Thursday, December 31, 2009

Thanksgiving Service for Graham Cottee

We've now finalised the date for Graham's thanksgiving service, which will take place on Thursday 14th of January.

There will be a small family committal service at 11.15am at Easthampstead Park Crematorium, followed by a service to give thanks for Graham's life starting at midday at The Kerith Centre .
I know that many of you will want to come to The Kerith Centre to both remember Graham and to support Val and the family. Please can I just request that if possible you park in the town centre car parks to leave the limited Kerith parking for visitors, the elderly and the disabled.

Simon.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Graham Cottee

On Boxing Day evening I got the sad news that Graham Cottee had passed away earlier that day. This is what Val, his wife, wrote on Facebook :

Graham died peacefully with us all around his bed yesterday at 3.15 pm. He knew we were there and departed this life only after having his Christmas cake! After such a long illness it was so quick in the end as if he chose to go and I know that he is in... a much better place. Nothing seems real right now except family and friends.

Graham was one of the first people I got to know after we joined the church. I'll always remember him for his dry sense of humour, his heart for people, his deep love of God and that feeling of terror if he caught you when you'd forgotten to return some tapes you'd borrowed to the tape desk! (for many years Graham ran the church's tape ministry). He was a very private man, but was always willing to make time for others. For the last four years he has lived with a number of different illnesses - it is so true that he has gone to a better place. He will be much missed, not only by Val and his sons Simon and David and their families, but by all of us who had the privilege to call him a friend.

There will be a service of Thanksgiving for Graham's life in the New Year, I'll let you know via the blog and on the family news section of the website when we've got a date and time for that.

Simon.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Christmas

I'm not going to be blogging, tweeting or emailing from Christmas to New Year, so here's me hoping you have a fantastic Christmas as we remember God becoming incarnate and living among us - truly a miracle.

Hope to see you on Sunday 3rd January when we all get back together again!

Simon.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Tony Pudner Updates

For those interested in following some even more extreme conditions than the ones which have brought the whole of the South of England to a standstill, check out Tony & David Pudner's progress up Aconcagua here. The first update gives the impression most of the time so far has been spent in a swanky restaurant, but it sounds like they've now started the climb in earnest! It's still not to late to sponsor them.

Hope you're enjoying the snow wherever you are.

Simon.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Kerith Relief 2

Just back from The Kerith Centre where a team have been doing a magnificent job serving tea, coffee, doughnuts and providing toilet breaks for all the people stuck in the gridlocked traffic on Church Road. Rarely can Bracknell have seen such chaos! The car park is full of abandoned cars - hopefully they all have gone by Christmas Eve!

The traffic all seems to have cleared now, but I just want to thank the team who made all this possible - you know who you are. I only got there towards the end but was in time to meet a lady we helped who was due to give birth today. She and her mum were incredibly grateful, as I'm sure were many others. Even the police turned up at the end to say thank you!

Simon.


Posted with LifeCast


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Skidally - BOTB Winners

Thought you might like to see this video of 2009 Battle of the Bands winners Skadilly.

Please be thinking about who to invite to this weekend carol concerts, either traditional at 9am and 11am or alternative at 7pm.

Catch you at the weekend.

Simon.

Tony Pudner's High Altitude Christmas

If you were there for the 9am meeting this week you'll have heard me talking with Tony Pudner about how God healed his back after prayer the previous week - he hurt it a number of years ago carrying a roll of carpet, but says it is better now that it has ever been - praise God!

People say to test healing, and Tony is certainly doing that as on Monday he set off, with his son David, to climb Aconcagua in Argentina. Aconcagua is nearly 7 km high, is the highest mountain in the Americas and the highest mountain outside of Asia. It should take them about 20 days to climb it (most of which is overcoming the effects of being at such altitude) and if all goes to plan they'll get to the summit on New Year's Eve or New Year's Day.

As a result of the climb Tony is hoping to raise money for a new youth building at Oakwood. If you'd like to donate then please visit Tony's JustGiving page.

Not surprisingly mobile phones don't work on the mountain, but if Tony does manage to send through any updates I'll post them here. Think of them both as you're seeing in the New Year!

Simon.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

What Would Jesus Say To Tiger Woods?

Thousands of newspaper column inches, countless hours of TV and endless tweets and blogs have been devoted to analysis of the goings on in the life of Tiger Woods. Most of the analysis I've seen, even from reputable papers and news programmes, has had an undercurrent of delight at the way the Woods life and image have been falling apart since the initial news of him being involved in a car crash. That left me wondering about what Jesus would say to Tiger Woods if he was to meet up with him.

First I think Jesus would have something to say to all the people taking delight in Woods downfall, and who are enjoying poring over every emerging detail. Jesus once met a woman who had been caught committing adultery, and his first words were not to her but to her accusers. He told them to consider their own lives before starting to stand in judgement over anyone else. People will say "but I've not done anything as bad or as public as Tiger Woods", but let's remember that Jesus set the bar much higher than we would - "I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart". I saw a newspaper article recently where some scientists tried to do a study on men who'd never looked at pornography - but couldn't find any. Jesus would tell us to put down our stones and consider our own lives before throwing our stones at Woods.

Secondly I think Jesus would tell Woods that he doesn't condemn him for what he's done. Jesus didn't come into the world to condemn it but to save it, and nobody is excluded from that message of hope. Jesus said to the woman caught in adultery "neither do I condemn you". So however wretched Woods must feel right now Jesus doesn't condemn him.

Thirdly I think Jesus would be clear about how much Woods has messed up, and the impact of his sin. I'm reminded of David when he slept with Bathsheba and had her husband murdered to try and cover it up. David thought he'd got away with it, but God through Nathan made sure that David realised the seriousness and the long term impact of what he had done. That it had implications for him, for his family, for his career and for his relationship with God. Jesus was never vague about the nature, the impact or the implications of sin.

Fourthly Jesus would say to Woods that repentance is the way to restoration. Repentance means admitting that you've messed up. Getting it all out there, not trying to excuse anything, hide anything, trying to do damage limitation or pretending it didn't happen, but admitting everything you've done and asking for forgiveness - first before God then before everyone you've sinned against, which in this case would include his wife, children, family, friends, mistresses, sponsors and anyone else affected. But repentance means more than than just feeling sorry and asking for forgiveness. It means turning around and now living your life a different way. You can't do that on your own but only with God's help, and the help of those around you. Jesus would encourage Woods into a community of people who truly want the best for him and can now help him to live in a different way from now on. Tiger Woods need to find the Nathan's in his life who will help him live differently.

Finally I think Jesus would say that this doesn't have to be the end. That however much we mess up that restoration and recovery is still possible. Looking at the example of David his sin had huge negative implications, including the death of both Uriah and the child he had with Bathsheba. But God is the master of bringing good from bad where we work with him. David carried on ruling the kingdom. In the genealogy of Jesus we read "David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah's wife", so there is hope.

Those are my thoughts. I'm sure there will be other ideas on what Jesus might say - if so then please feel free to add those thoughts as comments.

But I want to close by reflecting that we will all have times when we mess up. It's unlikely to have been as public as for Tiger Woods, but it may have had just as big implications on your life. Or perhaps you've got a sin in your life which is still hidden, but you know that one day it's going to come out into the open. Please can I encourage you to read this blog again, but putting yourself in the place of Tiger Woods and hearing what Jesus would say to you.

Simon.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

When Bankers are the Good Guys!

On Friday I had a visit from a lovely lady called Angela Bristow who works for HFC Bank in Winkfield. The staff at the bank recently held a Charity Christmas Bazaar and decided to donate the money they raised to our community based projects. Angela came in to give me a cheque, along with a whole load of Christmas goodies which they had bought for the Foodbank.

It's so exciting to see how we're increasingly engaging with the local community, both with the community blessing us and us being a blessing to the community.

Just to give you a Foodbank update the figures to the end of November were that we've collected in over 4 tonnes of food, given out nearly 1.5 tonnes and helped 54 different clients who were referred to us by 22 different agencies. I also heard today of a church in another area which is thinking of opening a Foodbank after hearing about ours.

Just one of the many ways God is blessing us.

