Saturday, December 26, 2015

No Meetings on Sunday 27th December

One final reminder that we don't have any meetings on Sunday 27th December. Please don't turn up to either of our sites as there won't be anyone else there, which would be very sad!

I hope you had a great Christmas Day, and are managing to get some rest in the midst of all the busyness.

See you again on Sunday 3rd January as we kick off the New Year in style with our 4 regular Sunday gatherings (10am in Sandhurst; 9am, 11am and 6pm in Bracknell).

Happy Christmas :)

Simon.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Find Rhythm in the Christmas Season

It's 9am on Christmas Eve and we've only got three more meetings to go this year - 4pm and 11pm today and 10am on Christmas Day. The finishing line is in sight! It's been a really good year, especially with the impact of all the Christmas events and for me with my sabbatical earlier in the year, but like I suspect many of us I'm ready for a break.

Once it gets to 11.30am on Christmas morning and the last people have left the Kerith Centre we'll take the short drive home to enjoy a meal, films and games with just the five of us. On Boxing Day we'll have both of our wider families over for the day, then through to New Year we'll be relaxing with lots of dog walks, food, book reading, TV watching and not doing anything that looks like work! That for me will include turning off all my email (both Kerith and Hitachi), not writing any blogs, sermons or doing anything else work related (other than of course dealing with any genuine emergencies which come up).

I know that some of us don't get the luxury of stopping over Christmas, but for those of us who do please can I encourage us to make the most of the break. Life was designed by God to be lived with rhythm, times when we work hard and times when we rest. It's when we don't find that rhythm that we all go a bit cranky and start to get overstresed and not very pleasant people to be around! Remember the four elements of sabbath (stop, rest, contemplate and delight) and try to make sure you experience all of those over the coming days.

I believe 2016 is going to be an exciting year for us all, but we are only going to get the most out of it when we experience it from a place of rest. That starts with what we all do over the next few days.

Much love,

Simon.

ps For those who don't get to stop over the next few days, for whatever reason, thank you for what you do to allow the rest of us to take a break! But you too need to find time in the New Year where you too can stop, rest, contemplate and delight. Why not plan it in now :)

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Tuesday January 5th - All Leaders Meeting

I realise that we haven't even got past Christmas yet, but I wanted to get one date in your 2016 calendar before it fills up any more! On Tuesday 5th January starting at 7.45pm we've got an All Leaders Meeting at our K2 building in Bracknell. The invite is open to all Kerith leaders, aspiring leaders, and to anyone involved in our children's work.

We'll start the evening with coffee and tea, then I want to spend most of the evening talking about our vision for 2016. Much of this comes from things I felt God spoke to me about on my sabbatical last summer - it's going to be exciting for me to actually get to share it all to a wider audience. Amongst other things I want to share the 8 areas of church life we're going to focus on in 2016, some staff changes and some changes we're going to make in order to strengthen and grow our sites.

I will be sharing the vision with the wider church the following Sunday, but this meeting will give me the opportunity to talk about it in more detail, and with the opportunity to answer questions people may have. I hope to see you there!

I hope your final Christmas preparations are going well. If I don't see you in any of our remaining meetings this year then I'll use this opportunity to wish you a fabulous Christmas and New Year.

Much love,

Simon.

 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day

If you made it along I really hope you enjoyed our Carols by Candlelight, which were attended by close to 2,000 people. We had a brilliant time today going through the response cards - a total of 776 of them, 240 of which were filled in by people who don't regularly go to church! The feedback was incredibly encouraging with some wonderful comments and reflections. We had 108 people saying that they prayed the salvation prayer for the first time, and 42 people saying they were interested in doing Alpha in the New Year. Our pastoral team have managed to email or phone everyone who gave us their contact details today. We also raised over £7,500 for our three charities, with some of the money still to be counted. A huge thank you to everyone who helped make the carol concerts so successful. We'll be doing them again next year!

But it's not all over for our Christmas programme, with three more meetings to go, all at the Kerith Centre in Bracknell. Parking for all of them for the able bodied is at Bracknell and Wokingham College, other than for the 11pm where we'll all squeeze in to the Kerith Centre site.

On Christmas Eve at 4pm we've got our ever popular family meeting. This year the nativity animals are going to be telling us the Christmas story, with carols, entertainment and a short message from Ben Oliver. We're also going to be having some real animals coming along, which children can pet if they get there before 4pm (there will be no petting the animals after the meeting).

On Christmas Eve at 11pm we've got our unplugged candlelit meeting where we can welcome in Christmas Day with Bible readings, acoustic worship and a message from Michael Ross-Watson.

Then on Christmas Day at 10am we get together to celebrate the birth of Jesus, sing carols, see what presents the children got and hear a short message from me. We'll also be taking up an offering, all the money from which will go to Create Hope, a local charity founded by our own Catherine Barrett which offers play therapy and therapeutic support to children, young people and families.

Finally a reminder that there are no meeting on Sunday 27th December. We'll meet together again on the 3rd January for our regular meetings on both sites, where I'll start to share about our 2016 vision.

I hope you and your loved ones have a fabulous Christmas and New Year.

Simon.

Friday, December 18, 2015

No morning meetings on Sunday

One final reminder that there are NO MEETINGS, either in Bracknell or Sandhurst, on Sunday morning (20th December), and no meetings at all on the 27th December. We gather again for our 4 regular meetings on Sunday 3rd January 2016!

What we do have are our Carols by Candlelight this coming weekend, Christmas Eve meetings at 4pm and 11pm, and a Christmas Day gathering at 10am. You can get details on all of those here.

If you know anyone who you think may not have got the message about us not meeting this Sunday morning please let them know. I hate people to be disappointed, but despite our best efforts there always seems to be someone who doesn't get the message which I'd love to try and avoid.

I hope your Christmas preparations are going well. We've got over 2,000 people coming to the Carols by Candlelight which is so exciting - hope to see you there.

Simon.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Christmas Feedback

One of the highlights for me of our Christmas programme is the Carol Concert we host every year for adults with learning disabilities. This is a partnership between our own Hilltop group, Cameo and Challenge Club. This year was my favourite of all the ones I've ever attended, I just loved it!

One of the people who came this year was a lady called Ros Bayes, who came with her daughter Ellen who has a learning disability. Ros works for an organisation called Through the Roof, who have the brilliant vision statement of "Transforming lives through disabled people". How empowering is that!

After her visit Ros wrote a blog about her experience, and that of her daughter. It made my cry, as so much of what Ros describes is what the church we dream of is all about, trying to create a safe place where people from all backgrounds can feel at home, and can hear the dangerous message of the gospel in a way that the only offensive thing about it is the gospel itself. I really encourage you to read her blog, as it so emphasises the importance of everyone on our team playing their part, from the car parkers to the people serving drinks, to the way we interact with visitors to the way we set up our meetings. I can't tell you how much it encouraged me!

Please think about this as we come up to our carols by candlelight. Whether you're helping people park their cars, saying hello on the door, serving mulled punch, chatting to the people next to you, singing in the choir, playing in the orchestra, praying whilst I speak or giving up your seat so a visitor can have it, all of us have a part to play in helping people find their way back to God. Let's play that part with a smile, full of faith and ready to share the goodness of God with others.

