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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Jon Drake's Institution, Induction and Installation (Linsley Green)

The first of February marked a significant milestone in our church family - formally welcoming Jon Drake as our new Vicar and his wife Louise. Jon is well known to St Mary’s having served as Associate Vicar for a number of years, making it an even more notable service for those of us that have the privilege of knowing him.

The ceremony, officially known as institution, induction and installation, was a celebratory occasion and included traditional elements with presentation by our patron, oaths, handing Jon the key to the church and symbolic gifts of water, a map, a Bible, a copy of the book of common prayer, and bread and wine! These gifts were presented to Jon by members of the congregations with explanatory prayers. We also had hymns, led by a band, affirming the basis of our God-given mission, and wonderfully showcasing our church organ.

Bishop Rod Thomas gave an inspiring message to Jon, in his new role, and to us as congregations based on 2 Corinthians 4:1-6. We were encouraged not to lose heart at the task set before us and to draw strength from the transforming power of ministry through Jesus. At times, we should expect some discouragement and may feel inadequate, but we can take confidence in the life-giving treasure he has placed in our fragile “jars of clay”. He also highlighted the hope of unchanging truths in the Bible.  

Another important part of the evening was acknowledging and thanking the church staff team and church wardens for the amazing job they've done during the vacancy for keeping our church running so smoothly.

Go forth and tell! O church of God, arise!

An Issue for Ongoing Prayer (Jon Drake)

I am writing this special blog post to ask us all to please pray for General Synod (like the parliament of the Church of England) which meets next week from 6th – 9th February. At St Mary’s we are very privileged that two of our church family, Gracy Crane and Daniel Matovu, are elected members of General Synod. I expect the February session of General Synod will be the most challenging and significant session I can remember, so we need to support Gracy and Daniel in prayer through these days. General Synod will be asked to consider a proposal by the bishops which would for the first time introduce services of blessing for same-sex relationships in the Church of England, for those churches that wish to use them. There has been deep concern and sadness from a very wide range of evangelicals at this proposal as it will lead to action which is contrary to the teaching of the Bible and will likely cause further division and disunity in the Church of England.

The question of blessing for same-sex relationships and of same-sex marriage is politically charged. It is also for many of us and our families a very personal issue which must be addressed sensitively. At St Mary’s our authority in this area, as in all things, is God’s word the Bible. This gives us two strong commitments (expressed here in no particular order). Our first commitment is to welcome, love and serve all people whatever their sexuality or relationship situation. We want everyone, regardless of their background or lifestyle, to come to St Mary’s and get to know Jesus with us. In this we are following the example of Jesus who loved and welcomed all. Our second commitment is to faithfully uphold the teaching of the Bible that God’s will for sex is that it is expressed only within marriage which is the lifelong union of one man and one woman. God’s word is certainly counter-cultural and it challenges us all. We have all sinned in this area in thought, word or deed and we give thanks for the forgiveness won for all believers at the cross. We want to encourage each other to live by God’s word because God is good and loving and his word leads to our flourishing. In this too we are following the example of Jesus who taught that an essential part of following him is striving to turn from sin to obey God’s word however challenging that may be.

You may have big questions about the teaching of the Bible on sexuality and relationships, about how we express these things at St Mary’s or about the Church of England as a whole. Please see the further resources list below or arrange to come and speak with me. I’m always happy to talk these things over.

Suggestions for prayer

  • Pray for Christian brothers and sisters who are attracted to people of the same-sex and are celibate in obedience to God’s word. Pray that God will uphold them as they walk in his ways and bless them with deep relationships with the Lord Jesus and his people.
  • Pray for Gracy and Daniel as they serve on General Synod that God will fill them with his love and strength and give them wisdom, godliness and courage as they contend for Biblical truth.
  • Pray for members of General Synod and all in authority in the Church of England that they will return to the authority of God’s word and be governed by our Heavenly Father not by the ways of this world.
  • Pray that if General Synod does approve services of blessing for same-sex relationships there will be robust provision for those who cannot in good conscience accept this.
  • Pray for the Church of England Evangelical Council (CEEC) which brings together evangelical churches across the Church of England. Pray for continued unity and cooperation amongst Bible believing churches and Christians.
  • Pray for St Mary’s, and churches everywhere, that we will faithfully and lovingly uphold the teaching of God’s word in all things.

Further resources

Giving to St Mary's (The St Mary's Finance Committee)

Giving to St Mary’s

St Mary’s has five services each Sunday packed with Christ-centred teaching and associated children’s activities, a whole raft of mid-week outreach and pastoral events including those for internationals, babies, toddlers, children, teens, and seniors. All delivered in accessible facilities at the heart of our town.

