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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ReNew Conference (Robert Weeks)

Recently four members of the PCC attended the national ReNew Conference in Leeds. For those of you unfamiliar with ReNew, it is an annual conference for Evangelical Christians. The purpose is to look at the progress and events of the past year within the Church of England and think about what needs to be done going forward to achieve the goal of 'a nation of healthy local Anglican churches' spreading the gospel. This has been both a source of hope but also of challenge.

There were testimonies from churches all over the UK, fellowship, and workshops on "how to" topics ranging from being effective in the Church of England, recruiting more lay leaders, being the best PCC member you can be, and planting churches. This shared experience was thought-provoking and challenging; and has motivated our thinking into how to do the best for both the gospel and St Mary's.

There were speeches and rallying calls from two bishops and one (retired) archbishop, as well as the chance to meet up with brothers and sisters in Christ from across the UK.

The overarching theme of the conference was "every member ministry" where we are reminded of the call to use our gifts (endowed upon us through the spirit) to further the gospel, in accordance with the teachings of 1 Corinthians 12:1-31. To spread the word and build the church we cannot rely solely on the clergy to deliver all ministry. We are called to use our gifts for the ministry; be that leading groups, childcare, offering lifts to others, cooking, or the multitude of other ministries that contribute to the building of the church and the furthering of the gospel in Jesus' name.

We should all be challenged to think and pray if there is anything we could do, offer, or pray about to participate fully in this "every member ministry". To explain, through metaphor, we are not on a cruise ship for the righteous - passengers on a comfortable journey towards salvation guided by the clergy, but we are all crew members on a lifeboat - called to serve in any way we can, to save others.

To paraphrase a famous rallying call; ask not what your church can do for you, but what you can do to further the gospel.

Looking Back (Toby Martin)

On to pastures new...

Some of you might have heard that I am now coming to the end of my time here at St Mary's. I finished the Cornhill training course back in June, and have received an offer from Grace Church, Boroughbridge (a church in a small town in North Yorkshire) to be their trainee pastor; I'll be working for 3-4 days a week and studying for two. My last Sunday at St Mary's will be 21st October, and I will be starting at Grace Church on the 28th.

Beth and I are excited about the move, but sad to be saying goodbye to our good friends here at St Mary's. Below are a few thoughts on each of those emotions!

1. Excited about the move
Many of you will know that North Yorkshire is a very beautiful part of the world. What is less well-known is that it is also a very spiritually needy place: it's estimated that less than 1% of its population are evangelical Christian believers. That's why Beth and I are excited to join Grace Church - an evangelical free church which was started around 10 years ago. The church seems great from our one visit; they are committed to Jesus, to each other, to mission, and to training. And what's more, North Yorkshire is Beth's homeland - she grew up there and so is happy to be returning after eight years away (though with an accent which now sounds distinctly more southern!).

I will be continuing to train, though not through the Church of England ordination system (despite Will Stileman's repeated efforts to 'keep me in the fold'!). I will be studying part time for an MA in Christian Ministry, doing a distance learning programme through an organisation called Crosslands. Beth has funding for her PhD until April, and once that pot runs dry she will start looking for work (though she's not yet certain what that will look like). Beyond that, Beth and I are considering staying in the North long term, perhaps in North Yorkshire, and perhaps even in Boroughbridge... depending on the Lord's will!

2. Sad to be leaving
Beth and I have had so much to thank God for over the course of our time at St Mary's. A (very much non-exhaustive) list of things we are thankful for would be: many people's hospitality and friendship; giving Beth a warm welcome and looking after her (and me!) while she was ill; giving us a place to live; giving us a car; helping us move; standing shoulder to shoulder in ministry and mission; providing us with a growth group that was eager to be changed by God's word every week; being blessed by a godly and prayerful staff team.

Furthermore, I have benefitted massively from my time here in terms of training. The Cornhill training course helped me to handle the scriptures rightly; St Mary's gave me a wonderful taste of on-the-ground Christian ministry with a wide range of different people. Having only previously worked with teenagers and students, it was wonderful to join the Hereward's House ministry team (which organises an evangelistic outreach to a local care home for people with dementia), and to be tasked with answering questions about Jesus from 100+ primary school children at 'Christmas Unwrapped' - to mention just the two extremes of the age spectrum.

Probably one of the biggest encouragements for me during my time at St Mary's has been seeing people become Christians. Thinking of the steady trickle of people professing faith in Christ over the last couple of years gives me great cause to rejoice and praise God for his power and mercy.

All of which is to say: thank you, St Mary's! Praise God for your devotion to Jesus and his people. Beth and I will miss you and wish you all the best as you care for each other and hold out the word of life to those around you.

If you would like to contact me via email from October onwards, please use . And if you would like to receive occasional ministry news emails, please email me on that address and I will add you to the list!

Holiday Club 2018 (Zach Penman)

From Tuesday 28th August we had the church transformed into a marvellous medieval castle and all the rest, from the Bailey in the garden to the Craft Gallery. It was a great effort to make it look amazing as we welcomed over 100 children onto the church site for our three day holiday club.

We started with Jesus is the king to be promised; and with lots of fun, team games, jokes and songs the children learnt how God's king will rule over the whole world forever.

