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.
Please log in to display a button below to enable notifications when a new blog entry is published.
Loving Missionaries When They Return (Jo Jobson)
Several of St Mary’s Mission Partners have recently left the mission field, are in the process of doing so, or are in the UK on furlough. Some of our Mission Partners are coming to visit us on United Church Sunday, this Sunday, 3rd July. The following article ‘6 Ways to Love Missionaries When They Come Home’ is taken from the website of The Gospel Coalition. It was written by Catherine Allison, who arrived with her family back in Virginia, USA after several years as missionaries in Malawi. The article has some helpful insights for us as we engage with our Mission Partners and care for them.
Jo Jobson (Chair of Mission Partner Support Group)
6 Ways to Love Missionaries When They Come Home
by Catherine Allison, 25th March 2022
Six months ago, our family of five landed on American soil after several years serving as missionaries. As I stepped off the plane, my feet still stained by the orange dirt of Africa, I carried with me more than just our 10 pieces of oversize luggage. I showed up with a fresh passion to see missionaries protected, cared for, and loved.
And now, after months of transitioning, my eyes are more open than ever to the importance of caring for returned missionaries. Whether they’ve returned for good or are on furlough, the needs of returned missionaries are unique, and the positive impact of the care they receive can be far-reaching. Unsaid needs, however, will always go unmet.
So, on behalf of fellow returned missionaries, let me suggest six ways to love us well when we return from the field.
1. Beware of missionary hero worship.
Avoid putting missionaries on a pedestal they were never intended to occupy. The hero worship of missionaries has caused grave damage to missionaries, to the church, and to missions as a whole. Acknowledge them, yes. Celebrate them, absolutely. Dub them a hero or superstar? Please, no.
Trust me, the faces you’ve seen on that prayer card for the past three years are very normal people. Church members sometimes neglect to engage returned workers because they seem too different. Too special. They’re not.
Talk to them like normal people. Be interested in the ordinary. Yes, I know that missionaries have a tendency to shoot themselves in the foot by writing home with “I wrestled a cheetah barehanded and won!” stories. Just remember, though, that for as many exotic days and stories they have to wow you with, they have hundreds more that are entirely mundane. Days filled with laundry and emails and coffee with friends. See them for who they are, not for the place they live or the stories they bring.
2. Prepare for mixed emotions and culture shock.
Don’t assume returned missionaries are thrilled to be back. If they’re apathetic or grieving, don’t take it personally. Rather, celebrate that they’ve put down strong roots overseas. Recognize they’ve left a whole life - and sometimes their dreams - behind. Their time wasn’t a trip for them. This is where they’ve had triumphs and tears, pets and friends, houseplants and memories. Alternatively, if they’re thrilled to be back, don’t let that convince you they weren’t thriving overseas. It’s complicated.
Spend some time reading about ‘reverse culture shock’. Are they returning from a deeply communal culture? A slower pace of life? Open-air markets rather than well-stocked stores? The (re)learning curve might be steep. Be gracious and patient.
3. Make rest a priority.
Ask what they need to truly rest while in America - and then make it happen. Overseas, many missionaries feel they’re constantly ‘on’. Allow them to blend in and just be. But don’t forget about them! Invite them over for dinner. Include them in friend hangouts. Even if they say no the first time or completely miss the pop-culture reference at dinner, I guarantee it felt nice to be invited.
4. Help destigmatize mental-health concerns in missions.
This is a big one. I cannot express how many missionaries suffer silently. Many have experienced trauma after trauma, and never receive the care they need. Many are afraid to seek treatment or counselling, for fear their livelihood might hang in the balance.
Ask your missionaries if they’re in counselling or therapy. If they say no, ask if they need help to make it happen (finding contacts, paying bills, etc.). Any barrier you can remove will help.
5. Meet needs. But meet wants too.
Meet practical needs, yes. But seek to also meet wants. Insist they make Amazon wish lists. Load them up with gift cards to their favourite clothing store. (News flash: missionaries want to wear cute clothes, too!) Surprise their kids with tickets to a theme park. Order takeout from their favourite restaurant.
It’s not that all your missionary friends care about is being showered with new shoes and snacks. If you ask how you can help, they’ll point you in the direction of some selfless cause. Hear them out on those . . . but buy up their Amazon wish lists too.
6. Above all, listen well.
Ask good questions. Be curious. Curiosity communicates interest, and interest communicates care. Ask to see pictures. Ask the names of their friends in the photos. Probe for stories. Most missionaries I know desperately want to talk and share, but won’t bring it up themselves. Many just need somebody to listen to their experiences, their stories, their struggles, and the beauty of their lives overseas. Be that somebody.
Here are a few questions to get you started:
- What wins have you had over the past few months?
- What’s been hardest for you lately?
- What does community look like for you here and back in your host country?
- Tell me what you love about your host country. What do you miss the most right now?
- What’s been most overwhelming about living in your host country?
- What does rest look like for you? What are you doing for fun these days?
- Have you had any friends leave the country this year? How has that experience been for you?
- What are you most excited about, ministry-wise, over the next few months?
If applicable, ask about their team dynamic on the field. If they’re with an organization, ask about that relationship too. Listen carefully and unhurriedly. Such topics can be weighty and lonely for missionaries to broach. They rarely get brought up, but they often need to be hashed out. Provide space for the hashing.
Word of Caution
If you don’t already have a relationship with a returned missionary, now might not be the time to try to penetrate to the core of their soul. Just begin building the friendship. Start walking alongside them. But then, keep walking. Over time, trust will build and conversations will deepen. This is a marathon, not a sprint.
now been back for over six months. This life I’ve described is, for the most
part, no longer mine. The needs are no longer my needs. But they were, and they
remain the needs of so many just like my family. Let’s care for them well.
