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 email@example.com
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
On Monday this week the government announced a delay to the national plan for unlocking, with step 4 being delayed from Monday 21st June to Monday 19th July. Whatever we each feel about the delay, let’s be praying for our government as they make difficult decisions in the face of competing pressures on all sides.
Our original plan as a church had been that from Sunday June 27th we would return to holding 2 in person meetings each Sunday, at 9am and 11am, with kids work included and no need to book. The delay to step 4 impacts on these plans which now need to be delayed and adjusted.
Our new plan
For the next five Sundays, up to and including Sunday 18th July, we will continue just as we are. We will have one in person Sunday meeting at 10am each week, which will also be live streamed. Booking is now open for all of these Sundays, and you can access the booking system by following this link. Why not book right now to attend them all?
Remember, we can now sit in groups of six people, or groups of two households, so feel free to find someone else to book in with. Maybe you could encourage someone who hasn’t attended in person yet to come with you and sit together; you may be just the encouragement they need.
From Monday July 19th the church offices should reopen. We haven’t opened them yet because the official government advice is still ‘work from home if you are able to’, and most of the time we can. When that advice changes we will change and we expect that to be from July 19th as step 4 is reached.
From Sunday July 25th, the first Sunday after step 4, we will commence a plan to hold 2 in person Sunday meetings each week, at 9am and 11am, with children’s work included and (unless some official guidance says otherwise) no need to book. Our hope is that as step 4 is reached we will no longer be required to wear face masks and that we will be able to stand and sing together.
July 25th will be a special day for us
Obviously July 25th is the first Sunday of the school holidays, so in some ways it’s not ideal for making any big change. We know that some people will undoubtedly be away. Despite this, July 25th will be a special Sunday for us as a church for several reasons:
1. We will reopen fully as a church that day
It’s been a long time coming, but I can’t wait for us to be back together. Over the summer the meetings will be one hour in length, with a one hour gap to allow people to chat and socialise. We will hold two meetings each week to make sure we’re not too crowded when we get together, which may be important to some who have felt nervous about returning in person. Our live stream will continue during this time as well for those who need it.
2. We will restart our children’s work that day
Our kids have missed out on so much over the last year and they now need to be a high priority for us all. Starting children’s work will help to make church meetings more accessible for those with families and it will be good for our children. When we start the children will join us in the adult meeting for a short worship time together before they go out to enjoy a shorter children’s work together.
3. We will have baptisms that day
These baptisms will be a great celebration of what God has done over the last few months. If you’re a Christian and haven’t been baptised since you came to faith in Jesus, baptism is for you. If want to know more then please get in touch here. We would love to chat to you about baptism.
4. We will hold a ‘Back to Church’ Summer Social that afternoon
On the afternoon of July 25th, from 12.30pm to 4.30pm we will hold afun social event for the whole church. This will be an open air event with all food and drinks provided free of charge, along with bouncy castles and games for the kids. This will be a great chance for us all to get together and catch up with friends after such a long time. All you will need to bring is a chair or blanket to sit on. Details of the venue and how to book will be out soon.
Making the most of this time
This latest delay is disappointing for us all. It means we all have longer to wait for normality and it means we’re now restarting our fuller in person church meetings, with children’s work, just as the school holidays begin, which is a traditionally quiet time of year for us as a church and not a great moment to begin anything.
Despite all of this let’s do what we can to make the most of the season we’re in. Remember that you can meet indoors with six people or two households, and outdoors with groups of 30. Why not make the most of this to catch up with people in person? Why not meet in person as a life group too?
As we do this let’s not forget our Welcome Church Recovery Plan for 2021, of which this is just one small step. You can read more about that here.
And let’s all bookmark Sunday July 25th if we can.
In case you missed them here are some updates from our Welcome Church family regarding elders, staff, the new Lockdown and Sunday meetings:
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!
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.
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.
It’s an interesting season at Welcome Church right now with our new building up and running for Sundays; it’s like we’re riding a big wave.
The Launch Sunday was certainly a day to remember with huge numbers of guests. After our Launch Sunday I really wondered what would happen next.
Would any guests actually come back?
