Monday, March 30, 2015

Election Hustings - Wednesday 29th April

At 7.30pm on Wednesday 29th April we're hosting an election hustings in the Kerith Centre. We're going to invite all the candidates for the Bracknell Constituency to attend. The evening will include statements from all the candidates, as well as the opportunity to ask them questions. This is an opportunity not only for the local churches to hear from the candidates, but also for us to serve the wider community in creating a space for them to engage in that conversation too.

It's so important for us to engage with the political process. So many issues important to us as Christ followers, from justice for the most vulnerable in our society to education and health care, are hugely impacted by what goes on at Westminster. Our hope it not in politicians, it's in Jesus as the only one with the power to change what is in a persons heart, but it is possible for our prayer for more of "heaven on earth" to be answered through the decisions made by our elected representatives. It's therefore important that we play our part in choosing who they are.

Just be very clear Kerith as an organisation is apolitical. You will never hear me on a Sunday, or in a blog or anywhere else, recommending one particular candidate or party over another. That doesn't mean that individuals in Kerith won't have connections to a particular party, in fact one of the candidates at the forthcoming election is part of Kerith. Nor does it mean that we won't have views on the rights or wrongs particular policies. But in no way is it my job to tell anyone how to vote - we just want to help people make an informed decision as they make that choice.

So please be there on the 29th if you can. It should be an interesting evening.

Finally if anyone would like to be involved in helping make the evening happen, including car parking and welcoming guests as they arrive, please contact Pip Reeve who would love to hear from you.



Friday, March 27, 2015

Kerith Choir - We need you :)

We're planning on doing Christmas a bit differently this coming December. We'll still do the two meetings on Christmas Eve, and have our Christmas Day gathering, but instead of the Sunday Christmas guest meetings we've done for the last few years, we're going to have a series of evening Carol Concerts with a choir, an orchestra, readings and overall a much more traditional feel. These will be in Bracknell on Saturday 19th, Sunday 20th and Monday 21st and in Sandhurst on Tuesday 22nd December.

Our current thinking is on each evening to highlight a number of local charities, which we'll talk about and take up an offering for during the evening (nearer the time we'll be asking for nominations for charities to include). We'll also be looking to include the various mayors in the evenings, and our MP whoever that might be!

We want to have a big focus this year on all of us using these events to invite our friends, neighbours and relatives to come along. Please be thinking even now about who you're going to invite to each of the evenings.

For all this we're going to need a choir, which hopefully is where you come in! The Kerith Choir is open to anyone aged 14 and above, whatever musical background you have. We're going to hold a short first gathering for anyone interested this Sunday (29th March) at 3pm in the Kerith Centre auditorium. If you can’t make this meeting you can still sign up by emailing The choir is open to anyone so please feel free to invite friends and neighbours too.

We are also looking to gather together a small orchestra - so if you play an instrument we would love you to come along to the meeting on the 29th too, or email us!

After Easter rehearsals will every other Monday, starting on Monday 20th April, from 7pm- 8pm in the Kerith Centre.

I'm hoping and praying we can really impact our communities through these events. As we bless local charities, as we give people a great evening and as we help people engage with what Christmas is really all about.


Thursday, March 26, 2015

A busy (and hopefully fruitful) few days

I thought you might be interested in a few of the things which we as a church (which means all of us at one level or another) have been involvefd in over the last week.

Last Thursday we hosted a day with James Emery-White and a team from his church, Mecklenburg Community Church, in the USA. They were helping us think about how we build churches which genuinely engage the fast changing culture around us. We had around 100 people from various churches in the south of England attending, as well as a good number of people from Kerith.

On Friday the K2 Hall was turned into a studio and I recorded the talks for 5 of the 10 sessions of the Peach and Coconut talk we've been developing. Once all the talks are recorded we'll turn this into a DVD so that the course can be run in homes and other settings. The course is intended as a follow on from Alpha, and for anyone new to Kerith to understand our DNA as a church and what it means to grow as a disciple of Jesus. Yesterday was week 9 of the pilot course we've been running - so far the feedback has been very positive so I'm hopeful that this course will be a useful tool in us making disciples.

