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 the archive pages, which are available when logged in. Views expressed here are those held by the individuals posting, and not necessarily representative of St Mary's Church.
Please log in to display a button below to enable notifications when a new blog entry is published.
Mission Partner Update: SAT-7
At the St Mary’s Evening on Thursday 11th February UK Trustee Mark Haines updated us on the work of our mission partner SAT-7.
SAT-7 is a Christian satellite television network broadcasting in Arabic, Persian, Kabyle and Turkish across the Middle East and North Africa. Their mission is to make God’s love visible across the region through inspirational, informative and educational multidenominational Christian television. They currently have around 25 million viewers across 4 channels.
This year they celebrate 25 years since their first broadcast. Satellite TV is the primary source of information for most in the region but increasingly, especially among the younger demographic, many are also watching online via computers, tablets and mobiles. To embrace this change, on Monday 22nd February, SAT-7 PLUS is being launched. This will be the Middle East’s first on-demand Christian video streaming service (similar to BBC iPlayer). This will allow worldwide access to programmes and an easy means of sharing content with friends.
Mark spoke of the SAT-7 ARABIC launch of the first programmes made in Tunisia by a team of believers from non-Christian backgrounds. One series explained the Christmas celebration and the other is a discussion show. We were also asked to pray for the church in Algeria. Rising persecution over the past few years has led to many churches being forced to close. SAT-7 broadcasts church services that help Algerian Christians to worship and feel less isolated.
We are invited to participate in some upcoming SAT-7 events:
- For Lent SAT-7 have produced ‘Free to Believe?’. This features 40 messages, one for each day of Lent, from viewers, some watching in secret, some still searching and wanting to share their story.
- 23-25 March is the International Network Conference. This year will be virtual and will be a series of webinars featuring virtual studio tours and Q & A sessions with international staff.
- 3 April from 4-5pm, is the Easter Family Celebration.
Information on all these can be found at www.Sat7uk.org.
St Mary's Buddy System 2021 (Jon Drake)
Three months on this is a good time to think again about our buddy pairings. Many have said what an encouragement it has been to keep in touch on the phone. I have also heard what a blessing it has been for pairs to take exercise walks together. Well done for braving the mud and rain!
If you are in a buddy link, perhaps January has been hectic and you haven’t been in touch since Christmas. If so, this would be a great time to reach out to your partner and catch up on their news from 2021 over a phone call or exercise walk.
If you would like to join a buddy pair, it’s not too late. Do contact your congregation leader and we can suggest a pairing for you.
Here are some ideas of ways we can encourage in buddy pairings and in all of our relationships at church. They are all coronavirus lockdown compliant!
- Take time to listen and to talk. It is so encouraging to be able to share the joys and burdens of life with a brother or sister in Christ. Romans 12:15 tells us ‘Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn’. When people share struggles with us, we may feel that we don’t know what to say. Often it’s enough just to listen and to share their grief or joy.
- Show Christ-like love. We are all different and there are many ways we can do this. Taking time to talk and listen as mentioned above, sending cards, checking in on how things are going, following up on prayer requests. When we model the love of Jesus to one another it is a huge encouragement.
- Pray for one another. It is great to ask how we can pray for each other, and to be ready to share things on our hearts that we’d like prayer for. We can take these away and pray on our own or pray together on the phone. I know a number of us have been getting into praying on the phone during lockdown, it works well and is surprisingly natural!
- Talk about Christian truth. Colossians 3:16 says ‘Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom’. Every believer has a role in speaking God’s word to one another. It is great to find natural ways to share things that we have been learning from the Bible and especially truths about Jesus Christ. There is nothing more encouraging than speaking to each other about ourwonderful Saviour, Lord and Friend. If you are chatting to a Christian friend why not get into the habit of each sharing something that has struck you in God’s word.
Christian encouragement is hugely powerful. It’s great to see it happening in our fellowship. Let’s keep going. ‘Therefore encourage each other, and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing’ (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
Mission Partner Update: Jo Clifford
From the heat of Africa to the winter snows of GermanyJo Clifford works for SIL, the technical arm of Wycliffe Bible Translators. Jo has a history of using aural and visual media to assist in bringing scripture to local tribal language groups and worked for many years in Tanzania.
