Recovery Plan – Part 1: Introduction

Despite being in the midst of a new Lockdown our nation is approaching a turning point in the fight against Covid. The vaccine roll out has begun and, as people are vaccinated, we’ll start to see a return to normal life. 2021 should be a turning point for our nation, and that means it will be a turning point for our church on the road to recovery too.

With this in mind we’ve prayerfully put together our Welcome Church Recovery Plan. This week I’m going to blog about it. The plan isn’t a schedule of activities or goals for the year; it’s more about the ethos we want to adopt this year as a church and the sort of culture we want to build.

What a difference a year makes

As a church we began 2020 on a bit of a high. In January our new building was opened. Lots of new people joined us and many were baptised. God was clearly at work and we were ready for anything with a sense that “we could do this mission together”.

Then Covid-19 hit like a tidal wave sweeping everything before it. As 2021 begins we’re in a very different place. Lockdown 3 has started. People are tired and discouraged. We’ve suffered losses. We have questions:

  • Will these restrictions ever end?
  • When will I get the vaccine?
  • Is the vaccine safe?
  • Will someone I love get sick or even die?
  • Will my job survive?
  • Can I even find a job?
  • When can I see my friends?
  • Will I get a holiday this year?
  • When will normal life return?

Far from being ready for anything, right now we’re not really ready to do anything much at all!

As we begin a new year and a new lockdown I’m aware that many people feel wrung out, frustrated and fed up. They’re unsure how long they can keep living under these restrictions but, at the same time, they’re not sure how they’ll cope with a return to normal life when that happens either.

One newspaper article described us a nation that had moved from FOMO (Fear of missing out) to FOGO (Fear of going out). This fear, they said, was not about the risk of catching the virus but rather a concern about having the capacity to cope with normal life again.

This all adds up to a great place for us to be in, because it’s a place where God can work; God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness.

A Big Concern

I am (of course!) concerned about the ongoing restrictions, but I’m actually more concerned about when things start to unlock. A new Lockdown brings fresh challenges for us, but we know what we’re doing with lockdown now; we’ve done it twice before; we’re in a routine with it.

What we’ve not done before is unlock and return to normality, and this will almost certainly happen as 2021 goes by and more people get vaccinated. As it happens I’m concerned we could find ourselves quickly overwhelmed with activity. I’m concerned that our lives – including our church life – could easily become unsustainable and unmanageable.

The Church is God’s Family

It’s important to remember that the church is the people; it’s a family. Church isn’t a business or a corporation where we must now work extra hard to make up for the ground lost due to the pandemic and get our KPIs back on track.

Many people in our church have experienced damage caused by the pandemic: emotional, relational, physical, financial and spiritual. Some of these impacts may be long lasting. We must allow ourselves time to recover in the months ahead, and perhaps to grieve some losses so we don’t burn out physically or emotionally.

It needs to feel like coming home

As 2021 unfolds and the vaccine rolls out people will begin to go through the process of returning to normal work, family and social life, and that will create some pressures. There will be a weight of expectation in all of these areas that people will be under pressure to live up to.

As this all happens we need to make sure we get our approach right as a church. The first principle of our recovery plan is this: our church needs to be a place of refuge in the midst of that; a place of refreshing and recovery, not of demand, drain and duty.

In summary, when Lockdown ends and we start to return to normal life, our church needs to feel like coming home … and not like going to work.

I’ll say more in part 2, tomorrow

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.

I’m Dreaming Of A Welcome Church Covid-19 Christmas …

… but it won’t be much like the ones we used to know! The pandemic has made a huge difference to what we can do this year, but we’ve still got some great events planned. Hopefully you’re enjoying our Welcome Church Video Advent Calendar; please make sure you also put these events in the diary so you don’t miss out:

On December 20th in the morning we have a Baptism Meeting

We may not be together in person to celebrate the birth of Jesus, but we can certainly celebrate some of the new Christian births we’ve seen this year. God has been at work despite all the restrictions 😃

There was quite a long time when we couldn’t do baptisms at all due to the Covid regulations, but we’re now allowed to go ahead and we’ve waited long enough! Join us at 9am or 11am at WelcomeChurch.online where we’ll witness 13 people ‘taking the plunge’. Our last preaching series was all about being fruitful, and this is some of our fruit as a church; don’t miss it!

On December 20th in the evening we have our Carol Service with Compassion UK

We love partnering with Compassion UK, and as a church we’ve sponsored over 140 children with them in a certain part of Togo in Africa. We’ve also provided funding for a Child Survival Programme which was raised during our final Building Fund Gift Day in 2019. Through this partnership with Compassion we’re helping to release children from extreme poverty in Jesus name.

Rather than try to pull together our own Carol service in this unusual and difficult time, we’re delighted to partner with Compassion. Join us at 6.30pm at WelcomeChurch.online, bring the whole family and let’s be ready to sing along at home!

