There is always something very special about going away together as a church family to enjoy God and one another! As a church, we have recently returned from a weekend away and have again come home with full hearts, grateful to God for the precious time that it was!
This year, our weekend away had the theme of ‘Come Join the Feast’. And we certainly did!
We reflected on the feasts and celebrations that God implemented for the Israelites once they were redeemed from slavery. These feasts displayed the heart of God for his people to be formed into a people of gratitude who regularly stop work to enjoy and celebrate the God who set them free.
There are so many clear parallels to the feasting and celebrating that God invites us into today as he breaks the power of slavery over our lives! As we sought God together, he was again faithful to meet with us and bring new depths of freedom to our lives. We have so much to thank him for and it was a wonderful time of recognising that!
With a theme that directly mentions feasting, it’s fitting that we spent a considerable amount of time eating great food together! We had many memorable times, including worship around a campfire and celebrating the goodness of God with a party that went late into the evening!
We had a number of young children with us this year who brought so much joy and enthusiasm! A highlight for them was a superbly planned treasure hunt which culminated in a wooden treasure chest, full of goodies, needing to be dug up! The unbridled excited of the little ones was a delight!
These times away do so much to bring people together and enable a sense of being grounded in God’s family. It was special to hear people sharing how connected they now feel with one another.
We praise God for being a God who invites us to ‘taste and see’ that he is good! We tasted and saw and returned with hearts full of that goodness.
By Ben Doggett
Our theme at Pathways from May till August has been Seek My Face, based on Psalm 27:8. We have been strengthening our relationship with God, learning through the bible how God seeks relationship with us, and exploring different ways of seeking His face.
In particular, we have been taking inspiration from the Psalms, by:
Using the Psalms to help us pray
Although the Psalms were meant to be sung by congregations, they are also real prayers prayed by real people in real situations. Throughout the past term we have read many of them and encountered their surprising honesty of expression.
The Psalms contain prayers of adoration and thankfulness, prayers of petition, prayers of confession and receiving forgiveness, and much more. They provided us with words that helped us express our own feelings and receive from God personally, for example by receiving God's love and forgiveness.
In our midweek groups we used them to inspire times of adoration and worship. We used them to motivate us to do prayer walks, as starting points for group times of listening to God together, and to give us words for praying for one another.
Some of our gatherings were lighter in focus, gathered around meals and developing friendships. At other times we went deeper into God's presence together.
Using the psalms for meditation
The Psalms also encouraged us to have deeper times of waiting on God contemplating Him, meditating on His word, and resting in His presence.
We used our Upper Room gatherings to explore those things in more creative ways.
The Upper Room is where the whole church meets together for deeper times of worship and God encounters. Sometimes we focus on worship through singing, but we also use other ways to engage with His presence.
One time, we were meditating on Psalm 1 which says that when we meditate on God's word we become like trees planted by streams of water. We went for a walk by our village pond and the nearby streams and allowed God to speak to us through the physical images of water and trees.
"In my quiet time by the stream I could see the course of the stream and where it was headed, reminding me that God can see the course of our lives mapped out ahead (the stony barren parts, the good refreshing parts, and the obstacles we have yet to overcome) and that he has everything under control."
During some of those meetings we learnt how to contemplate God’s ways and meditate on His word. We learnt how to relax and still our bodies so we could listen to Him together.
Using Psalms for personal devotions
During August we normally take a break from midweek meetings, so we encouraged everyone to use the Psalms for personal devotions through that time.
Psalms 1-30 are Psalms of David, many of which were prayers written during difficult times. So often we saw how there was a shift from the complaints and cries for help at the start of the Psalm to a place of trusting God and praising Him at the end.
We also used a book by Julie Meyer called 30 Days of Praying the Psalms to help us.
In her book, Julie Meyer encourages us to speak out or sing the psalms back to God! We shared our thoughts and relevant songs together on WhatsApp, and those daily readings were a lifeline to some during that time.
"What a beautiful read. It really got me thought the summer holidays with lots of understanding and truths."
We have discovered, through the rich variety of activities we enjoyed, that the Psalms are truly a wonderful tool - whether for group prayer, meditation, or personal quiet times. We have definitely grown closer to one another and closer to God through this time.
