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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Looking Back (Simon Eves)
1 God - I guess in many ways the best thing I can say about my time on the staff team is that I leave having grown in both my love for God and my knowledge of him. I’m grateful for the ministry he’s given me to do but I’m also moved to think of what he has done in me and taught me in the time I’ve been here.
4 new members of my family - It’s fair to say that getting married to Suzie and the births of Tilly, Jos and Theo have all been highlights of my time at St Mary’s. We’ve all been so well loved in our time here and we’re all going to miss St Mary’s hugely (well, perhaps Theo won’t- I’m not sure he’s all that aware of very much about what’s happening!). But the way in which we’ve been loved as a family and supported in the past few years as the kids have come along has been moving.
9 years as a member of this church family. I originally planned to be here for two, but the Lord had other plans and, as I’ve said already, throughout that time we’ve felt loved and included as part of the family.
10 summer camps - My time leading on both Sparkford and Edgehill summer camps stand out as some of the best memories from my time. Summer days messing around playing sports, going on trips and talking about Jesus; in so many ways they were all the best bits of youth work in one intense block in the summer. Some of the weirder moments were sock wrestling in jelly, riding an inflatable jet ski on a slip n slide and a game of cabbage scrabble. But I think I will remember the sight of home made carboard boats floating across the swimming pool for a very long time!
16 weekends away - Highlights include: sleeping in the freezing cold at Blackland farm, accidentally forbidding a member who wanted to go and write down memory verses, dismantling impromptu wrestling rings, listening to one site manager describe to the whole group how to unblock the pump of the sceptic tank, eating incredible amounts of delicious food and laughing until we cried at some members’ zombie film.
37 sermons (and a whole load of other talks and Bible studies but it’s easy to count sermons!). It’s been such a privilege to stand up in front of people I care about and speak to them about the things which matter most in life - about Christ and what it means to live for him.
38 colleagues - I hope most of them would agree that we’ve mostly got on well and been an encouragement to one another. That’s certainly how I feel about them- you’ll have to ask them if they agree! It has been a joy be a part of the team and even though we have our moments I can say I have learned so much about what it means to serve Christ from the men and women I’ve worked with on the staff team.
60 (I think… ish…) incredible volunteers - I tried to list as many as I could and gave up when I got to 60, there are probably a few more that I couldn’t bring to mind. But it is absolutely true that I have not been the one doing the majority of the youth ministry in the last nine years. So many people have poured so many hours of love and care into our young people. I have always felt surrounded by others who care deeply about the next generation and want to see them growing to know and love the Lord. They’ve been such a great bunch to lead and to encourage. The growth I have seen in some of our leaders over my time at St Mary’s is certainly one of my highlights.
~240 nights at Focus - Fridays haven’t felt right for the past 18 months. Chatting to all kinds of young people about life and about faith on Friday evenings. Playing Mario Kart and Scatterball. Eating sweets from the tuck shop. I’ll miss all of those things. But I will especially miss the joy we’ve had of multiple times seeing young people get invited along, hear about Jesus and start to follow him. It’s
not been a full scale revival among the young people of Maidenhead but there have been many tokens of God’s grace where we’ve seen him do that life-saving work.
~1200 services attended - The regular week by week coming to church, leading groups and sitting in services might not be the most exciting thing and it may not have those standout moments and memories. But God works through the regular and the ordinary. This last year and a half has highlighted how true that is as we’ve seen how much worse things are when we can’t gather together. When we can’t raise our voices together in song or put an arm around a friend who’s hurting. It highlights how much I had taken those thousand or more meetings for granted and how I hope and pray you’ll all be back to meeting together more normally very soon!
HUNDREDS - Too many to count really but, as I’m doing numbers, I’d guess there have been something like 350 young people that I’ve really known over the years, maybe a few more than that. They’ve made this job so much fun. Sometimes they’re infuriating, when they’re setting themselves on fire or sulking because they don’t want to go raft building. They’re certainly entertaining. And in so many ways they are just hugely encouraging. Seeing many now in leadership at their churches and CUs and generally just going on faithfully with the Lord is the biggest joy. There is also the heartache of seeing others who have drifted. Yet, over all, as I reflect on those who have come through our youth ministry in the last decade it seems that God has, in his kindness, used the work at St Mary’s to grow disciples and to have played a part in that (humanly speaking) has been brilliant.
Sunday Arrangements (Will Stileman)
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” Colossians 3:12
Although the government has lifted legal restrictions, cases of Covid remain high and are increasing. Consequently, we have all been urged to exercise extreme caution and move forward gradually.
