We reap what we sow

Our All age service last Sunday followed the theme of reaping what we sow from the reading Galatians 6:7-16 . Beautifully illustrated by the cress heads! You can listen to Nigel’s sermon on the website here.

Action song time!

Bacon sandwiches were ably cooked and served by Rachel, Cath and Piers with helpers, plus Barbara and Simone on beverages – thanks team!

In other news…

Congratulations to our erstwhile Trainee Minister TJ, who is now a fully fledged Deacon, following her ordination by Bishop Alan on Saturday 29 June (St Petertide) at Christ Church, Oxford. We know she’ll do a top job, wherever God sends her (currently on pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela!). Safe travels and best wishes for your curacy TJ!

A group from Stoke Poges were there to support her on her big day.

Lighthouse Holiday Club

Lighthouse Burnham is a Christian summer holiday club running from Monday 29th July to Friday 2nd August.  As a congregation, we are familiar with the seasonal call for toilet roll tubes and flattened cereal boxes, but surely there’s more to Lighthouse than junk modelling?!

John Wheatley and Deborah Wetherall have been involved for a number of years and this year, Natasha and Jamie will be joining the crew. As Lighthouse are the only Christian holiday clubs in the area, we want to make sure the one in our Deanery thrives. Deborah tells us more…

“I’ve volunteered every year for the last 5 years on the craft team and Theo and Grace have attended and we love Lighthouse! I’m very enthusiastic about Lighthouse because I feel it meets a genuine need in the local community, i.e. affordable childcare for a week in the holidays for many families in the area.  Many children say it is the best week of their summer holidays! It plants seeds of faith in children and young people, many of whom don’t go to church. And it does this in a fun way!!”

According to their website, Lighthouse is…

Unashamedly Christian. 
Amazingly Popular. 
Locally Proven.
Welcome to Lighthouse…

Lighthouse is a week long summer holiday programme involving all ages and run by an increasing number of local churches working together in a widening area of locations with more enquiries each year.

Each day the children and volunteers enjoy worshipping, dancing and praying together, messy games including Gunge! Discovery (bible teaching), Craft, Drama and Sport. 

Today it is attended by around 5000 children with 3000 volunteers of all ages, 2000 of which are teenagers, in ten Lighthouse locations. 

The volunteer roles are really varied – including behind the scenes set up and admin or hands on if you are sporty, crafty or drama-inclined. It’s a great place to volunteer – friendly and fun and time-limited! You can sign up for a day or two if you just want to try it out, or the whole week if you are ready to jump in with both feet. Of course, volunteers over 18 have to undergo a (free) DBS check and the relevant safeguarding training and the teenagers have their own training and preparation time. This year the Craft team are particularly in need of helpers.

  • You need to enjoy working with children!
  • The craft team have a great sense of humour along with a love of cutting & sticking, googly eyes and chocolate! We would love to have new recruits to help us this year
  • You need to be prepared to be on your feet for much of the day 
  • You need to attend volunteer training on either Friday 28th June, Thursday 11th July or Friday 19th July at 7.30 pm

For more information about volunteering, please speak to Deborah.

If you would like to register your child for Lighthouse, please go to https://lighthousecentral.org/lighthouses/burnham/about

Volunteers with smiles (and moustaches?!)

Collecting for the craft team

As a congregation we are great at collecting for the Craft team, who rely heavily on donations to help deliver a great experience for the children on the theme of the daily Bible teaching. This year they are collecting loo roll tubes, cereal boxes, wrapping paper, coloured paper, glue sticks, felt tips, craft pipe cleaners  and pony beads. Please bring to St Andrew’s office or give directly to Deborah Wetherall.

All together now… ♪ My lighthouse, my lighthouse, shining in the darkness… ♪

Confirmation Service

St Giles’ hosted the Deanery Confirmation service on Sunday, where four Stoke Poges candidates were joined by five from other churches to be confirmed by the Bishop of Buckingham, The Right Revd Alan Wilson.

