry their own load." (v5) We need to hold both those principles together.
  • It is not an extravagance to spend money on taxis, especially if we don't drive. It costs around £2,000 a year to run a car before you travel anywhere in it. That is a lot of taxi fares. When people get older they tend to spend less money on other things, so they might be able to spend more money on transport.
  • As a church we have a particular responsibility to look out for and care for those who have no family to support them. Those who do have family members should be getting support from them. As 1 Timothy 5:8 states, "If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever."

Every church wants to be, and should be, a caring community. But if individual members have the resources, they have a responsibility to care for themselves, so that the church can help those who are most in need.

8am, 9:15am and 11am Autumn Preaching Series (Jon Drake)

This autumn, in the morning congregations, we return to Matthew's gospel. Apart from two breaks for Congregational Sunday and Remembrance Sunday, we will preach through Matthew chapters 13-17 in two series: 'The Parables of the Kingdom' and 'The School of Christ'.

The Parables of the Kingdom  - Matthew 13:1-52

What is Jesus' kingdom, the kingdom of heaven, like? Jesus tells seven parables to show us. The parables reveal: the different responses people have to the message of the kingdom, the huge growth of the kingdom from small beginnings, how the kingdom is mixed in with the world for now but will one day be separated out, and the priceless value of being a member of Jesus' kingdom. Some harden their hearts to Jesus' parables, but those who humbly listen find truths that even prophets longed to see.

  • 9th September - Matthew 13:1-23 - The Parable of the Sower
  • 16th September - Matthew 13:31-35 - The Parables of the Mustard Seed and Yeast (also Harvest Sunday)
  • 23rd September - Matthew 13:24-43 - The Parable of the Wheat and Weeds
  • 30th September - 1 Corinthians 12:1-30 - Congregational Sunday
  • 7th October - Matthew 13:44-52 - The Parables of the Hidden Treasure, the Pearl and the Net

The School of Christ - Matthew 13:53-17:27

Can you imagine what it must have been like to spend time with Jesus and learn from him? In these chapters we join Jesus and his disciples as he teaches them through his words and his actions. We find that the disciples are slow to learn and of little faith. A bit like us, then! Jesus patiently teaches them about his glorious identity as the Son of God, he grows their faith in him, and shows them how to live as his followers. What a privilege to be part of the school of Christ.

  • 14th October - Matthew 13:53-14:12 - Why people reject Jesus
  • 21st October - Matthew 14:14-36 - The Son of God who meets our needs
  • 28th October - Matthew 15:1-20 - Horrible religion
  • 4th November - Matthew 15:21-28 - Great faith
  • 11th November - Remembrance Sunday - 9:15am All Age Service, 11am Civic Remembrance Service
  • 18th November - Matthew 15:29-16:21 - The yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees
  • 25th November - Matthew 16:13-28 - He must take up his cross
  • 2nd December - Matthew 17:1-13 - Listen to him!
  • 9th December - Matthew 17:14-27 - Faith as small as a mustard seed

Dependent Prayer (Will Stileman)

This autumn in our Family Focus slot, we are considering our church's mission statement. In the statement we mention three essentials, one of which is Dependent Prayer. Prayer is the chief mark of faith. Why would anybody pray on their own in secret, unless they believe that there is a God who hears and answers prayer? And the more we make prayer a habit, the more we are giving expression to our dependence on God.

Luke introduces the account of Jesus' parable of the Persistent Widow (Luke 18:1-8) with the words, "Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up." And Jesus concludes the parable with the punchline, "However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?" Jesus directly equates prayer with faith. So if we want to grow in faith, then we need to be growing in prayer.

The start of the Autumn term, like the beginning of a new year, is a good time to reassess priorities. Can I please suggest that we all take a good look at the priority we are giving to praying, both on our own and with others? If we are aware that we are not making it a priority, we need to urgently address the situation. Confide in a fellow Christian or your congregational leader that you are struggling and seek help from both the Lord Jesus and other believers to be more disciplined. As a church, one of our chief aims is to encourage one another to be more godly. Encouraging each other to be more prayerful is part of that.

