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.

IMG-0165

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
IMG_1238

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:

 

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.

80716183_248061509499545_7826618250942218240_n

 

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.

Image 2

 

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.

Final Gift Day Results

On Sunday we announced the results of our final Building Fund Gift Day. Here is an update in case you missed it  – and it’s gone up a bit since Sunday morning too:

Our target was £300,000

That’s a lot of money and, along with a mortgage, that would enable us to finish the job – albeit our finances would be TIGHT! What we really wanted to do was beat that target.

After the first week we were just under the half way mark.

Following the second Sunday I have the privilege of announcing the final result.

The total amount raised consists of three parts:

  • Money given and now in our bank account
  • Money that people have pledged to give over the next few weeks
  • Gift Aid that, as a charity, we can claim on people’s giving – reclaiming the income tax paid on the money that was donated

Adding these three figures together gives us a total amount of

£498,287

Wow! That is a lot of money! It’s just under half a million pounds … given over two Sundays … following two other huge Gift Days this year!

And for the first time we actually beat our target. 😃

adult-backlit-beach-1000445

Hooray!

This result means that we can do everything we planned to do, and perhaps (we cannot say for certain yet) we may be able to borrow a bit less than was anticipated, which would make a huge difference going forward .

Giving some away

Our plan has always been to give away a portion of this giving to  Compassion UK, to help fund a Child Survival Programme in Togo (for details click here) and the amount that is eligible for this is just over £40,000.

That money will be doubled under a matched funding initiative from the UK Government making it up to more than £80,000.

We received this short video from Justin Dowds, the CEO of Compassion UK and Ireland, saying thank you. Do give it a watch.

This video contains sub-titles – just click on the caption button to switch them on or off.

The video should be visible above, if it’s not then please click here to view it.

Thanks

I want to take a moment, on behalf of the Welcome Church eldership team, to say thank you for all your faithful giving. What a huge difference this is going to make to us as a church and to the lives of mothers and babies in Togo.

Saving Lives, Helping The Poor

On Sundays June 9th and 16th we will be having the final Gift Days for our New Building Project. We are going to give away a tithe (10%) of what we collect to a project working with the poorest of the poor … and the good news is that every gift we give to them on this occasion can be doubled!

Child Survival

As a church we are already sponsoring many children in Togo through Compassion UK, and it’s a country with a lot of needs. One of the big challenges is around infant mortality and health in pregnancy.

At present in Togo:

  • 1 in 20 babies die before their first birthday … and most of these are from preventable causes
  • 1 in 58 women also die

These are shocking statistics, and Compassion are working to change this though their Child Survival Projects (CSP). These CSP’s are run by local churches in Togo. They work with mothers throughout their pregnancy and for the first year of the child’s life to provide:

  • Medical support
  • Vaccinations
  • Basic provisions – including safe water, hygiene kits and nutritious food
  • Education – on how to care for a child – remembering that many of the mothers are little more than children themselves
  • Skills training – to teach work skills that can help them earn a living
  • Spiritual support and mentoring

These projects are so important that for a short while they are receiving matched funding from our UK Government.

Our donations to this vital work (before Gift Aid) will be matched, pound for pound, by the UK government

So what we give to them will be doubled

This means that if we hit our target of £300,000, and we pass £30,000 on to Compassion, it will be doubled to £60,000 – enough to fund a project for several years.

Jesus told us that he was sent to bring good news to the poor. Let’s join him in that mission as we come to our Gift Days.

If you have any questions, please do ask.

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 …

25380132-fb75-466a-9462-a0da775eeac9

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.

An Amazing Result

This weekend saw the launch of Welcome Church’s partnership with Compassion UK – sponsoring children in the African country of Togo (click here for more info ). This launch is the latest addition to our Welcome Works initiative.

x

It was great to hear from Tim Robertson about how Compassion are:

  • Jesus centred
  • Child focussed, and
  • Church based

You can find out more about this excellent ‘three cord’ approach to ministry here

Or you can hear more of what Tim said by clicking here

The result was fantastic:

On Sunday Welcome Church stepped up to sponsor 111 children in poverty

And that number is already going up. This is really something to celebrate; lives will be changed as a result. Jo and I now sponsor a 7 year old girl in Togo. We’re looking forward to sending her a letter soon.

So what do I do now?

If you sponsored a child:

In the next few days you should hear from Compassion with some introductory information and confirming your bank details etc.

