Category: News

Mindfulness

As another year unfolds with so much to think about have you considered becoming more mindful? Research has shown that mindfulness can help with anxiety, stress, low mood and sleep disruption. Mindfulness also helps us become more aware of ourselves and our self-destructive habits.

Lead by Simon Monk and Pauline Godfrey the next Everyday Mindfulness course is for anyone in Christian ministry and will be on Zoom.

The course will teach you a number of practices which you can try at home. For example we will be paying attention to our breathing and noticing the thoughts that come to mind while we do that. The aim is to become more aware of our thoughts, feelings and sensations at any moment in order to be present to ourselves, to what we are doing and to what is going on around us. It sounds simple, but they aren’t called ‘practices’ for nothing!

To book your place please click here.

Weekly News 22 April

Allelujah, Christ is risen! He is risen indeed, Allelujah!

I hope that you managed to get some time to enjoy the sunshine and this wonderful place in which we live over the Easter holiday? 

We had a lovely few days off, catching up with old friends and family and enjoying the garden and this place.

I feel refreshed and ready to continue to navigate how we open up again, continuing to listen to God, to seek wisdom about what to pick up again and what not to so that we can all grow as disciples of Christ and live life in all its fullness.

A huge encouragement in that was our 24/7 prayer during Holy Week. I have heard many stories of encounters with God, of pictures overwhelmingly speaking of light in the darkness and celebration and a renewed sense of togetherness, that we are so much more than our individual parts; and at the same time, the depth of individual relationships with God bringing life to the whole. Please do add your experiences into the rich tapestry of what God seems to be saying to us, the church, at this time.

Our buildings are gradually opening up, and we have a pared-down pattern of services to take us through this time while restrictions are still in place. These can be found on our website, and please take the opportunity to go and worship with others you may not normally have the opportunity to. There will always be a Wednesday and Sunday Communion service through this time, and all our services are open to everyone.

If you don’t feel ready to venture out yet, our online services continue, followed by virtual coffee at 11am. This Sunday Simon will be encouraging us to fan the flames of resurrection in our communities. 

On our Services page, you can also find Morning Prayer every day, led by a diverse group of people bringing different voices and styles, all accompanied by beautiful images of our area created by Neal and Krisin Kemsley. I love the knowledge that I am praying with you each day. Why not join us sometime?

Our Joint PCCs and Team Council met on Tuesday evening for another robust discussion about the third paid post in our Team, and voted overwhelmingly to take the proposal of a Lay Post to oversee the operations of, and develop teams within our Team. This will now be considered by the Diocesan Mission and Pastoral Group in May. Please pray that God’s will be done.

As ever, we love to hear from you, so please do get in touch with me, Simon or Helen, or any of the rest of our team if you have any encouragements, questions or concerns.

May God bless you and keep you, make his face to shine upon you and give you life in all its fullness.

Weekly News 1 April

There is most definitely something deeply profound about this Holy Week.
As we walk with Jesus towards the cross, we carry our own isolation, letting go of plans and certainties, our own grief and loss.
And yet, we know the end of the story… and even now we anticipate resurrection and life! Meeting friends in gardens, then next week sunshine in pub gardens, all set amongst greening trees and an ever wider variety of flowers… 

And amongst all of that we have been praying, without ceasing, 24 hours a day for all of this week. Praying for healing for all that has been, and hope for all that is to come. And as we have been praying, God has been on the move! Thank you to those of you who have added your words, pictures and visions to the virtual prayer board, or on emails, or phone calls or conversations. Please do keep feeding all of that into the picture that is building. And be encouraged. By far and away the predominant images are of celebration, of light bursting through the darkness, of unity and renewed hope and strength. If you haven’t already, do go to our website to get involved.

As well as the physical spaces that are open through the next few days, we will also have an online Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Day service which you can find on our website.

We will be taking some Easter holiday over the next couple of weeks, but one of us will always be around for you. However, there won’t be a weekly email.

With the latest lifting of restrictions, we will be having more in-person services from next week, and we will keep you updated via the website. Likewise, other ministries will be starting again, not least amongst families seeking Christenings and Weddings, as well as our ongoing ministry to Funeral families. We have and are developing, Baptism, Wedding and Funeral Teams as part of this amazing outreach. If you would like to find out about getting involved in any of those, please do get in touch.

As part of that, we are reviewing our online presence. Sadly, we recognise that there is not sufficient buy-in from our worshipping communities to continue the level of investment required to put these services together beyond June. This has been a wonderful outreach, and we hope that you will find new ways to reach out to our communities. 

Back in 2019 it became apparent that we were not complying with the law in all kinds of ways, particularly around safeguarding and GDPR, and we needed some good, robust systems in place to help us to minister effectively and efficiently. We were thrilled when Fiona, with all her experience and skills, agreed to come and work for us for six months to help us get some systems up and running. Well, here we are 18 months later, and Fiona is still with us! However, the time really has come that she wants to move onto her next challenge, so she will be stopping as our acting Team Manager in June. I am sure many of you have experienced her kind, competent care over those 18 months, and that you will express your appreciation.

