Moving Out Of Lockdown???

I love our church and I can’t wait to meet together in person again. I miss seeing people and I miss our corporate times of worship and ministry. Although we have a great online church, this time of Lockdown is not something I’m enjoying at all.

Yesterday announcements were made about the lifting of some of the aspects of Lockdown from Saturday July 4th, and part of this related to church. Naturally some people are getting excited and have even asked when we plan to start meeting again on Sundays in person.

Let me say that, although I love the enthusiasm and I share it, we must remember when announcements are made that we only get headlines; the full guidance follows in long documents. All churches are unique and need to individually assess what is safe in accordance with the guidance to be issued and our own context. The manner and timing of ‘re-opening’ will undoubtedly vary a lot from church to church.

The latest updates are a mixed bag, and during our online communion on July 5th we will bring you fully up to date with our plans as they stand.

communion 2

In the meantime, here are a few thoughts to keep you going for now:

Weddings are allowed again from July 4th … sort of

To get legally married people need to first declare their intent to marry a month in advance at the register office and then bring us their ‘blue form’ (this has always been the case – nothing new here). Sadly the register office is not yet open, so you can see the problem.

Weddings will need to follow Covid-19 Secure guidelines which mean that up to a maximum of 30 people can attend, all at a social distance. No singing is allowed so there will be no worship band. There will also be no food, no drinks and no party. Every surface will need to be cleaned afterwards. The toilets would probably have to operate a “1 in 1 out” system to avoid people coming into close contact.

In short, it’s mixed news and not straightforward. Despite these restrictions we look forward to seeing people legally married soon, especially James and Hannah, who’s plans have been delayed.

What about other meetings?

Meetings of up to 30 people will be allowed from July 4th … but only as long they follow the Covid-19 Secure guidelines. This means social distancing must be in place. It also means no singing, no handshakes, no hugging, and that all interactions with anyone you do not share a household with must be minimised. The points that apply to weddings also apply here (apart from needing a blue form 🙂)

In reality there are a lot more aspects to the guidelines as well, and we are probably still some way away from meeting together in person as a church for anything like a full Sunday meeting. I know this is frustrating and disappointing but remember:

Church is about more than our Sunday meetings; we are a family together

We are still the church even without being able to meet in our building.

So since two households are now allowed to get together indoors, you could take advantage of that to see people from church. You could even do it on a Sunday morning and enjoy online church together, but do bear in mind that you are still supposed to be socially distant, and you are not supposed to prepare food together or share utensils … and you shouldn’t really sing.

On days with good weather you can meet with up to five other people outside, and Life Groups could start to take advantage of this, but please remember that the same rules apply!

So how will we formulate our plans going forward?

Beyond  the official guidelines, here are some key factors we need to consider:

1. The quality of what we do

When we start Sunday meetings in person again, whatever size they are and whatever form they take, the total experience needs to at least be as good as we get online. Thirty people wearing face masks, keeping away from each other and not allowed to sing does not tick that box for us! It would also not bless those involved or help us reach new people at all.

In the mean time we are always looking at Sundays online to see how they can continue to be improved.

2. Children and youth

This is a huge factor for us as a church because we love our kids and youth and there are a lot of them! Before we do anything we need to know that our children’s work can be delivered in a way that the children will safely enjoy, that parents and leaders will be confident in, and which will comply with all the relevant guidelines.

3. Worship

One of the main reasons we come together is to join together in an act of worship to God, and at the heart of this is our sung worship time. If singing is not allowed we may decide that we are better off staying as we are for a while longer.

We do want to be on the front foot with this, but being on the front foot isn’t the same as rushing back to what we had before. Instead it means listening to and embracing what God is doing at every step of the way, remembering that God’s people have been in various types of “Lockdown”, many times before … like Jonah, Daniel, Paul, Noah, Joseph and the whole nation of Israel at times too. God is in control of all our days. Let’s be patient.

In the meantime online church continues, so does online Alpha, prayer, kids work, youth work and Life Groups and more, and please remember: the Holy Spirit is not confused by Zoom or by the internet! God can still work in us and through us, and we can still meet with him.

In short, we are not in a rush to make changes, but neither do we want to delay unnecessarily.  We will take all of these factors into account and make decisions in ways that are faith filled, sensible, legal, practical and will help us move forward together best as a church.

