A New Staff Team Member

During our online communion meeting on Sunday evening, it was my privilege to announce a new staff member for Welcome Church. From September 1st Christopher Hawes will leave his role as a full time teacher to join our staff team. Chris will focus on preaching & discipleship and also on leading & developing the creative elements of all we do as a church.

hawesChris is married to Sarah and they have three young children. He’s already part of our eldership team, and I’m delighted that someone who carries our DNA as a church is going to be available to focus on this key role full time.

Chris will be undertaking our new Commission training courses, starting at level 3 and working through to the level 4 masters degree. By the way … there are some great courses available through Commission, including an internship year you could do at Welcome Church. Do let me know if you’re interested.

Chris and Sarah are a big gift to our church family. In addition to her work as an actress, puppeteer and motion capture artist, Sarah regularly hosts our online meetings and helps develop others in this too. She’s also part of the leadership of Welcome Kids.

I believe we have a good future together as a church. Coronavirus will not last forever.

This appointment will release significant time for me in my own role, and Chris will also be looking to develop other people in their gifts. I believe this appointment will serve us as a church in many ways and will help shape us for the years to come.

 

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!

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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.

This Weekend: Three Reminders

I hope you’re doing well and surviving Lockdown so far; we’re four days in. There are three specific things about this weekend that I want to remind everyone about:

1. The Clocks Go Forward One Hour On Sunday

Spring has sprung, the daffodils are out and it’s that clock change time of year once again. With Lockdown in place, I imagine there may be people up and down the country who perhaps won’t realise for a few days!

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Do make sure you get outside for your daily exercise and enjoy the sunshine … just stay 2m away from everyone else!

2. We are praying online this Saturday at 10am

It’s been great praying together as a church online this week. If you’d told me a month ago that we would be having two online prayer meetings every day I don’t think I would have believed you! 😮

On Saturday we will pray together online from 10am – 10.45am. Please do join us! The details for how to do join in are all available by clicking here. It does involve some technology that may be new to some, but don’t be scared of that. It’s actually quite simple and the rewards of mastering it are great.

3. The specific plan for Sunday is as follows:

  • Our Sunday morning meeting 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

Daily encouragement

I will leave you with a link to today’s daily encouragement video. Enjoy!

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:

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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

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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

Staying Connected

During this unusual time when we can’t meet together in person, there are a number of ways we plan to stay connected with each other as a church. I want to encourage you to make the most of these opportunities, so no one ends up feeling lonely or cut off. Let’s also be on the front foot to invite other’s to connect with us too.

For some people this may mean learning to use technology that’s completely new to you, but go for it anyway! 🙂

Daily Encouragement

Every day at 4pm (Mon to Sat) we are posting a video to help encourage us all during this crisis. It can be found on our church website, and will also be posted to our Welcome Church Facebook page (not the group!) I may blog some of these posts as well, but it would be best not to rely on that. Please be proactive and look on line at 4pm each day, and do let us know of it’s helpful to you.

Life Groups

Over the next few weeks we were due to refresh our Life Groups, with the chance to start new groups or sign up again for existing ones. In order to provide the best connection and care for us all during this crisis, that process has been postponed and current groups will continue for the time being. We’re encouraging people who are not already in a group to connect to one, and if you need help to do that, please contact Dean Guy.

We’re also encouraging all Life Groups to set up a What’s App group chat so people can easily keep in touch. We know that some groups have also started having virtual meetings using Zoom too – what a great idea (more info on that below).

Welcome Youth

Welcome Youth had their first online experience yesterday evening. Despite one or two technical glitches games were played and encouragement was given. Look out for more on that as the weeks progress.

Alpha

Alpha will be going on line via Zoom. They already had a planning meeting online this week. More details will follow in the days ahead.

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The Alpha Planning Meeting on Zoom

Sundays

Sunday meetings cannot take place in the usual way at the moment. This Sunday at 10am there will be a Sunday preach available on the church website, and also on our Facebook page (not the group!) It will also be available as a podcast.

To make this more interactive I will set up a WATCH PARTY starting a few moments after 10am that anyone can join. To access this on the day, be on the Facebook page and ready to go at 10am! The beauty of a watch party is that people can comment and interact together as we go along. (Can I hear an Amen?) I hope lots of us will join in.

Welcome Kids

This Sunday at 9am our first Welcome Kids online experience will be available on the Welcome Church website for you to enjoy with them at home. They have a great plan including craft, worship, games and teaching. This will also be accessible through the Facebook page.

