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.
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.
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
Many 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:
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
On Sunday, Christoper Hawes spoke about our need to be ‘spiritually match fit’ as lockdown eases and something closer to normal life returns (click here to listen). Just as footballers will need to be fit to play the full 90 minutes when football returns, we need to be spiritually fit for God’s call and plans for us.
Have you lost some of your spiritual fitness during lockdown?
2 Timothy 3v16-17 says:
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
Among other things Christopher talked about the Bible as being like a ‘spiritual coach’ for us, helping us to attain full fitness.
He listed five ways to approach the Bible that can help us:
Listening: such as listening to our Sunday preaching
Reading: actually reading the Bible. Have you read it all yet? There are loads of apps and reading plans available for free to help
Studying: a lot of the Bible’s riches do not ‘lie on the surface’; we are reading literature that is thousands of years old and written to different cultures in languages we don’t speak today. Study guides are so helpful for us to mine the depths, taking our understanding and interest to whole new levels
Memorising: learning verses or chapters by heart; being able to call them to mind when needed. Jesus did this to fight temptation (see Luke chapter 4)
Meditating: filling our mind with scripture; rolling it round and round our thoughts
When Christopher talked about ‘studying’ the Bible, he mentioned some resources to help us. I have listed some of these here, along with a few extra suggestions of my own:
These are short daily reading guides that give insight to what we’re reading. There are lots of these available, both in online or paper formats to suit your preference for example, Every Day With Jesus or Daily Hope, both of which I would recommend
3. Bible commentaries
A good Bible commentary can help us mine the depths of the Bible, and lots of these are well written and easy to read, such as ‘The Bible Speaks Today’ (which has a commentary available for every book of the Bible) or the ‘New American Commentary’ series (which go far deeper and are personal favourites of mine) or the ‘Holman Commentary’ series (which take a chapter at a time and point to the key things in it) or Phil Moore’s ‘Straight To The Heart Of’ series (very readable and applicable to daily life)
4. A Systematic Theology
Reading a good systematic theology can take some effort, but it’s manageable by anyone with reasonable reading ability and the courage to take the plunge. Reading one through is like taking all the bits of theology we know (and a lot we don’t know) and organising it into a neat filing system. I personally like Wayne Grudems Systematic Theology, but others are also available.
5. Commission Training
As a church we are part of the Commission family of churches, and Commission have just launched a whole range of new training courses, starting from September. There are four levels of training on offer, starting with something basic and going all the way through to a Masters Degree. For details click here. They also talk about an internship year in a church, which could be done here at Welcome Church – feel free to ask.
There is no bad place to start. The key thing is not to worry about what we don’t know or haven’t done, but to start somewhere. All the things I have listed above will do us good, so why not try something?
To return to a sporting analogy, the ball is in your court.
Life Groups have been key for us at Welcome Church during this time of Lockdown, so I went to say a massive ‘thank you’ and ‘well done’ to all our group leaders for taking their group meetings online so seamlessly and faithfully.
Different groups have been taking different approaches during this time:
Most have been meeting weekly and some fortnightly. There have been quizzes, competitions, sing-a-longs, breakout groups, Bible studies, prayer meetings, encouragements, worship times, fancy dress, reflections on the Sunday preaching, drawing competitions, poetry, things for kids, virtual meals and a whole lot more.
The most important thing is that people have connected to caring community during a time of isolation
There are three things I want to say to and about Life Groups:
1. I want to recommend a book and encourage Life Groups to study it together in the weeks ahead.
The book is called “Spiritual Feasting” and is written by Jenny Sanders. It has 17 chapters, and each chapter ends with three application questions that groups can work through together. I would recommend looking at just one chapter each week.
I know this will do us all so much good, whether you’ve been a Christian for years or are still just exploring the faith.
The book is available on Amazon by clicking here. At the time of writing it’s on pre-order for a reduced price, but don’t hang about; it’s released on Friday (the 15th May) and will be a little more expensive after that. There’s a kindle version available too.
The book is all about the reality of living life to the full with Jesus, even though we walk through challenges and difficulties. It’s well worth the time and effort to read and will serve us so well. If you’re hungering for a greater spiritual reality with Jesus in your life, this will do you good.
2. I would love to encourage group members to say “thank you” to their Life Group leaders
I suspect lots of people have done this already, but if not please let your group leaders know how much they are appreciated. Why not sent them a thank you?
3. If you’re not in a Life Group and would like to try one, you can
To arrange it, please email us on email@example.com and let us know you want to try a Life Group. Make sure you include your contact details so we can get in touch.
Let’s all be part of a caring community at this time.