Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Only Two Sleeps until Christmas

It's not long now until Christmas Day - yahoo :)

We've still got three more gatherings to go. If you're around please try and find the time to make it to at least one of these opportunities to gather together and focus our attention on something other than mince pies and penguins (I heard today that the shops will sell 17.5 million mince pies this Christmas - no wonder my waistline is expanding already!).

On Christmas Eve at 4pm we have a nativity for children and families. We'll get to sing lots of carols as well as watching the nativity story being acted out in a very entertaining way!

On Christmas Eve at 11pm we meet to see in Christmas Day with carols, communion and a great message from Liam Parker.

Then on Christmas Day we meet at 10pm for an hour to celebrate the birth of Jesus. We'll be having an offering for the fostering and adoption charity we partner with, Home for Good, and hearing from a family waking up to Christmas Day with 6 children including triplets :)

All the meetings are in the Kerith Centre on our Bracknell site. Parking for all meetings other than the 11pm meeting on Christmas Eve will be at the college, with the Kerith Centre car park reserved for the elderly and disabled. At 11pm we'll all be squeezing in to the Kerith Centre and surgery car parks.

Also a reminder that we don't meet on Sunday 28th December - take the time to enjoy a day with friends and family.

Whatever you're up to I pray you and your loved ones have a great time as you hopefully have an opportunity to stop, rest, delight in the company of friends and family, enjoy the food and contemplate what the season is really all about.

Happy CHRISTmas!

Simon.

 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Christmas Day Offering - Home for Good

Every year we take up an offering on Christmas Day for a different charity or project. This year I'm excited that our offering will be for Home for Good, the fostering and adoption charity we started to partner with this year.

There are around 6,000 children in the UK waiting to be adopted, and around 9,000 children waiting for places in foster homes. As Christians we know what it means to be adopted into God's family, we have a Saviour who at birth was adopted by Joseph who wasn't his biological father, and we are called by God to have compassion on orphans. All of that should help make adoption and fostering a huge issue for us as Christ followers.

Please think and pray about what to give. All the money raised, plus all the gift aid we recover on the giving, will go directly to Home for Good. If you're not able to be there on Christmas Day then you can give directly to Home for Good here.

Thanks in advance for your generosity,

Simon.

 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Carol Concert and Andy Jackson

This coming Sunday we have our Carol Concert at 10am in Sandhurst and at 6pm in Bracknell. Please be inviting people to come and hear about the hope which can be found by all of us through the Christmas story. It's a great meeting with some incredible personal stories of how different people in different situations have found hope.

For those of you who have already seen it then why not come and experience it again, and bring some friends along with you too. We had some great feedback after last Sunday - I'm believing for more life changing experiences for people this week.

In Bracknell at the 9am and 11am Andy Jackson will be speaking on "Social justice isn't just for Christmas". I'm always amazed how organisations which feed the homeless are often overwhelmed with people wanting to serve with them over Christmas, but can struggle for volunteers through the rest of the year. Hear from Andy how working out God's heart for us to be a force for justice in the world can be something we're involved with all year round.

It's our last Sunday together in 2014 as we don't meet on the 28th December, so please do all you can to make at least one of our gatherings.

Simon.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Serenje Dormitory Update

I know many of you will be wondering what's been happening with the girls dormitory in Serenje, Zambia. This is our project to build a dormitory for 100 girls who otherwise would have to live in a slum area of Serenje, due to which only about 5% of them complete their Secondary School education.

In many ways progress has been frustratingly slow. I'd have hoped by now that we'd have the girls living in the dormitory, but sadly due to a number of factors which have delayed the project that isn't the case. However, the good news is that we now have a clear route to getting the dormitory finished, and the girls moved in.

On the financial side this week we'll be transferring the last of the money we've raised to Tearfund, ready for it to be transferred to Zambia when needed. In total we've raised £249,480 which is simply amazing - a huge thank you to everyone who did anything towards making that possible. That figure is on top of the over £500,000 we raised for the HIV/AIDS project we sponsored in Serenje, and the money raised to build and equip an operating theatre, establish special needs support in some of the schools and the other spin off projects coming out of the main project. As we think of the dreadful scenes of people fighting over flat screen TVs on Black Friday I'm so encouraged by our counter cultural generosity as a community.

Should the total cost of building and fitting out the dormitory go beyond what we have raised then Tearfund are going to look to other donors to provide the funds. I'm more than happy for other people to get involved in the project - it was never about having a Kerith badge on it or us being able to say we did it alone - it has always been about doing for the girls what we'd all want if they were our daughters. If others want to get involved in making that happen then I'm delighted.

On the planning side to get the building finished and girls moved in Tearfund recently employed a wonderful lady called Anne Mumbi as their country rep for Zambia, based in the capital Lusaka. Anne is a good friend of ours as she accompanied us on the first ever trip to Zambia, and came to the Kerith Centre 8 years ago when a lady called Patricia Sawo came and spoke to us about the impact of HIV/AIDS in Africa. Anne has spent the last few years working for Oxfam overseeing a number of building projects. Having Anne on the ground for Ralph Allen (our architect who designed both the Kerith Centre and the dormitory) and others to talk to directly is going to make things so much easier. Anne is also working on the sustainability plan for how girls get selected to go into the dormitory, and how it is funded in the long term.

The dormitory has taken much longer than I'd have hoped to get up and running. In part we are in a spiritual battle against an enemy who wants to "steal, kill and destroy" the lives of these vulnerable girls. In part this project has been a big learning curve for many of us involved, and we'd do it differently if we did it again. But hopefully in 2015 we'll see the dormitory up and running, and the whole trajectory of the lives of these girls being changed from one of hopelessness to very real hope.

Simon.

 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

December Prayer Meeting

Just a reminder that this Wednesday (17th December) is our final all church prayer meeting of the year. We'll be meeting in K2 for an hour starting at 8pm.

I know lots of us are busy at this time of year with works parties, family gatherings, children's events and much more, but if you are able to make it then it will be a great opportunity to step back from all the craziness for an hour, fix our eyes on the real reason for the season and ask God to be with us through the next few weeks.

In 2015 we're going to follow a similar pattern to this year, with a monthly prayer meeting on a Wednesday night, either in K2 or Sandhurst School, and a month of prayer in February where I'd love us to do a month of 24x7 prayer in the prayer room. We'll give out all the dates at the start of next year.

Hope to see you on Wednesday - if not have a great time whatever else you're up to.

Simon.

Creakebottom Tonight

Christmas finally feels like it's arrived in the Benham household! The Christmas trees and decorations went up on Sunday afternoon, and Catrina has Michael Buble singing Christmas carols on repeat!

If you want to get even more into the Christmas spirit it's not too late to make the decision to come to "Nativity in Creakebottom" at our 7.30pm at Sandhurst site tonight (Tuesday 16th December). You can get tickets and find all the details here - tickets are also available on the door.

And don't forget we've got the second weekend of our carol concert on Sunday - 10am at our Sandhurst site and 6pm at our Bracknell site. There are some amazing video testimonies with stories of hope, dramatic readings and monologues, heaps of brilliantly arranged carols, a message on finding hope in hopeless situations, mince pies and much more. Please be thinking about who to invite along.

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas!

Simon.

 

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Premier Christian Radio Church Advent Calendar

I recently recorded a 2 minute piece for Premier Christian Radio on how to do Christmas well.

