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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Summer Services and Children's Work (Kate Wheatley)
The summer holidays are a great chance for our teams of people who help with all our children's groups so faithfully week by week to have a break. We owe them an enormous debt of gratitude for the way they consistently teach and encourage our children to follow Jesus in ways that are appropriate to the age group they are dealing with.
However just because the regular leaders have a break does not mean that we stop our Children's Work! We will continue each Sunday to teach our children but in a slightly different format. From 22nd July until 26th August our pattern will be that the children will come into church with their families as usual. Slightly later than usual in the service they will go out of church and into three groups.
- Crèche - for those under 18 months will operate as usual
- Scramblers - for those aged 18 months to about 3 years will operate as usual
- Children aged 3-11 will go to the Church Hall where they will be kept together for games, craft and teaching from 'What's in the Bible' - a teaching DVD suitable for under 11s; this summer we are going to be learning about the first three kings of Israel and how Jesus is a much better King than they were
Our senior school age children are encouraged to stay in the service where there will be handouts provided for them to help them understand and learn from the sermons. However, if they would like to come out into the Hall to help with the younger children then they would be welcome to do that too.
Please do if you have any queries. Thank you.
Explorers Abroad 2018 (Shane Kennedy)
After not knowing what to expect and this being my first time away with Explorers Abroad I was a little nervous and apprehensive. But I was also full of excitement as I knew some of the children going and had spent some time with them at 7 Up. There were 20 children and seven leaders.
I was excited to learn more about Jonah myself and be able to teach the children about our God and the things I had learnt from my own adventure with Him.
I was also very worried as I am not a morning person and don't enjoy getting up early. After the first day and seeing the children getting on so well with each other and having fun I was excited each day to see them growing in their faith.
I surprised myself by getting up at 6:30am and getting ready for the day without the need for someone else waking me up. The children were up and ready for the new day's adventures and it was so encouraging seeing them getting excited about the morning Bible studies and evening talks about Jonah.
Meal times were my favourite times of the day, not only because I was hungry as I had been running around all day, but I got to sit with the children and ask them questions about what they found good and what they had learnt. There was never a negative answer, they had always had a fun day and had learnt lots about Jonah and Jesus.
The favourite activity of the week was laser tag. We were split into two teams and had to retrieve the flag from the other team's base to win the game. The kids had a great time and both teams worked so well together and really got stuck into it. It also meant the leaders got to run around like kids for a couple of hours which was awesome.
The week made me realise how amazing our God is. We were blessed with good weather during the day. The world we all live in is so busy with work and other things that to take a week off and spend it learning more about our God is just incredible. Towards the end of the week you could see the children starting to put more trust in God; I had a great experience when one of the children came up to me with a Bible and started asking me questions, I had to fight back the emotion of complete happiness and we sat and spoke a little about the questions they had. The whole experience was great and so encouraging to see. I can't wait for the next Explorers Abroad and pray that the children who went will remember the week we had away and will continue in their own adventures with God by their side.
Calling All Workers (Richard Crane)
At some point in their life, most people work. It is both a blessing and a curse. We were made to work, and yet our work is corrupted in a fallen world. How should a Christian approach their work? Is it something we just put up with, or an opportunity to grasp?
My wife Gracy and I have some appreciation of the pressures of work. At first we worked in university research labs with unsociable hours, salaries paid by a charity, and an uncertain career path. When children arrived, we switched to office-based jobs in pharmaceutical companies. Increasing responsibilities have sometimes meant long hours and travelling abroad. We've seen how the work environment can affect people's priorities and behaviour, not least our own!
In January this year, my company kindly allowed me to reduce my working hours. This has given me more time with family, and the wonderful opportunity to join the St Mary's staff team part-time. One aspect of my role here is to oversee our ministry to working people. Our town is home to several large IT companies, as well as the town hall, shops and restaurants, and we want to serve all these local workers. We also want to equip our church family to understand what the Bible says about the value of work, to beware the idolatry of work, and to represent Jesus Christ among our colleagues.
