Lifegroups – 2017 Review

There was such a lot to fit in to the reviews of 2017 leading up to the APCM, the Lifegroups seemed to warrant their own post, so here they are…

If you are curious about joining a Lifegroup but wonder whether it would be your cup of tea, read on…

Thursday Lifegroup led by Deborah and Matthew Wetherall

Deborah & Matthew Lifegroup 2018.jpgAt the beginning of 2017 our Lifegroup had grown in size so divided to become 2 groups. (For the “other half”, keep reading – Ed.)

As we returned to a smaller group this was an opportunity for relationships to deepen further. We have continued to support each other pastorally and in prayer through life’s ups and downs, and of course we have been encouraged by the many answers to prayer we have had.

Courses have included: Jesus’ teaching in the parables and his early miracles; our Lent course ‘Season of Renewal’ was described as a course which is ‘Into God’ rather than ‘About God’ and was a great opportunity to deepen our faith; two courses which impacted many members of the group were ‘Life on the frontline’ and ‘Fruitfulness on the frontline’, encouraging us to reach out to those we come into contact with on a day to day basis and share God’s love with them.

Our termly joint Lifegroup ‘Word and worship’ sessions have been a great opportunity for us to worship for extended periods and share and encourage each other in a larger group

Quotes from the group:

I can feel God’s presence with us when we meet together

Meeting mid-week is more important to me spiritually than going to church on a Sunday

I can tell that others in the group have grown in confidence and faith

I feel God is changing me so that I am starting to see people through His eyes and respond accordingly

I can’t imagine not coming to Life group every week

The KJTS Life Group formed at the start of 2017 in order to provide more Lifegroup capacity.  It is led by Karen Perez, Jeff Higgins and Simon & Tina Edwards (KJTS).

We meet in each other’s homes most Thursday evenings, including during school holidays, to share LIFE (Learning, Intercession, Fellowship, and Evangelism).

When we started, we agreed a set of principles and practices for the Life Group, which have helped us along the way.

We have tried out different approaches to keep it fresh and fun.  But a typical meeting will start with a catch up and prayer over drinks and biscuits, followed by exploration of a topic / a passage in the Bible.  We have used DVD series and study guides, with mixed success.  Although we like the structure provided by these series, we decided to start researching the topics for ourselves and bringing what we found to the group.  Although this can entail more preparation, we have found it more rewarding.

We try to share a meal together once a term and also to meet with other Life Groups for an evening of praise and prayer on one of our homes.

Highlights of 2017 included:

– examining our spiritual gifts, and discernible spiritual growth in all the members of the group

– participation in the Invitation Week during Lent and meeting and being inspired by the ordinands who spent that week with us

– supporting each other on our frontlines through the year

– seeing answers to prayer, and a wonderful prayer walk around the centre of Stoke Poges

In 2017 we each led a reflection on our favourite passages in the Bible and we have researched and looked at different types of parables

We have also followed structured study series on:

– what it means to be a follower of Christ – with the help of the iEquip online resource for new small groups ‘Follow Me And…’

– lessons from the life of Samson – using the CWR DVD and book, ‘There Are No Strong People’

– ‘The Me I Want to Be’ by Jon Ortberg

The Ladies’ Lifegroup had a few memorable moments in 2017

P1040438.JPGThe Great Stoke Poges Bake-off was our contribution to Invitation Week in March 2017. The planning kept us busy for the Spring term, preparing handmade gift bags, recipes (and sampling the practice cakes!) our testimonies and, most importantly, inviting friends who would not normally come to church to “taste and see”. It all seemed worth it in the end!

P1030189.JPGWe spent the summer term on a Bible study at the end of which, we waved a sad farewell to Tracy (and the vicarage, where we had spent so many evenings of fellowship, prayer and study under Tracy’s leadership). In September, we popped down to Walton on the Hill to check the whole Latham family, including the new pup, had settled in to their new home in September. We then immersed ourselves in a 12 week study on the book of Daniel, leading up to Christmas.

