Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Canon Andrew White

This Sunday evening, as the perfect end to Mothers Day, we've got the privilege of having Canon Andrew White, the Vicar of Baghdad, with us once again. He is one of the most remarkable people I have ever met, and every time he comes brings the presence of God with him. I'm sure Andrew will also have fresh perspectives for us on the momentous events taking place both in Iraq and across the Middle East.

The meeting will start at 7pm, with the doors open and drinks being served from 6. Parking will be at the college for everyone, other than the elderly and disabled.

Hope to see you both morning and evening on Sunday!

Simon.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Mothers Day Celebration

This coming Sunday morning we are going to be celebrating Mothers Day at both the 9am and 11am meetings. I'm going to be sharing the preach with Jacqui Webber-Gant and Emily Klitgaard as we reflect on the story of two women in the Bible, Naomi and Ruth, and their remarkable relationship. If you want to have a preview then have a go at reading chapter one of the book of Ruth, and if you get time the other three chapters too. It's a quite remarkable and moving love story, and is interesting in being one of the few books in the Bible written from a womans perspective.

There's also going to be a quite hilarious performance song and other touches to make the morning special. Please be inviting the women in your world to what will be a great morning.

Simon.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Beat the Tax Man

Here's something you might not know. On the 5th April the amount of money which the church (and any other charity) can claim back on money given under Gift Aid goes down from 28p for every £1 given to 25p for every £1 given.

That might not sound like a big change, but to put it in perspective on the £30,000 which has already been given towards the 2011 Gift Days, that would reduce the amount we could claim back from £8,400 to £7,500. That's an extra £900 towards the Gift Day, just because those incredibly generous people chose to give before the 5th April.

We're still going to have the first set of Gift Days on the 10th and 17th April, but if you were thinking of giving a large gift and are a UK taxpayer you might want to think about giving it before the 5th April. In order to qualify for the higher rate of return the money has to be in our bank account by the 4th April, so it would be safest give online, rather than giving a cheque which may not clear in time. Any questions then please contact Bill Clague who can take you through any questions you may have.

I never ceased to be amazed by the generosity of our community, and I'm so excited by the adventure of faith we have set out on this year to try and raise this additional £750,000. Whether you can give before or after the 5th April, or even if circumstances mean you can't give at all, I just so appreciate you being part of our community of faith.

Simon.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Encouragement - Barnabas - Second Chances

One thing I've observed in Christian circles is that we can be strong at giving people first chances, at believing in and encouraging people who are new to following Christ. But we are often very poor at giving people second chances, at forgiving and reaching out to people who have been Christians for a while and then mess up.

I'm not sure why that is. Sadly it's my experience is that it's often the people who preach 'grace' most strongly who are most likely to demonstrate 'ungrace' to fellow Christians who mess up. I'm not saying that we shouldn't take sin seriously, and we must never end up with 'cheap grace', where we just overlook sin and pretend it's OK to just carry on sinning with no desire to change. But where people genuinely recognise that they've messed up and are willing to repent and try to get back on track, then surely our duty as Christ followers is to seek to restore them.

The Bible is full of people getting second chances. To take two examples there is David after he commits adultery with Bathsheba (just take a look at Psalm 51 if you want to know what genuine repentance looks like), and Peter after he denies Christ three times. Both messed up big time, but both went on to be restored and to continue to life powerful lives for God.

Part of the gift of Barnabas's gift of encouragement is giving second chances. We see this when he and Paul fall out over Mark (the writer of the gospel of Mark). We read about this in Acts 15:36-40:

Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord.

The Bible doesn't comment on whether Paul or Barnabas were right in this situation, but my strong feeling is that Barnabas handled it better than Paul. Barnabas was willing to give a second chance to Mark, whereas Paul (who had been on the end of such a strong 'first chance' encouragement from Barnabas) wasn't willing to extend that same chance to Mark. Imagine how Mark would have felt if they'd both rejected him (would he have even ended up writing his gospel?), and imagine how encouraged he must have felt knowing that Barnabas so believed in him that he was willing to sacrifice his ministry partnership with Paul in order to express his belief in him. The issue here isn't whether or not Mark had messed up, he clearly had, but how people around him looked to restore him to community and to his ministry.

