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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Maidenhead Advertiser article

News of our completed renovation project has reached the local newspaper - check out the article for yourself on their web site.

Return to the church site (John Furley)

The chairs are in. Arrive early on Sunday and choose your seat!

The chairs were laid out in church on Thursday ready for the first services back in St Mary’s church after the refurbishment. The photo blog has photos of the church with the chairs. Come and worship back on site, praising God for what he has provided.

What about summer camps? (Simon Eves)

Whenever I speak to someone about Summer Camps, I normally get some of the following questions and comments. They're good questions, so I thought I'd pop some short answers down below.

Since booking for many camps opens in January, and I know people are planning next summer's holidays, I wanted to get you the dates for the camps we support.

What are Summer Camps?

Camps, first and foremost, are brilliant holidays for young people. They are incredible fun, featuring a whole bunch of awesome activities and some serious, engaging and challenging Bible teaching.

They are about a week long and most take place in boarding schools (not under canvas!).

Who are they for?

Primarily they are for 11-18 year olds. Most, but not all, will have some connection with a church - either through coming on Sunday or going to a youth group. There is always a huge mix of people of different backgrounds; some have a faith, others don't. Virtually everyone I've ever seen on a camp has a brilliant time.

Aren't they quite expensive?

Yes and no - at around £35 per day for everything (big activities, food, accommodation, on site facilities etc.) they are, I think, good value.

That said, a total approaching £300 for an eight or nine day camp is obviously not a trivial amount. We never want money to be a reason not to go. If you need help, please ask your congregation leader or Simon Eves.

Isn't going to Church and their groups enough?

Obviously, as the Youth Minister, I hope that the regular year-round work at St Mary's provides plenty of room for young people to grow and flourish in their faith.

That said, again and again I see people make huge strides in their faith during camp. Simply the amount of teaching they receive in a week and the space to think about it for themselves offers something helpful and different to the regular stuff at church.

'But none of their friends are going'

As I began by saying, they are brilliant holidays. Why not encourage your child to invite a friend along? The camps know there are always non-Christians present and many come back year after year. The Bible teaching is never cringeworthy or embarrassing. And who knows how God might use that invitation?

Equally, these camps are fantastic opportunities to make great friendships - there is nothing like bonding over shared experiences and laughing together, to create those friendships that will often then continue during the rest of the year back at home.

'I don't have children that age'

Firstly, they are truly excellent holidays. I know plenty of leaders who invite nieces/nephews/godchildren/grandchildren along and they have a great time. Why not think if you could do that?

Also, why not think about serving on a camp? There are all sorts of roles for all sorts of people - last year we had over 30 adults from St Mary's serving in a variety of capacities on camps. You can often take younger kids with you. Talk to Simon if you want to know more.

We plug the following four camps each year; we know they are camps where God's word is taught faithfully, we have a connection with them now as a church, and have leaders involved at each of them. There are, of course, many other brilliant camps across the country.

Summer Camps Dates for 2018

Barnstaple 2

28 July - 4 August

Ages: 11-14

This has been a great camp for a number of our young people at St Mary's over a number of years now.

Penrhos (formerly Edgehill)

5 August - 11 August

Ages: 11-14

This camp has changed name, date and location yet has largely the same leadership team as it did when it was Edgehill. A great camp and always very popular with our young people at St Mary's.

Quantock 1

28 July - 5 August

Ages: 14-18 

A popular camp which often sells out. By all accounts this camp is, as with the others, great fun with really great teaching.

Sparkford 3

14 August - 22 August

Ages: 14-18

A fantastic camp with an incredible quality of teachers/speakers. Amazing fun and always has a great crowd from St Mary's.

Meet the Nativity Final Episode (Glen Scrivener)

Episode 4 of Glen Scrivener's "Meet the Nativity" series is now released:

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Meet the Nativity episode 3 (Glen Scrivener)

Episode 3 of Glen Scrivener's "Meet the Nativity" series is now released:

player

Christmas Unwrapped (Kate Wheatley)

Three days, five sessions of two hours with 270 children from year 6 of our local primary schools and their staff who all came to unwrap Christmas and find out what it is really about.