If you fancy listening to it then it's going to be broadcast as Day 9 of their Church Advent Calendar series on Monday 8th December. It's going to be on Inspirational Breakfast Show at 7.05am, and again later that day on Premier Drive Show at 3.45pm. They're also going to be advertising all of our Christmas events, which is very nice of them!

If you do manage to hear it please let me know what you think :)

Simon.

 

Friday, December 5, 2014

Sunday Plans

It's only just over a week now to our Carol Concerts - they're at the 9am and 11am in Bracknell on the 14th December, and at the 10am in Sandhurst and the 6pm in Bracknell on the 21st December. Please be thinking about who you are going to invite to each of these meetings, which are going to be brilliant, as we focus on finding Hope through the Christmas story. Lots of carols and mince pies too :)

This Sunday Michael Ross-Watson is going to be preaching at the 9am and 11am in Bracknell, Lisa O'Brien is preaching at the 10am in Sandhurst and Sola Osinoiki at the 6pm in Bracknell. Don't miss out as we get ready for the Christmas season.

Have a great weekend :)

Simon.

News about TMTL

Yesterday (Thursday) I had the privilege of speaking at TMTL, our group for the retired. It's something I always enjoy doing, both speaking there and getting to spend time with all the wonderful people who attend. I spoke from Luke 2 on Simeon and Anna prophesying over Jesus. It's a passage I've been studying as part of getting ready for Christmas, and it's so full of meaning - I love it!

I also spoke about some changes we're going to be making in the structure of TMTL. The current leaders who you can see in the photo above - Bill and Ann Dick, Roy and Ruth Buck, Dave and Miriam Barker (plus Averil Wilson who is away visiting her daughter in Australia) - have decided for a variety of reasons that it's time to step down from leading the group. They've done an amazing job over the years arranging the meetings and caring for everyone who attends - I'm so grateful to them for all the time, energy and effort they've put in.

We have been praying for new leaders to emerge, but so far that hasn't happened. I'm really keen that we keep TMTL going as a way to provide fellowship and support for the people who attend, so from February the group is going to meet twice a month, on the first and third Thursday from 1-3pm in the K2 building on our Bracknell site. We'll run this with support from Caroline Hanbury and the pastoral team - please contact Caroline if you'd like to get more details on this.

I strongly feel this is only an interim step, and that God has new things He wants to do amongst the retired in our community. If you've got any thoughts or vision around helping make that happen I'd love to hear from you.

Simon.

 

Monday, December 1, 2014

Christmas Devotionals

Following on from his excellent devotionals to accompany the "From Here to Eternity" series, Michael Ross-Watson is now doing a set of devotionals to help us focus on the Christmas story in the run up to Christmas. You can find them, and sign up to receive them via email, here.

Please also be inviting people to all our different Christmas events, as well as getting your tickets for the Nativity in Creakbottom on the 16th December in Sandhurst.

Hope you're having a great week.

Simon.

 

Friday, November 28, 2014

Incident in K2

Some of you may have seen the report in the Bracknell News, read on social media or heard elsewhere about an assault taking place last week in our K2 building. Rather than letting the rumour mill run wild I wanted to let you all know first hand what happened, and what we're doing about it.

Last Thursday (20th November) Henry Forrest, one of our site services team, was working on his own in K2 when he saw two men come into the building who he didn't recognise. Henry challenged them and asked them what they wanted. They asked if there was any cash in the building. Henry replied that there wasn’t and told them they had to leave. As Henry was escorting them out of the building one of the two men turned and punched Henry, after which they left. Henry was left with a small cut on his cheek and was obviously shaken.

The incident was immediately reported to the police who have taken statements and have a description of the offenders. Hopefully they will be found and brought to justice.

Thankfully incidents like this are incredibly rare - as far as I'm aware this is the most serious incident we've had since the Kerith Centre or K2 were opened. Having said that the safety of people using our facilities is something I and the rest of the team take incredibly seriously. I never want us to be naive or complacent over safety, especially as we are increasingly dealing with a wider and wider cross section of society, and more and more widely known as a place where people can get help.

In terms of the safety of staff and volunteers, we were already in the process of taking a number of steps to increase our security, steps which we will now accelerate.

We are planning training for key staff and volunteers around how to best deal with difficult people, and with situations where they may start to feel uncomfortable or unsafe. We are looking to install CCTV in key areas, as a deterrent, to allow monitoring of what is happening around the buildings, and in order to provide evidence in the case of anything happening. We are also reviewing our processes around visitors who raise concerns or who become aggressive, and how receptionists and others can quickly get help if required.

We do have to strike a tricky balance of making our facilities welcoming and accessible for people who genuinely want and need to engage with all we do, whilst making sure it is a safe environment for all if someone chooses to abuse our welcome. We will keep reviewing what we do in order to make sure we get that balance right.

Let's also be praying for protection for all who use our buildings. Our battle is not against flesh and blood, so whilst we will take all the practical steps we can let us also be asking for God to defend us and fight for us.

Please let me know if you have any questions. If you hear people talking about the incident, please do your best to reassure them that our buildings are still safe places to be, that incidents like this one are taken very seriously even if they are rare, and that we are always looking to see where we need to strengthen our practices.

Simon.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

From Here to Eternity - Thoughts on Hades

First of all thanks to everyone who has given me feedback on the Here to Eternity series we finished last weekend. It's always a bit scary as a preacher when we cover something as wide ranging, emotive and at times controversial as "what happens when we die and how to live in the light of that?". There are some topics people would have liked to hear more on, which we'll look to cover in future series, but from the comments it seems that overall we got the balance of what we covered and the overall tone about right.

One thing that did cause quite a bit of debate was me talking about hades. For many this was a totally new concept, others had a totally different idea to the one I outlined as to what hades is. At the end of the day it's not something we should get fixated on, the bigger picture is that our destiny is eternity with God in a resurrected body on a recreated earth. However, as part of his daily devotionals Michael Ross-Watson has written an extended devotional on Hades and Paradise which hopefully you'll find helpful.

If anyone else does have reflections on the series I'd love to hear them. Or if you've got other topics you'd like us to tackle I'd love to hear about those too.

Simon.

 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Angela Moore - Radio Berkshire Interview

Many of you will know the amazing John and Angela Moore, who adpopted three children and then had triplets! Having experienced the (wonderful) chaos of our three children who arrived at nicely spaced intervals, I can only declare my total respect and admiration for John and Angela coming to terms with their children arriving in groups of three.

On Monday morning Angela was interviewed on BBC Radio Berkshire talking all about their experience. She sounds like she's being doing interviews all her life, and speaks incredibly powerful on being a mum, the power of adoption, her faith and why they've done what they've done. I really encourage you to take the time to listen to it.

You can hear Angela's interview here. It starts about 7 minutes into the programme and is just brilliant!

For anyone wanting to find out more about fostering and adoption take a look at our Kerith website, where there are links to a number of organisations we partner with.

Happy listening,

Simon.

 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Dealing with Grief - Interview with Rick & Kay Warren

Yesterday, as the final part of our series From Here to Eternity, I spoke about how we deal with our own grief when those close to us die, and how we can help others who are grieving. Given the time available I was only able to touch on some of the issues this raises, but realise that most of us will face this issue multiple times in our lives, yet are often totally unprepared as to how to deal with it.

In order to go deeper I'd love to encourage all of us to watch the interview Rick and Kay Warren gave at the HTB leadership conference this year. In it they speak movingly of the suicide of their son, Matthew, how they have dealt with their own grief and the thing which others have done and said which have been both helpful and unhelpful. I can't imagine anything more painful than a parent dealing with the loss of a child - to hear the honesty and openness of Rick and Kay is both moving and very instructive for us all.

