Saturday, April 30, 2011

Encouraging Emails

One of the many privileges of doing what I do is getting a fairly steady stream of encouraging emails into my inbox. These come from all sorts of people - Kerith regulars, visitors, people who have been at a conference, all different sorts of people. And people have all sorts of reasons for writing these emails - an act of kindness from someone in our community, a sermon that really spoke to them, a service that touched them, a course which has changed them or something else the church has done which has helped them in some way.

I recently got one of those emails from a guy called Gary Schwammlein. Gary is the Executive Vice President of the Willow Creek Association, and is in large part responsible for the global reach of the Global Leadership Summit, which now runs in over 70 countries and reaches well over 100,000 leaders every year. Gary wrote to me after seeing the feedback from the John Burke / James Emery White conference we hosted last month, and I really wanted to share it with you all as it relates not to something I have done, but to all of us as a church, and the culture we are building as a community, not only in our conferences but in all that we do.

I hope it encourages you as much as it encouraged me.


Dear Simon,

I reviewed the feedback comments from attendees at the recent Willow event at your church . What really caught my attention were the comments from participants about the way they were served at your church. Its very seldom that we get this number of positive comments about the way  guests have been served. You ought to be rightly proud of your leadership and example and that of Ben and the volunteers in your church.  Thank you seems so small and insufficient a gesture to express the gratitude we have at Willow for your years of service done with such excellence.  We appreciate you highly.

Please let your volunteers know that their service inspires us to give our very best in what we do, and let them know that their kindness and ways of serving their guests does not go unnoticed. Below are a number of the comments I extracted from the feedback we received. May it be an encouragement and serve as a blessing to you and your people.

I appreciated the great welcome I received from the large Kerith team of people making us feel valued and providing such a great venue.

...and the army of volunteers who combined to produce a brilliant conference.

.We were exceptionally touched by how friendly the welcome team was at Kerith Community Church and were appreciative of the constant tea and biscuits which were of exceptional standard I might add

As for the venue, it was second to none and the volunteers were so helpful and kind ...  must be commended.



Thursday, April 28, 2011

Our Canadian Visitors

We've got a group visiting us from Canada this week. They're from Millar College of the Bible in Pambrun in Canada (no I had no idea where Pambrun was either - here's a Google maps link). Our link with them is through Michael Ross-Watson who has been out there to teach in their Bible school. They're over here to do drama in schools and churches all around Europe, including in Ireland, Germany, Spain, Latvia and hopefully Albania. Lee, Michael and I picked them up from Heathrow on Tuesday, and they fly out to Ireland next Tuesday.

Whilst they're with us they're going to be getting over their jet lag, working with our youth drama group, teaching at the Academy, taking in the royal wedding and putting on a play at the 7pm meeting on Sunday night called "Unlikely Heroes", which will include the youth drama team and takes a look at some of the unlikely heroes in the Bible. If you're not a Sunday evening regular then please think about coming along as it sounds like it's going to very funny, as well as being suitable for all ages (no school on the Monday so bring the children too!). They'll also be around on Sunday morning so hopefully you'll catch them some time over the weekend.


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Parable of the Kitchen Drawer Handles

Perhaps one of my strangest blog titles, but it relates to something that happened over the Easter weekend.

We've got a dresser in our kitchen, and over the years the handles have come off three of the drawers. That just left a screw sticking out, and if you've ever tried to open a drawer by just pulling on a screw thread you'll know it's not easy. In fact if you get it wrong then it can be pretty painful. But we just got used to living with it the way it was.

Then this weekend something amazing happened. I went into the shed to look for something else and there saw a bottle of wood glue. Unused for several years (I don't do much DIY!), but still working well enough that within about five minutes I'd glued all three handles back on again . Oh what joy to now be able to open the drawers without risk of shredding your fingers, or the threat of someone impaling themselves on the end of the exposed screw! And having lived with it for years, how stupid that it only took five minutes to fix!

It got me thinking about what other things are going on in my life which I just put up with, but which a few minutes effort could actually fix, or start to put right. There are certainly a couple of other minor DIY projects around the house I now feel enthused to tackle. I'd stopped running but felt inspired to start again this week (and actually got out of the house!). I did a proper budget for this month for the first time in a while. And there are a couple of phone calls I'm going to make today which I've been putting off for a few weeks now. I can't tell you how satisfying it feels to be on top of a few of those things.