Simon.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Christmas Day Charity

At our Christmas Day meeting we will be taking up an offering for Bracknell Home-Start. This is a local charity which, in it's own words:

"Through a network of trained parent volunteers we support parents who are struggling to cope. Our families need support for many reasons including post-natal illness, disability, bereavement, the illness of a parent or child, or social isolation. Parents supporting other parents - to help build a family's confidence and ability to cope."

Kerith in the Community works closely with Home Start, which does fantastic work in our local area. Please come prepared to give generously.

Simon.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

If You Need Cheering Up...

...then take a look at this. It made me laugh anyway.

Whilst I've got your attention a quick reminder to be inviting guests for Kerith Relief this Sunday night, the carol concerts on the 20th December and to Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Have a great day.

Simon.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Cricket Pitch

Today we signed the contract to rent the strip of land down the side of K2 for the next three years. The plan is to clear the area, fence it in and then put a playground and seating in there. Although it's only a small piece of land this is really going to enhance what we can do with the children on Sundays, youth on Fridays and when we're running special needs respite care (I'm sure we'll also find lots of other uses for it). There are also separate plans to turn the currently unused land at the back of K2 into a vegetable garden for the children to use.

This is all being paid for from the gift day we had in early 2009. So thank you to everyone who gave so generously then, and to Jeff Whitton, Ralph Allen and Penny Lander who have been working hard to make this project happen. It should all be completed some time in early 2010.

Simon.

Prayer Meetings

A reminder that we're meeting to pray on Wednesday and Thursday evening this week. I truly believe that 2010 is going to be a year when we see God doing even more amazing things amongst us, but a huge part of our responsibility in that is seeking God's hand and face and asking him to do what only he can do.

So please join us on whichever say works for you. Sola will be leading Wednesday, as the elders are meeting with Steve Tibbert from the Newfrontiers church in Catford earlier that evening and may be a bit late, and I'll be leading on Thursday.

I know what a busy time this is for all us, but please make this a priority in the coming week - you won't regret it!

Simon.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Our New Magazine

If you were around last weekend you'll have hopefully picked up a copy of our new magazine 'Link'. The aim is to produce it every four months and for it to contain details on all that we're up to as a community, details of forthcoming events, articles and peoples stories. Although it is intended to replace the weekly bulletin the hope is that it will have a much wider use as a tool all of us can use to let the wider community know what we're up to.

I want to say a huge thank you to Beccy Oliver, Mike Charlton and the whole of the rest of the team of writers and photographers who made this first edition possible. I'm really proud of it and think it is going to be a great resource for us.

It was great at Kerith Relief on Sunday night to see guests sat reading the magazine before the meeting. I've just had an email from someone who has arranged for copies to be put in their local library, and today I went to a Bracknell Forest event where I gave copies to a number of new people I met. Please can I encourage you to keep some copies in your bag and at home for all those "Walk Across the Room" situations.

Finally if you have any ideas for things to go in the next edition (which will come out in time for Easter) or how we can improve it then please email them to info@kerith.co.uk with the word magazine somewhere in the subject line.

Simon.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Serenje Gift Day Latest

Thought you might like to hear the latest on the total for the Serenje Gift Day (updated since Sunday).

The total, including the money carried over from last year, gifts, promised standing orders and expected gift aid is now £107,323.

I can't tell you how excited I am by that, and how grateful I am for everyone's amazing generosity. It's a quite astounding amount of money to have raised, especially given the economic circumstances and that none of us will receive any tangible return from our giving.

We're expecting the total to go up further, with gifts and standing order pledges still coming in, and two more Kerith Relief events to go. All of it will be used to help the community of Serenje.

Thank you so much to everyone who has given, however much. You are all part of the amazing things God is doing through us.

Simon.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Foodbank at Christmas

Those of you following the progress of the Foodbank will know how well it has been going, both in terms of the amount of food collected in and given out. It so encourages me every time I walk into reception and see some more bags of food which have been dropped off by some generous hearted individual.

I don't want in any way to stop that, but have had a request from the foodbank team for some particular items over the next few weeks. I'll quote directly from the team: "We would like to ask for donations of Christmassy items that can be added to the food-boxes as they go out during the Advent season. Such items would be mince-pies, Christmas puddings, chocolates, sweets, tinned hams, selection boxes, fruit juices and Christmas crackers etc. We are attempting to stay away from perishable items as you can see and we'd like to have everything within its date-stamp period please".

So please, next time you're out shopping, add one or more of these items to your shopping then drop them off at The Kerith Centre next time you're there. I heard this week of one local primary school where the teachers and teaching assistants instead of giving one another cards and gifts are going to bring in stuff for the foodbank - inspirational! Perhaps an idea for lifegroups and serving groups.

Simon.


Posted with LifeCast


Monday, November 23, 2009

Kerith Relief

This Sunday we start our Christmas programme with Kerith Relief. Each of these is an evening of music, dance, multimedia, three local primary schools singing and Catrina and I talking about Serenje and the true meaning of Christmas.

They're great events to bring guests to, but even if you don't have a guest please plan to come anyway. The building will be packed with people who don't normally come to any of our meetings, and it will be a great opportunity to 'Walk Across the Room', step out of your circle of comfort and chat to somebody new. Or sign up as a volunteer and meet people as you welcome them in the car park, at the door, in the auditorium or as they get teas and coffees at the end. Just send an email to sue.ranger@kerith.co.uk - she'd love to hear from you!

Please note these events start at 6.30 rather than our normal evening start time of 7, and that if you haven't got a car park pass you'll need to park at Avis.

Simon.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Remembering Graham McMoneagle

I thought you might like to see this from the Bracknell Forest Voluntary Action (BFVA) Autumn 2009 Newsletter.

Simon.

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The Bracknell Forest voluntary and community sector is saddened by the recent death of our friend, Graham McMoneagle. He was a true gentleman in the finest sense of the word and for many years has taken an active role in local voluntary and community sector. We want to just highlight some of his areas of service. A committed Christian, he took seriously his commitment to serving others by taking an active role in the life of the Kerith Community Church.

His big smile, when serving on reception, made everyone coming in feel personally welcomed. One of Graham’s lasting achievements is the impact on our community of the disability forum. This grew from Graham’s enthusiasm for life and determination to make living better for those with any kind of need. He had great presence, was ‘on the ball’ in knowing what was going on and talked to others with purpose and fervour to achieve what was good.

Our thoughts are with Graham's wife, Sandra, and his family and friends. We hope that it will bring some comfort to know that he has left his mark on the life of Bracknell Forest and will be missed by many.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Serenje Gift Days - Week 2

Just a reminder that this Sunday is week two of our Serenje gift days. We're hoping to raise £100,000 through both one off gifts and standing orders over the next twelve months. Please give generously.

This Sunday also marks week two of remembering the opening of The Kerith Centre 20 years ago. Ben Davies was outstanding and inspirational last weekend, and having seen the outline of what he intends to say this week I don't think it's going to be any different.

Don't miss it!

Simon.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Twenty Years Ago Today

I thought long and hard what to say about today being 20 years since we opened The Kerith Centre. I wondered about writing about how the building still looks great after 20 years (hats off to Ralph), the way that it set the trend for other churches to embark on multi million pound building projects, the debt of gratitude we owe to those who took such a faith risk and gave so sacrificially, or the things which have gone on in the building (such as Willow conferences) which were never dreamed of when it was built.

But instead I want to say something to those of us who are enjoying the legacy of having the building. I'm reminded of David who longed to build the temple, but was told that responsibility was going to fall to his son Solomon. David didn't just go off in a strop, but instead began to gather together all the materials required to build the temple, and made sure Solomon was very clear on how it was to be built. He made sure that his vision would carry on into the next generation by leaving a fantastic legacy.

I feel that many of us represent a Solomon generation. We've inherited a fantastic legacy from those that have gone before. Not only of buildings but of faith, of reputation, of integrity, of vision, of gifting and many other things. The challenge to us is first to recognise and be thankful for what we have, and then to make sure we build on that legacy with the same vision, faith and courage as those that have gone before us. Just take one example. So many of my peers who are leading churches are struggling with lack of space on Sundays being a barrier to growth - just talk to my great friend Sean Green in Reading. Well the reality for us is that we could double the size of each of our Sunday meetings and still not have them full. That would take us to at least 1,800 people on a Sunday, within touching distance of our goal of 2,000. That doesn't mean that we don't face a load of other challenges, just as Solomon did, but our legacy means that space on Sundays isn't one we'll have to worry about for a while.

