Friday, December 27, 2013

No Meetings on Sunday 29th December

I hope you're having a fabulous Christmas break. For me it's so great for us as a family to have time to reconnect and just enjoy being together, although I will need to revisit the gym soon based on how much good food I've enjoyed!

Just a reminder that we don't have any meetings on Sunday 29th December - please take the opportunity to rest and enjoy time with friends and family.

We kick off the New Year on Sunday 5th January when Rachel Hickson will be with us at all 4 meetings. Rachel and her husband Gordon are good friends of Kerith - Catrina and I had the privilege of spending time with them both over the summer. Rachel's preaching combines prophetic insight with a real heart for people to fully experience God - it will be a great way to kick off the year so please plan to be there.

Simon.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Happy Christmas

A Happy Christmas to everyone who gets to read this! I want to echo for you Paul's prayer for the church in Ephesus, that this Christmas you "may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fulness of God." (Ephesians 3:18-19)

If you haven't already left the area to visit friends and family then just a reminder that there are still some great opportunities to gather together to celebrate the birth of our Saviour.

On Christmas Eve at 4pm in the Kerith Centre we've got a family nativity, featuring a brilliant film of kids acting out the nativity which our media team have done, along with many many carols, all hosted by Lydia Harris-Lane. I'm on the car parking team in the college car park, and will be sneaking in once everyone is safely parked, so hope to see you there!

Then at 11pm in K2 Ben Pocock is hosting an unplugged, candlelit carol service which will run into Christmas Day - what could be more Christmassy than that!

On Christmas Day we meet for an hour at 10am in the Kerith Centre to compare our Christmas jumpers and presents. We've got some great things planned for that meeting, including hearing from someone whose life was totally changed on Christmas Day last year. Don't miss it.

Then from 1pm there's a lunch in the Kerith Centre for anyone who is facing spending Christmas Day on their own. Technically people were supposed to have signed up for that by the 15th December, but if you didn't then just come along anyway (you didn't hear that from me!). You're welcome to stay on after the 10am meeting - there is a £5 cost but if you can't afford that then again please come anyway.

We don't meet on either of our sites on the 29th December, but will kick off again on Sunday 5th January when the brilliant Rachel Hickson will be our guest preacher - what a way to start the New Year!

Happy Christmas - I'm praying you have a great one!

Simon.

Christmas Day - Dormitory Offering

Just a reminder that in Christmas Day our offering will go towards building and kitting out the girls dormitory in Serenje. We've already raised over £140,000 towards making this happen, and now just need another £71,000 to get us over the finish line. My prayer is that a good chunk of that will come in on Christmas Day.

Personally I know that for Christmas lots of my family will give me money. My plan is to buy a pair of running shoes (my current ones are about four years old) and then give whatever is left to the dormitory project. Having met some of the girls who currently have to live in the slum in Serenje I know that whatever I give will go on having an impact for years to come, helping to transform the lives of hundreds of girls who because of the dormitory will be able to complete their secondary school education.

I know that many of us are going to be blessed this Christmas. Blessed with presents. Blessed with time with friends and family. Blessed with nice food and drink. Blessed with time to slow down a bit. But there's a spiritual principle which says that whenever we're blessed it's always in order that we can be a blessing. Please think about making the offering for the dormitory one of the ways you express being a blessing this year. If you can't make it on Christmas Day then you can still give online here. Thank you.

Hope to catch you in at least one of our three gatherings still left to go this year :)

Simon.

 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

My Favourite Apps - #7 - Podcasts

OK so this isn't that amazing an app in itself. What's brilliant about the Podcasts app is what it allows you to do. To find world class audio content from around the world, and then to automatically download it every time a new talk goes up so you can listen to it on the go. And all for free. I use it to listen to stuff when I'm in the gym, on the train, driving and even sitting here writing this blog. Time which often otherwise could have been wasted, but which now becomes an opportunity to learn, to be inspired and to find more courage.

Once upon a time if you wanted to listen to great sermons or talks from conferences you either had to be there live, or spend what was quite often a small fortune buying tapes or CDs of the talks. The internet has changed all that, making it possible for any organisation to record talks and then upload them to allow anyone to listen to them anywhere in the world, with no financial cost to anyone involved.

What to listen to? Well the app includes a search function, so to start with just type in the name of your favourite preacher, or church which inspires you, subscribe to their channel and you're away. Every time they upload a new talk it will be downloaded ready for you to listen to.

Personal favourites for me are Andy Stanley's leadership podcast, talks from the Catalyst conference and anything by Erwin McManus or Craig Groeschel. I know others who regularly listen to the talks from Willow, Bill Johnson and Bethel and of course catch up on Kerith talks people have missed. On a lighter note I really enjoy the film reviews Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo do every Friday afternoon on Radio 5 Live!

I'd love to know what you've found that inspires or amuses you.

Simon.

Ps Just to say a huge thank you to Geoff Hawke and his team who every week take the Kerith talks, edit them and then post them on our podcast - we salute you :)

 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Christmas Eve - Under 5's Christmas Light Procession

We'd love to invite all walking under 5's are invited to join us in our Christmas Eve Light Procession.

 

This will be at the start of the 4pm meeting on Christmas Eve, at the Kerith Centre. This is a fun family meeting and will last about one hour. The children (with their adults) will process into the auditorium & up onto the stage, where we will join everyone in singing Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. Nativity Fancy Dress is optional but highly recommended - especially for the adults :)

 

The auditorium will open 30 minutes before the start of the meeting, so we would recommend you come early to get your seats (there will be no reserved seating) and then we will meet in the Brook Lounge next to reception 15 minutes before the meeting starts at 3:45pm, to hand out the glow sticks & give instructions about the procession.

 

It would be helpful to have an idea of how many children will be joining us (so that we can make sure that we have enough glow sticks for everyone), so if you can then please email us at sparklers@kerith.co.uk to let us know you will be coming.

 

Hope to see you there!

Simon.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Carols in Sandhurst

For anyone who missed the Carol Concert in Bracknell this Sunday, or who would like to see if again, there's a chance to be part of it in Sandhurst this coming Sunday. If you've never been to our Sandhurst site, or have guests who you could invite along, it would be great to see you there - 10am in Sandhurst School.
Meanwhile in Bracknell Lee Layton-Matthews will be preaching at the 9am and 11am, and Tabitha Foley will be preaching at the 6pm. It should be another great Sunday.
I'll leave you with some more photos from Sunday just gone.
Simon.

 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

My Favourite Apps - #6 - Account Tracker

Now I know that some of you are brilliant with handling money. At any point in time you know exactly how much is in your account, how much your credit card bill is going to be at the end of the month and how you're going to pay for your next holiday.

I'm not one of those people. I'm an extreme 'N' on the Myers Briggs profile, which means that by nature I'm the sort of person who if I actually get round to opening the latest bank statement will only look at the bottom to see that the final balance looks "about right". I know some of you are rolling your eyes at this point but it's true! I'd have been saved if I'd managed to to marry a Myers Briggs 'J', but sadly Catrina is nearly as bad as I am :)

All that means we need some grace, and some good systems, to keep on top of our money. That's where we've found the CAP Money course so helpful, teaching us to have a budget and use cash to stay on top of our finances (if you haven't done it then I thoroughly recommend it). But alongside those skills I've found a brilliant app called Account Tracker, which allows us to know exactly where we are at any point in time.

