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.

Next Steps and the Appointment Process (Will Stileman)

Now that my appointment as associate rector of All Souls has been made public, we have started to make plans for the running of St Mary’s during the vacancy.

When an incumbent leaves their post and there is a vacancy, the responsibility of leading the church legally falls to the Church Wardens. So, from February 9th Rae Binning and Anthony Kan will chair the PCC and be responsible to Bishops Rod Thomas and Olivia Graham for the ministry at St Mary’s. However, the day to day running of the church will continue to be led and organised by the staff team. Jon Drake, as our associate vicar, will lead the staff team ably supported by Rachel Meynell, John Blackbeard and Dick West.

St Mary’s is blessed to have many competent and godly leaders both in the staff team and in the wider church family; I know that all of them will play their part well. I leave St Mary’s confident not only in our Lord Jesus Christ, but also in the servant-heartedness and dedication of the people whom Christ has raised up amongst us. As people, both old and new, step up to the mark to take on roles and responsibilities, St Mary’s will flourish under Christ’s leading.

Let me now explain the process by which my successor is appointed. The process is run by the Patrons of the parish. The St Mary’s Patrons are an evangelical organisation called Church Pastoral Aid Society [CPAS]. CPAS is the largest patronage organisation in the Church of England, and they know what they are doing. They have already been alerted and Graham Archer (an experienced pastor who now works for CPAS) is coming to brief the PCC at its next meeting on December 14th.

One of the first steps in the process is for the PCC to produce a parish profile which outlines the priorities that they believe God would have them adopt going forward, and the sort of qualities they are looking for in the next vicar. This is an important document as the candidates are shortlisted on their appropriateness to fit the parish profile. Two representatives from the church/parish (often, but not always, the Church Wardens) are appointed by the PCC to represent the church in the selection process. An appointment cannot be made without the support of the parish representatives, so there is no way an unsuitable candidate can be foisted on St Mary’s.

In 2016 St Mary’s PCC passed the House of Bishops’ Resolution. This resolution allows a PCC, on the basis of theology, to be under a male bishop who shares those convictions and to be allowed to advertise for a male incumbent, without breaking anti-discrimination legislation. As a consequence, Rod Thomas, the Bishop of Maidstone who has been a good friend to St Mary’s, will also be actively involved in the appointment process. There is also likely to be other representation from the diocese (e.g. an archdeacon) involved in the selection process.

The whole process of appointing a new vicar can take up to a year (and in the current climate occasionally even longer), but please be assured that your Church Wardens and PCC will do all that they can to execute the process in as timely a fashion as possible.

11am Congregation Men's Weekend Away (John Hollidge)

Once again our venue for this three day event was The Pines in Wet Sussex (intentional typo). This beautiful house, set in glorious grounds near Pulborough provided us with comfort, warmth and a great opportunity to share fellowship with eleven men all from the same congregation. Some were regular to this event, but with several new faces it provided a great mix of people from many different backgrounds and experience. Our pastor Jon Drake steered us through some excellent Bible studies – all from 1 Peter chapter 1 – with healthy debate and discussion following.

With self-catering, we made sure we ate well, and often! Food preparation provided some great fun, and not a few hilarious moments. However, to offset the carb overload, Friday afternoon was reserved for a good ramble. Most headed off to the South Downs, and a few to take in the sea air (very windy it was too) at Littlehampton. We watched an excellent display of kite surfing from the beach before approaching rain drove us away.

These weekends give an excellent opportunity to deepen fellowship and friendship among the men. Our Bible studies led to a resolve to seek to ‘love one another’ more, to learn to be open and vulnerable to each other and to care at a deeper level - only with God’s enabling of course.

The weekends are open to all men, are very inexpensive (under £50 all in), and with shared transport should make them accessible to everyone. Highly recommended!

Personal Announcement: Will Stileman

After more than 18 very happy years in Maidenhead and St Mary’s, it is time for me to cease being vicar of St Mary’s and for Becca and I to move on to pastures new. My last Sunday in post will be February 6, 2022.

To save repeating myself hundreds of times over the next few weeks (!) I want to set out before you why we are leaving before I explain what we will be going on to do.

  1. I have long maintained that I should not remain as vicar of St Mary’s until my retirement as that would not be good either for myself or for the church. When a vicar has been an incumbent for a long time, the last 5 years leading up to his retirement are usually not the best years in the church’s life! I am not far off hitting my 60s. I don’t want to overstay my welcome.
  2. As a church we are currently blessed with a competent, stable staff team, who are established in their roles and who will be able to maintain the ministry of St Mary’s during the vacancy, as we continue to emerge from the Covid crisis.
  3. Although the Church of England is facing a number of challenging issues which may affect St Mary’s, I suspect none of them will come to a head next year.