Explorers Abroad (Phebe Tay)
Explorers Abroad started at church bright and early on the Monday morning with parents dropping excited kids off for their week in Ancient Egypt. There was so much luggage that I was designated to drive a van down specifically for it! There were another two minibuses which were filled with children talking and singing – I am told that leaders might have experienced some hearing loss; and interesting facts about how the kids loved bagels and that the sun is round (and yellow).On the ferry, we played some games on the deck and tried to find the wharf which we would dock at. The place where we stayed was a lovely large mansion with plenty of space and activities, including low ropes, games room and a swimming pool. The program every day was a surprise for the kids although there was a routine and hints along the way so that they could try and guess the activities.
We were split into three group – the Mighty Mummies, Super Sphinx and Powerful Pyramids. Each day, there would be activities to participate in and win points for the team. Kate and Nick would set challenges including acting out a scene from Mr Bean, showcasing different talents .There were also special activities and excursions which included swimming, exploring a lifeboat museum, building sandcastles, wading in the sea, a photo scavenger hunt, mini team challenges, treasure hunt, paintballing and The Explorers Abroad Talent Show on the last evening.
There was great excitement (and some apprehension) for children and leaders as this was the first Explorers Abroad to include paintballing. Kate thought it was great therapy for her and the kids had a lot of fun shooting one another. I am still sporting some proud battle bruises! Needless to say that with the fun and excitement, we were also exhausted from it and had a good night’s sleep.
The Explorers Abroad Talent Show welcomed our special guests – Mr and Mrs Half-an-Hour (Neil and Angela McDonald), who were thoroughly entertained by all the talents which included a magic show, drama, musical talents, physical talents (e.g. eating a banana with the skin on) and a mid-show conga line. The evening ended, as each evening did, with hot chocolate, cake and a Mr Bean movie.
Each day, while journeying through Ancient Egypt, there was worship, a fantastic four-part drama series, a talk in the evening about Joseph from Genesis, and a Bible study in the morning about what we’d learnt and how it related to Jesus. On Monday, Kate provided a whistle stop tour of Genesis from Adam to Joseph. Nick, Luke and Harry provided the subsequent talks on Joseph’s journey. From Joseph’s dreams to him being sold into slavery by his own brothers, to being falsely accused in Potiphar’s house, and then being entrusted as Prime Minister of the powerful Egypt.We learnt about the parallels of Jesus life too, how Jesus was falsely accused, rejected and abandoned by those he loved so that he could take our place and our sin upon himself on the cross so that we can live right with God again.
Everyone had a chance to reflect on what Jesus did for us personally, and the invitation for those who had not accepted Jesus, to have the chance to do so. Each child received a personal daily devotional so that they could continue to learn more about the Bible, to grow in their faith and to spend time with Jesus. As parents, please encourage your children in the discipline of quiet time and daily devotional, as these habits can last a lifetime and have a great impact on their faith journey.Kate and Nick provided the perfect mix in the timetable of activities and Bible teaching. As leaders, Patch, Luke, Harry, Callum, Chloe and I also had a great time with the kids. It was such a privilege to lead the Bible studies, getting to know the kids through our conversations during the week and to have a positive impact on their faith for eternity. While I didn’t quite get the idyllic seaside island holiday I was expecting, what I got was infinitely better.
Parish Profile (Anthony Kan)
A very important part of the vacancy is the preparation and publication of the Parish Profile by the PCC. The parish profile is our opportunity to give prospective applicants an introduction to St Mary’s as a church, our mission, our ministry and church family life, as well as outlining the role of Vicar we are recruiting for and the type of candidate we are seeking.
Over the past five months, the drafting team working with the PCC have sincerely considered, prayed earnestly and vigorously discussed answers to the following questions.
- What is our mission and vision?
- Where does the church need to go from here?
- What are the chief qualities desired in the next incumbent?
- What are the main gifts/skills required in the next incumbent?
- About the Parish: who lives there, local environment and amenities?
- What links between church and community?
- What is St Mary’s like as a church?
- What is the makeup of our church family and how is it evolving?
- What is our ministry and who leads within the church?
- What typically happens on Sundays and through the week?
- What other activities and events do we have?
- What about outreach and mission?
- What is the shape of our finances?
- Buildings, dwellings, and other facilities?
- Wider church links and affiliations?
The final Parish Profile can now be found on the church website at www.stmarysmaidenhead.org/parishprofile. Please have a read and do let us know if you have any questions.
& (St Mary's Parish Representatives for the vacancy process)
Book Sunday (June 2022)
Sunday 19th June was Book Sunday at St Mary's with a selection of books suggested by St Mary’s staff for your summer reading (see the list below). All can be obtained online from 10 of Those (www.10ofthose.com) or The Good Book Company (www.thegoodbook.co.uk), or locally from Quench bookshop in Wokingham (www.quenchshops.com).
- The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert - Rosaria Butterfield
- God’s Secret Listener - John Butterworth
- I’m Praying for You - Nancy Guthrie
- Refreshed - John Hindley
- The Prodigal Prophet - Tim Keller
- 90 Days in John 14-17, Romans and James - Tim Keller/Sam Allberry
- The Life I Now Live - Joelle Kenny
- Hope in the Face of Suffering - Jeremy Marshall
- Where is God in all the Suffering? - Amy Orr-Ewing
- The Air We Breathe - Glen Scrivener
- Before You Share Your Faith - Matt Smethurst
- Making Faith Magnetic - Daniel Strange
- Incomparable - Andrew Wilson
- Oh, The Treasures You’ll Know - Olson/McIntosh (ages 8-100!)
- What Happens When We Die? - Chris Morphew (ages 9-13)
- A Taste of Asia - Reuben Grace (Family Devotional, ages 5-11)
- Bible Stories Every Child Should Know - Taylor/Brake (ages 4-7)
Mission Partner Update: Greg and Jill Vine
Greg and Jill Vine joined us on Zoom at our St Mary’s Evening on 9th June. After 15 years of Greg working as a pilot for Mission Aviation Fellowship, the last 11 of which have been in Uganda, the Vines are returning to the UK this summer. They asked for our prayers about the following:
- For MAF Uganda to adjust well to team changes happening this year.
- For MAF to have strong and healthy partnerships and be able to fulfil the needs of their partners.
- For Greg and Jill to have strong direction for the future and for courage as they face this move.
