What’s happening at church?

As things move on, we thought you might like to know what coming to church looks like these days, so here’s a few photos from the last couple of weeks at St Andrew’s.

As you come in the main door, you’ll be welcomed by our sidesperson with the NHS Test & Trace list. And each week, you have to guess who is behind the mask – not too tricky!

Music is sometimes on a video and sometimes just audio but still absorbing and reflecting the theme of the service, including some tracks generously recorded for us by Lindsey and David Mackie.

There’s a KiC activity box for each family with craft and puzzles – and sometimes dressing up – to match our theme of the week. Don’t let Natasha have all the fun, come and join in!

On Communion weeks (3rd Sundays at St Andrew’s) we receive Communion in one kind only – a wafer – which Natasha brings to us in our seats. She then drinks the wine of the sacrament on our behalf at the altar table.

Next week there’ll be more photos from St Giles’ at we meet at 11am for our Traditional Harvest Festival. Or pop along to St Andrew’s at 4pm for Prayer and Peace with a Harvest theme.

See you next week at St Giles’!

Feeding the 5000

It felt like we were beginning to find our feet in a new normal on Sunday, as we gathered at St Andrew’s for a tea-time All Age service, followed by a socially distanced picnic in St Andrew’s garden. (Did you know St Andrew’s had a garden?). We were all ready to be fed – in body and spirit.

The service was in the main hall as normal, led by Natasha, with video content from Tina and Simon Edwards, including a great video featuring Lego Jesus feeding the 5000 (courtesy of Union Baptist Church, High Wycombe). The full version can be found in the video podcast of the whole service here.

Even if we missed having a barbecue, I don’t think anyone missed the clearing up afterwards! Natasha definitely hit her step target doing waitress service from the Coffee Shop to the garden, as the guidelines say that we can only be served drinks from a cafe and not come and help ourselves from the hatch. If we are going to be able to serve refreshments before or after a regular service any time soon, this needs a bit of thinking about… answers on a postcard (or just email the office!)

For the time being, we do have to spread the chairs out to keep our distance in the hall, and wear our masks, so you have to whistle or wave to your neighbour rather than whisper in their ear, but it’s great to see everyone again.

So how are you feeling about coming back to church? Still nervous of the virus? Missing the music? Can’t face talking about lockdown? Just feeling a bit stuck?

If you are still nervous, be assured we have lots of measures in place to try to limit contact. If you’ve been to a supermarket or restaurant, you can come to church. We are playing music, you just have to hum into your mask, rather than sing. And it gives us a chance to explore new songs that we can’t easily get everyone to join in with, as well as old favourites.

What to talk about… Ask people about their garden, their pets or their family or their plans for the next week. The more we get out and about, the more we will have to talk about. Why not get involved in something new, especially if you are now working from home and perhaps have some flexible time? A new Alpha course, led by Tina and Simon is starting at the end of September or drop Natasha a line and let her know you have some time – a little or a lot, extra hands are essential as we rebuild our activities.

We look forward to seeing you all soon.

Church in action at Village Store Cupboard

This week, we were delighted to hear that Ann Sibley (pictured far right) and Julie Cawood (far left), whom many of you will know from church, were honoured for their outstanding efforts in running the Stoke Poges Store Cupboard at St Andrew’s for the duration of lockdown. They were presented with their awards, along with Sue Lynch who runs the Good Neighbour Scheme (right) by Joy Morrissey MP (left).

Ann is our caretaker and lettings manager and I asked her how she felt about receiving the award:

“I feel very humbled to receive the award.  It was totally unexpected and I feel there were more deserving people than me who should have received one.  I would do it all over again.” This was echoed by Julie, who didn’t think she had done anything special (!) and was glad to have felt purposeful during a very uncertain time.

Ann’s favourite thing about running the Store Cupboard was knowing how much it meant to the recipients and how grateful they all were.  Also working with Julie was amazing every day. The trickiest part was making sure they had the food for our villagers ready for their care parcels which were sent out Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.  They not only sent out the essentials such as bread, milk, tea, coffee but asked exactly what they needed and shopped for it and delivered it to them.

I wondered whether at the start of lockdown, when everything seemed so uncertain and we had seen such horrendous footage on the news from other countries, Ann felt nervous?

