Blog

The St Mary's blog is a mixture of news pieces and topical articles. Each month a number of these are collated into a printed magazine, Touchline. Blog items over three months old are moved to an archive, which is available when logged in. Views expressed here are those held by the individuals posting, and not necessarily representative of St Mary's Church.

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Project Connect update - 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.

Project Connect update - 14th September 2017

  • Good news: the building works are entering their final phase. Monday (18th September) should see the glass delivered and then installed for the welcome area and vestries. Please check the Connect photo blog for photos. Once the glass is installed the flooring and electrical works can progress.
  • Costs: Projected total costs have remained the same for the last 12 weeks.
  • Completion date: the latest programme from the builders shows they will complete and hand the church back to us at the very end of October. After this, audio, cabling and organ works will take place for approximately one month and we are hoping, and starting to plan, to be in for our Christmas services.

This update will be revised each week from now on. Latest news can always be found on the St Mary's blog - please do sign up to receive e-mails when new items are posted.  Click the button near the top of this page to do this.

An Introduction II (Rachel Meynell)

Having been born in Uganda and spent my childhood in East Africa, I came to England for boarding school in Reading when I was 13. I studied nursing and midwifery in London in the hope that it would get me back to Africa.

That was also the reason for doing the Cornhill Training Course, to better equip me to understand and teach the Bible, since I wanted to be useful member of an African church. So then I postponed my African return further by trying to get some ministry experience. This led to working for UCCF in Cambridge where I married Mark (whom I'd met on Cornhill) while he was training for ordination at Ridley Hall.

Since then we have lived in Sheffield, Uganda (I got there eventually!) and London. While Mark did church or seminary ministry, I looked after our 2 children, and served in our churches as time allowed- running toddlers, helping to lead women's Bible studies, meeting one to one and doing a Biblical Counselling course. Josh is now 19 (about to start at university to study Archaeology) and Zanna is 16 (at boarding school for her A levels). As Mark can now work from anywhere (part time for Langham Partnership, training Bible teachers, part-time writing and speaking), I started looking for jobs. I am excited by this opportunity to help oversee the church's ministry to women and pastoral care. It means I can do what I love: training and discipling women, and helping to care for those facing challenging lives.

Please do come and introduce yourselves to me- it will help me hugely as I seek to get to know you all in the coming months- and please be gracious to me if I need gentle reminders! I am very much looking forward to meeting you.

An Introduction (Anna Boorman)

I'm very excited to join the staff team here at St Mary's as a Ministry Trainee. Here is a little bit about me:

I am 22 years old and have just graduated at Moorlands Theological College in Dorset, where I studied my degree in Applied Theology in Cross Cultural Studies. I really enjoyed studying there as it was both academic and practical. I had two weekly placements, one in a local church doing youth work and the other with Friends International doing student work.

I was born in the Philippines but have lived in Dorset since I was 2 years old. I grew up on a farm as my Dad was a shepherd till I was 15 and then we moved to Poole. I had the privilege to grow up in a Christian home consisting of my parents, and four sisters - one older and three younger (my poor Dad!!). I was home-schooled by my Mum from year 2 to year 9, along with all my sisters, which was great fun as we grew closer as a family and it gave me firm foundations in my faith. I became a Christian at the age of 6 and have grown in my faith immensely through serving in Church, summer camps and my school Christian Union.

My heart has grown a passion for deaf and special needs communities and so I have learnt British Sign Language and served in various SEN groups. I feel God has so much to teach me about those who are unreached and struggle to engage with the gospel message due to their needs. I wanted to serve at St Mary's straight after college as I wanted to grow in all areas of church ministry, to allow time to explore where God is leading me. I will be involved with a range of different ministries including: Mums and Toddlers, Pathfinders, 7-up, X-Focus and Shift-Focus; as well as other weekly church events.

I am a keen dancer and have learnt a range of styles, from Ballroom and Latin to Scottish Highland dancing! I love music and can play the piano, guitar and the banjo!

If you do see me around, do come and say Hi, I would love to meet you and get to know you. I am very excited to see what these next few years have in store for me, especially through being on the staff.

Staffing and White Waltham (Will Stileman)

I hope, that as a number of things stop during the summer holidays, a good number of us have been able to get away and have some rest; and that we start the new academic year with our eyes fixed on Jesus, confident that he is able and willing to use us in his service.

Change is always a feature of life and this coming autumn is no different. In September there will be two new people joining the staff team and two existing staff members who are leaving it.

On 4th September, Anna Boorman begins work as a ministry trainee on our two year apprenticeship scheme. Anna has just finished an honours degree in Applied Theology at Moorlands College and is wanting to gain more church based experience.

As with other apprentices that have served at St Mary's, Anna will be involved in a range of ministries including our children's and youth work. Please do welcome her and invite her into your homes for meals.

On the same day, Rachel Meynell begins her role as minister i/c of women's ministry and pastoral care. This is a new post and please pray for Rachel as she takes on this new role in a new church family. Rachel, with her husband Mark and their children Josh (who is heading off to university this autumn) and Zanna (who is about to start in the sixth form at Monkton Combe Senior School near Bath), moved to Maidenhead from London last month. Rachel has previously been involved in the ministry of All Souls Langham Place where her husband has been on the staff team.

