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 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.

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Living in Love and Faith (Will Stileman)

Issues of sexuality and identity are deeply personal and for some can be very painful. In the light of this it is important for us as a church to be thinking and talking about these things in a helpful and safe environment. The Church of England has put together a course called Living in Love and Faith (LLF) in which they hope to do this. 

LLF is a suite of materials that has been put together by more than 40 people who have very different perspectives, life experiences and theological convictions. Although the official position of the Church of England on marriage and sexual intimacy has not changed, there is pressure from both inside and outside the Church of England to endorse and bless same sex unions and transgendering. All the material can be accessed free of charge from the LLF website. 

Every diocese in England is promoting the course and the idea is that as many groups as possible do the course or read the book and feedback their opinions. People and groups must give their feedback by Easter 2022 after which decisions will be made over the next steps. It is likely that firm proposals will be brought before General Synod in the autumn of 2022.

Last term, the staff team and the PCC completed the course and have given their feedback. The St Mary’s Same Sex Attraction Support Group has likewise started to engage with this material and, when they have completed it, will feedback their opinions.

There is much that is good about the course. It is very well produced. The pastoral principles on how to engage in discussion are excellent and it does indeed raise all the issues. However, although the traditional orthodox position is articulated in the course, the theological engagement is weak. We are not encouraged to sit under the word of God but to give our opinions about it. There is also a subtle emphasis that all the positions and testimonies articulated are equally acceptable expressions of faithful Christian discipleship. 

As your vicar, with a God-given responsibility to “present myself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15), I cannot in good conscience recommend the course. However, I will be running the 5-week course for any in St Mary’s who want to engage with the material on Monday nights (October 11th, 18th; November 1st, 8th, 15th). In the New Year, I also intend to show extracts of the course and preach a three-part sermon series addressing the issues raised by LLF. It is important that we are engaging with our culture on matters of identity and sexuality and thinking through how the Bible speaks into these sensitive matters. 

It is our desire to truly walk in love and faith and welcome all, whoever they are and whatever their condition, to sit under the sound of the gospel and engage with the Jesus of the Bible – the only Jesus there is.

Third Thursday Table (Becca Stileman)

About 20 of us gathered on Thursday lunchtime for the first of a new monthly St Mary’s event called ‘Third Thursday Table’, named to help us all remember which day in the month is happens!

We were served with a delicious lunch and had the opportunity to chat, listen, catch up with old friends we hadn’t spoken to for a while, discuss recent events with friends we see regularly and meet some new folk from different congregations or from outside St Mary’s. We were a good mixture of all of these. When we had enjoyed our main course, we had cake and coffee or tea.

Not only a lunch, but also something extra. This time, Tom and Sarah played and sang Luther’s hymn ‘A Mighty Fortress is our God’ and Tom talked to us about the hymn. Just a few minutes of Christian input and something that wouldn’t offend a newcomer but might open doors to coming back for more.

This is the nature of this new monthly event – a meal, mid-week encouragement, an invitation to come back for more. The food and entertainment are laid on, so it’s a great invitation for a neighbour, a friend, or even somebody you don’t know very well – ‘Would you like to come and have lunch with me at my church?’ Or if you’re not free on a Thursday afternoon, recommend it to them and let one of the team know so they can look out for them.

The lunch starts at 12.45 and runs for about an hour and a half, or less if you or they are in a rush, and currently costs £3. The cost and the content are up for discussion and Rachel and the team welcomed our feedback over coffee and tea.

Come and give it a try or pass on the invitation. The team do need to know how many people will be attending before the event each month so that the right amount of food can be prepared (just let Rachel or the office know). BIG thanks to the TTT team of Rachel Meynell, Tamsin Miller, Sarah Ainscough, Heidi Cooper, Sara Hewins and Mina Baba.

An Afghan Pastor's Prayer

Our mission partner SAT-7 has been airing programmes in Afghanistan, via it’s Persian language network, since 2006. It is responding to the recent swift transfer of power to the Taliban, and the fear and uncertainty this has provoked, with special programmes and by offering prayer and counselling to Afghans via their viewer support teams.

Afghanistan has an Open Doors World Watch ranking of 2, behind only North Korea in terms of the extreme level of persecution believers face. It’s impossible for an Afghan to live openly as a Christian - known converts usually attempt to flee the country or are tortured or killed, often by their own family. The country maintains the death penalty for apostasy which includes conversion to Christianity although this has not been enforced since 2001. However, there are fears this may change under Taliban rule. Sources have already reported the Taliban going door-to-door to weed out ‘unwanted elements’ which include Christians.