So if you work, or if you want to invite your working friends and neighbours, please do be thinking and praying about these upcoming events:
- Local Worker's Lunch, every Tuesday 1:10pm-1:45pm during term time. We have a diverse crowd who come along for soup and sandwiches, ably produced by Fred Watts. After a short Bible talk, we discuss what it means in our workplaces. We aim to make it accessible to Christians and interested enquirers alike. If you work within striking distance of St. Mary's, why not visit us one Tuesday? And if you could help me distribute flyers, do get in touch.
- Christians@Work, an interactive workshop on Sat 23 June 9:30am-12:30pm in the church, with coffee from 9:15am. Together we will explore God's intention for work and share our experiences. Many thanks to David Brunt for putting together this interactive session. Please sign up here to give us an idea of numbers: Book now
- Transform Work UK will be visiting us on the evening of Mon 9 July. They are a non-denominational organization who advise on how to set up Christian groups in the workplace. Perhaps you've thought about doing this, but don't know where to start? This seminar will give practical advice, and inspire you to connect with Christians where you work. For your convenience we will repeat the same program twice during the evening: 6:30pm-7:30pm and 8pm-9pm in the church hall, with pizza served in-between! It would be helpful to if you're thinking of coming along.
St Mary's Books - News (Sara Hewins)
'We are quite persuaded that the very best way for you to be spending your leisure time, is to be either reading or praying. You may get much instruction from books which afterwards you may use as a true weapon in your Lord and Master's service.' Nineteenth century preacher, Charles Spurgeon.
As summer holidays approach, to encourage us to spend our leisure time in this manner, St Mary's is launching its first 'Book Sunday' on 24th June. Our staff team (and book group) have recommended a wide range of books to inspire, encourage and challenge us in our Christian walk. These books will be on sale after each of the services on 24th June.
The titles include:
- Corrie ten Boom's 'The Hiding Place' - in my opinion a 'must read' which has inspired several St Mary's members to visit her home in The Netherlands where the family hid many Jews during WW2.
- '1 Kings: The Wisdom and the Folly' - expanding our understanding of our recent sermon series and applying the events and issues to 21st century life.
- 'God's Very Good Idea' - for our younger folk, illustrating how God came to rescue all kinds of people.
If you miss the Book Sunday the recommended reading list will be on the church web site and on 4th November the Christian bookseller '10 of Those' will have a large selection of books for sale after all services.
The Official Opening and Organ Commissioning (Penny McCrabbe)
Penny McCrabbe talks to Clyde McCrabbe on his return from the special service on Friday 1st June commemorating the official opening of the refurbished church.
Penny: How many people were there and who attended the event?
Clyde: There were people of all ages from babies to people in their 90s. There were dignitaries, councillors, the new Royal Borough mayor and I mustn't forget to mention our local MP and Prime Minister, Theresa May. There were people from St Mary's from all the congregations, quite a few past members came back to celebrate too and many people from the local community including Sikhs and Muslims. There were at least 300 people there.
Penny: What format did the evening take?
Clyde: There were drinks on arrival - prosecco or orange juice served to us by some of the St Mary's young people. Most people were standing and milling around and there were circles of chairs beautifully decorated with flowers for those who preferred to sit. The way the church was arranged showed the new flexibility we now have. Once Theresa May arrived, Will Stileman addressed the people.
Penny: What did he say?
Clyde: Will welcomed Theresa May and the other guests. He told us that St Mary's is the oldest institution in Maidenhead and used to be a place where people prayed for safe crossing of the Thames. He thanked the large number of people who have been involved in the refurbishment. He said that the reason for the refurbishment was that we have a wonderful message of the most important person who ever lived to share. He explained that the church is now being used more for community events and will be used more and more for the glory of Jesus, this fits in with the new mission statement of our church, 'to know Jesus and to make Jesus known.'
