Blog

The St Mary's blog is a mixture of news pieces and topical articles. Each month a number of these are collated into a printed magazine, Touchline. Blog items over three months old are moved to the archive pages, which are available when logged in. Views expressed here are those held by the individuals posting, and not necessarily representative of St Mary's Church.

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Reflections on online church with a pre-schooler (Louise Drake)

It’s 10.50am on a Sunday. I get Matthew’s Bible out and place an enticing snack on the table in the hope that this might keep him occupied for the first bit of the service. He joins me and inhales the snack in a matter of seconds. The service has not yet started. People start to appear on the screen. It is a joy to be reminded that we are part of the church family together. Matthew waves for a few seconds, but the lure of the train set is too overwhelming. I ask him to come and join me, which is met with intense scrutiny of a diesel engine called Ivan in order to avoid eye contact. We reach an arrangement that he can play for the first few minutes of the service but will come and join me when online Sunday School starts.

I transfer over to online Sunday School, and convince an apprehensive Matthew to honour our previous agreement. Kate and Nick have set the children a task of finding a favourite toy and bringing it back to show the others. It is genuinely lovely for the children to have at least this virtual opportunity to connect, and they really enjoy the interaction. We then move to making paper plates, one side with a happy face and one side with a sad face. Matthew is very insistent that he wants to do this completely by himself. It is quite difficult to tell which face is which – to describe them as faces at all would be generous to be honest – but he is very happy with his work.

Nick encourages us to think about things that make us happy and sad, and we remember what we learnt last week about God making the world and being very happy with it. Kate then prepares us for our Bible story, where we will hear about when things went wrong in the world. Matthew is eyeing up the train set again, but the offer of turning the pages in the Bible whilst watching an animation of the passage wins his attention. The translation is very appealing, and whilst I feel a bit frazzled trying to keep him engaged, I love hearing the story retold so emotively.

We join Kate and Nick again to discuss the Bible story, as Matthew colours in his fingers with the felt tips. The enticement of the trains becomes too much to resist, and I am left listening on my own. I reflect briefly on how I find this a little stressful and wonder whether Matthew is actually taking anything in. Why are we here? Is it because I feel we ought to be? Is it expected of me as the vicar’s wife? But guilt and obligation are rarely good long-term motivations, and they quickly lead to resentment and fatigue. What I want for Matthew is for him to know positively that he is part of a church family, that Christian friends are a wonderful blessing, and that setting aside a special time each week to learn about Jesus is at the top of our ‘to do’ list. These things won’t make him a Christian, but at least they are laying some helpful foundations and habits for him.

Whilst cajoling Matthew to come back to the computer, I listen to Kate explaining how when Eve and Adam broke God’s only rule, they also broke his heart. I am reminded how wonderful it is that God still loves them with a ‘10/10 love’ and promises to come and rescue them. I think about how helpful these ways are of explaining Bible truths and log them mentally for future use. Matthew is persuaded to join back for the final three seconds where he waves enthusiastically and then vanishes back to the trains.

Over lunch after the service, Matthew and I chat a bit about Sunday School. I ask him some questions about the Bible story, and remarkably he remembers quite a bit. I use Kate and Nick’s teaching points to reinforce the main message. He seems genuinely interested and asks me why the snake was in the garden in the first place, and what happened when Adam and Eve left the garden. “What does God promise he will do?” I ask. “Jesus will come for them,” he replies. “And why does Jesus do that?” I follow up. “Because he is Jesus!” comes the reply, “and he loves us.”

Parenting Matters with Mel Lacy (Beth Hutton)

There is a crisis in youthwork.

Generation Z, or teens as we know them, are struggling to make sense of the world and their place in it. Like playdough being moulded into shape, so the worldview of our children is constantly being formed in their every single interaction.

Why, one might ask, should we be concerned about our children’s worldview? Well, worldview determines how they see the world, how they see themselves and, crucially, how they relate to God. Worldview matters because truth matters. Furthermore, worldviews tend to be formed largely by the age of 11 years, and once formed, it is hard to change.

To add to this crisis, our children often look to the adults around them. They are watching us for how we respond to the world. Yet sadly, there is often a big gap between what we say (confessional theology) and what we do (functional theology).

Whilst this all paints a fairly bleak picture for our youth, be encouraged, there is the good news of Jesus Christ! Back in early January, Mel Lacy opened up this topic brilliantly, encouraging us with her insight and wisdom on the matter, firmly rooted in the wonderful truths found in scripture.



Mel, highly aware of the huge pressures on parents, heightened even more so during this current pandemic, inspired us to look for the little opportunities of how to make a difference in the lives of our youth – to consider how we might engage them with the world, and to fully captivate them with the biblical truths of the gospel.

Mel pointed us to three scriptures as our biblical motivation on this matter. She described the beautiful vision for our youth painted in Colossians 2:6-7 – youth who are rooted in him so they can stand robustly in this world. In Romans 12:2, Mel went on to explain the importance of our children being shaped, through the changing of their minds, by the Word and not the world. Lastly, in Ephesians 4:14, Mel spoke about what it is for our youth to be steadfast and secure in the gospel amidst a cultural pattern that is tsunami like.

Throughout the evening, we made use of the breakout rooms - hugely useful for unpacking the ideas further with parents of similar age children. Mel asked two key questions in relation to our youth:

Who builds their world?