Once that is all in place I would recommend doing the following:

  1. Set up a My Compassion account with Compassion UK online – this gives you all the info you need, and will link you to information about the child you sponsor, the community they are in and how you can write to them
  2. Download the Compassion UK App onto your phone/pad. You can put your account info into it and it makes everything even more accessible. You can use the app to do everything, including viewing and writing letters; you can even do it on the way to work on the train.
  3. Write to your child. Try to do it a few times a year, and don’t forget a birthday card and gift when that comes around (Compassion will remind you). If you can, why not try to write at least once a term, after all you are looking to build a relationship with them? Remember you can include photos too. If you’re unsure what to write, the Compassion website will give you some great pointers. It doesn’t need to be long, just enough to show you care. If your child is very small, it may be the parents/carers who communicate with you at first, but that will change over time.
  4. Pray for them and their family, and for the church who are running the project. Remember, this is spiritual ministry and they need your prayers.
  5. If you have kids of your own, involve them. Let them write a letter or send a photo – it’s great way for them to grasp something of God’s heart for the poor.

If you have not yet sponsored a child:

You will get another chance to step up this Sunday and next Sunday at church, so in the meantime you could listen to Tim’s talk, check out the various links above, and see if it’s something you want to do.

For £25 a month you can genuinely change a life, and help to release someone from poverty in Jesus’ name. And that’s what our church is all about: seeing lives changed and communities impacted for good by God’s grace in action.

Exciting times!

Called to show Compassion

This Sunday at Welcome Church we are launching our newest Welcome Works initiative: we will be partnering with Compassion UK to sponsor children in the nation of Togo, Africa. (To find out what Welcome Works is, click here)

I love what Compassion do. I’ve seen it first hand and it’s precious.

They work with the poorest of the poor to help lift children, families and whole communities out of poverty and to give them hope. They also work to introduce them to a relationship with Jesus, meeting their deepest need of all. I love that Compassion do all of this by working through local churches in the countries they serve.

Togo_CDSP-TG-Rural-Region-16-1407

By sponsoring a child with Compassion you get to build a personal link with the child you are sponsoring: they write letters to you and you can write back; you can send them Bible verses and encouragements, and ask how you can pray for them; you get to see them grow up; you get to see the impact that of the gospel in action through your sponsorship.

Jo and I have sponsored children in the Philippines through Compassion for several years now, and we are looking forward to expand that to include Togo as well.

Why Togo?

In short: because the majority of children in Togo are desperately poor.

Togo is one of the least developed countries in Africa.

Without decent healthcare, under-5 mortality rates are 45 per 1,000 live births. Even those children who manage to survive those early years face countless obstacles including disease, malnutrition and limited access to medical care and education.

Less than five per cent of children who attend primary school in Togo go on to secondary school. Many families simply can’t afford the school resources and for others the need to send their children to work is too great. As a result, many children are denied the freedom of childhood, and a quarter of children are married before they are 18.

stop-shield-traffic-sign-road-sign-39080

Just stop for a moment

Re-read those last facts.

Let them sink in and touch your heart.

These are children, just the same as the children we may know personally. They think and feel just like the children we know. They have dreams and fears like they do. They need food, clothing, healthcare, education and hope, just like them. They also need to hear the good news of Jesus.

Why Togo? Because the need is so great, and Jesus told us to care for the poor – and it seems from the Bible that Jesus has a particular place in his heart for children. (Matthew 19v13-14; Matthew 18v6)

Compassion’s work in Togo began in 2009. Now, more than 197 local churches in Togo are reaching out to more than 50,982 children through partnership with Compassion. We are going to increase that number.

So this Sunday come ready to let God touch your heart, and come ready to step up.

Our church vision statement says that we want “to see lives changed and communities impacted for good through God’s Grace in Action.” That’s what this is all about. We are going to take steps together that will change lives and destinies for children.

I actually believe this Sunday might be the single most important Sunday at Welcome Church since I arrived.

Recent Travels & Some Future Plans

You may know that in addition to my role at Welcome Church, I’m also involved with Commission more widely. In that role I’ve been out and about a few times lately:

Regional Celebration

46503824_10157865078449692_8412979250755272704_nOn Sunday 18th November I was speaking in the evening at a Regional Celebration for three Commission Churches held in Epsom. The churches involved were Kings Church Epsom, Open Door Church Sunbury and Jubilee Church Shepperton. Epsom have just recently joined Commission so it was great to be there with them for the first time.