It does seem that later in life Paul comes to see the value of Mark's ministry, and that the two of them are reconciled, when he writes to Timothy "Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry" (2 Tim 4:11). I love those little details and glimpses of hope we get in the Bible!

Perhaps today you need a second chance. You've messed up, but need to get planted in a place with people who will still believe in you. I pray that you will find those encouragers who will give you that second chance, and that if you're part of Kerith you'll find us to be a community of the second chance. Or perhaps God is opening your eyes to people in your world who need a second chance. Then begin to reach out to those people and begin to restore them today.

Simon.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Baptisms This Sunday

Coming up is one of the most exciting Sundays in our calender - by my reckoning at least. At the last count we've got 15 people being baptised this Sunday, with baptisms at all three meetings. It's so fantastic to hear the stories of people who have been transformed by God's power, and who are willing to publicly state their desire to follow Jesus - so cool.

We've also got three up and coming preachers to look forward to. Stuart Bryan will be preaching at the 9, Ben Pocock at the 11, and Liam Parker at the 7.

It's going to be a great Sunday, so please plan to get to as much of it as you can, and be thinking about who to invite to come and share in the experience.

Simon.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Pastors - Tell Us the Truth

Beccy Oliver recently pointed me at the blog of a lady called Rachel Held Evans (I'm not sure I'd endorse everything she has to say, but I love some of the conversations and thoughts she provokes). In one of her blogs she writes a letter from the congregation to the pastors, asking them to be real and tell the truth. It so resonated with me, and so described the church leader I long to be. Hopefully some of you feel like this is how you'd like me to be too!

Simon.
----------------------------

Dear Pastors,

Tell us the truth.

Tell us the truth when you don’t know the answers to our questions, and your humility will set the example as we seek them out together.

Tell us the truth about your doubts, and we will feel safe sharing our own.

Tell us the truth when you get tired, when the yoke grows too heavy and the hill too steep to climb, and we will learn to carry one another’s burdens because we started with yours.

Tell us the truth when you are sad, and we too will stop pretending.

Tell us the truth when your studies lead you to new ideas that might stretch our faith and make us uncomfortable, and those of us who stick around will never forget that you trusted us with a challenge.

Tell us the truth when your position is controversial, and we will grow braver along with you.

Tell us the truth when you need to spend time on your marriage, and we will remember to prioritize ours.

Tell us the truth when you fail, and we will stop expecting perfection.

Tell us the truth when you think that our old ways of doing things need to change, and though we may push back, the conversation will force us to examine why we do what we do and perhaps inspire something even greater.

Tell us the truth when you fall short, and we will drop our measuring sticks.

Tell us the truth when all that’s left is hope, and we'll start digging for it.

Tell us the truth when the world requires radical grace, and we will generate it.

Tell us the truth even if it’s surprising, disappointing, painful, joyous, unexpected, unplanned, and unresolved, and we will learn that this is what it means to be people of faith.

Tell us the truth, and you won’t be the only one set free.

Love,
The Congregation

Friday, March 18, 2011

Hope for Justice - Follow On

I know many of you were stirred up when Ben Cooley from Hope for Justice came to speak to us about human trafficking, and how we can be part of the solution.

We've been working hard on how we as a church community can partner with Hope for Justice. It's taken a while for us to work out some next steps (sorry about that), but I think the way ahead is now a little bit clearer.

First of all we want to set up a Kerith "Act for Justice" group, which will meet once a month to pray, fundraise, campaign and raise awareness of the issue of trafficking in our local community. There will be a meeting for everyone who would be interested in being a part of this group on Monday 21st March at 8pm in The Kerith Centre. We'll be talking about the vision for the group, as well as hearing from somebody from another church who has been running a group for some time. There will be a sign up table on Sunday where you can register your interest, even if you can't make the meeting on Monday.

Secondly on the 16th July we're going to be hosting an event called The Stand, which will help raise awareness of the issue of human trafficking and be a focal point for other churches who want to get involved. We'll need a load of volunteers to make that event happen, so this will be a great practical way for people to make a difference and show their support. We'll have more details on the event itself, and how you can volunteer, nearer the time.

