New Year, New Challenges

It was great to start our New Year as a church yesterday by gathering together for worship. The sermon was about “Being a worshipper when times are tough and life is not what you expected” (which may be a key message for us all this year as we face so many unknowns.) The sermon itself was a last minute message pulled together because the scheduled preacher had a positive PCR test for Covid on New Year’s Day; let’s hope it’s the only time this happens.

One thing I’ve found challenging during the pandemic is that so much rapid change and uncertainty makes it hard to plan ahead and cast vision for where we’re going as a church. For example, as we approached the Carol Services this year the biggest question in my head was not ‘Will they go well?’ but ‘Will they be allowed to go ahead?’ Instead of hoping people from the church would bring guests, I was just hoping people from the church would turn up themselves. Some did 🙂.

It’s hard to plan with so much uncertainty, and with that in mind the “Vision Evening” planned for Sunday 9th Jan will now be delayed until we know that our plans will actually be allowed to be delivered. This week we’ll be away for a few days as an eldership team (minus one due to Covid!) specifically to pray for our church and hear from God for the year ahead; please keep us in your prayers.

A challenge for 2022

As 2022 begins it’s not too late to take on the challenge of reading through the Bible in a year. It will do your faith so much good! It’s not something I do every single year, but this year I’ll be going for it again. You may have done this before. You may have tried it and failed. It may be a completely new idea to you. How about giving it a go in 2022?

“But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.” Psalm 1v2-3 (from the NLT, which is a really readable translation)

If you fancy taking on this challenge here’s a link to a pdf of a great reading plan. It covers the whole Bible over 52 weeks. You can bookmark it, download it or print it from this link. This is the plan I’ll be using in 2022.

I like this plan because it has readings for five days each week, rather than seven, something that works better for me. You could even read all five days in a single session on one day each week if that works best for you. Or you could tackle the Old Testament readings on one day, Psalms/Chronicles on another day and the New Testament readings on a third.

Bottom line: I love the lay out of this plan and, although it’s already Jan 3rd, you’re absolutely not too late to start (though of course you could start at any point during the year!) If you do go for it, let me know how you get on. It really will do you good.

The Winter Warmer: another challenge

One last thing to mention in case you missed it is that our Winter Warmer, scheduled for Friday 7th Jan, has been postponed to Friday 1st April. This event will involve dancing and sharing food and we felt it could be unhelpful right now with Covid levels as high as they are.

Here’s the challenge: we’re going to need a new name for the event.

Suggestions so far include ‘The Easter Extravaganza’ and ‘The Spring Spring’. Can you do better than that? All suggestions welcome. Winning suggestion wins a free ticket. Seriously 😃.

What’s God been up to in YOUR life?

On Sunday 9th January we’re looking to have a ‘Testimony Sunday’ at Welcome Church. This will be an opportunity for some of us to share a short ‘testimony’ of what God has been doing in our lives over the last two years during the pandemic. We did this on a previous occasion before the pandemic and it was a huge blessing and encouragement; we need to do it even more now that we’ve lived through this challenging time of loss and separation.

So, if Welcome Church is your church and you have a short testimony (2 – 3 minutes) of God’s faithfulness during the last two years – His presence in times of challenge, an answer to prayer, some way He’s spoken to you or worked in your life or provided for you – we want to hear from you!

We’re looking for a few people to share in each meeting so we can all be encouraged together and give glory to God. If you want to volunteer then please get in touch with Dean Guy by emailing care@allwelcome.uk. We’re really looking forward to hearing from you.

Psalm 145v3-6: “Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom.
One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts”

Latest Covid Changes at Welcome Church

Yesterday (8th December) the Prime Minister made an announcement about changes to the Covid regulations and a move towards the government’s “Plan B”. Whenever these announcements are made there are always a lot of questions about what the impact is and what we are and aren’t supposed to do; this is true of us as a church too.

Today we met as a team and did our best to understand what the current changes mean for us as a church. Following that (in what felt like a step back in time) I’ve recorded a video to talk about it. Everything you need to know about the changes we’re making as a church is in this video, so please do watch it.