So, for the last few months I have been actively looking for a new role and, at the end of August, I applied for the job of Associate Rector at All Souls, Langham Place. This is a big, complex church in the heart of central London. A couple of people who know the church well have independently told me that the Rector of All Souls is an impossible job which they wouldn’t wish on anyone! So, I hope I will be able to support the recently appointed Rector in his extremely challenging and demanding role.

It has been an immense privilege to be the vicar of St Mary’s and I am so grateful to God for bringing me and my family to this church. We have so loved being part of this church family. I will be hugely conflicted when the time comes for us to leave, but before then there is much work to do, not least preparing for Christmas and the vacancy.

There is a clear established process for appointing new incumbents; and there are good people in place to run it. Please be assured that I, along with the church wardens, staff team and the PCC, will play our parts to ensure that the ministry of St Mary’s continues to run smoothly. However, during this time of change ‘let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith’. It is on his grace we depend. He is the one who is the true leader of St Mary’s. He has always been and will always be the one who is most concerned for her well-being.

Welcome to Hong Kongers (Christine Lau)

To those who do not know who I am, my name is Christine, and I attend the 4pm service at St Mary’s. I moved to the UK from Hong Kong a few months ago and have been attending this church ever since.

How great is God’s work! Matthew 19:26 says, “With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.” We all know that it is God’s work to move and touch people’s hearts, but God chooses to let us work with him.

To summarize the Hong Kong night in a few words; it was amazing, touching, and unforgettable.

I found the event amazing for two reasons. Firstly, that there were over 50 brothers and sisters from St Mary’s church who volunteered as the serving team. They welcomed Hongkongers with warm and sincere smiles, showing encouragement and support to Hongkongers. They showed that they really cared for us, and from this it reflected God’s love.

Secondly, there were over 50 Hongkongers that came to join the event. They enjoyed the song, the food, the games, and chatting. Most of all, they listened attentively to Ian’s message and Justin’s testimony. Both Christians and non-Christians told me that they were touched by the message and the testimony, and that they are not opposed to learning more about Christianity. I hope they experienced God’s love through this event.

It was very touching when we sang the song ‘Beneath the Lion Rock’. It speaks of the perseverance and courage we should aspire to, and is a song representing the spirit of Hong Kong people. As I listened to the song I reflected that for Christians we are fearless of hardships because of God’s protection and guidance.

Justin’s testimony was another touching moment for me. His sharing of his childhood experience reminded me of my similar childhood experience and struggles, and how God shaped and changed the course of my life.

Finally, it was unforgettable to see how brothers and sisters from both the UK and Hong Kong served God alongside each other. With the help of brothers and sisters from Hong Kong and the UK, we prepared food for over a hundred people. This shows unity within the Lord’s family. It was also unforgettable to see how different people came together to help with the event, especially Justin, Janice, Forest, Carmen, Yanzi and Paul. Even though they were ill with Covid and were quarantining during the event, they still contributed a lot to the event.

Leaving one’s homeland can be a difficult and frightening decision. For me, I had the courage to come here because I know that God holds me in the palm of his hand. As it says in Isaiah 41:13, “I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, ‘Do not fear; I will help you’.” With this event, I am once again reminded that God blesses people from all nations.

New Warden: Anthony Kan

I would like to thank you for your support in appointing me as your churchwarden.

I am 65, originally from Singapore. I have been in the UK over 40 years. I was married to Adeline for 40 years. She sadly passed away in June from cancer. We have two children, Rachael and Daniel who are 33 and 28 years old. I was born into a Christian family and attended a Methodist church in Singapore until I came to the UK. In Singapore, the Methodist movement was young and vibrant which contrasted with the cold lifeless cavernous Methodist churches that I found when I arrived in 1978. The search for a new spiritual home led us to All Souls Church in London where we worshipped for almost 10 years. Throughout my Christian journey, I have been part of four different denominations. Denominational distinctives are not important to us as long as the Bible is preached as the complete inerrant word of God. Through this, the Lord has taught me to listen, to contend with love and to be able to agree to disagree as long as the core tenets of the Christian faith are upheld.

Extract from A Summary of Churchwarden Responsibilities (from the Canons of the Church of England):

“Churchwardens shall be foremost in representing the laity and in cooperating with the incumbent; they shall use their best endeavours by example and precept to encourage the parishioners in the practice of true religion and to promote unity and peace among them.”

In addition to these responsibilities, the next few years will be challenging for us as an evangelical C of E church, especially with the forthcoming General Synod meeting in November 2022. Together, we will contend for the truth and fight to ensure that scripture is not compromised.

It is a great encouragement and comfort to know that we are not doing this alone. We have the perfect servant king, our Lord Jesus who will go before us and through his strength and the enabling of the Holy Spirit; we will overcome.

I pledge to serve you, the congregation of St Mary’s, to uphold scripture and proclaim the word.