Penny: What else happened?
Clyde: A video was played showcasing some of the recent activities that have taken place at the refurbished church; it showed what a vibrant, active church St Mary's is. Theresa May spoke about her childhood and growing up as a vicar's daughter. She said that she has visited St Mary's several times and while the church has changed in how it looks, the work that goes on in the local community is as strong as ever. There were prayers of thanksgiving.
Penny: Were there any songs?
Clyde: Yes. Theresa May played the first note on the new organ and we then sang 'To God be the Glory', a fantastic choice of song to show off the organ and to give praise to God. Then Matthew O'Donovan played the organ while delicious canapes were served.
Penny: What was the highlight for you?
Clyde: It was a wonderful event with quite a buzz to it. A highlight was seeing so many people from different communities of all ages. It was amazing to see the glory being given to God for all he has done for us.
The Official Opening (Will Stileman)
Huge thanks for all those who were involved in organising and serving at the official opening of our refurbished church on Friday 1 June. For those who missed it here are some pictures of the event, and a transcript of Will's opening remarks.
It was a happy time with over 300 people attending, a number of whom were members of the local community.
"Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to St Mary's and thank you all for coming to help us celebrate the completion of our building work and the commissioning of our new organ, which we will be hearing played for the first time today.
"St Mary's is the oldest institution in Maidenhead. We began life as a chapel where people prayed for or gave thanks for a safe crossing over the river Thames. There is a plaque on the pavement outside the Bear pub, which marks where the medieval chapel stood. God has preserved this church over the centuries and placed us right in the centre of this growing town; and as part of his world-wide church it is our privilege and joy to bear witness to the most amazing person who has ever existed and who will ever exist - Jesus Christ.
"You see it is our great conviction that the God who made this universe is not hiding. He has made himself known to us and he has done that finally and supremely through Jesus, who was fully God as well as being fully man.
"Christianity is about Jesus Christ. It is not about being religious. That is why our mission statement as a church is to know Jesus and to make Jesus known. It is Jesus who reveals to us what God is like. It is Jesus who reveals to us what we human beings should be like. And it is Jesus who through his death and resurrection enables us to be reconciled to God. God has given this world Jesus, so that all who embrace him can come to know the creator of this universe as their perfect, loving, heavenly Father.
"And it is because of Jesus that we embarked on this building work. We have wonderful, good news to share with all people, whoever they are; but this church building was hidden away and so we wanted to open up the drive and make it more visible. It also wasn't very inviting. There was a barrier which gave the signal to keep out. There was no welcoming entrance. There was no disabled access. The lobby was small and pokey. But I hope that as you arrived here this evening you felt the site invited you in.
"The heating system in the old church was also on its last legs. It couldn't cope when it was very cold. The organ had also reached the end of its life. And because of the slight ramp and the fixed pews, the building was not flexible. Therefore this building was really only used on Sundays. But now we have this light, open, flexible space, with up to date AV facilities. In fact just after we moved back in, at the start of this year, we held an art exhibition which worked brilliantly. Our longing is that this building will be used more and more for things like that for the glory of Jesus and for the benefit of the wider community.
"Jesus' great desire is that his people don't form holy huddles separated from society. Instead he longs for us to be involved right at the heart of communities, testifying both by our life and our words to the peace, satisfaction and hope that Jesus gives us. And it is our hope and longing that this refurbished building should help us to do that better.
"So we are so grateful for all the people who have helped bring this refurbishment to pass: our team overseeing the project here at St Mary's; our architect Alex Coppock; Steve Austin - our Quantity Surveyor; the builders WestCo and all the subcontractors; the organ builders: Jonathan and Paul; Oldfield School for allowing us to camp there on Sundays for 16 months whilst the work was being completed; the St Mary's church family and other friends who have given so generously for the work to be completed; the list goes on and on. But above all we want to thank God for our Lord Jesus Christ, for saving us from our sins, for making us his people and for providing all that we have needed to accomplish this project.
