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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Update from Windsor Fellowship Church (Pete Matthew)

Our vision as a church family is that we exist for the honour of God and the love of Windsor.  We pray this will happen as we’re built up as disciples of Christ and reach out with the good news of Jesus to our local community.

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)

Before the event on 1st March I would have described jazz as; 'American', 'old-fashioned', and 'saxophones'. And these words I kept in my mind throughout the evening, and they did change I must say…

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.

player


The books reviewed were: 

General books

  • 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
Young Adults
  • Is This It? - Rachel Jones
  • Sex, Dating and Relationships - Hiestand and Thomas
  • The Third Day

Children

  • 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!

Until then.

God bless

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.

Making Contact

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: office@maidenheadcare.org.uk

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! 

What's it like being on the PCC? (David Brunt)

Hear from David Brunt who was elected in 2013.

My wife Sandra and I have been at St Mary's for nearly 28 years. During that time I have been on the Parochial Church Council (PCC) for two different stretches. PCC members serve an initial term of three years and then are eligible to restand. I am just coming to the end of my most recent period of service.

The purpose of the PCC is to work collaboratively with Will to direct the church’s mission to know Jesus and to make Jesus known. We do this by overseeing the spiritual life of St Mary’s, the church’s legal, financial and operational responsibilities, and by making decisions for the church’s future direction. To be effective as members of the PCC, we must be seeking to walk closely with Christ Jesus, and make decisions based on God's principles and wisdom rather than our own personal viewpoints.

PCC meetings are held on the second Tuesday of every month from 8pm-10pm. The PCC can’t achieve everything in these meetings and so it delegates some of the detailed work to committees. Sometimes there are temporary groups formed to tackle certain challenges and we are encouraged to use our individual giftings and take part in these as the need arises. Everyone on the PCC is expected to contribute actively and some of the ways I think I have done so are through helping develop some of the church polices we now have (such as HR and IT policies), contributing to good governance as a PCC, ensuring accountability, and improving our ways of working as a church.  Others have said they have appreciated how I often offer challenge to hone our decisions!

By being on the PCC and giving of your very best to help the running of the church and enabling its ministry is a great way to serve and is very fulfilling. If you are interested in standing in the 2019 election at the Annual Parochial Church Meeting on 25th April all the details you need will be in the church Welcome Area from mid March.

Introductions... (Will Stileman)

In January, Ian and Tamsin Miller, with their four daughters Lucy, Lizzie, Becca, Hannah and their dog, Scamp, moved to Maidenhead and have joined us at St Mary’s. Ian will become our new curate, when he finishes his theological training at Oak Hill in the summer. As a family, they are currently attending the 4pm congregation. Lucy and Lizzie are also a part of the 6:30pm congregation.

Lucy and Lizzie have both started at Newlands this term (school years 10 & 9 respectively). Becca (year 7) will also move to Newlands when a place becomes available. Hannah (year 5) likewise will move to a school in Maidenhead when Becca has a place. Please do make them welcome and pray for each member of this family as they settle into a new area and as the girls adjust to new schools.

Before training for ordained ministry, Ian was a barrister in London. He led the Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship and was involved in the lunchtime ministry of the Fleet Street Talks. We are looking forward to Ian beginning his ministry amongst us. Nearer to his start date, I will outline what Ian’s particular responsibilities will be.

The other person to introduce is Val Sanderson. Val has taken on the onerous task of providing me with some part time secretarial support. She began this new role in February and will be coming into the church office on Tuesdays and Thursdays. With Val’s help, I hope to be better at keeping on top of all my responsibilities.

Val is married to Don and they live in Chesham, where until recently Val was the parish administrator. Val is also the mother of Jennie Kemp who with her husband Phil, and their children Beth and Chris, attend the 9:15am congregation. Val will be worshipping with us at the 9:15am congregation on Sunday mornings and looks forward to getting to know us better.

Please do pray for both Val and me. This will be a steep learning curve for both of us! Val’s e-mail address is: 

Evangelism - Living Out Loud (Jason and Laura Swain)

We've had the privilege of running the Disciple Making Movements course a few times and it is always so encouraging to hear stories of how it's impacting lives beyond the course. Here is one testimony from John & Terry Driscoll.