I'm currently reading a book about the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer who was martyred for his opposition to Hitler and the Nazi regime. One of the recurring themes in his writing is that we can't ever divorce our faith from making a practical difference in the world we live in. We want to be the sort of church he dreamt of and longed for - this is a great way to be a part of that.

Simon.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Sunday Prep - Jacob

On Sunday we're going to take a look at the story of Jacob. When you get into his story you realise that he's a pretty mixed up guy, with character flaws in abundance, and yet God still wants to work in his life and change him. In fact he's a pretty good metaphor for every one of us!

It will really help you on Sunday if you already have a framework for his life, and some idea of the major events. Here are the key events we're going to be looking at on Sunday:

Gen 25:24-26 - the birth of Jacob and Esau
Gen 25:27-34 - Esau gives away his birthright to Jacob
Gen 26:7-10 - Jacob inherits his deceitful nature from his father
Gen 27 - Jacob steals Esau's blessing
Gen 28:10-19 - Jacob sees God in a dream
Gen 29:14-29 - Jacob marries Leah and Rachel
Gen 31:3 - God tells Jacob to go home
Gen 32:9-12 - Jacob asks God for protection from Esau
Gen 32:22-32 - Jacob wrestles with God and gets a new name
Gen 33:1-4 - Jacob and Esau reconciled

If that's all too complicated then just read Genesis chapters 25 to 34, which really won't take you that long!

Hope to catch you on Sunday.

Simon.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Michael Ross-Watson's Blog

I know many of you will be excited to hear that Michael Ross-Watson has joined the ranks of the church bloggers. His blog is called Spirit Food and you can find it here (I'll also link to it from the list of blogs I read on my blog site). Michael is aiming to write a weekly Bible study, but the blog will also be a great way to find out where in the world he and Esther are at any point in time (he and Esther are out in Singapore at the moment) and to help us in praying for them.

Michael will be preaching again at Kerith in all three meetings on Sunday 17th April, looking at finding Jesus in the Old Testament - not to be missed.

We are so privileged to have Michael and Esther as part of our community, and that they have chosen to make Kerith their home when they are in the UK.

Simon.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Prayer Meetings

This week we're gathering as a church to pray, on Wednesday and Thursday evenings from 8:00 until 9:45 in K2. As well as worshipping and sharing communion we will be:

  • Talking and praying about the plans for the new reception area, and I'll answer any questions people may have
  • Praying for the additional £750K we want to raise this year (I've got some exciting news to share on that) and giving some of the vision behind what the money will allow us to do
  • Praying for the forthcoming baptisms, Mothers Day and Easter meetings
  • Praying for the people of New Zealand and Japan
  • Listening to what God is saying to us as a community
Please come if you possibly can - it's always great to gather together and seek God on these evenings. Hope to see you there.

Simon.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Sunday Prep

This Sunday Colin Boyle is preaching, looking at the life of David. By way of preparation it would be great if you found time to read and reflect on 2 Samuel 6, and Psalm 51. David was a man who knew both the heights of success and the depths of failure, and learnt how to take both experiences to God and learn from them. We have much to learn from him.

Simon.

Practical Acts of Encouragement

I wrote last week about the power of practical acts of encouragement, and in particular how the first time we read about Barnabas as an encourager he is entrusting the apostles with his finances.

Well on that basis I've had an incredibly encouraging week. After talking on Sunday about the goal of raising £750,000 this year, over and above our regular giving (more about this in a future blog), somebody has already given £10,000 towards making the buildings more welcoming and accessible, and another church has sent us a gift of £390 towards Serenje. How cool is that!

Why not think right now how you can practically encourage someone today. A bunch of flowers, a chocolate bar, a gift, a book - you just don't know what impact it will have.

Simon (the encouraged!).

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Rocknations

In August our youth are going to be off to Rocknations in Bradford again. Liam Parker is in charge this year, and has asked me to pass along the following information:

  • Parents need to email Lorraine Wade if their teenagers are interested in going, so that they can get a booking form
  • The date is 10th-13th August, Price is £230 with a £60 deposit payable now
  • If cost is an issue then please speak to Liam or Lorraine, we don't want cost to stop anyone from going
  • Liam has done a sheet with answers to frequently asked questions, which is available from reception
  • If parents have any other questions they can email Liam
  • You can see more details on the LIFE facebook page here
  • Have a look at the rocknations site for more details on the event itself
That should be enough for now. If you do have teenagers please get them booked in as early as possible - you won't regret it!