Over the last 24 months Jo has relocated to Germany to head up a team of 30 people, mainly Americans based in Carolina USA. She shares a house with a friend from way back and travels to work in the nearby Wycliffe offices. Her task is to oversee the use of media in scripture translation worldwide, with the team operating in 40 - 60 different countries. Some of this is through radio programs and some through the Jesus Film along with other initiatives.
Originally her remit was to involve a lot of travelling, mainly to conferences but also to the base in Carolina. However, two days after arriving in Germany lockdown was declared and so all Jo’s work has been online since then.Thanks to Zoom Jo was able to join us for our monthly St Mary’s Evening and share with us some of her work. She is still involved remotely in the work in Tanzania with the recent release of the New Testament in five new tribal languages, plus the books of Ruth and Jonah in two more.
(Note - it takes one person eight weeks to spell check just one of these New Testaments!)
- Pray for Jo as she learns to live and work in Germany.
- Pray for wisdom and guidance as she gets to know her team remotely.
- Pray for her involvement in the “Digital Strategy Team” set up to see how digital media can be used at the beginning of the translation process rather than being tacked on at the end
Reflections on online church with a pre-schooler (Louise Drake)
It’s 10.50am on a Sunday. I get Matthew’s Bible out and place an enticing snack on the table in the hope that this might keep him occupied for the first bit of the service. He joins me and inhales the snack in a matter of seconds. The service has not yet started. People start to appear on the screen. It is a joy to be reminded that we are part of the church family together. Matthew waves for a few seconds, but the lure of the train set is too overwhelming. I ask him to come and join me, which is met with intense scrutiny of a diesel engine called Ivan in order to avoid eye contact. We reach an arrangement that he can play for the first few minutes of the service but will come and join me when online Sunday School starts.
I transfer over to online Sunday School, and convince an apprehensive Matthew to honour our previous agreement. Kate and Nick have set the children a task of finding a favourite toy and bringing it back to show the others. It is genuinely lovely for the children to have at least this virtual opportunity to connect, and they really enjoy the interaction. We then move to making paper plates, one side with a happy face and one side with a sad face. Matthew is very insistent that he wants to do this completely by himself. It is quite difficult to tell which face is which – to describe them as faces at all would be generous to be honest – but he is very happy with his work.
Nick encourages us to think about things that make us happy and sad, and we remember what we learnt last week about God making the world and being very happy with it. Kate then prepares us for our Bible story, where we will hear about when things went wrong in the world. Matthew is eyeing up the train set again, but the offer of turning the pages in the Bible whilst watching an animation of the passage wins his attention. The translation is very appealing, and whilst I feel a bit frazzled trying to keep him engaged, I love hearing the story retold so emotively.
We join Kate and Nick again to discuss the Bible story, as Matthew colours in his fingers with the felt tips. The enticement of the trains becomes too much to resist, and I am left listening on my own. I reflect briefly on how I find this a little stressful and wonder whether Matthew is actually taking anything in. Why are we here? Is it because I feel we ought to be? Is it expected of me as the vicar’s wife? But guilt and obligation are rarely good long-term motivations, and they quickly lead to resentment and fatigue. What I want for Matthew is for him to know positively that he is part of a church family, that Christian friends are a wonderful blessing, and that setting aside a special time each week to learn about Jesus is at the top of our ‘to do’ list. These things won’t make him a Christian, but at least they are laying some helpful foundations and habits for him.
Whilst cajoling Matthew to come back to the computer, I listen to Kate explaining how when Eve and Adam broke God’s only rule, they also broke his heart. I am reminded how wonderful it is that God still loves them with a ‘10/10 love’ and promises to come and rescue them. I think about how helpful these ways are of explaining Bible truths and log them mentally for future use. Matthew is persuaded to join back for the final three seconds where he waves enthusiastically and then vanishes back to the trains.