We discussed the range of people involved in the lives of our children - people such as family, nursery carers, teachers, peers and of course church family. Whilst we live in a society which encourages the outsourcing of parenting, Mel brilliantly challenged us to be intentional, particularly in exposing our children to church family wherever possible. Mel talked about sharing life together as a church (this might take some creativity during Covid!), as opposed to just one hour on a Sunday. She highlighted especially the focus on intergenerational church life.

What influences their world?

We also discussed the range of influences in the lives of our children – everything from TV, computer games, movies, the internet and social media, to magazines, books, music and toys. With regards to worldview forming, Mel emphasized the instructive nature of all such cultural artefacts. The instructive subtleties discussed ranged from Peppa Pig and Merlin, to Minecraft and Bratt Dolls, and much more! The key challenge Mel shared was for us to be intentional with our youth, to be aware of their hearts, teaching them to discern and to engage with the world through God’s Word. Mel warned against ring fencing certain cultural artefacts, such as Harry Potter, which can actually stop children from learning to think critically. To quote Dr Francis Schaeffer, as shared over Zoom that evening, “We should be consciously preparing the next generation for the new battles it will face”.

One very practical take away Mel suggested was to carve out time to actually watch a tv show/ movie alongside our children, and to be intentional about initiating a dialogue with them. Mel proposed we talk with our children about what we are watching so they might learn to discern what is of the world, what is of God’s Word (there are so often echoes of God’s goodness!), and to consider what this might teach us about God and about ourselves. There was even a suggestion for playing ‘spot the truth’ and ‘spot the lie’ and to add in pizza to add to the fun!

If you didn’t make the evening, let me encourage you to get online and watch the recording. The evening is a springboard for game-changing action I guarantee. Let us be intentional – both on our knees and in our conversations – as we get alongside our youth and help them to navigate safely as they learn to engage with the world, whilst absorbing only God’s Word.

Suggested Resources

  • ‘Plugged In’ an online resource from Focus on the Family
  • Common Sense Media
  • ‘The Pop Culture Parent’ a book by Ted Turnau

Summer Camps: Save the Dates (Simon Eves)

It’s cold, it’s dark and we’re in lockdown. Summer feels far away and even the idea of a summer camp feels a long way off. However, the various charities that organise Christian camps have been working hard behind the scenes and have everything planned and in place to be able to run these holidays if the state of the pandemic and the government restrictions at the time allow.

Parents (and grandparents, aunts, uncles, godparents etc.), can I encourage you that if these holidays are able to happen then they will be an absolutely fantastic time for our young people, they always are, and they are always times of spiritual growth in the young people who go.

Below is a very brief introduction to camps for those who don’t know much about them and then some specific information for 2021.

What are summer camps?

Check out the websites below, they’ll give you a better taste than I can in a paragraph or two. But they are essentially a residential holiday for a week or so in the summer where young people do a whole range of activities, have an absolutely brilliant time and take the time to think seriously about and engage with the Bible and the God we meet in the pages of scripture.

As a leader it has always been a highlight of my year and the members all say the same. They generally come back hugely encouraged and with a whole bunch of new and stronger friendships. It was such a shame to see them cancelled last year; if they’re able to happen this year they will, I’m sure, be brilliant. All of the organisations below are committed to safeguarding and are only planning to run anything if they’re convinced they are able to do so safely.

In short if you’re a parent (or grandparent, aunt, uncle, godparent etc.) of a young person I wholeheartedly encourage you to get these dates in the diary.

What is happening this summer?

Bookings aren’t open yet with most of the organisations we regularly see people going to camps with, but they have all published dates. I’ve put a selection of the camps which are normally most popular below. If the camps go ahead I would expect us to be organising large groups of young people heading off with leaders from church. And I will be in touch as and when bookings open so you don’t miss out!

Dates: 

Barnstaple 2: 24th- 31st July (11-14s)

Quantock 1: 24th July - 1st August (14-18s)

Brymore 2: 31st July - 6th August (11-14s)

Sparkford 3: 11th - 19th August (14-18s)

We have supported each of these camps over many years as a church, normally sending both leaders and members to them. We back each of them both in terms of their Bible teaching and leadership but also because they are fantastically good fun and safe holidays for our young people. There are, of course, other good options out there!

Organisations: Ventures  Christians in Sport  Contagious

2021 Memory Verse (Ian Miller)

‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.’ Matthew 11:28

I wonder how many of us would describe ourselves at the beginning of 2021 as ‘weary and burdened?’ People are mourning the loss of loved ones, parents are under pressure home-schooling children alongside work, many are struggling with spending all their working day on Zoom, others are lonely and anxious, still others have lost their jobs and are looking for work and we are all missing contact with friends and relatives. What makes this all the more difficult is the way our sinful hearts react to it all.

The words of our 2021 memory verse Matthew 11:28 are very apt. Jesus doesn’t pile on the pressure by demanding that we keep God’s law in these difficult circumstances. That was the burden the scribes and pharisees placed on people, getting them to jump through a thousand hoops. Jesus simply says, ‘come to me.’ Jesus is not a bully or tyrant; in verse 29 he reassures us that he is ‘gentle and humble in heart.’ He goes on to say, ‘my yoke is easy and my burden light.’ It is easy and light not just because of his character but because he kept the law for us and died the death we deserve for our sin. In these tough times Jesus doesn’t demand but serves, he doesn’t take but he gives. When we come to Jesus, we come to the God of grace.