My time at St Mary's (Anna Boorman)

I am sure that as many of you already know, I am finishing my apprenticeship here at St Mary's at the end of August, with Holiday Club being the last thing I do. It has been amazing to see how God has guided me over this last year (through all its highs and lows) and He has taught me so many things, which I know I will appreciate for years to come. Being a Ministry Trainee has meant I have been able to get involved in lots of different groups and events, as well as seeing the behind-the-scenes practicalities of running the church on a day-to-day basis.

I have enjoyed having the time and space to grow many fantastic relationships here and it has been great getting to know so many of you over this last year. Thank you to all those who have warmly welcomed me, been patient as I have learnt your names and have had me over for lunch! I especially want to thank those who have opened up their homes to me, both for many months and for those one-offs; you have all been very kind. I have never been so welcomed into a church family before - so thank you!

It has been great ministering to children and youth both weekly and through weekends away/1-week events. Though loud and excitable (and somewhat incapable of sitting still for a second), the young people of St Mary's have been a delight to work with and it has been amazing watching them discover Jesus for themselves! It has been both fun and very challenging to write, plan and give talks and Bible studies, however it has been insightful going deeper into God's word and I have learnt loads from it. I have also enjoyed playing the big sister role (though small) as well as finding the inner *stern mum* look (a rare appearance), in both pastoral and leading situations!

My time here has been great fun despite being dunked to demonstrate baptisms at Easter Cracked; having to dress up crazily for 7-up parties; being attacked and covered in paint at youth group; and being nominated a Goonie at Explorers Abroad! I also got to play my banjo in the ALLsorts band; I have being constantly asked to hold babies in toddler groups despite being absolutely clueless; and I proudly waved the Filipino flag because I don't own an English flag for my Family Focus (same colours - right!?). I will cherish this year greatly!

Though unsure what the Lord has in store for me (all in his perfect timing), I am heading to Dorset where my fiancé is starting a new role, so please do pray for me as I apply for jobs and for the Lord's keeping in my adventures ahead. St Mary's Maidenhead, you have been a pleasure and a blessing to be part of.

Many blessings,

Anna

4pm and 6:30pm Autumn Preaching Series (Will Stileman)

In September and October, at both the 4pm and 6:30pm services, we start a new sermon series in 2 Timothy. This letter, written by the apostle Paul to his young protégé Timothy, is in many ways Paul's last will and testament. Paul is in prison; he knows that he is soon to be executed and so in this letter he is passing on the baton to the next generation of pastors / teachers.

As we study this letter together, not only will we be struck by Paul's passion for the gospel, but we will learn what the priorities of those in Christian leadership should be and what Christian ministry is normally like for all God's people. Wherever we are in our Christian journey expect to be both warmed and warned!

Introducing Celine Pham

Hi everyone! I'm really excited to have this opportunity to join the staff team here at St Mary's as a Ministry Trainee. I will start on 28th August, so here's a little introduction about myself: I am 22 years old. I was born in France and have lived there all my life, but I'm of Vietnamese origin. I have an elder brother (2 years older). In my spare time, I enjoy reading,  sport, dancing and music (I play the violin). I finished my studies as a nurse in 2016.

I grew up going to church with my mother, but I accepted Jesus as my personal Lord and Saviour at the age of 18. After I finished my studies as a nurse, in 2016, I thank God that I had the opportunity to serve as a nurse at hospital in Chad for 3 months during 2017. It was an amazing experience for me! Since then, I've chosen to devote my life to taking care of people, and why not in a cross-cultural environment? That's why I wanted, after I got my degree, to study theology.

I've just graduated (in June 2018) from the first year of Bible School in Geneva. I am so thankful for everything that I learned there. But after this year, I really want to be involved in a church so that I can put into practice what I learned. Plus, my heart found an interest for biblical counselling throughout the year. I'm therefore so grateful and excited to see what God has prepared for me this year, amongst you.

During my time at St Mary's, I will be involved with a range of different ministries including Mums and Toddlers, Pathfinders, 7UP, X and Shift-Focus, Explorers abroad; as well as other things during Sunday services and weekly church events. I will also do the Ministry Training Course in Oxford one day a week.

My aims are to be able to better understand how a church works from within by being involved in the staff team, have an experience in co-leading and leading in youth work, be more confident to evangelise in a foreign culture, improve my English and to just feel free to serve and spend time among you.

