This Sunday 24 November, Whitchurch is the focus of our Circuit Prayers The prayers this week both ask awkward questions and challenge us to action. Please read and share carefully and prayerfully together and then support the fellowship here in your prayers this Sunday.
The desperately sad news that our friends at Stoke Mandeville are considering their future, coupled with this time of Remembrance, led us to a Roll Call of other former village friends.
Since I have been a Steward at Whitchurch we have anguishingly said goodbye to friends and Methodist Churches at Aston Abbots, Buckland, Bierton, Granborough, Long Marston, North Marston, Oving and Stoke Hammond.
Where have the resources, both of people and finance gone ? Where is the growth in Vale of Aylesbury Christian witness resulting from these losses ? Where are the new churches ?
What are we doing wrong ?
In the " ten green bottles " scenario who is next ? ( ie number 10 ! )
All very familiar sentiments and it is too easy to metaphorically bury our heads in our hands and cry woe is me.
In case you think that I have ignored the title, what is the Whitchurch Good News ? Read on.
We were truly heartened by the news that Keith Edwards is to remain our Minister for a further 4 years, giving us a very welcome period of stability and continuity of approach.
In typical Keith fashion he responded to our pleasure by challenging us at our Church Council by saying "If you are not moving , you are effectually going backwards" which we interpreted as -- the Lord has no hands but yours, so get off your backsides ! What are you doing about it ?
The answer was a revised 5 point plan of achievable deliverables.
Reinstitute our seasonal Bible Study courses, hopefully in conjunction with other village Christians;
To pursue our Parish Church friends with the aim of regular joint worship . Commencing with an invitation to our January Covenant Service;
Exploring the provision of extra support for our dedicated member who organises and runs the Little Steps, Stepping Stones and Pop Up Cafe programme. Also exploring other methods of reaching those of more mature years, which as Keith reminded us is a growing population segment;
To prepare plans and initial costings for increasing the visibility of our worship area , the painting and historic organ from the High Street (whilst meeting the Conservation Area requirements);
To challenge the methodology of the Circuit Assessment calculation to enable funding of our local witness programme.
Progress against these objectives to be fully reviewed at our Spring Church Council.
Can we do this on our own, just 14 Members median age 70 -- a snowball in hell has a better chance -- we need help .
We are praying for both courage and strength to do what we see as a method of ensuring that we are doing God's will, if not we are sure that he will tell us -- Number 10 ?
Please please remember us in your prayers too.
This Sunday 1 December it is the turn of Wingrave to be the focus of our Circuit Prayers. According to the circuit website, Wingrave extend a very warm welcome to all, and pride themselves on being "Happy and Positive", surely an apt description for any followers of Jesus and an example of how to live a life richly-blessed in the love of God. Please remember the lovely fellowship and the work here in your prayers this Sunday.
Wingrave's Methodist New Year......
Well it has certainly been a spectacular start — and no fireworks!
Where to begin? Clearly, it started with welcoming Donna officially as our Minister. With her warm personality and inspiring ideas she has already endeared herself to all and wasted no time following up contacts with the village school and Tuesday Nup End Cafe lunches by launching "Bump into Mums" (and carers) for coffee and a chat after dropping their children off at school. She also has plans for a costume-themed family Nativity Service — so watch this space when we next report!
Next our Harvest Service and Supper shared with our Anglican friends was an opportunity to learn about the caring work of the Farming Community Network, resulting in a donation of £684 to their funds.
Yet more — Our large porch housed a collection of 142 Link to Hope shoe boxes and more than 70 knitted teddies, all thanks to the diligence of Brenda Horne in visiting the school as well as encouraging knitters. The school children delivered an amazing 70 boxes to the church and learned of the desperate needs of families in Romania and Moldova.
Finally — A welcome return for David and Paula Jenkins. David was memorable, as always, for his thoughtful and relevant message. The service was followed by a large gathering for lunch.
And that's just the start! May we all be encouraged by experiencing new "growth shoots" in the coming year.
This Sunday it is the turn of Swanbourne to be the focus of our Circuit Prayers. It is wonderful to read the good news story that Ken gives us on the work at Swanbourne. The fellowship there are faithfully working to both spread the good news of Jesus and to act as good stewards by preserving their lovely chapel as a launching pad for the gospel for future generations. One of the great strengths of Methodism is the circuit system that enables us all to work together, so do celebrate their achievements with them by joining them for worship at 5.00 pm on a Sunday if you can, and please remember the fellowship and the work there in your prayers this Sunday.
