Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Guest Blogger - Krystyna Lysakowska

Today is Holocaust Memorial Day, marking 70 years since the liberation of the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz in Poland, where more than one million people were killed between 1940 and 1945. It reminded me of an email I got last week from Krystyna Lysakowska (one of our community) after my preach on courage, reminding me of her family's experiences in wartime Poland. I asked her whether I could reproduce it here, which she was happy for me to do.

Let's remember those who lost the lives in the death camps, all those who are still being impacted by the horror of what happened in them, and pray that we might have the courage to be the peace makers Jesus called us to be, fighting hatred with love and enduring to the end.



I was born in 1938 in Warsaw, Poland and lived there throughout the German occupation. My memories of the most of it are very few but they become fuller towards the end of the war. On 1 August 1944 Polish underground staged an uprising which infuriated Hitler to such an extent that he sent his 'Stormtroopers' in with the order to completely demolish the city and take all its inhabitants into camps. Warsaw was to cease to exist.

As a family of four we evaded being transported (twice) but spent weeks moving from one village to another, hiding in the forest but staying close to Warsaw in the hope that Russian Army would come soon and we would be able to return to our flat. With winter drawing close and the Russians showing no intention to come, my parents decided that we should try to make our way down south to where my father's sister lived.

Recently I had reasons to reflect on my wartime experiences and in particular on the last 5/6 kilometres of our trek to safety. After weeks of running and hiding; in fear, cold and hunger we were approaching our destination. We were walking along an unmade track. It was mid-November and the rain was bucketing down. Since the soil in the area was clay, each step called for great effort to pull your foot out of the squelching mire. Much of the time your foot came out minus the shoe…I am sure you can imagine the picture. Finally we arrived at our destination: soaking wet, caked in mud, cold, hungry and very bedraggled.

I am sure we presented a sorry and pathetic sight and I doubt if any of the villagers saw us as victors. Yet, we prevailed, we reached the goal, we were victorious through sheer hard slog and perseverance.

In our ordered, organised and easy lives our perception of winning and prevailing is more in a shape of victorious Caesars entering Rome on a golden chariot to the cheers of adulation rather than that of a foot soldier with all the sweat, blood and tears of a hard won battle.

Yes, glory and approval will come when we face Jesus but for now we need courage to plod through the mud of difficulties and be drenched by disappointments with the sure knowledge that it is all worthwhile.

And of course, the greatest example of courage is Jesus who: "For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God".

In Christianity, courage is seen as endurance rather than bravery in battle (based on Thomas Aquinas). In each of the letters to the seven churches in the book of Revelation, Jesus makes promises to ‘him who overcomes/conquers, is victorious (in different translations) but the promises are preceded not by a call to battle but by calls to faithfulness, repentance and endurance. Things that churches were praised for are: patience in keeping commands, hard work, being true to Jesus’ name, love and faith and, yes, perseverance.

Perseverance is not rated very highly in present day society but is valued very highly by God.



Friday, January 23, 2015

Hana Smith

Many of us will have very fond memories of Hana Smith. Hana was a regular on Sunday mornings at our Bracknell site, as well as being involved in our Sparklers parent and toddler ministry, and our TMTL group for the retired.
Sadly over the last few years Hana's health deteriorated, and she passed away peacefully in her sleep last Saturday. Please be praying for God to be with Hana's family as they grieve, especially for Hana's husband Peter and son Simon and his family who are all part of our community.
The funeral service where we will remember Hana's life is going to be at 9.45am on Friday 6th February at Easthampstead Park Crematorium. This will be followed by refreshments in the K2 Hall at our Bracknell site. Everyone is invited to both gatherings.
I'll leave you with these words from the apostle Paul.

Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord for ever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.

(1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 NIVUK)



Thursday, January 22, 2015

Peach and Coconut Course

On Wednesday 28th January we're going to be kicking off a new course, called the Peach and the Coconut. The aim of the course is to help people grow deeper in their understanding of what it means to be a follower of Jesus, and to explore what it means to be a part of our Kerith community.