Inability to live openly as a Christian makes it hard to know how many believers there are but recent estimates have suggested 8000 in a population of 34 million. Recent growth of the indigenous church is partly due to Christian media dramatically increasing access to the Gospel.

Many of us will be praying for our dear brothers and sisters in Afghanistan. The Sat-7 Afghan presenter, Pastor Shoaib Ebadi, has used the Lord’s Prayer to help us to pray for Afghanistan. Read and echo his prayer here. 

White Waltham Church Teas

We were hugely blessed by the opening of The Tree House in November 2015, and the opportunities it was going to afford us in terms of mission. One of our ‘gentler’ mission activities has been Church Teas. We had run these annually since 2016, on two or three occasions each summer. All that ground to a halt last year and it has been a real joy to get going again this year.


Through our Church Teas we invite members of our local communities of White Waltham, Woodlands Park and beyond to come to us; to cross the threshold of a church building, to meet with church members and, we hope, to experience something of the love of God. We aim to provide a comfortable, warm and friendly environment, great teas and generous hospitality.


This summer we held two teas with approaching 100 guests, and we invited them all to our autumn services through flyers on tables and in conversations. It is good to see people return year after year and we pray that they may come on a Sunday to see what White Waltham Church is all about.

We remain very grateful to St Mary’s Maidenhead: for your support in helping us to have The Tree House in the first place, and to those members of your community who so generously come along and support us on these occasions.

Andrew Peterson in Concert (Patch Crossley)

On Saturday 11th September we had a wonderful evening of songs and stories from Andrew Peterson.

For those who aren’t familiar with Andrew and his work, he is a very productive songwriter, producer, filmmaker, publisher and award-winning author. He’s been touring with his songs and producing albums since 1996, and writes mostly in a folk, roots-rock style, although I would say he has music that will cater to all tastes. You can find his 12 studio albums on Spotify (I thoroughly recommend having a look), and his books The Wingfeather Saga for young people and Adorning the Dark for creative Christians, on his website.

Andrew played the entire concert on his guitar, aside from a couple of songs on the piano, without any backing musicians, and held the full attention of roughly 160 guests for almost two hours, no mean feat. The whole concert felt as though we had been invited into his living room, as he shared the deeply personal stories behind each song and described how the lyrics had come about.

Through music, he also presented the gospel in an engaging and emotional way. I and others left the concert feeling lifted and encouraged by his songs of hope in the power of the gospel to save and to heal. It felt appropriate after a difficult year that his songs were so focused on the pain we all experience in this world and the shared hope we have as members God’s family. Some of the words which stick in my head are from his song Lord Remember Me:

“When the Son will stand on the mount again

With an army of angels at his command,

And the Earth will split like the hull of a seed

Wherever Jesus plants his feet

And up from the earth, the dead will rise

Like spring trees robed in petals of white

Singing the song of the radiant Bride.”

Andrew’s website can be found at https://www.andrew-peterson.com/home

Mission Partner Update: i-Serve Africa / Harrison Mungai

It was marvellous to have Harrison Mungai our mission partner in Kenya joining us over Zoom at the St Mary’s Evening on 9th September. He testified to God’s faithfulness in sustaining him, his family and his ministry through the challenging months of the pandemic.

Harrison said that he and Rhodah are grateful for our partnership with them in the gospel. He has sent us a few points for our prayers. He writes:

“Yesterday was a very encouraging day as we commissioned a former apprentice and now member of staff – Peter Kamau Gikunju to lead a church plant in Waiyaki Way on the outskirts of Nairobi. Peter came to iServe Africa after finishing studies in Kisii University in 2014. He was placed in St. John’s Church, Sololo and in the office for a second year. He later proceeded to the Cornhill Training Course in London and was placed at All Saints and Holy Trinity Church, Wandsworth. Upon returning from the UK in 2017, he came on the staff at iServe Africa and has been running the Apprenticeship Programme. Peter was commissioned alongside Patrick Bundi who will be his associate pastor and about 30 others who will be part of the planting team.

Last Friday we finished a two-week Ministry Training Course at iServe Africa for 42 apprentices; 16 were joining the programme while 26 are continuing from January. It was a busy two weeks as we worked hard to cover as much ground as possible, since we had not had in-person training since the beginning of the year due to Covid restrictions. It was so refreshing to be able to meet again and to encourage one another in the ministry. The apprentices are now reporting to their various placements this week. One of our apprentices, Ephraim Kironji, travelled to the UK this past weekend to take up a year of training at St. Andrew’s the Great in Cambridge.