The rest which Jesus promises in the verse is surely what we are all longing for at the moment. We look forward to the eternal rest that we will one day enjoy with Jesus in heaven, but Jesus also offers rest now in him. It is so tempting to seek that rest in other places such as drink, Netflix or dreams and longings for a time in the future without the virus. None of those things will deliver true rest – only Jesus can.

In a talk on these verses John Piper tells a story of a nineteenth century missionary John Paton which gives us a glimpse of what rest looks like in our lives now. Paton was being pursued by people who wanted to find him and kill him. He climbed a tree to escape them and wrote:

‘The hours spent there live all before me as if it were but of yesterday. I heard the frequent discharging of muskets, and the yells of the savages. Yet I sat there among branches, as safe in the arms of Jesus. Never, in all my sorrows, did my Lord draw nearer to me, and speak more soothingly in my soul, than when the moonlight flickered among those chestnut leaves, and the night air played on my throbbing brow, as I told all my heart to Jesus. Alone, yet not alone! If it be to glorify my God, I will not grudge to spend many nights alone in such a tree, to feel again my Saviour’s spiritual presence, to enjoy his consoling fellowship.’

Paton then asks his readers, “If thus thrown back upon your own soul, alone, all alone, in the midnight, in the bush, in the very embrace of death itself, have you a Friend that will not fail you then?” In the midst of this awful pandemic when we are stressed, lonely, anxious, frustrated, or grieving, do we have a Friend who will not fail us? Jesus is that friend saying to us “come to me and I will give you rest.”

If you wish to print the image above with the verse on it, you can download the image by clicking on it and then printing it. Postcards of the image above with the 2021 memory verse are also available from the church. 

Church Plans for Lockdown 3.0 (Will Stileman)

Dear friends,

In our staff Bible study on Monday, we looked together at these words in the apostle Peter’s first letter: “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed.” 1 Peter 1:13

I have found this verse hugely helpful in directing me about what I should do as we enter into another lockdown with all the challenges and difficulties that throws up. I need to be thinking constructively and wisely about the challenges I face in the present, but I am to do that with the perspective of my eternal relationship with Jesus. My hope is to be placed fully on Jesus and the future I have with him and all his people in the New Creation.

The purpose of this email is to outline our plans for this coming Sunday.

Although in this lockdown the government has allowed church services to continue, Sunday School groups are not allowed, nor can we have any social interaction outside of the church service. With the virulence of the new variant strain of Coronavirus, understandably many St Mary’s members are not wanting to attend church in person, so it is proving increasingly difficult to find the volunteers needed to lay on our services. So, the staff team are unanimous in thinking that we should revert to doing church in much the same way as we did during the November lockdown. All of our congregations will continue to meet at their regular times (8am, 9:15am, 11am, 4pm & 6:30pm) but will meet remotely via Zoom. This means that whether we are having to shield or not, we can have fellowship with one another and worship God together in real-time.

At the 9:15am, 11am & 4pm congregations there will be the option for children to join a breakout group for a live, real time Sunday School which will be hosted by Kate Wheatley and Nick McDonald. In addition, pre-recordings of the sermons and Sunday School will be available each Sunday via the St Mary’s website and YouTube. This enables flexibility and ensures that both parents and children, as well as those who don’t do Zoom, can be fed spiritually with God’s word. For those who don’t use technology we will continue to send out the fortnightly sermon mailings.

However, despite what I have said above, I am acutely conscious that for some, attending church in-person, has been a real life-line, and so we would like to consider what we can safely provide for those who would like to meet in-person. To that end if you would like to meet in-person, maybe for a much simpler service, could you please click here and fill in this very short questionnaire.

Please could you do this by the end of Sunday. We will consider the responses at our staff meeting on Monday and work out what we can feasibly provide.

The next few months are going to be difficult, I am certainly starting this year stressed and frazzled, so may all of us who know Christ seek his strength and both bear with and care for one another.

With much love,

Will

Christmas Unwrapped 2020 (Nick McDonald)

After a year of disappointment, sadness, and anxiety, Christmas has been something to really look forward to. But why do we celebrate it? How does the first Christmas affect my life?


Well, we have had the great opportunity to share what the real story of Christmas is and why it’s so important with eight schools around Maidenhead. Usually this would happen in the church with interactive games, quizzes, and mince pies.

Unfortunately we couldn’t do that this year so we had to think outside the box. We created two primary school lessons for teachers to use, which included five activity sheets and two videos, all explaining the true story of Christmas. The activities included designing a mince pie, a Christmas quiz, and a Bible investigation to find out what really happened on that first Christmas. Making it as exciting as we possibly could, we sent the lessons off to the schools, hoping and praying that they would find it useful.


Wonderfully we received fantastic feedback from both the teachers and the pupils themselves! One teacher said that their children loved it so much that they couldn’t wait for the second part. Over the past few weeks, dressed as ‘The Nutty Professor’ (a mad scientist character who is an expert on all things Christmassy), Kate and I have been able to ‘zoom in’ to the schools to answer any questions they may have had about what they had heard.


Here are some of the questions that were asked by the children, how would you answer them?

  • Why do we celebrate Christmas on the 25th December?
  • What’s your favourite part of the Christmas story?
  • Why did the shepherds bother going to see the baby?
  • If Jesus was a King, why wasn’t he born in a palace?
  • Why was he called Jesus?
  • Why do we give presents at Christmas?
  • Why did God choose Mary to be Jesus’ mother?
  • Is it just the Bible that tells us about Jesus?
  • Why can’t we see God?
  • Why doesn’t God come down to Earth?