The course would be ideal for anyone who has done the Alpha course and would like to take what they've learnt there to a deeper level, and for anyone who is new to Kerith and wants to get a better understanding of what we believe and what we are about as a church.

Every week we'll take a look at a different topic based around something I wrote in my book, which by an amazing coincidence is also called the Peach and the Coconut! At the start of the evening I'll speak for about 20 minutes based on a chapter of the book. There will then be time for discussion of the topic in a small group setting, followed by a group Bible study which should help to take the discussion to a deeper level. If any of that sounds slightly scary then please be assured it won't be - it should be very similar to an Alpha small group where you can ask any questions and feel free to be honest and open. There will also be tea and coffee, without which no course could be complete, and plenty of time to get to know the other people in your group.

The course is going to run for 10 weeks in the K2 Hall at our Bracknell site, starting on Wednesday 28th January at 7.30pm. Sign up forms are available at any of our Sunday gatherings, or if you don't manage to fill one in then please just come along on Wednesday.

Hope to see you there,




Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Erwin McManus - Artisan Soul Seminar

On Saturday 14th February we've got the enormous privilege of having Erwin McManus with us for a one day seminar based on his latest book The Artisan Soul. Whether or not you consider yourself a creative type I encourage you to come along if you possibly can - you won't regret it.

We first encountered Erwin when he spoke at the Willow Creek GLS on The Barbarian Way. Since then both he, and his wonderful wife Kim, have been hugely influential in shaping our Kerith culture, both through their visits to us and through Erwin's books. Our family also had the privilege last summer of visiting Erwin's church, MOSAIC, which meets in the middle of Holywood - it is hugely inspiring to see such a vibrant church at the centre of a place that shapes so much of our culture and values. Here's Hank Fortener, one of their pastors, preaching brilliantly on finding our place in God's community.

This is what Erwin says about the seminar:

"It’s so critical that every human being understand that at their core they’re an artist, that every one of us has creative potential that is to be unleashed for the good of the world.

I’ve met way too many people who have untapped potential, unfulfilled dreams and have a sense that their life is not being expressed the way that God designed it. I know for me it took me a long time to realise that there was stuff inside of me that needed to be released, that God had placed inside of me and that everything inside of you and me – our passions, our intellect, our imagination, our creativity – needs to be used to make the world more beautiful, to make the world a better place, to create an extraordinary future.

I know there are people all over the world that are waiting to be awakened to the deep God-given potential that is waiting to come to life. Every one of us are artists, we all have the artisan soul, and at the seminar we will explore together the process of crafting our lives into works of art.

You can book in to the seminar and get a load more details here. If you're not part of Kerith then until the 30th January you can get a 15% discount using the code TAS15. If you are part of Kerith you can get a 50% discount using the code TASHC50. To get either offer just click through to the Bracknell booking page, click on the box that says "Enter promotional code", enter the code and click apply, then book your tickets. I'll rely on people's honesty to use the appropriate code :)

There are also opportunities to serve, which will get you in for free although you may miss parts of some sessions (we'll work hard to get you in to as much as we can!). We need people to help with car parking, registration, reception, selling resources, drinks and the welcome team. If you could help us on the day please email Penny Lander as soon as possible if you would like to join the guest services team.

Please come if you possibly can!




Monday, January 19, 2015

What does it mean to be courageous?

I asked the question last week "what does it mean to you to be courageous?". Thank you to everyone who replied - I've included a selection of them below.

Choose today to be courageous, because God is with you!