If you would like to connect with us and get to know God better too, do get in touch at email@example.com. We would love to hear from you!
By Jenny Needham
Pathways is part of a family of churches called Acts Life Cluster within the wider family of Church of the Nations (CotN).
Recently, our leadership team spent a day away in Ashford with Dave and Carol Dape plus other church leaders from our cluster. Our focus was on 'being intentional', with some great teaching input.
We also made time to connect socially and take a walk on the beautiful Kent Downs at near Wye.
By Ben Doggett
Psalm 27 is one of my absolute favourite chapters in the Bible. There are many verses in it that leap off the page as they display who our God is and how we can know Him more.
In amongst many verses that show the power and faithfulness of God, in verse 8 the Psalmist expresses his desire to seek God:
As a church, in the coming months, we are going to be exploring a theme of ‘Seek My Face’ and responding to the incredible invitation of a God who wants to dwell with His people. We’re setting off on a journey to discover love, joy and peace in new depths that can come only from a life that is orientated towards relationship with the Father.
There are two things that it is important to notice in Psalm 27:8…
1) IT'S TIME TO SEEK!
I was recently at the lovely Glebe Pond in Lenham with my children. We had had some tasty treats from our local bakery and fed the ducks when the children decided that the next thing they wanted to do was a game of hide and seek! It was wonderful to see the delight they took in taking turns to run around and search for one another behind trees and in the bushes!
It made me wonder why it is that at some point in our lives we lose the childlike joy of seeking?! As an adult, seeking things often feels like an inconvenience and something we no longer have the patience for! In a world in which more and more things are available quickly and easily, we seem to spend less time patiently seeking the most worthwhile things.
Seeking the Father is the greatest pursuit of our lives. There is an opportunity to slow down, to not see seeking Him as a task to complete or something for our to do lists but instead for it to become an adventure of great joy. What wonders await as we seek for God’s face!
2) IT IS HIS FACE THAT WE ARE SEEKING
Throughout the Bible, including many times in Jesus’ own words, we’re encouraged to ask God for the things that we need. But as Jesus himself demonstrates when he teaches his disciples to pray, we begin with “Our Father..”
We are first called to remember who it is that we are seeking. We are seeking a perfect Father and are called to seek His face. All else flows from that place of intimacy of being face to face with the God of love!
GOD'S HEART FOR RELATIONSHIP
On Sunday mornings, we are going to explore God’s heart for relationship. We are seeking a God who passionately desires us and has consistently demonstrated his heart for his people to be in relationship with him.
So we will look at this truth from various angles to see what the scriptures show us about a God who paid the ultimate price so that we prodigals could come home.
Why is it so important to know what the Bible tells us about God’s heart for relationship? One simple reason is that the way we approach someone changes drastically based on how we perceive they feel about us.
If we believe they are a bit disappointed in us and find us quite underwhelming, we are likely to be hesitant, reserved and to have low expectations. However, if we know that their heart will always be for us and that they passionately desire to be with us, then it's a totally different picture!
That's why we have to understand what the Bible is telling us about His heart for relationship - because it will transform the seeking!
USING THE PSALMS TO EXPLORE SEEKING GOD IN PRAYER
In our midweek groups, we want to experience different ways of seeking God’s face and connecting with Him through prayer. We are going to ground that exploration in the Psalms.
Paul tells us in Ephesians 6:18 to “pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests". The Psalms demonstrate how dynamic prayer is and the incredible range of ways and reasons through which we approach God and spend time with him.
In our groups we are going to do that really creatively and practically, making sure we go beyond simply talking about these things to truly meeting with our God together!
LET'S SEEK HIS FACE
This idea of ‘Seek My Face’ can't be about just learning more information. It also can't stop at a genuine appreciation for how much God desires to be with us.
“Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in his wonderful face. And the things of earth with grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace."
We get to enter in. We get to enjoy seeking the greatest thing that can ever be sought. We get to seek his face. The face of our creator. The face of our saviour. The face of love.