We now take turns to lead and host the Ladies’ Lifegroup to fit around busy work and family lives.

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Breakfast All Round!

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It’s Nigel!

On Saturday 14th April, Ladies and Gentlemen convened at separate locations for hearty breakfasts, inspiring speakers and valuable fellowship.

At the Men’s Breakfast, we all enjoyed the novelty of having our very own Nigel Lowe as the speaker.  It was the first time that many of us have managed to hear his story, and what a fascinating one it was, mixed with plenty of humour.  It was also a new venue for our breakfasts and the wide range of food provided by the South Buckinghamshire golf club certainly proved popular with everyone there.

To join the next Men’s Group event, our ever popular curry night on 3rd July in Farnham Common, contact Tony Shortman or Nigel via the Church Office.

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Valuable fellowship time
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Maria Bond

A Ladies’ Breakfast took place at The Wexham Golf Club on the same morning, 14th April. The speaker Maria Bond spoke about ‘ Living with Loss’ and had something to say to everyone, through her own personal journey, through life and how she came to live with loss. One of her main points was that we acquire many things from the moment we are born; a family, education, a job, maybe a husband and children and these define who we are to the world. She went on to say that inevitably there comes a time of loss e.g. of friendships or through ill health, redundancy, widowhood etc. But the majority and focus through the talk was how we can ‘live’ with and and after loss and not dwell on the negativity because we can believe in a God who is here, does not change and who will help us to live through whatever the world throws at us. She  concluded by saying that because of Jesus we can have hope and not despair, a future life in this world and in eternity.

Many of the ladies who attended said they had been encouraged and uplifted by the talk, along with the chance to chat with friends and enjoy a hearty breakfast!! Everyone is welcome at these breakfasts. If you would like to know more about them and future dates please contact Heather Homan or Monica Elderfield via the Church Office.

Review of 2017: Part III

This week’s blog is the last of three presenting a potted review of 2017, which will be expanded further at the Annual Parochial Church Meeting (APCM) on 29th April. To hear the full story and see all the photos, join us at the meeting which will follow the St Andrew’s service and our bring and share lunch.

This week, a round-up of various church groups’ activities in 2017 and some Money Matters. (Ed’s note – a special edition on Lifegroups will follow soon.)

Coffee Shop

p1030348.jpgOne of the aims for 2017 for The Coffee Shop was to increase visitor numbers so, to raise awareness, we decided to purchase an advertising sandwich board that could be placed at the church gate to declare when we are “OPEN!”. This has definitely resulted in an increase in new faces including a cycling club who drop in from time to time when cycling through Stoke Poges.

We support several charities through sales of items

  • Lemon drizzle cake for DCA (Deserving Children Africa)
  • Jams and marmalades for the Swan Sanctuary in Datchet
  • Knit and Natter gifts, (often involving chocolate!) for Alexander Devine Children’s Hospice.  We raised £250 at Christmas so thanks if you bought one of these gifts.

We love hosting fellowship after Wednesday Communion & Friday Coffee Group, though this was a squeeze one week when the cyclists dropped in as well…. but we can always find another chair.

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We are delighted to provide an outlet for Bellaroo Bakes.  Started by a local entrepreneur Beth, Bellaroo Bakes make special occasion cakes.  Beth has created a small range of cakes & bakes especially for us. We have also been able to source fair trade healthy snacks and hope to expand this range over time.

With the help of Heather McDowell we created a new art gallery wall and continue to offer cards from local artists.

Once again we have offered the coffee shop to some of the 7UP crew working through their DofE community service section of their award.  We wish them continued success.

For up to date opening times, please see the Coffee Shop page on the church website.

Reapers

The Reapers continue to tend the grounds of both St Giles’ and St Andrew’s in the growing season (generally from April to November) and in 2017 replaced several standard roses and did some substantial tree and hedge cutting thanks to new members with power tools and a big finale with the Great Rake-off when we they were joined by members of the church of all ages and visitors from Teikyo School.

