Getting Spiritually Match Fit

On Sunday, Christoper Hawes spoke about our need to be ‘spiritually match fit’ as lockdown eases and something closer to normal life returns (click here to listen). Just as footballers will need to be fit to play the full 90 minutes when football returns, we need to be spiritually fit for God’s call and plans for us.

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Have you lost some of your spiritual fitness during lockdown?

2 Timothy 3v16-17 says:

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

Among other things Christopher talked about the Bible as being like a ‘spiritual coach’ for us, helping us to attain full fitness.

He listed five ways to approach the Bible that can help us:

  1. Listening: such as listening to our Sunday preaching
  2. Reading: actually reading the Bible. Have you read it all yet? There are loads of apps and reading plans available for free to help
  3. Studying: a lot of the Bible’s riches do not ‘lie on the surface’; we are reading literature that is thousands of years old and written to different cultures in languages we don’t speak today. Study guides are so helpful for us to mine the depths, taking our understanding and interest to whole new levels
  4. Memorising: learning verses or chapters by heart; being able to call them to mind when needed. Jesus did this to fight temptation (see Luke chapter 4)
  5. Meditating: filling our mind with scripture; rolling it round and round our thoughts

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When Christopher talked about ‘studying’ the Bible, he mentioned some resources to help us. I have listed some of these here, along with a few extra suggestions of my own:

1. Study Bibles
A Study Bible is a simple tool to help us as we read. I own two: The NIV Study Bible and The NLT Study Bible. They have comments on many of the verses and explain things we can easily miss
2. Daily Devotionals
These are short daily reading guides that give insight to what we’re reading. There are lots of these available, both in online or paper formats to suit your preference for example, Every Day With Jesus or Daily Hope, both of which I would recommend
3. Bible commentaries
A good Bible commentary can help us mine the depths of the Bible, and lots of these are well written and easy to read, such as ‘The Bible Speaks Today’ (which has a commentary available for every book of the Bible) or the ‘New American Commentary’ series (which go far deeper and are personal favourites of mine) or the ‘Holman Commentary’ series (which take a chapter at a time and point to the key things in it) or Phil Moore’s ‘Straight To The Heart Of’ series (very readable and applicable to daily life)
4. A Systematic Theology
Reading a good systematic theology can take some effort, but it’s manageable by anyone with reasonable reading ability and the courage to take the plunge. Reading one through is like taking all the bits of theology we know (and a lot we don’t know) and organising it into a neat filing system. I personally like Wayne Grudems Systematic Theology, but others are also available.
5. Commission Training
As a church we are part of the Commission family of churches, and Commission have just launched a whole range of new training courses, starting from September. There are four levels of training on offer, starting with something basic and going all the way through to a Masters Degree. For details click here. They also talk about an internship year in a church, which could be done here at Welcome Church – feel free to ask.

What next?

There is no bad place to start. The key thing is not to worry about what we don’t know or haven’t done, but to start somewhere. All the things I have listed above will do us good, so why not try something?
To return to a sporting analogy, the ball is in your court.

 

Exciting Staff News

We have some exciting news regarding a staff change at Welcome Church.

Part of our role as a church is to develop and release leaders, and this applies to those who are employed by us as much as to anyone else. 

WhatsApp Image 2020-04-22 at 16.57.38Many of us will know Ben and Nancy Martin. Ben has been employed at Welcome Church for a number of years, first as a Kids Worker, and more recently as our Children’s and Youth Pastor. About a year ago, as part of our plan for his development, Ben was offered a secondment to Gateway Church in Basingstoke.

Over the last year at Gateway Church, Ben has been involved in lots of activities to help him develop, including setting up a brand new CAP Debt Centre like the one we have here at Welcome Church, alongside involvement with discipleship, pastoral care and lots of other things that have nothing to do with children or youth.

Ben’s aim was to develop further as a leader, and I’m delighted to announce that he has now been appointed to a new, permanent role as Lead Pastor at Life Church in Hook. Life Church is part of the Commission global family of churches, just like Welcome Church, so we will still see him and Nancy at Commission events including Connect Festival next year.

Ben will start this new role on May 18th, and this will bring to an end more than ten years of employment with us, and also his secondment to Gateway Church. It also means he will not now be returning to us in the summer, as was the original plan.