The last two really struck me. Surely it would make sense for God to come to Earth to show us who he is. Well, the wonderful news that we were able to share with the children, is that God did come to Earth as a human baby, on that very first Christmas, and he came to do something amazing that would change our lives forever.

Practising What I Preach? (Rachel Meynell)

Covid has been so difficult for all of us. One of the things that has made it hard for me is that I have been unwell for 3 months. Not so unwell that I couldn’t get out of bed, but enough to limit what I can do and to involve the stress of doctors, tests and uncertainty. And I continue to be limited by tiredness, at a time when church workers are traditionally very busy.

There are certain things about God and the world which I truly believe, and indeed teach, but can be hard to live out. At the moment for all of us some of those truths are hard to hold onto. For myself, not being well and spending more time resting on the sofa has given me many opportunities to respond with faith and trust, or not. One of those things that I believe about the gospel is that in God’s economy nothing is wasted, and that includes the hard times. God is up to something good in each one of us, refining us and showing us what is in our hearts. But in the midst of the struggles, it is so hard to trust, and I do frequently wish that God could do his good work without it being painful!

And then there is the anxiety.

What I say, and truly believe, is that God’s grace is sufficient for us each day and that his strength is made perfect in weakness (as Ian reminded us when he preached from 2 Corinthians 12:9). But it is hard to live it out. There have been some days when that truth has been a great comfort to me, and other days (probably more of these!) when I have struggled to believe it and anxiety has won the day. Days when I have wondered what God is up to and whether he really does have my best interests at heart. When I have been awake at night worrying about results or trying to work out how I can sort this out in my own strength. Forgetting to turn to the one who is in control, who does care and who is always longing for me to turn to him in dependence.

So, as I gradually get better, please pray that I and others who are particularly struggling at the moment would keep on learning the eternal lesson that his power is made perfect in our weakness. That we would truly be grateful that he cares enough to keep us utterly dependent on him, even though for many of us, and certainly for me, we are reluctantly dependent!

So, am I practicing what I preach? Sometimes! This has been a time to be humbled and reminded of how fickle my heart is, but more gloriously, what a wonderful Saviour we have who died for weak and helpless people. A Saviour who died, even though he knew I would keep on living as though I know what I need better than he does. One who perseveres with us and patiently teaches us time and time again so that we would be transformed, even if it is ever so gradually, into his likeness.

Christmas Giving and Receiving (Jon Drake)

‘Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!’ (2 Corinthians 9:15)

At Christmas we give thanks to God for the indescribable gift of his Son the Lord Jesus Christ. What a difference receiving Jesus into our lives has made. Through him we have become God’s forgiven and beloved children. As human beings we sometimes find it hard to give, and we often find it hard to receive help. One of the signs that Jesus is at work in us is that we are more able both to give and to receive. 

In our St Mary’s Christmas cards, we are offering assistance with food, clothes and essentials to anyone in our parish or our church family. Again please contact the church office () if this would help you. We know it can be hard to ask, but we are one church family together, and we genuinely want to help.

Others in our church family will be able to thank God that we are in a position to give. Each Christmas we have a special collection to support those in need, as an expression of our thanks to God. This year our Christmas giving will be divided between Maidenhead Foodbank and Christians Against Poverty. The foodbank supports many families and individuals locally. Christians Against Poverty work nationally to help people find a lasting solution to debt and poverty. 

We are encouraging our Christmas collection via bank transfer to the usual PCC account (Sort Code: 60-13-35, Account No. 64261883). Please use as reference CHRISTMAS20. If you are unable to do this please ask one of the Welcome Team at our in-person services for an envelope which can be placed in the collection boxes. 

Book Sunday Book Reviews (Sara Hewins)

Which Christian books are you planning to read next?  Here are three recommendations from the last Book Sunday list:

Neither Bomb Nor Bullet

“Well folks, they have struck at other churches and some people have become martyrs…….I’m not telling you this to frighten you, but to tell you to be prepared and pray the more.  Let’s hold on to the Lord. Some might die, but if you must die, be sure to die in the Lord.”

This was the sobering pre-Christmas 2011 message from Ben Kwashi, now Archbishop, to his congregation in Jos, central Nigeria. His biography Neither Bomb nor Bullet written by Andrew Boyd is a gripping, at times distressing, challenging but ultimately uplifting account of living on the front line of faith in Nigeria where thousands have been killed and millions driven from their homes in recent years.

And yet, in the face of imminent danger and three attempts at his life, Ben and his wife Gloria continue willingly to give their lives daily to joyfully serve God. The advice from the St Mary’s ladies book group is “Read it!”

Every Moment Holy

I am surprised by how much I love and use this next book. Every Moment Holy by Douglas McKelvey is a book of liturgies for the ordinary and the life-changing events of everyday life.

There are 100 prayers ranging from “A Liturgy for the Welcoming of a New Pet,” to “A Liturgy for the Hurried Preparation of a Meal,” to the appropriate for this season, “A Liturgy for Setting Up a Christmas Tree”.

The book is interspersed with relevant Bible verses and wonderful illustrations. The beautifully crafted prayers put into words what is on, or should be on, my heart but that I’m struggling to say. The prayers make you take a step back and ponder how we react to certain events and what may be a more Christ-like response.  A book to treasure that would make a wonderful gift.

