Thursday, December 15, 2016

November Finance Update

The November finance figures are in, and I wanted to share them with you all.

November giving was slightly below budget, but that is in a month where we raised over £212,000 in the Kerith Vision Fund gift days. Overall it was therefore a pretty good month!

Year to date we're now just over £10,000 under budget in terms of our giving. We've been managing spending closely this year and so our income still exceeds our expenditure for 2016, but please join me in praying for December giving which will wipe out the deficit and push us into surplus, ready for all we're planning to do in 2017.

Let's thank God for his faithfulness to us, both individually and as a community, in providing for us in 2016. He is a good, good Father!

Much love,

Simon.

 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Sunday 18th in Sandhurst and Bracknell

I just wanted to take a moment to clarify what's happening in both Sandhurst and Bracknell this weekend, as there's been lots of chopping and changing with the Carol Concerts which has left some people a bit confused!

Sandhurst

This Sunday there will be no morning meeting in Sandhurst. Instead we'll be hosting our Carols by Candlelight at 4pm and 7pm at Sandhurst School. Over 300 tickets have already gone, but there are still tickets available - get yours and those for your guests here but be quick as it's looking like both events will soon be full!

We had an amazing time last weekend in Bracknell. The choir were brilliant, the performance songs were moving and some people even said the preacher was OK! Going through the response cards this week has been very encouraging - 19 people ticked to say they'd made a first time commitment and 33 said they were interested in doing Alpha, with even more saying they wanted to come to church in the New Year and wanted to know more about church. I'm praying for much fruit this weekend too.

Bracknell

We've got a regular Sunday in Bracknell this week. Ben Davies is preaching at the 9.30am and 11.30am and Liam Parker at the 6pm. There will be some carols in there as part of the worship, so you won't miss out on all things Christmas!

And beyond

On Christmas Eve we've got our family nativity at 4pm (with live animals!) and our unplugged meeting at 11pm. The on Christmas Day we meet for an hour to celebrate the birth of Christ. All of these are in the Kerith Centre on our Bracknell site.

Then finally a reminder that there are no meetings at either site on Sunday 1st January. We'll gather again on Sunday 8th January to start our Headlines series, asking the question "What would Jesus say about Brexit".

I hope that all makes sense. If not please ask :)

Much love,

Simon.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Bracknell Site Redevelopment

Following on from our amazing Vision Fund offering of over £212,000 we're moving forward with our plans to redevelop our Bracknell site. Our current thinking is to redevelop our K2 building to give us the facilities we will need to grow over the next 10-15 years (the picture above is a very outline impression from our architect of what that might possibly look like).

As part of that process we'd love to hear your thoughts on what facilities you think we're going to need as we grow in the things we already do, and as we develop new areas of ministry. That could include things like:

  • Creative spaces such as music practice rooms, recording studios or dance studios
  • Child friendly spaces and facilities specifically designed for children and adults with special needs
  • Communal spaces such as a coffee shop, meeting rooms, or just space to relax
  • Space for staff and volunteers to work

They're just some of the things I've heard people mention so far - I'm sure some of you will have specific thoughts around those ideas, and others will have completely different ideas. We want to hear all of them! Please do that by filling in this online questionnaire. If some of the questions aren't relevant to you then feel free to skip over them and go on to the ones that do apply to you.

We're asking for responses by the 13th January, after which we'll start collating them all and sitting down with each user group to firm up exactly what we want from the redevelopment. Our architects will then start the task of working out how we fit it all in!

We do want as many people as possible in our community to take part in this so please take the time to fill it in. If you know people who don't have access to the internet then please let them know this is happening - they can pick up a paper copy of the form to fill in from the Kerith Centre reception.

Thanks in advance for playing your part in helping us discern this next step in our journey as a community.

Much love,

Simon.

 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Kerith External Advisors

“Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisors they succeed.”

(Proverbs 15:22)

The book of Proverbs is abundantly clear that part God's process for us shaping plans and hearing from God is to get input from others. I never cease to be amazed when people tell me about some life changing decision they've made, and when I ask them who they've talked to about it they say no one. That to me is just madness, speaking either of a deep insecurity about what others may think, or an arrogance that says that nobody else has wisdom to bring to the decision.

What is true of us as individuals is also true of the church. We as a community need to hear the wisdom of others just as much as we need to as individuals. For years we've done that on an informal basis, sharing our plans and ideas with leaders outside Kerith, and asking visiting speakers for their observations and input as they come to us on a Sunday. However, we feel that it's now time to do that on a more formal basis, with a couple of leaders external to Kerith who we recognise as external advisors.

These leaders won't have any formal authority over us. Instead they will:

  • Be people we talk through our future ideas with, not in order to get their permission but in order to get their wisdom and input as trusted friends.
  • From time to time they will come to Kerith and both preach and have meetings with our elders and senior leaders. This will allow us to hear their reflections on where we're at and what we should be focussing on, as well as hearing what they see happening in the wider church and in society.
  • If we ever got into serious difficulty (a church split, a moral failure of one of our senior leaders or something similar) they would be the people we'd call in to help us navigate our way through it. We're not thinking that anything of this sort is likely, in fact our history is one of remarkable unity and stability, but we're also not na├»ve enough to think that it couldn't happen so it's important for us to know what we'd do if it did.

Our first external advisor is David Devenish. David is a long time friend of Kerith, and he has a long history with Ben Davies, our previous Senior Pastor. Many of us will know David from the Downs and Stoneleigh Bible weeks where we came to know and appreciate his preaching. Lots of us will remember one particularly significant prophetic word he publicly spoke over our church from the Stoneleigh platform, which launched us into much of the social justice we're engaged in today. For many years David led Woodside Church in Bedford where he has now handed over leadership. He leads the Catalyst network of churches within Newfrontiers, leads the different apostolic leaders who make up Newfrontiers and works extensively into the Russian speaking world. David is married to Scilla and they have four children and five grandchildren.

The second is Stuart Bell who came and preached with us earlier this year. Stuart leads both Alive, a vibrant multi site church based in Lincoln, as well as the Ground Level network of churches across the UK. He also ministers extensively into South Africa and the USA He is a hugely respected figure in the wider UK church, and regularly meets with the likes of Justin Welby, Nicky Gumbell and others. Stuart is married to Irene and they have three children and five grandchildren.

We're hugely privileged to have both David and Stuart involved with us.

I hope that all makes sense. If you have any questions then please ask.

Much love,

Simon.

 

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Vision Fund Offering - Thank you and a confession!

If you were around last Sunday you'll have heard me announce that as of Thursday 10th November the Vision Fund Offering total including gifts, gift aid and a small amount in IOUs was an amazing £170,151. Another £2,300 came in the following day, making a total last Sunday of £172,451.

I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who gave to what I'm pretty sure is the biggest single gift day offering we've ever had as a church. It's an amazing total, which will enable us to give a huge kick start to creating more space for growth at all three of our sites. Thank you.