What I love is that the previous generation are still around to be part of what is happening. On Sunday night to sit with David and Elizabeth Sutton as they watched their granddaughter being baptised. Or to see Ben on Sunday night jumping up and down with excitement at the 250 who had come to see the baptisms declaring "this is what we built this building for".

So whether we're of the David generation that built and paid for the building, or the Solomon generation who are enjoying the legacy, let's continue to step out such that in twenty years time (when I'll be just about planning to retire!) we'll have a load more things to look back on and celebrate.

Simon.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

John Burke is Coming

It must have been two years ago that I first read John Burke's book "No Perfect People Allowed". It had as big an impact on me in terms of understanding what true Christian community looks like as Phillip Yancey's book "What's So Amazing About Grace" did when it comes to my personal relationship with God, and has shaped much of the way I think about where we are going.

Not long after reading John Burke's book I started praying that God would make it possible for him to come and speak in Bracknell. I was inspired by Ben when he wrote to Erwin McManus asking him to come and speak (which he did), but it still seemed like a huge ask.

Well God has answered that prayer. John is coming to us to do a Willow Creek Seminar on Friday 26th February 2009, and then will be speaking in our two morning meetings on Sunday 28th (he then has to fly off to Denmark in the afternoon so can't speak in the evening). I can't tell you how excited I am about John coming. If there was a way in a blog of expressing "very excited" this blog would be full of them, but unfortunately there isn't so you'll just have to imagine it!

Please can I encourage as many of you as possible to book into the seminar. It won't just be for leaders but for everyone who wants to live a life that makes a genuine impact on those far from Christ. I'll publish details on exactly how to sign up for the seminar, and any volunteer opportunities, nearer the time.

(a very excited!) Simon.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Twitterings

I've decided to give Twitter a go. I often have moments where I have an idea of something I want to blog on, but don't quite get round to it, and then the moment passes. With twitter postings being limited to 140 characters I think I'll be more likely to do one of these micro-blogs, rather than just leaving behind a trail of good intentions!

You can follow my tweets either by looking at the right hand column of my blog, where you can see my last five tweets, or by going to my page on twitter and becoming a follower (but remember in 'real life' to follow Jesus, not me!)

The general feedback I get is that people find the whole blog think interesting and useful, so hopefully this will add to the experience.

Hope you're having a great week,

Simon.

Monday, November 16, 2009

We All Need More Ubuntu

I recently bought a Dell Netbook, just like the one in the picture. It's smaller and lighter than a laptop and great for being able to carry with me and write blogs and do email wherever I am (and although as a bloke I shouldn't be interested in colour, I love the red case!)

The nerds (like me) amongst you might be interested to know that rather than using Microsoft Windows I've installed an alternative free operating system on it called Ubuntu. I'm not going to get into a debate about the relative merits of Windows and Ubuntu (especially when I have friends who work for Microsoft!), but instead wanted to tell you about something I read this week in a book called "The Monkey and the Fish" which was written by one of this years Willow Leadership Summit speakers, Dave Gibbons.

The book is all about the church being an alternative community, there's quite a bit of peach and coconut thinking in there, and is well worth a read. But the bit I wanted to share was a quote from Desmond Tutu:

"Ubuntu is a concept that we have in our Bantu languages at home. Ubuntu is the essence of being a person. It means that we are people through other people. We cannot be fully human alone. We are made for interdependence, we are made for family. When you have ubuntu, you embrace others. You are generous, compassionate. If the world had more ubuntu, we would not have war. We would not have this huge gap between the rich and the poor. You are rich so that you can make up what is lacking for others. You are powerful so that you can help the weak, just as a mother or father helps their children. This is God's dream.”

I want to challenge you to spend five minutes meditating on these words. Is this really God's dream? How much ubuntu did Jesus demonstrate through his life? How is your ubuntu level? What would it mean for you today to bring a little more ubuntu into your day? How could you practically make that happen.

All written on my new Netbook :-)

Simon.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Bracknell Church of Rock

I thought you might enjoy this article on the BBC Berkshire website. Just in case anyone is concerned I'm not considering changing our name to be "Church of Rock", although thinking about it there is a sort of ring to it :-)

Simon.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Serenje Gift Days

On the 15th and 22nd November we're going to be having gift days for year two of the HIV/AIDS project we're supporting in Serenje in Zambia. You can get more details on the whole of the project from our Serenje blog, from our website or by picking up one of the new Serenje leaflets from reception.

I want to encourage everyone to think and pray about what they are going to give. I met with the elders yesterday, and between us we have pledged to give just over £11,000 including Gift Aid, some of that as one off gifts and some as standing orders over the next year. I really believe that if we all give what we can then we can reach the target of £100,000. So please give what you can, whether that's £1, £100 or £10,000.

What we are doing is changing lives. At the end of year one 190 children were back in education. By the end of year two the plan is for that number to rise to 800. That alone is transformational, without taking into account the seeds and goats being given to families in need and the volunteers being trained to help those with HIV.

Simon.

Foodbank Update

Lots of people have been asking me how the foodbank, which we launched just over a month ago, is going. I gave a brief update on Sunday, but I thought it would be useful to repeat it again here for anyone who missed it.

I think it's fair to say that on pretty much every front the foodbank has exceeded our expectations. We initially allocated a cupboard in the the back corridor of The Kerith Centre to store the food in. Well the first primary school to donate their Harvest Festival collection to us managed to fill that cupboard! In total we've now had over 4 tonnes of food donated by local schools, people in our church community and others who have heard about what we're doing and just want to get involved. We've now got two storage rooms in Wokingham, but are hoping soon to get a bigger storage facility in Bracknell.

In terms of what has gone out we've had over 40 individuals or families who have been given food, with a total of over 600Kg of food given away. And there's been a growing take up of organisations in Bracknell keen to partner with us and make use of the foodbank on behalf of the people they work with. It looks like in our first year of operation we'll give away somewhere between 6 and 8 tonnes of food, although I suspect that will go up. If you want to check out the latest news then take a look at the foodbank news section on the website.

But for me it's not about the numbers but about the individual stories. To know that tonight there are children and adults in our community who would have gone to bed hungry, but instead have had a decent meal - very exciting!

I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who's helped us get this far. Whether you've given food, worked as a volunteer, prayed for the foodbank or given your money to our general offering on a Sunday you are a part of what God is doing.

Finally to say a word about Pat Hallett, our foodbank manager, who is doing a magnificent job in heading up all of this. Please be praying for Pat, and her husband Geoff, and next time you see them just let them know what a fantastic job they are doing.

Simon.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Prayer and Baptism

Two reminders.

First of all that we've got prayer meetings on Wednesday and Thursday this week. I could tell you about all the things we're going to be thanking God for, praying for and some of the vision we'll be sharing, but instead I just want to encourage you to come and enjoy spending time in God's presence!

Secondly that this Sunday we're going to be baptising people in all three meetings. If you've decided to follow Jesus, but haven't yet been baptised in water, then please can I encourage you to get baptised. Or perhaps there's someone in your lifegroup or serving group who hasn't yet been baptised, and they just need a bit of encouragement to help them take that next step. Either way please phone Lee Layton-Matthews in the office as he's coordinating the baptisms.

Hope to see you on Wednesday or Thursday.

Simon.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Remembrance Sunday


I'd encourage anyone who missed our Remembrance Day meetings this Sunday to listen to the podcast. We record the 11am meeting, which means that you'll get to hear Clive Challis reading some of his Grandfathers diaries describing life in the trenches in the First World War, and Krystyna Lysakowska recounting childhood memories of her and her family fleeing Warsaw in 1944 as the Nazi soldiers attempted to deport them to the concentration camps. But you'll miss Dave Barker who spoke in the evening on his experience of seeing his friends killed in action, and the importance of the work of The British Legion. All three were outstanding, and hopefully we'll find a future occasion where we can hear more of all three stories.

Thanks to John Mitchell who took the photos of Clive, Krystyna and Dave. And to Geoff Hawke, another of our unsung heroes, who week after week edits and uploads the podcasts - both of you are so appreciated!