I spoke on the topic of Seeing People Clearly, covering some of the material from our own Belong Believe Become preaching series.

I really enjoyed the evening and was pleased to give one of my favourite shirts an outing too. Big thanks to David Maskell for coming with me.

Eldership appointments

The following Sunday evening, 25th November, I was at Bridge Church Newbury appointing three new church elders: Mark Landreth-Smith (Lead Elder), Pete Carter and Alastair Clark.

This was the first set of eldership appointments for this newly planted church, which is a church plant no longer … now a full fledged church.

Jo came with me and it was great to be with them for the evening, and to see the excitement, passion and vision of the people there.

On the same day, in the morning, Chris Kimbangi was appointed as the new Lead Elder at Centrepoint Church in Guildford following Boggles and Jill Harty moving on. Chris is married to Catherine and they have two small girls. Chris was also part of my team back at Grace Church (before I moved to Woking).

I wasn’t there for the morning, but it’s another big step in the life of a church that was planted from us here at Woking. I’m really glad to have Chris and Catherine just up the road and the early reports are that things are going well.

Week away

In between the two Sundays David, Dean, Dub and myself had a week away, as an Eldership Team, in a remote cottage on Dartmoor to talk, pray and plan for the future … with no phone signal or internet!!! 🙁

We had a great time that included looking at some 360 Feedback on our leadership styles (with help from Robin Willison), the role of eldership, pastoral care plans for the future, plans for life groups, plans for integration of new people (with help from Chaz and Mazz McCallister) and future leadership development. We also had the odd visit to a pub (purely to access their Wi-Fi!)

IMG_4407

We now have lots of plans formed for 2019 … YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!😃

Compassion UK

One more thing in case you missed it: Dean is currently in Kenya with the child sponsorship charity, Compassion. He flew out on Thursday morning … and landed back at Heathrow a couple of hours later due to the plane’s undercarriage malfunctioning!

He says it was pretty tense on the plane as it came in to land, but the stewardesses were excellent (nice one BA). He then flew out again a few hours later, this time getting all the way to Nairobi (we hope 😃). Do pray that he has a safe trip and a life changing experience.

This trip is giving Dean the chance to look at the work of Compassion in Africa, something I did myself a couple of years ago. It was an experience that still lives with me.

Next year we will be launching a project with Compassion as a church (although not in Kenya). Look out for more details of how you can get involved with that in the New Year.

nl8t7Mz

 

Moved by Compassion – again

What an awesome Sunday!

I know that many who were at our Grace Church meetings in Chichester and Bognor Regis  on Sunday found the talk extremely moving. We were thrilled to have Noel Pabiona with us. Noel is the CEO and Country Director of Compassion Philippines and he was in the UK for just a few days – we were very blessed to have him and every believer should hear his talk – it could change your life. The stories he told reduced grown men and women to tears across both meetings (myself included). 15037356_219847288440359_8346825870935785774_n

Those in Midhurst were blessed too, listening to Clare Hartley from Compassion UK. She also spoke brilliantly on God’s heart for the poor. All in all it was a fantastic morning. I’ve put links to both of these talks in the text above – please do listen! You can also get them via iTunes or our Grace Church podcasts.

Supporting Compassion as a church

For several years now, as a church, we’ve been supporting the work of Compassion, one of the world’s leading child development and child advocacy organisations. Working with local churches they create a link between a child living in poverty and a sponsor – people like us.

Sponsorship gives the child access to education, health checks and the care of a local church-based Compassion project. Through these programmes, children’s lives are being changed, along with their families and communities. I’ve seen this in action for myself in Kenya and it affected me deeply.

Our involvement: individual sponsorship

Our involvement has been focussed on a specific area of the Philippines: Negros Occidental. We’ve promoted child sponsorship in this area, and though our church over 200 children have been sponsored so far. The children in the photos are ones that between us we’ve sponsored  – and there are others too …

Our involvement: child survival

Additionally as a church we’ve provided funding for a Child Survival Programme (CSP). The programme works through a local church in the Philippines  and aims to rescue, nurture and disciple infants for the first three years of their lives. They aim to reach the most vulnerable before they’re even born. They provide antenatal care for vulnerable mothers, ensure children are vaccinated and that mothers are given the skills they need to earn a living. It’s about giving children the best possible start in life.

