Congratulations to Alice Potter

On Maundy Thursday this year Alice Potter received an incredible honour: she was chosen to receive the Maundy Money from the Queen.

Earlier this year Alice received a letter from Buckingham Palace, signed personally by Her Majesty The Queen, notifying her that she was a Maundy recipient. Normally Alice would have been invited to meet the Queen in person during a service at Westminster Abbey that commemorates Jesus washing the feet of the Apostles at the Last Supper. This year, due to Covid, the Queen sent Alice the two special purses containing the Maundy Money along with a personal signed letter.

Each year the Queen distributes the Maundy money to people who have done great work in their local communities. The tradition goes all the way back to 600 AD and you can read more about it here or here.

This is an incredible award that recognises Alice’s ongoing service to the local community in so many different ways including as a Chaplain with Surrey Police and her volunteer roles with Welcome Church, along with her involvement with Street Angels. In fact she has done so many things that this award is well deserved!

The red purse contains the traditional sum of £5.50. In the past this was ‘an allowance for clothing and provisions’ (though it wouldn’t go far today). This year the £5 coin commemorates Her Majesty’s 95th Birthday and the 50 pence coin portrays the 50th anniversary of Decimal Day in 1971. The white purse contains Maundy coins: silver pennies, twopences, threepences and fourpences, totalling 95 pence, corresponding to The Queen’s age.

Jo and I had the joy of sitting in our garden with Alice on a dry but windy day last week to have a look at it all. She told us that when she first received the letter she thought it was a scam! We’re delighted that proved not to be the case, and I’m sure many of us would want to join in congratulating Alice on this well deserved honour; she is an amazing wall building hero in God’s kingdom.

Meeting Up In Person 🙂

As of this week we are allowed to meet outside again in groups of up to six people (or any number from a maximum of two households). We can do that in public spaces or private gardens. As a church let’s make the most of what we’re allowed to do together.

Meeting in person is good for us in so many ways – mentally, emotionally, relationally, spiritually, socially and more – so this blog is simply an encouragement for us to start meeting in person as and when we can. Life Groups especially might want to take advantage of this (when the weather is good enough) or there may be other friends from church you want to see.

Spring is here. Summer is coming. Warmer, drier days are ahead. Let’s meet up when we can.

Obviously we’re not encouraging people to break or exceed the guidance, and social distancing is still recommended when we meet but, as and when we can and feel ready to, let’s start to make up for some of what we’ve missed as a church over the last year. Let’s all be ‘devoted to the fellowship’ (Acts 2v42).

And don’t forget: this Sunday, during the online meeting, we’ll be letting you know how to book in for our first in person Sunday meeting which will be on April 18th. You can join us here – live at 9.45

Counting the cost

Welcome Church has been meeting online for a year now, and this week I’m publishing some blog posts to talk about where we’ve been and our thoughts for our future. The first one can be found by clicking here. This is part 4.

In terms of looking forward we’ve talked about the challenge of complexity we face and about the place of online church for us going forwards. Today I want to mention the reality of personal cost.

The last year has had some real benefits

There have been significant challenges during the last year and I don’t want to minimise those at all but – and let’s be really honest – there have also been some benefits. Many of us have gone out walking more, maybe we’ve had less meetings to attend, maybe we haven’t had to commute, there’s been less pollution, more Netflix and for Christians …

Sunday mornings have been a LOT less pressurised!

There’s something nice about watching church in your pyjamas with the whole thing over in under an hour and the rest of the day free … something very nice indeed. There’s no pressure on us to arrive early to set up, or to stay late to clean up. No pressure to plan and deliver children’s work and youth work, to rehearse and play in the worship band, to serve refreshments with the “Brew Crew”, to welcome people, to talk to newcomers, to pray for people, or to face the challenge of getting your family ready, finding a place to park and turning up roughly on time. In some ways we’ve enjoyed ‘church lite’ for a year now, and who would be in a rush to give that up?

But in this area of our lives, as in so many others, what’s best for us may not be what’s easiest!

We have a big calling

Jesus loves the church … Jesus died for the church … Jesus is building His church … and WE are His church. The church is us – the people. We are His body, His bride, His flock, His army, His family and a whole lot more. God’s plans and purposes in our world will be worked out in and through His church, and as a church we are called by God to gather together, to pursue the Great Commission and the Great Commandment, to not give up meeting together … and all of that takes effort.

