Weekly Pastoral Letter - 27 August 2021

From Claire Knight, Church & Community Outreach Team Leader

Dear All,

As August draws to a close and September looms, I am filled with mixed emotions.

When I come back from my summer break on 7th September, I will be returning to full time working hours following over a year on full or part furlough!

I am overwhelmed with the idea of recommencing lunches and full weeks in the café, restarting the Alzheimer’s Café and Little Fishes and starting some new activities like ‘Fresh Start’ our new breakfast church on 11th September to name but a few.

I am however very excited and optimistic at the thought of the new activities and people we will be able to reach out to following such a long break.  Things have changed in many ways and I expect we too as individuals feel a little different following the last 18 months but we can still be there to show God’s love and hospitality those who we meet within our church and the wider community.

‘Fresh Start’ is an example of something we are doing to welcome everyone from passers-by to those with strong life-long faith to share stories, spirituality and friendships.  After breakfast including ‘Muffin of the Month’ we will be following a bible story and will have different areas for people to join depending on how they are feeling or where they are on their faith journey.  These might be a bible study, some creative writing or a craft or just a quiet time of prayer.  The most important thing is that everyone feels at ease and comfortable no matter where they are on their faith journey and that they feel safe and welcome and able to ask questions without embarrassment or judgement.  Most of all ‘Fresh Start’ will be good fun for everyone. It will be for individuals or entire families and will be a truly intergenerational experience.

If you would like to join us or even invite other people who would like a fun Saturday morning, we will be meeting in the Café every second Saturday Monthly from 9-10.30am.

If you would like to know more about any of our activities or feel called to help in any way then please do get in touch.

I look forward to seeing everyone in September!

Claire Knight

Weekly Pastoral Letter - 20 August 2021

From Christine Morgan, Church Steward

Dear Friends,

‘Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life’ Pablo Picasso is reported to have said.

Much of my time in Lockdown has been spent sketching, painting and working with clay.  I have also enjoyed knitting, reading and working in my garden.  All of these activities have given me time to think and recreate.  They are activities that ‘reboot my being’ and are an important part of making me who I am.  We have been made by a Creator God who delights in his creation and therefore in all that we are able to create to bring joy to others as well as ourselves.

Maybe you watched Grayson Perry’s Art Club during Lockdown.  Each week we were encouraged to create work on a particular theme.  In the programme Grayson spoke with people about their work.  What came across strongly each week was that anyone can be creative; it is the journey and the reason for the making that is important.  If it allows the maker to express how they feel or what is important to them it is art.

In my mind ‘Art’ is the umbrella under which all creative activities sit.  Whether dance, quilting or calligraphy, model making, flower arranging or sugar icing, art is the activity of allowing the creator to express something of who they are and how they feel.

In our monthly Creative Spirit mornings we have an opportunity to explore our creativity and how it relates to God’s world as a worship-full process.  We have a lot of fun, learn new skills and enjoy conversation in the process.  Why not join us and share your stories with us?  The first Creative Spirit takes place on Wednesday 1st September – we hope to see you there.

We look forward to Catherine leading our worship on Sunday.  The lectionary New Testament reading is John 6:56-69.  Jesus continues to explore the difficult questions posed in last week’s readings.  The passage helps us to see that we can follow Jesus without necessarily having all the answers.  As we worship and meet together we can listen and learn from each other about our journeys with Jesus and maybe help to answer some of the questions we have.

Best wishes

Christine

Weekly Pastoral Letter - 13 August 2021

From Revd Catherine Bowstead

Dear Friends,

I hope that you’re having a good week.

It’s wonderful that more of our regular congregation are returning to worshipping in our building each Sunday morning and it is so good to be able to worship together.  Many people have mentioned to me how much they have appreciated our recorded services, and several have noted that listening and worshipping quietly at home has enabled them to focus and concentrate in a way that is easier than when we are all worshipping together.  But I think that people are really enjoying catching up with their friends, worshipping with others and particularly enjoying being able to sing again.

Singing is such an important part of our church community life that it’s been a great deprivation for us to be forbidden from singing together for so long.  But now we can sing again!  You will remember that during my Sabbatical a few years ago that I focussed on singing.  I was particularly influenced by John Bell’s book The Singing Thing: A Case for Congregational Song.  One of his many observations is that our faith is influenced more by what we sing than by sermons, prayers, or any other element of our worship.  This is because the poetry and music make things easier to remember, so we are far more likely to retain and remember the words and tunes of hymns and songs than anything else.  I am sure that you can remember the hymns and songs that you sang as a child.  You will, no doubt, have favourite hymns that mean a lot to you. These hymns will have helped to shape your faith and will reveal what is important to you about your faith.

I came across an idea recently that suggested that the spiritual health of a church congregation could be measured by the quality of its communal singing – I wonder how we might measure up?  I hope that over the next few weeks and months that we will have a new appreciation of singing as we gather again.  And I hope that we will put energy and enthusiasm into our singing as we worship together.  Maybe your favourite hymn will be sung in the next few months – why not drop me a line to tell me why your favourite hymn is so special to you.

Peter Whalley is leading our service this Sunday, taking the theme of “Wisdom – being in Christ”, he is using the Bible readings, John 6:51-58 and Ephesians 5:15-20.  You might like to read these Bible passages before Sunday and reflect on them.

With every blessing
Catherine

Weekly Pastoral Letter - 6 August 2021

From Chris Rooke-Matthews, Church Steward

Dear Friends,

It’s been wonderful to see more people venturing back into our buildings, whether it’s to meet up in the café, or to see how Sunday worship is evolving.  We’re grateful for all the hard work behind the scenes to enable worship to take place. Gradually we are finding ways to offer more activities, and welcoming more groups back to use our premises.  The AV team has had to adapt to the demands of providing not only words and pictures, but music to accompany the hymns, and working with the sound team to capture the service so that it can be added to the website.

Our service this Sunday will be led by Catherine.  The readings are taken from 1 Kings 19: 3-8 and John 6: 35, 41-51, exploring the theme of ‘Living Bread’.  You may find it helpful to look at these before the service.

Some of you may remember that last September I took on the challenge of visiting eight local churches, as part of the Ride and Stride event organised by Berkshire Historic Churches Trust.  Thinking back to that day I remember it was pleasantly warm and sunny - perfect for exploring the area.  Sadly, few of the churches were open, although some had provided a signing in sheet at their entrance, but the few people I did meet were friendly and welcoming.  I enjoyed the opportunity to do something different - a walk with a purpose.  I had some very generous sponsorship from church members, which was shared equally between the BHCT and our own church.

Unbelievably, we’re now starting to plan for this year’s Ride and Stride which will take place on Saturday 11th September! I wonder if you would consider taking part in some way this year?  This could be taking on the challenge of visiting churches – you choose the mode of travel, the area you cover, and how many churches you visit on the day, between 10am and 6pm.  Or perhaps you could help to welcome visitors to our own church for a couple of hours, to sign their record sheet, and have a chat with them.  Alternatively, if we have any participants doing the riding or striding, I’m sure they would be grateful for offers of sponsorship.  If you’d like to know more, or offer help, please contact me.

With every blessing,

Chris Rooke-Matthews