Simon.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Ben & Ben in Poland

Ben Davies and Ben Oliver are in Poland this weekend visiting the two churches we work with there. I've copied below an email I got from Ben Oliver on Friday about how things are going. Let's be praying for them, and for Ken and Ann Bothamley who are in Turkey - more info on what Ken and Ann are up to on their blog.

Simon.

---------------------------------

Today we've met with the leaders in Swidnica and made plans for the rest of our visit.

We both spoke at a soup kitchen run for the homeless in the church buildings. It's run by another Ania (the one playing the guitar) and it's fantastic. Many of the people who come are alcoholics or drug addicts. Every week they come to the church and receive soup, some truth about Jesus and a lot of love. They've just started their first Life Group for these folks, which is going really well, bridging the gap between the soup kitchen and the rest of the church by building community and breaking down the social barriers. Some of them are coming on Sundays now, too.

The photo shows us attempting to sing "There's no-one, there's no-one like Jesus" in Polish. We have 3 choices in this kind of situation: 1) Sing in English as much as we remember the words (a bit sporadic); 2) attempt to read Polish (no chance); 3) Hum along to the music (not really entering into the occasion with enough gusto). We found a combination of all 3 whilst smiling joyfully seemed to work well!

Tonight and tomorrow Ben Davies will be training the leaders from Swidnica where we're staying and we'll also be joined by leaders from another church. You should see the enthusiasm with which Ben is welcomed here. They love him and he does them so much good. This other church I mentioned is led by Dawid's parents - Dawid is spending the year with us in Bracknell, helping John Turner with our facilities, and has come home with us for the long weekend. John made me promise to bring him back, as there's still plenty for him to do on his return. John, I will try my hardest, but you should have seen Dawid's shaking with anticipation as we arrived at the thought of a home cooked Polish meal!

Finally Ben D will be preaching in the Swidnica church on Sunday morning, before we are whisked off to the airport to begin our journey home. It's wonderful to see the growing relationships between our church and these in Poland, and the impact that our experience, our time and our financial support is having. They are hungry to learn, and there is much more to come. Bring it on!

Love to you all,

Ben Davies & Ben Oliver

Thursday, November 5, 2009

No Andy Jackson, No Comment

Last Saturday Andy Jackson (our wondrous Christians Against Poverty Centre Manager) made the jump from being quoted in local newspapers and local radio on the impact of the credit crunch to a spot in the Financial Times. Whooooo I hear you all say!! Next up the Wall Street Journal!

But seriously, it is a great validation of the work that CAP are doing nationally, and that Andy and his team are doing locally, that we are being asked to comment by papers like the FT. We've talked for years about the church being the head and not the tail, well this would be a great example of that becoming reality.

I just feel so grateful to everyone in our community who has supported CAP either as a support worker, in prayer or through your regular Sunday giving as you are all part of this story.

Simon.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Remembrance Sunday

I turned on the radio this morning to hear that another five British soldiers had been killed in Afghanistan. My thoughts went straight to those five groups of families and friends, who on hearing the news will have had their worlds turned upside down. For whom everything that seemed important will suddenly seem irrelevant and pointless in the face of coming to terms with their loss. For parents, wives and children who will forever be defined by this moment of pure evil.

This Sunday as part of our "Remember" series we'll be remembering all those who have given their lives for the freedoms we enjoy, from the First World War to the current day. We will also be having two minutes silence in all three meetings, and thinking about what we as individuals can do to make sure freedoms won at such as cost are never lost, or just allowed to slip away. I was reminded of that so powerfully when I visited Auschwitz this year, and saw first hand what happens when evil goes unchecked.

Please can I also encourage everyone to buy a poppy and give to the work of The Royal British Legion. We've got poppies on sale in The Kerith Centre Reception this year if you haven't got one already.

I hope you can make it on Sunday.

Simon.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Travelling Mercies

Not long after I became a Christian, when I was 18, I went every now and again to a Pentecostal church. Apart from the pastor being one of the biggest people I've ever met (there was a universal fear that one day he would disappear through their not very substantial stage) one of the things I most remember about that church was that they would regularly pray for "Travelling Mercies". Not growing up in a Christian home I had no idea what "Travelling Mercies" were! In fact I was so unchurched I wasn't even sure what mercies were! But over time I came to understand that when they prayed that, they were asking God to keep people safe on their journeys.

We had an occasion this weekend to thank God for "Travelling Mercies". We were travelling up to Manchester on Friday night when, to cut a long story short, all of the traffic in front of us stopped. We stopped, the car behind us stopped but the next one didn't and pushed the car behind us into our car. The bottom line is that although our car is a bit bashed up at the back, and the other two cars were I suspect write offs, no one was injured in any of the cars and everything is now in the process of being sorted. I really believe that God looked after us in that moment. Looking back it could all have been so much worse, so much more serious.

I've just been listening to Sola's sermon from Sunday on "Remember to Give Thanks". If you haven't listened to it then please do. It's just brilliant foundational teaching, reminding us to always give thanks. Somehow we remember to give thanks when it all went a bit wrong but turned out OK, but lets also remember to give thanks when it all turns out perfectly, as on our return journey from Manchester which went without a hitch.

And let's always be praying for "Travelling Mercies". I'd suggest not using that language, as we don't want to confuse 18 year old heathens like I was, but let's grab hold of that belief that God is the one who is our protector and the one who watches over us. And not out of fear that if we forget to pray bad things will happen, but out of a confidence that God is our Father who cares for us more than we could ever understand.

Simon.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

CAP Wednesday

Tomorrow I'm going to be at a conference for all the pastors of churches with CAP (Christians Against Poverty) debt counseling centres in the South of England. Fortunately I don't have to travel very far as it's in K2!

You might not be able to come tomorrow but if you'd be interested in finding more about the work of CAP, or how you could involved, then I'd like to invite you to an evening in K2 starting at 8pm on Wednesday 4th November. More details on our website, or if you're a facebook junkie you can use this invite.

CAP is a great thing to get involved in if you want to "remember the poor". It provides a safe, structured variety of ways to get involved so please go along if you're at all interested - I know you won't regret it!

Simon.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Graham's Thanksgiving

Today we held the Thanksgiving Service for Graham McMoneagle. It was a great celebration of Graham's life, and an opportunity to thank God for all that he meant to us. His brother Grant did a great YouTube video of pictures of Graham which captures Graham really well. Our thoughts are very much with Sandra, Graham's wife, and all of Graham's family at this time.

We've also go the Thanksgiving Service for Peter Novelle next Thursday. More details are on the family news section of the Kerith website, where you can also post memories of Pete, or of Graham.

Hope you have a great weekend.

Simon.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Remember the Poor

On Sunday Lee told us that we will only truly be able to "Remember the Poor" when we've understood and grasped the significance of the cross. That only then are we able to truly meet the needs of and be a help to the poor.

I was reminded of that when I was reading John 12 this morning. You'll probably know the story. Mary (of Mary and Martha fame) breaks a jar containing a pint (half a litre) of Chanel No. 5 all over the feet of Jesus, and then washes his feet with her hair. Judas Iscariot gets upset about the waste of money, and protests that the perfume could have been sold and the money used to help the poor, although he didn't really care about the poor at all. However, Jesus replies with the killer line "You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me".

The point isn't that Jesus didn't care about the poor. We know from passages like Matthew 25 that he was passionate about the poor, and expected us to be too. But that he wanted us first to be passionate about him, and then let our passion for the poor flow out of that.

So let's do both. Let's be passionate about Jesus, love him with every ounce of our being and try to live lives that glorify him. But then let us be a people who let what we have received then overflow to the people around us. That we would be channels and not buckets. Whether that's babysitting for the single mum in your street, getting shopping for the elderly couple two doors down from you, getting involved in CAP or the Foodbank, or giving money to Serenje.

Simon.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Saturday Afternoon

I'm at the meeting to select the Bracknell Conservative candidate for the next general election. Three hours of presentations and question answering doesn't exactly fill me with joy, but I do feel it's important to be involved in the democratic process, so here I am.

At least I'm sat with some good friends which should help pass the time, as well as having my iPhone with me!

