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.

Part Of A Bigger Picture

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 5, the last part.

We’ve talked about the challenge of the complexity we face, we’ve considered the place of online church for us going forwards and we’ve talked about the need for us to count the cost of returning to in person meetings. Today I want to point us to the bigger picture we’re part of.

As we restart in person meetings, let’s remember that our meetings are not an end in and of themselves; they serve a wider purpose. When we consider the effort involved in meeting in person again, and we ask ourselves how we feel about it all, let’s remember one thing:

It’s really not about you!

We are part of Jesus’ church; we belong to Him. When we gather it’s for His glory and not our own convenience or comfort. If we were only concerned about ourselves we might feel less motivated to make the effort, but God has a bigger role for us to play in the wider world as individuals and as a church.

Let me highlight the bigger picture in three ways:

1. We are part of a local community

It’s been said the church is the only organisation on the planet that exists mainly for the benefit of it’s non-members. Whether that’s accurate or not is a matter for debate, but it’s certainly true that our church is not just about us; we have a mission both to the town we live in and further afield. Jesus loves Woking, and so should we; His mission should be our mission.

As we start to gather in person again, our meetings are not just about being together and worshipping – although that is important – God actually has a role for us to play as a church in Woking, and a role for each individual to play in the places where they live and work; a role that goes way beyond our meetings. A key part of gathering together is about equipping people for the wider calling they have – the call to ‘love your neighbour’.

The last year has been challenging for our nation and people have been impacted in a lot of different ways. Challenges to health, finance, emotional wellbeing and more won’t disappear overnight and we may find that all sorts of situations of need are brought to our attention; let’s be ready to respond in faith and to help people across our community.

I’m especially looking forward to seeing each of our Welcome Works up and running again, remembering that we’re here to do good and to bring the kingdom of God to people. I’m also looking forward to seeing new people making a commitment to follow Jesus and getting baptised. I’m looking forward to seeing our children being taught and having fun together at church again. I’m looking forward to seeing more leaders raised up and released to serve our church and further afield.

2. We are part of the UK

One thing we need to do as we come back together is pray for our nation. Let’s pray for God to move in renewal and draw many people from across our nation into His Kingdom. We don’t know what God might do in the months ahead, but let’s pray for Him to use what’s happened with the pandemic for His purposes. Let’s pray for him to build his church in every town, city and village in the UK.

I have the joy of meeting (currently online) with leaders from our wider family of churches across the UK, as well as with church leaders from across our town. Every church is now considering how they unlock and at what pace, so it’s a journey we’re all on together, supporting and encouraging one another along the way.

Let’s pray for the church in our nation to stand on it’s feet again and find its voice again. Our nation needs the gospel right now more than ever, so let’s be praying that every church will play its part, whatever the cost, remembering that we’re all on the same team. Let’s pray for a revival.

3. We are part of an international family of churches

We belong to a family of churches called Commission, with churches in 14 different nations including the UK, Europe, South Asia, USA, South America, Africa, East Asia and the Middle East. Let’s remember that we have a part to play in that as well.

To highlight our belonging to an International family of churches there’s a one hour event this Sunday evening (28th March) at 7.30pm called Commission Global. I want to encourage as many of us as possible to join in.

You can register for this event using the link above, or it can be accessed via this video link:

Enjoy!

Showing God’s Heart Of Compassion

Proverbs 19v7: “Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and He will repay him for his deed.” 

I hope you enjoyed our Welcome Church Carol Service with Compassion UK.

As a church we love partnering with Compassion UK to see children lifted out of poverty in Jesus’ name. So far as a church we’ve sponsored over 140 children in a part of Togo in Africa. You can read a bit more about what we do by clicking here. People from Welcome Church have also sponsored children in other parts of the world too. You can see many of their pictures here:

If you would like to sponsor a child all you need to do is follow this link here. The link will take you to a specific page where you can view the children who are available to sponsor right now today, and how are all based in the project in Togo we’re already connected with. For £28 a month you can completely change a life; what a great gift to give this Christmas!

Togo is one probably the least developed country in Africa, and that’s against some tough competition. Sponsorship is one of the best kingdom investments you will ever make.

Please, in Jesus name, go for it!

Isaiah 58v10: If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.

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:

George Varney: he’s a community hero!

