A New Staff Team Member

During our online communion meeting on Sunday evening, it was my privilege to announce a new staff member for Welcome Church. From September 1st Christopher Hawes will leave his role as a full time teacher to join our staff team. Chris will focus on preaching & discipleship and also on leading & developing the creative elements of all we do as a church.

hawesChris is married to Sarah and they have three young children. He’s already part of our eldership team, and I’m delighted that someone who carries our DNA as a church is going to be available to focus on this key role full time.

Chris will be undertaking our new Commission training courses, starting at level 3 and working through to the level 4 masters degree. By the way … there are some great courses available through Commission, including an internship year you could do at Welcome Church. Do let me know if you’re interested.

Chris and Sarah are a big gift to our church family. In addition to her work as an actress, puppeteer and motion capture artist, Sarah regularly hosts our online meetings and helps develop others in this too. She’s also part of the leadership of Welcome Kids.

I believe we have a good future together as a church. Coronavirus will not last forever.

This appointment will release significant time for me in my own role, and Chris will also be looking to develop other people in their gifts. I believe this appointment will serve us as a church in many ways and will help shape us for the years to come.

 

Staff Change, Unlocking & Compassion

This Sunday we have our Welcome Church online Communion meeting, and everyone is welcome to join us. It starts at 6.30pm and all the information is in the picture below.

The communion part of the evening will run until 7.15pm, and will be followed by a short time of updates and information, finishing before 8pm.

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The communion will be led through by Tim Robertson from Compassion UK and will include updates on the projects we’ve supported in Togo. Please provide your own bread and wine (or suitable alternatives) and join us with all the family on zoom.

When Communion finishes I will share the latest news and updates for Welcome Church. This will finish by 8pm and will include:

  • Details about unlocking and how it affects our Sunday meetings going forwards
  • An exciting new staff change that will really bless our church

See you there!

And don’t forget to join us for Welcome Church online each Sunday at 9am and 11am, with kids work at 10am.

Moving Out Of Lockdown???

I love our church and I can’t wait to meet together in person again. I miss seeing people and I miss our corporate times of worship and ministry. Although we have a great online church, this time of Lockdown is not something I’m enjoying at all.

Yesterday announcements were made about the lifting of some of the aspects of Lockdown from Saturday July 4th, and part of this related to church. Naturally some people are getting excited and have even asked when we plan to start meeting again on Sundays in person.

Let me say that, although I love the enthusiasm and I share it, we must remember when announcements are made that we only get headlines; the full guidance follows in long documents. All churches are unique and need to individually assess what is safe in accordance with the guidance to be issued and our own context. The manner and timing of ‘re-opening’ will undoubtedly vary a lot from church to church.

The latest updates are a mixed bag, and during our online communion on July 5th we will bring you fully up to date with our plans as they stand.

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In the meantime, here are a few thoughts to keep you going for now:

Weddings are allowed again from July 4th … sort of

To get legally married people need to first declare their intent to marry a month in advance at the register office and then bring us their ‘blue form’ (this has always been the case – nothing new here). Sadly the register office is not yet open, so you can see the problem.

Weddings will need to follow Covid-19 Secure guidelines which mean that up to a maximum of 30 people can attend, all at a social distance. No singing is allowed so there will be no worship band. There will also be no food, no drinks and no party. Every surface will need to be cleaned afterwards. The toilets would probably have to operate a “1 in 1 out” system to avoid people coming into close contact.

In short, it’s mixed news and not straightforward. Despite these restrictions we look forward to seeing people legally married soon, especially James and Hannah, who’s plans have been delayed.

What about other meetings?

Meetings of up to 30 people will be allowed from July 4th … but only as long they follow the Covid-19 Secure guidelines. This means social distancing must be in place. It also means no singing, no handshakes, no hugging, and that all interactions with anyone you do not share a household with must be minimised. The points that apply to weddings also apply here (apart from needing a blue form 🙂)

In reality there are a lot more aspects to the guidelines as well, and we are probably still some way away from meeting together in person as a church for anything like a full Sunday meeting. I know this is frustrating and disappointing but remember:

Church is about more than our Sunday meetings; we are a family together

We are still the church even without being able to meet in our building.

So since two households are now allowed to get together indoors, you could take advantage of that to see people from church. You could even do it on a Sunday morning and enjoy online church together, but do bear in mind that you are still supposed to be socially distant, and you are not supposed to prepare food together or share utensils … and you shouldn’t really sing.

On days with good weather you can meet with up to five other people outside, and Life Groups could start to take advantage of this, but please remember that the same rules apply!

So how will we formulate our plans going forward?

