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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Junior Youth Weekend Away (Angela McDonald)
We were grateful to our super minibus drivers for investing their time taking us to our destination, we even named one of the minibuses the ‘Silver Bullet’. There were a few mentions of “Are we there yet?” which subsided as we cheered going over the Severn Bridge, the children began their countdown to leaving England and entering Wales, then a few sighs as we re-entered England a few minutes later, but shouts of joy as we pulled into the impressive Woodcroft Christian Centre with its olde worlde house.
Our amazing chief cook and bottle washer had already arrived which meant an easy settled start to our weekend as we unpacked the buses and made our way into the ‘mess hall’ for our weekend roll call.
We were well staffed with our Youth Minister at the helm, followed by her assistant our Children’s Minister in training, closely followed by our Apprentices, along with the whole Stylo family we had the dream team to lead us throughout the weekend.Melinda set the scene of the weekend with two rules. 1. Be kind to everyone. 2. Leave no-one out. Everyone followed the rules without exception, there was a great sense of community, and everyone felt safe being together.
We were also joined by Ross Mungavin, Youth Minister from St James’ Gerrards Cross who took us through the book of Judges focusing on Samson’s ‘Flawed faith in a faithful God’. We learned much about God’s undeserved blessing and how Samson, a flawed deliverer, pointed us to the ultimate perfect deliverer Jesus himself. We were all surprised by the links between God’s preparation for Samson’s arrival and God’s preparation for Jesus’ arrival. The children had so many questions and it was a joy to see them engaging with God’s word.
There was one moment when Nick popped into the older boys’ dorm to see what they were doing, and he found them together reading God’s word. What joy!
Our study times were also blessed by wonderful worship courtesy of Patch and many minor key members; John and Katie Croft you would have been so proud!
The weekend was action packed. Along with our study and worship times there were games and activities galore, including around the world table tennis tournament; at one point every member including leaders were taking part (except our two wonderful cooks Adam and Jo, who were preparing our lunch). There were also many games of scatter ball run by Luke, including a two-hour non-stop stint (not for the fainthearted).
Melinda also provided us with two brilliant craft activities including a painted window art activity and pottery decorating, which were hugely popular, the end results of which will be gracing many a dining room table.
On Saturday Jo organised an ingenious activity using the ‘what3words’ app to devise a treasure hunt game which would lead us all into the kitchen for ice creams. No way was the rain going to spoil our fun! Followed in the evening with Nick organising a night-time glow stick challenge between the members and the leaders which the members won by 6 points! The evening finished with hot chocolate by the bonfire because the forecasted rain and wind didn’t surface.Thanks to the generosity of the parents there was enough cake to eat for breakfast, lunch and tea every day! Don’t worry parents, the menu was very balanced, from freshly cooked eggs and bacon for Saturday breakfast, pastries and fruit for Sunday breakfast, and loads of vegetables with both lunch and dinner along with a menu that provided good wholesome food.
The weekend finished with all-hands-on-deck packing and cleaning before our two minibuses returned to take us homeward bound with the children looking forward to sharing what they had done with their families.
We arrived back to church as the 4pm service was beginning, which I’m sure was a blessing to many and a great opportunity to give thanks to God for his generosity and goodness to us.
Come and Sing (Matthew O'Donovan)
It also proved a great opportunity both to rediscover some songs which may have faded in the memory since before the pandemic, and to learn one or two new ones which we hope will be a blessing to the wider congregation. With this last point particularly in mind, we are welcoming informal feedback about any of the songs that were sung. What if I was not there, I hear you ask? Do not fear: Tom has assembled a Spotify playlist of all the songs that were sung. If you weren’t able to attend (or even if you were), do listen to the playlist if you want a flavour of what we sang (and you don’t need to have been there to provide feedback about the songs).
Thanks are due to Tom for all his efforts in organising the event, to the team of gifted musicians who gave generously of their time and talents both at the event and in advance preparation, to lead the singing. Thanks are also due to all who came and took part so heartily – it was such an encouragement to see everyone there. But thanks and praise, above all, to our God, who has given us so much to sing about!
