Christmas Guest Service

Christmas Guest Service
Dress up if you would like to be in the Nativity

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Mark & Bev at Prague Christmas Market

It's true - Prague is a lovely city. We went for 2 nights for a break and the Christmas market. It was great. Beverley wondered around with her head down looking at market stalls; I wondered around with my head up looking at the fantastic array of architecture - Baroque, Gothic, Art Noveau and modern. Quite something. The famous clock was better than I thought, the Charles Bridge was better than I thought, as was the river and the hotel. All in all a great time. Prague is lovely.

Thursday, 23 November 2017

The Sunday Morning Meeting

When thinking about the Sunday morning meeting, consider carefully:
1.Who is the meeting for? This will determine the shape of everything else. If you decide the meeting is for unchurched Harry or Emma then how things look and sound will be very different from if you decide the meeting is for God and for the people of God to meet with Him.
I am going for the latter.
2.Meeting lay-out. Don't go formal, especially if you are a new\small church.Try a circle or crescent chair lay out until you get beyond 40. Avoid the theatre lay out. Remember you are building family.
2.Welcome. Studies suggest that the Welcome and Follow-up is the most important church growth driver. People will forgive an off key in the worship or poor AV slides, but they do want to feel welcome. Be warm, friendly, sensitive without being intrusive. Good cake, tea and coffee helps!
3.The anchor role. This is the person who leads the meeting - make sure they are smart, friendly, informed and engaging. This is a strange place to be for some - explain what is going on ;move things along; don't take long on the notices.
4.Worship. Have good musicians (but not 6 at the front when you are 50 people), who have practised a good choice of songs with prompt words appearing on a well lit screen. Help them be aware of what is happening in the room and pause...don't be afraid of silence.
5.Preach. People expect good presentation with good visuals. Use The Bible well; explain the text clearly; have relevant illustrations; what is the one thing you are trying to say? Pack a punch.
6.The Holy Spirit. Give the Holy Spirit space and time; don't fill the meeting; don't hurry; expect gifts of the Holy Spirit - encourage them if necessary. God has business with His people.
7.Follow-up and feedback. Follow-up with visitors and feedback to the Sunday team.
8.Relax; it's not up to you - Jesus is building His church.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Mark's Review of The Rosie Project by Simsion Graeme

The book for my Book Club this month is The Rosie Project - an entertaining, intriguing and touching tale of a man called Dan, a geneticist, who at the age of 40, decides it is time to find a wife. He begins The Wife Project with a questionnaire in order to find a suitable mate. This does not go down well. Dan is surprised however when Rosie comes into his life - hence The Rosie Project. Part of the appeal of the novel is that Dan has Aspergers traits which makes reading people, social situations and relationships something of a challenge. The book provides great insights into those on the Autistic Spectrum or with Aspergers. It is funny, touching, clever and insightful. The moral of the tale: don't be afraid to be yourself and love others as they are...

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

ENS - Empty Nest Syndrome

With 3 sons living away and a daughter now married, here we are - ENS. Empty Nest Syndrome. Pyschologists tell us: "ENS is a sense of loss, sadness and lonliness that occurs when children leave home"Every parent goes through it and feels it to a greater or lesser extent - especially mothers. It is normal. For those who have close family, it is a feeling of emptiness. Where did all those years go? What now is my purpose? Our life has been filled with children, their things and their friends. Life. Noise. Interruptions. Comings and goings. Now it is quiet.
Time to embrace a new season. Fresh opportunities and freedoms: travel, study, hobby, serving, friendships.
Time to invest in marriage. New things together, fresh intimacy.
Beverley thinks it is time to!!

Friday, 29 September 2017

Is God solitary or lonely?

I am a bit confused - 2 leading scholars have made provocative and contrary statements. On the one hand AW Pink writes of the solitariness of God - he is sufficient in Himself and has no need of you; Tom Wright on the other hand speaks of God being lonely, hence creating Adam and Eve and us. So which is it - is God solitary or lonely or both? For my part, I cant help thinking about God the Father in communion with His Son and The Holy Spirit. Solitary...lonely...mmm?
For me too, the whole Bible narrative is a love story - a story of God's love for people, His desire for a people who will worship Him, befriend Him and walk with Him - in the garden of Genesis and the city of Revelation; a story of God sending His Son Jesus to teach us how to live - "Love the Lord your God with all your heart..."; a story of God preparing a new heaven and new earth for His friends. Is God solitary? I think He has no lack or need of anything, but chooses to share His world with us and invites us to know Him and love Him. Is God lonely? I don't think so, but I do think He invites us to be His friends forever. What do you think?

Thursday, 21 September 2017

PUG is here again - Parental University Grief

It is that time of year again when many households up and down the land are filled with the excitement and anticipation of a son or daughter leaving home and going to university for the first time. Often however, the emotional impact of the new life and new term is most keenly felt by those left at home - by mother and father (and brother or sister). We often underestimate the impact of a son or daughter leaving home for the first time. There can be real sadness and a real sense of loss. I have a name for it: PUG - Parental University Grief. It took me by surprise. No-one told me about it. I was not prepared for its impact. Psychologists tell us that a child leaving home has 29 life-change units (out of a maximum 100 for death of a spouse). So don't be surprised if a wave of sadness comes crashing in on you - quite normal for a loving parent (or a first-time student); be aware of friends too who might be reeling from PUG and don't know how to express it.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Highlights of Westpoint 2017

Westpoint is an annual event hosted by Commission churches, part of the Newfrontiers family. It takes place at Westpoint, Exeter. With so much going on, it is difficult to highlight only a few things but here goes: the weather - glorious; Andrew Wilson doing Romans in an hour Guy Miller speaking in front of his "book case"; Indian worship; terrific spread of seminars including Tanya Walker; making TV programmes for TBN and GodTV; live with BBC Radio Devon; bakeoff, circus skills, falconry; an amazing offering and...being with my church family. Great time.

