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.

 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Sunday

Just a bit of a warning that the start of all four meetings on Sunday will be a little bit different to normal! Nothing to worry about, and it will all make sense in the end, but if you do see anyone looking a bit confused please just encourage them to "go with the flow"!

It's always good to mix things up every now and again :)

Hope to see you there, remember to be inviting people to the Alpha launch on the 20th.

Simon.

The Power of an Invite

I'd like to introduce you to some friends I've made very recently, Josh & Nina Cleaver and their little girl Joni. Their lives were transformed in the most remarkable way when someone invited them to go on an Alpha course.

You can read their story, as told by Nina, below. They've inspired me again to believe that my simple invitation to someone to come and find out more about Jesus can be the gateway to their lives being totally transformed.

Please be thinking about who you can invite to the Alpha Launch event on the 20th September. You just never know what God might do! You can get tickets here, or on Sunday at any of our meetings.

Simon.

ps If you'd like to get in touch with Josh and Nina, or support them in any way, please contact me and I'll let you have their contact details. I've also encouraged them to do a blog - if they get that up and running I'll post a link to it.

----------

At 24, Josh was working so hard to bring in some money as a guitar teacher, that it was sapping his love of music. I was a new mum, more focused on setting up my practice as a psychological therapist (balanced with a demanding role in the NHS), than I was interested in treasuring time with my tiny daughter. Life was a race, a competition against friends, peers and the rest of the world. We had no higher purpose than to look after ourselves; saving up for a house and the ‘security’ that would come with it, was a huge aspiration. All doom & gloom? No, not at all. We were pretty pleased with ourselves. We had one another, we were talented in our professional spheres and, so as to feel we were also ‘successful in caring’, we would occasionally add a sprinkle of charity fundraising or neighbourliness.

3 years later, at 27 (actually, Josh is only 26, as he never lets me forget), we are Christian missionaries. Having grown up & into the secular materialism of the UK, never having attended church nor being inclined to, this has involved an incredible transformation. In 2011 and 2012, Josh and I attended Alpha courses. God faithfully transformed us both, one after the other, and we fell at His feet like dominoes. It brings tears to my eyes to think of all He has done for us. We have been set free by His love and forgiveness. Only God could have known (because we certainly didn’t realise) how trapped and empty we were before. Very quickly, we dedicated our lives to serve others, as a natural response to realising what Jesus had done for us. Finding a mission placement with CMS (Church Mission Society), we left our careers, sold our stuff and went.

We were unlikely missionaries and indeed Christians, unsuspecting right up until the moment we changed. It’s like God hit the ‘off’ button of the treadmill we were running on; getting no-where but unable to stop for fear of falling down. As unpredicted, was the loving relationship we now have with the church that reached out to us. St. Mary’s church in Langley has become family. We have been loved and mentored by Reverend Robin Grayson and his wife, Juliet. They opened up their home to host the Alpha Course; good food, conversation and hospitality included. Without their outreach, the church itself would have seemed irrelevant to us, with its’ uncomfortable-looking wooden pews (we have grown quite fond of them now) and the traditional hymns we couldn’t understand.

We are convinced that even the smallest, oldest congregations can reach young people in unexpected ways. From our own story, we have learned to be ready to talk about Jesus whenever it feels right and never to rule anyone out. God can grow fruit from seed in all sorts of situations (but not quite as easily - Josh jokes - if the seed is left in the packet!)

I write today from All Nations College in Hertfordshire where we are de-briefing from our first year of mission in Nepal. God has used every experience we had there, working with a church in a slum community and with women and children who have faced jaw-dropping hardships, to shape us. Challenges were many; the collapse of plans and placements, exchanging our possessions for welts as we were ravaged by a mite infestation, homelessness, sickness, financial insecurity, scepticism & criticism from non-Christians back in the UK. During one very challenging week, Josh joked that God was ‘beating the snot out of us”, or at least, allowing Kathmandu life to. Through being so vulnerable, we truly learned to trust in the Lord and find our comfort in His love for us.

Violins away, though! It was an amazing year, with countless spiritual highs. The church is exploding in Nepal, with more healings & miracles happening every day than it we could process. We were humbled to see congregations and communities glued fast together, not by church traditions and behaviours, but by incredible faith in the work of the Holy Spirit and such a deep love for Jesus, it hurt. Nepali church taught us that if God is worth anything, he is worth everything.

We are preparing to move, this September, to Ukraine. We have felt God beckoning us to serve in the Slavic Nations. We will be joining YWAM in Ternopil (Youth with a Mission) for training and outreach across Ukraine & Russia. YWAM offers refuge for street children and support for youth and families at war with drug and alcohol addictions. They are sharing the gospel in ways that young people can relate to, in places like coffee shops, football grounds and youth camps, as well as working with churches to make youth work engaging and exciting.

We are so thankful for Jesus, for our faith and for this journey we are on.

 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Making Space

I'm a big fan of TED talks. For those of you who haven't come across them before TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design, and the concept is that experts in pretty much any field get to speak for 18 minutes or less on something which they feel will make the world a better place (just as an aside for all us preachers out there who think we need at least 40 minutes to get our point across, it's amazing how much you can say in 18 minutes!). If you've never been there before why not go to the TED site and watch a talk that takes your interest - it will do you far more good than "Pointless" or "Cash in the Attic", and if nothing else will give you something to talk about which will make you sound intelligent at the next party you go to!

