Rounding up Christmas

Welcome to our round up of part 2 of Advent, Christmas and Epiphany… in pictures!

Leaf Raking 14th December

What do you do when you are preparing for a birthday party? You tidy up! A few (very welcome) extra hands joined our regular Reapers to rake up the leaves at St Giles’ ready for our Christmas services. Followed by doughnuts of course!

Wassailing 22nd December

Making our Lanterns
Singing on the Repton Bridge – could they hear us at Stoke Park?
A convivial atmosphere – mince pies, mulled cider and a few more carols

Christmas Eve: Family Carols by Candlelight

Epiphany All Age Service 5th January

Our greatest gift to Jesus is to let his light shine through our actions

Love God. Love People.

Advent 2019 – the story so far

Make Way!

We had an exciting start to our Advent season on the first of the month, with a mixed up Nativity scene and quite a lot of baubles. The angels had their work cut out to spread the Good News amongst this mess!

First, we lit the first candle of the advent wreath, which has a candle at each corner for the four Sundays in Advent and one in the middle which we light on Christmas Day.

Then, to inspire our season of preparation it was the return of the High Stools. We welcomed Barbara, Annabelle and Natasha to tell their stories of what Christmas has meant to them over the years and the things that make Christmas special in their family. You can listen to their stories and our regular sermons on the website.

Finally, with the help of the young people, we hung the baubles and angels on the tree, sorted out who’s who in the Nativity and said prayers for everyone preparing for Christmas, wherever they are and whatever their circumstances will be this year.

Half way already?

So now here we are half-way through Advent; are we any more ready for Christmas than we were at the start?

With our Carol Service completed and the Senior Citizens’ Lunch eaten and washed up, we’d like to say a big Thank You to everyone who lent a hand to create these events, including Ann Frank and the Stoke Poges School Choir who came to visit our Senior Citizens’ lunch.

If you need some more encouragement to get you through the next two weeks, we have plenty of opportunities for you to join in:

Still to come before the Big Day…

Watch out around the village for our angels, created by the Knit and Natter crew, who hold a Christmas invitation for whoever finds them. Their little tag leads to our Christmas Events page so that people can find out about our Christmas services and Wassailing at the Memorial Gardens.

What is Wassailing?

Rather than the “singing to the orchard” variety of Wassailing, we will be enjoying the “caroling and wishing each other good health” mode which is sometimes practiced after Christmas as a Twelfth Night, or New Year celebration. Wrap up warm and come and make your own paper or jam jar lantern to light your path through the Memorial Gardens to Repton Bridge (facing Stoke Park). After a few carols on the bridge, we will make our way to the cosy atmosphere of St Giles’ where warm treats and a few more carols await.

And finally…

We love to welcome everyone to St Giles’ on Christmas Eve. It sometimes feels like the whole village has come to hear the News. From tiny tots at the 3.30 service dressed as the cutest sheep, the kids that we eyeball carefully when we give them a candle at 5.30 and to those who have decided that it’s not Christmas until they have been to Midnight Communion (at 11.30pm) or Christmas Day (10am). One way or another, they have all made sure that Jesus has room at their party.

So what’s your plan for Christmas? Eat, drink and be merry in celebration or quiet contemplation of the Coming of the King? Or a little of each…

For more details of all of our events and services pick up a leaflet at church or visit our website.

Remembrance 2019

Our preparations for Remembrance had started many weeks prior, with the creation of a multitude of poppies, which were then installed on the railings of Bells Hill.

We opened our Remembrance weekend with 24 hours of Prayer for Peace in the chapel at St Andrew’s. Families, individuals and a small gang of 7Up signed up for an hour’s slot to keep a vigil for many areas of the world and our own neighbourhood suffering from violence, oppression, division and distrust.

The activities were based around Isaiah 2:1-5 and started with the Mountain of the Lord, where prayers for peaceful agreement and action on climate change then branched out into many topics…

On another table, there was a puzzle of the United Kingdom and scales representing prayers for unity, equality and justice in our own land.

A (toy) knife was placed amongst information about the many projects around the world turning “swords into ploughshares” in creative and heartfelt works of art and functional designs.

As our prayer vigil came to an end, the Team, led by Natasha, pulled off a logistical feat on Remembrance Sunday, gathering uniformed groups and many people from the village at St Andrew’s at 10am, walking to the statue and flagpole on Bells Hill for an Act of Remembrance and then parading flags and pushchairs through gates and fields to St Giles’ for our Service of Remembrance, including 2 minutes silence on the dot of 11am. Phew!

St Giles’ served as it always does, as a reminder of faithful service to Christ of many people over the centuries and on this weekend, in honour of those who have given and those who continue to risk their lives in pursuit of peace.