Simon.

ps - just to be clear I didn't make up the story about the three trees - it's from a children's book my wife Catrina recommended to me. It's very good though!

 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

November Finance Update

We won't have a chance to share the November finance figures on a Sunday in December, but I'll still give a brief update here.

Offerings for November were £81,112 against a budget of £70,640 which is excellent, especially given that in November we also had our 'Generous' Gift Day which raised an additional £48,000. A huge thank you to everyone who gave. That means that for January to November our total giving was £785,699 against a budget of £777,050, which means we are £8,649 over budget. Praise God.

In January I'll give an update for the whole of 2015, including information on how we did in terms of both expenditure and income.

Simon.


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Not many sleeps until the Carols by Candlelight

7pm on Saturday, the date for the first of our Carols by Candlelight, is rapidly approaching. I was in the Kerith Centre last night to hear the choir practising - they're sounding amazing, as are the orchestra. The stage sets are pretty much done and the grand piano turns up tomorrow. It's going to be quite an event.

The 4pm event in Bracknell on Sunday is already sold out, although I've heard from a number of people that they've got tickets for their children who are actually going to be at the separate children's meeting in K2. If that's the case your children don't actually need tickets, so it would be great if you could release those tickets back by emailing our reception team and letting you know you don't need them. Similarly if you have tickets for the 7.30pm in Sandhurst, which is also sold out, please let us know so we can let others have those tickets.

The good news is that there are still some tickets available for the 7pm in Bracknell on Saturday and Sunday - get them quickly though as they are running out too!

At the actual events please remember that those of us who call Kerith our home are all part of the welcome team. That means all of us looking out for visitors and making them welcome, and if we do have too many people on the night being willing to give up your seat for a guest. There should always be room at our inn!

Please also be praying, both in advance and on the nights. Amongst all the carols will be a clear gospel message with an appeal, and a response card where people can let us know if they prayed the salvation prayer for the very first time. Let's be praying for God to open people's eyes to who Jesus really is, and for them to believe in Him.

See you there :)

Simon.

ps - don't forget there are no 'regular' meetings on the 20th or 27th December, although we are gathering at 4pm and 11pm on Christmas Eve, and 10am on Christmas Day.

 

Monday, December 7, 2015

Job Opportunity - Kerith Centre Receptionist

Hannah Liddiard, who has been our Afternoon Receptionist for the past 18 months, has sadly decided to spread her wings (literally), taking up a role as international cabin crew for British Airways. Hannah has been an enormous support to us and we will all be incredibly sorry to see her go, although we're delighted to see her fulfilling her dream of travelling the world and getting paid for it!

As a result we are now looking to recruit to replace Hannah. As the first port of call for a visitor or a caller to Kerith, we are looking for a friendly face to help direct them to the right place. This vital role also carries other duties such as mail distribution, booking rooms, stationery and book ordering as well as some administration support for the Foodbank. It is a shared role, working from 12.30 - 5pm which includes a one hour handover with the Morning Receptionist. As a result, we are also looking for a degree of flexibility to cover holidays as in most job shares.

If this is of interest and you feel that you might be the person we are looking for, then we’d love to hear from you. Please pick up an Application Pack (which includes a job description and person specification) from Reception. The window for applications is from Monday 7th December to Sunday 3rd January 2016 and we aim to interview the week commencing Monday 11th January so we can get the right person on board as soon as possible.

If you have any questions, please contact Ali Hudell our HR Manager or Gary Scull our Estates Controller who will be happy to answer any questions you may have.

Simon.

Friday, December 4, 2015

King Uzziah and Zerubbabel

This Sunday we're continuing our series where we look at some of the ancestors of Jesus to see what they can teach us about Jesus, who He is and how we can put our trust in Him.

This week Ben Pocock is going to be speaking at the 10am in Sandhurst, and the 6pm in Bracknell, on a guy called King Uzziah. I'll be speaking at the 9am and 11am in Bracknell on someone called Zerubbabel, which must be one of the coolest names in the whole of the Bible. Hopefully that won't be the most profound thing I say on Sunday.

The following Sunday we'll swap, so I'll be in Sandhurst and at the 6pm, Ben will be in Bracknell for the 9am and 11am.

The Sunday after that will be the Carol Concerts at 4pm and 7pm in Bracknell (no morning meetings anywhere), and the following Sunday (the 27th) we're not meeting either.

See you Sunday :)

Simon.

 

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Generous Gift Day Thanks

I want to say a huge thank you to eveyone who gave to our 'Generous' Gift Days. As of last Friday the total stood at £48,250, which we're already in the process of giving away locally, nationally and internationally. Whether you gave a small amount or a large amount, I'm so grateful for your generosity. If you didn't manage to give and still want to then you can either do that using one of our giving envelopes on a Sunday and writing "Gift Day" on the envelope, or you can give online here.

Many of you will remember that we had set a target of £100,000 for the gift day. My initial reaction to hearing what we'd actually raised was to be very thankful for it, and with Christmas and all that entails coming up to settle for what we've already achieved. However, having has time to reflect, pray and talk with others I'd really love us to still aim for the £100,000 we initially set out to achieve, even if that was a figure we made up rather than something we specifically felt God called us to. We're therefore planning to have two more gift days towards the end of February 2016 where we'll look to raise the other £51,750 we need to achieve the target.

I was at the last night of Alpha in Bracknell yesterday evening. Somebody asked me what was the most exciting thing for me which had happened in the 8 years since I'd been leading Kerith. I had to admit that it's not the growing numbers, our Sandhurst site or anything like that, but every time I hear a story of somebody's life being changed as a result of being part of our community. Last night some of the Alpha guests got up and spoke publicly about how their lives had changed over the ten weeks of the course - it was utterly inspiring. Hopefully by February we'll have stories of what the money we've already given has been used for, stories of changed lives which will inspire us to even more generosity.

Thank you again,

Simon.

ps On the subject of Gift Days one of the things we sense God calling us to in 2016 is a renewed focus on buildings. On the 3rd and 10th January I'm going to do vision talks outlining the things we feel God has called us to focus on in 2016. As part of strengthening our sites we want to investigate having a permanent home for Kerith in Sandhurst, and look to redevelop the buildings on our Bracknell site for the next season of growth. Part of that will mean raising money - something those of us who have been around for a while will remember well! Later in 2016 we're therefore likely to be having Gift Days in preparation for these new projects, initially looking to pay off the mortgage on the house behind K2 and provide the beginnings of a building fund. All very exciting!

Friday, November 27, 2015

Who do you think He is?

We start a new three week series on Sunday as part of the run up to Christmas, looking at different characters in the genealogy of Jesus. Any fans of the BBC series "Who do you think you are?" will know how fascinating it can be to discover more about somebody's ancestors, and how they can give us insights into that person.

Pete Scazzero, author and speaker on emotionally healthy spirituality, says that "Jesus may be in your heart, but Grandpa is in your bones!". As a pastor I see that again and again, both positive and negative traits being passed from generation to generation. I don't think that Jesus was shaped by his ancestors in the way we might be, but I do think his ancestors have important things to teach us about who Jesus is, the people He was happy to have included in his family tree, and the difference He has come to make.