Welcome Church‘s very own George Varney has deservingly won a fantastic award, and we could not be prouder of him.

The award has been given by Christian Nightlife Initiatives Network (CNI), who are an umbrella organisation for around 130 local projects working predominantly to serve people within the night-time economy, and this include Woking Street Angels.

aIMG_6734-1638x2048Because of George’s outstanding work as a Street Angel, where he is both a trustee and team leader, along with his most recent venture, The Useful Wood Company, George has been chosen as a community hero by CNI.

This is a Nation Wide Contest so George has done really well. You can read all about his award by clicking here – you may spot a few other familiar faces in the photos too.

Alice Potter, a Trustee from Woking Street Angels said,

“George has always been the person to step in the gap when we have had holes in our Duty Rota. He would be out until 4am in the morning and still turn up for an early start at church a few hours later. He has always gone the extra mile. He stands out in our Team and I am proud that he is part of our Church.”

Serving the poor and those in need is a key aspect of the Christian faith in action, so it is also central to us as a church. You can see lots more of what we do in these areas by checking out our Welcome Works initiative.

John Kirkby, founder of CAP, speaking at Welcome Church

This Sunday morning, 1st March, we are honoured to have an excellent and much sought after guest speaker at Welcome Church for our 9am and 11am meetings: Dr John Kirkby, the founder of CAP (Christians Against Poverty).

Everyone is welcome to join us for this special occasion.

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About CAP

John started Christians Against Poverty in 1996, when God called him to sacrifice his career in finance and use his knowledge of the industry to help the poor. Since then John has seen CAP develop into an organisation serving tens of thousands of individuals every year, helping those struggling with debt, unemployment and life controlling habits, and equipping people to live well on a low income.

CAP has now helped thousands of people all across the UK to get out of life destroying debt. Our own CAP debt advice centre, which is one of our Welcome Works initiatives, opened in 2019, and is already making a difference to people’s lives. This adds to the work already being done with CAP in Woking by our friends at Christ Church and New Life Church too. You can see the full range of CAP services on offer at Welcome Church by clicking here.

CAP was featured last year in a BBC Two documentary The Debt Saviours, which followed the lives of some CAP clients and frontline workers in the middle of the current UK poverty epidemic. It showed how CAP is committed to transforming lives in partnership with local churches across the UK. CAP has also won many different awards, and John Kirkby himself recently received a CBE. CAP is also recommended by Martin Lewis, Founder and Chair of Money Saving Expert.

Come and join us for the morning

If you would like to hear John, please join us for either our 9am or 11am meeting. There will be great coffee, and tasty pastries and doughnuts available before and after each meeting – all free of charge. As for all our Sunday meetings there will also be kids and youth work taking place.

It’s an absolute privilege to have John with us, so make sure not to miss it.

Here us a link to the event on Facebook too.

Launch Sunday … Welcome Church, We Have Lift Off!

On Sunday (19th Jan 2020) Welcome Church marked the official launch of our brand new building in the heart of Woking. We were delighted to see so many people there to celebrate with us.

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Just over 1,200 people attended across the two meetings, and this represents a new ‘high water mark’ for the church. We want to say a huge thank you to everyone who was there including friends old and new and, whether you were there or not, everyone is warmly invited to come and join us next Sunday at 9am or 11am.

So much to pack in

It was a fast paced morning:

  • Our worship team kicked us off in brilliant style with some vibrant worship
  • We then remembered some of our 140 year history of buildings, looking back at our journey so far and forward to our future vision
  • We heard from Paul Ginever, the architect who designed the new building
  • The Mayor of Woking, Councillor Beryl Hunwicks, spoke about the importance of community and working together
  • At the 11am meeting Jonathan Lord MP, Member of Parliament for Woking, was present to share some very kind words of encouragement
  • Then Steve Blow, the Finance Director for Compassion UK, presented Welcome Church with a display board to mark the support given to mothers and babies in Togo through our partnership with them

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My Favourite Thing From Sunday 🙂

You can listen to that part of our meeting by clicking here.

Welcome Stories

This week also marked the start of our six week ‘Welcome Stories’ series. Many of us were deeply moved watching Mike’s Story, which showed the difference that Jesus has made to his life, helping him to get free from depression and more. You can watch his powerful story here:

This video should play, but if not please click here to view it via our church website

Towards the end of the meeting I talked about a question, the answer to which profoundly shapes our lives and daily actions:

“What do you think God is like?”