Roll up with your tools or come and grab a mower from 9-11am on any (or all!) of the following Saturdays. Coffee and doughnuts afterwards! April 21, May 5, 19, June 2, 16, 30, July 7, 21, Aug 4, 18, Sep 1, 15, 29, Oct 13, 27, Nov 10, 24.

Everybody

Men’s Group

Events and speakers in 2017 included:

  • Beer & Skittles night
  • Simon Vibert at Men’s Breakfast as part of Invitation Week
  • Curry Night at Memories of India with speaker Simon Allaby
  • The ever popular Tanx evening
  • Breakfast at Wexham Park Golf Club with speaker Rob Santer
  • Dinner at South Buckinghamshire Golf Club with speaker Simon Pinchbeck (pictured below)

To keep abreast of Men’s Group events, visit their page on the church website.

Men's Dinner 2017

Supper Club

The Supper club changed hands at the end of 2017 but continues to provide a great community service. Until recently, many of the original organisers have been at the helm. Peter and Joyce Wilkinson and Simone Evard, Pam Smith and Sybil & Mike Hastings and Pat Milne-Smith have all now “retired”, with Chris Southam now steering the ship with many willing helpers.

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Money Matters

The PCC Accounts form part of the Annual Report – Gaynor will present a few more details at the APCM on Sunday, but here are the key points from the accounts:

At first look, at the end of the year, it appears that the church has a lot of money but we have only a small portion that we can spend on general church activities:

  • Restricted funds (amounts that can only be used for the purpose that the donor defined) make over 91% of our total church funds.  That’s great for big projects, such as St Giles’ restoration, but a problem for day-to-day expenditure.
  • Designated funds (amounts the PCC ‘designates’ for specific activities, like Churchyard, Choir, Youth), are another 6% of total funds
  • Unrestricted funds (where the PCC can spend it on any church activity) are only 3% of our funds, which equates to just over one month’s expenditure – not ideal if we suddenly have a large bill
  • Our largest item of income remains donations and the largest item of our expenditure is the parish share. The charts below show income and expenses for the unrestricted fund only:

As the report says, we ran a deficit in 2017, using money out of our reserves to make the mission giving payments at the end of the year.  We can’t afford to do the same in 2018 unless regular donations increase, which we hope to see from an increase in the congregation.

Join us for the full story (and some lunch!) this coming Sunday after the 10.30am service at St Andrew’s.

 

Review of 2017: Part II

This week’s blog is the second of three presenting a potted review of 2017, which will be expanded further at the Annual Parochial Church Meeting (APCM) on 29th April. To hear the full story and see all the photos, join us at the meeting which will follow the St Andrew’s service and our bring and share lunch.

This week, a round-up of the activities of the Churchwardens and PCC and some memorable moments of 2017

During 2017, the main topics of activity for the PCC were:

  • Invitation Week
  • Ministry arrangements during the vacancy
  • Recruiting a new vicar – writing the Parish Profile, advertising and interview process (Round 1)
  • Church website interim clean-up and move from Church Magazine to blog
  • Da Vinci Project – completion of the St. Giles restoration
  • Safeguarding policy
  • Risk assessment
  • Financial management
  • Engagement with village events

Memorable Moments

We had a change of Honorable Verger and Sacristan in January 2017 – Richard Beckingsale taking over from Ken Morris; and a change of (bearded) Churchwarden following the APCM – Simon McDowell taking over from Nigel Lowe.

Invitation Week brought challenges and opportunities for all involved. We welcomed a team of ordinands from Wycliffe College, Oxford, who supported us through a week of activities: special Sunday and Wednesday services, a Hard Questions Panel, Supper Club, the Great Village Bake-off, the Quiz with a Twist and a Four Words course.

Wycliffe Team in coffee shop.jpg

Of course we were all aflutter at Harry makes oath to Queen, obligation to CofE to serve community (2)Harry’s announcement last Palm Sunday that he would be leaving us to take up a new post in Headley, Box Hill and Walton on the Hill. We gave Harry, Tracy, Samuel, Emma, Oliver and Tim a great send-off in July and many people went to his licencing service in August with mixed emotions of sadness and anticipation at the changes it has meant for them and us.