At its most basic it allows you to set up multiple bank accounts, enter income and expenditure and then reconcile it all when you get a bank statement (I actually read them now!). You can set up things to happen weekly, monthly and annually - what I've found is that once you've used it for a year then you've got repeating events set up for things like car tax, utilities bills and the like.

Once you've used it for a while you can then produce reports to tell you what you're spending money on, as well as looking into the future to see how much money you might have in six months or a years time. You can also put in things like saving goals to see how that will impact your cashflow and whether you'll be able to save enough for that next holiday or car.

We've found it works particularly well with CAP money where we have two accounts. The first is where our salaries go and all the regular bills get paid from, and then there is a weekly transfer to the second account which we take out as cash for all our weekly spends. It handles all this automatically, making it really easy to keep track of where our finances are going.

I genuinely haven't found anything that I'd like it to do as an accounting app which it can't. It's written by a guy called Graham Haley - I'm quite a fan of supporting individuals producing apps rather than just huge corporations - especially when they're as good as this one.

If you try it I'd love to hear how you get on,

Simon.

 

Saturday, December 14, 2013

An App for Sunday Night

For all you iPhone, iPad and Android users, at the Carol Concert tomorrow night (6pm in the Kerith Centre) we've produced an opening musical piece which syncs to a light show you can play on your devices. In order to use your phone as part of the lighting effect for the opener we'd love you to download the an app called 'Wham City Lights' which you can find here. This is all a bit of an experiment, but we thought it would be a fun thing to try.

If you don't have any of those devices then please don't worry, just come along and have a great time at the Carol Concert.

Hope to see you there,

Simon.

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Power of a Gift - The Serenje Dormitory

The reality is that many of the gifts we give and receive this Christmas will be forgotten about once we reach January - put away in shelves, sock drawers and book cases, just to be used very occasionally if at all. But every now and again a gift is given which is life changing for the person receiving it. That's part of what makes the Christmas story so powerful, God giving us the gift of his son to make salvation available to all of us.

I don't know how your Christmas shopping is going, I'm doing OK although I'm not too sure many of the gifts I give this year will fall in the life changing category! However, I want to talk about one gift we can all get involved in giving this Christmas which will be life changing, the gift of a safe education for girls in Serenje in Zambia.

Several years ago the community in Serenje identified a problem, which was that many girls there never completed their secondary school education. This was particularly true of the girls from rural areas, who were forced to live alone in a slum area in Serenje during term time as it is too far to walk every day (many live more than 20 miles from the school). Here is one of those girls (on the left) in front of her 'house' in the slum area.

It is estimated that only about 5% of these girls complete their secondary school education due to the conditions they have to live in - many of them get pregnant and end up being HIV positive. Just imagine for a moment if this girl was your sister or your daughter, what would you give in order for her to have the education which could truly transform her life.

The communities solution was to build a dormitory to provide a safe place for 100 of these girls to live during term time. About three years ago we got involved with this project, raising £125,000 for the building, Howard Reece-Smith and a bunch of cycling buddies raising £15,000 for the fitting out, and Ralph Allen (the Kerith Centre architect and part of our community) designing it all. Building has now started which is so exciting, and we're hoping and praying that girls will be in there by May 2014.

However, £125,000 which was the estimated cost when the project was first proposed has now turned in to £196,000, which leaves us needing to raise another £71,000 (plus we may need to raise a bit more if the fit out costs go above £15,000).

Having just burst through the finish line with our Give to Grow gift days, raising more than the £310,000 target we set at the start of the year, I have total confidence that God is going to provide again to give all that is needed to get the dormitory built. We've identified a number of ways in which we could raise the money required, which are:

  • We are applying for grants from a number of grant making organisations. These grant applications are going in next week - please be praying these prove to be successful. Also if anyone knows of any organisations giving grants for this sort of project then please let us know.
  • We have set up a Just Giving page for anyone who would like to give to the project. If everyone who visited my blog over a month gave £10 we'd reach the target :)
  • We've made it possible to give via mobile phone. You can text DORM10 followed by any amount (e.g. DORM 10 £10) to 70070 to make a donation. You will then get a confirmation text with a link to a page where you can add your name and address in order to gift aid the donation.
  • Our Christmas Day offering will be for the Girl's Dormitory. Please be thinking about what you can give in order to change lives this Christmas.

I believe that as we do what we can do, then God will once again step in and do what only He can do. Let's believe for the whole of the £71,000 to come in before it is needed, and let's do what each of us can do to contributing to the total. Thank you.

I'll leave you with a couple more photos of the construction. I can't wait until the day I can blog photos of the first girls morning in - that will be a truly life changing day for each of them.

Simon.

 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Christmas Day Meal

In so many of the adverts we get subjected to around this time of year, such as this one from Sainsbury's, Christmas Day is represented as this amazing family get together, around a table with the turkey and all the trimmings.

Yet for so many people I know that won't be the reality this Christmas. Couples with children who have moved away and aren't going to be with them this Christmas. People who have moved to Bracknell from other nations and who aren't going home to their families. People living alone, and couples yet to have children, who for whatever reason won't be with their wider families this Christmas. Single parents whose children will be with their ex partner, or who would just appreciate some adult company for the day as well as being with their children. For these, and for a whole host of other reasons, the reality is that for many people Christmas Day can be a tough day rather than a joyful one.

In fact I did notice that in this advert amongst all the 'traditional' family celebrations is an older man cooking his Christmas meal and then sitting down to eat it on his own - somehow I found that more moving than the whole of the rest of the advert (except for the bit at the very end!).

With all this in mind we thought it would be great to create a community event where anyone who would like a bit more company on Christmas Day could come along and enjoy a festive meal at the Kerith Centre. Lunch will be served at 1pm, but you are welcome to stay after the morning meeting (which is from 10am-11am) and have coffee and chat with others whilst dinner is cooked.

If you'd like to come along then please book your place by Sunday 15th December. You can book in by phoning reception on 01344 862699, emailing info@kerith.co.uk or getting a ticket from the Bracknell or Sandhurst reception on Sunday. We have set the cost at £5, but if that's going to be a problem please just let us know as a number of people in our community have offered to cover the cost of anyone who can't afford it. Isn't church great :)

If you'd like to be there please book in - I know that for some of us just turning up at an event like this can be quite a scary experience, but knowing the team running and some of the people who have already signed up then I can assure you that you'll have a great time. If you've got any questions then please catch me or any of the team on Sunday.

Simon.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Sunday Carols

Christmas now feels like it's in full swing for us as a community. Last Saturday we had the brilliant toys giveaway hosted by our social justice team, last night was our carol concert for adults with a learning disability, and I've just come back from the Kerith Centre where Sparklers (our parent and toddler group) were having their final Christmas party of the year (having already had them on Monday and Tuesday this week). I know that there have been loads of other events going on too.

