Thursday, January 14, 2021
Tuesday, January 12, 2021
It might seem impossible to imagine right now, but assuming the vaccine rollout goes as we all hope we will get back to meeting again physically in 2021! We will be able to gather again, worship together, be mask free, hug, have kids work and youth work, go in one another's homes, go out for meals and do all the other things we've so missed in this season.
With all the change that we’ve been through, not just in our gatherings moving online but also deeply personal changes in our walk with Jesus, we’re aware we won’t re-build in exactly the same way we knew before Covid. The church is people. If we as the people have changed then so will the events, ministries & groups that we are part of.
To consider these potential changes we are taking January and February to pray, dream and plan what our ministries and activities will look like when they restart. Although we still don’t know exactly when we will get to this new normal, we want to start thinking and praying now as to what God might be inviting us to re-build, and what he might be asking us to leave behind. As part of that process we want to hear from as many people as possible by asking you to fill in this survey.
Please prayerfully consider what God might be saying to us as you walk through these questions. Thank you so much for your help!
Thursday, January 7, 2021
Since the beginning of the first lockdown last March one of the questions facing churches and church leaders has been how much should they continue to meet physically. Different churches have made different choices, based I would guess on a whole range of factors including their size, their demographic, their ability to move their gatherings online, their local infection rates, the personality types of their senior leaders and much more. We took a decision very early on that we would move our Sunday gatherings online and put all of our resources into making that experience as rich as possible with no physical gatherings. I know that some people have found this hard but I think that it was the right thing to do, choosing to love one another by minimising the spread of the virus and realising that although our buildings might be closed the church as the people of God is very much still alive.
- Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. We may be in a storm but he is in the boat with us and is going to bring us safe to the other side. Let us be honest and real about how we are doing but also let us be fully focussed on the one our hope is in. Listen to worship music - I recommend Maverick City Music if you haven't discovered them already.
- Keep pressing into God through meditating on scripture and prayer. Some great tools are Nicky Gumbel's Bible in a year, Lectio 365 and my prayercast.
- If you aren't already in one then join a small group. We are going to be starting a new series on Wellbeing on Sunday 17th January with a lots of small groups being launched starting from Monday 18th. I am going to be running a group which runs on Wednesday evenings and you'd be really welcome to join me, but there are lots of others available on various days and at different times of day. You might even consider signing up to lead a small group.
- Prioritise joining with us on Sunday mornings, engaging with the online chat and using the prayer chat rooms which are now available on our website. If you can't watch live then find a time later in the day or week to catch up.
- Use your daily opportunity for exercise to go for a walk with somebody where you can be honest about how you are doing and encourage and pray for one another. Make use of WhatsApp, zoom, text and even writing a letter or sending a card to encourage and keep in touch with others.
- If you need help of any sort then please reach out to ask for it. We will get through this together, and we will all have times when we need to be vulnerable and admit our need to others.
Tuesday, December 8, 2020
As part of my message I spoke about the debate which took place in the early church as to what title (in Greek) should be given to Mary. Was she Christotokos or Theotokos. Who cares, you may well ask, and what do those words even mean!
Well first to unpack their meaning. The phrase tokos in both words means 'bearer', Christos means 'Christ' and Theos means 'God'. So Christotokos means 'Bearer of Christ' or 'Mother of Christ' and Theotokos means 'Bearer of God' or 'Mother of God'.
The early church debate wasn't really about Mary, but about the nature of Jesus. Was Jesus in his incarnation two separate persons, one human and one divine with Mary only giving birth to the human Jesus (making her the Christotokos), or was the baby in her womb both fully God and fully human in one person (making her the Theotokos).
The first position is called Nestorianism, named after a preacher called Nestorius although he probably never actually taught this. The second position was argued for by a number of early church theologians including one called Cyril of Alexandria.
This issue was debated at a church council in Ephesus in AD431 which affirmed the Nicene Creed, and decided that based on that creed Mary was Theotokos. This was further affirmed at a later church council in Chalcedon in 451 which came up with the Chalcedonian Definition which again declared Mary to be Theotokos. This understanding of the person of Christ, that he is both fully God and fully human in one person, is accepted to this day as orthodoxy by the Protestant, Orthodox and Catholic Church.
It is important to be clear that by calling Mary 'Mother of God' we are not saying that she is the Mother of God from eternity, or that God the Father or God the Son originated from her, but that she was the mother of God the Son in his incarnation.
