One of the many benefits of being part of the Commission family of churches is the excellent theological training that’s on offer, from a basic level through to a full Masters Degree.
Due to popular demand Commission is running a Theology for Life course across 11 Saturdays over the next academic year. Whether you’re a brand new Christian eager to learn as much as you can about Christianity, or you’ve been a Christian for a while and would like to deepen your theological understanding, Theology for Life Course is a great place to start.
The sessions will be taught by some excellent teachers from across the Commission family of churches and will take place at Hope Church Winchester, starting on Saturday 11th September and continuing once a month through to July 2022.
The whole course costs £300, which includes all the training, access to an online learning portal and interaction with the course leader between sessions including both feedback on voluntary assignments and ongoing discussion relating to any questions raised by the teaching. Coffee and refreshments will be served on the days, though you’ll need to bring your own lunch.
Below is a video which tells you more about the course:
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 afun 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.
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.
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
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 WEare 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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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!)
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
This 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.
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
Generosity 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.