A Taste of All Nations (Sunitha Province)
The church was beautifully decorated for the evening with sarees, lights and colourful flags. The organisers Adam, Robin and Sunitha supported by an enormous team of helpers had laid out a wonderful action-packed programme. We began in the food hall where a sumptuous feast was laid out and guests were treated to a whistle stop tour of the cuisines of the world as they sampled food from many nations including Nigeria, Finland, China, Malaysia, Bermuda, Pakistan, Uganda, Kenya, South Africa, India, Holland, North America, Hong Kong, Syria, Lebanon and Mexico. It was difficult to prise the guests away from the food hall as the food on offer was so delicious and there were rich stories to be shared as we walked from one nation’s table to the other tasting the different gourmet delights. Guests commented that they could just about imagine what heaven’s banqueting feast would be like one day when they saw the feast laid out before them!This was an evening for all ages as children eagerly participated in four quiz rounds hosted by Alan and Sunitha who were hosts for the evening. The quiz included questions about flags, festivals, national dress and languages of the world. The entertainment continued with three spectacular dance performances by Lara, a freelance Bollywood dance teacher from St Paul’s church in Slough and her dance partner Maddie, before they gave a dance tutorial and made sure the crowd were up on their feet and taken through their paces!
This was followed by a wonderful time of praise and worship where the guests were treated to a gospel band called the Big G (G stands for Goodness). The members of the band count family connections from Asia, Africa, Europe and North America. John who formed the band with Patrice and plays the electric guitar in the band is a member of St Mary’s. There were some beautiful comments from the guests including, ‘if this is a foretaste of what heaven will be like with every nation celebrating God’s love, then bring it on!’ Watching the worship scene brought to mind the Bible verse that one day there will be a great multitude from every nation, tribe, people and language standing before the throne worshipping the Lord.The evening ended with our very own Karnie leading the guests through their final paces for the night with the famous Jerusalema dance supported by Melinda and Jo. They clapped, danced, cheered, hopped, shimmied and twirled all the way!
About 150 guests which included members and friends and family attended the event. Everybody had an absolutely wonderful time and visitors commented on how welcomed they were made to feel by the members of St Mary’s church. This event would not have been a resounding success without a vast team of cooks and bakers who lovingly prepared the food, the stewards and welcoming team, and a clear up team working behind the scenes. It was astounding how fast the church was tidied, cleaned and set up for the following day’s services by an army of helpers and guests who stayed behind to help. We are grateful to Lara and Maddie for their stunning dance performances and tutorial and the gospel band for the amazing worship. Special thanks go to Mark and Andy who were on AV duty for the whole evening. A huge thank you also to Karnie, Shubbie, Clara (photographer for the event), Alan, Rachel, the Millers, Heidi, Michelle and countless others who helped make this event a great success.
Many guests wondered aloud whether this event would be a permanent annual fixture on the church calendar. Well, all we can say is watch this space!
Living in Love and Faith (Will Stileman)
Issues of sexuality and identity are deeply personal and for some can be very painful. In the light of this it is important for us as a church to be thinking and talking about these things in a helpful and safe environment. The Church of England has put together a course called Living in Love and Faith (LLF) in which they hope to do this.
LLF is a suite of materials that has been put together by more than 40 people who have very different perspectives, life experiences and theological convictions. Although the official position of the Church of England on marriage and sexual intimacy has not changed, there is pressure from both inside and outside the Church of England to endorse and bless same sex unions and transgendering. All the material can be accessed free of charge from the LLF website.
Every diocese in England is promoting the course and the idea is that as many groups as possible do the course or read the book and feedback their opinions. People and groups must give their feedback by Easter 2022 after which decisions will be made over the next steps. It is likely that firm proposals will be brought before General Synod in the autumn of 2022.
Last term, the staff team and the PCC completed the course and have given their feedback. The St Mary’s Same Sex Attraction Support Group has likewise started to engage with this material and, when they have completed it, will feedback their opinions.