Excerpt from ‘A Liturgy for Waiting in Line’:

Be present in my waiting, O Lord, that I might also be present in it as a Christ-bearer to those before and behind me, who also wait. As I am a vessel, let me not be like a sodden paper cup full of steaming frustration, carelessly sloshing unpleasantness on those around me. Rather let me be like a communion chalice, reflecting the silvered beauty of your light, brimming with an offered grace. Amen.

Fight Your Fears

I was immediately drawn, albeit with a slightly wary approach, to Fight Your Fears: Trusting God’s Character and Promises When You Are Afraid by Kristen Wetherell.

Drawn to it as a holder of many fears, the wary attitude from thinking I knew what the author’s answer would be…..just trust God more….an answer I know is correct but for me there’s always been a disconnect between knowing the answer and handing all over to God to achieve it.

I have found this book very helpful. Taking us through ten promises of God it equips us to overcome our fears by making us more conscious of what it’s right to fear - our sovereign and good God.

“Because Jesus is Lord, we don’t have to be.  Because Christ is on his throne, ruling all things with perfect wisdom and power, we are freed from the crushing pressure and fearfulness of trying to rule ourselves, other people, and circumstances.”

An excellent book that helps us to practice what it preaches; I look forward to us talking about it at the next ladies book group.

If you would like further information about the ladies book group, please contact Sara Hewins.

To buy these books and others, the 10ofThose website has a section especially for St Mary's Maidenhead that can be found here or if you would like to browse these and other books then do look to support Maidenhead's local Christian bookshop, Quench, at 19 Queen Street.

Across the Generations (Angela McDonald)

“And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity" Colossians 3:14.

At the beginning of lockdown our wonderful 20-30’s group sent our senior church family members some postcards with scripture verses as an encouragement during this difficult time. What a wonderful, thoughtful and gracious act of love.

I also had a wonderful conversation with another member of our church family who described how a couple of years ago, she offered to do shopping for an older member as a means to be an encouragement and to care for someone in need. However, the experience turned from one of serving to one of receiving. The lady she was shopping for had a love for God and his word, therefore the shopping days also turned out to be sharing of God’s word days. My friend said those two years of sharing time with a senior member of our church family gave her a love and an understanding of God’s word that she didn’t have before.

Over the years I too have benefited from learning how to walk this walk of faith through the gracious love of friends both younger and older. Today our Growth Group were studying Exodus chapters 12-13 and we were reminded how important it is to pass on throughout the generations what we have learned about our sovereign God along the way to the promised land.

What treasured moments in our church family and what a biblical lifestyle of love and submission in action.

In what ways can we too join in this wonderful act of loving and learning from all members of our church family across the generations?

Racial Injustice Prayer Meeting (Robin Aghovia)

Join us on Thursday 26th November when Robin Aghovia will interview her mother Veronica Todd and her daughter’s close friend nineteen year old Patience Nimusiima on the racism they have experienced in their lives. In spite of the sixty-year age gap their experiences illustrate that little has changed during that time. As we return once again to the Biblical language of lament we will listen to Veronica’s and Patience’s stories, we will turn to God about the suffering they have experienced, we will ask for God’s help and for deliverance from racial suffering and we will pray for trust in God’s purposes and a pathway towards reconciliation.

Veronica Todd

I was born and bred in the British colony Bermuda and a product of a school system which was racially segregated.

At both the primary and secondary level I felt quite indifferent as this was the only life I knew. Segregation was not a part of my vocabulary, especially at secondary level where I attended the one and only top black secondary school on the island where excellent education was provided. Many students, myself included, upon graduation were accepted into renowned universities around the world in the UK, the USA, Canada, and Europe.

Back in 1973 I was encouraged to apply for the position of Principal (Head Teacher) at a primary school. However, at that time that school was very segregated – with predominantly white staff and white pupils. On the basis of my professional qualifications and teaching experience my application was successful. Needless to say, protests from white parents began even before the school year had started. It was not an easy year; It became headline news that a black woman had been appointed a principal of a white school! However, I weathered the storm, and the school became a great success. After ten wonderful years when I decided to move on and accept the role of Senior Education Office in Bermuda’s Ministry of Education, I had become highly respected, admired, and appreciated by staff, pupils and parents, all of whom were very reluctant to see me go.

Patience Nimusiima

My first experience with racism was at my first primary school in England. I saw that my presence created a clear discomfort among the parents at that school.

Let’s just say at drop off in the mornings, there was a two metre distance separating me and the other kids with their parents clutching on to them with silent whispers. Who was the elephant in the room? I was! To an innocent eight year old child, that was traumatising. In an effort to never feel this level of racial isolation I made it my agenda to fit in, from straightening my hair, changing my accent, to coming into school early so I wouldn’t need to see the parents. After many years spent dealing with racial name-calling, harassment, verbal assault, I was sick of trying to apologise for my skin colour, hair and culture in this society. In my teenage years at school, I dropped my agenda and embraced my true self. I stopped straightening my hair and grew proud of my Ugandan heritage. But that meant that the elephant in the room had come back. I would like to point out that much of the racism I have experienced has not come from the younger generation. Many in our generation recognise diversity and know what it means to be accepted, there is hope in that.

