Thursday, November 28, 2019

Thanksgiving Services for Joan Dunn

Our dear friend Joan Dunn passed away on Saturday 2nd November. Whenever I think of Joan I'm reminded of the two elderly ladies who through their prayer ministry were the catalyst for the Hebridean Revival. Joan was a prayer warrior with the same spirit and heart. Never seeking the limelight (I'm not sure I ever saw her on one of our platforms) she quietly interceded for our church community over many decades. Catrina and I received numerous cards from Joan over the years, each one thanking us for our leadership, telling us how grateful she was to be part of our church and assuring us of her prayers for us and our children. Even in her final days she would invite everyone who visited her to pray and share communion with her. As we recognise all God is doing in and through our community I am convinced that so much of it is the result of the prayers of Joan and others who share her anointing for intercession. She is hugely missed.

We are holding a Celebration of Life Service for Joan at 3pm on Sunday 8th December (what would have been Joan's 96th birthday) in the Kerith Centre, followed by refreshments in K2. Everyone is very warmly invited.

Please be praying for Joan's daughter Laura, and all in our community who are deeply missing Joan, her sense of fun, her smile, her deep trust in Jesus and her prayers. Let her life be an inspiration to all of to seek the deeper things of God.


Thursday, November 21, 2019

Kerith Buildings Updates

This week marked the 30th anniversary of the opening of the Kerith Centre. One of the comments visitors frequently make when I tell them the age of the building is that they thought it was new. That is in large part because of the design of the building and the quality of the materials used, but it also reflects the large amount of money we have spent over the years on both maintenance and where required the updating of the building. In the light of that I wanted to let you know about some of the ways we are continuing to develop our other buildings and sites.

The picture above is of the new kitchen in the K2 building on our Bracknell site. We were donated most of the equipment by a company who no longer needed it, saving us around £20,000. As well as installing the equipment we also took the opportunity to put a surface on the walls which is easy to wipe down, install a new wooden serving area and generally make the kitchen much more useable. The new kitchen is already making a huge difference to our social justice cafe which runs on a Tuesday and Friday, and I'm sure will prove useful for many of the other events which happen in K2.

Many of you will know that for a long time we've been trying to buy a strip of land down the side of K2 from the Bracknell Cricket Club. They have now decided that they don't want to sell the land to us. Although this is a shame, it is far less important to us since we made the decision a couple of years ago not to redevelop the K2 building, as that piece of land could have been crucial. The positive side of this decision is that we were waiting to know whether we could buy the land before moving ahead with building a walkway through to the Bracknell and Wokingham College car park which we use on a Sunday. The walkway will both reduce the time taken to walk from the car park to our site, and mean that children no longer have to walk along the busy dual carriageway which has always scared me. The college have agreed to us doing this, but have asked that we do the work in one of their breaks which hopefully will mean it being built during the spring 2020 half term.

Our Windsor site has seen rapid growth since we started meeting there every Sunday in September 2018. It has grown from an initial group of about 40 people to an average Sunday attendance of well over 100, which is really exciting. One consequence of that is that we have completely run out of space for kids work. To provide more space we have applied for planning permission to put a portakabin on the site of the hall which we rent, which has recently been granted. We hope to have the portakabin in place for early next year, creating space for the growth to continue.

We are also going to upgrade the toilets in the hall on our Windsor site, which at the moment let it down really badly. If you've ever been in them you'll know how much this needs doing!

One of our biggest challenges as we move forward is going to be finding spaces to do ministry in. Solving this problem is going to require a mixture of renting buildings, buying and building new buildings, and maintaining and improving our existing buildings. That will require a big vision, prayer for wisdom, breakthrough and favour, and sacrificial giving. All things that are part of our history and are also going to be part of our future.

Finally to say a big thank you to all who have given to the vision fund, which has allowed us to do all the things I've talked about here. You have stored up treasure in heaven in the lives that are going to be transformed in each of these spaces.

I'll finish with a few more pictures of the new K2 kitchen!


Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Thirty Years Ago Today

Thirty years ago today (19th November 1989) the Kerith Centre on our Bracknell site was opened at a total cost of £3.1 million, 98% of which came from the congregation. On that opening day Catrina and I had been part of the church for about 10 months, and had the privilege of sitting in the balcony joining in the celebration. 

The name “Kerith” came from a story told in 1 Kings 17:1-6 in the Bible where God miraculously provided for Elijah in the Kerith ravine.  It was chosen to represent God’s miraculous provision of money to build the Kerith centre, and the vision of the church that the building would be a place of provision for all who came in.

For a congregation of 400 people to build the Kerith Centre at such a cost, at a time of recession, was remarkable.  People double tithed for years, came to early morning and all-night prayer meetings, gave on monthly gift days, raised money at table top sales, gave up holidays – they had a vision for a building that would impact the town, the nation and the nations for generations to come. A bank loan was needed to pay the final construction costs, but within four years, in November 1993, the loan was paid off.  The church was debt free! 

But it wasn't just the raising of the money that was remarkable. The Kerith Centre was built at a time when it was pretty much unheard of for UK churches to build new buildings. The perceived wisdom at the time was that large churches should break down into smaller congregations, meeting in schools or community centres, and that large church buildings were a thing of the past. Ben Davies, our senior pastor from 1964 to 2007, had a different vision which came from visiting large churches in the USA. He knew that he had heard from God, and had the courage and faith to lead the church into this amazing project. It was so revolutionary that I remember that for the first few weeks of moving in we had a different TV company filming each week, including BBC, ITV and Sky. It was always interesting to have friends and family contact you the week after to say they'd seen you worshipping on TV! Praise God we now live in an age where churches opening new buildings is commonplace.

I've just come back from the Kerith Centre where I've been at an all day training event attended by church leaders from the south of England and Germany. Foodbank was running in the building during the day, while our addiction recovery group and our Equip theology course were meeting tonight. Those who gave so sacrificially to pay for the Kerith Centre had a vision that they were investing for a future they couldn't imagine, and in people they would never meet. That has certainly proved to be true as I reflect on all the events we have run and lives which have been transformed in the Kerith Centre over the last 30 years. Sunday meetings, Prayer meetings, Alpha Courses, Marriage Courses, Willow Creek Conferences, Real conferences, Foodbank, Friday night youth, Songs of Praise, CAP Debt Counselling, Carol Concerts, Baptisms, Royal visits, Sparklers parent and toddler group, Who Let the Dads Out and so much more. Countless thousands of lives have been transformed and will continue to be transformed at events held in the Kerith Centre. 

So I want to say a huge thank you to all those who have left us with the gift of the Kerith Centre. To Ben Davies who was the visionary behind it all, Ralph Allen who gave up a well paid job to be the architect and design a building which has passed the test of time so well, Mike Owen who acted as the site manager to make sure it was built to such a high standard, Clive Challis who acted as the treasurer for the whole project, Melita Cullis who ran numerous table top sales and to all those who gave sacrificially of their finances and their time in prayer to see the dream become a reality. 

And to the rest of us let us realise we stand on the shoulders of giants. We don't worship a building, but we do worship in a building, and it allows us to do so much ministry and see so many lives changes. Let's be thankful for all who have gone before us, be inspired by their vision their faith and the sacrifices they made, make the best use we can of the legacy they have left us and be willing to follow in their footsteps.