Let me for a moment let you into the thought life of a senior pastor when it comes to an offering like this (for those of you who like to think that leaders have no insecurities, and always lead from a place of total security, please just skip the rest of this blog!). One of the secret fears of senior leaders goes something like "are the people who come to the church I lead just coming as consumers who like the 'show' we put on every Sunday, or are they consumed and genuinely committed to where we're going as a community". An appeal for money always feels like a very real test of which side of that line people sit!

The fear therefore when you announce a fresh vision such as this one, and set a goal of raising a large amount to kick start it, is what happens if we only raise a small fraction of the goal - it could well be an indication that the vision is little more than a daydream with little chance of becoming a reality. I'm therefore thrilled that we've raised so much, especially when at this point the vision is quite nebulous in that we're still some way away from having any sort of costings for what redeveloping K2 will actually cost, or which buildings we'd like to make use of in Sandhurst or Windsor.

I'm not sure it's been too different for leaders throughout church history. I'm struck that in the book of Acts there's a man called Joseph, who the apostles rename Barnabas which means "son of encouragement", when he releases some money and entrusts it to the early church leaders (Acts 4:36-37). It was hugely encouraging then and it's hugely encouraging now. Thank you.

We haven't got an updated gift day figure this week as our finance team have been rightly working on the monthly reports for October, but I'm very hopeful that when we do get an updated total it will be over the £200,000 goal we set. If not we'll take up another mini offering to get us past the goal. In the meantime if you wanted to give but for some reason didn't get round to it, or did give but would like to help get us over the line, then it's not too late! You can put your gift in one of the offering envelopes and write "vision fund" on the envelope before giving it in on Sunday, or give online or via our church app.

Thank you again from a very grateful leader.

Much love,

Simon.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Kerith Job Opportunity - Site Services Manager

I know I said I wasn't turning my blog into a recruitment website - well I need to be more careful about what I say as another opportunity to join our team has arisen which I wanted to let you all know about.

We are currently looking to recruit a new Site Services Manger to take the lead on maintaining our buildings, facilities and grounds, as well as ensuring a high standard of cleanliness and functionality for all those using and accessing them. The role will be part of the Operations team and we are looking for someone who not only has experience of managing this area but also has a passion for building teams of volunteers around them who will help manage and grow our levels of excellence in the facilities we provide.

If you know of someone who might be interested, or that person is you, application packs are available from the Kerith Centre reception or further information can be sought by contacting Gary Scull (our Operations Lead) or Ali Hudell (our HR Manager) by email, or by phone on 01344 862699. The closing date for applications is Wednesday 30th of November with interviews anticipated for the second week of December.

Applications are also still open for the two administration roles I blogged about last week.

Even if none of these roles are for you or someone you know, please join me in praying that we find the right people to fill them, as they're all key as we seek to grow as a community and become more effective at helping people find their way back to God.

Much love,

Simon.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Create Hope Book Keeper Vacancy

Following on from the two job opportunities at Kerith I blogged about yesterday, the amazing Catherine Barrett has a paid opportunity for a part time book keeper at Create Hope, the charity she founded.

You can find an advert for the job here, and a job description including salary details and hours here.

The closing date for applications is Friday 18th November, so if you or someone you know would be interested please get in contact with Catherine as soon as possible.

Simon.

Ps - just to be clear I'm not turning my blog into a recruitment website :)

 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Admin Roles on the Kerith Office Team

I've been asked to blog about two part time roles which we have vacancies for on our office team. Please take a look at them, and if you or anyone you know might be interested in them, please pick up an information pack for the relevant role from the Kerith Centre reception.

Many thanks,

Simon.

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

Kerith Academy Administrator

This year, we have 17 students on our Kerith Academy. Year on year growth means that we are now looking for someone to support Ben Pocock, our Academy Co-ordinator, by managing the day to day running and administration of the Academy, and assisting in its future growth and development. If you have strong administrative skills and like working in and supporting a team, this could be the role for you.

Academy runs on Wednesdays and Thursdays and it is vital that you are available on these days although we can offer a degree of flexibility with start /end times on these days.

If this sounds of interest and you feel that you might be the person we are looking for, then we’d love to hear from you. Application packs (which include a job description and person specification) are available now from the Kerith Centre reception and the application window is open until Monday 28th November. We will be interviewing on Wednesday 14th December 2016.

If you have any questions in regard to this role, please contact Ben Pocock (Kerith Academy Co-ordinator) or Ali Hudell (Human Resources Manager).

Human Resources Administrator

We currently have a part-time vacancy for a Human Resources Administrator. The purpose of this role is to support the Human Resources Manager in administering all aspects of the function such as recruitment and selection, holiday/absence and training records and performance management. It would be the ideal introduction to an HR department for anyone interested in following this career path.

We need someone who can ideally work from 9am to 5pm on Tuesdays and Wednesdays although some flexibility with days is possible.

Application packs (which include a job description and person specification) are available from Reception until Monday 28th November when the application window will close. We will be interviewing on Tuesday 13th December 2016.

If you have any questions in regard to this role, please contact Ali Hudell (our Human Resources Manager).

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Kerith Vision Fund

“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7)

On Sunday, as well as having a minutes silence as part of our Remembrance Sunday, we'll announce the Kerith Vision Fund total. Our initial goal is to raise £200,000 to pay off a chunk of the mortgage on the K2 house, start funding a midweek venue for Sandhurst and a Sunday venue for Windsor, and give 10% of all that comes in away to some of our overseas partner church.

I know many of us will have already given and played our part in moving us forward as a community, but if you haven't and you want to it's not too late to get your giving included in Sunday's total. You can give online, do a direct bank transfer using the bank details here, using the giving section on our smartphone / tablet based Church App or bringing your gift into the Kerith Centre reception. If you want to make sure your gift gets included in the Sunday total you can always email our accounts team to let them know it's coming.

I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who gives towards the Vision Fund. One of the greatest encouragements for leaders is when people get behind vision with their finances - I'm so grateful for every pound that gets given.

Much love,

Simon.

Friday, November 4, 2016

We Can't Stay Here

Sunday is the final gift day (for this year at least) for the launch of our Kerith Vision Fund. The goal is to raise £200,000 in order to allow us to provide more space at our Bracknell, Sandhurst and Windsor sites (more details here and here).

If I'm honest leading the charge in raising money is one of the least favourite parts of my role. However, I willingly do it because I have such a deep conviction that we can't stay where we are. For me not having space for our church to grow is not an option, and on all three of our sites we need more space.

  • Kerith Bracknell needs more space to allow us to grow on Sundays, in midweek activities and in the size of the staff team. It's going to be at least two years until any we'll be in a place to start building, so we need to start planning and paying for that building now! The first step in this is to pay off the mortgage on the house behind K2.
  • Kerith Sandhurst needs space to grow midweek, allowing us to do social justice, small groups, parent and toddler groups, prayer meetings and much more.
  • Kerith WIndsor will soon need a Sunday venue.

All of us benefit from the previous generations who gave their money to build the facilities we enjoy today. It's now our time to do the same for the next generation.

