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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Mission Partner Update: Wayne Dixon
It was just great being at St Mary’s Evening and I want to say a huge thank you for your interest, prayers, encouragement and support of me over these past 34 years. I am just loving it in the schools, and I shared a bit of that and especially a story from Furze Platt Senior School the very day I came to St Mary’s evening. The aim of Christian Connections in Schools (CCiS) is Making Jesus known to children, young people AND staff in schools of Slough, Windsor & Maidenhead.Some subjects for your prayers for now:
1. Wisdom and sensitivity in the on-going situations in chatting with staff and pupils in our various schools.
2. ‘It’s Your Move!’ - most of the Maidenhead primary schools (those age 11 in school Year 6) will be receiving this free book in the coming days. This link gives you a little flavour as to what will be shared between now and Friday 27th May and what goes on in school.
3. We have a celebration of the ten-year anniversary of CCiS on Friday 14th October with Rachel Gardner (previous schools worker in the London borough of Harrow) coming to speak. An evening to pause, pray, worship and give thanks to God. This link is here to book either in-person or to access the livestream.
4. I look forward to coming along to the St Mary’s united service and lunch on Sunday 3rd July.
5. Praise God for what is happening each Friday at Newlands girls school with the Christian group ‘Revive’. I’ve had a great time in school last week and back there for assemblies this week coming. Love it!
6. On-going prayer and wisdom for the appointment of a Primary Schools Worker.
7. Connections made with many primary schools, including St Piran’s, Oldfield and others where I am involved and chat about their visits to St Mary’s for Christmas and Easter presentations. Similar happens with other schools and local churches involved in our schools. Praise God!
Thank you again St Mary’s church family. May God continue to lead, guide and use you with the opportunities and challenges ahead that we face.
More news can be found on CCiS website and if you would like to receive ‘Pause to Pray’ and/or our newsletter (the summer one is available now), please give me a call (01753 201992) or email email@example.com.
Introducing New Warden... Lindsay Reisser-Weston
Hello everyone. I would like to thank you very much for your support in appointing me as churchwarden alongside Anthony Kan at our recent St Mary’s Thanksgiving Evening and Annual Church Meeting.
For those who don’t know me, I am a member of the 8am congregation, which I have been attending for the last five years. More recently I have also joined the 9.15am service, where it has been a huge privilege to join the worship and get to know more members of our bigger church family.I am married to Dave, who also comes to the 8am service, and we have four adult children: Chloe, Mia, Taylor and Fabian. I grew up in Holywood, Northern Ireland, a town about six miles outside Belfast. God blessed me greatly by putting me in a school with a strong Scripture Union, where a number of faithful teachers and students introduced me to the Lord when I was about ten or eleven at a Christian holiday club. I attended Holywood Parish Church of St Philip of St James (Church of Ireland) where I was baptised and confirmed.
I moved to England for university just over 30 years ago and have lived in several different spots around the country for work including Bristol, Newcastle Upon Tyne, Wimbledon and Nottingham before settling in Berkshire in 2006. Across this time, I have been truly blessed with a career I’ve loved, working in various companies such as Procter & Gamble (where I met Heidi Cooper from the 4pm congregation), Castrol (BP) where I used to work with Ralph Hewins (9.15am) and most recently SlimFast.
At St Mary’s I am currently a leader on the Christian Foundations course with Ian Miller, Chris Roberts (4pm) and my husband Dave, and I’ve just started my final term at South Central Gospel Partnership Ministry Training Course (MTC), which has been hugely helpful in my Christian growth and walk with the Lord. Additionally, I am serving on the PCC and the Standing Committee, where I have the great privilege of witnessing the tremendous work that goes on behind the scenes by so many dedicated members of our St Mary’s staff team and church family.
It is my great desire that I may follow this Christ-like example in my service as churchwarden alongside my good friend, Anthony Kan. If you see me or Anthony, please do introduce yourself and do not hesitate to approach either of us on any topics or issues you may want to raise or discuss.
I would humbly ask for your prayers in two areas if I may please; for wisdom as we support our St Mary’s staff team and church family across the vacancy period and the search for our new vicar, and for great humility in our service for the glorification of our Lord Jesus Christ, trusting in his sovereign power and will. As I set out to serve as churchwarden, I hold the opening verse of Psalm 127 in my heart; ‘Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labour in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain.’ I pray for his direction and guidance in all that we seek to do at St Mary’s.
Update from St Mary's White Waltham (Dave Atallah)
Dear brothers and sisters of St Mary’s Church Maidenhead,
Thank you for your partnership in the gospel and continued prayer for us. It was fun to welcome Will Stileman to our service in White Waltham on his first Sunday not being actively vicar in Maidenhead. We pray for wisdom and guidance as God brings the right person to lead in a key role, not just for the local church in central Maidenhead, but for gospel partnership in the wider area. I will miss him and the helpful discussions we had.
Please give thanks with us for:
- The opportunity to welcome Year 6 children from six schools to the Easter Cracked presentation run in White Waltham church with huge help from the St Mary’s Maidenhead team. (One of those schools was missing for Christmas Unwrapped due to Covid.)
- The opportunity to welcome our two local schools to Easter services and present our wonderful Easter hope. And continued opportunities at the two local schools, through governors, assemblies and other links.
- Our holiday at home day for the more mature members of our congregation. This was a fun time of quizzes and games, fellowship and food, and chatting together about the frustrations of life and the freedom we know in Christ from Philippians 1 and 3.
- That we have had a Spring of often over 50 people in the building on Sunday mornings. Again, numbers are not everything, and there are a few who were with us before Christmas and we haven’t seen much of this year, but having the church a little fuller, and with the full range of ages, is very encouraging. (I always want more, but I am reminded by my team to give thanks for the growth we see!)