Please don't hesitate to come and say 'hi', when you see me around - I can't wait to get to know you better.

Introducing Zach Penman

Many of you will know me, I'm Zach Penman and have been at St Mary's for almost 12 years now. Before that I went to another church in Maidenhead that I still visit and help out in children's ministry there.

I jumped at the opportunity to become a junior apprentice at St Mary's and cannot wait to dive head first into children's and youth ministry, something I am very passionate about. Without children's and youth work pointing me to Christ, I wouldn't be a Christian today. I am 18 and have just finished my A levels in Biology, Psychology and Product Design and also an extended essay qualification in teaching practice (far too confusing for me). With great thanks I could defer my place at the University of Lincoln to study Biomedical Science Mbio and this gives me the opportunity to stay in Maidenhead for another year for the apprenticeship.

My main tasks over the year will involve mainly children's and youth ministry with activities such as 7UP and X/Shift Focus during the week and also explorers and pathfinders on a Sunday. I look forward to these as ways to serve God with the gifts I have. Please do pray for me whilst doing all this, so that it would all be to the glory of God.

The Ministry Training Course (MTC) in Oxford that I will be attending throughout the year is very exciting. I cannot wait to practice and learn how to encourage people in small groups as well as give talks in front of big crowds. Please do pray for me to be confident in this new skill I will be learning.

Please do introduce yourself to me! Lots of the children do know me from previous volunteering I have done and it would be great to get to know more and more of you.

BBB: Serving God – what and when? (Jon Harris)

This year's summer all-congregations BBB (Beef, Beer and Bible) was a barbecue in the church garden on a wonderful sunny evening in July. Forty men gathered to hear Clive Mather, chairman of Tearfund, being interviewed.

We heard Clive's experiences of being led by God throughout his life to serve him in different ways. We heard hugely encouraging stories of how local churches partnered with Tearfund devote so much time to prayer. These churches are thanking God, not Tearfund, for the fruits of the relief and development work that they see. And Tearfund is telling governments who marvel at the success of their projects, such as drugs rehabilitation, that this is rooted in prayer and the Holy Spirit at work through its volunteers.

Clive asked us to consider the repeated words from Revelations, "Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches." As we study the bible and pray are we keeping our ears open? In the many decisions Clive has faced in his life, he can recall three occasions when God spoke (non-audibly) to him in a way we often mis-characterise as 'directly'. These were clearly memorable and powerful for Clive... but there were only three. The bedrock of God's leading through his life journey has been by the Holy Spirit through prayer and God's word, the bible. Surely, God's preferred means of leading is just as 'direct': so let us keep our ears open as we commit to prayer and reading his word.

What is Beef, Beer and Bible?

Nights for men to socialise, study the bible together and support one another.

We meet termly, share food and drink, listen to a biblical talk to ignite our men's conversation... and then talk. We choose a Saturday to avoid weekday constraints. We choose the times to minimise the dashing-out-dad nature of it for some. We expect the location to vary each time; maybe including homes and pubs.

It's not for dads, it's not for husbands, it's not for young men, it's not for old men, it's not for blokes and it's not for gentlemen... it is for the brothers in Christ of our church family.

Dave Atallah's Licensing (John Furley)

Job interviews sometimes ask the question 'What is your weakness or the area you have an opportunity to improve on most?' to which the classic answer is... impatience. This answer may be what future employers want to hear - they wish to employ those that get on with the job, are keen and eager to get going.

Now, I do not know if Dave Atallah was asked that question when he was interviewed for the role at St Mary's Maidenhead, or if the question was phrased as 'Which fruit of the spirit is one that you pray for help with most?' but I think that Dave Atallah has shown great patience, as well as the other fruits of the spirit, over the three years since he started on the St Mary's staff team. He arrived in Maidenhead in 2015 with the aim that his role at St Mary's would soon expand to include White Waltham. After many setbacks and some very anxious months when it seemed that hope was not to be fulfilled, finally on 5 July 2018, Reverend Doctor Dave Atallah was licensed as Priest-in-Charge of St Mary's White Waltham and Shottesbrooke churches with continuing oversight of the 4pm congregation at St Mary's Maidenhead.

