Friday, October 16, 2020

Kerith Talks About Race


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.

When all of this first happened I strongly sensed God saying to create space for people in our community to tell their stories. We heard publicly from people like Shari Barrett, Pelumi and Rachel Aworinde and Daniele Seidu. These people at the core of our community told us about the racism that they have experienced and continue to experience. I remember feeling a mixture of disbelief, anger and shame at what these people who I count as friends have been through. I also felt regret that despite having know all of them for a number of years this was the first time I'd ever had a conversation with them about things which have so deeply impacted their lives. I know that alongside the public conversations there were many private conversations that took place too. Conversations where some of us had the courage to tell stories we've never told before, and others of us listened and learnt in a whole new way.

So what do we do next? We are going to launch an exploratory research project called Talking about Race. This will be the next step in our goal of becoming a church which actively seeks to eliminate racism, both internally and in our wider society. The research should give us the tools as an organisation to support all people who experience racism and enhance our efforts as a community in becoming more inclusive. 

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. 

Simon

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Final (hopefully) Vision Fund Gift Days

 


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
The elders and trustees feel that now is the right time to bring the vision fund to an end. To do that we need to raise another £100,000. This is primarily to cover all the running costs for Windsor and West Wight for the rest of 2020 and the early part of 2021, at which point those costs will be funded from our general giving.

Catrina and I had the privilege of being in West Wight last week, during which we were able to meet with a number of the key people who are now part of the site there. It is so exciting to see what God has already built in a relatively short period of time, the future there is very bright. Things in Windsor are similarly exciting, especially with God opening a door for us to rent the warehouse we previously only had access to on a Sunday (keep praying for that change of use!).

I realise that these are incredibly uncertain times economically and that some in our community will feel unable to give for a whole variety of reasons. If that is you then please feel under no pressure to give, and also feel no anxiety or shame. We love you, God loves you, and neither of those are dependant on your ability to give! However, there will also be a group of us who feel stirred and able to give and invest into God's kingdom in this way at this time. If that is you please give cheerfully, generously and in full confidence in God and his ability to provide.

For those who do feel called to give the easiest way to do it is online. You can find all the details on our website, choosing 'Kerith Vision Fund' as the thing you are giving to.

Finally to say a huge thank you to everyone who through this season of Covid has continued to give financially into the life of our church. The generosity of our community never ceases to amaze me, never more so than in this season where we haven't been able to meet physically but people have continued to invest in the Kingdom of God through their giving to Kerith. Thank you. 

Simon

Thursday, September 3, 2020

September 2020 Week of Prayer

At the start of 2020 we encouraged everyone in our community to do three things:

  • Pray on our own every day
  • Pray with others every week
  • Fast for breakthrough once a month
For our September week of prayer (Monday 7th to Sunday 13th September) we want to encourage everyone to pray with others every day. To help achieve this we are providing multiple opportunities to pray together throughout the week.

The start of the day (6.45am Monday to Friday)
 
Each morning there will be an opportunity to pray with others on my prayercast on Facebook. If you're not an early starter you can watch later in the day, or for our deaf community the prayercast gets translated by our amazing interpreters. I will lead all five mornings and we will pray for a different topic each morning. 

The end of the day (9.45pm Monday to Friday)

We will finish each day with a 15 minute time of prayer, lead by different people from across our sites. This will take the form of an examen where we will review the day and recognise where God has been at work. This will be on Instagram Live on our Kerith Instagram account

Kingdom Come Zoom Hour of Prayer (8pm Monday)

We will join together on zoom for an hour to pray for one another, the church, the nation and the nations. We will finish by taking communion together so please come prepared with some bread and wine or equivalent. 

Kingdom Come In Person Hour of Prayer (8pm Wednesday)

As much as possible this will be a repeat of the Monday hour of prayer but instead of being online will be held on the Kerith Centre balcony. This will be our first physical gathering since the Covid restrictions came into effect and in part will be a test event for the safety procedures we have developed. Attendance will be limited to 55 people on a first come first served basis with places booked via ChurchSuite. We are targeting this event for those who will struggle to access the Monday zoom prayer meeting. If you know somebody who you think would like to attend but would struggle to book a space then please can you contact them and offer to make a booking on their behalf. If you would like to attend you can find all the details and the booking form on ChurchSuite

Prayer for Revival (9am Saturday)

I want to encourage as many of us as possible to join Jon Hulme's zoom hour of prayer for revival in our nation and the nations. Jon is away this weekend so Jacqui Webber-Gant will be leading it in his absence. 

Fast for Alpha

Please also pick one day of the week to fast (food or something else), praying for somebody you would love to see come on the Alpha course starting at the end of September. This term we are starting Alpha with a TASTER Night on Wednesday 30th Septenber 19:30 via Zoom. You can 'bring a friend' and then at the end of the evening they can decide if they want to sign up for the other weeks. It's therefore an easy invite as you are only inviting to 1 week not 10!