If you are working your way through the loss of someone close to you I'd also recommend signing up for our next bereavement course. Although we haven't got a date for the next course please fill in the application form and we'll let you know when the next course runs.

If you have any questions or thoughts on the From Here to Eternity series I'd love to hear them. I've really enjoyed preaching it - I hope you've got as much out of it as I have.

Hope you have a great week,

Simon.

 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

From Here to Eternity - Making a Will

I spoke today about the vital importance of anyone who has assets, or children under the age of 18, making a will. If you don't then in the event of your death you could leave a huge mess behind for your loved ones to sort, at a time when they are probably least able to deal with it, and both your assets and your children may not end up where you'd have wanted. By making a will you can not only make your wishes clear but also specify funeral arrangements, gifts to charities and potentially reduce any inheritance tax.

It is vital to get professional advice when drawing up a will to ensure it is legal. There are lots of options for doing this - I thought I'd mention a few to help you get started. I obviously can't endorse any of these so I'll leave you to do your own research to choose the best option for you.

Martin Elliott is part of our community and runs a company called Thames Valley Wills, which as the name suggests specialises in producing will. He's offering a 10% discount on his normal fees for anyone from Kerith wanting to draw up a will.

Martin Lewis, who runs Money Saving Expert (and is also a big fan of CAP which is always going to endear him to me!), has on his website an advice page on drawing up a will.

Similarly the Law Society has a web page giving both advice and resources to help find a suitable solicitor.

Citizens Advice Bureau also have a page of advice on drawing up a will.

Finally CAP have some advice on leaving a legacy. If you are drawing up a will why not consider leaving legacies to Kerith, CAP or other organisations where your own personal legacy can continue into the future.

I strongly want to encourage you to draw up a will if you don't already have one, or if you do consider whether it needs to be updated.

Hope that helps,

Simon.

 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Andy Partington and Pesky Freepost

Many of you will have heard Andy Partington when he spoke a few weeks ago as part of our PURE series. In that talk he spoke about the plans he and his wife Mickey have to move out to Bolivia next year to establish a drug rehabilitation project called Novō. We also gave out leaflets which described the Novō project they are planning.

Andy & Mickey Partington have asked to let me know that there was a problem with the FREEPOST address on the response forms of their Novō leaflets, which means that any which peope completed haven’t been delivered to Andy & Mickey. If you completed a form Andy & Mickey are really sorry that they haven’t got back to you, and would be incredibly grateful if you could email them at andy@novocommunities.org to let them have your response that way. You can also take a look at Andy’s blog to find out more!

Although Novō isn't a Kerith project (it's a totally separate charity), as a community we are completely behind all that Andy and Mickey are planning to do. Please take a look at Andy's blog, and if you'd be interested in suporting them send them an email to express your support.

Thanks from me, and from Andy and Mickey.

Simon.

 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Prisons Week


This week is Prisons Week, a week of prayer for all those impacted by prison, whether that's as victims of crime, prisoners, their families, prison officers, chaplins, ex offenders or those working in the justice system.

If you were at the prayer meeting on Wednesday night you'll have heard Mel Woods tell an inspiring story of someone we've been helping as a community on their journey from prison back into society, who on the way has found a relationship with Jesus. How cool is that!

Kerith has two primary prison ministries, Sunday visits to various prisons in our area (headed up by Lee and Sonia Brett) and Restart, a mentoring for prisoners on their release. I realise that Restart may be new to many of us, so asked Mel to give some more infomation on it which I've included at the end of this blog.

As part of Restart we try to meet mentees out of prison with a ‘release pack’ – a bag of essentials eg shower gel, deodorant, towels, diary, Bible etc.

If you'd be interested in donating items for the release packs, getting involved in mentoring or joining the team doing prison visits please contact the team via email. They'd love to hear from you.

And please pray. If you're not sure what to pray for please pray for our teams, and take a look at the Prisons Week website for inspiration.

Hope you have a great weekend,

Simon.

------------------------

RESTART is our mentoring programme for those being released from prison, designed to help ex-offenders reintegrate back into their local community and move forward with their lives with the support of a mentor.

Approximately 68% of adult offenders re-offend within two years of release. Evidence suggests that appropriate support, and focusing on achieving goals in key areas, can reduce this re-offending rate significantly. We believe that as a Church community we are able to, and have a responsibility, to do something. As Jesus quoted (from Isaiah 61) "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives…"

Kerith has linked with two charities in order to deliver this – New Leaf who work with short-term offenders in the Thames Valley area to reduce re-offending rates, and Caring for Ex-Offenders who aim to link those being released from prison with a local church for support. We also accept referrals from agencies in Bracknell, for example Bracknell Probation Service or Foodbank.

Our aim is to meet mentees at the gate on day of release in order to provide crucial support on that first day helping them settle back and attend necessary appointments. The mentor will then meet with them on a weekly basis for a minimum of 3 months in order to provide support and work through issues linked with their offending behaviour. Mentors can signpost their mentee to key local agencies and will also help them plan and work towards their goals, and can help them get specific advice in areas such as benefits, accommodation, healthy relationships, employment, alcohol and drugs, and debt as well as supporting them in their faith journey if they are interested.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Kerith Centre - Happy 25th Birthday!

Twenty five years ago today (Sunday 19th November 1989) the Kerith Centre was officially opened.

At the time it was a totally unheard of thing for a church to do. Virtually no churches a that time were building new buildings, particularly not on the scale of the Kerith Centre. At a total cost of 3.1 million pounds, paid for almost entirely by the congregation with many of them double tithing (giving 10% of their gross income to the church and 10% to the building fund), it made the national news in the UK. I remember the first few weeks with a different TV company there to film every Sunday and articles in national newpapers.

I was stood in the reception area today reflecting on all that has gone on over the last 25 years. All the different people who have been in the building in that time. All the Sundays, conferences and other events we've run. All the people who have come in to attend Alpha courses, Freedom in Christ, Job Club, Foodbank and the huge range of other minsitries which have been hosted in the building. All the parents and toddlers coming through the doors for Sparklers. All the weddings and funerals. All the lives changed. Amazing.

I felt a huge debt of gratitude to all who had the vision and the courage to go for such an outrageous project. In particular Ben Davies, without whom there would be no Kerith Centre, and everyone around him who got on board with the vision, prayed for it and paid for it. I pray that my generation will lead with the same courage, vision and sense of the bigness of God.

And I wondered what the next 25 years might hold. What things will we do in 25 years time that we couldn't dream of doing today. What new buildings will we have built. How many more lives will we have seen changed.

At the end of the day a building is only a tool. We don't worship buildings, but we can be grateful for them, and for the previous generations who have left them to us as a part of their legacy.

Happy birthday Kerith Centre!

Simon.

 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Social Justice Christmas Plans

Our social justice team have some great plans for blessing our clients over Christmas Christmas - I'd love you to think about how you could get involved in helping to make these plans a reality.

The team are highlighting specific individuals and families who need some help this Christmas. We will be blessing them in a few different ways – through survival packs, food hampers and presents for the children. There will also be a Christmas Party on the 6th December where we will watch a film together, enjoy some festive food and there may even be an appearance from Santa and his elves!