All this needs to be funded. St Mary’s PCC has been planning its 2023 spending over the last few weeks and months. Each year, priorities are set and compromises made as we strive to deliver on what we believe to be our God-given mission. There is always more we could do and it is sometimes funding that stops us doing it.

How is St Mary’s Funded?

The Lord provides the finances for St Mary's mainly through the generous giving of our congregations. We plan our spending carefully in order to make the best use of the resources God gives us. In order to do this, it’s a great help for us to know how much income to expect from those who call St Mary's their church family and belong to our congregations, so we can budget more accurately.

How can I give to St Mary’s?

We understand that some are finding it tough financially at present and may not be able to give, but if you are able to, here’s a brief summary of the ways we are able to contribute to the work and witness of St Mary’s Maidenhead.

Regular Giving Scheme (RGS)

The Regular Giving Scheme (RGS) is the name given to St Mary's offering scheme and forms the foundation for the church’s income. You tell us how much you plan to give on a regular basis (you choose how often), which in turn, helps us plan.

The RGS will be covered in more detail in a blog article next month, meanwhile, you can learn about and join the RGS at:

The RGS also makes it simple for St Mary’s to reclaim Gift Aid from HM Revenue and Customs. Gift Aid will be explained in more detail in a future blog article.

One-off (or occasional) Gifts

Regular giving is not possible for everyone. Visitors, friends, relatives, colleagues or indeed congregational members not on a regular income may wish to give occasionally, ad hoc or just the once.

One-off giving can be done via the collection boxes in the Welcome Area or making a bank transfer into the PCC account.

We are investigating solutions for contactless giving and hope to have news on this ready for a later article.

Amazon Smile

AmazonSmile is a web site operated by Amazon with the same products, prices and shopping features as The difference is that when you shop on AmazonSmile, the AmazonSmile Foundation donates 0.5% of the purchase price of eligible products to the charitable organisation of your choice, at no cost to you.

St Mary's is a registered charity on AmazonSmile and you can find out how to link your existing Amazon account to AmazonSmile in the Giving to St Mary’s/AmazonSmile section of the St Mary’s website.


St Mary’s welcomes all gifts in wills, however large or small, and we commit to use your gift in accordance with your wishes.

Legacies will be explored in more detail in a later article.

St Mary’s Finance Committee

Verse of the Year (Ian Miller)

Our verse for 2023 is such a great verse! Jon Drake preached on Hebrews 10:19-25 on New Year’s Day and in his sermon spoke of the ‘hope we profess.’ He explained that the ‘hope’ was the certain future which God has promised his people. We can enjoy God’s presence spiritually now, but in the future, we will enjoy his presence physically and it will be wonderful – do have a listen to the sermon if you haven’t already!

There are many struggles and pressures in this life which tempt us to stop holding on to the certain hope we have of our eternal future. The Hebrews were tempted to turn away from God as a result of things like ongoing sin, suffering, insult, persecution, imprisonment and confiscation of property. Whilst we might not face some of those things, there are many things which we see and experience around us which tempt us to stop holding on to God’s wonderful promises.

The author to the Hebrews encourages us to hold on to God’s promises because ‘he who promised is faithful.’ Although we are surrounded by so much change and unreliability, he is trustworthy, and we can rely on what he promises us. Chapter 11 is full of accounts of God’s faithfulness. If God was faithful to his promises in the past we have every reason to trust that he will be faithful to his promises in the future.

May this truth about God’s faithfulness and his promises be a great encouragement to each of us this year. Why not put the verse for the year card up somewhere prominent at home or use it as a screen saver so that you are regularly reminded of God’s promises, his faithfulness and your eternal future?

Click on the image to download:

Real Lives 2023 (Ian Miller)

What is Real Lives?

Real Lives is a week of lunchtime and evening events in which ordinary Christians are interviewed by the gifted evangelist Glen Scrivener. Each person interviewed has a powerful story to tell about the work of Jesus Christ in their lives. You will see from our programme that we have a fabulous line-up of guests to be interviewed!

When is it?

Real Lives starts on Tuesday 7th March and will finish on Sunday 12th March with Glen preaching at the 9.15am, 11am, 4pm and 6.30pm services.

Who is it for?

Teenagers upwards. There are a wide range of guests being interviewed and we hope that everyone in this age-group will look at the programme and see events they would like to come to. On the Friday evening there will be no Shift and teenagers will be encouraged to come to hear Slavko Hadic – but we would love them to come to more!

