Welcome Church Goes Camping!!!

A regular feature of our church diary before Covid was an annual camping weekend with Commission, which is the family of churches we belong to. This event took place each year over the Bank Holiday weekend at the end of August but has been on hold since 2020 due to Covid.

Although the Commission UK team (which I’m part of) have a real sense of faith and of God’s call to get back to these events again, sadly our plans to run ‘Connect Festival’ in 2022 have – for a whole host of reasons – had to be postponed to 2023. This postponement creates an opportunity for us as a church … so we’ve decided to run our own camping event this summer over that weekend.

Chris and Sarah setting up camp

Dates for your diary

Please do put August 26th to 29th in your diary! Welcome Church will be going camping together!

We plan to give details of the venue soon, and it’s less than an hour’s drive from Woking. We want to do a final confirmatory site visit before we announce the details and open the booking, which we hope to do in January.

Over the weekend we’ll have a lot of fun with something for everyone. We’ll hire a big marquee where we can eat together, play games together, hang out together and more, and we’ll be looking to include some excellent spiritual content along the way too. So get the date in your diary and let’s get ready to have some fun.

Latest Covid Changes at Welcome Church

Yesterday (8th December) the Prime Minister made an announcement about changes to the Covid regulations and a move towards the government’s “Plan B”. Whenever these announcements are made there are always a lot of questions about what the impact is and what we are and aren’t supposed to do; this is true of us as a church too.

Today we met as a team and did our best to understand what the current changes mean for us as a church. Following that (in what felt like a step back in time) I’ve recorded a video to talk about it. Everything you need to know about the changes we’re making as a church is in this video, so please do watch it.

For this who are ridiculously short of time the headline is that from Friday 10th December it will be mandatory to wear a face mask in a place of worship. There’s a lot more that we need to say as well, so for the rest of the update – please do watch the video! Thanks

On Mission With Commission

Welcome Church is part an international family of churches called Commission. Each summer we get together with the other UK based Commission churches, and some from further afield, for a festival where we worship together, hear great teaching and have a whole lot of fun and games. For the past two summers this has been cancelled due to Covid, but it’s back on in summer 2022. Connect Festival will run from 25th to 29th August at the Bath and West Show Ground in Shepton Mallet. Please click here to register your interest. Bookings will open soon.

At the Festival each summer there’s usually been an offering to help fund our international mission as a family of churches. It goes to fund church plants, leadership training courses, ministry to the poor, care of churches around the world and more. The offering helps fund some amazing things that we value as a church, and lots of us would normally have given to this offering in person at the event.

Because there’s been no conference in 2021 there’s been no offering, but the mission continues. With this in mind we’d love to invite everyone to consider making a gift to the Commission offering; a gift from Welcome Church. We’d like to ask every person to think about it prayerfully and to give with faith.

If you’re up for this challenge you can give in two ways:
1. You can give online via bank transfer to Welcome Church and mark it as being for the Commission offering. Click here for a link to our online giving details.

2. You can give cash or cheque by putting it in an envelope, labelling it for the Commission Offering and dropping it into the office during the week or into the box at the information point on a Sunday morning. (Please make any cheques payable to Welcome Church.)


Thank you in advance for your giving. We’ll gather it together over the next 2 or 3 weeks and send it as one gift from us all. Here’s a video that explains a lot more about what the offering is for:

Changes To Our Sunday Meetings

Since the pandemic began we’ve made regular adjustments to how we run Sunday meetings, and this will continue in the months ahead. Remember, we only restarted 9am and 11am meetings with kids work eight weeks ago. As it stands we’re still on a journey towards a new normal, so this September we’ll be taking some more steps towards that with some small adjustments as follows:

  • From this Sunday (19th Sept) we’ll still meet at 9am and 11am, but we’ll now be aiming for meetings that are 1hr 15 mins in length (which is pretty much what they’ve actually been all along 😃) 
  • We may begin to reduce the size of the socially distanced seating area since less people want to use it for this purpose. We will ensure there is enough space there for all those who feel the need for it
  • Children will continue to be in for the worship time and then go out to their groups, but their groups will now run until 10.30am for the first meeting and 12.30pm for the second meeting. This will give us 15 minutes that we can use for prayer ministry, for catching up with one another and for people to have tea/coffee together before collecting children
  • From Sunday 26th September we will reintroduce tea/coffee after each meeting
  • We will also reintroduce communion regularly on a Sunday, and begin to make space to pray for people in person too

Because we’re being warned that the pandemic is ‘far from over’ and that some restrictions might be reintroduced, we’ll continue to broadcast the 9am livestream for now (although we do encourage everyone who can attend in person to do so). We’ll also be ready to make further changes as needed, in line with official guidance for churches.

