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.