The Thursday we welcomed back those from the first day back again for more fun and medieval craziness! We shot at soft toys on cabbages with bows and arrows, as well as learning that this world is broken, but Jesus has come to fix it. A great truth that both children and adults were excited to think about in our group bible times in our very own decorated rooms.

And finally, the last day. In the short time we are together in the morning I am amazed as to how much we manage to fit it, Friday saw us jousting cabbages and making full size shields from scratch! As well as finishing the week with looking at how Jesus has come for messed up people so that they can become friends with God. What a great way to end the week and to see all the parents joining the last session in the church to find out what their children have been learning was so encouraging. A great prayer would be that these sessions provoked thoughts in parents as well as children.

Sunday we shared a royal banquet with our knights of the very small round table and all the families of those who attended holiday club. A Sunday service that was just as energetic as the week allowed parents to enjoy in the singing and talks that excited their children. The barbecue was a great time for people to make new friends and enjoy the marvelous sun in our church garden together. We give great thanks for the weather throughout the week and also the fun of the whole holiday club.

Trick or Treat - that is the question! (Kate Wheatley)

Trick or treat - that is the question!

This year, the 31st October is on a Wednesday and so 7up is thrilled to be able to put on a real treat - a special Superhero party.

Jesus said 'I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.' (John 8:12)

We would love the children to come into the light of our party, to find out more about Jesus who is the only real superhero that there has ever been.

We are opening up the evening to all those aged 5-10 and we would be thrilled to see our church kids and their friends.

All the details are on the flyer. Come dressed up as a superhero if you would like and we guarantee a bag full of tasty treats to go home with!

A Problem That Will Never Go Away (Will Stileman)

Both our recent sermon series [in Matthew 13 on Sunday mornings and in 2 Timothy on Sunday afternoons and evenings] have highlighted a problem that will affect the church until Jesus' return. The problem is false teaching that inevitably leads to false living, and the endangering of people's salvation.

In our generation, there are two matters of false teaching which are wide-spread. One is a 'prosperity' gospel. This is a gospel which promises health, wealth and prosperity in this life, while underplaying the Bible's teaching on sin, self-denial and suffering. The other is a 'no-need-to repent' gospel. Here, God's blue-print for marriage and sexual ethics outlined in the Bible is actively ignored, while behaviour that God condemns is accepted and blessed.

So in one sense it is no surprise that on Thursday 30th August Reading Minster held a service to celebrate Reading Pride week during which communion was celebrated on a table bearing the Rainbow Flag. But it is nonetheless extremely disturbing, especially as that service had the full support of our local bishop, Andrew Proud, and our archdeacon, Olivia Graham.

As a church we actively welcome all people whatever their background and battles. We long for the whole of humanity to know the saving news of Jesus Christ. We abhor all bullying and abuse of same sex-attracted people. We want St Mary's to be a loving, safe Christ-centred community. But LGBT+ Pride Celebrations along with the Rainbow Flag are part of a secular movement which aggressively promotes behaviour that God calls immoral.

So for instance, the apostle Paul writing to the church in Corinth warns, his readers with these words: "Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy, nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." [1 Corinthians 6:9-11]

From Paul's comments we see that it is possible to be deceived in this area. Homosexual practice, along with a host of other behaviours, is sinful, and very serious in its consequence. But notice how Paul is speaking of those who habitually, unrepentantly practise these things, not those who are tempted to (for such were some of you indicates this is past practice for those who have come to Christ). The wonderful news of the gospel is that in Christ there is forgiveness and a God-given, wonderful fresh start. This passage is one of several in the Bible which warns us that homosexual practice is wrong in God's eyes. It is because of what the Bible says (not our own prejudices) that we must be very worried about what happened in Reading Minster. That service will only be understood among the public as promoting behaviour which God declares is wrong. What is more, when a leading church does this, the impression is given that Christ promotes such behaviour. That is both dangerous and confusing, especially to those who struggle in this area. Jesus once said "Whoever causes one of these little ones - those who believe in me - to stumble, it would be better for them if a great mill stone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea." [Mark 9:42]. Jesus is talking about His little ones - by which He speaks with a fatherly care of the vulnerability of those who trust in Him. As Jesus makes clear, it is a very dreadful matter in God's eyes to lead people into sin.

So as a church we cannot sit back and do nothing. I have personally seen Bishop Andrew to express my concern and dismay and the PCC [our church council] will at its meeting on 9th October make a decision over what action we are going to take. In the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ we have a better story to proclaim than that symbolised by the Rainbow Flag! Jesus and His apostles proclaim God's truth. God can be trusted. He knows what is best for us and He gives us the power and means of grace to live His way. You can read some testimonies - and much more - on the marvellous Living Out web site.

Organ Update and Inauguration (Matthew O'Donovan)

'Loud organs His glory forth tell in deep tone!'

Invented by Ktesibios in the mid-3rd century BC, pipe organs have been around a while. In ancient Greek and Roman culture they were used at outdoor entertainments such as races and games. In recent centuries, organs have been equally built in concert halls, convention centres, cinemas (in the days of silent film), private homes and, if you want to hear the largest fully functioning organ in the world, you need to take a trip to Macy's department store in downtown Philadelphia where the shoppers are entertained by twice-daily organ concerts. But it seems especially fitting that what Mozart called 'the king of instruments' should have had such a prominent role to play over the years in the praise of the King of Kings: organs have been used in Christian worship in the western church since at least the 7th century, no doubt enduring at least in part due to their unique effectiveness at underpinning and supporting the human voice.