Beyond  the official guidelines, here are some key factors we need to consider:

1. The quality of what we do

When we start Sunday meetings in person again, whatever size they are and whatever form they take, the total experience needs to at least be as good as we get online. Thirty people wearing face masks, keeping away from each other and not allowed to sing does not tick that box for us! It would also not bless those involved or help us reach new people at all.

In the mean time we are always looking at Sundays online to see how they can continue to be improved.

2. Children and youth

This is a huge factor for us as a church because we love our kids and youth and there are a lot of them! Before we do anything we need to know that our children’s work can be delivered in a way that the children will safely enjoy, that parents and leaders will be confident in, and which will comply with all the relevant guidelines.

3. Worship

One of the main reasons we come together is to join together in an act of worship to God, and at the heart of this is our sung worship time. If singing is not allowed we may decide that we are better off staying as we are for a while longer.

We do want to be on the front foot with this, but being on the front foot isn’t the same as rushing back to what we had before. Instead it means listening to and embracing what God is doing at every step of the way, remembering that God’s people have been in various types of “Lockdown”, many times before … like Jonah, Daniel, Paul, Noah, Joseph and the whole nation of Israel at times too. God is in control of all our days. Let’s be patient.

In the meantime online church continues, so does online Alpha, prayer, kids work, youth work and Life Groups and more, and please remember: the Holy Spirit is not confused by Zoom or by the internet! God can still work in us and through us, and we can still meet with him.

In short, we are not in a rush to make changes, but neither do we want to delay unnecessarily.  We will take all of these factors into account and make decisions in ways that are faith filled, sensible, legal, practical and will help us move forward together best as a church.

Please pray that God gives us great wisdom

For now, please put Sunday July 5th in your diary

That evening, at 6.30pm, we will have online communion together, led by my friend Tim Robertson from Compassion UK. This will be followed by a time of sharing updates and information from Welcome Church.

These updates will include the latest information relating to coming out of Lockdown, and also the details of an exciting staff change, and it will all be over by 8pm.

Don’t miss it!

But please know this: I do miss all of you.

 

 

 

 

Making changes, keeping things fresh

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review

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

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

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

A change to the Zoom Prayer Meetings

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

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

A change to the Daily Encouragement videos

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

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

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

And now for something completely new

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

Forerunners

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t forget

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

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

One last thing: communion online

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

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

Sundays: a whole new plan

Our first Sunday Experience as a church online went really well; I hope you enjoyed it.

Some highlights following last Sunday are these:

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He’s got the whole world …

  • As a very conservative estimate, well over a thousand people around the world have seen our Sunday message or heard the podcast.
  • We’ve had great feedback from people in Brazil, India, South Africa and many other places in the UK including Northern Ireland. These are not people who we would normally have expected to connect with us, so our footprint has grown overnight
  • Numbers of people from our church started their own watch parties on Facebook (some by design and some by accident 🙂) and found that their friends who would not normally be with them on a Sunday at church joined in and watched too
  • The daily encouragement videos have been shared by many of us, and are also now being viewed by a wide range of people. Prayer requests are starting to arrive from both overseas and closer to home. Do watch these daily videos at 4pm, and share them with anyone who you think would be helped or blessed by them

NEW PLANS for this Sunday

The lockdown that we are currently living under means that the recording for this Sunday will probably all need to be done at home. We will do our level best to make it as high quality as possible! We are also trying to incorporate some worship content, so watch this space.

The specific plan for Sunday has changed and is now as follows:

  • Our Sunday experience will go live on both our Welcome Church website and our Welcome Church Facebook Page at about 9am
  • After that you can watch it at any time that suits you. Please share the link to your own social media accounts and directly with other people too
  • We will host watch parties as a church on our Welcome Church Facebook Page at 9am, 11am and 4pm each Sunday
  • If you want to watch in community with other people – which we hope you will -you can join in with any of our watch parties, or you could just start one of your own. These are a great way to interact with people along the way
  • The kids work will go live on both our website and our Facebook page at about 10am, so do make use of that too – it will bless your kids

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Prayer

Prayer is absolutely crucial at this challenging time.

Don’t forget that we are now praying online as a church twice a day via Zoom. All the details you need to join in, including the specific code to join the meetings, can be found here. Anyone is welcome to join us. I hope we will see you online to pray with us soon.

In case you missed it, here is a link to yesterday’s encouragement video:

The next episode will be out at 4pm today

New Year. New Building. Important Information.

This Sunday, January 5th, is an exciting one for us at Welcome Church: we will be meeting in our new building for the first time.

I am incredibly excited!

Here is some important information, including vital information about where to park.

Opening on time

Since September 2018 our plan has been to open on January 5th, and we are delighted to have achieved this target. The contractors have worked really hard over the last few weeks to get things ready and the building looks amazing.

