Friday, September 30, 2011

Serenje Celebration

I heard yesterday that the two of our best friends in Serenje, Bishop Samson Kasele and Pastor Bernard Ngosa, have been granted visas to come and visit the UK - fantastic news. If you have any experience of the current situation with trying to get visas then you'll know that this is a major answer to prayer. Even the mighty Willow failed to get a visa for one of the proposed speakers this year!
Bishop Samson Kasele

Pastor Bernard Ngosa
They'll be getting here next Thursday, just in time for the Willow GLS, and then will be around for another 10 days or so. The Sunday after Willow (the 16th October) at all three meetings we'll be celebrating with them all that God has done through the project, and all that we're hoping to achieve over the next few years. We'll also update everyone on what has been happening with the schools links and with our work with the hospital in Serenje. This will also be the kick off for our gift days on the 16th, 23rd and 30th October looking to raise £80,000 for year four of the Serenje project and £95,000 to add to the £30,000 we've already got to build the girl's dormitory. At the 11am meeting Tearfund will also be inviting a number of churches interested in being part of a similar project to hear about what we have done through our partnership with Tearfund.

I'm so excited that you'll all have the opportunity to meet Samson and Bernard. They are two of the most Godly men I have ever met, and have been a major part of all that has been achieved in the project so far. For the many of you who have contributed to the project it will also be brilliant for you to get to hear first hand of the difference it is making in the lives of so many people.

Simon.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Find Your Rest

On Sunday we're going to continue to look at the subject of rest. I'm going to deal practically with some insights on how we can find rest in our day, our week and our year, and through all of that actually end up being more productive, more relaxed and satisfied at work, at home and in ourselves.

All three meetings are going to start with a video which you won't want to miss, so please be in your seats by 9, 11 or 7. We've also got an edible gift for everyone as a reminder of what we've talked about, you won't want to miss that either!

Hope to see you there,

Simon.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Envelopes!

Some time ago now I took someone from our church community out for coffee. In the midst of our conversation I asked them "what do you like about being part of Kerith and what do you think we could do better?". It's one of those questions I always want to ask, but sometimes lack the courage to voice for fear of what people might say!

After naming a number of things they really enjoyed about the direction we are going in (this was someone who has been in the church for longer than my 22 years) they then said that there was one thing they really disliked about what we do. I held my breath, wondering what they were going to say, only to surprised when they said that they really dislike the giving envelopes we put out on the chairs on a Sunday! They didn't mind the idea of having the envelopes there, as they allow us to reclaim significantly more gift aid from people's giving, which seems like good stewardship. What they didn't like was how stark the envelopes were, and that the first message people got when they went to sit down in our auditorium was that we wanted their money!

So the graphics team set about redesigning the envelope, and you can see above what they came up with. I'm really pleased with it, how it will remind us every time we see it of the two great commandments that Jesus gave us, and how for those who do choose to use the envelope it expresses our thanks to them for what they've done.

If you too see things we (and by we I mean all of us, including you) could do better, then please be willing to voice them, and to seek to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem! Who knows what change you might inspire :)

Simon.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Reception Photos

A number of people have asked if I could post some photos of the new reception area, so for all of you who haven't been able to see it in person here you go. Hope you like it!

Simon.

Alice operating the new automatic doors
The information board and Foodbank storage cupboard
The new reception desk (and Debbie)
The resources area

The bigger and improved accessible toilet
The new drinks area

The Brook Lounge

Monday, September 26, 2011

Whetting Your Appetite



It's less than two weeks until the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit Event we are hosting on the 7th and 8th October. For those of you coming, or those of you still wavering over whether or not to be there, I want to encourage you to take a look at these short videos with highlights from each of the sessions. You've got such a treat coming up. Favourites for me include Bill's opening session, Stephen Furtick, Seth Godin, Henry Cloud and Erwin McManus.

You have various options if you're not coming and still want to (please, please come if you possibly can):
  • If you're part of Kerith then you can come at our special host rate. Email reception for details on how to do this, or go to the Kerith reception any time the building is open.
  • If you're in senior leadership in a church or other organisation I have a number of free places to give away. The first 7 people outside of Kerith who fit one of those criteria can have one of the free places - just email me here.
  • Everyone else can book on the Willow UK website. You can also see there the other venues and other dates where the GLS is being run in the UK.
If you're not already coming please believe enough in yourself, and in the magnitude of what God wants to do through you, to make the investments of coming to these two days. I can guarantee you won't regret it.
See you there!

