NEW YEAR 2022
A TIME OF DECISION: HOW ARE WE GOING TO GO FORWARD?
A TIME TO LOOK BACK AND A TIME TO LOOK FORWARD
In 2020 Melissa Helser produced a song called “Revival’s in the air” which has resonated in the hearts of so many around the world. She wrote the song for her brother who was suffering from addiction. She gives God all the glory for the song – she looked back to the sadness of her brother’s situation but God gave her both tune and words that spoke of revival for him, for her, for us all as we look forward.
Yes…it is right to look back, to review, a year now ended…in order to go forward in God into the New Year.
(You can watch her story of how she came to write this song at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=StGDA0zol8c)
A PERSONAL REVIEW OF A YEAR NOW ENDED
Let us look into our own experiences of 2021. Let us look into our hearts and consider with our minds:
- What is your best memory of 2021?
- What in 2021 would you most like to forget?
- Who are the people you would most like to thank in 2021?
- What has your relationship with your family and friends been like in 2021?
- How would you like this to change in 2022?
- What goals did you achieve in 2021?
- What goals would you like to achieve in 2022?
- What has your relationship with God been like in 2021?
- How would you like this to change in 2022?
REVIEW OF THE YEAR 2021
A TIME FOR EVERYTHING (ECCLESIASTES 3:1)
Who could have foreseen that, after nearly two years, our lives, our society, and our church would still be so dominated by the spectre of Coronavirus?
It has therefore been a tough time for our church (and all churches), yet it has also been a time of preparation for rebuilding. This was seen from the very start of the year in our continuing vision which was that of a “New Beginning” for our church and for our whole society and for our individual lives.
Like last year:
“Due to this pandemic, we have entered an unprecedented time where we:
- Have had periods when we have not been able to meet together in our church building
- Have not been allowed to sing together
- Have not been allowed to hug each other
- Have not been allowed to eat together or even to talk together”
Yet we have seen, again like last year:
“This has been a year where we have:
- Seen more clearly than ever that we, and not the building, are the church
- Set up TEAMS so that we can continue to meet together and worship together
- Established LiveStream that has reached out way-beyond our local community
- Been reminded that we all have testimonies and answers to prayer that we can share
- Established structures within the church that will stand us in good stead for the future”
Unlike last year we have been able to celebrate Easter and Christmas together in our church building. Yes, there have been restrictions, but most of us have been able to enjoy face-to-face contact with one another again.
I believe that our church family is now in a good position to go forward and grow numerically and spiritually as we go together into the New Year of 2022.
THE CHURCH FAMILY – MEETING AND CARING
We begin by thanking God that we have a church building – that we want to be used more and more and more for His glory. Yet, this year has shown us, as never before, that WE are the church and we have continued to be together as church whether in the building or on-line.
And we thank God that we are a church family who care for each other and for those around us in the community. Oh, we are not perfect, and we regret with great sorrow that there are some who have lacked care during the year. However, through our Housegroups, through hospitality that so many of you have shown, through a structure that has continued to make sure that the most vulnerable are contacted and looked after, we have ensured that our church really is part of the family of God – that we love one another as He has loved us.
This has been a year of change in the Eldership and management of the church. After a lot of heart-searching and internal struggles Alasdair and Steve both stepped down from Eldership after many years of faithful and hard-working service. At the start of December Jim began a 4 month rest from his Eldership duties. In the meantime, Trustees, Elders and Alistair Hornal worked on a strategy for a new Leadership Team made up of Elders and Deacons who can ensure the day-to-day management of the church. New Eldership recognition and Deacon elections are planned for the New Year.
We thank God for the regular meetings that are held amongst us and remember them now –
- I have been part of this church family for 4 ¼ years now. We thank God for our Sunday services – our “showcase” of God’s love and presence within the community. Numbers of attendees have been affected by Coronavirus and since returning to services in the church building we have seen between 40 and 50 people each week meeting in the Main Hall, watching in the Rear Hall (for those who wish or need to remain socially distanced and “masked”, or joining us on YouTube and TEAMS. This reduction in numbers from pre-pandemic levels is reflected in most, If not all, of the Ashford churches. We thank God for the technology that has allowed us to maintain our worship so effectively on a Sunday.
- WORSHIP – For the first three months of the year we were unable to meet in our church building – but Chris and Peter broadcast via TEAMS from an often very-cold church building to the congregation. Thanks go to STAG church and Elizabeth and Matt for enabling us to record video songs that allowed us to use music that was not limited by copyright. Once back in the church building from April we had to wear masks and sit socially distanced with doors and windows open for much of the year – with only the Worship Team allowed to sing out loud. Thank God we have been able to move on from this since September! And thank God that our worship has been able to continue throughout!
