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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Deportation is not the end of the world! (Sam Mutiti)
11am Families Breakfast (Louise Drake)
The world’s largest breakfast on record involved 27,854 people and took place in Germany in 2005. Whilst we fell a little short of this size of gathering, we were delighted to have nine families from the 11am congregation meet together before the Sunday service for breakfast last week.
This social event was part of our new programme of events to help families at the 11am congregation with children in Creche (0-2s), Scramblers (2-3s) and CaTS (3-7) to get to know and encourage each other. Our venue was The Bear (of Wetherspoons fame) conveniently situated very near to St Mary’s, where a most delightful (and very good value) breakfast menu is on offer.
We made use of all available highchairs on the premises, with 10 babies and children joining the party. The pancakes were a popular choice amongst our younger guests, whilst several of the adults (myself included) took advantage of a full cooked breakfast (healthier options are available!).
More importantly, it was a lovely time for nurturing friendships and building community at this particular stage of life. Jon Drake shared a few words about how pleased we (Jon, Matthew and I) are to be part of this community, as we seek to engage Maidenhead families with the wonderful news of Jesus.
Please contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org) if your children are in Crèche, Scramblers and / or CaTS and you would like to know more about our future fellowship events. We are having a mums-nightout on Friday 14 June, and plans for more breakfasts, picnics, play-dates and dads events later in the year.
Giving to St Mary's - One Off / Occasional Giving (The Finance Committee)
This is the fourth in a short series of articles on the funding of and giving to St Mary’s Maidenhead. In previous articles we provided an overview of the ways we are able to contribute to the work and witness of St Mary’s, then looked in detail at the Regular Giving Scheme and then Gift Aid. This month’s focus is on one-off or occasional giving.
One-off or Occasional Giving
Our congregation members are encouraged to join our Regular Giving Scheme (RGS), but regular giving is not possible for everyone. Also, visitors, friends, relatives or colleagues may wish to give just the once, or very occasionally.
Giving by debit or credit card
For those wishing to donate via debit or credit card, this is done by visiting our wonderful.org website (www.wonderful.org/charity/thepccofstandrewandstmarymagdalene), which also offers the opportunity to Gift Aid your gift online. There’s a direct link to this from the ‘Giving to St Mary’s’ page on the church website. Wonderful.org passes through all donations and any associated Gift Aid to St Mary’s free of any transaction fees.
Giving by Bank Transfer (BACS)
You can make a one-off or occasional donation using bank transfer (BACS). The PCC account details are: Sort code: 60-13-35, Account number: 64261883
Please use SURNAME.I/GENERAL (where I is the initial of your first name) or something similar to this, so we know who the gift is from and its purpose.
If you are giving to the St Mary's Regular Giving Scheme (RGS), but wish to make an additional donation, then use the above account details and your usual reference SURNAME.I/RGS, so we can include this on your statement and claim gift aid if appropriate.Giving via PayPal
St Mary’s has just opened its own PayPal Giving Fund, which allows gifts to be made via PayPal free of all transaction fees.
There are three ways to give to St Mary’s via our PayPal Giving Fund:
1. Directly from the St Mary’s Giving Fund website at: www.paypal.com/gb/fundraiser/charity/137911
2. By logging onto your PayPal account online and choosing ‘More’, ‘Donate to a cause’ and then searching for ‘St Mary’s Maidenhead’
3. By using your PayPal App on your mobile device and choosing ‘More’, ‘Donate to a cause’ and then searching for ‘St Mary’s Maidenhead’
Gift Aid can be added by PayPal if requested and both original gift and Gift Aid are transferred to St Mary’s free of any transaction fees.Giving cash or cheques
Finally, gift envelopes are also available in the church welcome area and office for cheque or cash gifts and for making new Gift Aid declarations; please ensure the envelopes are labelled "General Fund".
Next month: Legacies.
St Mary’s Finance Committee.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!).
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.
Easter at Toddlers (Nicola Winson)
There is a toddler session run in St Mary's church hall on every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning during term-time. On average, 30 mothers (also nannies and grandparents) and babies will attend.The hall is set up with various play stations and a craft table. There are refreshments served - hot drinks and biscuits for the grown ups, and juice and toddler snacks for the children. Before term ended for Easter, the Friday toddler group included a big focus on the meaning of Easter in the Christian faith. We set up four craft tables in the back of the church. At the first, children stuck palm leaves on the road to Jerusalem as people did on Palm Sunday. The next station focused on The Last Supper; the children put cup stickers onto a table with Jesus and his disciples sitting there. At the third station, they put plasters on a cross. Generally children cannot understand death, but they certainly understand hurt and pain and plasters! The fourth station involved rolling away the stone on Easter Sunday where the children actually rolled away a piece of paper. A couple of mothers commented on how lovely the refurbished church was and one mother asked for a copy of Touchline. The seed sown is that church is somewhere you can have fun, enjoy, appreciate, learn, and not somewhere you have to sit silently with your head bent.
The volunteers who set up these stations showed their commitment and God-given talents. Their confidence and self-assurance regarding their faith is to the glory of God.
The Warden Writes (Damian Eustace)
The APCM is essentially like the Annual General Meeting of a public company (open to all shareholders, or in this case, all parishioners,) where we review what has been going on in the church over the last 12 months and look forward to the next year. An annual report is produced which all have access to. I commend this to any of you who have not yet read through it, as it gives a picture of the huge amount of work and activities going on within our church. Over 100 of our church family attended the APCM this year to hear Will Stileman, our vicar, develop last year’s launch of our St Mary’s Mission statement - To know Jesus and to make Jesus known - by emphasising our need to particularly focus this year on three areas:
1. To review our prayer life as a church. Dependent prayer was the first of three essentials contained in our Mission statement. Will talked about how we as a church family need to make both personal and communal prayer an absolute priority. Or we run the risk that we become like the disciples in the garden of Gethsemane who were rebuked by Jesus for falling asleep rather than being watchful and prayerful.
2. To develop partnerships with other churches and their leaders. Will made the point that as a church we are not an island. There are surrounding areas such as Slough and Milton Keynes where there is poor church attendance, and where they are not blessed as we are with active churches that share our convictions and outlook. We have seen wonderful opportunities for church cooperation and church planting over the last couple of years notably with White Waltham, The Windsor Fellowship and most recently in Henley. We should be active in seeking to help support other churches using the resources that God has wonderfully graced us with.
