Revd Catherine Bowstead - Minister
Revd Catherine Bowstead joined us as minister in September 2015. She introduces herself:
We have come to Wokingham after 11 very happy years in Colchester where I've had pastoral charge of 3 busy churches – one in the town centre and two congregations to the north of the town; one a young church plant and the other a more established congregation. Colchester has changed a lot in those 11 years as the rapid housing development has made it the fastest growing town in the UK. Before that we had 7 years in Southend-on-Sea and my first appointment was in Epsom. Before entering the Methodist Ministry I was a primary school teacher.
I'm married to Mike who works as a Tax Inspector – he'll be working at HMRC in Reading. He is a Local Preacher and enjoys singing. We have two young adult children; James has just graduated from university and will be spending the next year as Resident Organist at Pangbourne College whilst on Sundays he'll be Organ Scholar at All Saints Church in Fulham. Hannah is reading for a degree in Classics at Cambridge and is about to start her second year. She enjoys singing and a variety of crafts.
My particular joys in ministry are preaching and leading worship. I love being with people and enabling them to find and use their gifts, and I enjoy working with children and families. In my spare time I enjoy walking, reading and music.
I'm very much looking forward to getting to know you over the coming months, and keenly anticipating working alongside you for God's Kingdom. I hope and pray that I shall be able to use my gifts and insights to further God's work in this place. Please be patient as I try to learn your names, learn my way around the place and discover about our church family here in Wokingham.
Annual Report (March 2021)
What an extraordinary year it has been. Who could possibly have imagined that we would be prevented from using our church buildings and from worshipping together for so long? I’m proud of the way that we have worked together as a church community to get through this time. Throughout lockdown we have kept in touch by our weekly pastoral letter and notices, and we offer huge thanks to Will for producing these so efficiently. Our pastoral visitors and phone buddies have worked hard to keep in touch with people, particularly those who might be feeling isolated. From the very first week of lockdown, we’ve produced a recorded service of worship, these have evolved and developed as our skills have improved, but we have produced one every single week.
Many of our usual activities have had to pause during this time, but we have found ways of keeping in contact. Zoom has been so helpful to us and has enabled us to hold our business meetings, coffee mornings and some social activities too.
We’ve sent cards at Easter and Christmas, resources about “A Methodist Way of Life” and our Lent book “Live Lent” to everyone in the past year. I hope that these have helped people to feel connected. We’ve shared pictures of our decorated crosses for Easter and our Nativity sets on the church website.
Our link with Lovat House has proved to be an excellent new venture. The staff really appreciated the goody bags that we delivered, and the residents enjoyed letters from their pen-pals, and the cards and knitted angels that we sent them at Christmas.
More recently, it’s been wonderful that our church building has been used as a vaccination centre for the town and we hope that our partnership with the Medical Centre will continue in some form.
Of course, there are many things that we have mourned and missed too. It’s been tough that we haven’t been able to worship and sing together, and many have gone a long time without receiving Holy Communion. A significant number of members of our church community have died, and we haven’t been able to meet in our church building to commemorate and celebrate their lives in the way that we would like. We have missed the ordinary things of life like chatting together over coffee in our café, shaking hands, hugging and being together in the familiar way.
But we know that God has been faithful to us throughout this difficult year and that he will continue to be faithful to us in the future. Things will inevitably be different and will probably never return to how they were a year ago, but we trust in God to lead and guide us.
For as the verse on our membership card challenges us:
“Do not remember the former things or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” (Isaiah 43: 18-19)
I commend our annual report to you,
Claire Knight - Church & Community Outreach Team Leader
I grew up as an only child just down the road in Bagshot. Every Sunday I attended Sunday school at St. Ann's Church until I joined the Church Choir at the age of 9. I went on to be part of the Youth Fellowship group held every Sunday night and that is where my Faith really grew. I made many friends on my early journey with God and I am still in touch with many of them now even though we are scattered all over the world.
Having spent 18 years working for Barclays Bank including the post of Branch Manager at Wokingham branch, in 2007 I decided that my real passion was to work alongside young people. I joined the then East Berkshire Education and Business Partnership where I developed, managed and delivered enterprise projects to Secondary and Primary schools across East Berkshire including some larger scale corporate inter school events.
In 2011 I came to work at Wokingham Methodist Church having played a significant voluntary role at St. Michael's Easthampstead in Bracknell. Since then I have worked to develop and grow our Church family through various activities and groups.
I am married to Russell who I met at work in 1994 and have two beautiful teenage daughters, Eleanor and Lauren and a young dog named Bailey! We are very happy living in Jennett's Park.
