This week we are starting an Alpha course where we'll discuss some of life's biggest questions - is there more to life than this? No prior belief in God needed - just come along and have a chat with us!
Starting this Wednesday (21st) at 7pm in Widnes Wetherspoons...
Mainly aimed at 18-30s - but don't worry we won't bite if you're not!!
St Paul’s @ 4 aims to be a growing, relaxed, spiritual community and I have to say I think it achieves that very well! St Paul’s @ 4 really provides that environment, just like Steve said of St Paul’s @ 10.30, for people to “come as they are”. We’re certainly are a wacky and wonderful bunch!
This service consists of a lot of kids, prayer, a time of contemporary sung worship where we praise Jesus for who he is and all he has done, is doing and will do, Bible reading, discussion, listening to what God wants to say (both through the speaker that day and also through prayer, quiet times and worship) and preparing ourselves to go out into our day-to-day lives with Him.
St Paul’s @4 is certainly louder than ever as we’ve seen the people attending grow both in number and spiritually. On a quiet week we have 40 people now meaning our kids groups (PYGs and PYGlets) have grown significantly too.
We have been trying to increase our awareness of the Holy Spirit and also provide more opportunities to encounter and be used by God within these services. So far this has often been reflected in our times of sung worship and responsive prayer and I for one can’t wait to see more of it.
So if you fancy meeting Jesus whilst having a little dance, the opportunity to bang a drum, the chance to get involved with some kids work or just the ham butties afterwards please do come along and join us!
So if you’re reading this, my guess is that a lot of you have already mastered this part of the St Paul’s Way. “Come along” refers to us attending at least one of the St Paul’s “balloons” every week. Felicity wrote a few weeks ago about how important her family and friends are to her. “Come along” is the part of the St Paul’s Way which gives us the chance to create more of these meaningful friendships with other Christians by being a part of one of these communities.
I have been to St Paul’s @ 4 and St Paul’s @ Spoons every week when I’ve been in Widnes for almost 2 years now and I’ve grown to know so many of you so much better through that. I have been privileged enough to see people grow in their faith and their confidence – things which I may have never been privy to had I not committed to attending these groups every week.
Likewise, God has used these groups as places to grow my relationship with Him. In spending time with other Christians (both simply for fellowship and fun as well as to study the Word and pray) Jesus has consistently spoken into my life. In the hardest times when perhaps it has been harder for me to seek his guidance alone or perhaps I’ve felt exhausted and not necessarily wanted to attend the groups he has faithfully spoken a word of truth, a promise, an encouragement to me and through me to other members of the group.
So you see? The encouragement to “come along” not only helps us but helps others too – I love seeing you all every week (and I know Jesus enjoys seeing us spend time together too)!
The church website, describes our Sunday morning service as a welcoming, relaxed ‘classic’ church service, with hymns, sermon, readings and prayers.
Yes, it’s all these things, but I believe it is far more than just the sum of those parts.
As someone who has attended our church for over 44 years, I can testify that the format of the Sunday morning service has changed many, many times over the years, but, at its heart, there remain the key components of Worship, Biblical Teaching, Communal Prayer and Fellowship.
Over the last twelve months or so, we have been blessed, in a growth in numbers who attend 10.30am. We have gone from an average of about 30+ to about 40+. It’s been really encouraging to see new people joining the church family as well as taking an active role in leading prayers and doing the bible readings.
Growth obviously is an important thing in the life of any church and that’s no different for the 10.30am service. We are seeking to attract people to come along and experience meeting with Jesus, to hear God’s word and to be challenged by it. As with most things a personal invitation often works best.
I think there are four fantastic things that the 10.30am service has to offer:
1. Massive experience of knowing Jesus. - The community at 10.30 has literally hundreds of years of experience of knowing Jesus. Just think about how much guidance and encouragement we can give to others, especially those people that are just beginning their walk with Jesus.
2. Loving Fellowship. It is amazing how much care is shown to one another by the 10.30 family. People do not sit in ‘splendid isolation’ in their pew, it is quite the opposite. People do say hello, they do ask how you’re doing, and they do take time to talk with you.