Our new organ was first heard in public when the Prime Minister opened the church building on 1st June, and it has since been in regular use. The sharp-eared, however, will also have noticed an evolution of the instrument's tone from week to week: our organ builders have been at work throughout the summer in order to complete the regulation and voicing of each of the 1,870 pipes. That process is now finally complete with the addition, at the start of September, of three electronic bass stops; these sound through four loudspeakers within the organ which are specially designed to provide the sort of deep tones (more than an octave below the lowest note on a bass guitar) which would require pipes of a size for which we do not have the space in the church building.

In replacing the pipe organ, we were keen to ensure that the new instrument would not suffer from the same problems as the old one. It had significant tuning problems caused by a badly-planned layout, not helped by an unsympathetic heating system. It was also a mongrel, containing a mixture of pipes cobbled together cheaply at different points during its history. The oldest were from a small house organ given to the church in 1817 (a time when the entire population of Maidenhead numbered just one thousand). Many pipes dated from 1877 (along with several of the organ's mechanical parts), some from 1909, others from 1951, and still more from 1967 (when the instrument was moved into the new building). Much work had been done on a shoestring; between the wars the instrument memorably boasted an electric air-pumping contraption involving a bicycle wheel and crank made by Heath Robinson (of popular proverb - he was a parishioner). An ill-fated attempt to refurbish it cheaply in the early 1980s had to be 'rescued' by another organ builder, and the resulting instrument - though it made the very best of a bad job and lasted more than a decade longer than predicted - was lightweight and uneven in tone (the only way to make it loud enough to support a really large congregation was to make it 'squeal').

We are extremely grateful to Jonathan Wallace and his team from Henry Groves and Son Ltd., a Nottingham-based family firm, who have built our new instrument for us with a high quality of workmanship and at a competitive price which made the project feasible, and to Paul Hale, our consultant. We are particularly blessed that Jonathan had a timely opportunity to source some particularly fine pipes which comprise the 'core' of our new instrument. Most of these come from an excellent organ built by the Walker firm in 1932 for what was then Wyggeston Grammar School for Boys, Leicester. The school, which until only a few decades ago had a strong tradition of organ playing, became a sixth form college in the 1970s and, a few years ago, decided that the organ was surplus to requirements. Jonathan, learning that this fine instrument was destined for the skip, acquired the pipes cheaply in the hope of using them in a new organ planned for another school near Nottingham. When the latter school's funding fell through, he was on the lookout for a new project in which the pipes could be used; ours came up at the right moment. The Wyggeston pipes have been augmented with some well-matched, quality pipes from a contemporaneous instrument being discarded by a Nottingham church, and a few of the best pipes from the previous St Mary's instrument, carefully voiced so as to blend well with the rest. The 'action' (i.e. mechanism) of the organ is entirely new, built - unlike the Victorian parts of our old instrument - using materials designed to perform reliably in modern, centrally-heated buildings. The complete instrument has a space-efficient detached three-manual (i.e. with 3 keyboards) console which can be moved to any part of the front platform. I am happy to furnish anyone who is interested with full technical details about the instrument, or discuss in detail the rationale behind the decisions made at various points throughout the design process.

The result is an instrument with a fine, cohesive, and varied tone that carries enough weight to support a large congregation with ease, and which has already proved itself in vastly improved tuning stability during the extreme July temperatures. It is an instrument which will not only encourage and support our congregational singing from week to week, but, we hope, enable us to adorn the gospel attractively when large numbers of visitors enter the building at our various Christmas carol services and civic services. Indeed, in the Lord's generosity, the instrument has turned out to be more successful than either we or the builders might have imagined. As one of the finest instruments in town, I anticipate that it will attract visitors in its own right - amongst them a number of Wyggeston alumni organists who will be keen to see where their old school organ ended up. We have already had several requests from local organists' groups to visit. I hope this will raise awareness of the church and bring people into contact with us who otherwise would not have been interested in St Mary's - but ultimately it is not so much St Mary's that people need to discover as the Lord we serve. Please join me in praying that, as people come to hear this fine instrument in the coming months, they leave us having encountered the Pearl of infinitely greater price. Soli Deo Gloria.

On 27th October the organ will be formally 'inaugurated' in a concert given by internationally renowned organist David Goode (a member of the St Mary's church family). Do come along if you can, and bring friends; admission will be ticketed but free. Details will be going up on the church web site shortly.

Project Connect - Update on Building Works (John Blackbeard)

We moved into the refurbished church in early January 2018. What has been happening with the completion of the building since then?

Unfortunately, our builder, Westco, went into liquidation shortly after we moved in and so were not able to complete the last few things and are not able to fix the inevitable snags that occur with a refurbished building. We have thus had to explore different ways to get the snags fixed, but at the same time not jeopardise our contractual position as Westco is wound up.