3. To engage Maidenhead with the Gospel. Will used two analogies: as a church we are a hospital for sinners, not a hotel for saints, which is fine in terms of inviting people in but that we are also a lifeboat not a cruise ship. We are not here to carry the existing ticket holders to their destination, but rather we are here to carry out the great commission that Christ gave us that all people should be saved and come to knowledge of the truth. For that we need to be actively seeking and outward looking. To that end Will highlighted two initiatives. First, we have planned a week’s mission with Glen Scrivener for the end of February next year. And before then we are all, whether as individuals or groups, encouraged to put on Dialogue events where for our non-Christian friends in order to be able to speak deliberately about Jesus with them. And Ian Miller, our new curate who is starting in the summer, will head up promoting and supporting these events and the mission.
So we have much to be thankful for over the last year and much to look forward to in the year ahead. But none of this is possible without our dependence on prayer and our prioritising prayer both as an individual and as a church family. In the words of Colossians 4:2 – 'Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful'. If we can achieve that this year, then the rest will follow – 1 John 5:14: 'This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, he hears us'.
Annual Vicar's Address (Will Stileman)
Last year in my vicar’s address I announced our St Mary’s Mission Statement, which had been agreed by the Church Council: To know Jesus and to make Jesus known. Christianity and Christian faith is all about a personal relationship with Jesus, the God/man, who entered our world so that we can have life as life is meant to be lived - in knowledge and friendship with God. As Jesus stated, 'Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.' (John 17:3)
If we are to fulfil our Mission statement, To know Jesus and to make Jesus known, we need to be committed to three essentials and three priorities. The three essentials are: Dependent prayer; Biblical teaching; Loving one another. The three priorities are: Engaging Maidenhead with the gospel of Jesus; Growing mature disciples of Jesus of all ages and backgrounds; Partnering with other churches to make Jesus better known.
I hope we are all aware of this and are committed to these aspirations both individually and corporately as a church. In light of this, outlined below, are three areas I want us to be concentrating on as a church over the next 12 months.
1 We need to review our prayer life as a church. Dependent prayer is one of our essentials but as a church I am not sure how dependent we are in prayer. This last year our St Mary’s Evening (our monthly prayer meeting) hasn’t been as well supported as it should be and I wonder whether that reflects a more general weakness in our praying. Jesus rebuked his disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane for not being watchful and prayerful with the words: 'Could you not keep watch for one hour?' I am not sure how many of us make it our practice to set aside any regular time to pray, let alone for an hour.
To help us think through how we can do better when it comes to our praying the PCC is going to spend its Day Away considering our praying as a church; and in preparation for that I hope to conduct a whole church survey on our experience of prayer within the next couple of months.
2 Another area that we will continue to concentrate on is developing partnerships with other churches and their leaders to see if we can plant more, healthy, bible-based churches in this South Central region of Britain. One of the reasons why we reorganised the staff team, so that I am not directly responsible for any of our four main Sunday congregations, is so that I have some time to explore new partnerships and possibilities. I trust that I am still fully anchored into the life of St Mary’s, and I look to the Church Wardens, the Staff team and the whole Church family to ensure that I am fulfilling my responsibilities to St Mary’s. However, as a church we are not an island and there are some notable areas like Slough and Milton Keynes which have very poor church attendance and are massively under-represented with churches which share our convictions and outlook. The Church Council will be kept up to date with any developments and I will inform the wider church family of any progress through the St Mary’s Blog and Touchline.
3 But the thing I want to highlight the most concerns our Engaging Maidenhead with the Gospel.
I have often used the analogy that as a church we are a hospital for sinners not a hotel for saints. It is a good reminder that we are all broken, sinful people. We are all a work in progress. None of us has got life sorted. And so we need to be understanding of one another, bearing with each other and quick to forgive. We should want to be real with other people and not pretend that everything is OK, when it isn’t.
But there is another analogy that I came across the other day which is equally suitable and worthy of repeated mention: a church is a life boat not a cruise ship. Our purpose is not to be a passenger in a Christian community that looks for church to meet and fulfil the needs of myself and my family. No, we are all members of the crew of a ship whose concern and purpose is it to save those who are lost and perishing. St Mary’s is to be a life boat not a cruise ship. By nature, we human beings are without God and without hope in the world. We are in the grip of sin and under the dominion of darkness. But God sent Christ into our world so that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. Jesus Christ came to be saviour of the world. God longs for all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. The gospel requires us to be outward looking.
And to help us to be outward looking in the coming year I want to outline two main things that are going to be happening in the next 12 months.
- At the end of February next year, we have a week’s mission planned with Glen Scrivener. Those of us who were around in St Mary’s two years ago, will remember the last time we had Glen with us, to lead a Real Lives week of interviews and gospel preaching in the Town Hall.
Glen is a gifted and attractive evangelist who is now one of our new UK Mission Partners. It is great that we will have him with us for a whole week. The exact dates are from Tuesday 25th February to Sunday 1st March 2020.
To help gear us up for this mission, Glen will be preaching at all our Sunday congregations on January 19th. I have also invited him to speak at one of our evening carol services so that as many folk as possible in St Mary’s can get to know him better, and have confidence in him.
- So that is what we have got going in the future. But for now and for the rest of this year, as a church we want to be encouraging one another to lay on as many “Dialogue Events” as possible.
A Dialogue Event is an informal but intentional occasion in which we have the chance to engage in an open discussion about the gospel with non-church people. Often at St Mary’s the staff team arrange central events at church and then encourage people to support it with practical help and invitations to friends, neighbours, colleagues and family to come along to them. A Dialogue Event is different. It is organised and arranged by you, as members of St Mary’s, but with the support and help of the staff team. We are encouraging you as an individual or as a small group of Christian friends to think of an event that you can specifically put on for your non-church friends and acquaintances at which you can deliberately speak about Jesus with them.
To help explain this idea and communicate it to the church family Ian Miller has produced a little booklet about it, entitled: 'Dialogue Events'. This is available in the Welcome Area or from the church office.
Ian Miller, with his wife Tamsin, and their four delightful daughters joined the St Mary’s church family in January. At the end of June after his ordination, Ian is going to join the St Mary’s staff team as a curate. I have asked Ian to head up the Mission with Glen Scrivener next year and to promote these Dialogue Events and support those who are seeking to lay one on; which I hope and long will be all of us.
