Food, Fellowship and Fun (Kathy and Roger Hines)

When travelling home after Third Thursday Table, I felt a warm glow from having unrushed time to share a tasty and healthy meal, which I didn’t have to cook, and wonderful conversation with familiar friends, and also with people I had not met before. The team served the food so lovingly with kind smiles and gentle words. They walked the pudding around, so we could preview the beautifully coloured strawberries enfolded in a gently wobbling jelly, fresh from its mould. 

Conversation came easily to our table; we chatted about cooking tips and quiet times, and caught up on family news, baby photos and getting to church – which can be harder for older people.


After this wonderful meal, Nick McDonald shared about his walk with God, and God’s guidance through childhood, an education degree, teaching at primary school, and then a call to children’s work at St Mary’s. It warmed our hearts to hear how God guides our young people today as well as in the past.


So, thank you so much dear Third Thursday Table team, and may God bless you all.

Roger and Kathy Hines

(Kathy wrote the writing and Roger had two helpings of pudding and one of proof-reading!)

Blog

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

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Marriage, Parenting and Work (Jon Drake)

This Sunday 24th July, I will be preaching on how we live out our new life in Christ in the realms of marriage, parenting and work. Our focus will be on Colossians 3:18-4:1 as we continue our series Mature in Christ. We will see that being mature in Christ involves living for him in these core areas of daily life. Each of marriage, parenting and work is an enormous topic and in a sermon on all three we can only scratch the surface. Here are some recommended Bible passages, websites and books for further exploration.

Marriage

  • Ephesians 5:21-33 - an expanded version of Paul’s concise teaching in Colossians 3:18-19
  • The Engine That Drives a Good Marriage – an article on The Gospel Coalition website
  • The Meaning of Marriage – a book by Tim and Kathy Keller

Parenting

  • Ephesians 6:1-4
  • Successful Parenting – an article on the Christian Counselling and Educational Foundation (CCEF) website
  • Equipping for life – a book by Andreas and Margaret Köstenberger

Work 

Not Goodbye but God Be With You - An Epistle from the Martins

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

We thank God every time we remember you. In all our prayers for all of you, we always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. It is right for us to feel this way about all of you, since we have you in our hearts whether we are in Maidenhead or Cirencester!


Okay, so, we borrowed our greeting from Paul’s letter to the Philippians, but it encapsulates our love and gratitude to our church family in Maidenhead.

The decision for us to move was not an easy one. We knew we could give up the house and the town (and even my job) without too much difficulty, but we always knew leaving St Mary’s and all of you would be emotional. I confess, as the move date neared, I wondered whether I could actually bear it. It felt more about loss than new adventures…

May I encourage all of you to use the challenges of life to lean on our Lord Jesus. He is in the details of everything we do. An aborted attempt to move in 2019/20 happened, not because of Covid, but because it was not God’s will for us. Our house wasn’t selling, and we saw nothing in and around Cirencester that we remotely liked. We even drove up the road we now live in (lovely by the way), and said it was horrid! God was putting on our hearts that it wasn’t the right time for us. He had work for us in Maidenhead that was not yet done…

This time, God had different plans. Only one couple viewed our house, and immediately bought it. Driving back and forth to Cirencester we looked at houses that were on our wish list, and offered on several. With each offer we prayed “Please let it be a clear yes or a clear no. Make clear your plans for us.” Depending on God in this way meant that the oft-repeated “no” wasn’t a devastating disappointment, but an acknowledgement that we hadn’t yet found our God-house.

We are certainly in that house now. It is a place I had told Bri I didn’t want to view – wrong location, no upstairs (I’m not old enough for a bungalow!), no obvious place for his office…but it was light and airy and had a feeling of home about it. When I stepped outside, I was struck by a thought, maybe God is giving me a garden. And what a garden. It is solace and blessing even after only a couple of weeks here. This is our God-ordained house. He brought us nearer to my parents so we can be with them in less than ten minutes, and he has blessed us with a church family who have already invited us to join two home groups, offered a Sunday lunch and given us homemade jam. What a welcome!

But they aren’t you. I feel at home in my house, in my garden and in my family, but I am homesick when I am in my new church. If you have read this far, then you must really love me, so it is at this point that we want to thank you, all of you, for being part of our journey. We have written to some of you individually, but there are so many more of you who have impacted our lives, whether that is the privilege of being in growth groups with you, sharing a meal, playing sport, going for a walk, or simply encouraging us in our singing and leading ministry. We want to thank you all for being our family in Christ.

St Mary’s is a place of love. It wrapped its arms around us 25 years ago and gently taught us to trust in Jesus, to give him more of our lives over the years. We are not finished – none of us will be until the end of the race – but we are more able to say, ‘your will be done’, and more able to lean on his everlasting arms (credit to Lou Fellingham – beautiful song – look it up and sing it out loud). We know that this move was ordained for us by God, and he will equip us for the next stage of our lives. He will comfort us when we miss you all, he will give us new fellowship. There will be trials, but we will try to consider them joy as we have seen so many of you demonstrate through your own hardships, losses and griefs.

Thank you for being family to us, for loving us, encouraging us and guiding us.

In the words of a local vicar at a recent service we attended, goodbye is not farewell; in its original English form it means ‘God be with you’. So, although we have left Maidenhead, we remain brothers and sisters in Christ. Our home is open to you.

And I’ll borrow from Jude to close, offering you our favourite blessing,

To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only God our Saviour be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.

With love in Christ,

Karen and Brian Martin

United Church Sunday

Sunday 3rd July was the first United Church Sunday held at St Mary's. Below are some of the perspectives from those that attended - including those new to St Mary's and those that have been part of the family for a lot longer.