I am delighted to be undertaking the role of Church and Community Outreach Team Leader where I plan to enhance our work with all generations within our community drawing them closer to God through fellowship and ministry through the Coffee House, Bradbury Centre and beyond.
This is an exciting time for our town and indeed our Church as we are at the centre of the town's redevelopment and an increasing population as Wokingham grows, it is my wish to ensure we always offer a warm and friendly welcome to all we come into contact with and to embrace the changes that God is providing.
Annual Report (February 2021)
During the last year, the Alzheimer’s café did not meet in person at all. We held some online meetings via zoom during the first lockdown, but these were poorly attended and were quite stressful for the carers and cared for due to connection problems, sound and confusion. We decided that it was better to have a break in July and have not met since. Several of the attendees visited Café Mosaic while we were able to open. Sadly, the virus has had a big impact on the people attending the café, we have lost several of our members due to being taken into full time care or sadly dying.
I am in regular contact with Michelle Gilbert the Dementia Care advisor and there is still a very big need for the café and we plan to restart again from scratch as soon as we are able to.
Jesus Crew did not meet; however, I have been sending material from Roots to families weekly. We also delivered advent ring packs and Christingle packs to families.
Craft @ 4
Craft @ 4 has met throughout the year, either via zoom or on a couple of occasions in person. We have enjoyed stories, crafts and being together. We have distributed various crafts to do and some ideas of things to make from things we already have at home and activity sheets.
In June we enjoyed a picnic at Elms field which was very well attended and a great chance to be together. We will continue to meet on the second Sunday of every month and will no doubt enjoy another picnic in the summer.
On Christmas Eve we held a lovely well attended Christingle Service on zoom and it was lovely to see families gathering to worship together from home and we enjoyed a lovely Christmas story told by Georgia.
The congregation gave generously both financially and with gifts for the Carers and cared for at Lovat House. We have made three donations so far, including knitted angels at Christmas, and the residents and staff were so very grateful. Several of us also wrote to residents during the first lockdown.
The café reopened in August following lockdown one. We opened for three mornings a week (Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays) from 10-12 with lots of new restrictions and safety measures in place.
These measures included:
- A one-way system
- Fewer tables and chairs spread further apart
- Table service
- Cleaning between every customer
- Check and Trace measures
- Contactless card payments where possible
- Regular cleaning of all touch points
- Windows and doors open
- Masks and face shield worn at all time
- Distancing stickers on floors
- Constant monitoring and application of restrictions regarding numbers/households.
- Regular risk assessments and recordings
- Covid safe training undertaken by Nancy, Tina and Claire
- Regular attendance of Wokingham BC hospitality meetings.
These measures were challenging for customers, volunteers and staff alike but despite this we managed to maintain a safe and welcoming atmosphere and were delighted with how busy we were.
We are so grateful to Emily, Emily and Ann who gave up their time to help and support us with the café. We couldn’t have opened without their hard work and commitment.
We are really looking forward to reopening in the coming months and returning to serving lunches and snacks.
I have again assisted in the writing of the Intergenerational section of Bible Month which this year is around the Gospel of Mark.
I wrote some reflection for advent which were shared via the Methodist 3generate children’s app.
I am working on the 3Generate conference which will be held in Birmingham at the end of October.
We wrote and sent Easter and Christmas cards to many of our church community and more recently our Lent booklets.
I called people to check in.
We have held weekly zoom coffee morning for those wishing to join.
I have kept our Facebook and twitter pages up to date.
I have taken part in Sunday worship.
I have undertaken lots of online training both nationally and locally.
I have worked with the Open the Book team to record some Harvest and Christmas stories which were distributed to the local primary schools.
I have worked with John Tomlinson and Ian Cole to implement risk assessments to ensure our premises are adhering to all the required standards of safety during the pandemic and that all control measures and protective equipment are in place. I would like to thank them for their support and guidance.
The last year has been undoubtedly the most challenging year in my role. I have been overwhelmed by the support of colleagues and volunteers and the whole church community.
Tina, Nancy and I have been furloughed for a lot of the time which has meant we have been available for less time.
I would love to resume most of our regular activities in the coming months, but I am also aware that the last year has provided an ideal opportunity to reflect and discern what God is saying to us and how he would like us to share his love and ministry.
It would be wrong to just go back to how we were before. My intention is to prayerfully and carefully consider how we use what we have learnt to take us into the future. Not everything will look the same and not everything will resume instantly.