- TEACHING SERIES – January focused on “New Beginnings” as we looked forward to life after Lockdown. In February we studied the power and mercy of “God the Good Judge”. In March we were challenged to be ready for service with “Here am I, send me”. In April we learnt many lessons of God’s unlimited love for us in our study of “Ruth”. June saw us focusing on the call to “Worship” whatever the situation in our lives. In August we began a major new series looking at “Daughters of Eve” and the lessons to be learnt from Women in the Bible. Our Advent series called us to be the new “Star of Bethlehem” to the world.
- Although Peter led most of this teaching, we have been blessed by many internal and outside guest speakers this year as well. Brian C has twice encouraged us to remember the “Persecuted Church”; Ernest challenged our beliefs with his look at the “Exodus”; Jim spoke to us powerfully on two occasions on his life story and the question of “What gets you through?”; Street Pastors so moved us in May that 3 of our number – Zandra, Brian C and Peter – have joined up, been trained, and now serve on patrol with this wonderful group; Dudley inspired us on two occasions in June and October; Alistair Hornal, so helpful to our church during difficult times, spoke to us in June; Chris spoke to us three times on the subject of the “Kingdom of God”; Tim Dieppe moved us with stories from “Christian Concern” in July; Dave W spoke passionately about his work in home mission in August; Brian R made his speaking debut in September; Paul Dunning enlightened us on the work of MAF in November; and Geoff Gould spoke to us twice in that month as well. We thank God for the central place that teaching plays in the life of the church.
- SUNDAY CLUB AND CHILDREN’S WORK – In line with most churches in Ashford, the pandemic has been a time of collapse in children’s work. Sunday Club has been in abeyance; “Friday Youth Night” has not re-opened. However, there are some hopeful signs. Children are being born into our fellowship. Youngsters are beginning to appear. The Middle Hall has been set up as a creche with loudspeakers allowing the service to be heard. Singing and storytelling has been taking place here too.
Resources are being given out to the children in the church to work on during the services.
- U3A – have been using the church for play reading in October and November.
- OPEN ARMS – we have been really blessed to have this organisation return to us this year. Rather than a full-blown meal, their new vision has been for a more relaxed social time for those who are homeless or vulnerable.
- WEIGHT-WATCHERS – have used our building whenever lifting of restrictions has allowed.
- HOUSEGROUPS AND MONTHLY SUPERGROUP – for much of the first half of the year these were solely on-line. But we have been blessed in the second half of the year in being able to hold these both on TEAMS and face-to-face in homes or in the church building.
- BIBLE STUDY – A committed group meet fortnightly (weekly in December) – initially online, it was a joy to get back into face-to-face discussion in people’s houses.
- EKC – What a blessing it is to continue having this wonderful choir practicing in our building on a Thursday! It has been tough for them since the Lockdown but they have remained committed to using our church building – returning to us in September.
- WORSHIP PRACTICE – now on a new night – this remains open to not only the Worship Team but all who would like to come along and sing.
- REVIVAL PRAYER – I remain in awe of the tremendous turn-out week-after-week to this prayer meeting – proof of our belief in the power of prayer to bring revival to this area. Now driven by “Prayer Points” we meet both in person (in the church or in Church House) and on TEAMS.
- U3A – have returned to our church building for singing from September
- LADIES’ FELLOWSHIP – well…I can’t say too much about this…as I am not allowed to attend! But I understand that it continues to be a time of great joy and challenge for our ladies – and has also seamlessly moved to an online platform.
- PIZZA AND HOT TOPICS – It was good from the summertime (with BBQs!) to move back to face-to-face meetings. From September we have been joined by new people and are currently following the “Freedom in Christ” course called “Disciple”. On alternate Fridays we have been joining with young adults from Vineyard Church for social gatherings
- It would be good here to mention that our Street Pastors have been following an intensive online and in-person training course on Saturday mornings for most of the second half of this year.
HIGHLIGHTS OF 2021
- BIRTHS AND DEDICATIONS: Peter became a granddad again at the end of February while Poppy was born to Fiona and Ricky in early April. Back in the church building we were able to dedicate Joshua Hill on the 30th May and then Poppy Williamson on the 3rd October.
- Easter cards and Christmas cards were delivered to 1500 houses around our church – a witness in themselves.
- Zandra, Brian C and Peter signed up to become Street Pastors – beginning their training in June and going on their first patrols in the latter part of the year. They were formally commissioned on the 19th November.
- We were delighted by the wedding of Sarah and Matt on the 31st July in Cambridge – Linda and Ernest could be justly proud.
- On the 4th September, after much work and preparation and delivery of 1500 invitations, the church hosted a Celebration and Remembrance afternoon to give thanks for the lifting of Lockdown restrictions and to remember those who had died and to honour those who were grieving. Bouncy castle, cream teas, many games and crafts with writing messages of remembrance and thanks on hearts filled the afternoon which was well-attended
- Once again Linda led us in our annual MacMillan Cancer Care coffee afternoon – held in the church after the morning service on the 26th September – and then the “Shoebox Appeal” in October and November.
