Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Ralph Allen's Story

As part of our Generosity series I spoke about borrowing and saving (you can find the audio of that talk here and the video here).

In that I encouraged people not to take on large mortgages or other financial commitments (or if you have a big mortgage pay it off as quickly as possible), as although you might be able to afford the repayments it can stop you responding to God if you feel him calling you to do something which is going to pay a significantly lower salary. Subsequent to that talk Ralph Allen, who is part of our Bracknell site, contacted me to say what I'd said really resonated with his life story, so I asked him to share it.

I hope you enjoy reading it!

Simon.

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I have found that much of my walk with God can be recognized in hindsight. This is certainly true of my professional career as an architect and Simon’s recent comments on finance struck a chord. Let me explain.

Lilian, my wife, and I together with our eldest son moved from Lancashire to Bracknell some 40 years ago and in September of 1976 we found ourselves attending Sunday morning worship at Bracknell Baptist Church (now Kerith Community Church). This was somewhat against my better judgment, as I had previously met Ben Davies, the then senior pastor. Our roots are in Methodism and, although Ben and I got on really well, I concluded that theologically we were worlds apart! Indeed following my initial meeting with Ben, I went home and told Lilian that if there was one church in Bracknell that we would never attend it would be Bracknell Baptist Church. God must have had a smile on His face.

My fears were further realized when chatting with one of the church members, Frank Brooks, after the meeting he asked what I did for a living. Having explained that I was an architect, he responded by saying that he was certain God had sent me to the church. Really - I certainly didn’t recognize this at the time.

However some two years later I had a phone call that was to significantly change the direction of my career. This led in 1980 to me becoming a partner in a large national practice of architects and surveyors with offices in Liverpool, Manchester and London. This was quite amazing, I was still relatively young (!) and here I was, one of thirteen partners with a staff of one hundred and twenty, in a practice that had been established well in excess of one hundred years, with a significant fee income. Prospects looked good - security for the considerable future plus a significant increase in income. As I reflected on this I began to wonder if this was indeed part of God’s plan for my life.

Events were to develop which made this a certainty. In the early 80’s Bracknell Baptist Church had outgrown their building (on the site of K2) and began actively looking for land in the town centre on which to build. The preferred site was a piece of land on Church Road opposite the existing building, owned by the New Towns Commission. As negotiations progressed the church needed an architect and I was fortunate that my practice was appointed. This was to be the largest church building constructed in the UK for many years.

However it took some years to finally acquire the land and during that time the practice expanded further and my role changed from designing buildings to managing staff and looking after clients. This caused some frustration – here was a job that I enjoyed very much but on the other hand a project that by now I was certain God had indeed brought me Bracknell to be involved in the new building. One late Monday evening I was driving back from a partners meeting in Liverpool, half thinking and half praying about the dilemma. Then it became clear to me that if God had indeed brought me here for “such a time as this” I needed to resign from the partnership and concentrate on the design of the building, now known as the Kerith Centre. Following discussion with the church leadership, this is what happened and with the help of Lilian, Allen Associates Architects was established in January 1988. We had absolutely no idea what would happen after completion of the building.

Now back to 1980 and in particular our finances. Having been made a partner in the practice, it did not take long for me to recognize that my partner’s lifestyle was significantly different to ours. They had large houses, in some cases second homes, and without exception their children attended private schools. Guess what, we started to think along similar lines. We now had two boys and we visited a number of private schools. We were considering moving and looked at houses that were much larger than the house we eventually moved in to. Now I am not suggesting that there is anything at all wrong with spending money that you have on large houses or private education, but I can only explain that for us we were uncomfortable about the long term financial commitments and, again in hindsight, I believe that this was God’s prompting. For if we had been committed to a large mortgage and significant school fees, I don’t think I could have left the partnership and all of the financial uncertainty associated with this decision, and followed the course that God clearly had mapped out for me. However we did spend some surplus money on one of my interests– classic cars and we did holiday abroad for the first time.

What followed was equally amazing. After the completion of the Kerith Centre in 1989, God provided an increasing number of church projects, like-minded staff and offices. Even my son Scott became an architect so that I can now reduce my involvement in the practice!