 

There are 4 different ways to help:

 

  1. Volunteer at the Christmas Party on the 6th December – welcoming, serving refreshments, chatting to people, dressing up as an elf… the party is between 2 and 5pm and we will also need volunteers to help set up and set down.
  2. Donate items for the survival packs – we would love wrapping paper, sellotape, gift tags, Christmas cards and Christmas crackers. Please bring donations to the Kerith Centre reception by 23rd November.
  3. Help collect donations from the Bracknell News Toys and Tins appeal collection points across town.
  4. Pray – that we would be able to bless clients during the Christmas season and that this would lead to great conversations and opportunities to invite people to church.

 

Please email the wonderful Pip Reeve for more information, and to let her know how you would like to get involved.

Thanks so much,

Simon.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Prayer Meeting this Week

This Wednesday we've got our monthly prayer at 8pm in K2 on our Bracknell site.

Those who came to my talk on "7 Years a Senior Pastor" (if you missed it you can listen to it here) may remember that I spoke about the three things I felt God said to me when I started leading Kerith. These were:

  • Build a big church - pray and believe for churches of thousands
  • Be courageous - don't be afraid to do things differently to other churches
  • Be a cultural architect - focus more on the culture of Kerith than the structure or systems

We're going to use these three as a springboard for our praying on Wednesday. In that we'll also find time to pray for our Christmas events, pray for the persecuted church around the world and pray for one another.

If you're free then please plan to be there - in the light of eternity you won't regret it :)

Hope you have a great week,

Simon.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Some 2015 Dates

Unbelievably 2015 is rapidly approaching, and I know many of you will already be filling up your calendars. I wanted to let you know of a few Kerith events we know will be happening next year.

On Saturday 14th February Erwin McManus will be with us, doing a day conference based around his outstanding book The Artisan Soul (which I will get round to writing a review of it at some point!).

Erwin will also be with speaking with us on Sunday 15th February, which is brilliant. I know many of you will also be excited to hear that his wife Kim, who has spoken twice at REAL, is coming with him too :)

On Thursday 19th March we're going to be hosting a one day conference with James Emery White and a team from his church.

Many of you will know James from his previous visits. His specialism is analysing and understanding the culture we live in, and working out how we as churches can best engage with the culture. His church is pretty unique in that 70% of their growth has been through seeing unchurched people come to faith. At the conferences we'll hear not only from James but also from the people leading his kids, creative arts, communictions and welcome teams on how they've built a church which is reaching the culture so effectively.

If you're part of Kerith please think about coming along. If from another church I strongly encourage you to being a team to learn about how we can build churches which are truly going to transform the culture.

Thirdly, after the success of our youth's SummerLife 2014 they'll be doing it all again in 2015 (with a new logo I promise!). All the details will be coming out soon, but for all those parents looking to book summer holidays I wanted you to know that this year it will be on the 24th-28th August. This year they're going to a new venue, Grittleton House School in Wiltshire, which looks excellent. More details to follow.

Finally to let you know that we'll be hosting the Global Leadership Summit on Friday 9th and Saturday 10th October. Please put those dates in your diary for what will be another outstanding leadership training event.

In the meantime get on with enjoying what is left of 2014 :)

Simon.

 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

From Here to Eternity - To Live is Christ

Sunday is part two of our series From Here to Eternity. Last week I attempted to answer the question "What happens when I die?", looking at whether Paul's statement that "to die is gain" is really true - if you missed it you can listen to it here.

This week we're going to take a look at the other half of Paul's statement, which is "to live is Christ". How should knowing that our eternity is secure cause us to live and think differently in this life? I'm really looking forward to it - I hope you get as much out of hearing it as I have preparing it!

See you Sunday :)

Simon.

 

Monday, November 10, 2014

From Here to Eternity - Follow Up

Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. (Acts 17:11 NIVUK)

I realise that Sunday's talk on "What happens when I die?" both provoked lots of discussion and raised lots of questions. I love it when we do that, when we cause people to think, and to examine in depth what the Bible actually says on a given subject.

I wanted to suggest some things you might do in order to follow up on Sunday, and in particular the idea that eternity is not about us going to heaven to be with God, but God coming from heaven to be with us.

First a series of devotionals Michael Ross-Watson is writing to go with the series, which you can find and sign up for here. They provide excellent food for thought and teaching around many of the things we'll talk about in this series.

Secondly Surprised by Hope by Tom Wright (or as he's also known N. T. Wright). If you want a book to challenge your thinking, and give you a whole new prespective on eternity, then this is for you. I wouldn't agree with every conclusion he comes to, but that's probably because I've got it wrong! Having said that this book would concur with all that I taught on Sunday, and this would be a great resource to use to study each area I touched on in more detail.

Thirdly another book, Heaven: it's not the end of the world by David Lawrence. In many ways it's a less academic, easier to read version of Surprised by Hope, covering much of the same material.

Finally there may be some questions you'd like me to attempt to answer over the next two Sundays, or in a blog. If so please let me have them via email, Twitter, Facebook or any other way you can get them to me and I'll do my best to answer them.

Hope you have a great week.

Simon.

 

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Turn £10 into £20 - Here's How

Would you like to give to the Social Justice ministries at Kerith, and in the process turn £10 into £20? You can do this by donating to Foodbank, CAP, Job Club, Release Groups, TLG Early Intervention, Prison Ministry, Social Justice Outreach, Konnections or One+ (or make a general donation to Social Justice) via this website. If you want to give to a particular ministry just write the name in the comments field when donating.

Any donation you make up to £10 will be matched pound for pound (if you want to donate more than £10, you can do this in separate payments of £10 each so that it all gets matched) and monthly donations of £10 per month will be matched for the next 6 months! Give £10 and our ministries will receive £20 to help change the lives of people living in Bracknell Forest.

There is a limited amount of matched funding, and it's going quickly, so so if you'd like to do this please do it soon! Everything you can give will make a difference in the lives of people who really need it, expressing God's love for them.

Thank you :)

Simon.

Friday, November 7, 2014

From Here to Eternity

On Sunday we start a three week series called "From Here to Eternity" based around Paul's statement "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21).

This first week we're looking at answering the question "what happens when I die?". I've really benefitted from doing the preparation, I hope you get as much out of it as I have! We'll also be having a minutes silence in all 4 meetings as part of Remembrance Sunday.

Those of you who follow Michael Ross-Watson's Daily Devotionals will know that he's writing devotionals to go alongside this new series, if you haven't already then please think about signing up to have them emailed to you daily.

Hope to see you on Sunday.

Simon.

 

Sandhurst Men's Prayer Meeting

This morning (Friday 7th November) the guys at Kerith Sandhurst started a men’s prayer meeting running from 6.30-7.30am.

2 Chronicles 7:14 says ‘if my people, who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and heal their land.’ All Kerith men are invited to gather at the Sandhurst Baptist Church Chapel (Yorktown Road, GU47 9BH) to pray for all areas of life. They'll be meeting every week up until Christmas, and then seeing what God will do after that. Why not decide to set that alarm a little earlier and go along next Friday.

It's so exciting to see growing numbers of activities springing up around our Sandhurst site. If you're part of our Bracknell site and you've never been to Sandhurst on a Sunday I'd really encourage to go and visit - 10am at Sandhurst School (Owlsmoor Road, GU47 OSD).

Simon.

 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Kerith Christmas 2014

Christmas is rapidly approaching (how scary is that!), and this year we've got some great events to invite people to. Our Christmas publicity is available from today at church, but for anyone who didn't pick up a postcard here are the dates you need for your diary.

Please take a look at all the events, and be thinking about which ones to be inviting friends and neighbours to. There's something for everyone :)

Simon.