In family news, whilst Simon is continuing to heal and regain his strength, he is also showing signs of Long Covid. Please continue to pray for him and all the Howell family.

Anna, our eldest, had kidney surgery yesterday and has not responded well. She is still in hospital, and we would also value your prayers.

I have found this, shared by Judy Howard, enormously helpful through this Lent, so share it with you for these last days of Holy Week;

‘Repent does not mean to feel guilty and become cringingly submissive, but to have the strength and determination to change your mind. Metanoia.’

I pray that we will have the courage to change our minds, that they may be conformed to the mind of Christ this Easter.

Have a wonderful, joyous Easter, as we experience resurrection and new life in many profound ways this year.

Weekly News 25 March

We come this Sunday to the beginning of Holy Week, a time when we’re reminded of God’s amazing love; that he chose to pour out his life so the whole world and each precious human being can be reconciled to him and know his love and healing. We are also reminded that within this is the call to draw close to Jesus and to follow him.

One way that we can do that next week is through joining in the rhythm of the 24/7 week of prayer, with its focus on healing and hope. There are lots of ways of doing that which you can find out about here. As well as showing the times when our various churches are open for prayer and when virtual gatherings are taking place, there are ideas for prayer for each day, daily meditations and a link to the 24/7 prayer toolshed with introductions and guides to help us engage with different forms of prayer. It’s not too late to commit to a particular hour or more by signing up via this link. Additionally, Kate will be leading online morning prayer that you will be able to access each day here.

All our churches will be open for a celebration of Easter on Easter day, when you can come for a short time or an hour to hear Easter music, readings and prayers and take the opportunity to receive the consecrated bread of communion: Uplands, St Laurence’s, St Matthew’s and Whiteshill from 9.30 am and Slad, Holy Trinity, Paganhill and Randwick from 11 am. 

This Sunday in our online service for Palm Sunday we’ll be taking a look at Jesus’ expectations and others expectations of Jesus as he reached that pivotal moment in his final journey to Jerusalem and are invited to think about our expectations. If you can, do join in here. Afterwards, from 11am, there’s chance to share our thoughts and news by clicking on the purple ‘chat’ button below. This week the hymns for the service come from members of our local worshipping communities.

Thank you to everyone who has contributed money to buy Easter eggs as part of the Easter Comfort and Joy project. We will be giving them, on behalf of us all, with the frozen meals, hot cross buns and an Easter card this coming week to families who are going through hard times. 

May you have a blessed Holy Week. Please get in touch if you’d like prayer or to ask anything.

A vision for the Third Post here at SPC

We have been seeking God and carefully considering the shape of our third post in the Team, and are now at a stage where there is enough clarity to share with you. This proposal takes seriously the challenges and opportunities we face, and tries to think creatively, sustainably and in a way that allows as much fruitfulness as possible. We are committed to caring for those within our congregations, those within our communities, our schools, those who are seeking, mourning and celebrating. We are committed to working collaboratively with other organisations working to bring transformation in people’s lives, and for our environment. 

We are also listening to the concerns of parishes that are not managing to meet their parish share, and we are aware that giving has reduced significantly through the pandemic. There is a lot to consider, particularly given the biblical call of the church to live, breath and act for the benefit of its non-members.

In our vision of who we are as the Stroud Team, the image of the vine from John 15 has been and continues to be very important.

This time has been one of being stripped back and pruned in all kinds of ways, and as we know, that often leads to vigorous new growth, and this is what we are trusting God for. 

We also know that it is exactly at the time that we prune that we also need to tie into strong supports so that the growth will be protected and strengthened.

Our vine is made up of many unique and wonderfully called branches – not only the different buildings and communities but multiple worshipping communities within and around those, as well as our mission and ministry in schools, to families at significant times in their lives, in our hospital and nursing homes…
all of this makes for a large, beautiful and complex vine.

And this is where we have been trying to think creatively. 

From back in 2018 when Andrew Braddock did a review with us, the suggestion of a Team Manager has been part of our conversation. 

A helpful analogy might be a Surgery Manager at the Doctors, who fulfils the vital, pastoral, strategic and administrative tasks, which allows the Doctors to fulfil their call of caring for the sick.

In our context, a Team Manager would be a full-time Lay Minister, called and gifted to fulfil the vital, pastoral, strategic and administrative tasks that allow the Clergy to fulfil their call of proclaiming the Gospel afresh in this generation.

We have seen something of how fruitful this model could be through Fiona being with us as part-time acting Team Manager and her ministry of team building, strategic planning, pastoral care and prayer ministry as well as ensuring we have robust systems in safeguarding and other areas.

As we have been praying and discerning, a job description has evolved.
As you will see, this is a huge role and would provide significant ‘posts and wires’ to tie in and support our fruitful vine. 