There is much that is good about the course. It is very well produced. The pastoral principles on how to engage in discussion are excellent and it does indeed raise all the issues. However, although the traditional orthodox position is articulated in the course, the theological engagement is weak. We are not encouraged to sit under the word of God but to give our opinions about it. There is also a subtle emphasis that all the positions and testimonies articulated are equally acceptable expressions of faithful Christian discipleship.
As your vicar, with a God-given responsibility to “present myself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15), I cannot in good conscience recommend the course. However, I will be running the 5-week course for any in St Mary’s who want to engage with the material on Monday nights (October 11th, 18th; November 1st, 8th, 15th). In the New Year, I also intend to show extracts of the course and preach a three-part sermon series addressing the issues raised by LLF. It is important that we are engaging with our culture on matters of identity and sexuality and thinking through how the Bible speaks into these sensitive matters.
It is our desire to truly walk in love and faith and welcome all, whoever they are and whatever their condition, to sit under the sound of the gospel and engage with the Jesus of the Bible – the only Jesus there is.
Third Thursday Table (Becca Stileman)
About 20 of us gathered on Thursday lunchtime for the first of a new monthly St Mary’s event called ‘Third Thursday Table’, named to help us all remember which day in the month is happens!
We were served with a delicious lunch and had the opportunity to chat, listen, catch up with old friends we hadn’t spoken to for a while, discuss recent events with friends we see regularly and meet some new folk from different congregations or from outside St Mary’s. We were a good mixture of all of these. When we had enjoyed our main course, we had cake and coffee or tea.
Not only a lunch, but also something extra. This time, Tom and Sarah played and sang Luther’s hymn ‘A Mighty Fortress is our God’ and Tom talked to us about the hymn. Just a few minutes of Christian input and something that wouldn’t offend a newcomer but might open doors to coming back for more.
This is the nature of this new monthly event – a meal, mid-week encouragement, an invitation to come back for more. The food and entertainment are laid on, so it’s a great invitation for a neighbour, a friend, or even somebody you don’t know very well – ‘Would you like to come and have lunch with me at my church?’ Or if you’re not free on a Thursday afternoon, recommend it to them and let one of the team know so they can look out for them.
The lunch starts at 12.45 and runs for about an hour and a half, or less if you or they are in a rush, and currently costs £3. The cost and the content are up for discussion and Rachel and the team welcomed our feedback over coffee and tea.
Come and give it a try or pass on the invitation. The team do need to know how many people will be attending before the event each month so that the right amount of food can be prepared (just let Rachel or the office know). BIG thanks to the TTT team of Rachel Meynell, Tamsin Miller, Sarah Ainscough, Heidi Cooper, Sara Hewins and Mina Baba.
An Afghan Pastor's Prayer
Afghanistan has an Open Doors World Watch ranking of 2, behind only North Korea in terms of the extreme level of persecution believers face. It’s impossible for an Afghan to live openly as a Christian - known converts usually attempt to flee the country or are tortured or killed, often by their own family. The country maintains the death penalty for apostasy which includes conversion to Christianity although this has not been enforced since 2001. However, there are fears this may change under Taliban rule. Sources have already reported the Taliban going door-to-door to weed out ‘unwanted elements’ which include Christians.
Inability to live openly as a Christian makes it hard to know how many believers there are but recent estimates have suggested 8000 in a population of 34 million. Recent growth of the indigenous church is partly due to Christian media dramatically increasing access to the Gospel.
Many of us will be praying for our dear brothers and sisters in Afghanistan. The Sat-7 Afghan presenter, Pastor Shoaib Ebadi, has used the Lord’s Prayer to help us to pray for Afghanistan. Read and echo his prayer here.
White Waltham Church Teas
Through our Church Teas we invite members of our local communities of White Waltham, Woodlands Park and beyond to come to us; to cross the threshold of a church building, to meet with church members and, we hope, to experience something of the love of God. We aim to provide a comfortable, warm and friendly environment, great teas and generous hospitality.
This summer we held two teas with approaching 100 guests, and we invited them all to our autumn services through flyers on tables and in conversations. It is good to see people return year after year and we pray that they may come on a Sunday to see what White Waltham Church is all about.