For this who are ridiculously short of time the headline is that from Friday 10th December it will be mandatory to wear a face mask in a place of worship. There’s a lot more that we need to say as well, so for the rest of the update – please do watch the video! Thanks

Changes To Our Sunday Meetings

Since the pandemic began we’ve made regular adjustments to how we run Sunday meetings, and this will continue in the months ahead. Remember, we only restarted 9am and 11am meetings with kids work eight weeks ago. As it stands we’re still on a journey towards a new normal, so this September we’ll be taking some more steps towards that with some small adjustments as follows:

  • From this Sunday (19th Sept) we’ll still meet at 9am and 11am, but we’ll now be aiming for meetings that are 1hr 15 mins in length (which is pretty much what they’ve actually been all along 😃) 
  • We may begin to reduce the size of the socially distanced seating area since less people want to use it for this purpose. We will ensure there is enough space there for all those who feel the need for it
  • Children will continue to be in for the worship time and then go out to their groups, but their groups will now run until 10.30am for the first meeting and 12.30pm for the second meeting. This will give us 15 minutes that we can use for prayer ministry, for catching up with one another and for people to have tea/coffee together before collecting children
  • From Sunday 26th September we will reintroduce tea/coffee after each meeting
  • We will also reintroduce communion regularly on a Sunday, and begin to make space to pray for people in person too

Because we’re being warned that the pandemic is ‘far from over’ and that some restrictions might be reintroduced, we’ll continue to broadcast the 9am livestream for now (although we do encourage everyone who can attend in person to do so). We’ll also be ready to make further changes as needed, in line with official guidance for churches.

It goes without saying that we should all be careful and vigilant. If you have symptoms of Covid or have tested positive for Covid in the last ten days (with or without symptoms) you should not attend in person; this is not going to be a winter to ‘push through that cold and keep going’!

As we make changes let’s remember that we are a charismatic church; we should expect to encounter God’s presence and for people to use spiritual gifts; we want the genuine presence and power of God to be experienced by us all. With this in mind, although worship times are still a little shorter, let’s expect some God focused, encouraging contributions to help us in our worship. All we ask is that you come forward and use the microphone so everyone, including the livestream, can hear you.

I’m looking forward to an exciting autumn as we continue our new preaching series, I’m looking forward to meeting with my church family, I’m looking forward to encountering God’s presence and I’m even hopeful that we might get to celebrate Christmas together this year too.

One Big Welcome Church Weekend

This Sunday, 25th July, we’re returning to something much closer to normal church life. Welcome Church will be meeting at 9am and 11am, with kids work starting again and absolutely no need to book in advance to attend – just turn up. I’m really looking forward to singing together in worship, instead of sitting down and ‘watching’.

For full practical details of how the meetings will run during this next season please follow this link here, especially if you’re still a bit nervous because of Covid. The link should tell you everything you need to know, including the measures we’re taking to keep everyone safe.

As well as church life getting back to something more like normal, there are three extra things to look forward to this Sunday:

1. We will be baptising people

We have four people due to be baptised at the 9am meeting and 7 at the 11am meeting, with more baptisms planned for the autumn too. If you’re a Christian and have not yet been baptised since you came to faith in Jesus it’s not too late for you to join them, just get in touch and talk to us about it on connect@allwelcome.uk

2. We have a guest speaker

Guy Miller, who leads the Apostolic team of our Commission family of churches, will be our speaker this weekend. He’s going to be continuing our ‘Words That Changed My World’ preaching series and I’m looking forward to hearing what he has to say

3. We have our Welcome Home Summer Social in the afternoon

This will be a great chance to connect again with the whole Welcome Church family and to eat and relax together. It runs from 12.30pm to 4.30pm at the Schifano’s field (a map will be available at the meetings this Sunday, or please email info@allwelcome.uk for details)

This event is completely free and includes food, drinks, bouncy castles, an inflatable assault course, a slip n slide, children’s games and more – just bring a chair, rug or something to sit on.

We will be keeping an eye on the weather of course, and if we do get rained off we’ll let you know and will reschedule soon. Events like this will be a key part of our Welcome Church Recovery Plan following Covid – make sure you don’t miss it.

See you at the weekend!

Plans For Sunday Meetings At Welcome Church From Sunday July 25th

On Monday 19th July we reach step 4 of the national unlocking plan and we’ll be getting closer to holding ‘normal’ Sunday meetings. Personally I’m excited and raring to go, and at the same time I recognise some of us will be more cautious, especially with rising Covid case numbers.