At first we tried to find a new contractor that would take over and complete the project as that would have been the simplest outcome contractually. After several attempts, this proved unsuccessful. We then started to look for individual subcontractors that could fix specific snags. There is a long list of snags and some are big and serious while many are small and not serious. The bigger ones are:
  1. The heating system was not installed correctly and the control system did not work. We have experimented with several options but in the end asked the project heating engineers to redesign the electrical wiring and control system. This has been done and an electrician has almost completed rewiring it. We hope to have it up and running well before the cold weather arrives.
  2. Ceiling planks outside the welcome area. As you may have noticed, some of the ceiling planks came loose and were in danger of falling down. We had to redesign the fastening system and apply the new design to each and every plank.
  3. Automation of doors to the welcome area and some other doors on site. These were never connected up and a company has now been contracted to complete the connection and commissioning.
  4. Bollard on the driveway. This was not completed and commissioned. We had to install the outstanding components and commission it and we are now better able to manage access to the site.
  5. Glass doors to the two vestries. These were badly installed and the doors sagged on their hinges rendering them unfit for service. A company has been located that will reinstall them and we can then also connect them up to the access control system.
  6. Ventilation in the two vestries. No ventilation was included in the design and while comfortable and warm in winter, the vestries are too hot and stuffy for use in summer. We are planning to install a window in each vestry to overcome the problem.
  7. Top windows in the church. These are a great new feature of the refurbished church as we can open them in hot weather to let out the hot air and cool the building (hot air rises). We were very grateful to have them this past summer. Unfortunately, the windows were not installed correctly in the frames and will all have to be taken down and reinstalled. The electrical opening mechanisms were also not fitted correctly (three have since failed) and will need to be replaced. We also experienced another unusual problem with the windows. Some pigeons decided they were an ideal access point into the church so they could build their nests in the new organ! Thanks to Steven Wheatley who explored several different tactics to keep them out and finally solved the problem by fitting spikes at strategic points to keep the pigeons out but at the same time not disturb the good aesthetics of the windows.
  8. Rain gutter downpipes. With the first heavy rain, it became obvious that the design of the gutters and downpipes were inadequate and water overflowed the gutters at some points and is starting to mark the outer walls of the church. The designer has visited site and we await their redesign. After agreeing that, we can install the additional downpipes, hopefully before the winter rains set in.
  9. Baptistry sealing and operation. We were thrilled to have a baptism service in February. It proved an interesting experience as we discovered that the sealant round the edges was not complete and we had to do that before we could fill the baptistry with water. We also had to have safety barriers made. We experimented with different pumps and piping arrangements to empty the baptistry and now have a good system that works so we look forward to many more baptisms.
  10. Hearing loop. It was not installed correctly and while it does provide some benefit to hearing aid users it is nowhere near the design level of performance. Thanks to many hours of testing and analysis by John Bowen, we now know where and to what extent it is defective. Discussions with a specialist hearing loop company are progressing to test and, if successful, install a high level hearing aid loop.
  11. Ventilation in the welcome area. The new welcome area with all the glass walls is light and appealing and is a good showcase to the high street as we had planned. We have also started using it for several meetings such as Worker's Lunch and Women's Bible Studies. While the sun warms it nicely in winter, it gets too hot in summer so we plan to install some opening windows or even air conditioning to cool it on hot days.
  12. Tap in welcome area. The tap fitted was a boiling tap, but proved unsafe for children as it could be activated and produce boiling water even if switched off. We had to replace it with a new warm and cold water tap.

There are also many other small things that need to be fixed and we are fixing those as we go along.

We need to have all snags fixed by the end of December 2018 so that we are ready to offset the costs of the fixing against any final payment that may possibly be due to the Westco estate. (That is a simplification as contractually it is more complex, but that is the essence of it). Thanks to good project management, we had only paid to Westco the value of works they had completed so when they went into liquidation, we were left with a sum of money that was never paid to them. We believe this will be sufficient to complete all the remaining items and snags. We should therefore still complete the building and all snags within the final approved total cost.

The organ and AV systems were not part of the Westco contract, but also had to be completed after we moved in. John Bowen, John Croft, Jim Beswick and others have worked tirelessly to complete the AV installation and are now almost done.

As the main building refurbishment ran a few months late on the contracted program, we missed the slot that the organ builders had reserved to install the organ. They have therefore had to return to site several times over the past few months to complete the installation and tuning of the organ when they had some spare time. The organ casing at low level also remains to be completed and we are researching suitable materials.

So, as you can see, we have been and are still busy fixing the last outstanding items. The new church is great, and many have remarked on that, but when it is all finished, it will be even better. A big thanks to Neil McDonald and all those that have worked so hard to help us on the project and finally, we continue to thank the Lord for our super new church that we can use in new and different ways to praise Him and to reach out with the gospel.

Ministry Training Course (Marc Boulter)

What is the Ministry Training Course?