"So as I finish let me lead us in a short prayer of thanksgiving:
"Heavenly Father, thank you for all the blessings that you have given us, but above all we want to thank you for Jesus and the forgiveness and new life that you grant us sinful human beings through him. You have provided us with all the strength and resources to complete this building work and we ask that you would so be at work amongst us that this refurbished church building is used to bring glory to you and our Lord Jesus Christ; for we ask this in Jesus' name. Amen."
Holiday Club is back for 2018 (Kate Wheatley)
After our year off due to the building works we are delighted to be back at the church site and will be running our annual Holiday Club again this summer for those currently in school years 1-6.
This year we are going back in time to the Medieval Ages. We will take over the church site and make full use of all our wonderful facilities. The church will be decorated and transformed into a Castle where our Knights of the Round Table will host us, the jesters will entertain us and our minstrels will lead us in song. The garden will become the focus for jousting, archery and catapulting.
Our theme this year is the King is Coming.
We will learn about the promises made hundreds of years before the King arrived.
We will see how amazing the King is and find out that He is alive and still ruling for evermore.
The children will have fun in their small groups learning about Jesus, jousting and practising their archery in the garden and creating their outfits during the craft times.
Many people are needed to help during the week to make the club a success. If you can help in any of the ways below please do speak to .
- Office help, both before and during the club
- Registration checkers from 9:15am-10am
- Sports helpers
- Craft helpers
- Small group leaders and helpers
- Refreshment providers
If you are able to help in any way, however small, please do speak to Kate.
To book your child a place please go to www.stmarysmaidenhead.org/hc.
Please do begin to think who you could encourage to come this summer - friends, grandchildren, neighbours and please pray that all who come will love learning about Jesus the King, their Saviour.
Exciting Opportunities at White Waltham Parish (Dave Atallah)
Exciting Opportunities - could you be part of the partnership with White Waltham parish?
Whilst continuing to lead the 4pm congregation, from 4th July I start a new adventure, licensed as Priest-in-Charge of White Waltham and Shottesbrooke. This will then bring clarity and structure to our link, and enable further opportunities for mission into this community. Could you join or help our family by being part of this?
You do not need to be living in the area, although that might help! You do not need to be able to commit to every week, although that would be encouraging! You could be involved for a season or long-term.
You do need to want to see the partnership between St Mary's Maidenhead and St Mary's White Waltham flourish in the building of the kingdom of God. You should desire to see people reached for the gospel, through local schools, community links and drawn into the family of God meeting in White Waltham.
We pray for God's help to do the hard work of loving people and proclaiming Christ.
Jesus Christ is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me. Colossians 1:28-29
We are looking for people willing to serve God by being:
- Part of the BODY - IS THIS FOR YOU? You are likely to live nearby or have links in that direction with the school or similar. You are willing to come and BELONG to White Waltham Church with us for a length of time; to use your God-given gifts within the congregation, to love and be loved, any children would form, with ours, the key core of the Sunday School.
- A TEAM player - IS THIS FOR YOU? You are willing to commit to serving on a Sunday (eg once a month) and help with Sunday school, music or in other ways to encourage and STRENGTHEN the current congregation, and help us get going.
- A MISSION PARTNER - IS THIS FOR YOU? You could commit to be or are already part of one or more of the mission initiatives to REACH the fringe and community with the message of the love of God in Jesus. Existing ones such as Messy Church, the community events or assemblies, or helping start up new endeavours such as after-school clubs, parenting or marriage courses, or budgeting help with CAP.
The current shape of things
- Congregation: There is a congregation of about 30 with a small group involved in lots of things and very stretched. Willing, but small in number and tired.
We want to do Sundays really well, to encourage the believers and give confidence in inviting. We aim to provide small group fellowship meetings with bible and prayer, and lots of visiting, listening and loving. We pray for the experience of the JOY of Christ.