- Easter was encouraging, with a shared meal with communion on Maundy Thursday, a new and welcome addition.
Please pray with us:
- We have had a term of teaching on who we are as church. And just finished a term of encouragement and enabling to share the gospel, and to ask and answer provocative questions (adapting material from Becky Manley Pippert and others). This was in Sunday sermons and discussions and midweek groups. We long to be confident in speaking, answering, and inviting. Knowing further growth cannot be just down to the vicar!
- Covid has given us a breather from financial pressures, but we continue to run at a slight loss and seek to plan faithfully but realistically for the future.
- We are about to have our APCM (Annual Parochial Church Meeting) as part of our Sunday service. We will be reflecting on Confidence (in the gospel) and Compassion (for others). As part of this we will be reflecting on how and why we do things, and seeking God’s guidance as to where he might be taking his church in White Waltham.
- We continue to give thanks for the support we receive in running our kids work by volunteers from St Mary’s Maidenhead, and sending our own children to the midweek youthwork there. It is so good and God-glorifying when churches can work together in these ways!
With humble thanks
Growth Group Reorganisation (Jon Drake)
Our Growth Groups are such an encouragement to many at St Mary's. We have a number of groups that meet in the evenings, and also some daytime groups. In September the evening Growth Groups will be reorganising. This will be a good time for new people to get involved, so I'm writing to explain why Growth Groups are great to be part of, and why they are reorganising.
Why Growth Groups?
I can honestly say that one of the greatest helps in my Christian life over the years has been belonging to Growth Groups. I hope many others feel the same.
Our evening Growth Groups are organised within congregations and meet in someone's home. They tend to have between eight and fourteen members and they meet for ninety minutes to two hours each week, except for the weeks when we gather together at church for our monthly St Mary’s Evening.
Growth Groups are a brilliant setting to do many of the things the Bible calls us to do for each other as Christians. In our groups we can 'love one another' (John 13:34), 'carry each other's burdens' (Gal. 6:2) and pray for each other. We can also 'teach' and 'encourage' each other from God’s word (Col. 3:16, 1 Thess. 5:11) and grow together in our knowledge and love of the Lord.
If you are not part of a Growth Group at present do speak to your Congregation Leader or someone who is in a group, and look out for information coming soon about joining a group from September onwards. No experience is needed and it's fine to try a group and see how you find it.
Why Growth Group Reorganisation?
Every four years we reorganise the evening Growth Groups and that is happening this September (the daytime groups are organised separately). As we reorganise the groups we hope that new people will get involved. And we hope that those who are in a group at the moment will find themselves in a new group with some old friends they have been with before and some new friends to get to know.
Later in May we will produce
a leaflet explaining how to join a Growth Group from September. Whether you are
currently in a group or not, please fill in this leaflet and return it to us.
You will be able to specify which evenings of the week you can and cannot
manage and any other requests, for example, one or two people you’d especially
like to be with. The Congregation Leaders will then use this information to put
the new Growth Groups together. We will let everyone know which group they are
in well before the new groups start in September.
We have thought hard about whether to go ahead with the reorganisation of groups so soon after the disruption of the pandemic. As the groups reorganise, it will naturally be sad to no longer be in the same Growth Group as some who have become dear to us. There are, however, significant advantages to reorganising the groups at this stage. The main one is that it gives us the joy of getting to know and love new people in the body of Christ. It is also an ideal time for people to join groups. On previous occasions when the Growth Groups have reorganised it has been wonderful to see an increase in the number of people in groups. The reorganising also serves to strengthen the bonds of fellowship in our congregations as we all share our lives with a new group of people.
Please do speak to or email your Congregation Leader if you have any questions or concerns about the Growth Group reorganisation. We will be delighted to put our heads together on how this can work well for each group and individual.
I write this with great thankfulness to God for all he is doing in our Growth Groups, and excitement about what the future holds as we seek to grow the number of people involved in our groups and the bonds of fellowship within our congregations for the glory of his name.
Jon Drake – May 2022
'Hola' from Luke and Mary Foster
Living back home in the UK
Having recently moved back to UK for family health reasons, Luke and family are now based near to Oxford and have been wonderfully provided with a temporary home, car, school places for the children and a loving church family. For the time being, Luke will continue to serve at CEP remotely with occasional trips back to Chile such as a planned week-long intensive teaching block in June.
Looking ahead beyond this summer
Looking beyond this coming summer, there are now many decisions for Luke and Mary to make, including where to live and serve longer term. As part of this, Luke is currently considering alternative ministry roles and they would very much appreciate prayer for wisdom and peace as they make decisions that will shape the life and ministry of their family for the years to come.
Continued thankfulness for the love of Jesus and partnership of his church
As a family, they remain thankful for the love and care of the Lord Jesus and his people which includes the partnership with St Mary’s and all those praying for them.
Some prayer points
- Give thanks for the provision of a temporary home in Oxford and that the children are happy in their new school.
- Please pray for ongoing ministry at CEP with Luke teaching remotely and pray for Luke’s preparations to return to Chile in June to deliver some teaching in-person.
- Please pray for wisdom and clarity for the family as they explore longer term plans beyond this summer.
For further information on Luke and Mary please contact Paul Cook from the 4pm congregation.
Senior Youth Weekend Away (Harry Thrift)
A few weeks ago, Melinda and her brave bunch of leaders, a special guest speaker and 26 members of the youth at St Mary’s went on the Senior Youth Weekend Away where we had a great time playing big group games, hanging out getting to know each other better, eating lots of good food and studying and listening to the bible being taught to us by our special guest speaker Tim Adams.
