Life Group Refresh

‘Belonging’ is really important to us at Welcome Church, and our Life Groups help make this a reality.

In a church of our size you can’t know everyone, but everyone can be known, and our Life Groups provide a chance to gather with a small group of people to experience fun, care, connection and spiritual growth. Currently the groups are happening online, but we fully expect ‘in person’ meetings to resume during 2021.

Who remembers when we could do this?

Refreshing our Life Groups gives us all a moment to review where we’d like to be in the year ahead, and to either recommit where we are or else try a different group. Our current groups have been running longer than originally planned due to Coronavirus. They’ve done a great job keeping us connected as a church family and I want to express my personal thanks to all who’ve been leading during this time.

The Refresh Process

Our current Life Groups will continue to run up to Christmas. Over the Christmas period we’ll have a short break, and new groups will then start in the week commencing 11th January 2021.

To make sure you’re part of a group in 2021, even if you want to stay in your current group, please sign up online from now until the 14th December.

On our Welcome Church website there’s a list of all the groups available in 2021, with a description of the type of group it is, and a photo of the group leaders.  You can visit that here: allwelcome.uk/lifegroups.

To help us place everyone in a group that works for them, we ask people to choose three options from the list of groups. If you want to remain in a group you’re already in then, assuming it’s still running, that choice will be given priority for you.

During the week commencing 3rd January 2021 you should receive an invite to join your group for 2021.

If you have any difficulty please ask your current Life Group Leaders for help, or email us at care@allwelcome.uk and we will help you through the process.

New Choices For 2021

This year the refresh provides a new option in addition to the regular Life Groups. Three groups are designated specifically as Bible study groups. These groups will look at a different aspect of the Bible each term, to help you establish a routine of reading the Bible and to understand more of this wonderful, life-giving book. 

I also want to mention our Daytime Life Groups which are for anyone who prefers to meet in the daytime. Whilst historically these groups have often ended up serving an older age group, we’re keen to emphasise that they are available to all, regardless of age. If daytime suits you best, please pick these options.

Please do take the time to prayerfully consider this opportunity to connect and grow over the coming year. We want everyone who calls Welcome Church their church to know that they belong.

Some Sad News

I’m very sorry to report that Alan Hunwicks died in hospital late on Saturday evening after a long battle with Covid-19.

Although many of us have lost friends to this disease and others amongst us have suffered with it, Alan is the first person within Welcome Church who’s died from it. He will be greatly missed.

Alan was an amazingly faithful man with a strong Christian faith. He was a part of Welcome Church for 36 years, and for 17 of those he served as an Elder. He was also a Trustee for many years.

Alan was kind, gentle, diligent and loving, and he never sought the limelight; in many ways he was an unsung hero. He was only 77 when he died and the hospital reported that his fight was a long one because, apart from the Covid, he was strong.

Beryl and Alan had been married for 50 years, and celebrated their Golden Wedding anniversary this summer.

Alan Hunwicks (20.8.1943 – 28.11.2020) & Beryl Hunwicks

Please keep Beryl and the family in your prayers in the weeks ahead. Beryl has an important role in the public eye as Mayor of Woking, and carries a lot of responsibility. She will need our support and prayers more than ever, and I know we will be there for her.

Although this is sad news let’s remember that Alan had a deep faith in Jesus which shaped his whole life. All through this illness he was at peace, remaining steadfastly confident in his faith and in God’s loving care for him in both life and death. He is now with Jesus.

Helping People In Need

I’ve loved seeing us put our faith in action as a church to help people in need recently. For example, during the recent half term holidays, we helped a number of families in need here in Woking. These families get free school meals for their children in term time, and we were able to give them some much needed vouchers to feed their children during the holidays too. It was greatly appreciated and made a real difference.

Two situations

We’re also helping out financially in two situations where we have direct connection to churches in other nations. I shared about these during our recent online communion meeting and invited people to give.

The first is in Izmir in Turkey, where an earthquake and tsunami killed 115 people, injured more than 1000, and left many homeless bringing down buildings and making others unsafe to use.

A church in Izmir who we have direct connection with are providing food to people in need and to rescue workers. They’re meeting the needs of many who’ve been left homeless who are living in tents as the weather gets colder. Amongst other things they’re providing food, heaters, firewood, hats, socks and thermal clothing. They’ve also been able to share God’s love with people.

As a church their funds to do this ran out, but (along with some others) we’ve been able to send them money to help the work continue.  