We remain very grateful to St Mary’s Maidenhead: for your support in helping us to have The Tree House in the first place, and to those members of your community who so generously come along and support us on these occasions.
Andrew Peterson in Concert (Patch Crossley)
For those who aren’t familiar with Andrew and his work, he is a very productive songwriter, producer, filmmaker, publisher and award-winning author. He’s been touring with his songs and producing albums since 1996, and writes mostly in a folk, roots-rock style, although I would say he has music that will cater to all tastes. You can find his 12 studio albums on Spotify (I thoroughly recommend having a look), and his books The Wingfeather Saga for young people and Adorning the Dark for creative Christians, on his website.
Andrew played the entire concert on his guitar, aside from a couple of songs on the piano, without any backing musicians, and held the full attention of roughly 160 guests for almost two hours, no mean feat. The whole concert felt as though we had been invited into his living room, as he shared the deeply personal stories behind each song and described how the lyrics had come about.
Through music, he also presented the gospel in an engaging and emotional way. I and others left the concert feeling lifted and encouraged by his songs of hope in the power of the gospel to save and to heal. It felt appropriate after a difficult year that his songs were so focused on the pain we all experience in this world and the shared hope we have as members God’s family. Some of the words which stick in my head are from his song Lord Remember Me:
“When the Son will stand on the mount again
With an army of angels at his command,
And the Earth will split like the hull of a seed
Wherever Jesus plants his feet
And up from the earth, the dead will rise
Like spring trees robed in petals of white
Singing the song of the radiant Bride.”
Andrew’s website can be found at https://www.andrew-peterson.com/home
Mission Partner Update: i-Serve Africa / Harrison Mungai
It was marvellous to have Harrison Mungai our mission partner in Kenya joining us over Zoom at the St Mary’s Evening on 9th September. He testified to God’s faithfulness in sustaining him, his family and his ministry through the challenging months of the pandemic.
Harrison said that he and Rhodah are grateful for our partnership with them in the gospel. He has sent us a few points for our prayers. He writes:
“Yesterday was a very encouraging day as we commissioned a former apprentice and now member of staff – Peter Kamau Gikunju to lead a church plant in Waiyaki Way on the outskirts of Nairobi. Peter came to iServe Africa after finishing studies in Kisii University in 2014. He was placed in St. John’s Church, Sololo and in the office for a second year. He later proceeded to the Cornhill Training Course in London and was placed at All Saints and Holy Trinity Church, Wandsworth. Upon returning from the UK in 2017, he came on the staff at iServe Africa and has been running the Apprenticeship Programme. Peter was commissioned alongside Patrick Bundi who will be his associate pastor and about 30 others who will be part of the planting team.
Last Friday we finished a two-week Ministry Training Course at iServe Africa for 42 apprentices; 16 were joining the programme while 26 are continuing from January. It was a busy two weeks as we worked hard to cover as much ground as possible, since we had not had in-person training since the beginning of the year due to Covid restrictions. It was so refreshing to be able to meet again and to encourage one another in the ministry. The apprentices are now reporting to their various placements this week. One of our apprentices, Ephraim Kironji, travelled to the UK this past weekend to take up a year of training at St. Andrew’s the Great in Cambridge.
We are now in a new financial year, the last one having ended on 31st August. Praise God for his provision for the last year for indeed our needs have been met. Praise God also for the growth of the ministry since 2007. Now into our 15th year, we face the future with confidence and hope in the Lord. We have made some changes in our organisational structure to better align ourselves for the task ahead, in light of emerging realities like Covid. One of the bigger changes is the creation of a missions department to think about longer term sending work within iServe Africa. We already had a few cross-cultural missionaries, but our mobilisation / training / sending / supporting / caring structure had not been in place. We have therefore asked one of our staff, Stanley Wandeto, to oversee the department and develop those systems. Please pray for grace and wisdom as we take steps in that direction.”
