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.