Monday, June 30, 2008

A Peach of a Friday Evening

Last Friday night must have been one of the noisiest events we've held in The Kerith Centre with our biggest ever Battle of the Bands. There were seven local youth bands plus our very own Ethos and some friends of Lee who have a band called Miami which plays the London club scene (Ethos and Miami were excluded from the competition). Judges included Linda Serck who works for Radio Berkshire finding new musical talent and Sam Tattersall and Matt Salvage (who those of you who have been around for a while may remember from when they were part of the church) from local band OK Tokyo.

All in all it seemed to me like a breakthrough as we seek to be more peach like. We reckon there were between 250 and 300 young people there which was brilliant - even if we do need to look at how we better control the moshing next time! The standard of the bands was quite incredible, especially given how young some of the were. Our technical crew running the PA, lights and the live video mixing did an amazing job and the stewards did well to make sure we still had a building at the end of it all!

But most of all we really managed to engage with the young people of Bracknell in a setting which was relevant to them. I'm not going to pretend that anyone was saved or that we directly preached the gospel, but there are now a whole load of young people who will have gone back to school today talking about this great event they went to at The Kerith Centre on Friday night, who will relate to Lee and our team, and the team from the Warfield's Eternity Youth Church who we ran the event in partnership with, in a different way, and who will have had their preconceptions of Christians and the things they get up to challenged. That's not to mention the impact the on the parents who turned up to watch their children play and even on Linda from Radio Berkshire who admitted her expectations were very very low when she was asked to judge a church based music event - she left very, very impressed by what she'd seen. The three winning bands will be playing at Hope in the Park on the 30th August so hopefully lots of the young people will turn up there too. Listen out for a cracking rendition of "Sweet Child of Mine" from one of the winning bands - here's a link to the highly inferior Guns N Roses version to whet your appetite.

Hopefully we'll get some photo's of the event up on an online album soon so if you weren't there you can get a feel for what went on - when we do I'll post a link to it.

Hope you're having a great week.

Simon.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Bring Your Pastor to Work Day

Having just about recovered from the Three Peaks Walk I was up at 5:20 this morning, not for the weekly elders meeting but to spend a morning with Sam Fairs-Billam. Sam works for a charity called Spear which works with homeless people in Richmond, and on Thursday mornings he goes out visiting clients who are living rough. He then tries to link them into the various housing and other support agency options which are available to them, with quite a bit of success, although as we know from working with these kinds of people its often a turbulent journey with lots of setbacks.
When Sam and his wife Hannah first came to the church he wasn't a Christ follower but through doing The Marriage Course and then Alpha he took that step and he and Hannah now lead our Embrace ministry, which reaches out to needy people in our wider community. It's at an early stage but seems to be going well so far. Sam and Hannah also have a gorgeous new daughter Isla who joins the growing club of cute babies you see on Sunday mornings - baby creche must be exploding!.
So a great morning so far - and Sam even bought me a Starbucks latte at the end of it all - heaven!
I'm on the train back to church now. If anyone else fancies a Bring Your Pastor to Work Day event in your workplace just let me know!
Have a great day.
Simon.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Pursuit of Happiness - Not!


I admire this guys confidence!

A quick reminder that as part of our HIV and AIDS initiative we've got two visiting speakers coming this side of the summer holidays who should be guaranteed to make you happy.

First of all this Sunday evening Patricia Sawo is coming to speak to us again. Many of you will remember how powerful she was when she spoke to us the day after the Positive HIV/AIDS Conference earlier this year.

Then on Friday 11th July starting at 7:15pm we've got Musa "Queen" Njoko singing and speaking to us. You can read more about her here, listen to her being interviewed on Radio 4 Woman's Hour here or listen to one of her songs on our website. Entry to the evening will be free, just turn up, and during the evening we'll be taking up an offering for her work.



Details of all this are on our website.

Hope you're having a good week. I've almost recovered from my walk last Saturday!

Simon.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Just finished the Yorkshire Three Peaks

Myself, my son Zak, Andy Jackson, Tony Pudner and his son Dave (Jon Turner sadly couldn't make it) have just completed our 26 mile walk in 10 hours 15 minutes.