It had rained on the day before the United Church Sunday.  My younger son had asked how we could stay outdoors on Sunday.  I just told him we could do nothing but pray.  The next morning, it was sunny and hot. We were so delighted and excited to have a picnic at the church garden and had the service at 2pm.  We never thought we could sit on the church lawn chatting with church friends, sharing our food, and watching our kids playing on Sunday afternoon.  The united congregation at 2pm was so impressive.  Our singing voices filled the church hall.  The worship was so powerful with praise and joy.

As a new family coming to St Mary's Church for about 9 months, we can join in with church friends who we’ve never talked to.  My sons especially enjoyed the ice-cream and playing games with the other children.  It was so nice to chat with brothers and sisters who used to go to the 6:30pm congregation.  Now we feel a new kinship with church families. We are commanded, “Love one another with brotherly love” (Romans 12:10).  Picnics are great for this, and the United Church Sunday at St Mary's really makes us like one big family with affection.

Sharon and Marco
There is a joy in coming together with family whom you love and there is a feeling of excitement when you discover a crowded space filled with buzz and energy. We got to experience both at the same time as we arrived at the St Mary’s United Church Sunday and picnic on Sunday 3rd July. 

I always feel as though I am amongst friends when I am at St Mary’s, whether I am speaking to somebody that I know well or to somebody I have never met before. It was great to spend time with familiar faces, to see some new ones, and to feel a part of the community that has grown around our church.

Worshipping together with people from different services made us aware of the different energy and personality that different people from the church can bring, but also highlighted the faith, belief and love of Christ that is there clearly when we come together as one.

It seemed as though there may be twelve baskets or more of left-over Magnums after the church had fed and watered the many of us who were there. We were thankful to be there, to feel the love of the whole church family and look forward to us all coming together to celebrate Christ in our lives and in the world more often.

Adrian
At last, the eagerly anticipated United Church Sunday arrived, and we turned up early to be sure of getting a seat! There was an excited buzz of conversation when we walked in and it was a wonderful to see such a packed church! We hadn’t seen some people since before Covid, so we were thrilled to be able to chat to them later during the picnic.

Karnie Sharp opened the first service joyfully and we all rose and sang together in a very uplifting response. I was particularly touched by Sarah Smart in the children’s talk illustrating powerfully how we all have a function in the community of our fellowship - out of the mouths of babes.

Jon Drake’s sermon on Luke 7 reminded us that as we have been forgiven so much so we should love, and that love can particularly find an expression in our church family.

Sunitha Province lifted us in prayer, and we closed with a resounding hymn. What a service to remember! We can’t wait for the next one!

Cathie and Toby
For a church with so many members and regular attendees, the pragmatic division into separate congregations sometimes leads to that awkward conversation starter: “Are you new to the church?” “No, I’ve been coming for 10 years…” Nearly two years of on-and-off lockdowns during the pandemic has somewhat intensified the little congregational or even growth group bubbles that we are part of, perhaps to the detriment of our wider church fellowship. So, the United Church Sunday services and picnic was a great opportunity to meet people from other congregations and reconnect with those we had not seen for a while. So naturally, I went and sat with the people I already knew!

It wasn’t long however that the sun and the spaced-out drinks tables were making sure that people were wandering back and forth to get refreshments and at each pass back there were new people in our little group. In fact, two people were there on their first visit to St Mary’s and we were able to find friends who had similar jobs (even the same company!) for them to talk to. What a demonstration of Christian family and fellowship for a visitor to find - a sizeable town-centre garden filled with brothers and sisters enjoying God’s provision and one another’s company.

As a 6:30er who wasn’t on rota that Sunday to get up early for the 9:15am Explorers class that morning, I of course went for the afternoon service. It was great to see kids from the 4pm that I had got to know on the recent Explorer’s abroad trip that I would never normally be able to catch up with on a normal Sunday.

I’m sure that arranging this day was not without complexity but I hope that it becomes an occasionally recurring event on the church calendar. As someone who has been at St Mary’s long enough to miss the congregational meals, it was a joy to relax and eat together en masse.

Callum Paterson
As a Mission Partner, it was a delight be with you for your United Church Sunday of your five congregations. The opportunity to meet and chat with a good number of people that I have not met before was brilliant. Especially some of those from local schools that I have visited recently. The warmth of the welcome, your genuine care and support is greatly appreciated – thank you very much. A thought I had during the service when Luke Foster was being interviewed by Jon Drake and he mentioned Matthew 9:38 - it made me think that we are all involved where Jesus has placed us to share Jesus. If you like we are ALL mission partners…where God has placed us! That is just so true, and for me and all of us have the great opportunity to help make Jesus know in our schools, workplaces, homes, neighbourhood and the rest. May God continue to lead, guide and use you all in the days, weeks and months ahead as you continue to make Jesus known.

I loved the picnic with the chance to mingle and chat and meet people.  I look forward to being able to come again in due course to reconnect and say hi. Just to say for now if any of you reading this blog would like to attend our Christian Connections in Schools 10th Anniversary Celebration (in-person or online) on Friday 14th October 7:45pm at Jubilee Community Church then you would very welcome to attend. To come and join us: https://wearejubilee.churchsuite.com/events/bgppkon0

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Wayne Dixon, Christian Connections in Schools (CCiS)

Update on St Mary's work with Ukrainians (Jo Jobson)

You may have attended the Zoom meeting held by Rachel Meynell and me back in April, to consider St Mary’s response to the situation in Ukraine. Much has happened since then, within the church family: 

  • Some members of the church family are hosting Ukrainians
  • Some of the Ukrainian guests are attending the English language and conversation classes, Toddlers and youth groups.
  • We started the Ukrainian Welcome Hub on Thursday afternoons in the main hall (in the Old Vic on the third Thursday when Third Thursday Table (TTT) runs).   