You can watch Ben's original talk on YouTube:
At Pathways, church is not just about a Sunday service. Church is family, and families are much more than meetings - they are based on relationships! Therefore, it is important for us to spend time getting to know one other and enjoying each other’s company.
Being family is one of the reasons we don't meet formally every Sunday. We meet for a celebration on the first and third Sundays of each month, which leaves time for other activities like serving the community and spending time together.
EXPEDITION TO TODDLERS COVE
Last Sunday was a great example: We met at Toddlers Cove playground in Canterbury for a fun-filled morning for all ages. We were blessed with beautiful weather. Although chilly, the sun was shining - and we had a great turnout of families and friends as a result.
Families with young children enjoyed the large wooden play area by the river. Another group walked along the historic city walls and around the old city centre by the cathedral. Another more adventurous group walked away from the town along the river towards Chartham.
ENJOYING CANTERBURY CITY
After the walks, we all met up in the city centre. Some enjoyed a well-earned coffee together, and others had lunch at MacDonalds - a great treat for the children! All of that was topped off by a beautiful stroll with friends through Westgate park, back to the cars
Lots of fun was had by all. Plenty of chatting and catching up with one another took place; new friends were made, and we enjoyed the wonderful outdoors together. It felt as though God was shining down on us!
If you would like to be part of a church family that enjoys spending time together, do get in touch! Or you could come along one Sunday morning to a celebration at the community centre - and check out who we are! We would love to meet you.
How are you feeling about starting a new year?
However you may be feeling, we do know as a leadership team that God has already spoken to us about HIS plans for us as a church! There is good reason to be hopeful! We can now introduce you to our new theme for this term: CHANGING CLOTHES!
This theme was very clearly given to us, with some remarkable confirmations, and is going to be setting us up for what God has indicated He wants to do in our lives this year.
Hazel Pattison initially brought a word about this at Ben and Kaat’s induction last October. You can find a link to the audio/text here: “A change of season requires a change of clothes.”
We already know that we are entering a new season, and it has already begun with the changes last year. But seasons change slowly, and there is more to come: This year we believe that more things are going to shift.
what does CHANGING CLOTHES mean?
In the bible, clothes are used to represent our internal state. For example, sackcloth was often worn during periods of mourning. The sackcloth material was scratchy and uncomfortable. The outer discomfort represented the internal emotional discomfort that the wearer was experiencing.
So when we talk about changing clothes, it represents changes happening in different areas of our life. This is a great theme for New Year, thinking about what things we want to leave behind from the past (take off) and things we want to put on in the year ahead.
Biblically, we can broadly group them into four areas of life that clothes can represent:
1. spiritual state
Clothes can represent our spiritual state or condition. Think about the following verses:
So we can take off things like fear, unforgiveness, spiritual bondage, generational curses, shame and condemnation. We can put on our new self in Christ, e.g. our new identity, salvation, oneness with Christ, freedom, holiness, righteousness and the power of the Holy Spirit.
In particular, white clothes or washing clothes represents spiritual cleansing, purity or righteousness:
We are believing God for some spiritual breakthrough and change in our lives this year! Also, let's believe for good spiritual shifts in friends and family, and in people who are close to us.
reflect and prAY
2. character or attitude
Clothes can represent an inner quality, such as our character or attitude. Here are some examples:
So we can take off attitudes and character traits that that are not good. (Galatians 5 mentions some, such as sexual immorality, impurity, anger, selfish ambition, dissections, factions, idolatry, outbursts of anger, envy, drunkenness… but there are many more.)
We can put on good attitudes and character traits in line with the fruit of the Spirit (listed in the same passage) such as love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness and self control.
I can think of some people in Pathways who have visibly grown over the past year in terms of their character and attitude. We are believing God to see visible evidence of positive change in all of our lives this coming year!
reflect and pray
3. SOMETHING WE DO
Clothes can represent our job, role, purpose or calling. In real life we have specific clothes for performing certain activities, like a nurse's uniform, business suit or swimming costume.
Here are a couple of examples from the bible. There are many more, such as wedding clothes and armour for battle.
So we can take off old roles. You could say Dave took off his business clothes and put on his handyman overalls. Nicky put on her children’s ministry clothes when she came to Pathways. Some people have put on parenting clothes.