When the restrictions on churches are lifted (and rumour is that they will be reviewed in line with Step 3 of the National Plan, earliest May 17th) there are lots of things we haven’t been able to do for a while that we really need to pursue again, and we need to pursue them with passion and enthusiasm, and without arguing or complaining. The list above speaks to some of these areas. In reality we would probably all agree that we should be serving our children and youth well, worshipping God together, creating a welcoming environment, sharing fellowship, ministering to one another and leading our families into God’s plans and purposes too … so all the things we haven’t had to do (or been able to do) for a year will soon be a regular part of our church life together again … and we need them to be.

So there’s going to be a cost

As we return to in person meetings again it’s going to take effort and sacrifice from us all. It will mean getting up on Sunday, getting dressed, and actually leaving our houses again. It will mean less lie-ins and more time spent gathering together as a church and being with other people. It will mean overcoming our natural laziness and selfishness, and giving up our comfort. It will mean putting in the time and effort it takes to serve in various ways. And of course it’s going to be a privilege to be part of serving and building the church again in person.

Just like before the pandemic we will need people to plan and run children’s work and youth work, to serve refreshments, to wash up, to help in the car park, to run the PA and AV systems, to lead and play in worship, to pray for people, to welcome people and to do all the many other jobs that go into being together as a church, and …

… the cost of serving is a price worth paying

The Bible is clear that God sees what we do for Him and will reward us for it. Let’s not be afraid to start working together again to make Sunday meetings happen in the months ahead. It may feel daunting right now, like heading back to work or school on the first Monday after a summer holiday, but it’s amazing how fast we readjust. And remember that the goal is worth pursuing too: Jesus is worth worshipping, the church is worth prioritising and we each have a part to play in God’s wonderful mission to our town.

We have a fantastic vision as a church …

“to see lives transformed and communities impacted for good through God’s grace in action”

… so let’s not be afraid of a little action. We have a town to reach with the gospel, and a wider world too, and gathering as a church to worship, to pray, to minister, to be equipped and to grow together as a family is key to that happening, which will mean getting up, getting ready, and leaving home, with all the stress that can bring!

Each one of us has a part to play

Remember, the church is Jesus’ body (1 Corinthians 12) and every part of that body is needed. This means that your church needs you. The question to ask is not, “Will I be part of it again?” but rather “What part shall I play?” Some of us may want to step into different roles than before, and that’s okay, but if that’s the case let’s each be sure that we communicate well, hand over well and we don’t just ‘abandon post’. In the church we’re all called to serve one another, and the time is fast coming when we’ll need to step up again in all the different ways.

In the gospels Jesus called us to count the cost of following him. This particular cost is a relatively small one. No one is asking us to lay down our lives and die for the gospel at this time in the UK, but returning to in person church meetings could mean giving up a little more of our time and comfort on a Sunday and going the extra mile.

Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” (Matthew 16v24-25) 

So let’s go for this together and let’s be ready to step up and play our part in the body.

Some Sad News

I’m very sorry to report that Alan Hunwicks died in hospital late on Saturday evening after a long battle with Covid-19.

Although many of us have lost friends to this disease and others amongst us have suffered with it, Alan is the first person within Welcome Church who’s died from it. He will be greatly missed.

Alan was an amazingly faithful man with a strong Christian faith. He was a part of Welcome Church for 36 years, and for 17 of those he served as an Elder. He was also a Trustee for many years.

Alan was kind, gentle, diligent and loving, and he never sought the limelight; in many ways he was an unsung hero. He was only 77 when he died and the hospital reported that his fight was a long one because, apart from the Covid, he was strong.

Beryl and Alan had been married for 50 years, and celebrated their Golden Wedding anniversary this summer.

Alan Hunwicks (20.8.1943 – 28.11.2020) & Beryl Hunwicks

Please keep Beryl and the family in your prayers in the weeks ahead. Beryl has an important role in the public eye as Mayor of Woking, and carries a lot of responsibility. She will need our support and prayers more than ever, and I know we will be there for her.