Weekday Daytime Groups and Activities (Rachel Meynell)
For those who have time during the day, there are various things going on both on the St Mary’s site and in people’s homes, which you may enjoy coming along to.
We have four women’s daytime growth groups which meet on a Tuesday morning at St Mary’s (with a creche) and there are also a couple of other women’s daytime groups which meet elsewhere in Maidenhead during the week.
Also on the church site is a men’s Bible study group on a Thursday morning, and a group for men and women on a Tuesday afternoon.
Toddler and Baby Groups
On Wednesday and Friday mornings, we have toddler groups to which all pre-school children and their carers are welcome. These are times to play, do some singing and a Bible story. Then on a Thursday morning we have our new parents support group-for anyone with a child under 1. This is a great opportunity to make friends, and to have some input to help with those first months.
These toddler and Baby groups are a great way that we can reach out to our community, so please do be on the lookout for those around you-friends, neighbours and those you pass in the street with small children and let them know what is going on!
For those who are older….
We are very excited to announce a new initiative called Third Thursday Table, which is going to be a monthly lunch in the church hall for those who would like a meal with others during the day. The first will be on 16th September at 12.45pm, and is open to anyone who would like to come - and your friends and neighbours.
Please book in for the lunch either by emailing Rachel or ringing the office (01628 638866) by 14 September. There will be a charge of £3 for the lunch. After the food there will also be some sort of entertainment - either a talk, a testimony or some music - which will include a Christian message.
Come and try it out, and let us know what you think - we would love this to be a place to reach out to others as well as encouraging church family who would enjoy a meal in company.
Introducing ... Sharon Bedford
Hi, I’m Sharon. I was born in Cape Town, grew up all over South Africa and moved to the UK 20 years ago. I’m married to Scott and we have two sons, Dylan and Joshua. We have been coming to St Mary’s for around 16 years and have been primarily involved at the 4pm service where I have enjoyed serving on the music team and teaching Explorers B.
I have recently completed the three-year CCEF Biblical Counselling certificate course through Biblical Counselling UK and was very excited to be accepted onto their Intern Scheme for 2021, where I will continue my training in partnership with St Mary’s. I am really looking forward to working with Rachel Meynell in the area of pastoral care at St Mary’s, meeting new people and hearing their stories. The Biblical Counselling course has taught me so much and has really helped me to make sense of some of my own struggles in the light of what scripture teaches us. My hope is that I will be able to share with the family at St Mary’s much of what I’ve learned over the last 3 years.
Holiday Club (Nick McDonald)
Who is the strongest and kindest? That's the question we were thinking about on our 'Summer Safari' this year!
Holiday Club is a summer programme for children aged from Reception to Year 6. This year our theme was 'Summer Safari’, so the church was decorated to be an African Savannah, complete with animal banners and a nature hide that we were able to climb into. There were crafts, outdoor games, Bible studies, worship meetings, and talks given from the Bible. Safari Cedric (myself in costume) led the children and leaders around the Savannah to find the strongest and kindest animal. Over the three days, looking at the life of Peter in the Bible, we found that Jesus is the strongest and kindest. We heard these three things about Jesus:
1) We can trust in Jesus' power
2.) Jesus showed his power by dying on the cross
3.) Jesus takes our sin seriously, but he forgives us and welcomes us back into his familyHoliday Club was such an encouraging time this year, especially after a tricky year for all, as we saw children and adults from across the different congregations serving the Lord and learning about him. We can't wait for Holiday Club 2022, when we go on our 'Polar Expedition'. See you there!
Back to Church Sunday (Will Stileman)
“He has showed you, O man/woman, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)
I come back to this verse again and again to remind me how I am to live as a follower of Jesus.
Through Jesus God has shown us what is good. As we see Jesus relate to his heavenly Father, as we see Jesus relating to the religious leaders and the social outcasts of his day, we have a worked-out example of godliness - the beauty of a holy life. And God calls all of us at St Mary’s to follow Jesus’ example: to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God. When God calls us to act justly, he is calling on us to simply do the right thing in the everyday situations we find ourselves in: to be loving and faithful in our family life; to be conscientious and reliable colleagues at work; to be committed members of Christ’s body – the church.