WhatsApp Image 2020-04-22 at 16.57.31As part of this move Ben and Nancy will be relocating to Hook. They already have a buyer for their house and a purchase agreed – all subject to contract of course. In case you missed their other piece of exciting news, Nancy is pregnant with a due date this August.

Please do join me in congratulating them both on this step they are taking; this will be an exciting new phase of their life and ministry together. Ben and Nancy will be missed, yet this new role is a great step into their future together and will be a huge blessing to Life Church.

Here is a video that Ben and Nancy made to share the news in their own words. Enjoy!

 

 

Connect Festival: BIG NEWS

As a church we go to a festival each year in August, camping with other churches from our Commission family. We always have a great time with excellent teaching, worship, sports, entertainments, youth work, kids work, fun and games. I love hanging out with people from our own church, and also being with thousands of people from other Commission churches too, both from the UK and other nations.

Sadly, because of the Coronavirus outbreak, this year’s event has been postponed until August 2021.

This week the Commission Office will get in touch with everyone who’s booked to let you know what happens next. If you’ve booked already you will have three choices:

ONE: You can have your money back … but please don’t do that unless you really have to.

TWO: You can donate the cost of your booking to Commission to support the work done all around the world, including amongst the poor in several nations. That could be a good option, especially if you know 2021 is not possible for you, or you just want to be generous at this difficult time.

THREE: You can roll your booking over to 2021. Remember the event is not cancelled – it’s just postponed. I’m sure most will choose this option.

Connect Festival 2021 will be awesome!

Just think what a huge celebration we will have together, having missed this year’s event and having come through this crisis together. Jo and I will be there. I know you really won’t want to miss it!

 

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

Covid-19: 12 steps for our church

On Sunday at Welcome Church I spoke about our response to the current Coronavirus Pandemic. This is a moment unprecedented in most of our lifetimes, but moments like this are nothing new historically; many disasters, plagues and viruses have come and gone over the years.

In 1854, the preacher Charles Spurgeon found himself pastoring a congregation during a cholera outbreak in London. You can read about his response during that time here. We need a response to this current crisis too.

Here’s our 12 step plan as a church:

1. Let’s have faith:man-walking-on-gray-stairs-677971

As I’ve said before, this is not a time to panic (read more here). The church is made for a time like this. We are people of faith and we will trust Jesus. We will trust him that our lives are in his hands, and we will trust that He will do good things in and through our church and our lives at this time.

2. Let’s make informed decisions:

We will listen to wisdom and follow official advice, combining that with our local knowledge of the state of play in our own town and church. We won’t be making changes simply for the sake of appearances.

Presently (2pm, 16th March) we’re allowed to meet together as normal, so we’ll continue to do so. If the official advice changes, we will change too. In line with official advice, if you have a new constant cough or a high fever – however mild – please self isolate, and do let us know so we can pray for you.

3. Let’s continue to meet together:

We need to seek God throughout this challenging season. If a point comes where the official advice is to cancel our main Sunday meetings, we’ll meet in other ways and by other means as appropriate. This could include smaller meetings, Life Groups, Facebook live, video recordings, podcasts, blog posts, links to worship songs, email updates and more. Make sure you connect to as many of these things as you can.

Obviously there are some who may need to limit social interaction, on the advice of health professionals, or due to underlying health conditions, but let’s not withdraw simply out of fear, after all – this could go on for some months.

Currently we have decided not to pass an offering basket or take communion. Let’s also be wise in how we greet people or pray for them. Beyond that, we plan to carry on with our diary as planned, in line with the current official advice. But because this crisis is likely to get significantly worse before it gets better, let’s be ready for changes, even at the last minute, and let’s be flexible when they happen.

*** UPDATE ***
This afternoon,
Boris Johnson briefed the nation on the latest measures that the Government would like us to take to help manage the national Coronavirus situation.

Amongst other things it was said, “now is the time for everyone to stop non-essential contact with others and non-essential travel” and that we should all avoid all social gatherings and social contact.

He has also asked people to work from home wherever possible.

In order to comply with this guidance, with immediate effect Welcome Church will be cancelling all meetings, including Life Groups, and closing our office until further notice.

Over the next couple of days we will be looking at how things develop and what that will mean for us as a church, including using online and other resources.

As soon as we have further information we will issue an update via email, social media and our website, so expect to hear from us soon.