We also waved goodbye to the builders from St Giles’ in time for a celebration service and (rainy) barbeque in September. The first couple of phases of restoration work, funded by a generous bequest from Edna Mayer, were completed after historic discoveries delayed the work by some months, stretching the project from completion in November 2016 to August 2017.

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At the end of the year, our St Andrew’s Lettings Manager, Harvey Whittam and Caretaker, Ken Millar stood down from their roles – we are very appreciative of their service over several years. For both of these roles, we have yet to find a replacement. We are grateful to Kate Holliday for holding the Lettings diary in the interim, for those who contribute to the opening and closing of the building or who help out when things don’t quite go to plan and for the ongoing patience of our regular hirers.

Next, a word from one of our Churchwardens, Paul Elderfield:

This morning I woke to a shock, the sun was shining! it feels as though the last few weeks have seen nothing but rain.  We were however blessed with a dry Easter Sunday that made the well-organized egg hunt at St Giles a success.

It feels very natural at this time of year to be looking forward, our APCM is approaching, I know a lot of hard work is being done behind the scenes preparing all of the required information to ensure all are fully informed as to the health of our Church, and of course where we are heading. It will feel strange this year as we are still technically in vacancy, although we heard the fantastic news that the Revd. Natasha Brady is to be appointed, more to follow later.

Another aspect of the APCM is the chance for fellowship, I always look forward to sharing a meal and generally getting to talk to so many people.

I look forward to seeing you all on the 29th April.

Everyone is welcome to attend the APCM but to vote on the appointment of PCC members (or stand yourself!), you need to be on the Electoral Roll of church members. If you are on the Electoral Roll, you should have received an invitation to the meeting with an RSVP slip. If you have not received your invitation, please contact the church office.

Did you know?

  • There are 107 parishioners on the Electoral Roll, 27 of whom are not resident in the parish.
  • In 2017, two names were added and three were removed.

Want to check if you are on the Electoral Roll or join? Check the list of names on display in the foyer at St Andrew’s and the porch at St Giles’ or contact the Church Office for a form.

Next week, in our final post leading up to the APCM, we’ll take a look at some of the community activities and groups of the church in 2017 and a few financial figures.

 

Review of 2017: Part I

This week’s blog is the first of three presenting a potted review of 2017, which will be expanded further at the Annual Parochial Church Meeting (APCM) on 29th April. To hear the full story and see all the photos, join us at the meeting which will follow the St Andrew’s service and our bring and share lunch.

First up, Andrew and TJ share the Ministry Team Review of 2017

We have continued our regular worship and ministry through the first 10 months of the vacancy thanks to the work of so many people.

The Ministry Team members have taken a significant portion of the Ministry duties, regularly preaching, leading and accommodating themselves to some changes. We have more people leading intercessions and helping in other ways. We have been supported by Graham Saunders, Bishop Alan, Rod Cosh and Puppets4All from St Peter’s Burnham, among others and also musically by the worship team from St James’ Gerrards Cross, Anne Frank, Richard Jones and Caroline Masom.

Members of the congregation have provided continuing musical support for worship at St. Andrews, co-ordinated rotas, prepared and led the monthly all-age services; readily accepted the introduction of Communion by Extension and other small changes. Creche, KiC and 7 Up have all steadily continued and Kate has kept the office with its wedding, funeral and baptism bookings, running smoothly and Richard has provided support at weddings and funerals – all of which, along with baptisms, have continued. During the year there were 15 baptisms, 7 weddings and 14 funerals conducted.

The PCC and wardens have provided the space and the support for all this – more on their activities in next week’s blog.

Courses

Practical Apologetics, a course aimed at providing practice at responding to questions about one’s Christian faith, was devised and led by Andrew and Lewis Fry and ran for several weeks with an average of 12 people attending.

TJ ran a short course from the diocese for 20 people over two groups, looking at living with the Beatitudes, as a “contemplative, compassionate and courageous church”.

