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.

Sickness, Healing and Death

This Sunday at Welcome Church we’re starting a brand new preaching series called, ‘Sickness, Healing and Death’. This might not sound like the most encouraging topic to kick off the new season with, so why do it?

Firstly I would say it should actually be very encouraging since the gospel is good news for all of life, but beyond that there are three main reasons:

1. We have a number of people in the church who are ill right now, some critically

It’s vital we understand what the Bible teaches about sickness, healing and death so we can handle each situation well, respond with faith, and be ready to help one another and pray for one another.

2. We’re in the midst of a health pandemic as a nation

Coronavirus is still with us. From Monday the new ‘rule of 6’ began. Statistically it’s likely that some more of us will catch the virus, and some may become ill or die from it. We’ve been relatively unscathed as a church so far, and I pray it stays that way, but there are no guarantees. Either way, 100% of us WILL die at some point. Death and sickness are a fact of life, so we need to view these issues Biblically.

3. Most importantly: we need to move forward again as a church

We need to come ‘Back To Life’, as I preached on Sunday (click here to listen). Before too long we’ll start some ‘in person’ Sunday meetings. We’re legally allowed to do them (with some Covid restrictions) and it will mean stepping out in faith for some of us; in person meetings will challenge us to overcome fear and apathy. A Biblical view on sickness, healing and death will help us overcome fear, and release us into faith.

Let’s embrace this new season

I believe God has great things ahead for us as a church. As we step up and step out again, let’s do it with our eyes wide open and our hearts encouraged by what the Bible teaches on these hugely relevant issues.

‘In Person’ Sunday Meetings – an update for Welcome Church

In my last blog I introduced our plans to trial some Sunday morning ‘in person’ meetings again at Welcome Church.

This week changes to lockdown restrictions were announced by the government, introducing the new “rule of 6”. We’ve been told that Covid is increasing across the country, and people have been asked to use additional caution and reduce interaction with others. From Monday (14th) it will be illegal to meet in any group greater than 6, indoors or outdoors, apart from some specific situations. Life Groups: please don’t miss this change and get fined!

In less than a week we’ve moved from a situation where restrictions were easing, to one with more restrictions and more Covid cases. In the next few weeks trials had been planned for some concert venues and conference centres – something we’ve been keeping a close eye on – but this is now subject to review as well.

With this in mind we’ve reviewed our plans

The announcement was very clear that places of worship are allowed to hold meetings, as long as it’s done in a Covid-secure way. This means WE ARE LEGALLY ALLOWED to go ahead. However, we also need to ask ourselves a number of other questions to determine if it’s the right thing at this moment, including:

  • Is this the right timing?
  • How might it affect our reputation as a church?
  • Will people want to attend?
  • Will it be beneficial?
  • Will the trial succeed?

Having reviewed the situation late on Wednesday, including taking some honest soundings from some who were booked to attend, we’ve reluctantly made a call to delay the trial meetings, perhaps until Sunday 18th October. We will keep this under review week by week.

We are disappointed by this, but after wide discussions we concluded that the 20th September, 6 days after new restrictions come in, is not the right moment for us to begin. I’ve made a video to explain it all. I even managed to smile. Please watch it for more information:

Moving forwards together

As the weeks unfold we DO need to begin meeting together. We mustn’t hide away in fear or apathy as our faith dims, our commitment to God’s church fades and our passion for Jesus cools.

We need one another, and meetings online can’t truly replace the sense of God’s presence as we gather in community as God’s people; the dynamic of being together in person seems impossible for us to truly reproduce online.

Over the summer some regulations concerning church meetings were eased and, although masks must now be worn and congregational singing is still not allowed, more than one person is now allowed sing from the front and full immersion baptism is permissible too. I believe we can make this work.

We will be starting in person meetings at some point soon. Let’s aim to be there if we possibly can.

In the time of waiting please stay connected to welcomechurch.online each week, at 9am or 11am. Please stay connected to your Life Group. Please join us to pray. Please join us for online communion and also for our Encounter Evening on September 20th (8pm on Zoom). Please don’t be passive in your love and commitment to the one who came from heaven to earth to die for you and win you back to the Father.

As a team we’ll be using the delay to keep planning and preparing so that when we do start meeting it’s even better than we’d hoped. We’re also looking closely at what’s possible for us to do with youth and children.

Welcome Church: God is going to bring us back to life again.

Don’t miss it.

Welcome Church ‘in person’ Sunday morning meetings

***This post has been updated in light of news this week. For more info click here ***

Because of Coronavirus and the restrictions of Lockdown we’ve been unable to hold Sunday meetings in person for a while now. When Lockdown began, such meetings were not legally allowed; more recently they’ve been allowed, but with lots of restrictions.

Because of the restrictions we’ve held off re-starting ‘in person’ meetings so far, and our reasoning was detailed in a previous blog post (click here to read). In summary it came down to a matter of what was legal, what was safe, how we can serve children, how we can engage in worship and ultimately whether the quality of what we’re allowed to do is at least as good as the online experience.

