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 firstname.lastname@example.org. We would love to hear from you!
By Jenny Needham