At St. Mary's, plans are well underway for some exciting new initiatives. Last week Hannah introduced to us the idea of the Kintsugi Hope Wellbeing Groups. Separate groups for adults and youth will be starting in the next week or so. Meanwhile our new style toddler group "Mini Moments" is fully subscribed! Please pray for safety, connection, and for people to know God's love and wholeness. Thank you so much to our group volunteers, and we'll keep all of you posted as to how these groups progress.
This Sunday's service is at 10:30am in church as usual, but next Sunday, (8th November) there will be a Remembrance service in church at 10:45am which is by invitation only. We'll be livestreaming this for you though, as well as providing a Sunday video that you can join in with at home (similar to the ones we had over the summer).
As most of us continue to feel some sense of disconnection I'm praying for us all this week that we know the sheer closeness of God; before us, beside us and deep within us.
"It was as though the voice which had called to me from the world’s end were now speaking at my side. It was with me in the room, or in my own body, or behind me... It seemed to have always been with me..."
C.S. Lewis - Surprised by Joy
With such difficult times at the moment, it has been so great to be able to meet together in person. Being new to the church, it is wonderful to worship with you all on a Sunday morning and begin to get the youth together again.
One new thing that has come out of this is the Youth Small Group which has been meeting together in person on a Thursday evening since the beginning of October. Being able to meet face to face with the young people of the church is such a privilege and the groups have been fantastic. We are very nearly at capacity in terms of numbers but will look to split the group in two in the near future.
We have enjoyed getting to know each other, playing some games, having a laugh, and, most importantly, opening up the Bible together. Currently following the teaching series on the signs of John, we’ve had all sorts of discussions around heaven, salvation, healing, discipleship, and the Glory of Christ. I have seen such a passion for God’s Word in the young people and seek to continue to encourage them to seek to imitate Jesus in all they do. It is a huge blessing to be a part of these groups and the input from the young people is so valuable and precious.
One of the great things for me personally is seeing those who would not normally enjoy these groups come along, engage well, and ask some brilliant (and often challenging) questions. I have been really blessed with a couple of volunteers who have helped in these groups so far, and I know the young people have certainly felt the benefit of their input also.
If you’d like to get involved with this in any way then please feel free to contact me and we can go for a coffee and have a chat. In the meantime, continue praying for us all as we meet together, specifically that any changes to the pandemic and government guidance do not hinder our meeting together.
Having already given enormously yourselves as a church family, we wanted to alert you to a rare opportunity to invite your friends and acquaintances to support the work of The Branch Trust, through a donation that will be instantly doubled! This year St Mary’s Church has signed up to The Big Give Christmas Challenge, an online giving platform where all donations are match funded. Thanks to generous pledges already received the first £20,000 of donations will be instantly doubled.
The campaign runs during the first week in December, starting at midday on 1st December - #givingtuesday and running to midday on 8th December.
Please do share this with friends, family and colleagues and direct them to this link: www.stmarysnorton.com/big-give.php, where they will find more information about it. Many in the town will have already seen or heard something of the social action that St Mary’s was involved in during Lockdown. This appeal will give them a chance to contribute to more of this as we continue to keep an eye on the need for a Covid 19 response supporting practical and mental well-being, run courses for those recovering from domestic violence, provide art as therapy counselling through the nurture room, the CAP debt centre and life skills course and holiday clubs for young people and families.
You may wish to encourage support by setting up your own fundraising initiative – a car boot sale, or a run or cycling challenge, and then donate the proceeds online during the Christmas Challenge week. Or you could simply use your whatsapp or social media networks to send out a message warning friends and contacts of the upcoming campaign and directing them to the weblink above for more details. I will send out reminders during November and will also be sharing an advert about The Big Give on social media for all you social media whizzes to 'share'.
New Testament scholar Paula Gooder brings first century Christianity to life in her Biblical novel about Pheobe, the deacon mentioned in Romans 16.
"I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae. I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of his people and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been the benefactor of many people, including me." Romans 16:1-2
The book paints a vivid picture of the world in which the early church operated, explores the cultural pressures faced by Pheobe, Paul and all of the other early believers, and imagines what Pheobe's background and story may have been.
Ursula says: "It gives real insight into the issues and life of first century Christians. A really good read!!"
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.
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. We'll be running a course again in the Autumn, but in the meantime, find out more here...