We believe more of us are going to be called to change job, ministry role, or the things we do in some way. So don’t assume that what you have done in previous seasons or in previous churches, is what you will be doing in the coming season!
reflect and pray
The type or condition of our clothes can be indicative of our situation or circumstances. In the bible people often changed clothes when their circumstances changed. Here are a couple of examples:
Our circumstance includes having the necessary provision and equipping for what we need to do:
Our circumstance in Christ is that we have everything we need provided and available to us. That is our situation! But are we seeing that manifesting in practice? Does our situation need to change? Do we feel held back, restricted or imprisoned by circumstances, by lack, or by doors that won’t open?
We might need financial provision, practical provision, a job or a new house. We might need the power of Holy Spirit, or understanding/training (e.g. equipping).
We are believing for some of our circumstances to be changed this year!
reflect and pray
THROW OFF ANYTHING THAT HINDERS...
As per the verse in Hebrews 12 above, we want to encourage all of you to partner with the Holy Spirit to throw off anything that hinders you from walking in freedom and fulfilling your destiny.
fixing our eyes on jesus...
But we also need to fix our eyes on Jesus. It is not just about the changes that we would like to see happen. This is the time to seek God for what HE sees for you, in the new season. Ask Him to give you a renewed vision for your life.
You can use the prayer and reflection points in this article as a starting point to talk to God about these things.
This time next year things could look very different; You could look different! Your situation and what you do could look different. Let's trust that we will look back and be amazed at what God has accomplished, and at what we have accomplished in Him!
Here is the YouTube video version of this talk:
This is a prophetic word that Hazel Pattison brought at Ben and Kaat's induction service in October 2021.
a change of season requires a change of clothes
In the natural we are having to dig out our autumn coats. In the Spirit, it is a change of season, and for some of us it is going to require a change of clothing.
Some things we are going to have to throw off, and some things we are going to have to put on.
For some, it is throwing off things that have hindered, that have held you back: mindsets and ways of thinking. God says, 'It's a new season and I am going to give you a new way of thinking. You are going to see things differently."
For some people, you have felt burdened (under heavy coats) and God is saying, "I am lifting that off you. It's a new season and you are going to know a lightness of spirit."
When God clothes us, it fits. He knows what we need to wear in each season. So allow Him to move in your heart.
Just throw [those things] off, and allow God to put on the new clothes for the season He is moving you into.
Listen to the recording on YouTube:
By Jenny Needham
During October more than 40 leaders from churches around the UK descended upon Lenham for our first cluster gathering since lockdown. Our time was, appropriately, called 'RE:CONNECT'.
At Pathways we are part of a family of Churches called Church of the Nations. More specifically, we relate to Dave and Carol Cape as our apostolic leaders, and our group of churches is called Acts Life Cluster.
Our cluster gathering was long overdue - having been postponed from last year due to the pandemic. We felt very honoured to be able to serve everyone by hosting in Lenham. We previously met here as a cluster in 2017, which must have been good as everyone came back! Here we all are in the Dog and Bear function room:
re:connecting with one another
Much of our time was spent eating and drinking together. It was wonderful to share lockdown stories, rekindle friendships and encourage one another. We shared news from our various churches, prayed for one another, and even heard from other church leaders around the globe via Zoom. Dave and Carol Cape were able to join us on Zoom from South Africa too.
We managed to fit in a local walk (organised by Estelle), which, although muddy, was a good time of catching up and showing off some of our lockdown walking routes. Here is a photo of us with the North Downs and Pilgrim's Way behind us:
RE:CONNECTING WITH THE ANOINTING
Another main purpose for gathering together was to corporately connect with God and allow Him to equip us for the new season - as our churches start meeting together physically again.
Dan Maudhub spoke about 'the anointing', based on Luke 4:16-21. This passage was Jesus' manifesto!
Luke 4:17-21, NASB
And He [Jesus] unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He anointed Me to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent Me to proclaim release to captives,
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set free those who are oppressed,
To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.”
