Foodbank

Good Friday

There is a different format to our Churches Together activities this Good Friday.

 We’ll meet at St Mark’s Church at 10am as we have in years gone by, but rather than the ‘walk of witness’ and gathering in the Swan, there will be reflections taking place at 6 stations at different points in the High Street.

 Different Cafés and shops have agreed to put up posters in their window during Holy Week, depicting some of the themes of Good Friday – Fear, Betrayal, Forgiveness, Hope, etc. Groups will gather at these points to distribute Hot Cross Buns to the public, but also partake in a reflection around the theme that is at their venue. This will then be followed by a service at St Francis, with Children’s Activities in the church hall.

 The more people who opt to support this event, the more effective it will be, so we hope you can join us on this day which lies at the heart of our faith. 

Churcher Family Farewell

Hopefully, you have all registered the fact that Peter’s last working day in the parish is on Easter Sunday.

 To give him and the family the send-off they deserve, we’ll be having a big tea and cake party immediately following the service on that day. We recognise that Easter will mean commitments for many of you, so we will bring the shedding of tears to an end in plenty of time for you to make it to any lunch engagements.

 That’s about all we can give away publicly (wink, wink), but it’s also worth reminding you of the date of Peter’s installation at his new job in Ilfracombe – 13 May, 7pm. If you were thinking of making the trip, or hoping to but weren’t sure how you might get there, please can you let Jon know so we can think about travel arrangements.

Maundy Thursday

In a change from our usual Maundy Thursday activity, both Coney Hill Baptist Church and St John’s have been invited by West Wickham & Shirley Baptist to join them to see the Riding Lights Theatre Company present ‘The Narrow Road’.

 If you haven’t seen any of the Riding Lights productions you are missing out. They are one of the UK’s most successful independent theatre companies, with international renown. Amazingly, we’re being offered tickets for free, so if you’d like to come please can you sign the sheet in the Information Point.

 As an alternative, there will still be a communion service taking place at St Francis at 7pm on Maundy Thursday evening, to which there is also an open invitation.

ChurchSuite

No, I’m afraid it’s not a new, fancy-shmancy room installation in the church. You may recall a while back we mentioned that we hoped to move to some cloud-based, church admin software. Churchsuite is that. In slightly less technical language, this is a computer/mobile phone based system that we hope will improve our church organisation and communication.

 The intention is to use it for things like rotas, calendars, contact details and organisational communication. Further down the road, it has the capacity to be used for event bookings, payments, training modules and targeted emails. We’re all signed up and most of the database has been populated, but at this point we might need this from you:

i)      If you suspect the email address we hold is out of date – your latest contact email;

ii)    Without a GDPR Consent form for us, we can’t include you on the system.

 Please send either/both to Margaret at the Parish Office and we will shortly let you know what the next steps are for getting the system up and running.

NB The photos of the crocuses above and snowdrops and crocuses below were taken in St John’s churchyard on 14th February. They can be seen in the top part of the churchyard. A stroll up there to see them will lift your spirits.

Snowdrops & Crocuses in St John's Churchyard.jpg

Crocuses and snowdrops in St John’s Churchyard.

Electoral Roll Fun

You’re right – they’re probably not three words that you readily sandwich together. But we’ve reached that point in the administrative cycle when  we have to create a completely new Electoral Roll. The fun part is that everyone gets to join in – yay! No matter how many years we have been on the old roll, we all have to submit a fresh application form to appear on the new roll, so please take an application form and fill it in today (preferably), or return it the next time you come to church. Alternatively, you can give it to Paul Kingman, Jackie Barter or Geoff Batten, our three Electoral Roll Officers.

 If you are not already on the Electoral Roll, please consider adding your name. You must be baptized, at least 16 years of age (or sixteen on your next birthday), and live in the parish, or have worshipped at St. John's for at least six months.   Membership indicates you view St. John's as your spiritual home and you'd like to be involved in the shaping of our future. It gives you the right to vote at our APCM on April 28th, or to stand for election to the PCC.

Discerning our Gifts

This is the next subject in our ‘Gifts’ series that Dan will be speaking about on Sunday.

 In the coming weeks, we’ll be suggesting a few different tools that are available to help us work out together what our respective gifts might be. We are also giving thought to a ‘personality test’ that we could do as a whole church – to help us get to know one another better, and understand how we each might exercise our gifts. So watch this space…

 Another aspect of this whole arena is the idea of ‘calling’. Exploring vocation often takes time and space, and so the Diocese offer regular Quiet Days to facilitate this. The next one is on 8 February, 10:00am-3:30pm. It offers a mixture of short talks, reflections, prayer and plenty of room for personal prayer and reflection on the ways in which God might be calling. If you are interested please let Jon know.