- That Jill’s work as Communications Officer for MAF may be able to continue and thrive as she works remotely, and that her final eye injection would bring permanent stability.
- That Greg would find the right work in the UK and for the family to find a place to live.
- That the family would remember how faithful God has been in the past and see how he provides a way forward.
- For their girls - For Esther job hunting, Ariela at university and Zoe doing Christian youth work during her gap year.
- For friends in Uganda - For Dina, Jill’s cook, needing new employment, Frank a widower, Patrick who is unwell and Jackson who needs accommodation and sponsors for his doctors training course.
- Praise that ‘Feed 5000’ (Jill’s initiative during the pandemic) fed 18,573 people, a testament to many of the love of Christ.
9:15am Men's Weekend Away (Minoosh Malekzadeh)
Thursday 5th May was a great time to experience something unique. Seven men from the 9:15am congregation took a couple of days off to stay at ‘The Pines’, a favourite cosy country cottage located a few miles out of Pulborough, a beautiful village at the heart of West Sussex.
Thanks to Jon Drake's planning (that always works like a Swiss watch), we arrived on time, and only a few minutes later, a Sainsbury's lorry delivered all the supplies he had ordered. He also generously treated us with a large tray of his delicious homemade Lasagne, although he has not revealed the secret recipe.
The gastronomy marathon continued in the following days with a shoulder-to-shoulder competition and a colourful menu, from English breakfast to Chicken Curry and Quattro Formaggi Omelette and, of course, lots of coffee and biscuits in between. However, a few extra pounds were not the only thing we gained.
We highly enjoyed the entire fellowship and ‘brotherhood bundle’, from the joy and fun of helping each other running in-house errands to cooking, serving, cleaning, washing, talking and sharing life stories to praising God and praying for each other.
We read 1 Peter 1:1 to 2:12 written to ‘God's elect exiles’ together and pondered over how privileged we are to be chosen by God the Father, sanctified by the Holy Spirit and born again into a living hope through the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead with an inheritance that can never perish or fade.
We also appraised how important it is for us, the obedient children of God, to be holy like him, fully alert and sober, and how we need to live our lives in reverent fear as foreigners whose asset is not corruptible things like gold or silver. It is indeed the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish, the living word of God that endures forever.
Watch a video montage of the weekend by clicking below.
South Central Women's Day (Sarah Chaplain)
I went to the South Central Women's Day on 14th May coming from a busy week of annual leave. I missed the last Women's Day and had heard such good things about it, so I knew I didn't want to miss this one.
The day was divided up into sections, with two parts altogether in the main church building and two seminars which everyone had chosen individually beforehand. The seminars I went to were 'Christ and Culture: Connecting Christ to Cultural Fears' and 'Crazy Busy: Learning the Art of Rest.' When I signed up I was amazed at the variety of seminars on offer. Some were clearly geared to certain age groups - there was one about retirement and whilst I've started my pension, I'm only 30 so still a while off! I therefore picked seminars that reflected how my life is at the moment. I'm always interested in anything to do with culture within the context of Christianity and secular society, so I found this seminar really insightful.
The second seminar about learning the art of rest was also very interesting. I consider myself a fairly busy person and had realised a few weeks ago that I was probably letting the busyness get on top of me. I find it quite hard to stop and allow myself not to do anything. In those moments I think I feel what most people do, which is a weird sense of guilt in not getting stuff done on my days off. So this seminar was perfect. The biggest take-away from it was to try and write down everything I do each day, and then after a week, to analyse where I might be using my time correctly or incorrectly.
Whilst I only knew a couple of people when I arrived (I thought I would know more, but then I remembered it wasn't just the ladies of St Mary's there), I left with two new ones which I was really happy about! I would highly encourage any St Mary's ladies to come to the next one. The talks were very encouraging and it was great to gather as one on a sunny Saturday.
The Ministry Training Course (Karnie Sharp)
I used to think the Ministry Training Course (MTC) was only for brothers and sisters in Christ who were keen on pursuing full-time or paid ministry. Will Stileman had suggested I do the course about five or six years ago but it felt a tad too intimidating. Besides, it fell on a Tuesday and I’d have to travel to Oxford to attend. That would in practical terms be ‘mission impossible’ due to my busy and unpredictable work schedule. I’d also been threatening to pursue a Masters course for a few years but kept missing the application deadline, and I’d been applying for other jobs within the BBC and thought it too much of a sacrifice to commit to the MTC course. Astonishing really, given how I’d chosen to prioritise my walk with Christ! But all that changed last year, when I learnt that the course was now not only available in-person but online as well. This option meant the course was more accessible and I’d been praying to our Father to show me where he wanted to lead me next. Surprisingly, whilst every other application door remained closed or somewhat elusive, I’d somehow managed to not miss the submission deadline for MTC!
What is the Ministry Training Course?
It is a
ministry of the South Central Gospel Partnership, based in Oxford. Their
website says this: “Our aim is that each week will cause those attending to
have a greater view of the Lord, a fresh desire to serve him and be equipped to
pass on God’s Word to others”. And that’s exactly what it does.
Who is MTC for?
Every follower of Christ Jesus. Anyone can do it and there’s no age limit. If you want to keep growing in your knowledge of our Lord, then this course will certainly help further nurture your relationship with him. It’s like an extended Bible study group but filled with other very helpful tools to encourage your walk with Christ and to give you confidence to talk with others about the gospel and your faith.
What am I finding helpful about it?
It is extending my knowledge of Jesus through the Bible. I thought I’d arrived when I was baptised back in 2011, and when I was asked to lead services. I know, right! I’m humbled by the fact that my knowledge of Christ is still so limited and by doing MTC I get to walk even more closely with our Lord. We get to prepare talks too - on passages from Scripture. Preparing them gives me goose bumps. I cannot believe that I have been given a position of absolute privilege in learning how to share God’s word with others! It’s emotional just thinking about it. I love how he is using EVEN me.
How do I fit it into my busy (and often erratic) schedule?