This talk was based on Jesus’ story of The Prodigal Son, and you can hear it by clicking here. For me, it was a morning to remember.

Please come again

I want to invite everyone who reads this to come and join us at Welcome Church over the next five weeks. We will be continuing our Welcome Stories series, and there will be another powerful Welcome Story video each Sunday.

Consider some fascinating facts about how, on average, we spend our lives…

  • We sleep for over 20 years of our lives
  • We watch TV for over 10 years of our lives
  • We spend 5 years 9 months in some form of transportation
  • We spend 7 ½ years eating and drinking

Why not spend 7 ½ hours over these next five weeks joining us for this Welcome Stories series? It will be a great way to brighten up these gloomy January and February Sunday mornings!

Finally, here are some photos from Sunday morning to enjoy:

 

Merry Christmas – what a year it’s been!

We’ve made it safely to the end of another year (almost), and what a year it’s been for Welcome Church! I hope you’ve enjoyed it.

Some highlights

Along the way we’ve built a new building, moved into the annex, held an amazing Gift day, launched Welcome Works, sponsored 141 kids in Togo with Compassion UK, launched The Useful Wood Company, seconded Ben & Nancy to Gateway Church Basingstoke for a while, welcomed Rhea John onto staff, said goodbye to David & Tina Maskell, taken 300 people to Westpoint, finished meeting at the HG Wells Conference Centre, launched and shared our Welcome Stories, published our first book, run an amazing Fun Day, held a fireworks event with around 2000 people, put on a Carol Service for Woking (featuring both the Mayor and our local MP😃) and done a whole lot more too.

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Additionally there’s been the usual, day to day stuff of church life that has carried on, including baptisms, pastoral care, Sunday meetings, worship, preaching, weddings, funerals, kids work, youth work, Life Groups, Alpha courses, ministry to the poor and lots more too.

If you’ve chosen to make Welcome Church your church then we want to say,

“Thank you for being on the journey with us in 2019”.

Looking forward to 2020

2020 is going to be and in incredible year for us. The new building will be launched in January, and there will be many God given opportunities and blessings ahead for us. I’m sure we will also face some big challenges, yet we have a big God who is with us every step of the way. Let’s all start inviting people to the launch event on the 19th.

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Something for us all to do

ImageIf you haven’t done it already, or even if you have, why not take a quiet moment over the next week or so to read Dub’s book, “Caring and Sharing”.

This book is our ‘manifesto for evangelism’ as a church. It’s easy to read, full of great stories and it will only take 1 or 2 hours to read from cover to cover.

I know that if we were all to put the principles in this book into practice in 2020, it would have a huge impact on many lives.

Merry Christmas

I hope you have an amazing Christmas this year, whatever you’re up to. Do take some time out along the way to reflect on the real reason for the season: Jesus coming into the world. Do take time to pray and to thank Him for all he’s done in your life. And I look forward to seeing you all in 2020.

Gift Day: Reflections & Building News

Last Sunday (16th June) we had our final Welcome Church Gift Day to raise money for our New Building project. At this point we don’t know how much was given – we’ll announce it when we do know – but ahead of that news I wanted to share some reflections and some building news.

Seven Reflections

(Yes. I restricted myself to just seven. 😃)

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Reflections

My first reflection is how incredibly generous people in Welcome Church are. We are a church that knows how to give sacrificially! Whatever the outcome of these last Gift Days, we have given well in excess of £2m in one year. That is incredible. Miraculous even. I feel humbled, thankful and incredibly proud of us all. It’s a privilege to be leading this church.

My second reflection is the sense of responsibility this brings. We always need to be responsible with people’s giving, but the sense of responsibility feels higher with such a huge amount of giving. We will use it carefully.

My third reflection is that people have given to the building because it’s part of our mission together. We have to remember this as we go forward. It’s going to be a church building! It will be a centre for worship; a place for ministry; a resource to enable our mission together; a facility to serve and bless our town and the wider Commission family of churches. It’s not built to be a source of profit making; that’s not what people gave for so sacrificially.

My fourth reflection is the deep sense of unity we have. Despite a huge amount of change in Welcome Church over the last 18 months, people have been so clearly on board with this project and I’ve loved seeing the excitement it has brought.