Would the tide go back out?
In fact we’ve actually seen lots of new people with us every week since then.
Our first baptism meeting was a great Sunday too, with seventeen people being baptised across the two meetings, each wanting to publicly show that they’ve committed their life to Jesus! There were many extra guests with us that week too.
God is impacting lives through Welcome Church, and it’s such a privilege to witness it. Some have come to faith in Jesus, others are at various stages on their journey. I would love us to keep riding this wave together.
The key part that Alpha plays
Whatever place people have reached in their journey of faith, Alpha is an exciting place for them to be. Each week great food is served, good friendships are built and personal faith grows.
Here are some eye opening statistics to consider: nine of the seventeen people baptised last week were on our Alpha+ course which finished last week, and a further five Alpha+ guests are booked in to be baptised on Easter Sunday.
Those statistics tell a compelling story!
Our TRY ALPHA evening on Wednesday 26th February is really important for us all. We each have the opportunity to invite friends, family, neighbours and colleagues to come along to this evening to give Alpha a try. Your guests will have a brilliant time, so let’s go for it in faith.
Let me really encourage you, in this season of seeing lots of people coming to faith, to do three simple yet crucial things:
PRAY: pray for courage and for opportunity, and pray for God to move as you take a step of faith
SHARE: share the TRY ALPHA video on Social Media. Here is a link to it on Facebook, and here is one for Instagram.
INVITE: invite people personally to come to TRY ALPHA with you. Do aim to bring them along; don’t just expect people to go without you.
When you hear that “Yes” to your invitation, don’t forget to book your place here at www.allwelcome.uk/alpha – it’s easy to do.
Who knows what God may do as we all take these three steps to invite the people God has placed in our lives? Let’s ride this wave together.
We’ve made it safely to the end of another year (almost), and what a year it’s been for Welcome Church! I hope you’ve enjoyed it.
Along the way we’ve built a new building, moved into the annex, held an amazing Gift day, launched Welcome Works, sponsored 141 kids in Togo with Compassion UK, launched The Useful Wood Company, seconded Ben & Nancy to Gateway Church Basingstoke for a while, welcomed Rhea John onto staff, said goodbye to David & Tina Maskell, taken 300 people to Westpoint, finished meeting at the HG Wells Conference Centre, launched and shared our Welcome Stories, published our first book, run an amazing Fun Day, held a fireworks event with around 2000 people, put on a Carol Service for Woking (featuring both the Mayor and our local MP😃) and done a whole lot more too.
Additionally there’s been the usual, day to day stuff of church life that has carried on, including baptisms, pastoral care, Sunday meetings, worship, preaching, weddings, funerals, kids work, youth work, Life Groups, Alpha courses, ministry to the poor and lots more too.
If you’ve chosen to make Welcome Church your church then we want to say,
“Thank you for being on the journey with us in 2019”.
Looking forward to 2020
2020 is going to be and in incredible year for us. The new building will be launched in January, and there will be many God given opportunities and blessings ahead for us. I’m sure we will also face some big challenges, yet we have a big God who is with us every step of the way. Let’s all start inviting people to the launch event on the 19th.
Something for us all to do
If you haven’t done it already, or even if you have, why not take a quiet moment over the next week or so to read Dub’s book, “Caring and Sharing”.
This book is our ‘manifesto for evangelism’ as a church. It’s easy to read, full of great stories and it will only take 1 or 2 hours to read from cover to cover.
I know that if we were all to put the principles in this book into practice in 2020, it would have a huge impact on many lives.
I hope you have an amazing Christmas this year, whatever you’re up to. Do take some time out along the way to reflect on the real reason for the season: Jesus coming into the world. Do take time to pray and to thank Him for all he’s done in your life. And I look forward to seeing you all in 2020.
Last night at Welcome Church we had our Vision Focus meeting for the Summer Term. It was great to see so many people there. I will post a few blogs this week to help keep everyone up to date.
Vision focus is a termly meeting to communicate what’s been going on in the church and what’s coming up; a mix of information, inspiration and prayer; a chance to find out what’s happening and what’s ahead.
