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.