“And whosoever will be first among you, let him be your slave: just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:27-28.

I humbly ask for your prayers, encouragement and support to assist me.

Mission Partner Update: Angy King

Once again it was a pleasure to share news of Sports Chaplaincy in Women’s Football with St Mary’s at the prayer evening on 10th November.

I will start with news of the ministry with Reading Women’s Football Club. I feel blessed to have been welcomed into the training ground both during and after Covid especially as the men’s chaplains are still not allowed in. The women’s team moved into the new men’s training ground in July and it feels good to be accepted as part of the club. There is a Christian coach in the men’s academy, so we have met to pray and discuss our witness in the club.

Every year new players come into the club and now there are more chaplains working in women’s football many players have experience of the work of a chaplain in football. Conversations flow more easily if players are used to conversing with the chaplain at their previous club. I am grateful for the good work that others are doing and for the impact it is having.

I have once again been asked to write ‘Chaplain’s Chat’ for the match day programme. The article is openly evangelistic with readers encouraged to consider an alternative way of looking at life. I am no longer in charge of hospitality on match days but am enjoying the chance to mix with the fans and get to know them better.

The New Testament and Psalms printed with the Reading FC logo on the front are still given out to players and staff when they leave as a thank you for all their contributions to the club. 27 copies were presented in the last 18 months. I usually have no idea whether they are being read or not but last week I received this message from another chaplain: “I met Mel (name changed) last week and she said she had been given a Bible when she left Reading. She had been reading it and was fascinated by what she was reading. She was also very positive about chaplaincy.” The Lord said to Isaiah in Isaiah 55:10-11, “as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: it will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” I pray God will speak to players and staff through his word and am so grateful to Good News For Everyone, formerly the Gideons, for providing us with this resource.

The other part of my role as pastoral coordinator for chaplains in women’s football has been a very encouraging one since lockdown. We now have 17 chaplains in place and two more clubs waiting for a chaplain to be trained and appointed. The national governing body for football, the Football Association, are recognising the value of chaplaincy in providing holistic care for all working in the clubs and are encouraging it all levels of the game. Players moving from one club to another are speaking positively to their new managers about chaplaincy and I pray that each club in the country will one day have a chaplain. What a wonderful way to fulfil Jesus’ call to “go and make disciples of all nations,” all people groups, including those involved in football.

Lastly may I thank all of you at St Mary’s for your support, it has been much appreciated.

Angy King

Book Sunday (Autumn 2021)

Sunday 31st October was book Sunday at St Mary's. This year 10ofThose, the Christian booksellers, were able to visit in person again. Watch the video, below, for their recommendations for books for reader of all ages.


The books referred to in the talk are listed below and can be bought through the 10ofThose website or if you would like to browse these and other books then do look to support Maidenhead's local Christian bookshop, Quench, at 19 Queen Street.

  • Confronting Christianity: 12 hard questions for the worlds largest religion - Rebecca McLaughlin
  • Ten Questions Every Teen Should Ask (and Answer) About Christianity - Rebecca McLaughlin
  • The Secular Creed - Rebecca McLaughlin
  • The Grace of Gratitude - Paul Mallard
  • Bible Stories Every Child Should Know
  • The Wingfeather Saga - Andrew Peterson

All Hallows' / All Saints' Day (Nick McDonald)

Before half term, I had the opportunity to go into a local primary school to talk to Year 3 (children aged 7 - 8) about All Saints' Day (also known as All Hallows' Day) which is 1st November.

The children were very excited about Halloween (originally known as All Hallows' Eve) and all the dressing up and parties that they were going to have, but they weren't sure about what All Hallows' Day / All Saints' Day was about. It was a brilliant opportunity to talk about the light of Jesus Christ, during a time where the children were celebrating darkness.

We started by discussing what we thought a 'saint' was. Some children thought about pictures of very old and important people with halos around their heads. I explained that this was to show that these people in the paintings were holy, they were special and loved by God. But the big shock came when I explained that since Saint Paul and Saint Peter in the Bible, there have been billions and billions of saints! I explained that you don't have to be famous or have made a big achievement to be a saint, you just have to trust in Jesus who died for us. John 3:16 states that whoever believes in Jesus will have eternal life. These people are saints, those who believe in Jesus.

All Saints' Day is where we remember all of the Christians / saints who have come before us. We remember those who died serving the Lord Jesus Christ, whether known to us or unknown. We remember martyrs who stood up for Jesus amidst great persecution, and we remember those who made a spiritual impact on us. It's a great time to remember these people, and it's also a great time to be reminded that, through the redemptive death of Jesus Christ, any of us can be welcomed into this huge family of saints who we will be with in eternity.