What do I need to do?

Four things: pray, book, invite and come.

Pray: It would be wonderful if you could commit to praying for Real Lives every day between now and 12th March. If you can make it, do join us for our staff prayers on Friday morning in the lower lounge between 8.30 and 9.15am. Please pray about who you might invite to Real Lives, for opportunities and courage and for the event as a whole.

Book: Please book early and in faith. It helps us enormously if you can book early so that we have an idea of numbers and can cater efficiently. Why not club together with another Christian and book a whole table and then invite people to join you and fill it? Please book via the website or contact the church office.

Invite: Inviting guests to a church event is not something all of us find easy. Start thinking early about who you might invite, what might interest them and start praying. Think about whether you could pair up with another Christian friend to invite someone together.

Do use the share function on the Real Lives website to message friends: it could be as simple as saying, “I was thinking of going to this, would you like to join me?” You might also listen to Jon Drake’s helpful sermon from 30th Jan 2022 entitled “Talking to God and talking to people.”

Come: Finally, come! If all the people you invite say “no” or if you just struggled to be able to invite – come anyway. Come and enjoy listening to the interviewees and Glen speaking. And if you don’t have a guest, perhaps you might think of signing up to serve at one or more of the events. For more information:

6:30pm Women's Weekend Away (Wing Chan)

Late Friday afternoon in November, a group of us travelled to The Pines in Pulborough, West Sussex for the women’s weekend away.

I was looking forward to the weekend away, it was a great opportunity to meet others, but I was also a little bit nervous too because I was fairly new to the 6:30pm congregation (having recently moved from the 9:15am). Tracy kindly offered me a lift, we picked up Ruth and away we went on our trip to The Pines!

When we arrived we met the rest of our group, it was lovely to see and meet new faces and also see a few familiar ones too! We had a hearty supper and spent the rest of the evening relaxing and getting to know one another. It was good to be able to chat and not have to think about rushing off. All my initial worries melted away.

On Saturday, Rachel started our deep dive into Romans 12. Romans 12 is about how we should live in view of God’s mercy. We talked about what this means and what it would look like in our lives.

In the afternoon, we had some free time. Taking advantage of the mild weather, a small group of us enjoyed a walk in the West Sussex countryside, whilst others visited the house and saw the sculptures in Champs Hill.

The evening was filled with lots of fun and games (quite literally!). Our activities really showed off the many gifts and skills we shared within the group – acting, improvisation, organisation, memorisation to name a few. There were many laughs.

On the Sunday morning we finished Romans 12 with Hazel and Sarah. We shared experiences, practical examples of how we would apply this in our daily lives and discussed the challenges we faced.

The weekend away has been a really enjoyable time. Away from the hustle and bustle of our day to day lives, it has been hugely encouraging to be able to spend time together learning and sharing God’s word. We had some really thought provoking and rich conversations. If you haven’t been on a St Mary’s weekend away yet, I would really recommend it.

Anxiety Matters Seminars

January is supposedly the most depressing month of the year and doctors report seeing cases of anxiety and depression rising in January and February. There could be many reasons for this; the financial or health fallout of Christmas excess, the long dark nights and lack of sunlight, missing or losing loved ones at a time when we long for family or perhaps 2023 looks uncertain and daunting. In November we started the conversation, about how we might look at this struggle through a biblical lens, with a two-part seminar called Anxiety Matters. One of those who attended writes here about those two seminars.

Sharon Bedford ran the Anxiety Matters seminars in November, which were incredibly helpful. There were 43 attendees over the two seminars.

The first session addressed how our bodies react in outward, physical ways when we are anxious. Sharon highlighted how it is important to tend to our physical bodies first so that we are then better able to process and think about the deeper heart issues connected to our anxiety. To understand our hearts better and to locate our fears we need to look at what is happening on the outside. Our outer reactions are the warning alarms that signal a problem at heart level. When we know our hearts better, we can connect with God and scripture in a personal and more meaningful way.

Sharon asked us to keep a diary of any obvious triggers to our anxiety over the course of the two weeks between the two sessions. It was a useful activity to better understand the causes of anxious thoughts and how we physically and emotionally respond to those thoughts. It gave me a greater appreciation for complexity of understanding anxiety and the spectrum on which different people will struggle.

Session two looked at how change happens at a heart level and only God can do that. To grow in maturity, we need to dig deeper, beyond our outward experiences and examine how we are relating to God and to others. When we respond with fear and anxiety it reveals to us what things have taken on special significance in our lives and where we put our trust. Instead of trusting God we trust others, ourselves, our money, politicians, doctors etc. The things we trust then control us. To put our trust in God we must get to know him better.

