Welcome Church Summer Plans

Summer time is here and the schools break up this week. As Lockdown is easing and more freedoms have returned we’ve recognised a need to adapt our programme, so we’re making a couple of changes for the rest of July and August:

1. Encouragement videos

We’re stopping these for the summer (last one Tuesday 21st July) and will review again in September. That said, if there’s something important to communicate, we’ll probably put a video out.

2. Prayer Meetings

We will now hold two prayer meetings a week and they’ll be on Tuesday and Friday mornings, 8.15am – 9am, on the usual Zoom codes. This doesn’t stop you getting together with others to pray as often as you want to at other times (just be sure to follow government guidance on physical distancing and numbers if you’re meeting in person!)

Staying Connected

It’s good to get a break over the summer, but do stay connected to church; we need one another! Sunday meetings will continue each week at WelcomeChurch.online at 9am and 11am, with kids work at 10am.

Your Life Group meetings may meet less often, but do keep building friendships with people. Under current guidance we’re allowed to meet outdoors with up to six people from different households, and two households are allowed to mix indoors. Let’s take advantage of that to grow friendships and build one another up.

Our Staff Team

still-tired-of-shopping-1439972This has been a year like no other and our staff team (those not furloughed) have worked flat out since this crisis began. It’s not been easy as we’ve had to review and reinvent everything we do, and deliver many things in new ways. All our job roles have changed significantly as a result. I’m sure people right across our church who’ve worked from home have discovered the complexity and pressure it brings, especially with family around. (Of course many people have been going in to work and will also have been under new pressures.)

Someone asked me recently if I’d “taken up a new hobby” with my “extra time”. (Extra time! That’s hilarious!) I understand the question, but the reality is I’ve had less time available than ever before. Across the team many days off have been missed and several holidays have been postponed due to the demands and the Lockdown. This is not unique to us (or to a church context) and I know from talking to leaders across Commission that most staff teams are exhausted.

With this in mind I’ve strongly encouraged our team to make sure they have some time off over the summer.

I want the team, and their families, to come back refreshed and recharged for the autumn, especially as we don’t know what challenges we will all face. Physical, spiritual and emotional recovery are all vital in this time.

Let me strongly encourage you, if you possibly can, to also give yourself space and time to refresh and recharge over the summer season too. God rested on the seventh day. Jesus took time out to rest and to pray. We absolutely need to do the same thing.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

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.

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:

communion

 

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:

Image 09-05-2020 at 09.47

Good Friday: come and join us

This coming Friday, the 10th, is known as Good Friday. It’s a day when Christians all around the world remember the death of Jesus on the cross.

As a church we don’t tend to follow all the events of the traditional Christian calendar, but this year especially we want to mark Good Friday, and we would love you to join us for that. We have a simple plan:

At 10am we will pray together online for about an hour

  • One of my friends, a pastor from a church in India, will join us online from Mumbai and lead us in prayer. The challenges in India right now are huge, as I shared in my talk on Sunday – you can listen here if you missed it
  • On Friday we will pray for the church in India and for our own nation too
  • At the end of our time we will take communion together, 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. Remember that the items 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.

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You can find the details of how to access that meeting on our Welcome Church website.

That day there will also be a daily encouragement video out at 4pm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Good Friday is a good day to do that on, because on that day Christians remember one of the most important aspects of the Christian faith: the death of Jesus on a cross. God himself came into our world in Jesus and he died for us to open the way for us to know God.

ALL CHANGE FOR SUNDAY! DON’T MISS IT!

Because we really value community and want to improve how we meet together online each Sunday …

We are launching WelcomeChurch.Online

There will be no more Sunday meetings through Facebook. Instead you need to visit welcomechurch.online

This is a completely new platform for us. As you watch you can comment on the message, you can ask for prayer and more.

The biggest change is this:

Sunday meetings will broadcast LIVE at 9am, 11am and 6pm

Because it’s live you can’t rewind, pause or fast forward, so put the time in your diary!

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If you do miss it, you can watch or listen to the preach from Monday onwards through our church website.

Welcome Kids will be live at WelcomeChurch.Online at 10am each Sunday.

If you miss the kids slot it will be available afterwards through Facebook as before.