This coming Sunday Christmas continues with our Carol Service at all three meetings in Bracknell (9am, 11am and 6pm). There will be a load of carols, a brilliant music themed preach from Colin Boyle, and if that wasn't enough mince pies, shortbread and hot drinks after every meeting. Please be thinking about who to bring along, as these are always great events to bring guests to. We've got our families coming on Sunday evening, and have invited all our neighbours round to our house on Thursday night when we'll give all of them an invite too.

The Carol Service in Sandhurst is on Sunday 22nd - I'm praying we'll be able to pack out the hall that Sunday which would be a great way to finish the year there. I get the privilege of preaching in Sandhurst this coming Sunday.

Then to wrap up the Christmas programme we have our family celebration at 4pm on Christmas Eve at the Kerith Centre (last night I saw some of the nativity film our video guys have been producing for that meeting - it's brilliant so please plan to be there). And then at 11pm on Christmas Eve in K2 we've got an unplugged, candle lit meeting to see in Christmas (our daughter Alice has threatened to buy a onesie for everyone in our family to wear for this - that isn't going to happen!). Finally on Christmas Day at 10am in the Kerith Centre we've got an hour together to celebrate the birth of Christ - I'm going to be preaching on "The Power of a Gift". Bring your presents and your Christmas jumpers for everyone to see.

Finally, finally a reminder that we don't meet anywhere on the 29th December, so we'll meet together again on Sunday January 5th.

I'm excited - hope you are too.

Simon.

 

Monday, December 9, 2013

Give to Grow Conclusion - Praise God

If you're going to read one blog I've written through to the end then please let it be this one as I think you'll be encouraged!

Many of you will know that this year we've been having gift days on the first Sunday of every month to try and raise £310,000 for a number of projects. In summary these were £100,000 to launch our Sandhurst site, £99,000 to pay off interest free loans on our reception redevelopment, £50,000 to improve our facilities in the Kerith Centre and K2, £30,000 to pay the deposit and legal fees on the house behind K2 and a tithe of £31,000 to give away.

Including the November gift day we'd raised an amazing £255,050, leaving us with £54,950 to raise in December.

The December gift day brought in an additional £30,700, giving us a total of £285,750. To be honest I was amazed with that total - if at the start of this year you'd have told me we'd get that close to the total I'd have been delighted. I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who has given this year - the generosity of our community never ceases to amaze me.

But God wasn't finished there. For the last two and a half years a group of us have met to pray every Thursday morning from 6-7am, specifically asking God for money and for financial breakthrough. Last Thursday, having a good idea what the total was, we prayed that God would do something amazing and bring in the rest of the money before Sunday. I think we prayed it with varying levels of faith, but it's amazing what happens when we take our little bit of faith and ask our big God for what seem like big miracles. Because on Thursday afternoon I got an email to say that an anonymous donor wanted to give £31,000 to the gift day. How amazing is that!

So the total is now £316,750 - £6,750 more than we asked God for at the beginning of the year. I'm so encouraged as a leader, both by our willingness as a community to give, and more than that by God again coming through for us and reminding us that he is Jehovah Jireh - our provider.

There's so much more that I could say, but for now I just want to encourage us to think bigger thoughts and dream bigger dreams for God - we just never know what he might do.

Simon.

ps - if anyone has made pledges which that have still to redeem, or would still like to give to the gift day, then please still do it - everything that comes in beyond the total will be tithed and then go to improve the facilities in all our locations. Just fill in one of the envelopes on a Sunday and indicate it if for the gift day, or give online here.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Philippines Cake Sale

Anyone who was at the 9 or 11 in Bracknell last Sunday will have seen members of our Filipino community selling an amazing array of cakes to support relatives affected by the typhoon.

Afterwards I got an email from Marizel, who organised it all, which I wanted to share with you.

Thank you to everyone who bought cakes. Let's keep praying for all those in the Philippines who continue to be impacted by the devastation there.

Simon.

-----

Hi Simon,

Yesterday's cake sale was a success! On behalf of my friends, I'd like to thank you, the church team and all the members. Some of us suggested that we could do it again in the future but for a project which is currently promoted by the church (e.g for social justice, etc).

We have raised a whopping £700.36 which we have broken down to the following:

1. Gwen Fagan's sister's house construction - £250

2. Aida Attwell's sister's house roofing - £150

3. Food and water for residents in Ajuy, Iloilo -£200

4. Christmas sweeties for children in Tacloban -£100

Gwen Fagan and Aida Attwell are our church members whose relatives are badly affected. I quote from Gwen as her sister recollects the scene from the super typhoon that as everything was flying around, all they could hear is the howling of the wind. Their roof went first then they hid under their dining table. Few minutes later, their house walls collapsed. Thankfully, no one got hurt. Although since everything was torn into pieces they then transferred to the pig sty where they took shelter even days after the typhoon.

Now thru our fundraising activities, we were able to feed 110 families in Sigma, Capiz (Gwen's sister's place) as well as provided temporary roof on around 5 families.

We were also able to provide food and water for 35 families in Pototan, Iloilo and 50 families in Tacloban. Some of the funds also went to a Science High School which was sheltering a lot of Tacloban victims.

It is amazing how God shows His compassion to His people. We were overwhelmed by warm comments and generous donations and you don't know how much those we've reached out to appreciate all the aid from here.

Thanks again, God bless! Xxx

Love,

Marizel

Friday, December 6, 2013

An Exciting Weekend

Please don't miss church this Sunday.

First up Catrina is speaking at all 4 meetings on "The Perfect Gift" - I've seen the outline and it's an inspiring talk. There's also a Christmas giveaway for everyone who comes - be sure to get yours.

Secondly there's some incredibly exciting news on the final total for the "Give to Grow" gifts days. I'm not going to say any more - you'll need to be there to hear it :)

On top of that there will be our regular opportunity to worship God, meet old friends and make some new ones and generally enjoy being God's people together.

If that's not enough then tonight LIFE (our youth) are meeting at the Holy Trinity church building across the road for "Chapel Life", and tomorrow afternoon our social justice team are hosting a party where the toys and toiletries we've been collecting over the last few weeks will be given to people to give as presents on Christmas Day. Check out this photo of all the toys - it's so great to think that parents who wouldn't have otherwise been able to give their children gifts now will be able to.

Hope you have a great weekend,

Simon.

 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Save Syria Petition - Please Sign

If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it. (1 Corinthians 12:26 NIVUK)

On the 10th December the charity Open Doors, who seek to serve persecuted Christians around the world, are going to present a petition to the UN urging them to protect Syria's Christians. So far over 270,000 people have signed and it would be great if you could too. You can sign up here - the 6th December is the closing date for signing so if you're going to sign it please do it straight away.

If you want to know more about what is going on, and why it is important we stand with our Syrian brothers and sisters, I encourage you to watch this video. It's a moving interview with a couple leading a church in Syria talking about the problems they are facing but also the courage, encouragement and peace they are finding in the middle of it all through Christ.

Thank you.