The church of St Mary's White Waltham was nearly overflowing with people, and was certainly overflowing with joy, to see Dave licensed by the Bishop of Reading, the Right Reverend Andrew Proud. The service is both a legal act and an act of worship marking the beginning of Dave's ministry and a new stage in the life of the Parish of White Waltham and Shottesbrooke. When someone is being appointed as Priest-in-Charge at a Licensing service, the priest can be presented by the patron (Barty Smith), licensed by the bishop (of Reading), and installed by the assistant archdeacon (Stephen Pullein). All these happened to Dave, so we can rejoice that he is formally, fully and completely licensed as the Priest-in-Charge!

The service included four 'lustily' sung hymns - as commented by one of those attending - as well as the formal presentation, licensing and declaration of oaths. In his sermon, on 1 Peter 2:1-10, the Bishop of Reading reminded us that God lives in people, not buildings and that the church should be seen as a movement, with people partnering together, radically committed to each other and community, not as a social group or lobby group, but as living stones called to provide shelter to all in a broken world. And whilst, as sinners, we are not perfect building material, God calls and claims us out of darkness into his light to build his church, his people on earth.

And we pray for Dave, his family, and for those committed to the church in White Waltham, that God would use Dave to call people to the Lord out of darkness and build the churches of White Waltham and Shottesbrooke over the years to come.

The Brewsters' Farewell (Jess Stileman)

After five years of dutifully and wonderfully serving St Mary's Maidenhead, God is sending the Brewster family on their way to start a new church in Henley called 'Trinity at 4'. Sam, Lucy, Amelie and Joanna will be sorely missed at St Mary's and this was proven after their final Sunday evening service. The church family, from all congregations, gathered together to share a meal and to celebrate their time serving. And what a meal it was! From pork mince lettuce boats and cream cheese bagels, to walnut cake and chocolate balls, the St Mary's family showed their appreciation to the Brewsters through their cooking and baking skills! It was not only a great send off for the Brewsters but a great chance to spend some quality time over a meal with our family from all services!

It was fitting that Sam delivered his final sermon from Acts, a book that tells of the founding of the Christian church and the spread of its message to the Roman Empire. God has used Sam and Lucy tremendously to encourage us as a church and grow us in faith. And now it is exciting that he will use them to spread his gospel further into the untouched corners of Henley! Let's not be discouraged as they go, but encouraged to see the how they are living wholeheartedly for God's Glory. Through this move, more people will be brought to know God, and His family will grow even bigger!

All Change (Will Stileman)

This month the Brewsters move to Henley and Dave Atallah takes up his post as the minister in charge of St Mary's White Waltham.

We are full of praise and thanksgiving to our heavenly Father for Sam's and Lucy's faithful ministry amongst us these last four and a half years and we are excited to see how God will use them in Henley.

Sam has been a brilliant colleague. He arrived in St Mary's as a gifted and competent pastor. But through God's grace, he has grown in wisdom and experience, developing into a fine preacher and leader of the 6:30pm congregation. He has pioneered a number of ministries at St Mary's: the discipleship course and the worker's lunch being the principal two. He has organised a number of our mission events: such as Maidenhead's Big Questions and Real Lives. In fact he had such good capacity, I suggested he organise the 'Churches Together in Maidenhead' Good Friday Walk of Witness for good measure.

However, what I have valued most about Sam's ministry amongst us is his godliness and willingness to serve. Even when pressure has been upon him, Sam has remained courteous and good natured.

Throughout, Sam has been ably supported by Lucy and it has been wonderful to see them work together so well as a ministry team. During their stay in Maidenhead Lucy has taught at Furze Platt School. She has been a brilliant leader of girls growth groups. She has supported and led one of the women's Bible studies and on top of all that she has given birth to two gorgeous daughters.

Both Sam and Lucy are committed to investing in individuals and those who have had the privilege of reading the Bible one-to-one with either of them will be so grateful to God for putting the Brewsters across their path.

Likewise, we are thrilled for Dave and Helen Atallah. After numerous complications and setbacks, Dave Atallah is now, at last, installed as 'priest-in-charge' at White Waltham.

This is a great opportunity for Dave to build on the ministry of David Andrew to reach that village and the nearby area of Woodlands Park for Christ.