We attended the six week course run by Jason and Laura Swain on how to speak easily about (and live out) our faith. Jason and Laura made us welcome and the course was friendly and very accessible. We were reminded that people are different, and so we must share the gospel in different ways and in different contexts. Whether or not we share through "Bringing", "Confronting", "Reasoning", or "Hosting"; a simple invitation to come to church might be all I can manage, but that's fine. I remember the very first week and at the start of the course looking at Romans. Romans 1:16 reads 'I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God and to salvation'. That made me think about my commitment to share the gospel and realise that I was comfortable to speak to people about my faith. Jason and Laura provided some very practical ideas and a framework to speak about Jesus in a conversational manner.

Since the course, I have felt confident and more able to speak about what my faith is actually about. Just this week I was able to share the gospel with a member of my rowing club; I would normally have left the conversation there, but this time felt enabled to text him offering to meet and go through our discussion in more detail, if he would like. I saw him the next day and he called out to me that he would come back to me about meeting up, I was encouraged!

The course has left both of us more able and prepared to share our faith whenever the opportunity arises in a natural and relaxed manner. We have no hesitation in recommending Jason and Laura's course to anyone who would like to be able to speak about their faith, it will provide a springboard for conversation!
John & Terry Driscoll St Mary's Maidenhead

Disciple Making Movements is a "biblically-based strategy to teach people, families, ethnic groups, and societies." Or more simply put, we want our friends, families, and communities to know how amazing our God is and how they can have a relationship with him. Two of our key values are that God's words are best and we simply want to "live out loud" as we showcase our great God. We hope it's a really practical and encouraging and fruitful course.

Another 6 week course will run on Tuesdays during the ladies' growth groups. Please chat to us if you want more information.

What is the electoral roll? (Sara Hewins)

This weekend, during church services, you will be encouraged to sign up to be on the Electoral Roll. St Mary's Electoral Roll is the register of its voting members: it's a list of those qualified to attend and to vote at the Annual Parochial Church Meeting (APCM) and to stand for election to the PCC. Church Representation Rules require that every Parochial Church Council (PCC) maintains an Electoral Roll. Note that being on the roll is not the same thing as being a 'member' of St Mary's... you are that by being a regular attender and considering St Mary's as your spiritual home.

Who can be on the Electoral Roll?

The only qualifications required are that you are 16 or over, have been baptised and that you have attended St Mary's for at least 6 months.

Why join?

Signing up to the Electoral Roll is an important way of confirming your commitment to St Mary's and comes without additional obligations. If you wish, it can enable greater involvement in the life of the church at parish, deanery and diocesan level. It does help the church show its strength and the number on our electoral roll affects our representation on the Deanery Synod so it's great to sign up.

What happens next?

Every six years all names are required to be removed from our church Roll and we therefore have to prepare a new Roll. If you wish to be on the Roll we need you to complete a simple form. This process has started and until 31st March forms will be available at the back of church after every service for you to complete. It will only take a minute or two to do.

So if you wish to be included on the new Roll please be sure to fill one in and pop it into the marked box in the foyer.

Would you invite your work colleagues to pray? (Richard Crane & Dave MacFarlane)

Dave MacFarlane lives in Uxbridge but commutes to Maidenhead as a social worker for the Royal Borough. Dave is a regular at the Tuesday "Local Workers Lunch" Bible discussions that we host, and he often invites his colleagues along too. He inspires us not to hide our faith in fear, but to live openly as Christians in our workplaces. And he has a surprising suggestion for introducing friends to Jesus! Dave writes:

"I was asked recently what I thought was the most effective entry to sharing the gospel with people who don't yet know Jesus. Christianity is different to all other world religions, because it invites believers into a genuine, two-way relationship with the God who created them. It's not about following certain doctrine or adhering to certain rules: first and foremost it's about professing faith in the resurrected Jesus and choosing to follow Him day by day.

"So, if we're focusing on how we introduce people to Jesus, we need to remember we're not introducing them to a religion, we're inviting them to discover relationship with a person. And how better to do that than opening up a conversation?! The Bible would commonly refer to this conversation as 'prayer', remembering of course that this is just ordinary communication with God, in the same way that you and I may have a chat over coffee.

"So, how do we kick off this conversation? Well, I have found that this is becoming easier and easier, as modern society undergoes some form of spiritual awakening. Hard, cold, atheistic philosophy has been found out as not having the answers to life that it once promised. Instead, we find a generation of anxious millennials searching for peace. And where are they looking? Meditation and mindfulness: a Western-take on once predominantly Eastern methods of 'emptying oneself' and 'finding internal peace'.