- Fringe: Those that might think of White Waltham as their church but don't attend regularly. Can be connected through baptisms, weddings, funerals, toddler group, Messy Church or other events.
We want to grow relationships well. And continue to run the Toddler group, Messy Church, and other events which people come to as well as courses such as Christianity Explored.
We pray for the impact of the LOVE of Christ.
- Community: Those that live in the parish, and communities around the two primary schools and other community groups, and friends and family of the congregation. We want to begin and grow relationships well. The community events have been a great blessing, as are other ways of taking part and seeking to serve such as regular assemblies and other opportunities in the schools.
We pray for the message of the HOPE of Christ.
If you are prompted to get involved, or just want to find out more it would be very encouraging to hear from you!
, 01628 638866
Woodlands Park Mayday Mayhem (Heidi Cooper)
What a delight to have a sunny and hot May Day long weekend! For those organising the Woodlands Park Mayday Mayhem event, it was an answer to prayer. Twice a year, a group of volunteers from local churches, Housing Solutions and residents run an event on the green in the centre of the Woodlands Park community. Everything is kindly provided by sponsors and grants, so that all attractions, activities and refreshments are free. The aim is to bring the community together and with the sunny weather, this year's event, based on a space theme, was a great success.
As expected, food was an important part. There were burgers and a delicious array of home-made cakes, teas and coffees, while a local business brought freshly cooked pizzas, which went down a treat. A key feature of the day is the Centre Games: activities taking place in the central area, that people can join in or enjoy watching, if they prefer! This year's Centre Games included Maypole Dancing, throwing and catching water balloons, tug-of-war and a Frisbee throwing game. There was also Sumo wrestling (which had parents in hysterics), bungey run, a bouncy castle and outdoor games, allowing people to let off steam. Biscuit decorating, face-painting, giant bubble blowing, crafts and temporary tattoos, engaged children of all ages and gave parents a chance to gather and chat.
Because of the glorious weather, there were impromptu picnics forming around the edges of the activities, and it was heartwarming watching young children interact and laugh with their parents, without the tension that paid activities often produce.
It is a special afternoon, that brings the community together, and is genuinely appreciated by them. The delight of a young girl recognising me from the Christmas Winter Wonderland, and watching a grandmother enjoy having something fun to bring her grandchildren to; just two of the many reasons why I feel privileged to be involved in this event. We are so richly blessed. Do diarise 15th December if you'd like to help out at the Winter Wonderland event, with its Christmas theme and carol singing.
Introducing... Bishop Assiel Musabyimana, Kigeme Diocese, Rwanda
Bishop Assiel Musabyimana became Bishop of Kigeme Diocese in Rwanda on 1 January 2018, and was enthroned on 13 January. His appointment follows the retirement of our mission partner in Kigeme Diocese, Bishop Augustin Mvunabandi, on 31 December 2017.
Bishop Assiel, who was born in 1969, has lived within the area of Kigeme Diocese for most of his life. He was however trained at the Protestant University of Rwanda in Huye, Rwanda's second city, and at the Uganda Christian University. Bishop Assiel was ordained priest in March 1998 and deacon in August 2001.
He is married to Valerie who has been the manager of the Kigeme Diocese Guest House in Nyamagabe (formally Gikongoro) for some years. Assiel and Valerie have three children; Shalom aged 17, Berith aged 16 and Kennedy aged 5.
Prior to Assiel's appointment to the role of Bishop, he was leader of the All Saints Parish in Nyamagabe. Nyamagabe is the provincial capital of South Province in Rwanda. Much of South Province falls within the Kigeme Diocese.
The Kigeme Diocese area of Rwanda is the poorest part of Rwanda; as a result it has many problems brought about through poverty. In addition to the poverty of the area there is a large refugee camp housing 20,000 people who have escaped fighting in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The border between Rwanda and Congo is only a three-hour journey by road, from Kigeme town. As Assiel is a local man he will be aware of the situation in the Kigeme Diocese area and will want to try to improve the lives of the many people in the area.