On Saturday our youth team ran NextLevel - an event where youth groups from other churches were invited to come along and learn together about reachign young people for Christ. By all accounts Liam Parker and the team did an amazing job.

At the same time I was up in Bedford, speaking at a conference hosted by Woodside Church. I spoke on social justice, both from a Biblical viewpoint and many of the practical lessons we've learnt over the years. It was a privilege to be there and seemed to be well received. If you're interested you can listen to my talks, along with a brilliant talk on apologetics from our friend Andrew Wilson here.

Then on Sunday morning Mike Royal from TLG spoke from Isaiah 58 on the place of social justice in the life of the Christian. Mike is an amazing guy in all that he's involved in, and it was a privilege to have him with us. Then in the evening Liam Parker spoke on Jesus as our Lord and our God - it spoke very powerfully to me as I'm sure it did to others.

Finally on Monday and Tuesday we hosted a group of leaders from 22 European nations, all of whom host Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit events in their own country. We all met with Gary Schwamlein who heads up the Willow Creek Association, to talk about how we move forward what is happening and reach and equip even more leaders. If you haven't already please can I encourage you to put our own GLS event on the 9th and 10th October in your diary. Willow have just announced the speaker lineup and it looks excellent.

All of this is on top of the regular stuff going on in our community - CAP visits, Foodbank, the midweek meeting, small groups, Alpha, parenting courses and so much more.

My prayer as I reflect back on all this is for God to bring fruit. The scriptures tell us that "Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labour in vain." (Psalm 127:1 NIVUK). I do believe that God both inspired and is in all we have been doing, that we haven't just been busy and labouring in vain. Anywhere we have I pray that God will show us so we can stop and get on board with His plan!

I finally want to acknowledge that all of this is only possible because of the amazing people who make up our community. You may not have been directly involved in any of what has been going on, but by being part of Kerith you are helping build a community which does have influence, and as Ben Davies often taught us to pray is "the head and not the tail". Thank you.


Saturday, March 21, 2015

Reflections on Life in Iraq - #3

Ralph, part of our Kerith community, spent time working with Tearfund in Iraq last year. This is the third of three reflections he's written on life there, imagining that the crisis was happening in Bracknell.



Last summer millions of Iraqi’s fled from ISIS terrorists, many going to Christian areas for help. Many Iraqi communities have a long history of violence against Christians. What was it like being part of a Christian community as people fled to you for help? To put this another way, what would ‘We are Kerith’ mean in a crisis?

Life in a crisis: the church’s story

Life at Kerith has been very challenging recently. Everything normal got cancelled when it was gridlock on the roads with people fleeing for their lives. Some of us in walking distance were press-ganged into carrying water out to help. The doctor’s surgery stayed open, to treat emergency patients, and suddenly the cricket pitch was covered in cars.

The council asked if families with children under the age of ten could sleep in the auditorium. ‘Well, yes, we think we can cope with 100 people’. We ended up with 497, including the baby born in the Studio. Now we just take new arrivals, for three days maximum, while the council finds them a tent. Foodbank was raided and all three kitchens made soup, endlessly. The queue stretched to the college, everyone was so patient.

Meanwhile some of us offered our homes. The most anyone had was about 20 sleeping on the floor!

Fortunately the Red Cross organised food parcels through the Foodbank, so nobody went hungry. This was essential, not because the shops were empty, but because with no income, and the collapse of the social security system, and existing debts, few could afford to buy food.

Now, if you’re a Smith you collect your food box from the Kerith Centre car park at 0942 the third Thursday of the month. Bring your triple stamped coupon!

K2 has become an overflow clinic upstairs, with a pharmacy downstairs that regularly runs out. Second hand clothing, donated from abroad, is also sorted downstairs. The government asked donors not to send second hand stuff, and yet it keeps coming. It’s an organisational nightmare that needs more volunteers than we have. We need some washer dryers to clean donated clothes, but we don’t have the money. Those with nothing are grateful – most fled without a change of clothing - but really, people need money for new clothes.

Worship meetings restarted after two weeks, once alternative accommodation was found. Some of the influx joined us, they had nothing else to do. Others came because they had never been near a church before, and were overwhelmed by the help they received.

Nobody knows how many midweek groups there are any more. Many people just meet up, anywhere, for support, read the bible, and pray.

