Saturday, January 30, 2010

Bracknell Samaritans

I went yesterday to the opening of the refurbished offices of the Bracknell Samaritans. It was inspiring to chat to some of the people involved, and to hear some of the great work they do in our community.

I'm understanding more and more how God wants us to work in partnership with other local organisations. That we do what we can do, whether that's CAP, foodbank, sparklers, special needs or crisis intervention and look to work with others who do the things we don't.

Being at the Samaritans also reminded me of the power of just listening. I can be so quick to try and reassure people, offer them advice or try and solve their problems, rather than giving them the gift of just listening to what they have to say. It's often the most powerful thing we can do when faced with someone grieving or in difficulty. Why not give it a go.

Hope to catch you this weekend.

Simon.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Thanksgiving Service for Ron Ball

We've now finalised the date for Ron's thanksgiving service, which will take place on Friday 12th February.

There will be a small committal service from family and close friends at 1.30pm at Easthampstead Park Crematorium, followed by a service to give thanks for Ron's life starting at 2.15pm at The Kerith Centre .

I know that many of you will want to come to The Kerith Centre to both remember Ron and to support Barbara 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.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Haiti

I'm at the prayer meeting where Zoe Hayes is leading us in praying for Haiti. We'll be taking up an offering for Haiti on Sunday, as well as in the morning meetings hearing from Lindsey Reece-Smith who goes out to Haiti on Tuesday for two months as part of the Tearfund relief effort.

Hope to see you there.

Simon.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Ron Ball

I received the sad news earlier on today that Ron Ball passed away this morning.

Ron and his wife Barbara have been part of our church for over 38 years. He came from a Salvation Army background and I'll always remember him playing his horn in the band in the days when we met in Wick Hill Hall, and in the early days of The Kerith Centre. Since I've taken over leading the church Ron has always been incredibly supportive and would always speak positive things into me at every opportunity. He will be greatly missed by me and many others.

Please be praying for Barbara and for the rest of the family at this time. God is the God of all comfort who comfort's us in all our troubles - let's pray that they know the reality of God with them in all they are going through.

There will be a service of Thanksgiving for Ron's life. 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.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Choose Where You're Planted - The Friends Choice

So where are you going to be planted in 2010 when it comes to friends? One of the joys for me of being a follower of Jesus is that God didn't call me just into a personal relationship with him, but also called me into a community of like minded people who will both help me through this journey, and make it a lot more fun than it would have been on my own.

So how to be well planted when it comes to friends. First realise that who your friends are is a choice. You can't choose your family (other than your spouse, and that's a whole other discussion!) but you can choose your friends. So choose well. In Psalm 1 being badly planted is all to do with hanging around withe the wrong people - the wicked, sinners and mockers. Do you have some choices to make about people who are doing you no good? That won't be easy but it may be essential if you want to be well planted. Or do you need to look for some new friends in 2010?

You need friends who take you up in your lift. Who when you spend time with them you know you're in a better place than when you started. Either they've encouraged you, they've made you laugh, they've pointed out some of your good points, they've listened to you, they've challenged you (with a desire to build you up), they've been a good sounding board or they've taught you something new.

And you need friends you can be open with. Where you can take off the masks, be honest about what's really happening in your world, and where your friends can do the same. They need to be as open with you as you are with them.

Then having got some friends build relationship, which only comes by spending time together. My best friend is Catrina, my wife, and I know that if we're to build our relationship together that means spending regular time together. That doesn't come by accident, but only as a result of us planning it in advance. Do you need to plan some more time into your diary to be with people who do you good?

Finally friendships will also at times hit problems. That's not the moment to run away, but to face up to the issues and seek to restore the relationship - working your way through the Matthew 18 steps.

Good friendships don't happen by accident. So what decisions do you need to make in 2010 to have a better set of friendships at the end than at the start? I sometimes meet people who come to me and say something like "This church is so unfriendly, nobody ever talks to me". God places the initiative with you to make good friendships happen, rather than just sitting back waiting for other people to take the first step.