3. Generous commitment – In my experience the people who come to 10.30am are generous with their time and money. A number of people attend at least one other of the ‘balloons’ at St Pauls and/or they give their time to serve God in many, many ways, doing all those jobs that need doing that nobody notices until people stop doing them!
4. Refreshments after the service - Superb coffee/tea/biscuits, served by our smiling team of volunteers. A great way to get to know each other a little bit better.
Just like all the ‘balloons’ at St Paul’s, St Pauls@ 10.30 seeks to serve God and the local community. Why not come along.
One of the weekly Healthy Habits is Family and Friends. I, like many others, have a great connection with parents, sisters, brothers, extended family and friends. The people we are close to contribute to who we are and help shape the people we become.
My father is a widower now, lives alone, he is 87 years old and in poor health. I visit him at least 6 days a week. I clean and do the garden as he is unable to do these things, although he can still cook for himself at the moment. However, the most important part about visiting someone who lives alone is to talk and listen to them. With dad I do try to make sure he does all the talking as he just loves to talk. I don’t visit dad out of a sense of duty, I do this out of love for him. As 1 Corinthians 13:7 reminds us about love ‘7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.’
My husband is the biggest influence in my life. I have been blessed he is a terrific man. I love him dearly and thank God that He gave Kevin to me. What a wonderful gift God has given me.
Friends are also important to me. I have made some great friends at St Paul’s. I have been warmly welcomed at Happy Mondays, Sofa and Extended Worship Gathering. These groups have helped my circle of friends grow and I have met people who are as eager as I am in the pursuit of God and His holy word. These friends are strengthening my faith and I thank them for that. I guess by attending the weekly groups we come together as an extended part of our family units. Yet another great gift from God.
So this week think about or visit your family and friends as you share hope, faith and real friendship with them all.
Colossians 3:12-14 sums up how we should relate to each other and how our love can grow as we follow the guidance God has provided for us: ‘12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.’
Best wishes, Felicity
A few months ago I wrote talking about the process of moving from one Spoon's group to two Spoon's groups. I spoke a little about some of the pain and difficulty involved and how we were stepping out in faith to create something new. Now that we are well into this process, I have a few more reflections I can share with you all.
Something I have discovered in this process is the importance of prayer and fasting when stepping out like this. After spending a day praying and fasting as the leadership team, we got a much clearer sense of what it is God is seeking to do with our Wednesday group, and have been able to press forward with much more confidence, knowing that we are called to lead a group which is inspired by and related to Spoon's, but not identical. This correction was so encouraging for us, and helped us to persevere.
The first few weeks were difficult, getting so few at meetings. After a while though, we started to develop relationships with people, and now have a decent group who come along to our socials. This isn't just a matter of blindly continuing in what you have already been doing though, it is so important to meet people where they are, not where you are.
Our existing format was great for us, but not for the people we longed to see joining our group. So we listened to God, and we shook it up. Now we're running a series of socials for all different tastes to get people interested and along before we get started with an Alpha course in September.
Thank you all for your prayers, we encourage you to keep us in your prayers as we carry on in our journey of working out what following Jesus in the whole of life looks like for 18-30s in Widnes.
It’s that time of year again, the sun is out, calves are out, gardens are beginning to take shape again, walking into church you are greeted with a drop in temperature (actually that’s true all year, it’s just that it’s pleasant when it’s like this!). But it is not just the weather that marks this season as strange. Take a look around the church and you’ll see. The Sunday morning service music has been led on the organ; this can mean only one thing: Keswick! Take a peek in the south transept; you will see piles of camping equipment from the tower which have been cleaned, counted, and checked; this too can mean only one thing: New wine! Hang around Janice for long enough and you’ll hear all about a mad rush for permission slips before Wednesday; this also can mean only one thing: Soul Survivor!
So why is it that so many of us head various distances across the country to go to these summer conventions, gatherings, and festivals?
One key thing to notice is that we usually go together, and even when we don’t we meet people there. If you pick up a Bible and start reading from the beginning, you’ll notice that everything is “good” to start off with, but keep reading and you soon arrive at a “not good” (go on, I’ll wait).