Women's Breakfast (Marisa Tredoux)

It was wonderful to be able to attend a St Mary’s Women’s Breakfast again; after not being able to gather in this way for some time… it almost felt normal! On arrival at the church, we were welcomed by friendly ladies, and I found a seat in a group of five with some other 9.15 congregation ladies. There was a good mix from across all congregations and soon the hall was filled with chatter and laughter. It was great to catch up with friends we haven’t seen for a while and meet new friends too. Warm and tasty bacon butties and pastries were served with coffee, tea and juice, as well as fruit for those of us who wanted something healthy.

Rachel Meynell shared with us from John 15:1-17, a rich and beautiful passage where Jesus describes himself as the vine and his Father as the gardener. As his followers, we are the branches and need to stay connected to the vine. After sharing with us some context around the passage, Rachel asked us to consider questions in our groups: what it means to be a branch, what it means to remain in Jesus and what it means to bear fruit. We were also invited to think about the things that felt particularly hard at the moment, and how having a branch/vine perspective could help us as we are pruned. We had honest conversations in our group about how Covid affected us, what we were finding difficult and how pruning can sometimes feel very painful. It was encouraging to consider in our groups how the painful pruning can help us to be more fruitful and through bearing fruit, we glorify our Father. I was struck by verse 5, “I am the vine, you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” This verse made me realise that I have to remain in the vine to be able to bear fruit, as on my own this is impossible. It was also encouraging to know that I am not supposed to be able to bear fruit on my own, without remaining in the vine.

We also heard a wonderful and encouraging testimony from Inge Du Plessis who was interviewed by Rachel about her experience of her mother’s illness and death from cancer. Inge described the internal battle she felt at the time when her mother was so unwell and one night, she told God that she felt he had left her. She went on to say that she then had the experience of feeling that God had actually left her. She pleaded with him to return to her and described the utter joy when moments later, she could feel God’s presence again, and that his presence became the most wonderful thing for her, amid the pain of her mother’s death.

It was a relaxed morning, where we encouraged each other and enjoyed fellowship. It was great to get to know some ladies better and share our ups and downs with our sisters in Christ, but most of all I was encouraged with the message that when I am pruned, it helps me to be more fruitful, and ultimately this glorifies God.

Junior Youth Weekend Away (Angela McDonald)

Friday 1st October 6:30pm: 26 children and seven leaders left St Mary’s carpark destined for Chepstow for the return of our annual Junior Youth Weekend Away (JYWA). The mood was good, and the children were in good spirits mixed in with a little apprehension of what could be expected when we got there.

We were grateful to our super minibus drivers for investing their time taking us to our destination, we even named one of the minibuses the ‘Silver Bullet’. There were a few mentions of “Are we there yet?” which subsided as we cheered going over the Severn Bridge, the children began their countdown to leaving England and entering Wales, then a few sighs as we re-entered England a few minutes later, but shouts of joy as we pulled into the impressive Woodcroft Christian Centre with its olde worlde house.

Our amazing chief cook and bottle washer had already arrived which meant an easy settled start to our weekend as we unpacked the buses and made our way into the ‘mess hall’ for our weekend roll call.

We were well staffed with our Youth Minister at the helm, followed by her assistant our Children’s Minister in training, closely followed by our Apprentices, along with the whole Stylo family we had the dream team to lead us throughout the weekend.

Melinda set the scene of the weekend with two rules. 1. Be kind to everyone. 2. Leave no-one out. Everyone followed the rules without exception, there was a great sense of community, and everyone felt safe being together.

We were also joined by Ross Mungavin, Youth Minister from St James’ Gerrards Cross who took us through the book of Judges focusing on Samson’s ‘Flawed faith in a faithful God’. We learned much about God’s undeserved blessing and how Samson, a flawed deliverer, pointed us to the ultimate perfect deliverer Jesus himself. We were all surprised by the links between God’s preparation for Samson’s arrival and God’s preparation for Jesus’ arrival. The children had so many questions and it was a joy to see them engaging with God’s word.

There was one moment when Nick popped into the older boys’ dorm to see what they were doing, and he found them together reading God’s word. What joy!

Our study times were also blessed by wonderful worship courtesy of Patch and many minor key members; John and Katie Croft you would have been so proud!

The weekend was action packed. Along with our study and worship times there were games and activities galore, including around the world table tennis tournament; at one point every member including leaders were taking part (except our two wonderful cooks Adam and Jo, who were preparing our lunch). There were also many games of scatter ball run by Luke, including a two-hour non-stop stint (not for the fainthearted).

Melinda also provided us with two brilliant craft activities including a painted window art activity and pottery decorating, which were hugely popular, the end results of which will be gracing many a dining room table.

On Saturday Jo organised an ingenious activity using the ‘what3words’ app to devise a treasure hunt game which would lead us all into the kitchen for ice creams. No way was the rain going to spoil our fun! Followed in the evening with Nick organising a night-time glow stick challenge between the members and the leaders which the members won by 6 points! The evening finished with hot chocolate by the bonfire because the forecasted rain and wind didn’t surface.