And He rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down; and the eyes of all the people in the synagogue were intently directed at Him. Now He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
Dan explained that the anointing is the power of the Holy sent upon us, to enable us to achieve a purpose. Jesus was anointed and empowered by the Holy Spirit to achieve His purpose. We were all encouraged to also receive the anointing of the Holy Spirit - that each of us would need for the time ahead.
In particular, the Friday night was very special. Jesus truly made His presence felt among us - and many people were powerfully impacted by the Holy Spirit in tangible ways.
Here we are with Neil Pattison (left), celebrating our very own local leaders - Johnny and Estelle McCabe - who shared their life experiences as they approach retirement from church ministry:
We finished the time feeling much loved by God - and blessed to be part of such a great family of churches. And we felt better equipped to help lead our individual churches into the new season - whatever it may bring.
by Jenny Needham
It was with great excitement that we set off for our long-awaited church weekend away at All Nations Christian College in Ware, Hertfordshire.
Around 30 of us descended on the beautiful historic college site - lateral flow tests done and ready to enjoy one another's company! Not only was it our first weekend away together for several years, but it was also the first time we would be able to sing and worship together since the lockdown restrictions were lifted.
The first evening was spent settling in and becoming familiar with the buildings and grounds. There was even a treasure hunt to aid the process! Children explored the corridors, we found out where everybody was staying, and we played a fun game of Mafia to round off the day.
Refreshed after a night's sleep, we arose to see what Saturday had in store - as our main day together.
We started the day with some all-age worship, and Ben introduced our theme: "Love God and love one another", based on John 13:34 (below). This was followed by a creative prayer time for all ages, ably planned and set up by Kaat. The prayer session was a very special time, and the presence of God was tangible. A few tears were shed!
As I have loved you, so you must love one another. John 13:34
The afternoon was a little more challenging. A group of us keenly set off on a walk to explore the nearby canal and nature reserve. But, not long after we left, it started raining. We donned the yellow and blue ponchos from our welcome packs (we knew there must have been a reason for having them) and bravely continued!
Just when we were at the farthest point from the house, the heavens opened and we were very quickly drenched! We thought it would be a short shower and tried to brave it out under a tree, but it just continued on and on until we gave waiting and resigned ourselves to getting wet. In the end Johnny was goading the passing cars to splash him - because we couldn't get any wetter. We must have all looked ridiculous!!
We made it back - rather wetter than when we left - and managed to maintain good humour and a positive atitude despite being soaked. We can look back and laugh at the memory - so well done everyone.
The evening session was rather special. As a leadership team we felt that God particularly wanted us to experience His love, so we made some space for that to happen. Kaat started by sharing, using the example of her children and how they freely receive love. Then we made space for worship and ministry time; simply enjoying God together.
The presence of God came in a tangible way.
And the presence of God came! It was a wonderful time. Nobody wanted to leave or stop worshipping! There was a tangible atmosphere of love among us. What a wonderful way to mark a new season of being together! Thank you God!
On the Sunday morning Jenny shared from John 17: An invitation was issued; a heavenly invitation to go on a journey together: a journey to allow God to transform us into a people who would be one - just as Jesus and the Father are one. This would be challenge indeed, but an exciting one.
It is always a mark of a good weekend when the children don't want to go home - and they didn't! In fact, I don't think anyone wanted to go home! The college staff were brilliant; the grounds were amazing; the food was enjoyed by all; the company was special; and God showed up! What a weekend!
It was sad to leave that special moment, but we are all very much looking forward to the next season of our church life together. A great foundation of love has been laid - on which we can start to build. And, by God's grace, we will!
By Jenny Needham
Just before the lock-down period started we were lucky enough to have the 'Unlock the Bible' team visit us at Pathways Church, to teach us about the inductive process. We used this to help us study Paul's letter to the Galatians.
The inductive process
Inductive bible study involves looking at what the bible actually says, rather than what we think it says or what we have heard in the past. It involves learning about the historical and cultural background of the book, so we can understand what it would have meant to the people at the time. Once we appreciate what it meant to the intended recipients, it is possible to draw out timeless principles that apply to our lives today.