Over lunch after the service, Matthew and I chat a bit about Sunday School. I ask him some questions about the Bible story, and remarkably he remembers quite a bit. I use Kate and Nick’s teaching points to reinforce the main message. He seems genuinely interested and asks me why the snake was in the garden in the first place, and what happened when Adam and Eve left the garden. “What does God promise he will do?” I ask. “Jesus will come for them,” he replies. “And why does Jesus do that?” I follow up. “Because he is Jesus!” comes the reply, “and he loves us.”
Parenting Matters with Mel Lacy (Beth Hutton)
There is a crisis in youthwork.
Generation Z, or teens as we know them, are struggling to make sense of the world and their place in it. Like playdough being moulded into shape, so the worldview of our children is constantly being formed in their every single interaction.
Why, one might ask, should we be concerned about our children’s worldview? Well, worldview determines how they see the world, how they see themselves and, crucially, how they relate to God. Worldview matters because truth matters. Furthermore, worldviews tend to be formed largely by the age of 11 years, and once formed, it is hard to change.
To add to this crisis, our children often look to the adults around them. They are watching us for how we respond to the world. Yet sadly, there is often a big gap between what we say (confessional theology) and what we do (functional theology).
Whilst this all paints a fairly bleak picture for our youth, be encouraged, there is the good news of Jesus Christ! Back in early January, Mel Lacy opened up this topic brilliantly, encouraging us with her insight and wisdom on the matter, firmly rooted in the wonderful truths found in scripture.
Mel, highly aware of the huge pressures on parents, heightened even more so during this current pandemic, inspired us to look for the little opportunities of how to make a difference in the lives of our youth – to consider how we might engage them with the world, and to fully captivate them with the biblical truths of the gospel.
Mel pointed us to three scriptures as our biblical motivation on this matter. She described the beautiful vision for our youth painted in Colossians 2:6-7 – youth who are rooted in him so they can stand robustly in this world. In Romans 12:2, Mel went on to explain the importance of our children being shaped, through the changing of their minds, by the Word and not the world. Lastly, in Ephesians 4:14, Mel spoke about what it is for our youth to be steadfast and secure in the gospel amidst a cultural pattern that is tsunami like.
Throughout the evening, we made use of the breakout rooms - hugely useful for unpacking the ideas further with parents of similar age children. Mel asked two key questions in relation to our youth:
Who builds their world?
We discussed the range of people involved in the lives of our children - people such as family, nursery carers, teachers, peers and of course church family. Whilst we live in a society which encourages the outsourcing of parenting, Mel brilliantly challenged us to be intentional, particularly in exposing our children to church family wherever possible. Mel talked about sharing life together as a church (this might take some creativity during Covid!), as opposed to just one hour on a Sunday. She highlighted especially the focus on intergenerational church life.
What influences their world?
We also discussed the range of influences in the lives of our children – everything from TV, computer games, movies, the internet and social media, to magazines, books, music and toys. With regards to worldview forming, Mel emphasized the instructive nature of all such cultural artefacts. The instructive subtleties discussed ranged from Peppa Pig and Merlin, to Minecraft and Bratt Dolls, and much more! The key challenge Mel shared was for us to be intentional with our youth, to be aware of their hearts, teaching them to discern and to engage with the world through God’s Word. Mel warned against ring fencing certain cultural artefacts, such as Harry Potter, which can actually stop children from learning to think critically. To quote Dr Francis Schaeffer, as shared over Zoom that evening, “We should be consciously preparing the next generation for the new battles it will face”.
One very practical take away Mel suggested was to carve out time to actually watch a tv show/ movie alongside our children, and to be intentional about initiating a dialogue with them. Mel proposed we talk with our children about what we are watching so they might learn to discern what is of the world, what is of God’s Word (there are so often echoes of God’s goodness!), and to consider what this might teach us about God and about ourselves. There was even a suggestion for playing ‘spot the truth’ and ‘spot the lie’ and to add in pizza to add to the fun!