Please pray that God gives us great wisdom

For now, please put Sunday July 5th in your diary

That evening, at 6.30pm, we will have online communion together, led by my friend Tim Robertson from Compassion UK. This will be followed by a time of sharing updates and information from Welcome Church.

These updates will include the latest information relating to coming out of Lockdown, and also the details of an exciting staff change, and it will all be over by 8pm.

Don’t miss it!

But please know this: I do miss all of you.

 

 

 

 

Community and Racism

We’ve lived through some difficult days with the challenge of Coronavirus, but events took place in the USA last week, which for many have overshadowed them all: the murder of a black man called George Floyd by four white police officers on the streets of Minneapolis.

Protests, some of them violent, have erupted across the USA. Even in the UK there have been protests and anger. This event has become a tipping point, pushing people to speak out and take action.

Racism is not unique to the USA of course; it happens in the UK too and many here feel angry; many experience racism on a daily basis. I believe we can and must do better than that within the church; I believe we can be a shining beacon in our town and our world.

So this Sunday at Welcome Church Online at 9am and 11am, I’m going to talk about how we can build a community together where everyone can be included, regardless of their ethnicity or the colour of their skin, and where Jesus’ Kingdom values can shine through. Everyone is invited to join us online on Sunday to hear more.

There are also two important events happening for us as a church on Sunday evening:

First: online communion online

We will be holding our next online communion  on Sunday 7th June at 6.30pm, for about 45 minutes. This is a great chance for us to build community together and will be on the same Zoom code as the prayer meetings, so do join us.

communion

It will be a ‘Come as you are communion’, so do log on as a family and bring your own bread and wine (or Ribena or whatever). Please put it in your diary now.

Second: “Listening Together”, a chance to talk about race and the experiences of people in our church

listening TogetherWe celebrate and praise God for the diversity of cultures and heritages that make up Welcome Church. We are one in Christ Jesus. As a leadership team we’re very aware that we’re not a perfect church, and as we reflect on the shocking events and the damaging history of racism and prejudice in our world, it’s important that we make space to reflect on how these issues are relevant within our own church family.

This Sunday evening from 8pm to 9pm one of our elders Christopher Hawes, alongside one of our other leaders Nnamdi Anyaegbunam, will be hosting a conversation, which is open to anyone, with an emphasis on listening to those most affected by these issues. It’s an opportunity for us to grow and learn to love each other better, and to grow in our unity as a church family.

You are invited to join us on the usual Zoom codes. I’ll be there, and I look forward to seeing you.

In the mean time

I have resisted writing a blog about racism and our response, because other people have said it so well already. If you want some excellent reading about this, please check out these links:

And finally this video response from my friend Tope Koleoso who leads Jubilee Church in London:

UPDATED!!! Building Community Together

DETAILS FOR SUNDAY EVENING’S ONLINE COMMUNION HAVE CHANGED BECAUSE THE PRIME MINISTER WILL ADDRESS THE NATION AT 7PM – SEE BELOW FOR UPDATED DETAILS

Coronavirus, social distancing and lockdown have created challenges for us all, including a sense of isolation. I’ve certainly had some ‘down’ days along the way and I know others have too.

There will be things we’re each missing, and one I’ve heard mentioned often is that people are missing meeting together in person as a church community. In response I want to highlight two things we’ve got planned to help us connect together.

Evening Communion

This Sunday (10th May) at 6.00pm (please note new time), we will hold ‘online communion’ together. Everyone is invited to join us for a ‘Welcome Church, Come As You Are, Online Communion’.

We will do this on Zoom, and all the details are shown in the picture:

communion

 

Everyone is welcome. Come as you are. Come as a family. You don’t have to be part of Welcome Church to join in; just bring your faith and an open heart.

At the end of our time together we’ll take communion, so please be ready with bread and wine (or Ribena or grape juice or whatever you’ve got). Please don’t worry too much what it is or put yourself at risk to get something.

The items that we use are always symbolic of a greater reality; what counts is being together as one body of people with Jesus at the centre. Jesus is the ‘bread’ we all share. His death for us is what we remember.