Simon.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

My Favourite Apps - #5 - eWallet

If you're anything like me you'll have a nightmare with online usernames and passwords. Some sites let you use your email address as your username, on others I end up being simonbenham679 (how are you supposed to ever remember that), still others like our bank give you a number as a username. Then you come on to the disaster which is passwords. My early approach was to have the same password for every site. Then I started using one more secure password for sites where I could lose money and another for sites where I didn't care, but then realised for the sites where I didn't think I cared (such as Twitter) I probably did care a lot if anyone every managed to log in as me and start posting malicious stuff. Then sites start insisting you have more complex passwords (one of the ones I have to use at BlueArc demands you have punctuation in your password).

Well my solution (for now at least until we can all use retina scans or something similar) is eWallet. At the most basic levels it's an app which stores all your online account details in a highly encrypted file, meaning you only need to remember one password to get into eWallet, which then gives you access to all your other passwords and usernames. That alone for me is a genius function.

Usefully it then stores that file online, so that you can access it from other devices, and if you lose your tablet or phone you don't lose any of the information.

But now I use it to store all sorts of other information I occasionally need. My passport and driving license details. My blood type. Bank account details and contact numbers. Anything I might need access to but which I don't really want in plain text which anyone can read - well to be honest I'm happy for everyone to know my blood type - A+ if you were interested :)

It also has a facility to suggest passwords which are secure, something I notice other devices are increasinly doing, which is helpful as long as you don't then have to remember them!

There are lots of other similar apps, this just happens to be the one I use. I'd be interested to know what other people do - perhaps your memory is just much better than mine.

Simon.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Give to Grow - One Final Reminder

On Sunday we'll announce the final total for our Give to Grow Gift Days - I'm praying that we'll break through the £310,000 target we set for the year. The generosity of our community never ceases to amaze me, not only financially but also in terms of people giving their time, their gifting and so much more to make all that we do possible.

For anyone who was intending to give but hasn't yet been able to it would be great to include your giving in the total for Sunday. You can either give online here, or use one of the giving envelopes midweek or on Sunday and fill in the box on the envelope to say it's for the gift day. If you could also let Helen Dodwell know about your gift by contacting her via the who's who page on the website then we can make sure it is included in the total for Sunday.

Thanks so much.

Simon.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Peach and Coconut Audio Book

As part of trying to make The Peach and the Coconut accesible to as many people as possible we recorded an audio version. When we moved to our new website at the start of this year the audio version disappeared, but the wonderful David Hulme has now done all the work to make it accessible again. You can find it here.

Happy listening!

Simon.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Give to Grow - The Finishing Line

This Sunday is the last of our Give to Grow gifts days. So far this year we've raised an amazing £255,000 which has allowed us to do a whole load of things including:

  • Launching the Sandhurst site
  • Paying off all the interest free loans on the reception redevelopment
  • Paying the deposit and legal fees to buy the house behind K2
  • Improving our Bracknell site - equipping rooms for nursing mums and years 5-6 on a Sunday, buying a vision mixer and more
  • Give away over £20,000 to local, national and international charities

The goal for the year was £310,000 which means we've only got another £55,000 to go. It would be amazing if we could burst through that finish line rather than collapse just short of it (if you know what I mean). I therefore want to encourage all of us to think about what we can give, whether that's a little or a lot.

If we get the money it will allow us to pay next years rent for Sandhurst School, replace the carpet in the auditorium and the back corridor in the Kerith Centre and hopefully build an access route for Sundays down the side of K2.

We could get that £55,000 if everyone on Sunday gave £44 and gift aided it, but we know in reality that isn't going to happen (not unless we raid the piggy bank of our 200 under 11's anyway). So here's another example of how it could happen:

  • 1 person could give £5,000
  • 10 people could give £1,000
  • 20 people could give £500
  • 40 people could give £250
  • 100 people could give £100
  • 150 people could give £50
  • 100 people could give £20
  • 100 people could give £5

It's amazing how it all adds up. So please decide in advance what you're going to give and let's burst across that finish line.

If you're not around on Sunday please still give via the website here.

Thanks so much - you're an amazing community.

Simon.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Belfast Reflections

I had the privilege of going to Belfast last week. I was invited by Tearfund to go and talk to church leaders, sharing with them some of what we've done in Serenje, and encouraging them to engage with similar Connected Church projects. I hope some of them will have been inspired to take the next step in engaging with Tim Magowan and his brilliant team running Tearfund's Northern Ireland office.

My experience is that whenever you go on trips like this it's always a two way process, and very often you get far more out of it than you feel like you've contributed. That was certainly the case this time. First off I'd never been to Ireland (North or South) before. Belfast is set in the middle of the most amazing countryside, it's a beautiful city, it has a rich history (although turning the Titanic disaster into a major tourist attraction is ingenious to say the least!) and everybody I met was incredibly warm and welcoming - it reminded me of being back in Newcastle :)

But I was also struck by how close the sectarian divide between the unionist and republican communities still is to the surface. Even with the riots over the flying of the Union Flag over Belfast City Hall last December, I'd somehow assumed that sort of thing was very localised and didn't affect the lives of 'ordinary' people. You can imagine my surprise to see this mural on the end of a house about 200 metres from the Tearfund offices.

I know that at this point some of you are rolling your eyes, incredulous at my ignorance and naïvety, but I was genuinely shocked that a city which appears on the outside to be so prosperous, friendly and welcoming can also be in fear that the riots which happend last December could all be about to kick off again. In fact where the Tearfund offices are in East Belfast is right next to one of the "interfaces" between the two communities where the rioting was the fiercest.

Also as I reflected it was less than three years ago that there was major rioting in London and other English cities, much of which had nothing to do with any identifiable cause. Perhaps all this rioting says more about our human condition than it does about our history.

But I also reflected on Bill Hybels quote "The local church is the hope of the world". I heard a number of inspiring stories of how, although the church has in the past been at least part of the problem, many in the church now see it as a major part of the solution. Let me tell you two of those stories.

The first was of a church which is already two years into a connected church project. They have partnered with a church in Rwanda, the country which in 1994 experienced a genocide which lead to the murder of over 500,000 Tutsi people by the Hutu-led government, military and militias. What this church found when they visited Rwanda were amazing stories of the church in Rwanda, both Hutu and Tutsi churches, being at the centre of the drive for reconciliation and restoration in the country. They were so inspired by what they saw that they've been inviting church leaders from Rwanda to come and teach them about how the church in Northern Ireland can do the same in their communities. It was humbling to hear how a project which they thought was about helping an impoverished nation was in their estimation having a far greater impact the other way. Brilliant.

The second was the story of the building where the Tearfund offices are located - Skainos. For almost two centuries it has been the site of a Methodist church, with five different buildings having been constructed on the site over the years. In 2013 the church built an entirely new centre there which includes not only a worship space but a family centre, a cafe, offices, commercial housing, a homeless shelter, social housing, offices and much more. It's been built as a place to be used by the whole of the local community, and I can honestly say is one of the most remarkable places I've ever visited. Here's a picture of the 'street' around which the center is built - the idea was to build a new street which had never been impacted by the troubles and didn't belong to one particular community but would be used by and a home for all.

Very inspiring.

Finally, in case that was all too heavy, here's another picture John Mitchell (my travelling buddy) took of me with the cow milk jug at the guest house - and yes the breakfast was amazing!