7Up have been studying a different person of the Trinity each term this year and twice a month on “Serving Sundays” they serve in other areas of church life.

Snow Day at 7Up

We have continued to develop relationships with various groups of young people by working closely with the Guides and Brownies and welcoming the uniformed groups and some Teikyo School students to the Remembrance Service and other occasions.

Tots’ Praise has continued with several new-comers who have been invited by their friends and have had children baptised in the last few months.  A couple of helpers have stepped down after many years of service, and we are grateful to them for all their help.

The St Andrews Youth Club ran until mid year but we were finding it difficult to maintain the required leader/child ratios. In an attempt to address this, the group was divided by year group to allow different year groups to meet separately. Soon after the vacancy began, the Club was suspended as we anticipated that we would not have the resources during that period.

Next week we will hear about the events and changes we experienced as a church in 2017 and what the Churchwardens and PCC got up to…

Easter 2018

Following on from last week’s blog – let’s take a look at the rest of the events in Holy Week and Easter Weekend…

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P1040387On Thursday we became the cast to re-enact a Passover Meal of the type which might have been celebrated by Jesus and the Disciples at the Last Supper. The scene was set by TJ, Andrew was Master of Ceremonies/Jesus and Lewis, Pastor at Stoke Poges Free Church, our narrator. Some of the members of 7Up joined Jesus at the “top” table (which was actually on the floor!) and course by course, we heard the story and enjoyed bitter herbs and salt water, unleavened bread and lamb, and of course ceremonial wine (plus some for quaffing).  This was a truly special and memorable way to usher in the eve of Good Friday.

20180330_095925Good Friday itself dawned murky and grey but the rain held off as we met on a green hill not far away (outside the Co-op in fact, by the new village flagpole) to sing and introduce the events of that day and then quietly process down the hill behind the cross to our service in St Andrew’s. A partially unplugged worship team and thought-provoking sermon by Lewis was followed by delicious hot cross buns, leading us into the reflective 48 hours before Easter Sunday.

P1040397A soggy St Giles’ was glad to hear the alleluias of Easter Sunday and enjoy some familiar (and not so familiar) hymns with regulars and visitors alike. The eggs were laid (for the egg hunt) and there were definitely enough to go around, though never enough for some!

We give thanks for another Easter season in Stoke Poges, celebrating that Jesus died on a cross for our sins and is alive and reigns with us… all year round.

Holy Week 2018

P1040380Holy Week is upon us once again and we prepare for these pivotal events of the Christian calendar with opportunities to come together as a church family in quiet contemplation, exploring meaning and, eventually, to celebrate when we come to Easter Sunday.

We started with Palm Sunday and Andrew inviting us to Hold your Palm Cross close in his sermon.

 

Events continued last night with the evening service of Compline in St Andrew’s Chapel and this evening, TJ will lead a meditation about Jesus facing trial in front of the Sanhedrin, based on Matthew 26:57-68 and a painting inspired by this passage “Christ Before the High Priest” by Gerrit Van Honhorst. Want to know more? Join us this evening in the Chapel at 7pm, followed by Compline at 8pm.

Our Wednesday morning, Communion by Extension at 10.30am will of course follow the Holy Week theme and there is Compline at 8pm – both in the Chapel at St Andrew’s.

On Thursday evening, we come together with Stoke Poges Free Church to explore more meaning and context for the events leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion. We will share a sample of the the food and join in a representation of the Passover meal that Jesus shared with his disciples. If you would like to join us, please let the church office know by Wednesday morning (and note that this will not be a full 21st century meal, so please make your plans accordingly).

Palm Sunday potGood Friday – we will meet at the Village Flagpole at 10am for a short outdoor service and then process quietly behind the cross to St Andrew’s for 10.30am. Coffee and hot cross buns will be served afterwards.

Easter Sunday – Alleluia Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed – Alleluia! Be there for the Big Day 10.30am at St Giles’ to raise the lovely old roof in celebration that Christ is alive and reigns with us! And an Easter egg hunt afterwards, of course :-).