This is a great way for us to be together in the presence of Jesus

Virtual Coffee

Community is so important to us that as well as being able to post comments and to share “hearts” in the chat area during the meeting itself, we’ve now introduced “Virtual Coffee” after both the 9am and 11am meetings, for about half an hour. Please do grab yourself a drink and then come and join us online for a ‘Virtual Coffee’ and chat.

Everyone is welcome to join in – just log on and be friendly. If you’re new to our church or connecting from another town or even another country, you’re welcome too. Come and say hi for half and hour or so, and let’s build community, get to know one another and have virtual coffee.

Again, the details are in the picture:

Image 09-05-2020 at 09.47

Hero of the year: Our Amazing Mayor

The incredible Beryl Hunwicks, who is part of our Welcome Church family, has been serving as the 46th Mayor of Woking for the last year.

She has done a fantastic job all year, working extremely hard, and her time in office was due to expire this month, BUT THERE IS SOME BIG NEWS TO ANNOUNCE:

 Beryl has been asked to remain in office for an unprecedented second year

The Council’s Annual Meeting and Mayor Making ceremony usually takes place in May, but this has been postponed until May 2021 because of Coronavirus. This means Beryl remains in place for a second term, as does Saj Hussain, who continues to serve as Deputy Mayor. I will also continue as Chaplain to The Mayor.

Speaking about her exceptional extended term, Beryl said:

6f20ff70-e7e4-43e3-9ebb-a1d4cbce652f

We love you Beryl!

“It’s a great privilege and honour to serve the borough in this capacity; to celebrate its achievements and to be an ambassador for all that is great about Woking and the things of which we are proud.

“Those who have served as Mayor before me will know how demanding the role can be, and I confess I was looking forward to an end of term break! But that was then, and now I am lifted by the bravery of our key workers, and the kindness, generosity and ingenuity that has come to the fore of late.

“I am truly humbled to be Woking’s Mayor during this time and will do all I can to support the recovery and rehabilitation of our wonderful and vibrant borough over the next 12 months.”

The restrictions put in place to protect people during the coronavirus pandemic have made life tougher for us all, but none more so than those living in abusive households, including here in Woking.

With this in mind, the Mayor will continue to support and fundraise for the domestic abuse charity ‘Your Sanctuary‘ during the 2020/21 Mayoral Year. This is a great moment to remind people about our own ‘Welcome Church Goes Around The World’ fund raising initiative for this essential cause – please click here for details and please give generously!

As a church let’s be praying for Beryl in the year ahead:

  • Pray that she has the health and stamina for all she is asked to do
  • Pray that she has wisdom and grace as she chairs the Council Meetings
  • Pray that she is able to bring the love and light of Jesus to everyone she meets
  • Pray for her husband Alan, a former elder of our church, a trustee, and a faithful man of God, now battling Parkinson’s Disease (we love you too Alan)

Beryl, we are so proud of you. We appreciate all you’ve done and continue to do for our town. And on behalf of everyone at Welcome Church:

“THANK YOU and WELL DONE!”

 

Domestic Violence: Helping Victims, Getting Fit

During Lockdown incidences of Domestic Violence have risen at the same time as charitable giving has fallen , so we’re raising money for Your Sanctuary, a Woking based charity who help victims of domestic violence and their families.

Our Fund Raiser is off to a good start with around £1,500 being raised already and a distance of over 1000 miles being covered so far (which takes us across Holland and Germany and to the far side of Poland …)

We will post distance updates and photos on our Welcome Church social media accounts each weekend, so do look out for those.

You can check out the details of our ambitious plan by clicking here or reading this recent blog. People have been joining in by running, walking, cycling, scooting and even roller skating. However you get about, as long as it’s under your own steam, you’re welcome to join in.

We’ve started a Strava Club too – (“Welcome Church Goes Around The World”). You’re welcome to join that and help us rack up the miles. Why not see if you can top the leader board?

However long or short your daily exercise, every distance counts. We want everyone to join in, whatever their age or fitness level. Don’t forget to submit your distances by emailing them to aroundtheworld@allwelcome.uk.  We don’t mind if it’s in miles, kilometres, yards, centimetres, cubits, stadia, furlongs, fathoms or leagues – we will convert it and add it all up.