Simon.


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Sunday, October 11, 2009

Final Reminder...

....that if you want to go to the public meeting to choose the Bracknell Conservative candidate at the next general election you need to register by 5pm on Monday - either at www.bracknellconservatives.com or phone 01344 868894. I'd encourage everyone who lives in the new Bracknell constituency to go and take take this opportunity to make their views known.

Hope to see you there next Saturday!

Simon.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Mental Health @ RFC

I've been leading the church for almost two years now, and in that time one of the things that has challenged me most is how we help people living with mental health issues. When someone in our community gets cancer, has a heart problem or suffers bereavement I think we all have at least a vague idea how to respond and what we could do to help. But when it comes to mental health issues such as depression, schizophrenia or a personality disorder I for one am much less sure how to respond. I've also found that people affected by mental health issues are much less likely to be open about what is going on, for fear that other people will write them off as being 'mad' or somehow spiritually inferior.

Given all that I was really pleased when Sean Green at Reading Family Church told me recently they were running a day looking at all of this, including seeing what the Bible has to say and how we can best help people facing these issues. More details here on Sean's blog. I'd really encourage anyone either suffering from or supporting someone with a mental health issue to go along as it looks like a really helpful day.

Simon.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Bracknell Conservative Candidate Selection

I spoke on Sunday encouraging people to get involved in the selection process for the Bracknell constituency conservative candidate at the next general election. The meeting to choose the candidate will be held on Saturday 17th October at Blue Mountain Golf Club starting at 2pm, and is open to anyone who lives in the new Bracknell constituency. In order to go you need to register by 5pm on Monday 12th October - the easiest way to register (which I've already done) is by going to the relevant bit of the Bracknell conservatives website. Note that the boundaries of the Bracknell constituency change for the next general election - check on the website whether you live within the new boundaries.

You can see a list of candidates here. I'm not going to endorse any particular candidate, but would encourage people to go and listen to what each of them has to say on the 17th, and choose the candidate who you think would best represent the people of Bracknell. I will mention though that I've so far met two of the candidates. Julia Manning came to see me during the Willow conference and Ryan Robson was with us on Sunday at the 11am meeting. Both are Christians and currently live in London, but would move to Bracknell if elected.

I feel it's really important for us as Christians to get involved in this process. Andrew MacKay may have been very wrong in the way he handled his expenses, but in my experience he was a good constituency MP and I know helped a number of people within our church as well as in the wider community. We have no right to moan about our next MP if having being given the option we don't choose to get involved in the selection process.

I want to be very clear that I'm not endorsing the Conservative party, its policies or telling anyone who to vote for at the next election. That would be totally out of order for me as a church leader. However, I am encouraging people to engage in the democratic process, and for us a Christ followers not to withdraw from the world, as though it is somehow going to contaminate us, but be salt and light by making our voice heard.

Hope that makes sense!

Simon.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Discern Next Steps - Alpha

Well we've now finished the "Just Walk Across the Room" series, although I hope that the principles we've been learning will become part of our ethos as a community. To always talk the initiative in every setting to reach out to people outside of our circle of comfort and to always be seeing the people around us as God sees them.

One of the things we talked about was asking the Holy Spirit to prompt us with next steps for the people around us. One of those next steps could well be to do an Alpha course, and it so happens that we've got a couple of Alpha courses starting up this week! The first is in Costa Coffee on Wednesday night at 7pm. The second is in K2 starting on Thursday morning at 10am, and includes a creche - more details on both courses here. Perhaps Alpha would be a great next step for you. A chance to ask questions, meet new people and grow in your relationship with God. Or perhaps you have a friend who would be just great to invite along. If so then pluck up the courage and ask them - why not even make it easier for them by coming along too!

Keep walking across those rooms!

Simon.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Foodbank Launch

Last night we had the community wide launch for the Bracknell Foodbank. It was an excellent evening, with a wide cross section of community representatives coming to hear about what the foodbank has to offer. Many of them commented that this was something Bracknell has needed for some time, and all seemed willing and keen to partner with us on it.

What most excited me was the relationship we now have with many of the organisations, including the council, in our community. There was a time that we were viewed, as a faith based organisation, with a measure of suspicion but it seems that we've now, through ministries like Konnections, Hilltop and CAP, proved that we don't just talk the talk but we walk the walk as well.

Thanks to everyone who helped make the evening happen, to everyone who has been praying for it, and to all of you who just by being part of our community make it possible for us to launch out into new ministries like this. This morning the foodbank officially opens its doors for the first time, I'm looking forward to hearing the stories of the people we are able to serve.

Simon.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Friday Night Prayer

On Friday night we're going to finish the week of prayer and fasting by meeting from 7pm until midnight in The Kerith Centre. We're going to focus our praying around our five purposes as a church.

Worship - we'll spend the first part of the evening worshipping God and praising Him
Community - we're going to pray for God to grow us in genuine community and our love and care for one another.
Discipleship - we'll pray that as a community we're individually and collectively growing in our walk with God, getting to know him better and increasing in our passion for him.
Social Action - we'll be asking God to be in all our practical demonstrations of the love of God, both locally with Konnections, CAP, the foodbank etc but also internationally with Serenje and other places.
Evangelism - praying for thousands of people to be saved and added to the church.

It would be great to see you there so please make as much of the evening as you can.

Simon.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Halloween - Trick or Treat

Those of you with good memories may remember that about this time last year I said one of the topics I'd like to preach on this year was how we handle Halloween, in particular for parents with children who are getting caught up in the whole event. Well unfortunately doing it on a Sunday didn't really fit in with the Remember preaching series we're doing starting at the beginning of October, so instead we're going to do an evening in K2 on Wednesday 21st October at 8pm.

On the evening we'll look at a bit of the history of Halloween, what the Bible has to say about it and then some practical advice not only on how to safeguard our kids but also on how we can turn it into an opportunity to spread a positive message.

It would be really helpful in advance to know some of the questions people have and the issues they face so that we can make it as relevant as possible, so if you can either send questions to me or post them here on the blog that would be great. There will also be Q&A on the evening, but knowing in advance would just help me to prepare better.

Should be an interesting evening, and although it will be aimed primarily at parents everyone is welcome to come.

Simon.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Going to the Willow GLS Just Got Cheaper

I've just heard from Willow Creek that they're now offering a further reduction on the rate for people from our church to book in to the Global Leadership Summit on the 2nd and 3rd October. The price has gone down from £43 to £39, which at less than £20 a day makes it outstanding value for money. To book in at this rate you need to phone Jude in the Willow office on 023 8071 0295 and mention that your booking from Kerith.

I was working through the programme this week with Jules Rutland, who is heading up the event in Bracknell, and was just reminded again how good the sessions are. I personally can't wait to see them all again, and I'd love to have all of our people there too! So please make it if you possibly can, either as a delegate or as a volunteer.

Simon.

Friday, September 11, 2009

More of God's Presence

Next week I'm encouraging us as a community to come together to pray and fast. You might well ask for what purpose. Well for me more than anything else I want to ask for God's presence to be with us in everything we do. In our own personal lives. In our schools. In our workplaces. In our homes. In our small groups. In our children and our young people. In our Sunday gatherings. In our community outreach. In the overseas situations we're involved in. In everything we do.

That we would know God's presence which brings hope, which brings comfort, which brings healing, which brings holiness, which brings inspiration, which brings creativity, which brings tears and which brings laughter.

We're going to meet together on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings from 8pm until 9:30, and on Friday night from 7pm until midnight. On Friday night we'll aim to pray through our five purposes as a church, which are to reach up in worship, reach in through community and discipleship and reach out through evangelism and acts of service - although that's only my idea and God may want to do something very different.

So please think about fasting for the four days, and for making as many of the sessions as you can. You might also want to think about praying in some smaller groups during the week such, as with family or your lifegroup. Just so you know the elders and I will be meeting to pray all day on the Wednesday, particularly asking God for wisdom about how to structure pastoral care in the church.