Simon.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Encouragement - Barnabas - First Chances

One of the most powerful examples of encouragement in the life of Barnabas comes not long after Saul (later to be Paul) has met with Jesus and become a Christian on the road to Damascus. Saul begins preaching in Damascus, but after a while the opposition there gets too strong and he leaves and travels to Jerusalem so that he can spend time with the disciples there. However, not surprisingly the disciples in Jerusalem are suspicious of his conversion story, and fear that he is really a spy still intent on getting them all thrown in jail. We read about this in Acts 9:26-28 -

When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord.

I love what Barnabas does here. 
  • First of all he takes a huge personal risk and reaches out to Saul. He doesn't just write him off out of hand, but goes to him and hears his story, and clearly in hearing that story is convinced that he is the real deal, that his conversion is genuine (he may also have heard independent reports from Damascus). This could have gone horribly wrong for Barnabas, he could have ended up in jail or even lost his own life, but he was willing to take a risk with Saul for the sake of the gospel.
  • Then he puts his own reputation on the line by speaking to the apostles on behalf of Saul. He uses his own personal favour with the apostles to speak up for Saul. 
  • Then finally in Acts 11:25-26 we read how Barnabas brings Saul under his ministry wing and they begin to work together in Antioch.
I believe that God is going to bring lots of Sauls to us as a community. Maybe not people with quite his history or reputation, but people who "have a past", and maybe wouldn't fit immediately into our culture or way of thinking, and who we wouldn't naturally think of using in ministry or leadership positions. And what those people are going to need is a Barnabas in their world. Someone who will take a chance with them, who will believe in them, be willing to stand alongside them as they come into the life of our community and then helping them to be effective in an area of ministry. Not necessarily an elder or senior leader, but just someone like Barnabas who is respected in our community and was willing to take a risk. 

I'll never forget my good friend Ed Garton, who sadly passed away last year. Ed was a fabulous guy, but he also had a past, he was one of life's rough diamonds. One of Ed's favourite stories was how not long after he became a Christian and came to Kerith, he quite quickly became a head steward with responsibility for counting the offering. Nobody had trusted Ed with that sort of responsibility in years, but he and his family were overwhelmed that people were willing to trust him. Ed went on to have a huge impact in many of our lives, and in Uganda and Serenje, but that was all rooted in a few individuals being willing to get alongside and invest their lives in him early in his time in Kerith.

So here's my challenge to all of us. Who are we going to be willing to get involved with, to believe in and to share our lives with, in order that they might achieve their full God given potential.

Simon.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Kerith at the Oscars - Pictures


I thought you might like to see these photos of the winners from our Sunday night volunteer celebration. I was reminded on Sunday night of a Bill Hybels quote about "fantastic people doing fantastic work for a fantastic God". I sensed that so strongly on Sunday night, and just wish we could have given every one of our amazing volunteers an award - we'd just have been there for a very long time! I so appreciate every one of you. Thanks also to John Mitchell for the incredible pictures.

If by any chance you can't see the photos above have a go at following this link.

Hope you're enjoying the sun - long may it last.

Simon.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Bobbie Rudge

There will be a number of you who knew Bobbie Rudge. Bobbie was part of our community for a number of years and was an active Lifegroup member and a valued part of the under 5's team on a Sunday.  Bobbie  had a long battle with cancer, and sadly died on Friday 25th February whilst being cared for at Thames Hospicecare in Windsor. She leaves behind her husband Ray, her children Lynne and Allan, five Grandchildren and three Great-grandchildren.

Those of us who knew Bobbie will remember her love for life, her sense of fun and her love of Jesus. The last time she was well enough to attend church was on Christmas Eve, which was right up Bobbie's street!

For family and close friends there will be a Committal Service at Easthampstead Park Crematorium on Thursday 10th March at 12 noon. This will be followed by a Service of Thanksgiving for her life at The Kerith Centre starting at 12.45pm, which everyone is invited to attend. If you are coming to The Kerith Centre please can you park in the town centre car parks to leave our car park free for the family.