More easily than I thought. You can either attend the course in-person in Oxford each Tuesday from 10.15am to 3.45pm (there are many breaks in between), or you can access the teaching online, either live or at your leisure. I access the day online and aim to do it as live, but if I’m working, I can catch up on the sessions on my days off or over the weekend. If you are doing the course remotely you need to set aside one hour a week to attend an online tutorial on Thursday evenings, which is very exciting because it’s here that you meet brothers and sisters from other churches. But don’t worry, the groups are small, manageable and enjoyable (even if you are an introvert). I cannot recommend MTC enough. You’d love it. I promise.
Are you interested in doing MTC?
You can find out more at the South Central
Gospel Partnership website (www.scgp.org.uk) and do speak to your Congregation Leader or
someone who has done the course already. The course runs for three ten-week
terms starting in mid-September
Mission Partner Update: Wayne Dixon
It was just great being at St Mary’s Evening and I want to say a huge thank you for your interest, prayers, encouragement and support of me over these past 34 years. I am just loving it in the schools, and I shared a bit of that and especially a story from Furze Platt Senior School the very day I came to St Mary’s evening. The aim of Christian Connections in Schools (CCiS) is Making Jesus known to children, young people AND staff in schools of Slough, Windsor & Maidenhead.Some subjects for your prayers for now:
1. Wisdom and sensitivity in the on-going situations in chatting with staff and pupils in our various schools.
2. ‘It’s Your Move!’ - most of the Maidenhead primary schools (those age 11 in school Year 6) will be receiving this free book in the coming days. This link gives you a little flavour as to what will be shared between now and Friday 27th May and what goes on in school.
3. We have a celebration of the ten-year anniversary of CCiS on Friday 14th October with Rachel Gardner (previous schools worker in the London borough of Harrow) coming to speak. An evening to pause, pray, worship and give thanks to God. This link is here to book either in-person or to access the livestream.
4. I look forward to coming along to the St Mary’s united service and lunch on Sunday 3rd July.
5. Praise God for what is happening each Friday at Newlands girls school with the Christian group ‘Revive’. I’ve had a great time in school last week and back there for assemblies this week coming. Love it!
6. On-going prayer and wisdom for the appointment of a Primary Schools Worker.
7. Connections made with many primary schools, including St Piran’s, Oldfield and others where I am involved and chat about their visits to St Mary’s for Christmas and Easter presentations. Similar happens with other schools and local churches involved in our schools. Praise God!
Thank you again St Mary’s church family. May God continue to lead, guide and use you with the opportunities and challenges ahead that we face.
More news can be found on CCiS website and if you would like to receive ‘Pause to Pray’ and/or our newsletter (the summer one is available now), please give me a call (01753 201992) or email email@example.com.
Introducing New Warden... Lindsay Reisser-Weston
Hello everyone. I would like to thank you very much for your support in appointing me as churchwarden alongside Anthony Kan at our recent St Mary’s Thanksgiving Evening and Annual Church Meeting.
For those who don’t know me, I am a member of the 8am congregation, which I have been attending for the last five years. More recently I have also joined the 9.15am service, where it has been a huge privilege to join the worship and get to know more members of our bigger church family.I am married to Dave, who also comes to the 8am service, and we have four adult children: Chloe, Mia, Taylor and Fabian. I grew up in Holywood, Northern Ireland, a town about six miles outside Belfast. God blessed me greatly by putting me in a school with a strong Scripture Union, where a number of faithful teachers and students introduced me to the Lord when I was about ten or eleven at a Christian holiday club. I attended Holywood Parish Church of St Philip of St James (Church of Ireland) where I was baptised and confirmed.
I moved to England for university just over 30 years ago and have lived in several different spots around the country for work including Bristol, Newcastle Upon Tyne, Wimbledon and Nottingham before settling in Berkshire in 2006. Across this time, I have been truly blessed with a career I’ve loved, working in various companies such as Procter & Gamble (where I met Heidi Cooper from the 4pm congregation), Castrol (BP) where I used to work with Ralph Hewins (9.15am) and most recently SlimFast.
At St Mary’s I am currently a leader on the Christian Foundations course with Ian Miller, Chris Roberts (4pm) and my husband Dave, and I’ve just started my final term at South Central Gospel Partnership Ministry Training Course (MTC), which has been hugely helpful in my Christian growth and walk with the Lord. Additionally, I am serving on the PCC and the Standing Committee, where I have the great privilege of witnessing the tremendous work that goes on behind the scenes by so many dedicated members of our St Mary’s staff team and church family.
It is my great desire that I may follow this Christ-like example in my service as churchwarden alongside my good friend, Anthony Kan. If you see me or Anthony, please do introduce yourself and do not hesitate to approach either of us on any topics or issues you may want to raise or discuss.
I would humbly ask for your prayers in two areas if I may please; for wisdom as we support our St Mary’s staff team and church family across the vacancy period and the search for our new vicar, and for great humility in our service for the glorification of our Lord Jesus Christ, trusting in his sovereign power and will. As I set out to serve as churchwarden, I hold the opening verse of Psalm 127 in my heart; ‘Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labour in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain.’ I pray for his direction and guidance in all that we seek to do at St Mary’s.
Update from St Mary's White Waltham (Dave Atallah)
Dear brothers and sisters of St Mary’s Church Maidenhead,
Thank you for your partnership in the gospel and continued prayer for us. It was fun to welcome Will Stileman to our service in White Waltham on his first Sunday not being actively vicar in Maidenhead. We pray for wisdom and guidance as God brings the right person to lead in a key role, not just for the local church in central Maidenhead, but for gospel partnership in the wider area. I will miss him and the helpful discussions we had.
Please give thanks with us for:
- The opportunity to welcome Year 6 children from six schools to the Easter Cracked presentation run in White Waltham church with huge help from the St Mary’s Maidenhead team. (One of those schools was missing for Christmas Unwrapped due to Covid.)
- The opportunity to welcome our two local schools to Easter services and present our wonderful Easter hope. And continued opportunities at the two local schools, through governors, assemblies and other links.
- Our holiday at home day for the more mature members of our congregation. This was a fun time of quizzes and games, fellowship and food, and chatting together about the frustrations of life and the freedom we know in Christ from Philippians 1 and 3.