So please read 'Dialogue Events'. Please be thinking about our praying both as a church and as individuals. And let’s continue to rejoice in the hope we have in Jesus, who died to save us. Through Jesus’ death and resurrection, God has given us great news to live by and to proclaim to a lost and needy world.
The final thing to mention is that in January of next year, I hope to have a sabbatical. It will have been nine years since my last one. This needs to be officially signed off by the Diocese, but it is likely to happen. We have a strong and stable staff team all of whom are capable and aware of their responsibilities, so I doubt I will be missed!
Meet the Vines (Brian Jones)
Greg, Jill, Ariela and Zoe (Esther is away in Wales at uni). They live on Makindye Hill in the sprawling city of Kampala, Uganda. Their home is a rented villa surrounded by razor wire topped walls and they share a night guard with the family next door. If possible they try never to leave the house empty to deter the ever present threat of burglary. Transport is a four-wheel drive due to the state of the roads, only main roads are tarmac. Boda Bodas (motorbike taxis) are a useful, but risky way, to cross town due to congestion.
Greg is chief pilot for Mission Aviation Fellowship and flies out of Kajjansi Airfield, a thirty minute drive away on the edge of Lake Victoria. There are five aircraft in the fleet and a similar number of pilots. MAF provides a service to many mission partners plus NGOs like UNHCR, as well as being available for medivac flights when required - flying into remote airstrips and more established airfields. The mainstay of the fleet is the Cessna Caravan, a single engine 12 seat turbine aircraft.
Jill is a communications officer for MAF as well as being involved in many local initiatives like raising funds to enable poor children to attend school, and giving over her kitchen as a cooking school to train women up so they can get a job and support their families.
The girls go to an International school a few miles away and Ariela is at the stage of looking at universities in the UK and Australia to further her education.
Just imagine living in a country where 75% of the population are under 30, unemployment is the norm in the 15-25 age range, there is no NHS, no free education, and yet the country plays host to thousands of refugees fleeing from conflict in neighbouring states.
I was privileged to spend a few days with them recently seeing all this at first hand. They are a normal family relying on our care and prayer to keep them going; doing amazing work for God often in very small and seemingly insignificant ways. Like all our Mission Partners they rely on us back here in the UK more than we realise.
Quiz Night! (Brian Jones)
Previous triple time champions from White Waltham were absent so the home teams were all vying for top spot. Caution was needed though as this year a new round was 'Jeopardy' - one wrong answer and you lost all. Then there was the speed round, 40 questions in five minutes; what's the best way to play that? And finally, Phil’s famous computerised music round.Four teams were in close contention for most of the evening with “Third Time Lucky” often just a point ahead. They did lose the lead towards the end but then bounced back to become 2019 champions. See the photo below to identify the brains of St Marys
Thank you to all who took part; Phil and Maggi Richards for preparing the questions and Joanie Jones and her team for providing the food. £340 was raised to support Mission Aviation Fellowship and Tear Funds appeal for the cyclone hit areas of Southern Africa.
6:30pm Men's Weekend Away (Jan Strydom)
Friday evening was spent getting to know each other better. We had a great meal which is always a good time for lengthy conversations as well. After dinner we had the first of four sessions looking at the book of Titus.
Saturday morning got off to a good start with a hearty breakfast and some activities. The weather was mostly dry and sunny so we had to play a strange game that I’m not very familiar with as a South African... The ball was too round and we weren’t allowed to pick it up and run with it or even bash each other. It was fun in the end; though not as much fun as we could have had! After a good lunch we went for a beautiful walk around the village and into the South Downs. One of the many highlights of the weekend.
The morning and afternoon sessions spent in Titus were very informative to us all. It's really helpful to engage in conversation in a relaxed environment with people that have a vast variety of experiences and knowledge of God’s word. It is also encouraging to realise that most people have the same challenges in life as you do, and that by getting to know each other better we are able to support and encourage one another.
We also spent time sharing and praying for each other. I found that these sessions, instead of being awkward or difficult, turned out to be a highlight. So much can be achieved through prayer and getting the opportunity to pray as a group made a big difference me personally. Some of my prayers have already been answered and I’m very sure that other men there will have experienced the same.
Sunday was sadly our last day. We did manage to fit in a lot. Two very good meals and another session in Titus. Over lunch, we spent a long time discussing questions that came up over the course of the weekend. I learnt a lot through open and honest discussion. We did not always agree on everything and I think that is a good thing. If we did, it would mean that we are getting complacent about things and especially our faith.
The highlight of the weekend is that there are weekends like this to attend! It is awesome and I would encourage everyone to go on a weekend like this if they have the opportunity to do so.
4pm and White Waltham Men's Weekend Away (Paul Cook)
Bible – The theme for this year was ‘The Prodigal God’ – taking a fresh look at the heart of the Christian faith through a series of studies on the well known, but often misunderstood, story of the ‘prodigal son’ in Luke 15. We were challenged and encouraged as we read about the wayward son, his judgemental older brother, and the extravagant love of the Father for both of them.
Food – As usual for these weekends, there was plenty to eat. We were treated to the traditional ‘full English breakfast’ on both mornings as well as delicious lunches and evening meals. There was also plenty of chocolate to keep our strength up during the tea and coffee breaks!
Friendship – whether through washing up together, going out for a (rather misty) walk along the coast, or playing a (rather aggressive) version of ‘Irish Snap’, there was plenty of opportunity to share our lives together in a meaningful way. I found it a real encouragement to spend a few days away in fellowship with other Christian believers and deepen friendships with my brothers in Christ.
Perhaps you could consider joining with us next year! I would fully recommend getting this into your Spring 2020 diary now.
Easter Cracked (Celine Pham)
Activities included: reading passages directly from the Bible, drama, question/answers time, songs, Easter egg hunt, prizes… For my great pleasure, I recognized many of the children who came for Christmas Unwrapped, and they too were happy to come along again at church. As leaders, we were pleased to see that the children did remember a lot of the things that we learned together about Jesus’ birth. The highlights of "Easter Cracked" are the time spent to explain Jesus’ last week on earth, the meaning of taking communion together as a church family on Sunday, and the meaning of baptism for Christians – with a real demonstration on stage!
I was pleased that the gospel was explained so well to the children.
Thank the Lord for the great opportunities that He gave us to run "Easter Cracked" this year. Once again, we have been blessed by having many volunteers to help so that everything went smoothly.
Please pray for the children and teachers, that they will reflect on Jesus’ purpose by dying on a cross, and that they have a sense of God’s love for them.