From Sunday things will be a little different at our services and this email is to inform you of the changes. We will be reviewing our practices regularly and will relax the restrictions further once it’s safe to do so. Our aim is to give as many people as possible the chance to join in worship with God’s people whilst keeping you safe.
- We will continue to ask you to wear a mask inside the church and throughout the service (unless you are in an exempt category or under 11). This is more to protect others than yourselves.
- You will be still be asked to sanitise your hands when you arrive, the church will be well ventilated and cleaned after every service.
- Bibles will now be available to you and will be quarantined after use.
- We rejoice that we are now allowed to sing together (you will need to wear your mask when we sing to limit the transmission risk that there is in singing).
- We will have two types of seating:
- Rows of seats at the front part of the church will be spaced 1.3 metres apart and we will ask you to leave one empty seat between you and another person not in your household. You will not need to book to attend church if you are taking one of these seats, they will not be pre-allocated, the sidesmen will show you where to sit.
- If you would prefer a space of at least two seats between you and others, and 2 metres between rows, you will need to book to attend and will be allocated your socially distanced seat at the back part of the church and shown to it by the sidesmen.
- After the service the sidesmen will show everyone out row by row starting at the back.
- Chatting with members of the church family will continue to take place outside. We will not be offering teas and coffees.
- There will still be the option of joining the 9.15am and 11.00am services on Zoom.
- We will not have Zoom services at 4.00pm or 6.30pm anymore.
- All services will be live streamed.
- For ease with our Track and Trace responsibility we will take a photograph of the congregation at the start of each service rather than asking you to give us your details when you book (the photograph will not be used for any other reason and will only be retained for 3 weeks).
- It is important that you do not come to church if you are unwell.
It is wonderful that we no longer have to book to come to church and that we shall be able to sing God’s praises together in our building accompanied by musicians. As we enjoy these changes let’s keep looking out for one another. As God’s people we want to be worshipping together while being mindful of the needs and concerns of all.
Hope to see you this coming Sunday,
With love and best wishes,
Looking Back / Looking Forward (Steven and Jo Wheatley)
So, what have these ‘higher ways’ looked like for us? Our daughter, Sarah, underwent brain surgery nearly two years ago which has made a huge difference to her epilepsy, to the point that she’s just completed a foundation year at university and will start a Primary Education degree in September – unthinkable before the surgery.
I, Steven, have been working on the church site, looking after the practical aspects of all that happens there. And then the COVID-19 pandemic, with all of its ramifications, came along. Suddenly things weren’t happening anymore. Although this made most aspects of church life much harder, my job became considerably simpler: no more chairs to put out, no more Toddlers’ set-up, no more weekly routine on the site. Instead, I had a year or so to work through the to-do list of maintenance jobs. A perfect scenario for someone who’s very content with his own company!For Jo, lockdown hasn’t been such a good thing. Although her Bible study groups have continued, via Zoom, and she’s been able to ‘bubble’ with a few people, Jo hasn’t been able to spend as much time with other people as she would have liked. One beneficiary of this is the church garden, which has had a lot of attention from Jo!
But now, with Sarah confident about the next few years at university, Jo and I are making plans to get back out to Malawi. We’ve been on leave of absence from our mission, SIM, and have now been reactivated; St Mary’s has accepted us once more as Mission Partners (phew!); our papers have been submitted to Malawi immigration for a new work permit; and we have ministries lined up, along with a place to live.
We’ll be based at a place called Nanjoka, near to Salima, in central Malawi. Our ministries will include lay-leadership training, helping the carers of disabled children to give better care, teaching in local churches, vocational training for young men in an orphanage, discipling local church leaders. Until we arrive and get ourselves sorted out, we won’t know exactly what this will all look like, but we believe God has a plan, and some more ‘higher ways.’I’ve handed over the church job to Ben Raymond; we’re now starting the round of visits – churches, prayer groups, other supporters, friends, and family – and raising some financial support before we can set off once more. Our plan is to leave in the autumn, but this is dependent on our work permit being issued (some prayer please!), reaching our support target and, of course, God’s perfect timing. If you’d like to hear more about our plans, please do get in touch with us ( and ) or catch us after a Sunday service (remember when we used to be able to chat over coffee after the services?).
Although it wasn’t our plan to have been here for this long, we’ve really enjoyed getting to know St Mary’s folk, including the staff, much better. The Bible teaching, the music, the fellowship, simply being part of a thriving church, have all helped to set us up for the next few years back in Africa.