So please join me in the adventure. Whether you can be one of the ten people we're looking for to give £10,000, or if you're only able to give a much smaller amount, please come and play your part in helping us invest in the future of our church.

If you're around on Sunday you can give using the giving envelopes, which we'll properly give people time to fill in. Otherwise you can give online, via Church App if you've got that on your smartphone or tablet, or via a bank transfer using the bank details here (if you do that please be sure to indicate that it's for the vision fund). Please also fill out the appropriate Gift Aid declaration if you haven't already done that for your giving to Kerith, this allows us to claim back £25 on every £100 given.

We'll announce the Vision Fund total on Sunday 13th November, so please get your gift in as early as possible to make sure it gets included in the total.

A huge thank you in advance to everyone who gives. You are such an encouragement to me, and to everyone else in our community.

Much love,

Simon.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Our Week of Prayer - Be 1 of 168 :)

To tie in with our Vision Fund Gift Days we're holding a week of 24-7 prayer in our prayer room from 3pm on Sunday 30th October to 3pm on Sunday 6th November.

We've had weeks of prayer before, but have never managed to fill all 168 one hour slots that make up a week. I'm asking whether you could join us in prayer for at least one of those slots

Talking to people I realise that quite a few people have never been in our prayer room, so just wanted to emphasise how easy it is to use!

First where is the prayer room? Well if you come out of the front doors of the Kerith Centre on our Bracknell site and look across the car park you'll see the studio directly opposite you. Downstairs in the studio is where our creative arts team hang out during the week, and upstairs is our 24/7 prayer room.

The process for booking a slot in the prayer room is:

  • Go to the booking page for either October, or November, and look for a slot that works for you.
  • Click on the slot you want to book and a form will pop up for you to fill in.
  • Enter your name, email address, the amount of time you want to book for and whether you want to book the prayer room for exclusive use (you want to pray on your own) or whether you're happy for other people to join you.
  • Click on "book" and that's it done. You should get an email pretty much straight away confirming your booking.

An hour before your slot you'll get an email with a four digit access code which you type into the keypad by the front door of the studio when you get there and which will give you access to the prayer room. Alternatively press the door bell and if there's someone already in the prayer room they'll hopefully come down and let you in!

 

When you get up to the prayer room you'll find lots of resources in there to help and inspire you to pray. That includes a variety of different places to sit, books, music, tea and coffee making facilities, a prayer wall to write on and much more. Make yourself at home and enjoy spending time in God's presence. Remember that it's more about being than doing, more about listening to God and meeting with him than praying your way through a shopping list of requests.

There are still loads of slots available. I'd love it if we could fill every one - something we really should be able to do with our community our size - so please play your part and book a slot now! You won't regret it :)

Much love,

Simon.

 

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Vision Fund - What is your beehive?

I've been challenged recently reading some of the early history of our church, and particularly around the building of our first building which opened in 1892. We've got records of two very different people who gave gifts to help fund the building.

The first was from a Mr Slyfield - this is what is recorded about him in July 1992:

'Mr Slyfield, who has recently been converted, promised to give, as an offering to the Lord, whatever he realised by the sale of a hive of bees. At the Opening Day, he gave a half sovereign saying 'that's the result of the bees'.'

The second is from someone far more famous, Charles Spurgeon, who was the most celebrated preacher of his day, regularly preaching to crowds of 10,000 plus.

We have this record of a letter he wrote to the church prior to the opening of the building:

One person giving a half sovereign (50p), another giving £50 up front with the promise of another £100 to come. Both giving according to their means, with the result of their giving along with that of a handful of others achieving something remarkable, the provision of our community's first building.

All those years ago both Mr Slyfield and Mr Spurgeon made an investment to provide space for our fledgling church to meet. Many years later we now stand at the same point, needing to invest again to provide more meeting space to allow us to continue to grow.

  • In Bracknell we need more space for children on Sundays, for midweek activities and for offices.
  • In Sandhurst we need a midweek meeting space for social justice, courses, prayer, parent and toddler groups and much more.
  • In Windsor we need a space to start gathering on a Sunday.

To help achieve all these things we've established the Kerith Vision Fund which we're starting with gift days on Sunday 30th October and Sunday 6th November. We're looking to raise an initial £200,000 to allow us to pay off a chunk of the mortgage on the house behind K2, start funding the midweek space in Sandhurst and Sunday space in Windsor, and give away £20,000 to churches overseas.

I realise that some of us come like Mr Slyfield with limited resources, and some like Charles Spurgeon with the ability to give far more. The goal is not for everyone to give the same amount, but for each of us to do what we can as we invest in the generations to come.

Please can I encourage us all to be thinking and praying about what we are going to give. Remember that God loved Mr Slyfield every bit as much as he loved the the far more wealthy and famous Charles Spurgeon, and I suspect was as delighted in Slyfield's gift of the beehive as he was by Spurgeon's much larger gift, not because of its size but because of the heart that it demonstrated.

You can give to the gift days on the actual day, or online via our website. Thank you in advance for playing your part

Much love,

Simon.

 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Willow Creek GLS - Don't Miss It!

Our two day Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit starts tomorrow (Wednesday) morning at 9am, with the one day highlights version on Saturday also starting at 9am.

It's still not too late to book in! You can get tickets on the door, but if you're part of Kerith and want to get our discount rate (or any of the other discounts available) you can only get them by booking online beforehand for the two day event or the one day event (if you need the Kerith discount code then message me, phone our reception on 01344 862699 or email info@kerith.co.uk). Including our volunteers we've already got over 300 attending the two day event and over 200 coming to the one day version, but there's still plenty more space for you to come to what is going to be an outstanding event. Please don't miss it!

For all you smartphone and tablet users there's a brilliant Summit app available which gives you all the speaker info, the timetable, space to make notes and much more. Search for GLS16 in the iTunes or Google Play app store and get an advance view of all you've got to look forward to.

Just in case that's not a possibility for you I've included the schedules for the two events below.

See you there :)

Simon.

 

 

Friday, October 7, 2016

Hazel Thompson

Our house is quite a busy place, with people regularly coming for meals or to stay with us overnight. Earlier this year one of those people was Hazel Thompson, who was working with our daughter Alice on a project for Cinnamon Network. We'd never met Hazel before, but it became apparent pretty quickly that she's a quite remarkable lady, working as a Photo Journalist for organisation such as the New York Time, The Sunday Times and the Guardian.

Her photography has taken her to over 50 nations, using her skill, and her passion, to photograph and film injustice and prejudice; telling powerful stories and creating global awareness around social and humanitarian issues. This has included highlighting the issue of teenage runaways in the UK, sex trafficking in India and children being illegally imprisoned in Filipino jails. Hazel is also a Christian, and clearly sees what she does through her photography as being part of her response to God's call on her life.

As soon as I met Hazel I thought this would be someone it would be great for all of us to meet and to hear from, so I'm delighted that this Sunday Hazel is going to be with us at all four meetings. We'll get to hear from her, and to see some of her photos and short videos, all of which is going to be deeply inspiring and challenging.