We are earmarking Sunday September 5th as “Back to Church Sunday” hoping we will all make a special effort to be at church ourselves and encouraging others to return who have got out of the habit due to Covid. Please be in prayer for this.
As we start a new term, let’s keep before our eyes and in our hearts all the good that the Lord has shown us in Jesus, so that we indeed do what the Lord requires of us.
Introducing ... Luke Douglas
I am looking forward to building on this experience and to helping the church in any way I can. My biggest prayer for this time is that I do not become complacent but can always be seeking to become a better leader, a better church worker and a better Christian.
Introducing .... Patch Crossley
It’s been a tough year for me, as for many people, but I’m very much looking forward to starting the apprenticeship, and meeting everyone at St Mary’s. One of my focuses will be on music and sung worship, which is something I’ve been involved with in various churches over the last few years. I’m looking forward to developing my skills and singing and playing with you all as much as possible. I’m also excited to be involved with other activities in the church, and to learn and help out where I can. I’ll also be on the Ministry Training Course in Oxford, which I hope will be a great opportunity for me to deepen my understanding of God’s word and be equipped to minister it to others.I love cycling and walking and generally being outdoors, so I’m keen to explore the countryside around Maidenhead, which I’m told is pretty spectacular. If anyone knows of any nice walks or bike rides, let me know.
A massive thank you to everyone who has been praying for me, and I look forward to seeing you soon.
Minor Key - Recruiting New Members (Katie Croft)
Minor Key is our young people’s music group, training those in school years 6-13 to use their musical gifts to serve the church. It was begun by Kate and Mark Wheatley in September 1987, meeting in their lounge each week to practice. 34 years later their vision continues, and Minor Key enjoy leading the music at a variety of our all-age services over the year.
We now practice in the church on Friday evenings during term time, working around X and Shift Focus so that young people can be on site and do both activities.
We start back on 10th September. Rehearsal starts at 7.15pm for years 9-13, and the year 6-8s come over at 7.30pm straight from X Focus. Rehearsal ends for everyone at 8pm.
No auditions are needed, and we welcome non-church friends also. If you are going into school years 6-13 this September, then we would love to invite you to try out Minor Key. We understand that teenagers are often tentative about trying new things and then getting stuck doing something they don’t enjoy. With that in mind we encourage them to try it once without any expectation that they keep coming if they decide it’s not for them, so please accept this free pass to come along and have a go!
Everyone is welcome to sing, if you’d like to play an instrument then we do ask that young people are at grade 4 standard to enable them to cope with the level of music. If that’s a way off, do come and sing first and you can graduate to playing your instrument over time.
Contact Katie Croft if you’d like to come along: email@example.com, 01628 820386
Leaders: John and Katie Croft, James Ainscough and Tom Brewster
The Adams Family are on the Move (Tim Adams)
Kat (my then fiancée and now wife) moved to Maidenhead a year after me, and we can both see how St Mary's has been a place that God has grown us in our love for him and our desire to serve him. There have been a huge number of highlights for us, but times that particularly stand out are church times away, like Men's and Women's Weekends Away (see photo), Youth Weekends Away (again, see photo - and yes, that is me dressed as giraffe waiting to be rescued from an island by young people...), Camps, and Explorers Abroad.
It's difficult to express how much we will miss St Mary's and we will look back at this time with great fondness. But we are also really looking forward to our next steps. As we move to Oak Hill College in August, we are very excited to learn lots, to grow in our love for the Lord, and make new friends.In these times of change for us, we would appreciate your prayers! Please pray for all the practicalities of moving and settling into a new place, especially with Josh, our one and half year old. And please pray that Oak Hill would be preparing us for a life of faithfulness to Christ, both a general faithfulness and also a faithfulness in ordained ministry in the Church of England.
Probably about once a year or so we plan to send out a prayer letter with updates on how we are doing, if you would like to pray for us and stay in touch then please drop me a quick email on firstname.lastname@example.org.
We will miss you very much,
Tim, Kat and Josh