On December 24th we have our Christmas Eve online communion

Our online communion meetings are very precious, and what better way to kick off your Christmas than to gather with your family and church to remember Jesus and all he’s done for us? It starts at 6.30pm on Zoom and lasts for about an hour. All the details are in the picture below. Let’s intentionally put Jesus at the heart of our Christmas celebrations this year.

Finally, on Christmas Day we have a Christmas Day Family Meeting

It starts at 10am prompt at WelcomeChurch.online and will last for about 30 minutes. It will be lots of fun for all the family and a great way to remember what Christmas is all about. Don’t be late or you’ll miss it 😃.

After that we’ll be back with a Sunday meeting to kick off the New Year, on Sunday January 3rd at WelcomeChurch.online.

Whatever you’re up to this year, I hope you have a wonderful Christmas.

The “Welcome Church Video Advent Calendar” is here

Christmas is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate our faith in Jesus and, because we can’t be together this year in the way we’d like to, we’ve created the Welcome Church Video Advent Calendar 🎅🏼🎁😃

Each day during advent, including on Christmas Day itself, we’ll be releasing a short video to help us focus on Jesus and connect with one another. In these videos we’ll be hearing the Christmas Story from the Bible, enjoying some Christmas themed encouragement and finding out from some Welcome Church people what Christmas means for them.

Why not take this opportunity to watch each day’s message as a family and share the run up to Christmas together?

This Christmas will be different from any we’ve known before, so let’s really make sure we connect with Jesus and connect together as a church too.

There are FIVE ways to access the Advent Calendar:

You can receive it as a daily What’s App message direct to your mobile phone (instructions given below)

It will be available on our website by following this link

It will posted on our Facebook page and our Instagram account

You can subscribe to receive it as a daily e-mail by following this link here

You can view it on Vimeo by following this link

To sign up for the Advent Calendar on What’s App, please follow these simple instructions:

  1. Add ‘Welcome Church Advent’ to your contacts/address book with the number 07591 184 471. This step must be completed first.
  2. Send a message with the single word “Advent” to this contact using What’s App. You will receive a confirmation message to say you’re registered *
  3. Enjoy the daily video when it arrives each day as a a What’s App message direct to your phone

Merry Christmas!

(*Please Note: This WhatsApp number will not receive incoming messages other than the request to register. If you delete the contact from your address book you will stop receiving the daily messages)

Life Group Refresh

‘Belonging’ is really important to us at Welcome Church, and our Life Groups help make this a reality.

In a church of our size you can’t know everyone, but everyone can be known, and our Life Groups provide a chance to gather with a small group of people to experience fun, care, connection and spiritual growth. Currently the groups are happening online, but we fully expect ‘in person’ meetings to resume during 2021.

Who remembers when we could do this?

Refreshing our Life Groups gives us all a moment to review where we’d like to be in the year ahead, and to either recommit where we are or else try a different group. Our current groups have been running longer than originally planned due to Coronavirus. They’ve done a great job keeping us connected as a church family and I want to express my personal thanks to all who’ve been leading during this time.

The Refresh Process

Our current Life Groups will continue to run up to Christmas. Over the Christmas period we’ll have a short break, and new groups will then start in the week commencing 11th January 2021.

To make sure you’re part of a group in 2021, even if you want to stay in your current group, please sign up online from now until the 14th December.

On our Welcome Church website there’s a list of all the groups available in 2021, with a description of the type of group it is, and a photo of the group leaders.  You can visit that here: allwelcome.uk/lifegroups.

To help us place everyone in a group that works for them, we ask people to choose three options from the list of groups. If you want to remain in a group you’re already in then, assuming it’s still running, that choice will be given priority for you.

During the week commencing 3rd January 2021 you should receive an invite to join your group for 2021.

If you have any difficulty please ask your current Life Group Leaders for help, or email us at care@allwelcome.uk and we will help you through the process.

New Choices For 2021

This year the refresh provides a new option in addition to the regular Life Groups. Three groups are designated specifically as Bible study groups. These groups will look at a different aspect of the Bible each term, to help you establish a routine of reading the Bible and to understand more of this wonderful, life-giving book. 

I also want to mention our Daytime Life Groups which are for anyone who prefers to meet in the daytime. Whilst historically these groups have often ended up serving an older age group, we’re keen to emphasise that they are available to all, regardless of age. If daytime suits you best, please pick these options.

Please do take the time to prayerfully consider this opportunity to connect and grow over the coming year. We want everyone who calls Welcome Church their church to know that they belong.

Some Sad News

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.

Alan Hunwicks (20.8.1943 – 28.11.2020) & Beryl Hunwicks

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.

