Community and Racism

We’ve lived through some difficult days with the challenge of Coronavirus, but events took place in the USA last week, which for many have overshadowed them all: the murder of a black man called George Floyd by four white police officers on the streets of Minneapolis.

Protests, some of them violent, have erupted across the USA. Even in the UK there have been protests and anger. This event has become a tipping point, pushing people to speak out and take action.

Racism is not unique to the USA of course; it happens in the UK too and many here feel angry; many experience racism on a daily basis. I believe we can and must do better than that within the church; I believe we can be a shining beacon in our town and our world.

So this Sunday at Welcome Church Online at 9am and 11am, I’m going to talk about how we can build a community together where everyone can be included, regardless of their ethnicity or the colour of their skin, and where Jesus’ Kingdom values can shine through. Everyone is invited to join us online on Sunday to hear more.

There are also two important events happening for us as a church on Sunday evening:

First: online communion online

We will be holding our next online communion  on Sunday 7th June at 6.30pm, for about 45 minutes. This is a great chance for us to build community together and will be on the same Zoom code as the prayer meetings, so do join us.

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It will be a ‘Come as you are communion’, so do log on as a family and bring your own bread and wine (or Ribena or whatever). Please put it in your diary now.

Second: “Listening Together”, a chance to talk about race and the experiences of people in our church

listening TogetherWe celebrate and praise God for the diversity of cultures and heritages that make up Welcome Church. We are one in Christ Jesus. As a leadership team we’re very aware that we’re not a perfect church, and as we reflect on the shocking events and the damaging history of racism and prejudice in our world, it’s important that we make space to reflect on how these issues are relevant within our own church family.

This Sunday evening from 8pm to 9pm one of our elders Christopher Hawes, alongside one of our other leaders Nnamdi Anyaegbunam, will be hosting a conversation, which is open to anyone, with an emphasis on listening to those most affected by these issues. It’s an opportunity for us to grow and learn to love each other better, and to grow in our unity as a church family.

You are invited to join us on the usual Zoom codes. I’ll be there, and I look forward to seeing you.

In the mean time

I have resisted writing a blog about racism and our response, because other people have said it so well already. If you want some excellent reading about this, please check out these links:

And finally this video response from my friend Tope Koleoso who leads Jubilee Church in London:

Cheering on our Forerunners

One of the biggest blessings we have in our church is that there are people from every decade of life and, from Monday 1st June, Welcome Church will start a new ministry called Forerunners, aimed primarily at those who are sixty and over.

This ministry is being led by Tony and Pat Hewat, along with a team. They want to make it clear from day 1 that this is open to anyone of any age who has the time and inclination to get involved. All welcome; come as you are!

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Tony and Pat are a lovely couple and gift both to our church and our town.

Tony is on the national leadership team for Besom UK a fantastic national charity, serving people in need in all sorts of practical ways. He is a founding trustee of The Useful Wood Company a brand new social enterprise based in Woking. In the past he also helped to set up The York Road Project, which serves the homeless in our town so well.sdr

Pat is a very active part of the schools team for Engage, who regularly deliver faith based assemblies to local primary schools in Woking. Pat is also a helper at Westfield Tots, and an active grandmother.

Together Tony and Pat look after some of our Welcome Church Life Groups, grow their own veg and (according to one picture) climb mountains.

 

Forerunners will have two main focuses:

Activities … both within and outside the church, with a desire to reach new people, embrace those on the fringe of church life, and help those who are part of the church to connect to one another and support one another better, including single people. There is also a desire to help bridge generational gaps and enable people of older generations to connect with those of younger generations for friendship, mentoring and support.

Pastoral care … to make sure there is prayer, pastoral support and practical help available for people, and to make sure that no one is forgotten. Forerunners will also be looking to take care of those in our church who are approaching the end of their run and need some extra love and care.

Tony and Pat are keen to encourage people of all ages who can, to get involved with church life and use their gifts to serve our church and our town. They are also keen to care for those who now need looking after.

Prophetic Foundations

The name Forerunners was taken from a prophetic word that was brought to our church recently after someone was reading about our church’s history in John Gloster’s book.

This word talked about God raising up the older generations as Forerunners, seeing them set the pace for the younger generations coming through. That word is available from Pat and Tony in full if you want it; I won’t post it here.

First meetings

The first meetings of Forerunners will take place this coming week on Tuesday (2nd) and Thursday (4th) at 1pm, and the plan is to include lunch. Log in to Zoom using the details we use for our online prayer meetings and Forerunners will be there.