Thanks to the generosity of the parents there was enough cake to eat for breakfast, lunch and tea every day! Don’t worry parents, the menu was very balanced, from freshly cooked eggs and bacon for Saturday breakfast, pastries and fruit for Sunday breakfast, and loads of vegetables with both lunch and dinner along with a menu that provided good wholesome food.

The weekend finished with all-hands-on-deck packing and cleaning before our two minibuses returned to take us homeward bound with the children looking forward to sharing what they had done with their families.

We arrived back to church as the 4pm service was beginning, which I’m sure was a blessing to many and a great opportunity to give thanks to God for his generosity and goodness to us.

Come and Sing (Matthew O'Donovan)

One of the great joys of recent weeks has been the ability to sing together once more, and it was a special joy that 40-or-so members of St Mary’s from across the congregations braved weather conditions which would have frankly given anyone a reasonable excuse to stay home, to take part in our first post-lockdown ‘Come and Sing’ event last Tuesday, 28thSeptember. Tom Brewster opened the evening with an encouragement from scripture, before we enjoyed a varied range of songs, ranging from classic hymns of the 18th century to very recently-written songs, led by a ten-strong collective of St Mary’s musicians. It was, above all, a real blessing and encouragement to be able to worship the Lord together in song for a more prolonged time than is possible at the average Sunday service – and it is something which I think Tom and I both feel we should do more often! Indeed, I was reflecting that the last such event was probably in the early summer of 2016, since when we’ve moved out of the church building for 20 months, moved back in again, had a new organ installed, and then had a global pandemic! Lord willing, it will not be another 5½ years before the next one. Watch this space.

It also proved a great opportunity both to rediscover some songs which may have faded in the memory since before the pandemic, and to learn one or two new ones which we hope will be a blessing to the wider congregation. With this last point particularly in mind, we are welcoming informal feedback about any of the songs that were sung. What if I was not there, I hear you ask? Do not fear: Tom has assembled a Spotify playlist of all the songs that were sung. If you weren’t able to attend (or even if you were), do listen to the playlist if you want a flavour of what we sang (and you don’t need to have been there to provide feedback about the songs).

Thanks are due to Tom for all his efforts in organising the event, to the team of gifted musicians who gave generously of their time and talents both at the event and in advance preparation, to lead the singing. Thanks are also due to all who came and took part so heartily – it was such an encouragement to see everyone there. But thanks and praise, above all, to our God, who has given us so much to sing about!

A Taste of All Nations (Sunitha Province)

A Taste of All Nations was a truly remarkable event on Saturday 25th September that celebrated the diversity and richness of different cultures represented at St Mary’s and the wider community of Maidenhead. This event was held to bring God’s family at the church closer together in all its multi-cultural diversity and ethnicity and for each of us to have a greater understanding of different cultures within and outside church and to be united in loving each other while embracing our cultural differences. This event was also a wonderful opportunity to invite friends and family who had not visited St Mary’s before.

The church was beautifully decorated for the evening with sarees, lights and colourful flags. The organisers Adam, Robin and Sunitha supported by an enormous team of helpers had laid out a wonderful action-packed programme. We began in the food hall where a sumptuous feast was laid out and guests were treated to a whistle stop tour of the cuisines of the world as they sampled food from many nations including Nigeria, Finland, China, Malaysia, Bermuda, Pakistan, Uganda, Kenya, South Africa, India, Holland, North America, Hong Kong, Syria, Lebanon and Mexico. It was difficult to prise the guests away from the food hall as the food on offer was so delicious and there were rich stories to be shared as we walked from one nation’s table to the other tasting the different gourmet delights. Guests commented that they could just about imagine what heaven’s banqueting feast would be like one day when they saw the feast laid out before them!

This was an evening for all ages as children eagerly participated in four quiz rounds hosted by Alan and Sunitha who were hosts for the evening. The quiz included questions about flags, festivals, national dress and languages of the world. The entertainment continued with three spectacular dance performances by Lara, a freelance Bollywood dance teacher from St Paul’s church in Slough and her dance partner Maddie, before they gave a dance tutorial and made sure the crowd were up on their feet and taken through their paces!

This was followed by a wonderful time of praise and worship where the guests were treated to a gospel band called the Big G (G stands for Goodness). The members of the band count family connections from Asia, Africa, Europe and North America. John who formed the band with Patrice and plays the electric guitar in the band is a member of St Mary’s. There were some beautiful comments from the guests including, ‘if this is a foretaste of what heaven will be like with every nation celebrating God’s love, then bring it on!’ Watching the worship scene brought to mind the Bible verse that one day there will be a great multitude from every nation, tribe, people and language standing before the throne worshipping the Lord.