New Sermon Series: "Gifts"

Back in November, we met in the Assembly Rooms and discussed ways we might come to a clearer understanding of what our individual/joint strengths and gifts might be.

 Part of the fruit of those discussions is this new series, which we will be running up to Lent. It will start by drawing us right back to our purpose/vocation as humans, but will consider how we discern, exercise and grow our gifts, and reflect on the relationship between ‘spiritual’ and ‘natural’ gifts. Through the series we will also offer different tools to help people gain a clearer insight into their gifting.

 On 24 March, we’ll get back together in the Assembly Rooms with a view to re-invigorating some of our Teams, and thinking how we can give expression to our gifts for God’s kingdom. 

New Alpha Course

Our 2019 Alpha Course starts on Thursday 24 January, 7:45 pm at SJ’s.

 

We’ve already had three people from the community sign up on the back of our Christmas Services, so we’re encouraging you all to extend an invitation to the people you know. There will be some postcard invites available next week, but you don’t need one of those to make a good, old fashioned face to face offer to someone who may be interested.

 

You can point them to our website for further details about the course. But as usual, we will  provide a meal, there will be a short video clip, and the opportunity to knock around questions on the subject matter of that evening.

 

Make it one of your 2019 resolutions to pray and ask someone!

Merry Christmas & a Joy-Filled New Year

This is a 2 week edition of our News Sheet, so you might be reading this waiting for the cork to pop on the imminent Christmas celebrations, or the festive frenzy has passed and you’re picking yourself up for the arrival of 2019.

 Either way, I hope there is opportunity to breathe deeply and take a moment to reflect and give thanks. 2018 might not have taken shape as you hoped, but the Christmas narrative reminds us that amidst real pain and insecurity, God continues to sprinkle reminders of his presence and promises to us. As we pull together the aspects of our Advent series, I hope you experience the faith, hope, joy, and peace that are found in Christ with us. God Bless.

Christmas Connections

In the next couple of weeks we will host more people from our community than at any other single point in the year – with possibly over a thousand visitors coming through our doors.

 That’s both a great privilege and responsibility.

 I’m guessing you’re not surprised to receive a plea from your vicar to pray about all these ‘hospitality moments’, but I’m going to get specific and ask you to send up a prayer every time you do something ‘Christmassy’ – eat a mince pie, wrap a present, listen to a festive tune, hang a bauble…

 It would be a true Christmas blessing if all the people who were joining us made a connection not just with St John’s, but with the Christ we worship. Amen. 

Remembrance Sunday

This year, Remembrance Sunday falls exactly 100 years after the signing of the armistice at the end of the immense suffering of WW1. In a time when the act of remembrance can stir mixed opinion, it is important that we are clear about the nature of what’s going on.

 I turn to one of Bishops (Richard Kensington) for a lead on at least 3 things that we are doing:

i)        Taking time to remember properly the suffering and tragedy of human conflict, and the sacrifice of so many people who gave their lives to build a better world;

ii)                   Reflecting deeply on the causes and condition of our human situation;

iii)                 Renew our commitment to strive for a world of peace and justice.

Pathways to Independence UK

The above is a Community Interest Company providing housing and support to Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASC). It is looking for support from local people.

 When children arrive in the UK, they will receive support from social services as a looked after child, providing them with accommodation and subsistence support. This is where Pathways to Independence UK comes in as they provide specialist support, accommodation, information and training for 60 young people in Brighton, Redhill and Croydon.  In order for these young people to succeed, community support is vital and in addition to practical items, such as fleece blankets, night lights, hats and gloves, they would also welcome gifts in kind.

 Please see the attached information sheet about the support that is needed and ways we can help, as well as information about a volunteer role to join their new Connect project.

Who is God?

It may seem like a daft question to ask, especially in church where surely we all know the answer is a five letter word beginning with ‘J’.

But that’s part of the problem. In church particularly, we can act like the English word ‘God’ puts us all on the same part of the map. It certainly doesn’t anymore, and arguably never did.

This week we are starting a new Sermon Series with that very title – ‘Who is God?’. We’re going to reach right back into the Old Testament to trace the answer. We’ll explore the nature of God’s fundamental character to unearth what God has to say about what he is really like. You might be surprised at what we discover. It might just shift the way you understand this person we call God, and who knows where that might lead…

Volunteer Evening

If you help in any way with our work with children or young people, then our new Families’ Worker, Amber, would like to invite you to a get together. Even if you’re not yet involved, but think that it might be something you’re interested in, then come along.

The evening will be a chance for Amber to hear from you all, an opportunity to introduce herself in more depth, as well as some space for her to outline some of the things that she anticipates she will be getting her teeth into in these early days.

Time & Venue: SJ’s, 7:30pm on Monday 17th September.

If you would like more information, then contact Amber on 07988 082 267.