Jamie, Tara, Oliver & Rachel with Bishop Alan
photo credit: Harvey Whittam

In his sermon, Bishop Alan encouraged the candidates and all of us to look to Jesus to find our best selves – that confirming our faith in Christ frees us, rather than constrains us. Although we need to be out in the world, meeting people where they are, being members of a Christian community helps us to keep our compass pointing towards Christ: doing our best to love God, one another and even those “out there”.

Congratulations to Tara, Jamie, Rachel and Oliver on their confirmation and thank you to everyone front of house and behind the scenes, both from our congregation and the rest of the Deanery for creating a spirit-filled and ceremonial occasion.

APCM & Worship Addendum

by Simon McDowell

On Sunday 29 April, Natasha welcomed people to her first APCM as our vicar.  It’s actually her second APCM with us, as she was the guest of honour last year.  After a lovely bring-and-share lunch, we got to the meeting, which is a chance for the church leadership (vicar, wardens, the PCC) to share with the wider church membership how we’ve been doing over the past year.

There are some formal bits in the APCM, to do with election of new PCC members, re-elections of those retiring by rotation after three years, the approval of the electoral roll and sidesmen and women.  The appointment of the churchwardens happens in an entirely separate Parish Meeting in the middle of the APCM – such are the vagaries of Church Law!

We said farewell to two long standing members of the PCC – to Tony Bunce, who stood down from the PCC after 50 years and to Gaynor Houghton-Jones, who has been our Treasurer for over a decade.  The PCC are immensely grateful to both of them for their many years of service to our church community.  In Tony’s place, we welcome Rachel McCarthy to the PCC for the first time and hope that she’s still here in 50 years to break Tony’s record…

Also stepping back from a role, but fortunately not from the PCC, is Paul Elderfield, one of our churchwardens.  Paul has been a calm, yet humorous churchwarden for the past seven years, working alongside firstly Nigel Lowe and then Simon McDowell to ensure that the church runs smoothly.  He stayed an extra year beyond the normal six years for a churchwarden to help Natasha settle into her post, and both Simon and Natasha are grateful for his wisdom and guidance.   Paul remains in the PCC, as a member of the Deanery Synod, alongside John Wheatley and Mark Wells.  John also replaces Paul as churchwarden: his powers were immediately tested with a water leak at St Andrew’s!

In Gaynor’s absence, Simon gave the financial report, stressing that although the church seems in good health, most of our money is tied up in ‘restricted’ funds, which limit the spend of that money to restricted items.  Our General Fund, which is unrestricted, just about broke even last year and we need to continue to be careful on how we raise income and spend money to ensure that we can increase our Diocesan Share again, having had to reduce it for the first time in 2019.  With no official Treasurer, the role automatically falls to the churchwardens. We are therefore grateful to have the support of Richard Beckingsale and Jamie Brady to help do much of the day-to-day financial roles.

Finally, we had some questions in advance from parishioners.  We are grateful for their thoughts and consideration in getting them to us before the meeting so that we can get the required information to give a full reply.   Our meeting finished with Natasha thanking the parish for the welcome that she’s received since starting here and with an inspiring video on what we can be as a church community.

Further details of our activities in 2018 can be found in both the previous editions of this blog and on the church website. 

Please help to contribute to the church’s successes in 2019 – whether that’s by attending events or supporting us with your time to help with the organisation of those events or through your giving.  Thank you.

The Annual Report of the Trustees and Financial Statements can be viewed in the Church Office and the full proceedings of the APCM can be listened to as an audio file. The minutes will be available by the end of May.


Finally, with apologies for the omission…

Addendum to the Annual Report: St Andrew’s Worship Group – Tina Edwards

In 2018 we found ourselves with singers but much fewer worship leaders and musicians – in fact just 2 musicians and 3 leaders. So far we have been able to lead worship at every service. 

In services where it isn’t possible to have a live musician we have, through trial and error (thanks for being patient with us St Andrew’s folks) developed a way of using MP3 music files on a phone played through the PA.  

Another blessing for us in 2018 has been Lindsey and David Mackie who come, on loan, from St James’ Gerrards Cross.  Lindsey has not only lead worship but introduced new songs and coached singers and musicians in leading worship and microphone technique.  David has introduced a new PA desk and trained a small number of volunteers on how to operate it.  Oliver McDowell has proved a real asset to the team with a good ear for sound balance and logical thinking when things go wrong.  