Let’s all be on the front foot to care for one another wherever we can.

Remember: none of this is taking our Heavenly Father by surprise.

He can use this time for His purposes in our lives, our church and our nation.

 

4. Let’s pray:

belief-bible-book-business-267559Let’s seek God for his protection on our church, our town and our nation at this time. Let’s pray for wisdom for our government, and strength and endurance for NHS workers and emergency services. If someone is sick we’ll pray for them in whatever way we can as well; just let us know the situation. Please also pray at home and in Life Groups.

We are Christians, not fatalists! We believe in prayer!

Right now the official guidelines tell us to wash our hands often, for at least 20 seconds. If you want to time 20 seconds, try praying The Lord’s Prayer; it works in more ways than one. 😃 We believe in the power of prayer, we also believe in the power of soap.

5. Let’s reject selfishness:

It would be very easy to just focus on ourself and our own family right now: buy what we can, pile it up, look after number one and batten down the hatches until it’s over. By doing that we could miss out on the opportunity of this unusual season we are living through.

Instead of embracing selfishness and fear, let’s show the love of Jesus to our world by responding with kindness, care and generosity to those around us. Let’s connect with our neighbours and those in need, and let’s offer help in Jesus name. And let’s ask Jesus for his help and strength to keep on serving, however tough it gets.

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6. Let’s be ready to care for others:

As a church we are God’s family, so let’s act like a family. This may get easier once some of us have had the virus and recovered, so we can step up in caring for others without restrictions, but let’s not wait until then.

If there comes a point when those who are over 70 are told to self isolate – which could happen in the near future – let’s be ready to help them. And let’s think more widely than just our church; let’s be ready to step up and help our neighbours and any vulnerable people we know as well.

7. Let’s look to pastor our town:

People are in fear. Let’s be ready to speak God’s good news to people, to offer prayer, to help our neighbours and to show a different way of living. Let’s not be selfish. Let’s not spread fear in person or online. Let’s speak faith and point people to the eternal hope that is available in Jesus, and let’s step up to help practically. Welcome Church is here in Woking for such a time as this.

8. Let’s be open to new evangelistic opportunities:

Let’s be ready to tell people the reason for the hope that we have. We have an amazing message of hope in Jesus; he offers eternal life and the promise of his presence with us. We can walk through this season without fear because live or die we can’t lose. And remember: the more you pray for opportunities, the more you get – so be ready.

9. Let’s be worshippers:

God deserves our praise at all times, so let’s live lives of worship in all circumstances. Worship is a spiritual weapon (see 2 Chronicles 20). We’re called to give thanks to God in every circumstance; so let’s be worshippers and not panickers; it’s hard to worship when you’re running away in fear!

10. Let’s lead our children well:

Teach the truth of the gospel to your children and grandchildren. Don’t leave them afraid and don’t model fear to them. Pray for them and pray with them. Remind them that Jesus cares for them. Teach them not to be afraid in life’s difficult circumstances. Teach them that death is not the end for any of us if we put our faith in Jesus. When Coronavirus comes up in conversation be ready to speak words of faith and point them to Jesus. Our kids need evangelism even more than they need soap!

As a family you could worship together, pray together and celebrate communion together. Let’s lead our children in faith, not fear.

11. Let’s entrust our lives to God:

When Esther, in the Bible book of Esther, had to go before the King on behalf of her people, without being summoned by him and in great fear of her life, she said, “I will go before the King, and if I perish I perish”.

This is a time to throw ourselves onto Jesus. Let’s go before King Jesus, ask for his mercy and leave our lives in his hands as we serve those around us. If we perish, it’s in his hands. We are not immune to disease, but death is not the end for us either, and King Jesus has us safely in his hands.

flowers-marguerites-destroyed-dead-200912. If people die, let’s bury them with faith, and care for their families well:

Death is not the end. We have a resurrection to come. If our faith counts for anything, it counts when we face a crisis like this, where people we love may die, or our own lives may be lost. God has not promised us immunity from sickness and death, but his word does show us that we’re immortal until our life’s work is done – so let’s trust him.

THAT’S THE PLAN!

This situation will get worse before it gets better. Jesus does not promise that we will never get sick or die. We may lose people we love to this and we may mourn … but we will not mourn like those who have no hope, and we will not walk in fear.