And life at home? Well, nobody has much money. We’ve all got a lot more friends, we watch less TV. We’re used to the helicopters going to the front at daylight, and coming back at nightfall. We pray like mad whenever one shoots over at lunchtime, taking a wounded soldier to hospital.

Bangs? We still get a few, but really, we’re used to them now. We’re adjusting to the new normal.

* * *

The local church in Iraq is much smaller as so many Christians have left after repeated persecution. And yet when people fled, they went first to the Christian villages, and churches, where they knew they would find help. The issues here are based on what they have faced since last summer.

One Tearfund partner has many of the problems faced by K2, described above. They have continual, ongoing needs, probably ten times what they usually face. Donations in kind mean they have big problems with systems – and finding working capital. And yet they somehow cope, as Christ’s ambassadors.


Thursday, March 19, 2015

This Sunday - Mike Royal & Liam Parker

On Sunday Mike Royal will be speaking at our 9am and 11am meetings in Bracknell, and at 10am in Sandhurst. Mike is the National Director of TLG, an award-winning charity which enables churches to work with children and young people at risk of exclusion from school across the UK. He is also an ambassador for The Cinnamon Network, which helps local churches to help people most at need in their local community. If you like your preachers to be well read then you'll be pleased to know that Mike has a first class honours degree in Urban Planning and a Masters Degree in Black Theology from the University of Birmingham! Mike was also elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in 2010 (FRSA). He lives in Birmingham UK and has been happily married to Viviene for over twenty years.

Kerith partners with TLG in our Early Intervention work - go to our web page and contact Catherine Felgate who heads up this work if you'd like to find out more. We have also worked with and benefitted from the work of The Cinnamon Network in developing our social justice ministries. Mike is an excellent communicator and I know we're really going to enjoy having him with us.

At the 6pm our very own Liam Parker will be speaking. If you're free why not come out twice on Sunday and get a double dose of goodness :)

I won't be around in the morning as I'm running (walking, crawling) the Reading Half Marathon, joining with a team raising money for Novo, a charity set up to help recovering addicts in Bolivia. Some of the teams are running in sloth outfits, I'm ashamed to report that I'll just be wearing standard running gear which may explain why so far I've got no sponsors! If you want to see who is running and choose someone to sponsor have a look here.

I hope to be around in the evening, assuming I can still walk :)



Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Car Park Culture - Visitors First

One of our core values as a community is that we want to be the most welcoming place in Bracknell and Sandhurst. More welcoming than any of the supermarkets, coffee shops, leisure facilities, pubs or restaurants.

One of the ways we do that is to make sure we give our visitors the best car parking spaces. That inevitably means those of us who can parking a bit further away from our buildings, although never too far :)

In Bracknell on a Sunday morning we want to leave the Kerith Centre, K2 and surgery car parks free for visitors and Kerith car park badge holders. That means all of the rest of us parking in the college car park.

Sandhurst is a bit simpler (at the moment at least), although we would ask people to fill the spaces on the right as you drive into the school first, and then choose the spaces further away from the school entrance to leave those near the entrance free for visitors.

For Sunday evenings in Bracknell we can normally all fit in the on site car parks, although as the evenings continue to grow, and when we have guest speakers or special events, that will change.

I know how tempting it is to think "I'm the exception, and my one car won't make a difference" but it only takes a few of us to take that approach for us to end up with the situation we had this Sunday in Bracknell where there were no spaces left for visitors or people with disabilities.

Please can I also make a plea for us to be polite and grateful to our amazing car parking teams. Please make their life as easy as possible, follow their instructions and thank them for all that they do in all weathers!

Finally to say that we do have plans and the money set aside to put a path down the side of K2, so that we can walk from the college car park through to our buildings without having to go via the dual carriageway. We're currently struggling to find a builder willing to do the work, so if you know of one who might be interested in doing it please let me know and I can put them in touch with our team.



Monday, March 16, 2015

Additional Needs Questionnaire

There is no doubt that some of the most marginalised people in our society are children and adults with additional needs, along with their families and others who care for them. I'm very proud of the ministries that we as a church have provided over the years to help provide support to many of these people in our local community. I believe these ministries so represent the heart of God for our church to be a voice for hope and justice to those on the edges of society. You can read more about the support we're currently offering to children here, and to adults here.