Steven and Jo Wheatley
Joy in all circumstances (Heather Fielding)
December 2020. A husband and wife are in hospital with Covid, on different wards and unable to see each other. They both have co-morbidities which place them at high risk of dying from the disease. Will either of them survive?
This was not a story in a tabloid newspaper - these were my parents. My father was admitted to hospital with Covid on 19th December and died ten days later. My mother, on a different ward since Christmas Eve, hadn’t been able to see him. After my father’s death, my Mum, still in hospital, gradually lost a grip on reality and despite improving physically (thank God!), struggled mentally which delayed her discharge. It was very hard to see. After two weeks she was lucid enough to come home where I cared for her, away from my own family, for about six weeks while she made a recovery.At the time it often didn’t feel real. A truly tragic scenario full of uncertainty, fuelled by adrenalin and shock. Not a situation in which it was easy to be joyful. We’ve certainly ‘been through the ringer’ and of course there are many additional details, frustrations and stresses which added to the trauma. At the time I said to my husband Andy, “If you looked at our life right now, you’d think how on earth are they still standing?” However, through it all I can testify that our Heavenly Father held us close, and our church family and friends inundated us with love and support. Despite living one moment at a time, not knowing how situations would unfold, we had a great sense of ‘being carried’, of peace and of him holding us fast.
I know many in our church family are going through acute crises or have suffered much in the past. I am not a self-reflective person, but I just wanted to share with you some things I learned or experienced and how I saw God working for good through it all.
- God is in control, not me! Clearly this experience has taught me that the Lord is truly sovereign over everything. His timing and plan for our lives is good and perfect. I am a planner and organiser by nature. I had spent most of 2020 anxiously micro-managing my parents to ensure they avoided the dreaded plague, but to what end? The Lord’s will for their life was what ultimately unfolded.
- There’s no point worrying! Of course my anxiety levels were often very high, especially when they were both sick. I was reminded of the story in Mark chapter four of Jesus in the boat with the disciples in the storm. He chastised them for being so afraid. Jesus is in my boat! Be not afraid! Indeed, often my fears turned out to be unfounded and we were surprised by encouragements. God knows what he’s doing.
- Eternity is real! My father was ‘not ashamed of the gospel’ and dedicated his life to sharing Jesus through work in schools, prisons and the community. He was a talented singer/songwriter and often used music to communicate our hope in Jesus. Thank God my brothers and I could be with him near the end of life and could pray, read the Bible and sing to him. He was ready to go home, to see Jesus, ‘the resurrection and the life.’ I had lots of questions about heaven after he died but his certain faith has encouraged me to trust that he is safe even though it’s so hard to imagine exactly where he is now.
- Thank God for the Psalms! I often didn’t know what to pray, or what passages to read. On some days, events were so frantic I admit that I didn’t have time or energy. But he hears the groans of our hearts, and I knew that many people were praying for us. I thanked God for the Psalms which are nice and quick to read but so apt for crying out to the Lord. Songs often stuck in my mind more than scripture. When I struggled to get to sleep, the well-known words of ‘In Christ Alone’ and other songs were a real comfort.
- Appreciating Christ’s sufferings! Seeing my father so very unwell made me appreciate, in a small way, the physical suffering which Christ endured. He knows our pain.
- I will yet praise him! Refocusing my mind on the bigger picture, on eternity, on God’s sovereignty and his perfect plan helped to lift my eyes out of my own situation. Reflecting on the big things: his promises, the mystery of his sovereignty, the glory of his eternal majesty. But also thankfulness for his father’s heart, his love and care, his everlasting arms holding us up and his Spirit with me day by day. Praising in trials. Psalm 42 v 5 “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God.”
- The Holy Spirit really helps us! I have no doubt that the Holy Spirit guided me in many subtle ways I probably didn’t even appreciate over those few months. While Mum was mentally unstable it was very difficult to bring her back to reality and focus her mind on good thoughts. I believe I had God-given insights into how to talk to her as I was definitely out of my comfort zone.
- God uses his church to do his work! We were amazed by the practical support of our church family in providing LOTS of meals, especially when I lived away. I’m also so thankful to God for my wonderful husband who did an amazing job of holding the tiller. The other support from church family included texts, cards, prayers, and video songs (yes, really!). Great kindness was also shown by other friends and neighbours too.