Prayer

As of Monday morning we will be hosting prayer meetings online through Zoom. The plan is to pray from 7.30am – 8.00am, and then again from 1pm -1.45pm. For each prayer meeting we will post an access code in the Facebook group (not the page!)

Please use these codes to join us and pray. We did one on Friday as an experiment and it went really well.

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Pastoral Care

If you have a pastoral need during this time, please do communicate with your Life Group. We also want to pray for people as a whole church when needs come up, so please use the email care@allwelcome.uk to keep us informed. These needs will be prayed for during the Zoom prayer meetings, so get your requests in.

In terms of practical care for those required to stay at home (shopping, getting a prescription, walking a dog etc) we need to use real wisdom! Life Groups and other contacts across the church can do a certain amount, but as this crisis grows we are unlikely to be able to meet every need. Additionally this is a moment to connect well with our community. On this basis there are some things to consider:

  1. Let’s remember to connect well with our own families and neighbours; they may also need our help.
  2. Let’s get involved with the many local volunteer groups that are springing up. Jo and I are involved with our local one in Send, which is being expertly organised by a woman called Ruth. I am now a ‘volunteer coordinator’, and leaflets are going out across our area today. This creates a great opportunity to meet new people and show them love and care.
  3. Practically speaking, most help given in this season is going to need to be done locally, especially as travel becomes restricted. 

An increasing number of Welcome Church people, of all ages, are being confined at home. We now have confirmed cases of Coronavirus amongst the church, and we have others who have symptoms that are as yet unconfirmed. Our first serious hospitalised case is in a relatively young person with young children and no pre-existing conditions.

If you’re helping someone else, or you’re receiving help, please don’t take unnecessary risks or ignore the need for social distancing. To use an  example, this would mean leaving shopping on the door step and not going inside.

Using technology

Technology is a wonderful gift from God. Let’s be grateful for it and embrace it at this time. You may have noticed that there are some specific technologies we are using at this time to help people connect, so please let’s all consider doing the following:

  1. Sign up for our regular emails – you can do that by clicking this link.
  2. Keep an eye on our websiteInformation and updates will be posted there
  3. Install What’s App on your mobile phone. This is a free messaging service that allows you to set up group chats with people. It also allows you to make totally free audio or video calls to friends who have the app, even to people in other nations.
  4. Sign up to Facebook (Yes! Seriously!) Even if you’ve never done this before and swore you never would, now is the time. Once you’ve joined send me a friend request. Also like & follow our Welcome Church page, and join our Welcome Church group. You may have resisted doing this all your life, or you may just prefer Instagram or Twitter or other social media. In simple practical terms, Facebook offers the level of flexibility and interaction that we need right now, so our focus will be there. You can always quit when this crisis is over.
  5. Sign up to Zoom. This is a free app that you install on your laptop, phone or tablet. Sign up for a free account and you can join in everything we do on Zoom. A free account lets you set up meetings of up to 40 minutes length (though you can join ones that last any length of time). If you want to set up long meetings of your own, you can upgrade to a paid account as I’ve done. Zoom offer lots of online videos and tutorials to teach you how to use it, so why not use some of your time to learn? We used it for our elders and admin meetings this week and it was great.
  6. Follow this blog. This is your one stop shop for staying up to date with the church during this crisis. You can click a button to subscribe to it.

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Staying together as a church

Please be encouraged to embrace these specific technologies to help you stay part of the church community during this time. They are a gift from God for us right now and I thank God for them all.

Even if these things are new to you, or you’re someone who thinks “Facebook is so last year”, please join in. Simply put: let’s all be in the same place.

Including everyone

There are always a few people who are unable to connect in the ways I describe above. Perhaps they have no laptop, email or internet (there are a few people in this position), or the internet where they live is just too slow to stream things.

If you have friends in this position, please do phone them and check in with them regularly. In fact, why not do that with lots of people regularly? If we all made just 1 or 2 phone calls a day just to check in with how people are, what a blessing that could be.

 

A genuinely life-shaping experience of answered prayer

When I was 11 years old I was taken to a Christian concert by a relative. It was a fundraising event run in aid of a famine in Kenya. Half-way through the evening a video showed the situation in the country. It was shocking footage and sitting in the dark I was quietly moved. Afterwards, I overheard my concerned relative, who I guess had spotted a stray tear on my face, saying quietly to my mother that perhaps I was, ‘a bit too young’. At the time I believed they were wrong, and with hindsight I still believe that; we are never too young to start to care about the needs of others – especially the poor.

