"WELCOME BACK TO CAP DROP IN" - cakes made by one volunteer
This week sees many of our groups restarting, as well as this Sunday being our first regular Sunday back in church. It was such a joy to meet at Kintsugi Hope this week and to find that the friendships we had begun to build hadn't faded, and we could pick up where we left off way back in December.
At CAP Drop-In one volunteer surprised the group with cupcakes that they had made especially to mark the group restarting. Hannah said "It was such a lovely surprise. It made it into a real celebration!"
With much to celebrate we look forward to seeing each other this Sunday, and although we need to continue to look after each other by following the guidelines, we have so much to be thankful for.
Please pray for energy and inspiration for the team as they move into this next phase.
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Regular in-person services resume on 25 April at 8am and 10.30am
Philip reports following the final Mary's Meals delivery...
Last Friday saw our 46th weekly delivery day – the final one (at least, for the time being!).
We have been distributing food and other items throughout Lockdown 1 and the school summer holiday period, Lockdown 2 and Christmas, and Lockdown 3 through until the schools went back after Easter. Little did we know when we first started that we were facing a 13-month marathon!
With the schools now fully back, the Chippy Shuttle running again and COVID-19 restrictions being lifted slowly, we felt that this was a good time to stop, draw breath and take stock of what might be needed going forward.
It has been an incredibly busy 13 months, filled with both challenges and blessings as The Branch began to bear ‘early fruits’.
Since the beginning of Lockdown 1, we have sent out our fantastic team of over 100 volunteer drivers on more than 1,160 separate delivery rounds, dropping off over 6,600 bags of Mary’s Meals – containing over 40,000 meal portions in total – to more than 220 different households in Chippy and the surrounding villages. In Lockdown 1, we coordinated these deliveries with the Chippy Larder, delivering 6,225 Larder Boxes and Veg Bags, and increasing the household ‘count’ to more than 400. Add in the over 3,000 Craft Packs, more than 1,350 Well-Being Packs and a host of other imaginative surprises, and our drivers’ cars need a rest too!
Last Friday, we marked the ‘40,000th Mary’s Meal portion’ going out to a family in Chippy, with our driver Francie reporting that the recipient was “really thrilled”!
We were also delighted to receive a visit from our amazing High Sheriff of Oxfordshire, Amanda Ponsonby, at the end of our delivery session to present Mary’s Meals with an award “in recognition of great and valuable services to the community”. What a lovely surprise! Sadly the drivers were all out-and-about on their delivery rounds, but the MM packing and loading team were on hand to receive the award.
For those in church this Sunday (or watching the streamed service live or subsequently), Philip will be sharing some fun statistics from this year of activity [Question: placed end-to-end, how far do you think all the sausages that have gone into various Mary’s Meals would stretch? Answer: two kilometres!].
So, what happens next? Well, following questions that our drivers asked our clients in a survey, we are currently assessing the ongoing needs with a view to offering more tailored support to a smaller number of households, and using The Branch and volunteers to provide this. This support may well need to be ‘stepped-up’ again over the summer holidays and at Christmas… We will keep you posted!
A MESSAGE FROM URSULA
‘Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, 'This is the way; walk in it.' Isaiah 30.21
It's been such a happy four years for Roger and I as part of the St Mary’s Church family. We felt so warmly welcomed right from the start - and I had a wonderful excuse to get to know so many people so quickly when I visited all the existing Small Groups in the first few months. It’s been so exciting to see God’s hand at work guiding and bringing new people to share in building his kingdom and a huge privilege to work under James’ leadership, with such a dedicated staff team and alongside some very experienced and committed Small Group leaders.
I will be 70 in October and feel that the time has come for me to have a bit more flexibility in my life, to be able to support our five adult families and our growing grandchildren (16 so far!). So, I feel that the time has come to step down from my responsibilities on the staff team on 31st August. But, Roger and I are hoping very much to stay in the area and in the church. One could call it ‘retirement’ but we prefer the word ‘re-tyre-ment’! I’ve no idea what it will look like and I haven’t got firm plans (does anyone at this time?!) so it feels like a step of faith and trust! But, I do know that I want to continue to serve Christ and his church as best I can.
This picture has been helpful to me at times when I’ve not been quite clear what the future holds - but Jesus does….
Have you a friend or family member who you’d love to suggest Alpha to? Who could you invite to Alpha? It’s never been easier for someone to come to Alpha - because it’s all over Zoom (which we’re getting so used to!). Guests have been saying that they would never have come to a meeting but they feel safer on-line!
On Alpha we watch a video about some of the questions around life, death and the Christian faith, and then chat about it together online.
If you know someone who might be interested, perhaps you could point them in the direction of our website to find out more.
Alpha starts Monday 26th April. Meet at 7:30pm to watch the 20ish minute video. Or watch the video beforehand and join at 8:00pm to discuss.
We’re really excited to gather together in church (in a safe and physically distanced way, obviously) to worship The Lord at Encounter on Sunday evening, 9th May. We’ll begin worshipping together at 6:00pm in St Mary’s Church, but it would probably be best to get there for 5:45pm, so you’ve got time to be ushered to your seat by our lovely welcome team.
In light of current restrictions, a few things will be slightly different to how things used to happen at Encounter:
We won’t be having our normal café beforehand or afterwards, but you might still have a little treat waiting for you in your seat!
We won’t be able to sing, but we will still be able to worship, pray and encounter our faithful God.
So come along to enjoy an evening worshipping together, hearing some thoughts from our speaker and spending time in the presence of God. We’re excited, expectant and looking forward to seeing you there!
SETTING A WATCH
We'll be continuing to meet to pray via Zoom at 6am and 6pm daily for Building to Serve, as well as our world, nation, community, church and each other.
Everyone has their own picture of God. However, to answer the question of who God really is, we have to go to the source. In this book John Mark Comer begins with the well-known story of Moses interacting with God on Mount Sinai and goes on to explore what this means about God's character and what that means for us.
Written in a creative and contemporary style, this book is certain to make you look at things in a new way.
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.