- That we have had a Spring of often over 50 people in the building on Sunday mornings. Again, numbers are not everything, and there are a few who were with us before Christmas and we haven’t seen much of this year, but having the church a little fuller, and with the full range of ages, is very encouraging. (I always want more, but I am reminded by my team to give thanks for the growth we see!)
- Easter was encouraging, with a shared meal with communion on Maundy Thursday, a new and welcome addition.
Please pray with us:
- We have had a term of teaching on who we are as church. And just finished a term of encouragement and enabling to share the gospel, and to ask and answer provocative questions (adapting material from Becky Manley Pippert and others). This was in Sunday sermons and discussions and midweek groups. We long to be confident in speaking, answering, and inviting. Knowing further growth cannot be just down to the vicar!
- Covid has given us a breather from financial pressures, but we continue to run at a slight loss and seek to plan faithfully but realistically for the future.
- We are about to have our APCM (Annual Parochial Church Meeting) as part of our Sunday service. We will be reflecting on Confidence (in the gospel) and Compassion (for others). As part of this we will be reflecting on how and why we do things, and seeking God’s guidance as to where he might be taking his church in White Waltham.
- We continue to give thanks for the support we receive in running our kids work by volunteers from St Mary’s Maidenhead, and sending our own children to the midweek youthwork there. It is so good and God-glorifying when churches can work together in these ways!
With humble thanks
Growth Group Reorganisation (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 feel the same.
Our evening Growth Groups are organised within congregations and meet in someone's home. They tend to have between eight and fourteen members and they meet for ninety minutes to two hours each week, except for the weeks when we gather together at church for our monthly St Mary’s Evening.
Growth Groups are a brilliant setting to do many of the things the Bible calls us to do for each other as Christians. In our groups we can 'love one another' (John 13:34), 'carry each other's burdens' (Gal. 6:2) and pray for each other. We can also 'teach' and 'encourage' each other from God’s word (Col. 3:16, 1 Thess. 5:11) and grow together in our knowledge and love of the Lord.
If you are not part of a Growth Group at present do speak to your Congregation Leader or someone who is in a group, 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 we reorganise the evening Growth Groups and that is happening this September (the daytime groups are organised separately). As we reorganise the groups we hope that new people will get involved. And we hope that those who are in a group at the moment will find themselves in a new group with some old friends they have been with before and some new friends to get to know.
Later in May we will produce
a leaflet explaining how to join a Growth Group from September. Whether you are
currently in a group or not, please fill in this leaflet and return it to us.
You will be able to specify which evenings of the week you can and cannot
manage and any other requests, for example, one or two people you’d especially
like to be with. The Congregation Leaders will then use this information to put
the new Growth Groups together. We will let everyone know which group they are
in well before the new groups start in September.
We have thought hard about whether to go ahead with the reorganisation of groups so soon after the disruption of the pandemic. As the groups reorganise, it will naturally be sad to no longer be in the same Growth Group as some who have become dear to us. There are, however, significant advantages to reorganising the groups at this stage. The main one is that it gives us the joy of getting to know and love new people in the body of Christ. It is also an ideal time for people to join groups. On previous occasions when the Growth Groups have reorganised it has been wonderful to see an increase in the number of people in groups. The reorganising also serves to strengthen the bonds of fellowship in our congregations as we all share our lives with a new group of people.
Please do speak to or email your Congregation Leader if you have any questions or concerns about the Growth Group reorganisation. We will be delighted to put our heads together on how this can work well for each group and individual.
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 people involved in our groups and the bonds of fellowship within our congregations for the glory of his name.
Jon Drake – May 2022
'Hola' from Luke and Mary Foster
Living back home in the UK
Having recently moved back to UK for family health reasons, Luke and family are now based near to Oxford and have been wonderfully provided with a temporary home, car, school places for the children and a loving church family. For the time being, Luke will continue to serve at CEP remotely with occasional trips back to Chile such as a planned week-long intensive teaching block in June.
Looking ahead beyond this summer
Looking beyond this coming summer, there are now many decisions for Luke and Mary to make, including where to live and serve longer term. As part of this, Luke is currently considering alternative ministry roles and they would very much appreciate prayer for wisdom and peace as they make decisions that will shape the life and ministry of their family for the years to come.
Continued thankfulness for the love of Jesus and partnership of his church
As a family, they remain thankful for the love and care of the Lord Jesus and his people which includes the partnership with St Mary’s and all those praying for them.
Some prayer points
- Give thanks for the provision of a temporary home in Oxford and that the children are happy in their new school.
- Please pray for ongoing ministry at CEP with Luke teaching remotely and pray for Luke’s preparations to return to Chile in June to deliver some teaching in-person.
- Please pray for wisdom and clarity for the family as they explore longer term plans beyond this summer.
For further information on Luke and Mary please contact Paul Cook from the 4pm congregation.
Senior Youth Weekend Away (Harry Thrift)
A few weeks ago, Melinda and her brave bunch of leaders, a special guest speaker and 26 members of the youth at St Mary’s went on the Senior Youth Weekend Away where we had a great time playing big group games, hanging out getting to know each other better, eating lots of good food and studying and listening to the bible being taught to us by our special guest speaker Tim Adams.
There was plenty to do on this weekend away. The facilities where we were staying had a pool table, table football, actual football and a sofa room which turned out to be very helpful for when the rugby fans decided to watch England play. The site also had its very own peacock which was very exciting, and different routes to go on walks and for some of the crazy ones, early morning runs.
On the Saturday morning we had a battle, where cardboard castles were beautifully designed and painted by the youth who then had to battle it out in the Battlezone to see how many water balloons they were to be awarded, which they could then catapult at the opposite team’s castles. The castles did not stay beautiful for long.