So may your friendships prosper in 2010!

Simon.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Haiti Update

I thought you might be interested in this update from Tearfund on events in Haiti. We're going to be praying for Haiti at the prayer meetings this week, as well as taking up an offering on Sunday to give to Tearfund towards their work there.

Hope to catch you some time over this week as we pray and fast.

Simon.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Guest Speakers

A reminder that we've got two guest speakers this week.

On Wednesday Canon Andrew White (the vicar of Baghdad) will be speaking at the midweek meeting. Get there at 12.50 pm for a 1 pm start - it's due to finish at 2 although I suspect Andrew will hang around to chat to anyone who doesn't need to get away.

On Thursday Michael Ross-Watson, who is part of our church but with his wife Esther works extensively into Singapore, is speaking at There's More To Life (our group for the retired). Anyone is welcome to attend. Bring a packed lunch at 1pm or come at 2pm when Michael will start speaking.

Both meetings are in the K2 Hall - please get to hear these speakers if you possibly can. We have so many quality speakers coming to us - John Burke, Steve Gambill, Adrian Holloway and Rachel Hickson are already lined up for later this year. Let's never take them coming for granted.

Now off to Oakwood for the first evening of prayer!

Simon.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Youth Worker Vacancies

Not at Kerith but at Oakwood Youth Challenge. Tony Pudner is looking to expand the already amazing work at Oakwood and is looking for both a 'regular' youth worker, and one with experience of working with children with special needs.

Below is a message from Tony with more details. If you're interested, or know someone else who would be interested, the please contact Tony who would love to hear from you!

Simon.

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

Dear Friends of Oakwood

First of all may I take this opportunity to wish you a Happy New Year. I have very much appreciated your support in the past and I look forward to seeing you in 2010.

I must confess that right now I am emailing you for your help. As you may know Oakwood has a clear goal of having a major impact on local youth; to challenge them physically, socially and spiritually. I believe that young people are put under huge pressures particularly regarding morality in an environment of social, financial and global uncertainty. An essential part of teenage development is the taking of risk. Many of the activities at Oakwood are designed to allow young people to experience risk but within a safe environment. My aim is for Oakwood to teach young people to take on challenge both as individuals and teams. I want Oakwood to be a credible, exciting and acceptable alternative within an environment centred on biblical standards.

During 2009 I estimate that we had 25,000 visits representing an annual growth of 40%. While this sounds a large number, in order to achieve our goal of having a major impact and providing a credible alternative, I need to increase the number of visits to in excess of 200,000. In order to facilitate this expansion I have 2 key full-time positions at Oakwood that I need to fill and I would request your help here.The first is for a youth worker to take charge of extending our very successful youth clubs. It is also our privilege to run youth clubs for special needs children, and the second position is for someone to lead this work.

If you are aware of any candidates that might be suitable, or indeed any bulletin board that the job descriptions could be posted on, I would be extremely grateful.

Thank you again for your help, and I wish you every success for 2010.

God Bless

Tony Pudner (07909 526120)
email: tony@oakwoodyouth.co.uk

Friday, January 15, 2010

How do we respond to events in Haiti

I guess by now we'll all have heard the terrible news of what has happened in Haiti. The latest figures I saw this morning were of 45,000 to 50,000 killed in the earthquake, and up to 3 million people in need of immediate aid. Jesus taught us that our neighbour isn't just the person we've met this week clearing the snow off our drives and pavements, but is also the person on the other side of the world who we've never met but is suffering because of the earthquake. So how do we respond to all of this?

Some people will be asking the question "if there is a God why would he allow things like this to happen?" To begin to answer that question we need to go back to the fall in Genesis 3. When Adam and Eve messed up it didn't just ruin the relationship they had with God, it also ruined their relationship with themselves, their relationship with one another and their relationship with the environment. This disaster is another part of the fall out from the fall and we need to see it in that light, not blaming God for allowing it to happen but thankful to God that through Jesus he made a way for the results of the fall to be redeemed.