There are some helpful guidelines on fasting on the 24-7 Prayer website. Pray that God will give the person or people you are going to invite a receptive heart, and that God will give you the courage to actually ask them!

Zoom Links

For the events on zoom (the Monday Kingdom Come hour of prayer and the Saturday prayer for revival) we will send out the links to everyone on Church Suite on Friday. If you don't get that email then please email the church office and we will get the links to you. For all the other events you should find the links above. 

Sorry that this blog has come out a bit later than I would have wanted, but it has taken quite a while to make sure we have everything in place to run the in person prayer meeting on the Wednesday. 

Hope that all makes sense. There's quite a bit going on but please plug in where you can and enjoy a week of praying together (with a day of rest on Sunday!). 

Simon

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Sundays - We want to hear what you think

 



We are now around 5 months into this season where everything we do on a Sunday has moved online. I've been so proud of all the people who have worked incredibly hard and shown amazing creativity to produce all of our online content. There has been an army of both staff and volunteers, in front of and behind the cameras, who have been serving and continue to serve us so well with Kerith Kids TV, Kerith Youth, worship, preaching, the pre meeting chat and much more. I'm also incredibly proud of our church family who have adapted so quickly to this new way of 'doing church' and the opportunities it presents. 

Now feels like a good moment to evaluate how well our online content is working for everyone, to gather ideas on how what we could change or improve and to see if there are any fresh ideas of things we could do. We would also love to hear how people feel about gathering again physically and what people feel would need to be in place before they would want to be part of an in person Sunday gathering. 

We've therefore put together this questionnaire which we'd really appreciate everyone taking the time to fill in. It shouldn't take more than a few minutes to complete and will be incredibly helpful for us as a leadership as we look to chart a way forward. We'll report on the results in early September. The questionnaire only asks about our Sunday adult online content but if you want to comment on our kids or youth content, or any other area of church life, then there is an opportunity to do that at the end.

I realise that not everybody in our community will be able to complete an online questionnaire, and in some ways those who will struggle to do it will be some of the people we most want to hear from. If you know somebody who you think may be in that camp I'm asking whether you could help us by contacting them and filling the questionnaire in with them. That will be much more relational than us trying to do something centrally - thank you. As an aside we are also setting up a project to attempt to deal with the 'digital poverty' of those who struggle to access the online world. If you know people who are struggling in that way, and you personally are not able to help them, then please let us know by emailing our reception team and we will see what we can do to help. 

Thanks in advance for taking the time to let us know what you think - it is really appreciated. 

Simon

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Upcoming Dates - Prayer, Gift Days and Vision Hours



We've got some dates coming up which I wanted to make sure everyone knew about and had in their diaries.

Kingdom Come Prayer Hour - 8pm on Monday 6th July

This is our next monthly one church prayer meeting which will happen on zoom. Please come and join us for what will be a dynamic, faith filled hour of prayer. Included in the hour will be Lee Layton-Matthews leading us into God's presence, Paul Manwaring leading us in prayer for healing and the opportunity in groups to share encouragement and pray for one another. 

Because of the security issues around making zoom links public we are now sending out zoom links using our ChurchSuite database. That should mean that if you're on ChurchSuite you should get an email this weekend with the link in (you might want to check your spam folder as they often seem to end up there). If you haven't got the email by Monday morning, or you are part of Kerith but not on ChurchSuite, then please email the church office who will be able to send you the link. You might also want to ask to be added to ChurchSuite so you'll get these emails in future. 

Vision Fund Gift Days - 19th and 26th July

Our vision fund continues to provide us with the resources to move things forward on all four of our sites. In particular it is currently paying all the salaries and running costs for our Windsor and West Wight sites up until the end of 2020. We also give away 10% of all the money which comes in to other individuals and organisations. Our next two gift days are coming up - please be thinking and praying about what God would have you give. You can find all the details on how to give on the giving page of our website. 

I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who chooses to sow their finances into the Kingdom of God by giving both to our regular offerings and our gift days. I never cease to be amazed by the ongoing generosity of our church community. It allows us to do so much as a church - thank you. 

Vision Hours on 3rd and 4th August

We want to update people on each of our sites as to what is going on both across Kerith and on your site. These are going to be one hour zoom calls which will include an update from your site pastor, from me and from Jonathan Davis who is our chair of trustees. There will also be space for Q&A and for us to pray.  

These are going to be:
  • West Wight – 7pm on Monday 3rd August
  • Bracknell – 8.30pm on Monday 3rd August
  • Windsor - 7pm on Tuesday 4th August
  • BV – 8.30pm on Tuesday 4th August   
The zoom links will come out via ChurchSuite emails nearer the time. Again if you haven't got your link by the Monday morning then please email reception to get it. 

