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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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.

Christmas Unwrapped (Celine Pham)

At this time of the year, children and adults are all preparing for Christmas by buying gifts and by eating their chocolate advent calendars each day. Some of the children apparently eat all of them at once!

With this in mind, it was such a good opportunity to have Christmas Unwrapped again this year at church.

For me, it was my first time helping for the three days with six sessions of two hours. More than 430 children from year 6 of the local primary schools came for this event with their staff.

The programme included quizzes, games, making and decorating mince pies, questions-answers and a Christmas rap all about the true meaning of Christmas.

As the church was specially decorated for this event, all of them had the opportunity to read directly from Matthew and Luke about Jesus' birth. For some of them it was their very first time of reading the Bible!

I really appreciated the freedom and the connections between our church with the schools around, to make it possible. Indeed, I am grateful that we were able to share the reality of Jesus coming to earth to save us, as a baby. Finally, I loved seeing how each day God provided a bunch of motivated volunteers from our church family to welcome with a smile and help the children with their mince pies.

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

  • How do we know what was given to Jesus?
  • Why is Christmas called Christmas?
  • What is a census?
  • How do we know the Bible is true?
  • Why was Jesus a boy and not a girl?
  • Why do we give and receive presents at Christmas?

Gingerbread 2018 - A story of icing sugar and saving faith (Karen Martin)

The annual gingerbread evening needs little introduction. But for the uninitiated, it involves nearly 130 ladies, 150 gingerbread houses (spares for breakages or uncontrollable subsidence), a lot of icing sugar and an increasingly professional standard of candied decoration.

This year we welcomed guests into the church for the first time. It is a really impressive venue with sixteen round marquee tables all precisely arranged with boards, bowls, icing, piping bags, sweets and the inimitable gingerbread house kit from Ikea. The ladies were greeted with a glass or two of mulled wine or elderberry punch and an impressive selection of canapes made by Debra Jonckers. As many had arrived directly from work, these savoury goodies were gratefully received by many of the visitors.

Much of the credit for the success of the evening must be given to Emma Furley. At one point, Rachel Meynell and I had to persuade her that it was perfectly okay not to have matching spoons! Clearly blessed with an eye for detail, it won't surprise you to learn that she and John had spent a whole evening measuring and pre-cutting the cellophane which was eventually used for wrapping the completed houses.

I haven't been at this event for some while and I was delighted to take part this year. Without exception, the ladies had a great time. The atmosphere was light and collaborative, with friends helping one another out, pointing out when roof sections had been mistaken for side walls, and encouraging each other that the front door being on the top floor of the house was very - well - grand designs!

As an enthusiastic cake baker and amateur decorator myself, I was slightly shocked at the interpretation of Emma's instruction to "make your icing like toothpaste". Most of the ladies there must have much runnier toothpaste than any I have ever bought! If you learn nothing else about gingerbread house making from 2018, learn this: the icing is cement, the foundation for a successful build. Think bath sealant and then you will have a consistency right for construction, think anything runnier and there will be gingerbread collapse.

It was during Mina's amazing rendition of Who Would Have Dreamed, a contemporary Christmas song written by Bob Kauflin and Jason Hansen that I could be found up to my elbows in royal icing, holding onto the roof and gable end of a seriously compromised structure. "How long do we need to hold it?" I was asked. "For at least the whole song," I whispered back.

And it was a song worth listening to. Accompanied by James Ainscough on the piano, Mina's voice filled the room with the promise of the birth of Jesus Christ, the promise that we are all saved by His grace.

The song over, I dared to leave the sliding house in the supportive hands of the owner and sit on the stairs for Emma's talk. The whole room was quiet and attentive. Some were popping the odd roof tile on and nibbling a mince pie whilst she spoke, but all were listening to her message. Emma explained the joys and frustrations of a family Christmas and the fun of preparation - making gingerbread houses and buying presents for those we love. The centre of her short talk was Jesus. The saviour born for us all, for all of life and eternity.

She explained that the wonder of this Christmas gift lasts beyond the January sales. She explained that this Christmas gift was a promise that would take us through good times and tough times. Being honest about personal struggle, Emma touched the hearts of many present, showing a real, living, dependable faith in the God who came to earth as a baby. The God who serves us and whom we try to serve.

Spontaneous applause followed her presentation and the hum of conversation was once again heard rising to the rafters. People spoke of smarties and dolly mixtures, they exclaimed over the ladies who had brought their own food colouring and icing bags and another table who had curlywurlys as roof supports. Yet another table confessed to bringing mini tubes of writing icing for precise decoration and another had matchmakers for log piles and Tudor gables. But they also spoke of their Christmas traditions, and, as invited by Emma, about what gives them joy at Christmas time.

It was a brilliant evening. I went home fitter, (lifting 120 chairs onto trolleys is no easy task), fatter (yes, I sampled some of the leftover decorations and may have brought home a broken house or two) and encouraged in my faith.

I'm pretty certain that Jesus was made known in Maidenhead through the careful resurrection of many a gingerbread structure on 10th December.

Many thanks to Emma, Rachel, Mina, James and Debra, as well as the small army of volunteers who served, wiped, encouraged, mixed, rebuilt, washed up, wrapped and swept the evening to its conclusion.