We've also got baptisms in all three meetings in Bracknell on Sunday - let's be praying for some in Sandhurst too next time round!

Have a great weekend and hope you manage to make it to one of our gatherings,

Simon.

 

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Kerith Survey Results

Many of you will remember that last July, prior to me going on my sabbatical, we asked everyone to fill in a questionnaire to give their reflections on being part of Kerith. The aim was to give people a voice, hearing what people liked and didn't like about our community, and getting thoughts on what we could or should do differently. I spent some of my sabbatical going through the survey results, thinking about people's responses and reading every comment, all of which was both informative and generally encouraging!

Now I realise that some people don't think we should do things like questionnaires, that as leaders we should just listen to God and do what He tells us to do. That all sounds very spiritual, and it's certainly true that our only desire should be to do the will of God, but in reality God often speaks to us through people. Therefore as a pastor I want to know what people are thinking and feeling. Proverbs tells us to “Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds” (Proverbs 27:23). To me a survey feels like a good way of hearing from lots of people, not just the people who would be in my social circle or who I'd naturally get to hear from, but from everyone in our community.

In total the survey was filled in by 345 people, which I'm sure most statisticians would say is pretty significant in a community the size of ours. Thank you to everyone who completed it. Heather Pocock has done some brilliant work in taking all the survey results and summarising them for us - you can find her summary here.

As part of her summary Heather identified ten 'elephants' - questions which people raised which I'll attempt to answer over the next couple of months via my blog.

Heather also went through all the comments people had made and identified ten big themes which came up again and again. You'll find these in the summary, along with some of the comments which were behind them.

On the 3rd and 10th January I'm going to do vision talks where I'll talk about 8 different things we're going to focus on in 2016. Interestingly for me the things we're going to focus on all relate to the ten themes identified in the survey, which is very encouraging!

I'd love to hear your reflections on the survey results.

Simon.

ps I was encouraged that people's favourite way of finding out what is happening in church is my blog! In that case I'll keep writing it :)

 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

'Generous' Gift Days - One Final Opportunity!

First of all a huge thank you to everyone who has already given to our 'Generous' Gift Days. We'll look to announce a provisional total this coming Sunday, yet another reason not to miss being there!

For anyone still wanting to give (I know some people have been waiting for pay days and the like before giving) then it's not too late. You can either give online via our website, or you can give on a Sunday by using one of the giving envelopes and identifying your gift as being for the gift day on the giving form.

It's going to be so exciting over the next few months as we give away everything that has come in locally, nationally and internationally, and then begin to hear stories of the difference our giving has made in a whole variety of different settings. It truly is more blessed to give than receive!

Thank you again,

Simon.

Nepal - six (and a bit) months on...

It's just over 6 months since the devastating earthquake in Nepal. You may remember that in response we took up an offering and raised around £3,500 which we sent to Tearfund for them to use in their relief effort. Jamie Fyleman, one of our good friends at Tearfund and the Director of Church Relations, wrote recently to let us know the difference the money that we and many others gave had made. This is what he had to say:
-----

I thought you'd appreciate an update from Nepal, following the earthquake almost 6 months ago. As you'll recall, the earthquake claimed the lives of almost 9,000 people; it destroyed homes, livelihoods and schools. In a few moments a nation was changed.

Of course, as ever, the TV cameras moved in. Night after night we saw the harrowing images, heard the cries of those affected and celebrated the all too infrequent miracles. And then the cameras moved on. Tick tock, most forgot.

But not the local church. Not the local church that Tearfund has been able to draw alongside and support in rebuilding the country, thanks to the generosity of congregations like yours. I am writing to thank you again for that support and to tell you a little of how we’ve been able to make a difference.

Go back just before the disaster, we at Tearfund had been talking lots about our work in Nepal. Months before we’d had a small film team there and had been talking about our church mobilisation work in the country. Church after church helping communities help themselves out of poverty and in turn helping them stop child trafficking.

In those communities, Steve Collins, who at the time of the earthquake led our work in Nepal, said the response to the disaster was strikingly different. ‘People weren’t just sitting around waiting for aid. Despite losing so much, they were organised and smiling - knowing that they held the key to turning the situation around. When we visited other communities, people were sitting waiting for the aid to arrive.’

So what has been achieved in the last six months? In headlines,Tearfund and its partners have been able to achieve the following:

Of course the work goes on. We’re just 6 months in. Indeed the church isn’t ever going away.

Behind the statistics are individual stories. Here’s just one. Surya and Kanchi have four children. They’re subsistence farmers, living in the foothills of the Himalayas. The earthquake destroyed everything they had - their home and their land.

Tearfund and its partners have however been able to step in - initially providing emergency accommodation and supplies. Together we were able to provide them with all the equipment needed to make safe shelter, keeping them dry in the monsoon rains.

But that shelter, made from iron sheeting, won’t last forever. That’s why attention is now changing and we’re starting to teach local masons how to build homes that are much more resistant to earthquakes. We’ll then supply families, like Surya and Kanchi’s, with the resources to rebuild their homes with the help of the trained masons.

The generosity of Kerith and others, as it stands with the church in Nepal, makes this and tens of thousands of other stories possible. On behalf of all at Tearfund, our partners and those we serve, thank you. Oh and here’s a little film of some of those we serve saying thank you themselves.

Much love

Jamie

Friday, November 20, 2015

Buildings in Albania

As part of our Generous Gifts Days we want to give money to the church we partner with in Elbasan in Albania. The church there is lead by a brilliant couple called Ilir and Rudina (who you can see in the photo below), both of whom have visited Kerith in the past.

Buildings in Albania are interesting in that they're never really finished! People will build a one or two storey home, then when their eldest child is ready to set up home they just add another storey or two to the house, they move to the top floor and their child moves in below (I guess it's a form of security for retirement!).

Their church buildings seem to be similar. The church in Elbasan has a pretty sizeable building which they are always adding to or developing. Recently we gave them some money to help finish some rooms where they'd put in the walls and the roof but didn't have the money to put in the floor, the heating and the windows - here are some photos of them putting in ther floor.

and here's a view of the outside of an area which they've finished!

For the next phase they want to finish some more rooms so that they can move their children's work from a basement room to three different rooms on the ground floor. The church is growing, and is soon to merge with another church which could double it in size, so having more room for kids work and being able to split up the different age groups is critical for them.

If you haven't already given please be thinking about what you're going to give on Sunday, or you can give online here. Our generous giving will not only be a huge encouragement to our friends in Albania, but will also make an enormous impact on the growth of their church.

See you Sunday,

Simon.

 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Cinnamon Network - Matt Bird


As part of our 'Generous' Gift Days we are giving money to Cinnamon Network to allow them to help churches all around the UK in setting up Social Justice projects in their local communities.

Cinnamon is headed up by an amazing guy called Matt Bird. I asked Matt whether he would record us a short video to explain exactly what Cinnamon do, and where our money will go. You can watch that video either by clicking play on the window above, or if that doesn't work by following this link.

Enjoy :)

Simon.

 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Generous Gift Days - Online Giving

We're in the middle of our Generous Gift Days, where we're hoping to raise £100,000, all of which we'll then give away locally, nationally or internationally.