There was plenty to do on this weekend away. The facilities where we were staying had a pool table, table football, actual football and a sofa room which turned out to be very helpful for when the rugby fans decided to watch England play. The site also had its very own peacock which was very exciting, and different routes to go on walks and for some of the crazy ones, early morning runs.
On the Saturday morning we had a battle, where cardboard castles were beautifully designed and painted by the youth who then had to battle it out in the Battlezone to see how many water balloons they were to be awarded, which they could then catapult at the opposite team’s castles. The castles did not stay beautiful for long.
There was also a big game of hunt the leader in the town centre where the leaders hid around the town in places like coffee shops (which seemed the most popular hiding place for a lot of the leaders). The youth had to find a leader, get a letter from them, and then try to figure out a word. For reasons unknown, nobody was able to complete or win this game, but it seemed everyone had a great time.On Saturday evening we had a massive bonfire and hot chocolate and cake, and then headed inside for a big round robin tournament with lots of different challenges at each station and the occasional interval of a food based challenged. Some stations were easier than others and some were almost impossible, but points were awarded none the less, and then to finish the big tournament off there was a speed quiz.
All the games and activities were great but the best bit about the weekend away was being taught from the bible by Tim Adams where we looked at the person of Peter, but most importantly at Jesus Christ and what he had to teach us. We had three talks over the weekend where each one had a main headline and big thing that we learnt. In talk one we saw that there is only one great hero, Jesus Christ who will never let us down. In talk two we learnt that Jesus gives a new start to those who love him and in talk three we learnt that God transforms those who love him. After each talk we then went into discussion groups to answer some questions and think about what we learnt and to ask any questions we had. The talks were really encouraging and engaging, and I think I can say that we all went away having learnt more about Jesus.A big thanks to Melinda for organizing it all, for Tim doing the talks, for Mark and Adam in the kitchen keeping us fueled with delicious food, for the leaders who were willing to come and help, to the youth who are a great bunch of people who are great fun and also very encouraging. But the biggest thanks should go to God, who kept us all safe and gave us a great time of fun and also a great time in his word.
Thanksgiving Evening and Annual Church Meeting (Lindsay Reisser-Weston)
We give great thanks to the Lord for our St Mary’s Thanksgiving Evening and Annual Church Meeting held on Thursday 21st April, and attended by 110 church family members in the church and on Zoom. We enjoyed a wonderful time together looking back on what we have to be thankful for in 2021 and looking ahead to what we are planning in God’s grace for the coming months as we work through the vacancy period and the process of appointing our new Vicar.
We opened the evening with the uplifting song, ‘May the peoples praise you’ followed by a Bible thought from Jon Drake, highlighting the apostle Paul’s witness to the Philippians, “what is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things” (Philippians 3:8), and reminding us of what an extraordinary privilege it is to pursue our own church mission ‘to know Jesus and to make Jesus known’.
It was wonderful to hear from Kate Wheatley and Nick McDonald about the extent of our Children’s work which really is the life blood of our church for future generations. Some 130 children participate each week supported by 90 willing helpers from our church family. We are so grateful this work extends well beyond our own congregations, with many friends and kids from the neighbourhood joining in with the various activities from 7UP to Holiday Club, and we pray that the Lord brings these young people to faith. Kate took the opportunity to announce that she will retire next June, handing over to Nick our Children’s Minister-in-training. We give great thanks for her passionate leadership of our Children’s work over so many years, lovingly feeding a great many young hearts with the good news of the gospel.
Rachel Meynell also reported on progress of our Gospel and Race work highlighting a number of initiatives already undertaken, including ‘Taste of All Nations’, whilst acknowledging there is still much work to be done to more fully reflect God’s plan and the community around us. We committed the Children’s work and Gospel and Race work to the Lord in prayer, with breakout groups in church and on Zoom.
A key part of the evening was election of Churchwardens (Anthony Kan and Lindsay Reisser-Weston), Deanery Synod member (Phebe Tay) and Parish Council (PCC) members (Sandra Brunt, John Driscoll and Catriona Khetyar). We are especially thankful to Rae Binning who stepped down as Churchwarden after eight years of loyal and dedicated service.
John Blackbeard presented a high-level view of our financial position and accounts for 2021 (outlined in detail in our Annual Report, log in to read them here). We ended the year with a deficit of £33,737 vs a budgeted deficit of £113,559 for general funds, but after the allocation of discretionary funds, this resulted in a surplus of £53,065. We are hugely blessed by the continued generous giving of our church family, recognising that many other churches have struggled financially during this difficult time. John also shared our budget for 2022, we re-appointed the Auditors and committed our finances to the Lord in prayer.
Looking forward, Anthony Kan shared an outline of our new Vicar appointment process which started on 19th April with the formal ‘Section 11’ meeting where our PCC approved the ‘Parish Profile’ and confirmed the appointment of our two Parish Reps; Anthony Kan and Rae Binning who will lead the Vicar selection process on behalf of the parish. We will use the blog to provide regular updates on the process.
This was followed by Jon Drake, who shared plans for the vacancy period which you can read about in his recent blog post. Finally, we opened the floor to questions across a range of topics, including the Vicar appointment process and our financial accounts, which are recorded in the minutes of the meeting found (which will be published on the church website in May), and we drew the evening to a close with a rousing rendition of ‘In Christ Alone’, followed by a closing prayer and the Grace, led by Rachel Meynell.
6:30pm Men's Weekend Away
On Saturday afternoon we ventured out for a walk in the South Downs. We wandered slightly off the planned route, but with such good weather everyone just enjoyed the extra time spent outside. In the evening, some watched the rugby whilst others of us enjoyed some hilarious games. Before we knew it, it was time to pack up and head back to Maidenhead again.It was a good opportunity to spend a longer amount of time with a small group from the congregation, and it helped us all to get to know each other better and to be challenged about living as Christians.