The evening ended with our very own Karnie leading the guests through their final paces for the night with the famous Jerusalema dance supported by Melinda and Jo. They clapped, danced, cheered, hopped, shimmied and twirled all the way!

About 150 guests which included members and friends and family attended the event. Everybody had an absolutely wonderful time and visitors commented on how welcomed they were made to feel by the members of St Mary’s church. This event would not have been a resounding success without a vast team of cooks and bakers who lovingly prepared the food, the stewards and welcoming team, and a clear up team working behind the scenes. It was astounding how fast the church was tidied, cleaned and set up for the following day’s services by an army of helpers and guests who stayed behind to help. We are grateful to Lara and Maddie for their stunning dance performances and tutorial and the gospel band for the amazing worship. Special thanks go to Mark and Andy who were on AV duty for the whole evening. A huge thank you also to Karnie, Shubbie, Clara (photographer for the event), Alan, Rachel, the Millers, Heidi, Michelle and countless others who helped make this event a great success.

Many guests wondered aloud whether this event would be a permanent annual fixture on the church calendar. Well, all we can say is watch this space!

Living in Love and Faith (Will Stileman)

Issues of sexuality and identity are deeply personal and for some can be very painful. In the light of this it is important for us as a church to be thinking and talking about these things in a helpful and safe environment. The Church of England has put together a course called Living in Love and Faith (LLF) in which they hope to do this.

LLF is a suite of materials that has been put together by more than 40 people who have very different perspectives, life experiences and theological convictions. Although the official position of the Church of England on marriage and sexual intimacy has not changed, there is pressure from both inside and outside the Church of England to endorse and bless same sex unions and transgendering. All the material can be accessed free of charge from the LLF website.

Every diocese in England is promoting the course and the idea is that as many groups as possible do the course or read the book and feedback their opinions. People and groups must give their feedback by Easter 2022 after which decisions will be made over the next steps. It is likely that firm proposals will be brought before General Synod in the autumn of 2022.

Last term, the staff team and the PCC completed the course and have given their feedback. The St Mary’s Same Sex Attraction Support Group has likewise started to engage with this material and, when they have completed it, will feedback their opinions.

There is much that is good about the course. It is very well produced. The pastoral principles on how to engage in discussion are excellent and it does indeed raise all the issues. However, although the traditional orthodox position is articulated in the course, the theological engagement is weak. We are not encouraged to sit under the word of God but to give our opinions about it. There is also a subtle emphasis that all the positions and testimonies articulated are equally acceptable expressions of faithful Christian discipleship.

As your vicar, with a God-given responsibility to “present myself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15), I cannot in good conscience recommend the course. However, I will be running the 5-week course for any in St Mary’s who want to engage with the material on Monday nights (October 11th, 18th; November 1st, 8th, 15th). In the New Year, I also intend to show extracts of the course and preach a three-part sermon series addressing the issues raised by LLF. It is important that we are engaging with our culture on matters of identity and sexuality and thinking through how the Bible speaks into these sensitive matters.

It is our desire to truly walk in love and faith and welcome all, whoever they are and whatever their condition, to sit under the sound of the gospel and engage with the Jesus of the Bible – the only Jesus there is.

Third Thursday Table (Becca Stileman)

About 20 of us gathered on Thursday lunchtime for the first of a new monthly St Mary’s event called ‘Third Thursday Table’, named to help us all remember which day in the month is happens!

We were served with a delicious lunch and had the opportunity to chat, listen, catch up with old friends we hadn’t spoken to for a while, discuss recent events with friends we see regularly and meet some new folk from different congregations or from outside St Mary’s. We were a good mixture of all of these. When we had enjoyed our main course, we had cake and coffee or tea.

Not only a lunch, but also something extra. This time, Tom and Sarah played and sang Luther’s hymn ‘A Mighty Fortress is our God’ and Tom talked to us about the hymn. Just a few minutes of Christian input and something that wouldn’t offend a newcomer but might open doors to coming back for more.

This is the nature of this new monthly event – a meal, mid-week encouragement, an invitation to come back for more. The food and entertainment are laid on, so it’s a great invitation for a neighbour, a friend, or even somebody you don’t know very well – ‘Would you like to come and have lunch with me at my church?’ Or if you’re not free on a Thursday afternoon, recommend it to them and let one of the team know so they can look out for them.

The lunch starts at 12.45 and runs for about an hour and a half, or less if you or they are in a rush, and currently costs £3. The cost and the content are up for discussion and Rachel and the team welcomed our feedback over coffee and tea.

Come and give it a try or pass on the invitation. The team do need to know how many people will be attending before the event each month so that the right amount of food can be prepared (just let Rachel or the office know). BIG thanks to the TTT team of Rachel Meynell, Tamsin Miller, Sarah Ainscough, Heidi Cooper, Sara Hewins and Mina Baba.