There would be photos but it was so unbelievably wet I didn't dare get the camera out. It was also so windy on the tops of two of the peaks that we were struggling to stand up I don't think any of us had a single dry item of clothing by the time we finished! Even Tony said it was extreme so it must have been bad! Anyway, we're now changed into dry stuff and on our way home. If I can't make it onto the platform tomorrow morning you'll know why!

It's not to late to sponsor is if you'd like to - especially given the extreme nature of what we've done! You'll have to look on my previous Blog entry for the email address as I haven't got it here.
I guess most people won't get to read this before Monday so hope you had a great weekend.

Simon.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Three Peaks in Twelve Hours

This Saturday I'm going with my son Zak along with Andy Jackson and Jon Turner to do the "Three Peaks of Yorkshire" walk. This is a 25 mile walk with over 5,000 feet of climbing which needs to be completed in under 12 hours in order to join the Three Peaks Club. We're travelling up on Friday afternoon and coming back late Saturday night - I may be asking for assistance to get onto the platform and onto the stool on Sunday morning!

We're doing the walk not only for fun but also to raise money for Christians Against Poverty - the debt counselling charity we work with. If you feel like sponsoring us then Andy has set up an online page where you can give here. No pressure though.

Hope your day is going well. Let your light shine!

Simon.

A Health Update

For those new to my blog you may not know that at the beginning of this year I was ill with a kidney infection which left me in quite a lot of pain and with very little energy . Catrina was a single parent for the best part of 2 months (she was amazing coping with it all) and a number of people had to step in to preach and lead in my absence. Quite a few people have been kind enough to ask me recently how I'm doing so I thought I'd post an update here. Well last Tuesday I went to see my consultant and he's given me the all clear. The infection has cleared up completely and there is no need for any surgery on my bladder which he thought might be required - praise God. I've got to go back to see him in a years time but that should be it. His only advice for me was not to work too hard and to get plenty of rest - I'm trying hard to do that!

So what did I learn from it all?
  • God sometimes lets us go through tough experiences to develop our character and to give us a deeper knowledge of him. Romans 5:3-4 says "we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us". I know that God has been working on my character, in particular reminding me that he is God and I'm not and allowing me to know him at a whole deeper level.
  • God uses suffering to give us a better understanding of what other people are going through. Having never been ill before (other than man flu!) I'd always found it hard to understand what it was like for people who were ill - particularly the frustration and disappointment when you think you are starting to get better then get ill again. I've always felt drawn to 2 Cor 1:3-4 where Paul writes "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God." but I now understand that with a whole new depth. I hope that's come through in my interactions with at least some of you.
  • Illness isn't always the result of personal sin. Some people were quick to tell me that I was ill because there was some hidden sin in my life and that if I was truly walking with God then I wouldn't be ill. That was probably one of the most dispiriting and discouraging things I've ever been told, especially after I'd sought God to ask him if there was any sin I wasn't aware of and felt him say nothing. However, the more I read Job and what happened to him, read what Jesus had to say in John 9:2, pondered what Paul wrote to Timothy and read of the health struggles of people like Smith Wigglesworth, Billy Graham and our own Andrew White I realised that there is often a mystery about illness, and although I believe that God does heal today we live in that time between the first and second coming of Christ where we know some healing and some answer to prayer but are till longing for more of God's kingdom to come and God's will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.
  • Rom 8:28 is a truth we can build our lives on - "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose". Not that all things are good, but in all things God works for our good, even if at the time we can't see what God is doing. As Zoe said on Sunday night God has given us the power to choose life, and part of choosing life is choosing to believe Rom 8:28 and put our confidence in God, not the circumstances of what is going on. I can now see some of the good God did through me being ill including Lee developing as a preacher, a number of people developing as leaders as a result of stepping in when I couldn't be there, the realisation of what a loving community God has put me in and a new appreciation of what a wonderful wife I've got.

So there it is. I'm still learning to try and get enough rest (just to keep this in reality Catrina will tell you that the last couple of weeks I've done too much and I've been tired this weekend) but that's just normal life rather than me being ill. Thanks so much to everyone who's been interested in how I've been doing and has been praying for me.

Simon.