The Ministry Training Course (MTC) is an interesting and exciting course to grow in your understanding of the Bible and Christian service for a range of reasons:

  • Personal Christian spiritual growth
  • Leading small groups (youth groups, growth groups, youth camps, men's or women's interest groups etc.)
  • Preparing and delivering talks to a range of audiences about Jesus under the guidance of the Holy Spirit
  • Development of apprentices within the church

The course covers:

  • Bible reading
  • Expositions (or comprehensive explanations) by excellent theologians on books in the Bible and practical application - a strong focus on Christ as the giver of life and joy in our lives now and eternally sets the agenda
  • Doctrine, praying, and practical ministry
  • Workshops on how to prepare and deliver talks to a range of audiences
  • Biblical theology (Bible overview, study of the nature of God, and Christian beliefs)

The teaching is fun, stimulating and deep. No prior knowledge is required and no-one is put on the spot. The group-work is encouraging and supportive whatever your contribution level.

In addition there are guest speakers and singers on a regular basis - examples include:

  • Nathan Tasker talking about his life and singing
  • a presentation on 'Technology and the Bible' by Andy Geers who produced the excellent Prayermate app

Why do MTC?

It is a no-pressure course focused on enhancing our understanding of the Bible and seeking how we can use our skills and talents to grow Christ's kingdom with the help of the Holy Spirit - something all Christians are called to do.

There are about 70 participants on the course each year from gospel-centred evangelical churches across the south central region of England with a range of participant ages and backgrounds. There are university leavers, youth workers leading holiday camps, church youth leaders, prospective missionaries, parents of school age children, prospective ministers, retired executives seeking to support church work, prospective growth group leaders and many more.  Participants from St Mary's included Anna Boorman, Peter Wheatley, Dick West, John Blackbeard, Nicola Winson, Heidi Cooper, and myself.

I was fortunate to have the time to do the course to understand how I can be useful to God, soften my heart, and be able to hear God's plan for my life. My next steps are to do year 2 and also lead a Growth Group.

Where is MTC?

The MTC course runs over two years (though you can choose to just do one!) and is held at St Ebbe's Church in Oxford from 10:15am to 3:45pm every Tuesday across the academic year from September through to June. The organisers record the lectures and post them on the 'Dropbox' internet storage site so if you miss a day you can catch up online.

Getting there is really easy via train, car share or drive with park and ride.

The cost is £190 per term. If you would like to go but cost is an issue, please speak to one of the St Mary's staff team.

Further details can be found at www.scgp.org.uk/training.

Reckless and Relentless (Beth Hutton)

The school gate attracts the same parents, twice a day, five days a week. By the time one adds in playdates, spontaneous after-school visits to the park and children's parties, it is easy to be doing a fair amount of life together as mums, dads and carers.

Regardless of our many differences with other parents, we will always have two things in common... firstly, we all have children; secondly, our greatest need, for all of us, is Jesus. With this at the forefront of our minds, it is exciting (and undoubtedly daunting) to consider our daily opportunities to 'go and make disciples' (Matt 28:19). The school gate is an exciting mission field.

That said, opportunities are not always obvious and not always easy to act on. The very suggestion of sharing our faith with others can fill us with fear and dread. Colossians 4 gives us a brilliantly practical step by step guide for how we can make the most of every opportunity. Firstly, 'devote yourselves to prayer' (v2) - it is God's work (not ours!) to change people's hearts so let us plead with him alone on behalf of these school gate families. Secondly, 'be wise in the way you act' (v5) - let us do our best to live distinctively and lovingly with God's Word as our standard - over time others will be intrigued to know what makes us tick. Lastly, 'let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt' (v6) - when opportunities arise, and they will, let us try to get Jesus' name into the conversation.

Sometimes it is easy to over analyse who we should be speaking to, what exactly we should say, or how we should invite someone for a coffee or to a church event. Or we can trick ourselves into thinking that we need to blurt out the entirety of the Good News of Jesus in one go so as to get it over and done with for the academic year. I am greatly encouraged by the image of the farmer in Jesus' parable of the sower (Mark 4) - he throws out seed recklessly and relentlessly - some of the seed falls on bad soil for sure, but some of the seed falls on good soil and goes on to give an abundant crop. Let us be like the sower at the school gate: reckless and relentless as we faithfully throw out the 'seeds'. Our job is to prayerfully sow the seeds as we live lives, and speak words, that witness to the truth and reality of our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us be faithful to this at the school gate. The rest is down to God.

What could God do in your workplace? (Richard Crane)

Those of us in employment may be aware of other Christian believers in our workplaces. Perhaps we even meet up with them socially, or support each other in prayer. But imagine if the Christians in every workplace in Britain were visible and recognised as bringing tangible benefits to their organisations? That's the vision of Transform Work UK, a national organisation who visited St Mary's on 9th July. We heard some inspiring examples from a range of organisations including banks, utility companies, business parks, and town councils.

Workplace Christian groups have often started as a tiny band of two or three ordinary believers, who found each other at work, started meeting to pray for their organisations, and eventually sought formal recognition as 'diversity networks' or joined up with multi-faith forums. This recognition opened myriad opportunities to serve their colleagues, which were actively supported by their employers. Ideas included placing a box for prayer requests in the cafeteria, organising a carol service, and even presenting a talk on Christianity during National Learning Week. And when these Christians became visible, it opened conversations with those who would never step into a church building. People who are burdened in their work and living without hope.

You can find out more at www.transformworkuk.org. If you work, then I'd love to discuss this further with you. Do get in touch!