It’s been an interesting and exciting year so far
In January we made the change in our approach to membership, talking instead about belonging. Other church leaders have been talking to me about what we’ve done; it’s a subject that seems to be under review in lots of churches.
Alpha is going well. We have 35 completing the current course. God is at work. He has put people in your life who you could invite; we are still barely scratching the surface. We had 17 baptisms in March, of which 8 came from alpha. If you want to get baptised next time, just let us know.
Kids and Youth work are going well. Our youth and kids pastor, Ben Martin, is currently in Basingstoke for a secondment and is doing a great job there by all accounts. Do keep Ben and Nancy in your prayers and remember that they are still living here in Woking,
Ben and Becca Corbett are leading the youth team well. The youth work is growing and they just had a great youth alpha.
The kids team is now being headed up by Steve Blowfeld, known to all as Blowers, and what a great job they did with a family service on Sunday morning – including some fun costumes for some of the elders …
Welcome works is our new initiative to draw together all our ministries to the poor. I love the new strap line: With You, For You.
As part of Welcome Works we launched our Compassion child sponsorship programme, sponsoring children in Togo. So far as a church we have sponsored 142 children as part of this new initiative. It’s not too late to sponsor – just ask.
For those who are already doing it, do be faithful to start writing letters and building a relationship with the child/children you are sponsoring
As I write this, our new International Cafe is in progress here at the Welcome Centre. Led by Marion Mcallister, this new event is a great chance for people who speak English as a second language to come along, make friends, and practice their English. I just stuck my head round the door and got very excited by what I saw!
Soon we will be launching our very own CAP Centre too. This project is about helping people and families to get out of debt. More details on this will follow soon – watch this space.
Good things are happening in our church and we have a lot to be thankful for!
I’ll post some more blogs this week to detail what’s coming up in the months ahead, including information on Belonging, Life Groups and our Building Project.
Sitting working at home today it looks like Spring has arrived in our garden at last! Long may the sunshine continue!
I love this quote from Song of Songs:
“See! The winter is past; the rains (and snow) are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land. The fig tree forms its early fruit; the blossoming vines spread their fragrance. Arise, come, my darling; my beautiful one, come with me.” (Songs of Songs 2v11-13)
Jesus loves his church
We are Jesus’ bride, and He calls us to arise and follow him. He is the one who brings us growth and fruitfulness, and we’ve certainly seen some fruit recently, for example last weekend we had the joy of 12 baptisms. This included people from eight different nations: Nigeria, South Africa, Cyprus, Spain, China, Brazil, South Korea and the UK. Jesus is at work in our church!
A new season
As a church we’re about to embark on a significant new season, full of of change, to help us become even more effective and fruitful:
On Sunday April 22nd we announce the new name for our church at our Vision Focus Evening (6.30pm at The Coign Building)
After that we will have Gift Days towards the New Building Project
In May our new name will go live and we will relaunch ourselves in Woking
These are significant changes and will impact us all in various ways. As we go through these changes, we would be naive to think that it will all be smooth sailing or that we don’t have to be both watchful and prayerful.
Let’s keep watch on ourselves
“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith …” 1 Peter 5v8-9
Our enemy would love to spoil our beautiful new season and halt the growth that God is bringing us, so let’s pray and let’s be watchful … and let’s not do his job for him!
Let’s each keep a close watch on our own hearts as we go through these changes.
Five things to watch our hearts for
These changes are positive and exciting, yet change can also be challenging for some people, so let’s make sure we each handle things well.
Here are five possible challenges we might face, which could damage our church if not handled well! Also, here are some links to helpful resources for each situation.
We’re enjoying living in Woking, and not only because of starting at The Coign Church. Of course there are lots of challenges moving somewhere new, though most of mine appear to be food related – for example:
It’s all a bit alien to me!
Finding my way round a new supermarket (harder work than it should be)
Deciding where to go out for a meal (Pizza Express – it’s literally next door to the Coign building)
Deciding where to buy a sandwich (had a calzone from a street vendor in Market Walk – nice!!!)