I'll be off to the kebab van at the Running Horse to break the fast early Saturday morning if anyone wants to join me there :-)

Simon.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Good Stewards

On Monday I got our latest gas and electricity bill. Normally I just check the meter readings to make sure they're about right and then file it away (OK to be honest I don't normally even do that, but I'd like you to imagine I'm more organised than I really am!). But this time for some reason I thought I'd just quickly go online to one of those price comparison websites to see if we were still getting a good deal (I actually used the one advertised by a Meerkat, as the adverts make me laugh - how scientific is that - but I'm sure they're all pretty good). I was really shocked to find that we can save about £400 a year just by switching to a different supplier. That's a lot of coffee! And with the supplier they suggested we get Tesco clubcard points, which makes Catrina very happy too.

God calls us to be good stewards of our money, and that means making sure we spend it wisely. So why not next time your car insurance, fuel bill, phone bill, whatever comes in just do a quick sanity check that you're still getting value for money.

And no we won't really be spending the money we save on coffee, not all of it anyway :-)

Simon.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Just Walk Across the Room

I wonder how you're getting on with what we talked about on Sunday? Reaching out to people far from God by stepping out of our circle of comfort and the following the promptings of the Holy Spirit. I was chatting to someone yesterday who was telling me on the way home from the meeting because of what they'd heard they got into conversation with a lady walking her dog who they'd often seen but never spoken to - very cool.

One of the most releasing things for me as I've been preparing for this series is the realisation that when I step out and am obedient to God's promptings, then the results are his responsibility. I used to live with this deep sense that unless the person I was talking to was on their knees repenting by the end of the conversation I'd failed (which meant I lived with an awful lot of failure)! The more I've looked at the life of Jesus I've realised that he was never focussed on the outcome, but on just doing what his Father wanted him to do. If someone like Nicodemus could have a private consulatation with Jesus (see John 3), yet take three years from that consultation to publicly identifying himself with Christ (John 19:39, with some glimmers of progress in John 7:50), then why should I be hung up on the outcome of my conversations.

If you have a story of stepping out this week we'd love to hear it, and might even use it on Sunday. We've set up an email address - mystory@kerith.co.uk - for stories of anything God is doing in your life - please email them in. We've also ordered in a whole load more copies of the "Just Walk Across the Room" book as we ran out on Sunday after the 9am meeting! They should be in next Sunday thanks to our wonderful team of volunteers now stocking the bookshop.

Hope to see you next Sunday for more practical advice on taking those walks across the room.

Simon.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Go Together

One of my favourite quotes from the Leadership Summit was "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together". I was reminded of that this morning when I read 2Cor2:12-13 where Paul says " Now when I went to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ and found that the Lord had opened a door for me, I still had no peace of mind, because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I said good-by to them and went on to Macedonia.".

I find that amazing. Paul had an opening to preach the gospel, to see lives changed, yet rather than going fast he wanted a team so he could go far. Jesus did the same. Imagine how fast he could have gone in three years without having to deal with the disciples every day. How many more lives changed, how much more healing and deliverance. Yet he wanted to have an impact that reached beyond the cross and resurrection, he wanted to go far, so he went together.

Where today are you tempted to go fast and go alone. In family, at work, in church or with an issue or decision you're facing. Can I encourage you right now to consider what going together, and going far, might look like.

Have a great day.

Simon.


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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Starting Again

Well after a wonderful holiday, reconnecting with Catrina and the children, managing to finish all the books I took and generally having a great time, it genuinely feels good to be back in the swing of things.

I'm really looking forward to this term. The new year team started this week, and as I speak Lee is at Heathrow Airport picking up Dawid from Poland who will be our first overseas year team member. The Foodbank will be launched in September. We've got two great series coming up in the Autumn - "Just Walk Across the Room" which is an inspirational encouragement on personal evangelism and "Remember" which we'll be starting in November. The Willow Leadership Summit in October. And all of it with the aim of seeing God touch our lives and the lives of people we don't yet know. Can't wait.

Hope to catch you Sunday,

Simon.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Stopping

Early tomorrow morning we set off for our two week family holiday in France. It's been a great year so far in so many ways, but to be honest I can't wait to stop, unwind and spend an extended period of time with Catrina and the children.

So no more blogging, no email on the iPhone and no telephone calls to make or to answer. Just a big pile of books to read and lots of fun to be had. There's so much to look forward to in the Autumn with two preaching series planned, "Just Walk Across the Room" and "Remember", the opening of the FoodBank, the Willow Leadership Conference and more besides, but for the next two weeks all of that can wait.

I hope you too have managed to find some time to 'stop' this summer. I look forward to hearing all about it in September :-)

Simon.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Andrew White

Just a quick reminder that our good friend Andrew White, the Vicar of Baghdad, is going to be with us on the evening of Sunday 23rd August. Drinks will be served from 6pm and the meeting starts at 7pm.

This will be an evening not to be missed. Andrew is in the centre of current world events, but also brings with him an incredible sense of the presence of God. Sadly I'm going to be on holiday that weekend, but look forward to listening to the podcast when I get back.

Simon.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Willow Leadership Summit - Day 2

My head feels fit to explode after 7 different speakers today - I'm going to need at least a month to process all this :-)
The day started with a guy called Dave Gibbons, an American pastor with Korean ancestry, challenging us to think more relationally in building churches.
Then a Ugandan entrepeneur called Andrew Rugasira who challenged us to think that the solution to Africa's problems were trade not aid - very thought provoking.
Third was undobtedly the most moving session of the day. Wess Stafford who leads Compassion (the child sponsorship charity) told the story of his childhood. We were all in bits by the end. I can't wait for you all to get to see this session.
Next up was David Gergen, who was a presidential aide to four US presidents including Reagan and Clinton. He had fascinating insights into each of their strengths and weaknesses.
He was followed by two brothers called Chip and Dan Heath. They have written a brilliant book called "Making Ideas Stick" which any aspiring preachers need to read, but spoke here on their new book about managing change, both personally and in organisations - I love this sort of stuff :-). Anyone who likes Malcolm Gladwell will want to get a copy of the book and see this session.
Then a recorded interview with Bono who complained that the church had ruined it for him by actually stepping up and getting truly involved in engaging with the issue of Aids - in his words "I didn't know the sleeping giant could run so fast". It was less challenging than when he spoke 3 years ago, and I'd have liked a bit more Bono in the interview as cut into it were stories of what churches and individuals are doing. Still good though, especially reflecting on the journey we've been on in Zambia.
Finally Tony Blair. Good on leadership and the challenges and privileges of being a leader, although it never felt like he really let his guard down.
So an amazing two days and so much to reflect on. If you can possibly make it to a Global Leadership Summit later this year to see all of this on DVD then please can I implore you to do it. Whether your a leader or not you can't fail to have God speak to you through it all.
Back to Wilow tomorrow to choose which talks we show in the UK then home tomorrow. It's raining here so I feel prepared :-)
Simon.


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Friday, August 7, 2009

Willow Leadership Summit - Day 1

What a privilege to be back at the Willow Creek Leadership Summit.
Bill Hybels kicked of talking about "Leading in a New Reality", reflecting on the new economic circumstances we're all now living in, and how leaders can not only survive but thrive in this environment.
Second up a business guru called Gary Hamel who is also a commited follower of Jesus Christ. He challenged us to think afresh how we do church - very provocative. His whole talk was one liners, my favourite of which were "don't mistake the edge of your rut for the horizon" and "the problem with 'organised religion' is not the religion bit".
Next was Tim Keller, unpacking the true nature of grace through the story of the prodigal son. A message we all need to hear, and one we may do as a series some time next year.
Then Jessica Jackley, the co-founder of a charity called Kiva which runs a website which links people in the third world needing small loans to set up a business (micro financing) with individuals wanting to lend small amounts (upwards of $25) - check out www.kiva.org. In four years over 84 million dollars has been lent through Kiva. Jessica is just inspirational as a young leader following through on a great way of using technology - I pray for God to raise up Kerith Jessicas!
Finally a wake up call from a guy called Harvey Carey who leads a multicultural church in Detroit - we were all on our feet by the time he finished!
So a great day. What I love is that you don't just have to take my word for how good the speakers have been, but in October you can hear them too. Be there!
Tomorrow we have prerecorded interviews with Bono and Tony Blair, as well as a number of live speakers - I can't wait!
Simon.