Kigeme Diocese not only provides for the spiritual needs of the people it also provides several schools and a large hospital. The hospital serves a population of 200,000 and has had to be extended in recent years because of the number of refugees in the area.
Since Bishop Assiel's appointment the Rwandan Government has passed a new law that means churches can no longer meet in the open air. This has been common practice in many parishes due to the growing number of Christians in remote areas of Rwanda. As a result of the new legislation Kigeme Diocese needs to raise around £120,000 to build and complete 10 church building projects already underway or planned. Please pray that the money and resources will become available in order to complete these projects.
4pm Women's Weekend Away (Heather Fielding)
A gaggle of gals from the 4pm congregation descended on the gorgeous House of the Open Door near Broadway, in the Cotswolds. We had a wonderful time deepening friendships, having uninterrupted conversations, enjoy meals together, exploring the gorgeous surroundings, playing silly games (very competitively!), laughing (lots) singing and most importantly delving into God's word.
It was such a treat to have proper time to consider Hebrews 11-13. Our speaker, Sarah Shelley reminding us to 'fix our eyes on Jesus when life is a blur.' We had space in our small groups to share what blurry times we're going through, pray for each other and discuss practical ways to prioritise time with our Lord every day.
Saturday afternoon was downtime with some popping in to Broadway village and others opting for a walk around a local National Trust property.
Many of us were repeat customers and had been looking forward to the weekend for a number of reasons: 'Quality time with God,' 'recharging my Mummy batteries,' 'sharing with one another' and 'being challenged'.
Highlights of the weekend included 'talking about my faith in an unbridled environment', 'fellowship', 'getting to know the Bible better', 'Getting to know people - it's been two years since I've been at the 4pm and there's still people I hadn't spoken to', 'the games, definitely the games'.
We left the weekend challenged to throw off sins that hinder us and encouraging each other to set our sights on our eternal home and to 'run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.' (Hebrews 12 v 1-2).
The Outnumbered Husband (Katy Singeisen)
My husband is hopelessly outnumbered in his house. He battles with understanding the social interaction (verbal and non-verbal); the theory of mind; the imaginative thought processes and the sensory world of his nearest and dearest.
The poor soul is PNT (predominantly neurotypical i.e. not autistic). His wife and children are not. They are all autistic. If we have autistic visitors, he becomes increasingly bewildered by their manner of communication, their jokes, their way of behaving. It is the experience of autistic people in the PNT world in reverse and I cannot help feeling sorry for him.
Autistic people are not, of course, all alike. Just as in any group of human beings, there are different personalities, abilities, hobbies, interests, likes and dislikes but they seem to have no particular problem in understanding or in communicating with each other.
The challenges faced by us in a PNT world are various but there are a few that people can really help with. May I give you a few to consider?
- Many of us have to deal with a world which is too bright, too fast and TOO LOUD. In a crowded, noisy and well lit room, there is a danger of the senses becoming overwhelmed leading to an overloaded sensory system which then proceeds to blow up or shut down. If the information you are relaying is important, find somewhere quiet and dimly lit and away from other conversations. Processing one conversation can be done, trying to process two or more simultaneously is very difficult.
- Try not to use inferences, implications or agenda in your speech - it probably won't be picked up leading to some interesting, unexpected (but probably unwanted) outcomes.
- Pause occasionally to let your autistic listener a bit of time to process. You may find that he/she is analysing word 15 when you have reached word 302 and are just getting to the punchline. You will be disappointed by the blank expression of non comprehension (got lost in the flow of speech before the punchline but may arrive eventually....)
- If you do come across an autistic meltdown caused by overload (it may look like a temper tantrum but it isn't), try to guide the person to a quiet, safe place. Don't expect any response to speech until it is finished.