It goes without saying that we should all be careful and vigilant. If you have symptoms of Covid or have tested positive for Covid in the last ten days (with or without symptoms) you should not attend in person; this is not going to be a winter to ‘push through that cold and keep going’!

As we make changes let’s remember that we are a charismatic church; we should expect to encounter God’s presence and for people to use spiritual gifts; we want the genuine presence and power of God to be experienced by us all. With this in mind, although worship times are still a little shorter, let’s expect some God focused, encouraging contributions to help us in our worship. All we ask is that you come forward and use the microphone so everyone, including the livestream, can hear you.

I’m looking forward to an exciting autumn as we continue our new preaching series, I’m looking forward to meeting with my church family, I’m looking forward to encountering God’s presence and I’m even hopeful that we might get to celebrate Christmas together this year too.

Calling 18 – 30 Year Olds Who Want More

What has God got in store for your future? Is there an area of work, leadership or ministry He’s calling you in to? Is there something He’s calling you to pioneer? Is there a nation or place He’s calling you to? We want to help you explore what the future could look like as you open up more fully to God and to His plans and purposes for your life.

One thing our new preaching series will highlight is the need we all have for discipleship and mentoring as we learn to follow Jesus. With this in mind we’re creating a great new opportunity for some of the younger people in our church this year.

Here’s how it will work: once a month over the next 12 months, on a Saturday morning, Jo and I, along with some other great leaders from our church, will be running a discipleship group aimed specifically at people from 18 years of age up to about 30.

It will run in person at our Welcome Church building. All the sessions will be free and we’ll even give you breakfast each time. We’ll start the sessions at about 8am with an aim to be done by about 10.30am so you can get on with your day.

As a group we’ll be addressing a whole range of issues along the way such as: finding God’s call on your life, developing a vision for the future, staying emotionally and mentally healthy, handling relationships/singleness well, dealing with social media, growing in your gifting and getting to know God better. Whatever your age, relationship or employment status we believe God has a plan for your life and an exciting part for you to play in His Kingdom. Come along and find out more.

If you’re part of Welcome Church and you fit the age profile and you want to come along for these sessions, please sign up by emailing us on connect@allwelcome.uk.

We’re limiting this to about 20 places, so don’t hang about or you could miss out. And be warned: it could change your life for good.

I Love My Church

It’s been great to see more people starting to attend in person at church each week now that September is here. If you’ve started coming again recently, welcome back!

This Sunday we started our new preaching series for the autumn called I LOVE MY CHURCH, and we’ve given our series artwork a Welcome Church twist

I preached the first message in the series this week and, because all the rest of the series builds on this first message, I have a simple request for everyone …

… if you missed the talk, for whatever reason, please listen to it.

It’s a slightly longer message than normal because it’s laying the foundation for everything else to come, but don’t let that put you off. You can find it as a podcast from all the usual podcast sources, you can listen to it as an audio file by clicking here, or you can watch the video of the preach (the best option by far in my opinion) by clicking below. Why not make the time to do that before Sunday?

One more thing: Christopher Hawes has been working with an artist called Jack Seymour to create some beautiful illustrations to help bring the ideas in the series to life. This first one is below. Enjoy!

Some Summer Reading

As I’ve done on a couple of past occasions I wanted to mention some books you may find helpful. If you have some down time over the summer (or even if you don’t) why not give them a go?

Gentle and Lowly by Dale Ortlund

This book is about getting to know Jesus better and understanding his heart towards us. I read it one chapter a day alongside my Bible reading. Andrew Wilson (teaching pastor at Kings Church London and well known to many of us) described it as ‘the best book he’s read in the last decade’. So many different leaders recommended it to me that in the end I had to get a copy and it turned out to be one of the best books I’ve read; it’s the sort of book I’ll be returning to time and again. If you want to understand more about how God really thinks of you, start here.

