Loving Our Neighbour
“’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind’… ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matt 22:37,39)
We have lots of exciting news!
As Mike shared a number of weeks ago God has been stirring us as a church to look outwards and serve His world. As a staff team we are going to be looking in the coming months at ways that we can encourage everyone to be doing this individually, in our families, workplaces, and neighbourhoods. There are also, however, things the Lord is calling us to do together as a community.
Below are some of the things we feel that the Lord is leading us into. They are by no means an exhaustive list – if you have ideas we want to hear them! We offer these to you for information and consultation and as a starting place. They are ways in which we might begin to respond to what God is asking of us.
At the moment we don’t have all the details – when we have them we will share them. But we want you to know these are the questions we are asking and this is where we are heading. It seems that the Spirit has led us to this place. He comes to the Church, en-route to the world and it is the Spirit who is inviting us to step out once again on an adventure of obedience. Jesus says, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matt 25:40).
We want to respond to God’s gentle but adamant call to love our neighbour.
Mike, Andy & the team
“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed…” (Matt 13:31)
There are a number of ‘seeds’ that we will be planting in the coming months. These are ways of loving our neighbour that may seem like ‘small beginnings’ (when we consider the substantial need), but each has huge potential for growth.
COMMUNITY AND FAMILIES SUPPORT WORKER
WELCOMING SYRIAN REFUGEES
Seed one: community and families support worker
As a church we seem to have favour with lots of the families in our local area, many of whom have no other connection to church other than attending, for example, Soul Tots on a Wednesday or one of our after-school clubs. We know of many families who are struggling to cope for different reasons, family breakdown, financial pressures, bereavement, illness and so on. We also know that a child’s early years are critical to their future. We want to help these families who are under tremendous pressure, and help them give their children the best start in life. As a result we are creating a position on our church staff that is for those who are not part of our church. It’s an amazing way we can continue to be ‘good news’ to our community.
Anna Yule will be employed, as of September, four days per week as the Community and Families Support Worker. Her role will be to get beside vulnerable families and serve in whatever way is most needed. It will be done on the basis of relationship and it will complement what we see developing with Make Lunch. Anna’s role is not simply to do this on our behalf, but to lead the way for the rest of the church to join with her.
With Anna moving on from the children's work, we're also excited to announce Busy Thomas will be joining our team full time as Assistant Children's Pastor, beginning in September.
HOW CAN I GET INVOLVED?
Whilst Anna will begin this role in September it will take some time for her to establish relationships and discover the most practical ways we can serve those around us. As she does so we will communicate this to the church. The aim is that over time we’ll build a team of volunteers who can support families in their own homes perhaps by giving one or two hours per week and offering support, friendship, emotional and practical help.
If you’d like to register your interest now contact Anna: firstname.lastname@example.org
Seed two: Make Lunch
Many of us look back to school holidays with fond memories but for families who are struggling, holidays come with added stress. There is a growing problem known as “holiday hunger” experienced by children from families grappling with the costs of living pressures: low wages, insecure work, benefit cuts and delays, and the running down of community facilities through spending cuts. If free school meals are not available parents are sometimes left with choices about whether to turn on the heating or feed their children.
We are going to partner with a charity called Make Lunch. We will become a Make Lunch centre and start by offering a hot and healthy meal to children who normally receive free school meals during the holidays. This invitation will be extended through the schools and we’ll be beginning with the three nearest to our church: Knutsford, Parkgate Infant & Juniors and The Grove Academy. In these three schools alone there are potentially over 350 children eligible for a free school meal. In addition there are huge possibilities to expand this into a place for fun, games and supporting family life. We are aiming to launch on a small scale this October half term.
HOW CAN I GET INVOLVED?
We'll be operating this during the school holidays. You can get involved by volunteering for one lunchtime, for a few days or for a whole week. Families are welcome to volunteer together and your children will be given a meal. No matter what you are passionate about there is a role here for you! We need three sets of volunteers per lunchtime:
- Kitchen Team (Behind the scenes, preparing healthy menus, cooking, serving the food).
- Kids Team (Welcome the kids, play games with them, help with lunch, running small activities).
- Adult Team (Chat with the parent/s, help them feel welcome and valued).
Dates | 2017-2018
Easter 2018: 3rd-5th & 10th-12th April
Summer 2018: 7th-9th & 21st-23rd August
October 2018: 30th Oct-1st November
Register your interest in this now by contacting Helen: email@example.com
SEED THREE: welcoming SYRIAN REFUGEES
The refugee crisis is one of the greatest humanitarian crises of our time. In January 2017 UNHCR recorded over 4.8 million refugees in camps outside of Syria. In 2016 the Home Secretary launched the UK's Community Sponsorship Scheme with the aim of welcoming 20,000 refugees. The first family resettled under the scheme were welcomed and sponsored by the Archbishop of Canterbury in July 2016. The Archbishop has asked the Church in the UK to welcome as many refugees as possible. The impact on the families resettled so far and the congregations participating has been nothing short of miraculous.
For each family (2 parents plus children) Soul Survivor would need to commit to raising a certain level of financial support (£9,000). Much more than this, as a church family we would be committing to support them for the next two years as they look to become fully integrated into the local community. This support includes everything from meeting them at the airport, establishing them in a house, providing cultural orientation, helping them access medical, educational and social services, arranging English tuition and so on. We want to give them new hope by helping them find a new home in the UK. This is a significant opportunity to welcome Jesus himself by welcoming the stranger.