I realise that lots of us now give online using internet banking, rather than putting cash or cheques in the Sunday offering. In fact only about 22% of the money we receive in offerings comes in on a Sunday - the rest comes via various different forms of bank transfer (stand orders, website giving and a host of various other ways). I know for lots of us it will be simpler to give to the Gift Day online rather either last Sunday or this coming Sunday - if that's you we want to make giving as simple as possible.

There are two different ways you can give to the gift day online:

  1. Follow this link to go to a web page where you can give using a debit or credit card.
  2. Do a direct bank transfer using your own bank's online banking tools. You'll need our bank details which you can find here, and either put "Gift Day" in the reference field in the banks online form, or send an email to our accounts team to let them know your giving is for the gift day.

Whichever way you give, if you're a UK taxpayer and haven't done so already please complete the Gift Aid declaration on one of our giving envelopes, or use the online form. This allows us to claim back 25p from the government for every £1 you give - how cool is that!

I wanted to be sure that those of us who might be considered to be some of the core of Kerith, the elders, trustees and staff, were doing our part in helping us achieve our £100,000 target, and were leading by example. I therefore asked that group of people to let the accounts team know what they were hoping to give. So far 18 people have responded, and have pledged to give over £14,000 between them. If that level of generosity was repeated across our community we should easily reach the £100,000 target!

A huge thank you to everyone who has already given, and to all who are planning to give over the next week. It's going to be amazing over the coming year to hear the impact our generosity has made both in the UK and overseas.

Hope you're having a great week,

Simon.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Gordon MacDonald - Saturday 13th February

One of the biggest things God spoke to me about on my sabbatical was to focus less on being a leader and more on being like a father. We live in a world which has a huge focus on leaders and leadership, with a wealth of books, conferences, seminars, coaches and all manner of other tools to help us to be better leaders. All of that is vital. Anyone who has read Jim Collins brilliant book "Good to Great", and read his description of level 5 leaders who lead with both humility and a steely determination to do what is right should be left with no doubt that leadership is vital. Just look at any successful football club, church, company, charity, hospital, town or nation and at the centre of that success I can guarantee you will find outstanding leaders. Leadership matters.

On my sabbatical I had the privilege of observing two outstanding church leaders, Bill Hybels and Bill Johnson. Both of them lead hugely successful and influential churches, which in different ways are having enormous impact around the world. However, what I found inspiring about both of them was not so much their leadership, but their father heart for the people they were leading. Listening to both of them you couldn't help but feel their love for the people their people, their desire for the best for them, their excitement in celebrating their successes, their compassion for them in their darkest moments, and their willingness to speak the truth in love even if it wasn't going to make them popular. Yes they have great strategies, huge vision and have built great teams, but there is something about their leadership which goes beyond that, something which I can best describe as being like a father to the people they are leading.

Another person who models that sort of leadership is Gordon MacDonald. He and his wife Gail have been with us a number of times, and every time they've come it's felt like being with a Mum and Dad who love you, and who have no agenda other than to want God's best for you. Gordon is going to be with us again on Saturday 13th February, doing a one day conference called "Talk Like a Father". I'd really encourage us all to put that date in our diaries and to be there if we possibly can. Whether you feel like you need a Father in your life, or you want to learn how to look more like a Mother or Father to the world around us it will do you good!

You can get more details on the day and book in here. If you're part of Kerith and registered on our myKerith database then you should have had an email last week with a discount code which will get you in for £17.50 - just enter that code in the box for promotional codes on the booking website and you'll get our special rate. If you missed the email then you can log in to myKerith and look for group messages which you can find on the home page. If you're not on myKerith then you can either register, or get the code from our reception.

Hope to see you there,

Simon.

 

Friday, November 13, 2015

'Generous' Gift Days - International Giving

“Now about the collection for the Lord’s people: do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.”

1 Corinthians 16:1-2

Hopefully by now you know that over the next two Sundays we're going to be having our 'Generous' Gift Days, where all the money that comes in is going to be given away. I've already written about how we're going to give away money locally and nationally. I thought today I'd say a bit about the international focus.

God has blessed us hugely over the years with churches we've had the privilege of partnering with overseas. In recent years those churches have had a number of things in common:

  • They're all in post communist nations.
  • They're all lead by indigenous leaders, not a leader parachuted in from another nation. This is important as it's so much easier for local leaders to reach their nation, given that they naturally get their culture, language and don't have to break all the barriers which outsiders have to overcome.
  • They all seem to have a very similar DNA to Kerith - Bible centred, charismatic, passionate about seeing people find their way back to God, have a heart for social justice, they like good coffee :)
  • There are growing relationships between Kerith and these churches, not just between leaders but between all sorts of different people in the churches
  • They are all involved in building projects

It's that final one we want to focus on in the gift days. As a church we don't worship buildings, but we do know that they are amazing tools which can help us to fulfill God's purposes for us. (That's one of the reasons why we're looking at having a building for our Sandhurst site to use midweek - we realise that lots of things we do as a church in Bracknell are only possible because we have facilities to run them in, and we want the same for Sandhurst.)

All of the churches we work with overseas have been blessed with buildings. The church in Klaipeda in Lithuania has an old communist era hotel they've bought and are renovating. The Estonian church has an old Russian Army building which was used as a recreation block which they're transforming room by room. The church in Elbasan in Albania are building their own building, and the church in Niš in Serbia have an old house they've bought and are gradually renovating. They've all got buildings but all of their buildings are a work in progress, with massive potential but huge amounts of redevelopment still to do.

That's where we want to come in - to give each of these churches a chunk of money to allow them to do the next stage of redevelopment. As an example the church in Kuressaare in Estonia have a very basic kitchen which they'd love to develop into something more professional. Many of their church gatherings, including much of their outreach into the local community, are based around meals so having a better kitchen would be a huge boost to them. They've already done a great job in renovating other areas of the building, some with the help of a team from Kerith, so I have no doubt the money we give them will be put to very good use. I've included below some pictures of their existing kitchen to give you an idea of what they currently have and for you to visualise how much better it could be!

Let's sow generously into each of these nations - there is no doubt that we will reap what we sow.

Simon.

ps Just to be clear Saulius and the team in Lithuania may also choose to use some of the money we give them to kit out a venue for the new church they're planting in Lithuania's capital city, Vlinius. All very exciting!

 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

'Generous' Gift Days - National Giving

In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

Acts 20:35 NIVUK

Over the next two Sundays we'll be taking up our Generous Gift Day offerings. The goal is to raise over £100,000 with everything that comes in being given away either locally, nationally or internationally.

I blogged last week about how we're going to do the local giving. We've already had quite a few organisations nominated for local gifts but it would be great to get some more - you can find the details on how to nominate here.

Nationally we're partnering with an organisation called the Cinnamon Network, a charity which exists to equip churches to help those most in need in their communities. One of the key ways they do that is through giving Micro-Grants of up to £2,000 to any church wanting to set up one of the Cinnamon recognised social justice projects. We benefitted from one of those grants when we started up our CAP Job Club, allowing us to buy the laptop computers which we use to help clients to do job applications and complete their CVs.