The work is currently quite small and we are encouraging any who want to join that church family in White Waltham, to get in touch with Dave to explore how they can help.

Although the Atallahs will eventually move into the vicarage at White Waltham in early November, we are not losing Dave from St Mary's Maidenhead as he will continue to lead the 4pm congregation.

Please be much in prayer for both the Brewsters and the Atallahs in the coming weeks and months.

Know Your Colour - Toddler Mums' Summer Social (Louise Drake)

A few months ago, I thought it might be nice to invite my antenatal group friends to the St Mary's toddler mums' social, only to discover that - not only had they heard about it already through Baby Cafe they were planning to attend, invited me, and had tickets booked before I could utter "mum's night out".

Such was the appeal of the "discover your colour" evening, with image consultant Ruth Lewis, and it was a beautifully executed occasion.

The planning team had clearly put enormous thought into how best to offer a welcoming, inclusive and enjoyable event. There was a warm hospitality at the door and throughout the evening. The hall was decorated beautifully, and there were ample supplies of prosecco, strawberries, mini sandwiches, and delicious cakes. It felt special and a genuine treat to be there.

As a Christian working in the world of beauty, our speaker Ruth brought a blend of practical advice on body shape and colours, and thoughtful reflections from a Christian perspective on beauty.

She had guests out at the front being draped in different coloured scarves, so we could see for ourselves whether they were cool or warm, bright or muted. After her insights, there was an excited clamour as the ladies enjoyed applying the lessons and trying on the different colours (for what it's worth, I am a warm, muted pear, I should probably avoid wearing so much grey, and I really should practice 'working' a collar).

Ruth also shared a reflection from Psalm 139, where we learn that we are fearfully and wonderfully made by a Creator God who loves us. Ruth shared her personal testimony that her sense of value ultimately comes from the fact that the Lord Jesus was willing to die for us to rescue us. She wanted us all to leave the event feeling genuinely beautiful, enjoying how God has made each one of us, unique and precious.

So I thank the event organisers for a lovely evening. I was reminded that the true measure of our worth is that we are created in God's image and that in Jesus we can be forgiven and restored... and that I should wear more coral if I really want my eyes to pop.

GAFCON Jerusalem 2018 (Will Stileman)

Last month I had the privilege of being a delegate at the third Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) in Jerusalem. The theme of the conference was: proclaiming Christ faithfully to the nations.

Since the end of the 1990s there has been a concerted movement amongst some quarters of the Anglican Communion (which sadly includes the UK) to change the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. The presenting issue has been over marriage and human sexuality, but behind that is an assault on the nature of God and the authority and clarity of the Bible.

In response to this, GAFCON was launched 10 years ago as a dynamic fellowship of Anglican Christians across the world to contend for the truth of the gospel that 'was once for all entrusted to the saints'. But it is not simply a protest movement or a single issue group, GAFCON is committed to the spread of the gospel and planting churches.

1950 representatives from 50 countries attended the conference including 316 bishops. However, there were only two bishops from the Church of England who decided to attend: Rod Thomas, the Bishop of Maidstone (who took our Confirmation Service in April) and Keith Sinclair, the Bishop of Birkenhead. This is both hugely disappointing and telling.

The conference produced a draft statement to which all 1950 delegates had opportunity to discuss and input before the final statement (which was significantly changed) was published. It is an excellent document which is well worth a read and can be accessed through the GAFCON web site.

St Mary's PCC will be discussing the statement at one of its meetings in the autumn.

Highlights of the conference for me were as follows:

  • Being in a global gathering of fellow Anglican Christian believers and feeling doctrinally and spiritually thoroughly at home, something I rarely feel at deanery and diocesan events in the UK
  • Meeting archbishops and bishops who are taking their responsibility for teaching truth and driving out error seriously
  • Revelling in the singing and worship lead by a Nigerian choir
  • Enjoying the palpable unity of the Spirit and in the gospel that we enjoyed despite being such a diverse gathering
  • The focus on gospel proclamation and the willingness to suffer for Christ; there was no prosperity gospel here!
  • Sharing a room with my brother, James, who is operations manager for GAFCON; seeing how hard he worked and meeting through him some fascinating people

I returned from Jerusalem spiritually refreshed and full of thanksgiving for this movement which I believe is of God, and which I trust will continue to work for the honour of his name.