At Swanbourne, we are in very good heart. We had our Church Council last Sunday, and not only were we able to report that during the last financial year, we had almost doubled our income, we had just received news that we were successful in an application to the Buckinghamshire Historic Churches Trust for assistance with our roof refurbishment. An email had arrived the previous evening saying how much they had enjoyed the visit to our chapel and were grateful for the history booklets we had given them, and that they were awarding us £2,500, to be paid against invoices when we had them. We now have enough in hand to feel confident in asking for firm quotes, with a view to getting the work done in the Spring of 2020. So very many thanks to all those who have given us their support, in whatever form.
The increase in our income has come about partly because of our roof appeal, but also because of increased giving through our collections at services and the fact that we have regular income from the village couple who are using the chapel regularly for the training of First Responders. It has meant extra work for us, but it feels encouraging that the building is being used for a very good purpose in addition to our regular Sunday activities.
Progress was also reported on other aspects of our growth plan, including some successful Family Services such as the recent Harvest Service, when the chapel was packed to capacity. Plans for the next 6 months are building on this, such as holding a family-oriented Christingle Service on Advent Sunday, and then a Carol Service on the Sunday before Christmas. Other plans include running a weekly ecumenical study group during November, and hopefully a prayer day in the New Year.
This Sunday it will be the turn of Stone to be the focus of our Circuit Prayers.
The Stone website tells us that 'We are a small, friendly village chapel and organise regular events!' Those regular events result in giving amazing amounts to both local and national charities that would do credit to much larger organisations. The emphasis here is in serving the community, working together with all who love the Lord, and fulfilling the gospel imperative of making disciples for Christ. Please remember the lovely people and the wonderful work here in your prayers on Sunday.
We are pleased and grateful to think that our Circuit family of churches will be thinking and praying for us here at Stone today, especially as we are meeting for our Church Council this afternoon.
As is the case in many rural Chapels with an ageing congregation, we long and pray for younger people to join in worship, but alongside that there is the blessing of mutual care, support and friendly fellowship amongst us.
At our Harvest Thanksgiving Service on 29th September many friends from the Parish Church joined us and it was a joy to have a full Chapel. Following the Service everyone enjoyed a Ploughman's Lunch and the harvest gifts were sold, raising £318.00 for WaterAid. The previous Friday the Macmillan Coffee Day raised £417.00, again thanks to much support from Church and village friends.
Fifth Sunday Services when Church friends join in worship here are a cause for celebration.
Regular First Sunday Café lunches throughout the year are not only a fund raiser but perhaps more importantly an opportunity for folk who live alone or feel isolated to enjoy food and fellowship together. Come along at 12.30 p.m. for Bangers in Buns on November 3rd.
Once again, we are looking to support the local work of Action for Children with two SOUP SATURDAY LUNCHES: 30th November and 7th December, when there are up to seven varieties of home made soup to warm the cockles! Come along!
The Chapel building is a much-appreciated resource, especially for the Sees the Day group for learning and physically disabled folk and we are looking forward to sharing a Coffee and Carols morning with them on Wednesday 11th December — book the date now!
At our Church Council we will be considering our future and Plan for Growth and we ask all Circuit friends to pray with us as we step forward in faith:
THANK YOU ALL.
This Sunday, 13 October it is the turn of Stoke Mandeville to be the focus of our Circuit Prayers.
It is good to see outreach into the community here, with organisations like the local food bank and the Air Ambulance being supported. There is always a good atmosphere and a warm welcome, with events during the week as well as on a Sunday, whether you come to worship, play table tennis, drink tea or share a meal together. Do drop in if you are around on the days the church is open, and please remember the fellowship and the work here in your prayers on Sunday.
Rt Rev Andrew Shergold led our Harvest Festival service a couple of weeks ago. As is our normal practice now, we collected food for a local food bank. Staff there tell us a lot of people need the food bank and are grateful to the Church for responding to that need.
The Friday Lunch Club (first Friday each month) continues to do well. At the lunch on 1st November, Thames Valley Air Ambulance will have a stall selling Christmas cards and gifts.
The not-so-good news is that we continue to struggle financially, and the Church faces the serious possibility of closure. Important decisions have to be made at Church Council later this month. However, we have received support and encouragement from the Circuit Leadership Team and the other Churches. Thank you all for continuing to remember us in your prayers.