There are a whole load of Cinnamon recognised projects, some of which we run as a church and others which I suspect will be new to many of us. You can find the full list of projects here - I encourage you to take a look as I think you'll be amazed at the range of projects avaialable. The great thing is that any church, anywhere in the country, can find projects there which would help them to reach needy people in their particular community.

I'd love us to give a big gift to Cinnamon, all of which they will then distribute to churches around the UK to enable them to reach the needy in their community. You only have to think of the impact that our social justice initiatives have had in our local community to think of the difference that our generous giving could make, as it allows churches all over the land to set up projects to reach their communities.

In time Cinnamon will send us back reports from the churches which we've helped, letting us know the impact those projects have made both on the churches themselves and their communities. That's not why we're doing it, but it will be exciting over the coming years to hear about the difference our generosity has made.

Please be thinking and praying about what to give. Being generous will look different for every one of us, based on our own financial situation. Please don't worry about what anyone else is going to give, or about the overall target, but just be asking God what being generous would look like for you.

Simon.

 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Remembrance Sunday Poem

Lots of people have commented to me on how moving they found the poem which Stuart Bryan read after the minutes silence in each of our morning meetings on Sunday (Lee Simmonds read it in the evening). Stuart not only read the poem but also wrote it. It's such a beautiful piece of writing that I thought I'd reproduce it here so that we can all appreciate it.

If you don't know Stuart he's an outstanding guy in our community, in his early twenties and currently working in Edinburgh as a Parliamentary Researcher for a Member of the Scotish Parliament. We can be very proud of him :)

Simon.

ps - Just for the record we can be very proud of Lee too!

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

No moment lasts forever but it has its right to weep

So stretch this moment out across the shores to distant lands,

A place of foreign motives and a place of darker times

Drawing in all heroes to surrender up their lives:

Our daily battles pale against their greater sacrifice.

 

18 and enlisted, He hadn’t left home before.

Never heard another accent and, truth be told, he’d never kissed a girl.

Just a child this last Friday - he’d spent the day in school

Waiting anxiously for freedom that was signalled by the bell.

 

But a week has brought transition and he now finds himself a man

That freedom seems less joyous, weighing heavy in his hands

The school bell but a memory kept in store for what’s to come

Tucks it deep inside his satchel next to a sandwich from his mum.

Her face though faintly hopeful couldn’t mask her fearful eyes

Searching past the green-grass uniform, past the soldier for her child

 

His story camouflages with those to his left and right

One amidst the hoard of strangers whom he’ll defend with his life

A father of late thirties claps a hand onto his back –

He sees his own son in him - says he’ll see him safely back

 

Onwards they march together, this new father and this son,

This family of martyrs united by their country's cause

Their actions now dictated by a higher will and force

The price of hope and freedom that they know might cost their all

 

For this they’ll risk the thunder, they’ll risk that hate-torn land

Their minds to griefs unspoken, things you and I can't comprehend

For this they join together, their differences cast aside

For this we are indebted and we rightly lift them high

 

These heroes we remember in our prayers and in our thoughts

Their lives are duly honoured and this moment, we stretch on.

 

But there was one who had no brother

No comrade with him in arms

Rejected by his people, by his friends he was denied.

They scorned his march to battle, on his back a ton of wood

Stripped of dignity and clothing for reasons no one understood.

Alone he faced the terror of a war with sin and death

Which cost more than his body as it stole his final breath

In submission he surrendered, losing everything he was

His sonship and holiness, and his righteousness with God

He asked his Heavenly Father “can’t you take this task from me"

Sweating blood in desperation as he prayed out earnestly.

 

But he knew the weight of freedom, knew the worth of sacrifice

Knew the criss-cross battle scars on his hands and skin sufficed

Though he cast a lonely figure, he was faithful to that cost

The soldier of humility, our Salvation on a cross.

 

Monday, November 9, 2015

Inside Out: The Problem of Pain

We're currently in a series called Inside Out, where we're looking at what it means to embrace our emotions in order to enlarge our souls. On Sunday we tackled embracing grief and loss, looking not only at how we can cope when we experience grief and loss, but also at how there are some lessons in life which we can only learn through suffering.

As part of preparing for the sermon one of the most helpful books I found was "The Problem of Pain" by C.S Lewis. Many of us will know C.S. Lewis from his Narnia books (often described as children's books but I recommend them for all adults too!), but may not realise that he was also the most influential Christian thinker of his generation. In The Problem of Pain Lewis tackles what seems like a very powerful challenge to our understanding of God, namely that:

"If God were good, He would wish to make His creatures perfectly happy, and if God were almighty He would be able to do what He wished. But the creatures are not happy. Therefore God lacks either goodness, or power, or both."

Lewis takes that statement apart phrase by phrase, and shows that us experiencing pain does not contradict God being both totally good and completely powerful. It's a brilliant book - not the easiest read in the world in that you'll need to concentrate hard in order to follow his lines of reasoning, but worth the effort as you'll end up with a whole new understanding of God's love for you and the lengths he's willing to go to in order to make you truly happy. I thoroughly recommend it.

You can get it from either our local Quench Christian bookshop, or if you want to spend more you can get it from Amazon!

Happy reading :)

Simon.

 

Thursday, November 5, 2015

'Generous' Gift Days - Nominating Local Giving

On the 15th and 22nd November we're having our Generous Gift Days where we're looking to raise £100,000 to give away locally, nationally and internationally. Jesus calls us to live generous lives - this gift day is an opportunity for us to model that both as individuals and as a community.

For the local giving we'd love people in Kerith to nominate local groups who you think would be worthy recipients. That could be a local charity, a school, a church, a national charity with a local office or any other group doing great stuff in our local community. Andy Jackson is going to collate all the nominations, so if you have an idea for who to nominate then please email Andy with your suggestion.

Andy will need to know:

  • The name of the organisation
  • What does the organisation do?
  • Is there anything specific for which the money would be used?
  • Is there any reason you particularly think this organisation is worthy of support?

Andy will then head up a team who will look at all the nominations and decide which ones we are going to support.

A couple of requests with all this. Firstly please don't talk to the organisation in advance - we don't want to build up anyones hopes and then disappoint them! Secondly please don't take it personally if the organisation you've nominated isn't chosen.

Please be thinking about who to nominate, and what being generous in your giving would mean for you.

Simon.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Serenje Dormitory Update

Several years ago we embarked on a project as a community to help build a dormitory in Serenje in Zambia, a safe place for 100 girls to live in as they completed their secondary school education. This was part of a wider HIV/AIDS project which we sponsored as a church, and which was run in partnership with Tearfund.

In total we raised in excess of £750,000 over five years to help fund the two projects, and although the HIV/AIDS project was by all measures very successful with many children helped back into education and many families given food security through the provision of seed and goats, the dormitory project has faced a long series of delays and setbacks. However, in the background teams from Kerith, Tearfund and our Zambian partners the Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia have been working incredibly hard to keep the building of the dormitory moving forward, and I'm delighted to say that it is now nearing completion. That is such an answer to prayer - praise God.

Rather than have my abridged version of what is going on I thought I'd just let you all see whole of the latest update from Tearfund. It makes exciting reading.

Please be praying for the completion of the dormitory, and for everyone involved including Ralph Allen from Kerith who designed the building and has been advising on construction, and Anne Mumbi from Tearfund who is overseeing the project in Zambia. Please also be praying for the next phase as a matron to run the dormitory is appointed and the girls who are going to live there are chosen.