If you didn’t make the evening, let me encourage you to get online and watch the recording. The evening is a springboard for game-changing action I guarantee. Let us be intentional – both on our knees and in our conversations – as we get alongside our youth and help them to navigate safely as they learn to engage with the world, whilst absorbing only God’s Word.
- ‘Plugged In’ an online resource from Focus on the Family
- Common Sense Media
- ‘The Pop Culture Parent’ a book by Ted Turnau
Summer Camps: Save the Dates (Simon Eves)
It’s cold, it’s dark and we’re in lockdown. Summer feels far away and even the idea of a summer camp feels a long way off. However, the various charities that organise Christian camps have been working hard behind the scenes and have everything planned and in place to be able to run these holidays if the state of the pandemic and the government restrictions at the time allow.
Parents (and grandparents, aunts, uncles, godparents etc.), can I encourage you that if these holidays are able to happen then they will be an absolutely fantastic time for our young people, they always are, and they are always times of spiritual growth in the young people who go.
Below is a very brief introduction to camps for those who don’t know much about them and then some specific information for 2021.
What are summer camps?
Check out the websites below, they’ll give you a better taste than I can in a paragraph or two. But they are essentially a residential holiday for a week or so in the summer where young people do a whole range of activities, have an absolutely brilliant time and take the time to think seriously about and engage with the Bible and the God we meet in the pages of scripture.
As a leader it has always been a highlight of my year and the members all say the same. They generally come back hugely encouraged and with a whole bunch of new and stronger friendships. It was such a shame to see them cancelled last year; if they’re able to happen this year they will, I’m sure, be brilliant. All of the organisations below are committed to safeguarding and are only planning to run anything if they’re convinced they are able to do so safely.
In short if you’re a parent (or grandparent, aunt, uncle, godparent etc.) of a young person I wholeheartedly encourage you to get these dates in the diary.
What is happening this summer?
Bookings aren’t open yet with most of the organisations we regularly see people going to camps with, but they have all published dates. I’ve put a selection of the camps which are normally most popular below. If the camps go ahead I would expect us to be organising large groups of young people heading off with leaders from church. And I will be in touch as and when bookings open so you don’t miss out!
Barnstaple 2: 24th- 31st July (11-14s)
Quantock 1: 24th July - 1st August (14-18s)
Brymore 2: 31st July - 6th August (11-14s)
Sparkford 3: 11th - 19th August (14-18s)
We have supported each of these camps over many years as a church, normally sending both leaders and members to them. We back each of them both in terms of their Bible teaching and leadership but also because they are fantastically good fun and safe holidays for our young people. There are, of course, other good options out there!
2021 Memory Verse (Ian Miller)
‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.’ Matthew 11:28
I wonder how many of us would describe ourselves at the beginning of 2021 as ‘weary and burdened?’ People are mourning the loss of loved ones, parents are under pressure home-schooling children alongside work, many are struggling with spending all their working day on Zoom, others are lonely and anxious, still others have lost their jobs and are looking for work and we are all missing contact with friends and relatives. What makes this all the more difficult is the way our sinful hearts react to it all.
The words of our 2021 memory verse Matthew 11:28 are very apt. Jesus doesn’t pile on the pressure by demanding that we keep God’s law in these difficult circumstances. That was the burden the scribes and pharisees placed on people, getting them to jump through a thousand hoops. Jesus simply says, ‘come to me.’ Jesus is not a bully or tyrant; in verse 29 he reassures us that he is ‘gentle and humble in heart.’ He goes on to say, ‘my yoke is easy and my burden light.’ It is easy and light not just because of his character but because he kept the law for us and died the death we deserve for our sin. In these tough times Jesus doesn’t demand but serves, he doesn’t take but he gives. When we come to Jesus, we come to the God of grace.
The rest which Jesus promises in the verse is surely what we are all longing for at the moment. We look forward to the eternal rest that we will one day enjoy with Jesus in heaven, but Jesus also offers rest now in him. It is so tempting to seek that rest in other places such as drink, Netflix or dreams and longings for a time in the future without the virus. None of those things will deliver true rest – only Jesus can.