Over the years we have been involved in many exciting church building projects across the denominations, and have seen God move in most amazing ways. What better career than to enjoy what I still enjoy doing and use the abilities God has given me to serve His church. I am so grateful for His intervention in our lives and for His provision

We still live in the same house. The boys went to Easthampsted School and now both have good careers. I still design church buildings and play with classic cars!

Ralph Allen

 

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

April Week of Prayer

“Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

Matthew 6:10

 

We're planning another week of prayer, to tie in with our Vision Fund Gift days on Sunday 23rd and 30th April. The vision fund is all around seeing God's kingdom expanding and growing, and we want to see that become a reality through our praying as much as we do through our giving.

The plan is to do a 24/7 week of prayer in the Prayer Room on our Bracknell site where we fill every hour slot throughout the week, starting at 4pm on the 23rd and finishing at 4pm on the 30th. The team will be theming the prayer room with ideas on how to pray and what to pray for, and we'll clean the blackboard wall at the start so we can fill it with scriptures, encouragement, answers to prayer and things we sense God saying as the week goes on.

You can book the prayer room here - just scroll forward to get to the end of April. Please get booking in straight away, either as an individual or in your groups.

Here's my big ask. The hardest slots to fill are not surprisingly the early hours of the morning. Please can I ask for some of our prayer warriors to book in for those midnight to 6am slots! I've just booked midnight to 2am on Monday 24th - who fancies taking over from me at 2am!

I'm looking forward to all that God will do in and through us as we call out to Him. Thanks for playing your part in it all.

Simon.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Church and Culture Conference Cancelled

I wanted to let people know that the Church and Culture Conference which we were due to be hosting on Thursday has been cancelled. Anyone who has bought tickets should already have been contacted to let them know, but I wanted to make sure anyone planning to come along and get their tickets on the day also got the message.

If you're interested in other conferences, we're still definitely hosting:

More details by following the links.

Hope you have a great week,

Simon.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

February 2017 Giving

Sorry it's a bit late but I wanted to update you on our giving to the end of February.

As you can see above February giving was excellent, at £11,500 over budget.

This year we've set the monthly budget a bit differently. Over the last few years we simply took the budgeted giving for the year and divided it by 12 to give each month's budgetted giving. This year we've tried to take into account that we know that in some months (such as January, February and August) the offerings are normally lower, and in other months (such as March and June) they are normally higher. Based on the old method this month's budgetted giving would have been £73,360, so either way we're well above budget.

For the year to date we're an even better £12,471 over budget which is great.

If offerings continue to be above budget it will allow us to do even more of what we currently do. Helping people of all ages and backgrounds find their way back to God. People in our local community, in the nation and in the nations.

A huge thank you to everyone involved in the grace of giving at Kerith.

From a very grateful senior pastor,

Simon.

 

Monday, March 20, 2017

Kerith Vision Fund Update

For anyone who missed the Vision Fund updates I've given over the last two weeks I thought I'd use my blog to post an update.

You may remember we kicked the Vision Fund off last year where we had our first gift days which raised just under £220,000. I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who gave to what was the biggest gift day in the history of Kerith.

We're going to tithe 10% of all the money which comes in for the vision fund, which from these first gift days was £22,000. We're in the process of of giving away the first £20,000 of that, with

So what are we going to use the rest of the money for?

In Bracknell we've paid £110,000 off the mortgage on the house which we bought behind K2, which reduces the mortgage to £62,000. We've given everyone an opportunity to comment on what facilities we think we'll need on the Bracknell site to take us into the next 15 years. That list has been refined and is now with our architect, Scott Allen, who will come up with a plan to redevelop K2 and the Kerith Centre in a way that will meet those requirements. We'd hope in the next two to three months to have a first draft of those plans.

In Sandhurst we've had some very exciting developments. Rather than just a midweek venue which we were originally looking for it looks like we may now be in a position to think about getting a permanent Sunday venue too. I can't say too much more at this point in time, but it could be very promising. Hopefully we'll be able to announce more in the next couple of months, but in the meantime please keep praying for God to open doors and guide us in our conversations.