- The interaction that most of you have with such ease (you have no idea of how beautiful and elegant it looks) is not possible for an autistic person. Ours is the clunky sort. Social interaction involves (for us) using only the intellect and it is exhausting. Please forgive us if we run out of steam and for all the other times we appear rude or stupid because we get it wrong or are so focused on something else that we seem to ignore you.
I have no idea why we have been created autistic but God is not prone to making mistakes.
What next? A mission statement for St Mary's (Will Stileman)
We are full of thanksgiving to God, our heavenly Father, for his gracious hand upon us as a church. 2017 was a tumultuous year for all sorts of reasons: the delays in the building work; our builders eventually going into liquidation; and the Church Commissioners throwing out the proposed United Benefice with White Waltham to name just three!
But we are now back in the refurbished building, and although there are still issues to be sorted out, we are beginning to make good use of it. In addition we are so grateful to God for the results of the last Gift Day: not only are we close to clearing the outstanding debt, but it has allowed one of our mission partners, 'iServe Africa', complete the first phase of its training centre. What is more, despite all the problems we have had over White Waltham, Dave Atallah, is likely to be taking up his post there sooner rather than later. And then on top of all that, God has done more than we can ask or imagine and has opened a door for Sam Brewster to launch a new family friendly congregation in Henley.
Now, with Sam Brewster moving on and Dave Atallah's heavy involvement in White Waltham as well as continuing to lead the 4pm, there is going to be more pressure on the staff team. This will need careful monitoring. However, I am in the process of applying for a curate, and if our application is successful, that curate will join us in July next year.
So, as a church, what should be our next aims?
Periodically, since arriving at St Mary's I have written papers, with the PCC's approval, which have outlined our strategies and plans as a church. The last of those, called Ten Years On was written four years ago, and it has been encouraging to re-read it and see how, through God's grace, many of those plans have come to fruition. Some things have not turned out as we expected but still wonderfully the gospel has gone forward. In all the papers I wrote, I commented that we don't have to invent a vision or mission statement for St Mary's because God has already given one in Scripture. Two passages, in particular, come to mind: The great commission at the end of Matthew's gospel, where Jesus said: 'All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always to the very end of the age.' Christ has given his church their marching orders! The other passage is that great verse in Ephesians which speaks of God's purpose to 'bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ' [Ephesians 1:10]
But having steered clear of all Mission Statements for the last 15 years, the vicar and the PCC have now done a U-turn and come up with one! With Project Connect nearing completion and with many of the initiatives we had planned coming on line, we thought it would be good to set our priorities for the next stage of our church's life and ministry in a pithy, memorable form. This is a document we can keep coming back to and which will be a useful tool in helping us to decide what activities we should be focusing on going forward.
This mission statement was first presented at our church's Annual General Meeting on 19th April. I commend it to you.
St Mary's Mission Statement, Values and Priorities
- To know Jesus is to know the God who made this universe and everything in it
- To know Jesus is to be united with God and indwelt by His Holy Spirit
- To know Jesus is to become the people we were made to be: holy, enjoying a living and loving relationship with our Creator
- Dependent Prayer. Prayer is the chief mark of faith. We express our trust in and dependence on God as we give ourselves to prayer both individually and corporately.
- Biblical Teaching. All that is needed for faith and godliness is found in the Bible - the trustworthy Word of God. So we give ourselves to both learning from the Bible and passing on its unchanging truths to our generation.
- Loving One Another. It is by the genuineness of our relationships of love with one another that we demonstrate that we are disciples of Jesus.
- Engaging Maidenhead with the gospel of Jesus. It is our responsibility to proclaim the good news about the Lord Jesus in such a way that people have the chance to really engage with Him.
- Growing mature disciples of Jesus of all ages and backgrounds. It is our ambition to encourage everyone associated with St Mary's to be a wholehearted disciple of Jesus.
- Partnering with other churches to make Jesus better known. We recognise our responsibility to work with other churches for the growth of the gospel in our region, the UK and other parts of the world.