- On the 15th December – at a time when “Plan B” restrictions had come into force, we were able to take carol singing around Victoria Quarter – an outreach that we know touched the hearts of many.
2021 – A TIME OF MANY EVENTS AND ACTIVITIES
Now let us go through the year chronologically to remember all the tremendous things that have taken place (I do hope that you forgive me for any omissions from this list – if you let me know what is missing then I will happily – though retrospectively – add them):
01/01/21: ONLINE “HAPPY NEW YEAR” PRAYER AND GAMES (LED ABLY BY ELIZABETH AND SARAH
03/01/21: “NEW BEGINNINGS” TEACHING SERIES BEGINS
05/01/21: NATIONAL LOCKDOWN LEADS TO OUR CLOSING OUR CHURCH BUILDING – BUT WORSHIP CONTINUES THROUGH THE USE OF TEAMS AND THEN YOUTUBE
02/02/21: ELDERS’ ONLINE AWAYDAY
19,21/02/21: ALASDAIR AND STEVE STEP DOWN FROM ELDERSHIP – AFTER SO MANY YEARS OF FAITHFUL AND HARD-WORKING SERVICE WE THANK THEM
27/02/21: BIRTH OF ELOISE – PETER IS A GRANDDAD AGAIN!
07/03/21: RESUMPTION OF LIVESTREAM SERVICES ON A SUNDAY
11/03/21: START OF “COFFEE AND CHAT” ONLINE SOCIAL MEETINGS
20/03/21: EASTER CARDS AND INVITATIONS BEGIN TO GO OUT
02/04/21: CHURCH BUILDING REOPENS FOR SUNDAY SERVICES ALLOWING US TO HOLD GOOD FRIDAY AND EASTER SUNDAY SERVICES IN THE BUILDING AS WELL AS ONLINE WITH LIVESTREAM AND TEAMS
04/04/21: ONLINE SPRING HARVEST ATTENDED BY A FEW FROM THE CHURCH FAMILY
07/04/21: BIRTH OF POPPY WILLIAMSON
22/04/21: RESUMPTION OF WORSHIP PRACTICE IN THE CHURCH BUILDING
02/05/21: STREET PASTOR SERVICE
30/05/21: DEDICATION OF JOSHUA HILL
19/06/21: STREET PASTOR TRAINING COMMENCES
26/06/21: ALISDAIR HORNAL, TRUSTEES AND ELDERS DISCUSS WAY FORWARD OF CHURCH GOVERNANCE
19/07/21: LIFTING OF RESTRICTIONS ON CHURCH MEETINGS – ALL MEETINGS CAN NOW BE HELD IN PERSON
31/07/21: WEDDING OF SARAH AND MATT
03/08/21: OPEN ARMS STARTS UP AGAIN
AUG 21: SUMMER SOCIALS ON A WEDNESDAY
04/09/21: “CELEBRATION SATURDAY” TO GIVE THANKS FOR COMING OUT OF LOCKDOWN AND TO REMEMBER THOSE WHO ARE GRIEVING – FUN AND GAMES IN THE CHURCH
05/09/21: CELEBRATION SUNDAY TO FOLLOW ON FROM THIS
24/09/21: “PIZZA AND HOT TOPICS” WELCOMES NEW MEMBERS AND BEGINS “DISCIPLE”
26/09/21: MACMILLAN COFFEE APPEAL AFTER SUNDAY SERVICE
03/10/21: DEDICATION OF POPPY WILLIAMSON
12/10/21: “CHRISTIAN RESOURCES EXHIBITION” AT SANDOWN RACECOURSE
29/10/21: JOINT YOUNG PERSONS’ SOCIAL WITH VINEYARD BEGINS
02/11/21: FIRST “LEADERSHIP TEAM” PLANNING MEETING
17/11/21: ELDERS’ AWAYDAY
19/11/21: COMMISSIONING OF STREET PASTORS AT WILLESBOROUGH BAPTIST CHURCH
01/12/21: JIM TAKES A 4 MONTH REST FROM ELDERSHIP DUTIES
02/12/21: JULIE AND DIANA BEGIN CHURCH CHRISTMAS DECORATION
10/12/21: DELIVERY OF CHRISTMAS CARDS BEGINS
12/12/21: “PLAN B” BY GOVERNMENT MEANS RE-ESTABLISHMENT OF FACE-COVERINGS
15/12/21: CAROL SINGING IN VICTORIA QUARTER
19/12/21: CAROLS BY CANDLELIGHT SERVICE
24/12/21: MIDNIGHT “FIRST COMMUNION OF CHRISTMAS” SERVICE
25/12/21: CHRISTMAS DAY SERVICE