It was great to preach through the whole of 1 Corinthians as a church this year – I hope you enjoyed it. My last talk was all about “Seeing the Big Picture” – of our lives, of our church, and of all that God is doing in our world.
One part of the Big Picture I highlighted was the need for us to develop younger leaders both for our church and for the church further afield. It led towards a response where those in their teens, 20’s or 30’s who genuinely feel “a full time call to serve God in the future” were invited to respond for some “career ruining, future shaping prayer” 🙂
I thought that it might just be one person in one of our meetings, so it was good to see three young people respond on the day.
I’m aware that many of our younger people are involved in serving in different ways on a Sunday morning and others may have been away that week, so some will have missed what was said. So, if you’re in your teens, 20’s or 30’s and you’re part of Welcome Church and you missed that talk, please let me encourage you to have a listen … and if you also feel stirred to respond please do get in touch.
We’re part of a family of churches called Commission, and together we’re on a mission to see thousands of lives transformed, through hundreds of churches, in tens of nations. The recent pandemic has thrown up all sorts of challenges, not least that we’ve been unable to gather for our annual Connect Festival event – but that doesn’t mean we aren’t getting together.
In September this year we’re running a leadership conference, and I’d love lots of us to be there. The event is being held from Wed 28th to Fri 30th September at Citygate Church in Bournemouth. It’s aimed at anyone who leads anything at any level in our church or in the workplace or community. If you don’t lead anything right now but think you might like to one day, you should book in too.
The theme for the conference is:
“Leading for the glory of God”
The conference will include a mix of teaching, worship, seminars and ministry, along with a chance for us to hang out together socially as we enjoy food and maybe even a walk on the beach. Some from our church will be staying over in Bournemouth for the whole event, others will travel down each day, so I’m sure lift shares can be arranged where needed.
Booking is now open and you can click here to go to the booking page. Early bird ticket prices are available until 31st May (there is a small price increase after that, but don’t let that put you off)
This event will be a great investment in our future together as a church and a real encouragement to us all, and the short video below will tell you a bit more about it:
One of my favourite places to be on a Sunday morning at Welcome Church is at the Info Point in our Welcome Lounge, where it’s a privilege to meet some of the new people who are joining us week by week. Hanneke and her team run it really well, so huge thanks to all who are involved. 🙂
Recently lots of our new people have been South Africans, which is brilliant, and many others are from the UK and other nations, which is also brilliant! One observation we’ve made is that lots of new people in this season are already Christians; not all, but the majority. It’s great to have many well established Christians joining us who are a blessing to further strengthen us as a church; you are all a gift from God!
Life Transformed Through Jesus
As a church our vision is to see life transformed through Jesus, so of course we have a passion to reach out to those who are not-yet Christians in the town around us. Let’s remember, outreach is God’s plan; the Great Commission is really His mission.
So how can we play our part well?
When it comes to reaching out we have two guiding principles we want to follow:
Everything we do as Jesus’ followers is to be done in LOVE, and that includes every attempt to reach out to people who are not yet Christians. The best way to fulfil Jesus’ GREAT COMMISSION to go and make disciples is through Jesus’ GREAT COMMANDMENT to love people
God calls us to be INTENTIONAL in our relationships, to love people towards Jesus. The end goal for our relationship with our not-yet-Christian friend or colleague is not only friendship (though that’s a great thing!), but for them to come to know Jesus; introducing someone to Jesus is the most loving thing we can ever do for them.
We’ve found that one of the best ways to introduce someone to Jesus is to build what we call RELATIONAL MOMENTUM, which simply means them meeting, connecting with, and getting to know other Christians from your church. Since Jesus told us, “You are the light of the world” we should expect him to shine though us, and he shines even more brightly through a group of us together.
An invitation to church given to someone who doesn’t know ANYONE in your church is one thing; the answer may be a yes or a no. But an invite to church given to someone who knows you, has got to know several of your Christian friends from the church, and may even have had contact with your church at an event is far more likely to result in a yes, and that invitation creates a great moment for them to encounter Jesus.
Loving People Towards Jesus
Remember, you can’t save anyone; only God does that. Our role is simply to love people towards Jesus, and the very best way we can bring people to Jesus is by bringing them to church, where they will encounter the Holy Spirit, hear the wonderful truths about Jesus preached, and have an opportunity to respond to Jesus.
As a church, we want to facilitate you loving people towards Jesus, so with this in mind, this Autumn we are relaunching our ..