We are now in a new financial year, the last one having ended on 31st August. Praise God for his provision for the last year for indeed our needs have been met. Praise God also for the growth of the ministry since 2007. Now into our 15th year, we face the future with confidence and hope in the Lord. We have made some changes in our organisational structure to better align ourselves for the task ahead, in light of emerging realities like Covid. One of the bigger changes is the creation of a missions department to think about longer term sending work within iServe Africa. We already had a few cross-cultural missionaries, but our mobilisation / training / sending / supporting / caring structure had not been in place. We have therefore asked one of our staff, Stanley Wandeto, to oversee the department and develop those systems. Please pray for grace and wisdom as we take steps in that direction.”

Weekday Daytime Groups and Activities (Rachel Meynell)

For those who have time during the day, there are various things going on both on the St Mary’s site and in people’s homes, which you may enjoy coming along to. 

Bible Studies 

We have four women’s daytime growth groups which meet on a Tuesday morning at St Mary’s (with a creche) and there are also a couple of other women’s daytime groups which meet elsewhere in Maidenhead during the week. 

Also on the church site is a men’s Bible study group on a Thursday morning, and a group for men and women on a Tuesday afternoon. 

Toddler and Baby Groups 

On Wednesday and Friday mornings, we have toddler groups to which all pre-school children and their carers are welcome. These are times to play, do some singing and a Bible story. Then on a Thursday morning we have our new parents support group-for anyone with a child under 1. This is a great opportunity to make friends, and to have some input to help with those first months.  

These toddler and Baby groups are a great way that we can reach out to our community, so please do be on the lookout for those around you-friends, neighbours and those you pass in the street with small children and let them know what is going on! 

For those who are older…. 

We are very excited to announce a new initiative called Third Thursday Table, which is going to be a monthly lunch in the church hall for those who would like a meal with others during the day. The first will be on 16th September at 12.45pm, and is open to anyone who would like to come - and your friends and neighbours.

Please book in for the lunch either by emailing Rachel or ringing the office (01628 638866) by 14 September. There will be a charge of £3 for the lunch. After the food there will also be some sort of entertainment - either a talk, a testimony or some music -  which will include a Christian message.

Come and try it out, and let us know what you think - we would love this to be a place to reach out to others as well as encouraging church family who would enjoy a meal in company.

For more information on any of these things-to join or to help-please email Rachel on 

Introducing ... Sharon Bedford


Hi, I’m Sharon. I was born in Cape Town, grew up all over South Africa and moved to the UK 20 years ago. I’m married to Scott and we have two sons, Dylan and Joshua. We have been coming to St Mary’s for around 16 years and have been primarily involved at the 4pm service where I have enjoyed serving on the music team and teaching Explorers B.


I have recently completed the three-year CCEF Biblical Counselling certificate course through Biblical Counselling UK and was very excited to be accepted onto their Intern Scheme for 2021, where I will continue my training in partnership with St Mary’s. I am really looking forward to working with Rachel Meynell in the area of pastoral care at St Mary’s, meeting new people and hearing their stories. The Biblical Counselling course has taught me so much and has really helped me to make sense of some of my own struggles in the light of what scripture teaches us. My hope is that I will be able to share with the family at St Mary’s much of what I’ve learned over the last 3 years.

Holiday Club (Nick McDonald)

Who is the strongest and kindest? That's the question we were thinking about on our 'Summer Safari' this year! 

Holiday Club is a summer programme for children aged from Reception to Year 6. This year our theme was 'Summer Safari’, so the church was decorated to be an African Savannah, complete with animal banners and a nature hide that we were able to climb into. There were crafts, outdoor games, Bible studies, worship meetings, and talks given from the Bible. Safari Cedric (myself in costume) led the children and leaders around the Savannah to find the strongest and kindest animal. Over the three days, looking at the life of Peter in the Bible, we found that Jesus is the strongest and kindest. We heard these three things about Jesus:

1) We can trust in Jesus' power

2.) Jesus showed his power by dying on the cross

3.) Jesus takes our sin seriously, but he forgives us and welcomes us back into his family

Holiday Club was such an encouraging time this year, especially after a tricky year for all, as we saw children and adults from across the different congregations serving the Lord and learning about him. We can't wait for Holiday Club 2022, when we go on our 'Polar Expedition'. See you there!

Back to Church Sunday (Will Stileman)

“He has showed you, O man/woman, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)

I come back to this verse again and again to remind me how I am to live as a follower of Jesus.

