Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Resources to Help us with Mental Health in Lockdown


As lockdown continues, albeit in a slightly modified form, I suspect all of us are having struggles of one type or another with our mental health. For some that may be moments of anger, sadness or frustration (if you check in with my family I've exhibited all three of those!). For others it will much bigger challenges. I wanted to point you all at some resources which I think will be helpful for all of us at this challenging time. 



The first is to point you at the brilliant talk and Q&A which Dr Kate Middleton from the Mind and Soul Foundation did for us. You can find it on both Facebook and YouTube. I can't recommend it strongly enough. If you've already heard it then why not go and listen to it again! Why not also send a link to it to someone you know who might benefit from it.

There are also a whole load articles on supporting your mental health in the midst of Covid-19 on their website as well as a wealth of other helpful information. Please take a look. They also post lots of information on their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube feeds, not all of which appears on their website.



Hope in Depression is a charity which founded by Lisa Owens who is part of Kerith Bracknell. The charity runs a six week course hosted by experts in various areas of mental health to help both people who are struggling with depression and those who are seeking to support people who are struggling. I have spoken with a number of people who have attended the course and they have all spoken incredibly highly of it, both in terms of the quality of the people presenting it and the impact it has made on their own lives. You don't need to have a faith background to do the course.

The latest course, which is being run online, started last Monday (11th May) but it's not too late to join in week 2. I'd really recommend it to anyone who feels they could do with some help. You can find all the details and a sign up form on the small groups section of the website

Hope in Depression have also recently posted some really helpful short videos on their YouTube channel around various aspects of mental health. 


Kintsugi is the name for a Japanese technique of making artwork from pottery which is broken and then put back together using glue which is golden coloured, highlighting the beauty which can come from brokenness. Kintsugi Hope is a Christian charity seeking to to see a world where mental and emotional health is understood and accepted, with safe and supportive communities for everyone to grow and flourish. Earlier this year I heard Patrick Regan who founded Kintsugi speak and found him very helpful. They run Wellbeing Groups as well as having a load of helpful talks and articles on their website. 


Finally many of you will remember Zoe Dickinson (or Zoe Hayes as she was). Zoe was a much loved part of Kerith and one of our key contacts at Tearfund before she moved to Cheltenham and retrained as a Wellbeing Coach, helping people with their mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health. Zoe has produced a free Wellbeing Toolkit which could be a great first step in evaluating where you currently are and what some first steps might be in beginning to move to a healthier place. Sadly Zoe doesn't have a circular logo, which would have created a really nice symmetry to this blog, but other than that I highly recommend her!

Hope some of that helped somebody.

Keep safe and be kind (to yourself and others).

Simon.

ps. My final suggestion is to watch the Disney Film 'Inside Out' which is a masterclass in the importance of us engaging with our emotions. You can get a one month free subscription to the Disney Channel if you haven't got access to it on DVD or any other digital format!

Friday, May 8, 2020

Roy Buck


Sadly at midday on Wednesday (6th May) Roy Buck passed away. 

Roy and his lovely with Ruth have been part of Kerith for 45 years, two of those people in our community who have remained faithful through the huge changes our church has seen over the years. This has included the move into the charismatic, two major building projects, two changes of name, a change of senior leader and much more! Those of us who have joined Kerith more recently owe a debt of gratitude to the likes of Roy and Ruth who have helped lay the foundation for all God is now doing among us. In that time amongst other things Roy and Ruth have led a very successful small group in their home in Crowthorne, and were amongst the founding leaders and leading lights of TMTL, our group for the retired. 

I will always remember Roy for his gentleness and kindness. Like many of us he always sat in the same place on a Sunday (if you can remember when we did that!) and he and Ruth would always get there early which meant I could have a chat with them before the meeting began. I will miss those chats, as well as his quiet support and encouragement for me and those around me. As a leader you come to deeply appreciate the Roys in your life. 