In Windsor we've looked at something like 25 potential venues where we could hold Sunday meetings. We're now in the process of reviewing all the options and hope to choose one soon. Once we've chosen a venue we plan to start with monthly meetings, and once they're up and running look to move those to being weekly. Depending on the venue we're likely to need quite a bit of the vision fund money to buy items such as PA, equipment for the kids work and signage, as well as paying the rent on the venue.

The great news is that from the first gift day we have the money we need to get all three of these projects up and running.

As a next step we're going to have two more gift days this year. The first gift day will be the 23rd and 30th April where we're looking to raise another £200,000. This would allow us to pay off the the remaining £62,000 of the mortgage on the K2 house (which will leave us debt free as a church), have another £20,000 to give away and the remainder will go to the next stage of each of these projects. Please be thinking and praying about what God would have you give, as well as praying for wisdom as to how to use the money we've already God and for doors to continue to open for us.

Simon.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Kerith Vacancies - Morning Receptionist & Saturday Caretaker

Due to some staff changes that have come about in the last few weeks we are currently recruiting for the following positions:

  • Saturday Caretaker - (Term Time only) 5 hours each Saturday to prepare the Kerith Centre ready for our Sunday meetings. This will involve setting out chairs in the auditorium, moving furniture, cleaning of the public areas and toilets plus additional tasks to support conferences and weddings.
  • Morning Receptionist – Monday to Friday, 9am – 1.30pm. We are looking for someone who will exude our ethos of “Love God, Love People” to be the first point of contact for all staff and visitors when they enter the Kerith Centre. The role involves dealing face to face with a diverse range of visitors, managing incoming calls and basic ministry administration.

Both of these roles are key to making our Sunday and Ministry work happen with excellence. If you or someone you know is interested in either job, application packs are available from the Kerith Centre reception desk. The closing date for both roles is Monday 27th March with interviews anticipated for the week commencing 3rd April. If you would like further information on either role please contact Ali Hudell, HR Manager or Jake Harvey, Site Services Manager by email or via telephone on 01344 862699.

Simon.

Monday, March 6, 2017

The Marriage Course - Starting this week

One of the best things Catrina and I ever did for our marriage was to attend the Marriage Course. It wasn't that our marriage was in crisis, it wasn't, but as we did the course we learnt a whole load of principles which have allowed us to build a much better and stronger marriage.

The course originated in HTB in London, the church which also started Alpha. We travelled up to HTB to do the course, but found it so beneficial that we then helped run it in Bracknell to make it easier for others to attend. Catrina and I don't personally oversee the running of the course any more, but I'm delighted that others have taken it on and make sure that others can continue to benefit from it.

We've got two courses starting this week which are going to be run in peoples homes. On Wednesday 8th March we've got a course starting in Sunningdale, on Thursday 9th March a course starts in North Bracknell.

Amongst other things the 7 weeks of the course will help you to:

  • Understand each other’s needs
  • Communicate more effectively
  • Grow closer by learning methods to resolve conflict
  • Recover from the ways you may have hurt each other
  • Recognise how your upbringing affects your relationship
  • Improve relationships with parents and in-laws
  • Develop greater sexual intimacy
  • Discover each other’s "love language" and much, much more....

Who wouldn't want that!

The Marriage Course is for couples who are in a married relationship and seeking to strengthen their relationship. Some couples do the course to invest in their relationship, others need more urgent help. Either way, the course offers a lifetime of practical ideas and tools to help keep your relationship strong.The Marriage Course is based on Christian principles but designed for all couples with or without a church background.

The Course is run in the Leaders home as a small group. The evening consists of a meal, DVD interviews and talks and time for private discussion between you and your partner. You never share anything about your relationship with anyone other than your partner.

The cost for the course is £40 per couple, which includes a meal every week and all the course materials. If the cost is going to be an issue for you please let us know as we woulnd't want cost to be a barrier to anyone attending

You can get more information and find sign up here.

Simon.