November All-age Service – Love

This month’s all age service theme was Love.

In our dramatised reading from Mark 12:28-34, Jesus is asked which of the commandments is the greatest, and answers: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength… Love your neighbour as yourself”

P1050053 (2)

Tina reminded us of all the attributes of love listed in 1 Corinthians 13 and we wrote prayers for this love to be strengthened in our community and in our world, which we linked into a paperchain.

Agape Love 2P1050065P1050062 (2)

Messy AdventOur theme for the December all-age service is Messy Advent, and there will be activities suitable for everyone – young and old; creative and artistically challenged. So come and join us!

If you have more ideas for crafts we can do, please contact Natasha.

 

 

SHOC: Supporting homeless people right here

Our Harvest offerings were gratefully received by SHOC. But what about the rest of the year?

SHOC LogoOur historical connection to SHOC dates back to when several churches took over a hall in Slough for the night every Christmas to offer a welcome and shelter for people living on the streets.

SHOC was co-founded by Stoke Poges Church member, the late Michael Smith, with the idea that, rather than just shelter and food, people living on the margins of society needed practical support to change their circumstances.

Today, SHOC serves its clients in a variety of ways (information from www.sloughhomeless.org.uk ):

Homeless man with a hot steaming cup of teaThey offer crisis care for people who are sleeping rough and at risk of homelessness – help to find stable accommodation and providing food, clothing, shower and laundry facilities. They effectively support people through recovery from homelessness and into employment, who have a massive challenge to get their life back on track. SHOC’s methods require a choice to change from within, and they work to facilitate that change, in a way that is right for each individual. They work closely with Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and Betel UK.

SHOC’s skills training and employment services are designed to be accessible to people who simply would not have the confidence to access training elsewhere. This includes literacy, numeracy and other basic employment skills, money & personal health management, cookery, tenancy support and many other skills that are taken for granted in our first world society.

SHOC has limited means and very few paid staff and relies on volunteers to oil the wheels of the machine. Several members of our church are involved with SHOC on a regular basis, collecting unsold food from local shops (and surplus food from church events) and taking it to their headquarters or participating in fundraisers. Just “being there” as Michael’s widow Pam says, who in her 90’s still visits SHOC every week, is a visible demonstration that people do care, in a world that largely ignores or misunderstands their situation.

When I spoke to Pam about SHOC and asked her about her involvement (taking food down to the Centre each week), she particularly wanted to recognise the generosity of the family at Pinewood Nurseries Shop and noted that other shops including big supermarkets have been willing to support in the past, if only they are asked and a method of regular delivery is assured.

The fundraisers for SHOC are popular events – the Quiz in the spring (held at St Andrew’s for the past few years) and the Golf Day organised by Ray Waite at St Joseph’s, Chalfont St Peter and hosted at Burnham Beeches Golf Club, so look out for notices about the events next year and get involved!

How can we help?

Of course our Harvest offerings of produce, groceries and cash donations are an annual gift to SHOC, but did you know that the Coffee Shop also collects small sized toiletries and takes them to SHOC all year round and as a whole church, we think we can do a bit more…

homeless legs

A basket has appeared in the foyer of St Andrew’s, which will become part of our year-round offering. Your help to stock it with all of SHOC’s Most Wanted Items would be a huge blessing: coffee, sugar, long life milk, squash, tinned meat, fish and veg, ketchup and jam. Also, men’s t-shirts and socks of any age, size or colour.

If you would like to know more about SHOC and how you could contribute to their work, directly or indirectly, please visit their website www.sloughhomeless.org.uk  or speak to Natasha.

Harvest gathered in

Harvest offerings 2018

A thankful crowd gathered at St Giles’ last Sunday to welcome the offerings of food and drink and other donations. Audience participation was needed for a game incorporating many of the words and sentiments of the season, which turned out to spell:

Harvest scrabble

Then Natasha preached a very apt message for so many of us: “Do not worry, God will provide”.

There was then more fun and fellowship at our Harvest Supper at St Andrew’s in the evening, with an auction of produce after supper. Altogether we raised £650 in addition to the edible offerings to send to SHOC (Slough Homeless Our Concern), supporting people in dire straits on our doorstep. You can find out more about the work of SHOC here.

Thanks to everyone who contributed to these happy occasions of Thanksgiving, Fellowship and Mission.

 

The Vicar’s Letter “Our Door is Open…”

220px-Hunt_Light_of_the_WorldReverend Natasha Brady writes our blog for the first time…

There’s a beautiful, if not rather small painting, that hangs, obliquely, in the side chapel of Keble College, Oxford.  It’s a picture that scores have seen and many more know as ‘that picture of Jesus knocking on a door’.  Its correct title is in fact, ‘The Light of the World’ and was painted by Holman Hunt in 1853. It took him several years to paint because apparently, he was never quite happy with the way the dawn looked in contrast to the light shining from the lantern and the halo around Jesus. If you take the time to stop and stare at the painting today, you will see that time and life has darkened the dawn, its original blue and yellow hues, which captured a Bethlehem dawn, no longer have the original vibrancy. Yet Jesus’ light shines on, mysteriously illuminating a scene that has fascinated and challenged many a visitor.