For some time now Roy has been at Glebelands Care Home in Wokingham. Because of all the lockdown restrictions that meant that Ruth was not able to be with Roy in his final few weeks which was very hard, although Ruth was able to speak regularly to Roy on the phone. She says the staff team at the home were incredible in the care they gave Roy which was a huge comfort (let's continue to thank God for all the care workers in our nation). Please be praying for Ruth as she grieves the loss of Roy, as well as for their three sons and the many others who will be feeling the loss of such a good friend. We know that Roy has gone to a better place, and that one day we will see him again, but we still grieve him not being with us. 

The committal service for Roy will of necessity be just for the family, but once it is safe to do so we will hold a public celebration of Roy's life which I know many of us will want to attend. 

Blessings,

Simon

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Mental Health in Lockdown


I suspect that every one of us has had our mental health impacted in one way or another by lockdown. We’ve all experienced our normal routines being broken. Some of us are physically alone, the rest of us are only interacting face to face with a small number of people. For some of us there is the pressure of juggling work and children or finding that our jobs are more complex and demanding than ever before. For others there is the challenge of having very little to do. Most of the things we look forward to have been taken away. We are feeling sad at not being able to see friends and family. We have the fear that we or those we love may get the virus and be seriously ill and even die. Some are fearful for their future, for jobs and finances. Some of us are grieving the loss of people we love. It is hard for all of us, but for those already struggling with mental health when we went into lock down lockdown can represent a perfect storm.

On Sunday 3rd May at 7pm we are going to address the subject of mental health in lockdown, and to talk about it from a Christian perspective. We are going to have with us Dr Kate Middleton from the Mind and Soul Foundation. Kate is both a psychologist and a church leader, and is an expert on how science and faith interact in our quest to be mentally healthy. Kate is going to speak for about half an hour on how to stay mentally healthy in lockdown, and then I’m going to do an extended question and answer session with her. It will be hosted live on our Kerith Facebook page and then available to view afterwards on Facebook and on our Kerith YouTube channel

You can find all the details on our website, including how to ask questions. 

Please join us for what is going to be a really helpful evening, and be letting friends and family know about it too. 

Be kind and stay safe,

Simon.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Kerith Finance Update


Last Sunday I gave a finance update which I thought I'd repeat and expand on in a blog.

One of the things the coronavirus has created is huge economic uncertainty: for governments, business, charities, churches and individuals. We don’t really know what the long term impact is going to be. Some are saying it is going to be a relatively short blip, others that we may experience something much harsher economically. I don’t know, and I don’t know what is going to happen to our church giving. What I do know is that God is in charge, that our hope is in him and that he is our provider. 

Our March offerings were £88,766, our highest offering of the year so far but around £13,000 below budget. We normally see a big spike in giving in March and April but this year the March spike has been smaller than we budgeted for. How much of that is coronavirus related we just don’t know, we will have a better idea when we see April’s giving. That means that for 2020 our giving is about £28,000 below budget. Interestingly although we are behind budget, our giving to the end of March is actually over £2,000 up on last years giving in the same time period. The reality is that we budgeted for a bigger increase in giving this year than we are currently seeing, rather than there being a decline in our giving. 

I want to assure us that despite behind behind our budgeted giving we are in a good place to not only survive but to thrive in the coming season.

First to say that although our income was £28,000 below budget our expenditure so far this year has been over £43,000 below budget. Some of that is down to the timing of when bills come in, but even taking that into account we are in a better cash position now than we were at the start of the year. We are also debt free, which is fantastic, and have around three months operating costs in our reserves which is a really solid place to be.

Even with all that we don’t know what is going to happen in the wider economic world and how that might impact our giving over the next few months, so we are taking steps to minimise expenditure as much as we can while continuing to fully resource everything we are delivering at this time. We have also made use of the governments furlough scheme to put on furlough nine of our staff team whose roles don’t exist at the moment because we aren’t meeting physically on a Sunday and most of our buildings are shut. For those staff the government will pay 80% of their salaries and we will make up the other 20% so they won’t lose out in any way. As soon as circumstance change such that these roles exist again we will look to bring these people off furlough.