Summer Musing (Will Stileman)

One of the things that we struggle with as a staff is when people come to us with requests to sort out lifts for people. We, of course, want to help but it is also quite an ask when we are having to deal with so many other things that come our way. So, over the summer, I have been giving some thought to this and I have come to the following conclusions:

  • It is important to keep on meeting with fellow believers and to be as active as we can in Christian fellowship and gospel ministry. The writer to Hebrews urges his readers "not to give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but to encourage one another - and all the more as you see the Day approaching."
  • If we are able to get ourselves to places safely using our own resources and abilities then we should. Galatians 6:3 urges us "to carry each other's burdens and in this way fulfil the law of Christ"; but a little later on Paul in the same chapter also mentions that "each one should carry their own load." (v5) We need to hold both those principles together.
  • It is not an extravagance to spend money on taxis, especially if we don't drive. It costs around £2,000 a year to run a car before you travel anywhere in it. That is a lot of taxi fares. When people get older they tend to spend less money on other things, so they might be able to spend more money on transport.
  • As a church we have a particular responsibility to look out for and care for those who have no family to support them. Those who do have family members should be getting support from them. As 1 Timothy 5:8 states, "If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever."

Every church wants to be, and should be, a caring community. But if individual members have the resources, they have a responsibility to care for themselves, so that the church can help those who are most in need.

8am, 9:15am and 11am Autumn Preaching Series (Jon Drake)

This autumn, in the morning congregations, we return to Matthew's gospel. Apart from two breaks for Congregational Sunday and Remembrance Sunday, we will preach through Matthew chapters 13-17 in two series: 'The Parables of the Kingdom' and 'The School of Christ'.

The Parables of the Kingdom  - Matthew 13:1-52

What is Jesus' kingdom, the kingdom of heaven, like? Jesus tells seven parables to show us. The parables reveal: the different responses people have to the message of the kingdom, the huge growth of the kingdom from small beginnings, how the kingdom is mixed in with the world for now but will one day be separated out, and the priceless value of being a member of Jesus' kingdom. Some harden their hearts to Jesus' parables, but those who humbly listen find truths that even prophets longed to see.

  • 9th September - Matthew 13:1-23 - The Parable of the Sower
  • 16th September - Matthew 13:31-35 - The Parables of the Mustard Seed and Yeast (also Harvest Sunday)
  • 23rd September - Matthew 13:24-43 - The Parable of the Wheat and Weeds
  • 30th September - 1 Corinthians 12:1-30 - Congregational Sunday
  • 7th October - Matthew 13:44-52 - The Parables of the Hidden Treasure, the Pearl and the Net

The School of Christ - Matthew 13:53-17:27

Can you imagine what it must have been like to spend time with Jesus and learn from him? In these chapters we join Jesus and his disciples as he teaches them through his words and his actions. We find that the disciples are slow to learn and of little faith. A bit like us, then! Jesus patiently teaches them about his glorious identity as the Son of God, he grows their faith in him, and shows them how to live as his followers. What a privilege to be part of the school of Christ.

  • 14th October - Matthew 13:53-14:12 - Why people reject Jesus
  • 21st October - Matthew 14:14-36 - The Son of God who meets our needs
  • 28th October - Matthew 15:1-20 - Horrible religion
  • 4th November - Matthew 15:21-28 - Great faith
  • 11th November - Remembrance Sunday - 9:15am All Age Service, 11am Civic Remembrance Service
  • 18th November - Matthew 15:29-16:21 - The yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees
  • 25th November - Matthew 16:13-28 - He must take up his cross
  • 2nd December - Matthew 17:1-13 - Listen to him!
  • 9th December - Matthew 17:14-27 - Faith as small as a mustard seed

Dependent Prayer (Will Stileman)

This autumn in our Family Focus slot, we are considering our church's mission statement. In the statement we mention three essentials, one of which is Dependent Prayer. Prayer is the chief mark of faith. Why would anybody pray on their own in secret, unless they believe that there is a God who hears and answers prayer? And the more we make prayer a habit, the more we are giving expression to our dependence on God.

Luke introduces the account of Jesus' parable of the Persistent Widow (Luke 18:1-8) with the words, "Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up." And Jesus concludes the parable with the punchline, "However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?" Jesus directly equates prayer with faith. So if we want to grow in faith, then we need to be growing in prayer.

The start of the Autumn term, like the beginning of a new year, is a good time to reassess priorities. Can I please suggest that we all take a good look at the priority we are giving to praying, both on our own and with others? If we are aware that we are not making it a priority, we need to urgently address the situation. Confide in a fellow Christian or your congregational leader that you are struggling and seek help from both the Lord Jesus and other believers to be more disciplined. As a church, one of our chief aims is to encourage one another to be more godly. Encouraging each other to be more prayerful is part of that.

My time at St Mary's (Anna Boorman)

I am sure that as many of you already know, I am finishing my apprenticeship here at St Mary's at the end of August, with Holiday Club being the last thing I do. It has been amazing to see how God has guided me over this last year (through all its highs and lows) and He has taught me so many things, which I know I will appreciate for years to come. Being a Ministry Trainee has meant I have been able to get involved in lots of different groups and events, as well as seeing the behind-the-scenes practicalities of running the church on a day-to-day basis.