Although this is sad news let’s remember that Alan had a deep faith in Jesus which shaped his whole life. All through this illness he was at peace, remaining steadfastly confident in his faith and in God’s loving care for him in both life and death. He is now with Jesus.

Lockdown Returns 😮

From Thursday onwards we will be back in Lockdown for 4 weeks. After that, who knows? We will each face many challenges in the weeks ahead, and we need to support one another.

As we go through this season let’s remember: God is still on his throne. He’s at work in our lives, our church, our nation and the nations of the world. Let’s pray for His kingdom to come and His will to be done.

As this season begins, I want to point us all to three things:

1. Stay Connected

We need to stay connected to each other and to God during this time. We are God’s church and we need each other more than ever right now.

Today (Sunday 1st Nov) at 6.30pm we have our next Welcome Church online communion. PLEASE JOIN US! WE NEED YOU!

Join us to pray. Join us to worship. Join us for fellowship. Join us as we meet with Jesus together. Join us to hear the latest updates and information.

Let’s all stay connected in the weeks ahead as we pray online, as we meet online each Sunday, and as we gather online in Life Groups and in other ways. We will continue to put information and updates out in this blog, in our Facebook group and in our emails. If you need help connecting, just ask.

We need each other more than ever in these times.

2. Keep A Godly Attitude

As Christians we’re called to pray for those in authority (1 Tim 2v1-3) and to submit to them (Romans 13v1-7). Are you praying for our government regularly during this season?

Why not listen again to the start of our latest preaching series when I spoke on “LOVE … and why it wears a mask”? It will do you good!

Some of us will agree with how we’re being led; others will disagree. Either way, as Christians, let’s respond in prayer and with loving words and actions, and not in complaining, political ranting and self righteousness.

As Christians – and being a Christian is a 24/7 ‘all of life’ thing that applies even to what we post online – let’s be careful and diligent to shine brightly for Jesus right now; He wants to reach people through us.

3. Show Love To People

All around us right now people need support in different ways. This is true of people in the church, in our families, and in the wider community.

1 John 4v10-11 says:

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

Jesus laid down his life for us and we’re called to live as Jesus lived. Let’s all be on the front foot to show love to others in every way we can: helping, encouraging, calling, messaging, caring, assisting, serving, giving, building one another up … and in so many other ways too

As we show love to others we find that not only do we do them good, but our own sense of helplessness, anger or frustration is lifted as we see Jesus at work through us.

Some High Quality Reading and TV

On Sunday we started our new Welcome Church preaching series called ‘fruitful’. You can listen to the first talk here about ‘Love (and why it wears a mask)’it’s a highly topical subject right now!

I recommended two great books to go with the series, one was about our personal walk with Jesus, the other was about our church’s calling and purpose; we want to be fruitful in both these areas. Buy them. Read them. Give them as gifts for Christmas.

The first is called ‘The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry’ by John Mark Comer. It’s great for helping us draw close to Jesus and renew our life in him, which is key in this challenging time of pandemic; it speaks to our personal fruitfulness.

The second is called ‘Disappearing Church’ by Mark Sayers. It speaks about the church getting back to it’s Biblical calling, staying faithful to Jesus and being fruitful for him in all circumstances. Again this book is a word in season as we find our whole way of ‘doing church’ is being challenged.

They’re both easy to read, I loved them, and if you buy them from Origin Books in Woking (the Christchurch Book Shop) they will give you 20% off either or both if you say you’re from Welcome Church.

While I’m at it, I also wanted to wholeheartedly recommend some great TV to help while away the dark winter evenings. I would love it if everyone in our church took the time to watch these two things.

First is a film called ‘American Gospel: In Christ Alone’. It’s available on Netlifix, or you can pay for it on Amazon Prime (or buy the DVD). I don’t want to say too much about it, except that this film is well worth watching. Jo and I loved it. There’s a sequel called ‘American Gospel: Christ Crucified’. I haven’t see that yet but I’m told it’s even better

Second is a TV series called The Chosen. This series depicts the life of Jesus in a truly beautiful way; the best I’ve ever seen it done by miles. It truly captures the heart of Jesus for lost and broken people, and will ignite your love for Jesus too. I would encourage everyone to watch it, with your kids if you have them. It will boost your faith for sure.