"Now I know what you might say: that this is a crying shame that they're all turning their back on God and looking elsewhere. I would argue the opposite. They never knew God, and their mindfulness is their way of looking for Him. The step between this and what Christians call 'prayer' is not as great as we realise; the only difference is that we know who answers at the other end.

"Which takes me back to my introduction to Jesus. I often have discussions with people about my prayer-life; when I pray, how I pray, what I pray for, and answers to prayer that I've seen. It opens an easy conversation about Christ and about the relationship with Him that is on offer, often encouraging others to go and try it themselves, whether they believe it fully yet or not. It is my earnest belief that God does honour those small steps of faith and those small prayers prayed, even ones of uncertainty, and I have seen many return for further discussion when they've found that 'there might just be someone out there after all!'"

Harvest Giving (Peter Crossley)

"To know Jesus and to make Jesus known"

This is our vision at St Mary's, not only through our 'local' church but also through our external mission worldwide. It is a privilege and a blessing to be part of this ministry through our Mission Strategy Committee (MSC) and Mission Partners Support Group (MPSG). As you might know, the MSC proposes our annual Mission Budget for approval by the Parochial Church Council (PCC) each year in October.

The PCC also looks for recommendations from the MSC for our Harvest Giving (and a little later our Christmas Giving). At our last MSC meeting we considered a number of worthy charities, deciding upon Open Doors which has served persecuted Christians and churches around the world for 60 years. Our minds were drawn to their support for widows and orphans who have lost their husbands or parents because of their Christian faith.

Also, to find a second more personal connection, I was asked to contact our Mission Partners, Tim and Rachel Green who serve in Malaysia with Interserve. We sought their guidance on an appropriate charity, material need, or project that they knew through their ministry which we could support with the St Mary's Harvest Gift. Rachel directed us to the ElShaddai Centre, which is endorsed by UNHCR and helps refugees and asylum seekers "in transit" by providing education, primary healthcare, shelter, and skills development. Tim and Rachel are involved in a lot of refugee ministry and work closely with ElShaddai. Wherever and whenever they can, they talk about the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. And so the MSC proposed that our donation should be designated to the ElShaddai Shelter for Refugees, and in particular for children who have arrived in Malaysia who have no parents, and the PCC approved this for Harvest 2018.

You may have noted already, through our Weekly Contact in early November, that our Harvest Gift amounted to £5,305.

A very big thank you to all those who made a contribution. Please do get in touch if there is anything you wish to know about our Mission Partners and their ministry.

Giving to St Mary’s – the Regular Giving Scheme (The Finance Committee)

This is the second in a short series of articles on the funding of, and giving to, St Mary's Maidenhead. In last month's blog and Touchline, we provided an overview of the ways we are able to contribute to the work and witness of St Mary's. In this month's article we focus on the Regular Giving Scheme (RGS).

The Regular Giving Scheme (RGS)

Best for members of our congregations with a regular income

St Mary's Church is expected to spend approximately £688,000 in 2019. The Lord provides the finances for all of this, mainly through the generous giving of our congregations. We plan our spending carefully in order to make the best use of the resources God gives us. It is a great help for us to know how much income to expect from those who belong to our congregations, so that we can budget more accurately.

The majority of St Mary's expenditure is recurring. For example, salaries are due monthly, bills either monthly or quarterly, and insurance premiums annually.  It therefore makes sense to match these regular expenditures to a reliable, regular, and predictable income.

What is the RGS?

The Regular Giving Scheme (RGS) is the name given to St Mary's offering scheme. You tell us how much you plan to give on a regular basis, which in turn, helps us plan. This is a pledge, allowing St Mary's to budget its expenditure responsibly; it is not a contract or obligation - you can change these arrangements at any time if your circumstances change.

RGS giving can be allocated to a restricted 'purpose' on request, however the vast majority is deposited in the main non-restricted General Fund, which funds:

  • The staff team
  • The Church, Chapel, Church House Offices, Old Vic, Parish Halls, Garden, Drive
  • Two staff houses and two flats
  • Ongoing activities of the congregations
  • Mission partners in the UK and overseas (12% of budget)

Who is the RGS intended for?

Any member of our congregations with a regular income. On joining, you become a 'RGS Member', however this is simply a term of convenience and does not imply any special status or privilege.

What are the benefits to donors?

RGS makes it easy for you to give regularly in a planned way, rather than having to remember each week, month or quarter. You can set up a standing order or arrange to make payments via telephone or online banking, but you can still pay manually by envelope should you so choose.