So how do we 'love our neighbour' in this situation. One aspect of our response must be to pray, to ask the God who intervened in human history by sending Jesus to intervene again here. We'll spend some time next week in the week of prayer and fasting praying for all those in Haiti, but as well as praying together I encourage you to pray as an individual. Every time you see a TV report on Haiti or read about it in the newspaper then let that be a spur to pray and to ask God to break in. The Tearfund website has a page of prayer points which I've found very useful, so why not use that as a starting point, but then allow the Holy Spirit to lead you in to what to pray for.

But God always calls us to practical action as well. Matthew 25 and James remind us that faith without works is no faith at all, that faith must always drive us to action. Few of us are going to be able to go to Haiti, or would be of much use even if we were there. But we can contribute financially. I'm going to be talking to the elders about what we do as a church, but would encourage you to engage as an individual too. If you want to give then I'd recommend giving either to Tearfund, or to the Disasters Emergency Committee of which Tearfund is a part.

Disasters like this will always be a part of our human experience until Jesus returns and all things are made new. Until then God calls us to be part of the solution and bring a message of hope for the world we live in.

Simon.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Week of Prayer and Fasting

I have to admit that I love food and the whole social aspect of eating, so it's with some trepidation that I contemplate the forthcoming week of prayer and fasting! However, I know that this is going to be a great week for helping me to be planted in a good place in terms of faith and in a place to prosper this year. And that if I really want to see my dreams becoming reality the disciplines of prayer and fasting are somehow key to all of that.

So here's my encouragement. Join me in the adventure, join me in feeling hungry and join me in the expectation of hearing from God and getting planted in a better place.

Sola has been helping me put the week together. Here's the current plan:

Monday 18th - 8.00-9.30 pm - Oakwood Youth Challenge
We're going to be praying for us as individuals, and for individual needs - led by Tess Osunkoya. Note the change of venue as K2 & The Kerith Centre are being used that evening - this will be held in the hall on the Oakwood site itself, not at Tony and Liz's house.

Tuesday 19th - 8.00-9.30 pm - K2
Praying for the prophetic vision of the church reminding ourselves what God has said in the past and wait on him for the future - led by Ken Bothamley.

Wednesday 20th - 8.00-9.30 pm - K2

Praying for all levels of leadership in the Kerith - led by Ben Davies. I'm sure Ben will have us praying for other things too!

Thursday 21st - 8.00-9.30 pm - K2

Sola has called this "The Senior Pastor's Night of Prayer". I'll be sharing some of the vision I have for 2010 and beyond and then we'll pray into those things.

Friday 22nd - Noon-5.00 pm - K2

Friday 22nd - 6.00 pm - midnight - Oakwood Youth Challenge

This will be split into one hour slots with a different leader for each - I'll send out details on what we're doing in each hour later in the week. Note that the evening session will be a Oakwood due to the youth Life event taking over K2 and the Kerith car parks.

Please plan to make it to as much of the week as you can, and to make space not only to pray at these times but also find time to pray on your own.

Simon.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Thanksgiving Service for Graham Cottee

Just a reminder that the service to remember and give thanks for the life of Graham Cottee is this Thursday (14th) at midday in The Kerith Centre. Everyone is welcome and we will be serving refreshments after the service.

The forecast for the next couple of days is only for light snow so that shouldn't be a problem. However, there are likely to be older folks in our community who would like to come but will struggle to make it on their own through the snow. If you know someone in that situation then please could you get in touch with them, make sure they're OK for food and heat and see whether they'd like help getting to The Kerith Centre on Thursday. If you personally can't help them then please give us a ring at the office and we'll try and arrange a lift for them. Also if possible please park in the town centre as Kerith parking will be limited.