Please pray for all who attended this year: that they may come to know and be dependent upon the saving grace of our saviour, Jesus Christ.

Junior Youth Weekend Away (Zach Penman)

Being a youth member only a year ago means that as a ministry trainee this year I get to do lots of the activities I enjoyed as a young person, but this time actually being in a leadership role!

Our annual Junior Youth Weekend Away happened a few weeks back where, with the maximum number of youth members we could fit (31), we travelled in convoy to the Tom Roberts Adventure Centre (TRAC) in Newent, Gloucestershire. From the point of arrival to the very last moment fun was had by all (Especially me!).

With 10 leaders from both X Focus (of a Friday evening) and Pathfinders (from all services), it was a time to unite as adults who work especially with these youth members to celebrate the joy of God's word. We also had Andy, our visiting speaker, who taught through the book of James, and with it several challenging topics which we dwelled together on in the newly built lecture theatre at the site. More of that later.

I think the most important part of the time away was the teaching, but some Junior Youth may say it was the delicious food made for us throughout the weekend, and some may say the best bit was all the games. The TRAC centre truly has it all! Go kart tracks, zip lines and even a rowing pond! To my joy the pond was closed, so I didn't get the opportunity to embarrass myself.

We played "Catch the leader" in total darkness with only a few glow sticks to light the way, and we enjoyed newly made friendships and older ones too whilst toasting marshmallows at the campfire.

James is really quite an amazing book! And working through it was a real joy, and I think the members saw great truths in it. The session which I thought was most challenging was from James 3 and on taming the tongue (the session came with many tongue-rolling youth members!). How astonishing is the idea that we can fill our time using our tongues for great things like encouraging other Christians in God's amazing word rather than using it for ungodly chatter or gossip? We got to the idea of prioritising your tongue! Make it too busy with praising God so sinful words and acts can't be done by it, or at least reduced.

  • Praise God we all came home safely!
  • Praise God his word was read and explained in a way that engaged all 31 members and the leaders
  • Praise him who came to Earth and did no godless chatter or gossip; let him be an example to us
  • Thank God for practicalities sorted: food, travel, games and fun
  • Thank God for the energy both leaders and members had
  • Pray for these fun and life changing holiday weekends to continue with Christ at the heart of it all!

Lunchtime Carols (Richard Crane)

Our first carol service of the season took place on Tuesday 11th December, with sandwiches and mince pies served to a good crowd of local workers and church family. The mayor joined us as we sang, heartily accompanied by the new organ, and Will spoke helpfully from 1 Timothy.

The next carol services are on Sunday 16th and Sunday 23rd at 7pm, so do plan to come along and invite your friends! Further information about dates and times of Christmas services can be found here. All are welcome. And if you or your neighbours work locally, why not think about joining us occasionally for our regular Tuesday lunches, which restart on 15th January?

iServe Africa (Sam Allberry)

At the beginning of November I had the privilege of visiting Nairobi to speak at a pastors' conference being run by our mission partner Harrison Mungai, whose ministry we have been supporting at St Mary's for a few years now. Harrison has been leading a ministry called iServe Africa, which trains people in local church ministry across Kenya.

One of the new initiatives for iServe is the new Institute for the Gospel and Emerging Issues on Africa, known as Injili Africa, and the conference I was speaking at - on the gospel and sexuality - was the Institute's inaugural event. They hope in future conferences to address issues such as corruption and tribalism.

While in Nairobi I had the opportunity of visiting iServe Africa's new building, which St Mary's has helped to fund. The first two floors of the building are now complete (they hope to add another two floors at a future date) and house offices, dormitories for male and female ministry apprentices, and space for conferences. The money given by St Mary's paid for the retaining wall (very important as the building is at the foot of a steep hillside), tiling and painting for the building. The land to the side of the building is also being well used, with crops planted to earn the ministry a little more revenue.

I was also able to visit Gracepoint Church in the Kikuyu suburb of Nairobi, which Harrison planted a year or so ago. The church is already a little too big for its building so Harrison is considering what the next steps might be for it.

It is exciting to see how the Lord is using Harrison and the team at iServe. Do continue to pray that these new facilities would enable the ministry to expand, and for many more to be trained up and deployed in gospel ministry across Kenya and the wider region. It is a remarkable ministry and we are very privileged as a church to be able to support it.

For more information do visit their website.

Christians in Sport Quiz Night (Chris Hutton)

Sue Barker or Virginia Wade... the difference between winning or losing!

On Friday 23rd November, just over 100 people representing all sorts of sporting interests in the local area competed to win the annual Maidenhead Sports Quiz run by Christians in Sport.

14 teams entered and the top five teams were only separated by two points. Which is, as I learnt at my cost, why convincing your team mates to choose one female tennis player over the other and then getting it wrong really matters... doh!

The Christians in Sport team, led by Ian Lancaster, put on a professional show and hosted the evening very well. There was good range of questions testing all sporting areas. The 'youth team' did well, proving many years of watching/playing sport doesn't always give you the advantage.

At half time, just before we tucked into a curry, Ian took 10 minutes to share the gospel to the crowd. He talked through Luke 2 and the Good News of the birth of Jesus. Asking what Christmas really means to each of us and explaining how Jesus, our saviour, is central to this celebration.