Simon.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Reception Opening and Foodbank Birthday

I wish you could all have been there for the official opening of the new Kerith Centre reception area, and the celebration for the second birthday of our Foodbank. They were both excellent events, and made me very proud to be part of our Kerith community. Dr Phillip Lee, our MP, spoke very positively about the impact we as a church make in the local community, and our keynote speaker, David McAuley from the Trussel Trust, was inspirational and I hope to get him to Kerith on a Sunday so that we can all hear him.

If you weren't able to make it then hopefully these photos from John Mitchell will give you at least a flavour of what went on.

Simon.












Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Twelve Marbles To Go

One of the clichés in life is people who have been parents for a while going up to new parents, advising them to "enjoy your child now as before you know it they'll have left home". I remember people saying that to me and Catrina when our first child, Zak, was born and feeling really annoyed by it. We were barely surviving as sleep deprived, mystified, clueless and at times at the end of our tether parents, and the thought of this little bundle ever leaving home couldn't have been further from our minds.

Well I'm now on the other side of that equation. In twelve days time Zak leaves home to start a course at Warwick University, and I really can't believe that it's gone so quickly!

A while ago I heard someone suggest that if you have a child you should fill a jar with marbles, with one marble for every day until they are 18 (if you do that when they're born that would be 6,570 marbles, plus a few for leap years). Then every day you take out one of the marbles, to remind yourself that you now have one less day with them as a child. As the jar begins to empty it's a reminder to make the most of every day. Never to resent those nappy changes, bedtime stories, endless watching of CBeebies, helping with homework, ferrying them here there and everywhere, rooms which were tidy when you went to bed at 11pm and are full of pizza boxes when you come down in the morning. To forgive quickly and to laugh often. To turn off the iPhone when they want to play a game, rather than sending one more email. Every day to tell them you love them, not get cross about the mess in their rooms, catch them doing the right thing, welcome their friends and prepare them for independence. Because one day the jar will be empty.

Simon.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Young (and Less Young) Entrepreneurs

An entrepreneur is defined by Wikipedia as "the owner of manager of a business who makes money through risk and initiative". The spirit of entrepreneurship is something which God wants to release in the church, and something which is often sadly lacking.

We see this most clearly in "The Parable of the Talents", or as the new version of the NIV calls it, "The Parable of the Bags of Gold". I like that change! In this story one person gets five bags of gold, one two and one a single bag. The person who gets five bags goes out and earns another five, the person with two also doubles what they started with, but the person with one buries his bag of gold in the ground and produces nothing extra.

Jesus analysis of the three people is very interesting. The first two, the entrepreneurs, those willing to take a risk with what they had been given, get to share in the masters happiness. They get into the inner circle. But the person who chooses to "play it safe" is described as being wicked and lazy, their bag of gold gets given to the person with ten and they're excluded from the masters presence.

So often we choose to focus on sins of commission, the things we do which we shouldn't have done. Godliness gets defined as a long list of things we are to avoid doing. Yet Jesus often chooses to focus instead on the sins of omission, the things we should have done which we haven't. That's certainly true in this parable.

So in Kerith we want to promote the spirit of entrepreneurship.

That starts with what we do as a church. We want to be a risk taking community. Taking on people and projects which unless God steps in will fail, but if God does break in will produce incredible fruit. Think of one of my favourite Bible stories, Jonathan and his armour bearer going off to fight the Philistines on the strength of "perhaps the Lord will act on our behalf". Things like Life, Serenje and our Ten10 Sundays would represent some of those risks.

But we also want to promote entrepreneurs operating outside what might normally be thought of as being the church. As Adrian Holloway reminded us when he spoke on work, there isn't a secular / sacred divide, in God's eyes, instead everything is spiritual. To that extent I've been excited to see what Harry Wade, one of our young adults, has been doing. He's set up a company, Metro-Man, selling men's cosmetic and skincare products. It's been up and running for a month or so now, and is already getting orders from all around the world. Now I realise that men's grooming products may not be for everyone, I've personally never been big on moisturising or exfoliating (I'm not even sure what exfoliating is), although that may be about to change as my children bought me some of Harry's products for my birthday! But I want to fully support Harry, and others in our community of all ages and with all sorts of ideas, who are willing to step out and take a risk. Jesus stands on the sidelines applauding them, and we should too.

Will Metro-Man be a success? I certainly hope so. But even if it isn't, I know that Harry will have learnt much from the experience, will have inspired others to step out and take risks too, and will be in a better position to attempt even bigger things for God. If you do want to support Harry in what he is doing, why not take a look at his excellent website, you can even get a 10% discount on anything you buy using the discount code MM92. 


Release the entrepreneur within you!


Simon.