Over the next week or two the builders will finish off a few outstanding items, big and small, and for now we are good to go for Sunday.

Details for this week

This Sunday we will meet at 9am and 11am as we normally do. It will be our regular kind of meeting with brilliant worship, relevant preaching, exciting kids work and a fantastic crèche. As an extra treat there will be coffee, pastries and muffins served both before and after each meeting.

On arrival please use the main front entrance from Church Street West, next to the yellow hoardings. This is the entrance to the original building. You will be directed where to go from there.

Looking round the building

It’s natural to want to look around the whole building, so please be aware that this will NOT be possible on Sunday morning because kids work will be in operation, the kitchen will be in use and the loft is not available this Sunday.

Parents please note that there will be a secure drop off and collection system in place for your children, and you will be clearly directed where to go. For safeguarding reasons, viewing the various kids rooms will also not be possible when dropping off or collecting the children.

However, we are meeting to pray at 6.30pm on Sunday evening, and everyone will be encouraged to view and pray around the whole building then. Please come ready to pray and explore!

Where to park on Sunday morning

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There is some vital and new information here.

First of all,  if you are able to walk or cycle to church, please walk or cycle. This is great for your health and also for the environment.

For this who do need to drive the following will be helpful:

  • For those who are disabled or have significantly limited mobility, our Oaks Road Car Park, with wheelchair accessible entrance, is available to you.  This week there will be 12 spaces available there. Please do not attempt to park here if you do not fit this category as you will be asked to move.

Please note: for safety reasons there is NO PARKING for anyone at all at the front of the building, either on or off the road.

  • For people who are serving at both meetings we have made a special  arrangement with a company called ‘Pulse’ for you to park for free in their spaces, against the Pulse building (Postcode: GU21 6EE). This building is on Cherry Street, which is a left turn next to Halfords Garage on Poole Road. It’s really obvious when you get there and only a 3 minute walk from the building.
  • There are enough spaces there for all who are serving at both meetings, and cars can be parked two deep. If you are not serving at both meetings please do not park at Pulse as you will probably get blocked in and those serving will not be available to move their cars for you. Fair warning given!

For everyone else please head first to Philips Court where we have lots of free parking spaces available. The entrance to Philips Court is to the left of the Fire Station on Goldsworth Road (Postcode: GU21 6LE). Stewards will cheerfully direct you on arrival.

  • Once this car park is full, people will need to park elsewhere, and stewards will let you know if this is the case. Please note that if you prefer to park in Victoria Way Car Park (which is only a 10 minute walk from our building) we can still validate your ticket for free parking!
  • Beware: single yellow lines on the roads near our building mean ‘No Parking’, even on a Sunday. You may get fined, as some have found by painful experience!

Respecting our neighbours

We want to be great neighbours to those who live near us, so please DO NOT park on Oaks Road or Vale Farm Road. And please also be quiet and respectful when you arrive and leave, especially in the evenings.

I’m really looking forward to seeing you all on Sunday for an exciting meeting and the start of a whole new chapter in the life of Welcome Church

 

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.

Organised Chaos

Welcome Youth took over our Sunday morning meeting at Welcome Church today and we had a fantastic time together.

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The youth did it all: they led the worship, they hosted the meeting, they did Bible readings, they led us in prayer and they even preached. It was a lot of fun and no lasting damage resulted.

I want to say a huge thank you to them all.

Goodbye

This morning we said a final goodbye to the HG Wells Conference Centre. It was our last meeting there and we will start meeting in our own new building from Jan 5th. We also said goodbye to David and Tina Maskell who will be moving off to Grace Church in Salisbury, where David is starting his new job from January.

Launch Sunday

Dub took a few minutes to talk to us about our launch Sunday on January 19th. It’s going to be amazing and it’s time for us to start inviting people:

Organised Chaos

All in all it was organised chaos, and a whole lot of fun. We were reminded of Sue’s welcome story, from the Carol Service, and encouraged to share it to our social media feeds too.

And what better way to round off our twelve years meeting there than to celebrate communion together?

Here are some pics that sum up lots of what went on today. Enjoy!

Time To Say Goodbye

This Sunday will be our last meeting at the HG Wells Conference Centre as a church, and I’m looking forward to enjoying a great time together. From January 5th we will be meeting in our new building and a new chapter will begin for us.

Welcome Church has been meeting at the HG Wells for just short of 12 years. It’s good to reflect back on all that God has done in the lives of many people over that time. As we say goodbye we will end our time by taking communion together. (And please remember: this Sunday there is only one meeting and it’s at 10am. Don’t get caught out!)

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More than one goodbye

We will have another goodbye on Sunday too as it will be David Maskell’s last Sunday with us as an elder, and David and Tina’s last Sunday at Welcome Church.