Monday, 24 July 2017

Autism and Aspergers - do we need the labels?

Apparently there is a rise in the numbers. Some say it is "the new childhood epidemic"(Kenneth Brook) - Aspergers, ADHD, Dyslexia, ASD and other conditions. Some professionals say we are just better at recognising the signals and symptoms. What I am trying to figure out is - do we need the labels? Is it helpful always to box a child or adult in because their brain might work differently, or should we seek to understand why they might be neurologically Atypical? And support individuals and families with intentional energy and resource?
A positive step is to drop the D from ASD, as if all children (and adults) who think differently have a Disorder. Many are highly intelligent and given patience and opportunity have become scientists, programmers, game designers and more. Gates, Job, Einstein - some say are on the Spectrum. Silicon Valley is called Aspergers Valley by some. Autistic Spectrum is probably better, although some say we are all on the Spectrum somewhere...(Tony Attwood)
Is Neurodiversity a better term and should we "think more intelligently about people who think differently" (Steve Silberman)? Should we celebrate Neurodiversity like the bridge of the Starship Enterprise on Star Trek - multiracial, neurologically diverse, accepting and bringing out the best in each (Carol Greenberg)?
Most importantly, let's love the individuals and the families.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Prepare to fall off a cliff - Giving My Daughter Away.

I asked a friend what advice he had for me in giving my daughter away on her wedding day. "Prepare to fall off a cliff", he said! Today is the day. I don't know if I will fall off a cliff but I am faced with a collision of emotions - excitement, nervousness, tension, sadness...but most of all gratitude. I am grateful for the beautiful daughter she is. I am grateful for watching her grow and being part of her life. I am grateful for the blessing she is. I am grateful for the good and right choices she has made and grateful for the good choice of life partner in Joe Gubb. Falling off a cliff?...I want her to jump off a cliff and fly...

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Homosexuality, the church and television.

There have been 2 interesting TV programmes recently about the church and homosexuality. One on BBC Three Does God Hate Queers? makes for uncomfortable and challenging viewing when hearing the stories of how some gay and transgender people have been treated. It made me wonder how welcoming are we to the LGBT community? The other is the ITV1 series Grantchester. Rev Sidney Chambers, played by James Norton, when not solving murders with Inspector Geordie, Robson Jerome, is trying to reconcile the God of The Bible with the culture around him and his feelings. His friendship with his struggling gay curate is both tender and challenging. "you are not an abomination Leonard, God loves you". See

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Scafell Pike v Pillar

I climbed Scafell Pike this week with Steve Petch. It is England's highest mountain at 980m. During the summer months lots of people attempt the 3 Peaks Challenge: Scafell, Snowdon and Ben Nevis. Scafell is the steepest and most difficult climb. It was great fun and a great work out. There were lots of people doing the same climb. The next day we climbed Pillar opposite Scafell. It was a longer climb (9 hours up and down). We saw very few people and the views were stunning, even better than its more famous cousin across the valley. Scafell or Pillar? For me, Pillar.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

How do you listen?

I read a verse in my Bible today that I seem to have missed before - Jesus said : "consider carefully how you listen". Wow. How come I have not seen that before? What did Jesus mean? The context is the lamp on a stand. We might call it Evangelism. got me thinking - how do we listen? How do we become better listeners? Here are few thoughts to get us going:
Make eye contact, turn off your phone, turn on your hearing, concentrate, give the person time, be all there, let them express themselves, don't dive in, resist the temptation to talk about yourself, resist the temptation to fix the problem, ask one or two questions, listen to their viewpoint,  - listen.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Mark's Highlights of HTB Leadership Conference

HTB - Holy Trinity Brompton - host an annual leader's conference at The Royal Albert Hall. It was terrific. From the cheery welcomers in yellow T-shirts lining the route from South Ken tube station to the majestic venue, to world class speakers and tingling times of worship. This was a great leader's conference for leaders in all walks of life - business, home, school, sport, church... 2 of the most powerful speakers were Jean Vanier from L'Arche and Cardinal Tagle from Manila. Both men were quiet, humble, unassuming men who clearly lived beautiful lives for Jesus. Simon Senek (Ted Talk favourite) was also a highlight. Worth thinking about the conference for 7-8th May 2018...

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Leading from Memory or Imagination?

The question is: are you leading from memory or imagination? From experience or creative thinking? Are you doing what worked before or thinking differently? Are you doing the same or dreaming again? Are you leading through a method or innovation? Are you thinking about what was or what could be? Repeating the past or creating the future?
I am discovering that what worked in Camberley is not right for Newbury. I have some experience but I also need to be open to new ideas. If we only do what we always did, we will only get what we always had. Think again...

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Making a drama out of a mole hill - Roughshod Theatre Company

Roughshod were great. A professional theatre company, from the Riding Lights stable, who connected very well with people. They went into schools, youth events, performed on the streets of Newbury, performed a full show on stage, they even came to church. With sketches ranging from bible stories to thought provoking pieces on forgiveness, justice and Islamic fundamentalism...we were left not just entertained but with much to think about. Funny, powerful, poignant and challenging.