PICTURE OF THE WEEK: High Sheriff, Amanda Ponsonby, visits the work at The Branch
Our virtual sermon series on "Wild Weather" has never seemed more appropriate! Last Sunday James spoke to us on the theme of rain, and the association that has with God's blessing. Two days ago I watched as three children, gleeful and soaked to the skin, ran around the garden as the weather finally changed and the torrents came down. A great visual reminder of God's favour! (And I expect they weren't the only congregation members to stand outside in it for a bit...)
You may be wondering what September holds in terms of services. Although our overall aim is to get back to physical services on Sundays (and thank you to the tech team who have been working hard so that these can also be livestreamed), it's likely we won't quite be ready at the start of September to physically meet straight away.
We're lucky to be welcoming three new team members from the start of September (we introduced Joel a few weeks back and we will make two more introductions over the next two weeks) and as a new team we'll be exploring what we can offer, as well as listening to government advice as the schools reconvene.
So the current plan is to stay online for Sunday 6th September and see how things evolve. We know how keen some of you are to meet physically and, with that in mind, we'll keep you posted. In the meantime we can continue to attend in our pyjamas for at least a couple of weeks yet!
You drench its furrows and level its ridges;
you soften it with showers and bless its crops.
You crown the year with your bounty,
and your carts overflow with abundance.
The grasslands of the wilderness overflow;
the hills are clothed with gladness.
The meadows are covered with flocks
and the valleys are mantled with grain;
they shout for joy and sing.
Our first Thursday worship service in July - before compulsory masks!
Whilst church life and worship continue to remain rather different from what we have been used to before March this year, it has been great to be able to facilitate some forms of physically gathered worship. This includes our Thursday morning services at 11 am.
The nature of our Thursday worship has been following a structured yet simple liturgy of the word, where we can come together to pray, hear from the scriptures, and offer our praises to God in a quiet and reflective manner. In following all the guidelines, it’s a safe space for worship and contemplation characterised most importantly by the joy of coming together as brothers and sisters in Christ.
If you have a little more time over the coming weeks, why not pop down and be a part of it. Don’t forget your mask!
This year, partnering with the magnificent local charity Thrive, we have helped 20 families with their school uniform.
We believe that no child should start school feeling that they do not have smart shiny shoes and a uniform to be proud of, so we work with the Health Visitors & ACE Centre to reach families and then Thrive do an amazing job contacting all the schools and getting the right kit! We have the delight of adding underwear, socks, some treats and a book about starting school.
The children squeal with delight as they open the box to see their new school bag, sweater and PE kit - parents are often moved to tears. Please do join us in praying for those 20 families, and all the children who will be starting school in the town this year, or transitioning to Top School - as well as their teachers.
DESERT ISLAND DISCS
It's been such a treat listening to Jessie's singing in the music team videos each week, so we thought we'd take the opportunity to get to know a bit more about her.
We asked Jessie, "If you could only take two songs, one book and one luxury item into isolation, what would you go for?"
She made some cracking choices and we wish her all the best wherever her music takes her...
Have you been to New Wine? I haven’t, but I went online this year to have a look. Some great sessions of worship and teaching and prayer.
I found “God with us” based on Psalm 23 by Nicola Neal really helpful. The Psalms have become particularly precious to me during lockdown and Psalm 23 offers us the reassurance that God is walking with us, leading us, guiding us, ministering to us and continually restoring our souls. The peace which God offers us in our walk in the valley (and that valley can be anxiety, financial hardship, health) comes from knowing He is with us – our dependable, unchangeable shepherd never leaves us, no matter what is going on around us or inside us.
There are many other sessions online and they will be available for quite a while longer, with new sessions planned for the Autumn. I encourage you to take a look.
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.