It has been a joy to welcome Viktor from Kyiv to our church family – he is the brother of Nataliia Kolodii (9.15am congregation) and uncle of Andre. Nataliia has lived in Maidenhead for many years and first came to St Mary’s via Toddlers.  She has provided invaluable assistance with our outreach to newly arrived Ukrainians, helping with translation and publicity for the events at St Mary’s and encouraging people to come.  

In all our work we have sought to reach out to these displaced people with Jesus’ love and to help them integrate and become independent. We have aimed to assist in meeting needs but without overlapping with what others in Maidenhead are doing well, so I have been liaising with other groups in the community and with the Council.  I have also attended talks held by the Welcome Churches network, of which St Mary’s is a member (https://welcomechurches.org ) and The Sanctuary Foundation (https://sanctuaryfoundation.org.uk ), in order to gain a deeper understanding which I have then passed on to others. 

The Ukrainian Welcome Hub was set up in response to a perceived need from the community for a safe place where Ukrainians (and their hosts) could come, meet others, relax and play games, or do crafts. We provide drinks and cakes and there are toys for children of all ages too.  We also play games to practice English. Numbers have fluctuated and are generally small; most people seem to come for one or two sessions while they find their feet.  One small but important role is directing people to other groups relevant to them (both within and outside St Mary’s, e.g. Toddlers and youth groups for their children or language classes around Maidenhead) and to help them network with other people who can provide specific help. Please pray for wisdom as to whether and how, we should continue to run this group. 

How to help further?  

Helping hosts: If you know someone who is hosting, please do support them, both in prayer and practically e.g. with meals – they have taken on a huge task. Under the ‘Homes for Ukraine’ scheme, the hosts have committed to provide a room for a minimum of six months, however in general they are doing far more than this.  

Hosting: There are many Ukrainians still seeking hosts. There are various organisations helping match hosts and Ukrainians. Two of these are: https://Ukraineconnect.net  (set up by Mark Meynell) or Linda D’Arcy (mother of Karen Gleed, a former member of St Mary’s)  - .  

Donating: If you have items to donate, there are two local charities in particular, which support people of all backgrounds in times of crisis and which have been providing good quality donated clothing and equipment to Ukrainians: The Cowshed (for children & adults) - https://www.thecowshed.org/  and The Baby Bank (clothes and equipment for 0-5 years and school uniform up to age 18 years) -https://www.thebabybank.org/ 

Giving your time: There are opportunities for volunteering; do contact me for more information –  

Word Alive 2022

For those who haven’t heard of it, Word Alive is an evangelical Christian event held annually in north Wales. It’s currently run at a Pontins site which has been further equipped with marquees to cater for group meeting and worship. The event runs for just under a week and has a packed programme of talks and teaching on a broad range of faith-based topics.

We hear from three of those from St Mary’s who went to Word Alive in April 2022. They share their thoughts on the experience.

This was my first trip to Word Alive which is an annual evangelical Christian meeting with fellow Christians from around the country in beautiful Prestatyn in North Wales. I went with Helen and Charlotte Norton and we stayed off-site at The Beaches Hotel which overlooked the beach. It was just across the road from the site and there were many from our church staying there.

The adult programme is designed to help us hear from God in a variety of ways. We would start the day with a ‘Morning Track’ (you get to choose who you want to listen to). I chose Becky Pippert who spoke about evangelism and how we can evangelise to others and share our faith which was very helpful. We would then stop for a coffee before going into our next session, again you get to choose who you want to listen to. I chose Conrad Mbewe who spoke on 2 Peter, again very helpful. The speakers had great passion for God. We would then stop for lunch, there were many places you could have lunch from pizzas, burgers, pancakes. Katie Croft booked us all into a pub off-site on the Monday which was nice getting together with those who were staying in the chalets and catching up with Simon and Suzie Eves and the children. There were afternoon sessions with different subjects or you could just chill out on the beach or off-site which we did one day visiting a castle.

In the evening we would all come together for ‘Evening Celebration’ to hear God speak and celebrate all He has done through worship and prayer. I loved the worship which was mostly led by Tom Brewster's group Joyful Noise, there's something very special about worshiping the Lord with 1,000 people. We would then head back to the hotel usually to congregate with the people from church who were staying there and discuss the books we had bought and what seminars we had been to.

It was great getting to know some of our church family better. I loved it!

Hazel Tomlinson
I’ve been to similar events before, but this was my first time at Word Alive. After the isolation the pandemic brought, it was brilliant to be able to worship in the marquee with hundreds of believers and with great line up of Christian musicians. This was a real highlight for me. I also enjoyed the Bible teaching on 2 Peter in the morning meetings and being encouraged through testimonies including one with Kate Forbes, a member of the Scottish Parliament – an inspirational interview on representing evangelical Christian beliefs in the complex world of politics.

We travelled as a family and there’s an extensive and well-run children’s programme in the mornings. Parents can go to some of the talks on their own during this time or simply decide take time out for posh coffee at one of the on-site food vans or browse the book shop. We all thoroughly enjoyed ‘Families Together’ at 5:30pm each evening which had Bible teaching, discussion and worship with Awesome Cutlery (a Christian band), a firm favourite in the Green household.

There’s also plenty to do with family and friends in the afternoons including walks to the lovely sandy beach and rock pools, soft play, games tent, indoor swimming pool, inflatable area, junior driving school and fun bikes. We spent a lot of our time at the Lego table!

We chose to stay in one of the on-site chalets to benefit from having separate rooms for children, being able to go back for afternoon naps and have the use of a kitchenette. One of the amusing contests of the week was ‘le chic chalet challenge’ where entrants provided photographic evidence of how they had upgraded the quite basic chalets with modern day comforts and appliances.

