Welcome Church Updates – April 2023

As always there’s a lot going on at Welcome Church, so here are a few things to help you stay up to date:

This term we ran both The Bible Course and The Prayer Course

The Bible Course took place on Wednesday evenings at our building. 42 people attended, and 39 of them claimed afterwards that they had “gained more confidence in reading and understanding the Bible”. (93%. Not a bad result 🙂)

Through a combination of videos, group discussions, personal reflection and reading, the course took people through the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, showing how the key events, books, and characters all fit together. HUGE THANKS to Christopher Hawes and Luqman & Kimberley Mulam for organising this course, and also to all who were involved in making it happen; we couldn’t have done it without you.

Here’s some feedback from course attendees:

“This course has broken the Bible into sizeable chunks and explained how the book was created. It has given me a framework of how to read the Bible”

“It was so useful to be immersed in a broad overview of the Bible. I was surprised at how much scripture we covered”

“I had a deeper revelation of Salvation through this course”

“It has improved my confidence in a tremendous way”

We ran The Prayer Course in three different groups: one in the building, one in a home and a third as a whole Lifegroup doing the course together. It was an eight-week journey through ‘The Lord’s Prayer’, including practical lessons about how to pray and tackling the questions and challenges we face. A big THANK YOU goes to Hanneke Silvester for organising this course, and also to the different group leaders for playing their part – we appreciate you all.

Here’s some feedback from course attendees:

‘The course has helped me to gain a better understanding of why we pray, its purpose and why at times our prayers are not answered.’

‘It has been so precious to learn more about how prayer can deepen my relationship with God. Some of the practical advice, like being still and pausing to rest in his presence before speaking a prayer, have been a game changer for me.’

Don’t worry if you missed out this time, we’ll run both of these courses again at a future date.

Commission Festival Deadline

We’re going to Commission Festival as a church this year and over 300 from Welcome Church are booked in. Please make sure that YOU don’t get left behind in Woking for the weekend.

For more details about the Festival click here. Prices go up after Monday 10th April, so please book in ASAP. Here’s a link to the booking page. You’ll get a 40% discount if you sign up to serve in some way, and as a bonus we’ll feed you for the weekend for free. All you’ll need is your tent, pillow and sleeping bag! Bring on the sunshine ☀️

Our Easter Plans

On Friday (7th April) we’ll mark Good Friday with a one hour meeting at 7pm. It will include worship, reflections on the crucifixion and communion. There’s no children’s work, but if you have kids who would meaningfully engage with an hour of worship, teaching and communion you’re welcome to bring them. It will also be live streamed at WelcomeChurch.online if you can’t get there in person.

On Sunday (9th April) we’ll celebrate Easter, and both morning meetings will include baptisms. As it stands we have 10 people being baptised, so please pray for them ahead of the day. Easter Sunday is a good opportunity to invite guests to come to church with you: they’ll hear a great Easter message, see some baptisms and find out about lives being transformed through Jesus. There will also be chocolate for everyone (!), so make sure you don’t miss out. Our Sunday livestream will run as normal, but there won’t be free chocolate on the livestream 😀

After Easter I’m taking a few days off, so I won’t write a blog next week. If I don’t get to speak to you personally, I hope you have a great Easter.

Welcome Church, The Future – Part 1: Looking Back

On Sunday (May 8th) we had our Welcome Church Vision Evening looking at ‘Where we’ve been, where are now and, most importantly, where we’re heading in the future‘. This week I’ll be blogging about some of the key items we covered. This is part 1 of 5.

The pandemic created some big challenges for us all, both personally and as a church, yet we’ve known God’s blessing all the way through; He has done great things for us!

In the run up to the pandemic a lot had changed for us as a church in a short space of time, including a new name and logo, a new website, a new vision and mission statement, a new culture being outworked, a new approach to outreach, a new approach to belonging AND the launch of our brand new purpose built building in the heart of Woking. In some ways the pandemic could not have come at a worse time for us with Lockdown closing our building just a few weeks after it opened!

Despite this God has blessed our church beyond all expectation

We’re now back meeting together in person across two meetings each Sunday morning with kids work and youth work, and we’re seeing new people come and join us regularly. To encourage you, here are some Welcome Church statistics from the last couple of years:

  • 4 people have joined our staff team: Christopher Hawes (Preaching and Discipleship), Uti Anyaegbunam (Ops. Manager), Hannah Oliver (Ops. Assistant) and Juliet Bauermeister (Comms. Manager)
  • 147 have attended an Alpha Course
  • 123 have attended our new Learn Groups (Bible Course, Prayer Course, etc)
  • 457 signed up to attend Life Groups in the January refresh (plus there are a whole load more who we know attend but didn’t actually sign up … so cheeky!!!)
  • 104 have attended our various CAP courses (Fresh Start, Job Club, Life Skills, Money Course)
  • 79 people have been baptised
  • 46 children attended the Welcome Kids Weekend Away
  • 192 people attended our last 2 Newcomers Lunches (both since Lockdown ended)
  • 96 people have attended our ‘Belong, Believe, Become’ course in 2022 alone

Additionally your generous giving as a church has beaten all expectations throughout the pandemic. We beat our budget in both 2020/21 and 2021/22, so on behalf of the Eldership Team and the Trustees let me say a huge THANK YOU!

We’ve also given lots away to some key causes over the last two years:

  • £19,000 was given in 2020 to help feed people in need through our Commission churches in India
  • £36,000 was raised in 2020 to support Your Sanctuary
  • £33,000 was given just recently to help our churches in Ukraine serve their communities during the ongoing conflict there
  • £19,000 was given to provide buildings for some of our Commission churches in Bangladesh and to support some of our other works in that part of the world too

In fact, as well as financing what we do as a church, we gave away over £158,000 last year alone, including to support both the work of our Commission church family and some other excellent local causes including Woking Food Bank and Woking Street Angels.

These are all good signs that God is at work in and through our church. We have a lot to be thankful for, so let’s be on the front foot to give God the glory for all he’s doing, even as we face some sadnesses, some sicknesses and some losses amongst our church family too.

“The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy” Psalm 126v3

Where do we go from here?

Looking back at God’s past faithfulness brings great encouragement, faith and hope for the future. Tomorrow I’m going to blog about our brand new vision statement as a church which will now begin to shape where we go in the future.

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!

Unlocking – Our Revised Plans

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 a fun 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.

Some Key Welcome Church Updates

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

New Elders

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

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

Staff Changes

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

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

Impact Of The New Lockdown

The new Lockdown has impacted some of what we do:

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

Some things remain unchanged:

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

Live Streaming on Sundays

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

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

Coronavirus

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

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

And remember …

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

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

Riding the waves

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.

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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!

Try Alpha

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:

  1. PRAY: pray for courage and for opportunity, and pray for God to move as you take a step of faith
  2. SHARE: share the TRY ALPHA video on Social Media. Here is a link to it on Facebook, and here is one for Instagram.
  3. 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.

Merry Christmas – what a year it’s been!

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.

Some highlights

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.

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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.

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Something for us all to do

ImageIf 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.

Merry Christmas

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.

Vision Focus: The Year So Far

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 …

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What happens when the kids work take over

This term we also launched Welcome Works.

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.