Plans for the Vacancy (Jon Drake)
It is my privilege to lead the staff team during the vacancy period, ably supported by Rachel Meynell, John Blackbeard and Dick West. I want to express my thanks to the staff team – every member is godly, skilled and hard working.
My prayer for us as a church during the vacancy period is that we will continue to build and grow in line with the mission statement we have - to know Jesus and make Jesus known. That’s what we are all about. Under that we have three essentials and three priorities.
Our first essential is dependent prayer. We express our dependence on God by praying individually and together. One of my longings for the vacancy period is that the number of people committed to the St Mary’s Evening grows. We meet in here on the second Thursday of every month. There’s uplifting music. We pray in small groups. It’s also possible to join via Zoom. I am convinced that one of the best ways we can support the ministry here during the vacancy is to come together to pray. We long to see growth in that.
Our second essential is biblical teaching. We remain committed to faithfully teaching God’s word in our Sunday preaching. But Bible teaching is done not just by a few of us but by many. In September the Growth Groups will be reshuffling after four years together. This will be a chance for new people to join Growth Groups and for new people to lead Growth Groups. There will also be the need for new people to lead in the Children’s and Youth Work. We pray that the number involved in teaching the Bible will continue to grow.
Our third essential is loving one another. There are so many ways we do this. A new initiative this year will be our United Church Sunday on 3rd July. We plan to get the whole church family together for a picnic on site here at St Mary’s and attending a service either before or after that picnic. I hope this will be a way to celebrate and build our unity and our love for each other as one church family.
Then we have three priorities. The first is engaging Maidenhead with the gospel. Everything we do as a church is part of this. We hope particularly in the year ahead to do more street outreach and door-to-door work in the parish. We started this before Easter; it was hugely encouraging. It allows us to rebuild relationships with the community which have been set back during the pandemic. It also grows us in our confidence in sharing God’s grace. Secondly, we are seeking to develop teaching English as a way of reaching internationals in Maidenhead with the love and gospel of Jesus. Our third focus in engaging Maidenhead with the gospel will be a Real Lives Mission Week in March 2023, with Glen Scrivener already booked as our speaker.
Our next priority is growing mature disciples of Jesus of all ages and backgrounds. Again this is at the heart of all we do. Our Children’s and Youth work and our Gospel and Race Work remain priorities for us. Additionally in the autumn we plan to have a Baptism and Confirmation Service for young people and others who have made a commitment to Christ to declare that publicly. We are also relaunching the Men’s Work with a men’s barbecue in the summer and a men’s breakfast in the autumn, the excellent Women’s Ministry will continue.
Our third priority is partnering with other churches to make Jesus better known. We will continue working closely with the Windsor Fellowship, with Trinity at Four in Henley and St Mary’s White Waltham. We will also seek to grow our new partnership with St Paul’s in Slough. Bishop Tim Wambunya the Vicar there is booked to take our autumn Baptism and Confirmation Service. We must see if there are ways we can support him.
So brothers and sisters, we have an excellent mission statement. It gives us an exciting vision of what it means for us to be a church that is faithful to Jesus our Saviour. Our longing and prayer for the vacancy period is not to stand still, but to keep moving forward and to keep growing in these three essentials as we grow the St Mary’s Evening, as we draw more into Bible teaching and as we have a United Church Sunday. And to keep moving forward and growing in our three priorities as we grow our street outreach, hold a Real Lives Mission, have a Baptism and Confirmation Service, and grow our links with St Paul’s Slough.
Let us move forward together, in dependence on God’s Spirit, to know Jesus and make Jesus known.
Garden Work Party (Phil Richards)
We are very fortunate that St Mary’s is situated in the middle of town and has a large garden for all to enjoy. In a garden that size there is plenty of ongoing maintenance required (weeding, mowing the lawn, removing tree seedlings, pruning, repairing/tidying paths) which is why we meet up every month.
Saturday 9th April was the first St Mary’s garden work party of the year and we were fortunate with the weather and 12 volunteers. As it was the first garden party of the year there was the added incentive of bacon butties for everyone provided by Helen Young and her team. Many thanks to all the willing volunteers; Jon, Dick, Ian, Jan and Elna from the staff team, Victoria and Jon Harris, Helen Burbage, Maher Khetyar, Mark Loader and Brian Jones from the various services, with Jane Roxborough leading the overall effort.
We have a garden work party schedule for the rest of the year; there are no special skills required, garden tools are provided although you can bring your own. We usually start at 9.30am on a Saturday morning and finish by 12.30pm, but if you can only spare an hour that's fine. If you are working towards the Duke of Edinburgh's award scheme then this would count towards the ‘community service’ element.
Hopefully see you at one of the St Mary’s garden work parties soon.
Future dates in 2022
- 7th May
- 2nd July
- 3rd September
- 1st October
- 5th November
Easter Cracked (Patch Crossley)
As usual, it was an exciting event! We had quizzes, music, an Easter rap, and even a visit from the Easter expert, the nutty professor. At the heart of the event was an opportunity to explain to the young people why Jesus died for us, and what his death and resurrection achieved. We looked at evidence for Jesus rising again, and convincing historical clues. We also looked at communion and baptism and how these signs point to what Jesus did on the cross, and what it means to be a Christian. The most exciting aspect of the event was giving the young people an opportunity to ask whatever questions they had about Easter. You could always tell they’d been thinking carefully, and they asked questions like, “Why would Jesus do all of that for us?” and “Why did God let this happen?”
Hospitality Sunday (Various Authors)
Sunday 3rd April was Hospitality Sunday at St Mary’s. This is where congregation members spend time together outside of Sunday services in each other’s homes, over lunch.
Read on for some reflections of some of those who met up.