Adoption and Fostering (Suzie Eves)

Firstly, why am I writing this? I haven’t adopted, fostered or been through the care system myself. So, why am I interested in this? Why am I writing an article?!

Well, I hope very briefly and probably imperfectly to show why we should all be interested... the heart of which is - that God is. Time and time again we see through God’s word his care and his passion for families and for the vulnerable. In Eden, he sets the pattern - Adam and Eve become a family, male and female, perfectly complementing each other and, in this design, they were to fill the earth. We also see the sadness of dysfunctional families - almost immediately after the fall, there’s the murder of a brother by his brother! Then there are cycles of jealousy and favouritism, barrenness, and sinful, split and unsettled families. But in all of these God was working his plan, was using them for good purposes and was not distant.

In Moses, we see the first adoption and fostering - in the context of a desperate mother with no other option. Discovered, rescued and adopted by the princess, he was placed with his birth mother in foster care. In his book, ‘Home for Good’, Krish Kandiah uses this example brilliantly and challenges the reader with two applications: ‘if even the daughter of the enemy can show this kind of commitment and compassion, then no less is expected of God’s people’ and also that ‘our eyes must be open to the possibilities and potential in each child made in God’s image however damaged they seem to be’. God rescued Moses and chose him in his imperfection, his ‘power is made perfect in weakness’ (2 Corinthians 12:9), to bring great blessing.

References specifically to the “fatherless” and the “vulnerable” are rife in scripture - a wonderful picture is seen in Psalm 68:5-6 ‘A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families’. These categories are repeated in the laws - instructing his people to give care and dignity to those without family.

This care is most perfectly seen in Jesus, God’s son and the exact representation of him. So we see his compassion, his love of children, his choosing of outcasts, his tenderness, his healing. Ultimately, he died - facing separation from his father - so that we could all become part of the family of God, adopted and heirs with Jesus.

Don’t you just love our compassionate, just, sacrificial, open-armed Father God? Adoption and fostering is a little picture of what God has done for us. It wasn’t easy for him but Jesus came for the lost, for the children he made in his image, for the sheep without a shepherd, for slaves to sin - to make us his and bring us home, home for good.

We are called to imitate Christ. And that’s uncomfortable. Adoption and fostering from all I’ve heard of it, is not easy! But we’re considering how we can play a part because there is a need and God cares about it and God cares that we respond. Personally, we are not in a practical position to adopt or foster right now but there is no harm raising awareness, gaining information to support church family, and finding out for the future.

That’s why we’re holding an event on Zoom - Wednesday 25th November at 8pm - for anyone who’s even a little bit interested! A project worker and representative for the Christian charity, Home for Good, will lead us in an informal information event. I’m looking forward to hearing more and asking questions. I hope you will be able to come along. Details were in last week's - and will also be in this week's - St Mary's weekly email or contact the St Mary's Church office for more details. 

Racial injustice Prayer Meeting (Yemi Awoyemi)

The fact that we rarely see much overt racism in the UK compared to the USA means most of us assume this is no longer an issue here in the UK, but the death of George Floyd has shone a light on the insidiousness of racial injustice around us.

The topic of race is a sensitive one for most of us because it makes us uncomfortable. This is why I have been encouraged that St Mary’s is organising meetings to pray for a God centred approach to changing attitudes on racial injustice in our society and for Christians to be at the forefront of working towards the change.

The first of these prayer meetings took place in August and was led by Rachel Meynell. The evening provided a structure to help us all approach racial injustice conversations in a God centred way, we looked at Ephesians 2:14-22 which talks about us being built to be one in Christ. For me, the passage speaks to all Christians to strive in creating a society where we are all valued as part of God’s creation regardless of our skin colour.

On the night, the experiences shared by Gracy Crane and Daniel Matovu highlighted how systemic racial injustice is embedded into our everyday lives through unconscious biases when decisions are getting made with the expectation that black people and people of colour are expected to conform.

As a Christian, I would like to encourage all of us within the church family to join in prayer in overcoming racial injustice in the UK and our world. We know this is a long battle, but nothing is impossible for God. We look forward to future prayers and continue to pray for kingdom transforming change as God opens eyes and hearts to help us to be battling racism. May we be empowered with boldness and courage as we stand together against the evil of racism.

The next meeting is on Thursday 26th November. It would be great to see you there.

A Boris-proof Christmas (Will Stileman)

Christmas is fast approaching and for all of us it is frustrating that we can’t make definite plans as we neither know what the situation will be in December nor what the government regulations will be.

We have a wonderful message to proclaim, and Christmas gives us the ideal opportunity to fulfil our calling to tell others. Just because we find ourselves in the midst of the coronavirus crisis and things are uncertain doesn’t mean we can abdicate our responsibilities as a church and as individual Christian believers. Jesus told his disciples that they were the salt of the earth and the light of the world. If we don’t fulfil our calling as God’s people to witness to Jesus Christ, sin continues unchecked and the world remains in darkness.

