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 (April 2020)
I am delighted to be able to commend to you our Annual Report as ever, it reflects the wide range of activities that we are engaged in as the Christian Community of Faith here in this place and the many opportunities we have for sharing God's love.
As ever, I am delighted to commend our Annual Report to you [most of which appears in the various pages of this website]. As you read it through, I hope that you are struck, as I am, by the breadth and variety of work we are involved in as a church community and at the number of individuals involved in this work. As a church family we remain grateful for all the people who make their contribution to enable our church to thrive. We have people ably using their gifts to look after our finances and to ensure that our buildings remain safe and attractive for use. Others use their gifts to enable our faith to grow, through prayer, pastoral care, Bible studies and worship opportunities. Other are working in our café providing a warm welcome to our customers. Others keep the smaller groups within our church going and promote the work of Methodist charities. We are all working together to enable our church to be the living, thriving and growing place that it is. We are each playing a small part which contributes to a much bigger whole – like the way in which small, individual pieces or tiles can each contribute to the larger picture of a mosaic design.
For one of the highlights of this past year has to be the long-awaited unveiling of our fish mosaic. Back in July it was a wonderful day when we gathered together with representatives from the town, former church members and other special guests to celebrate this wonderful achievement. It was good to sing and pray together in the brand-new Peach Place as we saw our completed mosaic for the first time. It truly is a magnificent work of art, and we must continue to celebrate and make the most of our new prominence in the Town Centre.
Of course, at the time of writing, our Church buildings are closed because of the corona virus. But our church continues to be open, living and thriving as we are finding new ways of keeping our community alive. I look forward to the time when we can gather in our building again, but until then much of what makes us church and what is recorded in this report can continue – albeit in a different way.
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 2020)
The Alzheimer’s Café is still a much needed outreach activity. We consistently see between 30 and 40 people including those living with dementia, and their carers whether paid or family members.
The group continues to run fortnightly on a Wednesday from 2-4pm. We have shown some films, played musical bingo and had a sing along.
We enjoyed a lovely Christmas Party which we shared with the Carers Hub with singing and entertainment provided by ‘The Tuesday Girls’, catering by ‘The Food Fairy’ and handmade fudge by ‘Victoria’s Sponge and More’ distributed by Santa himself! All assisted by our ‘elves’ from Rose Buddies.
We have a few members who have gone into care or sadly passed away so the dynamics of the group have changed.
The LINK Visiting scheme are now holding their ‘Next Steps’ sessions on a Wednesday followed by lunch and this has led to few new people staying for the café. This is a great partnership. They are also bringing some of their clients to Little Fishes once a month as part of their ‘Friends for Ages’ scheme bringing old and young together.
Alzheimer’s Carers’ Group
The Alzheimer’s Carers Group has been meeting fortnightly but it was proving to be a big commitment for those attending. We decided to meet monthly from January. We still offer lunch at 12pm followed by either a group discussion, exercise run by places leisure or cooking.
Mince Pie Giveaway
We gave away 600 mince pies again this year. Unfortunately after several years of sponsorship, Clifton Ingram are no longer supporting us. We started the giveaway at 7am and had run out by 8am. The mince pies were wrapped the day before by volunteers from Rose Buddies as well as a fab team of our members. This year we used biodegradable polybags to ensure we were environmentally friendly.
The Hot Cross bun giveaway did not take place in 2019 as it took place during the Easter holidays however Rosi and a team of Stewards have agreed to undertake the 2020 giveaway with my support. This will take place on Thursday 9th April.
Jesus Crew still runs on 1st, 4th and sometimes 5th Sundays during term time. We have a small team of volunteers but just about manage to cover our dates. We are now using ‘ROOTS’ material and using the lectionary. This means that families can carry on their discussions at home. We now need to ensure that under 5s who come through to Jesus Crew are accompanied by an adult as there are only two leaders and often it can become difficult to manage very young children and keep the older children engaged.