I wonder if you have similar things in your world you're putting off doing. Maybe it's DIY, finance or fitness related. Maybe you've just got out of the habit of reading your Bible or spending time with God daily. Perhaps there's a phone call you need to make, a letter you need to write or a friend you need to invite out for a coffee to restore a relationship. Not complicated things, but just those little things we put off, which when don't do them just add to the sense of chaos in our lives - rarely bad enough to stop us in our tracks but annoying frustrating things like the screws on the drawers. Why not write a few of those things on a list and get them done today. If you're feeling brave you might even want to share them on the blog / on Facebook.


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Too Busy not to Pray

A reminder that we've got prayer meetings on Wednesday and Thursday this week, 8pm in K2.

I'm going to be giving an update on the Gift Days and the progress on the reception redesign, as well and sharing some other exciting news and plans. We will also be focussing in on praying for leadership, both for the growth of our existing leaders and for a whole new set of leaders to emerge and develop.

If you consider yourself to be part of our community then please do all you can to be there for at least one of the nights. Prayer is so key to all that we want to see God do in our midst - please come if you possibly can.


Friday, April 22, 2011

Latest LinK

The latest edition of the Kerith LinK magazine arrived at the Kerith Centre yesterday. I can honestly say that it's the best one so far, including interviews with Bill and Anne Clague, Michael Ross-Watson, Sola Osinoiki, Sandy Carter, John Mitchell and Melita Cullis. Make sure you have tissues ready before you read Bill and Anne's interview.

Be sure to pick yours up over the weekend, and take some to give to friends and relatives. If you're not Bracknell based but would still like to get a copy then email reception with your name and address and we'll send you a copy.

A special prize to anyone who can identify the T-shirt wearer on the front cover!


Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Kerith Armada

I thought you might like to see the latest addition to the Kerith sailing fleet (now up to two boats!). It has been bought using grant money and is going to be used by our Konnections ministry to allow children with special needs to experience sailing and being on the water.

For those interested in these things it's a Drascombe Lugger and is being stored at Burghfield Sailing Club. Initially we will have a group going over on Thursday evenings to join in with the Sailability group which already meets there.

If you want to know any more, or would be interested in being involved, then please speak to Karen Mehta who heads up our Konnections ministry.


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Easter Sunday

We've got a great celebration lined up for Easter Sunday. We're focussing on the impact and the implications of the resurrection, an event which truly changed the world. We often focus on the cross more than the resurrection, yet reading through the book of Acts you realise that the resurrection took a greater place in their preaching than the cross. We're going to take a look at why that is, and how the reality of the resurrection can make a difference to our every day lives.

In advance of the meeting you might like to ponder on this quote from N.T. Wright - "Jesus's resurrection is the beginning of God's new project not to snatch people away from earth to heaven but to colonize earth with the life of heaven. That, after all, is what the Lord's Prayer is about."

Please plan to get there on time as the meetings are going to start with a bang (and end with chocolate!).


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Jesus in the Old Testament

Michael Ross-Watson did a superb job on Sunday of pointing us to Jesus in the Old Testament. In particular I know that many were inspired by words of the Don Moen song Michael quoted, which goes through the books of the Old Testament showing how each one points to a different aspect of Jesus character or nature. If you didn't manage to hear Michael on Sunday, or you want to look the words over again, Michael has posted them up on his blog here.  Why not take ten minutes to read them out and meditate on each of them in turn, and then thank God for who He is and His unchanging promises to each one of us.


Good Friday Reminder

This coming Good Friday we're going to be showing the latest film in the Narnia series, "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader", at The Kerith Centre staring at 2pm. There's no charge and all ages are welcome - you just need to bring your own popcorn, pick and mix and drinks! The film is a PG so parents might just want to check it out first.

I haven't seen the film yet, but am a huge fan of the Narnia books. I first read them when I was about 20, I got to read all seven whilst doing a fortnight of jury duty (it was quite a drawn out trial!), and have read them all to our children since. My favourite is the first one, "The Magician's Nephew". I just love the descriptions of Aslan breathing over the world and new life coming into being everywhere he breathes.

