A couple of months ago if you had mentioned the word 'zoom' in church, the picture coming to mind would be of singing a children's song and pretending to be aeroplanes ('let's zoom around the room and praise the Lord!'). How things have changed in such a short space of time.
Zoom is now a common word in church circles. We have Zoom celebrations, Zoom cell groups, Zoom bible studies, Zoom leaders meetings and Zoom coffee meetings, to name but a few! It has certainly been a very steep learning curve for some, but once the initial shock died down, it was a challenge that we have risen to with great adaptivity.
One advantage that we have already discovered, is that people can join in who would otherwise struggle to come to a physical meeting. Some people have young children at home, making it hard to come out in the evenings. Others have been ill, but are still able to join in from their beds! Some people live further away, and we have even had a friend joining us from South Africa. It was strange to think that in one celebration we had people who live across the road from each other joining online with others who live the other side of the world. Technology makes distance inconsequential.
Another positive outcome is that we have all had to face our fears of using online forums, so as well as Zoom, we have used Whatsapp groups and video calls to create a sense of community, and to encourage each other. We have explored various potential options for streaming meetings online. We have watched what other churches are doing, partly to keep in touch and also to learn from them!
We have quickly had to learnt how to record and edit worship for sharing within our celebrations, and to record talks and teaching for our midweek groups. This has led to the advantage that those who were not available at the time of the meeting could catch up at their leisure. There is much to think about regarding how we can continue to use some of these new tools in the future, even after we can meet together physically again.
One does wonder occasionally on Zoom, whether people are more interested in viewing their latest haircuts (or lack of) and catching up with each other than they are interested in the subject of the meeting. I suspect they are, and that of course is exactly how it should be. People matter more than things. Social distancing and being under lockdown have certainly not hindered our sense of family. On the contrary, it has clarified what is really important, and if anything, the desire to keep in touch with each other has increased.
People matter more than things
Of course some do struggle to connect via technology, and it has been a challenge to help those people still feel part of the family through other ways. We do dearly miss being able to physically meet together. We have coined an expression called 'Holly-hugs', after the lovely lady of that same name. This is the gold standard of hugs at Pathways church, and is generally agreed to be what our people miss most about being together! Once we are able to meet again physically, I suspect that we will do a lot more eating meals together and just generally enjoying each other's company.
All are welcome to join with us at any of our celebrations and cell group meetings. Even if you just want to join in the background and watch quietly, that’s fine. If you would like us to send you the link, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
By Jenny Needham
I have often wondered what it would be like to be part of the Underground church in countries where the church is persecuted and seemingly invisible.
Well, we are about to experience something similar, obviously without persecution but certainly restricted from meeting!! The recent global events that started in the East has now moved West like a tsunami and we found ourselves engulfed by it in a manner that few of us could have imagined. However, the British people are no stranger to these kinds of circumstances and maybe we will get to experience a bit of the Blitz spirit ourselves. However, I am not trying to make light of the situation, I know it is serious.
We believe it is right and biblical to support the government in its strategy to limit the impact of the virus in it’s spread across this nation. We will therefore no longer be able to meet for Sunday celebrations, and we will not be meeting for weekly cells.
All of this will enable us to become creative in the ways that we maintain fellowship and close contact with one another. We are looking into other Apps that will enable us to hold online meetings together; we are hoping to launch this soon. Although we will not be together physically, we will make sure that we are all supporting one another in other ways. Please make sure you stay in contact with those that are vulnerable or in self-isolation, cell leaders will stay in contact with their groups regularly throughout this time. Let us keep up our quiet times in prayer and reading the bible.
If you find yourself feeling anxious about the situation, get in touch. I will always keep my phone on, but if you can’t get through, leave me a message and I will call you back as soon as I am able. Do let us know if you need anything, and as in Acts 2:24, we will try to keep open hearts and be generous in spirit towards one another, sharing what we have. Please be assured of our love and commitment towards all of you and we will come through this much stronger in faith, and I may even become more IT literate!
I will send more information as we have it or, if the situation changes, I will update you accordingly.
Lots of love
On behalf of the elders at Pathways
These prayers were sent through from St Mary’s Church in Lenham, please be praying for their vicar, John, as he has to self-isolate for 3 months.
Prayers about the outbreak
Keep us, good Lord,
under the shadow of your mercy
in this time of uncertainty and distress.
Sustain and support the anxious and fearful,
and lift up all who are brought low;
that we may rejoice in your comfort
knowing that nothing can separate us from your love
in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Lord Jesus Christ,
you taught us to love our neighbour,
and to care for those in need
as if we were caring for you.
In this time of anxiety, give us strength
to comfort the fearful, to tend the sick,
and to assure the isolated
of our love, and your love,
for your name’s sake.
God of compassion,
be close to those who are ill, afraid or in isolation.
In their loneliness, be their consolation;
in their anxiety, be their hope;
in their darkness, be their light;
through him who suffered alone on the cross,
but reigns with you in glory,
Jesus Christ our Lord.
For those who are ill
we entrust to your tender care
those who are ill or in pain,
knowing that whenever danger threatens
your everlasting arms are there to hold them safe.
Comfort and heal them,
and restore them to health and strength;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
For hospital staff and medical researchers
give skill, sympathy and resilience
to all who are caring for the sick,
and your wisdom to those searching for a cure.
Strengthen them with your Spirit,
that through their work many will be restored to health;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
From one who is ill or isolated
help me to trust you,
help me to know that you are with me,
help me to believe that nothing can separate me
from your love
revealed in Jesus Christ our Lord.
For the Christian community
We are not people of fear:
we are people of courage.
We are not people who protect our own safety:
we are people who protect our neighbours’ safety.