Let's be praying for Bobbie's family at this time.

Simon.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Come Twice on Sunday!

Our normal pattern is for people to come just once on a Sunday (I know lots of you do more than that, but you know what I mean), but for this coming Sunday I want to strongly encourage everyone to come both morning and evening.

In the morning I'm going to be outlining vision for 2011. This will include information on  changes we are planning to The Kerith Centre to make it more welcoming and accessible. We'll also be looking at Malachi 1:6-14 which you might want to read and think about in advance - the question we will be asking is "what is the state of the offering I'm bringing to God?".

In the evening we're going to have our "Kerith at the Oscars" volunteer celebration evening. There will drinks, doughnuts and pastries served in the auditorium from 6.30pm, a range of different awards for our amazing volunteers, and plenty of time just to enjoy being together.

Hope to see you on Sunday (twice!).

Simon.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Encouragement - Barnabas - Practical Acts

I find it interesting that the first thing we find out about Barnabas, and his gift of encouragement, wasn't about what he said, but about something practical he does.

Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet. (Acts 4:36)

So often we think of encouragement as being all about words, about saying positive and uplifting things. But sometimes it is so much more powerfully expressed by what we do rather than what we say.

I still remember something that happened to Catrina and me not long after we got married. We had a car which had just gone to car heaven, and had no money to buy a replacement. At the time we were in a Lifegroup in Reading. Colin and Sarah Boyle, who were also part of the group (and were as broke as we were), came round one day and gave us some money towards buying a new car. I can honestly say that is is one of the most encouraging things that has ever happened to us. To know that somebody else was willing to stand with us and support us, not just by saying positive things, or even offering to pray for us, by by offering a practical demonstration of support.

I've heard similar stories so many times. People coming home and finding bags of food left outside their home, or money in envelopes put through their letter box, just when they needed it. People taken out clothes shopping for that event coming up when they didn't have the money for a new outfit. A thoughtful present, especially when there isn't a birthday or any other reason for it.

And if you want to encourage church leaders, one of the most powerful things you can do is to give your money, not to them but to the churches they lead. If there's one things that communicates the fact that we trust leaders, it's being willing to trust them to properly use our financial resources. That's what Barnabas was communicating by laying his money at the apostles feet.

So two challenges. First have you got a cool story of receiving practical encouragement. If so please comment on the blog about them. Secondly try and find a way of encouraging someone practically this week. Buy someone flowers, pay for someone to have a haircut, buy someone a book, whatever is practically going to express encouragement to someone in your world.

Simon.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Update on Howard and Elizabeth - Go to the Website

If you want to catch up with Howard and Elizabeth's epic bike ride across Africa then their tweets are now on the Kerith website

You might also want to check out some of the other changes the wonderful Rosie Donnan has been making to the site, making it more up to date and interactive. This includes:
  • Extracts from mine and Catrina's latest blogs
  • The diary of upcoming events
  • Links to the various courses and events going on, with online sign up for many of them
  • Links to all the latest sermons
  • Online giving
  • If you've got a login you also get access to all of your volunteer rota
It's always changing, so why not go and have a wander round, and see what you might find out that you didn't know about our community!

Simon.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Old Testament Series - Grasp the Big Picture

As we continue our journey through the Old Testament, it's important to realise that this isn't just an exercise in us getting to know all of the different stories and being able to put them in the right order. What's much more important is that we grasp the big themes which lie behind the stories, and understand how they apply to our lives. We don't want to be like the Pharisees, who knew the Old Testament back to front, and much of it off by heart, but totally misunderstood Jesus when he turned up on the scene. Instead we want to find Jesus in and through the Old Testament.

I was reminded of that this week when I saw a picture of a Starbucks cup, with a message on it from Rick Warren. In the first week of the series, as we looked at Genesis 1 and 2, the big theme was that God is a community (the trinity), and that he created us so that we could join and be part of his community, and bring glory to him. Until we grasp that we'll never understand why we're here on planet earth, and what the meaning and purpose of our lives is. I thought Rick Warren captured that magnificently in his quote on the cup - see what you think!

Simon.