The Rise and Triumph Of The Modern Self by Carl Trueman

Over the past year the subject of gender identity has dominated large sections of the British media, and many well known public figures have fallen foul of this issue. But how did our society get to this place? How, for example, have we arrived at a situation where someone defining a woman as ‘an adult female human being’ can lead to accusations that they are causing harm and demands for them to be cancelled? Carl Trueman who is both a Christian and British, and is also a professor of Biblical studies at Grove City College Pennsylvania, has a lot of insights for us. Be warned though: this book is not for the faint hearted. It’s a long read, covering a tricky subject at an academic level, but it’s well worth the effort.

Everything Happens For A Reason (and other lies I’ve loved) by Kate Bowler

Kate Bowler, professor of divinity at a University in the USA, was 35 years old and had finally had a baby with her childhood sweetheart. Shortly afterwards she began to feel jabbing pains in her stomach and was diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer and was told she might not have long to live. How does a Christian face this sort of challenge? Do we lean into a property gospel that God will always heal us if we believe and pray hard enough? Or do we just surrender to fate? And how do we, as Christians, support people who find themselves with a diagnosis like this, without resorting to worthless platitudes such as ‘everything happens for a reason’? I read this in one sitting.

Confronting Christianity: 12 Hard Questions for the World’s Largest Religion by Rebecca McLaughlin

Rebecca McLaughlin holds a Ph.D. from Cambridge University and a degree in theological and pastoral studies from Oak Hill Theological College in London. In this book she looks at some of the toughest questions Christians face today, covering topics such as suffering, diversity, sexuality, slavery, heaven and hell, gender equality, science vs the Bible and more. The book shows how the best research from sociology, science, and psychology doesn’t disagree with, but actually aligns with claims found in the Bible and shows how these issues are not roadblocks but signposts to faith in Christ. This is a really helpful resource to answer both our own questions and those that may get thrown at us by others.

One Big Welcome Church Weekend

This Sunday, 25th July, we’re returning to something much closer to normal church life. Welcome Church will be meeting at 9am and 11am, with kids work starting again and absolutely no need to book in advance to attend – just turn up. I’m really looking forward to singing together in worship, instead of sitting down and ‘watching’.

For full practical details of how the meetings will run during this next season please follow this link here, especially if you’re still a bit nervous because of Covid. The link should tell you everything you need to know, including the measures we’re taking to keep everyone safe.

As well as church life getting back to something more like normal, there are three extra things to look forward to this Sunday:

1. We will be baptising people

We have four people due to be baptised at the 9am meeting and 7 at the 11am meeting, with more baptisms planned for the autumn too. If you’re a Christian and have not yet been baptised since you came to faith in Jesus it’s not too late for you to join them, just get in touch and talk to us about it on connect@allwelcome.uk

2. We have a guest speaker

Guy Miller, who leads the Apostolic team of our Commission family of churches, will be our speaker this weekend. He’s going to be continuing our ‘Words That Changed My World’ preaching series and I’m looking forward to hearing what he has to say

3. We have our Welcome Home Summer Social in the afternoon

This will be a great chance to connect again with the whole Welcome Church family and to eat and relax together. It runs from 12.30pm to 4.30pm at the Schifano’s field (a map will be available at the meetings this Sunday, or please email info@allwelcome.uk for details)

This event is completely free and includes food, drinks, bouncy castles, an inflatable assault course, a slip n slide, children’s games and more – just bring a chair, rug or something to sit on.

We will be keeping an eye on the weather of course, and if we do get rained off we’ll let you know and will reschedule soon. Events like this will be a key part of our Welcome Church Recovery Plan following Covid – make sure you don’t miss it.

See you at the weekend!

Theology For Life

One of the many benefits of being part of the Commission family of churches is the excellent theological training that’s on offer, from a basic level through to a full Masters Degree.

Due to popular demand Commission is running a Theology for Life course across 11 Saturdays over the next academic year. Whether you’re a brand new Christian eager to learn as much as you can about Christianity, or you’ve been a Christian for a while and would like to deepen your theological understanding, Theology for Life Course is a great place to start.