The good news is … you can watch it for free. The way to view it is to download a free App to your Phone, iPad or Tablet. The App is called ‘The Chosen’. You can then either watch the series through the App on your device, or connect your device to your TV.

Once you’ve viewed it you will be given the chance to ‘pay it forward’ by buying it for someone else to watch for free, as someone has already done for you. I did that, but it’s completely up to you if you want to.

These are four great resources for us. Please let me know what you think of them once you’ve watched or read them.

Welcome Church Summer Plans

Summer time is here and the schools break up this week. As Lockdown is easing and more freedoms have returned we’ve recognised a need to adapt our programme, so we’re making a couple of changes for the rest of July and August:

1. Encouragement videos

We’re stopping these for the summer (last one Tuesday 21st July) and will review again in September. That said, if there’s something important to communicate, we’ll probably put a video out.

2. Prayer Meetings

We will now hold two prayer meetings a week and they’ll be on Tuesday and Friday mornings, 8.15am – 9am, on the usual Zoom codes. This doesn’t stop you getting together with others to pray as often as you want to at other times (just be sure to follow government guidance on physical distancing and numbers if you’re meeting in person!)

Staying Connected

It’s good to get a break over the summer, but do stay connected to church; we need one another! Sunday meetings will continue each week at WelcomeChurch.online at 9am and 11am, with kids work at 10am.

Your Life Group meetings may meet less often, but do keep building friendships with people. Under current guidance we’re allowed to meet outdoors with up to six people from different households, and two households are allowed to mix indoors. Let’s take advantage of that to grow friendships and build one another up.

Our Staff Team

still-tired-of-shopping-1439972This has been a year like no other and our staff team (those not furloughed) have worked flat out since this crisis began. It’s not been easy as we’ve had to review and reinvent everything we do, and deliver many things in new ways. All our job roles have changed significantly as a result. I’m sure people right across our church who’ve worked from home have discovered the complexity and pressure it brings, especially with family around. (Of course many people have been going in to work and will also have been under new pressures.)

Someone asked me recently if I’d “taken up a new hobby” with my “extra time”. (Extra time! That’s hilarious!) I understand the question, but the reality is I’ve had less time available than ever before. Across the team many days off have been missed and several holidays have been postponed due to the demands and the Lockdown. This is not unique to us (or to a church context) and I know from talking to leaders across Commission that most staff teams are exhausted.

With this in mind I’ve strongly encouraged our team to make sure they have some time off over the summer.

I want the team, and their families, to come back refreshed and recharged for the autumn, especially as we don’t know what challenges we will all face. Physical, spiritual and emotional recovery are all vital in this time.

Let me strongly encourage you, if you possibly can, to also give yourself space and time to refresh and recharge over the summer season too. God rested on the seventh day. Jesus took time out to rest and to pray. We absolutely need to do the same thing.

 

 

Being Big Hearted

On Sunday we started our new Welcome Church preaching series: ‘Straight From The Heart’. During this series we’ve invited a number of people, some from our church and some from other contexts, to speak to us straight from their heart about the lessons they’ve learnt during these difficult days.

  • What truths are they’re hanging on to?
  • What has God been saying to them?
  • What are the things we really need to know during this season?

The first speaker in the series was me 😃. I talked about “The Hardest Lesson”, something every Christian needs to learn! You can check it out here:

Next week we’ll be hearing from Chris Kimbangi who leads Hope Church in Guildford. It’s a great message and I know it will bless you.

Caring for those in need

At the end of the talk I launched our new Hardship Fund, which is a chance for us all to show big hearted generosity.

We’ve walked through tough times lately and lockdown has been difficult. We’re now being warned that more hardships are ahead: a recession, job losses, financial cuts, service cuts  and more. There are likely to be hard times ahead for some people.

I’m already aware of some in our church who’ve lost jobs and others who’re unable to find them. Hardships are coming, and even if you and your family get through all of this unscathed, others may not. With this in mind we want to be on the front foot with generosity.

We have an amazing vision as a church to see lives transformed and communities impacted for good, and it’s only funded by our giving, so let’s stay generous.

As a church we already have a general fund and a building fund, and both are vital at this time, and this week we launched our brand new hardship fund. We are setting this up so we’re able to respond quickly to emergencies that come up, both within our church and among those we are connected to.