Then on Good Friday evening, starting at 7pm, we're going to spend an hour reflecting on the cross and on Jesus blood shed for us. Lee Layton-Matthews is going to lead us in what will be a more contemplative and meditative time than we might be used to. We will also be sharing communion during the hour. So often I think we just want to rush on to the events of Easter Sunday and the resurrection; it will do us good to stop for at least one hour and focus solely on the cost and the implications of the cross.

I hope to catch you at one (or perhaps both) of these gatherings.


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Don't Miss Sunday

I really hope you're able to be with us this coming Sunday. Michael Ross-Watson is speaking on finding Jesus in and through the Old Testament. Any of you who have heard or interacted with Michael before will know that he is somebody who knows God and His favour in a most remarkable way, and has the ability to bring God into other peoples situations. He and his wife Esther are such a gift to us, and I'm so pleased they've chosen to make Kerith their UK home.

We'll also be having our second 2011 gift day. As I said last Sunday our first goal is to raise £345,000 by August so we can do all of the reception area improvements over August. Please can I ask you to be thinking and praying hard about what to give. Whether you can give £1, £10, £100, £1,000 or £10,000 I really believe that if every one of us does what we can then we can get way beyond the target and make these changes which will make such a difference to how we reach our community.

Hope to catch you on Sunday.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Encouragement - Barnabas - Stepping Aside

We've already looked at three elements of Barnabas's gift of encouragement - practical acts, first chances and second chances. I want to finish with a fourth, which was his willingness to step aside in order for someone else's gifting to develop and flourish.

I don't know if you've ever noticed it, but where we have pairs of names the order of the names is often important. Normally we put the name of the more important, or more significant person, first. So for instance we talk about "Cameron and Clegg", "Moses and Aaron" and "Ant and Dec" (OK that last one doesn't work, but you get the idea!).

This sometimes gives an interesting insight into what is going on. So to take the example of a couple called "Priscilla and Aquilla" from the book of Acts. Commentators say that the order of their names is interesting because normally the man's name would be first, so Priscilla being named before her husband suggests that she had the more prominent ministry position within their  relationship.

A similar study of Paul and Barnabas is very interesting. Up until Acts 13 it's always been "Barnabas and Saul" whenever their names go together, and Barnabas seems to take the lead as they minister together. But then in Acts 13 Paul produces a barnstorming preach (starting at verse 16), and from then on it becomes "Paul and Barnabas" whenever they are mentioned together. Something changes in the dynamic of their ministry, to such an extent that when they part ways over the question of what to do with Mark, we never hear of Barnabas or his ministry again.

So often people end up getting their worth and their value from what they do, from their ministry, their job title or the platforms they get to stand on. People like that find it very hard when they end up stepping aside to let others take on their ministry, or even more so when a leader over them asks them to step aside. For me one of the greatest marks of maturity of a Christian is not how you respond when someone ask you to start doing something, but how you respond when they ask you to stop! That's so often when people throw all their toys out of the pram, leave churches, wreck relationships and seek to destroy what they've built.

One of the joys for me of leading Kerith is that Ben Davies has been such a remarkable Barnabas in my life. John Burke and James Emery White both commented to me last week that it is almost unprecedented that Ben, who lead Kerith for 43 years, can still be a part of the church without us falling out. That is largely down to the Barnabas gift of encouragement God has put in to Ben, and his amazing ability to continue to be one of my biggest cheerleaders, supporters, advisors and friends in a season when it might now be "Simon and Ben" rather than "Ben and Simon".

I pray that you and I might have the same spirit that Ben demonstrates. We are all one day going to be in a position where we have to hand our "baby" on to someone else, whether that is our decision or someone else makes the decision for us. Let's choose to handle that like a Barnabas, rather than like an Old Testament Saul who fought the new leader, David, every step of the way.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Easter Run Up

It's a change of focus around the Kerith Centre for the next two weeks. Lots of the normal activities stop for Easter, but they're being replaced by two weeks of special needs respite care (with some very cool days out), and the Newfrontiers year team students with us from Tuesday to Thursday.

This Sunday Michael Ross-Watson is speaking at all three meetings. He's going to be focussing on finding Jesus in the Old Testament, knowing Michael I'm sure he'll bring a whole new angle to that - I for one can't wait to hear him again.

Hope you're having a great run up to Easter, and hope to catch you over the next two weeks.


Friday, April 8, 2011

Kerith Footy Finalists

The Kerith men's football team (not that we have a women's team yet) have got the final of their cup competition. It's this Saturday (9th April) at 1.30pm at Palmer Park Stadium in Reading. I know they'd appreciate as much support as possible so please get along if you can to support the boys!