However, even with all that amazing work going on we don't ever want to get stuck in the way we do things. Over the last few months we've sensed God stirring us to take a look at what we do and whether we should do it differently. To that end Pip Reeve, on behalf of Lydia Harris-Lane who heads up all of our work with children and families, is doing a comprehensive review of our whole additional needs ministry. As part of that we'd love to hear what people in our church community think about our ministry to those with additional needs, and what direction people feel it should be taking.

If you have thoughts about what we do currently, and what we should do in the future, with regards to our additional needs ministries we'd really appreciate it if you could take the time to complete this short questionnaire. Your input will then feed in to the review process, which I'll report back on once it's been completed and the elders have had time to think and pray through what changes if any we want to make.

In the meantime please be praying for Pip and all those involved in the review. Please take time to thank God for all that we've been able to do so far as a church with regard to helping those with additional needs, and be praying that God will guide us to a place where we are able to do even more to His glory.

Many thanks,


Saturday, March 14, 2015

Reflections on Life in Iraq - #2

Ralph, part of our Kerith community, spent time working with Tearfund in Iraq last year. This is the second of three reflections he's written on life there, imagining that the crisis was happening in Bracknell.



Last summer millions of Iraqi’s fled as ISIS terrorists threatened them. Tearfund supporters prayed and gave generously to help those who lost everything. Many Iraqi communities have a long history of violence against Christians. What was it like being part of a Christian community as people fled to you for help?

Life in a crisis: the servant’s story

What is it like when the population doubles overnight? Imagine you have another family living in your house – as well as your own family – and you have no idea when they will go! Everyone has people in their home and nobody is leaving – they have nowhere to go, they can’t go back as the rebels are so brutal.

Imagine. There aren’t enough homes for all those displaced, so all the schools became huge dormitories with washing drying on the fences. Services at Kerith are difficult, as the serving team has to clear up first after the families living there. The cricket club has washing drying on the boundary. Work on Bracknell’s new flats has stopped, people squat on every floor, even though there are no walls. Someone fell off recently. Tarpaulin tents are in every park and the bushes stink – let’s not go there!

To start with your kids had a great time, making many new friends, as the school term was cancelled. Now they have too much time on their hands. You’re a bit concerned as your teenagers are getting on too well with some of the new arrivals.

Having so many strangers wandering the streets is unnerving. At least the petty thieving has been clamped down on. Are some of them rebels, just waiting to denounce those they don’t like? You’ve heard a local house was raided last night, they found three wounded rebels.

Work? Your job seems secure, although some bosses have emigrated for safety. There isn’t much money being spent. Everyone is being very careful. Teachers, nurses, doctors and council workers have not been paid recently. The government says it has a war on and promises vaguely to do something next month. Almost everyone gets food hand-outs, of dried and preserved food, but fresh food is expensive. Outings and holiday plans have long been forgotten.

And waiting lists for everything medical! Many newcomers were in pretty bad shape, so the workload more than doubled overnight.

Generally, though, everyone has just mucked in and helped. You remember grimly what it was like under the old regime, when the army bulldozed everything in sight. This time, although the local population has doubled at least your house is still standing. That’s something to be grateful for!

* * *

In Iraq local government and UNHCR hold co-ordination meetings with NGO’s like Tearfund to share responsibility for immediate needs like housing, food, health, schooling, and security. However, some things can only be done by NGO’s like Tearfund. For example, Tearfund is sponsoring the training of local pastors – who are few and far between – in trauma counselling, to meet a huge but largely hidden need.



Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Visit those in Prison

When did we see you ill or in prison and go to visit you?" ‘The King will reply, "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."

(Matthew 25:39-40 NIVUK)

Many of you will know that we have a team who regularly go out on Sundays and lead services in various local prisons. I recently heard of a report on one of their visits from the St Aldates Church Prison Newsletter. The report said this:

"On Sunday, eight members of Kerith church from Bracknell came to help lead the chapel service. Following the song, ‘Find me in the river’ they invited God’s presence. There was a sense of the Holy Spirit descending like a dove, like a flock of birds alighting, and some men came forward in tears for prayer.

