Annual Report 2018: Chapter 4

The final instalment…

The meaning of LIFE

KJTS Life Group
Karen Perez, Jeff Higgins and Tina and Simon Edwards 

We continue to meet on Thursday evenings in group members’ homes in Stoke Poges. We see our LIFE group as an opportunity to Learn, to Intercede, to share Fellowship and to Evangelise.

We began 2018 with 6 regular members including the 4 leaders. We have welcomed 2 new members to the group since then and this has been a real encouragement for us.  2 members have decided to leave the group so there is room for others to join us in the future.

Our evenings usually include a time of sharing news and praying for each other as well as looking at a particular topic. In the past 15 months we have looked at the Beatitudes, the Sermon on the Mount, the Names of God and currently the Paraclesis series. We have also used the Lectio Divina method to study passages from the Sunday sermon. Whilst some of the subject matter has been challenging for us, we have all benefitted from preparing and leading the sessions.

We try to meet up quarterly for a meal and particularly enjoyed the Christmas meal last year which had a Caribbean flavour to it! We have recently set up a WhatsApp Group so we can share news and prayer requests between us. 

Ladies’ Life Group
Heather McDowell

The Ladies’ Life Group continues to be a source of joy and strength through all sorts of challenges. Our Whatsapp logo reads “Encourage each other and build each other up” (1Thes 5:11) and we have pretty much taken this as our motto.

We take turns to lead and host between those with the spare bandwidth to do so, and find encouragement through scripture and great speakers via studies and activities. Some of the group went to Hillsong Colour Conference for women in May at Wembley Arena, which always provides inspiration. If you have never been, do ask us about it and maybe come along with us next year.

Studies have included Twelve Women of the Bible, Not a Tame Lion (based on the writings of CS Lewis) and War Room. We have also spent a few sessions just sharing and praying, journaling and, of course, eating!

We will be supporting Natasha and Nigel to run an Alpha course, starting May 1st and pray that this opens the church to a wider community.

Deborah and Matthew’s Life Group
Deborah & Matthew Wetherall

It has been a fantastic year for the Life Group. There is a sense of anticipation as we meet with each other in the presence of God every Thursday night. Our hope is to deepen our faith and walk alongside each other in fellowship. The ‘frontline’ courses we studied in 2017 continue to shape our dialogue as a group as we continue to encourage each other to live out our faith on our frontlines, i.e. by sharing God’s love with those we come into contact with in our everyday lives. Many of the group have grown in confidence in sharing their faith and God has brought us many meaningful encounters with friends, family and total strangers.

We have studied the Jonah, Psalms and Luke 18 in a refreshing approach offered by the Scottish Bible Society. The Basics course by Francis Chan challenged and refreshed us all.

The highlights for the group have been the many answers to prayer we have seen, not only in our own lives, but in the lives of family and friends, some of whom do not yet have a relationship with God and have been touched by our faith in interceding on their behalf.

In terms of the group, we have welcomed a couple of new members but also sadly said goodbye to Hannah as she moved to Portugal to take up a new teaching role. This was exciting and poignant for us as a group as we had stood by Hannah in prayer as she attended many interviews for international jobs and sought God’s will for her life direction. She remains in prayerful contact with us.

Reflections from the group on our Life Group:

“Thursday nights to me are where we ‘do’ church”

“Life Group provides an opportunity to ask questions about faith which we couldn’t do on a Sunday morning”

 “Our Life Group is an environment where we can safely share our thoughts and feelings, ask for advice or help, and recharge our spiritual batteries”

From the Vicar
Revd Natasha Brady

Stoke Poges Church continues to be a place where we strive to know God, follow Jesus, love others and invite all.  In this new season with your still fairly new Vicar, we are beginning to take those words and really grapple with them as a Church family to see where God is calling us to be ‘Good News’, both in our immediate community and beyond. Since I arrived in September, we have been working together to see how we can live out our faith each day; reflecting Jesus’s love, compassion and care to all whom we meet. 

In that vein, I have taken the opportunity to accept any and all invitations in the village to participate and develop our relationships with all groups, societies, the village school and the local Parish Council.  This has meant a busy season for me, but it seems to be bearing fruit.  We have been invited into the Stoke Poges School a few times now to sit in on activities, share our faith at assemblies and I have accepted and embraced the role of Governor, which has afforded us the opportunity to build stronger links with the school, its teachers and the parents.  We are continuing to foster good links with the Teikyo School and have been invited to lead services at Caldicott School while the “Farnhams” have an interregnum. 

The Harvest Festival became a springboard for us, as a Church, to strengthen our connection with the local charity, SHOC.  Alongside our usual service and supper we launched the ‘red bucket’ at St Andrew’s.  A place where many of you have been leaving wonderful donations of food, and other goods for the homeless.  A big thank you to Caroline Shuttleworth, who has valiantly taken all these things to Slough every week. If you would like to support her in this wonderful duty then please do speak to her.

Our Remembrance Sunday services both on the Green and in St Andrew’s was heavily attended and enabled us to work collaboratively with the uniformed groups, the Stoke Poges Society and the Parish Council.  You were all a wonderful witness of Christ at such a significant moment in our nation’s history as we reflected together on the 100 year memorial of the end of WW1. It was great to see so many people venture into our church, feeling able to just come along to ‘taste and see that the Lord is good’.

Christmas was its usual whirlwind of concerts, services and candles and after a bumpy start, Tot’s Praise, our fringe ministry to young families and carers, held their first Christmas party and enjoyed receiving the gift of the ‘Nativity Story’ in the form of a book.  As 2019 progresses, we will be developing our special services so that they are more ‘seeker’ friendly and enable us to invite and welcome all into the life of the church.

When I arrived, it was with great sadness we had to say ‘goodbye’ to Tracey Jones, our Ministry trainee.  She has visited us several times since moving on and has been missed by many. We know that God has called her and her ministry into a new season and we pray she will flourish in her upcoming curacy at St Michael & All Angels, Hughenden. And, after a much earned sabbatical, Andrew Parry shared with us the joyous news that he had been appointed Priest-in-Charge of St Mary’s Wexham.  Although we miss his wonderful ministry we also appreciate and know he will be loved and a blessing to our neighbouring parish, and so with much love and fondness we continue to pray for his next steps.

As 2019 progresses, my intention is that we shall reflect on what we have learnt by doing the Paraclesis Course.  We engaged with it wholeheartedly and this has been very encouraging to witness.  Feedback, so far, has revealed that there are emerging themes and opportunities to explore, avenues to open up and more for us to learn.  These are exciting times, and will give us amazing opportunities to be a blessing to our neighbours, and hold onto the fact that Jesus commanded us …  to ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’

May I, at this point, take the opportunity to say thank you to everyone in the parish? You have been so welcoming to both me and my family, helping us settle in quickly to Stoke Poges, displaying a wonderful witness of welcome which we have appreciated and felt warmed by.

Thank you for striving to live out the love that God has shown to us in Christ Jesus.

Rev Natasha Brady …. April 2019.