See you there :)

Simon.

 

Friday, September 30, 2016

Serenje Dormitory Update

“‘Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter – when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.”

(Isaiah 58:6-8)

 

For a number of years now we've partnered with Tearfund to help bring transformation to Serenje, a rural community in Zambia. As part of that project we helped fund a dormitory where girls could complete their secondary school education in a safe and secure environment.

Howard and Elizabeth Reece-Smith, part of our community for many years and now living in France, were recently out in Serenje and got to visit the dormitory, which is now up and running with the first group of girls living there. They sent back some photos which I wanted to share with you all, as it's so encouraging to see what has been achieved.

Interestingly the whole Serenje project arose out of a talk Bono gave at the Willow Creek GLS, challenging the church to engage with the issue of HIV/AIDS and seek to make a difference. That's why I'm passionate that as many of us as possible get to be part of the GLS we're hosting on the 12th and 13th and 15th October - more details here. If you're not booked in already please get yourself there - who knows what God will say to you and the impact that might have on the world we live in.

Enjoy the photos, and for all those who gave financially to the project and prayed for it please know that you have made an incredibly wise investment of your time and money!

Much love,

Simon.

 

Friday, September 23, 2016

Kerith Vision Fund

Helping people find their way back to God by generously giving our money to provide excellent meeting places where lives are changed

One of the things limiting our growth as a community is a lack of meeting places. That looks different on each of our sites:

  • In Bracknell we have run out of space to grow on Sundays, space for midweek activities including courses and social justice, and office space for staff, volunteers and Academy students.
  • In Sandhurst we need midweek space to run courses, parents and toddler groups, social justice initiatives and much more (in time as Sandhurst grows we will need a larger Sunday space, and eventually a permanent home for all that we do).
  • In Windsor we plan to start meeting on Sundays in 2017 (possibly once a month initially) which will require a Sunday venue (and in time Windsor will hopefully follow a similar development path to Sandhurst).

On Tuesday night we launched our Kerith Vision Fund, with the goal of producing the finances to provide the meeting places we need. For more details take a look at my presentation from Tuesday night. We'll be talking about this more on Sundays over the next few weeks, but please take a look as it will give you a good idea of what we're intending to do on each of the sites.

As a first step we're going to have gift days on the 30th October and 6th November, with a goal of raising £200,000. This would allow us to:

  • Significantly reduce the mortgage on the K2 house (currently around £180,000)
  • Provide seed finance to start to redesign K2, look for a Sandhust midweek facility and identify an initial Windsor Sunday venue
  • Give away £20,000 as a tithe which will go to churches we work with in other nations.

I'm asking whether there are ten people in our community with the gift of giving who could give £10,000 each, in order to give us half of the total, and then the rest of our community could take on the responsibility of giving the other half. I've already had one person come forward to give the first £10,000 which is brilliant, and would love to hear from anyone else who feels similarly inspired to give.

If you want to give before the gift days (always a huge encouragement to me as a leader) then you can do that online. We've already had people give both a one off gift, and set up regular giving, which is so exciting.

Prayer is going to be key to all this. As a first step we're going to have a week of 24/7 prayer from the 30th October to the 6th November, where we'll be praying for growth and health across every area of Kerith. We want to fill all 168 one hour slots across that week - I'll let you know when booking for the prayer room is open for November so we can start to fill those slots.

Hopefully none of us will feel anxious about this. Instead my prayer is that we'll be excited by the opportunity it presents for us to make a difference, not only in our generation but in the generations to come.

Much love,

Simon.

 

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Curry Night and Magic

Several people have commented to me on us having a magician at our curry night on the 21st September, asking whether this is appropriate for a Christian event. That's a really good question, and I wanted to outline my thinking around it.

In the Cambridge Dictionary the word magic, as a noun, has three very different definitions:

  1. The use of special powers to make things happen that would usually be impossible, such as in stories for children: "The group is known for its belief in witchcraft and magic."
  2. The skill of performing tricks to entertain people, such as making things appear and disappear and pretending to cut someone in half: "He's a comedian who also does magic."
  3. A special and exciting quality that makes something seem different from ordinary things: "Although the film was made 50 years ago, it has lost none of its magic."

The first of these is demonic and not permitted for Christians. This is perhaps most clearly stated in Deutoronmy 18:

“When you enter the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. Let no one be found among you who sacrifices their son or daughter in the fire, who practises divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD; because of these same detestable practices the LORD your God will drive out those nations before you. You must be blameless before the LORD your God.” (Deuteronomy 18:9-13)

There is no place for any of these practices within the life of a follower of Jesus. Anyone with a past involvement in any of these things should repent of them, and destroy anything they have relating to those activities. An example of this happening would be in Acts 19:

“Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed what they had done. A number who had practised sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas.” (Acts 19:18-19 NIVUK)

However, this is not the sort of magic we are referring to when it comes to the curry night, which in my mind clearly falls under the second definition of magic. I don't know anybody who looks at a modern day magician such as Paul Daniels, David Copperfield, Dynamo or our own Iain Bailey and suggests that what they're doing has been achieved because they've got special powers. Everyone knows that when the magician predicts which card you picked, pulls a rabbit out of the hat, saws a person in half or makes the Statue of Liberty disappear, that what we're seeing is an illusion. Something which appears to be impossible but which we all know has a logical explanation, even if we can't work out what it is. That's why the people doing this are often referred to as illusionists rather than magicians.

I do realise that many people in our community rightly have a very strong aversion to magic of the first type, and want nothing to do with anything which has the word magic attached to it. It's highly unfortunate that one word covers both definitions, and I fully understand why people might be surprised by the idea of us having a magician. However, I honestly believe that when we step back and think about what we mean when we use the word magic in this context we haven't got an issue.

There is a question as to whether we should still avoid having a magician because of the confusion it might cause in people's minds - that some people might think we're condoning the first sort of magic. That is a legitimate question and one we should think about for the future.

As for the third definition of 'magic', we could all use a bit more of that in our lives!

I hope that makes some sense. I'm very happy to interact more over this if people have other thoughts or questions.

Simon.

Ps - please be inviting people to the curry night - 7.30pm on Wednesday 21st September - you can get tickets here. We've already got around 80 people coming for what will be a quality evening and a great introduction to Alpha.

Pps - please pray for Iain Bailey. He's a committed follower of Jesus seeking to point people to Christ through his magic (of the second type!). If you have questions about what he does I'm sure he'd be happy to talk with you.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Smelling of Jesus

“For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.”

(2 Corinthians 2:15)

I spoke last Sunday about us being the aroma of Jesus to the world. Of us carrying with us everywhere we go the fragrance of him - through our prayers, our actions and our words.

If you want to smell of something then the closer you get to it the more you will smell of it (I didn't get that science A level for nothing!). That's totally true when it comes to Christ. The closer we are to him, the more we will carry his fragrance into our world.