Mince pies were made and decorated - a first for many of the children. Through quizzes, drama and reading the accounts of the birth of Jesus from Matthew and Luke we explained that Christmas is all about Christ. For some children this was the first time that had ever been explained to them and they were astonished.

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

  • How do you know that the Bible is true?
  • Why was Jesus a boy?
  • Why was Jesus Jewish?
  • How old was Mary?
  • Who was Jesus' real Dad?
  • What was the purpose of Jesus coming to earth?
  • How did the news spread around the world?

Project Connect update - 14th December 2017

We are planning to hold our first services in the refurbished church on Sunday 7th January. This is the target date, but it could change as the organ, audio or church set up could take longer than planned. The plan is that after the 11am service on New Year's Eve, to take the St Mary's chairs, chair racks and all remaining children's equipment and toys in a van and cars to St Mary's.

Help Required on New Year's Eve: Loading and then unloading chairs and equipment onto a van, practical help dismantling and then reassembling chair racks, carrying equipment to already-decided locations on the church site and hoovering and cleaning the store room at Oldfield. If you are able to help, please contact the church office.

Exciting Changes (Will Stileman)

Change can often be unsettling, which is why many people do not like it. However, the Christian message is all about change.

Yes, God does not change - Jesus Christ is the same: yesterday, today and for ever. And so the Christian message itself does not change. As we approach Christmas, the heart of the message that we will be proclaiming remains the same:

 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16

Nevertheless, God is committed to changing us.

Wonderfully, when we first come to put our trust in Jesus Christ we are changed from death to life; we change from being God's enemies to becoming his adopted children. But God doesn't just change our status, he changes our heart. He gives us his Holy Spirit and, through the work of the Spirit, he gives us new desires. At the deepest level of our being, we now want to live the way of Jesus rather than the way of our sinful nature. The Christian message is all about change.

And of course our circumstances are constantly changing. We get older. People move away. Nothing, other than the eternal God, remains unchanged indefinitely.

And that includes St Mary's. This year a number of long-standing members of St Mary's have moved away to other parts of the country, and we have also had the joy of welcoming a number of new people into the St Mary's Church family. And this next year will see some further changes.

With Sam Brewster's curacy coming to an end in June and his move to pioneer a new congregation in Henley (and with us not getting another curate until at least June 2019), we have had to consider how we can cover the areas for which he has been responsible. This has led to some exciting developments. From January, Richard Crane is going to reduce his paid employment to three days a week so that he can give regularly two days to ministry at St Mary's. Richard will take on responsibility for leading the Discipleship Course on a Monday night and the Workers' Lunch outreach on a Tuesday. We are so grateful that God has given Richard this desire to spend more time in gospel ministry. Please do pray for Richard as he makes this adjustment.

Sam also had responsibility for the 6:30pm congregation. And I am similarly thrilled that Tim Adams, who used to be a ministry apprentice at St Mary's, is likewise able to reduce his work as an engineer to three days a week from June. This will give Tim the bandwidth to lead that congregation effectively. Tim is actively pursuing the possibility of full time, ordained ministry in the Church of England and the leading of the 6:30pm congregation, supported by me, will give him a wonderful opportunity to gain experience and develop his gifting.

Another change to mention is that John Furley's two year fixed contract as our Operations Manager comes to an end in April, and he will return to working full time as a civil servant for the Food Standards Agency. I give thanks to God that John has been able to take this two year sabbatical from the FSA to be our Operations Manager. I would not have been able to cope without him, especially with all the additional work that came with Project Connect. The PCC will be considering an option to fill that role at its next meeting on 12 December. More details will follow in due course.

But of course for many of us, the biggest change at St Mary's will be the return to the new, massively refurbished church building early in the New Year. This is another exciting development and it will provide new ministry opportunities for us (more about that in other Touchline articles). Our longing is to be a loving church family from which the glorious message about Jesus rings out into our community.