So grab your lunch and get online to eat, pray and chat. I know you will be blessed, and remember – you don’t have to be sixty yet to join in.

 

 

 

Getting Spiritually Match Fit

On Sunday, Christoper Hawes spoke about our need to be ‘spiritually match fit’ as lockdown eases and something closer to normal life returns (click here to listen). Just as footballers will need to be fit to play the full 90 minutes when football returns, we need to be spiritually fit for God’s call and plans for us.

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Have you lost some of your spiritual fitness during lockdown?

2 Timothy 3v16-17 says:

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

Among other things Christopher talked about the Bible as being like a ‘spiritual coach’ for us, helping us to attain full fitness.

He listed five ways to approach the Bible that can help us:

  1. Listening: such as listening to our Sunday preaching
  2. Reading: actually reading the Bible. Have you read it all yet? There are loads of apps and reading plans available for free to help
  3. Studying: a lot of the Bible’s riches do not ‘lie on the surface’; we are reading literature that is thousands of years old and written to different cultures in languages we don’t speak today. Study guides are so helpful for us to mine the depths, taking our understanding and interest to whole new levels
  4. Memorising: learning verses or chapters by heart; being able to call them to mind when needed. Jesus did this to fight temptation (see Luke chapter 4)
  5. Meditating: filling our mind with scripture; rolling it round and round our thoughts

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When Christopher talked about ‘studying’ the Bible, he mentioned some resources to help us. I have listed some of these here, along with a few extra suggestions of my own:

1. Study Bibles
A Study Bible is a simple tool to help us as we read. I own two: The NIV Study Bible and The NLT Study Bible. They have comments on many of the verses and explain things we can easily miss
2. Daily Devotionals
These are short daily reading guides that give insight to what we’re reading. There are lots of these available, both in online or paper formats to suit your preference for example, Every Day With Jesus or Daily Hope, both of which I would recommend
3. Bible commentaries
A good Bible commentary can help us mine the depths of the Bible, and lots of these are well written and easy to read, such as ‘The Bible Speaks Today’ (which has a commentary available for every book of the Bible) or the ‘New American Commentary’ series (which go far deeper and are personal favourites of mine) or the ‘Holman Commentary’ series (which take a chapter at a time and point to the key things in it) or Phil Moore’s ‘Straight To The Heart Of’ series (very readable and applicable to daily life)
4. A Systematic Theology
Reading a good systematic theology can take some effort, but it’s manageable by anyone with reasonable reading ability and the courage to take the plunge. Reading one through is like taking all the bits of theology we know (and a lot we don’t know) and organising it into a neat filing system. I personally like Wayne Grudems Systematic Theology, but others are also available.
5. Commission Training
As a church we are part of the Commission family of churches, and Commission have just launched a whole range of new training courses, starting from September. There are four levels of training on offer, starting with something basic and going all the way through to a Masters Degree. For details click here. They also talk about an internship year in a church, which could be done here at Welcome Church – feel free to ask.

What next?

There is no bad place to start. The key thing is not to worry about what we don’t know or haven’t done, but to start somewhere. All the things I have listed above will do us good, so why not try something?
To return to a sporting analogy, the ball is in your court.

 

Making changes, keeping things fresh

We have been living and we continue to live through unprecedented times. None of us have walked this road before; none of us know what’s ahead.

In order to serve people well as a church, in addition to our Welcome Church online Sunday meetings, kids work, youth work and Life Groups, we quickly introduced two new things when this situation began:

  1. A daily encouragement video
  2. Twice daily prayer meetings on Zoom

These have both been running for just short of ten weeks now. The positive feedback from the encouragement videos has been appreciated, and I’ve been amazed at people’s faithfulness to log on and pray faithfully, as well as at the many answers to prayer. We’ve also held online communion which has been well received.

Thanks to everyone who has taken part and to everyone who has worked to make these things happen – especially to Darren, to Ethan and to our subtitling team

As Lockdown eases – (and who knows what may happen in the next few weeks) – we want to make sure that what we do as a church stays fresh, is sustainable over the long term and serves people well.

We are all aware of changes happening in our country as more people are now going back to work and as the range of reasons we’re allowed out has been expanded. We are also more used to Lockdown, and no longer in a state of shock and panic.