We are now in a position to tell people what they are up to next: from January David will be taking on a new pastoral care role at Grace Church in Salisbury, a Commission church led by my friend Simon Redmill. David and Tina will be looking to move house over the coming months. It’s been good to see God’s hand and timing in their next step.

I know that Simon and the church are looking forward to David starting, and the role he is taking on seems to be custom made for him. Obviously it’s a big change for the family to adjust to, so do keep them in your prayers.

Grace Church were only told this news last Sunday, and we didn’t want to share it ahead of them being told. If you want to read more about this move, please click here for a link to Simon Redmill’s blog.

Important Health and Safety Warning

One last thing about Sunday: Welcome Youth are leading through most of our meeting this week. This means that anything could happen and probably will 😮.

Don’t say you weren’t warned 😃

Eldership Changes At Welcome Church

Welcome back! I hope you had a great summer!

Jo and I had a good break, including a relaxing holiday in Corfu. I also had a break from my blog for the Summer Season, but church life has now begun again in earnest.

Last night we had our “Vision Focus” meeting, kicking off plans for the year ahead. There are several pieces of information I could mention in the next few days, but one piece of news I wanted to share straightaway, in case you missed it, is a change to our eldership team at Welcome Church.

We do hope to be able to announce some new elders for the team soon, but we’re not quite ready to do that (perhaps that will come in early 2020), we did announce a change however.

Changing our team

As a team we’re always seeking God for the future. As we move into our new building it’s the start of a new season, and it’s only right that we seek God for His guidance; we want to be intentional about what God wants us to do in this next season together as a church.

As an eldership team, in the two years I’ve been here, we’ve been away together each year taking time to pray together, to discuss the future and to plan. We also have regular meetings together most weeks. I think we’ve achieved a lot together in the last two years and hopefully you can see the impact on the church in that time.

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Our eldership team with our amazing wives

To be honest, it’s a good team and we’ve had a lot of fun together and built some good friendships – I think this was pretty obvious to those who were with us at Westpoint for our karaoke number!!!

Getting outside input

As a church we’re part of Commission, and that means we get the benefit of not working in isolation; we get input and apostolic oversight from Commission – specifically from Guy Miller. Guy has been involved in the appointment of every elder on the team. He knows us as a team and is involved.

As a team we’ve been considering what the best shape for the team is going forward, and we’ve also drawn Guy into that discussion. We’ve been trying to discern what will serve the church best as we move forward, and we are making a change as we enter this next season.

We all have different seasons of life:

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Seasons Change

  • In 2017 Malcolm Kayes started a new season after 27 years leading this church, stepping back from staff and eldership, and jumping into retirement
  • John Wardill also started a new season, stepping back from eldership whilst continuing to focus on his work in Turkey
  • I also started a new season, moving to Welcome Church from Grace Church.
  • Dub Everitt did that when he moved here from Jubilee Church in Shepperton a few years back

 

The point is this …

 change in church eldership teams is a normal process 

It enables new people to come through and releases others to move on into God’s next step and plans for their life. As a team we’ve recognised that its time for a change.

David Maskell

David Maskell has been on staff at this church for 18 years, and has been part of the church for 40 years – that’s a long time! For just over 4 years he has been serving as an elder. I know that he works really hard in that role and many people have benefitted from all he has done.

The change is that David is going to step down from eldership and from employment at the end of this calendar year; it will be a new season for him and also for Tina.

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Tina and David

As a church we need to get ready to release him to the next season of his life.

David is not looking at retirement yet and is actively seeking his next step. He is in conversation with another Commission church, but it’s not something we can make any announcements about.

They are looking for someone with David’s skill set and they really want him, but that church need to work out if they can afford another person and have some work to do on that front. Nothing is decided, so please pray for him and Tina about that – they only want to go forward if it’s the right thing.

Whatever David’s next step is, this is going to be a huge change for the Maskell family and they will need your prayersIt’s also a huge change for us as a church to adjust to.

We know it will be a challenge for some people, not least for David and Tina having been here for so many years. It will also mean we need to make adjustments to how we deliver pastoral care as a church. David has been working on that already, with a brand new Pastoral Team taking shape, and there will still be a lot of things we need to work out for the future.

David will finish on the eldership team at the end of December and finish employment at that stage too. Obviously we need to take the time to mark that moment well when it comes, and we will do that on Sunday 22nd December during our morning meeting.

Costly

Changes like this are always costly, yet we believe that God always works things together for our good, both as individuals and as a church.

Let’s keep David and Tina in our prayers in the weeks ahead, and let’s make sure we show them that in tangible ways that they are loved and appreciated by us all.