In both sessions we studied Bible passages to help us put this into practise. In Psalm 77 we saw how the psalmist reminds himself of who God is and his good deeds and the psalmist’s perspective changes from despair to trust. Philippians 4 further teaches us about God’s character and reminds us that
  • He is near
  • He is listening
  • He is guarding us with his peace

Sharon then guided us to the practical steps for change from Philippians 4:

  • Pray – make your requests known to God
  • Turn your prayers to praise
  • Train your mind to truth
  • Put into practice what you have learned
  • Take one day at time (Matthew 6:34)

We also looked at some practical tips for coping with and getting through a panic attack, anxiety in children, and neurodiversity and anxiety.

Two attendees said this about the seminars:

“I really enjoyed the Anxiety Matters workshop. My personal anxiety has increased quite a bit over the last few years during the menopause and I’m on HRT which has really helped. The workshop reminded me that instead of ruminating on my worries, going round and round in my head, I should take them to the Lord in prayer - this is something I knew before but it’s easy to forget when you’re really anxious about something so I’m working on putting it into practise and breaking the worry habit. I also learnt to look into my heart at the reasons why I worry, and what sits behind my anxieties (for example my pride) and remembering to pray to the Lord to help me with that, not just my worries themselves. I also found the testimonies very moving, and it made me realise that I’m not alone in experiencing anxiety.”

“It was particularly helpful to see the example of how God cared for Elijah when he was overcome with anxiety - not by quoting Bible verses but replenishing him with warm bread! Also to help me with my own anxiety I shall hold onto the 'Manna principle', to trust that God will provide whatever I need when I need it. Bread then is the word….. not only to help me cope with my own anxiety but also to guide me in helping others in their time of need.

If you are struggling and would like to talk to someone or if you would like to listen to recordings of the two seminars, please contact Sharon:

Outdoor Carol Service (Jo Byfleet)

On Tuesday 20th December we were praying for it to be dry. A friend had used the St Mary’s Christmas card to invite some mutual friends to a St Mary’s Carol service and they had immediately homed in on the Garden Carol Service. I watched on as an unexpectedly easy invite was enthusiastically accepted! One later congratulated us saying that the garden is the closest anyone has got her to a church.

We enjoyed a Christmas tea together and arrived for the service with our friends to the comforting sound of the Christmas band and into the beautifully lit and rain free garden.

A quick scan of the QR code provided a ‘lit up’ view of the order of service. It was impossible not to wonder about the events all those years ago, with the cross of the church spire in view and one bright shining star in the sky overhead.

The choir led in their bobble hats and scarves and the Salvation Army band provided a familiar joyful noise. There were some brief comments from Jon Drake between each carol, considering the short reading. We were prompted to think about what kind of God would choose to be born in a manger, and not a palace, and what our response to Christ’s coming should be……Oh Come let us Adore Him.

Seamlessly as the service ended, servers arrived with beautifully lit trays of mulled punch. “Oh, wow, it’s warm,” said my friend on enjoying the mince pie. Little touches of care and love that seemed so fitting as we celebrated God’s extraordinary love for us.

Being there allowed one of our friends to say, “I would never have come if you had not invited me and I’m so glad I came,” and allowed her to talk about her spiritual journey so far. She said that the service knitted together modern terms ‘Nirvana Spa’ with the Christmas story which felt approachable and said she would consider actually going into the church some time.

Our friends felt the warmth of the celebration and I pray that conversations started in the car on the way home will continue in the weeks and months ahead.

New Year's Day (+1) Walk (Brian Jones)

A perfect day and a surprisingly empty car park at the top of Winter Hill set the scene for the send-off to our mini trek on 2nd January. 

It was down dale and up hill through Cookham Dean to try and find any surviving turkeys at the Copas Farm. Lollipops were promised to any children spotting one which prompted keen eyes and a vivid imagination. Four were spied and lollipops quickly claimed but to my eyes at a distance they looked more like static gate guards! Bones were even produced as yet more evidence! 

We did find some friendly alpacas (or llamas?) and enjoyed a great two hours ambling and chatting. Nobody took the short cut and I don’t think we lost anybody in Quarry Wood! 

Service of Institution and Mini-Sabbatical for Jon Drake

We are delighted to announce that a date has been set for the service where Jon Drake will become our new vicar.  Please do join us in welcoming him into his new role.

The service will take place at 8pm on Wednesday 1st February 2023 at St Mary’s.

