Staff Change, Unlocking & Compassion

This Sunday we have our Welcome Church online Communion meeting, and everyone is welcome to join us. It starts at 6.30pm and all the information is in the picture below.

The communion part of the evening will run until 7.15pm, and will be followed by a short time of updates and information, finishing before 8pm.

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The communion will be led through by Tim Robertson from Compassion UK and will include updates on the projects we’ve supported in Togo. Please provide your own bread and wine (or suitable alternatives) and join us with all the family on zoom.

When Communion finishes I will share the latest news and updates for Welcome Church. This will finish by 8pm and will include:

  • Details about unlocking and how it affects our Sunday meetings going forwards
  • An exciting new staff change that will really bless our church

See you there!

And don’t forget to join us for Welcome Church online each Sunday at 9am and 11am, with kids work at 10am.

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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

Getting Spiritually Match Fit

On Sunday, Christoper Hawes spoke about our need to be ‘spiritually match fit’ as lockdown eases and something closer to normal life returns (click here to listen). Just as footballers will need to be fit to play the full 90 minutes when football returns, we need to be spiritually fit for God’s call and plans for us.

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Have you lost some of your spiritual fitness during lockdown?

2 Timothy 3v16-17 says:

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

Among other things Christopher talked about the Bible as being like a ‘spiritual coach’ for us, helping us to attain full fitness.

He listed five ways to approach the Bible that can help us:

  1. Listening: such as listening to our Sunday preaching
  2. Reading: actually reading the Bible. Have you read it all yet? There are loads of apps and reading plans available for free to help
  3. Studying: a lot of the Bible’s riches do not ‘lie on the surface’; we are reading literature that is thousands of years old and written to different cultures in languages we don’t speak today. Study guides are so helpful for us to mine the depths, taking our understanding and interest to whole new levels
  4. Memorising: learning verses or chapters by heart; being able to call them to mind when needed. Jesus did this to fight temptation (see Luke chapter 4)
  5. Meditating: filling our mind with scripture; rolling it round and round our thoughts

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When Christopher talked about ‘studying’ the Bible, he mentioned some resources to help us. I have listed some of these here, along with a few extra suggestions of my own:

1. Study Bibles
A Study Bible is a simple tool to help us as we read. I own two: The NIV Study Bible and The NLT Study Bible. They have comments on many of the verses and explain things we can easily miss
2. Daily Devotionals
These are short daily reading guides that give insight to what we’re reading. There are lots of these available, both in online or paper formats to suit your preference for example, Every Day With Jesus or Daily Hope, both of which I would recommend
3. Bible commentaries
A good Bible commentary can help us mine the depths of the Bible, and lots of these are well written and easy to read, such as ‘The Bible Speaks Today’ (which has a commentary available for every book of the Bible) or the ‘New American Commentary’ series (which go far deeper and are personal favourites of mine) or the ‘Holman Commentary’ series (which take a chapter at a time and point to the key things in it) or Phil Moore’s ‘Straight To The Heart Of’ series (very readable and applicable to daily life)
4. A Systematic Theology
Reading a good systematic theology can take some effort, but it’s manageable by anyone with reasonable reading ability and the courage to take the plunge. Reading one through is like taking all the bits of theology we know (and a lot we don’t know) and organising it into a neat filing system. I personally like Wayne Grudems Systematic Theology, but others are also available.
5. Commission Training
As a church we are part of the Commission family of churches, and Commission have just launched a whole range of new training courses, starting from September. There are four levels of training on offer, starting with something basic and going all the way through to a Masters Degree. For details click here. They also talk about an internship year in a church, which could be done here at Welcome Church – feel free to ask.

What next?

There is no bad place to start. The key thing is not to worry about what we don’t know or haven’t done, but to start somewhere. All the things I have listed above will do us good, so why not try something?
To return to a sporting analogy, the ball is in your court.

 

George Varney: he’s a community hero!