We are also thankful for John Wheatley who often finds himself operating both the PC for the words and the sound desk – a second pair of hands here would also be helpful. 

Our prayer for 2019 is to see more musicians join the team, more singers prepared to lead worship and more people willing to be trained on use of the PA desk and the PC. 

He is Risen indeed! Alleluia!

It’s not often that you have to decide how long the Easter Eggs can stay in the churchyard before they melt, but it was the hot topic this year…

Shirt sleeves and summer dresses were dug out (and in some cases, ironed) for the occasion and there was a hearty turnout of regulars and plenty of others who came to hear the Good News of Jesus’ resurrection and find an egg or four.

If you’d like to listen to the sermon again, you will find it on our website here. Do you have questions about the whole idea of Jesus dying on the cross so that we might be forgiven and saved? Join us for our Alpha course, starting 1st May. No question is too basic!

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.

Annual Report 2018: Chapter 3

During the two weeks leading up to the APCM, we are presenting an overview of the activities of the church throughout 2018 over four chapters. Printouts will be available to view in both churches and please ask in the church office if you need your own copy to take away.

The glue that holds it all together

PCC Activities
Simon McDowell
Churchwarden and Acting PCC Secretary

During 2018, the PCC consisted of seven elected members, two elected representatives of the Deanery Synod, two churchwardens and two licenced ministers.  The Secretary and Treasurer are appointed by the PCC.  Since the last APCM, the PCC has met seven times in a formal setting and twice where we focus on wider spiritual matters and developing our church community. 

Our PCC has two active working committees:

  • the Standing and Finance committee, comprising the vicar, churchwardens and Treasurer with other PCC members attending as needed.  It meets as required in between formal PCC meetings to address more urgent needs where a resolution is required; and
  • the Property Committee, which is responsible to the PCC for the upkeep of the fabric of both church buildings.   It consists of a majority of PCC members plus two church members who are experts in property matters and whose help is much appreciated.

During 2018, the PCC were focused on the recruitment of our new vicar, and preparing the church and community for her arrival in August and induction service in September.  During the vacancy, one of the churchwardens chaired the meetings, but Natasha Brady took the chair as Vicar from her first meeting in September.  We have subsequently focused our agenda in growing the church in line with our vision and Mission Action Plan.  This will progress during 2019.

Attached are reports of the activities that take place in our church community, both at St Andrew’s and St Giles’.  The PCC is very grateful to all the leaders and their helpers who give up their time to make these activities happen.

Also attached are the annual accounts, which reflect the financial state of the Stoke Poges Church.  Readers will see that we have little ‘unrestricted’ income, in which we can spend the money where we wish, but the ‘restricted’ funds are healthy, thanks to some major one-off donations.  These ‘restricted’ funds can only be spent on the item that the donor gave the money for – e.g. the restoration of St Giles’ was paid for using a donation that was restricted to just that use. 

I would like to thank Alicen Nickson, who acted as Secretary for part of the year, for her help and other members of the PCC for helping me in preparing and reviewing documents after Alicen retired from the PCC. 

Finances 2018
Gaynor Houghton-Jones
Treasurer

The way we manage our finances is underpinned by our Christian ethos. We ensure that money does not languish in bank accounts when it could be put to better use, that expenditure does not exceed income, that we pay our bills promptly, that all sums are allocated to the correct fund whether restricted, designated or unrestricted, that we hold reserves for emergencies and we set aside money and gifts for charity.

Our restricted funds, e.g. buildings and churchyard, are in a healthy state but there are times during the year when general cash flow can be a problem. We are grateful to members who give on a regular basis so we know what income to expect each month.

The above charts show income and expenditure on the general fund before transfers from the designated funds. By way of explanation on the income side, “Fees” include charges for weddings and funerals, “Sales” covers the coffee shop and “Tax” is what we recover from gift aid.