Please click here to let us know if you would like to attend:

During the month of January (from 2nd to 31st) Jon will be having a mini-sabbatical. This is to provide space for prayer, preparation and planning as he takes on the role of Vicar, and also for spiritual and physical refreshment after the busy vacancy period.  During Jon’s mini-sabbatical, Ian Miller, Rachel Meynell, John Blackbeard and Dick West will work together to lead the ministry, supported by the Church Wardens and the whole staff team.

Please do pray for Jon, that he may have the time and space to plan and prepare for his new role, to relax with his family following a very busy year, and for spiritual refreshment as he studies God’s word and brings his thoughts to the Lord in prayer.  Please also pray for the staff team, that they may have wisdom and energy as they continue to lead and serve across this period for the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Wardens: Lindsay Reisser-Weston and Anthony Kan

Christingle Making 2022

Christingle making took place in the St Mary’s church hall yesterday morning with the usual mix of young and old, first timers and old-hands and oranges, sweets, mince pies and fun. 

As the photos show, making Christingles is a production line! Oranges are cored, red tape is stuck around them, candles are inserted before the cocktail sticks, laden with sweets, are pushed in. As always, the most popular task - amongst both children and adults alike - is putting sweets onto the cocktail sticks, or into your mouth!

Christingles go back a long way - and each part of them help us to remember the significance of the Christmas story:

  • Orange - the world that God made
  • The sticks - the four seasons (or possibly the four corners of the world!)
  • The sweets - God's good gifts to his world
  • The candle - Jesus, light of the world
  • The red ribbon - Jesus' blood, shed for our forgiveness

Within an hour, more than 400 Christingles were made, placed on the trays ready for today's Christingle services at 10:30am (suitable for preschool children) and 4pm (suitable for all ages). These services are a wonderful opportunity to share the joy of celebrating Jesus' birth with others.

Christmas Unwrapped 2022 (Kate Wheatley)

Thank you so much to all who helped with Christmas Unwrapped this year and to all who prayed for us each day – we are very grateful.

We had an absolutely fabulous and fun time explaining to the children that CHRISTmas is all about Christ! Sadly, that is something that comes as a surprise to many children today and their knowledge of the Bible story is sketchy at best. So, through quizzes, games, videos, Bible reading, a Christmas rap, and a Q&A with our Professor who knows everything there is to know about Christmas, we explained why Christians get so excited about Christmas.

A summary of the Christmas Unwrapped this year:

- 2 weeks

- 2 churches – White Waltham and St Mary’s

- 13 schools brought their year 6 pupils

- About 675 children

- About 750 mince pies decorated and consumed

- About 40 helpers

- Over 100 questions answered – how would you answer some of these if you were asked?

  • Why did Herod not like Jesus?
  • What was Jesus’ surname?
  • How do I know that the Bible is real?
  • Is Jesus’ father Joseph or God?
  • Did Joseph believe Mary about seeing the angel?
  • Why is Jesus associated with the cross?
  • Why is Christmas called Christmas?
  • Did Mary and Joseph know that Jesus would be the rescuer?
  • Who founded Christianity?
  • Why did God send Wise Men and shepherds?
  • Why didn’t God send Jesus sooner?
  • Did people make fun of Jesus for being born in a stable?
  • Why are people afraid of angels?
  • Did God ever come down from heaven to visit Jesus on earth?
  • Do you have to be a Christian to go to church?

Hospitality Sunday (Morning Services)

Strangers no more

There are so many people we see across the church every Sunday that are still strangers after many months or years. Hospitality Sundays are a great opportunity to meet and get to know a few of those people. 

Last Sunday we were pleased to be the guests of Nicola Winson, who served a delicious meal including fruit and veg from her large garden. In a relaxed home setting the conversation flowed freely and it was a privilege to get a glimpse into other people's lives. We heard the story of a couple from very different overseas backgrounds - how they came to faith, to meet one another and to end up in Maidenhead, and some of their joys and challenges. By the end of the afternoon we also knew a bit more about knee surgery, raising geese, insuring against earthquakes and where to holiday away from the crowds in India.

It was sad that more of the congregation did not take advantage of this chance to get to know their brothers and sisters in Christ either hosting or attending a Hospitality Lunch. I hope more will want to sign up next time.

Tim Bird

As relatively new to the 9.15 congregation, this was our first opportunity to host as 7 of us with origins from 3 different continents shared our joys and struggles over a Moroccan lunch with English apple pie, in the knowledge and assurance of the truth that we are bound by the common thread of God’s love - a glimpse of heaven indeed!