Pray that many children will come along to our youth group on Friday night - X and Shift-Focus - as they were invited to at the end of each session.Here are some questions that were asked during the sessions, how would you have answered them?
- Why did Jesus ask God “Why have you deserted me?”
- Why did Jesus have to die for our sin?
- How did Jesus know what would happen?
- Is Jesus still watching over us?
- Do you think Jesus is ever going to come back on earth again?
- How do we know that Jesus is alive, as we can’t see him?
- Why was Jesus the "chosen one"?
And the results are in (Richard Crane)
If you were at church on 3 March, you may remember filling in a short survey about work. Over 300 adults responded, so thank you again!
We hope it got everybody thinking about their work, and how it relates to the Christian faith. The results will also help us to shape our ministries for working people in the months to come. This is the first of a series of articles exploring the themes that emerged from the survey.
Let’s begin with the big picture! Most of the congregation identified themselves as paid workers, either employed or self-employed. Interestingly, women at St. Mary’s are almost as likely to be engaged in paid work (60%) as the men (76%). And of course the minority who are retired or in-between jobs are still likely to be working in other ways, whether it’s managing housework or caring for family.
The fact that most of us are workers is both good news and bad news.
It’s bad news, because work is frustrating! Our experience of work is corrupted by sin (Genesis 3:17). We experience arguments, projects fail, equipment breaks down. We are left unsatisfied. And the results of the survey bear this out. Among the paid workers, 75% reported at least one of the challenges we listed on the form. The most common issue was “time for family”, reported by 44% of working men and 34% of working women. This is a serious challenge if we are seeking to love our families as God calls us to.
But it’s also good news, because God made us to work (Genesis 1:28). Adam and Eve worked in the garden, and Revelation 22 describes believers working in the new creation, serving the Lord Jesus. And through our work here on earth, we serve the Lord Jesus too (Colossians 3:23-24). So whatever we do Monday to Friday, we can thank God that he gives us this purpose.
If you want to engage more with your workplace as a Christian, then why not take a look at our revamped “Workers” page on the website? You can find it under the “Adults” tab at the top of the homepage. We’ve added some helpful resources and links. And please don’t hesitate to get in touch for a chat.
Richard Crane email@example.com
A Sceptic Believes (Will Stileman)
"Thomas said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will never believe it.” (John 20:25)
It has happened to me on numerous occasions. I have asked somebody whether they have a Christian faith and the answer has come back “No, I am a scientist.” Such a person thinks there is an incompatibility between the world of science and the world of faith. Scientists are people who deal in the world of facts and evidence. They are hard-headed realists, whilst those who live in the world of faith are more suggestible.
Well I always wish that such people could meet Thomas because he is the epitome of your 21st century, hard-headed sceptic. Thomas destroys a very common reconstruction of the resurrection story: this claim that Jesus rose again came from a group of credulous people who were desperately looking for hope in a hopeless situation, that they were open to visionary experiences because their emotions had been so deeply touched. Such people do exist in ordinary life. People who are over-trusting, under critical and naive; and they exist in the church. But Thomas wasn’t one of them. That is why I'm glad that Thomas missed that first appearance of Jesus in the Upper Room. Thomas was your ordinary plain bloke, your 21st century sceptic who was not prepared to be deluded and go into areas of self-deception. But a week later, after meeting the risen Christ, Thomas declared “My Lord and my God!”
The Christian faith has its basis in history. There is a plethora of evidence to supports its claims. So if you are a Christian believer rejoice this Easter in the certainty of your faith. Christ died and rose again for you. We have a certain hope and a solid future because of Jesus. If you are sceptical, like Thomas, then consider the evidence of Jesus’ resurrection. This Easter at St Mary’s we are giving away free a short book called “Your Verdict on the Empty Tomb” to all honest sceptics and enquirers.
When confronted with the evidence of Jesus’ resurrection Thomas moved from scepticism to a living trust in Christ. Through God’s grace may that be a journey that many make.
Update on Trinity@4 (Sam Brewster)
Dear St Mary’s friends,
We’ve been in Henley since last August, and our new church family, ‘Trinity at Four’, has been holding weekly Sunday meetings since 9 September. That’s 28 Sundays so far. The good news is that we’re still going! In fact, we’re excited about how it’s all going, and very thankful to God for his provision.
I send out general prayer updates every 6-8 weeks, so if you’d like to be added to that list, please just email me (.uk)
Here are a few highlights
- Growing… people are growing in maturity, and a fairly wide range of people are enjoying, engaging with, and growing through God’s Word. We are also growing a little numerically, and typically have about 50-60 adults on a Sunday, and 30-40 kids.
- Provision… it’s been so good for our faith to have financially started from scratch. God has wonderfully provided for all of our needs so far on that front. We need to raise a little more in regular giving to maintain and grow what we’re doing. But all in God’s good timing. God has also provided key people to head up and run key areas of church life. We are especially grateful to Him for this.
- Hard work… so I don’t think I was exactly lazy at St Mary’s, but I have to say things have stepped up a gear since being here. Partly this is just getting used to overall responsibility. But the nature of a new ministry is that it takes a bit of time before it’s possible effectively to delegate.
- Additions to the team… We’re thrilled to have recently confirmed three new roles to grow our ministry team here. A part-time administrator, Jo Patterson, who will start at the end of May; a Ministry Trainee, Peter Greenman, who will especially be involved in our children’s ministry. We’re also thrilled to have the Henshall family coming to join us at some point in the next 6-9 months. Vic will be heading up our music ministry.
- Family… We are all in good heart. Lucy is enjoying heading up all the children’s ministry, the girls love church, and Amelie has settled well at pre-school. She will start in reception this September. For various reasons we’re going to be pretty stretched over the coming months, so would value your prayers.
Visitors from Maidenhead to Trinity at Four are always very welcome! There are a dozen or so friendly faces who you will know from their St Mary’s days.
With love from us all,
Sam, Lucy, Amelie, Joanna Brewster
Fellowship February (Sian Moorhouse)
During February, the 6.30pm congregation thoroughly enjoyed getting involved with "Fellowship February". And what was "Fellowship February"? Very simply, it was an idea put to the congregation to spend time with other members of our 6.30pm church family outside of our Sunday services.