On the expenditure side, “Management costs” includes administration, office expenses, IT support, music licences, training and inspection fees, while “Buildings” includes minor maintenance, insurance, caretaking and utilities. “Church services” includes clergy expenses, junior church materials, organists, verger expenses, costs of candles and Holy Communion wine and wafers.

We are reliant on our income from rent and lettings and I am pleased that we have retained tenants in the flats for most of the year and that lettings income held up after it was decided, upon the departure of the lettings manager, to concentrate on regular hirers only for the remainder of 2018. Much greater detail can be found in the formal financial statements.

By transferring money from designated funds back to the general fund we have ended up with a surplus of £372 and there is £61,000 in reserves.

The PCC has concerns, however, about the level of income and expenditure and will undertake a cost review early in 2019. At the same time, we also have concerns about meeting the parish share in 2019. It is the largest item of expenditure and in 2018 amounted to £69,783 after a small discount for paying by direct debit. This contribution to the diocese largely covers clergy stipends and pensions and the training of ordinands. It amounted to 50% of total unrestricted income.  As we do not anticipate any increase in general income in 2019 and with ever increasing costs, we have taken the difficult decision to reduce our share offer to £60,000 instead of the inflationary increased sum of £72,000.  This will be kept under review and, if we can pay more at the end of the year, we will.

Property Committee
Mark Wells

In early 2018 we focussed on addressing the issues raised in the December 2017 Quinquennial report for St Andrew’s. The high priority items have been addressed.

As reported previously, we want to maximise the usage and income from the site and, with this aim in mind, we applied for outline planning permission for flats above the centre of building between the bell tower and the Youth Block. This application was successful and we are now working on a more detailed planning application for four flats within the planning outline already granted.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank my fellow members of the committee and, in particular, Richard Beckingsale for attending to all the odd jobs that come up across our two Churches.

Burnham and Slough Deanery Synod
John Wheatley
Deanery Synod Representative

Four meetings were held in the past year: in May, September, November and February.

Key items discussed during the year were;

  • Training – various training courses were and are being arranged including Mission and Safeguarding, Faith in pictures and Worship. It has been agreed that Training courses will be key to growing faith in years to come.
  • Communications – churches growing through better and easier to use websites were discussed, with Stoke Poges being given as a good example of a website.
  • Mission Action Plan – each part of the Deanery will be formatting a M A P to enable a clearer vision of sharing resources.
  • Finance – much of our time has been spent on agreeing Parish Share from each of our Churches. Unfortunately, the Deanery will have a substantial shortfall this year which has been identified as being caused by a changing demographic mix in Slough.

Churchwardens
Simon McDowell & Paul Elderfield

2018 was a year of change for our church.  We said ‘welcome’ to Natasha and her family, as she came to lead us here at Stoke Poges Church.  We also said ‘farewell’ to TJ and Andrew, although it was great to see Andrew installed in our neighbouring parish of Wexham in April 2019. 

Thanks Ann!

As churchwardens, we are responsible for the running of the church, and we are grateful for all the help and support from the PCC, the church office and other church members to enable us to do this smoothly.  During the year since the last APCM, we prepared ourselves and the church for Natasha’s arrival, worked with Natasha as she got to know our church and we were a sounding board for her ideas – which we are excited by and hope that you will be too as she introduces them to the church during 2019.  We were pleased to make the appointment of Ann Sibley as our St Andrew’s church caretaker, and delighted with how helpful she has been since starting, including taking on the church lettings manager role. 

You may remember that we had an opportunity to briefly welcome Natasha at our 2018 APCM.  She did not officially start until the end of August, with her induction in early September led by Bishop Alan.  She had to move for a third time in December as the renovations to our vicarage, flooded in March 2018, were completed.  We are grateful to the Diocese who enabled this to run smoothly and to Graham Saunders, formerly rector of the Farnhams and Hedgerley, who moved out early, thereby allowing the Bradys temporary use of the Farnham vicarage.

Sadly, at this year’s APCM, Paul will retire as churchwarden after seven years, staying on an extra year to help with the smooth transition and induction of Natasha.  Simon remains as churchwarden and looks forward to working with Paul’s successor, to be elected at the APCM.

Our final instalment will follow in a few days…