John and Sarah Thomas

We had such a lovely time on Hospitality Sunday hosting Dorothy, Paul, Katherine, and the Wingfields. Dave was our chef, cooking up roast chicken, followed by the most delicious desserts and cheese board kindly provided by our guests. 

Maxi-Bon-Bon the puppy was very keen to get involved, running around exhausting both himself and us. We can only hope he learns to relax a little as he matures! We had great chat and learnt all sorts of interesting tips including how to achieve the optimal fruit to crumble ratio! 

Such a lovely way of getting to know each other better and catching up with friends, both old and new.

Dave and Lindsay

It was lovely to have the opportunity to host Kate, Linsley and Hannah, Henry and Benji. 

We enjoyed a Sunday roast with a lovely dessert provided by Kate. Rosie-Mae, Austin and I enjoyed getting to know everyone better over lunch. Henry and Benji had great fun being able to play with various toys, hot wheels were a particular favourite!

Ben Driscoll

We were talking so much, we totally forgot to take any photos, so here is one of my dishwasher.... clean plates and satisfaction (I assume). It was wonderful to get together with brothers and sisters in Christ that we don't normally have relaxed time with, to laugh and have fun together too. I will definitely look forward to the next one!

Rae Binning

It was a delight to us to host Val, Phil and Jenny. We love having people round and conversation was easy and filled with laughter. What an absolute joy! We also shared testimony too, of how we each came to Christ. This was a real blessing. God is always good.

Karnie Sharp

We had a wonderful time together on Sunday for the Hospitality Sunday. It was great to have people in our home again for lunch. We have missed hosting lunches these last couple of years.

Alan and Wanda

I had such a lovely lunch at the Williams, Wanda and Alan are great hosts and wonderful cooks. I met new people who I've never noticed before and caught up with some who had been at St Mary's many years and I have seen 'around' but never spoken to!

This is a wonderful initiative and I really appreciated the chance to get to know everyone, we may come from different backgrounds and have different cultures but we are connected in Christ - what a blessing!

A good time was had by all and I am very grateful for the good food and better company. Thank you.

Jane Hibberd

Men's Breakfast (John Furley)

Saturday 12th November 2022 saw the first men's breakfast for three years and it was fantastic to be amongst so many men from all the congregations. The church hall was filled, with more tables having to be put out, and it was lovely to have time to talk to those we knew and those we were meeting for the first time.

Simon Guillebaud was the speaker, someone who I had not heard before, and who has many long-standing connections to St Mary's. Though he is now based back in the UK, Simon was for many years a St Mary's mission partner in Burundi, the world’s most deprived country when he first went, according to the United Nations. Today it remains one of the most deprived. Simon spoke of life not being easy – of the dangers he and his family faced – at times daily. He spoke of the violence, of the death of friends, of travelling on roads where many had been killed just the day before. But most of all he spoke about choosing life.

He started his story with his commission – the call to Burundi being one that he could not reject and could not ignore. From praying at his office desk in London and asking for a clear sign that Burundi was where God wanted him to go, to receiving a phone call asking if he knew of anyone who wanted to go to Burundi. That was him! And though he was like many of us at the breakfast, relating to the way of life in Maidenhead, he answered the call and went to Burundi.

Simon took us to Deuteronomy 30:15 - 19 a passage that sets out two options – one of death and destruction, the other of life and faith. And though life might not be straightforward, and it may not be easy, Simon encouraged us all to choose a life of faith and obedience to the Lord. Choosing life is to be grateful for what we have, and not be groaning, moaning and unforgiven. The passage ends with ‘Now choose life, so that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice and hold fast to him. For the Lord is life.’

And that was Simon’s message for us – to follow the Lord Jesus, to choose life now and for eternity.

Junior Youth Weekend Away (Luke Douglas)

From 7th - 9th October 2022 a group of year 6 to year 9 kids and leaders went on the Junior Youth Weekend Away where we had a weekend of fellowship, fun and food lined up. Adam was cooking the food and gave us hearty portions of sausage and mash, bolognese and cooked breakfasts. We also had plenty of fruit with one of the youths setting a record of eating ten satsumas over the weekend.

For fun we had pool, table tennis and some crafts. The young people seemed to have an endless amount of energy running around together on the football pitch or sitting and playing board games with each other. For evening entertainment on Saturday, the young people got into teams and challenged Nick to several games including eating apples as fast as possible, throwing apples as close to the ceiling as possible, and guessing Phebe’s height in pencils (8.5). All of them got involved and had lots of fun over the weekend - whether they were sporty or not, they found stuff to do together and fun to have.