There was also a big game of hunt the leader in the town centre where the leaders hid around the town in places like coffee shops (which seemed the most popular hiding place for a lot of the leaders). The youth had to find a leader, get a letter from them, and then try to figure out a word. For reasons unknown, nobody was able to complete or win this game, but it seemed everyone had a great time.On Saturday evening we had a massive bonfire and hot chocolate and cake, and then headed inside for a big round robin tournament with lots of different challenges at each station and the occasional interval of a food based challenged. Some stations were easier than others and some were almost impossible, but points were awarded none the less, and then to finish the big tournament off there was a speed quiz.
All the games and activities were great but the best bit about the weekend away was being taught from the bible by Tim Adams where we looked at the person of Peter, but most importantly at Jesus Christ and what he had to teach us. We had three talks over the weekend where each one had a main headline and big thing that we learnt. In talk one we saw that there is only one great hero, Jesus Christ who will never let us down. In talk two we learnt that Jesus gives a new start to those who love him and in talk three we learnt that God transforms those who love him. After each talk we then went into discussion groups to answer some questions and think about what we learnt and to ask any questions we had. The talks were really encouraging and engaging, and I think I can say that we all went away having learnt more about Jesus.A big thanks to Melinda for organizing it all, for Tim doing the talks, for Mark and Adam in the kitchen keeping us fueled with delicious food, for the leaders who were willing to come and help, to the youth who are a great bunch of people who are great fun and also very encouraging. But the biggest thanks should go to God, who kept us all safe and gave us a great time of fun and also a great time in his word.
Thanksgiving Evening and Annual Church Meeting (Lindsay Reisser-Weston)
We give great thanks to the Lord for our St Mary’s Thanksgiving Evening and Annual Church Meeting held on Thursday 21st April, and attended by 110 church family members in the church and on Zoom. We enjoyed a wonderful time together looking back on what we have to be thankful for in 2021 and looking ahead to what we are planning in God’s grace for the coming months as we work through the vacancy period and the process of appointing our new Vicar.
We opened the evening with the uplifting song, ‘May the peoples praise you’ followed by a Bible thought from Jon Drake, highlighting the apostle Paul’s witness to the Philippians, “what is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things” (Philippians 3:8), and reminding us of what an extraordinary privilege it is to pursue our own church mission ‘to know Jesus and to make Jesus known’.
It was wonderful to hear from Kate Wheatley and Nick McDonald about the extent of our Children’s work which really is the life blood of our church for future generations. Some 130 children participate each week supported by 90 willing helpers from our church family. We are so grateful this work extends well beyond our own congregations, with many friends and kids from the neighbourhood joining in with the various activities from 7UP to Holiday Club, and we pray that the Lord brings these young people to faith. Kate took the opportunity to announce that she will retire next June, handing over to Nick our Children’s Minister-in-training. We give great thanks for her passionate leadership of our Children’s work over so many years, lovingly feeding a great many young hearts with the good news of the gospel.
Rachel Meynell also reported on progress of our Gospel and Race work highlighting a number of initiatives already undertaken, including ‘Taste of All Nations’, whilst acknowledging there is still much work to be done to more fully reflect God’s plan and the community around us. We committed the Children’s work and Gospel and Race work to the Lord in prayer, with breakout groups in church and on Zoom.
A key part of the evening was election of Churchwardens (Anthony Kan and Lindsay Reisser-Weston), Deanery Synod member (Phebe Tay) and Parish Council (PCC) members (Sandra Brunt, John Driscoll and Catriona Khetyar). We are especially thankful to Rae Binning who stepped down as Churchwarden after eight years of loyal and dedicated service.
John Blackbeard presented a high-level view of our financial position and accounts for 2021 (outlined in detail in our Annual Report, log in to read them here). We ended the year with a deficit of £33,737 vs a budgeted deficit of £113,559 for general funds, but after the allocation of discretionary funds, this resulted in a surplus of £53,065. We are hugely blessed by the continued generous giving of our church family, recognising that many other churches have struggled financially during this difficult time. John also shared our budget for 2022, we re-appointed the Auditors and committed our finances to the Lord in prayer.
Looking forward, Anthony Kan shared an outline of our new Vicar appointment process which started on 19th April with the formal ‘Section 11’ meeting where our PCC approved the ‘Parish Profile’ and confirmed the appointment of our two Parish Reps; Anthony Kan and Rae Binning who will lead the Vicar selection process on behalf of the parish. We will use the blog to provide regular updates on the process.
This was followed by Jon Drake, who shared plans for the vacancy period which you can read about in his recent blog post. Finally, we opened the floor to questions across a range of topics, including the Vicar appointment process and our financial accounts, which are recorded in the minutes of the meeting found (which will be published on the church website in May), and we drew the evening to a close with a rousing rendition of ‘In Christ Alone’, followed by a closing prayer and the Grace, led by Rachel Meynell.
6:30pm Men's Weekend Away
On Saturday afternoon we ventured out for a walk in the South Downs. We wandered slightly off the planned route, but with such good weather everyone just enjoyed the extra time spent outside. In the evening, some watched the rugby whilst others of us enjoyed some hilarious games. Before we knew it, it was time to pack up and head back to Maidenhead again.It was a good opportunity to spend a longer amount of time with a small group from the congregation, and it helped us all to get to know each other better and to be challenged about living as Christians.
Plans for the Vacancy (Jon Drake)
It is my privilege to lead the staff team during the vacancy period, ably supported by Rachel Meynell, John Blackbeard and Dick West. I want to express my thanks to the staff team – every member is godly, skilled and hard working.
My prayer for us as a church during the vacancy period is that we will continue to build and grow in line with the mission statement we have - to know Jesus and make Jesus known. That’s what we are all about. Under that we have three essentials and three priorities.
Our first essential is dependent prayer. We express our dependence on God by praying individually and together. One of my longings for the vacancy period is that the number of people committed to the St Mary’s Evening grows. We meet in here on the second Thursday of every month. There’s uplifting music. We pray in small groups. It’s also possible to join via Zoom. I am convinced that one of the best ways we can support the ministry here during the vacancy is to come together to pray. We long to see growth in that.