Why does this matter? Well it matters because it impacts our salvation. When sin came into the world every part of our humanity was broken, and so the whole of our humanity needs to be saved. If in the incarnation Jesus had only taken on part of our humanity then only those parts of our humanity he took on could be saved, healed and redeemed through him. If in the incarnation he had only taken on a body but hadn't become fully human then only our bodies could be saved. But because he fully took on every aspect of our fallen, sinful human nature (although he never sinned) and became one of us, then through his death and resurrection every aspect of our humanity can be saved and healed. Not only our bodies but our souls, our minds, our emotions, our hopes, our fears and our dreams can all find salvation in him.
One of the early church Fathers, Gregory of Nazianzus, summarised this beautifully when he declared:
'The unassumed is the Unhealed'
If there was an aspect of our human nature that had not been taken up in Jesus, it would remain unhealed and unredeemed. The wonderful news is that Jesus took on every aspect of our humanity, and so every part of us can be healed and redeemed.
The writer to the Hebrews echoes this when they write:
Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by
his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death – that is,
the devil – and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.
For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. For this reason he had
to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a
merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement
for the sins of the people.
So let's be grateful that Mary was the 'Mother of God', that the child she bore was both fully divine and fully human, and that through his death and resurrection every part of our humanity can be saved, healed and redeemed.
ps - there is lots of theology behind what I've written above. I've almost certainly said something which somebody will point out to me as being heresy! If that's you then please let me know and I'll correct it. Thank you :)
Tuesday, October 27, 2020
Healing Evenings - Sundays 1st and 22nd November
One of the many things to come out of this season of Covid has been the number of healings we've heard reports of. In the last two weeks I've heard of one person who had an abscess in their mouth which was instantly healed, somebody who had a blood test saying they had cancer but then (after a whole load of people prayed) had a second blood test which came back completely clear and somebody who got prayer for chronic pain in their legs which has now totally gone. Praise God!
We want to create more space for people to receive prayer for healing so we've asked Paul Manwaring, who is part of Kerith Windsor, to lead two evenings for us. Paul has an anointing to pray for healing - the two times he has preached with us recently he finished with words of knowledge for healing to which a number of people responded to say that they had been healed.
The evenings are going to be on Sunday the 1st and 22nd November at 7.30pm, and will be hosted by our Windsor site pastor, Leon Johnson, on our Kerith Facebook page. The stream will start at 7.20pm. Paul will do around 20 minutes of teaching and then there will be an opportunity for people to be prayed for, using the chat function on the live stream to ask for prayer. Please join us, and invite others to come along if you know people who would benefit from this.
Kingdom Come Hour of Prayer - Monday 2nd November
At 8pm on Monday we have our monthly Kerith wide hour of prayer. This will be hosted on zoom - the zoom link will be emailed out on Monday morning but if you don't get it please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will get it to you.
We will be sharing communion together and we will be praying for our nation and the nations at this key moment in history. We will also be having time in small groups to pray for one another. Please join us from 7.50pm for what is a key hour in the month for us a a community.
Thank you everyone.
Friday, October 16, 2020
I hope and believe that when the history books are written reflecting on the global pandemic we are currently living through, one of the most significant things they will talk about is the conversations which have taken place during this season about race and racism. In fact my hope and prayer is that not only will they talk about the conversations that took place, but more importantly the changes which happened in society as a result of those conversations. I strongly sense that the pandemic has created a unique moment in history for change; that this is one of the ways God is going to bring good from the evil of Covid, bringing his justice and righteousness into the world.
The first part of the project will be listening to our whole community and getting a good understanding of people's perceptions and experiences of racism, diversity and inclusion. I am delighted that Natalee Matsekeza, who completed the Kerith Academy in 2016 and studied Sociology and International Development, will be leading this project for us. I want to encourage all of us in Kerith to complete the survey - we want to hear what everybody thinks. regardless of their ethnic background. You can find the survey here.
Following on from the survey, Natalee will carry out individual interviews for those who would like to share more. Then in the New Year we will report back on the results of the research and the next steps we are going to take as a community.
Thank you in advance for taking the time to fill in the survey, I really appreciate it.
Wednesday, October 14, 2020
Over the next two Sundays (18th and 25th October) we are going to be holding what will hopefully be our final Vision Fund gift days.
As you can see from the chart above the Vision Fund has allowed us to achieve a huge amount over the last few years. This has included:
- paying off the mortgage on the K2 house to set us debt free
- moving our BV site to the Village Hotel in Farnborough
- setting up and staffing our Windsor and West Wight sites
- buying new equipment for all of our sites
- making building improvements on our Bracknell site
- giving away over £70,000 to other churches and organisations