Nick was teaching us about the Exodus over the weekend and all the young people had Bibles open and were learning together. Whether it was listening to Nick speak or working through the questions in the hall or in their before-bed Bible studies, they all were looking at and learning from God’s word. We learnt about how God had rescued the Israelites and what that told us about who he is and how he has rescued us too.

When we got back to church on Sunday the kids had had a fun-filled weekend of spending time together. They had all got to know each other better and were excited to see each other again at X-Focus or Pathfinders and look at the Bible together again.

My Advent Journey (Heather Evans)

I’m wondering if anyone else enjoyed last year’s Advent-recommended book ‘Finding hope under Bethlehem skies’ as enjoyable, inspiring and captivating as I did?

I am rather ashamed to admit that, for me, Advent reading is normally a rather dispiriting affair. I often start off full of enthusiasm, but by the time Christmas Eve rolls round, I am usually still somewhere in the foothills—maybe around the 18th December or so. I then face a problem; Christmas is upon me. Do I jump to the end of the book and ignore the missing readings, or do I rather ashamedly think ‘oh well, failed again…’ For the record, it tends to be the latter.

Last year I was determined to do it differently. Going on my previous form, I simply decided to break the rules: what was preventing me from starting to read the book before the beginning of December? So I set off on my journey through the book of Ruth (the subject of the readings) a few days before the end of November, thereby building in some leeway for missing the odd day here and there without ruining the whole process.

Being a former librarian, I know that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but… Finding hope under Bethlehem skies has a beautiful cover. I admired it every time I picked up the book. The readings were both accessible and thought-provoking. The author Robin Ham linked the two ‘Bethlehem’ accounts of Ruth and Boaz, and the birth of Jesus Christ in an interesting and engaging way, pointing out similarities which I had never spotted. Each day’s reading was complemented by listening to a selected Christian worship song, often linked closely to the readings and to Advent themes. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the recommended songs after I’d read the Bible passage and the application.

As the readings progressed, I became aware I was harbouring a certain exhaustion, related to the unrelenting Covid news. I was in need of hope, and the book was providing it. Most mornings I eagerly reached for my Bible and the Advent book, so I was able to keep to schedule. And for the first time ever, I reached Christmas Day on the reading for the 25th.

But more important than that, my lead-up to Christmas was focused on the wonderful story of Ruth and Boaz and its striking similarity to the birth of Jesus hundreds of years later. And at the end of 2021, in the midst of uncertainty, soaring Covid cases and changes of plans, did I find hope under Bethlehem skies? Well yes, I can say I definitely did.

And, one year on from the events of last winter, I have to say I am eagerly looking forward to opening the covers of this year’s recommendation ‘The Dawn of Redeeming Grace’ by Sinclair Fergusson. After the success of last year’s experiment, I think it may be around the 25th November. If my problem resonates with you, why don’t you try it and start early?!

Jon Drake reflects on his appointment as Vicar of St Mary’s (Jon Drake)

On Sunday 16th October, Rae Binning and Anthony Kan announced in our services that in early 2023 I will be appointed as Vicar of St Mary’s. Since then it has been wonderful to receive so many messages of support and encouragement. Thank you to all who have been in touch.

Louise and I, together with Matthew (aged 4 ¾) and Jamie (aged 1 ½), are delighted to be called to continue serving the Lord at St Mary’s. It is inspiring to part of a church family where people are so eager to live by God’s word and trust and obey him in all of life. It is a joy to belong to a fellowship where there is such love for the Lord Jesus and for his people. And it is wonderful to be in a body where each member is eager to serve and to work together to build God’s kingdom. St Mary’s is a very special church. We are thrilled to be here as a family, and I am thankful to be able to serve as your Vicar.

I would like to express my thanks to Will Stileman who has led St Mary’s so faithfully for more than eighteen years. I have learnt a huge amount from Will during my time as Associate Vicar. I’d also like to say a big thank you to the whole staff team and the Church Wardens who have been an enormous support and encouragement during the vacancy. Nothing in the Church of England moves fast and the vacancy will continue until early February when I will be officially installed as Vicar in a special service. We will announce the date and time of that Service of Installation as soon as possible.

To be Vicar of St Mary’s is a big responsibility. I have taken great encouragement from Jesus’ words to Peter in Matthew 16:18, ‘on this rock I will build my church’. These words put the Vicar in his proper place. The church belongs to the Lord Jesus. And Jesus is the one who builds his church on the rock which is the gospel. Please do pray for me, and for Louise, that we will walk closely with Christ and be guided and used by him in all that we do.