Review

With all this in mind we’ve done a review taking into account a range of different factors including:

  • Changes in the level of engagement as people have gone back to work or have simply gone out more, especially on a Saturday (we have numbers and trends for every video and prayer meeting!)
  • A desire to keep things fresh and helpful (it’s always better to change things before they get stale and not to wait until after they do)
  • The reality of needing to do things sustainably over the long haul (and it may be some time before we’re free to meet together in person, perhaps not until next year)
  • A need to avoid burning out the team  (and it’s got too close for comfort along the way, in more than one case)
  • The fact that if we’re doing one thing with our time & resources, we can’t do something else with the same time & resources (this is called “opportunity cost”; put simply, sometimes doing something good can stop us from doing something great)

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As a result of this review we’re making some changes, and we’re also introducing something new …

A change to the Zoom Prayer Meetings

From Monday 25th May onwards we will be holding our prayer meetings online once a day, Monday to Saturday, from 8.15am – 9am. That’s a lot of prayer meetings every week, and my encouragement is for people to come to at least one each week if you can, and let’s expect to see God answer our prayers

This time can be made to work for the vast majority of people. I know that some will be disappointed to lose the 1pm, slot, but it’s worth bearing in mind that when we had that time, there where others disappointed by the lack of an evening slot!

A change to the Daily Encouragement videos

The current run of daily videos will be ending on Monday 25th May, after almost ten weeks. Thanks to all who have made them possible and thanks for the feedback.

From the week commencing Monday 1st June we will begin ‘Encouragement from Welcome Church’ as a twice weekly video, probably on Tuesdays and Fridays at 4pm.

These encouragement videos will be a mix of news and Biblical encouragement. Don’t miss them if you want to stay up to date and encouraged!

And now for something completely new

From the week starting Monday 1st June I am delighted to announce the launch of a new ministry called:

Forerunners

female-and-male-runners-on-a-marathon-2402777Forerunners is our new ministry aimed at anyone from age 60 and upwards. It is intended to help people build friendship and connection with one another and to grow in God. Some aspects will be social, many will be more ministry based.

Forerunners will be led by Tony and Pat Hewatt, along with a team, and they have a desire to release people into all God has for them in this season of life. They will say more about their vision and plans in the weeks ahead.

Pat and Tony want to be clear that, although this is aimed at people from 60 and upwards, all the meetings are open to anyone of any age who wants to join in.

Initially Forerunners will start online on Tuesdays and Thursdays at lunchtime, so bring your lunch and be online ready to eat, chat and pray. The exact details and timings will be communicated in the coming days.

I’m so pleased that we’re able to kick this off during this time of Lockdown, and I know that there are a good number of people in our church who will appreciate it, including some who will miss the 1pm prayer slot.

Please feel free to invite other people to join in too, wherever they are from. This is not exclusive for Welcome Church: all welcome; come as you are.

Don’t forget

Welcome Church online continues each week at 9am and 11am. Welcome Kids is at 10am each week. Youth is on Friday evenings. Most Life Groups are also meeting every week.

If you are looking for connection to people and to God there are many places to find it so no one need miss out.

One last thing: communion online

We will be holding our next communion online on Sunday 7th June at 6.30pm, for about 45 minutes. It will be on the same Zoom code as the prayer meetings, so do join us.

It will be another ‘Come as you are communion’, so do log on as a family and bring your own bread and wine (or Ribena or whatever). Please put it in your diary now, and I look forward to seeing you online.

George Varney: he’s a community hero!

Welcome Church‘s very own George Varney has deservingly won a fantastic award, and we could not be prouder of him.

The award has been given by Christian Nightlife Initiatives Network (CNI), who are an umbrella organisation for around 130 local projects working predominantly to serve people within the night-time economy, and this include Woking Street Angels.

aIMG_6734-1638x2048Because of George’s outstanding work as a Street Angel, where he is both a trustee and team leader, along with his most recent venture, The Useful Wood Company, George has been chosen as a community hero by CNI.

This is a Nation Wide Contest so George has done really well. You can read all about his award by clicking here – you may spot a few other familiar faces in the photos too.

Alice Potter, a Trustee from Woking Street Angels said,

“George has always been the person to step in the gap when we have had holes in our Duty Rota. He would be out until 4am in the morning and still turn up for an early start at church a few hours later. He has always gone the extra mile. He stands out in our Team and I am proud that he is part of our Church.”

Serving the poor and those in need is a key aspect of the Christian faith in action, so it is also central to us as a church. You can see lots more of what we do in these areas by checking out our Welcome Works initiative.