An Afghan Pastor's Prayer

Our mission partner SAT-7 has been airing programmes in Afghanistan, via it’s Persian language network, since 2006. It is responding to the recent swift transfer of power to the Taliban, and the fear and uncertainty this has provoked, with special programmes and by offering prayer and counselling to Afghans via their viewer support teams.

Afghanistan has an Open Doors World Watch ranking of 2, behind only North Korea in terms of the extreme level of persecution believers face. It’s impossible for an Afghan to live openly as a Christian - known converts usually attempt to flee the country or are tortured or killed, often by their own family. The country maintains the death penalty for apostasy which includes conversion to Christianity although this has not been enforced since 2001. However, there are fears this may change under Taliban rule. Sources have already reported the Taliban going door-to-door to weed out ‘unwanted elements’ which include Christians.

Inability to live openly as a Christian makes it hard to know how many believers there are but recent estimates have suggested 8000 in a population of 34 million. Recent growth of the indigenous church is partly due to Christian media dramatically increasing access to the Gospel.

Many of us will be praying for our dear brothers and sisters in Afghanistan. The Sat-7 Afghan presenter, Pastor Shoaib Ebadi, has used the Lord’s Prayer to help us to pray for Afghanistan. Read and echo his prayer here. 

White Waltham Church Teas

We were hugely blessed by the opening of The Tree House in November 2015, and the opportunities it was going to afford us in terms of mission. One of our ‘gentler’ mission activities has been Church Teas. We had run these annually since 2016, on two or three occasions each summer. All that ground to a halt last year and it has been a real joy to get going again this year.

Through our Church Teas we invite members of our local communities of White Waltham, Woodlands Park and beyond to come to us; to cross the threshold of a church building, to meet with church members and, we hope, to experience something of the love of God. We aim to provide a comfortable, warm and friendly environment, great teas and generous hospitality.

This summer we held two teas with approaching 100 guests, and we invited them all to our autumn services through flyers on tables and in conversations. It is good to see people return year after year and we pray that they may come on a Sunday to see what White Waltham Church is all about.

We remain very grateful to St Mary’s Maidenhead: for your support in helping us to have The Tree House in the first place, and to those members of your community who so generously come along and support us on these occasions.

Andrew Peterson in Concert (Patch Crossley)

On Saturday 11th September we had a wonderful evening of songs and stories from Andrew Peterson.

For those who aren’t familiar with Andrew and his work, he is a very productive songwriter, producer, filmmaker, publisher and award-winning author. He’s been touring with his songs and producing albums since 1996, and writes mostly in a folk, roots-rock style, although I would say he has music that will cater to all tastes. You can find his 12 studio albums on Spotify (I thoroughly recommend having a look), and his books The Wingfeather Saga for young people and Adorning the Dark for creative Christians, on his website.

Andrew played the entire concert on his guitar, aside from a couple of songs on the piano, without any backing musicians, and held the full attention of roughly 160 guests for almost two hours, no mean feat. The whole concert felt as though we had been invited into his living room, as he shared the deeply personal stories behind each song and described how the lyrics had come about.

Through music, he also presented the gospel in an engaging and emotional way. I and others left the concert feeling lifted and encouraged by his songs of hope in the power of the gospel to save and to heal. It felt appropriate after a difficult year that his songs were so focused on the pain we all experience in this world and the shared hope we have as members God’s family. Some of the words which stick in my head are from his song Lord Remember Me:

“When the Son will stand on the mount again

With an army of angels at his command,

And the Earth will split like the hull of a seed

Wherever Jesus plants his feet

And up from the earth, the dead will rise

Like spring trees robed in petals of white

Singing the song of the radiant Bride.”

Andrew’s website can be found at

Mission Partner Update: i-Serve Africa / Harrison Mungai

It was marvellous to have Harrison Mungai our mission partner in Kenya joining us over Zoom at the St Mary’s Evening on 9th September. He testified to God’s faithfulness in sustaining him, his family and his ministry through the challenging months of the pandemic.

Harrison said that he and Rhodah are grateful for our partnership with them in the gospel. He has sent us a few points for our prayers. He writes:

“Yesterday was a very encouraging day as we commissioned a former apprentice and now member of staff – Peter Kamau Gikunju to lead a church plant in Waiyaki Way on the outskirts of Nairobi. Peter came to iServe Africa after finishing studies in Kisii University in 2014. He was placed in St. John’s Church, Sololo and in the office for a second year. He later proceeded to the Cornhill Training Course in London and was placed at All Saints and Holy Trinity Church, Wandsworth. Upon returning from the UK in 2017, he came on the staff at iServe Africa and has been running the Apprenticeship Programme. Peter was commissioned alongside Patrick Bundi who will be his associate pastor and about 30 others who will be part of the planting team.