HOW CAN I GET INVOLVED?
We are currently registering as a sponsoring community – a process that can take up to six months. Once this is completed we are going to need a smaller core team of very committed people who can give significantly of their time to supporting these families.
We will also need a much wider team who can offer smaller amounts of time and practical help. We’ll need help with all sorts of practicalities from finding properties and furnishing them to offering lifts and taking people shopping. If you have time to give it will make a big difference, also if you have contacts or skills that might be particularly helpful please let us know.
Sponsorship of Syrian Refugees
In preparation for welcoming refugees we would love to know of anyone with good knowledge of the following languages is willing to help in welcoming and supporting the families as they settle and learn English:
Arabic (please specify)
British Sign Language
Please email Liz Potter here if you are able to help.
To register your interest now contact Liz: firstname.lastname@example.org
Seed four: mental health
The picture of mental health in the UK today is a stark one. Almost ten million British adults are diagnosed with at least one mental health problem each year. Mixed anxiety and depression causes an estimated one fifth of all days lost from work in Britain. In 2014 19.7% of people in the UK aged 16 and over showed some symptoms of anxiety and depression.* As a church family many of us have/are facing battles with our own mental health and the same is true of the community around us.
All of this raises questions about how we as a church respond to this and how we might play a role here. Most of us do not have the professional skills that might be required to help individuals who are suffering seriously, there are, however, things we can be doing. At the moment we have more questions than answers but feel that God is calling us to explore seriously and practically what this might look like. We are in a process of consultation with professionals in this area and we will be intentionally drawing together a plan of action over the coming six months. We want to begin things that will be sustainable, that any of us can do and that will make a significant difference to those struggling.
*Statistics taken from Christianity and Mental Health, a Theo's report available here: www.theosthinktank.co.uk
how can I get involved?
If you have professional training or skills in this area, or if you don’t but have a particular passion and want to make a difference here then we want you involved in this conversation.
In the meantime, if you would like to register your interest or offer help of any kind please contact Liz: email@example.com
making room for more
Part of loving our neighbour involves having open hearts and an open door to welcome them into our church family. As you may know, we are running out of space in our buildings, especially during the 10.30am service and during mid-week activities. At certain times of the week virtually every room available is in use.
On a Sunday morning we have, on average, 140 children in the children’s work, and a rapidly expanding younger youth group of 30-40 (the older youth meet on a Tuesday evening). In recent months, especially during large guest services we have had to turn families away from these groups. This sends completely the wrong message to those who are not yet followers of Jesus and needs to be addressed as a priority – we exist to see people come to faith in Jesus! It has become clear that we need to expand our space to make room for those who are not yet part of our family.
What's The Latest?
We have made major adjustments to our existing space in order to maximize our capacity. These include knocking down the office walls in the mezzanine floor (to make a larger room for the younger youth to meet), moving more staff to hot-desking and leasing two big shipping containers now located between the warehouses. These new containers will serve as office space and a prayer room.
As we have considered expansion we have studied the various options and by far the most cost-effective and likely to receive approval from the council is to expand our existing site (rather than look to move elsewhere). We have had two pre-application meetings with the council and have received an unusually warm and open response to our proposal to do an extension. We are now in the process of drawing up plans with an architect. We will look to make these plans available in the coming months before any final decisions are made. Our hope is to have submitted and received approval on these plans by January/February 2018.
The extension will be a part of warehouse 5 and will aim to maximize the square footage of the plot. Further details will follow but we will be aiming to build upwards as well as outwards. We want to create a large welcoming space for the morning service, much more space for children and young people, and much more space that can be used throughout the week in our midweek activities and to serve the community. This will be a benefit to us and to those outside of us.
More details will follow but if you have any further questions or would like to chat to someone about the building plans please contact Jon: firstname.lastname@example.org
Resourcing the wider church
Our bishops have invited us to become a Resource Church. In practice this means we are going to be working closely with the diocese in the years to come in order to plant and revitalize other churches. As part of this process it’s likely that we will begin to receive curates (vicars-in-training) who will come and be part of our family for a season before being sent out to lead in another place. We are thrilled at the idea that we could plant churches all over Watford and the wider area. It’s likely that our Soul61 students will also play a big role in this. The outworking of this is going to take slightly longer to develop but church planting might be something you may feel called to in the years to come: Watch this space!
It's vital the above is rooted and sustained in prayer. Since Pray First at the beginning of the year God has been breathing fresh life into our church’s call to pray. There are lots of ways this will continue to develop. One simple and practical one of them is the new prayer space that will be available as soon as possible for prayer.
We will be sharing more on this as it gets up and running but if you would like to be involved in this please contact Liz: email@example.com
If you have read this far – well done!
We so appreciate the many ways you love, serve and give to this church. This is an amazing and exciting season. God is calling us onwards, if we go together in love, humility and in obedience to the leading of the Spirit, then we know we will see many lives changed. Thank you for being part of this.
If you do have any questions, thoughts, words of knowledge or concerns then please contact Kathryn. She’s best placed to make sure they are forwarded to the right person: firstname.lastname@example.org