Through Jesus God has shown us what is good. As we see Jesus relate to his heavenly Father, as we see Jesus relating to the religious leaders and the social outcasts of his day, we have a worked-out example of godliness - the beauty of a holy life. And God calls all of us at St Mary’s to follow Jesus’ example: to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God. When God calls us to act justly, he is calling on us to simply do the right thing in the everyday situations we find ourselves in: to be loving and faithful in our family life; to be conscientious and reliable colleagues at work; to be committed members of Christ’s body – the church.

We are earmarking Sunday September 5th as “Back to Church Sunday” hoping we will all make a special effort to be at church ourselves and encouraging others to return who have got out of the habit due to Covid. Please be in prayer for this.

As we start a new term, let’s keep before our eyes and in our hearts all the good that the Lord has shown us in Jesus, so that we indeed do what the Lord requires of us.

Introducing ... Luke Douglas

Most people start their introduction by explaining what they did before they came to St Mary’s, how they came to move to the area and how they came to join the church. For me all I did before I came to St Mary’s was a journey home from the hospital and a bit of crying. I came to move into the area as a lodger with a nice couple called Mum and Dad and joined the church by being wheeled in in a buggy. For the last 21 years I have been attending St Mary’s, with a time at Warwick University attending a church in Leamington Spa called Emmanuel. I have been through every Sunday School group from Crèche to Pathfinders, through all the youth groups and even helped lead some of them.


I am looking forward to building on this experience and to helping the church in any way I can. My biggest prayer for this time is that I do not become complacent but can always be seeking to become a better leader, a better church worker and a better Christian.

Introducing .... Patch Crossley

Hi! I’m Patch, and I’m excited to say that I’m moving down to Maidenhead this year to be a ministry trainee at St Mary’s. For the last three years I’ve been studying at Keele University (if you’re wondering where that is, you might be familiar with Keele service station on the M6). This year I graduated with a degree in Maths and Philosophy, which on the whole I’ve really enjoyed studying. I grew up in Sheffield so this will be my first move into the south.


It’s been a tough year for me, as for many people, but I’m very much looking forward to starting the apprenticeship, and meeting everyone at St Mary’s. One of my focuses will be on music and sung worship, which is something I’ve been involved with in various churches over the last few years. I’m looking forward to developing my skills and singing and playing with you all as much as possible. I’m also excited to be involved with other activities in the church, and to learn and help out where I can. I’ll also be on the Ministry Training Course in Oxford, which I hope will be a great opportunity for me to deepen my understanding of God’s word and be equipped to minister it to others.

I love cycling and walking and generally being outdoors, so I’m keen to explore the countryside around Maidenhead, which I’m told is pretty spectacular. If anyone knows of any nice walks or bike rides, let me know.


A massive thank you to everyone who has been praying for me, and I look forward to seeing you soon.

Minor Key - Recruiting New Members (Katie Croft)

Minor Key is our young people’s music group, training those in school years 6-13 to use their musical gifts to serve the church. It was begun by Kate and Mark Wheatley in September 1987, meeting in their lounge each week to practice. 34 years later their vision continues, and Minor Key enjoy leading the music at a variety of our all-age services over the year.

We now practice in the church on Friday evenings during term time, working around X and Shift Focus so that young people can be on site and do both activities.

We start back on 10th September. Rehearsal starts at 7.15pm for years 9-13, and the year 6-8s come over at 7.30pm straight from X Focus. Rehearsal ends for everyone at 8pm.

No auditions are needed, and we welcome non-church friends also. If you are going into school years 6-13 this September, then we would love to invite you to try out Minor Key. We understand that teenagers are often tentative about trying new things and then getting stuck doing something they don’t enjoy. With that in mind we encourage them to try it once without any expectation that they keep coming if they decide it’s not for them, so please accept this free pass to come along and have a go!

Everyone is welcome to sing, if you’d like to play an instrument then we do ask that young people are at grade 4 standard to enable them to cope with the level of music. If that’s a way off, do come and sing first and you can graduate to playing your instrument over time.

Contact Katie Croft if you’d like to come along: katie@littlewick.org.uk, 01628 820386

Leaders: John and Katie Croft, James Ainscough and Tom Brewster

The Adams Family are on the Move (Tim Adams)

Well, it feels very surreal to be writing about leaving St Mary's. I feel a lot has changed over the past seven years - when I arrived at St Mary's as a Ministry Apprentice I didn't really know anyone (I hadn't even met Will until two weeks in!), but God has been so faithful in providing me with a church family that I love dearly and I have felt hugely loved and supported.