We had a spectacular dining room! The children could sit where they wanted, and the adults had a tranquil corner sheltered from the early spring breeze.
Lots of running around. Lots of conversation. Lots of tasty food led to all round happiness, including the dog!
When I first received an email from Chris to invite us to his house for the Sunday dinner, I was a little bit nervous as I could not remember who Chris and his family were! But I still accepted the invitation as it is lovely to get to know the church family at St Mary’s.
At last, when we arrived my anxiety disappeared and the Smart family showed us great hospitality. Sarah and Chris prepared a hearty meal for us. My sons, Jadon and Javier had so much fun playing football with Noah and Zachary in the garden. All of us had a great time chatting and eating. Thank God for His wonderful arrangement!
Sharon YeungWe have always loved having folk over for lunch, but the past two years of not doing so had made us nervous to invite anyone. When the Hospitality Sunday sign-up sheet went up, we thought this was the perfect opportunity. Us three Stephensons (not including little dog Toby) were paired with the three Taylors.
Although the children, Molly and Patricio, know each other from Explorers, we did not know Des and Marcela. Patricio said grace to start our meal and we enjoyed the next two and a half hours getting to know each other. So much so, we forgot to take a photo until we’d cleared the table! We (including Toby) are definitely looking forward to getting to know one another more.
Ben, Gemma and Molly Stephenson
After church many of us in the congregation met in small groups to have lunch. We were pleased to act as hosts and were joined by Yemi, Shubbie and their two boys, plus Sue and Bernard.
Everyone quickly relaxed, especially Shubbie who sat in the middle of the table and spent a lot of her time passing food dishes up and down!Samuel and Daniel were very well behaved, and having eaten as much as they wanted, found the toys in the sitting room much more attractive than adult conversation, leaving the adults to have seconds of pud and chat over coffee.
We were happy to host but nervous too! We didn’t know who we would get matched with. Everything felt like a problem - oh! And we forgot to mention we have a dog. Will they like a curry? What if the spice levels are all wrong? What if we don’t have much to talk about? However, looking back now, we will do it again without worrying!It was amazing to host Jenny, Michelle, Mutiu, Maxwell and Millie. The time flew and before we knew it was 4pm. A truly humbling experience as we realised that we are just one big family in church and in Christ! We had so much to talk about. We made new friends - this was the cherry on the top!
We all agreed that it was a lovely, relaxed way to be able to get to know each other better.
Helping Ukrainians in Maidenhead (Jo Jobson)
The situation in Ukraine remains terrible for many people in the country, and for those who have fled. St Mary’s is committed to praying and there are opportunities for financial and practical support for both those still in the country and for those who have come to the UK. We also want to support and assist those who are hosting Ukrainians in and around Maidenhead. Some family members of people in our congregations have already arrived in the UK, and several of the church family are in the process of arranging to host Ukrainians.
The St Mary’s response is being co-ordinated by Rachel Meynell and Jo Jobson. The situation, and our response to it, is likely to change over time, but so far we have had new Ukrainian guests at the following groups:
- iCAF, an English conversation group run at St Mary’s on Thursday evenings, open to any non-native speakers. People can practice their English in a relaxed and fun environment and there is an optional ‘life questions’ half hour when they look at a Bible passage and discuss its relevance to their lives. This group is planned to run for a further six weeks after Easter but will then need new leaders to take over the role and more helpers.
- English language class on Wednesday mornings, open to non-native women, run by Laura Swain. There may be an opportunity to expand this if we have more volunteers, both with and without teaching qualifications.
- Toddlers and Shift.
New initiative: On 22nd March we held a Zoom meeting to update the church family and to outline how we might proceed (to see this meeting, you must log in and go to the Ukraine section of the church website). It was very well attended, and following on from this, if we have sufficient volunteers, we would love to launch a ‘Welcome Café’ on Thursdays from 1.30-3pm, starting on 28th April. We envisage this as a place where Ukrainians can come and meet with others to relax, make new friends, and become independent. We will hope to have some ‘clinics’ running alongside it, to help with for example, form-filling (for state benefits, GPs, schools, CVs etc), an introduction to English culture, guidance on using public transport and other services. We also hope to have some craft and board/card games. As some will bring young children, there will be children’s toys too. To start and run this group we need a team of at least six people. Training will be provided.
For additional information, please go to the Ukraine section of the church website, where there are also other ideas for helping. To offer help in any way, or if you are planning to host, please contact Jo Jobson at firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible, so that we can plan.
Each year at St Mary’s we have two opportunities to give to needs elsewhere; at Christmas and at Harvest. This year we have decided to have an Easter giving opportunity too due to the vast needs in Ukraine. The two charities we are planning to give money to are Bible Society, and CCX Ukraine, part of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students.
Bible Society teams in Ukraine and across Europe are providing Bibles and other Scripture-based resources to people who desperately need them, alongside humanitarian aid and pastoral care. Anatoliy Raychynets of the Ukraine Bible Society said, ‘We have met so many people in the last two weeks who have never had a Bible before, but now they are asking us to pray with them. It is a revival……..We are sharing living bread and physical bread.’ But he added, ‘The Angels of Kyiv (the name given to Bible Society staff by locals) need the protection of heavenly angels.’ The team across the country are working under very difficult conditions. Anatoliy’s car was hit by a bullet while he was out distributing Bibles and aid recently.
The staff have stayed in their towns and are seeking to bring practical and spiritual help to those around them. One of them writes: ‘The last week was mostly related to work in the shelter at our church, help with the humanitarian aid, transport of dislocated people to the Polish border, raising help to our 24th Lviv Motorized Brigade - they are on the front lines now. In general, this shelter is such a good ministry for us.’
