Cheering on our Forerunners

One of the biggest blessings we have in our church is that there are people from every decade of life and, from Monday 1st June, Welcome Church will start a new ministry called Forerunners, aimed primarily at those who are sixty and over.

This ministry is being led by Tony and Pat Hewat, along with a team. They want to make it clear from day 1 that this is open to anyone of any age who has the time and inclination to get involved. All welcome; come as you are!

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Tony and Pat are a lovely couple and gift both to our church and our town.

Tony is on the national leadership team for Besom UK a fantastic national charity, serving people in need in all sorts of practical ways. He is a founding trustee of The Useful Wood Company a brand new social enterprise based in Woking. In the past he also helped to set up The York Road Project, which serves the homeless in our town so well.sdr

Pat is a very active part of the schools team for Engage, who regularly deliver faith based assemblies to local primary schools in Woking. Pat is also a helper at Westfield Tots, and an active grandmother.

Together Tony and Pat look after some of our Welcome Church Life Groups, grow their own veg and (according to one picture) climb mountains.

 

Forerunners will have two main focuses:

Activities … both within and outside the church, with a desire to reach new people, embrace those on the fringe of church life, and help those who are part of the church to connect to one another and support one another better, including single people. There is also a desire to help bridge generational gaps and enable people of older generations to connect with those of younger generations for friendship, mentoring and support.

Pastoral care … to make sure there is prayer, pastoral support and practical help available for people, and to make sure that no one is forgotten. Forerunners will also be looking to take care of those in our church who are approaching the end of their run and need some extra love and care.

Tony and Pat are keen to encourage people of all ages who can, to get involved with church life and use their gifts to serve our church and our town. They are also keen to care for those who now need looking after.

Prophetic Foundations

The name Forerunners was taken from a prophetic word that was brought to our church recently after someone was reading about our church’s history in John Gloster’s book.

This word talked about God raising up the older generations as Forerunners, seeing them set the pace for the younger generations coming through. That word is available from Pat and Tony in full if you want it; I won’t post it here.

First meetings

The first meetings of Forerunners will take place this coming week on Tuesday (2nd) and Thursday (4th) at 1pm, and the plan is to include lunch. Log in to Zoom using the details we use for our online prayer meetings and Forerunners will be there.

So grab your lunch and get online to eat, pray and chat. I know you will be blessed, and remember – you don’t have to be sixty yet to join in.

 

 

 

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.

Covid-19: Facing Our Fear and Our Disappointment

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

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

You can watch it here:

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

Kids

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

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

And here is the craft they did:

Some Encouragement

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

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

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

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Staying Connected

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

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

Daily Encouragement

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

Life Groups

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

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

Welcome Youth

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

Alpha

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

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The Alpha Planning Meeting on Zoom

Sundays

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

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

Welcome Kids

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

Prayer

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

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

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Pastoral Care

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

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

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

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

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

Using technology

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

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

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Staying together as a church

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

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

Including everyone

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

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

 

Covid-19: Getting a shock

Our next Daily Encouragement Video has now been posted to the Welcome Church website and also to our Facebook page. We’re doing these short videos to help us all during this crisis we’re facing as a nation.

I hope you’re doing well and have all you need. If you want to share news about how Coronavirus is affecting you and ask for prayer, please do email us as a church on care@allwelcome.uk It goes straight to our pastoral team. Also do let us know if these videos are helpful or if there is anything you would like to hear about

Lastly, please don’t forget to share this with anyone you feel would benefit. There will be another one out at 4pm tomorrow. Enjoy!