The other situation is in the Philippines where two typhoons in rapid succession have hit the region of Bicol with winds of up to 225mph. Commission has a church plant starting in a home in that area, but the home was totally destroyed, along with the homes of some other church members. This level of destruction of people’s lives is replicated all around the area and comes on top of crops being destroyed by a volcano recently, and the impact of Covid.

The Christians in our churches there are often incredibly poor, yet incredibly joy filled. Again, as a church, we’ve been able to send money to help them survive and rebuild.

It’s not too late to help

It’s not too late for you to give to either of these situations, and the good news is the money will go directly to the church there; we know the people and we know how it will be used. If you want to help please give a gift to us as a church and mark it ‘crisis’. You can do that through our website here. We will pass on every penny including the gift aid if it applies.

So far just under £6000 has been raised, which is being split between these two causes. We sent the initial amount out last week, but it’s not too late to grow that amount so more can be sent.

Remember: “Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward them for what they have done.” (Proverbs 19 v17)

Some Key Welcome Church Updates

In case you missed them here are some updates from our Welcome Church family regarding elders, staff, the new Lockdown and Sunday meetings:

New Elders

At our vision focus evening we were delighted to propose two people to join our eldership team: Nnamdi Anyaegbunam and Robin Willison. Both of these are a real gift to our church and a model of godly leadership and life; we recommend them to you wholeheartedly.

We would love to hear your endorsement of these choices and equally, if you have any Biblical concerns, please let us know. How and when they will be appointed during Covid remains to be seen!

Staff Changes

Rhea John and Peter Leach have both now left our employment. They had been on furlough for a while as their roles were not possible during Covid.

Rhea has secured a much sought after job in London as a civil servant, a role she was pursuing before she joined us. Peter has now officially retired. We will miss them around the offices, but they will remain part of our church family.

Impact Of The New Lockdown

The new Lockdown has impacted some of what we do:

  • The church offices are closed for the next four weeks with all staff working at home
  • Recruitment of new staff (bearing in mind that Ben Martin, Peter Leach and Rhea John have all left us during Lockdown!) has been put on hold until the crisis has passed. This will both help us financially and allow us to fully assess what roles we need most for the future.
  • Welcome Youth had planned to start ‘in person’ meetings this week, but this will be delayed until this Lockdown ends. Youth Alpha starts online tonight, so pray for them
  • Our day time Life Groups were working towards some in person meetings in the building and these will now also be delayed until after Lockdown

Some things remain unchanged:

  • Sundays will continue online as before
  • Prayer meetings will continue online on Tuesday and Friday mornings
  • Our Life Group refresh will continue as planned
  • Baptisms can go ahead as planned unless the Lockdown is extended
  • Our new Leadership Development course continues online

Live Streaming on Sundays

At Vision Focus I announced our intention to move away from a ‘pre-recorded’ approach to Sunday meetings and towards Live Streaming, with whatever congregation we are allowed to have ‘in person’, from early January.

It is possible (not definite) that the start date may be delayed slightly because we need to do significant technical training for some volunteers, and Lockdown 2 is making that difficult. Regardless, our direction of travel remains the same.

Coronavirus

Finally, please pray for Alan and Beryl Hunwicks. Alan is a former elder and a current trustee of Welcome Church, and Beryl is a local councillor and the Mayor of Woking.

Alan fell down a flight of stairs and has been in hospital. Sadly we heard today that he now has Coronavirus with some clear symptoms. The hospital are unsure how he caught it. He has been transferred to the Covid ward. Please pray for Alan’s full recovery, and also for Beryl, who is not allowed to visit.

And remember …

… in all things God works for the good of those who love him and have been called according to his purposes. (Romans 8v28)

We are not abandoned or forgotten. God is at work for his glory and his purposes, even now.

Lockdown Returns 😮

From Thursday onwards we will be back in Lockdown for 4 weeks. After that, who knows? We will each face many challenges in the weeks ahead, and we need to support one another.

As we go through this season let’s remember: God is still on his throne. He’s at work in our lives, our church, our nation and the nations of the world. Let’s pray for His kingdom to come and His will to be done.

As this season begins, I want to point us all to three things:

1. Stay Connected

We need to stay connected to each other and to God during this time. We are God’s church and we need each other more than ever right now.

Today (Sunday 1st Nov) at 6.30pm we have our next Welcome Church online communion. PLEASE JOIN US! WE NEED YOU!

Join us to pray. Join us to worship. Join us for fellowship. Join us as we meet with Jesus together. Join us to hear the latest updates and information.