We joined the annual St Mary’s and friends pub lunch. It was good to be part of the broader St Mary’s community on the holiday, with our busy WhatsApp group keeping us connected.

Linsley Green
This was my fourth trip to Word Alive and it was so great to be back after two years of it being cancelled due to Covid. It's such a great time being in sunny North Wales (it really was sunny this year!) spending time with God's people from all over the country.

Every day there's a ‘Morning Bible Reading’ at 9:45am and repeated at 11:00am. This is a bit like a church service and happens in a huge marquee which sits hundreds of people. This year Conrad Mbewe spoke to us from 2 Peter, and Joyful Noise (a Christian band led by Tom Brewster) led us in the sung worship. Throughout the day there were many optional seminars on a variety of topics, and there was plenty of time to chill on the beach, climb mountains, and eat pizza! In the evening there is then an evening service, which happens at 6:30pm and is repeated at 8:30pm. This year the evening talks were looking at people Jesus met. These sessions really helped me to reflect on my own relationship with Christ, and how I can serve him better with my life.

Personally, I was hugely encouraged by Word Alive this year. It's such a great time to be spending a lot of time in God's Word, chatting to others about what we've been learning, and opening up to one another about our own personal experience of being a Christian. It's so great to be worshipping and praising God with other evangelical Christians from all sorts of backgrounds and ages, it really is a little taste of what the new creation will be like.

This year, I stayed off-site with my family in the beachfront hotel. Many people stay on-site, but there are a lot of different places to stay around the area.

Booking for 1st – 6th April 2023 opens on 13th July, check out the Word Alive website for more info, or ask someone you know who went. It really is a fantastic holiday!

Nick McDonald

Loving Missionaries When They Return (Jo Jobson)

Several of St Mary’s Mission Partners have recently left the mission field, are in the process of doing so, or are in the UK on furlough. Some of our Mission Partners are coming to visit us on United Church Sunday, this Sunday, 3rd July. The following article ‘6 Ways to Love Missionaries When They Come Home’ is taken from the website of The Gospel Coalition. It was written by Catherine Allison, who arrived with her family back in Virginia, USA after several years as missionaries in Malawi. The article has some helpful insights for us as we engage with our Mission Partners and care for them.

Jo Jobson (Chair of Mission Partner Support Group)

6 Ways to Love Missionaries When They Come Home

by Catherine Allison, 25th March 2022

Six months ago, our family of five landed on American soil after several years serving as missionaries. As I stepped off the plane, my feet still stained by the orange dirt of Africa, I carried with me more than just our 10 pieces of oversize luggage. I showed up with a fresh passion to see missionaries protected, cared for, and loved.

And now, after months of transitioning, my eyes are more open than ever to the importance of caring for returned missionaries. Whether they’ve returned for good or are on furlough, the needs of returned missionaries are unique, and the positive impact of the care they receive can be far-reaching. Unsaid needs, however, will always go unmet.

So, on behalf of fellow returned missionaries, let me suggest six ways to love us well when we return from the field.

1. Beware of missionary hero worship.

Avoid putting missionaries on a pedestal they were never intended to occupy. The hero worship of missionaries has caused grave damage to missionaries, to the church, and to missions as a whole. Acknowledge them, yes. Celebrate them, absolutely. Dub them a hero or superstar? Please, no.

Trust me, the faces you’ve seen on that prayer card for the past three years are very normal people. Church members sometimes neglect to engage returned workers because they seem too different. Too special. They’re not.

Talk to them like normal people. Be interested in the ordinary. Yes, I know that missionaries have a tendency to shoot themselves in the foot by writing home with “I wrestled a cheetah barehanded and won!” stories. Just remember, though, that for as many exotic days and stories they have to wow you with, they have hundreds more that are entirely mundane. Days filled with laundry and emails and coffee with friends. See them for who they are, not for the place they live or the stories they bring.

2. Prepare for mixed emotions and culture shock.

Don’t assume returned missionaries are thrilled to be back. If they’re apathetic or grieving, don’t take it personally. Rather, celebrate that they’ve put down strong roots overseas. Recognize they’ve left a whole life - and sometimes their dreams - behind. Their time wasn’t a trip for them. This is where they’ve had triumphs and tears, pets and friends, houseplants and memories. Alternatively, if they’re thrilled to be back, don’t let that convince you they weren’t thriving overseas. It’s complicated.

Spend some time reading about ‘reverse culture shock’. Are they returning from a deeply communal culture? A slower pace of life? Open-air markets rather than well-stocked stores? The (re)learning curve might be steep. Be gracious and patient.

3. Make rest a priority.

Ask what they need to truly rest while in America - and then make it happen. Overseas, many missionaries feel they’re constantly ‘on’. Allow them to blend in and just be. But don’t forget about them! Invite them over for dinner. Include them in friend hangouts. Even if they say no the first time or completely miss the pop-culture reference at dinner, I guarantee it felt nice to be invited.

4. Help destigmatize mental-health concerns in missions.

This is a big one. I cannot express how many missionaries suffer silently. Many have experienced trauma after trauma, and never receive the care they need. Many are afraid to seek treatment or counselling, for fear their livelihood might hang in the balance.

Ask your missionaries if they’re in counselling or therapy. If they say no, ask if they need help to make it happen (finding contacts, paying bills, etc.). Any barrier you can remove will help.

5. Meet needs. But meet wants too.

Meet practical needs, yes. But seek to also meet wants. Insist they make Amazon wish lists. Load them up with gift cards to their favourite clothing store. (News flash: missionaries want to wear cute clothes, too!) Surprise their kids with tickets to a theme park. Order takeout from their favourite restaurant.