- God really does work all things together for good! My father was not a well man before Covid and perhaps God spared him a worse decline. Who knows? But he had been well enough to serve his Lord, with all his faculties, right up until he went into hospital. If my mother hadn’t been hospitalised, she wouldn’t have had the amazing package of care in place which has helped her to now live safely and independently on her own. There are many other examples I could mention which testify to God’s hand in all of this.
Brahmin Reborn - Book Review (Alison Bird)
Brahmin Reborn by Bhaskar Sreerangam
This is an excellent book which the St Mary’s book club will be discussing at our next meeting in June.
In this true story Bhaskar tells how he was born into a loving Brahmin family - the highest caste of Hinduism. He was deeply religious and obsessed with avoiding being re-incarnated as a lower being rather than achieving a better reincarnation and eventually achieving the ‘supreme reality’. As he desperately sought answers from priests and family his search for God found only doubts and disappointments. At university he became so obsessed with his quest that he decided that unless he received an answer to his question, “How, God, do I reach you when I die?” that he would commit suicide.
As he roamed around Madras looking for an answer he met a man who gave him a leaflet which he thought was about blood donation. “I will do this good deed before I die,” he thought. The leaflet was actually an invitation to a church. There he finally discovered that Jesus is the answer to his lifelong question, the one who can finally lift his burden and put him right with God. This book shows us how we can love our Hindu neighbours and reveals some of their beliefs and background. It reminds us of the importance of showing warmth and hospitality to Hindu friends and lovingly welcoming people into church when their own family may have rejected them.
St Mary’s book group is open to anyone. For information please contact Sara Hewins on 07903 675863
Book Sunday (June 2021)
Instead of having an in-person book stall we have asked for some suggested reads for the summer – all obtainable online from 10 of Those (www.10ofthose.com) or The Good Book Company (www.thegoodbook.co.uk), or locally from the Quench bookshop in Maidenhead.God’s Story: The Bible Explained by Matt Searles
“Matt Searles’ beautifully illustrated Bible overview is excellent. 56 short chapters (each chapter is only 2 or 3 pages) help explain the whole Bible in a very accessible way. This book will bless all who read it, whether you are new to the Bible or a regular reader. It will both inform you and thrill you as you see how the whole of the Bible proclaims Jesus.”
“God’s Story is superb. It’s really engaging and I found myself reluctant to put it down. I found the inserts in each chapter, ‘Looking Forward to Jesus’ for the OT chapters and ‘OT Fulfilment’ for the NT ones, especially helpful. The book gives a cohesive and clear flow of the Bible showing how it is all connected. This, along with the range and quality of the illustrations, makes for a very special book.”
Gentle and Lowly by Dane Ortlund
“The book is about the heart of Christ and there is nothing that we need to know better than his heart in all its tender love for us. It is well written and speaks of great and precious truths. Sam Allberry writes ‘breath taking and healing in equal measure, it is already one of the best books I’ve read.’”
“I read Gentle and Lowly last year when I was feeling particularly unsettled. An in-depth look at the character and heart of the Lord Jesus helped me to trust and not give in to the anxiety I was feeling. Drawing on Bible passages and on the wisdom of the Puritans, the book shows God’s compassionate, mercy-rich heart which is gentle and lowly towards his people.”
Living Without Worry by Timothy Lane
“A very practical book which looks at so many aspects of worry – from the physical manifestations, to worry about our past, present or future. Timothy Lane suggests ways we can change our thinking and points us to the great truths of the gospel, that speak directly into our worries. Truths that speak real comfort to us in this uncertain world.”
Rachel MeynellConfronting Christianity by Rebecca McLaughlin
“I found Confronting Christianity to be an accessible, credible and compelling read. The author tackled key objections to the Christian faith with academic rigour, sensitivity and honesty. The book was a very useful read for me, helping to develop my own thinking in response to some of the big concerns about the Christian faith e.g. suffering, gender,
sexuality, judgement. It is also a book that I would be happy to share with others as a non-embarrassing, robust and compassionate presentation of the Christian faith.”
The Art of Rest by Adam Mabry
“We rarely think biblically about rest, but in a world which is all go, go, go, we must learn what it looks like to enjoy God’s gift of rest. The Art of Rest is a short, well-applied read which shows how central rest is to the Christian life and what true rest looks like.”
Brahmin Reborn by Bhaskar Sreerangam
“This book reveals some of the beliefs and background of the Hindu faith. It reminds us of the importance of showing warmth and hospitality to Hindu friends and lovingly welcoming people into church when their own family may have rejected them.”