I know that Val and the family have been overwhelmed by all the people sending cards, emails, facebook messages and phoning to say how much Graham meant to them, and expressing their sympathy for the family at this time. Graham's life touched so many other lives (mine included) and it will be a fitting tribute to remember him and give thanks for his life on Thursday.

Simon.

Snowy Reflections

I was reflecting yesterday on the church this Sunday, affected as it was by the snow. Here are a few of my thoughts.

First I was really impressed with how many people made it through the snow. Numbers weren't far off a 'normal' Sunday. We talk about being consumers or being consumed, and what I saw on Sunday was people consumed with their desire to come and worship Jesus and meet with his people.

Secondly there were loads of visitors on Sunday. Not only people from other churches in the town which weren't meeting but also an above average number of people new to the area or trying out church for the first time. Some of them had been to Christmas events and were returning, others had seen the banner on the side of the building and decided to give it a go, others had heard of the church from friends. It's God who produces the harvest and we must never dictate or decide for God what is going to happen on any given occasion.

Thirdly you often learn lessons in adversity because you are forced to adapt and do things differently. Lots of people commented on how much they enjoyed the morning's 'unplugged' worship with just guitar and keys. Seving drinks before the 9am meeting was a real hit. We must learn from those things and see how we incorporate them into our regular Sundays.

Finally I just love being part of a people with such a 'can do' attitude. From the teams clearing the pavements and car park to people stepping in to do kids work and serve drinks early to all of you who actually made it through the snow. God loves that spirit - it's the attitude that will take us to being a church of 2,000 and beyond and which will see many, many changed lives in our midst.

I'd love to hear any reflections you may have on all that went on.

Hope you have a great week. Jesus is with you more than you will ever know.

Simon.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Friday Night Life Snowed Off

The Friday night Life youth event has been cancelled due to not enough adult helpers being able to make it through the snow. However, Sunday is still going ahead whether we get 8, 80 or 800 (always the optimist!). Hope to see you there (but only if you can make it safely).

Simon.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Sunday's Snow Adventure

We're going ahead with all three meetings on Sunday. I don't want anyone to take any risks, but do want to encourage people to enter into the challenge of getting there if you can. We'll be serving drinks from 8.30am on Sunday morning, so if you're coming to the 9 plan to get there early and enjoy a hot drink before the meeting.

The facilities team have been doing a great job of clearing all the paths around The Kerith Centre, the paths down to the subway are clear (although you may need your wellies to get through the water at the bottom!) and Avis have been clearing their car park, so things shouldn't be too bad.

Obviously if there is a load of snow on Saturday night lots of people won't be able to make it. Whatever happens I'll be there (I live close enough to walk) and we'll adapt what we do in both the kids and adult meetings to work for the number of people we have, even if that just means me having one of my retreat days earlier than planned! So please come if you can, be flexible about quite what goes on in the meetings and be willing to step in if you see something that needs doing.

Finally to say I've heard some great accounts of people being cared for through our community. I was at The Kerith Centre today seeing people trudging through the snow to get food from the Foodbank, and have heard several accounts of people taking food and heaters to some of our more elderly members. Please carry on looking out for anyone you know of who may be struggling, and if you're struggling then don't suffer in silence but let somebody know and if all else fails phone the office.

Hope to see you Sunday,

Simon.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Choose Where You're Planted - The Faith Choice

What decisions are you going to make to determine your destiny when it comes to faith? How are you going to make sure that you are planted in a place in 2010 where you can prosper? Chip & Dan Heath who spoke at this years Leadership Summit made the statement that big changes often come as the result of small changes and small decisions. There is lots I could say here, but here are three simple ideas which could really make a difference in 2010 when it comes to faith.