Having a lay minister as a key member of the leadership team says something important about the value we place on everyone’s ministry, not just those who are ordained. This role would also, as in the Surgery Manager analogy, free up the clergy from administrative tasks so that they can invest more time and energy into mentoring, supporting and resourcing the mission and ministry of our laity. 

Again, going back to the image of the vine, when the clergy are freed up to mentor a lay leader, another branch can grow, and they can go on to mentor another, and more growth can happen. 

This is the opposite of the image of the laity being there to help the clergy in their mission and ministry, which will always be limited by definition because the focus is on the one.

In this model, the clergy are there to help the laity in their mission and ministry, which opens up so many more opportunities for growth, because you are the very best people to minister to those around you; you are the very best people to reach out to those in your workplace, your street, your family…

The experience of this last year has shaken up everything that we knew, and there are many voices across the church in this town, this nation and the world that are joining together; to take courage, to not fall back into life as normal, to see the new thing God is doing through this.

This does take courage, and we will make mistakes. It is a truly pioneering model we are proposing. But I also believe that it brings us closer to our calling, to present one another mature in Christ [Colossians 1:28]

We haven’t got to this place in a rush.

We want to hear your reflections; not those knee jerk, ‘what about me’ reactions that we humans naturally come to first, but those prayerful, challenging reflections that come as we think about the whole. As these questions arise, speak to Simon, Kate, Helen or Fiona and a variety of voices will respond to them and we will keep this conversation going, as you keep the conversation going. I pray that in all of our conversations we would seek first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness, knowing that then all these things will be given to us as well. [Matthew 6:33]

Weekly News 11 March

As the sun begins to shine, buds and flowers begin to peep through, our hope is beginning to rise too.

This week, we want to encourage you to take up some of the opportunities to engage with your faith that we are creating as we continue through Lent, into Holy Week, Easter and beyond.

This Sunday is Mothering Sunday, and we will be celebrating! Join us on the Services section of our website. I will be leading and preaching and members of All Saints, Uplands will be reading and praying. Remember to like and share with your friends and family – its a really easy way to reach out to others.

We are excited about what God will do through our town-wide Holy Week of 24/7 prayer. We are praying for healing for all that has been and hope for all that will be. A whole bunch of groups, churches and organisations are joining in and some amazing commitments have already been made. There will be a virtual prayer room, our buildings will be open at different times throughout the week, and there will be groups meeting virtually. There is, of course, our virtual prayer board and a wonderful, dedicated prayer team. We have added the opportunity for feedback on those prayers, and would also encourage you to add anything you have discerned through prayer to our prayer board – we want to be listening, expectantly, to God and treasuring what we hear. We are also compiling resources and ideas for you to use. If you have any of your own, please do send them through so that we can share them. You can sign up and find more information on our website.

As we get ready for our Easter celebrations in our church buildings, once again we are having to think about how we can do that as creatively and inclusively as possible. The format will be similar to Christmas, with readings, prayers, hymns and the opportunity to receive Communion on a drop-in basis. We are hoping that we will have Easter fires, gathering people in, and will be lighting our Easter candles with a particularly poignant longing for the hope of resurrection following the year we have had. Again, there is more information on our website, where you will also hear news as our different worshipping communities make decisions about when and how to restart live services as we move through April.

We are continuing to seek God about the shape of our third post in the Team. We are carefully considering the challenges and opportunities we face and trying to think creatively, sustainably and in a way that allows as much fruitfulness as possible. We are committed to caring for those within our congregations, those within our communities, our schools, those who are seeking, mourning and celebrating. We are committed to working collaboratively with other organisations working to bring transformation in people’s lives, and for our environment. There is a lot to consider, particularly given the biblical call of the church to live, breath and act for the benefit of its non-members.

 

Have a good look around, talk to friends and family about how you would like to engage with any or all of this, hold on in there and keep the faith.

Open at Easter

Our buildings will be open this Easter and you are welcome to drop in any time; stay for five minutes or rest for an hour, listen to the music, readings and prayers, receive Communion, focus on the light of the Easter Candle and the story beautifully told through the Easter garden.

Find a space to be, to hope, to pray, to reconnect with yourself, with others and with God as we emerge from this extraordinary time.

A week of 24-7 Prayer in April

We are really excited to be coming together with others from across the town to pray without ceasing throughout Holy Week. This will literally be from 12 midnight right at the beginning of Palm Sunday to 12 midnight right at the end of Easter Eve.

We are praying for God’s healing for all that has been, and that God would ignite fresh hope in us for all that will be.

This will be happening in peoples homes, as they walk, knit or sit. This will be happening in church buildings, open at different times as prayer spaces with visual focusses. This will be happening in a virtual prayer room where you can go with others or alone, and add to our virtual prayer board both the needs of the world and those things you are discerning as you listen and pray.

We are gathering ideas and resources to inspire you here and we will keep adding to this.

Do sign up, commit to pray and be expectant that we will see, and hear and sense God on the move in this place.

Sign up here.