Kat (my then fiancée and now wife) moved to Maidenhead a year after me, and we can both see how St Mary's has been a place that God has grown us in our love for him and our desire to serve him. There have been a huge number of highlights for us, but times that particularly stand out are church times away, like Men's and Women's Weekends Away (see photo), Youth Weekends Away (again, see photo - and yes, that is me dressed as giraffe waiting to be rescued from an island by young people...), Camps, and Explorers Abroad.

It's difficult to express how much we will miss St Mary's and we will look back at this time with great fondness. But we are also really looking forward to our next steps. As we move to Oak Hill College in August, we are very excited to learn lots, to grow in our love for the Lord, and make new friends.

In these times of change for us, we would appreciate your prayers! Please pray for all the practicalities of moving and settling into a new place, especially with Josh, our one and half year old. And please pray that Oak Hill would be preparing us for a life of faithfulness to Christ, both a general faithfulness and also a faithfulness in ordained ministry in the Church of England.

Probably about once a year or so we plan to send out a prayer letter with updates on how we are doing, if you would like to pray for us and stay in touch then please drop me a quick email on tadams032@gmail.com.

We will miss you very much,

Tim, Kat and Josh

Looking Back (Simon Eves)

1 God - I guess in many ways the best thing I can say about my time on the staff team is that I leave having grown in both my love for God and my knowledge of him. I’m grateful for the ministry he’s given me to do but I’m also moved to think of what he has done in me and taught me in the time I’ve been here.

4 new members of my family - It’s fair to say that getting married to Suzie and the births of Tilly, Jos and Theo have all been highlights of my time at St Mary’s. We’ve all been so well loved in our time here and we’re all going to miss St Mary’s hugely (well, perhaps Theo won’t- I’m not sure he’s all that aware of very much about what’s happening!). But the way in which we’ve been loved as a family and supported in the past few years as the kids have come along has been moving.

9 years as a member of this church family. I originally planned to be here for two, but the Lord had other plans and, as I’ve said already, throughout that time we’ve felt loved and included as part of the family.

10 summer camps - My time leading on both Sparkford and Edgehill summer camps stand out as some of the best memories from my time. Summer days messing around playing sports, going on trips and talking about Jesus; in so many ways they were all the best bits of youth work in one intense block in the summer. Some of the weirder moments were sock wrestling in jelly, riding an inflatable jet ski on a slip n slide and a game of cabbage scrabble. But I think I will remember the sight of home made carboard boats floating across the swimming pool for a very long time!

16 weekends away - Highlights include: sleeping in the freezing cold at Blackland farm, accidentally forbidding a member who wanted to go and write down memory verses, dismantling impromptu wrestling rings, listening to one site manager describe to the whole group how to unblock the pump of the sceptic tank, eating incredible amounts of delicious food and laughing until we cried at some members’ zombie film.

37 sermons (and a whole load of other talks and Bible studies but it’s easy to count sermons!). It’s been such a privilege to stand up in front of people I care about and speak to them about the things which matter most in life - about Christ and what it means to live for him.

38 colleagues - I hope most of them would agree that we’ve mostly got on well and been an encouragement to one another. That’s certainly how I feel about them- you’ll have to ask them if they agree! It has been a joy be a part of the team and even though we have our moments I can say I have learned so much about what it means to serve Christ from the men and women I’ve worked with on the staff team.

60 (I think… ish…) incredible volunteers - I tried to list as many as I could and gave up when I got to 60, there are probably a few more that I couldn’t bring to mind. But it is absolutely true that I have not been the one doing the majority of the youth ministry in the last nine years. So many people have poured so many hours of love and care into our young people. I have always felt surrounded by others who care deeply about the next generation and want to see them growing to know and love the Lord. They’ve been such a great bunch to lead and to encourage. The growth I have seen in some of our leaders over my time at St Mary’s is certainly one of my highlights.

~240 nights at Focus - Fridays haven’t felt right for the past 18 months. Chatting to all kinds of young people about life and about faith on Friday evenings. Playing Mario Kart and Scatterball. Eating sweets from the tuck shop. I’ll miss all of those things. But I will especially miss the joy we’ve had of multiple times seeing young people get invited along, hear about Jesus and start to follow him. It’s

not been a full scale revival among the young people of Maidenhead but there have been many tokens of God’s grace where we’ve seen him do that life-saving work.