Simon.

 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

My Favourite Apps - #4 - Runmeter

One of the things I really like about having a smartphone is that it can do in one device what you used to need lots of devices to achieve. A few years ago I carried round with me a phone for making calls and texts, a Palm Pilot for doing email and surfing the internet, an iPod for listening to music and a satnav - now I can do all that with one device, and in reality it does a better job of each of those functions than the original devices (anyone fancy going back to a phone keyboard for writing texts?), as well as performing a host of other functions none of those devices could have performed.

Runmeter is another example of that sort of functionality, allowing your phone to do what you'd have once needed an expensive GPS watch to achieve, and then giving you a load of functionality the watch could never have had.

At the simplest runmeter uses the GPS function built into the phone to map your runs, cycle rides, walks, skiing, boating or whatever outdoor activity you happen to be taking part in. Here's the map of me running the Reading Half Marathon earlier this year. It may just look like a map to you but every pixel on it represents a major achievement to me!

If you've got headphones as well as playing music (or podcasts or Bible readings) it will interrupt you at regular intervals to tell you how far you've gone, your current pace, your average pace, whether you going slower or faster than last time you did this run and a host of other options which you can turn on and off. You can also choose from a load of different voices (although no comedy ones as far as I can see).

Beyond that it has a bewildering array of additional functions. It can tweet and update Facebook at fixed intervals to let people know how you're doing, it can email you a map of your route and all your split times when you finish, it can read tweets to you as you're running so that people can (hopefully) encourage you, it can chart your heart rate and tell you what it is if you have a heart rate monitor, it can give you training plans to run a 5K, 10K, half or full marathon and put the plan into your online diary and much more - all for the cost of a Latte! Tell me that isn't amazing.

For those who can't stand running there are also versions for cycling and walking, although from what I can see they're basically all the same app with a different icon!

The apostle Paul wrote that "physical training is of some value". If you want to increase the value of that physical training then I reckon apps like this can help, or at least make it more interesting along the way :)

I promise a non sport related app next!

Simon.

 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Older, Balder, But Hopefully a Little Bit Wiser

This is a younger version of me :)

As we were eating tea last week one of the children (who shall remain nameless) said during the conversation "You know you're going bald dad!". I guess this is something I've been in denial over for some time now, but all the pretence is over once your children have told you :) At least I think I managed to respond better than Elijah when a group of lads taunted him with "Get out of here, baldy!".

It's a weird thing getting older! If I'm honest there are some bits I'm not that keen on. Not only the loss of hair but also how long it now takes me to scroll back through the years to get to my date of birth on websites. Although I do sometimes think I'm no different to how I was when I was 18 (does anyone else feel like that - and keep quite all you 18 year olds), I do realise that on the way I've picked up a bit of wisdom, which every now and again I have the privilege of sharing to try and help others avoid some of the mistakes I've made.

Tomorrow (Tuesday) night is one of those opportunities. Liam Parker has asked me to speak at an 18-25's gathering which starts at 7pm in K2 Hall where I'll talk a bit about what I've learnt, and then do lots of Q&A (no questions will be off limit!). If you're in the 18-25 age bracket it would be great to see you there - I think there was also talk of coffee and doughnuts! Just turn up.

Whoever you are there are always people younger than you who can benefit from your wisdom, and people older and wiser than you who you can learn from. One of the joys in my life is the number of "older and wiser" people God has blessed me with. Who are you investing in, and who are you allowing to shape your life.

Simon.

 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Big Church Night In

Tim Jupp and our friends at Big Church Night In asked me to let you know about an evening they're hosting in Reading on Friday 29th November.

The evening features Stuart Townend, who many of us will remember from the days of the Stoneleigh Bible Weeks, and Philippa Hanna, a brilliant singer songwriter who Catrina and I had the privilege of hearing play at a concert in Egham recently and who last year supported Lionel Richie in concert. You can get tickets for the evening here.

For anyone who hasn't heard of hasn't heard of Philippa Hanna take a look at this video of her song "I Am Amazing".

Simon.

 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Book Review - Eric Metaxas - 7 Men

Eric Metaxas is one of my favourite authors. Everything from his incredible biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, to the collection of talks from the "Socrates in the City" lectures he hosts in New York, to his seminal work writing the scripts for VeggieTales (take a look here if you've never heard of VeggieTales).

Well he's written a new book looking at the lives of seven men and what it was that made them great. I've just finished it and I can't recommend it highly enough.

We live in an age when there seems to be great confusion over what it means to be a man. On the one side we have the macho, alpha male Vinnie Jones style hard man who never displays any emotion. On the other side is metro sexual man in touch with his feminine side who is "sweet" but of no practical use to anyone. There seems to be little in between, men who are both strong and kind, decisive and gentle, fearless but with a heart for the weak and downtrodden.

This confusion seems to affect not just the world but the church, and even our view of who Jesus is. Consider this recent quote from Mark Driscoll "Some emergent types [want] to recast Jesus as a limp-wrist hippie in a dress with a lot of product in His hair, who drank decaf and made pithy Zen statements about life while shopping for the perfect pair of shoes. In Revelation, Jesus is a pride fighter with a tattoo down His leg, a sword in His hand and the commitment to make someone bleed. That is a guy I can worship. I cannot worship the hippie, diaper, halo Christ because I cannot worship a guy I can beat up." Interesting :)

For me this book comes like a breath of fresh air into the middle of that debate, examining the lives of 7 men who were neither prize fighters or wimps, but each of whom displays incredible strength and manhood in very different ways. Some of the men such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Chuck Colson and William Wilberforce I already knew quite a bit about but was inspired again by their courage, intellect, faith and passion for people less fortunate than themselves. Others such as Eric Liddell (of "Chariots of Fire" fame), Pope John Paul II and George Washington I knew something about but got to understand at a whole new level. I'd never heard of Jackie Robinson before, but his battle to break the "colour code" in American baseball, the abuse he and his family endured and the spirit in which he overcame it, left me deeply moved.

Whether you're a man or a woman I encourage you to read this book. Buy lots of copies for Christmas presents. Give it to people both with faith in Jesus and those exploring what that might look like. And let's believe for a generation of men who will model what it truly means to be Christ like to our world.

Simon.

 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

My Favourite Apps - #3 - YouVersion

If you're a follower of Jesus then YouVersion is one of the apps you really shouldn't be without. It's a brilliantly designed Bible reading app which gives you access to pretty much every translation of the Bible available (the only one I've ever wanted which isn't available is Tyndale's original English translation which became the basis of the King James Version). In total there are 722 translations available in 456 different languages.

It also allows you to download pretty much all the available translations, making them available even if you aren't connected to the internet - great if you're on a plane as I am at the moment! There are also audio versions of many of those Bibles available so you can listen to the Bible whilst running, driving or just lying in bed staring at the ceiling!

There are also a whole host of different Bible reading plans available. Some will take you through the whole of the Bible in a specified time period (I used the "Bible in a Year" plan a couple of years ago), others will take you through a book, still others are based around exploring a particular theme or the thoughts of a particular preacher or worship leader (I did a plan written by Matt Redman recently which was really insightful). Of particular help to me is a "catch me up" function which pushes out the end date if you've missed some days - I call it the grace option (I won't tell you how long my "Bible in a Year" plan actually took me!).