The RGS platform provides annual (and/or on-request) statements of your giving and, for information only, any Gift Aid St Mary's has claimed on these gifts, at no cost to you.

If you are a higher rate tax payer, you have the option to claim additional tax relief, via your tax code. More on this next month.

What are the benefits to St Mary's?

The main benefit to St Mary's is to help with budgeting and meeting regular expenditure, as we know what our income will be each month and quarter.

The RGS platform also makes it simple for St Mary's to reclaim Gift Aid from HM Revenue and Customs and to produce the annual statements.

How often can I give via the RGS?

You can give monthly, weekly, quarterly, annually or indeed, occasionally.

Here are some statistics. In 2018, there were 249 RGS Members giving regularly to the non-restricted fund, of which 233 gave monthly, 7 gave annually, 5 weekly, and 4 quarterly.

How can I give via the RGS?

We recommend that, wherever possible, payments are made either by standing order, internet, or phone banking.

A small number of donors give via CAF or another charitable trust scheme, usually as a payroll giving facility. This can provide a tax benefit to the donor but does not allow St Mary's to claim Gift Aid. These payments are usually transferred anonymously, making it difficult to provide a statement of your giving.

As a final option, envelopes can be supplied for cash or cheques which can be placed into one of the collection boxes in the Church Welcome Area. These envelopes are annotated with your RGS Number and are therefore confidential, but identifiable only by the counters. This method is more complex to administer securely but is provided for those who prefer to give cash or cheques and are unable to use electronic transfer.

Some further statistics. Again, from the 249 regular givers in 2018, 241 gave via Standing Order / Internet Banking, 5 using RGS Envelopes, and 3 by cheque.

Notably, 204 (of the 249 total number) Gift Aid their RGS giving.

How do I join the RGS?

A RGS Resources area is available on the church website containing more information, a self-service portal, and a couple of supporting forms that may be required for new members and renewals.

The Self-Service portal has been designed to take you, step-by-step, through most of the frequently encountered requests for services related to RGS, namely: to join the RGS, leave the RGS, notify us of a payment holiday, or if you need to make changes to your giving, tax status, address or to request ad-hoc statements. Most matters can be completed online, including Gift Aid Declarations, however depending on how you usually transact with your bank, you may need a new Standing Order form, so a little paperwork and postage may still be needed (although the portal has been designed to try to minimise this where possible).

Please note that St Mary's does not have a Direct Debit facility. You will have to set up a Standing Order arrangement with your bank. Standing Order forms can be sent via the RGS Secretaries for checking, but these are then simply forwarded to your bank. Donors remain in control at all times!

If you cannot or do not wish to access the online portal, please contact the RGS secretaries: Mike Walker or Carolyn Allen and they will help you join or make the required changes.

Next month: Gift Aid.

St Mary's Finance Committee

Making Jesus Known to Young People (Angie McDonald)

Angie McDonald speaks about her experience of our Friday night youth work, both as a parent and as a leader at X-Focus.

Over the last year or so I have been part of the X-Focus team spending term-time Friday nights playing sports, serving tuck, and teaching God's word to 11-14 year olds (Year 6 to Year 8). It's not everyone's idea of "How to spend my Friday nights".

My two younger children have both been members of X (and later, Shift Focus) and as their parent, I hadn't really fully understood the importance of this two hour Friday night slot. In fact, quite often it was a bit of an inconvenience trying to battle through the 6pm traffic. However, now my children have grown and moved on in their journey, I have come to understand the importance of them taking part in a social event that gives them the opportunity to not only share their faith but also grow in their faith.

As a member of the team, I have had the privilege of seeing the impact of biblical teaching in a relaxed setting, enabling members to be a Christian in a social environment. This has given many of our members the experience of Jesus as their core identity: which doesn't switch on and off depending on who we spend our time with.

As both a leader and parent, I would encourage our church family to do three things:

  1. Support the group in prayer
  2. Encourage your children to come along each Friday
  3. Get your children to encourage their friends to come along with them on a Friday night

If we as a church family, actively support X-Focus through prayer and practical support we will all be partaking in our collective mission to "Know Jesus and make Jesus known".

Eric, The Christmas Angel (Nick Fowkes)

The church became a real theatre for one night. Eric the Christmas Angel, dressed in a hi-vis jacket and L-plate (with additions from Maidenhead's very own seasonal Mexican-Christmas-hat pop-up shop) had St Mary's younger congregants, their friends and families rocking in their seats with laughter in this year's Christmas pantomime. It was performed by Duggie Dug Dug and cast, including the hairy duo Harry and Larry as narrators.