  • As a nurse..I think of cancer victims..trying to fight this disease with courage and dignity.
  • Courageous to me is someone who knows what it is to suffer, who has faced adversity and tough times...yet they live their life full of dignity, respect for themselves and others and don't give up. :)
  • Courage for me has been stepping out and doing things when everyone else has told me I'm a fool for doing it, when I've known in my soul that it's what He is asking me to do.
  • Stepping out and doing something you're not sure you're capable of but doing it anyway.
  • Courage is not the absence of fear but the ability to continue in spite of fear.
  • I think courage is being willing to be honest about who you are, where you are and who you're not and trusting God has you where he needs you to do his work in you.
  • Carers - of the long term ill, of children with disability, of the infirm elderly in the family. People also who have courage to stand up for truth even if it means being the odd one out or worse.
  • Choosing to revere God more than created things...
  • I guess Canon Andrew White springs to mind when I think of courage, (although I'm sure he doesn't consider his love of sharing the Gospel as courageous).
  • Courage is those children who Canon White works with who even when faced with execution will not renounce their faith. A courageous lesson to us all...
  • Bold and confident action to achieve necessary good, in the face of the fear of possible failure.
  • Doing the undoable, saying the unsayable, being the unchangeable, swimming against the tide, believing the unbelievable and all because God revealed it to you!!
  • Standing for what you believe in when others don't agree with you.
  • Action in the face of opposition!
  • I think vulnerability is courageous - it's the courage to be you, to admit that you don't have it all together, that you have fears like everyone else, but to keep going - whether that's getting out of bed in the morning or following your dreams. Both are brave.
  • Definition of courage in the dictionary - ability to do something that frightens one.
  • Courageous is making plans and then stepping out in faith to achieve them and carrying on through the rough patches.
  • Courage is being riddled with fear, and knowing that the giants you face today could and probably will take everything you have within you, but you do it anyway, knowing that if by some small chance you do survive, you may have to do it all again tomorrow. I think so many have courage - sick children, single parents, those on the front lines, pastors, parents who have lost children, business men and new mums. I think in order for you to see courage, you have to possess it.
  • I think courage looks different in individual lives, circumstances, and seasons. Courage to a CEO making million dollar decisions might look quite different to the courage a cancer patient requires to find life. The universal element of courage is doing the thing you "HAVE" to do regardless of the obstacles, including your own fear. Courage is a necessary ingredient for LIFE! A life absent of courage is not fully alive. Where you find courage, you find life!
  • Doing things you dont want to do but know you have to in order to grow as a person.
  • I think courage is a relative term. What takes real courage for one person to achieve maybe very easy for someone else to achieve. The trick is noticing when someone has been courageous. Courage is feeling the fear and walking straight through the middle of it. Easier to do if you are walking with God. Courage is also daring to walk the walk set before you (if you are a Christian, the walk God has asked you to do), even if that means you have to dare to be different. So just as God asks us to have faith to move mountains, he asks us to have the courage to climb those mountains if God wants them to stay put. Courage is the point where we stop being a prisoner to our fears and begin to live life in freedom.
  • A key issue is what is the courage based on.
  • I love Malcolm Gladwell's comment "courage is not something you're born with, you earn it by being brave".
  • To me it signifies trying something you've not done before, stepping outside of your comfort zone, without any idea of the outcome!
  • Sometimes it is simply getting out of bed in the morning, giving to those around you even when you feel rubbish and standing up for what you know is right even when people might be offended!
  • Courage is facing death without fear and sometimes just getting out of bed to face the day.
  • Courage is the choice that we make not to be mastered by fear. It is not that we ignore fear, for it is necessary and can keep us alive, rather it is the decision not to make fear the ruling voice in our lives.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Konnections mums / Carers support group Co-ordinator

For many years now we have run a Friday morning support group for mums and cares who have children with special needs. Knowing some of the mums I know that over the years it has been an incredibly precious thing for them, an oasis of calm in the middle of often very busy and pressurised lives, and a safe place to be honest and open about the struggles that they are facing. The group runs term time only from 10:30 to 12 noon in the K2 building on our Bracknell site.

Over the years the group has been co-ordinated by a number of different volunteers, and we're in that place where we're again looking for somebody new to take it on. I wonder whether that might be you, or somebody you know!