I have three encouragements:
  • Let’s keep praying! We had a wonderful time last night at our online Kingdom Come prayer night. Prayer is foundational to all we do. That includes our finances so please join me in praying for us to have the money to do everything which God has put on our hearts to do. 
  • Some of us may get into financial difficulty over the next few months, or may already be struggling. If that is you please ask for help. Don’t be proud but humble yourself and reach out. We all have seasons where we are able to be the help giver and seasons where we are the one needing help. If you need help reach out to your small group or other friends in Kerith, and if they aren’t able to help the please contact us centrally. You can do that by clicking on the ‘I need Help and Support’ button on the front page of the church website.
  • Many of us have salaries which are relatively secure, and at the moment our expenditure has gone down because we aren’t going out for meals, having haircuts, going to the cinema or going for days out or holidays. Would you consider giving more in this season to help cover those who can’t give as much. People have already been incredibly generous, not only in the giving to the general fund but also with over £8K given to support people within Kerith who are struggling and over £22K given to Foodbank. Please think about doing this not only for Kerith but for charities which are on your heart and which would make brilliant use of anything you were able to give them at this time. I started writing a list of charities connected with Kerith but it began to get very long and I will only upset somebody by missing one, but if you know one then please consider supporting them.
To finish I want to tell you about the picture at the top of this blog, which I took yesterday yesterday while I was serving at Foodbank. Two British Gas vans turned up with a huge donation of many of our most needed food items, donated by a Tesco distribution centre in Oxfordshire. Who would have thought God would use two profit making organisations to provide us with the resources we need to be a blessing to our local community. God is our provider. He has never failed us and he never well. 

Be blessed and stay safe,

Simon


Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Lincoln Osunkoya stepping aside as an elder


I wanted to let you know that Lincoln Osunkoya has decided to step aside as one of our Kerith elders. He will be dedicating his time to supporting his wife Tess in her vision to rehabilitate people who are homeless, under the banner of a new charity named Renova Trust.

Lincoln and Tess have been a part of our community for the best part of 30 years. One thing that marks them out is their incredible heart for people, expressed through both their life group which they led for many years and their wider care for the people of Kerith. Many times in our elders discussions Lincoln has been the one to bring a pastoral perspective to our deliberations. On a personal level Lincoln has been a huge support to me, particularly at times when I have struggled with some of the tougher moments of leading Kerith. I’ve always known that he ‘has my back’ which I hugely value. Next time you see Lincoln please take the time to thank him for his years of incredible service to our community as an elder. 


Many of you will note this means we now only have four elders (myself, Ken Bothamley, Duncan Klitgaard and Ben Oliver). This isn’t enough for a church of our size and with the number of sites we have. We do have plans for how we are going to address this, but rather than write about them on a blog our intention was to hold site based vision nights after Easter to address this as well of giving updates on a load of other issues. However, given our current circumstances we're going to look at online ways of holding those evenings - more details to follow. 

Blessings,

Simon

Monday, March 30, 2020

Finding Rhythm in Isolation



I spoke on Sunday about how one of the keys to doing this season of isolation well is for us to find new rhythms of life. 
God designed a world which had a set of rhythms built into it. He gave a rhythm to the day with darkness and light, work and rest. A rhythm to the week with Sabbath, a day of rest every week. A rhythm to the year with seasons and festivals. He even gives a rhythm to the years with a Sabbath year every seven years and a Jubilee year every 50 years. Life is designed to be lived with rhythm.

When we think of finding rhythm in isolation there are an interesting group we can look back on called the Desert Fathers and Mothers. They were a group of Christian hermits and monks who lived mainly in the Egyptian desert starting in around the 3rd century AD. The most famous of these was Antony the Great who spent over 80 years in the wilderness, which may help put what we're going through in perspective! One of the many ideas this hugely influential group developed was to have a 'rule of life' which provided a rhythm for how they lived.

Pete Scazzero, he of Emotionally Healthy Spirituality fame, encourages people to develop their own 'rule of life'. He suggests building it around four areas: relationships, prayer, work and rest. I thought it might be helpful to think how we might start to develop our own rule and find our own rhythm in each of these areas.