Friday, September 16, 2011

INvest Info

Our INvest training course, where we are going to take the training we give to the Kerith Academy students during the day on a Thursday and make it available to the whole church over two years on a Wednesday evening starts next Wednesday - more details and signup information are here

We've already got around 30 people signed up, which is excellent, but a number of you have very sensibly been asking what we subjects we are going to be covering in the first term. I asked Ben Pocock, who is leading the course, the same question. His answer was:

This term we are focussing on Jesus…
They’ll be some sessions, workshops and discussions about Jesus birth, early years, last days, death and resurrection. We will also look at Jesus as a teacher, His miracles, the supernatural, and naturally we’ll be looking into how all this effects our lives. In addition we’ll be spending time learning about exegesis, and putting that into action too.

I hope that answers the question. It sounds like a great first term, so please consider signing up and make this investment in yourself and your future.

Simon.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Reception Official Openings

We are going to be having an "Official" opening of the new Kerith Centre reception at 12.30 on Tuesday 20th September. Dr Phillip Lee, our Bracknell MP will be doing the opening, and we've also got a number of other dignitaries coming, including both the Borough and Town Mayors and a number of local councillors. Anyone is welcome to come along, just note that there will be no parking at the Kerith Centre for anyone other than invited guests. If you are coming then please get there well before 12.30 as we've got a tight schedule and I wouldn't want you to miss it!

After the opening a number of us will be going over to K2 for the 2nd birthday celebration for our Foodbank. A large number of the local agencies we work with will be there to hear about and celebrate all the exciting things happening with the Foodbank.

Simon.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Birthdays. Prayer and Getting Wet

Today (Wednesday) is my birthday. I have to admit that I'm not a huge birthday person, I hate anything where I'm the centre of attention, but I do really appreciate all the kind messages via Facebook, email and even on old fashioned cards! Thank you.

I'm going out for lunch with Catrina later on today, and we're having a family birthday tea, then I'll be at the prayer meeting tonight. I'm in a season of both enjoying prayer, and seeing quite a number of answers to prayer, so being at a prayer meeting on my birthday should be fun. I've been so encouraged in particular by the Thursday morning finance prayer meetings (6-7am in the Kerith Centre reception) where last week over half of the 20 people there were teenagers. Surely that must be close to revival! I hope to catch you either tonight, on Thursday morning, or at the Thursday evening prayer meeting.

Finally just a reminder that we've got another celebration on Sunday with baptisms. So far we've got people being baptised at the 11 and 7 (let's be praying for some at the 9 too). If you're interested in being baptised on Sunday then please contact us here.

Hope you have a great day.

Simon.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Give Not Get

I'm convinced that the majority of the time the person most changed by a preach is the preacher! That was certainly true when I spoke at Ben & Heather's wedding over the summer. It had such an impact on me, and on my attitude in our marriage since I spoke it, that I thought I'd share it here. 

My observation is that most relationships are defined by get. By what we are going to get from the other person. That's certainly true in many marriages. You're getting a husband or wife. You're getting that persons love, support, friendship and encouragement. You're getting their sense of fun, the emotional support they give you, their kind words, their energy and vitality, or their huge bank balance! It's so easy to think of any relationship, not just a marriage, in terms of what you're going to get from it. The problem with get is what happens when the other persons starts to fall short. When you're no longer getting what you expected to get. At that point many relationships, and many marriages, fall apart.

But there's another way. That way is characterised by give. By thinking of the other person not for what you are going to get from them, but by what you can give to them. Give is a whole different ball game to get. Give is at the heart of all the great relationships in history. Fans of "The Notebook" cry at the husband who day after day gives himself to the wife who only fleetingly remembers who he is. People are stirred by Lawrence Oates who famously gave his life that his friends might live. And the greatest love ever, God's love for us, is demonstrated not by Him getting but by Him giving the most precious thing He had - Jesus. And God gave with no promise of getting, in fact knowing that despite His giving many would still choose to reject His love.

'Give not get' is at the core of the wedding vows. The vow the couple make to be united "for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health" is a commitment that regardless of what you get from the other person, you are going to carry on giving. Reinforced by the statements "with my body I honour you, all that I have I give to you, and all that I have I share with you". Give not get.

And here's the miracle in the economy of God. By giving you get. Jesus tells us that it is "more blessed to give than receive", and Paul wrote to the Galatians that "you reap what you sow". So by giving you get the very thing you might have hoped to get in the first place.

So today why not have a go at "give not get". Not just for those of us who are married, but for all of us in the relationships that really matter to us. Whether with a parent, with a friend who really matters to us, with a partner, with a boss or with a child. Think today not what you can get from that person, but what you can give to them. You might give them a gift, give them some encouragement, give time to be with them, give them forgiveness or give them the gift of listening. Whatever it is focus not on what you're going to get, but on what you're going to give.