Despite being the worst student in the angel academy for five hundred years and failing his HTBABA (How To Be A Better Angel) course, Eric left behind scroll-dusting for Angel Resources and brought good tidings to mankind under the watchful - and increasingly exasperated - guidance of the Archangel Gabriel.  Eric was entrusted with greatly important angelic duties: terrifying Zechariah (full-time Aaronic priest, part-time comedian), confusing the Virgin Mary ("His name is to be Eric?") and advising Joseph ("So who is the father?"; "The Father."; "Yes, as I said, who is the father?" ...).

When he wasn't standing by the Naughty Cloud, Eric attempted to make Jesus a birthday cake, danced a waltz to the Macarena and replaced the entire Heavenly Host singing to the shepherds of Bethlehem. In all his escapades, there were plenty of jokes which children of primary school age found hilarious - and many adults, secretly. "What was the snowman doing rummaging around in a bag of carrots?"

After the interval - with sweets and drinks at bargain rates going like hot cakes - we were introduced to the pantomime baddy: King Herod (an identical twin of both Eric and Bethlehem's only innkeeper). Before dying twice (once quickly, once dramatically, neither correctly), King Herod gave us all a chance to shout "He's behind you" in a crazy alternative version of the Flight into Egypt.

Although subsequent research suggests that one or two of the details of Eric the Christmas Angel were extra-biblical, it was nevertheless a great evening's entertainment for all the family at St Mary's.  It was difficult not to laugh with so many children chortling in the aisles (and the nave).

"Sing Hallelula!" (sic)

Woodlands Winter Wonderland (Bob Crittenden)

Woodlands Winter Wonderland came to Woodlands Park on Saturday 15 December. This free event was held in Woodlands Park Village Centre for the first time, from 3pm-4:30pm.

As Dave Atallah, our Vicar, explained, the purpose of these events is to build community in Woodlands Park. They are a gift from us to the local community reflecting God's amazing gift to us of Jesus at Christmas, and we are delighted that so many people join in and have fun with their neighbours. We are particularly grateful to all those organisations and volunteers without whose support these Community Fun Days would not be possible.

Woodlands Winter Wonderland provides an opportunity to look forward to the fun and joy of Christmas and features a number of attractions including Santa's Grotto, hot and cold food and refreshments, face-painting, icing Christmas biscuits, Christmas crafts, a variety of fun and games including nativity hoopla, putting the nose on the snowman, playing Christmas pairs, and the Brussel sprout dip - to name a few of the activities that were on offer! A main feature of the afternoon's entertainment was the "centre games" - a series of games which took place at the heart of the event to encourage participation. The event closed with an opportunity to get into the festive spirit by joining in singing some much-loved Christmas carols.

Woodlands Winter Wonderland is organised by Woodlands Community Events - a collaboration of White Waltham Church, Woodlands Park Methodist Church, Housing Solutions and local residents, all working together to strengthen community in Woodlands Park. The group organised May Day Mayhem earlier this year and more community events are planned for 2019. The events are free to everyone who comes along and run on funding received from local organisations and businesses. We are very grateful for the support of all volunteers, including our friends from St Mary's Maidenhead. Why not join our team next time?

Salty Conversations (Will Stileman)

'Be wise in the way you act towards outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.' (Colossians 4:5-6)

Believers in Jesus, wishing to be faithful to the teachings of the Bible, increasingly find themselves out of step with the mindset and values of British society. So, like the church in Colossae, we too need to exercise great wisdom in how we act towards the non-Christian society amongst whom we live. However, it is clear from the Apostle Paul's instructions to the Colossians that godly wisdom doesn't involve retreating from the world but interacting with it. We are to be making the most of every opportunity, engaging in conversations - not avoiding them. Our society may be instinctively critical and dismissive of what we believe; nevertheless we are to respond graciously and with a godly distinctiveness.