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Sunday 14th December - Carol Concerts at 9am & 11am at the Kerith Centre

Join us for the very best of Christmas - a meeting packed with all your favourite carols and creative elements focusing on the Hope of Christmas. All your favourite traditions with a contemporary twist.

Tuesday 16th December - Slingshot Theatre Company present ‘Nativity in Creakbottom’ in Sandhurst at 7.30pm

This year at Kerith we have a great opportunity to invite friends along to a pantomime with a difference. The Slingshot Theatre Company are based at the Coign Church in Woking and are bringing a hilarious Christmas comedy to our Sandhurst site. Tickets and more details are available here.

Sunday 21st December - Carol Concerts 10am Sandhurst & 6pm Bracknell

Another chance to see the carol concert we did at the 9am and 11am in Bracknell on the 14th December. Invite along all those friends who couldn't make it on the 14th!

Christmas Eve - "A Very Special Gift" 4pm Nativity

This afternoon production at the Kerith Centre is especially for families with young children. Come and watch the nativity story unfold with us, sing carols together and experience a host of other surprises.

Christmas Eve - 11pm Unplugged

Join us for a candlelit meeting at the Kerith Centre, which will conclude as we enter Christmas Day together! We’ll be blending the traditional with the contemporary as we focus on the true meaning of Christmas with acoustic worship, bible readings and a message.

Christmas Day - 10am

Kerith is gathering as one church at the Kerith Centre to celebrate Christmas Day together. This meeting feels like a crazy family gathering- kids showing off their presents, singing songs together and a Christmas message from me :)

 

Friday, October 31, 2014

Sunday - Somebody Tell Somebody

This Sunday Liam Parker is doing the next in our series based on his book on evangelism "Somebody Tell Somebody".

He's asked me whether we can do an interview where we'll ask each other questions about how we can share our faith more effectively. I've certainly got some very amusing stories of mistakes I've made! Liam and I have very different styles of personal evangelism, so hopefully it will help us see how we can each be true to how God has made us as we seek to talk to others about God.

We will also be giving out all the dates for our various Christmas events on Sunday. One of the most effective ways of sharing our faith, and one used by many of the early followers of Jesus, is to invite people to come and hear about Jesus. Christmas is a great time to be doing that. Please pick up some postcards to use as you invite family, friends and neighbours to the different things which we've got planned.

We'll also be sharing communion together at all four meetings.

It should be another inspiring Sunday. Hope to see you there :)

Simon.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

To Die is Gain

Starting on Sunday 9th November we're going to take three weeks to look in depth at the apostle Paul's incredible statement that:

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:21)

I think that many of us live with a sneaking suspicion that heaven might actually be a bit boring compared to the life we have now, all that floating around as disembodied spirits singing Tim Hughes songs for the rest of eternity! If we're really honest I think our focus is often on getting as much out of this life as we possibly can, rather than properly grasping what Paul had understood when he proclaimed "to die is gain".

I'm really looking forward to preaching the three weeks. I hope it's going to challenge lots of our assumptions about life after death, change how we do life before death and give us a different perspective on how we face up to the reality of death.

For those who like to know the plan the three weeks are going to look something like this:

  • 9th November - "to die is gain". What actually happens to us when we die, what is heaven like, and in what ways is it gain for us to die. We'll also be having a minutes silence as we remember those who have given their lives in the defence of all the freedoms we enjoy.
  • 16th November - "to live is Christ". How should we live differently on earth in the light of an eternity with God after death.
  • 23rd November - what can we do to make sure we "die well", and how do we cope with the death of people close to us.
What would really help me is to hear any questions you'd like me to answer in the series. If you have any then please get them to me via email, twitter, facebook, or pieces of paper thrust into my hands on a Sunday!

I hope all this talk of dying and what lies the other side of death has been OK for you. I know it's a subject that culturally we're not good at discussing or thinking about, and that for some both this blog and the coming series will raise some very strong feelings and emotions. My prayer is that this series would help all of us to have a truly different and overwhelmingly positive perspective on both this life, and the life to come.

Simon.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Pure - The Final Installment

On Sunday we finish our series on living a holy life, looking at what it means for us to enjoy God's holiness. Ben Oliver is going to be speaking at all 4 meetings - don't miss what is going to be an excellent conclusion to the series :)

Also remember that on Tuesday I'll be reflecting on 7 years of leading Kerith, and looking forward to what the next 7 years might hold for us all. It starts at 7.45pm in the Kerith Centre with tea and coffee served - hope to see you there. If you can't make it we do plan to record it and make the podcast available but it would be great to have you there in person.

Finally don't forget the clocks go back on Saturday night - enjoy the extra hour in bed :)

Simon.

 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Tribe of Judah Motorcycle Ministries

Some of you may know a guy called Patrick Smith (and his lovely wife Sarah) who recently became part of our Bracknell site (his mum delivered all our children, but that's another story!).

Patrick is part of Tribe of Judah Motorcycle Ministries, an international evengelistic outreach to outlaw motorcycle clubs. Founded in Texas by International President and Pastor, Ben Priest, over the past 30 years Tribe of Judah has spread all across the world - almost every nation where there are outlaw motorcycle clubs Tribe of Judah have followed.

In the UK Tribe of Judah has chapters based in Northern Ireland and the North of England. Patrick is currently the only member south of Manchester, he's praying that God will call new individuals to the ministry in the UK, particularly in the south.

On November 8th Patrick will be hosting the Tribe of Judah England prayer meeting in Bracknell. This is an open meeting and he wants to invite along anyone from Kerith who may be interested in supporting Tribe of Judah, finding out a bit more, or simply joining them in prayer. They're meeting in the prayer room in Bracknell from 6pm on Saturday November 8th, including a meal together. Please contact Patrick at pat@patricksmith.me.uk for more details.

I know that for many of us this is all way out of our experience, and our comfort zones! If so remember that Paul said "I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some" (1 Corinthians 9:22). Let's be thankful to God for people like Patrick, willing to do this to reach people very few others are likely to reach, and let's be praying for him and for others to join with him.

Simon.

 

 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

My First Video Blog - 7 Years a Senior Pastor

I've had a go at producing my first video blog today - talking a bit about the 7 years a senior pastor evening I'm hosting next Tuesday - 7.45pm in the Kerith Centre. First of all I hope you can make the evening - if not we will record it but it would be great to have you there. Secondly I'd love to hear any feedback on getting a blog via video rather than text. I may have a go at doing it more if people find it a helpful format.

Hope you're all having a God filled week.

Simon.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Volunteer Opportunity for a Safer Recruitment Administrator

If you would be interested in volunteering at Kerith on a regular basis (7-10 hours per week), and are a relationship builder with a real heart to serve people well, Ali Hudell who has responsibility for Human Resources would love to hear from you!

 

This busy and vital role involves the safe recruitment of both staff and volunteers from application stage through to obtaining references and DBS checks - all whilst keeping meticulous records. It is an administrative role and a keen eye for detail and strong communication and organisation skills are important.

 

If this sounds like something you’d enjoy doing, or if you'd like to discuss it further, please contact Ali on ali.hudell@kerith.co.uk - she’ll be very happy to chat and answer any questions you may have!

Thanks,

Simon.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Next Level - November Youth Event

Next Level is a youth gathering for all youth groups, hosted by Liam Parker and our amazing youth team. The passion behind Next Level is to give space for youth ministries to empower young people and get them trained up and pumped up for youth ministry.