Excitingly we have a growing number of people who consider themselves to be part of Kerith but aren't connected to any of our physical sites. If that's you and you're on ChurchSuite you will get an invite to the Bracknell vision hour. However, I hope that next time we hold site based vision events we might be holding a separate vision hour for our growing digital site (for want of a better name). Exciting. 

Hope that all makes sense. If not please ask :)

Blessings,

Simon

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Post Church Zoom Changes and More




We're still experimenting and innovating around how we best do church online in this season where we are still unable to meet physically on a Sunday (I'm going to talk on Sunday about the journey back to meeting again physically so please listen out for that). 

One of the ideas we've played with online has been to do something after the meeting to gather those who would like interact some more. Initially this was a Facebook live call, and then some of the sites started to experiment with zoom calls. These have worked well, with the addition of breakout rooms for small group discussions which people seem to enjoy, and now all our sites are doing separate zoom calls in the morning with one central zoom call after the evening meeting. 

However, one thing we have been very aware of is the danger that making the zoom links public allows anyone with malicious intent to join one of the zoom calls and do something inappropriate or offensive. Because of this we're going to change the focus of the post church zoom calls to be for people already connected to Kerith rather than for newcomers, which in reality is who has been joining them. This means that instead of making the links to the various zoom calls public we will send the them out in an email which will go out monthly to everyone who is on our ChurchSuite database. If you're on ChurchSuite you should get an email with the links by 5pm this Friday, they sometime end up in the spam folder so you might want to check there if it doesn't arrive by then. The links won't change from week to week so once you've got the one you need save it somewhere and you can use it every week. 

For those not on ChurchSuite but consider yourself to be part of Kerith (wherever you are in the world) we'd still love you to be able to join. To get the links you need to either:
  • If you are in a Kerith small group ask your small group leader for the links which they should have. If you're a small group leader why not send the links out to your group when you get them. 
  • Email the church office to ask for the link. They will check that you are known to us as a church and send you the link you need.
  • Apply to be added to our church database by emailing the church office.
I realise that this is all a bit of a faff and it may take a week or two for people to get the links they need, but both online and in person we want to prioritise making sure our gatherings are as safe as they can be for all of us. 

We are also upgrading the way we stream the Sunday meetings. You will still be able to watch the various components (Kerith Kids TV, the pre-meeting chat and the adult meeting) on both our website and on our YouTube channel, but from this Sunday the website will allow for interactive chat in the same way as YouTube does. Over the coming weeks we will add in other capabilities on the website such as the opportunity for people to be prayed for, respond virtually to appeals and more. 

Hope you're doing well. I look forward to 'seeing you' on Sunday.

Blessings,

Simon

Monday, June 15, 2020

Let's Talk




If you were with us on Sunday you would have heard the interview I did with Shari Barrrett, our worship pastor, something which will hopefully will be the beginning of a conversation about race for many of us in our community. This followed on from the pre-meeting chat Catrina and I had with Pelumi and Rachel Aworinde the Sunday before, and tied in with the pre-meeting chats we had this Sunday with Darlington Nwodo and Daniele Siedu. If you missed any of those interviews I'd strongly encourage you to watch them by clicking on the links. None of them make easy listening but it is so important that we hear these voices, especially those of us who are white and want to understand better what racism looks like in our own nation and the nations around the world. 

I want to encourage us as a church community to have the courage to initiate these sorts of conversations with people from a different ethnic background to our own. I realise that in the past I've shied away from having those conversations, afraid of saying the wrong thing or causing offence. However, I now realise how much poorer I am because of that. I've been shocked as I've sat down with friends from different ethnic minorities, in some cases with people I've known for years, not only to hear their stories of race based hatred and discrimination but also to realise that I had no idea that many of these things are still going on today.  

I also recommended a couple of books which I want to encourage everyone in our community to read.


The first is Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge. Reni is a London based journalist who writes with brutal honesty about race and racism in the UK. Please get it, read it and discuss it with others.


The second book is We Need to Talk About Race by Ben Lindsay. Ben is black but leads a white majority church in South East London. His book is very helpful in exposing some of the structural issues in white majority churches which can make it hard for black people (and those from other ethnic minorities) to flourish. 

Finally to say I finished my sermon yesterday with a poem, which for me summarised some of what I think God is up to in this moment (the poem is by a Poet called Leslie Dwight). We are seeing a shaking in our nation with in short succession Brexit, Extinction Rebellion, Covid-19 and now the murder of George Floyd. We are at a unique moment in history where God is shaking our certainties, revealing fault lines in our society, highlighting injustice and calling us to live a different way. Let us be the people who recognise God at work in it all, have the uncomfortable conversations, speak prophetically, act courageously and be God's agents for change in the world.

Simon