The mission statement is also located in a more permanent place here on our web site.
Growth Groups at St Mary's (Jon Drake)
Our Growth Groups are such an encouragement to many at St Mary's. We have a number of groups that meet in the evenings, and also some daytime groups. In September the evening Growth Groups will be reorganising. This will be a good time for new people to get involved, so I'm writing to explain why Growth Groups are great to be part of, and why they are reorganising.
Why Growth Groups?
I can honestly say that one of the greatest helps in my Christian life over the years has been belonging to Growth Groups. I hope many others will feel the same.
Our evening Growth Groups are organised within congregations and meet in someone's home. They tend to have between eight and sixteen members and they meet for ninety minutes to two hours each week, except for the weeks when St Mary's Evening falls. Each group is different, but they all include time to catch up with each other, a Bible study discussion and time to pray.
Growth Groups are a brilliant setting to do many of the things the Bible calls us to do for each other as Christians. In the Bible study we can 'teach' and 'encourage' each other (Col. 3:16, 1 Thess. 5:11). Often we learn in a different way in an interactive discussion to in a sermon because we can ask questions and put things into our own words. Growth Groups are a great place to 'love one another' (John 13:34), 'carry each other's burdens' (Gal. 6:2) and pray for each other. In our groups we can also support one another as we reach out to others with the gospel.
If you are not part of a Growth Group at present do speak to your congregation leader, and look out for information coming soon about joining a group from September onwards. No experience is needed and it's fine to try a group and see how you find it.
Why Growth Group reorganisation?
Every four years there will be some reorganisation of the evening Growth Groups and that is happening this September (the daytime groups are organised differently). This will be a smaller reorganisation than four years ago in September 2014, when the groups became congregational for the first time. My hope is that each person will find themselves in a group with some old friends they have been with before and some new friends they can have the joy of getting to know.
There are many advantages to having some reorganisation every four years:
- It is good for existing Growth Group members, because it gives us the joy of sharing our lives with new people. Most of the groups are now at capacity, so without some reorganisation it is not possible for new members to join them. I hope all groups have found it exciting to be joined by new members and we want that to continue.
- It is good for those who have recently arrived at St Mary's. It is wonderful that new people join our church each year. We know that it is important for both recent and longstanding members of St Mary's to mix in a small group setting. With groups at capacity this can only happen if there is some reorganisation.
- It is good for our congregations as a whole. It is the congregation, more than the Growth Group, that is the local expression of the body of Christ. Believers have a responsibility to serve each other in the body, but that is hard when we don't know folk. Having some reorganisation of the Growth Groups allows us to spend time with and develop bonds with a different group within the congregation. Over time, we trust, this will greatly strengthen our life together as the body of Christ.
In the early summer we will put out a brochure explaining how many evening Growth Groups will be on offer in each congregation from September. My hope is that, for the reasons above, as many people as possible will say that they are flexible to join any group, or perhaps specify one or two people they'd like to be with, or an evening they can't manage. The congregation leaders will then work with Growth Group leaders and others to organise the groups so that each person is in a group with some old friends and some new.
As the groups reorganise, it will naturally be painful to no longer be in the same Growth Group as some who have become dear to us. We are very grateful to group members for facing this change so we can share our lives with a wider number in the church. One good way to continue fellowship with dear friends we are no longer in a Growth Group with is to form a prayer triplet or square. This is a group of three or four who meet weekly, fortnightly or monthly to share and pray for each other.
It is important that this reorganisation is conducted sensitively and thoughtfully, so if you have questions, concerns or suggestions please speak to or email your congregation leader directly. We will be delighted to speak with individuals or groups, to put our heads together on how this reorganisation can be done in a way that works for us all.
I write this with great thankfulness to God for all he is doing in our Growth Groups, and excitement about what the future holds as we seek to grow the number of groups and people involved for the glory of his name.