So as a staff team we have been thinking how we can be salt and light this Christmas, and celebrate Christmas appropriately and we have come up with the following practical suggestions. We believe that these can be followed through whatever the regulations turn out to be:

  1. Reaching out to our near neighbours. The coronavirus crisis gives each of us the opportunity to reach out with Christian love and hope to our neighbours. We are producing an attractive card with a warm message, which you can view at this link. We will let you know when the cards are available to collect from church. Our longing is that as many of us as possible will deliver this card to the 30 homes nearest to where we live. If we want we can ring the doorbell at the same time and speak to people at a two metre distance. As you will see we have designed the cards so that there is plenty of space to write a personal message inside. Our hope is that this will allow us to make connections with our near neighbours. Simply sign the card and if you are comfortable to do so, give them an idea of how they can get in touch should they need help or want to connect. If they do get in touch and need help the staff team and others are on hand to provide practical assistance. For example, I will write “With much love from the Stilemans, [No14]” and then write my phone number underneath (some of us won’t be comfortable to give our phone number – that’s fine).

    We will also deliver a similar card to all the houses in the parish, inviting people to contact the church office if they have any particular needs. We need volunteers to help us do this, please contact if you could volunteer to deliver to one street in our parish. We need at least 20 people to help.
  2. Reaching out to contacts and friends further away. We are planning to produce two videos that can be sent to family, friends, colleagues, whoever and wherever they are. The first one is very short, about 40 seconds, and can easily be sent via Facebook and other social media. It will be shown during Zoom services this coming Sunday, and the link will be available for you to copy and send to people next week. The other video is longer, 15-20 minutes. It contains some Christmas music played and sung by members of St Mary’s and a short Christmas gospel message. This will be ready by December 1st. Because everything is up in the air this Christmas and people won’t be celebrating Christmas as they normally do, we suspect your contacts and friends will be more ready to watch a 15-20 minute video from your church.
  3. Think ahead how you will worship Christ and celebrate Christmas as a believer. Most of us have our normal Christmas routines which include attending one or two specific Christmas services at St Mary’s. At Christmas we also have a number of visitors who only attend church at this time of year. With so many normal Christmas events not being able to take place e.g. pantos, school carol services/nativity plays etc, we believe there is a real opportunity for us as a church to welcome new people who want to attend a Christmas community event.

So, if you click here you will see the Christmas events we are planning to put on.

As you will see we have two schemes in place: one if we are able to meet in-person to worship as a church and another if we can’t.

We will advertise these services widely and encourage both the St Mary’s church family and others to book in advance if they want to guarantee a place. Those who book in advance will be asked to ensure that they are seated at least 10 minutes before the service starts, otherwise their seats will be offered to others who just turn up without booking.

I am also exploring with the RBWM whether we can lay on an outside carol service for the town if regulations permit.

More information will be produced about these ideas/events but hopefully this has helped you to get thinking and praying so that we might bring honour to Christ’s name this Christmas.

Update from Peter Wheatley

Peter Wheatley is the son of Steven and Jo. He studied Aviation Engineering with Pilot’s Studies at Brunel University. He then moved to Canada for two years of studies at Prairie Bible School in Alberta, which comprised theological training and further pilot training – both with a view to future mission work. St Mary’s gave him a one-off gift towards the cost of his course. In December 2019 he married Lina, who is Colombian. They met at Brunel University where she was doing a Master’s degree in International Law. Peter has now finished his course and has also obtained his commercial pilot’s license. Peter writes:

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)


Dear St Mary’s, In the last two years I have moved to Canada, completed a year of bible school, got married and finally obtained my commercial pilot licence. I’m very grateful for the support the church has provided in prayer and finances throughout this journey. And so I want to say thank you and God bless you for being such a blessing to us and all the others you are there for. Thank you! In Christ, Peter and Lina”

Update from Jack Shepherd

On Sunday 1st November I was licensed as Missional Priest in the Parish of Dalton and Up Holland in Lancashire. This parish is about a ten minute drive from where I have just finished work as a curate at St Paul's in Skelmersdale. Within this new role, I have a focus on reaching people who don't know Jesus through evangelism and church planting. I will be working with three existing churches in the parish - St Michael's Dalton, Christ the Servant Digmoor and St Thomas the Martyr Up Holland. These churches have one PCC and one vicar, Paul Lock. I will also be providing oversight for Oaks Church, which was planted in a council estate in the area about sixteen years ago. 


I wanted to get in touch with St Mary's because the year that I worked with you as a Ministry Trainee from 2015-2016 was a significant year of training and formation for me. In particular, learning at St Mary's about preaching and leading assemblies in primary schools has been relevant for my ministry, and finding that going to the gym was a great way of connecting with people has led to me recently exploring gym chaplaincy. 

I am also enjoying research towards a PhD in which I am looking at the relationship between church planting models and the Holy Spirit, a topic which I chose to explore because of my conviction that it is only through the power of the Spirit that we can see the growth of the church. I would appreciate people's prayers as I serve as part of the Diocese of Liverpool's vision to be a bigger church making a bigger difference with more people knowing Jesus and more justice in the world.

20s and 30s Evening (David Singeison)

‘Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again: Rejoice!' (Phil 4:4)

How do we find joy in the Lord? How can we best remind ourselves of that joy day in and day out?

On 17th October the 20s to 30s gathered on Zoom to consider these important questions, and a few slightly less important ones. After a quick ‘Scattegories’ game to warm the brains we turned to warming the hearts as Tim Adams spoke to us about how to actively seek joy in the Lord, with open hearts to receive it.

Between each section of Tim’s talk we went into break-out rooms. There many of us spoke bravely about how joyless this year has felt. We agreed though that we have a God on whom we can rely; he hears our prayers and he cares for his people. He has given us the Psalms to guide us on how to pray. He gives us inspiration through his Spirit who has inspired a huge tract of work (books, podcasts, music) to stimulate and motivate us.