I have enjoyed having the time and space to grow many fantastic relationships here and it has been great getting to know so many of you over this last year. Thank you to all those who have warmly welcomed me, been patient as I have learnt your names and have had me over for lunch! I especially want to thank those who have opened up their homes to me, both for many months and for those one-offs; you have all been very kind. I have never been so welcomed into a church family before - so thank you!

It has been great ministering to children and youth both weekly and through weekends away/1-week events. Though loud and excitable (and somewhat incapable of sitting still for a second), the young people of St Mary's have been a delight to work with and it has been amazing watching them discover Jesus for themselves! It has been both fun and very challenging to write, plan and give talks and Bible studies, however it has been insightful going deeper into God's word and I have learnt loads from it. I have also enjoyed playing the big sister role (though small) as well as finding the inner *stern mum* look (a rare appearance), in both pastoral and leading situations!

My time here has been great fun despite being dunked to demonstrate baptisms at Easter Cracked; having to dress up crazily for 7-up parties; being attacked and covered in paint at youth group; and being nominated a Goonie at Explorers Abroad! I also got to play my banjo in the ALLsorts band; I have being constantly asked to hold babies in toddler groups despite being absolutely clueless; and I proudly waved the Filipino flag because I don't own an English flag for my Family Focus (same colours - right!?). I will cherish this year greatly!

Though unsure what the Lord has in store for me (all in his perfect timing), I am heading to Dorset where my fiancé is starting a new role, so please do pray for me as I apply for jobs and for the Lord's keeping in my adventures ahead. St Mary's Maidenhead, you have been a pleasure and a blessing to be part of.

Many blessings,

Anna

4pm and 6:30pm Autumn Preaching Series (Will Stileman)

In September and October, at both the 4pm and 6:30pm services, we start a new sermon series in 2 Timothy. This letter, written by the apostle Paul to his young protégé Timothy, is in many ways Paul's last will and testament. Paul is in prison; he knows that he is soon to be executed and so in this letter he is passing on the baton to the next generation of pastors / teachers.

As we study this letter together, not only will we be struck by Paul's passion for the gospel, but we will learn what the priorities of those in Christian leadership should be and what Christian ministry is normally like for all God's people. Wherever we are in our Christian journey expect to be both warmed and warned!

Introducing Celine Pham

Hi everyone! I'm really excited to have this opportunity to join the staff team here at St Mary's as a Ministry Trainee. I will start on 28th August, so here's a little introduction about myself: I am 22 years old. I was born in France and have lived there all my life, but I'm of Vietnamese origin. I have an elder brother (2 years older). In my spare time, I enjoy reading,  sport, dancing and music (I play the violin). I finished my studies as a nurse in 2016.

I grew up going to church with my mother, but I accepted Jesus as my personal Lord and Saviour at the age of 18. After I finished my studies as a nurse, in 2016, I thank God that I had the opportunity to serve as a nurse at hospital in Chad for 3 months during 2017. It was an amazing experience for me! Since then, I've chosen to devote my life to taking care of people, and why not in a cross-cultural environment? That's why I wanted, after I got my degree, to study theology.

I've just graduated (in June 2018) from the first year of Bible School in Geneva. I am so thankful for everything that I learned there. But after this year, I really want to be involved in a church so that I can put into practice what I learned. Plus, my heart found an interest for biblical counselling throughout the year. I'm therefore so grateful and excited to see what God has prepared for me this year, amongst you.

During my time at St Mary's, I will be involved with a range of different ministries including Mums and Toddlers, Pathfinders, 7UP, X and Shift-Focus, Explorers abroad; as well as other things during Sunday services and weekly church events. I will also do the Ministry Training Course in Oxford one day a week.

My aims are to be able to better understand how a church works from within by being involved in the staff team, have an experience in co-leading and leading in youth work, be more confident to evangelise in a foreign culture, improve my English and to just feel free to serve and spend time among you.

Please don't hesitate to come and say 'hi', when you see me around - I can't wait to get to know you better.

Introducing Zach Penman

Many of you will know me, I'm Zach Penman and have been at St Mary's for almost 12 years now. Before that I went to another church in Maidenhead that I still visit and help out in children's ministry there.

I jumped at the opportunity to become a junior apprentice at St Mary's and cannot wait to dive head first into children's and youth ministry, something I am very passionate about. Without children's and youth work pointing me to Christ, I wouldn't be a Christian today. I am 18 and have just finished my A levels in Biology, Psychology and Product Design and also an extended essay qualification in teaching practice (far too confusing for me). With great thanks I could defer my place at the University of Lincoln to study Biomedical Science Mbio and this gives me the opportunity to stay in Maidenhead for another year for the apprenticeship.

My main tasks over the year will involve mainly children's and youth ministry with activities such as 7UP and X/Shift Focus during the week and also explorers and pathfinders on a Sunday. I look forward to these as ways to serve God with the gifts I have. Please do pray for me whilst doing all this, so that it would all be to the glory of God.

The Ministry Training Course (MTC) in Oxford that I will be attending throughout the year is very exciting. I cannot wait to practice and learn how to encourage people in small groups as well as give talks in front of big crowds. Please do pray for me to be confident in this new skill I will be learning.

Please do introduce yourself to me! Lots of the children do know me from previous volunteering I have done and it would be great to get to know more and more of you.