Fruits of the Spirit - Joy

We continue our Summer Series exploring the fruits of the Spirit, and this week we focus our attention on ‘joy’. People don’t often employ that three letter word, but the search for happiness is something that most people understand. A lot of us run after it…chasing the things we imagine will bring it…not always finding it.  We’re going to look at what Jesus has to say about the matter. But in the hunt for joy, it’s worth starting with this realisation:

“The greatest moment of your life is now. Not because it's pleasant or happy or easy, but because this moment is the only moment you've got. Every past moment is irretrievably gone. It's never coming back. If you live there, you lose your life. And the future is always out there somewhere. You can spend an eternity waiting for tomorrow, or worrying about tomorrow. If you live there, you likewise will lose your life.

This moment is God's irreplaceable gift to you.”

The Happiness Course

Wellbeing is a concept that is in vogue at the moment, not least of all because contentment appears to be increasingly elusive for people.

‘The Happiness Course’ hasn’t simply jumped onto the latest social trend though. It is a course designed by the Christian charity, Livability, who have been working in some of the country’s most deprived areas for a long time. Forged out of their engagement with local communities, the course encourages people to grapple with what’s really important in life to help them discover a sense of wellbeing that is deeper than a fleeting good mood.

Dawn and Penny have been on training with Livability and would like to ‘test drive’ the course with you. The plan is to run it at SJ's, 7:30-9:30 pm (coffee from 7:15 pm) on the following Thursday Evenings – 19 & 26 July, 2 & 9 August. You don’t need to attend all 4 sessions on this taster series, but if you are interested please ring or text - Penny (07912 870528) or Dawn (07985 943158).

 

Commissioning Amber

Amber will soon be starting her new role as our Young People & Families’ Enabler – yay!

She begins on 1 August, but before then we’d like to officially mark her taking up of this post in a 10am service. So, next weekend (15 July), we are going to dedicate part of time together to just that. We’ll have a chat with her, refresh our memories of the role she will be playing, and most importantly pray for her - that God’s Spirit will equip her for all that lies ahead.

It would be great to have as many of you there as possible to cheer her on and lend your support. If you can’t make it, please continue to hold Amber in your prayers. Starting in a fresh post is exciting, but it’s also draining adjusting to lots of ‘new’ things.

 

Sprung

Even if you’re not one of the lucky ones who will soon be wrestling canvas and tent poles, I hope that you are aware that our home-grown Summer Camp takes place next Friday at Downe Activity Centre.

I appreciate that if you don’t have kids going, or you’re not part of the organisational team, then it might feel hard to get too excited by it all. However, I’d encourage you to try and see it as something of real spiritual significance. These camps are more than just great fun. They often represent times when our young people take real strides in their faith, or when those on the edge of church life make a commitment to Christ. The value of those sort of things cannot be quantified, but they will only happen if the church family rallies in prayer.

So whether or not you’re going to be at Downe next weekend, you can be involved in the crucial work of praying your socks off. Pray for the leaders, the young people, our guest speakers (Anna and Josh), and most significantly that God’s Spirit would be at work in the thick of all the activity, drawing new followers to his side.

Happy Father's Day

One of my favourite stories that Jesus tells is the parable of the Prodigal Son. You’re likely to be familiar with it – it’s one of his better known yarns. I love it because for a long time I could identify with the younger son’s waywardness and his disbelief at the reaction he receives when he sheepishly returns home. As I’ve got older, and my children move into their teen years, my love for the story has not waned, but my focus has shifted more to the Father.

Which I think is probably the point!

Tim Keller, in his book, the Prodigal God reminds us that “prodigal” does not mean “wayward”, but “recklessly spendthrift” – to spend until you have nothing left. This is as appropriate for describing the Father, as it is his youngest son.  He welcomes his son back recklessly, not holding anything against him.

It challenges me as I recognise my own shortcomings as a Dad. But equally encourages me as Jesus told the story so that we might recognise the true nature of our heavenly Father. Happy Father’s Day.

Wardy Summer Garden Party

Hopefully you’ve already got the date in the diary, but here are some more details. The get together will be on 10 June from 3pm, at the Rectory (30 Coney Hill Road).

For those of you who are newer to the church, it’s an open invitation - all are welcome. Feel free to bring family and friends, and you can come and go as you please through the afternoon. We’ll provide a selection of drinks, including Pimms and afternoon tea, as well as some nibbles. However, it’s as a ‘bring and share’ occasion, so if you could come with anything suitable for an afternoon feast - cakes, sandwiches or savoury nibbles - that would be great.

If you are in it for the long haul, you might want to bring something to sit on. We’ve got a few things to keep littlies amused, but no doubt sugar levels will be high, so don’t hesitate to arrive armed with your distraction tool of choice.

We look forward to seeing you.