Hop, Skip and Jump
The last time we did this was in 2019 in the run up to our building launch. The Hop & the Skip was a series of easy invite social events to help us build relational momentum through invitations, leading up to a church invitation for our Building Launch Event:
We Hopped with a Fun Day in September 2019 – 1,000 people attended including 500 guests. 460 then signed up to get a free ticket to our Fireworks Night
We Skipped with our Firework Night – 2,000 people attended, including 1,700 guests
We Sang with our Carol Service For Woking in Dec 2019 – we know singing is usually part of a triple jump, but we slipped it in there because it was too good to miss
We Jumped with our ‘Welcome Stories’ Building Launch Sunday on 19th Jan 2020 – Over 1250 people attended, enjoying pastries, coffee and a great time together
Following our Hop, Skip & Jump, our average attendance grew by around 250 people each week, from roughly 500 to 750 people, and many connected to Jesus for the first time … and then 10 weeks later Lockdown hit and a whole load of momentum was lost 😮. But life is increasingly returning to normal, so …
It’s time to do it again: let’s Hop, Skip, (Sing) and Jump
Here’s our Autumn 2022 plan, to give us all the opportunity to bring people in our lives on that journey:
HOP: Welcome Church Fun Day, Sat 17th September. I would love all of us to bring friends along; there’s no limit to how many people you can bring. Details will follow soon, but please put the event in your diary now and think about who you might invite, including whole families. Think big!
SKIP: Welcome Church FireWorks Night, Sat 5th Nov. Everyone who comes to our Fun Day can receive a free ticket to the Fireworks Night, giving them a 2nd brilliant event with Welcome Church to look forward to, and it’s also a great chance to reach out and invite more new people.
SING: A Carol Service For Woking. A great opportunity to invite your friends to enjoy Christmas Carols in our building with mulled wine and mince pies, and who doesn’t love a good carol service?
JUMP: The first Sunday of our new Welcome Stories Series, Sun 8th Jan 2023.
A Triple Jump can take you so much further than trying to make one giant leap, so these Hop, Skip and Jump events will help our friends to connect and come closer to us, leading to that invite moment to the Welcome Stories Sunday in January.
Are you ready to go?
Alongside our Hop Skip and Jump we’ll also be launching some new Welcome Stories, one every 2-3 weeks, over this coming Autumn. As we launch them, it’s an opportunity for all of us to share them on Social Media, allowing all of our contacts to see these inspiring stories of God’s impact on the lives of people within Welcome Church.
During our last series of Welcome Stories, most stories had over 10,000 views on Facebook alongside other Social Media, mainly down to the fact that people across Welcome Church clicked “share” to enable their contacts to see them. If you haven’t seen our Welcome Stories then you can access them on this link.
But don’t wait for the Autumn to get started
In the weeks ahead there will be other opportunities we can take to start building Relational Momentum with people, for example the Jubilee Street Parties and other events talking place over the Queens Platinum Jubilee weekend, or a Life Group social event or perhaps just your own BBQ.
And if you want to know more, why not read, or re-read, Dub Everitt’s excellent book: Loving People Towards Jesus. It’s available from Origin Books in Woking (but if you ask in the Welcome Lounge we’ll probably give you one as a free gift 🙂)
It was great to start our New Year as a church yesterday by gathering together for worship. The sermon was about “Being a worshipper when times are tough and life is not what you expected” (which may be a key message for us all this year as we face so many unknowns.) The sermon itself was a last minute message pulled together because the scheduled preacher had a positive PCR test for Covid on New Year’s Day; let’s hope it’s the only time this happens.
One thing I’ve found challenging during the pandemic is that so much rapid change and uncertainty makes it hard to plan ahead and cast vision for where we’re going as a church. For example, as we approached the Carol Services this year the biggest question in my head was not ‘Will they go well?’ but ‘Will they be allowed to go ahead?’ Instead of hoping people from the church would bring guests, I was just hoping people from the church would turn up themselves. Some did 🙂.
It’s hard to plan with so much uncertainty, and with that in mind the “Vision Evening” planned for Sunday 9th Jan will now be delayed until we know that our plans will actually be allowed to be delivered. This week we’ll be away for a few days as an eldership team (minus one due to Covid!) specifically to pray for our church and hear from God for the year ahead; please keep us in your prayers.
A challenge for 2022
As 2022 begins it’s not too late to take on the challenge of reading through the Bible in a year.It will do your faith so much good! It’s not something I do every single year, but this year I’ll be going for it again. You may have done this before. You may have tried it and failed. It may be a completely new idea to you. How about giving it a go in 2022?
I like this plan because it has readings for five days each week, rather than seven, something that works better for me. You could even read all five days in a single session on one day each week if that works best for you. Or you could tackle the Old Testament readings on one day, Psalms/Chronicles on another day and the New Testament readings on a third.
Bottom line: I love the lay out of this plan and, although it’s already Jan 3rd, you’re absolutely not too late to start (though of course you could start at any point during the year!) If you do go for it, let me know how you get on. It really will do you good.
The Winter Warmer: another challenge
One last thing to mention in case you missed it is that our Winter Warmer, scheduled for Friday 7th Jan, has been postponed to Friday 1st April. This event will involve dancing and sharing food and we felt it could be unhelpful right now with Covid levels as high as they are.
Here’s the challenge: we’re going to need a new name for the event.
Suggestions so far include ‘The Easter Extravaganza’ and ‘The Spring Spring’. Can you do better than that? All suggestions welcome. Winning suggestion wins a free ticket. Seriously 😃.
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.