BBB: Serving God – what and when? (Jon Harris)

This year's summer all-congregations BBB (Beef, Beer and Bible) was a barbecue in the church garden on a wonderful sunny evening in July. Forty men gathered to hear Clive Mather, chairman of Tearfund, being interviewed.

We heard Clive's experiences of being led by God throughout his life to serve him in different ways. We heard hugely encouraging stories of how local churches partnered with Tearfund devote so much time to prayer. These churches are thanking God, not Tearfund, for the fruits of the relief and development work that they see. And Tearfund is telling governments who marvel at the success of their projects, such as drugs rehabilitation, that this is rooted in prayer and the Holy Spirit at work through its volunteers.

Clive asked us to consider the repeated words from Revelations, "Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches." As we study the bible and pray are we keeping our ears open? In the many decisions Clive has faced in his life, he can recall three occasions when God spoke (non-audibly) to him in a way we often mis-characterise as 'directly'. These were clearly memorable and powerful for Clive... but there were only three. The bedrock of God's leading through his life journey has been by the Holy Spirit through prayer and God's word, the bible. Surely, God's preferred means of leading is just as 'direct': so let us keep our ears open as we commit to prayer and reading his word.

What is Beef, Beer and Bible?

Nights for men to socialise, study the bible together and support one another.

We meet termly, share food and drink, listen to a biblical talk to ignite our men's conversation... and then talk. We choose a Saturday to avoid weekday constraints. We choose the times to minimise the dashing-out-dad nature of it for some. We expect the location to vary each time; maybe including homes and pubs.

It's not for dads, it's not for husbands, it's not for young men, it's not for old men, it's not for blokes and it's not for gentlemen... it is for the brothers in Christ of our church family.

Dave Atallah's Licensing (John Furley)

Job interviews sometimes ask the question 'What is your weakness or the area you have an opportunity to improve on most?' to which the classic answer is... impatience. This answer may be what future employers want to hear - they wish to employ those that get on with the job, are keen and eager to get going.

Now, I do not know if Dave Atallah was asked that question when he was interviewed for the role at St Mary's Maidenhead, or if the question was phrased as 'Which fruit of the spirit is one that you pray for help with most?' but I think that Dave Atallah has shown great patience, as well as the other fruits of the spirit, over the three years since he started on the St Mary's staff team. He arrived in Maidenhead in 2015 with the aim that his role at St Mary's would soon expand to include White Waltham. After many setbacks and some very anxious months when it seemed that hope was not to be fulfilled, finally on 5 July 2018, Reverend Doctor Dave Atallah was licensed as Priest-in-Charge of St Mary's White Waltham and Shottesbrooke churches with continuing oversight of the 4pm congregation at St Mary's Maidenhead.

The church of St Mary's White Waltham was nearly overflowing with people, and was certainly overflowing with joy, to see Dave licensed by the Bishop of Reading, the Right Reverend Andrew Proud. The service is both a legal act and an act of worship marking the beginning of Dave's ministry and a new stage in the life of the Parish of White Waltham and Shottesbrooke. When someone is being appointed as Priest-in-Charge at a Licensing service, the priest can be presented by the patron (Barty Smith), licensed by the bishop (of Reading), and installed by the assistant archdeacon (Stephen Pullein). All these happened to Dave, so we can rejoice that he is formally, fully and completely licensed as the Priest-in-Charge!

The service included four 'lustily' sung hymns - as commented by one of those attending - as well as the formal presentation, licensing and declaration of oaths. In his sermon, on 1 Peter 2:1-10, the Bishop of Reading reminded us that God lives in people, not buildings and that the church should be seen as a movement, with people partnering together, radically committed to each other and community, not as a social group or lobby group, but as living stones called to provide shelter to all in a broken world. And whilst, as sinners, we are not perfect building material, God calls and claims us out of darkness into his light to build his church, his people on earth.

And we pray for Dave, his family, and for those committed to the church in White Waltham, that God would use Dave to call people to the Lord out of darkness and build the churches of White Waltham and Shottesbrooke over the years to come.

The Brewsters' Farewell (Jess Stileman)

After five years of dutifully and wonderfully serving St Mary's Maidenhead, God is sending the Brewster family on their way to start a new church in Henley called 'Trinity at 4'. Sam, Lucy, Amelie and Joanna will be sorely missed at St Mary's and this was proven after their final Sunday evening service. The church family, from all congregations, gathered together to share a meal and to celebrate their time serving. And what a meal it was! From pork mince lettuce boats and cream cheese bagels, to walnut cake and chocolate balls, the St Mary's family showed their appreciation to the Brewsters through their cooking and baking skills! It was not only a great send off for the Brewsters but a great chance to spend some quality time over a meal with our family from all services!

It was fitting that Sam delivered his final sermon from Acts, a book that tells of the founding of the Christian church and the spread of its message to the Roman Empire. God has used Sam and Lucy tremendously to encourage us as a church and grow us in faith. And now it is exciting that he will use them to spread his gospel further into the untouched corners of Henley! Let's not be discouraged as they go, but encouraged to see the how they are living wholeheartedly for God's Glory. Through this move, more people will be brought to know God, and His family will grow even bigger!