The sessions will be taught by some excellent teachers from across the Commission family of churches and will take place at Hope Church Winchester, starting on Saturday 11th September and continuing once a month through to July 2022.

The whole course costs £300, which includes all the training, access to an online learning portal and interaction with the course leader between sessions including both feedback on voluntary assignments and ongoing discussion relating to any questions raised by the teaching. Coffee and refreshments will be served on the days, though you’ll need to bring your own lunch.

Below is a video which tells you more about the course:

If you have any questions, please do check out the full course details here.

Plans For Sunday Meetings At Welcome Church From Sunday July 25th

On Monday 19th July we reach step 4 of the national unlocking plan and we’ll be getting closer to holding ‘normal’ Sunday meetings. Personally I’m excited and raring to go, and at the same time I recognise some of us will be more cautious, especially with rising Covid case numbers.

We want everyone to feel confident to attend, so to help bring reassurance where it’s needed here’s our plan for how things will work. This plan covers things we will stop, things we will start and things we will change. There are also some Covid safety measures listed at the end to help reassure people further. As always this is all subject to change if the guidance changes.

What stops from July 25th

Online kids work will not take place from that day onwards.

You will no longer be required to sit socially distanced from other people, unless you want to.

You will no longer need to book to attend or register on arrival; just turn up.

What starts from July 25th

In person kids work, including creche, restarts that day, with Sunday youth work to commence from September.

You will be free to stand up and sing during the worship … at last!

You will be free to pray for people and to be prayed for as appropriate.

Breaking news:

We will create a specific ‘socially distanced’ seating area for people who would like to use it, where face masks will also be worn. This will be situated at the back, near to the car park doors, and you will be able to enter and leave that way to avoid getting close to too many people. For everyone else we recommend using the front doors, as we did before the pandemic.

What changes from July 25th

Instead of one meeting at 10am, we will have two meetings which will be at 9am and 11am. These will each be around one hour in length.

The livestream will operate for the 9am meeting only, and will no longer have a chat feature. This means that for now you can still choose to watch online if you need to.

Children will stay in the meeting with their parents during the worship time, before going out to their groups, giving them a much shorter time in kids work or creche than before the pandemic. We will register your kids on arrival at the meeting so do try to arrive in good time if you can and please use the front doors and not the car park doors for this.

Face masks will no longer be legally required, however government guidance recommends they are worn in crowded indoor areas. With this in mind we encourage you to wear a mask on arrival, on leaving and when moving around the building, such as going to the toilet or collecting your children. We will not be policing this, so our encouragement is that we each seek to be responsible and to care for others where we can, remembering that face masks are mainly worn to protect other people and not ourselves. Once you are seated you will be free to remove your face mask or to continue wearing it as you see fit, except in the socially distanced seating area where masks will be required.

Some Covid safety measures

There are several things we’re doing to help keep people safe:

1. Our heating and cooling system has been set to ‘extract’ mode and is not recycling any air. This means that we will be sitting in a flow of new air, and what we breathe out will be slowly drawn upwards and out of the building – this has been the case since meetings restarted.

2. Our hand sanitisation stations will remain in place and we encourage you to use them.

3. The meetings are shorter than they would be in normal times, reducing your exposure time to others.

4. There will be a longer gap between meetings leading to less crowding.

5. Despite reduced numbers being expected as many people will be away during the summer, we are holding two meetings in order to create as much space as possible and avoid overcrowding.

6. We will not yet be serving refreshments, so bring your own tea, coffee or water – this will avoid crowding around refreshment tables.

7. We encourage you to use the outside areas to socialise, including the car park, the area outside the front, and the areas between the two buildings.

Full steam ahead?

We are hoping this is now full steam ahead on the road to normality but we must bear in mind two things:

  1. We don’t know if there will be future restrictions put in place if cases rise or new variants emerge, especially as we head into the autumn
  2. No specific guidance for churches has been issued this time. If that does come out it’s possible we’ll find something that affects our plans; if that happens we will let you know.

It’s been an incredibly difficult time for us all during the pandemic and there have been losses along the way. We’ve also been warned that the pandemic is ‘far from over’.

With all this in mind let’s enjoy this new freedom as much as we can and as responsibly as we can. I’m excited to get back to worshipping God together in person again and I hope to see you all there.