Another volunteer comments about hosting those fleeing towards the East:
‘She told me how they feel and how the war effects them in a horrible way - frequent panic attacks whenever they hear a blast or just a flying object over their house, their kid often cries in fear and wakes up in the middle of the night. Pharmacies experience a lack of antidepressants or any other medicine that could potentially calm them down a bit.’ She goes on to say how much it has helped to remember their Good Shepherd.
Please keep these and other Christian ministries to Ukraine in your prayers, and if you would like to give through our special Easter collection, the details of how you can do so are in the St Mary’s weekly email.
Praying for Ukraine
Here are some ideas of how we at St Mary’s can pray for Ukraine.
These requests have come from contacts there:
- Please pray for the war to end.
- Pray for protection for the people, towns and villages of Ukraine.
- Pray for those who have been displaced.
- Pray for Christians on the front line both inside and outside Ukraine, and especially for believers in the occupied regions, many of whom are on hit lists.
- Pray for the people turning to Christ in this extreme situation and those who lead them.
- Pray for human justice and give thanks that we can be assured of divine justice.
- Pray for and give thanks for the common grace and witness of Christians across boundaries and barriers.
- Pray for those standing firm under oppression.
- Pray for patience, godliness and love for others to be shown by Christians who are exhausted and stressed.
- Pray for the international students, many from Africa and Asia, who have been trapped by the fighting and are experiencing racism and problems at the borders. Pray for the teams helping them.
- Pray for pastors in Russia who are standing firm at great personal risk.
Some other ideas:
- For refugees to find shelter and safety and host nations to welcome them.
- For those who have suffered trauma to find helpful listening ears, and to turn to Jesus in their pain.
- For many families who are separated and fear for their loved ones.
- For wisdom for political leaders, that they may desire peace and work towards it.
Farewell to Will and Becca Stileman
Saturday evening, 26th March 2022, was the St Mary's farewell to Will and Becca and all the Stileman family.
Watch a recording of Will's farewell with short speeches from Will, Kate Wheatley, Karen Martin and two rousing hymns, on the YouTube video below.
Mission Partner Update: SAT-7
Only 3.5% of the MENA region are Christian. Christians face severe restrictions on their religious freedom, social hostility, and even outright persecution from their own communities and governments, they are often isolated without church communities.
SAT-7 broadcasts 24/7 in Arabic, Farsi and Turkish and is watched by 25 million people across the region, although programmes can be viewed over a much wider area, including most of Europe, where it is reaching some of the over 15 million people who have been forced to leave the MENA region as refugees.
Most ordinary Middle Easterners have never met a Christian and have a limited or distorted understanding of what Christians believe. Through powerful, faith-filled television programmes and digital media, SAT-7 beam Christian content straight into the heart of the family home bring much-needed comfort and encouragement.
SAT-7’s programmes are designed to encourage often isolated Christians and strengthen them in their faith, and to provide a fresh perspective on faith for those asking questions about Jesus.
Adapting to the changing needs of youth
50% of the population in MENA are under 25 - a generation more attached to their phones than to TVs. 66% of young Arabs watch video content on smartphones, and over 50% subscribe to a secular video-on-demand service. In response SAT-7 launched ‘SAT-7 Plus’ the first Christian streaming service for the Middle East.
SAT-7 has a fantastic Viewer Support Team that responds to contacts from viewers of their programmes. In 2021 the team had 84,000 one-to-one conversations with viewers, along with 16 million engagements with Facebook posts. Viewers want to share their testimonies, ask questions, seek prayer, and get advice and counselling on a whole host of spiritual and personal issues.
Please pray for:
- SAT-7 viewers, especially isolated believers
- Programme makers and Viewer Support Team members
- Provision and inspiration for the ministry
Sharing God's Grace (Jim Beswick)
I am very happy to passionately debate at length the ‘fundamental’ problems that face many of my closest friends… aluminium or carbon, rim or disc, standard or electric… but can I be as effective at sharing the far more important message of the Christian gospel? That was precisely why I attended Jon Drake’s seminar on how to build loving relationships with non-believers and how to share the message of God’s grace with those around us.
Reading 1 Corinthians 15, the apostle Paul reminds us that his ‘first importance’ was to preach the gospel of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection, witnessed by many, in accordance with Scripture. The gospel is not only the message we share, but because it is wonderful, true, vital and powerful, it is also what inspires us to share God’s grace. The key to sharing the gospel, therefore, is to delight in the gospel. So, what helps us stay fresh?
We considered practically that finding quiet times to study the bible, reflect on the gospel and pray, as well as using Christian literature, will all help in that area. The aim: to grow in strength of faith and love of our Lord Jesus. We agreed that we want people around us to know that we are Christians and something of what that means. We considered how to make opportunities to add ‘grains of Jesus truth’ in our conversations and take the bold approach of offering to pray.
‘Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.’ (1 Peter 3:15)
New Testament bible characters demonstrate that we are all different with diverse gifts and talents and yet we are all able to witness for Jesus by various means. Equally non-believers are all different and at various stages of contact and engagement with Christianity. We considered how to build sincere and genuine friendships, to be able to share our lives, to celebrate with, and to serve others. Finally, we considered eight common questions that non-believers may raise during a discussion on Christianity and how using the following four criteria should be used to answer them.
1. Does it bring glory to God, being true and loving?
2. Does it lead to the gospel and Jesus?
3. Does it answer the question behind the question?
4. Is the answer believable?
It was a great opportunity with others in St Mary’s to take time to apply the previous three weeks sermons and to become as comfortable to share the gospel with others as I am with bicycle technology (well almost)!