I watched a TED talk recently by a guy called Stefan Sagmeister called "The Power of Time Off". He owns a design company, and every seven years he closes it down for a year to give everyone space to do research and think creative thoughts. His conclusions are fascinating, including:

  • Through doing it he rediscovered his job as a calling, rather than just something he did to make money.
  • All of the creative ideas which got implemented during the 7 years of work could be traced back to ideas which they came up with during the year off.
  • Financially they were better off because they were doing better work, and so could charge more for it.

I find all of that fascinating.

Now I realise that most of us can't just take a year off. But I also realise that what Stefan has discovered is something which is deeply rooted in the scriptures, and the reason that it works so well for him is that living life with this rhythm, of times of work and times to stop and reflect, is how God made us to function. I wrote about this more in the Peach and the Coconut in the chapter on Rhythm - that as we look at the world we see God designed it with a rhythm. The days split into darkness and light. The weeks with the sabbath day of rest. The months with both the seasons and the Old Testament feasts. The years with a year of Jubilee every seven years where the land and the people rested.

I believe that to fully be who God created us to be, for us to achieve our full God given potential, each of us needs to find our rhythm. That the abundant life God has for us won't come simply through hard work, but as we find time to stop, reflect, listen to God and connect with him at a deeper level than we do in the busyness of our every day lives. That I can only be the husband, dad, child, friend, pastor, employee and Christ follower I'm called to be out of that place of rest.

I'm also increasingly convinced that this is key to us being the church God is calling us to be. On one level Kerith might be judged as being successful - growing numbers, increasing community impact, more nations being reached. But I sometimes wonder at what cost to our own souls that is being achieved, and whether it's truly producing the depth of disciples Jesus died for and longs for. Just like Stefan experienced I wonder whether God has for us a different rhythm, where we'd rediscover the depth of our calling whilst also achieving far more than we'd have ever have achieved simply through hard work.

I'm starting to discover what that looks like for me. I'd love to start a conversation on what that might look like for others too, and whether this makes sense to others or perhaps I've just been drinking too much coffee :)

Much love,

Simon.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Krish Kandiah on Sunday

Krish Kandiah is going to be with us at all 4 meetings on Sunday.

Krish heads up a charity called Home for Good which aims to find loving adoptive and foster homes for vulnerable children. You can read more about our Kerith partnership with Home for Good here.

If that alone wasn't enough Krish is also President of the London School of Theology, a Vice President of Tearfund and a lecturer at numerous learned establishments.

Krish has also written a number of books. I've recently been reading his latest one, Paradoxology, which deals superbly with some of the apparent pardoxes in the Christian faith, such as how could an all powerful God allow people to suffer so much. It's also got one of the most colourful covers of any book I've ever read!

I'm really looking forward to having Krish with us on Sunday. He's preaching a different message in the morning and evening so why not come and hear him twice - you won't regret it!

Simon.

 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

New Consent Form for Kerith Kids

The safety of the children in our Kerith Community is one of our highest priorities. As part of keeping them safe while they are with us we run with a comprehensive Safeguarding Policy which is constantly being updated.

From September 2014 we are introducing a new General Information and Consent Form for all children under the age pf 11. Whether you are a visiting or you have been coming regularly to Kerith for a number of years, all parents with children under the age of 11 will need to complete and sign one of these forms for each of their children.

We'll have these forms available for people to complete from Sunday 7th September, but if you are able to it would save time if you could print out the form, which you can find here, and bring it with you on Sunday filled in with your child/children's details.

Thank you so much for your help in keeping our children safe.

Simon.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Henry Cloud Reminder - Wednesday 1st October

A reminder that on Wednesday 1st October we've got the incredible privilege of having clinical psychologist Henry Cloud with us for a one day conference.

Many of us know Henry from his inspiring talks at the Willow Creek GLS over the last few years. When he's with us he's going to be speaking from his series of books on setting boundaries in our lives. I personally have found these incredible useful as I try to build a life where I don't just say yes to everything (which is my default as I like to please people) and end up with a life which feels chaotic and out of control. I'm increasingly convinced that the issue of "soul care", how we learn to create lives which feed and develop our soul rather than destroying it, is one of the major keys to us living the abundant life God created us for. Learning to set appropriate boundaries is a huge part of that.

If you're part of Kerith you've got two options for getting in to the conference.

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.

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.

Either way please plan to be there if you possibly can - you won't regret it!

Simon.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Finance Prayer Meeting Reinvented

The new look finance prayer meeting starts on Thursday this week in the prayer room on the Bracknell site. The start time has moved from 6am to 7am (hooray!) and rather than just praying for money (which we didn't do anyway) I'm going to restyle it as "the senior pastors prayer meeting" where we'll pray for issues on my heart or which I feel are big for us as a community. This will include praying for forthcoming events, praying for salvation and healing, praying for the UK, praying for the nations, praying for teams going overseas, praying for money and whatever else comes to mind. On the weeks I'm not around other people from our community will lead it.

Hope to see you there!

Simon.