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Friday, July 31, 2009

Overseas Updates

I'm hearing great things from the teams in Serenje and Albania. Rather than me keeping you updated on what is going on here why not sign up for email updates of the Serenje blog and Ken and Ann Bothamley's Balkan blog.

Simon.

Stop - Rediscovering the Rhythm of Life

God designed life to be lived with a particular rhythm.

There was a rhythm to the day. Night and Day. Sleeping and waking. Working and resting.

A rhythm to the week. Six days to work and one day to rest - an important enough rhythm to be enshrined in the ten commandments.

A rhythm to the year. Seven feast spread throughout the year, which were to be enjoyed and observed by all of God's people.

And a rhythm to the years. A year for the land to rest every seventh year and a year of jubilee every fiftieth year.

Yet our modern 24-7 world seems to have destroyed the rhythm of life. We can be on task from the moment we wake up to the moment we go to sleep with our BlackBerry or iPhone in constant attendance. Even something as simple as the light bulb means that there is no longer any need to stop work and rest once it gets dark. The idea of a day to cease work and rest, to reconnect with family and reconnect with God, seems totally unrealistic. And even on holiday we're still 'on task', checking email, texting friends and updating facebook.

I think we need to rediscover the rhythm of life. As Bill Hybels says in his excellent book Axioms, to identify when in our day, our week, our month and our year we "cross the line" and say I'm now done with work and am going to stop and to rest. That if we work six days and rest one we'll achieve more than if we work seven days and rest none.

I'm not clear what this means for you. What it means for a busy mum or an overstretched self employed person or a busy executive to begin to build that rhythm back into their lives. But I know that it's worth fighting for. I'm trying to work it out in my own life, and for our family, so why not join me on this journey of rediscovering the rhythm.

Simon.

This is based on my message from last Sunday - hear it in full here.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Thought For The Day

My Bible readings today took me to 2 Sam14:14. I could spend a lifetime meditating on the implications, the wonder and the grace wrapped up in this one verse! Wonderful.

"Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die. But God does not take away life; instead, he devises ways so that a banished person may not remain estranged from him."

Have a great day.

Simon

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Homeward Bound

Tomorrow Zak and I have an early start to catch the WizzAir (I still can't believe that's real) flight back to Luton Airport. It's been a really good trip visiting the two churches we are linked with here. I'm never very confident on trips like this as to whether I've really got anything helpful to say, but the more the week has gone on the more I've been able to share from my own experience of being in Bracknell, and the more I've been able to speak from the Bible and prophetically into some of the situations they face. It's also been really good having Zak with me.

I've also learnt so much from the leaders here. Poland is a very challenging place to grow a church, with a huge Catholic influence and the evangelical churches viewed with great suspicion, but despite that the two churches have between them baptised 26 people so far this year. They also both have buildings with incredible potential, but which also represent huge challenges. For instance the church in Swidnica owns an old castle (but no moat or drawbridge!) with buildings on four sides and a square in the middle. It's in a fantastic location close to the beautiful City centre, but the roof needs replacing which will cost about £250,000, before they can do the next phase of redevelopment. Please pray for them, and if you are stirred to give let me know. You can check out their website at www.kz.swidnica.pl

We've also got Ben Davies going to Lithuania and a team of 8 flying out to Zambia tomorrow, Sola Osinoiki speaking in a conference in Mexico over the weekend and the Youth team with Lee, Liam, Ethos (and Ken Bothamley sneaking in a youth) flying out to help lead a Youth Conference in Albania.

If you're still in the country I hope to catch you on Sunday! I'm really looking forward to talking about Sabbath so be there if you can :-)

Simon.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Auschwitz

How do you begin to describe visiting a place where over one million people were murdered? One million (in fact most estimates are closer to 1.5 million) men, women and children who were gassed, shot, hung, or forced to work until they died of exhaustion, disease or the regular beatings they received. Where as people arrived on trains from all over Europe the 70% considered too weak to work were led straight to the 'showers' where they were gassed, their hair and gold fillings removed to be sold and then their bodies cremated without their names even being taken. What evil can ever drive one human being to do that to another human being.

I held it together through looking at the pictures and reading the statistics, even on seeing a room with 7 tonnes of human hair which was waiting to be sold when the Russians liberated Auschwitz. But then we came to a room full of suitcases. Many of the Jews sent to Auschwitz were told they were being sent to new homes in Eastern Europe. They were even given fake property deeds for the houses they thought they'd bought. So they had packed suitcases with their most prized posessions, and written their names on the outside. We went into a room with thousands of these suitcases piled up. Then as I started to read the names on the suitcases it hit me. That the enormous numbers are made up of individual people. People with families, friends, jobs, hopes and fears, just like me and just like you. Some of the suitcases were tiny and must have belonged to children. I thought of my daughter Alice dragging her Mickey Mouse suitcase off on holiday, and I cried, imagining her suitcase with the thousands piled there.

Moments like this change me. Like sitting in a mud hut in Zambia with a mother dying of AIDS. I realise how privileged I am to experience moments like this. And that with the knowledge that brings comes a responsibility to live a life and lead a community where we strive to make a difference. Despite all my weaknesses, failings and fears with God's help to live a life where I truly seek to love God and love people.

Simon.

Monday, July 20, 2009

In the Thick of It

Further to what I wrote last week about parachurch organisations, Tearfund released some very interesting analysis at the weekend about the impact of the church on local communities all around the world. You can read more about it at www.tearfund.org/thickofit

It really ties in with an article in The Times I blogged about a while ago, written by the atheist Matthew Paris which was subtitled
"Missionaries, not aid money, are the solution to Africa's biggest problem - the crushing passivity of the people's mindset". Or a recently published book titled "God is Back", written by an atheist and a catholic, which shows both humorously and analytically that despite the best efforts of Dawkins and the rest God is very much alive and kicking, and that in every human heart there is a God shaped
hole.

Not that God needs any of this. He's more than capable of defending himself and building his church, but it's good to read all this none the less.

Simon.

Poland Bound

I'm sat on a WizzAir flight (no that's not a joke) waiting to go to Poland to visit the two churches we work with out there. Have to go now as I'm just about to be told off for still having my phone on!

Simon.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

I Wish I'd Written This

Every now and again I read something on someone else's blog and think "I wish I'd written that". I just had one of those moments! The blogger in question is a guy called Mark Batterson, and it seems that like me he got into reading the Bible in a year again at the start of this year. So rather than rewrite what he wrote, and sin by trying to claim it for myself, I thought I'd just post a link to it.

I'd especially encourage you to read the last two paragraphs. I quite regularly have people from a number of different churches (including ours) giving me the "I'm not being fed" line. I've never had the courage to say to someone face to face what Mark says in his article, but if I'm honest I've wanted to say what he says on so many occasions as I belive it's the truth. Perhaps I'll be braver from now on :-)

Hope you have a great weekend and to catch you at some point on Sunday.

Simon.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Feeding of the Five Thousand - Part 5

My second point from the Feeding of the Five thousand was:

Jesus called his disciples (the church) to be part of the solution.

I believe that wherever we see a need, the call on the church is to be part of the solution. It's so easy to start to talk our way out of that call. To rationalise and come up with a whole host of reasons why we shouldn't respond to the need. That we're too busy, haven't got enough resources, it's their own fault or it's somebody else's problem. But just take a moment to consider the story of the Good Samaritan, or the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats, and see how Jesus saw the call to meet the need.

Bill Hybels makes his famous statement that "The local church is the hope of the world", which I believe with a passion. That the local church in Zambia is the hope of Zambia. The local church in Poland (where I'm off to next week) is the hope of Poland. And the local church in the UK is the hope of the UK. Not political parties, not charities, not education, not pressure groups but the local church.

So where does that leave the parachurch, Christians setting up organisations other than the local church to meet needs and further the cause of Christ. I've read articles in the past deeply critical of the parachurch, arguing that they only exist because of the failure of the local church to do its job. I'm sure there are cases where that is true, but I believe there are many places where parachurch plays a vital role, not replacing the local church but equipping it to do its job better. Let me just take two organisations we work with.