Isesomo: God’s Servant in Congo by Joshua Maule
“A short engaging biography of Anglican Bishop Isesomo of North Kivu, DRC, one of the most geopolitically unstable areas in the world today. Bishop Isesomo’s story of conversion and passion and joy for evangelism is told in the context of both the development of the Anglican church in the Congo and the history of a country ravaged by civil war, nepotism, tribalism and poverty. This book has been a great springboard to learn more about the DRC.” (Available online from www.langhamliterature.org)
Sara HewinsListen Up: 10 Minute Family Devotions on the Parables by Marty Machowski
“Would you like to read the Bible together as a family but you’re not sure how to get going or keep going? Help is at hand. ‘Listen Up’ is full of ideas for 10 minute family times reading and discussing Jesus’ parables.”
This Changes Everything: How the Gospel Transforms the Teen Years by Jaquelle Crowe
“The author was a teenager when she wrote this book. This is excellent for anyone looking to really grow in their faith and think hard about how Christianity changes teenage life. A wise book from a wise woman.”
How Do We Know Christianity is Really True? by Chris Morphew
“This book explains why we can trust the gospels as real historical documents and walks through the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection. The book has a chatty style with short chapters – highly recommended for 9-14 year olds.”
Simon EvesNIRV The Illustrated Holy Bible for Kids
A new version suitable for 4-9 year olds and a good follow-on from the Jesus Storybook Bible used in Sunday School for the younger folk.
The Beginners Bible – Timeless Children’s Stories
“This is an excellent story Bible for children aged 2-6. It’s faithful to the Bible, clearly written and with engaging pictures. Our 3 year old loves it! It is ideal to use alongside ‘Beginning with God’ the Bible reading resource for pre-schoolers.”
X and Shift Focus' Return (Melinda Stylo)
It was wonderful that we were able to run X and Shift Focus in person on Friday 11th June. The weather was perfect and so we spent most of X and all of Shift outside. X Focus started with us all eating Nick’s delicious pasta bake and catching up with each other, then we had a talk from Simon from our series ‘Jesus in Real Life’ where we are looking at how knowing Jesus makes a difference to our everyday lives. Free time and the small group discussions happened in the garden and then, all too soon, it was time to head home.
At Shift Focus we are looking at some of Jesus’ parables. We started with the Parable of the Sower and encouraged the older teens to reflect on their heart response to hearing about Jesus. There was plenty of free time to catch up as well as a Covid-safe, blindfolded Pictionary challenge which resulted in some artwork of which Picasso would have been proud.
We understand that both X and Shift will feel different and a bit strange at the moment, and are sorry that we can’t provide tuck this term, but it was still so good to see the youngsters having fun and a laugh together. Please pray for good weather so that we can meet each Friday and that those teens who have not engaged with the Bible much during the pandemic will be fed from God’s word.
Each Friday X Focus runs from 6pm-7:30pm and Shift Focus from 8pm-9:30pm, no need to sign up.
7Up's Return (Nick McDonald)
It has been over a year since 7UP, our Wednesday after school club for 7-11s, has been able to go ahead. But thankfully last week, we restarted 7UP!
It was a really exciting time as we were able to play games, make crafts, and learn about Jesus together. We had 26 children attending, and we went into 4 smaller groups. In our groups we rotated in a 'carousel' of varied activities in the church garden. There were physical games like orange catch and football, as well as more chilled board games and crafts.
This week's theme was yellow. Everyone came wearing yellow, we made yellow crowns, we had yellow squash, and we painted yellow handprints onto the wall in the church garden. Yellow was our theme for the week because we were thinking about how perfect, golden, and shiny heaven will be and we were reminded about how amazing it is that God wants us to be there with him.
Each week we will be given a different colour which will represent a different part of the gospel story. By the end of the five weeks, we will have five colours painted on the wall in the garden, which the children should be able to use to tell the gospel story to their friends and family.
We are so excited to be able to continue in this ministry and we would value your prayers as we seek to continue to share the amazing news of Jesus with our children here at St Mary's.
Booking for 7UP opens every Wednesday at 9pm, closing Sunday at midnight. Book on the 7UP page of the church website.
Meals and More (Tim Bird)
‘Meals from Marlow’ is a charity established in Marlow at the start of the pandemic to provide healthy pre-prepared meals to those in need. The meals are cooked and frozen by restaurant chefs donating their time, while All Saints in Marlow have organised the delivery of these meals to needy individuals and families around Marlow.