We talked about the practical daily steps we can take. We can make sure we have quiet times for prayer, Bible reading and meditating on what we’ve read. We can write down the key points from our readings and incorporate what we’ve read into prayer.

Tim reminded us that finding joy in the Lord should be our urgent need. Our Lord Jesus died for it, scripture instructs it and all our hope rests on it. And the world desperately needs to hear it. Tim pointed us to C.S Lewis’s writings: we must look along the beam of light, and male our relationship with God our focus.

Second Lockdown (Will Stileman)

Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
    whose hope is in the LORD their God.

He is the Maker of heaven and earth,
    the sea, and everything in them— 
    he remains faithful forever. (Psalm 146:5-6)

As we head into another national lockdown with all its associated sufferings, anxiety and disappointments, let us hold on to the twin truths that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is both powerful and good. He has supremely demonstrated his power and goodness to us in Jesus. He is able to do more than we can ask or imagine and he is able to sustain us both as individuals and as a church through this difficult time.

It has been wonderful these last couple of months to be able to meet in person and eventually to return meeting as five Sunday congregations. The heart of church is gathering as the body of Christ. Church is fundamentally relational, so as we return to doing church exclusively online we do not want to lose that relational element. So, unlike the first lockdown when we sought to produce a single, high-quality online service, this time we intend to continue our existing pattern of services live via Zoom. This coming Sunday 8th November we will be live on Zoom at 8am, 9:15am, 10:55am (earlier time for Remembrance Sunday), 4pm and 6:30pm. Each service will last less than an hour and will include all the elements of our regular Sunday services. These services may not be as polished as our previous pre-recorded online services, but they will allow us to see and interact with each other as we worship.

To join a service this Sunday, click on the link in the weekly email five minutes before your usual congregation time.

What if I have children?

Please join the 9:15am, 11am or 4pm congregation as usual together as a family. The first part of the service will be suitable for all ages. Then at the point when the children would usually go out for their groups, parents may choose to log off and do the Sunday School Online with their children, or to keep watching the service while children play.

What if I can’t do Zoom?

Zoom can be run on any device with a camera and microphone, for example a laptop, a tablet, or a smart phone. It is surprisingly easy to use. We would love to help you get set up on Zoom. Please contact your congregation leader if you would like help getting set up. For those who cannot use Zoom, the sermons will be pre-recorded and available to watch on this website or YouTube from 8am each Sunday. The sermons will also be available to listen to via your telephone. Please let your congregation leader know if you can’t do Zoom, and we will keep in touch by other means. In whatever way we access church we remain one church family united in Jesus.

Book Sunday (November 2020)

Sunday 1st November was book Sunday at St Mary's. This year 10ofThose, the Christian booksellers sent a video for the congregations to see, which gave recommendations for books for reader of all abilities and interests. To see this video click below. The 10ofThose website especially for St Mary's Maidenhead can be found here

player

The books recommended on the video are:

  • Gentle and Lowly by Dane Ortlund - a book to feed our own relationship with God
  • JI Packer Classic Collection - for daily bible reading
  • Fixated - Tim Chester

And books to read with our families and give as gifts including:

  • Beginning with God at Christmas. Explore the real Christmas with your child.
  • The Unexpected Gift - Story and / or Activity Book. Creative Christmas Activities.

If you would like to browse these and other books then do look to support Maidenhead's local Christian bookshop, Quench, at 19 Queen Street.

St Mary's Buddy System (Jon Drake)

Have you ever been scuba diving? I have only done it once, on holiday, and it was amazing! The instructor taught my fellow divers and me to use a buddy system. We formed pairs and each pair stayed together to support one another while we were under the sea.

This winter, with its Covid restrictions, will be a challenging time for us all practically, relationally and spiritually. To help us through this time we are introducing a St Mary’s Buddy System. The idea is for individuals or households to pair up to support each other spiritually, in other words to help each other in our relationship with God. To start with the buddy link would be for six months.

Every buddy relationship will be different depending on the size of your household, your time and your wishes. We can support each other either with in-person meetings or phone calls depending on Covid regulations and our own preferences. A buddy relationship could include any of the following:

  • Dads and kids or mums and kids meeting up in the park for fellowship and fun.
  • Supporting each other in life’s challenges with sympathetic listening and prayer either on the phone or face to face.
  • Meeting up for a coffee or a drink (either as whole households or just the mums or just the dads).
  • Praying together once a month, or more often if you like, either face to face or on the phone.
  • Getting together to read the Bible, perhaps using some simple Psalms studies we can provide.
  • Watching the service online or at church and then chatting on the phone about what God has said to you in his word.

Some of these things may be very new to you, in which case we would aim to pair you with someone more experienced.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have someone looking out for your relationship with God? And to have someone you are looking out for in this way?

We would like as many people as possible to be involved in the buddy system, and we are keen that no-one who would like to be part of it is missed out. If you would like to be involved, either as an individual or as a household, please tell your congregation leader. We will then suggest a buddy for you and will try to pair up people who already have some connection with each other.

8am Congregation – will.stileman@stmarysmaidenhead.org 

9.15am and 11am Congregation – jon.drake@stmarysmaidenhead.org 

4pm Congregation – ian.miller@stmarysmaidenhead.org 

6.30pm Congregation - tim.adams@stmarysmaidenhead.org