There are also a host of functions to write notes on passages, read notes other people have written, bookmark passages and cut and paste Bible passages into other documents - great for writing sermons or gathering ideas in Evernote!

What I love above all this is that YouVersion was produced by one local church, LifeChurch.tv in the USA, which is lead by Craig Groeschel who many of us will have heard speak at the GLS. Their kingdom minded vision to both develop an app which in terms of quality stands alongsided the best commercially available apps, and then to give it away for free without any mention of Lifechurch actually in the app, to me is an inspiration of all that we as Kerith should aspire to be. It's also a great example of how Christians can take hold of technology and use it for good rather than just worrying about it being used for evil, in much the same way as Christians did with the printing press around the time of the reformation - all very exciting.

Simon.

 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Brené Brown GLS Talk Online

I know that for many people their favourite talk at this years GLS was the one by Brené Brown on vulnerability - my wife wrote a great blog about the impact it's having on her here. I also know that lots of people were disappointed that Brené's talk wasn't on the GLS DVD set sold at the Summit.

Well Willow have now made her talk available online if you're part of a WCA member church, which Kerith is. You just need a password, which you can get by emailing Willow here and telling them that you're attending either Kerith or another church which is part of the Willow Creek Association in the UK. The talk is going to be available on the website until the 9th January.

To get to the talk go here and then enter the password you got from Willow. You then need to scroll down to and click on "On-Demand Videos for Members" which will take you to the talk by Brené and a number of the other talks from both this years GLS and previous years.

Happy viewing, and let me know how your journey of vulnerability is going - it's the only way to live as the person God created you to be.

Simon.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Kerith Philippines Response

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. (James 2:14-17 NIVUK)

I'm sure like me many of you have been been following the events in the Philippines following Typhoon Haiyan. The full extent of the destruction still isn't known, but what is clear is that thousands of people have lost their lives, and hundreds of thousands are in urgent need of food and shelter.

Often at moments like this we can feel overwhelmed by the scale of the suffering, and our apparent inability to make any sort of difference. However, I want to suggest two very real ways in which we can make a difference.

First of all we can pray. We believe that prayer changes situations, so let's ask for that. Let's pray for Lindsey Reece-Smith, one of our community, who works for Tearfund and is now in the Philippines helping coordinate the relief effort. Let's pray for all the people who have lost friends and family, that God will comfort them in their mourning. Let's pray for those without food and shelter, that God will provide for them and that they will get aid quickly. And let's pray for those involved in the relief effort - there seem to be so many armchair experts happy to criticise the relief effort but let's pray for those on the ground trying to bring order and hope in the middle of chaos. We'll also be praying as a church at all four meetings today.

Then we can give. Tearfund reckon that £60 is enough to provide two families with food and essential supplies for a month. I'm going to encourage us to give directly rather than taking up a Kerith offering and having the delay of collecting the money and the gift aid and then transferring it all across. You can give to Tearfund here, or to the Disasters Emergency Committee (of which Tearfund is a member) here. Why not consider giving £60 as your commitment to showing your faith by your deeds.

Both of those websites will also give you really helpful reports and updates on the relief effort, and to help you as you continue to pray.

Thank you,

Simon.

 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Lithuania Global Leadership Summit

For the next two weekends please be praying for the Global Leadership Summit which our great friend Saulius Karosas and his team in Lithuania are going to be hosting. In part this event exists because several years ago we invited Saulius and a team from his church to come to our GLS, so it would be great if we could support it in prayer.

This is what Saulius had to say:

"I wanted to ask you for prayer for this weekend and the next for the GLS. We have so many new people and about half are unbelievers or very nominal Christians. It is an honour to serve them, but we need the Holy Spirit to fill the place and touch the minds, hearts and wills.

I will be an MC for the both events, but will have 18 people presenting different speakers. Coordinating it all will be interesting. Some of them have never been to GLS - these are church leaders, business men, MPs and social leaders. Please pray for boldness for me.

We will also be presenting the follow up program - the Leadership club, which will meet five times in Klaipeda and five times in Vilnius next Spring. We already have many committed to lead the groups. We need prayer for that."

Saulius is an amazing leader who God is raising up to speak to the whole of his nation. It's a privilege that we get to partner with people like him, one we don't take lightly, so please join me in praying for the him and the whole event.

We're also hoping Saulius and his lovely wife Sanna will come over in March 2014, hopefully then you'll all get a chance to hear from them both.

Simon.

 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Open House Bonfire - The Conclusion

So having had Ben Pocock preach brilliantly on us building an "open house", and then last week Liam Parker doing an outstanding job of stoking the bonfire, it falls to me this Sunday to bring it all together!

I'm going to take a look at how we deal with the tension of creating an environment where we're both aware of seekers in our midst and we eagerly desiring spiritual gifts, and whether it's even right to try and achieve both of those things at the same time.

We're going to do that looking at one of the most famous passages in the Bible, which when normally used is taken totally out of context. I'll also totally disagree with Liam's interpretation of one of the Bible passages he used last week! If you enjoy controversy this could be the week for you :) Seriously though these are important issues for us to wrestle with as we define the culture we want in our community.

Simon.

Ps - just to be clear Liam is a great friend and I thought he did a brilliant job last Sunday. He just isn't right about everything :)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

My Favourite Apps - #2 - Evernote

One of the things I think most people do when they first get a smartphone or tablet is using it to take notes, whether it's in a sermon or at a conference or just jotting down thoughts and ideas. I know that many of you are sold out on using beautiful leather bound journals to chronicle your greatest musings, but so often once those notes are written they never get read again, and eventually the journal goes onto a shelf or into a drawer when it's full and you need a new one. There's something very attractive about the idea of having all those notes available electronically, so that you can look at them, search them and use them wherever you are.

In my experience most people with an iPad or iPhone start off using the built in Notes application. It's OK, but after you've got quite a few notes it becomes pretty hard work finding something you thought you wrote two years ago. It's also very limited in that you can only have plain text in a note, no photos or web links or numbered lists or bold or italic or anything similar. If you're like me you then move on to pages, the Apple equivalent of Microsoft Word, which although much more powerful still really doesn't hit the mark and in many ways is too complicated simply for taking notes.

That's where for me Evernote is so brilliant for keeping track of all your thoughts and ideas.

First if all it allows you to write notes with all the formatting options you could hope for, without the complexity of a full blown word processor. It also makes it incredibly simple to include photos, web links and even chunks of a web page. All this makes it brilliant as a holding ground for ideas and research - I use this all the time when something I see or read seems applicable for a future sermon - I can just create a note for it or add the thoughts to an existing note. You can also easily add tick lists to give you to do lists, and set alarms on notes so that they pop up as way of a reminder.

Then you can sort those notes into folders which you can then search. You can also apply tags to notes so that you can find all the notes with a given tag. This means you're much make likely to make future use of the notes you've written.