Welcome Worship Online

Our online Sunday meetings have been well served with worship songs recorded by members of our Welcome Church worship team.

Some of these tracks are now available for you to listen to online via Spotify, Apple Music or YouTube. Please click here to access them.

Enjoy the worship, and don’t forget to follow us. More of the tracks we’re producing as a church will be added soon.

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Special thanks (so far) goes to to Simon Field (for filming the videos), Jo Petch, Owen Petch, Steve Tait and Sophie White (for making the music), and Owen again for mixing the sound.

More people will be getting involved in the weeks ahead, so look out for that too.

 

 

 

Calling all Welcome Church Life Groups!

Life Groups have been key for us at Welcome Church during this time of Lockdown, so I went to say a massive ‘thank you’ and ‘well done’ to all our group leaders for taking their group meetings online so seamlessly and faithfully.

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Different groups have been taking different approaches during this time:

Most have been meeting weekly and some fortnightly. There have been quizzes, competitions, sing-a-longs, breakout groups, Bible studies, prayer meetings, encouragements, worship times, fancy dress, reflections on the Sunday preaching, drawing competitions, poetry, things for kids, virtual meals and a whole lot more.

The most important thing is that people have  connected to caring community during a time of isolation

There are three things I want to say to and about Life Groups:

1. I want to recommend a book and encourage Life Groups to study it together in the weeks ahead.

51ELoj+49hL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_The book is called “Spiritual Feasting” and is written by Jenny Sanders. It has 17 chapters, and each chapter ends with three application questions that groups can work through together. I would recommend looking at just one chapter each week.

I know this will do us all so much good, whether you’ve been a Christian for years or are still just exploring the faith.

The book is available on Amazon by clicking here. At the time of writing it’s on pre-order for a reduced price, but don’t hang about; it’s released on Friday (the 15th May) and will be a little more expensive after that. There’s a kindle version available too.

The book is all about the reality of living life to the full with Jesus, even though we walk through challenges and difficulties. It’s well worth the time and effort to read and will serve us so well. If you’re hungering for a greater spiritual reality with Jesus in your life, this will do you good.

2. I would love to encourage group members to say “thank you” to their Life Group leaders

I suspect lots of people have done this already, but if not please let your group leaders know how much they are appreciated. Why not sent them a thank you?

3. If you’re not in a Life Group and would like to try one, you can

To arrange it, please email us on connect@allwelcome.uk and let us know you want to try a Life Group. Make sure you include your contact details so we can get in touch.

Let’s all be part of a caring community at this time.

“Welcome Church Goes Around The World” Reaches Eastern Asia In 3 Weeks! Dub Everitt to have Lockdown Haircut by seven year old! Read all about it here!

We’re now halfway through our “Welcome Church goes Around the World” challenge: 3 weeks in, 3 weeks to go.

The aim is to travel 24,901 miles (the circumference of the globe) in 6-weeks, and we’re AHEAD OF SCHEDULE – 13,704 miles travelled in the first 3 weeks! We’ve now reached Magadan on the eastern border of Russia.

Check out our update video here with Ellianora from Magadan giving us a personal encouragement:

We’re aiming to raise £1 per mile, a total of £24,901 for Your Sanctuary. We’ve reached over £8,000 so far, which is amazing, but would love to see this figure grow and grow so we can raise as much as possible to support the work Your Sanctuary are doing in supporting survivors of domestic abuse.

So … we would love you to Become a Team Member & ask friends & family to personally sponsor you!

It’s amazing the difference someone being able to personally sponsor you makes. By clicking on this link below, you can become a team member 

When you join the team, you can share a direct link for people to click on and invite friends, family and colleagues to personally sponsor you!

If 100 of us were team members and each raised £100, we could add £10,000 to our fundraising this week!

If 100 of us raised £200 each, we would add £20,000 and beat our target!

So, please do join the team and then invite others to sponsor you.

One more thing:

“SPONSOR DUB’S HAIR BEING CUT BY A 7-YEAR-OLD FOR YOUR SANCTUARY!”

Mike Reid & Eugene Engelbrecht (two of elders here at Welcome Church) have both offered to give £100 to our Your Sanctuary appeal if Dub allows his 7-year-old Will to cut his hair! Others have quickly joined in and pledges have already reached £500!

Dub has agreed for this to happen live on Facebook at 5.30pm this Thursday if pledges reach £1,000. Click on this video link to find out more

Let’s not miss this great opportunity to have Dub’s locks sheared off for Your Sanctuary!