Now, St Mary’s has been invited to help extend the service to the Maidenhead area. Maidenhead FoodShare already provides food supplies to those in financial need around Maidenhead, so the vision is to focus more on the shut-in and lonely in our community. Lockdown has increased the isolation for many of these. For such folk, the offer of a meal, is potentially an entrée to contact and company – and we hope for some will become friendship and fellowship. Once Covid restrictions allow, we would aim to provide coffee/lunch and companionship in the church hall on a regular basis.
Our challenge as a church is to look out for, and reach out to, those who may be lonely and isolated in our streets and neighbourhoods.
Do you know anyone around you who would welcome a healthy meal and contact from a friendly face? Or do you have some spare time you could volunteer to deliver meals and a smile? (Thank you to those who have already volunteered.) If so, please let Tim Bird know – 07796 993 274 or .
Power Plays (Will Stileman)
It was Lord Acton who famously observed that ‘Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely’.
And history has shown how accurate that observation is. In recent years there have been numerous examples of an abuse of power and that is why on June 20th we begin a three-week sermon series at the 9.15am, 11am and 4pm congregations called ‘Power Plays’ in which we will be considering the issue of an abuse of power from a Christian perspective.
I am no expert on the subject but it has been good for me as I have been preparing for this sermon series, to think about the dynamics of power and how the Bible repeatedly highlights and condemns the abuse of power and shows through the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ how we are to use the power that God has given us.
Update from Trinity@4 Henley (Sam Brewster)
Dear St Mary's friends,
We continue to be so thankful to God for your prayers and support. It's now nearly three years since we left St Mary's, but have continued to be greatly blessed by friendship and gospel partnership with you. I hope this brief update gives a snapshot of our eight months since our last update.Brewster Family
We are thankful for God's sustaining and providing for us in more ways than we can number. Amelie is in her final term of year 1, Jo-Jo will start in reception next year, and Barney is a very smiley and inquisitive toddler of 14 months. The Lord has given them all good friends at school and church. Lucy and I stagger from one day of young-children exhaustion to the next, but generally with a smile on our faces. We are well supported here with good friends and a very caring church family.
Trinity at Four
The winter lockdowns were emotionally draining for most of us, and we're aware of some families who have still not re-emerged. However, since Easter we're thankful to God for a real sense of regathering. Our kids' groups have restarted, we begin each service outside with a time of singing, and the Lord has brought newcomers almost every week. Praise God for it all. We now meet weekly at the URC church building (Christ Church) on the Reading Road. The facilities have made life much easier for us.
Our baby cafe, initiated and led by Lucy, has been perhaps the most fruitful outreach through the lockdown period, drawing 30 mums and babies every week through those difficult winter months for much needed in-person meeting and support- even with other groups restarting it is still going strong. We've been thrilled to see a number of those dipping their toes into church, and Christianity Explored.
It feels like plans were things that we used to make. That said, we are working towards a closer collaboration with the existing Holy Trinity congregation, with hopes to see God revitalise and grow the ministry of that church as a whole. You might also pray for a new midweek families’ outreach which we'll be starting in September, as well as plans to start a small youth work for older children.Specific points for prayer
- Pray for the Brewster family to find joy and strength in Jesus day by day.
- Praise God for his faithful provision, and pray for wisdom as we seek to serve him here.
- Pray for a full and joyful regathering of our church family, and re-envisioning for the mission that he's given us to be his ambassadors in word and deed in Henley and region.
Introducing Melinda Stylo
Since joining St Mary’s, I have been involved in helping out with the youth in various ways and in September 2019 I started the Ministry Training Course in Oxford. It has been wonderful to spend the last two years studying God’s word with other enthusiastic people and learning how to give talks from the Bible.As the new Youth Minister, I will be taking over responsibility for Sunday Pathfinders and the youth time after the 6:30pm service, running X and Shift Focus on Friday evenings, coordinating youth Growth Groups and organising weekends away.
My prayer is that I am a blessing to the teenagers and a support to their parents as I come alongside them in raising our youth to know and love the Lord Jesus. Thank you to so many of you who have encouraged me and been praying for me.
Singleness Matters by Sam Allberry (Isobel Jobson)
In May, we were blessed to have Sam Allberry joining us from sunny Nashville, USA, for an online talk about why singleness should matter to the church. Many of us will be single at some stage of our lives and over half of those who are married now will be single again in the future. Given that as a society we are constantly told that we aren’t ‘complete’ without a significant other, or that life is ‘less fulfilling’ if you don’t have a romantic partner to share it with, this was a really encouraging talk. I could write an essay based on all the points Sam made (don’t worry, I won’t!), but here are some aspects I found particularly helpful.