Helping People In Need

I’ve loved seeing us put our faith in action as a church to help people in need recently. For example, during the recent half term holidays, we helped a number of families in need here in Woking. These families get free school meals for their children in term time, and we were able to give them some much needed vouchers to feed their children during the holidays too. It was greatly appreciated and made a real difference.

Two situations

We’re also helping out financially in two situations where we have direct connection to churches in other nations. I shared about these during our recent online communion meeting and invited people to give.

The first is in Izmir in Turkey, where an earthquake and tsunami killed 115 people, injured more than 1000, and left many homeless bringing down buildings and making others unsafe to use.

A church in Izmir who we have direct connection with are providing food to people in need and to rescue workers. They’re meeting the needs of many who’ve been left homeless who are living in tents as the weather gets colder. Amongst other things they’re providing food, heaters, firewood, hats, socks and thermal clothing. They’ve also been able to share God’s love with people.

As a church their funds to do this ran out, but (along with some others) we’ve been able to send them money to help the work continue.  

The other situation is in the Philippines where two typhoons in rapid succession have hit the region of Bicol with winds of up to 225mph. Commission has a church plant starting in a home in that area, but the home was totally destroyed, along with the homes of some other church members. This level of destruction of people’s lives is replicated all around the area and comes on top of crops being destroyed by a volcano recently, and the impact of Covid.

The Christians in our churches there are often incredibly poor, yet incredibly joy filled. Again, as a church, we’ve been able to send money to help them survive and rebuild.

It’s not too late to help

It’s not too late for you to give to either of these situations, and the good news is the money will go directly to the church there; we know the people and we know how it will be used. If you want to help please give a gift to us as a church and mark it ‘crisis’. You can do that through our website here. We will pass on every penny including the gift aid if it applies.

So far just under £6000 has been raised, which is being split between these two causes. We sent the initial amount out last week, but it’s not too late to grow that amount so more can be sent.

Remember: “Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward them for what they have done.” (Proverbs 19 v17)

Some Key Welcome Church Updates

In case you missed them here are some updates from our Welcome Church family regarding elders, staff, the new Lockdown and Sunday meetings:

New Elders

At our vision focus evening we were delighted to propose two people to join our eldership team: Nnamdi Anyaegbunam and Robin Willison. Both of these are a real gift to our church and a model of godly leadership and life; we recommend them to you wholeheartedly.

We would love to hear your endorsement of these choices and equally, if you have any Biblical concerns, please let us know. How and when they will be appointed during Covid remains to be seen!

Staff Changes

Rhea John and Peter Leach have both now left our employment. They had been on furlough for a while as their roles were not possible during Covid.

Rhea has secured a much sought after job in London as a civil servant, a role she was pursuing before she joined us. Peter has now officially retired. We will miss them around the offices, but they will remain part of our church family.

Impact Of The New Lockdown

The new Lockdown has impacted some of what we do:

  • The church offices are closed for the next four weeks with all staff working at home
  • Recruitment of new staff (bearing in mind that Ben Martin, Peter Leach and Rhea John have all left us during Lockdown!) has been put on hold until the crisis has passed. This will both help us financially and allow us to fully assess what roles we need most for the future.
  • Welcome Youth had planned to start ‘in person’ meetings this week, but this will be delayed until this Lockdown ends. Youth Alpha starts online tonight, so pray for them
  • Our day time Life Groups were working towards some in person meetings in the building and these will now also be delayed until after Lockdown

Some things remain unchanged:

  • Sundays will continue online as before
  • Prayer meetings will continue online on Tuesday and Friday mornings
  • Our Life Group refresh will continue as planned
  • Baptisms can go ahead as planned unless the Lockdown is extended
  • Our new Leadership Development course continues online

Live Streaming on Sundays

At Vision Focus I announced our intention to move away from a ‘pre-recorded’ approach to Sunday meetings and towards Live Streaming, with whatever congregation we are allowed to have ‘in person’, from early January.

It is possible (not definite) that the start date may be delayed slightly because we need to do significant technical training for some volunteers, and Lockdown 2 is making that difficult. Regardless, our direction of travel remains the same.

Coronavirus

Finally, please pray for Alan and Beryl Hunwicks. Alan is a former elder and a current trustee of Welcome Church, and Beryl is a local councillor and the Mayor of Woking.

Alan fell down a flight of stairs and has been in hospital. Sadly we heard today that he now has Coronavirus with some clear symptoms. The hospital are unsure how he caught it. He has been transferred to the Covid ward. Please pray for Alan’s full recovery, and also for Beryl, who is not allowed to visit.

And remember …

… in all things God works for the good of those who love him and have been called according to his purposes. (Romans 8v28)

We are not abandoned or forgotten. God is at work for his glory and his purposes, even now.

Lockdown Returns 😮

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?

Why not listen again to the start of our latest preaching series when I spoke on “LOVE … and why it wears a mask”? It will do you good!

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.