One of the younger congregation members helps to pack the Christmas hampers!
This Christmas has seen the church family and local community extend the most incredible generosity to those who were really not feeling there was much to celebrate this year. The person who received the very first hamper summed it up in the text she sent:
“We had decided not to celebrate Christmas this year, our child is too young to remember, and we couldn't afford any gifts - now we have something to look forward to! We can’t believe we actually have some gifts for Christmas and amazing foods! I can’t remember the last time we had meat for a meal. Please say thank you to everyone that has helped with our hamper."
As Christians, we know we give not for the thanks, but because first God gave to us. As a staff team we often reflect on your incredible life-changing generosity, and we are also very aware that it is often only us on the very frontline who have the privilege of seeing the wide smiles, the children’s skips of joy or the mothers’ sobs of relief.
We also know that much of the true impact of this work will only be revealed to us in heaven. However, we hope that some of the stories shared in this Mary’s Matters and over the coming weeks reveal some small incidents of heaven coming down - of your hearts of generosity opening doors, sewing seeds of hope and of lives being transformed.
Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for making all these acts of kindness possible and for powering it all with your prayers,
Sunday services in church are on pause until further notice.
Each Sunday we'll be posting a Virtual Sunday video on our website and YouTube channel.
On pause until further notice
Setting a Watch
Continues daily at 6am and 6pm, via Zoom
Building to Serve Prayer Meeting
Continues every Monday at noon, via Zoom
Hopefully you managed to see James' message earlier in the week regarding the suspension of in-person meetings for the time being. This was a difficult decision to make, with lots to weigh up, but James explains in his video message the reasoning behind this decision.
As a result there will be no Sunday or Thursday services in the church building until further notice. The good news is that we're pretty good at doing things online now, and we'll be posting our Virtual Sunday video both on the website and on the YouTube channel each week. We look forward to seeing some familiar faces each Sunday, both on the video and at 10am Coffee and Chat, and worshipping the same God, separately-but-together.
We've also got some great online meetings planned for our children and youth, which Joel and Rebekah will explain below.
As always, if you have a need, or know someone else who needs help please call or email the office: 01608 646202, firstname.lastname@example.org.
We'd also love to hear from you if you'd like to volunteer help in any way. We'd especially welcome drivers who can take people to their vaccination appointments as well as people to do shopping or deliver food.
Thanks to everyone who has already stepped up - you are amazing!
As Emma has so beautifully put it already, we really did see some glimpses of heaven coming down as we organised and packed the Christmas hampers in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Your generosity and prayers, and the amazing support of local charities, businesses and people in the community, resulted in us being able to send out hampers to bless 271 people in the town and surrounding villages who were facing a very difficult Christmas. This amounted to nearly 1500 individually wrapped presents, 124 bags bursting with Christmas food and over 150 pamper packs.
I had the immense privilege of delivering some of these hampers a couple of days before Christmas and heard the shrieks of delight from the children at the sight of the gifts, and witnessed the relief of the parents as the food arrived. We were inundated with messages saying how Christmas would have been entirely different for these families without these hampers. You all helped make this happen and I am so very grateful. The gifts that were donated were truly astounding. As we chose from the vast array for the families that we work with, we felt like we were in a department store where the perfect gifts for each family were laid before us.
A couple of key moments have really stuck with me...
Don't miss the rest of Hannah's story, telling of God's amazing provision. Click below to read on!
I just wanted to give you an update on what will be happening over the next few months with regards to the Youth Work here at St Mary’s.
Obviously, lockdown 3.0 is a disappointing, albeit expected, start to 2021. However, we know that God is close to us, especially in these difficult and frustrating times, which certainly brings me great comfort and joy.
Following on from James’ message earlier this week, there will be an online Sunday morning youth provision each week until we meet in person again. This will be led by myself and the team of wonderful volunteers at 11am every Sunday for about an hour.
We will also be continuing with our mid-week Youth Small Group, starting on Tuesday 12th January at 7pm. Please note the day has changed from a Thursday to a Tuesday. Due to the increase in daily screen time for us all, these sessions will be slightly shorter than before, aiming at 45 minutes of bible study, prayer, worship, and discussion.
Finally, I will continue to meet with young people on a 1:1 basis to provide support and encouragement. If you or your child would like to meet then please do get in touch.
I am reminded daily of James 1:2-5, do take some time this week to have a read of those encouraging verses. I love the way the NIV opens this passage; “Consider it pure joy … when you face trials of many kinds…” it has certainly encouraged me to draw near to our never-changing God in our ever-changing world.
I hope you have all received and had chance to see/read the message from James Kennedy regarding church over lockdown. It is with heavy heart that we will be moving online. However, I am very keep to keep us all connected as I firmly believe God has much to share with us during this time and coming together in encouragement and support is so very important.
Family Hub- starting 14th, will be taking on a slightly different format of coming together for worship, prayer and reflection as well as chat. This will be accessible for the whole family.
Coffee & Connect- Starting 15th, an online coffee morning for us to come and catch up.
Mini Moments- Starting 20th, an hours activity session for you and your little ones, full of songs, dances and games.
One Way and Ignite online will of course be via zoom on Sunday mornings, links will be sent with the Sunday email.
I know with having the children at home and managing your normal routines on top of that you probably will not have a lot of time on your hands if any. But I hope you will find something here that you can connect with, and we can keep our church family relationships thriving.
As we navigate this lockdown together, please do not hesitate to contact me at any point. My love and prayers are with you.
If you have a spare laptop hiding in the cupboard, might you consider donating it to a family unable to join online schooling?
We have been fortunate to partner on outreach projects with brilliant local charity Thrive over the past few years. They were an incredible support with the Hampers at Christmas. Now we want to support a project they are working on which is making a crucial difference to many children in our community:
"Thrive Laptop Appeal: Bridging the IT Poverty divide"
Over 1 million children across the UK are without a laptop, tablet or any device so are unable to participate in home schooling. Since the first lockdown, Thrive has managed to supply nearly 100 laptops to children and teens without devices in the local area. One student wrote:
“Dear Thrive, thank you ever so much for the Chromebook, it has been so helpful! Now that I can access my homework quickly it has really helped me to engage with my learning”
If you have a laptop that you wish to donate, here is what you need to do:
1. Take a pic of the sticker in your laptop which shows it’s spec
2. Email it to: email@example.com
3.Their IT team will get back to with a ‘yes please’ or ‘No thanks’
4. You can donate your laptop at Mid Counties Co-op laptop donations station - please clearly label your laptop for THRIVE NORTH OX. Alternatively, Thrive can arrange to collect 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.
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.