One of the challenges is trying to work out how on earth Jesus is meant to open the door?  There is no handle.  There is ivy and Autumnal vegetation smothering the rather heavy looking wooden entrance.  He has no key, no crow bar to force it open. Even if, by some miracle, Jesus opened the door, there comes a second conundrum, what will He find?

The second conundrum Hunt answered many a year ago, he said that the door represents our souls. Therefore, if Jesus were to get a peek at what was lying in wait behind, it would be us; just us. Our inner life, our inner being, all that we are and all that we could be. Now I wonder what he would find, if he peeked inside us, inside our inner most being, our soul?

For some that is a liberating and delight-filled thought; for others, I can imagine, there is nothing scarier, or most unwelcome.  The Light of the World, peeking inside our souls.  It might seem intrusive, and make one fearful of what He would find.

Yet we can see there is a light in Jesus’s hand, and a light emanating from His being, that would illuminate and bring a new dawn into our lives and like any new day, any new beginning, that has the potential to bring with it new hope.

When I first saw the role description for Stoke Poges Parish it had in its opening prologue a simple question – it said,

‘Our door is open; will you enter in?’

Months have now flown by, since my appointment was made known to us all, and I will have just moved to the parish come the Autumn time.  I have held onto those few words because they inspired me first to apply and then to accept the role of Your Vicar.  Since then I have gone back to look at the original verse that I suspect inspired that question:

‘ Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.’ Rev 3.20

It is the same verse that inspired Hunt’s painting of Jesus and it is apt and appropriate at this time of Harvest and new starts, to be an inspiration to us here in Stoke Poges. As I said at the beginning, the door is our soul, but it has no outer handle.  Jesus has no way of getting into our lives unless we invite Him in, to commune and illuminate our inner being. As a community, it’s good to celebrate, it brings joy and inspires hope.  So, as the leaves begin to change their hue and the fields beyond are harvested, I warmly invite you to come, and share with us, a celebration of fruitfulness and life at our Harvest festival service at St Giles 10.30 am, or our Harvest supper at St Andrews 6.30pm, both on the 7th October 2018.

What a lovely opportunity to see if doors can be opened and new hope found.Natasha at St A (crop)

Revd. Natasha Brady

A Barbecue… with bells on!

After a Family Communion service at St Giles’, the sun peeped through the clouds and warmed the backs of those who had brought their coats expecting rain for our annual barbecue.

There was no bouncy castle this time (so no photos of the churchwardens testing it out, sorry). However we did have tours of the bell tower and tried out bell ringing. We discovered you have to be nearly as fit to ring the bells as you do to jump on the bouncy castle! Many thanks to Tower Captain Anne and Ralph for letting us have a go. If you would like to know more about bell ringing, follow this link: http://www.stokepogeschurch.org/groups/bell-ringing/ 

Thanks also to Mark and Andrew for cooking our barbecue and the many hands who made and coordinated the food and drink behind the scenes.

img-20180909-wa0000.jpg

A formal welcome to Natasha

Welcoming a new vicar is a cause for great celebration and much hard work went in to making Natasha’s Induction an evening to remember. Leading the service was Bishop Alan with Archdeacon Ven Guy Elsmore, Revd Claire Haynes representing our sponsor, Christ Church Oxford, Area Dean Revd Rod Cosh. Many local clergy and guests from our community, as well as our own regulars, formed the congregation. Natasha’s guests from Rushden ran the gauntlet of the M1 and made it with only moments to spare!

Thanks to Simon McDowell for most of the photos…

img_6712.jpg

IMG_6721

 

 

 

 

Cleaning time… and a farewell

Saying Sorry to God is like washing your PE kit after it’s been “festering” all summer…

And it’s no good just identifying what needs to be cleaned…

It needs to go in the washing machine!!

Likewise, we know the areas we need sorting and cleaning…
We need to take those things to God so he can make us clean again…

No matter how long it’s been waiting to be done.

Farewell to TJ

An all age service was the perfect send off for TJ who has contributed so much to our children and young people’s ministry in her time in Stoke Poges.

She brought the band too! Herself on guitar, husband Richard on keyboard and good friend Malcolm Corden on clarinet/saxophone, with Tina and Heather singing.

img-20180903-wa0004-e1536663228508.jpg

Paul presented TJ with a good stack of reading material which will see her into her next phase of training and we prayed for her (and Richard) on her journey. She hasn’t gone far – Penn and Tyler’s Green Churches, so we hope to see her around soon. Bye for now!

P1040977