Our second essential is biblical teaching. We remain committed to faithfully teaching God’s word in our Sunday preaching. But Bible teaching is done not just by a few of us but by many. In September the Growth Groups will be reshuffling after four years together. This will be a chance for new people to join Growth Groups and for new people to lead Growth Groups. There will also be the need for new people to lead in the Children’s and Youth Work. We pray that the number involved in teaching the Bible will continue to grow.
Our third essential is loving one another. There are so many ways we do this. A new initiative this year will be our United Church Sunday on 3rd July. We plan to get the whole church family together for a picnic on site here at St Mary’s and attending a service either before or after that picnic. I hope this will be a way to celebrate and build our unity and our love for each other as one church family.
Then we have three priorities. The first is engaging Maidenhead with the gospel. Everything we do as a church is part of this. We hope particularly in the year ahead to do more street outreach and door-to-door work in the parish. We started this before Easter; it was hugely encouraging. It allows us to rebuild relationships with the community which have been set back during the pandemic. It also grows us in our confidence in sharing God’s grace. Secondly, we are seeking to develop teaching English as a way of reaching internationals in Maidenhead with the love and gospel of Jesus. Our third focus in engaging Maidenhead with the gospel will be a Real Lives Mission Week in March 2023, with Glen Scrivener already booked as our speaker.
Our next priority is growing mature disciples of Jesus of all ages and backgrounds. Again this is at the heart of all we do. Our Children’s and Youth work and our Gospel and Race Work remain priorities for us. Additionally in the autumn we plan to have a Baptism and Confirmation Service for young people and others who have made a commitment to Christ to declare that publicly. We are also relaunching the Men’s Work with a men’s barbecue in the summer and a men’s breakfast in the autumn, the excellent Women’s Ministry will continue.
Our third priority is partnering with other churches to make Jesus better known. We will continue working closely with the Windsor Fellowship, with Trinity at Four in Henley and St Mary’s White Waltham. We will also seek to grow our new partnership with St Paul’s in Slough. Bishop Tim Wambunya the Vicar there is booked to take our autumn Baptism and Confirmation Service. We must see if there are ways we can support him.
So brothers and sisters, we have an excellent mission statement. It gives us an exciting vision of what it means for us to be a church that is faithful to Jesus our Saviour. Our longing and prayer for the vacancy period is not to stand still, but to keep moving forward and to keep growing in these three essentials as we grow the St Mary’s Evening, as we draw more into Bible teaching and as we have a United Church Sunday. And to keep moving forward and growing in our three priorities as we grow our street outreach, hold a Real Lives Mission, have a Baptism and Confirmation Service, and grow our links with St Paul’s Slough.
Let us move forward together, in dependence on God’s Spirit, to know Jesus and make Jesus known.
Garden Work Party (Phil Richards)
We are very fortunate that St Mary’s is situated in the middle of town and has a large garden for all to enjoy. In a garden that size there is plenty of ongoing maintenance required (weeding, mowing the lawn, removing tree seedlings, pruning, repairing/tidying paths) which is why we meet up every month.
Saturday 9th April was the first St Mary’s garden work party of the year and we were fortunate with the weather and 12 volunteers. As it was the first garden party of the year there was the added incentive of bacon butties for everyone provided by Helen Young and her team. Many thanks to all the willing volunteers; Jon, Dick, Ian, Jan and Elna from the staff team, Victoria and Jon Harris, Helen Burbage, Maher Khetyar, Mark Loader and Brian Jones from the various services, with Jane Roxborough leading the overall effort.
We have a garden work party schedule for the rest of the year; there are no special skills required, garden tools are provided although you can bring your own. We usually start at 9.30am on a Saturday morning and finish by 12.30pm, but if you can only spare an hour that's fine. If you are working towards the Duke of Edinburgh's award scheme then this would count towards the ‘community service’ element.
Hopefully see you at one of the St Mary’s garden work parties soon.
Future dates in 2022
- 7th May
- 2nd July
- 3rd September
- 1st October
- 5th November
Easter Cracked (Patch Crossley)
As usual, it was an exciting event! We had quizzes, music, an Easter rap, and even a visit from the Easter expert, the nutty professor. At the heart of the event was an opportunity to explain to the young people why Jesus died for us, and what his death and resurrection achieved. We looked at evidence for Jesus rising again, and convincing historical clues. We also looked at communion and baptism and how these signs point to what Jesus did on the cross, and what it means to be a Christian. The most exciting aspect of the event was giving the young people an opportunity to ask whatever questions they had about Easter. You could always tell they’d been thinking carefully, and they asked questions like, “Why would Jesus do all of that for us?” and “Why did God let this happen?”
Hospitality Sunday (Various Authors)
Sunday 3rd April was Hospitality Sunday at St Mary’s. This is where congregation members spend time together outside of Sunday services in each other’s homes, over lunch.
Read on for some reflections of some of those who met up.
We had a spectacular dining room! The children could sit where they wanted, and the adults had a tranquil corner sheltered from the early spring breeze.
Lots of running around. Lots of conversation. Lots of tasty food led to all round happiness, including the dog!
When I first received an email from Chris to invite us to his house for the Sunday dinner, I was a little bit nervous as I could not remember who Chris and his family were! But I still accepted the invitation as it is lovely to get to know the church family at St Mary’s.
At last, when we arrived my anxiety disappeared and the Smart family showed us great hospitality. Sarah and Chris prepared a hearty meal for us. My sons, Jadon and Javier had so much fun playing football with Noah and Zachary in the garden. All of us had a great time chatting and eating. Thank God for His wonderful arrangement!
Sharon YeungWe have always loved having folk over for lunch, but the past two years of not doing so had made us nervous to invite anyone. When the Hospitality Sunday sign-up sheet went up, we thought this was the perfect opportunity. Us three Stephensons (not including little dog Toby) were paired with the three Taylors.
Although the children, Molly and Patricio, know each other from Explorers, we did not know Des and Marcela. Patricio said grace to start our meal and we enjoyed the next two and a half hours getting to know each other. So much so, we forgot to take a photo until we’d cleared the table! We (including Toby) are definitely looking forward to getting to know one another more.