I'd love to hear any "give not get" experiences you have.

Simon.

A Hand Up Not a Hand Out

One of the guiding principles of our social justice work, both locally and overseas, is that it should be a hand up, not a hand out. I first heard that phrase from John Bird, the founder of the Big Issue, and a man I have a lot of time for. It embodies the idea that what we want to do is not just give stuff out to help people, but to give them the means to help themselves.

That principle has underscored all that we have tried to do in Serenje. I was therefore thrilled to read this story today on the Serenje blog. In summary it tells the story of a grandfather, Mr Ngulube, who was given seed as part of the project. He said this:

“I used to suffer in term of feeding my family and sending my children to school because I did not have the means to do so. When the Kerith project came to my community, it was a relief that they gave us seed to plant so that we have enough food in our household. I made sure that I planted all the beans seed I received and my harvest that season was so encouraging that for the first time in my life I was able to harvest 4 x 50 kilograms bags of shelled beans. Even if the project phased out today, my family is already stable in terms of food security, from my harvest, I have reserved enough food to see us to the next harvest for my household. I was able to sell the surplus to earn me some money, I am now able to provide decent clothing to my family unlike before, I am now able to buy my school going children with uniforms, school shoes, pay for their school fees and buy them books”. 

I want everyone one of you who has given to the Serenje project to know that it is making an incredible difference in the lives of hundreds of people. And that long after we have finished there, it will continue to have an incredible difference because we have given a hand up, not a hand out.

On Sunday 16th October we'll be celebrating the project in all three meetings, as well as kicking off a series of Gift Days to raise £80,000 to fund year 4 of the project, and £95,000 to pay for a dormitory for one hundred girls to complete their secondary school education. Two of the Serenje pastors should be with us that weekend too - put it in the dairy and don't miss it :)

Simon.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Kerith's Finest Hour

I loved what Adrian Holloway brought to us on Sunday. That our finest hour in worshipping God is not the songs we sing on a Sunday, but the work we do on a Monday, whether that work is going to school or college, having paid employment, looking after children or grandchildren or looking for a job. If you missed it I really encourage you to listen to it, as it had incredible relevance for each one of us.

It certainly spoke to me as a I went and did my "other" job at BlueArc today. I loved the way Adrian tore down the whole secular / sacred divide we so love to build up, and the way he gave the same dignity and purpose to what I do on a Monday at BlueArc as to what I do the rest of the week at Kerith. Brilliant.

So whatever you're doing this week, do it as though Jesus was sitting there in your bosses chair. Do it with that level of diligence, joy, quality, thoroughness and dedication, so that He will be glorified and you will receive a reward in heaven.

Hope you have a great week.

Simon.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Adrian Holloway and Tech Changes

A reminder that our good friend Adrian Holloway is with us speaking at all three meetings on Sunday. Adrian is a superb communicator and it's always an incredible privilege to have him with us.

We'll also be debuting the new tech desk on Sunday. It's moved from it's old position up on the balcony to the back of the auditorium downstairs, which should cause far less distraction for people on the balcony and work much better for the tech team. We've also replaced the 22 year old sound desk with a new digital one - all done from the money we got in the gift days earlier this year. Take a look on Sunday as it all looks (and hopefully sounds) very impressive.

Hope to catch you on Sunday.

Simon.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Academy Buzz

There was a real buzz in the office today, with the 12 new academy students joining us for the first time. There were all sorts of gatherings happening around the building as they met with their ministry leaders for the first time. We've got people working in areas as diverse as children's work, the Foodbank, the pastoral team, worship, events planning, CAP, youth work, office management and the creative arts. It's also great to have an international element again this year with 4 girls who have come to us from Lithuania.

I was hoping to have a picture of them all for you, but unfortunately in the excitement of the day it didn't get taken. We'll make sure to get one on Thursday when they meet up for their first day of training.

Please be praying for them all. That this year they will find a new dimension in their faith in Christ, take some fresh risks for Him, experience incredible fruitfulness and be in a totally different place by the end of the year. Please also pray for Kostika who is hoping to join us from Albania. He's having trouble getting a visa, although we hopefully took a bit step towards getting that resolved today.

Hopefully you'll get to meet the Academy students over the next few weeks.

Simon.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Act for Justice - Clothes Sale

A reminder that this Saturday (3rd) from 10-1 there is going to be a children's clothes sale in K2 with all the proceeds going to support the work of Hope for Justice. Ben Cooley and the gang at Hope for Justice are doing amazing work, and finance is always going to be one of the keys to them being able to expand what they are doing, so please get along and support the clothes sale if you possibly can.

Simon.