I was struck by how we should view intimacy. While the world focuses on intimacy only arising through sexual fulfilment, the Bible often talks about deep and intimate friendships, such as David and Jonathan in the Old Testament, or Jesus, Peter and John in the New Testament. This intimacy comes from sharing your whole lives with one another, and John 15:13 says that there is no greater love than laying your life down for a friend. This all shows that friendship is much more important to God than the world thinks or values, which I found both encouraging but also challenging.
The Bible describes the church as functioning as a body, where if one part suffers the whole body suffers (1 Corinthians 12), so it was helpful to be prompted that we should all be invested in one another. An application of this is having married couples and families reaching out to singles to support and encourage them and include them in their everyday lives. It’s also great to be reminded that we are like a blended family (1 Timothy 3 and 5), and we should both encourage and be encouraged by our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, regardless of our relationship status.
You can listen to the talk (by signing in to the St Mary's website) by clicking this link.
Ministry Training Course (Rachel Meynell)
The Ministry Training Course (MTC), which is run by Matt Searles, takes place on Tuesdays in Oxford, and there may well be an online option again next year. The aim of the course is to equip women and men to grow in their faith and ability to minister God’s word to others. It is suitable for anyone who teaches the Bible, in growth groups, to children, to the elderly, or just informally with friends and family.
Matt is coming to preach at St Mary’s at the 9.15am, 11am and 4pm services on 6th June, and then at the 6.30pm on 20th June.
I asked a few people who had done or are doing the course, what they would say to someone thinking about doing it. This is what they said:
“I couldn't believe that I had been a Christian for so long and yet had not really grasped the flow and themes of the whole Bible and God's salvation plan. MTC changed my life and gave me renewed joy and conviction as through the course I understood God's word better. It gave me confidence in sharing and explaining God's word to others. Everyone should do the course if they can!”
“I am not in any traditional ministry, but I have the desire to know more about the beauty of my Lord and Saviour's glory and grow in him. More importantly, to be able to share my beliefs with friends and family with peace and joy, and this is what the MTC course had given me through the superb structure and teachings of teachers and speakers - covering a wide range of gospel topics.
I would encourage anyone who wants to deepen their relationship with Christ Jesus to give MTC a try.”
“The atmosphere is not at all intimidating and, even though giving a talk is scary, it really is a safe place to learn or try out new things.”
“MTC is an absolute game changer. The course covers lots of things. Some of the highlights for me included learning about the bigger picture of God's divine rescue plan, studying various specific books from the Bible and developing skills on how to communicate God's word clearly and effectively. The whole course is brilliantly set up - flexible, accessible and hugely inviting. The workshops were particularly useful - a great opportunity to practice some of the skills learnt in the sessions. Whilst it is not a parenting course as such, I would undoubtedly say that this has been incredibly useful in this particular area. MTC is a springboard for life - parenting, friendships, work, church, ministry and so on. It will most definitely change how you see God, the world and yourself. As an added bonus also, a great opportunity to get to know some fab people. I cannot recommend it enough.”
“I'm absolutely loving MTC. It is such a blessing to be able to dig into God's word in more depth. Definitely staying on for the second year!”
Well, that says it all! To find out more, please talk to one of the ministry team, or catch Matt Searles when he is at St Mary’s.
Introducing Ben Raymond
I'm looking forward to joining the St Mary's staff team as the Facilities Manager, taking over from Steven Wheatley. I'm excited to be involved in helping to keep the church running smoothly. It's a privilege to be able to support the St Mary's gospel ministry behind the scenes. I'll be getting involved in setting up for meetings and events, and managing all aspects of the St Mary’s site and church owned houses.For the last three years I've been learning to roast coffee whilst working for a speciality coffee company in central London called Caravan. Prior to that I was the Buildings Manager for St Nick’s church in central London. And before that I spent three years as a Ministry Trainee in Leyland and Liverpool.
Damy, Julietta and I look forward to meeting you. Do come say hi, Julietta will love it!
Mission Partner Update: Greg and Jill Vine
Their prayer points from the May St Mary's Evening were:
- MAF has been working hard to repair their runway at Kajjansi which is being flooded by the rising levels on Lake Victoria. The maintenance guys have done a great job to regain the airstrip and to enable MAF planes to return from their temporary base at the international airport. The rains have been relentless recently so please pray for the runway to dry out and for the lake levels to decrease.