Stop Press! Announcing the launch of WelcomeChurch.Online

Because of Coronavirus we’re not permitted to meet together in person as a church right now, and it looks like this situation could last for a while. Because we really value community and want to improve how we meet together on a Sunday …

we are delighted to announce the launch of WelcomeChurch.Online

From this Sunday (5th April) there will be no more Sunday meetings through Facebook. From now on, to join in with our Sunday meetings all you need to do is visit welcomechurch.online

This is a great new platform for us. As you watch you can comment on the message, you can ask for prayer and you can even read the Bible text alongside the preaching. We’re really excited about it.

The biggest change is this:

Our Sunday meetings will be broadcast LIVE at 9am, 11am and the slightly later time of 6pm

This means that if you don’t want to miss out you will need to put one of those times in your diary and log on to welcomechurch.online at the right time. Of course, because it’s live, it means you can’t rewind, pause or fast forward; it’s like meeting in person again!

 

There is so much value in gathering together at the same time, especially in this season of self-isolation, so we really want everyone to prioritise being online for one of those meetings.

Of course if you do miss it, you will be able to watch or listen to Sunday’s message, from Monday onwards, through our church website.

I look forward to connecting with you all this Sunday at WelcomeChurch.Online

What about Welcome Kids?

Welcome Kids will also be using this platform for their meeting. They have been having a great time together each week with fantastic teaching, games, craft and worship.

They will be live at WelcomeChurch.Online at 10am on Sunday.

If you miss the kids slot it will be available afterwards through Facebook as before.

Covid-19: Facing Our Fear and Our Disappointment

At Welcome Church we’ve just had our first online Sunday. What a different experience it was!

The message I spoke was about handling our fear at this time. I looked at David and Goliath and what we can learn from that story about our need for a saviour to stand in our place.

You can watch it here:

We hosted the video as a watch party on our Facebook page so people could all watch it together at one time. Don’t forget to join us for that at 10am next week on the Facebook page.

Kids

Welcome Kids was also on line. They will go live at 9am again next Sunday. Be online and ready to go if you want to enjoy the full experience.

Here is a link to the talk that formed part of their time together:

And here is the craft they did:

Some Encouragement

Each day at 4pm, Monday to Saturday, we are posting Daily Encouragement videos. You can find all of them by clicking here.

Yesterday’s was about dealing with our disappointments. I’ve posted that here in case you missed it:

Finally if you want to know how to stay connected with us throughout this unusual time in our lives, here’s a link that will tell you all that you need to know

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Staying Connected

During this unusual time when we can’t meet together in person, there are a number of ways we plan to stay connected with each other as a church. I want to encourage you to make the most of these opportunities, so no one ends up feeling lonely or cut off. Let’s also be on the front foot to invite other’s to connect with us too.

For some people this may mean learning to use technology that’s completely new to you, but go for it anyway! 🙂

Daily Encouragement

Every day at 4pm (Mon to Sat) we are posting a video to help encourage us all during this crisis. It can be found on our church website, and will also be posted to our Welcome Church Facebook page (not the group!) I may blog some of these posts as well, but it would be best not to rely on that. Please be proactive and look on line at 4pm each day, and do let us know of it’s helpful to you.

Life Groups

Over the next few weeks we were due to refresh our Life Groups, with the chance to start new groups or sign up again for existing ones. In order to provide the best connection and care for us all during this crisis, that process has been postponed and current groups will continue for the time being. We’re encouraging people who are not already in a group to connect to one, and if you need help to do that, please contact Dean Guy.

We’re also encouraging all Life Groups to set up a What’s App group chat so people can easily keep in touch. We know that some groups have also started having virtual meetings using Zoom too – what a great idea (more info on that below).

Welcome Youth

Welcome Youth had their first online experience yesterday evening. Despite one or two technical glitches games were played and encouragement was given. Look out for more on that as the weeks progress.

Alpha

Alpha will be going on line via Zoom. They already had a planning meeting online this week. More details will follow in the days ahead.

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The Alpha Planning Meeting on Zoom

Sundays

Sunday meetings cannot take place in the usual way at the moment. This Sunday at 10am there will be a Sunday preach available on the church website, and also on our Facebook page (not the group!) It will also be available as a podcast.

To make this more interactive I will set up a WATCH PARTY starting a few moments after 10am that anyone can join. To access this on the day, be on the Facebook page and ready to go at 10am! The beauty of a watch party is that people can comment and interact together as we go along. (Can I hear an Amen?) I hope lots of us will join in.