In a talk on these verses John Piper tells a story of a nineteenth century missionary John Paton which gives us a glimpse of what rest looks like in our lives now. Paton was being pursued by people who wanted to find him and kill him. He climbed a tree to escape them and wrote:
‘The hours spent there live all before me as if it were but of yesterday. I heard the frequent discharging of muskets, and the yells of the savages. Yet I sat there among branches, as safe in the arms of Jesus. Never, in all my sorrows, did my Lord draw nearer to me, and speak more soothingly in my soul, than when the moonlight flickered among those chestnut leaves, and the night air played on my throbbing brow, as I told all my heart to Jesus. Alone, yet not alone! If it be to glorify my God, I will not grudge to spend many nights alone in such a tree, to feel again my Saviour’s spiritual presence, to enjoy his consoling fellowship.’
Paton then asks his readers, “If thus thrown back upon your own soul, alone, all alone, in the midnight, in the bush, in the very embrace of death itself, have you a Friend that will not fail you then?” In the midst of this awful pandemic when we are stressed, lonely, anxious, frustrated, or grieving, do we have a Friend who will not fail us? Jesus is that friend saying to us “come to me and I will give you rest.”
If you wish to print the image above with the verse on it, you can download the image by clicking on it and then printing it. Postcards of the image above with the 2021 memory verse are also available from the church.
Church Plans for Lockdown 3.0 (Will Stileman)
In our staff Bible study on Monday, we looked together at these words in the apostle Peter’s first letter: “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed.” 1 Peter 1:13
I have found this verse hugely helpful in directing me about what I should do as we enter into another lockdown with all the challenges and difficulties that throws up. I need to be thinking constructively and wisely about the challenges I face in the present, but I am to do that with the perspective of my eternal relationship with Jesus. My hope is to be placed fully on Jesus and the future I have with him and all his people in the New Creation.
The purpose of this email is to outline our plans for this coming Sunday.
Although in this lockdown the government has allowed church services to continue, Sunday School groups are not allowed, nor can we have any social interaction outside of the church service. With the virulence of the new variant strain of Coronavirus, understandably many St Mary’s members are not wanting to attend church in person, so it is proving increasingly difficult to find the volunteers needed to lay on our services. So, the staff team are unanimous in thinking that we should revert to doing church in much the same way as we did during the November lockdown. All of our congregations will continue to meet at their regular times (8am, 9:15am, 11am, 4pm & 6:30pm) but will meet remotely via Zoom. This means that whether we are having to shield or not, we can have fellowship with one another and worship God together in real-time.
At the 9:15am, 11am & 4pm congregations there will be the option for children to join a breakout group for a live, real time Sunday School which will be hosted by Kate Wheatley and Nick McDonald. In addition, pre-recordings of the sermons and Sunday School will be available each Sunday via the St Mary’s website and YouTube. This enables flexibility and ensures that both parents and children, as well as those who don’t do Zoom, can be fed spiritually with God’s word. For those who don’t use technology we will continue to send out the fortnightly sermon mailings.
However, despite what I have said above, I am acutely conscious that for some, attending church in-person, has been a real life-line, and so we would like to consider what we can safely provide for those who would like to meet in-person. To that end if you would like to meet in-person, maybe for a much simpler service, could you please click here and fill in this very short questionnaire.
Please could you do this by the end of Sunday. We will consider the responses at our staff meeting on Monday and work out what we can feasibly provide.
The next few months are going to be difficult, I am certainly starting this year stressed and frazzled, so may all of us who know Christ seek his strength and both bear with and care for one another.
With much love,
Christmas Unwrapped 2020 (Nick McDonald)
Unfortunately we couldn’t do that this year so we had to think outside the box. We created two primary school lessons for teachers to use, which included five activity sheets and two videos, all explaining the true story of Christmas. The activities included designing a mince pie, a Christmas quiz, and a Bible investigation to find out what really happened on that first Christmas. Making it as exciting as we possibly could, we sent the lessons off to the schools, hoping and praying that they would find it useful.