- The flight schedule is getting fuller as life hopefully returns to pre Covid days, although there has been a rise in cases recently. Please pray that Uganda remains on the green list and that the Vines can still come to the UK in June.
- The Vines’ home was broken into a couple of weeks ago while they were asleep. Thankfully their dog barked and scared the thief who left a weapon behind in the hallway and cloths ready to chloroform them. This reminded them of how much they always appreciate our prayers for protection both in the air but also at home and on the roads. On the morning after the break-in Jill’s bible fell open to Psalm 91 and she was able to stop and thank God for protecting them from the terror by night.
- Pray for peace and stability in Uganda and for corruption to lose its hold on this country, the existing president has recently been sworn in for yet another term in office.
- Please pray for Esther to find a job that suits her degree and that she can be connected to the right people - she would love to be based in London. Pray for wisdom for Ariela wanting to attend university in Australia (with all its associated Covid problems), but also with an offer of a place at Goldsmiths in London. Pray for Zoe who is with Greg and Jill in Uganda.
Update from St Mary's White Waltham (Dave Atallah)
Dear brothers and sisters at St Mary’s,
Thank you for your partnership in the gospel and continued prayer for us at St Mary’s White Waltham. Since mid-March we have been back into the church building for Sunday services, and able to start up some kidswork from mid-April which has been a blessing. We ‘Zoom’ the services (if that is indeed now a verb) in such a way that someone can lead prayers from home, and I can greet those who still need to stay away, as they arrive. This also enabled more people to watch a recent funeral than would have been allowed in the building. All this is very much thanks to John Croft’s work.
Currently midweek we have a group doing the ‘Identity Course’ and another group digging into Proverbs. Other activities are restarting too. Our Monday toddler group ‘Little Roots’ has a completely new clientele after lockdown. On the first morning we had five new families and we pray that the Lord will keep bringing people, especially from our community and the local schools, and also make it so we don’t need to turn anyone away or operate a waiting list with restrictions still in place. Please pray for Helen Atallah as she heads that up now that a co-leader has new job responsibilities. That she maintains enthusiasm for the bible story and song, is supported by others, and that the group continues to provide a way of bringing blessing to others and presenting the good news of Jesus within a loving group.
I have been able to get back into one of the schools to do assemblies in person which has been such a joy. I adapt that into a video assembly for our other parish school and others who show an interest (check them out via our website if interested). Please pray for doors to remain open, and wisdom and discernment as to how to reach not just the children but also families with the good news we have.
Finances are about to become an even more serious issue as the deanery changes how much they ask us for, please pray for wisdom and love on both sides of that discussion.
Encouragingly, although numbers are not everything, we praise God for an average of just over 40 people a week in the building over the last three weeks, with more on Zoom, of whom around a dozen have been children. That shows how vulnerably small we are, but also what good shape we are in as an age demographic. We have had a good lockdown in the sense of more people joining groups and growing in their faith. Please pray we would grow in number, now that it is a warm place to come to (physically as well as spiritually), and our church congregation will celebrate the changes that come with that.
We continue to give thanks for the support we receive in running our kidswork by volunteers from St Mary’s Maidenhead, and we rejoice to be able to supply a couple of the leaders for the Monday night Pathfinders group. It is so good and God-glorifying when churches can work together in these ways!
With humble thanks
Rev Dave Atallah
Update on Windsor Fellowship (Paul Williams)
We are hugely grateful to the support of St Mary's since September in the form of weekly preachers but also in the way that you have all, as a church, supported us in prayer. We do praise God for our partnership together in the gospel and we are feeling encouraged as we look ahead to the lifting of COVID restrictions.
The Lord has graciously granted us a new venue, has provided us with a minister from September and has brought new faces along to us over the last few months. We are about 50 in total week by week which is perfect for our venue at the URC church (situated right in the heart of Windsor, 50 yards of so from Peascod Street). We have started a new crèche and we are looking to begin a parent/toddler midweek meeting over the coming weeks which, we pray, will be a means of drawing other people into the church.
Please do continue to pray for us, asking the Lord to sustain us as a church, to give us continued unity, to give us a deeper love for one another and to give us a real concern for those around us in Windsor.
Pray for Tim Hiorns, his wife Lucy and their children Avani (4) and Elsie. Elsie was born very prematurely but is, by God's grace, stable as she comes up to full term. Pray that the Lord help Tim and Lucy as they prepare to leave Crowborough and move to us in August.