First of all Christians Against Poverty. There is no doubt we as a church could set up our own debt counselling service. Finding people in debt, getting details of their debts and then contacting all their creditors to renegotiate the debt repayment. Arranging insolvency hearings for people who are in too much debt and then managing repayment schedules until people are debt free. But that would leave our team spending much of their time on the phone contacting creditors, becoming insolvency experts, managing repayments and a whole host of other tasks, leaving little time to spend building relationship with the clients. How much more sensible to have one national organisation with all that expertise, leaving our team to actually work on seeing lives changed.

Or take Tearfund. We could have tried to work out on our own how to engage with the issue of HIV/AIDS in Zambia. We could have tried to find a group of churches out there to partner with, worked with them to produce a strategy for what we were going to do together, launched and then monitored all aspects of the project including financial accountability and trained and equipped teams of our people to go out there and work alongside the churches. But I'm convinced it would have taken longer, cost more and been far less effective than partnering with an organisation with decades of experience doing exactly this sort of project.

So in my mind parachurch does have a huge part to play. But that part must always be to equip and strengthen the local church to be more effective at what it has been called to do. That's why I love CAP, who only work through the local church, and this year have an incredibly aggressive strategy to open 60 new local church based debt counselling centres in the next year. And why I love Tearfund's Connected Church strategy of being a link between local churches in the UK and local churches in the developing world.

So we'll build the local church with all the energy God gives us, but realise that often the most effective way of meeting the need will be to partner with other people who are already experts at what we're trying to get in to.

Simon.

Picnics and Other Stuff

As I write this it's pouring down with rain outside, but I'm hopeful that the weather will improve by Sunday afternoon for our annual picnic at Oakwood Youth Challenge! It's always a great chance to meet up with old friends and make some new ones. There will be face painting for the young children and the chance to do some of the challenges at Oakwood for everyone else. Arrival is any time after 1pm, and you're welcome to invite friends and relatives to come along too.

Lee Layton-Matthews is preaching in the morning meetings. I'm going to be at Newbold College for a service to celebrate the ministry and retirement of my good friend Brain Meardon, who has so magnificently led the Warfield Churches for many years. Then in the evening we're hosting Creation Ministries showing their film examining the events which influenced Charles Darwin in coming up with his theory of evolution. This is another chance for us to engage with some of the issues we raised when we looked at creation vs evolution in the elephant in the church series.

Hope to catch you at some point over the weekend.

Simon.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Generations

It was great on Sunday to be able to celebrate all the different generations in our community. The morning and evening were very different, but hopefully both reflected the church of both young and old working together which God is building.

If you didn't manage to pick up the new Ethos CD on Sunday evening you can now also buy it from iTunes - just search for "Ethos Calling Out" and you should get there. Or if you prefer to have versions you can put on any mp3 player you can buy it from Amazon. Or buy the CD on Sunday - the choice is yours. It really is worth getting hold of, and that's not just because Zak is playing on it!

Hope to catch you all at the Kerith Picnic on Sunday. A great place to get to meet people and scare yourself silly on the high ropes :-)

Simon.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

God Moments

It's an incredible privilege for me to have a week like this when I can worship with thousands of other people, listen to teaching which inspires me and points me back to Jesus, and reflect on my own journey with God. Having worked for years in a 'normal' job, it's a privilege I aim never to take lightly or for granted. And I hope me being here won't just benefit me but the whole of our community as I hopefully pastor, preach and lead better.

For most of us the realities of life make it very hard (though not impossible) to get times like this. But what we can do is know that God is with us in every moment of every day. That whatever you're doing and wherever you are the Holy Spirit is powerfully with you and God can speak to you and through you.

How to do that?

Thank God continually. Find every opportunity to thank God for things. Food, family, friends, nature, your senses, Jesus, money, church, whatever.

Make life a continuous conversation with God. Talk to God about everything. We need those times when we close the door and pray in secret, but also learn to talk to God in the car (just don't shut your eyes), when things go wrong at work, when you're having a coffee, before a tricky conversation, when somebody annoys you, when something on the TV disturbs or challenges you, when you feel happy and when you feel sad.

And read the Bible. Not in a heavy way that makes you feel guilty if you haven't done it. But as an adventure, expecting God to surprise you with the stuff he will speak into you as you plug into his living word. With the plan I started in January I'm now on my second time through the New Testament and over half way through the Old Testament. It's been a blast! Listen to an audio bible, use daily reading notes, use it as an excuse to buy an iPhone for the youversion bible, I don't care how but just get it into you somehow. And did I say don't become a legalist!

Hope that helps you have a slightly different perspective on today.

Simon.


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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Celebrating Generations

I'm in Brighton this week for the Newfrontiers leaders conference (very good so far) but from afar have been working with Colin on Sunday mornings Celebrating Generations guest meeting. I got lots of good feedback after Father's Day, with some people even saying they felt it was our best guest meeting yet. Well having been party to some of what we are going to be doing on Sunday I think it is going to be every bit as good (and I promise not to wear my pants over my trousers!).

So please be thinking about who to invite. Whether it's parents, grandparents, children, grandchildren, neighbours or friends. They're all going to be in for a treat, and more importantly hear some of God's heart for the generations.

As we did for last weeks baptisms the 5 and overs will be in for the first bit of the meeting and then be taken to their groups to register about 25 minutes into the meeting.

Hope you're having a good week and to catch you on Sunday.

Simon.


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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Feeding of the Five Thousand - Part 4

Does anyone remember part 3 :-)

Well in case you don't my first point from the feeding of the five thousand was this:

The need was huge.

My second is perhaps no less obvious:

Jesus called his disciples (the church) to be part of the solution.

The disciples saw the size of the need. In fact they brought the need to Jesus attention (as if he was so busy preaching he wasn't aware of what was going on). But they wanted the hungry people to provide their own solution, to go off to the local Subway or MacDonalds and buy their own meal. Jesus had a different idea. His simple statement to them was "You give them something to eat".

I believe that whenever we see a need, Jesus calls us to be part of the solution. Not to expect people to fix it themselves, or to campaign for the government or some other organisation to come in and fix it, but for us to be part of the solution. Jesus was always meeting peoples felt needs, whether for food, healing, forgiveness, comfort or acceptance, and he expects us to do the same. Just take a look at Matthew 25:31-46 and see how seriously Jesus take this.

And this call isn't simply to us as individuals, but to us as a church, which is what the disciples represented. The church was never intended to be just a thermometer, measuring the temperature of society, but a thermostat, not only measuring the temperature but also being an agent for change.

In the next part I'll look at what this means for para church organisations.

Simon.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Our Shed Door

I'm sat outside the Open Learning Centre whilst Jacob has his drum lesson loving the heat (apologies to anyone who doesn't) and reflecting on the weekend.

I've had lots of positive feedback on the "half time team talk" I gave on Sunday which was encouraging. But I've mostly been thinking about some DIY I did on Saturday. We've got a garden shed which has quite a lean on it, which makes the door hard to open as it drags along the ground. It's got so bad recently that Alice has really struggled opening and closing it to get in there to feed her animals. Well on Saturday afternoon I finally got round to doing something about it. To my shame it only took about 20 minutes to take off the door, cut a
chunk off the bottom and screw it back on. And now what joy - the door swings open and shut with no scraping, no yanking and no effort. I just can't believe it took me so many months to get round to it.

It made me reflect on how often I just 'put up with things', rather than taking the often simple steps to fix them. The opticians appointment I need to make. The broken light switch in the cupboard which needs replacing. The punctured tyre on Catrina's bike which needs fixing. But also relational fixes required. That person who has asked me to do something but I know I really should say no. The person I know I've upset and I just need to go and apologise. That decision where I'm not sure what to do and need to talk to a friend for advice.

Not to say everything is so easily put right. But so many things are, and often not sorting them leaves us with stress, anxiety, worry and not sleeping well and robs us of our joy.

So is there anything you need to do today that you've been putting off? If so - Just Do It!

Have a great week.

Simon.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Crazy Week

Apologies for the lack of blogs this week but it's been one of the busiest weeks I've ever had! I'm not sure how that happened, but anyway I've stopped now which is very nice. I'm sat watching Alice and a friend swimming at the sports centre (well to be honest there isn't much watching going on!), wondering how the girlies prayer day is going and wondering when I can get a coffee.
Hope to catch you Sunday - I do promise to write at least one more installment of the feeding of the five thousand next week.
Simon.


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