Following this event I had one prayer:

“I want to visit Kenya and do something for the poor.”

That prayer never went away.

Bottle-caps

Panda Pops trip to Kenya | Life changing tip an answer to prayer | Steve Petch BlogWhen I was a university student the Panda Pops company (remember them?) did a special offer: win a safari in Kenya. You had to find a bottle with a winning lid. I don’t know how much I spent on Panda Pops that year, but I know it was a lot. Every bottle was bought and opened with prayer and every lid examined. I even pulled empty bottles out of public rubbish bins and checked them. Surely this was God’s chance to let me go to Kenya! Surely he could see that!?! But I didn’t win, and to be fair, a safari was not the goal.

Only passports

My answer to prayer came via another route just a few weeks after the competition ended, but ten years after I had first started to pray. I was visiting a church with Jo (my fiancé then, wife now) and we ran into my old Sunday school teacher and her husband, now in retirement, who were also visiting the same church that week. After hugs and greetings she asked if we would come and visit them in our summer break, and we said, yes, – not understanding what they really meant.

It turned out they were using their retirement to work as missionaries with the poor in rural Kenya, and I remember her saying,

“I mean visit us in Kenya … we are able pay for everything … you just come … you only need your passports.”

Talk about an answer to prayer! It turned out they were in their last year in Kenya and wanted to use that year to connect young people to God’s mission to the world – and it worked; Jo and I had a life-changing trip.

1993: A life-changing trip

So in 1993, Jo and I stayed with them for several weeks in rural Kenya (no running water or electricity or toilets.) We spent time with local people in their mud hut homes. We led some Bible studies. Jo (vegetarian) almost managed to avoid eating goat. We kept pigeons off the roof (our water supply) with a catapult. We helped to vaccinate rural Masai children against polio. We learned to drink Chai (sweet tea) flavoured with rancid goats milk and charcoal. We visited a local medical clinic and with funding from our home church were able to pay to connect that clinic up to the newly established mains electricity supply and buy them a fridge to store medicines. I was able to give basic pharmaceutical advice to the clinic and to a local doctor (having just graduated). We even ended up with a quick safari at the end of the trip. And it was also in Kenya that I preached my first ever Sunday sermon and felt God calling me to that ministry.

Steve Petch's First Preach | Life changing tip an answer to prayer | Steve Petch Blog

The detail of God’s care

Jo and I went to Kenya genuinely expecting God to call us there, or somewhere similar, more permanently, but that didn’t happen. We came home and got normal jobs with a sense of surprise that God hadn’t spoken to us in that way. But he had spoken to us and shaped us in lots of other ways. Not least he had shown us that we have a Father in heaven who hears our prayers and gives us the desires of our hearts; the detail of God’s care is awesome.

This week I am in Kenya again, this time at the invitation of Compassion UK to see the work they do. We’ve done lots of things with Compassion as a church as part of our GraceWorks initiative. Next week I’ll let you know how I got on.

Steve’s Travels – loving the church

I’ve been away from Grace Church on a couple of Sundays recently, but in case you think I’ve been slacking off …

March 13th

I preached at Westminster Chapel, London – a fantastic Commission Church in the heart of London, surrounded by a city of around 8.5 million people.

Steve Petch at Westminster Chapel - Steve Petch BlogJo came with me and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. While I was preaching someone was running a meeting for new members in another room – definitely a good sign!

I preached on a favourite subject: “Passion for the Church”, just click on the link if you want to listen.

March 20th

I preached at East Beach Evangelical Church, Selsey – another great church, this one based in a seaside location, surrounded by a town of around 10,000 people.

The church has a gifted new leader (go Phil!) and has seen some good recent growth and even had to take a wall down to make space for the extra people. Baptisms are planned and I’m enjoying helping this church build links with Commission.

Again I preached on a favourite subject: “Passion for the Church.”

Love Local Church - Steve Petch Blog

So, why did I pick the same topic for both churches, despite their very different situations? Well, because I believe that the call to love and build the church needs to be heard by every believer in every generation. It transcends our geographical location. To quote Bill Hybels,

“The local church is the hope of the world”

If we are living our life as God intended then it will be unmistakably marked by a passion for the church.

Jesus loves the church

Jesus is building his church

Jesus knows each church individually

Jesus is coming back for his church – his plans for the church will last into eternity