Welcome Church‘s very own George Varney has deservingly won a fantastic award, and we could not be prouder of him.

The award has been given by Christian Nightlife Initiatives Network (CNI), who are an umbrella organisation for around 130 local projects working predominantly to serve people within the night-time economy, and this include Woking Street Angels.

aIMG_6734-1638x2048Because of George’s outstanding work as a Street Angel, where he is both a trustee and team leader, along with his most recent venture, The Useful Wood Company, George has been chosen as a community hero by CNI.

This is a Nation Wide Contest so George has done really well. You can read all about his award by clicking here – you may spot a few other familiar faces in the photos too.

Alice Potter, a Trustee from Woking Street Angels said,

“George has always been the person to step in the gap when we have had holes in our Duty Rota. He would be out until 4am in the morning and still turn up for an early start at church a few hours later. He has always gone the extra mile. He stands out in our Team and I am proud that he is part of our Church.”

Serving the poor and those in need is a key aspect of the Christian faith in action, so it is also central to us as a church. You can see lots more of what we do in these areas by checking out our Welcome Works initiative.

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:

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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!”

 

Exciting Staff News

We have some exciting news regarding a staff change at Welcome Church.

Part of our role as a church is to develop and release leaders, and this applies to those who are employed by us as much as to anyone else. 

WhatsApp Image 2020-04-22 at 16.57.38Many of us will know Ben and Nancy Martin. Ben has been employed at Welcome Church for a number of years, first as a Kids Worker, and more recently as our Children’s and Youth Pastor. About a year ago, as part of our plan for his development, Ben was offered a secondment to Gateway Church in Basingstoke.

Over the last year at Gateway Church, Ben has been involved in lots of activities to help him develop, including setting up a brand new CAP Debt Centre like the one we have here at Welcome Church, alongside involvement with discipleship, pastoral care and lots of other things that have nothing to do with children or youth.

Ben’s aim was to develop further as a leader, and I’m delighted to announce that he has now been appointed to a new, permanent role as Lead Pastor at Life Church in Hook. Life Church is part of the Commission global family of churches, just like Welcome Church, so we will still see him and Nancy at Commission events including Connect Festival next year.

Ben will start this new role on May 18th, and this will bring to an end more than ten years of employment with us, and also his secondment to Gateway Church. It also means he will not now be returning to us in the summer, as was the original plan.

WhatsApp Image 2020-04-22 at 16.57.31As part of this move Ben and Nancy will be relocating to Hook. They already have a buyer for their house and a purchase agreed – all subject to contract of course. In case you missed their other piece of exciting news, Nancy is pregnant with a due date this August.

Please do join me in congratulating them both on this step they are taking; this will be an exciting new phase of their life and ministry together. Ben and Nancy will be missed, yet this new role is a great step into their future together and will be a huge blessing to Life Church.

Here is a video that Ben and Nancy made to share the news in their own words. Enjoy!

 

 

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

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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!

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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!

Good Friday: come and join us

This coming Friday, the 10th, is known as Good Friday. It’s a day when Christians all around the world remember the death of Jesus on the cross.

As a church we don’t tend to follow all the events of the traditional Christian calendar, but this year especially we want to mark Good Friday, and we would love you to join us for that. We have a simple plan:

At 10am we will pray together online for about an hour

  • One of my friends, a pastor from a church in India, will join us online from Mumbai and lead us in prayer. The challenges in India right now are huge, as I shared in my talk on Sunday – you can listen here if you missed it
  • On Friday we will pray for the church in India and for our own nation too
  • At the end of our time we will take communion together, 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. Remember that the items 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.

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You can find the details of how to access that meeting on our Welcome Church website.

That day there will also be a daily encouragement video out at 4pm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Good Friday is a good day to do that on, because on that day Christians remember one of the most important aspects of the Christian faith: the death of Jesus on a cross. God himself came into our world in Jesus and he died for us to open the way for us to know God.