Jesus won a great victory for us at the cross: death was defeated; our resurrection is promised; victory is ours in Jesus. We can live in contentment despite the current crisis because our Heavenly Father is watching over us and even if we die we will live.

And perhaps this crisis is a good reminder for us all that it’s not wise to live our lives as though sickness and death were the least likely things ever to happen to us; they are a certainty for us all.

Covid-19: Don’t Panic!

Something unprecedented within most of our lifetimes is happening right now: a Coronavirus to which we have no herd immunity is spreading across the world and people have died. This kind of event is nothing new in history of course, it’s just new to us, and there is a lot of fear about it.

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Boris Johnson said this week that it was, “the worst public health crisis for a generation” and he warned that many families would “lose loved ones before their time”.

We’ve seen the impact of the virus on supermarkets, workplaces, international travel, stock markets, the budget, public events and more. I just received notice of the cancellation of a conference I was due to attend, and of our guest speaker for next Sunday too.

Sadly I’ve even picked up that there is fear among Christians. So how are we going to respond? The first thing we need to know is this:

The church is made for a time like this

CHRISTIANS: DO NOT PANIC!

Our faith is more than adequate for this crisis. Remember: “God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1v7)

Christians are not supposed to hide away in times like this, any more than the army is supposed to run away and hide in a time of war. We’re called to stand firm and live out our faith. We are called to reject selfishness and care for those in need. We are called to share our message of hope with our town.

That’s not to say we’re immune from disease, but let’s keep perspective: most people who get this recover quickly and if the worst comes to the worst, that’s what our faith is for; we have a hope that goes beyond the grave!

We have a powerful message of good news at this time: This life is not the end.

We need to trust in what Jesus said, live out our faith and share it with other people through our words and our acts of kindness and love. If we’re going to do that we need to be prepared, so we will be talking all about this on Sunday, including details of how, as Welcome Church, we will be responding to this current crisis.

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Sunday Meetings

We are constantly monitoring the situation and listening to the advice of the British Government, Public Health England and the Commission Group of Churches. As it stands, we’re still 100% fine to gather on Sunday, and our diary is going ahead as planned.

(Even in Scotland where they have decided to stop meetings of more than 500 people, this is not being done on scientific evidence to affect the spread of disease; it is about ensuring that NHS resources are not drained by events. Churches were also specifically mentioned as NOT included in this)

If anything changes we will let you know. If we need to, we will find other ways to keep ‘meeting’ together, including online solutions, but at this point this is simply not necessary, so let’s get together on Sunday to worship God, to pray and to look at a Biblical response to this is as a church.

I know that some stayed away last week through fear.

I would encourage you not to do that.

After all, if we start down that path, when do we come back? This virus will be around for months or even years …

(Obviously there are some who may need to limit their social interactions, on the advice of health professionals, due to underlying health conditions – that makes sense. But what I’m referring to is acting simply out of fear)

Instead of giving in to fear, please follow government guidance: if you have a new persistent cough or high temperature, please self isolate at home, and let us know so we can pray for you. And let’s please keep washing our hands. We believe in prayer and we also believe in soap!

On Sunday evening at our Encounter evening we’ll be talking about being empowered by the Holy Spirit. If you’re thinking, “The virus is making me scared to go”, you especially need to be there! Let’s press in to receive the empowering of God’s Spirit of power, love and self-discipline, and to get free from fear!

And remember what the Bible says in Psalm 139v16:

“All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be”

Woking needs us firing on all cylinders, so let’s stop panicking, let’s put an end to fear, and let’s walk in step with the Holy Spirit. God has us in the palm of his hands, and live or die, we actually have nothing to fear.

I have much more to say on Sunday, so don’t miss it.

A Big Weekend

We have a big weekend ahead for Welcome Church with the appointment of three new elders, and also our Welcome Youth weekend away.

Youth

Welcome Youth are away from Friday evening through to Sunday afternoon. They have 59 young people booked to attend, and a fantastic range of events planned (most of which I’m not allowed to reveal in advance 😃)

Please do pray for them to have a fun time, a safe time and a great time of meeting with God. Please pray for the young people and please pray for the leaders as well.

Elders

On Sunday afternoon at 4pm Guy and Heather Miller (Guy leads the Commission family of churches) will be joining us as we appoint Eugene Engelbrecht, Christopher Hawes and Mike Reid as elders to join our current team. These new appointments will significantly impact our church as we move into the future together.