It was a great evening, spending time with friends, and hearing the gospel shared. At the end of the night, a particular highlight was seeing '2 ways to live' being written up on a scrap piece of paper and explained to a non-Christian guest.

For those interested, the question was who was the last British female tennis player to win a Grand Slam?

Giving to St Mary's (The Finance Committee)

The Giving-Receiving Balance with our church family

At this time of year, as we reflect on the birth of Jesus, God's ultimate gift to mankind, we are traditionally encouraged to celebrate by offering gifts to our family and friends and to receive gifts in return.

As we think through and balance our family Christmas giving, it's also an opportunity to think and pray through the balance of our giving and receiving with our Christian family, namely our fellow worshippers, ministers, operational staff and a small army of volunteers, that together form St Mary's.

So, what 'gifts' do we receive from St Mary's? No less than five services packed with Christ-centred teaching and associated children's activities each Sunday, a whole raft of mid-week outreach and pastoral events including those for babies, toddlers, children, teens, town-centre workers and seniors. All this delivered in accessible facilities in the heart of our town.

All this needs to be funded. St Mary's PCC has been planning its 2019 spending over the last few weeks and months. Each year, priorities are set and compromises made as St Mary's strives to deliver its God-given mission. There is always more St Mary's could do and it is sometimes funding that stops us doing it.

How is St Mary's Funded?

The Lord provides the finances for St Mary's mainly through the generous giving of our congregations. The Finance Committee on behalf of the PCC plans spending carefully in order to make the best use of the resources God gives us. In order to do this, it's a great help to know how much income to expect from those who call St Mary's their church family and belong to our congregations, so we can budget more accurately.

How can I give to St Mary's?

Here's a brief summary of the ways we are able to contribute to the work and witness of St Mary's Maidenhead.

Regular Giving Scheme

Best for members of our congregations with a regular income

The Regular Giving Scheme (RGS) is the name given to the St Mary's offering scheme and forms the foundation for the church's income. You tell us how much you plan to give on a regular basis (you choose how often), which in turn, helps us plan.

The RGS also makes it simple for St Mary's to reclaim Gift Aid from HM Revenue and Customs. Gift Aid will be explained in more detail in the February 2019 edition of Touchline.

The RGS will be covered in more detail in next month's Touchline, meanwhile, you can learn about and join the RGS at: www.stmarysmaidenhead.org/rgs.

One-off (or occasional) Gifts

Best for visitors, friends, relatives, colleagues or congregational members not on a regular income

Regular giving is not possible for everyone. Visitors, friends, relatives, colleagues or indeed congregational members not on a regular income may wish to give occasionally, ad hoc or just the once.

The various ways you can make one-off or occasional donations will be covered in the March 2019 edition of Touchline.

Amazon Smile

Best for anyone with an Amazon account who wishes to supplement their main giving

AmazonSmile is a website operated by Amazon with the same products, prices and shopping features as Amazon.co.uk. The difference is that when you shop on AmazonSmile, the AmazonSmile Foundation donates 0.5% of the purchase price of eligible products to the charitable organisation of your choice, at no cost to you.

St Mary's is a registered charity on AmazonSmile and you can find out how to link your existing Amazon account to AmazonSmile in the Giving to St Mary's/AmazonSmile section of the St Mary's website.

Legacies

For those who wish to leave a gift in their will to St Mary's

St Mary's welcomes all gifts in wills, however large or small, and we commit to use your gift in accordance with your wishes.

Legacies will be explored in more detail in the April 2019 edition of Touchline.

St Mary's Finance Committee

Women's Breakfast (Rae Binning)

The recent women's breakfast was well attended with a large number of women from across the congregations gathering in the church. Delicious food (bacon butties, pastries, yoghurt, fruit...) was served which more than compensated for the early start.

Rachel Meynell challenged us to think clearly about our identity. Through our lives as women we often change where we base our identity - we are daughters, sisters, wives, mothers, workers, divorcees, planners, carers, etc etc. Yet there is danger in basing our identity, our sense of self worth and value on these roles. Feelings of pride or inadequacy can often result depending on how well or badly we think we are living out those roles.

We were encouraged to see where our true identity lies, to look at who we are in Jesus - beloved children of God, sisters with Christ, heirs in the kingdom. Nothing and no one is strong enough to bear the weight of our identity except God. There was plenty of time for us to discuss these issues around our tables:

  • Where do we look for confidence and approval?
  • If we put Jesus at the root of our identity how does that affect the way we respond to people and circumstances?

If you missed this breakfast and think it could have been helpful, don't worry, there will be a sequel in the new year on working out our identity in the every day.

Great News (Will Stileman)

"Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you: he is Christ the Lord." (Luke 2:10-11)

With all the busyness and familiarity that surrounds Christmas it is hard to be filled with wonder over all that the birth of the Lord Jesus signifies, and to truly celebrate it. So let us ponder again what the angels said to the shepherds.

First, it is good news of great joy. For those of us who have been believers for a while, this is not new news as it was for those shepherds; nevertheless, it remains good news of great joy. It is not something to simply acknowledge and not get too excited about. There we were, ignorant of God and lost in our sin. Without Christ we are alienated from God and objects of his righteous anger. But because God sent his eternal Son to be our Saviour, we can become God's child rather than remaining his enemy. We can face the prospect of life with him in the new creation instead of eternal separation from him in hell. As Jesus once said: it is those who have been forgiven much who love much. It is when we appreciate how pitiful and hopeless our natural state before God, that we can truly appreciate the good news of great joy that is Jesus.