Let’s have fun doing this together and let’s give generously to make a real difference. This fun video will tell you more:

New Initiative: Welcome Church Goes Around The World

At Welcome Church, we love people and want to respond to Jesus’ call to support and help others, even at this difficult time.

During the Coronavirus Lockdown, incidences of Domestic Violence have risen.  At the same time charitable giving has fallen. Domestic violence destroys lives and families, and we want to do something to make a difference, so we are going to raise money for Your Sanctuary, a Woking based charity who help victims of domestic violence and their families. It’s a real privilege to get alongside them and raise money for the amazing work they do.

We have an ambitious plan

Let’s use our daily exercise over the next the next 6 weeks to see if we can go far enough to have circled the globe together – a distance of 24, 901 miles – and let’s do it to raise £24,901 for this amazing cause.

We want everyone who is part of Welcome Church to join together to do two things:

First, let’s measure and log our daily exercise distance each day

Walking,  running, cycling, roller skating, scooting or an exercise machine – however you do it – measure your distance each day and maybe take a picture of yourself doing it. Add up every member of your household, and then send it in each day, with any pictures you may have, to aroundtheworld@allwelcome.uk

exercise-female-fitness-foot-601177

This data will get added together, and over 6 weeks we’re aiming to cover a distance that would have taken us right around the world. Everyone’s exercise counts, from the youngest to the oldest, from the longest to the shortest distance. This is a team effort where our church community, together within anyone else who wants to get involved, can combine together to complete this challenge.

Second, let’s invite the people we know to sponsor us as a church for doing it, to raise money for Your Sanctuary:

Let’s get as many people as possible to support us with this, giving anything from £1 upwards. Any amount, however small or large, will be appreciated.

People can be invited to give through our Go Fund me page, and don’t forget to share it to social media as well. Invite your friends, family, neighbours and colleagues to sponsor us all, and let’s raise some money!

In the weeks ahead people will be able to follow our progress around the globe and see updates and photos of people completing their daily exercise on our Facebook Page  or Instagram

A target to go for

We’ve set a target to raise £24,901. This amounts to £1 per mile and, although we are not asking people to sponsor us ‘per mile’, it’s great to have something to aim for … and let’s all give generously ourselves too.

Whether we achieve the financial target or not, any amount raised will be amazing, and we can have some fun doing it

The Welcome Church Building Work Is Finished

I am delighted to announce that the building work at Welcome Church is now complete, bringing to an end an important chapter in our church’s history and opening up a whole new one. I’m looking forward to the time when Lockdown measures are over and we’re able to start using it properly.

We had expected the current crisis to delay completion, but government guidance permits building work to continue as long as appropriate hygiene and social distancing measures are in place, and our contractor made the call to continue. They were inspected regularly along the way by Woking Borough Council for compliance.

Yesterday I had to go over to the building to collect the keys. Sadly we were unable to have a proper ‘handover ceremony’ because of the times we are in, but I was handed the keys by Simon Powell, contracts manager for O&D Construction, on the end of a 2m pole!

93829013_314010716237957_2824714061168508928_n

The new offices are looking good, as is the whole site, and hopefully these pictures give an idea of the finished result. Let’s pray it’s not too long before we all get to see it in real life and enjoy meeting together in person.

If you’ve never visited us at Welcome Church, we’d love to see you when we’re open again. In the meantime, you can join us each Sunday online for our meetings at 9am, 11am and 6pm.

There are of course some small jobs outstanding on the building which social distancing or availability of raw materials at this time have made impossible, and there will undoubtedly be snagging issues to resolve once we get in; we will deal with these along the way.

Thanks to everyone who has contributed to this project. Please let me encourage you, as far as you are able (and I recognise that some are facing huge challenges right now) to keep giving generously so that we can meet our monthly mortgage payments, and perhaps clear the mortgage altogether.

God has given us this building for a reason and we have not been called to stand still. We are here to be a blessing to our town and further afield, and we have a big vision that we want to fulfil. I can’t wait to be back in our building again and I look forward to seeing you there!

ALL CHANGE FOR SUNDAY! DON’T MISS IT!

Because we really value community and want to improve how we meet together online each Sunday …

We are launching WelcomeChurch.Online

There will be no more Sunday meetings through Facebook. Instead you need to visit welcomechurch.online

This is a completely new platform for us. As you watch you can comment on the message, you can ask for prayer and more.