Update from Trinity@4 Henley (Sam Brewster)
Dear St Mary's friends,Many thanks for your ongoing prayers for us at Trinity at Four in Henley. We're grateful to God for his continued sustaining of us as we serve him here, and it has been wonderful to see his work in and through our church family. Although we sadly lost some core families over the course of the pandemic, God has continued to bring plenty of new folk along, and we're now perhaps a little stronger numerically than we were pre-pandemic.
Some particular highlights include:
- Fruitful links in the community with our toddler ministry - Junior Jivers.
- A new after-school club really beginning to pick up, with a good balance of church and non-church families involved.
- A new youth group for our younger teens, run by a young couple at church with a real heart for the young people, something we've been praying for!
- We are expecting child number four due on 1st April. Please pray for Lucy in the latter stage of pregnancy and for a safe delivery. Please pray for us all as we adapt to this new arrival.
- We're thankful to God for his work in our three kids, Amelie (6), Jo-Jo (4) and Barney (nearly 2). Please pray for them and for us as we care for them and point them to Jesus.
- Pray that we would continue to hold out the word of life effectively in our town. There is such a spiritual need, and it's easy for us as believers to neglect this most basic calling of Christ.
- There is a chance we will have a curate joining us later this year, but there are a few outstanding funding issues to be resolved. Please pray for this.
- We've run a series on sexuality, and also on the ten commandments this term, including a session on abortion, euthanasia and suicide. There has been lots for our church family to grapple with, pray for a commitment to grace and truth as we do so.
We love hearing from old St Mary's friends, so please be in touch with any of your news.
Much love from us all,
Sam, Lucy, Amelie, Jo-Jo, Barney and bump
Since Sam wrote this letter to us at St Mary’s we are pleased to let you know that Sam and Lucy have had a baby girl - Esther, born on Saturday 12th March 2022. Congratulations to them!
A crazy world? (Jon Harris)
I was lucky enough to be sitting in a beach bar at the end of the half-term week, a week of zero toil and idyllic surroundings. I was nagged by guilt for having had a good time, I was watching war rippling out from Ukraine, I was pondering the looming return to work, the pending return to the juggles of family life. Is it, as they say, a crazy world? Is it all meaningless? I had been fortunate because my half-term week had begun with the reminder of a biblical truth, and I was able to return to it at its end:
Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God. They seldom reflect on the days of their life, because God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart. (Ecclesiastes 5:19-21)
I wrestle to embrace this. Indeed, I wrestle even to keep trying to embrace it. But is it too good to be true? Is it a rebuke to my ingratitude? Am I imprisoned by my guilt? Am I neglecting work I should be doing for God?
Most verses, and even most passages, pulled in isolation from Ecclesiastes are likely to be misunderstood because of the structure and style of writing. Verses like those above can be latched on to as a license to enjoy whatever comforts we have and to look away from troubles around us. Other isolated verses, by contrast, might drive us to fatalism and despair:
The race is not to the swift, or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise, or wealth to the brilliant, or favour to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all. (Ecclesiastes 9:11)
I had the opportunity to study Ecclesiastes
just before Covid struck. In January 2020 I was between two jobs and set out to
grapple with this ‘wisdom book’ that tends to have rather a negative
reputation: depressing, pretentious, morbid, pontificating. This is so far from
the truth. It certainly convicts, but only in order to release – a book right
after our Lord Jesus’s heart!
It is a majorly counter-cultural book: it was when it was written (it seemingly ‘mocks’ a writing style and philosophy of its time); it is for the post-modern world today (it directs us to hold to God’s truth and not a narrow ‘personal truth’); and it is for the world of ‘Christian-culture’ (it rejects isolating ourselves from God’s word behind ‘a good Christian book’).
So often we approach God to ask what he expects us to do – his plan for our life. This is particularly acute, I believe, in the early years after we have accepted Jesus as our Saviour. However, the challenges and experiences of life tend to lead us back to such questions again and again throughout our lives. Ecclesiastes is a challenging read but one that does address our deep questions of purpose and meaning. With authority, as a part of God’s word, it also dismisses the alternative of reading endless self-help books:
Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body. (Ecclesiastes 12:12)
I find this encouraging: we don’t need to sustain a lifetime pursuit of the book which will set us on the right path. That, Ecclesiastes tells us, is a fool’s errand. Ecclesiastes instead holds our hand and repeatedly walks us to the edge of the rabbit hole so we can look into it, without disappearing down it. It soothes the soul from a need to understand and allows us to be at peace with seeing in part (1 Cor 13:9). It calls us to return, incessantly, to the sufficiency of God’s reassurances. This is wrapped up in the final verses of Ecclesiastes, but its huge richness remains hidden if you do not go beyond reading it in isolation:
… fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil. (Ecclesiastes 12:13b-14)
It is great shame we do not
see this as a book to get familiar with, and stay familiar with, from the
earliest days of our walk with Christ.
Responding to conflict in Ukraine (Rob Wingfield)
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has been dominating the news for nearly two weeks now and for some members of our church family, this has been particularly emotive due to family or friends being caught up in the conflict.
For me, I spent much of the 2000s visiting Ukraine with Ukraine Christian Ministries to run camps for children and teenagers for two weeks in the summer, and then another two weeks in the winter over the Orthodox Christmas taking shoeboxes of presents from British families to children in orphanages, special schools for blind and deaf children and churches. Serving alongside members of Ukrainian churches, I made some deep friendships and so it is very hard to see what’s happening in the news, and then hear from those friends that they are sheltering in the cellar as the air raid sirens go off and the bombs start dropping.
So how should we respond to this?
- Pray. Our Heavenly Father has been working in powerful ways in Ukraine in recent years, building his church. Pray that he will keep his people safe, and that he will swiftly bring peace. There are many Christians in Ukraine that are using this awful situation to show God’s love during trials, so to fuel your prayers, read articles like this one on The Gospel Coalition website.