We want everyone to feel confident to attend, so to help bring reassurance where it’s needed here’s our plan for how things will work. This plan covers things we will stop, things we will start and things we will change. There are also some Covid safety measures listed at the end to help reassure people further. As always this is all subject to change if the guidance changes.

What stops from July 25th

Online kids work will not take place from that day onwards.

You will no longer be required to sit socially distanced from other people, unless you want to.

You will no longer need to book to attend or register on arrival; just turn up.

What starts from July 25th

In person kids work, including creche, restarts that day, with Sunday youth work to commence from September.

You will be free to stand up and sing during the worship … at last!

You will be free to pray for people and to be prayed for as appropriate.

Breaking news:

We will create a specific ‘socially distanced’ seating area for people who would like to use it, where face masks will also be worn. This will be situated at the back, near to the car park doors, and you will be able to enter and leave that way to avoid getting close to too many people. For everyone else we recommend using the front doors, as we did before the pandemic.

What changes from July 25th

Instead of one meeting at 10am, we will have two meetings which will be at 9am and 11am. These will each be around one hour in length.

The livestream will operate for the 9am meeting only, and will no longer have a chat feature. This means that for now you can still choose to watch online if you need to.

Children will stay in the meeting with their parents during the worship time, before going out to their groups, giving them a much shorter time in kids work or creche than before the pandemic. We will register your kids on arrival at the meeting so do try to arrive in good time if you can and please use the front doors and not the car park doors for this.

Face masks will no longer be legally required, however government guidance recommends they are worn in crowded indoor areas. With this in mind we encourage you to wear a mask on arrival, on leaving and when moving around the building, such as going to the toilet or collecting your children. We will not be policing this, so our encouragement is that we each seek to be responsible and to care for others where we can, remembering that face masks are mainly worn to protect other people and not ourselves. Once you are seated you will be free to remove your face mask or to continue wearing it as you see fit, except in the socially distanced seating area where masks will be required.

Some Covid safety measures

There are several things we’re doing to help keep people safe:

1. Our heating and cooling system has been set to ‘extract’ mode and is not recycling any air. This means that we will be sitting in a flow of new air, and what we breathe out will be slowly drawn upwards and out of the building – this has been the case since meetings restarted.

2. Our hand sanitisation stations will remain in place and we encourage you to use them.

3. The meetings are shorter than they would be in normal times, reducing your exposure time to others.

4. There will be a longer gap between meetings leading to less crowding.

5. Despite reduced numbers being expected as many people will be away during the summer, we are holding two meetings in order to create as much space as possible and avoid overcrowding.

6. We will not yet be serving refreshments, so bring your own tea, coffee or water – this will avoid crowding around refreshment tables.

7. We encourage you to use the outside areas to socialise, including the car park, the area outside the front, and the areas between the two buildings.

Full steam ahead?

We are hoping this is now full steam ahead on the road to normality but we must bear in mind two things:

  1. We don’t know if there will be future restrictions put in place if cases rise or new variants emerge, especially as we head into the autumn
  2. No specific guidance for churches has been issued this time. If that does come out it’s possible we’ll find something that affects our plans; if that happens we will let you know.

It’s been an incredibly difficult time for us all during the pandemic and there have been losses along the way. We’ve also been warned that the pandemic is ‘far from over’.

With all this in mind let’s enjoy this new freedom as much as we can and as responsibly as we can. I’m excited to get back to worshipping God together in person again and I hope to see you all there.

Unlocking – Our Revised Plans

On Monday this week the government announced a delay to the national plan for unlocking, with step 4 being delayed from Monday 21st June to Monday 19th July. Whatever we each feel about the delay, let’s be praying for our government as they make difficult decisions in the face of competing pressures on all sides.

Our original plan as a church had been that from Sunday June 27th we would return to holding 2 in person meetings each Sunday, at 9am and 11am, with kids work included and no need to book. The delay to step 4 impacts on these plans which now need to be delayed and adjusted.

Our new plan

For the next five Sundays, up to and including Sunday 18th July, we will continue just as we are. We will have one in person Sunday meeting at 10am each week, which will also be live streamed. Booking is now open for all of these Sundays, and you can access the booking system by following this link. Why not book right now to attend them all?