The biggest change is this:

Sunday meetings will broadcast LIVE at 9am, 11am and 6pm

Because it’s live you can’t rewind, pause or fast forward, so put the time in your diary!

a-girl-watching-movie-on-computer-laptop-3761513

If you do miss it, you can watch or listen to the preach from Monday onwards through our church website.

Welcome Kids will be live at WelcomeChurch.Online at 10am each Sunday.

If you miss the kids slot it will be available afterwards through Facebook as before.

Stop Press! Announcing the launch of WelcomeChurch.Online

Because of Coronavirus we’re not permitted to meet together in person as a church right now, and it looks like this situation could last for a while. Because we really value community and want to improve how we meet together on a Sunday …

we are delighted to announce the launch of WelcomeChurch.Online

From this Sunday (5th April) there will be no more Sunday meetings through Facebook. From now on, to join in with our Sunday meetings all you need to do is visit welcomechurch.online

This is a great new platform for us. As you watch you can comment on the message, you can ask for prayer and you can even read the Bible text alongside the preaching. We’re really excited about it.

The biggest change is this:

Our Sunday meetings will be broadcast LIVE at 9am, 11am and the slightly later time of 6pm

This means that if you don’t want to miss out you will need to put one of those times in your diary and log on to welcomechurch.online at the right time. Of course, because it’s live, it means you can’t rewind, pause or fast forward; it’s like meeting in person again!

 

There is so much value in gathering together at the same time, especially in this season of self-isolation, so we really want everyone to prioritise being online for one of those meetings.

Of course if you do miss it, you will be able to watch or listen to Sunday’s message, from Monday onwards, through our church website.

I look forward to connecting with you all this Sunday at WelcomeChurch.Online

What about Welcome Kids?

Welcome Kids will also be using this platform for their meeting. They have been having a great time together each week with fantastic teaching, games, craft and worship.

They will be live at WelcomeChurch.Online at 10am on Sunday.

If you miss the kids slot it will be available afterwards through Facebook as before.

Sundays: a whole new plan

Our first Sunday Experience as a church online went really well; I hope you enjoyed it.

Some highlights following last Sunday are these:

ball-shaped-blur-close-up-focus-346885

He’s got the whole world …

  • As a very conservative estimate, well over a thousand people around the world have seen our Sunday message or heard the podcast.
  • We’ve had great feedback from people in Brazil, India, South Africa and many other places in the UK including Northern Ireland. These are not people who we would normally have expected to connect with us, so our footprint has grown overnight
  • Numbers of people from our church started their own watch parties on Facebook (some by design and some by accident 🙂) and found that their friends who would not normally be with them on a Sunday at church joined in and watched too
  • The daily encouragement videos have been shared by many of us, and are also now being viewed by a wide range of people. Prayer requests are starting to arrive from both overseas and closer to home. Do watch these daily videos at 4pm, and share them with anyone who you think would be helped or blessed by them

NEW PLANS for this Sunday

The lockdown that we are currently living under means that the recording for this Sunday will probably all need to be done at home. We will do our level best to make it as high quality as possible! We are also trying to incorporate some worship content, so watch this space.

The specific plan for Sunday has changed and is now as follows:

  • Our Sunday experience will go live on both our Welcome Church website and our Welcome Church Facebook Page at about 9am
  • After that you can watch it at any time that suits you. Please share the link to your own social media accounts and directly with other people too
  • We will host watch parties as a church on our Welcome Church Facebook Page at 9am, 11am and 4pm each Sunday
  • If you want to watch in community with other people – which we hope you will -you can join in with any of our watch parties, or you could just start one of your own. These are a great way to interact with people along the way
  • The kids work will go live on both our website and our Facebook page at about 10am, so do make use of that too – it will bless your kids

90624482_651997568926440_5118023342200193024_o

Prayer

Prayer is absolutely crucial at this challenging time.

Don’t forget that we are now praying online as a church twice a day via Zoom. All the details you need to join in, including the specific code to join the meetings, can be found here. Anyone is welcome to join us. I hope we will see you online to pray with us soon.

In case you missed it, here is a link to yesterday’s encouragement video:

The next episode will be out at 4pm today