Thank you so much all those who were able to fill in our church survey. It’s been really helpful to get more of an idea of how our congregation is and how people are feeling about the future. Of course there was a range of responses reflecting the wide range of experiences of lockdown and life in general. It was moving and encouraging to see that 86% of you feel that your faith is the same or stronger than before the lockdown. I know that this reflects to some degree the huge efforts that have been made by those in leadership and pastoral care roles - the staff team, the small group leaders, the phone web volunteers and everyone else who has been committed to loving each other through this strange experience. So I’d like to commend and thank you on behalf of each other. Of course, more significant even than this is the fact that our God is faithful and ever present, and uses the most surprising ways to grow and mould us. So for those of you who have, and are, finding this a struggle - we hold this faith for you until you are able to hold it yourself again. Thank God for His church.
In terms of the future, the big picture is that 70% of you are keen to return to worship together, even if you recognise feeling cautious about this. Unlocking lockdown is not a simple thing, and each new possibility holds both celebration and concern about what is ‘safe’ and ‘right’. These are very individual decisions and no one is here to judge or force you before you are ready. Therefore, the plan we have come up with is designed to offer stepping stones back into church and meet the immediate needs for fellowship where we can. So, between now and September, the main focus of our church worship will remain our online videos. In addition to this, we will hold three one-off services for those who would like to gather in our church building again. These are called the Summer Sessions, details below.
19th July, 3pm - Family Worship (open to families of anyone 0-11)
26th July, 3pm - Church Connect 1 (including saying goodbye to Martha)
30th Aug, 3pm - Church Connect 2 (including saying goodbye to Jonny)
Recognising that those who don’t have internet access, those who’ve been shielding and those who are particularly vulnerable have been most affected by a lack of physical company, we’re also starting a new midweek service of the Word - Thursday Worship. This will be a quiet and simple service and is open to absolutely anyone over 18, with the highest standards of hygiene and distancing. The first one will be on Thursday 16th July at 11am in the church.
It’s worth saying that this is a plan for now - reflecting the transition period we are all in and not assuming anything about what comes next. Of course we’ll let you know how things evolve as we move towards September, but I very much hope these services, in conjunction with our online offering, will give you something to look forward to and provide some much needed spiritual fuel for the journey onwards!
All of our plans are made in accordance with the current guidelines, so if you’re curious about the details and what church will look like, please check out this info, including FAQ’s. You are most welcome to contact me if you have any particular questions or concerns.
With love, and thanksgiving for each one of you,
May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
PICTURE OF THE WEEK
Youth meet for midweek prayer
OUR MISSION PARTNERS
Although the focus in recent weeks has very much been on local mission, this week we're starting to think more widely. This Sunday we'll hear from Bruce Rossington and his family, and their work with Africa Inland Mission. (Bruce is the son of our very own Lionel and Fiona in case you were wondering!)
We've also had an inspiring update from our Tearfund partner ZOE, who are still working hard to protect the most vulnerable, in the face of great adversity. The pictures above show a food distribution in Bulawayo and seem strikingly similar to scenes we've seen more locally!
CAP Debt Centre Manager - could God be calling you?
Our Christians Against Poverty (CAP) Debt Centre has been an incredibly important ministry that’s shared between us and the Community Church. We’ve seen amazing fruit as people have been helped to be debt free and come to know God’s deep love and purpose for them. We’re now in need of someone to take things forward and lead the team of wonderful coaches and befrienders. If you sense that God might be calling you to something new in this stage of life and have a heart for the poor and the Gospel we’d love to hear from you!
We'd love to welcome you to our new midweek service of the Word - Thursday Worship. This will be a quiet and simple service and is open to absolutely anyone over 18, with the highest standards of hygiene and distancing.
The first one will be on Thursday 16th July at 11am in the church.
RULE OF LIFE TOOLBOX: EXAMEN
As part of our sermon series we're providing our very own Rule of Life Tool Box brought to you by members of our own congregation.
This week Emily shares some of her experiences of the Prayer of Examen.
Sometimes we just need a few minutes of space and peace from the rushing world around us. Every Wednesday you're invited to take 10 minutes out of ‘normal’ life, to spend time pressing into Jesus with these midweek reflections.
I’ve called them Close Encounters because we can’t be close to people at the moment, but Jesus always comes very close indeed, breaking every distancing rule there’s ever been, as he looks at and loves each individual he meets. We’re going to eavesdrop on some of the meetings and give ourselves a chance to encounter Him too. I hope these will be a blessing to you.
At the end of the day... This prayer of review is a short reflection back over the day, recalling events and taking note of your feelings. The purpose is to become more aware of the ways in which God has been present to you, the times when the Holy Spirit was drawing you towards life.
The page has several audio recordings to guide you through this way of praying - each slightly different depending on your preferences.
Everyone has questions about what life is all about. We believe that everyone should have a chance to share those questions, explore the Christian faith and give their point of view.
Alpha is a place where you can ask those questions in an honest, friendly and open environment.
In recent months at St Mary's, God has been extending our vision to serve the town in an exciting, ambitious and creative way at a time of substantially increasing need for many within our community...
So many people in our community feel the weight of debt, and we are passionate about helping to release anyone we can from a life sentence of debt and poverty. At St Mary's we are working with Christians Against Poverty to bring good news, hope and freedom. If you need support, we'd love to hear from you.