Afterwards five men were baptised or reaffirmed, three from the VPs’ Alpha group, and two brothers from the main wing. D told Jane that he and his brother N were in a drunk-driving accident in which their car was crushed ‘like a coke can.’ He feels that God has saved him for a reason, but how much he understands about Jesus we don’t yet know"

I'm so proud of our team giving their time, energy and skills to fulfilling Jesus command to visit those in prison.

If you'd be interested in getting involved in prison visiting, or in our programmes to help integrate ex-offenders back into the local community, then please take a look at our website where you can find some more information and get in contact with the team. It's a powerful encouragement that whatever we do for those in prison we do for Jesus, so please do consider getting involved as well as praying for the various teams.


Monday, March 9, 2015

Church and Culture Conference - Thursday 19th March

On Thursday 19th March we're going to be hosting a conference with James Emery-White and a team from his church, Mecklenburg Community Church, which is in Charlotte in the United States.

Many of you will know James from his previous visits. His specialism is analysing and understanding the culture we live in, and working out how we as churches can best engage with the culture. His church is pretty unique from my perspective in that 70% of their growth has been through seeing unchurched people come to faith. At the conferences we'll hear not only from James but also from the people leading his kids, creative arts, communictions and welcome teams on how they've built a church which is reaching the culture so effectively.

James and his team have said that anyone from Kerith who would like to attend can come for free! Most of our staff team are going to be there - if you're part of our Kerith community and would like to join us then please email our reception with your details and we'll get you added to the attendance list.

We've also already got a good number of individuals and church teams coming from other churches. If you (or even better a team from your church) would like to come, then you can book in and get all the conference details here.

It's going to be an excellent day to think and learn about how we can do church more effectively - I hope you can make it.



Saturday, March 7, 2015

Reflections on Life in Iraq - #1

Ralph, part of our Kerith community, spent time working with Tearfund in Iraq last year. He has written three reflections on life there, written as though the crisis was happening here in Bracknell. Here is the first of them.



Last summer the terrorist group ISIS captured much of Northern Iraq. Millions fled for their lives. Tearfund supporters – many in Kerith – prayed and gave generously to help those who fled, losing homes, jobs, schools, possessions. As security is difficult Tearfund has given few identifiable facts about their work. So, when asked to join their relief setup, flying the day a British hostage was beheaded, my twelve prayer partners were asked not to say where I was. What was life in this crisis like?

Life in a crisis: the victim’s story

Imagine what it would be like if you had fled your home, with just the clothes you were wearing, maybe by car or on foot, 50 or 100 miles to safety. Six months on and you’re living in a tent, a makeshift mud house, or a building with no walls, doors, windows, with thousands of other families. Any savings you had, or valuables, have long since been spent.

Imagine, you have no toilet or shower. You collect wood to burn to keep warm and to cook. Dry food is given out but fresh food is a luxury – as is warmth, there’s a blizzard outside.

You have no regular work, there’s no school, the emergency clinic has few drugs. The terrorists ten miles away keep trying to take Bracknell.

Your family, neighbours and friends, who you would normally rely on for support, are scattered. You cannot emigrate, no country wants you.

Imagine. What is going to happen next, to you and to everything you hold dear? What can you hope for?

And then, a dozen people come around, asking questions in your language. Where are you from? How many people are there in your family? Can we look at where you sleep? Do you have any ID? What work do you have? What do you need to spend money on, right now?

You answer: fresh food, blankets, rugs, kerosene heaters, cooking pots, hygiene items, medicine, clothes that fit. They smile reassuringly, write down your mobile number, and leave. You wonder who they were.

Days later, after several more phone calls, and meetings with the community leader, you get a text telling you to go immediately to a local empty building. You grab your ID, cadge a lift, and join a well-managed queue.

Before you know it, you’re back out on the street, dazed, holding some crisp $100 notes in your hand. You stand there, staring at the cash.

Now you have a different problem – but one you CAN do something about. What do you get first? Which shop gives the best deal? What was it that your wife said the family needed most?

* * *

Tearfund’s field assessors are trained to seek out the most vulnerable. Cash is the most efficient way to provide support in Iraq as there are affordable goods in the shops. Families gain dignity by being able to spend money on what they most need.