The next event is on Saturday 15th November, and will run from 1pm-9pm. We'd love to extend an invite to youth teams from other churches to come along and be a part of this event - we've already got 13 youth groups engaged with us but would love to have more.

You can find all the details about the day, including the programme and how to let the team know you are coming, here.

If you're part of Kerith, but know of youth groups in other churches who could come along, then please invite them. If you're in another church then please make sure your young people don't miss this great opportunity!

Simon.

 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Andy Partington on Sunday

Andy Partington is preaching on Sunday at all 4 meetings in part three of our Pure series. This week we're going to look at how through us living holy lives the power of God can be released into our world.

Andy currently serves as the Director of Yeldall Manor (a Christian drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre Kerith works with quite extensively). He and his delightful family are preparing to move to Santa Cruz, Bolivia in order to launch Novō, a charity which will create transformational communities in developing nations – places where hurting and broken people can find healing, wholeness and hope. You can read more about all they're planning in their blog, and Andy will be sharing with us a bit of what he's going to be doing out there.

Please also be praying for Liam Parker and the team he's taken out to Estonia. They're helping to run a youth conference in the capital, Tallinn, where the Pentecostal church is gathering young people and youth leaders from across the city. Please pray for people to be saved, inspired, encouraged and sent out as a result of all that goes on.

Hope to catch you on Sunday,

Simon.

 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Prayer Meeting on Wednesday

A reminder that it's our monthly prayer meeting on Wednesday at 8pm in K2.

We'll be thanking God for the many exciting things which have been happening over the last few weeks, praying for what lies ahead for us as a church, praying for the nation and the nations, as well as enjoying being in God's presence and being with one another. What's not to like about all that!

There's no social justice prayer meeting beforehand - that's now moved to slots in the prayer room. You can both find when those are, and book your own time in the prayer room, by going here.

I really hope you can make it on Wedensday :)

Simon.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Fostering and Adoption follow up

I know from the feedback how much people enjoyed hearing from Krish Kandiah from Home for Good, not only the truth he brought us about what it means to be adopted into God's family, but also the challenge to the church to model God's love to the world by getting involved in fostering and adoption.

Alan and Penny Lander are doing a great job of heading up our Kerith response to this challenge. I know a number of people have already contacted them, and some are even in the process of getting approved to either foster or adopt - all very exciting.

Talking to Penny recently there are two things going on she would like to highlight.

The first is that she met recently with the team from Bracknell Forest Council who are responsible for finding foster homes for childrern. They need another dozen foster families so that local children who go into care can be fostered locally, not having to be moved outside the area with all the upheaval and upset that inevitably entails. They are holding an informal information evening on Thursday 14th October 7-9pm at the Family Centre on Warfield Road, Bracknell - moe details here. Anyone who is interested can go and chat to existing foster carers and ask whatever questions they have - this is a great first step with no strings attached.

Secondly we already have families involved with fostering and adoption, with more people getting involved. As a church we want to stand alongside them - with meals, babysitting, helping children integrate into our kids work, giving whatever practical help these amazing people need. If you think you could be involved with this please email Penny at pennylander1@gmail.com to talk about it further.

Part of our call is to make the invisible God visible - this is one amazing way we can make that happen.

Simon.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

I'd love to close our Foodbank

Our Foodbank is now five years old! Since it opened we've given food to over 2,000 different households in our community, with each household receiving on average 4 foodpacks (representing enough food for 12 days for that family group). We're currently seeing about 30 new households coming through our doors every month. I dread to think how many cans of baked beans have passed through our hands in the last five years!

In many ways the Foodbank has been hugely successful. God has given us an incredible opportunity to be a blessing to our community, to fulfill the command of Jesus to feed the poor, to raise up and equip an amazing team of volunteers (lead by the remarkable Pat & Geoff Hallett), to build stronger links with all sorts of organisations and groups across our community and to grow the reputation of Kerith. We've also had the joy of seeing many Foodbank clients become not just part of our church community, but more importantly coming into a relationship with Jesus.

But on the other hand whenever I sit in our Foodbank and talk to the clients coming in for food I wish we could close it. That we could deal with the reasons that people are in need of the Foodbank in the first place, rather than just meeting the need. That mums in our community wouldn't be missing meals so that they can feed their children. That elderly people wouldn't be making a choice between eating or turning on their heating. It just doesn't seem right that in first world, 21st century Britain we should have growing numbers of people relying on Foodbanks.

I heard someone say recently that if you keep rescuing people out of the river, at some point you have to go upstream and find out who is throwing them in! We're going to carry on pulling people people out of the river, but I feel that we also need to have a voice in trying to stop people needing a Foodbank in the first place.

To that end in place of our usual annual Foodbank Celebration, we've decided to mark the five years of the Foodbank by hosting a half day event at which all those engaged in fighting the causes of poverty locally could come together to look at what we are doing and at what more could be done to reduce the need for a Foodbank in Bracknell. This is going to be on the morning of Thursday 16th October.

Our keynote speaker is Imran Hussain, Head of Policy, Rights and Advocacy at the Child Poverty Action Group. He will speak on the national picture and the work CPAG has been doing in local communities and with Foodbanks. We will then have contributions from local speakers and a panel discussion.

We realise that this is only a very tentative first step in us beginning to tackle some of the causes of poverty. However, I feel it's an important one as we look for the church to be 'the head and not the tail' in making a difference. Please be praying for the morning and all that flows from it. And if you'd be interested in coming along, or know of leaders in our community who you think need to be there, you can register for the event here - you can also go there for more details about the morning.

Jesus said that the poor will always be with us. That's part of the sad reality of living in a fallen world. I suspect that means there will always be a need for us to feed the poor. However, that doesn't mean that we don't have a voice in dealing with poverty and speaking up for the poor, in fact it's one of the very things that should mark us out as Jesus representatives on the earth today.

Simon.

ps - There won't be any Foodbanks in heaven. Let's all pray for a bit more heaven on earth!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Willow GLS - It's not too late to come

One final reminder that we're hosting the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit on Friday and Saturday this week, and that if you're not already booked in it's not too late to get there.

For anyone who doesn't know what the GLS is, it's a leadership event where we show DVDs of talks which were originally given live at the Leadership Summit at Willow Creek church in Chicago in August. Although it's faith based and run by a local church, the talks are applicable to anyone in leadership. This year we'll have in attendance not only church leaders but also teachers and school heads, business owners, business leaders and many others.

Catrina and I have had great fun watching the talks over the last couple of weeks. The variety of speakers is incredible, including amongst others church leaders, a Hollywood actor and producer, a lady running the Inland Revenue for her nation, a guy who owns a car dealership and a Harvard professor. You can find a list of all the speakers here. You can find a list of all the speakers here. It is the best leadership training material I've ever come across, both in a secular setting and within the church, and I can't recommend it highly enough!

If you're part of Kerith then you can get in for £30 for both days, or £22 for a single day, by registering here.

Everyone else can book in via the Willow website here.

If you can't make it to Bracknell this weekend then there are other sites and dates available - just take a look on the website.

Even if (like me) you struggle to think of yourself as a leader, I promise you'll get a huge amount out of being there. Hope to see you there :)

Simon.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Bereavement, Discovery & Release

If week 2 of Alpha on Wednesday, and hosting the Willow Creek GLS on Friday and Saturday, wasn't enough we've got three exciting things starting this week.

Discovery Worskshop starts on Tuesday at 7.30pm in the Kerith Centre. This course will help you to discover your spiritual gifts, passion and personal style. It's the course that finally convinced me I didn't have an administrative bone in my body! The course runs for 3 weeks.