The ideal person will be a people person with a passion to help support those who have children who have special needs. The person will need to have the administrative skills required to organise the programme for the term (planning & organising speakers and outings), and on the Friday mornings be around to help set up the room, organise the coffee & cake and facilitate the group.

Although the group has always been co-ordinated by an individual there is no reason that two people with complimentary gifts couldn't also take it on.

If this sounds at all interesting to you then please get in touch with Lydia Harris-Lane who oversees all of our children and family ministries. Or if you know someone else who might be interested please encourage them to get in touch with Lydia.

Thanks so much,




Friday, January 16, 2015

February Month of Prayer

I want to encourage everyone to get involved in our February month of prayer, a month for us to pray and fast, to spend time with God, to seek his face and delight in being with him, to seek his hand and ask for his favour on us, and hopefully for all of us to go deeper in him.

We're focussing the month of prayer around the prayer room on our Bracknell site. I'd love us to fill it 24 hours a day, 7 days a week through the month of February. If you do the maths that's 672 one hour slots to fill - if we all just did one slot then that would be it sorted!

The prayer room is incredibly easy to book. Just follow this link, click on the slot you'd like to book and fill in the form that comes up. An hour before you pray you'll be emailed a code to get into the prayer room (apologies as that was broken but is fixed now). You can either book for exclusive use, or you can leave it open so that others can join you.

Just a few thoughts on booking in:

  • Book in more than once during the month - why not go for a regular slot on a particular day of the week
  • Book in with friends or your ministry partners
  • Go for some of the less popular slots - 2-4am never has a rush of people so why not go hardcore and book that every week!
  • If you're from another church in the area please feel very welcome to join us
There are lots of resources in the prayer room to help you pray so don't worry about what you'll do for an hour. There's also tea and coffee to help keep you awake in the early hours :)

During the month we'll also have two church wide prayer meetings. Tuesday 17th February in the Kerith Centre and Wednesday 25th February at Sandhurst School - both at 8pm. Please put those dates in your diary and plan to be there for both of them.

Hopefully that all makes sense - any questions please ask!



Monday, January 12, 2015

Set Your Teenager on Fire :)

One of the greatest blessings for Catrina and I in being part of Kerith is that we've very rarely had to persuade or encourage our children into going to church or being part of church life. The children's work and youth groups have almost always been a place they've been happy to be, and all the way through growing up in church they've always had outstanding leaders, peers and role models they could look up to. All of that has played a huge part in makng them the young adults they are today.

That said the primary responsibility for creating an environment where our children grow up to love Jesus and have a personal relationship with Him lies with us as parents, which makes it so important that we learn to work alongside all that they are experiencing in our kids and youth work.

To that end on the Tuesday 10th February at 7.30pm Liam Parker, our Youth Pastor, is holding an evening in K2 for parents to talk about how how the church and families can work better together to see young people have strong, independent relationships with God. One of the things which Liam teaches strongly is that we shouldn't give in to the lie that it is inevitable our teenagers will rebel at some point in their lives - come and find out how you can help make that a reality. There will also be time to pray for our teenagers. If you're a parent of teenagers, or soon to be teenagers, I really want to encourage you to be there.

In all this I also want to express as a parent the grace needed in bringing up children. Alongside the joys we've also known the anxieties, sadnesses and disappointments which come with being a parent - especially for us raising them as "pastors kids" where people would often have an opinion on the quality of our parenting! We all at time feel like rubbish parents, and can be intimidated by the success stories of others. Please in it all know that God's grace is sufficient to you, and that part of the expression of that grace is the youth and kids workers God has blessed us with, as we partner together to raise a generation of world changers!