My fifth reflection is that everyone has been involved. Although I haven’t looked in detail at what individuals have given, I’m aware of just how many people have given. Some have given small amounts and some have given huge amounts; both can represent a big sacrifice. Even our Welcome Kids have been involved, with some even emptying their piggy banks. My prayer for them is that this giving sets them on a path of generosity and trusting God that will stay with them for life.

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Everyone has been included in this

My sixth reflection is how God has blessed people in response to their giving. I’ve heard testimonies all along the way from people who have given in faith and afterwards have been incredibly, undeniably blessed by God’s unmistakable provision for them; Jo and I can testify to this ourselves. BUT EVEN IF THAT HAS NOT HAPPENED FOR YOU, even if you’ve given and have simply found yourself poorer afterwards, your giving does not go unnoticed by God; it is worship.

My seventh and final reflection is on the exciting future God has planned for our church. He did not give us this building just so we could run our Sunday meetings more easily. The way God has blessed this project creates an excitement in me that He must have some big plans for Welcome Church. Let’s look forward to our future as a church with expectation and faith!

I am so grateful to God

God’s blessing on us all along the way has been incredible. He deserves our worship, praise and thanksgiving. I’m looking forward to our first meeting in the new chapel; what a time of celebration that will be!

And whatever the result of these last Gift Days let me say thank you to everyone who has given! Even if all we gave last Sunday was a button and some chewed gum (it wasn’t 😮) our church has still given amazingly generously all along the way.

Some Building News

The building news I want to share is about God’s provision for us for these next few months. We need to move out of the Welcome Centre altogether from July 1st until the end of the project. We had been looking for a small office facility to tide us over, but we’ve been blessed far more than we could have ever expected.

Yesterday we moved into what used to be the Job Centre, just a stone’s throw from the Welcome Centre. We will be calling it The Annexe. A huge thank you goes to everyone who came along and made the move happen.

The amazing news is that this building has been given to us and to the Useful Wood Company, rent free, for a year. (Useful Wood is one of our Welcome Works. It is a new social enterprise being set up by people in our church to help long term unemployed people learn new skills and find employment. It will also recycle a lot of old wood.)

The Annexe is vast. It runs over three floors and I keep finding new rooms. It will meet every building need we have as a church during this time (except for Sunday mornings which will continue at HG Wells for now). It even has parking for about 20 cars.

The most amazing thing is that we weren’t even looking for a provision like this; God has given us incredibly more than all we could ask or imagine; he really did know what we needed before we even asked.

In case you need it, the official address for the building is: Welcome Church, 15-29 Goldsworth Road, Woking, GU21 6JT.

And when we know the result of the Gift Days – soon I hope – we’ll let you know.

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Time to get the calculator out

Saving Lives, Helping The Poor

On Sundays June 9th and 16th we will be having the final Gift Days for our New Building Project. We are going to give away a tithe (10%) of what we collect to a project working with the poorest of the poor … and the good news is that every gift we give to them on this occasion can be doubled!

Child Survival

As a church we are already sponsoring many children in Togo through Compassion UK, and it’s a country with a lot of needs. One of the big challenges is around infant mortality and health in pregnancy.

At present in Togo:

  • 1 in 20 babies die before their first birthday … and most of these are from preventable causes
  • 1 in 58 women also die

These are shocking statistics, and Compassion are working to change this though their Child Survival Projects (CSP). These CSP’s are run by local churches in Togo. They work with mothers throughout their pregnancy and for the first year of the child’s life to provide:

  • Medical support
  • Vaccinations
  • Basic provisions – including safe water, hygiene kits and nutritious food
  • Education – on how to care for a child – remembering that many of the mothers are little more than children themselves
  • Skills training – to teach work skills that can help them earn a living
  • Spiritual support and mentoring

These projects are so important that for a short while they are receiving matched funding from our UK Government.

Our donations to this vital work (before Gift Aid) will be matched, pound for pound, by the UK government

So what we give to them will be doubled

This means that if we hit our target of £300,000, and we pass £30,000 on to Compassion, it will be doubled to £60,000 – enough to fund a project for several years.

Jesus told us that he was sent to bring good news to the poor. Let’s join him in that mission as we come to our Gift Days.

If you have any questions, please do ask.