We’re asking people to consider making a gift to this hardship fund so that, when a need arises, we are able to respond. Making a gift to the fund is easy, just follow this link to find out more. Why not do it now?

Generosity is a call of God on all of us

silhouette-photo-of-man-leaning-on-heart-shaped-tree-744667Generosity is a heart thing. It’s rooted in the character of God because God is generous, and his generosity to us releases generosity through us. Generosity is about how we live AND about how we give. Christians are called to live generously and give generously in every way.  We have some wonderfully generous people in our church, why not become one of them?

And the real beauty of generosity is that whatever our current financial situation may be, we can all be generous in proportion to what we have. Let’s go for this with faith even in these challenging days. 

 

Compassion in Togo: Coronavirus update

Christians are called to care for the poor, and one of the ways we do that at Welcome Church is by encouraging people to sponsor children through Compassion UK, specifically in the African country of Togo. As a church we currently sponsor 141 children in one particular area of that country, and there is always room for that to increase – just ask me how. You can read more about it here.

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What is happening in Togo with coronavirus?

The government of Togo has taken preventative measures against the spread of Coronavirus in their country. Gatherings of more than 15 people are banned, travel is limited, borders are closed, and schools have been closed. The major cities are in lockdown, and a nationwide curfew is in effect from 8pm to 6am.

Although official figures for infection rates in the country are not high, there is very little testing going on in most developing countries. In reality the virus is spreading across Africa at an alarming rate, especially in the cities where many people live in poor and cramped conditions.

What about the Compassion project we support?

Across Togo, Compassion staff and local church partners are working hard to provide support to children and families wherever possible.  While many Compassion projects are temporarily closed to group activities, that doesn’t mean all the activities have stopped.

At the project where most of the children we support are based, the group activities are currently on hold, and our letters and gifts may take longer than usual to be delivered.

In the mean time staff and volunteers are providing much needed information to children and their families about hygiene and disease prevention as well as distributing food packages to the most vulnerable.

Individual home visits are also continuing for Child Survival Programmes, helping pregnant  mothers and their babies. 

One of the strengths of the way Compassion work, and one of the reasons I appreciate them so much, is that  the local church directly implements  the programme in their own community; it is not a programme run by ‘experts’ or ‘saviours’ coming in from outside.

Because it is all delivered by the local church, they are uniquely positioned to provide support, and don’t depend on an ability to travel in order to ensure children and their families receive the love and care they need. Many churches in Togo are also providing hand-washing facilities to serve their community.

Should I still write letters?

During this time communication will inevitably take longer, but please keep on writing.

If you’re struggling to know what to write, Compassion have put together a few tips, including how to ask appropriate questions about COVID-19, how to be sensitive to the situation, how to encourage your sponsored child and how to pray. You can read that by clicking here.

How can I best pray for my sponsored child?

  • Pray for protection from the virus for all the children registered with Compassion and for their families, especially the child(ren) you sponsor
  • Pray for the church (Lumière Espérance), and for their staff and volunteers
  • Pray for the health and safety of all of the staff in the Togo office
  • Pray for children still longing for a sponsor to be encouraged, loved and cared for during this long wait
  • Pray for sponsors and their families who have been impacted by the virus

If you want more information, click here for some frequently ask questions

Finally: A Big Thank You

Here is a short video from Justin Dowds, the CEO of Compassion UK, specifically thanking us at Welcome Church for what we do:

Sad News; Hope in Jesus

I have some sad news to share today.

bruckshawMany of us know Steve and Sue Bruckshaw, and will be aware that Steve has had pancreatic cancer for a while.

Sadly Steve died at 8am today, Thursday 11th June. He is now at home with Jesus.

Steve was a kind man and was loved by all who knew him. He will be greatly missed by many people in our church and even more so by his family. Let’s be praying for Sue and the rest of the family at this time as they grieve. We are the body of Christ; when one part suffers, we all suffer.

Steve had a strong faith in Jesus, a faith that gave him great hope that goes beyond the grave. We know that, because of this faith, death is not the end for Steve; there is a resurrection to come which Jesus promises to all who trust in Him. We will see him again.

But for those who are left behind there is now grief.

Please watch this video for more information on this situation and also for some encouragement: