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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Christmas Unwrapped (Kate Wheatley)

Three days, five sessions of two hours with 270 children from year 6 of our local primary schools and their staff who all came to unwrap Christmas and find out what it is really about.

Mince pies were made and decorated - a first for many of the children. Through quizzes, drama and reading the accounts of the birth of Jesus from Matthew and Luke we explained that Christmas is all about Christ. For some children this was the first time that had ever been explained to them and they were astonished.

Here are some of the questions that they asked. How would you answer them?

  • How do you know that the Bible is true?
  • Why was Jesus a boy?
  • Why was Jesus Jewish?
  • How old was Mary?
  • Who was Jesus' real Dad?
  • What was the purpose of Jesus coming to earth?
  • How did the news spread around the world?

Project Connect update - 14th December 2017

We are planning to hold our first services in the refurbished church on Sunday 7th January. This is the target date, but it could change as the organ, audio or church set up could take longer than planned. The plan is that after the 11am service on New Year's Eve, to take the St Mary's chairs, chair racks and all remaining children's equipment and toys in a van and cars to St Mary's.

Help Required on New Year's Eve: Loading and then unloading chairs and equipment onto a van, practical help dismantling and then reassembling chair racks, carrying equipment to already-decided locations on the church site and hoovering and cleaning the store room at Oldfield. If you are able to help, please contact the church office.

Exciting Changes (Will Stileman)

Change can often be unsettling, which is why many people do not like it. However, the Christian message is all about change.

Yes, God does not change - Jesus Christ is the same: yesterday, today and for ever. And so the Christian message itself does not change. As we approach Christmas, the heart of the message that we will be proclaiming remains the same:

 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16

Nevertheless, God is committed to changing us.

Wonderfully, when we first come to put our trust in Jesus Christ we are changed from death to life; we change from being God's enemies to becoming his adopted children. But God doesn't just change our status, he changes our heart. He gives us his Holy Spirit and, through the work of the Spirit, he gives us new desires. At the deepest level of our being, we now want to live the way of Jesus rather than the way of our sinful nature. The Christian message is all about change.

And of course our circumstances are constantly changing. We get older. People move away. Nothing, other than the eternal God, remains unchanged indefinitely.

And that includes St Mary's. This year a number of long-standing members of St Mary's have moved away to other parts of the country, and we have also had the joy of welcoming a number of new people into the St Mary's Church family. And this next year will see some further changes.

With Sam Brewster's curacy coming to an end in June and his move to pioneer a new congregation in Henley (and with us not getting another curate until at least June 2019), we have had to consider how we can cover the areas for which he has been responsible. This has led to some exciting developments. From January, Richard Crane is going to reduce his paid employment to three days a week so that he can give regularly two days to ministry at St Mary's. Richard will take on responsibility for leading the Discipleship Course on a Monday night and the Workers' Lunch outreach on a Tuesday. We are so grateful that God has given Richard this desire to spend more time in gospel ministry. Please do pray for Richard as he makes this adjustment.

Sam also had responsibility for the 6:30pm congregation. And I am similarly thrilled that Tim Adams, who used to be a ministry apprentice at St Mary's, is likewise able to reduce his work as an engineer to three days a week from June. This will give Tim the bandwidth to lead that congregation effectively. Tim is actively pursuing the possibility of full time, ordained ministry in the Church of England and the leading of the 6:30pm congregation, supported by me, will give him a wonderful opportunity to gain experience and develop his gifting.

Another change to mention is that John Furley's two year fixed contract as our Operations Manager comes to an end in April, and he will return to working full time as a civil servant for the Food Standards Agency. I give thanks to God that John has been able to take this two year sabbatical from the FSA to be our Operations Manager. I would not have been able to cope without him, especially with all the additional work that came with Project Connect. The PCC will be considering an option to fill that role at its next meeting on 12 December. More details will follow in due course.

But of course for many of us, the biggest change at St Mary's will be the return to the new, massively refurbished church building early in the New Year. This is another exciting development and it will provide new ministry opportunities for us (more about that in other Touchline articles). Our longing is to be a loving church family from which the glorious message about Jesus rings out into our community.

So, as we look ahead to a new year and beyond, there are two things of which we can be certain: [i] God and his purposes do not change; [ii] our circumstances (both individually and corporately) will change. But because of the first, we need not fear the second.

"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:38-39

Project Connect update - 7th December 2017

This week the final pieces of tarmac were laid so the works on the drive are now complete. The welcome desk arrived and work to install the audio - visual equipment in church started. Staff and lead volunteers were trained on the systems and processes, ready for the building to be handed over. New photos of the inside of church and the organ are on the photo blog.

Meet the Nativity episode 2 (Glen Scrivener)

Episode 2 of Glen Scrivener's "Meet the Nativity" series is now released:

player

Project Connect update - 30th November 2017

This week the organ installation continued and the glass doors and screens between the welcome area and church were hung. Outside, the wooden cladding for the metal frame of the welcome area was constructed and installed.

On the organ, Matthew O'Donovan writes 'excellent progress has been made this week, in particular with the assembly of the wind system and the installation of the various wind regulators and chest / soundboard modules. Some of the larger pipework is in, or in the church waiting to be put in, though most of the pipework will arrive after the chests etc. are in place, and when there's a bit less dust in the air in church.

The Project Connect photo blog has photos of the work, including the interior of the instrument.

Meet the Nativity (Glen Scrivener)

Glen Scrivener, who led our Real Lives week earlier this year, has released the first in a series of time-traveling romantic comedy videos in which 21st- and 1st-century Christmases magically collide.

player

Project Connect update - 23rd November 2017

This week the hoarding at the end of the driveway was removed and the driveway was opened to pedestrians. Internally, organ installation continued, the carpet was laid in the chapel, vestries, welcome area and new crèche.

New photos have also been uploaded to the photo blog.

Project Connect update - 16th November 2017

This week the tarmac was laid on the driveway though this is not quite finished. Internally, the boiler was commissioned (the heating does work!), the chapel cleared and finishes put on the fixtures and fittings. Next week, clearing and cleaning!

This update will be revised each week, put on the St Mary's blog and e-mailed to those who have signed up to receive e-mails when new items are posted to the blog (log in and then click the button at the top of this page to do this).

Project Connect update - 9th November 2017

This week the organ pipes were delivered to site and work has started on their installation. Externally, work on the driveway has continued as the tarmac is expected to be laid next week. Work has progressed on the plans to train staff and volunteers how to use the church and how to return equipment and items from Oldfield.

New photos have also been uploaded to the photo blog.

This update will be revised each week, put on the St Mary's blog and e-mailed to those who have signed up to receive e-mails when new items are posted to the blog (log in and then click the button at the top of this page to do this).

Project Connect update - 5th November 2017

As Will has mentioned in his leader article in this month's Touchline, we will be holding our Christmas services in Oldfield Primary School this year.

The decision was taken on Monday 30th October at a meeting of the clergy, with involvement from those responsible for the works to be performed once WestCo (the builders) complete their work - the organ builder and audio-visual installers - as well as Neil McDonald, who has been heavily involved in monitoring progress, and myself. At the meeting WestCo gave an update on the progress, the expected completion dates of individual elements of the work and the expected dates when parts, or all, of the site could be handed over to St Mary's. WestCo were then questioned and challenged about specific aspects of the programme, and about their record of delivering to expected dates previously. The result was that WestCo stated that they would be able to hand over a complete, cleaned site, with staff and key volunteers fully trained in operating systems such as heating, fire alarms and the baptistry on Monday 27th November.

Whilst the decision to hold Christmas services in Oldfield is very frustrating, and the delay from the previous expected handover date (3rd November) is extremely disappointing, it was the clear decision to take. From the information that WestCo provided, the only way that we could be certain where we should hold Christmas services was to choose to hold them in Oldfield School. The risks of choosing to hold them in church were too high, and would involve last minute changes of plans if any elements of the building works were further delayed. The choice allows for some slippage in the delivery of the works, and also provides more time for the organ and audio-visual installation works, and training of staff and volunteers to take place. To re-open the church when we may not have fully tested the systems, or know what action to take if the heating failed, an alarm went off or how to turn the lights off would be embarrassing at best, and dangerous at worst.

The good news

The good news is that we really are on the finishing straight. Works have progressed at pace in the last month or so. The weekly updates in Contact, and the photos posted to the website, have described and shown the significant changes that have taken place. These have included the light oak flooring being installed on the raised platform and through the church, the cladding of the organ steelwork, glass walls for both the upper and lower vestries, the lectern and 360 chairs arriving, and the installation of the fixed furniture such as the audio-visual control desk, the welcome desk and welcome area storage, and crèche storage. Outside, the driveway works have started with the granite 'sets' being laid outside the entrances to the church, office and hall, work to raise the level of the drive to the floor height of the church are in progress, and the driveway entrance has been cleared so that the church is strikingly visible from the High Street.

Why can't we move in with 'Oldfield style' audio facilities?

The staff and Project Connect team did discuss, at length, alternatives of how services could be run in St Mary's. These ranged from not installing any permanent audio equipment in the church and using 'Oldfield style' audio on a temporary basis, to only installing the permanent audio equipment and not the screens and projectors before Christmas. And whilst all these are possible and volunteers and staff were willing to do this, other factors were more important. The risks of delay in the handover of the building, or of delay in installing audio and visual equipment or the organ installation, or a combination of these factors, meant that the only decision that provided certainty and clarity as to where to hold the Christmas services was to choose Oldfield.

What is the cause of the delay?

There has been no single specific cause of delay recently. The cumulative effect of the previous delays has meant that it was not possible to catch up on the work and deliver the church by 3rd November, whilst maintaining quality of the work and safety on site.

Are any more delays expected?

None are expected. The lower vestry glass has arrived, the glass for the zig-zag doors at the back of church will arrive soon, and the tarmacking of the drive is scheduled for the week of 13th November. However, mechanical and electrical installations need to be tested, as does the functionality of the fixtures and fittings

When will we move back in?

We are planning to move back into St Mary's very early in 2018.

Will the organ be fully installed by the return?

No. Since the building works over-ran into the autumn there will not be time to complete the organ before Christmas. The instrument will be delivered and assembled in November / December, but the voicing and tuning of the organ will not be completed until some weeks into the new year. Services in St Mary's will use the piano until the pipe organ is fully operational.

How can you help?

  • Pray - for the works to be completed as scheduled, safely and at the same quality as we have seen to date.
  • Practically - in setting up and down at Oldfield over Christmas. It may be that you have not helped yet as you are new to the church in the last year, or that you think that there is not a role for you, or that your circumstances have changed since we first asked for volunteers. Please do think about helping - all the existing volunteers have been servant-heartedly giving their time and energy and some would be grateful of a break, especially over Christmas. Please do contact the church office or myself - we have roles that involve sitting down, walking around, or carrying things. We will also need some volunteers to help transport our equipment from Oldfield back to church - do you have a car and are free in the day, or one Saturday? Do you have a trailer? Do you have some free time between Christmas and New Year? It would be really helpful to know.
  • Praise God - that we are nearly there, that we will have a permanent home to worship, honour and praise God and where we can help to make Him known in Maidenhead.

Project Connect update - 26th October 2017

Progress over the last week has been both inside and out of the church. Internally, the lights have been installed, the light oak flooring laid up to the welcome area, the organ steelwork clad and the door frames from the welcome area to the church fitted. Externally, works to the driveway continue with the granite edgings installed and preparatory works to the drive continuing.

Next, the glass for the lower vestries will be installed and the decision as to when the first services will be back in the church will be taken.

This update will be revised each week, put on the St Mary's blog and e-mailed to those who have signed up to receive emails when new items are posted to the blog (log in and then click the button at the top of this page to do this).

Project Connect update - 19th October 2017

Continued good progress over the last week both in the church and outside. The glass for the upper vestries has been installed, the chair cupboards at the back of church have been built, electrical works carried out and more of the light oak flooring laid. Externally, work to raise the level of the driveway to match the church floor level has continued. The monthly meeting between the builders, architect and ourselves to review progress was positive. The review of the progress to date and work programme to completion again showed that handover of the church should happen in the week starting 30th October. Some small items may need to be finished the following week, but the organ builder is planning to start the four weeks of work to install the organ on 7th November, with audio-visual work being planned at the same time.

Next, the plan to train staff and volunteers how to use the church is being finalised, as is the plan to return equipment and items from Oldfield, though no decision has been made on when the first services will be back in the church.

Some new photos have been taken today and added to the photo blog.

This update will be revised each week, put on the St Mary's blog and e-mailed to those who have signed up to receive emails when new items are posted to the blog (log in and then click the button at the top of this page to do this).

Project Connect update - 12th October 2017

Good progress again this week. The furniture for the welcome area, the audio visual desk, lectern and crèche storage have all been installed; the glass for the upper vestries is being installed as is more of the light oak flooring in the main body of the church. Externally, work to raise the level of the driveway to match the church floor level has started. The meeting between the builders and architect to review progress went well and was very positive. The PCC meeting on Wednesday evening heard about the progress in detail and considered if we should continue to plan to be in church for our Christmas services or not. A final decision will be made before the end of the month but, as before, the latest work programme from the builders shows they will complete and hand the church back to us at the very end of October. After that the organ installation, taking four weeks, can begin, as can the audio-visual installation.

Costs - a slight increase has been incurred with a small change to the organ design (using a metal mesh instead of cloth covering) and also a similarly small increase to the building costs has been incurred.

Some new photos have been taken today and added to the photo blog.

This update will be revised each week, put on the St Mary's blog and e-mailed to those who have signed up to receive emails when new items are posted to the blog (log in and then click the button at the top of this page to do this).

Project Connect update - 5th October 2017

A lot appears to have happened over the last week. The new chairs, furniture for the welcome area, the audio visual desk, lectern and crèche storage all arrived on Wednesday and the interior of the church is starting to take shape. The fixed furniture is being installed this week along with more of the light oak flooring which has been laid on the raised platform and curved steps to the platform.

Next week sees the monthly meeting between the builders, the architects and ourselves to review progress. Also, the PCC will meet to hear about progress, the latest completion date estimate and consider if we should continue to plan to be in church for our Christmas services or not.

This update will be revised each week, put on the St Mary's blog and e-mailed to those who have signed up to receive emails when new items are posted to the blog (log in and then click the button at the top of this page to do this).

Jars of Clay (Will Stileman)

Confession time. I am at the ReNew Conference. I check my emails and I read one that reminds me that this month's article for Touchline is overdue. I groan. I can't cope with another thing. The pressure is piling up. I am contending with six or seven significant, time-consuming, emotion-draining issues. I've already lost two days because of the conference. I have key back to back meetings for the rest of the week, somehow I must find the time to write my sermon and now on top of it all I have to write this article for Touchline. I am descending into despair and self-pity.

But then three things happen to change my mood.

  • God directs my thoughts to consider what some of you, my brothers and sisters at St Mary's, are going through: life-threatening diseases, close family relationships broken or under huge strain, other painful relationships, loss of job, repeated admissions to hospital, the list goes on and on and on
  • The Holy Spirit causes me to remember this passage of Scripture:
    "But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body." 2 Corinthians 4:7-10
  • And then finally, God graciously gives me some time to write this article!

It is not uncommon to go through times when, like Paul, we are hard pressed on every side, perplexed, persecuted and struck down. We are literally brought to our knees. But it is often because of those times that we become most conscious of Christ's work in us. You are at your wits' end and you can't cope. You cry out, "Lord help me!" The Lord Jesus at that time may seem a million miles away. But a little later you find him filling your thoughts and you realise that you have been or are being kept through the crisis - you are still believing in him and trusting in Jesus. And although what you are going through is ghastly, yet in some way you recognise that you are knowing Christ better than you did when life was more straightforward.

What is more, it is in those hard times that other people become more conscious of Jesus' life in us. When everything is going well in our lives unbelievers don't see Christ powerfully at work in us; but they do when they see us still trusting in Christ while we battle through one hardship after another. That is the context of this comment of the apostle Peter: But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope you have..." [1 Peter 3:15]. People don't think or ask "I don't know how you coped. I don't know how you remained so positive" when our lives seem straightforward. But they do start asking those questions and thinking those thoughts when they see us persevering in faith through trials.

"But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us."

Project Connect update - 28th September 2017

This week the flat, granite stonework at the entrances to the church office and outside the hall have been laid and much work has been completed on the welcome area ceiling so that this is almost complete. The oak floor on the raised platform has started to be laid although this detailed work around the baptistry lid and floor boxes has taken longer than expected.

Next on the schedule is for more of the oak floor to be installed and also the glass walls of the new vestries at the front of church where the organ pipes used to be. Organ installation details are being confirmed and more information will be available soon. We are expecting an update about progress imminently and will share this information next week.

This update will be revised each week, put on the St Mary's blog and e-mailed to those who have signed up to receive emails when new items are posted to the blog (log in and then click the button at the top of this page to do this).

Project Connect update - 21st September 2017

This week the glass arrived and has been installed in the welcome area and also the new doors for the church office entrance. With the welcome area glass installed, the inner lobby doors at the back of church have been removed and the church feels much more open and light. The granite cobbling at the entrances to the hall, church office and church are being laid. Photos have been put on the photo blog of the changes this week.

Next on the plan is for the oak floor to arrive and be installed - first on the raised platform so that the vestry glass can be put in and then the rest of the church floor.

Costs and Completion date have remained the same as last week. The monthly meeting between the builders, the architects and ourselves took place this week and was very constructive, discussing and resolving issues that had arisen. As before, the latest work programme from the builders shows they will complete and hand the church back to us at the very end of October. We will then be able to plan for the construction of the organ and installing the audio and visual equipment. Timings are very tight, but we are starting to plan to be in church for our Christmas services.

This update will be revised each week, put on the St Mary's blog and e-mailed to those who have signed up to receive emails when new items are posted to the blog (log in and then click the button at the top of this page to do this).

The glass has arrived (John Furley)

The glass for the welcome area and vestries has today arrived on site. This is really good news and a key milestone on the project. The glass arrival and subsequent fitting means that the inside can be protected from the elements and the interior works, such as flooring, electrical fixings and furniture, can be started.

Take a look at the Connect Photo Blog to see the glass arriving.