~1200 services attended - The regular week by week coming to church, leading groups and sitting in services might not be the most exciting thing and it may not have those standout moments and memories. But God works through the regular and the ordinary. This last year and a half has highlighted how true that is as we’ve seen how much worse things are when we can’t gather together. When we can’t raise our voices together in song or put an arm around a friend who’s hurting. It highlights how much I had taken those thousand or more meetings for granted and how I hope and pray you’ll all be back to meeting together more normally very soon!

HUNDREDS - Too many to count really but, as I’m doing numbers, I’d guess there have been something like 350 young people that I’ve really known over the years, maybe a few more than that. They’ve made this job so much fun. Sometimes they’re infuriating, when they’re setting themselves on fire or sulking because they don’t want to go raft building. They’re certainly entertaining. And in so many ways they are just hugely encouraging. Seeing many now in leadership at their churches and CUs and generally just going on faithfully with the Lord is the biggest joy. There is also the heartache of seeing others who have drifted. Yet, over all, as I reflect on those who have come through our youth ministry in the last decade it seems that God has, in his kindness, used the work at St Mary’s to grow disciples and to have played a part in that (humanly speaking) has been brilliant.

Sunday Arrangements (Will Stileman)

Dear Friends,

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” Colossians 3:12

Although the government has lifted legal restrictions, cases of Covid remain high and are increasing. Consequently, we have all been urged to exercise extreme caution and move forward gradually.

From Sunday things will be a little different at our services and this email is to inform you of the changes. We will be reviewing our practices regularly and will relax the restrictions further once it’s safe to do so. Our aim is to give as many people as possible the chance to join in worship with God’s people whilst keeping you safe.

  • We will continue to ask you to wear a mask inside the church and throughout the service (unless you are in an exempt category or under 11). This is more to protect others than yourselves. 
  • You will be still be asked to sanitise your hands when you arrive, the church will be well ventilated and cleaned after every service.
  • Bibles will now be available to you and will be quarantined after use.
  • We rejoice that we are now allowed to sing together (you will need to wear your mask when we sing to limit the transmission risk that there is in singing).
  • We will have two types of seating:
  1. Rows of seats at the front part of the church will be spaced 1.3 metres apart and we will ask you to leave one empty seat between you and another person not in your household. You will not need to book to attend church if you are taking one of these seats, they will not be pre-allocated, the sidesmen will show you where to sit.
  2. If you would prefer a space of at least two seats between you and others, and 2 metres between rows, you will need to book to attend and will be allocated your socially distanced seat at the back part of the church and shown to it by the sidesmen.
  • After the service the sidesmen will show everyone out row by row starting at the back.
  • Chatting with members of the church family will continue to take place outside. We will not be offering teas and coffees.
  • There will still be the option of joining the 9.15am and 11.00am services on Zoom.
  • We will not have Zoom services at 4.00pm or 6.30pm anymore.
  • All services will be live streamed.
  • For ease with our Track and Trace responsibility we will take a photograph of the congregation at the start of each service rather than asking you to give us your details when you book (the photograph will not be used for any other reason and will only be retained for 3 weeks).
  • It is important that you do not come to church if you are unwell.

It is wonderful that we no longer have to book to come to church and that we shall be able to sing God’s praises together in our building accompanied by musicians. As we enjoy these changes let’s keep looking out for one another. As God’s people we want to be worshipping together while being mindful of the needs and concerns of all.

Hope to see you this coming Sunday,

With love and best wishes,

Will

Looking Back / Looking Forward (Steven and Jo Wheatley)

When we arrived back in England from Malawi in 2017, just in time for our son Peter’s graduation, we thought we’d be here for a year or two before heading back out to Malawi. Isaiah 55:8-9 comes to mind: ‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’


So, what have these ‘higher ways’ looked like for us? Our daughter, Sarah, underwent brain surgery nearly two years ago which has made a huge difference to her epilepsy, to the point that she’s just completed a foundation year at university and will start a Primary Education degree in September – unthinkable before the surgery.

I, Steven, have been working on the church site, looking after the practical aspects of all that happens there. And then the COVID-19 pandemic, with all of its ramifications, came along. Suddenly things weren’t happening anymore. Although this made most aspects of church life much harder, my job became considerably simpler: no more chairs to put out, no more Toddlers’ set-up, no more weekly routine on the site. Instead, I had a year or so to work through the to-do list of maintenance jobs. A perfect scenario for someone who’s very content with his own company!

For Jo, lockdown hasn’t been such a good thing. Although her Bible study groups have continued, via Zoom, and she’s been able to ‘bubble’ with a few people, Jo hasn’t been able to spend as much time with other people as she would have liked. One beneficiary of this is the church garden, which has had a lot of attention from Jo!