Let’s all stay connected in the weeks ahead as we pray online, as we meet online each Sunday, and as we gather online in Life Groups and in other ways. We will continue to put information and updates out in this blog, in our Facebook group and in our emails. If you need help connecting, just ask.

We need each other more than ever in these times.

2. Keep A Godly Attitude

As Christians we’re called to pray for those in authority (1 Tim 2v1-3) and to submit to them (Romans 13v1-7). Are you praying for our government regularly during this season?

Why not listen again to the start of our latest preaching series when I spoke on “LOVE … and why it wears a mask”? It will do you good!

Some of us will agree with how we’re being led; others will disagree. Either way, as Christians, let’s respond in prayer and with loving words and actions, and not in complaining, political ranting and self righteousness.

As Christians – and being a Christian is a 24/7 ‘all of life’ thing that applies even to what we post online – let’s be careful and diligent to shine brightly for Jesus right now; He wants to reach people through us.

3. Show Love To People

All around us right now people need support in different ways. This is true of people in the church, in our families, and in the wider community.

1 John 4v10-11 says:

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

Jesus laid down his life for us and we’re called to live as Jesus lived. Let’s all be on the front foot to show love to others in every way we can: helping, encouraging, calling, messaging, caring, assisting, serving, giving, building one another up … and in so many other ways too

As we show love to others we find that not only do we do them good, but our own sense of helplessness, anger or frustration is lifted as we see Jesus at work through us.

Some High Quality Reading and TV

On Sunday we started our new Welcome Church preaching series called ‘fruitful’. You can listen to the first talk here about ‘Love (and why it wears a mask)’it’s a highly topical subject right now!

I recommended two great books to go with the series, one was about our personal walk with Jesus, the other was about our church’s calling and purpose; we want to be fruitful in both these areas. Buy them. Read them. Give them as gifts for Christmas.

The first is called ‘The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry’ by John Mark Comer. It’s great for helping us draw close to Jesus and renew our life in him, which is key in this challenging time of pandemic; it speaks to our personal fruitfulness.

The second is called ‘Disappearing Church’ by Mark Sayers. It speaks about the church getting back to it’s Biblical calling, staying faithful to Jesus and being fruitful for him in all circumstances. Again this book is a word in season as we find our whole way of ‘doing church’ is being challenged.

They’re both easy to read, I loved them, and if you buy them from Origin Books in Woking (the Christchurch Book Shop) they will give you 20% off either or both if you say you’re from Welcome Church.

While I’m at it, I also wanted to wholeheartedly recommend some great TV to help while away the dark winter evenings. I would love it if everyone in our church took the time to watch these two things.

First is a film called ‘American Gospel: In Christ Alone’. It’s available on Netlifix, or you can pay for it on Amazon Prime (or buy the DVD). I don’t want to say too much about it, except that this film is well worth watching. Jo and I loved it. There’s a sequel called ‘American Gospel: Christ Crucified’. I haven’t see that yet but I’m told it’s even better

Second is a TV series called The Chosen. This series depicts the life of Jesus in a truly beautiful way; the best I’ve ever seen it done by miles. It truly captures the heart of Jesus for lost and broken people, and will ignite your love for Jesus too. I would encourage everyone to watch it, with your kids if you have them. It will boost your faith for sure.

The good news is … you can watch it for free. The way to view it is to download a free App to your Phone, iPad or Tablet. The App is called ‘The Chosen’. You can then either watch the series through the App on your device, or connect your device to your TV.

Once you’ve viewed it you will be given the chance to ‘pay it forward’ by buying it for someone else to watch for free, as someone has already done for you. I did that, but it’s completely up to you if you want to.

These are four great resources for us. Please let me know what you think of them once you’ve watched or read them.

Handling Grief

During our Welcome Church preaching series on ‘Sickness, Healing and Death’ (click here for Part 1) we used the final week to address questions people sent in. The topic of grief came up repeatedly.

There were two themes:

First, people trying to be superhuman. The idea that because someone was a Christian and we know they are now with Christ, we shouldn’t feel sad or even grieve at all, we should only be happy for them.

Second, people getting stuck in grief. The challenge of finding a new ‘normal’ after a significant loss … of moving on with life again … of acknowledging the ongoing reality of loss without making an ‘idol’ out of the dead person or the past we once had.