Last Friday we finished a two-week Ministry Training Course at iServe Africa for 42 apprentices; 16 were joining the programme while 26 are continuing from January. It was a busy two weeks as we worked hard to cover as much ground as possible, since we had not had in-person training since the beginning of the year due to Covid restrictions. It was so refreshing to be able to meet again and to encourage one another in the ministry. The apprentices are now reporting to their various placements this week. One of our apprentices, Ephraim Kironji, travelled to the UK this past weekend to take up a year of training at St. Andrew’s the Great in Cambridge.

We are now in a new financial year, the last one having ended on 31st August. Praise God for his provision for the last year for indeed our needs have been met. Praise God also for the growth of the ministry since 2007. Now into our 15th year, we face the future with confidence and hope in the Lord. We have made some changes in our organisational structure to better align ourselves for the task ahead, in light of emerging realities like Covid. One of the bigger changes is the creation of a missions department to think about longer term sending work within iServe Africa. We already had a few cross-cultural missionaries, but our mobilisation / training / sending / supporting / caring structure had not been in place. We have therefore asked one of our staff, Stanley Wandeto, to oversee the department and develop those systems. Please pray for grace and wisdom as we take steps in that direction.”

Weekday Daytime Groups and Activities (Rachel Meynell)

For those who have time during the day, there are various things going on both on the St Mary’s site and in people’s homes, which you may enjoy coming along to. 

Bible Studies 

We have four women’s daytime growth groups which meet on a Tuesday morning at St Mary’s (with a creche) and there are also a couple of other women’s daytime groups which meet elsewhere in Maidenhead during the week. 

Also on the church site is a men’s Bible study group on a Thursday morning, and a group for men and women on a Tuesday afternoon. 

Toddler and Baby Groups 

On Wednesday and Friday mornings, we have toddler groups to which all pre-school children and their carers are welcome. These are times to play, do some singing and a Bible story. Then on a Thursday morning we have our new parents support group-for anyone with a child under 1. This is a great opportunity to make friends, and to have some input to help with those first months.  

These toddler and Baby groups are a great way that we can reach out to our community, so please do be on the lookout for those around you-friends, neighbours and those you pass in the street with small children and let them know what is going on! 

For those who are older…. 

We are very excited to announce a new initiative called Third Thursday Table, which is going to be a monthly lunch in the church hall for those who would like a meal with others during the day. The first will be on 16th September at 12.45pm, and is open to anyone who would like to come - and your friends and neighbours.

Please book in for the lunch either by emailing Rachel or ringing the office (01628 638866) by 14 September. There will be a charge of £3 for the lunch. After the food there will also be some sort of entertainment - either a talk, a testimony or some music -  which will include a Christian message.

Come and try it out, and let us know what you think - we would love this to be a place to reach out to others as well as encouraging church family who would enjoy a meal in company.

For more information on any of these things-to join or to help-please email Rachel on 

Introducing ... Sharon Bedford

Hi, I’m Sharon. I was born in Cape Town, grew up all over South Africa and moved to the UK 20 years ago. I’m married to Scott and we have two sons, Dylan and Joshua. We have been coming to St Mary’s for around 16 years and have been primarily involved at the 4pm service where I have enjoyed serving on the music team and teaching Explorers B.

I have recently completed the three-year CCEF Biblical Counselling certificate course through Biblical Counselling UK and was very excited to be accepted onto their Intern Scheme for 2021, where I will continue my training in partnership with St Mary’s. I am really looking forward to working with Rachel Meynell in the area of pastoral care at St Mary’s, meeting new people and hearing their stories. The Biblical Counselling course has taught me so much and has really helped me to make sense of some of my own struggles in the light of what scripture teaches us. My hope is that I will be able to share with the family at St Mary’s much of what I’ve learned over the last 3 years.

Holiday Club (Nick McDonald)

Who is the strongest and kindest? That's the question we were thinking about on our 'Summer Safari' this year! 

Holiday Club is a summer programme for children aged from Reception to Year 6. This year our theme was 'Summer Safari’, so the church was decorated to be an African Savannah, complete with animal banners and a nature hide that we were able to climb into. There were crafts, outdoor games, Bible studies, worship meetings, and talks given from the Bible. Safari Cedric (myself in costume) led the children and leaders around the Savannah to find the strongest and kindest animal. Over the three days, looking at the life of Peter in the Bible, we found that Jesus is the strongest and kindest. We heard these three things about Jesus:

1) We can trust in Jesus' power

2.) Jesus showed his power by dying on the cross

3.) Jesus takes our sin seriously, but he forgives us and welcomes us back into his family

Holiday Club was such an encouraging time this year, especially after a tricky year for all, as we saw children and adults from across the different congregations serving the Lord and learning about him. We can't wait for Holiday Club 2022, when we go on our 'Polar Expedition'. See you there!