So, as we look ahead to a new year and beyond, there are two things of which we can be certain: [i] God and his purposes do not change; [ii] our circumstances (both individually and corporately) will change. But because of the first, we need not fear the second.

"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:38-39

Project Connect update - 7th December 2017

This week the final pieces of tarmac were laid so the works on the drive are now complete. The welcome desk arrived and work to install the audio - visual equipment in church started. Staff and lead volunteers were trained on the systems and processes, ready for the building to be handed over. New photos of the inside of church and the organ are on the photo blog.

Meet the Nativity episode 2 (Glen Scrivener)

Episode 2 of Glen Scrivener's "Meet the Nativity" series is now released:

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Project Connect update - 30th November 2017

This week the organ installation continued and the glass doors and screens between the welcome area and church were hung. Outside, the wooden cladding for the metal frame of the welcome area was constructed and installed.

On the organ, Matthew O'Donovan writes 'excellent progress has been made this week, in particular with the assembly of the wind system and the installation of the various wind regulators and chest / soundboard modules. Some of the larger pipework is in, or in the church waiting to be put in, though most of the pipework will arrive after the chests etc. are in place, and when there's a bit less dust in the air in church.

The Project Connect photo blog has photos of the work, including the interior of the instrument.

Meet the Nativity (Glen Scrivener)

Glen Scrivener, who led our Real Lives week earlier this year, has released the first in a series of time-traveling romantic comedy videos in which 21st- and 1st-century Christmases magically collide.

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Project Connect update - 23rd November 2017

This week the hoarding at the end of the driveway was removed and the driveway was opened to pedestrians. Internally, organ installation continued, the carpet was laid in the chapel, vestries, welcome area and new crèche.

New photos have also been uploaded to the photo blog.

Project Connect update - 16th November 2017

This week the tarmac was laid on the driveway though this is not quite finished. Internally, the boiler was commissioned (the heating does work!), the chapel cleared and finishes put on the fixtures and fittings. Next week, clearing and cleaning!

This update will be revised each week, put on the St Mary's blog and e-mailed to those who have signed up to receive e-mails when new items are posted to the blog (log in and then click the button at the top of this page to do this).

Project Connect update - 9th November 2017

This week the organ pipes were delivered to site and work has started on their installation. Externally, work on the driveway has continued as the tarmac is expected to be laid next week. Work has progressed on the plans to train staff and volunteers how to use the church and how to return equipment and items from Oldfield.

New photos have also been uploaded to the photo blog.

This update will be revised each week, put on the St Mary's blog and e-mailed to those who have signed up to receive e-mails when new items are posted to the blog (log in and then click the button at the top of this page to do this).

Project Connect update - 5th November 2017

As Will has mentioned in his leader article in this month's Touchline, we will be holding our Christmas services in Oldfield Primary School this year.

The decision was taken on Monday 30th October at a meeting of the clergy, with involvement from those responsible for the works to be performed once WestCo (the builders) complete their work - the organ builder and audio-visual installers - as well as Neil McDonald, who has been heavily involved in monitoring progress, and myself. At the meeting WestCo gave an update on the progress, the expected completion dates of individual elements of the work and the expected dates when parts, or all, of the site could be handed over to St Mary's. WestCo were then questioned and challenged about specific aspects of the programme, and about their record of delivering to expected dates previously. The result was that WestCo stated that they would be able to hand over a complete, cleaned site, with staff and key volunteers fully trained in operating systems such as heating, fire alarms and the baptistry on Monday 27th November.

Whilst the decision to hold Christmas services in Oldfield is very frustrating, and the delay from the previous expected handover date (3rd November) is extremely disappointing, it was the clear decision to take. From the information that WestCo provided, the only way that we could be certain where we should hold Christmas services was to choose to hold them in Oldfield School. The risks of choosing to hold them in church were too high, and would involve last minute changes of plans if any elements of the building works were further delayed. The choice allows for some slippage in the delivery of the works, and also provides more time for the organ and audio-visual installation works, and training of staff and volunteers to take place. To re-open the church when we may not have fully tested the systems, or know what action to take if the heating failed, an alarm went off or how to turn the lights off would be embarrassing at best, and dangerous at worst.

