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.
Estelle brought a message at the beginning of July about how seasons naturally change and move on. There is a definite sense that the season is changing at Pathways Church. Here is an encouragement on this subject from Jenny using the illustration of her cat!
Seven lessons I learned from my cat
By Jenny Needham
Our cat as a prophetic sign
We have been under a kind of extra 'lock-down' in our family. Three weeks ago our cat, Bilbo, came home with very badly injured back legs. We rushed him to the vet who stitched him up, bandaged him, and prescribed complete rest. Since then we have been supporting his recovery! A few days ago he was allowed to go outside again for the first time, as shown in the above picture. The Holy Spirit has been impressing upon me that this is a timely prophetic sign for Pathways, that we are indeed to prepare for the next season.
In the UK we have been in lock-down for nearly four months now, and there is a sense that things are slowly easing. Some people have really struggled with the isolation aspect and missed the social times and the hugs. Some people have actually enjoyed having permission to ‘just be at home’. But however we have found the experience, the Holy Spirit is nudging us to look ahead and to get ready to more on: Not to go back to the way we were before or return to an old season, but to embrace a NEW season.
There is an appointed time for everything
Lesson 1. We can pretend everything is OK when it isn't
When Bilbo was first injured he crept in and sat near to where I was working. He was so quiet that I didn’t realise anything was wrong for about half an hour or so. The way he was sitting masked the fact that he was injured, so it was only when he started dragging himself across the kitchen that I realised that something had happened.
We are also very good at pretending that nothing is wrong. We can present a good face to the world and even persuade ourselves that we are fine. Sometimes I think that God allows us to come to the end of ourselves, for our own sake. I don't believe that God sent the virus, but I do think He has worked it into His plan and is bringing good out of it. I think that maybe some of us needed a wake-up call.
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.
Lesson 2. God is with us
While I was waiting at the veterinary surgery to hear whether we could save Bilbo, I was praying, and I saw a 'picture' in my mind of an angel with two swords guarding him. I felt God whisper the words, ‘no bones will be broken.’ From the severity of his wounds, the vet was convinced that he would have some broken bones, but when they x-rayed him not one single bone was broken, not even in his feet! The vet was totally amazed, and kept repeating, “I can’t believe it!”.
In the same way, we know that we have angels watching over us. However, that doesn’t mean we can always avoid facing difficult situation, but it does give us strength to face the processes that we need to walk through.
For he will order his angels to protect you wherever you go.
Lesson 3. If we won’t rest then sometimes it is enforced upon us
To start with Bilbo had to go in a cage to stop him walking around. The vet was worried that some muscles and tendons had been torn, and said they time needed time to heal properly. Bilbo hated being in the cage, and he actually made his face and forelegs raw trying to get out (see pictures below).
There is a sense with this virus of the world not being allowed to just carry on with ‘business as usual’. Maybe some of us have experienced this personally in the sense of God intervening and telling us to stop and rest. Moreover, for many of us, having had more space to reflect and spend time with God will have helped us to hear His heart for the new season. Maybe as individuals we have been able to reconnect with our destiny.
If we resist God’s purpose through this time and just try and get back in with our lives as before, we may just end up damaging ourselves like Bilbo did. Things will go much better if we are at peace, and embrace the process.
Lesson 4. Times like this can drive us into God’s arms
Bilbo hated his cage and resisted his restrictions, so in the end I mostly carried him with me wherever I went. This reminds me of the well known 'footprints' poem, with the lovely line at the end, “It was there that I carried you.”
I believe that God has been very close during this season, and that it has been a time for pressing in to God. So let us use any free time we still have now to do just that; and let us also maintain that and not let things push out our time with God as we move on.
Lesson 5. We tend to keep going back to old thoughts and ways
After a couple of weeks the vet took his bandages off, and that's where the real trouble started. Bilbo was so desperate to lick his wounds that he made himself bleed again. There was a certain sore patch that he kept going back to, so we had to watch him continuously, and in the end we took shifts to be with him though the night. This actually turned out to be the hardest phase of his recovery.
As we start to move out of lock-down and transition into the new season, this is a potentially dangerous time, so let's be vigilant and not allow the enemy to steal the things God has done in our lives.
Bilbo's injured back legs could also be seen as symbolic of wounds of the past. We have been set free from the past in various ways, but we can keep reopening those wounds by going back to them, and act as if we’re not healed.
It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.
Lesson 6. Are we ready to move on?
A few days ago, exactly three weeks after his accident, the vet took Bilbo’s stitches out and pronounced that he was well enough to go out. We knew that this was a potential danger time. Would he go straight back and do the same thing again that got him injured in the first place?
I think it will be a real shame if we pass by this opportunity to change. If everything goes back to how it was before lock-down, I think we will have missed something. I think that now is a good time to seek God about what he has for us in the next season, both individually and as a church
Lesson 7. We are so much more valuable!
In Matthew 10:31 we read how Jesus drew attention to some sparrows as an illustration of how well God looked after the birds. Then he reminded his listeners that they were each so much more valuable than any number of sparrows, so they could be confident that God would look after them!
The example of my cat carries a similar heart to this. As we reflect on how Dave and I devoted time and money to saving Bilbo, and how God looked after him too, I invite you to consider how much more valuable we are to God than that! We are so precious that God was prepared to give His own life to save us. He paid the highest possible price, the price of death on a cross. In the same way that we nursed Bilbo back to health, we can be absolutely sure that He will never leave our side.
We have an opportunity through the rest of July and August to take stock of where we are, both individually and as a church.
Video One: SEASONS by Estelle 5th July 2020
Video Two: 7 LESSONS I LEARNED FROM MY CAT by Jenny 19th July 2020
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.