Friday, January 9, 2015

We are Kerith

At the start of 2015 I want to take the opportunity to remind us all again what it means to be a part of Kerith Community Church, and how every one of us has a huge part to play. I want to remind us what our vision is, what we stand for and how we can all play a part in making God visible to the world we live in.
I did hope to start last Sunday but was ill ("in all things God works for good" - I hear Sola preached a storming message in my absence!) so we've pushed the series back a week. I'm feeling a whole load better now (thank you to everyone who has been praying for me) and am so looking forward to Sunday.
This week I want to think about our vision and goals, both as a church and as individuals, and what the next step might be in making those a reality. My impression is that there are many of us starting the New Year feeling stuck and not sure what your our step might be. Sunday is going to be a day of action so come prepared to hear from God and take some bold next steps.
We'll also be sharing communion together, and the dance team have a great dance for us all to enjoy.
See you Sunday,



Thursday, January 8, 2015

Social Justice Freshers' Fair on Monday

Those of you who were around before Christmas may have heard Andy Jackson speak on "Social Justice is for life, not just for Christmas". Part of his challenge was to invite anyone interested in getting involved in one of our social justice ministries to a Freshers’ Fair which is at 7pm on Monday 12th January in the Kerith Centre.

This is a chance to find out about some of the exciting volunteer opportunities within the Social Justice team. Representatives from each ministry would love to talk to you about how you can help. There is a role for everyone; training as a mentor for ex-offenders, leading conversation classes for people looking to learn English, training as a behaviour coach for kids at risk of exclusion, befriending a CAP client, helping with some of the admin in the office, taking a client for a food shop and much more.

The whole team would love to see you there, and coming along doesn't oblige you to sign up for anything!



Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Prayer Meeting & All Leaders Meeting

With the New Year now seemingly up to full speed (and I for one already zoning out when I hear about the general election in 4 months time!) I wanted to let you know about a couple of meetings coming up.

On Wednesday 14th January we meet together as a church to pray - 8pm in K2. There's much to thank God for in all that went on in 2014, and much to pray for as we look ahead to 2015.

Then on Tuesday 20th January anyone in leadership in Kerith is invited to our All Leaders Meeting starting at 7.45pm in K2. The evening will start with wine and cheese, and an opportunity to catch up with others and meet new people. The rest of the evening will then be a combination of leadership training and a vision update from me. If there's time we'll finish with Q&A. I'd love everyone involved in leadership, however old or young you are and however big or small the team you lead, to be there, plus anyone who might consider themselved to be a potential future leader - you'd be very welcome too.

Hope your 2015 is going well, and see you on Sunday if not before.


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Free to Be

In the New Year Helen Cottee is going to be facilitating a series of meetings for women. These are a development of the Word and Worship mornings which ran very succesfully for a number of years, and should be a great place for women both in our community and beyond to gather, worship and be inspired. If you're a woman then consider yourself invited :)

The flyer below says it all, so that just leaves me to encourage you ladies to get there if you possibly can.





Monday, January 5, 2015

Training for friends & family of those who are adopting

If you've been around Kerith for the past year, you'll know that we have been bringing fostering and adoption into the heart of our church life, and now we are partnering with the national charity Home For Good. The exciting news is that this year we have families who are hoping to adopt - those of you who know them know the journey they're on. A huge part of us bringing adoption and fostering into the core of who we are is us as a church supporting those who add children to their homes, helping them to create new families for children. The church as a whole and we as individuals can be a source of tremendous support, whether we know the family well, or whether we will just be alongside them on a Sunday.

The adoption agency PACT have agreed to come and run a Friends and Family training evening for us on Tuesday 13th January, from 7.30 to 9.30pm in K2 on our Bracknell site. We'll learn how best to support those who are adopting or fostering and how to understand issues they and their children face. Talk to any of the fantastic people in our community who have fostered or adopted over the years and they'll tell you about the complex needs of their children and the challenges they face as a family.

This event is for anyone who wants to be part of making the church compassionate and hospitable for all adopters and foster carers. Whatever your interest or involvement in fostering or adoption, you'll be welcome.

If you want to know more, you can go to the fostering and adoption page on our website here, or email Penny Lander. You are very welcome just to turn up on the night, although if you were able to email Penny in advance so we have an idea of numbers that would be really helpful.