We now believe the time has come to test out a different approach: we are going to trial some in person Sunday meetings to see if what is now permissible can also be beneficial.

Why do this?

When Lockdown began it felt a bit like a fire drill: it was an unavoidable, surprising interruption to life, and we waited for someone to give the all clear so we could carry on ‘as we were’. It’s now clear that any return to ‘normality’ will be gradual. In the meantime we have to live in the world as it is, not how we wish it was.

We could keep on waiting, and many churches are doing that. What’s allowable is still very restricted, so to wait for further easing is a very reasonable and understandable approach. In reality some churches that have held ‘in person’ meetings have actually found that they haven’t ‘scratched the itch’ people feel for meaningful worship and genuine fellowship, two things that are hard to reproduce online. We may well reach the same conclusion ourselves, but we feel it’s right to try.

Ultimately, as an eldership team, we believe God is calling us to come back to life again as a church in every way we can; to start living at the limits of what is safe and legally allowable, rather than holding back. We want to do this wherever there is genuine benefit to be found – and some of that will need to be tested by real life experience.

So what’s the plan?

On Sundays 20th and 27th September, at 10am, we will be trialling an in person Sunday meeting at our building.

*** Update: this will be delayed until probably Sunday 18th and 25th October ***

The meetings will be conducted fully in line with the Covid-19 guidance for churches.

Just to be clear: online church will continue on those Sundays at 9am and 11am, with kids work at 10am; nothing is changing about that (and thanks to everyone who makes that possible). For those two weeks though, we will then also hold an ‘in person’ meeting as an extra. It will include the same preached message as the online meeting, only it will be done live.

To comply with government guidance, the in person meetings are restricted in terms of numbers, length and content. People will have to book a place in advance to attend, and face masks will be compulsory.

People will have to remain seated all the way through, distanced from any other household, unless they’re in a bubble together. There can be no hugging or handshakes. Worship will be performed by the band, although congregational singing is sadly not yet allowed. There will also be no children’s work or youth work yet, and no refreshments will be served.

By the way, if you’re over 70 or medically vulnerable we’re required to encourage you not to attend. Of course, if you have any possible coronavirus symptoms or are isolating then you absolutely must not attend.

But let’s see what’s possible together

Despite all the restrictions, we want to see how good we can make it. We want to see if we can start to move towards normality. Most of all we want to see if we can find ways for us to meet with God together and encounter the reality of his presence, and I know people have been missing that.

So I’m inviting you to join us. There’s no pressure: if you’re not ready to try an in person meeting yet, we totally understand. I know there are many who will want to be part of it. 

Parents: if you have older kids who want to attend, who will cope with listening to a preach and who can sit quietly for the whole meeting, please do book them in with yourselves. Remember that there is no kids or youth work, and they are required to stay in their seat next to you all the way through.

All the details you need to know, including everything we are doing to keep people safe and a link to booking a place, can be found by clicking here. Do please read all the details through.

Let’s do this in faith together

Let’s see if what is permissible can also be beneficial with some creative thinking applied. Let’s see if we can create an environment where we can meet with God and experience his presence together … so why not come and give it a go? Afterwards we’ll review it all to see if it’s worth pursuing these meetings further, or if we need to wait for further easing of restrictions first.

I look forward to seeing some of you in person at these two trial meetings. Our worship team are preparing to lead some worship. I’ll be there to preach and lead. I’ll also be preaching the same message online too, so either way we can be together and meet with God, who’s promises never fail.

Communion & a key announcement about our Sunday meetings

This Sunday evening (6th Sept) we have our next online Communion service. It’s the first one as we come back together after the summer, so do please make the effort to be there if you possibly can. Everyone is welcome; come as you are.

The meeting will start at 6.30pm and the Zoom codes are in the picture below. Please feel free to come online together as a family or on your own, and do have your own bread and wine/juice etc ready to go.

At the end of the meeting I will take a few minutes to share some new information about our plans regarding Sunday morning meetings, and about some key steps towards meeting together in person again.

See you on Zoom!

Sunday Evening: Connect Festival Comes Home

Today, in a normal year, many of us would have been heading off to our Commission ‘Westpoint’ Bible weekend. This year it was due to be held at a new venue in Shepton Mallet under a new name: Connect Festival.

Sadly Covid-19 has led to the whole event being cancelled, but that doesn’t mean nothing is happening over the weekend. On Sunday evening (30th August) at 7pm, an hour long event will be streamed for all our Commission churches. The event will include worship, a message from Guy Miller and from Vinu Paul, moments of prayer and more.

As part of the Commission church family we really won’t want to miss it, so do put it in your diaries now. Below is a short video from Simon and Liz Argent from Ascot Life Church to tell us a bit more:

The event will be streaming at 7pm on the Commission YouTube Channel (click here) here and also on the Commission Facebook Page (click here). Enjoy!