Well, we have had the great opportunity to share what the real story of Christmas is and why it’s so important with eight schools around Maidenhead. Usually this would happen in the church with interactive games, quizzes, and mince pies.
Wonderfully we received fantastic feedback from both the teachers and the pupils themselves! One teacher said that their children loved it so much that they couldn’t wait for the second part. Over the past few weeks, dressed as ‘The Nutty Professor’ (a mad scientist character who is an expert on all things Christmassy), Kate and I have been able to ‘zoom in’ to the schools to answer any questions they may have had about what they had heard.
Here are some of the questions that were asked by the children, how would you answer them?
- Why do we celebrate Christmas on the 25th December?
- What’s your favourite part of the Christmas story?
- Why did the shepherds bother going to see the baby?
- If Jesus was a King, why wasn’t he born in a palace?
- Why was he called Jesus?
- Why do we give presents at Christmas?
- Why did God choose Mary to be Jesus’ mother?
- Is it just the Bible that tells us about Jesus?
- Why can’t we see God?
- Why doesn’t God come down to Earth?
The last two really struck me. Surely it would make sense for God to come to Earth to show us who he is. Well, the wonderful news that we were able to share with the children, is that God did come to Earth as a human baby, on that very first Christmas, and he came to do something amazing that would change our lives forever.
Practising What I Preach? (Rachel Meynell)
Covid has been so difficult for all of us. One of the things that has made it hard for me is that I have been unwell for 3 months. Not so unwell that I couldn’t get out of bed, but enough to limit what I can do and to involve the stress of doctors, tests and uncertainty. And I continue to be limited by tiredness, at a time when church workers are traditionally very busy.
There are certain things about God and the world which I truly believe, and indeed teach, but can be hard to live out. At the moment for all of us some of those truths are hard to hold onto. For myself, not being well and spending more time resting on the sofa has given me many opportunities to respond with faith and trust, or not. One of those things that I believe about the gospel is that in God’s economy nothing is wasted, and that includes the hard times. God is up to something good in each one of us, refining us and showing us what is in our hearts. But in the midst of the struggles, it is so hard to trust, and I do frequently wish that God could do his good work without it being painful!
And then there is the anxiety.
What I say, and truly believe, is that God’s grace is sufficient for us each day and that his strength is made perfect in weakness (as Ian reminded us when he preached from 2 Corinthians 12:9). But it is hard to live it out. There have been some days when that truth has been a great comfort to me, and other days (probably more of these!) when I have struggled to believe it and anxiety has won the day. Days when I have wondered what God is up to and whether he really does have my best interests at heart. When I have been awake at night worrying about results or trying to work out how I can sort this out in my own strength. Forgetting to turn to the one who is in control, who does care and who is always longing for me to turn to him in dependence.
So, as I gradually get better, please pray that I and others who are particularly struggling at the moment would keep on learning the eternal lesson that his power is made perfect in our weakness. That we would truly be grateful that he cares enough to keep us utterly dependent on him, even though for many of us, and certainly for me, we are reluctantly dependent!
So, am I practicing what I preach? Sometimes! This has been a time to be humbled and reminded of how fickle my heart is, but more gloriously, what a wonderful Saviour we have who died for weak and helpless people. A Saviour who died, even though he knew I would keep on living as though I know what I need better than he does. One who perseveres with us and patiently teaches us time and time again so that we would be transformed, even if it is ever so gradually, into his likeness.
Christmas Giving and Receiving (Jon Drake)
‘Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!’ (2 Corinthians 9:15)
At Christmas we give thanks to God for the indescribable gift of his Son the Lord Jesus Christ. What a difference receiving Jesus into our lives has made. Through him we have become God’s forgiven and beloved children. As human beings we sometimes find it hard to give, and we often find it hard to receive help. One of the signs that Jesus is at work in us is that we are more able both to give and to receive.