Josh and I had a lovely dinner with Rose and Harry. We already know these guys well but we had not seen them for a few weeks, and it was a great opportunity to catch up with them, see their new house and also, more importantly, meet the newest addition to their family.Similar to Harry and Rose, Josh and I will be adding to our family in the coming months and so it was great to be able to spend time together with friends who had already experienced the same thing very recently. We chatted about what was going well, what was tougher, and we also got some great tips on things we need to buy!Spending time with members of our church family, such as Harry and Rose, outside of Sunday services is a great way to deepen friendships. On a Sunday evening, I often find that there is not much time to have really good conversations. So, finding the time to meet during the week gives the opportunity to have better conversations, find out how friends really are, offer support if needed, and deepen relationships.
9.15am Congregation Hospitality Sunday (Alison Bird)
Five families hosted groups of between 4 and 13 people in their homes from 12.30 – 2.30pm. Hosts were asked to provide a simple main course while guests were to offer to bring along puddings and drinks.
The event was a huge success. Those involved said they so enjoyed getting to know new people and learning more about those they even thought they knew already.
We will run more hospitality Sundays in the future and we hope many more members of the 9.15 congregation will want to be involved in this exciting venture.
Update on St Mary's White Waltham (Dave Atallah)
Lots to give thanks and praise for:
- Atallah family (finally) moved house in January - into the vicarage, into the parish, two minutes from the school where the children go. Loving feeling more part of the community, family enjoying it, and the ease of seeing people socially.
- Thanksgivings - all baptism enquiries are offered a thanksgiving first. They can make as much or as little of this as they like. And then, after that, we meet to talk about the meaning of baptism and the Christian faith. This system is working really well as we say "we love your family, and of course we want to pray with you in thanksgiving" and "baptism is an important thing to do and to understand".
- Messy Church - this has run for over a year on a monthly basis and always on Saturdays. In the Autumn, we experimented with putting one on a Sunday morning for a ‘messy’ all age service. This went really well so they now alternate between Saturday afternoons and more ‘normal’ service times (the next one is Good Friday). We are already seeing fruit from this innovation.
- School connections – in both primary schools, we are running assemblies, church services, occasional lessons, and there are more opportunities now than I can take up by myself – opportunities here for other to come and join me, maybe you?
- Reflection morning – we met as a church on a Saturday morning to give thanks for what has been, to look to the future in hope, and reflect in who we are as a worshipping, a fellowshipping, and an outreaching community. This was an opportunity to voice any questions or concerns, and was a wonderfully encouraging time of drawing together and acknowledging and rejoicing in our breadth of background and expectations.
- St Mary's link – we couldn’t run Messy Church, or our Sunday School without regular helpers from ‘the big St Mary's’. We are grateful and, for a little longer, remain dependant on this help. If you could volunteer to be a helper in Sunday school, once a month or once a term, or would like to find out other ways to get involved in the most exciting parish opportunities in Maidenhead please be in touch!
Please pray for:
- Joy in the gospel, confidence in church - this is growing and we have just had two invitation services (24th and 31st March) and been challenged to the faithful act of inviting.
- Growth – in Christian maturity, to raise up leaders (particularly for upfront roles), and people turning to Christ, and people prioritising Sundays.
- Little Roots and Messy Church - key community gospel outreach: for people to hear, understand and believe.
- Future of parishes - wisdom and faithfulness as to what form our partnership takes.
- Dave (and family) – there are a vast variety of things to do, coordinate or lead on, including on Sundays - for continued good time management, wise choices, and to depend, discern, and delight in God at work through His people.
Christmas Giving (Peter Crossley)
Some of you may remember that we considered Open Doors for our Harvest Giving last year, but decided to support ElShaddai Shelter for Refugees – and particularly those children who have arrived in Malaysia and have no parents (over 35,000 unaccompanied minors). So it seemed right that we should support the equally needy ministry of Open Doors with our Christmas Gift.
If you have read God’s Smuggler by Brother Andrew, you will know that he founded Open Doors International which has for 60 years served persecuted Christians and churches all over the world for following Jesus. And his later book, Secret Believers, tells of the terrifying true stories of men and women, born Muslims, still living in strict Islamic states, who have turned to Christ.
Our western minds and culture often struggle to properly grasp the hostility which believers face because they identify with Christ – threats, harassment, beatings, forced marriages, unjust imprisonment, loss of home and assets, torture, rape, and even death. In many countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, persecution of Christians is intensifying, and often the most vulnerable are women.
For the last 26 years, Open Doors has produced the World Watch List: the only annual survey which ranks the 50 most difficult countries to live as a Christian. This includes where Christian's human and religious rights are being violated, and are where they are most vulnerable to societal unrest and destabilisation.
The World Watch List 2018 has identified 215 million Christians (1 in 12 worldwide) suffering severe persecution – over 3,000 were killed, over 1,250 were abducted, over 1,000 were raped or sexually harassed, and almost 800 churches were attacked. Islamic oppression fuels Christian persecution in 8 of the top 10 countries, and continues to spread, bringing Sharia law, militancy and persecution in Asia (Philippines, Bangladesh and Indonesia) and Africa (Egypt, Nigeria and Somalia). North Korea and Afghanistan top the Watch List with reports of extreme violence and human rights atrocities. Persecution and suffering is also rising in Central Asia and Latin America.
Insecure governments are using their country’s majority religion to marginalise Christians and other religious minorities, notably Hindu nationalism in India and Nepal, and Buddhist nationalism in Myanmar and Sri Lanka.
Open Doors is committed to stand with persecuted believers, so that they can be the light of Christ to their communities. Open Doors USA has worked in the world’s most oppressive and restrictive countries for over 60 years, equipping and encouraging Christians who are living in dangerous circumstances with the threat of persecution.
The apostle Paul, writing to the church of God in Corinth, tells of ‘the hardships we [he and Timothy] suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed’, he says, ‘in our hearts we felt the sentence of death’ (2 Corinthians 1:8). But these things happened that they might not depend upon themselves, but on ‘the all surpassing power of God’ (2 Cor 4:7). Further on, Paul writes ‘we are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed’ (2 Cor 4:8-9).
Paul tells the Corinthian church that 'you help us by your prayers, the prayers of many' (2 Cor 1:11).
So how can we respond?
We can and must pray for our brothers and sisters who are suffering persecution. And to pray effectively, we need to be informed, and much that you need to know about Christian persecution can be found on the following websites:
And we can give. Not all are able to serve the persecuted church ‘on the front line’ but we can provided financial support for those who do.
Thank you, therefore, to all those who contributed to our Christmas Gift for the ministry of Open Doors, which amounted to £4,490.44.