I spoke about two keys to us being close to Jesus:

  • Reading the Bible and doing what it says
  • Being filled with the Holy Spirit and following his promptings

Over the years I've used lots of different tools to help me in my daily Bible readings. Reading through the whole Bible in a year. Bible reading notes such as Every Day with Jesus. Bible pot luck where you just turn to a random passage every day and read it. YouVersion Bible reading plans. All of them (apart from perhaps the pot luck approach) have been very helpful. However, recently I've been doing something different which I'm finding really fruitful, and which I thought I'd share.

Tom Wright, who is one of the leading experts on the New Testament, and was for a while the Bishop of Durham, has written a series of commentaries on the books of the New Testament. (He has also written a number of other books, including the brilliant "Surprised by Hope" on how wrong we've got our picture of heaven).

In each of the commentaries he does his own short translation of a passage, then explains what that passage means in language that ordinary people like you and me can understand. It isn't exhaustive in that sometimes he'll pick up on one idea in a passage and not comment on another one (which can be a bit frustrating if it was the other one which really gripped you) but there's an incredible to depth to his understanding, not only of what the passage meant to its original audience but also how it applies to us today. As you go through you also really get the sense of what the whole of the book is saying, rather than getting stuck in the detail of a specific verse without being able to see the bigger picture.

So far I've worked my way through his commentary on the book of Romans, and I'm now about half way through his commentary on Revelation. If I'm honest the bit of Revelation between the letters to the seven churches at the beginning, and the picture of the new Heaven and the new Earth at the end, has always been a complete mystery to me. That's no longer the case, and I'm genuinely looking forward every morning to get to read the next section.

My plan is over the next few years to work my way though all his New Testament commentaries, probably reading a gospel next and then seeing where I go from there.

It may be that you've got an amazing Bible reading plan which is working brilliantly for you. If so praise God. But if not why not choose a book of the New Testament and begin working your way through it with Tom Wright at your side. I don't think you'll regret it, and you'll hopefully end up smelling of Jesus a whole load more!

Simon.

 

Friday, September 9, 2016

Better by Half and a New Series

Don't forget that from this Sunday our morning meetings are starting at 9.30am and 11.30am (Bracknell) and 10.30am (Sandhurst). If you forget then you'll have more time to chat to people before the meeting, or for some you'll just be there on time! The evening gathering in Bracknell is still starting at 6pm.

This Sunday we're starting a new series, called "Things I wished Jesus never said".

There are some things in the Bible which I find it very easy to accept. That God loves me, that he wants to forgive me, that he chose me, that he's got good plans for me. I have no problem with those things.

Yet there are other things the Bible says, and which in particular Jesus says, which can seem very uncomfortable. What he has to say about hell and judgement, about persecution, his instruction to die to myself and take up my cross. When we read those we might wish that Jesus never said them, that he just focussed on the 'nice' things he had to say. But I believe that properly understood even the things that seem hard speak to us of the love of a good God, who wants nothing but the best for his creation. That's why we've called this series things I wished Jesus never said, because I do believe that when we understand why Jesus said the things he said, then we will actually be thankful for them.

We start this Sunday looking at heaven and hell in all three meetings in Bracknell, and Jesus call to obedience in Sandhurst, then next Sunday we'll swap - other than at the 6pm on the 18th September when Canon Andrew White will be speaking.

Three other dates for your diary:

  • Tuesday 13th September - 7.30pm in the Kerith Centre - prayer meeting for Alpha with a live stream from HTB London
  • Tuesday 20th September - 7.45pm in the Kerith Centre - Kerith Vision Night
  • Wednesday 21st September - 7.30pm in the Kerith Centre - Alpha Launch Curry Night

I hope you've had a great week - especially those feeling the impact of the start of a new school year. I've been on retreat the last 3 days in Oxford which has been incredibly refreshing. I feel so privileged to be part of a community that releases me to do this - my prayer is that all of us would find the space in our busy lives to connect with God in meaningful, live giving ways.

Hope to see you Sunday,

Simon.

 

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Kerith Kids Team Gathering - Everyone Invited

Next Tuesday (6th September) Sonia Hopkin, our champion for everything to do with children in Kerith, is inviting all of our current Kids team along with anyone interested in being involved in the future to a vision evening which will start at 7.30pm in our K2 building on the Bracknell site.

The core of the evening will be Sonia and me (I?) sharing our heart and our vision for children and their families. Included in that is what we do on a Sunday, things we're changing to better support children with special needs and their families, ideas for how our kids work integrates more closely with what we do in social justice and other ideas to reach out into our wider community. I'll also be giving a sneak preview of some of what I'll be sharing at the vision night on Tuesday 20th September.

Wrapped around that we'll start with cake, tea and coffe, and have time too to pray together and for Q&A.

If you can possibly make it then it would be great to see you there.

Simon.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Sunday Meeting Time Changes

In order to create space for growth in Bracknell, from the 11th September 2016 we are changing the Bracknell morning meeting times to be 9.30m and 11.30am, and Sandhurst to be 10.30am. The evening meeting in Bracknell will stay at 6pm.

I'm going to talk about this in more detail next Sunday (4th September) but I wanted to put some of it in a blog before then.

Reasoning:

Part of our history as a church has been creating space for new people to come. This has included:

  • Moving to Garth Hill College when we filled up the original buildings on the Kerith Centre site
  • Building the Kerith Centre and K2
  • Planting out Reading Family Church
  • Using cameras on a Sunday and improving the audio in the balcony to encourage more people to sit in the balcony
  • Going to two morning meetings in Bracknell
  • Making the evening meeting in Bracknell the same as the morning meetings
  • Moving staff out of the Spurgeon room and what is now the Unleashed lounge to make more space for children and youth on a Sunday
  • Sending out 100 people to start Kerith Sandhurst

Every time we've created space God has filled it.

We're now at a point that the 11am meeting in Bracknell is close to being full again, with every available room being used for adults, children or young people and several of those rooms at capacity. Longer term the plan is to redevelop K2 to both allow greater numbers of people to come, and to create dedicated spaces for children and adults with special needs (more on this at our vision night on Tuesday 20th September, 7.45pm in the Kerith Centre to which everyone is invited), but redeveloping K2 is going to take time, so we need to do something in the interim.

The core of our vision is "helping people find their way back to God", and we can't effectively do that when there is no space for new people to come. If we're serious about our vision then we can't stay 'here', doing nothing is not an option, so we need to do something in order to allow more people to come.

Looking at the numbers coming to the 9am and the 11am shows the following (the numbers are for Sunday 12th June):

(For the mathematical amongst you don't be worried that the adult, youth and kids totals don't add up to the overall total for each meeting - some of the people serving in kids and elsewhere outside the adult meeting aren't included in the figures for adults, youth and kids, but are included in the total numbers).

 

You can see that we had close to twice as many adults at the 11am in Bracknell as we had at the 9am, with around 50% more children. We have plenty of space to grow at the 9am, but at the moment it is clear that the majority of people prefer to come to the 11am. We're therefore going to move the meeting times back by 30 minutes in order to encourage people to come to the earlier meeting.