Finally all the notes you write get stored "in the cloud", which in practical terms means that you can access them from your phone, your tablet and your PC, and changes you make on one device will be visible on the others. In practice this is really useful. I usually writes notes on my iPad, but if I'm travelling somewhere and have an idea but only have my iPhone I can still add the thought to the existing note for that sermon, rather than having to create a new one and then merge them at some point in the future.

All in all a really useful app, which although quite complex in what it does actually works in a way which is very intuitive and a joy to use. As you may be able to tell I'm a big fan!

Simon.

 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Kerith Prison Ministry - Letter Writing

‘Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was ill and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” (Matthew 25:34-36 NIVUK)

One of the expressions of our social justice is to work into prisons - when I became part of Kerith nearly 25 years ago one of the first ministries I got involved in was visiting Huntercombe Young Offenders Prison and inflicting my worship leading on them (that surely would be enough to stop anyone wanting to reoffend!).

More recently Sonia and Lee Brett have lead a team who visit a number of local prisons (this coming Sunday they'll be in Coldingley). As part of Prisons Week the team would love to invite people to get involved with what they're doing, and in particular letter writing to prisoners. They're holding a training session on Saturday 23rd November from 10-12am in K2. If you're interested, or would just like to know more, then the team will have a stand in reception at both sites this Sunday, or you can email melanie.woods@kerith.co.uk who can give you more information.

The training is being held in partnership with Prison Fellowship, an international charity – who say this about letter writing: "Our letter writing programme enables prisoners to feel valued and supported while in custody. Prisoners often feel extremely lonely and isolated, and many have lost touch with their family and friends on the outside. A letter might be the only communication a prisoner receives and can provide huge encouragement and a link to the outside world."

Letter writing is a simple way to encourage a prisoner, to show that someone cares about them, someone hasn’t forgotten about them, and we would love to have a team of people from all different backgrounds come together in order to reach out to those in prison with the love of Jesus. Coming along to the training doesn’t commit you to signing up, and it is a great way to find out more about how you can get involved in prison ministry.

Simon.

Monday, November 11, 2013

My Favourite Apps - #1 - Blogsy

Appropriately the first app I'm going to mention is the one I'm using to write this blog - blogsy.

When I first got an iPad one of my disappointments was that it was harder to write blogs using the built in browser than on a PC. Everything from inserting pictures to creating links and making the text look pretty just seemed harder, and I can't tell you the number of times I nearly said rude words as I lost the blog I'd spent the last half hour carefully creating.

That all changed when I found blogsy. It's a dedicated app for writing blogs which works with all the major blogging tools, and which makes blogging a joy rather than a deeply frustrating exercise. It makes it really simple to import pictures,

YouTube clips,

videos from Vimeo,

create links and

  • control how all of it gets formatted.
If that's not enough it then also gives you the ability to then edit the raw HTML, although I seriously doubt you'll ever actually need to do that.

It also makes it really simple to control when blogs get published, allowing you to write lots of blogs and then schedule them to be published over a number of days. It also makes it easy to go back and edit blogs you've already published.

People often just think of tablets as a tool consuming content (watching iPlayer, browsing the web, listening to music) but not creating content. For me blogsy is one of the tools that changes all that, actually making it easier to create blogs than on a PC.

I'd love to hear any thoughts on blogsy, or any other cool ways of creating blogs on an iPad.

Simon.

 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

My Top 10 Apps

As a bit of fun I thought over the next couple of weeks I'd blog about the ten apps I find most useful on my iPhone and iPad. There seem to be lots of people commenting on the downsides of technology and how it can rob us of genuine human interaction (some of which I've preached on), but when we make technology our servant and use it well there are also many things it can enable us to do better. I no longer use a PC (I wrote pretty much all of the Peach and the Coconut on my iPad) and so am convinced that you can do pretty much everything you need to do digitally from a tablet (unless you're a high end video editor, music creator or something of that ilk). I also believe that technology is neutral, it's what we choose to do with it that is important. Hopefully seeing some of the things I talk about will spark ideas with others.

Apologies in advance to those who use none Apple products (although lots of these apps are also available on Android, Blackberry and Microsoft platforms), and those who have no desire or no opportunity to use either a smartphone or a tablet (I'll happily do another series posting your favourite ideas on using pen and paper - but only if you can submit them digitally!).

I'd also love to hear other peoples thoughts and ideas, especially on any other apps people have found. Looking at other peoples blogs I see that people writing on parenting get more comments in an afternoon than I get in a month - perhaps this will get some more of you commenting :)

Finally to say the apps are in no particular order - I'll just write about them in whatever order takes my fancy!

Look out for my first app on Monday.

Simon.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Konnections Craft Evening

This Saturday (9th November) our Konnections team are holding a Christmas Craft Fayre in K2 from 5pm until 8pm.

There will be craft tables for buying handmade goods including cards, picture frames, jewellery, aprons and much more. There will also be an adult and children’s room for making your own Christmas crafts, fete games to take part in, and of course a raffle!

The cost of entry is £1 for adults and 50p for children. If you're free please go along and support the team and all the amazing work they do - all the money raised will go to allowing us to do more to to help families with children with special needs, and you'll have a great time as well!

Simon.

 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Remembrance and Bonfires

This coming Sunday we'll be having a minutes silence in all four meetings to remember those who have risked and given their lives in defence of the freedoms all of us enjoy. We'll do this as a part of our worship.

Liam Parker will also be speaking in all four meetings. After Ben Pocock kicked us off so well describing what an "Open House" lifestyle looks, like Liam will be reflecting on our need for the "Bonfire" of the Holy Spirit to be at work in every area of our lives. Then next Sunday I'll attempt to bring those two threads together and talk about the tension of being both very aware of people exploring God in our midst, whilst also creating an environment where they can experience the power of the Holy Spirit.

Hope to catch you on Sunday.

Simon.

Ps - I heard a lovely story from Kay Foulger on Sunday of how her dad used Sankeys Hymn Book to send secret messages home during the Second World War - you can read about it here.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

An Opportunity to Change Lives

One of the biggest areas of growth in Kerith over the last few years has been our Sunday kids work. It's so exciting to see more and more children coming, and that as we've created space more children have come to fill it. That's true both with the rooms we've freed up in the Kerith Centre by moving the staff off site, and the new spaces we've created in Sandhurst where more and more children are coming every week. We're also seeing God do great things in the lives of many of those children - just brilliant.

As we know growth is great but it also produces challenges. This is particularly true in our kids work, where there are safeguarding ratios of numbers of adults to children we have to adhere to. That means that that if we don't have enough team then children who turn up after the groups have reached their capacity can only stay if their parents are willing to stay too.