Grace Church has sponsored one of these programmes for several years. It’s called the Kairos programme and it’s being run by Good Shepherd Church.

Why should I care?

There are many reasons we should care about the poor

  • We should care because Jesus called us to care for the poor!
  • We should care because the whole Bible is clear that God expects us to be generous and to look after the poor and the needy (Matt 6:2-4; Acts 2:45; Gal 2:10; Prov 19:17; Prov 21:13; Prov 22:9; Psalm 42:1; Psalm 41:1-3)
  • We should care because no one should have to live and die in conditions like this:

Putting generosity into action

I know that many hearts were touched on Sunday. Every child sponsorship pack that we had available to us was taken and we have a list of requests for more. It looks like more than 30 more children will get a sponsor following Sunday morning, and it’s still not too late – don’t let the moment pass you by

You can sponsor a child, for £25 a month, via the Compassion website here. Or if you want to do it with us in the area of the Philippines we’ve been supporting then contact us here and let us know directly.

Next summer Tobi Stathers, from our Chichester site, is doing a sponsored bike ride from John O’Groats to Bognor to raise extra funds for the CSP. Please do sponsor Tobi; we want lots of people to back him. The money given will be extra to the funding  we already give. There are sponsorship forms available at any of our meetings, or you can give via our website here – just send us a message to let us know what it’s for.

And finally remember this …

“Generosity is not something we do to be praised; we do it because we are compelled by the love of Jesus Christ”

 

Compassion in the slums of Kenya: Trauma and Transformation

Returning from my trip to Kenya with Compassion has left me with a lot to process. I’m not a total newcomer to situations of poverty, and I’ve visited both slums and a refugee camp in the past, but what I saw in Mathare slum in Nairobi was well beyond my previous experiences. At a personal level I would sum the trip up in two words: ‘traumatic’ and ‘transforming’. I am still processing what I saw and heard.

One leader, returning from visiting a slum family, remarked that he felt like he had been on, “a walk through hell”. Entering the slums to visit people in their iron sheet and tarpaulin ‘homes’ gives a fresh perspective on life. (We were escorted by armed guards).

The Compassion Child Development Centre

The Compassion Child Development Centre, run by a local church based in the slum, is turning child sponsorships into real life action. They are doing a fantastic job putting their faith into action and transforming lives and families, but the issues they face daily are hard to think about.

 On one wall we spotted a poster that teaches children how to respond to rape:

Compassion Child Sponsorship | Mathare Nairobi Kenya | Steve Petch Blog

A friend asked a development centre worker about the poster, and we thought she replied, in a thick Kenyan accent,

17% of the girls growing up in the slum will be raped.”

Stunned we responded,

“Did you say seventeen percent?”

The worker replied,

“No! Not seventeen percent. It’s seventy percent. Seven Zero.”

I had to walk away and regain my composure at that point; just one of several occasions.

Trauma

That evening we heard testimonies from students who have graduated from the Compassion Leadership Development Programme and are now looking to be a blessing to their country and community. The final testimony was very moving. The young woman told us how her single mother had worked as a prostitute to provide for her and her sister; she told us about being homeless and sleeping in shop doorways and railway stations; and then she told us how she and her sister were sexually abused from 4 years old by an uncle who supplied food … and demanded to be paid.

Transformation

Compassion Child Sponsorship | Mathare Nairobi Kenya | Steve Petch BlogEnrolment in a Compassion Child Development Programme, with a sponsor from the USA, created a context for her whole family to be lifted out of extreme poverty. It also created a safe place where the abuse could be understood for what it was, and be disclosed to someone who could help. She told us how, when the centre taught them about STD’s, she realised what was wrong with herself and her sister. She was able to ask for help and both sisters were taken to a doctor and successfully treated. And now she has graduated from university. Trauma … and transformation.

Grace Church’s role in Compassion

Compassion Child Sponsorship | Mathare Nairobi Kenya | Steve Petch BlogAnd one more thing to add. As a church, between us so far, we have sponsored around 170 children in the Philippines. Seeing projects in action in Kenya, similar to the ones we support, was a great opportunity. Let’s keep up the sponsorship and the letter writing.

In a quiet moment I asked one of our Compassion representatives from the UK if this was the worst poverty she had seen. Worryingly she replied that the only place she had seen worse poverty was … the Philippines. Our trip there leaves in April 2018.

Let me know if you want to come and see not only the trauma, but also the transformation we are playing our part in achieving in that place.