Surely the Lord is challenging us to love and to care for those who are suffering for Christ’s sake in a deeper, more focussed and personal way.
1 Cor 12:26 says ‘we are one body. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it'.
Update from Toby Martin (Toby Martin)
Temperatures may be lower and winter nights may be longer, but we have been loving the greenery out of our back door and the lack of traffic on the roads… in fact, two neighbouring areas just a few miles down the road were recently voted into the top five best places to live in the country!
Beth has been finishing her PhD and will soon be starting a job as a low carbon energy consultant in York – we’re very thankful for God’s wonderful provision in this. We’ve enjoyed being nearer to her family and also some friends from her school days who still live locally.
Working at Grace Church has been quite an adjustment for me in many ways: serving in a church of 70 feels quite different to serving in a church of 500+! But the church has been hugely welcoming and it’s been a joy to be a part of things. For two days a week, I study on an online distance learning Masters course in theology and Christian ministry, as well as some self study in Greek. For the other three days I prepare sermons (we’ve just finished a series in Philippians which I was very encouraged by) and get involved in church life.In many ways the church is very similar in outlook to St Mary’s. It is an evangelical church, with an emphasis on Bible teaching, fellowship, and mission. But to give you an idea of some of the things that I’ve been getting used to over the last few months let me describe a typical midweek meeting to you…
On a Wednesday at 5-5.30pm, we congregate at one of our three “gospel communities” for a kids’ tea. (Happy chaos ensues…!) After the main course we take the Lord’s supper together, with the leader saying a few words. Then, after prayers, a five year old boy shouts “Pudding!”. After dessert and washing dishes, the kids go to bed, and all three “gospel communities” head over to congregate together for a Bible study, prayer and any church matters for discussion.
It’s an exciting time for Grace Church at the moment. We have recently outgrown the venue we meet in on Sundays and are planning to start meeting in a local secondary school. And a new “gospel community” has begun in the nearby town of Easingwold, following a Christianity Explored Course where a woman professed faith in Christ. We are hoping to plant a church there if the Lord provides a leader.
Many thanks to all of you for a wonderful and enriching time serving at St Mary’s. God used that time to bless and train me, and I am very grateful in this new context for all he taught me through you all.
Update from Windsor Fellowship Church (Pete Matthew)
We’re about four years old as a church and it is exciting seeing how God has grown our church family. This is shown most clearly in the growth of our children’s ministry, from no children three years ago to about 15 in our various Sunday School groups. Most of our growth has been through transfers from other churches which has been encouraging. Of course, we’d love to see more people coming along who are investigating questions of faith. Please pray that we’d see more enquirers come along and that they’d come to know Jesus as their Lord and Saviour.
We’ve been heavily involved with the recent Windsor Homeless Shelter which has been a wonderful benefit to the most marginalised in our community. It’s been great to partner with other local churches in this new scheme as we reach out to our community. We also have had several events to bring our friends to so they can engage with the gospel. Events such as the God Particle play and a Fashion & Faith evening, in addition to the normal Sundays and special times of year such as Christmas and Easter. Please pray we’d keep our focus on loving our community through care and evangelism.
After outgrowing our original venue, the Hopkins home (previously of St Mary’s), we’re now firmly established at the Windsor Youth & Community Centre. The joys and challenges of setting up a rented venue you will fully appreciate at St Mary’s after your recent building project! As with any new church family it can feel quite tiring as each person needs to be actively involved. Please pray for our energy and commitment and sacrificial service.
We now have four midweek Bible study groups. They provide such a good opportunity for care, discipleship, and encouragement. The normal practice is for these groups to follow the sermon series, but recently we’ve had a brief look at the wonderful evangelistic material, The Word One to One, to help equip us to reach out to those we know and ask if they’d like to look at the Bible with us. Please pray that these groups would do that more and more effectively.
We recognise our great debt to St Mary’s, Maidenhead for their support, encouragement, and partnership. Thank you for your love and care and please don’t stop!
Roots of Jazz (Zach Penman)
The evening started with a drink and nibbles inside the church which was transformed from a normal Sunday service set up to a wonderfully decorated jazz lounge with chairs around small tables which provided an informal and relaxed atmosphere. The Roots of Jazz group lit up the church with wonderful warm colours which made great statements of the organ and our wonderful new church building.
And when the jazz started, wow! It was good: with the right mix of instruments, it was a joy to hear, and between each song a little talk about how jazz originated, where it came from and most importantly how Christ was praised through it. It told tales of African-American slaves hearing the gospel at the church their slave masters went to and how hearing that the news of Christ’s death on the cross was for everyone, including them, filled them with joy and hope of salvation.
Songs included: 'Amazing Grace', 'Wade in the Water', 'Feeling Good' and many more. The music filled the whole church, and looking around, I saw people tapping their feet, swaying from side to side, and some even getting up and having a good dance! The evening was filled with laughter, this was a big thing I noticed. I remember thinking how amazing this is…we were all worshiping the Lord but so differently to what we normally do! It was a thrilling time and such hard work was put in by the musical group to lead a beautifully put together set, which allowed us to praise the Lord and also enjoy some great quality jazz.
But even more so, the message was there, for everyone to hear. Christ died for all, he sets us free from our chains of sin. And the cross at the centre of the church with banners which showed chained hands being broke free, visually gave the message we long for so many people to know. It was a great event with lots of people bringing their non-Christian friends along which was a great joy. So let’s be thankful this event happened and pray that the message spoken will be remembered and acted upon whether it be this week, next month, or in years to come.
So, jazz did come from African slaves in America, so I was right to think that it was 'American'. And André from The Roots of Jazz did play the saxophone extremely well so I was right about that. But old-fashioned? Not at all… with the message - living, and the music - thrilling. So I would change 'old-fashioned' to ‘alive’. The message is living, for those slaves then and us now – we all need Jesus to set us free from our chains.
Praise God that the event was beautifully put together with all the decorations and set up to make people feel really welcome.
Thank God for The Roots of Jazz group which performed so well, their skills and gifts are truly amazing and it’s wonderful that they use them to spread the good news of Jesus.
Thank God that Steven Wheatley and the team did a fantastic job, putting in a lot of effort to make the event the best it can be.
And keep praying that these events can happen so that more and more people can hear the wonderful and truly life changing news that Jesus has come for all!
