Christopher Hawes has written and produced a brilliant video for us this Christmas; it’s my privilege to share it here. Please can I encourage you to watch it and to share it as widely as possible with friends and family?
Why not post it on social media, or message, email and What’s App it to the people you know?
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.
… 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.
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)
‘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.
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 email@example.com 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.
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.
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)
In case you missed them here are some updates from our Welcome Church family regarding elders, staff, the new Lockdown and Sunday meetings:
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!
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.
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.
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?
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.
On Sunday we started our new Welcome Church preaching series called ‘fruitful’. You can listen to the first talk here about ‘Love (and why it wears a mask)’ – it’s a highly topical subject right now!
I recommended two great books to go with the series, one was about our personal walk with Jesus, the other was about our church’s calling and purpose; we want to be fruitful in both these areas. Buy them. Read them. Give them as gifts for Christmas.
The first is called ‘The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry’ by John Mark Comer. It’s great for helping us draw close to Jesus and renew our life in him, which is key in this challenging time of pandemic; it speaks to our personal fruitfulness.
The second is called ‘Disappearing Church’ by Mark Sayers. It speaks about the church getting back to it’s Biblical calling, staying faithful to Jesus and being fruitful for him in all circumstances. Again this book is a word in season as we find our whole way of ‘doing church’ is being challenged.
They’re both easy to read, I loved them, and if you buy them from Origin Books in Woking (the Christchurch Book Shop) they will give you 20% off either or both if you say you’re from Welcome Church.
While I’m at it, I also wanted to wholeheartedly recommend some great TV to help while away the dark winter evenings. I would love it if everyone in our church took the time to watch these two things.
First is a film called ‘American Gospel: In Christ Alone’. It’s available on Netlifix, or you can pay for it on Amazon Prime (or buy the DVD). I don’t want to say too much about it, except that this film is well worth watching. Jo and I loved it. There’s a sequel called ‘American Gospel: Christ Crucified’. I haven’t see that yet but I’m told it’s even better
Second is a TV series called The Chosen. This series depicts the life of Jesus in a truly beautiful way; the best I’ve ever seen it done by miles. It truly captures the heart of Jesus for lost and broken people, and will ignite your love for Jesus too. I would encourage everyone to watch it, with your kids if you have them. It will boost your faith for sure.
The good news is … you can watch it for free. The way to view it is to download a free App to your Phone, iPad or Tablet. The App is called ‘The Chosen’. You can then either watch the series through the App on your device, or connect your device to your TV.
Once you’ve viewed it you will be given the chance to ‘pay it forward’ by buying it for someone else to watch for free, as someone has already done for you. I did that, but it’s completely up to you if you want to.
These are four great resources for us. Please let me know what you think of them once you’ve watched or read them.
During our Welcome Church preaching series on ‘Sickness, Healing and Death’(click here for Part 1) we used the final week to address questions people sent in. The topic of grief came up repeatedly.
There were two themes:
First, people trying to be superhuman. The idea that because someone was a Christian and we know they are now with Christ, we shouldn’t feel sad or even grieve at all, we should only be happy for them.
Second, people getting stuck in grief. The challenge of finding a new ‘normal’ after a significant loss … of moving on with life again … of acknowledging the ongoing reality of loss without making an ‘idol’ out of the dead person or the past we once had.
I’m not a grief counsellor, but as a church pastor I believe this:
Suppressing grief (or any emotion) is not a good long term solution. It may help us cope temporarily, but it will come out in the end somehow.
Grief has a God-given purpose. Although we may all experience grief differently, God does intend us all to ‘recover’, which doesn’t mean we no longer feel loss, but that it no longer defines us
For Christians, grief is mixed with hope. “We grieve, but not in the same way as those who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4v13)
Grief is a normal human emotion and even Jesus experienced it. The Bible tells us, “there is a time to grieve“ (Ecclesiastes 3v4). To suppress grief is not helpful for us, and to stay ‘stuck’ is also not helpful; there is a time for grief; a season for it.
Following the series I wanted to post some links to helpful resources you can work through in your own time if you want to. I hope they help, and don’t forget that pastoral support is available if you need it. It’s okay to ask.