I’m not a grief counsellor, but as a church pastor I believe this:

  1. Suppressing grief (or any emotion) is not a good long term solution. It may help us cope temporarily, but it will come out in the end somehow.
  2. Grief has a God-given purpose. Although we may all experience grief differently, God does intend us all to ‘recover’, which doesn’t mean we no longer feel loss, but that it no longer defines us
  3. For Christians, grief is mixed with hope. “We grieve, but not in the same way as those who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4v13)

Grief is a normal human emotion and even Jesus experienced it. The Bible tells us, “there is a time to grieve (Ecclesiastes 3v4). To suppress grief is not helpful for us, and to stay ‘stuck’ is also not helpful; there is a time for grief; a season for it.

Following the series I wanted to post some links to helpful resources you can work through in your own time if you want to. I hope they help, and don’t forget that pastoral support is available if you need it. It’s okay to ask.

Some resources

A summary of ‘What The Bible Says About Grief’ (it’s not long, but it catches the main points well)

A video about ‘How Grief Changes Over Time’ (a theory that resonated with me and I found helpful)

A resource on ‘The Stages Of Grief’ (written by a palliative care nurse and fact checked by a doctor; it’s worth noting that there is some dispute about the idea of grief having ‘stages’)

A resource on ‘Anticipatory Grief’, which can happen when we know a death is approaching (written by a cancer specialist doctor)

Resources ‘about complicated grief’ (which is largely what was meant by people ‘getting stuck’) from Cruse Bereavement Care, who are excellent.

Finally, an excellent article on ‘Why Grief Is Evidence For God’ (written by Sharon Dirckx, who preached at Welcome Church a while ago)

New elders, staff changes and a plan for Sundays

On Sunday 18th October at 7.30pm, for about one hour, Welcome Church will hold an online Vision Focus meeting. These meetings provide a great opportunity for us to look ahead and share news and vision for the church.

This one will take place on Zoom, and login details will be publicised nearer the time; in the mean time please put the date and time in your diary.

There are three main things we need to talk about that evening:

We have two new elders to propose to the church

We have some staff changes to announce

We want to update you on plans for our Sunday meetings

There are a few other things to mention as well, so don’t miss it!

The Big Welcome Church Survey

We absolutely do not lead our church by surveys or set our direction in response to popular opinion, but it’s very helpful to know what’s going on in people’s lives … especially in this season when we’ve been distanced from one another. Because of this, we’re doing a survey.

The survey is aimed at anyone who would say,

“Welcome Church is my church”

If that’s you, we would love to hear from you. It will take less than five minutes to complete, and here’s the link: click to access survey here

The results will help us improve how we serve and care for people going forwards, and will also provide fuel for our prayers. If you want your answers to be included the deadline is Sunday 11th October.

Leadership Development at Welcome Church

Identifying, developing and releasing leaders is a big priority for us at Welcome Church. We’re really grateful for those who already serve in a leadership capacity, and know there will be many more out there with leadership potential or experience!

You may know that we’ve actually worked on a number of leadership development initiatives over the past two years; now we want to make these opportunities available more widely across Welcome Church.

Starting on Tuesday 20th October, we’ll be commencing a leadership course – initially online – that will take place over 11 evenings and 3 Saturdays across 18 months. This will include a range of learning approaches with plenty of opportunity for discussion and application.

Should you consider being involved?

What might help you answer this question is to understand what leadership across Welcome Church should be all about!

It should be about creating an environment where:

  • Everyone we serve is able to flourish in their relationship with God, as part of a caring community
  • Everyone’s talents and gifts are valued, developed and released for the works God has prepared for us
  • Everyone finds their place in fulfilling the vision and purpose of Welcome Church and beyond

This is godly, Biblical, servant leadership, and if that excites you, why not consider taking part?

Initially we’re asking you to register an interest by emailing robin.willison@allwelcome.uk. We’ll then send you further details and dates to enable you to make a final decision.

Please don’t be quick to disqualify yourself!

There are many types of leader (there are over 100,000 books about leadership on Amazon!) and there is a significant diversity in how different people create an environment where those around them will flourish.

The course isn’t just open to those who are already in leadership at Welcome Church, and much of what you’ll learn will be very relevant to wherever you may be leading.

If you have a moment, do check out this 1 minute video from the BBC about Vasant Narasimhan, the CEO of drugs firm Novartis. It’s not a church context in any way, yet what he describes exemplifies much of what Christian leadership should aim for, wherever we are placed: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/business-51925466

So why not take the first step and register your interest?

And if you could do that before the end of this month, it would be really helpful.