“I was not nervous at all.  My family were anxious for me as they said I was putting myself at risk.  Both Julie and I were very careful and strict by always wearing gloves, washing our hands regularly, wiping the food down and boxes and bags as we received it with antibacterial spray or wipes. We wore a mask when we went to the shops, opened windows and doors to have the air circulating and most importantly of all, kept our 2 metre distance.”

Julie and Ann would like to acknowledge all the people who helped make the Store Cupboard run smoothly:

“We could not have run the store cupboard without Natasha, Saera Carter, Sue Lynch and Bal Bahra the Pharmacist setting it up and agreeing for it to be run at St Andrews Church Centre.  Also all the very kind ladies and gents who regularly delivered the parcels to our villagers, especially Adele and Andrea who never missed a week; the very kind generous villagers who either donated food or cash on a regular basis, many being furloughed or not working and gave so generously.  

A special thank you to Mike and his wife who brought at least 3 bags of shopping every week of essentials and treats; the charities who donated money that paid our big shopping bills at Costco and Bookers and Phillipa who stepped in at short notice when I had to self isolate and was ill for 3 days.  A huge thank you to everyone as it was a team effort.”

From the occasional visit to the store cupboard, I know how organised it all was, thanks to Ann and Julie skills and though they are far too modest to mention it, Ann’s idea and their collective dedication offered the village a lifeline which many others did not have in their neighbourhood. Congratulations to everyone involved!

Donations were all sanitised and sorted, ready to be parceled up
Messages from grateful villagers

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.

Matthew 25:35

Easter in the Garden

How long ago it seems that Lent was just beginning, we made pancakes, attended Ash Wednesday service and heard the first couple of our sermon series on Acts about the early church.

And suddenly we lurched into a global crisis, our world shrunk to the limits of our four walls and, if we are lucky, our gardens. This Easter has been spent apart physically but together spiritually, via our Good Friday podcast and Easter Sunday online service. Some people kept themselves busy making Easter gardens and other creations. Look at these beauties!

Some people seem permanently purposeful. No matter what the boundaries, they switch apparently seamlessly from one endeavour to another. Office work becomes cooking for a neighbour, swimming becomes an electronics project, visiting becomes phoning, school runs become home school, working at the hospital becomes working even harder at the hospital.

And others struggle – to stay positive without their usual support network, to cope with issues that were already difficult, to adapt to unwelcome change, to stay on course without the rudder of routine.

But as Christians and as a church family we have an advantage. We are greater than the sum of our parts because we have our Saviour and our community to lean on. Let us never take those gifts for granted.

Editor’s Note: we are experimenting with a new way of sharing the blog – via our Friday newsletter mailing list, so apologies if you get it twice. Your feedback to office@stokepogeschurch.org on any aspect of our communications is always welcome.

Lent: Facing the Cross

Our installation (with a nod to Antony Gormley’s “Field”)

But first, let’s catch up with Lent 2020 in Stoke Poges so far…

Last Monday week, our Tots’ Praise families decorated pancakes to acknowledge our preparation for Lent.

Then on Ash Wednesday, we joined our neighbours at the newly refurbished St Paul’s in Slough for an evening service. Natasha led the service with the St Paul’s team, Helen Broadbent and Nadeem Azam, who shared his testimony as part of his address.

It was heartening to see that our neighbours are thriving both in number and in their faith in their community. I think it is a brave move to mobilise hearts and wallets to rejuvenate a large building so boldly and with such diverse tastes across the congregation, but they have stepped out in faith to make the building fit the needs of the people (who really are the church).

It was this faith and enthusiasm that we heard about in the first of our sermon series on the early church last Sunday. No buildings (or sound system 🙂 ), just people, galvanised by what they saw and heard and filled with the Holy Spirit so that they became a community united by Jesus and acted in His name.

A little entertainment whilst we listened – making playdough figures to stand/sit/lie at the foot of the cross as a symbol of our community and where we are in relation to the cross.

Where are you?

Are you in the thick of it or standing on the fringes;

clinging on at the foot of the cross or lying prostrate in awe;

or absent? Come home – you will be welcomed with joy.