Then also on Tuesday the Bereavement Course start at 8pm in the Kerith Centre. Its for anyone who has been bereaved, whether recently or dating back several years. It's a 5 week course.

Then finally on Wednesday evening at 7.30pm in the the Kerith Centre there's an information and awareness evening run by Andy Jackson about our new CAP Release Group. This is a new initiative to help people who are living with life controlling addictions.

More details on all of these are on our website.

Simon.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Josh & Nina Cleaver's Blog

You may remember a couple I blogged about recently called Josh & Nina Cleaver. They were part of our community for a short time, and have now moved out to Ukraine to work with YWAM.

Since getting out there they've started a blog, which is a great way to keep in touch with all they're up to. They've also got some fascinating insights on what is happening in Ukraine as a result of the conflict with Russia. You can find their blog here.

If you get time I'm sure they'd love some encouraging comments - it means to much to people who have moved to other nations to know that people are thinking of them.

Simon.

 

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Graeme Paris

On Wednesday night I was at a meal to honour Graeme Paris, and thank him for the 14 years he has been running the Willow Creek Association in the UK. At the end of the year Graeme is returning to his native New Zealand, where he and his wonderful wife Helen are hoping to enjoy a slightly slower pace of life (although knowing Graeme I'll believe that when I see it!).

Graeme has been a remarkable servant to the church in the UK, enabling many churches in our nation to be impacted and changed through the input of Bill Hybels, Willow Creek, the Global Leadership Summit and the many leaders who have come to the UK to speak organised by Willow. He's also been a dear friend and supporter to many pastors in the UK, myself included. He will be hugely missed.

I think it would be true to say that Kerith has been impacted by what Graeme has facilitated as much, if not more, than any other church in the UK. Through events like the GLS and speakers who have come to us such as Bill & Lynn Hybels, Dr Henry Cloud, Erwin McManus, John Burke, Andy Stanley, Pete Scazzerro, James Emery White, Mindy Caliguire, Gordon & Gail McDonald and many others our church has been shaped, challenged and helped to become all it is today.

We all owe Graeme a huge debt of gratitude for all the sacrifices he and Helen have made over the years - please join with me in praying huge blessing on them both in this next season of life.

Simon.

 

Friday, October 3, 2014

Thanksgiving Sunday

Another Sunday approaches - as a preacher they seem to come round with frightening regularity!

This Sunday we've got thanksgivings at the 10am in Sandhurst and the 11am in Bracknell. It's always great to join with families as we thank God for children and pray for their future blessing. The children will be in for the thanksgivings at the 10am in Sandhurst and the 11am in Bracknell, and will then go out to their groups.

Liam Parker is going to be speaking at the 9am, 11am and 6pm in Bracknell and I've got the privilege of speaking at the 10am in Sandhurst.

In other news Newcastle United will be losing to some other Premier League team this weekend!

Hope you have a great weekend, and do everything you can to be part of one of our gatherings on Sunday - it will do you good :)

Simon.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Henry Cloud Reflections

We had an outstanding day yesterday with Dr Henry Cloud. For everyone who couldn't make it I'm really sorry you weren't able to be there.

Some of what he brought we'd heard before, such as helping us understand how we should relate to and help people depending on whether they're wise, foolish or evil. However, the more relaxed format we had gave much more time for Henry to unwrap these ideas at a greater depth than I'd ever heard before which was excellent.

Other material was completely new to me. In particular the session he did after lunch describing the church culture which is going to produce the life change we all long for (more like an Alcoholics Anonymous self help group where everyone is willing to own up to their brokenness than our traditional small groups) really resonated with me.

Catrina and I also had the privilege of spending some time with Henry and his delightful wife Tori. They're every bit as engaging and insightful in private as they are in public.

All the talks were recorded and should soon be available from Willow UK - I'll let you know when that happens.

If you missed Henry then please consider coming to the Willow GLS which is on Friday 10th and Saturday 11th October. If you're part of Kerith then you can get our special church rate by signing up here.

Simon.

ps As always our volunteers, staff and academy students did an amazing job of making the conference happen and making sure the delegates had an excellent welcome.

 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Alpha Starting this Wednesday

Our next Alpha course starts this Wednesday (1st October) at 7.30pm in the Kerith Centre, with a daytime course starting at 10am on Thursday 16th October.

Alpha is a brilliant course for anyone exploring what it means to be a Christian, for people who are new in their faith and wanting to grow deeper, or those who have been Christians for a while and feel they need a "refresher". Every week there is a meal, a talk on some aspect of Christianity and then the opportunity with a small group of others to ask any questions or voice any opinions you have.

You can get more details here. Feel free just to turn up on the night, although if you were able to fill out the form on the website that would be helpful for us in planning for the evening.

Please also be thinking about partners, friends, relatives, neighbours and workmates you could invite to come on Alpha. It's such a relaxed atmosphere and a great place to think more deeply about some of life's biggest questions.

I can't recommend Alpha strongly enough. I wish it had been around 30 years ago when I became a Christian, it would have made my exploration of Jesus and all that he represents far more straightforward.

Hope you can make it.

Simon.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Pure - Daily Devotionals

Today was an excellent kick off to our new Pure series, looking at what it means to be holy - if you weren't there I encourage you to listen to the podcasts once they're up.

As part of the series Michael Ross-Watson has produce four weeks of daily devotionals which will start tomorrow (Monday) morning. These will give all of us a chance to go deeper with the material we're hearing on the Sundays. I've seen the first 7 in the series - they're excellent and I for one will be making full use of them. I encourage you to do the same.

You can get the devotionals via Michael's blog. You can either go there every day to read them, or do what I've done and fill in the box to get them emailed daily to your inbox. If you do that there's a confirmation email which comes back with a link you need to follow to complete the process. For me that confirmation email ended up in my spam folder - you might want to check there if it doesn't arrive in your inbox.

I (and I'm sure Michael) would love to hear your thoughts on both the Sunday series and the devotionals.

Hope you have a great week,

Simon.

Friday, September 26, 2014

7 Years a Senior Pastor

In a couple of weeks time I'll have been senior pastor of Kerith for seven years (no I can't believe it's been that long either!).

Over the past few months I've been reflecting on the last 7 years, as well as thinking forward to what I'd hope the next 7 years might look like. Biblically there's something significant about periods of time measured in 7's, whether it's the 7 days in a week or the Old Testament year of Jubilee every 7 years - I've certainly thought much more about this anniversary than any of the others since I started leading the church.

I'd love to have an opportunity to share some of those thoughts in a more relaxed context than a Sunday would provide. We're therefore planning an evening for the whole church, which we're going to hold on Tuesday 28th October in the Kerith Centre, where I'll reflect in depth on the last 7 years (including both the high and low points of leading a community like ours), and talk about my hopes and dreams for the next 7, including some of the things I'm planning on doing differently as a result of what I've learnt. We'll serve tea and coffee from 7.45pm and aim to start at 8pm.

I'd love as many people as possible to make it, whether you're part of our Sandhurst or our Bracknell site, or even just looking in at what Kerith is all about. It is half term, which I realise will be good for some and not so good for others, but please plan to be there if you possibly can.

Hope to see you there,

Simon.

ps - we did have in the church diary an All Leaders Meeting next Tuesday (28th September). I don't think we ever actually advertised that date - if by any chance it was in your diary then cross it our as we're not going to have it - this meeting will be in place of any Autumn All Leaders Meeting.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

New Series - Pure

On Sunday we start a new 4 week series called Pure. We're going to take a look at holiness, and what it means for us to be holy. If the thought of that makes you shudder, or fills you with dread, then I think you'll find this series gives you a completely different view of what holiness is really all about.