Welcome Kids

This Sunday at 9am our first Welcome Kids online experience will be available on the Welcome Church website for you to enjoy with them at home. They have a great plan including craft, worship, games and teaching. This will also be accessible through the Facebook page.

Prayer

As of Monday morning we will be hosting prayer meetings online through Zoom. The plan is to pray from 7.30am – 8.00am, and then again from 1pm -1.45pm. For each prayer meeting we will post an access code in the Facebook group (not the page!)

Please use these codes to join us and pray. We did one on Friday as an experiment and it went really well.

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Pastoral Care

If you have a pastoral need during this time, please do communicate with your Life Group. We also want to pray for people as a whole church when needs come up, so please use the email care@allwelcome.uk to keep us informed. These needs will be prayed for during the Zoom prayer meetings, so get your requests in.

In terms of practical care for those required to stay at home (shopping, getting a prescription, walking a dog etc) we need to use real wisdom! Life Groups and other contacts across the church can do a certain amount, but as this crisis grows we are unlikely to be able to meet every need. Additionally this is a moment to connect well with our community. On this basis there are some things to consider:

  1. Let’s remember to connect well with our own families and neighbours; they may also need our help.
  2. Let’s get involved with the many local volunteer groups that are springing up. Jo and I are involved with our local one in Send, which is being expertly organised by a woman called Ruth. I am now a ‘volunteer coordinator’, and leaflets are going out across our area today. This creates a great opportunity to meet new people and show them love and care.
  3. Practically speaking, most help given in this season is going to need to be done locally, especially as travel becomes restricted. 

An increasing number of Welcome Church people, of all ages, are being confined at home. We now have confirmed cases of Coronavirus amongst the church, and we have others who have symptoms that are as yet unconfirmed. Our first serious hospitalised case is in a relatively young person with young children and no pre-existing conditions.

If you’re helping someone else, or you’re receiving help, please don’t take unnecessary risks or ignore the need for social distancing. To use an  example, this would mean leaving shopping on the door step and not going inside.

Using technology

Technology is a wonderful gift from God. Let’s be grateful for it and embrace it at this time. You may have noticed that there are some specific technologies we are using at this time to help people connect, so please let’s all consider doing the following:

  1. Sign up for our regular emails – you can do that by clicking this link.
  2. Keep an eye on our websiteInformation and updates will be posted there
  3. Install What’s App on your mobile phone. This is a free messaging service that allows you to set up group chats with people. It also allows you to make totally free audio or video calls to friends who have the app, even to people in other nations.
  4. Sign up to Facebook (Yes! Seriously!) Even if you’ve never done this before and swore you never would, now is the time. Once you’ve joined send me a friend request. Also like & follow our Welcome Church page, and join our Welcome Church group. You may have resisted doing this all your life, or you may just prefer Instagram or Twitter or other social media. In simple practical terms, Facebook offers the level of flexibility and interaction that we need right now, so our focus will be there. You can always quit when this crisis is over.
  5. Sign up to Zoom. This is a free app that you install on your laptop, phone or tablet. Sign up for a free account and you can join in everything we do on Zoom. A free account lets you set up meetings of up to 40 minutes length (though you can join ones that last any length of time). If you want to set up long meetings of your own, you can upgrade to a paid account as I’ve done. Zoom offer lots of online videos and tutorials to teach you how to use it, so why not use some of your time to learn? We used it for our elders and admin meetings this week and it was great.
  6. Follow this blog. This is your one stop shop for staying up to date with the church during this crisis. You can click a button to subscribe to it.

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Staying together as a church

Please be encouraged to embrace these specific technologies to help you stay part of the church community during this time. They are a gift from God for us right now and I thank God for them all.

Even if these things are new to you, or you’re someone who thinks “Facebook is so last year”, please join in. Simply put: let’s all be in the same place.

Including everyone

There are always a few people who are unable to connect in the ways I describe above. Perhaps they have no laptop, email or internet (there are a few people in this position), or the internet where they live is just too slow to stream things.

If you have friends in this position, please do phone them and check in with them regularly. In fact, why not do that with lots of people regularly? If we all made just 1 or 2 phone calls a day just to check in with how people are, what a blessing that could be.