Finally a hige thank you to everyone who has given to the Serenje project over the last 7 years. Know that your generosity has made, and a continues to make, an enormous difference in the lives of people who we may never meet, but who are our neighbours.

Simon.

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

Serenje Girls Dormitory update – 15/10/2015

This update covers the current status of the construction project as at 15th October, 2015 . While in Serenje two meetings were held - first with the Church leaders currently in the building committee, then the site meeting with all the different artisans working at the site. The following are the update highlights by category.

Water Reticulation: The 10,000 litre water tank – has been set up near the bole hole. The water pump has been installed and the electrical supply cables too have been connected. The plumber has laid the piping work and so far water has reached the Matron’s quarters as that’s where the plumber is currently staying while doing his plumbing work.

Flooring: The builders at the time of visiting had commenced on the screed floor. Three rooms had been completed on the Matron side’s wing ( Southern) and were being cured. In the meeting with the team , they intimated that the flooring would be completed by end of October or first week of November in case of an unforeseen circumstances happening with the core team.

Fencing: The security fencing at the time of visiting had been completed both on the Matrons side and the main entrance. The final colour for the fence will be decided once the whole building is painted so that the colours are well coordinated. The entrance fence has a sliding gate while the Matron’s side has a normal gate that will be locked normally.

Spoon drainage: Works on the spoon drainage had commenced too while works on gutters had been completed at the time of visiting. The blundering works that were outstanding in the corridors were also being worked on by the carpenters and hoped to be completed by end of the week.

Estimated timeframe to completion:

At a meeting held with the various artisans, it was estimated that most of the works would be completed by 31st October and if any delays, first week of November. This includes tiling, flooring, all Carpentry works, spoon drainage and all plumbing works – laying the pipe work and mounting the Sanitary ware.

Possible Outstanding works :

While there was and is enthusiasm to complete the works by end of October, there are some works I feel will be outstanding by end of October and these include

The external electrical components as these will be completed only after all the other works have been done. Power is on site and only the Matron’s side has been switched both inside and a few security lights to brighten the outside. Currently the power in on single phase and it will likely take a little longer about a month for the Power Company to move it to 3 phase source.

Painting: this too may not be completed by end of October as it’s the final activity once all the other things have been completed and the place has been cleaned. This will go hand in hand with skirting and electrical fittings.

Second Phase – Plans

While it has been exciting to see the progress being made after all the materials were bought, the team has started planning for the procurement of dormitory equipment. This includes the ordering of beds, lockers, cookers, crockery, fridges etc., furniture for Matron’s Office and house. Quotations have been collected and will be passed on to the Logistics team for approval and requesting of funds to be wired through the Tearfund account.

The economic situation in Zambia currently is bad as the currency is losing value sometimes twice in a day and so in such circumstances, it will be very important to have a short turnaround in terms of decisions to buy and approvals.

The Job description for the recruitment of the Matron is being finalized and this will be tabled before the Serenje Church leadership for prayer and support towards recruitment of the right person that will manage the Girls compound, inspire, lead them to Christ and motivate them.

 

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Inside Out - Five Practices for Emotionally Healthy Churches

This Sunday we had Dr Roger Bretherton with us, kicking off our series on embracing our emotions. He did an outstanding job of speaking into the subject, both from a Biblical viewpoint and from his background as a clinical psychologist. If you missed it you can watch a video of Roger's talk here.

Roger's five practices for emotionally healthy churches are:

  • Gratitude: An emotionally healthy church appreciates what it has
  • Hope: An emotionally healthy church believes in a better future
  • Endurance: An emotionally healthy church makes suffering okay
  • Forgiveness: An emotionally healthy church doesn't get stuck in offence
  • Kindness: An emotionally healthy church is never too cool to be kind

He encouraged us to see those as a menu, choosing to do the one that most stands out to us, rather than adding all 5 to our to do list and just feeling more guilty!

Endurance really spoke to me, both from a personal point of view and in light of me speaking on handling grief and loss this coming Sunday. What are you going to be doing this week in order to be emotionally healthy?

Hope you have a great week,

Simon.

ps - we're currently looking at providing videos of Sunday talks on the church website, alongside the audio podcasts. We're also investing in the technology to allow us to live stream a Sunday meeting (we recently did this for a wedding which got watched all around the world!). I'd be really interested to hear if people think they'd make use of either of these if we were to make them available.

 

Friday, October 30, 2015

Inside Out - Homework

Ahead of the start or our "Inside Out" series I wonder how many of you got to see the Pixar movie of the same name?

The film is set in the mind of a young girl, Riley Andersen, where five emotions - Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger, and Disgust - try to lead her through life as she moves with her parents to a new city. It's a brilliant analysis of how only by dealing with both our so called 'positive' and 'negative' emotions can we truly experience what it is to be alive.

I would encourage everyone see it, but sadly it's not on in cinemas any more and only comes out on DVD on the 23rd November. However, as a taster take a look at this clip which shows what is happening not only in Riley's mind but also with her parents, in a scene which will be very familiar to any observers of family meal times. Why not watch it with a friend and talk about how many times you've seen this scenario play out!

Enjoy, and see you Sunday :)

Simon.

 

Thursday, October 29, 2015

'Generous' Gift Days

One of my wife Catrina's favourite programmes is DIY SOS, with her hero Nick Knowles! If you've never seen it then in each programme you meet an individual or a family who have been through a tough time. Nick and his team then send them away somewhere nice while they, and a huge team of volunteers who have taken time off their regular jobs, do a total renovation of their house and gardens to make it suitable for them. It always finishes with the big reveal, where the people being helped get shown round their wonderfully transformed home, with the inevitable tears from them, the team and everyone watching. They then get to say thank you to all the volunteers who have given up their time, and the companies who have donated the materials, required to make it happen. In the most recent series they did up an entire street to house wounded veterans - for the next three weeks you can catch it on iPlayer here (just have the tissues ready!).

There's something incredibly moving about the generosity of one human being helping another, for no motive other than their desire to do them good. One of the many life principles Jesus gave us to live by is that "it is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35). You see that in the faces of the volunteers involved in each edition of DIY SOS, that through their generosity they receive far more than they've given.

It's that generosity we want to model in our forthcoming 'Generous" Gift Days, which are on Sunday 15th and 22nd November. All the money that comes in we're going to give away locally, nationally and internationally (more details about that next week). Perhaps we don't have the time, or the skills, to be involved in a DIY SOS, but we can all excel in the grace of giving. Please be thinking and praying about what you're going to give - let's model what it is to be an incredibly generous community!

Simon.

 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Inside Out - Embracing Every Emotion to Enlarge your Soul

On Sunday we start a new 4 week series called Inside Out, where we're going to look at how we deal with our emotions, and in particular what we might call 'negative' emotions such as sorrow, grief, disappointment or anger. It is easy to view those sorts of emotions as something a 'proper' Christian should never experience, to think that the Christian life should be a journey of unrelenting joy, peace and happiness, and to assume that if we feel anything negative then we need to deny those feelings and focus on the happy ones instead!