It’s not that all your missionary friends care about is being showered with new shoes and snacks. If you ask how you can help, they’ll point you in the direction of some selfless cause. Hear them out on those . . . but buy up their Amazon wish lists too.

6. Above all, listen well.

Ask good questions. Be curious. Curiosity communicates interest, and interest communicates care. Ask to see pictures. Ask the names of their friends in the photos. Probe for stories. Most missionaries I know desperately want to talk and share, but won’t bring it up themselves. Many just need somebody to listen to their experiences, their stories, their struggles, and the beauty of their lives overseas. Be that somebody.

Here are a few questions to get you started:

  • What wins have you had over the past few months?
  • What’s been hardest for you lately?
  • What does community look like for you here and back in your host country?
  • Tell me what you love about your host country. What do you miss the most right now?
  • What’s been most overwhelming about living in your host country?
  • What does rest look like for you? What are you doing for fun these days?
  • Have you had any friends leave the country this year? How has that experience been for you?
  • What are you most excited about, ministry-wise, over the next few months?

If applicable, ask about their team dynamic on the field. If they’re with an organization, ask about that relationship too. Listen carefully and unhurriedly. Such topics can be weighty and lonely for missionaries to broach. They rarely get brought up, but they often need to be hashed out. Provide space for the hashing.

Word of Caution

If you don’t already have a relationship with a returned missionary, now might not be the time to try to penetrate to the core of their soul. Just begin building the friendship. Start walking alongside them. But then, keep walking. Over time, trust will build and conversations will deepen. This is a marathon, not a sprint.

We’ve now been back for over six months. This life I’ve described is, for the most part, no longer mine. The needs are no longer my needs. But they were, and they remain the needs of so many just like my family. Let’s care for them well.

Explorers Abroad (Phebe Tay)

It all started with an idea that it would be lovely to have a holiday to the Isle of Wight…and so I signed up with Kate three years ago to volunteer with Explorers Abroad for my ferry ride across the Solent. After battling the storms of Covid, here I was sailing from Portsmouth to Fishbourne three years later, on my one-week holiday with 20 kids in Years 5 and 6 (aged 9-11) in tow.


Explorers Abroad started at church bright and early on the Monday morning with parents dropping excited kids off for their week in Ancient Egypt. There was so much luggage that I was designated to drive a van down specifically for it! There were another two minibuses which were filled with children talking and singing – I am told that leaders might have experienced some hearing loss; and interesting facts about how the kids loved bagels and that the sun is round (and yellow).

On the ferry, we played some games on the deck and tried to find the wharf which we would dock at. The place where we stayed was a lovely large mansion with plenty of space and activities, including low ropes, games room and a swimming pool. The program every day was a surprise for the kids although there was a routine and hints along the way so that they could try and guess the activities.


We were split into three group – the Mighty Mummies, Super Sphinx and Powerful Pyramids. Each day, there would be activities to participate in and win points for the team. Kate and Nick would set challenges including acting out a scene from Mr Bean, showcasing different talents .

There were also special activities and excursions which included swimming, exploring a lifeboat museum, building sandcastles, wading in the sea, a photo scavenger hunt, mini team challenges, treasure hunt, paintballing and The Explorers Abroad Talent Show on the last evening.


There was great excitement (and some apprehension) for children and leaders as this was the first Explorers Abroad to include paintballing. Kate thought it was great therapy for her and the kids had a lot of fun shooting one another. I am still sporting some proud battle bruises! Needless to say that with the fun and excitement, we were also exhausted from it and had a good night’s sleep.

The Explorers Abroad Talent Show welcomed our special guests – Mr and Mrs Half-an-Hour (Neil and Angela McDonald), who were thoroughly entertained by all the talents which included a magic show, drama, musical talents, physical talents (e.g. eating a banana with the skin on) and a mid-show conga line. The evening ended, as each evening did, with hot chocolate, cake and a Mr Bean movie.

Each day, while journeying through Ancient Egypt, there was worship, a fantastic four-part drama series, a talk in the evening about Joseph from Genesis, and a Bible study in the morning about what we’d learnt and how it related to Jesus. On Monday, Kate provided a whistle stop tour of Genesis from Adam to Joseph. Nick, Luke and Harry provided the subsequent talks on Joseph’s journey. From Joseph’s dreams to him being sold into slavery by his own brothers, to being falsely accused in Potiphar’s house, and then being entrusted as Prime Minister of the powerful Egypt.

We learnt about the parallels of Jesus life too, how Jesus was falsely accused, rejected and abandoned by those he loved so that he could take our place and our sin upon himself on the cross so that we can live right with God again.


Everyone had a chance to reflect on what Jesus did for us personally, and the invitation for those who had not accepted Jesus, to have the chance to do so. Each child received a personal daily devotional so that they could continue to learn more about the Bible, to grow in their faith and to spend time with Jesus. As parents, please encourage your children in the discipline of quiet time and daily devotional, as these habits can last a lifetime and have a great impact on their faith journey.

Kate and Nick provided the perfect mix in the timetable of activities and Bible teaching. As leaders, Patch, Luke, Harry, Callum, Chloe and I also had a great time with the kids. It was such a privilege to lead the Bible studies, getting to know the kids through our conversations during the week and to have a positive impact on their faith for eternity. While I didn’t quite get the idyllic seaside island holiday I was expecting, what I got was infinitely better.

Parish Profile (Anthony Kan)

A very important part of the vacancy is the preparation and publication of the Parish Profile by the PCC. The parish profile is our opportunity to give prospective applicants an introduction to St Mary’s as a church, our mission, our ministry and church family life, as well as outlining the role of Vicar we are recruiting for and the type of candidate we are seeking.