Friday, March 6, 2015

Sunday Speakers

This Sunday Michael Ross-Watson is going to be speaking at the 9am and 11am in Bracknell on communion. I'm going to be speaking at the 10am in Sandhurst, bringing a live version of the videoed message I gave last Sunday in Bracknell. Lisa O'Brien is speaking at the 6pm in Bracknell on living a transformed life.

Please plan to make at least one of our gatherings this weekend - you won't regret it :)

Hope you have a great weekend,


Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Frances Reeve on Introverts and Extroverts

Many of you will know Frances Reeve. She is one of our current group of Academy students, and whilst on Academy is working in our pastoral team helping people new to Kerith to integrate into the life of our church. She's great :)

Frances recently did a spoken assignment on Academy on introverts and extroverts in the church. This is a subject I know quite a few of us have been thinking about - how do we make church as accessible as possible for people wherever they are on the introvert to extrovert spectrum. This conversation was fuelled when at last years GLS we watched a talk by Susan Cain based on her outstanding book Quiet - if you haven't read it then I encourage you to get hold of a copy - it's incredibly thought provoking. You can also watch Susan doing a TED talk based on the book here - we recently watched it at one of our leaders gathering.

Frances sent me a copy of the notes from her Academy talk, which I found very helpful. She comes at introversion and extroversion from more of a Christian perspective than Susan Cain does, which I found fascinating. You can read Frances's notes here. I'd love to hear reflections on what she's written.

Simon (who sits almost exactly in the middle of the introvert / extrovert scale, but loves silence and solitude and sometimes finds church on a Sunday exhausting and overwhelming!).


Monday, March 2, 2015

Macedonia and Serbia Reflections

I'm coming towards the end of my first time in both Serbia and Macedonia, travelling with Ken Bothamley who has been here many times before. You can read a bit about our itinerary here.

It's always hard to know what to write in a blog like this. Do you go for a full blown account of the trip with photos and stories (Ken does a great job of that so I'll post a link to his blog when he does it!). Do you write something saying how hard it's all been so people don't just think you've been on holiday! Or do you write nothing at all and see if anyone notices you were away :) I thought instead of those things I'd briefly reflect on how we can all be involved in the nations.

Part of our call as a church is to be involved in reaching nations. Jesus told us to make disciples of all nations, and much as we want to make a huge impact in our local community there is also a call for us to think internationally. We can do that in lots of ways but I thought I'd reflect on a few.

We can visit nations, helping build and encourage the churches in those places. I feel part of my call is not to travel very often, but instead to focus on building a local church which will send others who are much better equipped to help them than I am to help churches in the nations we're involved in. I'm thrilled that again this year a bunch of our youngsters will be going to Albania to run a youth camp there. That 10 women from our community (plus the very brave but totally outnumbered Ken Bothamley) will be helping run a women's conference in Albania in May. That last year a team of builders went out to Estonia to help renovate a building there. In 2016 I want us to plan a load more trips so that many of us will have the opportunity to help make disciples in another nation - why not plan to be on one of those trips.

We can have nations visit us. This happens when we host leaders and teams from other churches throughout the year, most especially at the Global Leadership Summit and the REAL women's conference. But it also happens evey Sunday as we host people from other nations who have come to live in our local area. We need to make sure we are friendly and welcoming to all those different groups of people.

We can pray for the nations. Jesus said that his house would be a house of prayer for all nations. I've been thrilled through February to see our prayer room booked out so much, and particularly excited that a number of prayer meetings have been organised to pray for specific nations and the people involved there. Let's keep praying for nations, both individually and as a community.

We can give financially to the nations. If you give on a Sunday a chunk of that giving goes to reaching nations. That might be through helping fund teams either going out or visiting us, sponsoring overseas Academy students or meeting financial needs in other nations. This year that comes to around £50,000, but in future years we're keen to see that increase.

Tonight Ken and I are in a place called Kragujevac, the fourth largest city in Serbia. It is a city of around 150,000 people but only has one evangelical church and around 20 evangelical believers. I'm going to be speaking at a meeting where a Christian here, Ivan, has invited a whole load of his neighbours to come and hear the gospel. Please be praying for courage for me, and that in time we might all be involved in seeing much fruit in places like this.