What is interesting to me is how open Jesus was to both feeling and expressing all of those negative emotions. Whether it was weeping at the tomb of Lazarus, mourning over Jerusalem rejecting him, his anger at the money changers in the temple or his pain at feeling forsaken by God on the cross, he embraced the full range of emotions and would encourage us to do the same.

I'm delighted that to kick off the series we've got Dr Roger Bretherton with us. Roger is is a clinical psychologist, lecturing in the School of Psychology at the University of Lincoln - I like to think of him as the English verson of Dr Henry Cloud! He's a Christian, based in Alive church in Lincoln which is lead by our friends Stuart and Irene Bell, and speaks widely including at the HTB Leadsership Conference. I'm sure you're going to love both him, and the insights he has to being on the place of the emotions in living life to the full.

See you Sunday :)

Simon.

 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Excel in this Grace of Giving

“And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. And they exceeded our expectations: they gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us. So we urged Titus, just as he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. But since you excel in everything – in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you – see that you also excel in this grace of giving.”

2 Corinthians 8:1-7 NIVUK

One of the core values we want to model as a community is generosity. Generosity in every area of our lives. Generous with our faith, our words, our time, our talents, our love and our money.

In November we're going to have an opportunity to model that generosity with our money, through our gift days on the 15th and 22nd November. We want to raise £100,000, all of which we want to give away either locally, nationally or internationally.

Locally we want to give grants to people doing great work in our community. That could be a charity, a school, a church or any other locally based group. We'll be asking people to nominate organisations to give to - we'll announce how that process is going to work nearer the time. In the meantime please be thinking about who you might want to put forward, but please don't speak to anyone in any of those groups as we wouldn't want to end up disappointing anyone.

Nationally we're going to partner with Cinnamon Network, a brilliant Christian charity which specialises in giving grants of £1,000 or £2,000 to churches looking to set up social justice projects in their local communities. This is a list of the amazing range of projects they sponsor, some of which we'd be familiar with and others which I think will be new to us. Hopefully we can help in the launching of a whole load of new initiatives all around the UK, helping churches to make a real difference in their communities just as we have.

Internationally we'd love to have money to give to our friends in Albania, Estonia, Serbia and Lithuania, specifically to help them with making improvements to their church buildings. The amazing thing in those nations is how much they can achieve with what to us would be relatively small amounts of money - our giving there will make a huge difference to the life of those churches.

I'll write more on each of those areas over the coming weeks, but in the meantime please be thinking and praying about how you are going to excel in the grace of giving.

Much love,

Simon.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

All Together Now

Other than being a fabulous song from 1990 by Liverpudlian band The Farm (based on the First World War Christmas day truce on the Western Front in 1914), "All Together Now" describes what we're going to be doing this coming Sunday morning, when we're going to have all ages joining together at each of our three morning gatherings.

One of the many ways God has blessed us as a community is that we are pretty equally spread across all the age ranges. That's part of what the church is supposed to be, perhaps the only place left in our society where people of all ages, nationalities and backgrounds come together as one family - a foretaste of eternity!

This Sunday we want to celebrate that. For one Sunday to have all the ages together, to celebrate all of the different generations in our midst, but especially the children God has blessed us with. I read a recent report that almost half the churches in the UK have less than 5 under 16's attending. Last Sunday we had 188 under 12's, which is amazing and something to celebrate and thank God for!

OK, so it will be a bit chaotic! There are very good reasons why most Sundays our children are in age appropriate groups - that's part of the reason we have so many of them! But for one Sunday at least let's gather all together to celebrate and pray for one another.

Be assured that there will still be the normal private spaces for nursing mums to feed their babies, and we will be providing activities for the children to do during the meeting if they want them. Let's embrace the opportunity and have a great Sunday "All Together".

See you there :)

Simon.

ps - the 6pm meeting in Bracknell is always an all age meeting! This week we're making it a worship evening - hope to see you there too!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Ten Top Tips for Taking up your Towel

On Sunday I gave some ideas on how we can go about taking up our towels and follow Jesus command to serve one another. Several people asked me if I could post the tips I gave, so here they are:

  1. Study Jesus and seek to imitate Him
  2. Know your identity in Christ
  3. Be the first to offer to make the drinks
  4. Wash the dishes / empty the dishwasher (without telling everyone you did it)
  5. Declutter your life so you have time to respond to unexpected requests for help
  6. Forgive others freely, as Jesus forgave you
  7. Be generous financially (you are blessed to be a blessing)
  8. Make space for people to come into your world
  9. Serve in our church community
  10. See Jesus in everyone
If you weren't there and want to know the detail behind any of these, you can find the pocast of Sunday here.

Hope you have a great week of towel carrying!

Simon.

ps Don't forget Wenesday's prayer meeting - 8pm in K2. Please park in the surgery car park to leave space for all our guests on Alpha.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Ten Top Tips for Taking up your Towel

Last Sunday we looked at the example of Jesus taking up his towel and washing the disciples feet at the last supper. How he stepped down from the place of honour, did the job that the lowest of the servants should have been doing, and then stepped back into the place of honour, all of which was a picture of his life. Giving up heaven's riches to come and walk the earth, serving us by dying a criminal's death so that we could be reconciled to his Father, then returning to the place of honour alongside his Father. And then seeing how he now, out of the place of honour which has he bestowed on each of us who follow him, calls us to do what he has done and choose to serve others as he has served us.

This Sunday I want to take last weeks message further, looking practically at how do we go about living that sort of life. Should we literally be going round washing people's feet, or does it look different in 21st century Britain? Prepare to be challenged, and hopefully encouraged at some very simple things we can all do in order to daily take up our towels.

Hope to see you Sunday :)

Simon.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Sabbatical Reflections - Theology Matters

One of the many excellent things I got to do on my sabbatical was to attend a three day theology conference, hosted by Andrew Wilson. The subject was 1 Corinthians, the letter which Paul wrote to the church in Corinth to address a number of different issues which he'd been told were impacting the church there.

Many of us will remember Andrew from the time he came and preached in Kerith, or may have heard him speak at a conference or read one of his excellent books. He's an elder in King's Church in Eastbourne, but is also someone God is raising up to have a much wider voice to both the church and society. Andrew has that rare gift of being both hugely gifted (and I don't use that phrase lightly) in terms of his understanding of how we should properly understand what the Bible teaches, whilst also having the ability to express his understanding in a way that ordinary human beings like you and me can understand!

It was excellent to spend three days going much deeper into the contents of a book than I would normally get time to do. Especially with 1 Corinthians as many of the issues Paul is addressing are issues the church in the UK faces too. Division in the church, living in a society which has a very different view of sex and sexuality, dealing with immorality in the church, the place of marriage, the correct use of spiritual gifts, the role of women in leadership and much more. It was a real privilege to be in the room as Andrew took us through the various different views people have held on how to interpret what 1 Corinthians teaches on these different subjects, and helped us to think about how we might come to our own conclusions about which position held the most weight.