Rachel will have the best part of a month working alongside Sue Bauhahn, before Sue finishes her role as our pastoral co-ordinator at the end of September.

We are so grateful to God for Sue's faithful ministry over the last five years. So many of us at St Mary's have experienced first-hand Sue's wise concern and practical care. She has been a shining example of Christ-centred living and both she and Maurice will be hugely missed as they head for retirement in Folkestone later on this year. However, with two grandchildren born this year, I suspect they will find themselves gainfully occupied!

The other staff member who is ceasing work in September is Tim Morton. Tim informed me at the end of June that he has decided to stop being our Site Manager. Tim joined the staff team in September 2014 at a time when the management of the site was in a bit of a crisis. Over the last three years, Tim, ably supported by volunteers, has worked tremendously hard to get the management and maintenance of the site under control and all our premises are in a much better state than when he started. What is more Tim masterminded the practicalities of the move to Oldfield, setting up systems that have served us well over the last year. Like Sue, we should all be hugely grateful to God for Tim's contribution and please hold him and Alison and Rebekah in prayer as he seeks a new job. Tim's last day at work is 22 September.  As Tim leaves the role, interim measures will be put in place while the PCC decides how the site should be best managed long term.

White Waltham

Another development that happened over the summer which I need to mention is that the Church Commissioners Mission and Pastoral Committee, at its meeting on the 19 July, rejected the proposal put forward by the Diocese of Oxford for the United Benefice between us and White Waltham. This was a huge surprise and disappointment for all concerned and we are currently facing much uncertainty. Please pray in particular for David Andrew the current minister at White Waltham; and Dave Atallah, who joined us at St Mary's with a view to moving to White Waltham, when the United Benefice came into operation. Dave was appointed with our bishop's full knowledge and approval.

God is in sovereign control and I have no idea how things will pan out going forward. It is my hope and prayer that previous undertakings will be honoured and that Dave, Helen and the rest of the family will eventually still end up at White Waltham. I shall certainly be working to that end and I would value your prayers for wisdom as I consult with various diocesan authorities.

Whatever happens the Bible encourages us not to be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, to present our requests to God. And as we do that may the peace of God which transcends all understanding, guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. [Philippians 4:6-7].

On top of the changes I have mentioned above we also prepare, sometime in the autumn, to move back to the St Mary's site. So there is much going on; some of it encouraging, some of it discouraging. But whatever our circumstances, as a church or as individuals: "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and protector of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."[Hebrews 12:2-3]

Sam and Lucy Brewster plan to lead new Henley gospel work

I’d like to fill the church family in on some exciting future plans for me and Lucy, for which we would value your prayers and support. 

I arrived at St Mary’s as a curate in September 2013. The purpose of a curacy is to be trained in gospel ministry, and over the past 4 years, the training I have received here has been brilliant. I’m so grateful to God for bringing us here, and for the ways he has grown me as a minister, and us as a family. 

Since the purpose of a curacy is training, curacies are deliberately set at a limited time, with the goal that a curate should eventually leave to lead a ministry of his own. Through St Mary’s generous financial contribution, this has been a year longer than usual, 5 years in total. Those 5 years end in June 2018. Inevitably, we have been thinking through what we should do next. 

Over the past year or so, an exciting opportunity has begun to emerge to pioneer and lead a new congregation in Henley. Duncan Carter, the minister of Holy Trinity Henley, has been doing a faithful gospel work in Henley for a long time, but the work is small, and in recent years has struggled to connect with families in particular. The fact that we’ve had a 5 or 6 families travelling from the Henley area to us at St Mary’s has further highlighted the need to revitalise and establish the gospel witness in Henley, particularly among families. Recognising this need himself, Duncan has offered his full support and partnership. This partnership has opened a door for me and Lucy to pioneer and lead a new Anglican evangelical congregation in the heart of Henley, with a particular vision to reach the town and its many families with the gospel. 

Lucy and I both feel very excited by this opportunity! Being at the young family stage of life ourselves, we feel excited to be able to work for the Lord together in this particular harvest field, especially given the need that there is. Christian families may be willing to travel to church, but the many non-Christian families in Henley certainly are not. Equally, we both also feel very daunted! It feels like a big step into the unknown for us as a family to head towards a ministry and a job that does not yet exist!

Over the next 11 months, I will continue fully to engage with my various responsibilities at St Mary’s, which I love, and feel every bit as passionate about now as I ever have. At the same time, I will be working hard on all the planning and preparation that is required to launch a new church. Three initial needs are 

  • Partnership. It's wonderful to be able to partner with an existing ministry. We will need to work out what that will look like practically. 
  • People. We need to establish a core group of people who are excited about and willing to commit themselves to this new ministry.
  • Pennies. Financially, this new congregation will be independent from both St Mary's and from Holy Trinity. We therefore need to secure the funding required ourselves through fundraising. We think it would be wise to secure funding for three years and seek to become financially self-sustaining in that time. 

We would value your support and prayers hugely. If you would be interested in getting involved, or know others who might be, please get in touch! 

Having committed prayer-support is our most urgent need, and we will soon be sending out regular prayer updates. If you would like to receive these and pray for us, please