But not only is it good news of great joy it is for all the people. It is for everyone. It is for members of our family. It is for those who live in our street. It is for all our colleagues at work. It is for all our old school friends and team mates. It is for everybody in Maidenhead whatever their background and worldview. Whether people recognise it or not, this good news of great joy concerning Jesus is for them.

So our great prayer this Christmas is that none of us take the great miracle of Jesus' birth for granted; and that there will be many who join us at St Mary's over Christmas who recognise for the first time their need of a Saviour and understand that Jesus is exactly the Saviour that they need.

Three hours a month (Viv Lee)

I've finally got around to reading the letter to the churches from the GAFCOM Assembly, 2018, in an abridged form, which quite excited me. The letter states that "faithful proclamation of this Gospel is under attack from within and without, as it has been since Apostolic times. External attacks often deny the suffering of Christ's sacrifice. Secularism seeks to exclude God from all public discourse and to dismantle the Christian heritage of society. Tragically there has been a failure of leadership in our churches to address these threats to the Gospel of God."

The GAFCON conference theme was 'Proclaiming Christ faithfully to the Nations', we have received the gospel, this is the faithful witness of previous generations, yet there are still billions who are without Christ and without hope. 'We repent for the times and seasons when we have only preached to ourselves and not embraced the difficult task of reaching beyond our own cultural group in obedience to God's call to be a light to the nations (Acts 13.47)', ending with, 'we invite all faithful Anglicans to join us in this great enterprise of proclaiming Christ to the Nations.'

As a result of the GAFCON Assembly, where Will Stileman was present, you have to ask yourself, what type of cross-cultural mission do YOU have in mind? Do you fancy learning a new language and leaving your extended family for years at a time to go Asia or Africa, for example?

Or do you want to do it right here, in Maidenhead, on our streets once a month as a Street Angel?

I praise God that we have a faithful leader in Will who encourages us to 'get stuck in', to live the Gospel and share it with others; giving us the opportunities to invite 'seekers' to events and courses as well as the Bible knowledge to be confident in doing this. But first we have to know people to invite.

The news is full of disasters, poverty and refugees, so have you noticed that it can seem that our compassion has reached its limit. There is so much hurt around, so much need in our world, that we can begin to dissociate ourselves from it. But our calling is to remain open to God's word and all God's people, even those who don't know him yet, and to be tender and compassionate!

In our attempts to participate in gospel mission we cannot do everything. But we can do something! And perhaps that begins with a commitment not to look away.

Street Angels talk to everyone, the drunk, the homeless, the doormen, the taxi drivers and the vulnerable. We are THERE! We listen to sad life stories, we make the homeless feel human by talking to them as equals. We hear sad stories of lives wasted, lost and hurting and we celebrate with the hen dos and birthday parties. We pray for people on the streets and also when we get home.

After seven years on the streets of Maidenhead we are well known, we never have to appeal for money as there are grants we can apply for because we make a difference bringing the peace of God to a hurting world. (We were asked to start by the christian Chief Constable because of evidence from other town centres of the dramatic fall in recorded crime on the nights Angels are out.)

We follow in great footsteps as Jesus-enthusiastic amateurs. None of the early Christians had any formal training, just fellowship and listening to Jesus: we can all do this because of our christian fellowship and gospel teaching. We just have to have the conviction of the Spirit that we will be given the words to speak when needed. 'Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks the reason for the hope that you have.'

Come and join our inter-Church group, which is so encouraging. Learn, as one of a team, how to talk naturally of Jesus and your faith, how to counter the challenging conversations in a team of both young and mature Christians. To be salt and light in our town, bringing people in to be discipled by the properly trained to pass on this wonderful message and heritage to the next generation. We have lost five Angels this term through illness, work pressure or moving and without more volunteers we will not be the reliable presence that people look for on their evenings out.

'It is better to suffer for doing good than for doing evil' and losing three hours sleep for Jesus once a month isn't really suffering is it?

For more information about Street Angels, contact the Church Office.

Inaugural Organ Recital (Matthew O'Donovan)

On 27th October we were delighted to welcome just short of 200 people into the refurbished church, of whom perhaps as many as a quarter were not regular members of the St Mary's congregation, for the opening recital on the new organ. It was wonderful that David Goode was able to give the concert. He is a member of St Mary's, and - when not busy as college organist and a house master at Eton - is an internationally acclaimed recitalist. David has previously been organist at First Congregational Church LA (home to the world's largest church organ) and, before that, at Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford, and King's Cambridge (search for 'Carols from King's 1992' on YouTube and you'll catch a few glimpses of him on the organ there).

David certainly put the instrument through its paces with a varied and entertaining programme which displayed the organ's wide range of tone colours to vivid effect, in spite of the somewhat acoustically deadening effect of a fairly full house. After William Walton's Orb and Sceptre - a march written for the coronation of Elizabeth II in 1953 - we heard three Chorale Preludes by Bach. These were pieces nominally written to be played as a kind of 'playover' for the hymn - but in some cases they are rather elaborate pieces in their own right, and one of them was - appropriately enough - written in order to show off a new organ. Nonetheless, Bach was always very responsive to the theological content of the hymn, and David introduced these themes to us as he spoke about the pieces. The epic and unabashedly 'gothic' Introduction, Passacaglia and Fugue by the English-Canadian organist Healy Willan finished the first half.