Click here to donate on GoFundMe or click here to comment and pledge

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UPDATED!!! Building Community Together

DETAILS FOR SUNDAY EVENING’S ONLINE COMMUNION HAVE CHANGED BECAUSE THE PRIME MINISTER WILL ADDRESS THE NATION AT 7PM – SEE BELOW FOR UPDATED DETAILS

Coronavirus, social distancing and lockdown have created challenges for us all, including a sense of isolation. I’ve certainly had some ‘down’ days along the way and I know others have too.

There will be things we’re each missing, and one I’ve heard mentioned often is that people are missing meeting together in person as a church community. In response I want to highlight two things we’ve got planned to help us connect together.

Evening Communion

This Sunday (10th May) at 6.00pm (please note new time), we will hold ‘online communion’ together. Everyone is invited to join us for a ‘Welcome Church, Come As You Are, Online Communion’.

We will do this on Zoom, and all the details are shown in the picture:

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Everyone is welcome. Come as you are. Come as a family. You don’t have to be part of Welcome Church to join in; just bring your faith and an open heart.

At the end of our time together we’ll take communion, so please be ready with bread and wine (or Ribena or grape juice or whatever you’ve got). Please don’t worry too much what it is or put yourself at risk to get something.

The items that we use are always symbolic of a greater reality; what counts is being together as one body of people with Jesus at the centre. Jesus is the ‘bread’ we all share. His death for us is what we remember.

This is a great way for us to be together in the presence of Jesus

Virtual Coffee

Community is so important to us that as well as being able to post comments and to share “hearts” in the chat area during the meeting itself, we’ve now introduced “Virtual Coffee” after both the 9am and 11am meetings, for about half an hour. Please do grab yourself a drink and then come and join us online for a ‘Virtual Coffee’ and chat.

Everyone is welcome to join in – just log on and be friendly. If you’re new to our church or connecting from another town or even another country, you’re welcome too. Come and say hi for half and hour or so, and let’s build community, get to know one another and have virtual coffee.

Again, the details are in the picture:

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Hero of the year: Our Amazing Mayor

The incredible Beryl Hunwicks, who is part of our Welcome Church family, has been serving as the 46th Mayor of Woking for the last year.

She has done a fantastic job all year, working extremely hard, and her time in office was due to expire this month, BUT THERE IS SOME BIG NEWS TO ANNOUNCE:

 Beryl has been asked to remain in office for an unprecedented second year

The Council’s Annual Meeting and Mayor Making ceremony usually takes place in May, but this has been postponed until May 2021 because of Coronavirus. This means Beryl remains in place for a second term, as does Saj Hussain, who continues to serve as Deputy Mayor. I will also continue as Chaplain to The Mayor.

Speaking about her exceptional extended term, Beryl said:

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We love you Beryl!

“It’s a great privilege and honour to serve the borough in this capacity; to celebrate its achievements and to be an ambassador for all that is great about Woking and the things of which we are proud.

“Those who have served as Mayor before me will know how demanding the role can be, and I confess I was looking forward to an end of term break! But that was then, and now I am lifted by the bravery of our key workers, and the kindness, generosity and ingenuity that has come to the fore of late.

“I am truly humbled to be Woking’s Mayor during this time and will do all I can to support the recovery and rehabilitation of our wonderful and vibrant borough over the next 12 months.”

The restrictions put in place to protect people during the coronavirus pandemic have made life tougher for us all, but none more so than those living in abusive households, including here in Woking.

With this in mind, the Mayor will continue to support and fundraise for the domestic abuse charity ‘Your Sanctuary‘ during the 2020/21 Mayoral Year. This is a great moment to remind people about our own ‘Welcome Church Goes Around The World’ fund raising initiative for this essential cause – please click here for details and please give generously!

As a church let’s be praying for Beryl in the year ahead:

  • Pray that she has the health and stamina for all she is asked to do
  • Pray that she has wisdom and grace as she chairs the Council Meetings
  • Pray that she is able to bring the love and light of Jesus to everyone she meets
  • Pray for her husband Alan, a former elder of our church, a trustee, and a faithful man of God, now battling Parkinson’s Disease (we love you too Alan)

Beryl, we are so proud of you. We appreciate all you’ve done and continue to do for our town. And on behalf of everyone at Welcome Church:

“THANK YOU and WELL DONE!”