We have a wonderful mission here at St Mary’s which is to know Jesus and to make Jesus known. What could be better or more important than that? I am excited at the prospect of God working through his word, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to help us as a church know Jesus better, become more like him and make him known in our communities. May God in his grace enable us together to know Jesus and to make Jesus known.

Jon Drake

Update from Trinity@4 Henley (Sam Brewster)

Dear St Mary's friends,

We've had the occasion to visit St Mary's several times this Autumn. It's always a joyful remembrance of the happy five years we served as part of the team there, and we love the chance to see and reconnect with old friends.

We remain, as ever, hugely grateful for your prayers, and through this update, I hope to enlist you to continue in those prayers. We need them.

Family life

We give thanks to God for the arrival of Esther Brewster. She came into the world on 12th March, and eight months into life, has a definite Brewster-look to her. She's generally managed to avoid being run over by her three siblings, enjoys eating all the broccoli the others refuse, and charms her way into the affections of our friends and guests with a sparkle-eyed smile that no one has yet managed to resist. We'd appreciate your prayers for her as she is baptised this Sunday.

Please pray we would continue teaching all our kids about Jesus. We've been really helped by a parenting course running at church and would love to be more intentional in our Christian parenting.

Church life

Trinity at Four is four and a half years old. We're generally very encouraged by the work God is doing here. Sundays have been busy this term (around 70 adults and 40 to 50 kids), and we give thanks to God for over 25 newcomers through our doors over the term so far. Please join us in praying that a number of them would stick with us, and we would have the privilege of discipling them. We'd love your prayers for our plans and initiatives:

  • A new student lunch for Henley College Students. Henley College is a big 6th form college in Henley, with over 1000 6th formers, most of whom travel in from outside Henley. We've had a very encouraging connection with one of the staff there. Pray students would come along for lunch and the chance to hear more of the good news of Jesus.
  • Children's and youth ministry. We will soon be advertising for a full-time children’s and youth worker to start in September 2023. We have loads of opportunities in this age group. Please pray for God's provision of the right person for this role.
  • Longer term plans at Holy Trinity. The bishop is encouraging me to take on the overall leadership of Holy Trinity once the existing incumbent retires (in the next few years). This potentially opens up some very exciting avenues for us going forwards. But there are some complexities too. One of these is the inadequacy of the facilities at Holy Trinity (hence currently meeting at Christ Church). There are some appealing solutions to this, but they are expensive, and we are a smallish newish church. Please pray that God would provide in every way.

I love the lyric from the CityAlight song 'Yet not I': "I labour on in weakness and rejoicing". That's basically how it feels over here in Henley. Weakness and rejoicing.

We're so grateful for your prayers - and we always welcome a visit from our St Mary's friends. Come on over and say hi!!

Much love,

Sam, Lucy, Amelie, JoJo, Barney and Esther Brewster

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

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

It is wonderful to be asked to share with you some of the goings on here at St Mary’s Church White Waltham.

Please join us in giving thanks:

  • for people who have joined us. There has been a slow trickle so that on a ‘good’ Sunday we might now be about 50, of whom 15 are children.
  • for our community links. For instance, the photo here is taken on our Remembrance Sunday service, where we are joined by a number of visitors who see a link to us or to the village and so are present to hear the good news we have to share.

We have good links with our two local schools, we praise God for open doors for assemblies, church services and visits and lessons.
  • for our partnership with St Mary’s Maidenhead, which includes regular monthly help leading our children’s groups, a team at Woodlands Park assemblies, and being able to host six schools for Christmas Unwrapped and Easter Cracked presentations.
  • for our church family, which is noted for a warm welcome and friendliness. I often describe us as vulnerably small but surprisingly happy, for which I give great thanks to our Father God as he draws us together in fellowship even as he draws us to himself.

Please join us in praying:

  • for us to grow in number as well as in depth of love and faith.
  • for us to grow our finances. We are budgeting for a loss each year at the moment as we seek to increase our parish share. That is only possible as a result of a couple of generous gifts we have received, and obviously the books will need to balance in the next few years. Meanwhile our ministry is vulnerable to the pressures facing everyone at the moment, not least our denomination.
  • for Christmas opportunities, including schools and a nursery coming to church, Christingle, a Christmas card going to the whole parish, outdoor carols and other Christmas services, carol singing in the parish, and a confidence to share the good news with our neighbours.
  • for the growing opportunities in schools as some schools other than our two parish schools are connecting more with us.
  • for confidence to live and speak for Christ in this increasingly hostile world, and the confidence to invite people to services or courses and be part of how God will grow his kingdom.

Thanks for your time and your prayers

Love Dave Atallah