The second half of the programme began in light-hearted style with a concert medley of Gershwin themes, before we turned our ears to the sounds of Paris with the virtuosic Scherzo by Maurice Duruflé and the last two movements of Charles-Marie Widor's Fifth Symphony - an expressive Adagio and the famous Toccata. The organ sounded excellent - notwithstanding one pipe slipping rather out of tune in the heat of a packed church, and we had many very complementary comments from visitors. It was particularly pleasing to hear that the organ - which sounds rather loud in an empty building but conversely felt somewhat lacklustre at the opening event in June when we had several hundred people on their feet crammed into the building - seemed just right with that size of gathering in the room. It is my hope that, as we anticipate filling the church several times over for carol services in the coming weeks, it will greatly encourage us in our praise of our Lord and Saviour.

I would like to extend my particular thanks to David for his generosity of time and talents in giving the concert, but also to Jonathan Wallace and his colleagues from Henry Groves & Son, and our consultant Paul Hale, who have built us a fine instrument indeed, and whose considerable flexibility in accommodating the vagaries of the completion schedule for the building works was much appreciated. I'm also grateful to a number of members of the St Mary's music team who generously gave of their time to enable things to run smoothly on the night. If anyone was unable to attend the concert but would like a copy of the programme, I have a couple of dozen spares and am more than willing to distribute them to any who are interested, on a first come, first served basis.

Should we seek to be effective? (Jon Harris)

Is it a priority for God that we, as a St Mary's family, are effective?

'Effective' may convey an air of efficiency, of obligation sufficiently met, or in some circumstances may indicate a measure of success. This sounds positive but we need to strike a note of caution: people don't talk about 'effective' families, they talk about loving or healthy families. Is effective a commercial accolade that a church family should resist seeking after? The answer is no and yes.

The purpose of each of us is to bring glory to God (Isaiah 43:6-7) and the way to do this is to follow his commands (John 14:23). This is not, however (as the tone of that sentence might be construed), something that is formulaic, jingoistic or bombastic. Quite the contrary, as we see in a snapshot from Paul's life in 1 Corinthians 16:6-9. A Godly effectiveness demands we live with uncertainty, that we submit to God's unrevealed plans and that we deal with opposition.

"Perhaps I will stay with you for a while, or even spend the winter, so that you can help me on my journey, wherever I go. For I do not want to see you now and make only a passing visit; I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits. But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me."

  • Uncertainty: Paul, the 'super apostle', couches his plans in very uncertain terms, "Perhaps ...even ... wherever I go ... I hope." Paul has no fixed plan that he is resolute on pushing through. Nor must we.
  • God's plans: Paul, expert in the law and diligent student of Jesus teachings, still submits his plans and desires to The Lord's blessing, or overruling, with his words, "if the Lord permits". Paul is humble and wise in 'pushing doors' to see which ones God will open.
  • Opposition: Paul, God's chosen means of taking Jesus to the gentile world, did not fear 'getting bogged down' by opposition and did not plot a careful path around it. Neither must we.

Paul might easily have founded his outlook on the wisdom his forefathers passed on from God to us in Proverbs 21: 29-31:

"The wicked put up a bold front, but the upright give thought to their ways.
There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the Lord.
The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the Lord."

'Effective' would be a good compliment to give a church family that follows God's commands and works to bring him glory. But such a church family will have created for itself the goal of following God's commands and bringing him glory - not have built itself the goal of striving to be 'effective'.

The Charles Davis Trust Service (Jenny Taylor)

Charitable grants, which have been given out each year for more than two centuries, benefit senior citizens in the Old Borough of Maidenhead each November. Historically, each year approximately 150-200 pensioners of 70 years of age and above have received a bag of coal to help them keep warm throughout the winter. They now receive food vouchers from a local supermarket! This is all due to a very generous merchant called Charles Davis who owned properties in Maidenhead High Street 300 years ago.

When Mr Davis, of St James, Westminster, made his will, he stipulated that after his death the rents of the two buildings at 79 and 81 High Street - close to the entrance of today's Nicholson's Centre - should be used to provide poor people in the town with coal and firewood. The Charles Davis Trust was founded and Mr Davis' wish is still respected each year. Mr Davis also asked that recipients of the money should attend a service at St Mary's Church on the anniversary of his death, which was 11 November 1716. This has been held each year ever since.

This year the annual Charles Davis Service was held on Thursday 8 November in St Mary's when we welcomed 71 people who had applied to receive a Sainsbury's voucher - this year amounting to £35. There were 154 applicants and vouchers have been sent out to all those who, for different reasons, were unable to attend the service. It was great to be able to hold it in the newly refurbished church and for everyone to be seated around tables, café style. Refreshments were served after the service as vouchers were distributed.

Thanks are due to the willing team of volunteers who assisted the Trustees on this occasion to ensure that everyone was made welcome. This was made so much easier this year due to the improved access into the church building.