We are not people of greed:
we are people of generosity.
We are your people God,
giving and loving,
wherever we are,
whatever it costs
For as long as it takes
wherever you call us.
It was that time of year again - the Lenham family festival was upon us, and this year Pathways took up the exciting challenge of providing Western Style burgers for hungry festival goers.
After some lively planning sessions we came up with the idea of 'Len Valley Ranch'. A huge amount of skill and creativity went into the design of the stall. A big thank you goes to the Brookchild family and to Dee for all their hard work in making it become a reality. Everyone agreed that it looked lovely and welcoming.
When the weekend arrived we put up marquees, flipped burgers, took orders and many other things. People ate 'The Good', 'The Bad' and 'The Ugly' burgers, accompanied by 'The Magnificent Seven' sauces. All in all it was an exhausting time but great fun. It was great to see so many families enjoying time together, and it was a privilege to be able to help make that happen.
.Jenny and Holly opened up the afternoon's entertainment by singing on the outside stage. Other people from Pathways manned the information desk and gave out balloons. The electrical team was headed up by Dave. They struggled to find enough power for the stage and all the stallholders, but succeeded in the end after some perseverance and teamwork.
Sometime in the middle of all of this you could be forgiven for wondering what this is all about. Is this part of the abundant life Jesus spoke about? Should we always serve like this? I guess it is about attitude and motive: do all things without complaining and love your neighbour as you love yourself.
We showed that the Church can have fun, do things well and care for people. Yes, we took some flack along the way and our relationships were somewhat tested. After all the preparation, the setting up, the serving and putting away, it felt like we all needed a week's holiday!
But at the end of the day we are still:
A loving family
Keeping Christ at the centre
As we care for our community.
Sunday 29th April was a significant day for the churches in Lenham. Over 80 people joined together in Lenham community centre for a combined act of worship. This included people from the four churches in the Len Valley benefice together with members of Pathways church who hosted the event. There were all ages present, from young children and families to older folk.
We started the morning with coffee and catching up with each other, leading into a fun time of writing poems in small groups. This proved to be very popular and we discovered some enthusiastic poets among us as we considered the beauty of the area that we have the privilege of living in. Musicians from the various churches joined together to form a combined worship band, leading us in an uplifting time of singing, focusing our attention and worship onto the greatness of the God that we all serve.
Rev John Huggins from the Benefice led us into communion, and it was wonderful to have leaders from Pathways serving alongside leaders from the Benefice, and to see everyone receiving communion together. Then Johnny McCabe from Pathways spoke, and brought a clear message encouraging us all to express the love of Jesus by serving our community.
A collection of over £300 was taken which will go to the Katie Piper Foundation. Thank you everyone for your generosity.
We finished with drinks, and wonderful cakes provided by the ladies of Pathways. The mood was upbeat, and the comments were positive. For some the style was different to what they were used to, but all agreed that it had been a good morning, and that we should do it again in the future!
We take it in turns to serve at the breakfast service in our local parish church, St Mary's, twice a month.
This service encourages young families to come for breakfast and activities around a theme taken from the bible. For example a recent service was about the story in Genesis when the Lord called Abram and how He provided for Abram, and we finished by praying for different people around the world.
It is a small, fairly simple affair but never the less vital for some families who do not feel they could attend a full meeting with their precious little ones. Toast is munched, tea is drunk and words of encouragement are shared. What a privilege it is for us to go and share in this work, to encourage another part of the body of Christ in our community.
Psalm 133:1-2 expresses this so well - "how good it is for brothers to dwell together in unity, it is like precious oil on the head...".
We are side by side unified by our shared love for our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Agreeing that he was born of a virgin, died on the cross and was raised back to life on the third day. We may have different ideas about how a celebration should run, prefer different songs or use different words when we pray, but we know that the same God is listening and our praises are heard in the same place.
At Pathways we often have visitors, and we realised recently that many people do not know that the cross on our logo is actually a real place which is a significant landmark for our community.
The 58m high chalk cross is situated on the Pilgrim's Way, on the slopes of the ridge above the A20. It is an eye-catching design cut into the hillside, forming a striking image against the green fields surrounding it.
In 1922 a collection was held to build a memorial for the 42 men who died during the first world war. The cross was designed by Mr C.H.Groom, headmaster of the village school. There was also a granite stone with the names of the men, which was moved to the churchyard in 1977. The eye catching cross was a problem during the second world war, and was filled in during that time to prevent the Luftwafte using it to navigate.
The cross now serves as a memorial to those who died in both the first and second world wars.
For us as a church, it is wonderful to have such a striking reminder of Jesus directly above the community centre where we meet. It makes for great photos, and is a fantastic place to meet and pray over the community. On a clear day, from the top of the cross, it is possible to see across Kent as far as the south downs.
As well as remembering those who died in the war, we look to the cross to remind ourselves that Jesus Himself died for our community.
Jesus gave His life as the ultimate sacrifice so that we could all have lives filled with freedom and purpose. Jesus is the head of the church, and we would not exist if He hadn't called us to be here. It is His life and presence with us that gives us hope for our community.
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15:13
Recently a few of us joined with others from our community to clean the cross and pull out the weeds that constantly attempt to grow on it. It was hard work in the hot sun, but it seems a small sacrifice for us compared to everything it stands for. Afterwards it was gleaming white in the summer sun. This is a reminder that 'weeds' can so easily creep into our lives and we can forget what is really important.
Let us look to the chalk cross as a reminder to always keep Jesus at the centre of our church and our lives. Let us regularly allow Him to search our hearts and remove the weeds of sin and distractions from our life so that we can shine brightly for Him.
By Jenny Needham