Gift Days and Andrew White Offering

The next two Sundays sees the start of our 2011 Gift Days. In outline in 2011 we're looking to raise £750,000 on top of our regular giving in order to fund a number of projects - more details here.

The first project on the list we want to tackle is making the Kerith Centre more welcoming and accessible. With the Willow Conference we've hosted this week (which by the way was outstanding - huge thanks to everyone who helped us pull it off) I saw again the need to make the building more welcoming and easy to get in to - it will make a huge difference to so much of what we want to do and who we want to be.

The logical time to do the work will be in August, as it will require some pretty major work in the reception area. That means we really need the £345,000 to do all the work by the end of June - I'm praying that a large chunk of that will come in over the next two weeks.

I also wanted to let you know that the offering for Canon Andrew White on Sunday night was just under £4,000. With Gift Aid and a gift from the Mission Tithe we're going to make that up to £5,000.

I never cease to be amazed by the generosity of our people - thank you so much to all of you who gave to Andrew White, who give regularly to Kerith and who have already given or are going to give to the Gift Days. Please don't have any anxiety over the Gift Days, or feel under any compulsion. Simply allow Paul's words to the church in Corinth to speak to you:

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 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. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. (2 Cor 9:6-8)


Thursday, April 7, 2011

Students Needing a Good Home

Next week we have a group of about 40 Newfrontiers year team students staying with us. Whilst they're here they'll be having lectures, Catrina and I will be doing a Q&A with them on what it's like to lead a church and they'll be scaring themselves silly at Oakwood. We've got places to stay for most of them, but Sue Ranger still needs homes for about 8 of them. I've included below information from Sue on exactly what is required. If you are able to help then please can you contact Sue directly, either via email or by phoning her on 01344 828808.

Thanks so much,



Tuesday 12th April
The students arrive at Kerith in the morning and have a full day of training here.  This finishes at 5pm and the students will then depart to hosts (either in their own cars or hosts will collect from The Kerith Centre) and will eat at host houses and spend the evening with them.

Wednesday 13th AprilThe Students will require breakfast in the morning and possibly a packed lunch ( this can be arranged direct with them) .  They then need to come back to Kerith by 9am for training day 2, either in their own cars, or walk if that is possible or with hosts.  On the Wednesday they have a longer day and will also go to Oakwood,  and have a pub meal for dinner before a Q&A Forum with Simon.  After the forum they will head back to the pub for a drink together and then back to hosts - the trainees will have instructions to have clarified with hosts the time they'll be home, and how they will be getting home.

Thursday 14th AprilThe Students will require breakfast in the morning and possibly a packed lunch ( again this can be arranged direct with them) .  They then need to come back to Kerith with all their belongings by 9am for training day 3, either in their own cars, or walk if that is possible or with hosts. They will depart direct from Kerith at the end of the day

Some have cars and some don’t and the age range is 19 -30, male and female and you can have as many as you like.!  Once I have all the trainees allocated I will circulate a list so that you can see who else is hosting so the you could arrange to share lifts too.

If you are able to help please could you let me know the number you can accommodate, the preferred gender if you have one and whether you could do lifts I would be very grateful.  There is some funding available to help with costs in the region of £7:50 per night (£15 for the 2 nights).



Monday, April 4, 2011

Heathrow Reflections

I'm sat in Heathrow Terminal 5 waiting for my good friends John Burke and Craig Whitney to come in on their flight from Oslo, people watching, and reflecting on what a privilege it is to be part of our community.

Yesterday was a quite remarkable day. From the hilarity of the Mothers Day Bohemian Rhapsody, to the moving reflections on the life of Naomi and Ruth by Jacqui Webber-Gant and Emily Klitgaard, to Andrew White bringing us such truth on the joy that lies ahead of us. And in the midst of it all lives being changed and eternity's being altered.

Then a quick turnaround today as we get ready for over 300 people coming to hear John Burke and James Emery White over the next two days (just turn up if you're not already booked in), then more change for Life on Friday night and gathering again on Sunday. I love it!

And I love every one of you who chooses to make Kerith your spiritual home. You are a remarkable bunch of people, changed by a remarkable God, doing remarkable things for Him.

Hope you have a great week!

Simon (the reflective)