Friends, Food and Fellowship (Angela McDonald)

Saturday 16 June at 9:30am found 40+ women meet at church to spend the day together exploring 'God and our emotions'.

There were women with a variety of emotional experiences, but wherever we found ourselves on this spectrum the day had something for everyone.

It was a day of many blessings including the morning with Susannah Padiachi who helped us explore several aspects of emotional engagement. These areas included:

  • Emotions in relation to God
  • Dealing with unwanted emotions in a gospel-centred way
  • Understanding and changing our emotions

After exploring these areas in much detail Susannah went on to share her personal testimony which she used to help us see how we can apply scripture to encourage others to keep looking to Jesus through their difficult times and emotional struggles; this was a practical and effective way of putting into practice the things we had learnt so far.

We then broke for lunch which was wonderfully supplied by our fabulous catering team: Fred and Aileen Watts and Alison Morton, where we had the opportunity to catch up with old friends and make new ones.

After lunch we had a wonderful testimony by Alison Bird which allowed us to get to know her better and understand some of the difficulties and emotional experiences she had faced throughout her life.

Rachel then shared her desire to see the wider church put into practice the principles of Titus 2 as a means of supporting one another. The hope is that applying God's word in this way will help us to learn how to point one another to Jesus through his word, so that we can all be transformed into his likeness.

We then talked and prayed through, over a delicious cream tea, some of the areas that we'd been encouraged, challenged or changed. Among the 40+ women who were there, there was a sense that God was doing a work among us and we wanted to share what we had learnt with the wider church family.

Don't worry if you weren't there. Rachel has some exciting ideas about how we can spread this desire to serve one another more effectively, and if you want to get involved or you have a specific need that you want to share then get in touch; after all we're all in this together!

Introducing Tim (and Kat) Adams

For those who have not met me before I'm Tim (and I'm Kat) and I will be leading the 6:30pm congregation now the Brewsters have left (abandoned us...) for Henley. This is the second time I have worked for St Mary's; the first time was from Sept 2014 - Sept 2016 as the Apprentice. During my Apprenticeship I was challenged how best I could use the situation and gifts God has given me for his glory, and I began to have the early thoughts of potential ordination in the Church of England.

Since then I have continued to be involved in youth work and the 6:30pm congregation, as well as having the role of an Engineer for a company called Monodraught in High Wycombe. In Summer 2017 I was asked (asked? ambushed?) by Will whether I would think about leading the 6:30pm as the next step of considering ordination. After much discussion and prayer I (we) decided it was the right thing for me, and hopefully St Mary's!

I will continue to work for Monodraught on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. The rest of the time, except Saturdays (except Saturdays!), I'm going to be working for St Mary's.

I am really excited, and slightly daunted, about this next step of responsibility. Please do pray for me (and for me!). Give thanks that Monodraught have been willing to let me go down to part time (and that his wife has let him go more than full time), and give thanks for this great opportunity to lead under the guidance of Will. Pray that I would be growing as a godly leader, pray that I would be good at prioritising the right things (including his wife...), and pray that I would continue to grow in my own personal walk with the Lord. (Please pray for me that I would be a loving and supportive wife in Tim's new role, and would continue to love our church family.)

Thank you, brothers and sisters at St Mary's. Already (Kat and) I feel really well supported and encouraged as I (we) take this next step.

Farewell from the Brewster family! (Sam Brewster)

When we arrived at St Mary's in September 2013, I had just completed three years at Wycliffe Hall theological college, Lucy and I had just celebrated our first wedding anniversary, and neither of us had heard of Maidenhead. Five years later, we have so much to thank God for. So as we prepare to say our goodbyes, here are five ways we have felt especially blessed by God over these past five years.

1. A wonderful church family

Working for a church is unlike working for any other organisation, because the 'customers' are not customers at all, but brothers and sisters in the same family. And that's exactly what it has felt like for us. We have known so much love and kindness from so many people. Far too many to thank individually - not that anyone would expect a thank you - this is just family being family. But it has been a huge blessing to us, and we're thankful to God for you all.