Fire Evacuation Procedure (Dick West)

We hope we will never have to evacuate the church due to a fire, but we should be prepared just in case. This is a basic guide on what to do.

What should I do if I hear the fire alarm?

Walk to the nearest Fire Exit which will normally be the way you came in to the building. Proceed to the Assembly Point at the driveway entrance and wait there for instructions.

Do not stop to collect personal belongings. Do not collect your children from Sunday school classes - they will be brought to the assembly point by their leaders and a register will be taken.

In the event of a fire the driveway will become a pedestrian area, except for emergency vehicles. Don't attempt to leave in your car until given the all clear. Do not attempt to re-enter the building. Do not assume it's a false alarm. Next time you are at the church please make a mental note of where the Fire Exits are located and the Assembly Point sign. At each service and church event there will be fire wardens on duty and staff trained in how to use fire extinguishers to ensure we can safely evacuate everyone.

What should I do if I discover a fire?

Raise the alarm by breaking the glass in one of the Fire Alarm Call Points, located by the Fire Exits. Evacuate via the nearest Fire Exit. Without putting yourself at risk, assist anyone who may need help to leave the building, i.e. the elderly or the young. Go to the Assembly Point at the driveway entrance. Wait there for instructions from a fire warden.

Fire extinguishers

You are not expected to fight a fire. Fire extinguishers are located around the site and the purpose of these is to assist with the means of escape.

All Age Family Holy Communion (Will Stileman)

Holy Communion (also known as the Lord's Supper and Eucharist), along with Baptism, is a rite that was established by Jesus to ensure that his disciples never forget their continuing dependence on his atoning death, until he returns to earth on the Day of Judgement.  How often Christian believers should celebrate Holy Communion and at what age children should be allowed to participate in it are matters of debate in which, like Baptism, we want to allow Christians to exercise freedom.

When the Lord Jesus instituted Holy Communion, he effectively hijacked the Jewish Passover which commemorated God's salvation from slavery through the Exodus from Egypt. Jewish children brought up under the old covenant were expected to participate in the Passover celebrations, and parents were expected to explain the reasons for the various decrees and rites to their children.

I can see no theological reason why children being brought up by believing parents to trust in Jesus should not be allowed to participate in Holy Communion, especially if they have been baptised. I would suggest that Paul's warnings against participating in Holy Communion in an unworthy manner in 1 Corinthians 11 do not prohibit children from participating in the rite, but some would disagree.

Our next All Age Communion Service is on Sunday 11th November at 9:15am and 4pm. The meaning of communion will be explained and the bread and the wine will be brought to the congregation as they remain seated in the pews so that parents can serve their children, if appropriate. We are giving advanced warning of this so that parents have the time to decide amongst themselves whether or not to allow their children to take communion and to prepare their children in advance for what is going to happen.

Whether we think children should be allowed to eat the bread and drink the (non-alcoholic) wine or not, it is good for all of us, whatever our age, to meet together under God's word and be reminded about and express our utter dependence on Jesus' death.

Follow up to A Problem that Will Never Go Away (Will Stileman)

In the last edition of Touchline I reported and commented on the disturbing Pride Celebration service that took place at Reading Minster on 30th August (the article can be found on this blog entitled: "A problem that will never go away"). At its last meeting on 9th October, the St Mary's Church Council (PCC) instructed me to send the following letter to Steven Croft, the Diocesan Bishop of Oxford.

Dear Bishop Steven,

You are already aware of my deep concern and unhappiness over the Eucharist Celebration at Reading Minster on Thursday 30th August to celebrate Reading Pride. When I rang Stephen Pullin, the Assistant Archdeacon, who organised the event, he informed me that he had run the event with the full knowledge and support of both Bishop Andrew and the Archdeacon. When I informed our PCC about this they were deeply grieved. We have members of St Mary's who are same-sex attracted and / or identify as gay. We also have those who are confused about their gender. We love them, accept them and encourage them to trust Christ and walk in faithfulness before him. But LGBT+ Pride Celebrations do not promote a God honouring understanding of gender and sexual fidelity but a godless, secular one. They advocate the acceptance of lifestyles that are contrary to the teaching of Scripture which should not appear to be affirmed. We believe for our bishop to give his backing to a service of Holy Communion to Celebrate Reading Pride is a betrayal of his responsibility to Jesus Christ and to us.

I have since met personally with Bishop Andrew on September 27th. It was a very painful meeting in which Bishop Andrew confirmed that the event had his support, that he hadn’t been naïve and that the service was an appropriate missional and pastoral event reaching out to the LGBT+ community.

As a consequence of this I, and the PCC feel we are no longer able to receive the spiritual oversight of Bishop Andrew, Olivia Graham and Stephen Pullin. The PCC at its meeting yesterday passed a motion unanimously to that effect. I was also instructed by the PCC to write to you as our diocesan bishop with the request that alternative arrangements are made for our episcopal care.
Please be assured that this request doesn't change our desire to be fully involved in the life of this diocese as we seek to proclaim Christ and make faithful disciples.

I look forward to our meeting at Church House on 16th October.

Yours sincerely,

Will Stileman

I have since met with Bishop Steven, along with three other clergymen in this diocese whose PCCs have similar concerns. The meeting with Bishop Steven was warm and courteous. He listened to us and understands our concerns and he will be writing to our PCC with his response in due course.