In our St Mary’s Christmas cards, we are offering assistance with food, clothes and essentials to anyone in our parish or our church family. Again please contact the church office () if this would help you. We know it can be hard to ask, but we are one church family together, and we genuinely want to help.
Others in our church family will be able to thank God that we are in a position to give. Each Christmas we have a special collection to support those in need, as an expression of our thanks to God. This year our Christmas giving will be divided between Maidenhead Foodbank and Christians Against Poverty. The foodbank supports many families and individuals locally. Christians Against Poverty work nationally to help people find a lasting solution to debt and poverty.
We are encouraging our Christmas collection via bank transfer to the usual PCC account (Sort Code: 60-13-35, Account No. 64261883). Please use as reference CHRISTMAS20. If you are unable to do this please ask one of the Welcome Team at our in-person services for an envelope which can be placed in the collection boxes.
Book Sunday Book Reviews (Sara Hewins)
Which Christian books are you planning to read next? Here are three recommendations from the last Book Sunday list:
Neither Bomb Nor Bullet
“Well folks, they have struck at other churches and some people have become martyrs…….I’m not telling you this to frighten you, but to tell you to be prepared and pray the more. Let’s hold on to the Lord. Some might die, but if you must die, be sure to die in the Lord.”
This was the sobering pre-Christmas 2011 message from Ben Kwashi, now Archbishop, to his congregation in Jos, central Nigeria. His biography Neither Bomb nor Bullet written by Andrew Boyd is a gripping, at times distressing, challenging but ultimately uplifting account of living on the front line of faith in Nigeria where thousands have been killed and millions driven from their homes in recent years.
And yet, in the face of imminent danger and three attempts at his life, Ben and his wife Gloria continue willingly to give their lives daily to joyfully serve God. The advice from the St Mary’s ladies book group is “Read it!”
Every Moment Holy
I am surprised by how much I love and use this next book. Every Moment Holy by Douglas McKelvey is a book of liturgies for the ordinary and the life-changing events of everyday life.
There are 100 prayers ranging from “A Liturgy for the Welcoming of a New Pet,” to “A Liturgy for the Hurried Preparation of a Meal,” to the appropriate for this season, “A Liturgy for Setting Up a Christmas Tree”.
The book is interspersed with relevant Bible verses and wonderful illustrations. The beautifully crafted prayers put into words what is on, or should be on, my heart but that I’m struggling to say. The prayers make you take a step back and ponder how we react to certain events and what may be a more Christ-like response. A book to treasure that would make a wonderful gift.
Excerpt from ‘A Liturgy for Waiting in Line’:
Be present in my waiting, O Lord, that I might also be present in it as a Christ-bearer to those before and behind me, who also wait. As I am a vessel, let me not be like a sodden paper cup full of steaming frustration, carelessly sloshing unpleasantness on those around me. Rather let me be like a communion chalice, reflecting the silvered beauty of your light, brimming with an offered grace. Amen.
Fight Your Fears
I was immediately drawn, albeit with a slightly wary approach, to Fight Your Fears: Trusting God’s Character and Promises When You Are Afraid by Kristen Wetherell.
Drawn to it as a holder of many fears, the wary attitude from thinking I knew what the author’s answer would be…..just trust God more….an answer I know is correct but for me there’s always been a disconnect between knowing the answer and handing all over to God to achieve it.
I have found this book very helpful. Taking us through ten promises of God it equips us to overcome our fears by making us more conscious of what it’s right to fear - our sovereign and good God.
“Because Jesus is Lord, we don’t have to be. Because Christ is on his throne, ruling all things with perfect wisdom and power, we are freed from the crushing pressure and fearfulness of trying to rule ourselves, other people, and circumstances.”
An excellent book that helps us to practice what it preaches; I look forward to us talking about it at the next ladies book group.
If you would like further information about the ladies book group, please contact Sara Hewins.
To buy these books and others, the 10ofThose website has a section especially for St Mary's Maidenhead that can be found here or if you would like to browse these and other books then do look to support Maidenhead's local Christian bookshop, Quench, at 19 Queen Street.