Book Sunday (John Furley)
Sunday 10th March was Book Sunday at St Mary's, where a selection of books were available for sale before or after the services. Jon Drake spent two minutes reviewing 17 books (full list at the end of this blog item). Watch Jon's 123 second review by clicking the video below.
If you missed the book sale, don't worry. The books are available at Quench, the Christian bookshop in Queen Street, Maidenhead, or through its online site Quenchshops or online through 10ofthose or The Good Book Company.
The books reviewed were:
- 2 Kings: The Power and The Fury - Dale Ralph Davis
- 7 Myths About Singleness - Sam Alberry
- A Wilderness of Mirrors - Mark Meynell
- Can Science Explain Everything? - John Lennox
- Dying Well - John Wyatt
- Experiencing The Spirit - Graham Benyon
- Knowing God - J.I. Packer
- Passion - Mike McKinley
- Shadow of the Almighty - Elizabeth Elliot
- The Wonder of Easter - Ed Drew
- Is This It? - Rachel Jones
- Sex, Dating and Relationships - Hiestand and Thomas
- The Third Day
- The Action Bible
- Diary of a Disciple: Peter and Paul’s Story - Gemma Willis
- The Garden, The Curtain and The Cross - Carl Laferton
- Beginning With God Book 1
Update from Anna Adams (Anna Adams)
Since finishing my apprenticeship at St Mary's in September, the last 6 months have been an exciting and challenging new chapter for me. Having said goodbye to Maidenhead and all you lovely people, I headed back home to Dorset.
Chris followed me down south, and he landed a youth worker role in a sweet, quaint church called St. John’s in Wimborne, whilst I immersed myself in wedding planning! St. John’s warmly welcomed us in, and though it was very short notice, we were able to get married there in November – and what a wonderful day it was! We were very blessed by all our friends and family and, despite the rain, there were lots of smiles, laughter, and scrumptious cake!
St. John’s kindly provided us with a home, and I am now getting to grips with housewife duties, (who knew you had to vacuum so often!). As for church life, we are as busy as ever with three different youth group evenings a week which I have been able to help lead, and are putting all my skills I gained from the apprenticeship into good use. It’s been rewarding to see the young people develop, and it was a treat taking them to Portland for a weekend away, and for 3 of them to be confirmed and baptised this last week.
For work, I have started to do supply at a local Special Needs school called Beaucroft. I have been mostly working in the Early Years department, where there are a lot of severe difficulties and those with autism. It has been challenging and tricky to help accommodate their needs, especially as they are mostly all non-verbal, however it’s been equally rewarding to see them warm up to me as I become more familiar.
My family are doing well and it is lovely to have them so close by! Though it has been a quick turn around with getting married and starting life in Wimborne, God has provided us with lots of great opportunities, both in the church and school, and we are excited to see what God has in store for us!
Please pray for us as we continue to get used to married life, and for continual guidance for the youth work. Please also pray that I will settle into my work at the school, and that I’ll be a light for Jesus where possible.
We’ll always be visiting Tim and Kat, so I’m sure we’ll pop in now and then to say hi!
Anna & Chris Adams
Maidenhead Care (Jane Taylor)
“Simple yet brilliant……”
Maidenhead Care is a ‘Good Neighbour’ volunteer
scheme founded over thirty years ago by Peter Hudson, a former Maidenhead
Methodist Church minister.
He drew together a committed group from different churches in Maidenhead, creating a management committee comprised of reps from all the churches.
It is supported by Churches Together in Maidenhead, is a registered charity and relies on clients’ and other donations for funds.
What we do
By volunteering, we assist clients with the day to day problems of life and thereby help maintain their independence by offering:
- transport for medical appointments
- help with shopping
- practical support such as form filling
- visiting the lonely and having a chat.
Other volunteers take turns to be Duty Officers, working in their own home, receiving telephone requests for assistance and linking the request to a suitable volunteer. A portable office, consisting of a laptop and a mobile phone, is provided and full training is given for this role. Duty Officers work, on average, one day or half a day each month. (All costs incurred by volunteers are refundable).
'Simple yet brilliant'
John Robertson, chairman of Maidenhead Care, speaking at the Annual Commissioning Service, held last July at St Mary’s, said “ The concept of Maidenhead Care is simple yet brilliant. It is to become good neighbours to all in our catchment area and operate as though those we were helping lived next door to us. We are ordinary people with a desire to help others and follow God’s command to love thy neighbour”
Volunteering and the future
The need for help from Maidenhead Care is now even more acute with an increasingly elderly population and many more people living longer or alone and away from family support. As many of our stalwart volunteers are ageing too, we need to increase our number of volunteers. During a year we receive over 2,200 requests for transport from clients who frequently say, “I just do not know how I would manage without Maidenhead Care.”
Currently St Mary’s provides half a dozen volunteers (the number has declined recently due to people moving away or suffering from ill health themselves). Others from St Mary’s receive help from Care, some of them former volunteers.
Please do consider if you could help in some way – a few hours could make all the difference. It is rewarding work and a chance to meet some interesting people too.
We welcome volunteers of all ages, including the active retired, temporarily unemployed and young mums with a little time to spare. Whether you volunteer regularly, occasionally or in blocks of time (such as school holidays, term-time only), all offers are valuable and welcome. How much time you give is up to you.
Do make contact if you are interested in finding out more:
- St Mary’s rep: Jane Taylor (9.15 cong.) contact via the church office
- Phone Maidenhead Care: 07538 418 448 (lines open 9am-5pm weekdays)
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
World Focus Lunch (Becca Stileman)
From Thai curry to ploughman's lunch
How do we find out about our mission partners?
- monthly prayer news-sheet (available at church)
- St Mary’s website – login and click on ‘Reaching out’ and then ‘Mission partners’
- St Mary’s Evenings (second Thursday of the month)
- wall map in the foyer outside Hall (with individual newsletters below map)
- mission events.
There are two ‘food together’ annual events in the St Mary’s mission calendar – the summer Mission Barbecue and the winter World Focus Lunch which are attended by UK mission partners who are able to come and sometimes by international partners back on home leave. They are a wonderful opportunity to hear news of our mission partners.
Sunday 3 February was the World Focus Lunch. Some remembered it as the ‘Thai curry event’ as we had, in previous years, enjoyed a couple of delicious curries from the shop at the top of the High Street, sadly now closed. This year, we enjoyed a delicious cheese ploughman’s lunch with soup and bread and cheese and accessories aplenty (including chocolate brownies afterwards). Thank you to the Jobsons for a great spread.We made greetings cards for our mission partners as we learnt more about them, having been challenged by the sermon at the morning congregations and an interview at lunchtime with Jamie Reid of Crosslinks. On 10 February, Jamie returned to speak to the 4pm and 6.30 congregations.