2. A Godly staff team

I have learned so much from the godly example of the colleagues with whom I have had the privilege of working. Those who are no longer on the team: Sam Allberry, Andy Kearns, Sue Bauhahn, Jack Shepherd, Tim Adams, Jeremy Richardson, Jane Hibberd, Karen Chapman, Tim Morton, John Furley. And of course the current team: Will Stileman, Dave Atallah, Jon Drake, Kate Wheatley, Rachel Meynell, Simon Eves, Toby Martin, Anna Boorman, Jane Thrift, John Blackbeard and Dick West. I make that 21 people! As my training incumbent, Will has had an especially significant role, and I honestly can't imagine a better boss. I remember Lucy learning I would be sharing a room with Will at my first staff time away, and immediately buying me a pair of pajamas saying I couldn't possibly just wear boxers. Needless to say, Will showed no such discretion.

It has been wonderful to laugh, weep, groan, plan, together as a staff team, seeking to serve God and the church family. As we head to Henley, with a much smaller set up, I will miss this most.

3. An amazing range of opportunities and experiences

From racing down the high street dressed as a vicar with Simon Eves tossing pancakes, to organising our first Real Lives mission week, serving at St Mary's has provided a huge variety of ministry experience. I still remember Will telling me I was now in charge of the Good Friday walk of witness. The fact that I had never participated in any such walk anywhere before didn't seem to matter! It's hard to point to any one 'thing' that I have enjoyed the most, though above all of the 'things' that I've done at St Mary's, my fondest memories will be the people I've had the privilege of walking alongside as they have sought to follow Jesus, often in very challenging situations. My own love for Jesus and faith in Him has certainly been strengthened through it all. I'm so grateful to God for the training and equipping he has provided me personally and us as a family through the ministry here.

4. A brilliant time to have kids

Amelie is three this August, and Joanna is now 15 months. The support and love we have received as a new family at St Mary's has been amazing. We couldn't think of a better church family to belong to at this stretching stage of life. Lucy has loved the support of so many other mums, and as parents, we are both very grateful to God that our girls have been given such a positive first experience of church. Thank you to all those creche and scramblers helpers who have looked after and taught them so well Sunday by Sunday!

5. Exciting opportunities for the future

I remember giving a Bible thought at an APCM on Psalm 31:15 'my times are in your hands'. This is a great encouragement to us as we head off to Henley with so many unknowns. As we reflect on the way God has been so faithful over our time at St Mary's, it gives us great confidence of his faithfulness over the coming uncertain years. Under the sovereign hand of God, the support of Will and the whole church family has been instrumental in this exciting new opportunity in Henley coming to fruition. Even if we are a little daunted, we are both so thankful to God for providing an avenue of service for us as a family for the years to come.

This morning I read 1 Thessalonians 5:16-17. 'Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus'. Joy, prayer and thankfulness certainly well up when we consider God's faithfulness to us and the blessings he has showered upon us these last five years. Thanks to you all, please pray for us, and come and visit us in Henley!

Sam's new e-mail is

If you would like to receive the Brewsters' prayer updates, or would be willing to support the new Henley work financially, please contact Sam.

Royal Ramble and Refreshment (Sara Hewins)

With much anticipation, armed with picnics, bunting and cameras, 20 plus ladies, one gentleman, a baby and two dogs walked into Windsor Great Park for our now annual 'Ramble' to see the Queen. During Ascot Race week the Queen and her guests are driven into the centre of the park and there change into carriages to continue their journey to the racecourse. A smallish crowd gather daily for this opportunity to see (somewhat fleetingly) the Royal Family at amazingly close proximity... the carriages pass by only a metre or two from us. This year was a real treat as the family were out en masse, including, to great excitement, newlyweds Harry and Meghan.

'Ramble and Refreshment' is now approaching our eighth year of bimonthly walks. The usual programme involves an hours walk leaving from and finishing at the kind hostess's house where we finish with afternoon tea. It's always (in my experience!) a fun time with a little gentle exercise, a great chance to catch up with folk from other services, to chat to those we see but haven't had an opportunity to get to know, to meet friends and family who are brought along and to enjoy delicious scones and cake.

If you are interested in coming along please do join us... our next walk will be in September and will be advertised in Contact.