Relationships
Lots of us are spending much more time that we are used to with the ones we love! That is inevitably going to lead to moments of frustration and conflict. Others are having to be in isolation alone. Some ideas for all of us in navigating this season well include:
  • Get out of bed at a set time, get dressed, have a plan for the day.
  • If you are isolating with other then eat meals together. Use them as an opportunity to talk about how you are all feeling - at our evening meal we do a 'low, high' time where everyone gets to say what was the lowest and highest point of their day. 
  • If you are on your own then why not phone or do a video WhatsApp call with somebody else as you eat. I've heard of people doing afternoon tea, meals and even a virtual trip to the pub this way!
  • Have a weekly family meeting to talk about frustrations and plan the week ahead. In our family one person (a different person each day!) is allocated to do all the jobs including cooking, emptying the dishwasher and making the drinks that day.
  • Take time to exercise. Catrina and I have started running together which has been a lot of fun. On Sunday you may have seen our family doing morning exercises with Joe Wicks. Use your daily time outside (if you're able to do that) to go for a walk. 
  • Connect with those outside your home. Wherever possible rather than sending emails or texts I've been phoning or doing WhatsApp video calls with people to check how they are. If you're feeling lonely or anxious don't wait for somebody else to contact you but phone a friend and initiate contact.
  • If you have the technology then join a weekly zoom based small group if you're not already in one. I am hearing more and more people finding small group community 
Prayer
  • This season is going to require a bigger prayer life than we have previously had.
  • Take time to be thankful for the simple things. Food, toilet rolls, family, friends and community. 
  • Have regular times to connect with God in prayer. Two resources I know people have found helpful are Lectio 365 from 24/7 prayer and my prayercast.
  • Have a daily scripture reading plan. I'm working my way through the Wildfires Lent devotionals. The YouVersion Bible app has numerous excellent reading plans. 
  • Surround yourself with worship using Spotify and YouTube and be a worshipper. 
  • Make time every Sunday to watch our live stream at 9.30am, and for children to engage with Kerith Kids TV at 9am. Our youth also have Instagram prayer times at 5pm from Monday to Thursday and a virtual gathering at 7pm on a Friday. 
Work

Some of us have been busier than ever over the past few weeks as we adapt to the new reality. Others suddenly find they have very little to do and all day to do it in. Both of these can be a challenge.
  • If you are having to work from home have set times when you start and stop work, and if possible have a set place where you do your work which is different to the place where you relax. Let others know when you are working. 
  • If you are trying to both do your job at the same time as caring for and attempting to educate children be kind to yourself and to them. It probably isn't realistic to expect to be as productive as you'd normally be at the same time as giving the most entertaining and educational time they've ever had! Be realistic and don't be put under pressure by the instagram stories of others who seem to have it all sorted (they haven't). 
  • If you are working outside your home then first of all please do everything you can to keep yourself safe. Try not to let work totally dominate your life but where possible still make time to rest and care for yourself as you look to serve others. 
  • If for whatever reason you don't have work to do then find time to serve others. That starts if there are others in your home with serving them. After that you could set aside time every day to pray for others, to phone round people you know who may be vulnerable, volunteer outside your how if that is safe for you to do. If you can't leave home for whatever reason please don't feel guilty about that, do what you can and trust God to do the rest. 
Rest
  • Make time every day to rest. Get away from your devices and do something that refreshes you. That might be reading a book, doing a jigsaw puzzle (we've just started on a 1,000 piece puzzle), playing an instrument or catching up on a box set. 
  • Don't spend all day watching the news and continuously checking for updates. That will just lead to anxiety and worry. I've taken to checking the news in the morning after I've prayed and then at 5pm when the latest government update is given. Other than that I've got it turned off. 
  • We are continuing to try and have a Sabbath every week, a 24 hour period where we stop doing anything that looks like work, connect with God, connect with others and rest. I'm always amazed how tired I can be at the start of that 24 hours and how refreshed I am by the end. 
  • Be kind to yourself. We are all doing our best in very trying circumstances. 
I do believe that one of the things God wants to do in this season is to teach us a new set of rhythms. To show us a simpler life where we have a different set of priorities. That we will be changed for the good by what at the moment feels so hard. In the words of artist Charlie Mackesy, who drew the picture at the start of this blog:

One day we will be free again to roam and turn up at a friend’s house.
To go to cafes, shake hands and hug.
One day we will remember what brought us all together,
and what reminded us of what really matters.
We will chat about the courage of so many.
One day we will be free but different.
Better, kinder, braver.