Over the past five months, the drafting team working with the PCC have sincerely considered, prayed earnestly and vigorously discussed answers to the following questions.

The Future

  • What is our mission and vision?
  • Where does the church need to go from here?
  • What are the chief qualities desired in the next incumbent?
  • What are the main gifts/skills required in the next incumbent?

The Parish

  • About the Parish: who lives there, local environment and amenities?
  • What links between church and community?

The Church

  • What is St Mary’s like as a church?
  • What is the makeup of our church family and how is it evolving?
  • What is our ministry and who leads within the church?
  • What typically happens on Sundays and through the week?
  • What other activities and events do we have?
  • What about outreach and mission?
  • What is the shape of our finances?
  • Buildings, dwellings, and other facilities?
  • Wider church links and affiliations?

The final Parish Profile can now be found on the church website at www.stmarysmaidenhead.org/parishprofile. Please have a read and do let us know if you have any questions.

& (St Mary's Parish Representatives for the vacancy process)

Book Sunday (June 2022)

Sunday 19th June was Book Sunday at St Mary's with a selection of books suggested by St Mary’s staff for your summer reading (see the list below). All can be obtained online from 10 of Those (www.10ofthose.com) or The Good Book Company (www.thegoodbook.co.uk), or locally from Quench bookshop in Wokingham (www.quenchshops.com).

  • The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert - Rosaria Butterfield
  • God’s Secret Listener - John Butterworth
  • I’m Praying for You - Nancy Guthrie
  • Refreshed - John Hindley
  • The Prodigal Prophet - Tim Keller
  • 90 Days in John 14-17, Romans and James - Tim Keller/Sam Allberry
  • The Life I Now Live - Joelle Kenny
  • Hope in the Face of Suffering - Jeremy Marshall
  • Where is God in all the Suffering? - Amy Orr-Ewing
  • The Air We Breathe - Glen Scrivener
  • Before You Share Your Faith - Matt Smethurst
  • Making Faith Magnetic - Daniel Strange
  • Incomparable - Andrew Wilson
  • Oh, The Treasures You’ll Know - Olson/McIntosh (ages 8-100!)
  • What Happens When We Die? - Chris Morphew (ages 9-13)
  • A Taste of Asia - Reuben Grace (Family Devotional, ages 5-11)
  • Bible Stories Every Child Should Know - Taylor/Brake (ages 4-7)


Mission Partner Update: Greg and Jill Vine

Greg and Jill Vine joined us on Zoom at our St Mary’s Evening on 9th June. After 15 years of Greg working as a pilot for Mission Aviation Fellowship, the last 11 of which have been in Uganda, the Vines are returning to the UK this summer. They asked for our prayers about the following:

  • For MAF Uganda to adjust well to team changes happening this year.
  • For MAF to have strong and healthy partnerships and be able to fulfil the needs of their partners.
  • For Greg and Jill to have strong direction for the future and for courage as they face this move.
  • That Jill’s work as Communications Officer for MAF may be able to continue and thrive as she works remotely, and that her final eye injection would bring permanent stability.
  • That Greg would find the right work in the UK and for the family to find a place to live.
  • That the family would remember how faithful God has been in the past and see how he provides a way forward.
  • For their girls - For Esther job hunting, Ariela at university and Zoe doing Christian youth work during her gap year.
  • For friends in Uganda - For Dina, Jill’s cook, needing new employment, Frank a widower, Patrick who is unwell and Jackson who needs accommodation and sponsors for his doctors training course.
  • Praise that ‘Feed 5000’ (Jill’s initiative during the pandemic) fed 18,573 people, a testament to many of the love of Christ.

9:15am Men's Weekend Away (Minoosh Malekzadeh)

Thursday 5th May was a great time to experience something unique. Seven men from the 9:15am congregation took a couple of days off to stay at ‘The Pines’, a favourite cosy country cottage located a few miles out of Pulborough, a beautiful village at the heart of West Sussex.

Thanks to Jon Drake's planning (that always works like a Swiss watch), we arrived on time, and only a few minutes later, a Sainsbury's lorry delivered all the supplies he had ordered. He also generously treated us with a large tray of his delicious homemade Lasagne, although he has not revealed the secret recipe.

The gastronomy marathon continued in the following days with a shoulder-to-shoulder competition and a colourful menu, from English breakfast to Chicken Curry and Quattro Formaggi Omelette and, of course, lots of coffee and biscuits in between. However, a few extra pounds were not the only thing we gained.

We highly enjoyed the entire fellowship and ‘brotherhood bundle’, from the joy and fun of helping each other running in-house errands to cooking, serving, cleaning, washing, talking and sharing life stories to praising God and praying for each other.

We read 1 Peter 1:1 to 2:12 written to ‘God's elect exiles’ together and pondered over how privileged we are to be chosen by God the Father, sanctified by the Holy Spirit and born again into a living hope through the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead with an inheritance that can never perish or fade.

We also appraised how important it is for us, the obedient children of God, to be holy like him, fully alert and sober, and how we need to live our lives in reverent fear as foreigners whose asset is not corruptible things like gold or silver. It is indeed the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish, the living word of God that endures forever.

Watch a video montage of the weekend by clicking below.

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South Central Women's Day (Sarah Chaplain)

I went to the South Central Women's Day on 14th May coming from a busy week of annual leave. I missed the last Women's Day and had heard such good things about it, so I knew I didn't want to miss this one. 

Although I didn't exactly know what to expect I did know I'd be going to two seminars and that tea and cake would be in large supply (which they were). The major things that hit me initially were: 1) the number of ladies that were in church and 2) how amazing we all sounded when we sang together. Don't get me wrong - I love it when we sing with the men, but there's something lovely about just women singing. I have never seen that number of people in the church building in one go since Covid, so that was a bit of a shock! It was so nice to hear the bustling noise of over 200 women chatting. Rachel initially had a hard time starting as we all kept talking! 