Currently we are finding ourselves at odds with our society (and tragically a significant part of the Church of England) over gender, marriage, and sexual ethics. And below are some of the things I want to be stressing as I have 'salty conversations':

  • All people, whoever they are, are loved indiscriminately by God and so as a church we likewise seek to welcome and love all indiscriminately
  • All human beings have disordered lives and naturally have wrong attitudes to God and to one another
  • Jesus calls on all people to come to him and be transformed by his loving grace and rule; it is our aim as a church to introduce people to Jesus and to call on them to trust in Jesus and receive him as their Lord
  • At St Mary's, we seek to be a loving community where we look out and care for one another whatever our struggles and needs. We are a hospital for sinners, we are not a hotel for saints. As such we get things wrong from time to time. We are sorry when we do and want to learn from our mistakes and change.
  • Jesus taught that our gender and identity comes from the God who made us in His image, male and female
  • God's blueprint for marriage reflects something of God's nature and his plan of salvation
  • God's ordering of our relationships brings blessing to society; society's rejection of them brings harm, particularly to those who are most vulnerable: the poor and children

There are of course many other things that could be stressed, but these are the key things I want to keep saying. Notice that they are true for all people whatever their sexual orientation and gender identity. In the ongoing debate, it is wise to make statements that are true for all people. Yet however wise and gracious we are in our speech and behaviour, there will be those who will not understand or accept we are being reasonable. We will at times be misunderstood, opposed and slandered. When that happens, we are to find our strength and comfort in Jesus and repay evil with good. May God make us and keep us faithful to Christ in 2019!

What can you get for £279? (Simon Eves)

You could get 100 flat whites. You could buy 65 Big Mac meals. Or you could get just one of these ugly jumpers from John Lewis.*

But what sort of holiday can you get for that kind of money?

You could have two nights at the Best Western in Bognor Regis. Or you could fly most of the way to New York (unfortunately they'd probably have to drop you out somewhere near Greenland).

Or you could grab an eight night full board activity holiday for your teenager where they'll have an amazing time and be taught about Jesus in a relative and engaging way.**

If I were you, I'd definitely go for the Summer Camp.

What are summer camps?

Every year at St Mary's, around 100 people go on these holidays and they are simply brilliant. The quality of the activities and the holiday is outstanding, the food is fantastic, and at the same time the spiritual side of things is taken really seriously.

I have lost count of the number of young people who have told me that a summer camp was where they really first 'got it' in terms of their faith. It seems there is something truly valuable in spending a week being given the chance to think about Jesus and the good news of Christianity.

And it's not just churched young people who enjoy them. Every year non-churchy people come and have a brilliant time - including enjoying all the Bible teaching.

So, if you're a parent, basically I can't recommend these camps highly enough.

Why mention them in January?

Bookings are open now for next summer and many of the camps do fill up. If you'd like your child to go next summer then do get them signed up and pay the deposit to guarantee their space.

I don't have a teenage child...

If you're a grandparent / aunt / uncle / godparent etc. then why not invite someone you know to sign up? We have a young person at St Mary's who trusted Christ for the first time this term and she heard the Gospel because her aunt and uncle paid for her to go on a Christians in Sports camp each year.

Are you busy next summer?

The camps aren't just brilliant for young people - they are also incredible places for adults to grow as they serve the members. There are lots of folk who do this already from St Mary's and there are a huge variety of ways to serve at these camps whatever your gifts. If you would like to think a bit more about this do drop me a line.

They are still expensive

I honestly believe these camps are brilliant value for what you get. But it's true they aren't cheap. There is a fund available at church and we love to use it to send young people on these holidays. Normally two thirds of the costs will be covered, leaving a family about £90 to pay and that can be for anyone from church or otherwise.

*for the sake of clarity I should state that you'd have £20 change, so it is a relative bargain at £259. Furthermore, it is my personal opinion that the jumper is ugly and that statement is in no way the official opinion of St Mary's Church.

**£279 is the price of Sparkford 3, a camp we send a number of young people to.

Details of camps we particularly support

11-14s camps:

  • Barnstaple 2 27th July-3rd August
    Another camp we have a long standing relationship with as a church, again it has a strong team of leaders and young people always come back raving about it.
  • Penrhos @ Brymore 3-9th August
    This is the camp which was for a long time known as Edgehill. It has a lovely leadership team and we've historically had strong links with the camp, sending a number of members and leaders along.

14s-18s camps:

  • Quantock 1 27th July-4th August
    A brilliant camp which fills up most years. The building feels like you're staying in Hogwarts. It is by all accounts loads of fun and really well run.
  • Sparkford 3 13th-21st August
    In terms of numbers this is normally the camp we send the most people along to. Again - great fun and a lot of St Mary's links.

Booking for all the above can be found by heading to ventures.org.uk and then searching for the relevant camp.

If the dates etc. for these camps don't work for you then do contact me and I can point you in the direction of a number of other good alternatives.