I will keep you informed of any developments but please do continue to pray for the PCC that we might be filled with godly wisdom and courage.

Human Trafficking (Eleanor Kershaw)

The slave trade was abolished more than 200 years ago (The Slave Trade Act 1807), yet there are still an estimated 40.3 million victims of modern slavery; 15,000 of which are in the UK, hidden in our communities. 

Miriam was 'rescued' from an abusive relationship, had no income and was homeless. How could she refuse the promise of a better life, as the Nannie of a church-going family... Each Sunday she sat silently next to her 'keepers' in church. Others around her viewed her as a shy girl, not realising what suffering she would be facing that coming week, and again week after week. She was 'seen' in church yet wasn't 'seen' at all. Miriam was sold on to a further three other families before being truly rescued when the Home Office raided the home, after concerns were finally raised. Thankfully now her healing journey has begun.

'The Clewer Initiative', a three year project, has been established by the Church of England as a response to this terrible trade. It is through this project that churches are being equipped and mobilised into action to help end slavery, particularly in the UK. The project provides resources for churches and the wider communities to detect modern day slavery and helps educate people on how to safely raise concerns.

On Saturday 20th October, 'The Clewer Initiative' came to Maidenhead! We welcomed representatives of 19 different churches and organisations in Maidenhead, congregating at All Saints Church. The speaker, Suzette Jones, shared her expertise and knowledge, training us in what the issues are in our communities and how to recognise the signs. It was really exciting to see over 100 people united as God's people, praying together about these issues, and making a stand to say "We see you" - the victims of modern slavery. We welcomed people from other faith groups, and it was wonderful to utilise this opportunity for outreach; witnessing to them in our worship together.

  • Please pray: We ask God to help us be a part of love's movement, to work for a world where human beings are valued, where no one is enslaved, no one used against their will for another's pleasure, need, or financial advantages
  • Find out more: The Clewer Initiative website
  • Report a concern: Modern Slavery Helpline 0800 0121 700

11am Men's Weekend Away (Jamie Henshall)

I was fortunate enough to join a band of 12 men from the 11am congregation in escaping to the countryside of the South Downs for a men's weekend at The Pines, and I'm so glad I did.

Roger Hines was my chauffeur for the trip and after a swift journey filled with entertaining conversation, we arrived on Thursday evening to be greeted by huge portions of lasagne and garlic bread, prepared by our fabulous chef John Hollidge. It wasn't long before we gathered together to open our Bibles at Romans 8, which would be our study material over the next 36 hours.

It is a famous chapter (often known as the 'great 8') and from the opening line we were all hooked... "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1). An amazing thought which we would go on to understand in the context of the Christian battles with sin in the present, and the future glory which awaits.

After a good night's sleep in the cosy accommodation, followed by a breakfast of the highest standard, we got stuck into the Bible again. Richard Crane led us as we discovered the wonderful truth that as Christians we are filled with God's life-giving spirit, "But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness." (Romans 8:10).

More studies followed, as well as a bonus session where we read a chapter of a book on holiness provided by John Driscoll and discussed how as Christian men we could live holier, distinct lives. We spent time sharing our personal challenges, and praying for and encouraging one another in love. We even managed to squeeze in a fabulous walk on the South Downs and a late-night game of Bean-farming so boredom was never a danger!

I have returned encouraged to live out my salvation by being an ever-holier man of God: 'Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation - but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it' (Romans 8:12). I don't always manage it but I'm encouraged that if I'm in Christ, I'm not condemned, and that no matter what life brings he will bring me home: 'in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us' (Romans 8:37). I've been reminded again of the goodness of God, I've got to know a group of guys really well, and I've had a lot of fun.

Sign me up for next year!

The Crown That Lasts (Will Stileman)

Every Saturday in November England are playing an international rugby match at Twickenham. Now as an ardent England rugby supporter I will be unashamedly rooting for the national team and if they do win (I am not currently hopeful) I will bask for a few moments in their reflected glory. However, very quickly any elation will evaporate and by December I will have forgotten all about it and moved onto the next thing.

In fact even for those athletes who have the thrill of playing in those matches the excitement won't last. It never does. Boris Becker at the height of his achievements once said "Where do you go when you are best in the world? What is next?"

He had achieved what he had striven for but it didn't satisfy and the success didn't last. None of the rugby players who are playing at Twickenham this month will be playing in 20 years' time. That is the trouble with the things of this life: they never last.

Now the Bible often uses sports imagery to describe the Christian life and in one passage the apostle Paul writes these words: "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever." (1 Corinthians 9:24-25)

Whoever wins this month will eventually lose their dominance and be forgotten. And what is true of rugby and sport is true of our own lives. Our own successes in commerce, in relationships, in education, in DIY will not last - eventually economic recession, or ill health or death will get the better of us.

But there is a race in which all who compete, and last the course, get the winner's gold medal. They get a crown which lasts for ever and which gives lasting satisfaction. The prize or crown that Paul is speaking of is the joy of living in the physical presence of God, and enjoying a relationship of intimacy and love with the God who made us and all that is good.

And it is only through Jesus Christ that we can have that relationship, and win that prize. As Jesus himself once said "I am the way, the truth and the life, no-one comes to the Father except through me."