Monday, June 16, 2008

What if His People Prayed

First of congratulations to all the winning Dads in our "Wii Love Dads" guest meeting on Sunday morning. I don't think there were many dry eyes as Amy talked about her Dad Dick - catch it in the middle of the sermon here. Zoe was also excellent on Sunday evening - that should be up on the website soon too. Just to comment on what a difference it made to the feel of the end of the meeting having groups of people playing on all the Wii's. Perhaps we should do that every week :-)

I'm not sure how many of you will have heard of an American band called Casting Crowns. I was introduced to them about a year ago and find their stuff both good to listen to and very challenging.

As an inspiration to come to this weeks prayer meetings (Wednesday and Thursday this week from 8pm in K2) take a look at this video of one of their songs:



I've felt God has been talking to me recently about making prayer a higher priority both personally and for us as a community. To that extent I've changed the Tuesday morning staff ministry meeting, and the Thursday morning Elders meeting into prayer meetings. Some of the prayers we've already seen answered have been for a year team next year (two people signed up and still praying for more), salvations every week over the past few weeks, God opening doors with our local HIV/AIDS response and an increasing expectation for God to speak to us prophetically as we seek him. So please make it a priority this week to get to the prayer meetings. As Hudson Taylor said "It is possible to move men, through God, by prayer alone." So come and join with us in asking God to move men (and women and children).

Hope you have a great week, and look forward to seeing you on Wednesday or Thursday!

Simon.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Wii Love Dads

A quick reminder that this Sunday morning is our Fathers Day guest meeting. We're going to be giving out awards in the following categories:
  • Most Embarrassing Dad
  • Funniest Dad
  • Longest Serving Dad
  • Newest Dad
  • Dad of the Year
plus a special Senior Pastor's award. It's not too late to do some nominating for Dad of the Year - email the church office if you want to nominate somebody - it doesn't have to be your Dad, just somebody who has done a fantastic job of being a Dad this year. We'll also have Wii games set up in the reception area and on the big screen - get there early if you want to play!

Please be thinking about who you can invite for what is going to be a great morning.

Simon.

And the Winner of the Logo Competition is .....


.... logo number 1.

There will now be lots of work going on to turn this into Letterheads, T-Shirts, Flags, Minsitry specific logos and a whole host of other formats ready for Name Change Sunday on the morning of the 20th July. A big thank you to everyone who entered the competition, who voted and to the in house creative team who are making this all happen.
I've had great feedback from the Church Vision Night last Sunday - not only on the new logo but on the whole Peach and Coconut idea (there will be another blog entry to explain that to those of you not there), the Parenting Course and in particular the update on the HIV/AIDS initiative. As a summary Tearfund have now got back to us with a draft report on the project we are proposing to fund in Serenje in Zambia - it's looking quite a bit more expensive than initially proposed (£400,000 over the first three years rather than the £150,000 we initially proposed) but by the end of the project will be funding 3,000 orphans and vulnerable children to go to school, as well as bringing a number of other benefits to the community. I'll share more details once we get the final version of the report but so far I've been thrilled by peoples "we can do this" attitude. We've already received a gift of £500 from one couple towards the project which is a fantastic encouragement.
Hope you're having a great week letting your light shine.
Simon.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Hope08 Taster Event - Early Feedback

This morning was our Hope08 Taster Event - a chance for people to get idea of what it will be like to be involved in one of the Hope08 Social Action events in August, and for us to learn about how to better organise and lead these projects. We started with a great turnout for bacon butties in K2 (I meant to count but reckon there was somewhere between 80 and 100 of us there) and then headed off to various projects, three groups doing gardens, one doing a house improvement project, one doing litter picking and the remaining people leafleting Great Hollands. My Lifegroup joined with another to do the garden of a couple who have recently got involved in our church community. With children there were about 25 of us and my first thought was "there are far too many of us for what needs to be done", but that was before we saw the state of the garden!
Hopefully the before and after photos give you a feel for what we achieved, we did do the front garden as well which was just as deep in grass! I think I can speak for all of us that we had a great time doing it, even if it was quite hard work. For me it was also a great chance to get to know some people I hadn't managed to spend much time with before much better. So all in all a success. I look forward to hearing about the other projects tomorrow morning.
If you're going to be in Bracknell at the end of August please sign up for some of the Social Action projects which will be taking place, and for the Saturday Fun Day in the field in front of South Hill Park. Registration forms are available from The Kerith Centre reception and all good bookshops.
Hope to catch you tomorrow, especially in the evening where we've got some very exciting things to share at the Church Vision Night. Hope to catch you there.
Simon.