The day was divided up into sections, with two parts altogether in the main church building and two seminars which everyone had chosen individually beforehand. The seminars I went to were 'Christ and Culture: Connecting Christ to Cultural Fears' and 'Crazy Busy: Learning the Art of Rest.' When I signed up I was amazed at the variety of seminars on offer. Some were clearly geared to certain age groups - there was one about retirement and whilst I've started my pension, I'm only 30 so still a while off! I therefore picked seminars that reflected how my life is at the moment. I'm always interested in anything to do with culture within the context of Christianity and secular society, so I found this seminar really insightful. 

The second seminar about learning the art of rest was also very interesting. I consider myself a fairly busy person and had realised a few weeks ago that I was probably letting the busyness get on top of me. I find it quite hard to stop and allow myself not to do anything. In those moments I think I feel what most people do, which is a weird sense of guilt in not getting stuff done on my days off. So this seminar was perfect. The biggest take-away from it was to try and write down everything I do each day, and then after a week, to analyse where I might be using my time correctly or incorrectly. 

Whilst I only knew a couple of people when I arrived (I thought I would know more, but then I remembered it wasn't just the ladies of St Mary's there), I left with two new ones which I was really happy about! I would highly encourage any St Mary's ladies to come to the next one. The talks were very encouraging and it was great to gather as one on a sunny Saturday. 


The Ministry Training Course (Karnie Sharp)

I used to think the Ministry Training Course (MTC) was only for brothers and sisters in Christ who were keen on pursuing full-time or paid ministry. Will Stileman had suggested I do the course about five or six years ago but it felt a tad too intimidating. Besides, it fell on a Tuesday and I’d have to travel to Oxford to attend. That would in practical terms be ‘mission impossible’ due to my busy and unpredictable work schedule. I’d also been threatening to pursue a Masters course for a few years but kept missing the application deadline, and I’d been applying for other jobs within the BBC and thought it too much of a sacrifice to commit to the MTC course. Astonishing really, given how I’d chosen to prioritise my walk with Christ! But all that changed last year, when I learnt that the course was now not only available in-person but online as well. This option meant the course was more accessible and I’d been praying to our Father to show me where he wanted to lead me next. Surprisingly, whilst every other application door remained closed or somewhat elusive, I’d somehow managed to not miss the submission deadline for MTC!

What is the Ministry Training Course?

It is a ministry of the South Central Gospel Partnership, based in Oxford. Their website says this: “Our aim is that each week will cause those attending to have a greater view of the Lord, a fresh desire to serve him and be equipped to pass on God’s Word to others”. And that’s exactly what it does.

Who is MTC for?
Every follower of Christ Jesus. Anyone can do it and there’s no age limit. If you want to keep growing in your knowledge of our Lord, then this course will certainly help further nurture your relationship with him. It’s like an extended Bible study group but filled with other very helpful tools to encourage your walk with Christ and to give you confidence to talk with others about the gospel and your faith.

What am I finding helpful about it?
It is extending my knowledge of Jesus through the Bible. I thought I’d arrived when I was baptised back in 2011, and when I was asked to lead services. I know, right! I’m humbled by the fact that my knowledge of Christ is still so limited and by doing MTC I get to walk even more closely with our Lord. We get to prepare talks too - on passages from Scripture. Preparing them gives me goose bumps. I cannot believe that I have been given a position of absolute privilege in learning how to share God’s word with others! It’s emotional just thinking about it. I love how he is using EVEN me.

How do I fit it into my busy (and often erratic) schedule?
More easily than I thought. You can either attend the course in-person in Oxford each Tuesday from 10.15am to 3.45pm (there are many breaks in between), or you can access the teaching online, either live or at your leisure. I access the day online and aim to do it as live, but if I’m working, I can catch up on the sessions on my days off or over the weekend. If you are doing the course remotely you need to set aside one hour a week to attend an online tutorial on Thursday evenings, which is very exciting because it’s here that you meet brothers and sisters from other churches. But don’t worry, the groups are small, manageable and enjoyable (even if you are an introvert). I cannot recommend MTC enough. You’d love it. I promise.

Are you interested in doing MTC?

You can find out more at the South Central Gospel Partnership website (www.scgp.org.uk) and do speak to your Congregation Leader or someone who has done the course already. The course runs for three ten-week terms starting in mid-September

Mission Partner Update: Wayne Dixon

It was just great being at St Mary’s Evening and I want to say a huge thank you for your interest, prayers, encouragement and support of me over these past 34 years. I am just loving it in the schools, and I shared a bit of that and especially a story from Furze Platt Senior School the very day I came to St Mary’s evening. The aim of Christian Connections in Schools (CCiS) is Making Jesus known to children, young people AND staff in schools of Slough, Windsor & Maidenhead.

Some subjects for your prayers for now:

1. Wisdom and sensitivity in the on-going situations in chatting with staff and pupils in our various schools.

2. ‘It’s Your Move!’ - most of the Maidenhead primary schools (those age 11 in school Year 6) will be receiving this free book in the coming days. This link gives you a little flavour as to what will be shared between now and Friday 27th May and what goes on in school.

3. We have a celebration of the ten-year anniversary of CCiS on Friday 14th October with Rachel Gardner (previous schools worker in the London borough of Harrow) coming to speak. An evening to pause, pray, worship and give thanks to God. This link is here to book either in-person or to access the livestream. 

4. I look forward to coming along to the St Mary’s united service and lunch on Sunday 3rd July.

5. Praise God for what is happening each Friday at Newlands girls school with the Christian group ‘Revive’. I’ve had a great time in school last week and back there for assemblies this week coming. Love it!