Giving to St Mary's - Gift Aid (The Finance Committee)
This is the third in a short series of articles on the funding of and giving to St Mary’s Maidenhead. In previous articles, we provided an overview of the ways we are able to contribute to the work and witness of St Mary’s and then looked in detail at the Regular Giving Scheme. This month’s focus is on Gift Aid.
What is Gift Aid?
Gift Aid allows individuals who pay UK income or capital gains tax to complete a simple declaration to a charity, stating that they are a UK taxpayer. This declaration can be back-dated for up to 4 years.
As a registered charity, St Mary’s is then able to claim a tax refund, directly from Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC), equating to 25% of all sums donated under Gift Aid.
Is this a hassle for me to set up and maintain?
Not at all! You can make a Gift Aid Declaration to St Mary’s online, via the RGS self-service portal, in a matter of seconds. (Choose: ‘I wish to notify you of a change of tax status’). Helpfully, HMRC does not require a signature on Gift Aid Declarations.
The gift envelopes in the church Welcome area also contain a Gift Aid Declaration for one-off or occasional gifts.
Your declaration remains valid indefinitely unless you change your name or home address. You should inform us (again, ideally via the RGS portal) if you have stopped or will stop being a tax payer.
Will this involve my tax office?
No. The process need not involve any contact with your tax office.
If you pay income tax above the basic rate, please see the section on this below.
If I Gift Aid my donations – does it cost me more?
No, the amount of your gift remains unchanged. Instead, St Mary’s is able to claim a tax refund directly from HMRC equating to 25% of all sums donated under Gift Aid.
Exactly how much tax should I be paying to qualify?
You need to have paid or will pay the same amount or more of UK income and/or capital gains tax as all your benefiting charities will claim on your gifts in any tax year. E.g. if you give £50 per month (or £50 x 12 = £600 per tax year) to all your charities, you need to be paying tax of at least £12.50 x 12 = £150 in that tax year.
How important is Gift Aid to St Mary’s?
In 2018, St Mary’s was able to claim over £130,000 from HMRC, so you will appreciate that Gift Aid is a key source of income for the church.
As we saw last month, in 2018, of the 249 RGS Members giving regularly, 204 had Gift Aided their giving.
I am a higher-rate tax payer – does this have any impact on my gifts?
Not for St Mary’s, but it could help you as the donor.
If you pay income tax above the basic rate, you are eligible to claim additional tax relief. If you wish to do this, you should include your Gift Aid donations on your self-assessment tax return or ask HMRC to adjust your tax code. You may be asked to send a copy of your RGS Annual Statement to HMRC as evidence of your giving.
What should I do now?
If you are an RGS member and a UK tax payer and have not yet made a Gift Aid Declaration, then please do so – it increases the value of your donation by 25% at no cost to you and collectively forms a significant and important element of St Mary’s income.
Next month: one-off or occasional giving.
St Mary’s Finance Committee
Brexit and beyond .... (Will Stileman)
Brexit has been dominating the news for many months and will continue to do so. Rightly so. The country is massively divided over the issue as are both the Conservative and Labour parties. Whether we end up by staying in the EU or leaving, divisions are likely to continue with far reaching consequences.
How should Christians respond to this crisis? I have been reflecting on this and thought I would make a few suggestions:
1 Remember where your true citizenship lies. The apostle Paul in his letter to the Philippians writes: 'But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.' (Philippians 3:20) Whatever their political convictions and national identity, a Christian’s first loyalty is to Jesus and the Kingdom of God. Although as a British man I am concerned about the prosperity of my country, I should be (and I hope I am) more concerned about God’s kingdom.
2 Pray for political leaders. Paul writes to his colleague and friend Timothy: 'I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – for kings and all those in authority' - Why? Why is it so important to pray for those in authority? Paul goes on to give the reason - 'that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.' (1 Timothy 2:1-4). We pray for our leaders so that we may live in peace and godliness and the gospel has the best opportunity to spread. Again, are our prayers and political decisions motivated by the priorities of the gospel?
3 Work to maintain unity. Brexit excites strong feelings and opinions amongst some. There are marriages, families and friendships that tragically have been broken by people’s differing responses to Brexit. However, Christians should be able to maintain their unity despite diverse political opinions. Our Prime Minister and MP, Theresa May, is working hard to establish a unity that doesn’t exist; but Christians enjoy a unity that is given to them by Jesus. So, Paul writing to Gentile believers in Ephesus, urges his readers to 'Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.' (Ephesians 4:3) He doesn’t ask them to make the unity but to keep the unity. Jesus unites us to people of different ages, sex, nationalities, temperaments, and politics. And in submission to Jesus we must make every effort to maintain the unity that Jesus established at the cost of his blood shed on the cross.
4 Be concerned for the poor and vulnerable. My worries over Brexit concern how it might affect the poorest and most vulnerable in society. The elites are unlikely to suffer. They have savings and investments that will insulate them from a major turn down in the economy. We must always be ready to support those among us who suffer financial hardship or other difficulties. 'If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.' (1 John 3:17-18)
No-one knows how things will end up in the days and weeks ahead, but Christ does and he is king. He has not left us in the dark about what our attitudes should be and how we are to conduct ourselves in these days of political uncertainty. May we trust Christ and be faithful in our witness to him in these uncertain days.
Foodshare (Gemma Stephenson)
The St Mary’s church family have been donating to the local foodbank for quite a few years now. The green collection bins are generously filled on the first Sunday of the month by all congregations. I collect the food just after the 6:30pm service has started and deliver the donations directly to Foodshare the following Saturday. The Foodshare volunteers are always very thankful for our donations and there is always a queue of local people using this amazing provision. They seek to help individuals or families where one or more person in the home is not able to eat at least one full day during a week because they cannot afford it.If you want to know what the foodbank is most in need of you can check the bottom of page 2 of the Maidenhead Advertiser each week.
Thank you for all the donations you make every month, you are making a real difference to local lives!
Proverbs 14:31 says 'whoever is kind to the needy honours God'. Throughout the Bible, you can see God's immense concern for the poor, the vulnerable, and for the lonely. In our small way, with these donations, we can extend the love of God to our community.
Look out for the food-bins on Sunday 3rd March!