We really want to avoid that ever happening, which is why in this season of "getting better" we want to make sure all our kids teams are fully staffed. That's where you come in, and where I'd love you to consider getting involved in our kids work if you aren't already. A few things to say about this:

  1. I'm so grateful for everyone who already serves. We have an amazing team already who do brilliant stuff with our kids - we're just in the process of making it even better.
  2. If you're a parent with children in our kids work then we'd love you to serve in one meeting a month. I personally did this when our children were under 11 - it's a great way to see what your children are learning, to thank those who are serving your children week after week, to serve in the life of the church and to meet new people.
  3. We need people to volunteer to serve at both the Sandhurst and Bracknell sites.
  4. We take making our kids work a safe place very seriously. That means that everyone involved has to fill out an application form and go through a DBS check (the replacement for the old CRB system). The DBS check is quite a pain, and can take a few weeks to come through, but is sadly a reflection of the society we live in and the need to put the safety of the children above everything else.
  5. There are loads of different serving options so don't worry that you need to be some amazing children's entertainer to get involved (although if you are we'd love to meet you!). Opportunities include:
  • Receptionists (for the 5-9’s – we need a receptionist for every single week in that group!)
  • Small group leaders (for the 5-9’s)
  • Buddies for children with special needs
  • Techies to run all the audio visual equipment
  • Facilities teams to set up and set down – especially at Sandhurst
  • Helpers in under 5’s (especially ages 3,4 at the 11am meeting in Bracknell)

If you would like to get involved please either fill in one of the "New to Kerith" forms on a Sunday and say you'd like to get involved in kids, talk to any of the team on a Sunday, or best of all contact Lydia Harris-Lane who heads up all our kids work via the who's who page of the website. I know she'd love to hear from you.

Thank you so much,

Simon.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

For Jesus

I thought Ben Pocock did a brilliant job kicking off our "Open House Bonfire" series on Sunday - if you missed it you can catch it here.

If you've read the Peach and the Coconut you'll know that I love to look at how Jesus interacted with the "sinners" in his society, the people the religious types wanted nothing to do with, and my heart that we look like Jesus to those same sorts of people. Over the last few years I've spoken about lots of different people Jesus met, but never Levi the tax collector who Ben spoke about on Sunday. You can read the story here.

One thing really intrigued me about the story. In verse 28 we read that Levi left everything and went and followed Jesus. I've always read that in a similar way to the rich young ruler we hear about in Mark 10, who Jesus challenged to sell everything he had, give to the poor and follow him. But then in verse 29 we read that Levi invites Jesus, and all of his tax collector friends, to a banquet at his house. Having left everything he still had a home, and he still had the resources to throw a spectacular feast. How does that tie in with him leaving everything?

Well I think the answer is in something brilliant that Ben said on Sunday. He posed a question I get asked quite a lot by church leaders as they look at Kerith, which is "who are our Sunday gatherings for - are they for believers, or are they for lost people?". Sometimes tied in with that is a suggestion that we've watered everything down to make it OK for people who don't yet follow Jesus, and that if we were a 'proper' church we'd only think about feeding Christians with no thought for lost people in our midst :)

Ben's answer was that our Sundays are not for lost people or believers, they're for Jesus. They're to glorify him, to reveal more of him, to worship him and to focus on him. That's who Levi held his banquet for. He invited his friends but it was for Jesus. That gives such a different focus. We want to create a space where followers of Jesus can grow to know him more, and people far from God can move closer to him. If it's all for Jesus then both of those things can happening at the same - in fact they need to both be going on as we gather together.

I think that explains how Levi could leave everything and still have his home and the resources to throw a party. In his heart his home was no longer his, it was for Jesus. His money and his food were no longer his, they were for Jesus. His friendships and his influence were no longer his, they were for Jesus.

I want to live like Levi. I may have a home, a family, friends, possessions, money, gifts, abilities, passion, ambition, influence but I want them to be for Jesus. I want all those things in my life to glorify him, to be for him and to be available to him to use in any way he wants. In reality I'm often a long way from living like that, but my prayer is that day by day I'll get closer to living a life which is truly for him.

Simon.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Open House Bonfire

We start a three week series on Sunday with the slightly enigmatic title "Open House Bonfire".

We're going to look at the tension we live with of wanting to create a community where lost people feel very welcomed and at ease (having an open house) whilst also wanting to be full of the Holy Spirit and eagerly desiring spiritual gifts (that's the bonfire bit!). My observation is that most churches go one way or the other, but that if we truly want to reach the people around us we need to be both welcoming and exposing people to the power of God.

This Sunday Ben Pocock is going to speak on us having an open house, and what that means for us as individuals and as a community. He'll also be giving everyone in Bracknell an update on how things are going at our Sandhurst site - all very exciting. Then next Sunday Liam Parker will be lighting a bonfire! The final week I'll attempt to pull it all together.

Hopefully the title makes a little bit more sense now!

Hope to catch you on Sunday,

Simon.

 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Project 125 becomes Project 196 (and a half)

This picture represents a huge answer to prayer, as it shows work starting on building the girls dormitory in Serenje, a rural community in Zambia we as a church have been involved with for the last 5 years. For those of you who don't know this is a project to build a dormitory for 100 girls in secondary education, saving them from having to live in a slum area where currently only 5% of them actually complete their schooling.

The girl on the left here is one of the girls who will hopefully end up in the dormitory. She's stood outside the 'house' that she sleeps, cooks and lives in while she's at school. What you can't see is that just behind her home is a bar with a bunch of guys who even this early in the day are already drunk. Most of the girls fail to complete their education because they get pregnant, many of them are raped and a number of them contract HIV/AIDS in the process. It's because of these girls that we, and the people we work with in Serenje, are so passionate about seeing the dormitory built. If they were our daughters we would do everything in our power to keep them safe - we want to do the same for these girls.

Ralph Allen, who did the initial design for the dormitory, recently went out to Serenje to see how the dormitory building is going. The great news is that we now have a builder, a fully costed plan and timescales we actually believe are achievable which should see the dormitory completed by April 2014 (assuming the rainy season doesn't come too early and isn't too rainy!).

The not quite so good news is that the cost has gone up since it was first all costed 3 years ago. We thought then that it would cost £125,000 to complete. With a contingency fund the expected cost is now £196,500. There are various reasons for the increase, including inflation, changes in the exchange rates and things not included in the original estimate such as getting electricity onto the site. However, we still feel strongly that we should still go ahead with building what we set out to build in the beginning.

We therefore need to look at raising another £71,500. How are we going to do that you may ask - a very good question.

  • First of all we're going to pray. If you're free please come and join us at the finance prayer meeting at 6am every Thursday where this will be high on the agenda. God has a habit of answering these sorts of prayer in spectacular ways.
  • We're looking at identifying grant giving organisations who might want to join the project - if you know of any please let us know.
  • I know that individuals, both within and outside Kerith will want to give. If that's you then please either give online (use the regular giving option and send a message to Helen Dodwell so that she know your giving is for the dormitory), or use one of the regular Sunday giving envelopes and write Serenje Dormitory on the form.
  • If we don't have all the money by Christmas we'll take up our regular Christmas Day offering for the dormitory, looking to raise enough to cover whatever shortfall we have.

Finally a few people have asked me whether we also have the money to fit out the dormitory with beds, chairs, tables, kitchen equipment and everything else they'll need. Currently we have about £15,000 for this which was raised by the bike ride Howard Reece-Smith, Ralph Hazell and others did to Istanbul earlier this year. We're currently trying to get a more accurate estimate of what the fit out will cost to make sure that is going to be enough.

Hope that all makes sense. It's so exciting to think that we're going to be able to provide a safe place for these girls to complete their education.

Simon.