Upsides of the change are:

  • Hopefully we create space for new people to come by making numbers more balanced across the two meetings
  • Everyone gets to spend an extra half hour in bed!
  • The musicians can begin practicing as soon as they arrive, rather than having to wait until 8am which we currently do in order to be considerate to our neighbours

Downsides are:

  • Everyone at the 11.30am gets home to lunch half an hour later
  • There is a shorter gap between the end of morning meetings and the start of the 6pm

There is a possibility that in time all we'll achieve is making the earlier meeting the larger one. If we sense that happening we'll change the start times to be 9.15am and 11.15am.

At the same time we will change the start time of Sandhurst to be 10.30am. This will make it more straightforward when we need to stream the preach or move people between the sites, and will allow the Sandhurst setup teams to start work at a more civilised time.

I realise that lots of people don't like change, but in reality this is a small change compared to many of the changes we've made in the past. I want to encourage us to embrace these new times, and more importantly the vision behind them. We're not a club that exists for our own convenience, but the church of Jesus Christ which exists for the benefit of those who don't yet know Him.

See you next Sunday (at 9, 10, 11 or 6!).

Simon.

 

Monday, August 1, 2016

Willow Creek GLS - One & two day options

In October we've got the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit coming up, and this year I want to encourage everyone who is part of Kerith to plan to come along as an investment in our personal growth. As every year there's an amazing line up of speakers with people from the church, business, charity and academic worlds - people we can all learn from if we are humble enough to hear God speaking through them.

In past years we've always run the conference on a Friday and Saturday. I've long thought that this gives us the worst of both worlds, in that there are a bunch of people who can't make a Friday because they can't get the time off work, and a bunch of people who struggle with the Saturday because that's key family time. Also for church teams wanting to come a Friday often isn't great because you're getting ready for Sunday. We're therefore going to try something a little different this year!

On Wednesday 12th and Thursday 13th October we'll host the full blown conference with the majority of the speakers from the live event which takes places in Chicago in August. You can book into that here. I'd encourage everyone who can get time off work, child care, college or whatever else you might do during the week to come to these two days. Also for church teams to book those two days as a key team time - staying in local hotels if you can in order to maximise the time you have together to discuss all that you're learning.

Then on Saturday 15th October we'll do a one day version of the GLS, showing what we think are the best talks from the two day event. You can book that here. I want to encourage anyone who can't make it to the two day event to come to this.

If you're not part of Kerith then until the 5th August you can use the discount code GLS16SO to get 25% off.

If you do regularly attend one of our Kerith sites then we have a host church discount code which will get you 65% off. You can get that code by emailing our Kerith reception, but only if you really do come regularly!

Either way the conference represents incredible value for money. I'm always amazed how we can think nothing of pay a load of money to go to a football match, the cinema or the theatre, but then question the cost of a conference like the GLS. Jesus told us that "where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matthew 6:21). Be willing to invest in something which will do not only your heart but also your mind and soul incredible good.

See you there :)

Simon.

 

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Kerith Academy - It could be you (or someone you know)

Last Sunday we had the graduation of this year's group of Kerith Academy students. It's been brilliant to watch them grow over the year, and to celebrate all that God has done in and through them. We're going to miss them, although it's going to be exciting to see what happens next

We're now recruiting for the 2016-2017 Academy year, and I want to encourage you to think about whether this might be a next step either for you, or for someone you know. At the core of the Academy are two days a week of theological and leadership training. On top of that students can choose to serve two days a week in a Kerith ministry, five hours a week in a Kerith ministry or be based in another local church for their volunteer time. The Academy is open to anyone over the age of 18 so please don't exclude yourself!

You can go here for all the details, watch the brilliant promo video or take a look at the prospectus. You can apply online, or if you have any questions then please don't hesitate to email our Academy Lead Ben Pocock.

Simon.

 

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Create Hope - Volunteer Fundraiser Wanted

One of my passions is for Kerith to be a community which resources and equips people to do amazing things which will never have a Kerith "badge" on them. Whether that's running a school, building a company, running a charity in the UK or overseas, being involved in the world of media, politics or healthcare, or anything else which engages someone's faith, passion and gifting in something not directly linked with Kerith. That to me represents success every bit as much as our CAP centre, youth work or ministry in another nation going well.

One of the shining lights in this area is Catherine Barrett, who has founded Create Hope, a Christian charity offering play therapy and therapeutic support to children, young people and families to support them with their emotional needs. It's so exciting to see how Create Hope, under Catherine's leadership, is growing both in terms of the depth of support it can provide and the number of people it is supporting.

One of the keys to Create Hope growing is money, and to that end Catherine is looking for a volunteer fundraiser who can give some time to doing grant applications for the charity. There are more details here, or just email Catherine if you'd like to find out more. You might not have any play therapy skills, but an hour or two a week from you filling in grant applications could allow you to directly impact the lives of children and families in our community desperately in need of the help Catherine and her team can provide.

Thanks,

Simon.

 

Friday, July 22, 2016

September Dates - Alpha & Vision

I wanted to let you have three midweek dates for September.

On Tuesday 13th September we're having a prayer meeting for Alpha from 7.30-8.15pm in the K2 Hall on our Bracknell site. This will be an opportunity to pray for the forthcoming Alpha courses on all three of our sites. We'll be joining with people from all across the UK by joining with a prayer meeting being live streamed from HTB in London - the church where the Alpha course originated.

As an encouragement to come here's a great video from Pete Greig reminding us of the importance of prayer in seeing success through Alpha. Please put this in your diary and be there if you can.

 

On Tuesday 20th September we've got our Autumn Church Vision night which will start at 7.45pm for drinks in the Kerith Centre and go through until 9.30pm. In the past we've referred to these as our All Leaders Meeting, but I want to widen this out and invite everyone to be there if you possibly can as we've got some significant new vision to talk about for 2017 and beyond.

Then on Wednesday 21st September we've got our Alpha Launch Curry Night. It's going to be a great evening but you can only come if you bring a guest! Tickets cost £5 which you can sign up for here. Please be talking to your friends about it and inviting them to come along.

It's going to be an exciting Autumn!

Simon.

 

Friday, July 15, 2016

I Am

On Sunday we start a new series, looking Jesus seven "I Am" sayings in John's account of the life of Jesus. These are:

  • I am the bread of life
  • I am the light of the world
  • I am the door
  • I am the good shepherd
  • I am the resurrection and the life
  • I am the way the truth and the life
  • I am the true vine

This first Sunday we'll be looking at Jesus being the bread of life at the 9am and 11am in Bracknell, and Jesus as the light of the world at the 10am in Sandhurst and the 6pm in Bracknell.

I think it's going to be a really good series as we dig deeper into who Jesus is, his unique claims and how that impacts our lives and how we live.

See you there :)

Simon.