Remember, we can now sit in groups of six people, or groups of two households, so feel free to find someone else to book in with. Maybe you could encourage someone who hasn’t attended in person yet to come with you and sit together; you may be just the encouragement they need.

From Monday July 19th the church offices should reopen. We haven’t opened them yet because the official government advice is still ‘work from home if you are able to’, and most of the time we can. When that advice changes we will change and we expect that to be from July 19th as step 4 is reached.

From Sunday July 25th, the first Sunday after step 4, we will commence a plan to hold 2 in person Sunday meetings each week, at 9am and 11am, with children’s work included and (unless some official guidance says otherwise) no need to book. Our hope is that as step 4 is reached we will no longer be required to wear face masks and that we will be able to stand and sing together.

July 25th will be a special day for us

Obviously July 25th is the first Sunday of the school holidays, so in some ways it’s not ideal for making any big change. We know that some people will undoubtedly be away. Despite this, July 25th will be a special Sunday for us as a church for several reasons:

1. We will reopen fully as a church that day

It’s been a long time coming, but I can’t wait for us to be back together. Over the summer the meetings will be one hour in length, with a one hour gap to allow people to chat and socialise. We will hold two meetings each week to make sure we’re not too crowded when we get together, which may be important to some who have felt nervous about returning in person. Our live stream will continue during this time as well for those who need it.

2. We will restart our children’s work that day

Our kids have missed out on so much over the last year and they now need to be a high priority for us all. Starting children’s work will help to make church meetings more accessible for those with families and it will be good for our children. When we start the children will join us in the adult meeting for a short worship time together before they go out to enjoy a shorter children’s work together.

3. We will have baptisms that day

These baptisms will be a great celebration of what God has done over the last few months. If you’re a Christian and haven’t been baptised since you came to faith in Jesus, baptism is for you. If want to know more then please get in touch here. We would love to chat to you about baptism.

4. We will hold a ‘Back to Church’ Summer Social that afternoon

On the afternoon of July 25th, from 12.30pm to 4.30pm we will hold a fun social event for the whole church. This will be an open air event with all food and drinks provided free of charge, along with bouncy castles and games for the kids. This will be a great chance for us all to get together and catch up with friends after such a long time. All you will need to bring is a chair or blanket to sit on. Details of the venue and how to book will be out soon.

Making the most of this time

This latest delay is disappointing for us all. It means we all have longer to wait for normality and it means we’re now restarting our fuller in person church meetings, with children’s work, just as the school holidays begin, which is a traditionally quiet time of year for us as a church and not a great moment to begin anything.

Despite all of this let’s do what we can to make the most of the season we’re in. Remember that you can meet indoors with six people or two households, and outdoors with groups of 30. Why not make the most of this to catch up with people in person? Why not meet in person as a life group too?

As we do this let’s not forget our Welcome Church Recovery Plan for 2021, of which this is just one small step. You can read more about that here.

And let’s all bookmark Sunday July 25th if we can.

Live Meetings Return!

Welcome Church begins in person Sunday meetings from Sunday 18th April and the booking system is now open – click here for the link.

You will be able to book for meetings two weeks before they happen. Please book in as a whole bubble/household with one person leading that booking, rather than having different individuals within your bubble/household do it separately.

Kids/youth are welcome to come with you as long as they can sit with you quietly all the way through the meeting, including the preach – there is no kids/youth/creche yet. If you are bringing them please do include them in your booking so we can make sure you all have a seat.

Places all gone?

It’s perhaps not a big surprise, but all the places for our first in person Sunday meeting were booked in under a minute, however the reserve list is open and is well worth using for several reasons:

  1. We will fit in everyone we can, so you may hear from us
  2. We will be looking to make sure we give priority to people in week 2 who missed out on week 1 – registering your interest now helps us prioritise you later
  3. People may get Covid symptoms and need to cancel, or may cancel for a whole range of other reasons – if that happens we will be filling spaces from the reserve list
  4. Registering your desire to attend helps us work out the real demand and informs our thinking as we look to see if we do the meeting more than once

The available spaces will hopefully grow as Covid restrictions loosen for churches, and as we work out in reality what’s possible in our building.

Don’t forget, until we have space for everyone who wants to attend to do so and until children’s work is up and running again, we will also be Live Streaming each week at WelcomeChurch.online

I’m so looking forward to when there are no restrictions anymore