So here is the great tragedy. Many throughout the world are striving after success and meaning in their lives, but they are ignoring the one person who can give it to them.

That is why our Mission Statement at St Mary's is: To know Jesus and make Jesus known; and our first priority is to engage Maidenhead with the gospel of Jesus.

If you like rugby I hope that, like me, you will enjoy the November matches, but I hope even more that you will take the time to learn from Jesus Christ how you can win the prize that lasts for ever and brings eternal satisfaction.

Loving One Another by Praying for One Another (Rachel Meynell)

Why do we find it so hard to pray for one another? I'm not talking about assuring someone that you will be praying for them (which, by the way we should make sure we actually do if we say we will), but I am talking about impromptu praying while chatting with someone who shares something that is hard or something good that they are rejoicing over.

The first of our essentials as a church is that of dependant prayer. We believe that God is all powerful, that he answers prayer, and that he loves it when his children turn to him in praise, or for help. In Colossians 4:2, Paul says 'Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful'. We are commanded to do it and we need to do it because we live in a hostile world. So why don't we? It is almost as if we think God has His hands tied, doesn't care, or is too busy to listen. Or maybe it is because we are too busy or we don't care. 

We have various opportunities to pray together corporately - the St Mary's evening, Growth Groups and the Friday morning prayer meeting in the chapel - regular times when we show our dependence on God by coming before him with others. How amazing it would be, though, if we were also learning instinctively to pray with one another whenever we have the opportunity or see a need. 

So, with our neighbour after the service, talking about what has spoken particularly to each of you and praying together for it to impact your hearts. Or at coffee time, when someone has shared something, just bringing them before God right there and then. Or meeting a friend for coffee or a meal, and praying for one another before you go your separate ways. When we lived in Uganda, local Christians who came to our house always wanted to pray with us before they left - they would have thought it odd if we didn’t talk to our Heavenly Father together. It was completely normal behaviour for them.

How many opportunities we miss to bring one another before the King of the universe, who made us and loves to answer His children's prayers. Let's be part of changing the culture and be bold in loving one another by praying for one another wherever and whenever we have opportunity.

The Kitchen Table Project (Penny McCrabbe)

The Kitchen Table Project is all about parents sharing ideas, supporting, and encouraging each other as they bring up their children. The project looks at producing resources and ideas to help parents on this journey.

There is a Facebook page one can link up to: www.facebook.com/ktpcampaign

The reader will then receive little ideas to inspire them. Examples of these in recent weeks:

  • Using Lego or toys to help illustrate story time
  • Recommendations of helpful books
  • Ideas for music resources
  • Quotes, e.g. 'One of the best things you can do for your children is invest in your couple time'

A review of the Facebook page said, 'It is so helpful to have regular and gentle prompts and ideas about how to introduce Jesus to our children in a real and relevant way.'

The Kitchen Table Project also organise events to help inspire parents. There are a series of events called 'Raising Faith' in cities across the UK. Their goal is to inspire parents with simple ideas to help encourage their children in the faith.

There is also the option to receive an email once a month for those who want ideas, resources, and encouragement to inspire one into the journey.

In addition to all the above, parents are able to partake in an 'Inspire session'. This is an opportunity to meet with other parents to chat about children and faith, and to figure out together where in the world to start. The Project provides everything needed to make it easy to run, fun, and interactive.

One idea I have for us a church family is to share our resources. Several of us buy books, DVDs, CDs, and games but often only use them once or twice. I think it would be great if we could pass these onto others so we can share them and encourage each other. However, I am not sure exactly the best way to go about doing this in a formal way so if anyone has any ideas, please do come and talk to me!

Update from Henley (Sam Brewster)

Thank you for your prayers for us in Henley. For those who don't know us, I was a curate at St Mary's until the end of June 2018. We've since moved to Henley to pioneer a new congregation, Trinity at Four. We meet at one of the Anglican churches, Holy Trinity, and we've now had six Sunday services. So far, we've mostly loved the whole experience. There have been some real encouragements: new people coming along to most of our services, three new families who look like they're going to become committed members, the core team enjoying themselves and serving away. It's also been challenging! It's hard work running the activities of a church with a small group (we're about 30-40 adults and 30-40 kids on a Sunday), and compared to St Mary's it all feels quite small and fragile. But we are looking to God to provide some growth as we seek to preach the gospel Sunday by Sunday, and make as many connections as we can in the local community. Lucy and I are doing well and really enjoying working together. Lucy is doing a brilliant job coordinating all the children's work, on top of the demands of looking after our girls full time. Amelie is at pre-school, and making friends. Joanna is toddling around and becoming more vocal by the day.

We always welcome visitors, so if you'd like to come along to a service, we meet every Sunday at 4pm! More info on our website: www.trinityatfour.org.uk

For those who pray, thank you! We need your prayers! Here are a few specific things:

  • Pray as we settle into the regular rhythms of church life after the excitement of starting; for strong relationships to form
  • Pray God would bring new people along, and we'd see non-believers coming to faith
  • Pray for our family that we would seek to be faithful to Jesus, and to persevere in the ministry here, even when it feels challenging

Lots of love from us all!
Sam, Lucy, Amelie, and Joanna.