We will remember them

Harvest – a time to give thanks

Harvest in my mind always heralds the real arrival of autumn. There’s a different smell in the air as the trees start to turn and I almost feel I am facing a different direction in the church year, turning away from the glory of Easter and summer and looking towards the anticipation of (dare I say it) Christmas.

In our school-centred life we are full of new beginnings again – new pencil cases, new activities and new responsibilities. But it’s also time to take stock and give thanks for all that the year has produced so far and look forward to what we can do with those gifts…

At our traditional Harvest Festival service, people brought offerings of food and collection money but also less traditional things such as toothpaste and a kettle! These items were targeted at specific groups – Slough Homeless Our Concern (SHOC), DASH and Tearfund.

As well as non-perishable food, people entering temporary housing often need basic items such as clothing, bedding and household items (hence the kettle), so these will go to SHOC.

DASH is a local charity supporting people who have had to leave their homes in a hurry with virtually no possessions or money due to domestic violence and abuse. A basic kit of toiletries is a small token of dignity at such a traumatic time so these items will be much appreciated.

Lastly, our cash collection which was extra to our church envelopes will go to Tearfund, whose recent campaign shows how a little help to get someone a few tools or skills goes a long way to their self sufficiency and contribution to their community economy. Tearfund (and we) trust God to take what we have given and multiply it, just as Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes to feed so many people.

Junior Church was held in the Hastings Chapel with extra helpers and included some smaller members of the Girl Guide movement, who weren’t camping in the pouring rain that weekend! They produced some beautiful hedgehogs and pumpkins to mark the season.

Another Thank You

At the end of the service, we said a huge thank you (though we are not calling it goodbye) to Kate Holliday who has served as Church Administrator for almost 20 years and has now set up her own gardening business. We prayed for Kate as she puts both feet into this new venture – that it will blossom and grow – and we are sure that it will still be as much of a mission field for her as the office.

This week, we welcome Debbie Langham as she takes over from Kate in the office, but we’ll find out more about Debbie in a future post…

Care International Sponsored Cycle across Vietnam and Cambodia

After months of planning, Margriet and Charlotte Wells have embarked on this 450km ride and are several days in to the 10 day trip already. They are raising amoney and awareness for Care International, which the Wells family and the Coffee Shop have been supporting for some time.

CARE International works around the globe to save lives, defeat poverty and achieve social justice. We put women and girls in the centre because we know that we cannot overcome poverty until all people have equal rights and opportunities. To find out more about the charity, visit their website. https://www.careinternational.org.uk/

Margriet and Charlotte have been sending regular photos of their progress – below are a few of their orientation day and first few days of the ride.

How can you help?

Firstly, please pray for stamina and safety during the ride – they have another week to go! Secondly, if you are able, please sponsor them, by visiting their Just Giving page.

We look forward to welcoming them home and hearing all about their trip at our next all age service.

Family Barbecue 2019

Sunny spells greeted our combined congregations as we met up at St Giles’ for a communion service and our annual family barbecue.

Thanks to everyone who contributed a morsel to the sumptuous feast, the catering team who put everything together and cooked all those burgers and sausages, the coffee crew and to those who created the interactive all-age service.

The Churchwardens presented Tony Bunce with a gift to thank him for 50 years of service on the PCC! Over the years, Tony has taken part in so many important projects for the church, including making our beautiful and practical altar table at St Andrew’s, which folds away at the end of each service and yet is sturdy enough to hold the sacrament safely as well as the many other demands placed on it.

Tony’s gift was a painting featuring the table, set for a service and the banner behind it on the wall of St Andrew’s, to which Tony’s wife Anne contributed as part of the Women’s Fellowship. A small token of appreciation for both their faithful service to God and the community.

As part of an ongoing plan to make sure everyone can hear during different sections of any large service at St Giles’, extra thought and preparation went in to the microphones, speakers and piano volume. The more people that are in St Giles’, the bigger the challenge to spread the sound effectively for the loud and quiet elements of the service; to keep the children involved but not hindering the proceedings and to make sure people coming for the first time can follow what’s going on as easily as the regulars and encourage them to come again. We are still working through how this can be achieved within our tight budget and what the benefits are for the cost.

It is no mean feat to do all of this without losing the essence of St Giles’: a continuous place of worship for over 900 years. Long may it continue…

Showtime!

Congratulations to everyone involved in running or participating in the Stoke Poges, Wexham and Fulmer Horticultural Show this year. The weather tried to put a dampener on it but the spirit of the Show prevailed!

So many members of the church were involved in some capacity, it would be impossible to name them all but I’ve tried to capture the breadth of our involvement in a few photos… from planning and coordinating the whole show and setting up the showground, to judging and stewarding in the show tent; prize winning in every section, manning stalls and clearing up at the end of the day; you name it, the congregation was in it all.

Flying the flag for the church, wearing our new t-shirts, was our barbeque team, refreshed with new volunteers throughout the afternoon. Stirling job everyone!