The good news

The good news is that we really are on the finishing straight. Works have progressed at pace in the last month or so. The weekly updates in Contact, and the photos posted to the website, have described and shown the significant changes that have taken place. These have included the light oak flooring being installed on the raised platform and through the church, the cladding of the organ steelwork, glass walls for both the upper and lower vestries, the lectern and 360 chairs arriving, and the installation of the fixed furniture such as the audio-visual control desk, the welcome desk and welcome area storage, and crèche storage. Outside, the driveway works have started with the granite 'sets' being laid outside the entrances to the church, office and hall, work to raise the level of the drive to the floor height of the church are in progress, and the driveway entrance has been cleared so that the church is strikingly visible from the High Street.

Why can't we move in with 'Oldfield style' audio facilities?

The staff and Project Connect team did discuss, at length, alternatives of how services could be run in St Mary's. These ranged from not installing any permanent audio equipment in the church and using 'Oldfield style' audio on a temporary basis, to only installing the permanent audio equipment and not the screens and projectors before Christmas. And whilst all these are possible and volunteers and staff were willing to do this, other factors were more important. The risks of delay in the handover of the building, or of delay in installing audio and visual equipment or the organ installation, or a combination of these factors, meant that the only decision that provided certainty and clarity as to where to hold the Christmas services was to choose Oldfield.

What is the cause of the delay?

There has been no single specific cause of delay recently. The cumulative effect of the previous delays has meant that it was not possible to catch up on the work and deliver the church by 3rd November, whilst maintaining quality of the work and safety on site.

Are any more delays expected?

None are expected. The lower vestry glass has arrived, the glass for the zig-zag doors at the back of church will arrive soon, and the tarmacking of the drive is scheduled for the week of 13th November. However, mechanical and electrical installations need to be tested, as does the functionality of the fixtures and fittings

When will we move back in?

We are planning to move back into St Mary's very early in 2018.

Will the organ be fully installed by the return?

No. Since the building works over-ran into the autumn there will not be time to complete the organ before Christmas. The instrument will be delivered and assembled in November / December, but the voicing and tuning of the organ will not be completed until some weeks into the new year. Services in St Mary's will use the piano until the pipe organ is fully operational.

How can you help?

  • Pray - for the works to be completed as scheduled, safely and at the same quality as we have seen to date.
  • Practically - in setting up and down at Oldfield over Christmas. It may be that you have not helped yet as you are new to the church in the last year, or that you think that there is not a role for you, or that your circumstances have changed since we first asked for volunteers. Please do think about helping - all the existing volunteers have been servant-heartedly giving their time and energy and some would be grateful of a break, especially over Christmas. Please do contact the church office or myself - we have roles that involve sitting down, walking around, or carrying things. We will also need some volunteers to help transport our equipment from Oldfield back to church - do you have a car and are free in the day, or one Saturday? Do you have a trailer? Do you have some free time between Christmas and New Year? It would be really helpful to know.
  • Praise God - that we are nearly there, that we will have a permanent home to worship, honour and praise God and where we can help to make Him known in Maidenhead.

Project Connect update - 26th October 2017

Progress over the last week has been both inside and out of the church. Internally, the lights have been installed, the light oak flooring laid up to the welcome area, the organ steelwork clad and the door frames from the welcome area to the church fitted. Externally, works to the driveway continue with the granite edgings installed and preparatory works to the drive continuing.

Next, the glass for the lower vestries will be installed and the decision as to when the first services will be back in the church will be taken.

This update will be revised each week, put on the St Mary's blog and e-mailed to those who have signed up to receive emails when new items are posted to the blog (log in and then click the button at the top of this page to do this).