This week one of our congregation members shares with us how the generosity of the church family transformed her Christmas at one of the hardest times in her life.
Working in the church office I see so much generosity from our church members - gifts of money, time and goods - from the mountain of shoeboxes that were recently filling the upstairs office, to the cards, gifts and meals that I know are exchanged when small group members are poorly or celebrating a new arrival.
In today's Mary's Matters there are two more opportunities for generosity - the Big Give - which is an invitation to the wider community to support the work of The Branch - and the Christmas Hampers - where anyone who would like is invited to help make someone's Christmas really special.
Thank you for all that you do!
As it is written:
‘They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor;
their righteousness endures for ever.'
Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.
2 Corinthians 9:9-11
THE BIG GIVE CHRISTMAS CHALLENGE
There are only a few days to go until the start of the Big Give Christmas Challenge - an incredible opportunity for the local community to support the work of The Branch. From midday on 1st December (#givingtuesday) to midday on 8th December, any donation made through the Big Give fundraising platform will be doubled, up to £20,000.
Funds raised will help us to support local families who are in crisis or experiencing hardship and spread some joy this Christmas. So please do help us to spread the word about it. Tell your friends, wider family, neighbours and work colleagues. To make a donation they simply need to go to www.stmaryscnorton.com/biggive.php where they will find more information and will be directed to an online giving platform. Donations can be made simply using a debit or credit card.
The church is promoting The Big Give on their social media links all this week and next. We would be very grateful if all the social media fans could share this with any other local platforms you are connected to get the word out. To have a look simply log on to our Facebook page - St Mary's Church Chipping Norton. WhatsApp is also a really easy way to send a short message with the above weblink, for example - 'help local families facing hardship this Christmas, donate here from 1st to 8th December and it will be doubled!
Thank you so much for your continued support and the amazing ambassadors you are for this project. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to get in touch with Gina at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As Christmas approaches, it is easy to get caught up in the excitement and busyness. But for many people Christmas is a time of additional stress, anxiety and isolation as they worry about how they will provide gifts for their children, a Christmas meal, or how they will face the festive season alone. When you are having to prioritise between feeding your family or keeping them warm, how can you even begin to think about presents or party food? And if you have lost your job or been furloughed on 80% of your normal income, there may be absolutely no financial leeway for Christmas at all.
These are the dilemmas that so many in our community are struggling with at this time, and many others are facing a festive season isolated from their loved ones and the community due to the pandemic. At St Mary's our heart is to love and serve our community and our Christmas hampers are such an amazing opportunity to do this, and this year we will be doubling our efforts. Working with other charities and with referrals from schools, health visitors, GPs and other agencies we will be distributing over 100 hampers to spread some joy and relieve some pressure this Christmas.
Two years ago on Christmas Eve we knocked on a door to deliver a Christmas food hamper - the seven year old who opened the door turned to his mum - who was in tears - and said, “Mum, look we will be able to have something to eat tomorrow”… This is not a scene from A Christmas Carol nearly 200 years ago - this is happening on our doorstep right now and each one of us has the opportunity to make things a little better.
Normally we have a tree in church where we can take labels of what we would like to contribute, but this year we are obviously having to do things a little differently. I have compiled a list of what is needed for the hampers via an online gift list called 'Dream List'. If you click on the link below it will take you to a list where you can choose what you would like to contribute. Just click 'reserve', fill in your details, and it will then send you an email of where and when to leave the items you are buying. Please ignore the bit that gives you the opportunity to browse in various online shops, this is just standard on this website, just buy from wherever you like! Any problems or queries then just send me an email or give me a call. Likewise if you are more comfortable with organising this over the phone do feel free to call me. This list will be updated as referrals continue to come on so do keep checking! Your generosity will make such a difference this Christmas. Thank you!
Tuesday was shrouded in mystery! All I knew from the Diocese press office was that Downing Street were making an announcement at 12, and then we would have "a visit” at The Branch at 2.30pm and I should be prepared to cast the vision and have some photos taken…. as the day went on more become clear, as the appointment of The Bishop of Dorchester was made at Dorchester Abbey (attended by over 600 on zoom!) At 2.30pm the Bishop of Oxford and the soon to be appointed Bishop Gavin arrived, along with the High Sheriff, Amanda Ponsonby - already a great champion of The Branch.
Socially distanced, I had the privilege of sharing the vision and the stories of incredible provision so far - I’m sure I saw jaws drop behind their masks, as like us, they were struck by all that God is doing here. We also paid a visit to Wild Thyme to see Nick in action preparing this week’s dishes … this week he has made a staggering 600+ portions of chicken curry and beef casserole. Praising God for that opportunity to welcome (the almost) Bishop Gavin to Chipping Norton, as well as all Nick’s hard work producing those meals. Please pray for the recipients of that food this week, as well as Bishop Gavin, his family, their move and our ongoing relationship with him.
FIRST PRIORITY PRAYER
Come and join us via Zoom for our uplifting monthly meeting – a time of passionate prayer and worship to keep the engine-room of the church firing!
First Priority Prayer is Wednesday, 2nd December at 7.30pm.
"Overcomer" is a Christian film by the Kendrick brothers, about a teenage cross-country runner.
The film follows the story of coach John Harrison as he navigates disappointments and challenges. It explores themes of self-worth and motivation, and asks the question "What defines who you are?". The film is suitable for the whole family and features music from Hillsong and Casting Crowns, as well as others.
Hannah says, "We all really enjoyed it and it has a great message."
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.