One practical outcome of the conference is that I've started to learn New Testament Greek! I was deeply challenged when I was discussing a passage with the young lad I was sat next to (he only looked about 12 but he must have been older than that!) and he suddenly started reading from his Greek New Testament. I don't know how far I'll get, but even where I've got to so far is inspiring me to go deeper. There's something strangely moving about reading the words in the Greek and realising these are the actual words that Paul, Luke or John wrote - not just the interpreters translation of them into English. Don't worry - I'm not going to start trying to bamboozle anyone by claiming I know more than I actually do, which so far really isn't very much!

I'd like to encourage all of us to dig deeper into the Bible. I spent the whole of my sabbatical reading very slowly through John's gospel - spending about 4 days in each chapter. That was an incredible revelation as I felt I met Jesus in a deeper way. I'm now doing the same with Luke's gospel - in the 3 weeks since I got back I've made it to chapter 4! I don't know what that would mean for you? Starting a YouVersion reading plan? Getting a Beth Moore study guide and working your way through a book of the Bible? Joining me in learning Greek? As Christ followers it is our responsibility to feed ourselves - let's take that seriously and feed more deeply than we've ever done before.

Simon.

 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Willow GLS Preparation

Only a few days now until our Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit on Friday and Saturday. We've already got over 350 delegates booked in, 30 European leaders coming to be trained on how to run GLS in their own nations and friends coming to us from churches we work with in Serbia and Bulgaria. Very exciting.

It's still not too late to book in, which you can do here. And if you're part of Kerith you can still get a 65% discount, allowing you to get in to the two days for £35 or either Friday or Saturday for £21.15. You will need to get a promotional code which you can get by emailing our reception team.

Will Salmon, who heads up Willow in the UK, did a great blog last week with some ideas on getting ready for the Summit. I thought I'd include his ideas here, so that you can be in the best possible place to receive all God has for us on Friday and Saturday.

Hope to see you there :)

Simon.

-------

Here Are Some Ways You Can Prepare:

1. Pray. Ask God to clear your mind of clutter, prepare your spirit to learn a new truth and open your heart to hear His words to you as a leader.

2. Download the GLSnext app here. With this newly released resource, you can continue your learning after the Summit. Find hundreds of Global Leadership Summit video shorts organised by leadership topic (with more added each week). The entire leadership library is at your fingertips. And it’s free!

3. Watch a Pixar movie with a kid or a tween. Pull out a longtime favourite from your DVD collection or go to the cinema and watch the recently released Inside Out. Discuss your thoughts about the movie. Ed Catmull will give us a unique window into Pixar’s culture and how they manage to create innovative and impactful films, every time.

4. Think about the last time you received really bad customer service? List the elements that made it so awful and what could have turned it around. Horst Schulze will give us a deeper understanding of the mechanics of good service.

5. Read the story of the Feeding of the 5000 in John 6. One of the Summit talks will be built around this biblical text. Whose? We’ll let that be a surprise!

6. Take Liz Wiseman’s* Rookie Smarts quiz here.

7. Identify a recent time when you took a risk for a project or relationship – but something went wrong. Bring that experience to mind for Dr. Brené Brown’s* session. She will help us explore healthy ways we can emerge, Rising Strong, after a failure.

8. Get social with us! “Like” The Global Leadership Summit and WCA UK/IRE on Facebook. Follow the GLS and WCA UK/IRE on Twitter. Follow the conversation happening with the hashtag #GLS15. You’re definitely going to want to post and tweet about your experience!

9. BOOK YOURSELF IN or ADD TO YOUR TEAM. Call us on 023 8071 0295. We might even offer you a discount!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Calling all Kerith Men

This Saturday the men of Kerith are gathering at the Kerith Centre for breakfast, community, Bible teaching and worship. This is a free event open to all men - it would be great to see you there and see what God will do. You can just turn up - there's no need to register.

Doors open at 9 for breakfast and the plan is to finish by 11. Lee Layton Matthews is going to bring a message of what it looks like to live your life as an authentic Christian in today's world.

At the last band of brothers we had more than 100 men come along and spend quality time together, so please do everything that you can to come along and be part of this fantastic opportunity to connect with God and build new friendships. If you'd like to know more please take a look at this short video.

Sadly I can't be there as Catrina and I are off to Cambridge on Saturday to join with Cambridge Community Church (C3) to celebrate the opening of their new multi million pound building. Steve and Angie Campbell who lead the church have become good friends of ours, and we were with them in Chicago this summer for the Willow GLS. Many of you will also remember Charlee Buzzard who became a Christian at Kerith and is now a much loved part of C3 - she also recently got engaged to a delightful young man called Chris!

It's so exciting to see how all around the country God is raising up churches, very like us in terms of vision and DNA, which we can partner with, learn from and cheer on when God blesses them. It's also exciting seeing people going from us and both being blessed and being a blessing wherever they go.

Much love,

Simon.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Joining me for part of my Sabbatical!

One of the many highlights of my sabbatical was getting to attend the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit in Chicago in August. Well in a little under two weeks time you get the opportunity to join me in that experience by coming to our own version of the event on Friday 9th and Saturday 10th October.

Please can I strongly encourage, implore and plead with you to do whatever it takes to be there! Having attended large amounts of leadership training, both in a secular work context and through church, the GLS is by far the best leadership event I have ever been a part of.

It doesn't matter whether you're a leader in a formal sense, or just someone trying to make a difference in your workplace, school, home or street. I can guarantee that coming along will inspire you to live differently, think differently and lead differently.

Highlights for me this year were:

  • Bill Hybels opening talk which is as inspiring as ever
  • Bill interviewing Brian Houston, the senior pastor of Hillsong, on some of the incredible personal challenges he has faced
  • For anyone involved in dealing with cutomers (which is pretty much all of us in one way or another) Horst Schulze, the founder of the Ritz-Carlton group of hotels, giving a brilliant talk on how to create amazing customer service
  • The brilliant Brené Brown speaking on the power of vulnerability and finding courage in our failure
  • Ed Catmull, the co-founder of Pixar talking about the creative process and being a genius at telling stories
  • Sam Adeyemi, a personal friend of Sola's, on developing leaders
  • The comedain Michael Jr being very funny, including a video of him with his daughter which if you have a pulse will make you cry! If you want to see him in action take a look at this.
  • And much more! You can see the full speaker lineup here.

You can book in here. And as an added bonus if you're a part of Kerith email us and we'll send you back a host member discount code to save 65%. No sneaky "we went to your building once" attempts, though - think 3+ months coming regularly :)

Either way the event is incredible value for what you'll get to hear. Please be there if you possibly can, even if it's for only one day of the two. You won't regret it :)

Simon.

 

Saturday, September 26, 2015

August Finance Update

A very quick update on our giving to the end of August. Our giving for the month of was as follows:

Although we had a deficit that's not unusual for August with so many people away for the month. However, the great news is that because our giving had been above budget for the rest of the year so far we're still ahead of budget overall.

A huge thank you to everyone who gives so generously. Remember that we have all been blessed in order that we can be a blessing - thank you choosing to be a part of that process. You will reap what you sow :)

Thank you also to everyone who gave to our offering to help those cant up in the refugee crisis. As of last Sunday we had raised £12,350 with money continuing to come in. Half of the money will be going to Tearfund, and the other half to a church in Munich we have relationships with who are working directly with the refugees arriving in their city. Again thank you all so much.

It is truly a privilege to help lead such an amazing community.

Much love,

Simon.