Understanding the food waste recycling system (a new concept for us)
Almost creating an ‘international incident’ when trying to buy goat (yes, really) for some Indian visitors after Westpoint (we ended up with lamb and we liked it)
And finally (non-food related) trying to find a post office … and then trying to negotiate the queue …
It feels odd not knowing where everything is, especially when the road layout seems to change almost daily!
So praise God for the church!
Let the preaching commence!
We’re absolutely loving getting to know The Coign and, although we’re new, so many things already feel very familiar to us.
I’ve enjoyed starting our new preaching series: “Why I Love The Church”. Do get the free download of week 1 if you missed it; part 2 this Sunday.
I’ve enjoyed seeing ‘normal church life’ taking place all around me: worship, community groups, prayer meetings, pastoral care, youth work, kids work, team meetings, elders meetings, planning for alpha and so much more.
I even enjoyed getting my car washed as part of a fund raiser for three young people setting off to do year teams, although I think the cars weren’t the only thing that got soaked …
And talking of getting soaked …
What a joy to see people being baptised on Sunday evening
Sharon, Marcus, Clara and Karam each made the step of being baptised. The testimonies were great, with Karam’s even reducing grown men to tears. Dub then preached excellently and we ended up praying for lots of people too. Apologies for the quality of the photos:
Baptisms are a sign that God has been at work in our church, and I believe he will carry on blessing us as we go into the future too.
So let’s pray for many more baptisms in the months ahead!
The Bible is clear that God is with us at all times: “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13v5). That’s pretty good news for Christians everywhere!
God’s number one promise:
The number one promise in the Bible, the thing God promises most often is, “I am with you” or “I will be with you” (or various other versions of the same thing.) He says it often because he wants us to know its true, whether we feel it or not.
Sometimes there are moments when we draw especially close to God – and those are pretty special times:
Like spending time with Richard and Wendy last Saturday afternoon. Being there with Chris and Sandy, who are their life group leaders, as some practical issues were taken care of and a gift was given to them both from their Life Group. God’s presence was there
Like when we have church members being baptised – incredible moments of God’s closeness and blessing for his people. God’s presence is there
Like sometimes when we gather together to worship and pray and hear God’s word taught. He’s always there when we meet, but sometimes we just feel his presence in a special way
This Sunday evening will be one of those times as we enjoy our Grace Church “Worship and Holy Spirit Evening”. We are going to gather together simply to worship, wait on God and see what he wants to say to us.
We’ve done a couple of these evenings before and God’s presence has always been so tangible. So come ready to meet with God and to enjoy his presence; come with faith and expectation; come ready to contribute; come ready to worship and to give praise and glory to God … and come expecting to encounter his presence.
I was really thrilled that we had baptisms planned for our recent Grace Church 10th birthday party. I love it when we baptise people; it’s a great sign that God is at work in both them as individuals and in us as a church!
A watershed moment
If you’ll pardon the pun, baptism is a watershed moment:
It’s a public declaration that we belong to Jesus and our life is now in him. “If anyone is in Christ they are a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come” (2 Cor 5v17)
It’s a sign that our old life has died with Jesus and that we have a new life in him now, “We were buried with Jesus by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” (Rom 6v4)
Lots of fun, lots of water and the thrill of a life changed forever!
In the run up to the party David Thompson made a suggestion: “Why don’t you publicly ask on the day, after you’ve spoken, if there are any other people who want to get baptisedright now?”
I’d never done that before, but I don’t mind taking a risk so we came up with a plan: spare towels, extra swimming shorts and some Grace Church t-shirts … and I would make the ask at the end of the talk. Would there be that extra person who would respond right there and then?
On the day I was delighted with the response. Twobaptisms became sixbaptisms in the space of three minutes. God must clearly be doing something among us.
So here are some photos of those baptisms:
And Rob’s was more eventful than the others (bottom left photo). As David and Andy baptised Rob, David somehow slipped down the slope towards the deep end. Rob came back up fine, but David somehow disappeared under the water … which got the biggest cheer of the whole day!
I’m sure it was nothing personal, and I’m pleased to say we now have David back safe and dry!
And if you want to get baptised next time, just let us know! We’ll try not to follow you under …