6. On-going prayer and wisdom for the appointment of a Primary Schools Worker.

7. Connections made with many primary schools, including St Piran’s, Oldfield and others where I am involved and chat about their visits to St Mary’s for Christmas and Easter presentations. Similar happens with other schools and local churches involved in our schools. Praise God!

Thank you again St Mary’s church family. May God continue to lead, guide and use you with the opportunities and challenges ahead that we face.

More news can be found on CCiS website and if you would like to receive ‘Pause to Pray’ and/or our newsletter (the summer one is available now), please give me a call (01753 201992) or email wayne@ccischools.org.uk.

Introducing New Warden... Lindsay Reisser-Weston

Hello everyone. I would like to thank you very much for your support in appointing me as churchwarden alongside Anthony Kan at our recent St Mary’s Thanksgiving Evening and Annual Church Meeting.  

For those who don’t know me, I am a member of the 8am congregation, which I have been attending for the last five years. More recently I have also joined the 9.15am service, where it has been a huge privilege to join the worship and get to know more members of our bigger church family. 

I am married to Dave, who also comes to the 8am service, and we have four adult children: Chloe, Mia, Taylor and Fabian. I grew up in Holywood, Northern Ireland, a town about six miles outside Belfast. God blessed me greatly by putting me in a school with a strong Scripture Union, where a number of faithful teachers and students introduced me to the Lord when I was about ten or eleven at a Christian holiday club. I attended Holywood Parish Church of St Philip of St James (Church of Ireland) where I was baptised and confirmed.

I moved to England for university just over 30 years ago and have lived in several different spots around the country for work including Bristol, Newcastle Upon Tyne, Wimbledon and Nottingham before settling in Berkshire in 2006. Across this time, I have been truly blessed with a career I’ve loved, working in various companies such as Procter & Gamble (where I met Heidi Cooper from the 4pm congregation), Castrol (BP) where I used to work with Ralph Hewins (9.15am) and most recently SlimFast.   

At St Mary’s I am currently a leader on the Christian Foundations course with Ian Miller, Chris Roberts (4pm) and my husband Dave, and I’ve just started my final term at South Central Gospel Partnership Ministry Training Course (MTC), which has been hugely helpful in my Christian growth and walk with the Lord. Additionally, I am serving on the PCC and the Standing Committee, where I have the great privilege of witnessing the tremendous work that goes on behind the scenes by so many dedicated members of our St Mary’s staff team and church family. 

It is my great desire that I may follow this Christ-like example in my service as churchwarden alongside my good friend, Anthony Kan. If you see me or Anthony, please do introduce yourself and do not hesitate to approach either of us on any topics or issues you may want to raise or discuss.

I would humbly ask for your prayers in two areas if I may please; for wisdom as we support our St Mary’s staff team and church family across the vacancy period and the search for our new vicar, and for great humility in our service for the glorification of our Lord Jesus Christ, trusting in his sovereign power and will. As I set out to serve as churchwarden, I hold the opening verse of Psalm 127 in my heart; ‘Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labour in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain.’ I pray for his direction and guidance in all that we seek to do at St Mary’s.

Update from St Mary's White Waltham (Dave Atallah)

Dear brothers and sisters of St Mary’s Church Maidenhead,

Thank you for your partnership in the gospel and continued prayer for us. It was fun to welcome Will Stileman to our service in White Waltham on his first Sunday not being actively vicar in Maidenhead. We pray for wisdom and guidance as God brings the right person to lead in a key role, not just for the local church in central Maidenhead, but for gospel partnership in the wider area. I will miss him and the helpful discussions we had.

Please give thanks with us for:

  • The opportunity to welcome Year 6 children from six schools to the Easter Cracked presentation run in White Waltham church with huge help from the St Mary’s Maidenhead team. (One of those schools was missing for Christmas Unwrapped due to Covid.)
  • The opportunity to welcome our two local schools to Easter services and present our wonderful Easter hope. And continued opportunities at the two local schools, through governors, assemblies and other links.
  • Our holiday at home day for the more mature members of our congregation. This was a fun time of quizzes and games, fellowship and food, and chatting together about the frustrations of life and the freedom we know in Christ from Philippians 1 and 3.
  • That we have had a Spring of often over 50 people in the building on Sunday mornings. Again, numbers are not everything, and there are a few who were with us before Christmas and we haven’t seen much of this year, but having the church a little fuller, and with the full range of ages, is very encouraging. (I always want more, but I am reminded by my team to give thanks for the growth we see!)
  • Easter was encouraging, with a shared meal with communion on Maundy Thursday, a new and welcome addition.

Please pray with us:

  • We have had a term of teaching on who we are as church. And just finished a term of encouragement and enabling to share the gospel, and to ask and answer provocative questions (adapting material from Becky Manley Pippert and others). This was in Sunday sermons and discussions and midweek groups. We long to be confident in speaking, answering, and inviting. Knowing further growth cannot be just down to the vicar!
  • Covid has given us a breather from financial pressures, but we continue to run at a slight loss and seek to plan faithfully but realistically for the future.
  • We are about to have our APCM (Annual Parochial Church Meeting) as part of our Sunday service. We will be reflecting on Confidence (in the gospel) and Compassion (for others). As part of this we will be reflecting on how and why we do things, and seeking God’s guidance as to where he might be taking his church in White Waltham.

Thank you:

  • We continue to give thanks for the support we receive in running our kids work by volunteers from St Mary’s Maidenhead, and sending our own children to the midweek youthwork there. It is so good and God-glorifying when churches can work together in these ways!

With humble thanks

Dave Atallah