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.

Calling all Welcome Church Life Groups!

Life Groups have been key for us at Welcome Church during this time of Lockdown, so I went to say a massive ‘thank you’ and ‘well done’ to all our group leaders for taking their group meetings online so seamlessly and faithfully.

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Different groups have been taking different approaches during this time:

Most have been meeting weekly and some fortnightly. There have been quizzes, competitions, sing-a-longs, breakout groups, Bible studies, prayer meetings, encouragements, worship times, fancy dress, reflections on the Sunday preaching, drawing competitions, poetry, things for kids, virtual meals and a whole lot more.

The most important thing is that people have  connected to caring community during a time of isolation

There are three things I want to say to and about Life Groups:

1. I want to recommend a book and encourage Life Groups to study it together in the weeks ahead.

51ELoj+49hL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_The book is called “Spiritual Feasting” and is written by Jenny Sanders. It has 17 chapters, and each chapter ends with three application questions that groups can work through together. I would recommend looking at just one chapter each week.

I know this will do us all so much good, whether you’ve been a Christian for years or are still just exploring the faith.

The book is available on Amazon by clicking here. At the time of writing it’s on pre-order for a reduced price, but don’t hang about; it’s released on Friday (the 15th May) and will be a little more expensive after that. There’s a kindle version available too.

The book is all about the reality of living life to the full with Jesus, even though we walk through challenges and difficulties. It’s well worth the time and effort to read and will serve us so well. If you’re hungering for a greater spiritual reality with Jesus in your life, this will do you good.

2. I would love to encourage group members to say “thank you” to their Life Group leaders

I suspect lots of people have done this already, but if not please let your group leaders know how much they are appreciated. Why not sent them a thank you?

3. If you’re not in a Life Group and would like to try one, you can

To arrange it, please email us on connect@allwelcome.uk and let us know you want to try a Life Group. Make sure you include your contact details so we can get in touch.

Let’s all be part of a caring community at this time.

Summer Reading

In case you have a bit of time over the summer to do some extra reading while you enjoy the sunshine, here are some books that I found particularly helpful this year and want to recommend:

1. Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes

This book, by Kenneth Bailey, looks at the life of Jesus from the perspective of those who live in the Middle East. A special focus is given to the stories of Jesus’ birth, his attitude to women, the Lord’s Prayer, the beatitudes and several of Jesus’ parables.

I found it extremely interesting, easy to read and personally challenging. It was packed full of insights that were completely new to me. I will definitely be reading more by this author and I would recommend this book to anyone who’s interested in the life and teachings of Jesus.

2. A War Of Loves – the unexpected story of a gay activist discovering Jesus

Jo and I have had the privilege of meeting David Bennett, having dinner with him and hearing him speak. This book is his autobiographical account of how he came to faith in Jesus, and the implications of this for his life. It is an honest account and doesn’t shy away from some deeply personal and challenging issues.

I would recommend this book to every Christian … I would even call it “essential reading”. Read it with an open heart and let God challenge you; it brought me to tears several times. And if you want to know more, David will be speaking in two seminars at Westpoint this year as well.

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3. Developing Female Leaders

This book, by Kadi Cole, is the one I’ve read most recently and is an absolute gift to anyone in the church. It looks at some of the reasons why women have struggled to maximise their leadership gifts in the church context and gives eight, easy to implement, best practices to help turn that around. It contained truths that I can now see are blindingly obvious, but which I had simply been unaware of before.

I particularly like how the author doesn’t have a big personal axe to grind; she just has a deep desire to help churches live up to the fullness of what they say they believe. Regardless of where we might sit on the “egalitarian” vs “complementarian” debate (and this book is not about that) this is relevant, practical and helpful. I’m looking forward to putting these steps into the practice in the months and years ahead.

4. Sustainable Power

Simon Holley’s book is not new (it’s been on my shelf for four years) but I only got round to reading it this year … and I’m so glad I did. It looks at the ‘rocks’ in our hearts and lives that can prevent God from moving in and through us to impact the world around us. It’s full of relevant stories and examples and is easy to read whilst being personally challenging to read at the same time.

If you want to grow in faith, grow in expectation and grow in your walk with God, this is the book for you. Just don’t expect to reach the end unchallenged and unchanged.

Hope you have a great summer …

… and if you do take the time to read any of these, feel free to (politely) let me know what you thought of them in the comments section below.

 

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.

Answering a difficult question that I didn’t see coming …

Our current Grace Church preaching series, “God’s Rescue Mission”, has often focussed on how we can share our faith, so a training day looking at “Answering the Big Objections to Christianity” seemed to make perfect sense – and what a great day it was!

Tom Price, David Bennet and Jo Vitale, all from Ravi Zacharias Ministries, served us so well, introducing as to the world of “Christian apologetics” – which means ‘giving answers to people who ask us about our Christian faith’. Lots of difficult questions were considered and many brilliant answers were found; certainly my brain was stretched and I know others were impacted too.

David’s joy-filled, personal testimony was especially moving. His story of transformation from being a church hating, gay rights campaigner through to personally encountering Jesus and beginning a relationship with a loving God is one you really don’t want to miss.

For those who were unable to attend in person you can hear the downloads for free through our church website.

Is Christianity outdated and irrelevant?

Are science and Christian faith incompatible?

What about war and genocide in the Bible?

If God is real why doesn’t he make himself more obvious?

Ravi Zacharias Ministries - Tom PriceAll this and more is available to listen to for free.

A difficult question

However, what I have been left reflecting on was not the answers given to the questions we raised, but rather my personal lack of a clear answer to the question that Tom Price posed to us during his talk in Chichester and Bognor on the Sunday morning.

Tom asked a deceptively simple question, but one I am still reflecting on and I would encourage you to reflect on too:

“What kind of relationship do you think God seeks with you?”

Tom described three possibilities that are each less than God wants for us. Sometimes as Christians we can act as though the relationship God seeks with us is this:

  1. God wants us to be GOOD: he wants us to live productive lives and use our talents and gifts well; a pragmatic, practical way to relate to God
  1. God wants us to BELIEVE in his existence: to adhere to a certain set of beliefs
  1. God wants us to develop the right FEELINGS towards him: to develop positive emotions towards God; thankfulness and joy.

Tom then said this:

“If you think that being a Christian is these three things, or a combination of these three things or one of these things, then there might be something more for you to discover about God – God may want a deeper way of connecting with you. Maybe God doesn’t just want these three things;

maybe God wants a friendship with you.

So I’m left with a lot to reflect on personally following the weekend. I went with some difficult questions I was seeking answers to, but I came away with a much deeper question to think about for myself.

If you have the time, we would love to hear your feedback and reflections on the weekend too.