But now, with Sarah confident about the next few years at university, Jo and I are making plans to get back out to Malawi. We’ve been on leave of absence from our mission, SIM, and have now been reactivated; St Mary’s has accepted us once more as Mission Partners (phew!); our papers have been submitted to Malawi immigration for a new work permit; and we have ministries lined up, along with a place to live.

We’ll be based at a place called Nanjoka, near to Salima, in central Malawi. Our ministries will include lay-leadership training, helping the carers of disabled children to give better care, teaching in local churches, vocational training for young men in an orphanage, discipling local church leaders. Until we arrive and get ourselves sorted out, we won’t know exactly what this will all look like, but we believe God has a plan, and some more ‘higher ways.’

I’ve handed over the church job to Ben Raymond; we’re now starting the round of visits – churches, prayer groups, other supporters, friends, and family – and raising some financial support before we can set off once more. Our plan is to leave in the autumn, but this is dependent on our work permit being issued (some prayer please!), reaching our support target and, of course, God’s perfect timing. If you’d like to hear more about our plans, please do get in touch with us ( and ) or catch us after a Sunday service (remember when we used to be able to chat over coffee after the services?).


Although it wasn’t our plan to have been here for this long, we’ve really enjoyed getting to know St Mary’s folk, including the staff, much better. The Bible teaching, the music, the fellowship, simply being part of a thriving church, have all helped to set us up for the next few years back in Africa.

Thank you!

Steven and Jo Wheatley

Joy in all circumstances (Heather Fielding)

December 2020. A husband and wife are in hospital with Covid, on different wards and unable to see each other. They both have co-morbidities which place them at high risk of dying from the disease. Will either of them survive?

This was not a story in a tabloid newspaper - these were my parents. My father was admitted to hospital with Covid on 19th December and died ten days later. My mother, on a different ward since Christmas Eve, hadn’t been able to see him. After my father’s death, my Mum, still in hospital, gradually lost a grip on reality and despite improving physically (thank God!), struggled mentally which delayed her discharge. It was very hard to see. After two weeks she was lucid enough to come home where I cared for her, away from my own family, for about six weeks while she made a recovery.

At the time it often didn’t feel real. A truly tragic scenario full of uncertainty, fuelled by adrenalin and shock. Not a situation in which it was easy to be joyful. We’ve certainly ‘been through the ringer’ and of course there are many additional details, frustrations and stresses which added to the trauma. At the time I said to my husband Andy, “If you looked at our life right now, you’d think how on earth are they still standing?” However, through it all I can testify that our Heavenly Father held us close, and our church family and friends inundated us with love and support. Despite living one moment at a time, not knowing how situations would unfold, we had a great sense of ‘being carried’, of peace and of him holding us fast.


I know many in our church family are going through acute crises or have suffered much in the past. I am not a self-reflective person, but I just wanted to share with you some things I learned or experienced and how I saw God working for good through it all.