That’s right, Genesis 2:18 has the first “not good” of the Bible with “it is not good for man to be alone”. One key thing that summer gatherings (or in fact any extended time together as a church) do, is to remind us not only of this, but of how good it is to be together. When we come together we are reminded of the goodness of being together. Of our faith’s roots in an actual family who actually lived in the actual middle east, and of our calling to be part of God’s family. It all feels very real when you are seeing your brothers and sisters every single day; this reality, in the arguments and heart to hearts with which extended time replaces polite nods and small talk, brings us closer together, and points us all towards the real God!
It’s a chance to learn from some very well learned people as well. Where else can you get so many people with so much knowledge about God together talk to non-academics like us? We go to these places to hear about God from lots of different angles, and it’s there back in our churches too, as we gather for lunch or tea or cocoa and talk about things we’ve heard in seminars and try to make sense of them as a church.
There’s something incredible about worshipping, singing, praying together as thousands. There’s something so special about singing along to very talented and skilled musicians, and being led by such spirit-soaked leaders. There’s something exciting about seeing people come to faith every day. There’s something comforting about not being in the minority.
There are so many reasons why we go to summer festivals, but mainly it’s the same reason we do most things: to love, worship, and encounter God.
When the St. Paul's way was launched, I was pleased to be challenged to develop healthy habits. Perhaps the one I've found most fulfilling so far is daily prayer.
Of course I knew perfectly well before that praying brings one closer to God, and that praying more can only be a good thing; but I only knew it in an intellectual sense. The only way I can explain it is that I knew it in my head, and now I know it in my heart.
When I was a child my parents, grandparents, and teachers would say, "Practice makes perfect." This is one of those phrases that really got into my mind, and permeates a lot of my thinking. Something that was clear to me from them saying this was that perfection isn't a default in this life, that we are in a world where things left alone will always get worse (see 2nd law of thermodynamics). What they meant when they told me that practice makes perfect, was that in practising things -in repeating good habits and disciplines- I would in some way be reversing that process and bringing perfection into the world.
As I have grown up I've inevitably found that some practices bring more perfection than others, and that daily prayer is certainly one of them. As I've been developing this habit of praying daily, it's brought my life more and more in tune with God. When I make a point of praying first thing in the morning, I get to see so much more of God in the world around me, and a lot of the time coincidences happen! Praying at lunchtime helps me through the rest of the day with Christ at the centre. Reading through a compline service before bed provides a great opportunity to look back on my day and see where God has been at work, and it is a great space to offer the day's thoughts up to God, and to go to sleep trusting in Him.
I've found that having a day punctuated with prayer in this way really promotes prayer in all situations. I find myself speaking to God in everything I do, and it feels so natural when the habit is developed.
Every time I pray, I invite the perfect one into my life, into this world. It really is a practice that makes perfect.
It was battered and scarred, and the auctioneer in a voice that was quiet and low said “What am I bid for the old violin?”, and he held it up with the bow.
A guiness, a guiness, and who will make it two, two guiness and who will make it three. Guiness one, three guiness twice, going for three but no.
From the room far back, a grey haired man came forward, and picked up the bow, then wiping the dust from the old violin, and tightening the loosened strings, he played a melody pure and sweet as a carolling Angel sings.
The music ceased, and the auctioneer in a voice that was quiet and low said “What am I bid for the old violin?” and he held it up with the bow.
“A thousand guiness, and who will make it two? Two thousand, and who will make it three thousand? Three thousand once, three thousand twice, and going and gone” said he.
The crowd cheered, but some of them said “We do not quite understand what changed its worth.” Swift came the reply “A touch of the Master hand”.
And many a man with life out of time, all battered and scarred with sin, is auction cheap by the thoughtless crowd. Like the old violin, a heap of pottage, a glass of wine, a game, and he travels on, he is going once, he is going twice, he is going, and almost gone, but the Master comes, and the foolish crowd can never quite understand the worth of a soul and the change that is wrought by the touch of the Master’s hand.