28th September - PURE: PROMISED

12th October - PURE: UNLIMITED

19th October - PURE: RELEASED

26th October - PURE: ENJOYED

The series explores God's holiness - how he promises to work his holiness in us; how his supply of holiness for us is unlimited; how he means for it to overflow from us and be released into our world and how the whole process is not designed to hold us back or make us bored, but to empower us and to be enjoyed.

Hope to see you on Sunday.

Simon.

 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Harvest is Plentiful

Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.’ (Matthew 9:37-38 NIVUK)

The quote above is from the end of Matthew chapter 9. In this one chapter Jesus heals and forgives a paralysed man, calls Matthew to follow him, goes to a party Matthew throws for all his "sinner" friends, answers some questions from the disciples of John the Baptist, raises the daughter of a synagogue leader from the dead, in the middle of which he heals a woman who has been ill for 12 years, and then for good measure heals two blind men and a man who was couldn't speak. The passage reads as though all this happened in a single day - if it was then that was quite some day!

I'm fascinated by Jesus analysis of his day. We can so easily be lulled into thinking that sharing our faith in the 21st century is hard, that nobody is really that interested, that we're up against it with our increasingly secular society and that the church should be just trying to survive to the next generation. Jesus analysis is very different. Just some of His radical thoughts are:

  • There's no problem with the harvest.
  • The harvest is in fact plentiful (as he's proved in the day he's just had)
  • The problem is not the harvest but the lack of workers.
  • More workers will mean more harvest.
  • We don't need to pray for the harvest.
  • We do need to pray for more workers.

So I'm praying this week for lots of us to be sent out as workers. Specifically that lots of us will be working at inviting guests to the Alpha Launch on Saturday night. It's going to be a brilliant evening, there is a potentialy fabulous harvest there - will you be one of the answers this week to my prayer.

If you can get tickets in advance that will really help us with catering, but if not you can get them on the night.

Thank you fellow workers :)

Simon.

 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Henry Cloud

Just a reminder that Henry Cloud is with us on the 1st October. I don't really know what else to say to encourage people to get there, other than

Please don't miss it!!!!!!!!!!

It will do you so much good to be there!

That's done then :)

I honestly believe that learning to say "no" in a way which doesn't leave us feeling guilty, embarrassed or that we're just lightweights is one of the major keys to us creating lives which aren't frantic and out of control because we've given in to everyone elses demands. So seriously, if you can please get there as it's going to be a day I don't think we'll forget in quite some time.

As I said before you can get there two ways:

The first is to register as a delegate via the Willow website. As part of a church in the Willow Creek Association you can get in at the member rate of £35 (or £25 if you're under 30, a student or a senior) as long as you book by 22nd September. If you need the Kerith login details to get the members rate (and you're a part of our community!) then email reception at info@kerith.co.uk to get them. Or as a special favour, and because I really want you to be there, if you get my blog via email just reply to the email and I'll send you the details myself!

Secondly you can serve, which gets you in for free. As a server you may miss the start and end of the sessions as you head off to or come back from your drinks point, or wherver else you need to be, but you'll catch the majority of all the sessions. Penny Lander is recruiting the serving teams - please email her at landerpenny@gmail.com by Thursday 18th September if you'd like to be considered for one of the serving teams.

Be there :)

Simon.

Monday, September 15, 2014

No Volunteers Sunday Review

Those of you who were around this Sunday will know that at both of our sites things were a little bit different. We wanted to highlight the vital part that volunteers play in the life of our community, which we did by starting each of the meetings with none of the volunteers who normally serve being in their role. That meant no car parkers, kids team, welcomers, tech team, drinks team, band or any of the other people normally making Sundays happen. We even started late at each of the meetings!

To be honest it was one of the most stressful Sundays I've ever experienced! To deliberately "not do things well" so goes against the grain, and in reality took far more planning than a regular Sunday, that it felt like an enormous relief when in each of the meetings normal service was restored and the volunteers resumed doing the roles they do so brilliantly week in and week out.

I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who was there for "going with it" and not getting stressed by things being so different to normal. Rest assured we won't be doing this again in a very long time, although I did speak to one visitor who hadn't realise what we were doing and commented that this was one of the best organised and most welcoming churches she'd ever been to :)

The reality is that church only works when ever one of us plays our part, and that each of us has a significant part to play. We had an amazing response on Sunday with over 150 people signing up to join serving teams. We'll aim to get back to all those people over the next week with information on how each of them can get involved.

It was also our Sandhurst site's first birthday on Sunday - it's been a great year of laying foundations there, it will be exciting to see what God is going to do in the coming year. Our Bracknell site has got to that sort of age where you stop celebrating birthdays!

Hope you have a great week. Catch you at the prayer meeting on Wednesday, the Alpha launch on Saturday or one of our meetings on Sunday - or perhaps all of them :)

Simon.

 

The Partingtons - Bolivia Bound

Many of you will know Andy Partington, who currently serves as the Director of Yeldall Manor (a Christian drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre Kerith works with quite extensively). He and his delightful family are preparing to move to Santa Cruz, Bolivia in order to launch Novō, a charity which will create transformational communities in developing nations – places where hurting and broken people can find healing, wholeness and hope.

They join the growing number of people from Kerith who feel called to go and live and make a difference in other nations. People like Sam and Hannah Fairs-Billam in Zambia and Mike and Virge Maton in Estonia. None of them go to do Kerith specific or sponsored projects, but they all go as part of our family, with our blessing, with our support and encouragement whilst they're away, and with this community as their home when they come back. Just as an example many of you will know that Hannah Fairs-Billam recently needed an operation on her foot - we as a church were able to help pay Hannah's medical costs, at the same time as a load of people here were praying for them, sending them messages of encouragement and helping find accommodation for Hannah in South Africa whilst she recovered - how cool is that :)

Part of the wonder of modern technology is that it makes it so much easier to keep in touch. Skype, WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook, FaceTime, email, text and phone calls can help us keep in contact even when people are thousands of miles away. To that end Andy has started a blog to keep people informed about what they're up to. Please can I encourage you to go and have a look at it, and sign up for email updates so you can easily keep in touch with all they're doing. They're a brilliant family and I know God is going to do great things in and through them all.

Please be praying for them as they get ready to go!

Simon.

 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

All is Grace - Brennan Manning

I have to admit that I'd never heard of Brennan Manning before I was looking on YouVersion for a Bible reading plan to do next, and came across one based on his book "The Ragamuffin Gospel". If I'm honest I chose to do it simply because I was intrigued by the title (yes I am that shallow!), but it spoke to me deeply as I used it to meditate on what grace, forgiveness and being honest with God really look like.

I've been on a retreat this week, and one of the books on the bookshelf was "All is Grace", which is Brennan Manning telling his life story. I was interested enough to pick it up, and in the end read it in one sitting. It's painfully honest as he talks about his pain, his failures and his regrets, but also full of hope as he finds and proves God's grace in the midst of it all.

I've spoken in the past of how much Philip Yancey's book "What's so amazing about grace" impacted my life and completely reshaped my understanding of how God views me. In many ways Brennan Manning is a living example of the "scandal" of grace Yancey so eloquently describes.

If you don't have time to read the book I could summarise it in Manning's favourite phrase "God loves you as you are, not as you should be".

You are loved :)

Simon.