This afternoon event is for the whole family, and we will start with coffee and cake from 4pm. Let’s all aim to be there, and parents please do bring your kids. It should be done by 5.30pm so you won’t be late for bath and bedtime.

Prayer

Let’s be in prayer ahead of these appointments too.

In fact it’s positively Biblical for us to do that:

“Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust.” (Acts 14v26)

Pray for these men, pray for their families, pray for the elders we already have and for our families too, and pray for the church at this time of change. If you’re in a position to do so, you could even give some time to prayer with fasting too.

Let’s be full of faith as we head into this big weekend for Welcome Church

Launch Sunday … Welcome Church, We Have Lift Off!

On Sunday (19th Jan 2020) Welcome Church marked the official launch of our brand new building in the heart of Woking. We were delighted to see so many people there to celebrate with us.

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Just over 1,200 people attended across the two meetings, and this represents a new ‘high water mark’ for the church. We want to say a huge thank you to everyone who was there including friends old and new and, whether you were there or not, everyone is warmly invited to come and join us next Sunday at 9am or 11am.

So much to pack in

It was a fast paced morning:

  • Our worship team kicked us off in brilliant style with some vibrant worship
  • We then remembered some of our 140 year history of buildings, looking back at our journey so far and forward to our future vision
  • We heard from Paul Ginever, the architect who designed the new building
  • The Mayor of Woking, Councillor Beryl Hunwicks, spoke about the importance of community and working together
  • At the 11am meeting Jonathan Lord MP, Member of Parliament for Woking, was present to share some very kind words of encouragement
  • Then Steve Blow, the Finance Director for Compassion UK, presented Welcome Church with a display board to mark the support given to mothers and babies in Togo through our partnership with them
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My Favourite Thing From Sunday 🙂

You can listen to that part of our meeting by clicking here.

Welcome Stories

This week also marked the start of our six week ‘Welcome Stories’ series. Many of us were deeply moved watching Mike’s Story, which showed the difference that Jesus has made to his life, helping him to get free from depression and more. You can watch his powerful story here:

This video should play, but if not please click here to view it via our church website

Towards the end of the meeting I talked about a question, the answer to which profoundly shapes our lives and daily actions:

“What do you think God is like?”

This talk was based on Jesus’ story of The Prodigal Son, and you can hear it by clicking here. For me, it was a morning to remember.

Please come again

I want to invite everyone who reads this to come and join us at Welcome Church over the next five weeks. We will be continuing our Welcome Stories series, and there will be another powerful Welcome Story video each Sunday.

Consider some fascinating facts about how, on average, we spend our lives…

  • We sleep for over 20 years of our lives
  • We watch TV for over 10 years of our lives
  • We spend 5 years 9 months in some form of transportation
  • We spend 7 ½ years eating and drinking

Why not spend 7 ½ hours over these next five weeks joining us for this Welcome Stories series? It will be a great way to brighten up these gloomy January and February Sunday mornings!

Finally, here are some photos from Sunday morning to enjoy:

 

A Day To Remember

We had our first Sunday meetings in our new Welcome Church building in the heart of Woking this week, and what a great day it was!

Around 750 people attended across the two morning meetings, and some  of the highlights for me included:

  • The sense of joy and excitement after so long waiting for a new building
  • Seeing so many people from our church gathered across the two meetings
  • The excellent coffee and refreshments (thank you Marcus, Sharon and team)
  • The top notch parking arrangements that came together and worked so well (thank you Richard and team)
  • Embarrassing the awesome Mike Deavin by getting him to sit on the stage in an armchair with a blanket whilst I preached (thank you Mike)
  • The amazing worship times … our musicians and sound team were absolutely ON IT! (Thank you team)

I also enjoyed gathering in the evening to pray around the whole site. 

An extra special thank you goes to Charles C for the huge amount of time he put in to make sure that everything worked in terms of sound, lights and visuals.

Next Sunday we will back again at 9am and 11am

You will see some changes to the building that have taken place this week as the builders have continued towards finishing the job.

And in terms of parking please do head to Philips Court again (left hand side of the Fire Station) and you will be directed from there.

Here are a few photos from the day for you to enjoy in case you missed them:

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!