 

Friday, July 8, 2016

Meet Matt & Bianca

This weekend we've got the privilege of having Matt and Bianca Olthoff with us, coming all the way from sunny Southern California. I first met Matt at a church learning event in Windsor where a bunch of European churches came together to be coached by church leaders from the US, then met Bianca some months later at a similar event where she'd come along with Matt. Catrina and I had a meal with them and felt strongly to invite them to come, so here they are!

Bianca works as Chief Storyteller (how cool a job title it that!) for The A21 Campaign, a global anti-human trafficking organization which was founded by Christine Caine who many of us will have heard speak at different events. She's one of those people who just lights up any room she walks in to, and has an infectious enthusiasm for life and for God. She's also very prophetic and has a remarkable teaching gift.

Matt is based at Mariners Church in Irvine California, a church of around 15,000 people based on 5 sites. For years he was on staff overseeing discipleship in the church, but more recently he has felt the call to Europe and is now helping to build churches across Europe. Matt's family are originally from Germany - he wasn't too happy about the football result last night! Matt is a great communicator and has a powerful story to tell, both from his own life and his revelation of God through the Bible.

Bianca is going to be speaking at our REAL women's conference this weekend. Please can I encourage any women out there who haven't yet booked in to come along. Even if you can't make the whole event you can get a ticket for either Friday or Saturday evening for just £7.50 cash on the door. Parking is in the college, and there's a special welcome area if you're worried about being there on your own. I'll be around too, so if you do make it please come and say hi.

Then Matt and Bianca are both going to be speaking on Sunday. Matt will be at the 9am and 11am in Bracknell, and Bianca at the 10am in Sandhurst and the 6pm in Bracknell. If you miss Bianca in the morning then please come and catch her in the evening.

Finally Matt is staying on for a few days to meet our staff team, helping us think about how we are organised and how we can communicate what we are doing better.

It's a huge privilege for us to have Matt and Bianca with us. Please make them feel incredibly welcome, and be open to receiving all God has for you through them.

Much love,

Simon

 

Friday, July 1, 2016

Thanksgiving for the Life of Louise Holt

We're going to be holding a Bracknell based thanksgiving for the life of Louise Holt on Saturday 16th July at 3pm in the Kerith Centre. I know that many of us who knew Louise and wanted an opportunity to celebrate her life weren't able to make it down Cornwall for the thanksgiving which took place down there last weekend, so this will be an opportunity for us to do that more locally. Louise's husband Andrew, and their children Hudson and Grace, will be there as part of the celebration - everyone is invited to come and join us in remembering Louise.

Andrew wants the dress code to be 'cheerful', with no black and no ties - I'll leave it to you to interpret that appropriately! We'll also be serving refreshments after the meeting to give us further opportunity to share our memories of Louise.

Please continue to pray for Andrew, Hudson and Grace in their loss. I spent time with Andrew today and it sounds like they're all doing really well, but let's be praying for God's ongoing comfort and strength for each of them in the coming days.

Much love,

Simon.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Post Referendum Prayer - Tuesday 5th July

“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”

1 Timothy 2:1-4 NIVUK

Given the momentous events of the last few days I wanted to create space for us as a community to come together to pray for our nation. I've therefore booked out the K2 Hall on our Bracknell site from 8pm on Tuesday 5th July for all of us who are part of Kerith (and anyone else who would like to join us) to pray. I realise that lots of people will be involved in the run up to our REAL women's conference. Please don't worry if you can't make it because of REAL, I'm sure there will be plenty of us who can make it and plenty of other opportunities to pray for our nation in the coming months.

This will replace what would have been our Bracknell site prayer meeting this coming Sunday evening, although Sandhurst (in Sandhurst school) and Windsor / Maidenhead (at Windsor Hall, Ruddles Way, Dedworth, Windsor SL4 5SJ) will still be meeting at 6pm. Great things have been happening in those meetings so please get to one of them too if you can.

This coming Sunday I want to add to what I said last week about our response to the referendum result, speaking in particular to the rise of xenophobia since the result came out. See you there :)

Simon.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Gift Aid Volunteer

Mike Webber-Gant, our Finance Manager, is on the look out for a volunteer willing to help us with our Gift Aid reclaims. This is what Mike wrote to me:

Kerith Community Church is involved in a large number of different ministries – locally, nationally and internationally. All of these need money to make a difference to people’s lives. So we are constantly looking to maximise our income to support these ministries.

One excellent source of income is Gift Aid. This government scheme enables us to reclaim the income tax on gifts made to the church. Having done this for many years, we can reclaim the Gift Aid on an amazing 86% of our gifts. This results in us receiving over £15,000 every month from the UK government.

Gift Aid reclaims are overseen by the Finance team in the Kerith Centre, with much of the gift recording being carried out by volunteers.

We now have a vacancy for a volunteer to assist in this valuable role. The need is for about 2-3 hours per week, during the working day, and will be based in the Kerith Centre.

The role is primarily data entry, so no specialist finance skill is required. However, it would suit someone methodical with an eye for detail.

If you are interested in helping out, please contact Mike Webber-Gant either by phoning him on 01344-862699 or by sending him an email.

Thanks,

Simon.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

REAL - Don't worry if you're coming alone

Our REAL Women's Conference is just under two weeks away. We're going to have well over 400 women there, which although very exciting can be daunting for anyone going on their own (unless you're a raging extrovert, in which case that many new people to get to know must feel like heaven!). To try and remove the worry of not knowing anyone, one of our team Frances Reeve has set up an initiative to help - here's what she has to say:

Coming to REAL may feel a bit daunting if you're on your own, but don't worry! We want to give you an extra special welcome and help you not to feel lost in the crowd. We're saying YOU CAN SIT WITH ME. There will be a big area of seating just for anyone on their own, and some friendly people to introduce you to others and help you find a nice place to sit. We'll also use this area for you to eat your packed lunch with us so no need to go off alone - unless you want to.

At dinner time on Saturday we'd love you to join us for a meal out - but we will need numbers for this on Friday evening so we can book. There will be a sign up sheet in our 'will you sit with me' area.

If you're really happy about coming to REAL on your own, then do still feel free to come and join us - help us to make everyone feel extra welcome. Look forward to seeing you.

If you still haven't booked into REAL then please sign up now - whether you're coming on your own or as part of a group. Having watched the plans taking shape, and also having had the opportunity to meet this year's guest speaker Bianca Olthoff, I know you won't regret it. I'll be sneaking in too so please come and say hello (I should be quite obvious!).

Simon.

 

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Band of Brothers - Men That Don't Fade

Our next Band of Brothers Men's Breakfast is on Saturday 2nd July, at the Kerith Centre on our Bracknell site, starting at 9am. This is a morning hosted by Kerith's mPower Men's Ministry, making space for men of God to gather for breakfast, to study God's word, and spend time together in worship. This is open to all men of all ages, regardless of whether you're a part of Kerith or not. If you're male and want to see God move in your life and in the men around you, this event is for you.

We're giving this BOB the title 'Men That Don't Fade', and James Hosker will be sharing a message that looks into Paul's encouragements to Timothy, and how we as men can keeping fighting 'the good fight of faith' until our race is run on this earth. I encourage men to give God your morning on the 2nd, and see what He will do with us as we gather together as men in His name.'