Ben, Gemma and Molly Stephenson
After church many of us in the congregation met in small groups to have lunch. We were pleased to act as hosts and were joined by Yemi, Shubbie and their two boys, plus Sue and Bernard.
Everyone quickly relaxed, especially Shubbie who sat in the middle of the table and spent a lot of her time passing food dishes up and down!Samuel and Daniel were very well behaved, and having eaten as much as they wanted, found the toys in the sitting room much more attractive than adult conversation, leaving the adults to have seconds of pud and chat over coffee.
We were happy to host but nervous too! We didn’t know who we would get matched with. Everything felt like a problem - oh! And we forgot to mention we have a dog. Will they like a curry? What if the spice levels are all wrong? What if we don’t have much to talk about? However, looking back now, we will do it again without worrying!It was amazing to host Jenny, Michelle, Mutiu, Maxwell and Millie. The time flew and before we knew it was 4pm. A truly humbling experience as we realised that we are just one big family in church and in Christ! We had so much to talk about. We made new friends - this was the cherry on the top!
We all agreed that it was a lovely, relaxed way to be able to get to know each other better.
Helping Ukrainians in Maidenhead (Jo Jobson)
The situation in Ukraine remains terrible for many people in the country, and for those who have fled. St Mary’s is committed to praying and there are opportunities for financial and practical support for both those still in the country and for those who have come to the UK. We also want to support and assist those who are hosting Ukrainians in and around Maidenhead. Some family members of people in our congregations have already arrived in the UK, and several of the church family are in the process of arranging to host Ukrainians.
The St Mary’s response is being co-ordinated by Rachel Meynell and Jo Jobson. The situation, and our response to it, is likely to change over time, but so far we have had new Ukrainian guests at the following groups:
- iCAF, an English conversation group run at St Mary’s on Thursday evenings, open to any non-native speakers. People can practice their English in a relaxed and fun environment and there is an optional ‘life questions’ half hour when they look at a Bible passage and discuss its relevance to their lives. This group is planned to run for a further six weeks after Easter but will then need new leaders to take over the role and more helpers.
- English language class on Wednesday mornings, open to non-native women, run by Laura Swain. There may be an opportunity to expand this if we have more volunteers, both with and without teaching qualifications.
- Toddlers and Shift.
New initiative: On 22nd March we held a Zoom meeting to update the church family and to outline how we might proceed (to see this meeting, you must log in and go to the Ukraine section of the church website). It was very well attended, and following on from this, if we have sufficient volunteers, we would love to launch a ‘Welcome Café’ on Thursdays from 1.30-3pm, starting on 28th April. We envisage this as a place where Ukrainians can come and meet with others to relax, make new friends, and become independent. We will hope to have some ‘clinics’ running alongside it, to help with for example, form-filling (for state benefits, GPs, schools, CVs etc), an introduction to English culture, guidance on using public transport and other services. We also hope to have some craft and board/card games. As some will bring young children, there will be children’s toys too. To start and run this group we need a team of at least six people. Training will be provided.
For additional information, please go to the Ukraine section of the church website, where there are also other ideas for helping. To offer help in any way, or if you are planning to host, please contact Jo Jobson at firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible, so that we can plan.
Each year at St Mary’s we have two opportunities to give to needs elsewhere; at Christmas and at Harvest. This year we have decided to have an Easter giving opportunity too due to the vast needs in Ukraine. The two charities we are planning to give money to are Bible Society, and CCX Ukraine, part of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students.
Bible Society teams in Ukraine and across Europe are providing Bibles and other Scripture-based resources to people who desperately need them, alongside humanitarian aid and pastoral care. Anatoliy Raychynets of the Ukraine Bible Society said, ‘We have met so many people in the last two weeks who have never had a Bible before, but now they are asking us to pray with them. It is a revival……..We are sharing living bread and physical bread.’ But he added, ‘The Angels of Kyiv (the name given to Bible Society staff by locals) need the protection of heavenly angels.’ The team across the country are working under very difficult conditions. Anatoliy’s car was hit by a bullet while he was out distributing Bibles and aid recently.
The staff have stayed in their towns and are seeking to bring practical and spiritual help to those around them. One of them writes: ‘The last week was mostly related to work in the shelter at our church, help with the humanitarian aid, transport of dislocated people to the Polish border, raising help to our 24th Lviv Motorized Brigade - they are on the front lines now. In general, this shelter is such a good ministry for us.’
Another volunteer comments about hosting those fleeing towards the East:
‘She told me how they feel and how the war effects them in a horrible way - frequent panic attacks whenever they hear a blast or just a flying object over their house, their kid often cries in fear and wakes up in the middle of the night. Pharmacies experience a lack of antidepressants or any other medicine that could potentially calm them down a bit.’ She goes on to say how much it has helped to remember their Good Shepherd.
Please keep these and other Christian ministries to Ukraine in your prayers, and if you would like to give through our special Easter collection, the details of how you can do so are in the St Mary’s weekly email.
Praying for Ukraine
Here are some ideas of how we at St Mary’s can pray for Ukraine.
These requests have come from contacts there:
- Please pray for the war to end.
- Pray for protection for the people, towns and villages of Ukraine.
- Pray for those who have been displaced.
- Pray for Christians on the front line both inside and outside Ukraine, and especially for believers in the occupied regions, many of whom are on hit lists.
- Pray for the people turning to Christ in this extreme situation and those who lead them.
- Pray for human justice and give thanks that we can be assured of divine justice.
- Pray for and give thanks for the common grace and witness of Christians across boundaries and barriers.
- Pray for those standing firm under oppression.
- Pray for patience, godliness and love for others to be shown by Christians who are exhausted and stressed.
- Pray for the international students, many from Africa and Asia, who have been trapped by the fighting and are experiencing racism and problems at the borders. Pray for the teams helping them.
- Pray for pastors in Russia who are standing firm at great personal risk.
Some other ideas:
- For refugees to find shelter and safety and host nations to welcome them.
- For those who have suffered trauma to find helpful listening ears, and to turn to Jesus in their pain.
- For many families who are separated and fear for their loved ones.
- For wisdom for political leaders, that they may desire peace and work towards it.