First of all commit to reading your Bible regularly. The online Bible I use at http://www.youversion.com/ now has multiple different reading plans, from plans to read the whole of the Bible in 90 days to plans to just get an overview of the Bible in a year. If you've got an iPhone, BlackBerry or most other makes of smart phone you can even follow the plan on your phone. I'm committed to making the Bible the first thing I read every day this year, not to try and please God (He already loves me more than I could ever know) but in order that I might really grow in my relationship with Him and be in a place to prosper.

Secondly plan at least one retreat into your diary. Jesus regularly made time to be alone with his Father, and we need to do the same. Catrina and I have both planned in 2010 to make space for each other to have days away where we can hear from God in a way that doesn't happen in the busyness of every day life. There are lots of different places you can go to for a day, or stay overnight, without spending a fortune. Let me know if you need help finding somewhere.

Finally plan to go to at least one conference this year. Whether it's the Abundant Life men's conference in November, our Unique women's conference on 3rd July, the GLS in October or something else gather a group of friends and arrange to go together.

There are loads of other decisions you could make to be planted in a good faith place, but can I suggest you take these three and look to implement at least one of them this year. You won't regret it!

Simon.

Deep and Crisp and Even

So the promised snow has come. All forms of school and college have been cancelled, leading to very excited children in the Benham household trying to decide where the best sledging hills are in Bracknell, and the view out of our living room window is quite magical. I'm just a bit worried that Reading v Newcastle on Saturday may be called off - Zak and I have tickets for the away end!

On a practical note some staff have made it to The Kerith Centre today, but not the receptionists so the front doors will be closed all day - ring the buzzer at the side door if you need to get in. Today's Midweek Meeting and Thursday's TMTL with Michael Ross-Watson have also been cancelled (we'll try to get Michael back later in the year).

The forecast seems to be for heavy snow today, then for it to be clear but cold on Thursday and then more snow on Friday and Saturday. The major events coming up are the Friday night youth and Sunday's meetings - we'll update this blog and the church website and leave messages on the church answer phone (01344 862699) if there are going to be any changes to any of these - no updates means they're going ahead as normal. I'm reminded of the 20-20 rule which Willow Creek in Chicago have - unless there are either more than 20 inches of snow or the temperature is below -20C then church happens - there's a challenge!

I'm aware that although for lots of us the snow is great fun, for others it can  make life very difficult. Please be looking out for the elderly and disabled, both those in your neighbourhood and those in our church community - why not pop round to see them or give them a ring and check they're OK for food, warm clothes and heating.

It's still snowing!!

Simon.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Choose Where You're Planted

On Sunday I reflected on Psalm 1, and how the writer paints four different pictures of where we can be planted. Some are planted 'in the counsel of the wicked', in a place where they are receiving bad advice and getting input from all the wrong places. Some are planted 'in the way of sinners', surrounded by people and external influences (TV, films etc) which just drag them down. Others are planted in the 'seat of mockers', giving into cynicism and negativity. But some are planted by 'streams of water', prospering in whatever they do.

Sometimes we are powerless to control what life throws at us. We get ill, we get made redundant, people close to us pass away, other people let us down, life happens. Jesus talked about the storms of life, and none of us are immune to those storms. But we can control where we are planted. We can make decisions and choices that will mean we are either ready to face those storms, and prosper through them, or whether they will flatten us and leave us devastated. It was Erwin McManus who said that making choices is the most spiritual thing we do - the more I see of life the more I realise how true that statement is. So in 2010 I'm encouraging all of us to make some simple choices which will help ensure we are planted in a good place. Those choices lie in five different areas of life - all beginning with an F. They are:
  1. Faith
  2. Friends & Family
  3. Finances
  4. people Far from God
  5. Fitness
OK I admit 4 is a bit of a cheat, but this is my blog so my rules apply! Over the next couple of weeks I'm going to be reflecting on each of those areas and how we can make sure we are planted in a good place for each one.

In the meantime why not take a moment to have an honest conversation with God about which of the four places the psalmist mentions best reflects where you are planted.

Simon.