Simon.

 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The EU Referendum: Please Vote & Please Pray

This Thursday most of us have the opportunity to vote in the EU Refendum on whether we want Britain to remain in or leave the European Union. It's quite possibly the most important thing we'll get to vote on in our lifetimes, so please pray, do your research, avoid reducing your decision to one based on sound bites or personalities, and then turn out and cast your vote.

I've already written with links to some useful resources to help you in your research, which I would encourage you to take a look at if you haven't already.

I've also been interested to read some prominent Christians, each of whom I'd have a deep respect for, giving their own views on what the key issues are. If you're interested take a look at what Canon J. John, Terry Virgo and Archbishop Justin Welby have each had to say.

In all of this I believe our biggest responsibility, even more important than voting, is to pray. Not surprisingly a great starting point is to pray the prayer that Jesus taught us, which starts like this:

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

(Matthew 6:9-10 NIVUK)

Let's pray that whatever the result of the referendum God's kingdom will come. The only kingdom which can ultimately bring the peace, joy, hope, justice, security and love we all long for with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in their rightful places.

Simon.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Celebration of Life for Louise Holt

Following the incredibly sad news of the death of Louise Holt last Friday, her husband Andrew has asked me to let people know that there will be a service to celebrate Louise's life in Cornwall on Saturday 25th June at 5pm. Their daughter Grace wrote the following on her Facebook page, giving all the relevant details:

I know that many of us, myself included, would really want to be there on the 25th but because of other commitments won't be able to make it. The family are therefore also looking to have a Bracknell based celebration of Louise's life for those who won't be able to make it down to Cornwall. We're currently trying to find a date for that - as soon as we've got one confirmed I'll let you all know, but it will hopefully be some time in early July.

In the meantime please continue to pray for Andrew, Hudson and Grace. That they'll know God's love, comfort and peace at such a tough time for them all.

Much love,

Simon.

 

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Good Stewarding - Cheaper Train Tickets

I wrote a while ago that part of being a good steward of the money God entrusts us with is making sure we get good value for the things we need to buy, and wrote about how we can get taken advantage of if we simply renew insurance policies or utility contracts with the same company year after year.

Several people asked me if I had any other tips. I'm not looking to turn into any sort of Martin Lewis replacement, but one thing that never ceases to amaze me is how much you can save on train tickets by buying separate tickets for the various bits of the journey.

Just to give you an example if right now (5pm on Wednesday afternoon) I decided to go and visit our son Jacob in Swansea by train who has just finished his second year exams (hooray), if I went to Bracknell train station and bought a super off peak single to Swansea it would cost me £78.70. However, if I bought a single to Reading, then at Reading station went to the ticket office and bought a super off peak single to Swansea, the total cost of those two tickets would be £45.30, saving me £33.40. Bizarrely I'd save another £2.10 if I got off at Wokingham and bought my ticket to Swansea from there. You'd have a job to get off at Wokingham, buy a ticket and get back on the same train, but there's nothing to stop you buying all the tickets in advance to get the saving and not have the hassle of buying tickets along the way.

I don't know about you but to me that's just seems ridiculous, and a real rip off for anyone who just trusts the rail companies to give you the best deal.

I travel quite a lot by train to various church events, preferring it to travelling by car where it makes sense, and I always feel a big real responsibility to make sure I get the best deals, knowing the money that's being spent has been given by our community. One really helpful resource is this page, which is part of the Money Saving Expert website. There you can put in journeys and it will give you the best ticket option with one split in your journey - you can sometimes save more with more than one split but this is a great start.

Please don't just take my advice but do your own research, and be aware that if you start buying tickets for specific trains (which can save you even more money) then those tickets are only valid on that train - I've had some very exciting journeys across London trying to get to Kings Cross on time after a Bracknell to Waterloo train has been delayed!

Hope that's helpful for someone,

Simon.

Ps - I also found recently that if you have a wireless credit or debit card you can use it instead of an Oyster card to pay for the tubes and busses in London. I had an Oyster card but when I found this out cancelled it and got £25 back from the credit stored on the card.

Pps - please don't anyone write me off as some sad penny pinching person loathe to spend money on anything! I'm a natural spender and love being generous - I just want to have as much as possible to sow into people and situations that need it, rather than wasting it by paying too much for stuff!

 

Monday, June 6, 2016

Miracles from Heaven

A new Christian film, Miracles from Heaven, is coming out on Friday 10th June and will be showing at both the Bracknell Odeon and the Camberley Vue. There's a website with a load of information if you want to know more about the film.

I haven't seen it so can't rate it, but it sounds like a very powerful story and from the trailer looks very engaging. I'll be listening with interest to hear whether Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo review it on their Friday afternoon film review - definitely one of the best programmes on radio!

Simon.

 

Friday, June 3, 2016

Louise Holt

It's with great sadness that I write to let you know that Louise Holt passed away at 4am this morning (Friday 3rd June). Just before Christmas Louise was diagnosed with a malignant tumour on her thigh, and although it looked as though the initial operation to remove it was successful, just over a month ago the doctors discovered that it had spread to her brain. Despite the best efforts of the medical profession, and much prayer from many of us, she died this morning.

Louise, her husband Andrew, and her two children Hudson and Grace (who are pictured above with Louise) have all over the years been a huge part of our Kerith community and are deeply loved by many of us. Andrew retired recently from his job in London (before that job he was our church administrator for a number of years) and was in the process of moving down to Cornwall where Louise was based. Last year Grace moved down to Cornwall to look after Louise, and now has a job in a school down there. Hudson is still with us in Kerith, recently got engaged, is working in the construction industry and is part of our worship team. They're a remarkable family who have been a blessing to many of us - please be praying for them to know God's comfort and strength at this time, and if you know them well enough to have their contact details please write or text to let them know that you're thinking of them.

I spoke to Andrew this morning and we talked about the difference that having faith in the resurrection power of Jesus makes in these circumstances. That although there is a huge sense of loss for all the family, they know that Louise has gone to a better place, and that one day they will be see her again. Praise God that there is coming a day when there will be no more cancer, no more sickness, no more tears and no more pain. Let's never get so caught up in this present age that we lose our longing and hunger for the age to come.

Finally to say it's amazing how God is at work, even in the midst of all the sadness. Three weeks ago Louise became very ill and the family were told that she may only have a couple of hours to live. Andrew spoke this morning about how precious the last three weeks have been, that as a family they were able to express things to one another which they might have thought but never got around to actually saying. I'm often struck when I take funerals by the words of affirmation and appreciation which get spoken about the person who has died, and wonder whether they ever heard those things said whilst they were alive. Most of the time I doubt that they ever did. Maybe that can be a challenge to all of us today, to appreciate the people around us in a fresh way, and to say the things that so often go unsaid.

I'll finish with this picture which Andrew took of Louise on the their last visit to the seafront in Penzance on Wednesday. We'll miss you Louise.

Much love,

Simon.