  • God is in control, not me! Clearly this experience has taught me that the Lord is truly sovereign over everything. His timing and plan for our lives is good and perfect. I am a planner and organiser by nature. I had spent most of 2020 anxiously micro-managing my parents to ensure they avoided the dreaded plague, but to what end? The Lord’s will for their life was what ultimately unfolded.
  • There’s no point worrying! Of course my anxiety levels were often very high, especially when they were both sick. I was reminded of the story in Mark chapter four of Jesus in the boat with the disciples in the storm. He chastised them for being so afraid. Jesus is in my boat! Be not afraid! Indeed, often my fears turned out to be unfounded and we were surprised by encouragements. God knows what he’s doing.
  • Eternity is real! My father was ‘not ashamed of the gospel’ and dedicated his life to sharing Jesus through work in schools, prisons and the community. He was a talented singer/songwriter and often used music to communicate our hope in Jesus. Thank God my brothers and I could be with him near the end of life and could pray, read the Bible and sing to him. He was ready to go home, to see Jesus, ‘the resurrection and the life.’ I had lots of questions about heaven after he died but his certain faith has encouraged me to trust that he is safe even though it’s so hard to imagine exactly where he is now.
  • Thank God for the Psalms! I often didn’t know what to pray, or what passages to read. On some days, events were so frantic I admit that I didn’t have time or energy. But he hears the groans of our hearts, and I knew that many people were praying for us. I thanked God for the Psalms which are nice and quick to read but so apt for crying out to the Lord. Songs often stuck in my mind more than scripture. When I struggled to get to sleep, the well-known words of ‘In Christ Alone’ and other songs were a real comfort.
  • Appreciating Christ’s sufferings! Seeing my father so very unwell made me appreciate, in a small way, the physical suffering which Christ endured. He knows our pain.
  • I will yet praise him! Refocusing my mind on the bigger picture, on eternity, on God’s sovereignty and his perfect plan helped to lift my eyes out of my own situation. Reflecting on the big things: his promises, the mystery of his sovereignty, the glory of his eternal majesty. But also thankfulness for his father’s heart, his love and care, his everlasting arms holding us up and his Spirit with me day by day. Praising in trials. Psalm 42 v 5 “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God.”
  • The Holy Spirit really helps us! I have no doubt that the Holy Spirit guided me in many subtle ways I probably didn’t even appreciate over those few months. While Mum was mentally unstable it was very difficult to bring her back to reality and focus her mind on good thoughts. I believe I had God-given insights into how to talk to her as I was definitely out of my comfort zone.
  • God uses his church to do his work! We were amazed by the practical support of our church family in providing LOTS of meals, especially when I lived away. I’m also so thankful to God for my wonderful husband who did an amazing job of holding the tiller. The other support from church family included texts, cards, prayers, and video songs (yes, really!). Great kindness was also shown by other friends and neighbours too.
  • God really does work all things together for good! My father was not a well man before Covid and perhaps God spared him a worse decline. Who knows? But he had been well enough to serve his Lord, with all his faculties, right up until he went into hospital. If my mother hadn’t been hospitalised, she wouldn’t have had the amazing package of care in place which has helped her to now live safely and independently on her own. There are many other examples I could mention which testify to God’s hand in all of this.

And joy? Did I experience joy in all circumstances? Last summer Dad had been thinking about the joy of the Christian life. It became one of his buzz words, and a concept he felt had been rather ignored in our churches. For Christmas, before he was hospitalised, he’d bought a mug for Andy with JOY painted on it. Opening it on Christmas day was a very poignant moment. The fact that both of my parents were hospitalised over Christmas actually forced me to reflect on joy. You can’t ignore Jesus and joy at Christmas! Carols proclaiming joy, readings from scripture proclaiming joy. Joy to the world, the Lord is come. We were in a dark place, and yet much of the time it felt underpinned by hope. We were anchored on the glorious hope of heaven, and the light of the world who had come and was carrying us through our suffering. Of course there is grief and loss but ultimately there is also real joy, in ALL circumstances.

Living in Love and Faith (Will Stileman)

Issues of sexuality and identity are deeply personal and for some can be very painful. In the light of this it is important for us as a church to be thinking and talking about these things in a helpful and safe environment. The Church of England has put together a course called Living in Love and Faith (LLF) in which they hope to do this. 

LLF is a suite of materials that has been put together by more than 40 people who have very different perspectives, life experiences and theological convictions. Although the official position of the Church of England on marriage and sexual intimacy has not changed, there is pressure from both inside and outside the Church of England to endorse and bless same sex unions and transgendering. All the material can be accessed free of charge from the LLF website. 

Every diocese in England is promoting the course and the idea is that as many groups as possible do the course or read the book and feedback their opinions. People and groups must give their feedback by Easter 2022 after which decisions will be made over the next steps. It is likely that firm proposals will be brought before General Synod in the autumn of 2022.

Last term, the staff team and the PCC completed the course and have given their feedback. The St Mary’s Same Sex Attraction Support Group has likewise started to engage with this material and, when they have completed it, will feedback their opinions.

There is much that is good about the course. It is very well produced. The pastoral principles on how to engage in discussion are excellent and it does indeed raise all the issues. However, although the traditional orthodox position is articulated in the course, the theological engagement is weak. We are not encouraged to sit under the word of God but to give our opinions about it. There is also a subtle emphasis that all the positions and testimonies articulated are equally acceptable expressions of faithful Christian discipleship. 

As your vicar, with a God-given responsibility to “present myself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15), I cannot in good conscience recommend the course. However, I will be running the 5-week course for any in St Mary’s who want to engage with the material on Monday nights (October 11th, 18th; November 1st, 8th, 15th). In the New Year, I also intend to show extracts of the course and preach a three-part sermon series addressing the issues raised by LLF. It is important that we are engaging with our culture on matters of identity and sexuality and thinking through how the Bible speaks into these sensitive matters. 

It is our desire to truly walk in love and faith and welcome all, whoever they are and whatever their condition, to sit under the sound of the gospel and engage with the Jesus of the Bible – the only Jesus there is.