We decided to put this process into practice and use it to study the book of Galatians, which we have done over the past term. It was quite a challenge doing this with social distancing in place! I am used to teaching the bible, but had to quickly learn how to make videos so that the information could be shared with our cell groups each week. We looked at one chapter each week individually, then shared together in our small groups over Zoom.
"I loved the video teachings and fresh insight into the letter"
I for one, had never used the inductive process to study Galatians before. I am very familiar with some of the passages such as the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5. However, understanding the letter as a whole, and seeing every chapter as a well thought out part of a persuasive argument was eye-opening for me.
Galatians was written early on in church history at a time when the Christians were facing a theological crisis. A group of legalistic Jews known as 'Judaizers' were teaching that the Christians must still keep the law of Moses, and were even insisting that Gentile followers of Christ must be circumcised. Therefore Paul wrote this letter to correct this wrong idea, and to emphasize our freedom in Christ and justification by faith alone.
In my opinion this was a masterpiece of a letter; full of clarity on the subject of grace, but also containing wisdom on maintaining love and unity through the power of the Holy Spirit as they dealt with the controversy.
"Through reading Galatians, for the first time I properly understood why Jesus died for me."
The gospel of grace
Galatians is often thought of as the book of 'grace', because it is the gospel of grace that Paul defends throughout. It will help our understanding if we remember that grace is the power of Christ, and that this power of Christ is within us by his Spirit. In contrast to that, the word 'flesh' refers to our own effort or works (trying to do things in our own power/strength).
Paul asserts that we have been crucified with Christ, and made righteousness through Christ alone by faith. Therefore he concludes in Galatians 5:15 that it actually makes no difference whether we are circumcised or not. (This also applies to anything we might do from human effort or legalism that would seek to add to what Jesus has already done). This truly is a message of freedom if we are able to fully grasp it.
"I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the son of God who died and gave himself up for me." Galatians 2:20
"In my life this has been an ongoing journey. God has continuously led me to deeper revelations of grace over the years, and He has freed me from many burdens. I have discovered that the more I appreciate how much God already loves me and is pleased with me, then the more I am free to be who I was created to be and love others in the process."
Paul's life message
We were also blessed to be able to watch a teaching session by Andy Faulkner on Galatians. Andy reminded us that Paul himself had been the most ardent Jew, keeping every rule and studying the Law conscientiously. Paul knew from personal experience what it was like to realise that everything he had been taught was wrong! This was what it must have been like for the Jews in those days, as they struggled to comprehend how much everything had changed. Paul had left everything behind to follow Jesus, and wasn't going to let anyone drag the church back into the bondage of that old Legalistic system again!
As I read these chapters in context, I understood for the first time that Paul was not exhorting us to try and love one another or act in better character. He was saying that we can only love one another through grace, by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is only by walking in relationship with God day by day that the good fruit of character will develop in our lives.
"I found that this book was all about the grace, faith and truth of the living God. We are not to follow the crowd, but live by the prompting of the Holy Spirit who dwells within each of us. We are to produce fruits as the Holy Spirit lives in us: kindness, gentleness, love, patience and self-control. We are to demonstrate goodness in all our actions."
Going back to the big picture of the controversy they were facing about circumcision: The examples in this letter would have greatly encouraged the Gentiles regarding their inclusion and freedom in Christ. It would have given Scriptural examples for the Jews to use, to help them embrace the good news. It raises the argument to a much greater glorious level. It provides a common ground that both Jews and Gentiles could unite around.
For those of us in the church today, we are usually good at accepting that we have been saved by grace, through faith. However after that is often where the trouble begins. It is so tempting for us to start adding requirements of how we should live, rather than focusing on our relationship with God, from which everything good naturally flows.
The conclusion to this matter in found in Galatians 5:25: "If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit"
We have thoroughly enjoyed reading Galatians at Pathways, and hope that you are inspired to read it too.
Through the reading of Galatians I have been inspired to read more of Paul's letters. I have just started reading Thessalonians this morning."
Here are our Galatians videos for those who are interested. (These were mainly just made for sharing at our small group meetings, but feel free to take a look!! They do improve in quality as the weeks go by!). This is the first video, the rest can be found on the same playlist.