- Reach out. Do you know any people in or from Ukraine? We have some in our church family. Reach out to them. Let them know that you are praying for them, and that they are not alone.
- Give. Ukraine is not a wealthy nation, and they are in need of our help even more at the moment. If you would like to, I can recommend giving to the work that Ukraine Christian Ministries is doing around the Zolotonosha and Cherkasy area, about three hours south of Kyiv. They are helping to keep people fed, and evacuating those who would like to get to the Polish border. More details on this are on their website.
We pray for a swift end to this conflict, but whether that's God's plan, or whether there's a prolonged war, our brothers and sisters in Ukraine will need our ongoing prayer, support and generosity.
Book Sunday (February 2022)
Sunday 27th February was Book Sunday. Below are a few books recommended by the staff team, including suggested reading for Lent(*):
- What God Has To Say About Our Bodies Sam Allberry
- The Heart And Anger Ash & MidgleyThe Hiding Place Corrie Ten Boom
- Respectable Sins (Youth Edition) Jerry Bridges
- The Beauty Of The Cross. Tim Chester *
- Just Do Something Kevin DeYoung
- Are You 100% Sure You Want To Be Agnostic? Gemmell & Sach
- Rich Wounds David Mathis*
- Cross Examined. Mark Meynell*
- Have No Fear John Lennox
- God’s Story Matt Searles
- 10 Words To Live By Jen Wilkin
- God of All Things Andrew Wilson
- A Jesus Easter Barbara Reaoch*
- The Garden, The Curtain And The Cross. Laferton & Echeverri
- Garden, Curtain and Cross calendar and family devotional*
- Garden, Curtain and Cross colouring book
Mission Partner Update: Jo Clifford
Her aim is to make scripture accessible and useable by people in a language they understand.
Jo’s role is to both create media and to train others in its creation along with putting systems in place to make this possible.
Jo told us how she had recently managed a trip back to Tanzania where she had worked for many years. While there she was able to complete a recording of the Gospel of Mark in the Pangwa language as well as training up several of the local translation teams. She was also able to meet up with old friends and encourage the national staff who had felt rather abandoned when Jo and many colleagues had to leave the country when work permits were denied.Back in Germany Jo has been editing the work done in Tanzania, recruiting new animators, and looking for new partners and ideas. She prays for more people to be involved in the media work.
Her accommodation lease expires at the end of June and there is the prospect of a move north to Bremen to share in a community with friends.
There is an African proverb about a mosquito: If you think you’re too small to make a difference, you haven’t spent a night with a mosquito!
Jo wonders if she is making a difference?God reminds her of recent media department achievements:
· A media training programme is now up and running.
· There are guides in English and French to help language teams think through what digital media to develop and distribute.
· Two animators have recently been recruited to serve language projects around the world.
It has been exciting to see ideas that were dreams becoming reality.
Maybe God is using Jo to make a difference after all!
Update on Vacancy (Churchwardens)
6th February was the last Sunday that Will spent with the St Mary’s family as our vicar. This puts into focus the matter of the vacancy (formally known as the ‘interregnum’) and the process of searching for our next vicar.
On 12th December 2021, the PCC convened a formal ‘pre-vacancy’ kick-off meeting. This was attended by Graham Archer, representing our patron (CPAS) who are overall responsible for running the appointment process, and Stephen Pullin, Archdeacon of Berkshire. Together, they explained to the PCC the required sequence of steps and prospective timetable.
Currently, the Diocese of Oxford has imposed a 12-month moratorium on the filling of vacancies in the diocese. At the pre-vacancy meeting, Archdeacon Pullin suggested that this position is being reconsidered, with the intention to reduce the duration. In a subsequent email exchange, he indicated that the outcome of their deliberations is likely expected in March. Will’s formal date of leaving the diocese is 15th April 2022. The formal vacancy can start on that date with the issuing of a ‘Notice of Vacancy’ by the diocese.
Between now and then, the PCC and the churchwardens, supported by the staff and ministry teams are preparing the ‘Parish Profile’, which is the document that outlines the priorities we believe God would have us adopt going forward, and lays out the key qualities we are looking for in the next vicar. The aim is to have the final Parish Profile ready as soon as the Notice of Vacancy is received.
Thereafter the PCC will hold what’s known as a ‘Section 11 meeting’. The purpose of this meeting is to:
- Appoint two ‘PCC Representatives’ to act on behalf of St Mary’s in the selection process
- Adopt the Parish Profile
- Confirm that the PCC has reaffirmed the House of Bishops’ resolution (originally passed in December 2016) which allows us, under theological convictions, to advertise for a male incumbent without breaking anti-discrimination legislation
- Set the date of the next formal meeting, known as a ‘Section 12 meeting’
Once complete, we move to phase 2 of the appointment process, which includes the following steps:
- Familiarisation and Interviews
- Appointment and Notification
- Announcement of the successful candidate
Whilst we anticipate a minimum of six months to complete the process from ‘Notice of Vacancy’, it may take substantially longer given the current average vacancy period of 12-18 months in the diocese. However please be assured, we will do everything we can to action each step in as timely a manner as possible.
It is imperative that we, as a body of God’s people, pray earnestly that the Lord will bless our endeavour to find a new vicar, and that he will bring the right man to be the new incumbent but in his sovereign timing and according to his sovereign plan.
In the meantime, we are truly thankful for the many competent and godly leaders both in the staff team, and in the wider church family, who continue to play their part and see us through the vacancy period with hearts for service under the leadership of our Lord Jesus Christ.
If you would like to discuss anything about the process or ask any questions, please speak to Rae or Anthony. Ordinarily Rae attends the 9:15am service and Anthony attends the 11am and 6:30pm services, or email: or .
Churchwardens Anthony Kan and Rae Binning