2019 Holiday Club was ‘Team Builders’ and focused on the children being on God’s team! 42 children attended and enjoyed cooking, crafts. Singing, dancing and games. Again the volunteers were amazing and their commitment and hard work ensured that the children all had a brilliant week. We were also delighted with the number of young helpers who came along.
Plans are already underway for our 2020 Holiday Club ‘Wonder Zone’ but we will be holding it over three days rather than 5 from 28th-30th July. Booking forms will be available from May.
Craft @ 4
Craft @ 4 still takes place on the second Sunday of every month, we have enjoyed the time of making things whilst learning about a bible story and praying as well as a nice tea. One of the biggest hits was Fish Finger Sandwiches! We have had various themes from Fish to love to autumn and nature. Everyone is welcome to come along and join in this relaxed time of fellowship.
All Age Worship
All Age Worship continues to be a good way of engaging people of all ages and backgrounds. There is something for everyone and a lot can be learnt from each other during some different forms of worship.
The night shelter has run from 1st January until 29th February. Churches involved were Kings, Corpus Christi, Salvation Army, All Saints, Norreys, Wokingham Baptist Church and of course ourselves. The shelter has not been without its challenges, but all of the guests (between 2 and 8) we have welcomed have benefitted from warmth, shelter and hot meals. I am so blessed to have had so much support in resourcing the shelter in terms of equipment, clothes and food and also time given to man it. I am especially grateful to Christ Church for all of their support and time. They have been amazing and we have benefitted from spending time with them and sharing the experience with them. A review meeting is due in the next few weeks to feedback and discern whether we continue the shelter next winter. I have enjoyed the relationships I have formed with people from other churches in the town in undertaking this valuable work.
I am blessed to work with such a fantastic team in the Café, we have overcome the challenges we have faced in recent months and years but we have grown in strength. The café has now grown to include Little Fishes which takes place on Tuesday and Friday mornings in the hall. This has attracted a number of new families on a regular basis who enjoy the atmosphere, welcome and freedom that the space gives them. The parents have commented that there is nowhere else like it in the town. We have developed our snack menu to include children’s snacks and this have been very popular. See Tina’s report for more on the Café.
Open the Book is still running well, I am overseeing the Wokingham teams but they are self-sufficient. We currently go into Westende, Emmbrook Junior School, Bearwood School and The Hawthorns. Volunteers come from different churches across the town and everyone finds the assemblies fun and well received. It is likely that the Bible Society will soon require teams to undertake training.
I completed my Level 4 Certificate in Family Ministry. I would like to consider ways to take this work forward and further develop myself in the coming year.
I have been written the intergenerational section for this year’s Bible Month material which studies the book of Ruth. This is available as a resource online and in print via BRF. I will be working as part of a larger team over the coming months to develop material for next year’s bible month which focuses on the book of ‘Mark’.
I have been privileged to be asked to review and assist Gail Adcock, Connexional Family Ministry Advisor with her new book ‘The Essential Guide to Family Ministry’ and I was invited to attend her book launch in Central London.
Gail has also asked me to be involved in a piece of work for 3generate, the conference for young people which takes place in November in the hope that whole families may want to participate in the event and that we can work towards supporting them.
WDAA (Wokingham Dementia Action Alliance) meets monthly in the centre and we are working towards sharing our work in the wider community to make Wokingham Borough more dementia friendly.
2019 saw the installation of our beautiful mosaic and since then, the centre has been a more stable and accessible place. As a church we undertake a vast array or outreach work and make a valuable contribution to our community. Many people from other organisations comment to me how unique our church centre is and how warm and friendly it is.
Some of the work we undertake is jolly challenging, but without the love, prayer and support of our Church family, we would not be able to make such a difference to people’s lives in our town. Many people speak to me about how many things I am involved in, but I cannot undertake this role on my own and I am grateful for such a knowledgeable, committed and hard-working team of volunteers who support the mission work we do both within our building and outside.