Blessings,

Simon

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

In Isolation but not Isolated


I know that increasing numbers of people in our community are now self isolating, and all of us are going to be very limited in our social contact over the next few months. I want to encourage us that although we aren't going to be meeting physically we can continue to meet virtually. That although we may be self isolating, we don't need to be isolated. I wanted to share a few ideas on how we can do this.

One On One Meetings

I know it's quite old school but chatting on the phone is a great way to keep in touch with people. I would hope that all of us have access to a phone of one sort or another. Let's make use of it to keep in touch with those we love. And let's be proactive. Let's not sit around waiting for somebody to give us a ring. We can all take the initiative in keeping in touch, even the shy introverts like me!

Keeping in touch via text is also a great option for people with even the most basic of mobile phones. I'd encourage you as you think of people and wonder how they're getting on to send them a quick text to let them know. You have no idea how the texts that some of you have sent me over the years have sustained me and spoken to me. Let's be doing that for one another. 

For those with smartphones Whatsapp is a brilliant tool. The ability to set up groups conversations is hugely useful. I'm in numerous Whatsapp groups. Family groups with different permutations of our various family members. Groups around various small groups that I'm in. Prayer groups praying into a specific issue. Groups based around different teams that I'm in. Whatsapp also allows you to make audio and video calls very easily, and to do group calls with up to 4 people. Let's make the most of all these options. 

I know that some have a resistance to using Facebook, but I'd really encourage people to install it, if only for this season. It really is the simplest tool for accessing things like my prayercast, the latest information on church life including my update videos and information on Foodbank and how we can get involved. We've looked at replicating all of that information on the Kerith website but that is going to require quite a lot of effort which we want to use elsewhere at this moment in time. If you need help installing Facebook then find a friendly teenager!

Sundays

We're very fortunate as a community that we've already invested in all the technology to allow us to stream our Sunday meetings. For the foreseeable future our Sunday gatherings will focus around a 9.30am live stream which you can either watch live or later on in the week. This will come from our Bracknell site but will involve people from all our mainland sites. Our team are working hard to make this experience as good as it can possibly be. I'll be preaching for the next two Sundays and then we'll be hearing from Paul Manwaring on the 5th April.

We're also working on a streamed Sunday program for children, something we're calling Kerith Kids TV. We're hoping to have episode one ready for this Sunday, although it may take another week to get it up and running. More information on this in the next couple of days. 

As well as being live on our website the livestream also goes to our Kerith Youtube channel, where previous Sundays also get archived. It would be a huge help to us if you could subscribe to the channel, as if we can get 1,000 subscribers (we currently have just over 200) Youtube will guarantee to add subtitles to the livestream within an hour of it being posted. This will hugely help our deaf community, although we are also investigating how we add a professional signer to the video stream (this may take us a couple of weeks to work out).

We will also produce a Good Friday meeting which will have a different look and feel to our regular Sunday meetings. Again I'll give more information on this when we have it. 

Small Groups

It is possible for small groups to continue to meet virtually. There are at least two free tools which can allow us to do this. 

The first is Google Hangouts. This is free and allows up to 10 people to be connected in a video chat where you can all see each other and everyone can speak. Pete Moon used this last night for the Bereavement Course and reported that it worked well. 

The second is Zoom. There is a free version of this which allows you to do a group video call for up to 40 minutes, after which you can just set up another call. There is also a version which costs £12 a month, which doesn't have the 40 minute limit and may well be worth investing in.

It would be great to hear feedback from anyone who tries these, or any other solutions, so we can share what we're learning.

Helping One Another

I know some will be daunted by all this technology and have no idea how to access all these different tools. However, I also know that many of us are keen to use our gifts to help others at this time. Perhaps for some of us that might mean helping those who would otherwise struggle to get connected. As an example Catrina and I have set up an old iPad to help Catrina's parents stay connected with their children and grandchildren over the next few months. Perhaps you could do the same, either by setting up software on existing devices and giving instruction on how to use it, or by lending people devices you can do without. 

I hope this is helpful. Let's do all we can to keep connected, and keep sharing ideas on the best ways to do that.

Blessings,

Simon