This Wednesday marked our last official night together as cells before we all rest and revitalise over the summer.
We shared curries from all over the world, beautiful salads, bread, rice, pickles and delicious puddings. We watched Johnny and Estelle perform 'magic', a clever game, designed to confound you but keep you guessing how it is done. Louise showed that she is super observant! People made their best smile and 'Shrek face'. For the rest of the evening we just chatted.
Johnny thanked everyone for their commitment to cell life, apologising for the times when he wasn't best prepared, but as Holly said it didn't matter because folks were together enjoying each other's company.
As I watched, people were genuinely interested in one another's lives, listening to stories with enthusiasm or sympathy, whatever was needed. Pathways church at it's best. You see we are the church, it's not where we meet but who is there. Each one bringing their all, their gifting, their uniqueness, their love and their passions. Jesus's church is built person by person not brick by brick. Bricks bring no life, and can be destroyed so easily.
The church will endure, as people's lives are changed and given up freely, bringing the Spirit of the Lord to the place where they are, as we are told in Ephesians 2: 20-22.
"built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit."
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
By Karen Brook-Child
The Lenham Family Festival came and went!
God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. 1 Peter 4:10
This was our aim: to serve others in our community, to show them what it is to be family and to point the way to Jesus.
Those of us who could paint nails, did so. Those who could massage hands and feet, did so. Others looked after people, offering advice or pointing the way. The student's fed people as did the lovely Ibi and her family. Others of us organised, offered competition and painted children's faces. Jenny and Holly ministered in song. All of the profits raised went to the local primary school and the Katie Piper Foundation.
I had the privilege of massaging hands and feet and one of the most touching moments was when two ladies came to Louise and I and we massaged their feet as they sat together and listened to Jenny and Holly. They loved the attention and felt very relaxed. It is an honour to serve our older generations in this way; giving them time as they have doubtless given up time for others on their long journeys through life. Another highlight for me was teaching a young daughter how to massage her Mum's hands and feet.
Jesus washed the disciple's feet once, so John tells us (John13:1-17). What an expression of servant love for another. Many people have an aversion to feet. Feet can be dirty and smelly. Feet hold us up when we want to fall, feet carry us when we are weary and our feet can become damaged as we get older, causing us pain and discomfort. How wonderful it is to bring comfort to sore feet, tired feet and feet that have carried a soul for many years. It is so good to learn these things, following the example of our Lord, Jesus.
Pathways leadership team recently spent a weekend away with leaders from other churches, together with Dave and Carol Cape who will be heading up the new 'Acts Life' Cluster which is part of Church of the Nations.
During the following week our whole church had the opportunity to spend an evening with Dave and Carol when they came out to Lenham and shared a meal with us. Everyone had a chance to meet them and hear some of their life stories and Dave's heart for the new cluster.
Dave and Carol have been in leadership for a number of years and are great evangelists at heart, sharing the gospel across many nations. They are such an inspiring couple with their many stories of life on the road carrying the cross and bowl, seeing many people come into relationship with Jesus.
It was so good to watch the way they sat with us, getting to know new people, completely at ease in new surroundings. Both share the good news of the kingdom so easily and praise for the Lord's goodness is in each conversation. It was great to be reminded to listen to God and trust in him, allowing our faith to grow with each footstep we take on our journey.
Dave has authored a couple of books, and as such he is the source of those writings. Paul describes Jesus as an author in Hebrews 12:2 (NKJV), He is the source of our faith. We are inspired by what He did here on the earth 2000 years ago, bringing about healing, freedom and comfort just as it was promised in Isaiah 61, and spoken by Jesus in Luke 4. We continue to see that evidenced now in both our own lives and the lives of those around us.
I hope we never stop being inspired to do good works.
One year after our launch, this was Pathways' Report to Lenham Parish Council
By Gail Robinson
Pathways Church is predominantly formed of ex members of Lenham United Reformed Church and former members of Jubilee Church Maidstone. In May last year we launched as a church in our own right, still supported by, but now independent of Jubilee Church.
Our vision is to be “ a loving family, keeping Christ at the centre as we care for our community”.
We currently meet as two separate cell groups in members’ homes, in Harrietsham on Wednesday evenings, and in Lenham on Thursday evenings, for family time, prayer, worship and reading the Word. Once a month we all come together for prayer. A couple of months ago we held a half night of prayer for our community and spent the time praying for the families, schools, clubs and societies, businesses, medical staff, officials and churches of our community.
Since we launched, we have settled into the following pattern for Sundays: On the first and third Sundays of the month we meet at Lenham Community Centre. The second Sunday we keep free to do something in the community or spend time helping each other. On the fourth Sunday we join with Jubilee Church, and if there is a fifth Sunday we join with the Len Valley churches at their joint benefice service.
Our community, and serving our community, is at the heart of what we aim to do. Most of our members stretch from Hollingbourne to Charing and members are encouraged to be involved in the life of their village and look out for needs that we as a church can provide help with.
We continue to support the Lenham Family Festival. This year we will run three stalls to raise funds for the Festival’s charities and we have again secured the help of students from Jubilee Church, who will run the burger bar on the main day of the Festival. We’ve also been able to help people in smaller ways such as spending mornings tackling gardens that have got out of control where the owners are unable to do this themselves, and cleaning the toys for the toddlers’ group that is held in Lenham Community Centre.
We also value the work of St Mary’s and we like to support them and work with them on joint projects. One of our members currently helps with Messy Mums held at St Mary’s on Wednesday mornings and we support their family friendly breakfast service by sending some of our members to help two Sundays a month.
We’ve also had a lot of fun building family within our church with activities such as a ladies breakfast, a men’s green woodworking day in the woods and a visit to the British Museum to look at the Old Testament evidence held there.
This year we are stretching and challenging ourselves both spiritually and physically. Some of us faced our fears by completing the Go Ape course at Bedgebury Pinetum and later this year we are having a church weekend away in Snowdonia where we will be climbing Mount Snowdon.
We have had a successful year and we are looking forward to building on this in the coming year.
"We are no longer a new church, trying to work out what we are about"
That was the observation made by Louise Buys during her recent visit; she felt that we had entered a new phase.
Louise is a good friend of ours at Pathways. She was part of our church family for a year while studying at the Jubilee Training Centre, and is now pioneering 'School of the Word' in South Africa.
The message she brought to us on Easter Day was about being rooted in God's love. She asked if we have a 'daisy' relationship with God? I.e. "He loves me, He loves me not..." dependent on our circumstance. Or do we know the constant love of God in our lives, finding Him in the middle of each storm? It was so sweet that this message of God's love was delivered on Easter Sunday when we celebrate the ultimate expression of love: the giving of a precious Son, so that we might have eternal life (John 3:16).
The morning came to a close with us sharing the bread and wine with our family and close friends at the foot of a wooden cross, empty because Jesus was raised back to life and is now the pathway for us to Father God (John 14:6).
After many months of preparation, Pathways church officially launched with a celebration at Lenham Community Centre. There were balloons, T-shirts, food (lots of it), and of course many people who came to celebrate with us. We felt very well supported by our friends from the community, and also by those from Jubilee church. Thank you to everyone who came.
Pathways church represents a new beginning, but also the fulfilment of a long journey. Some of you may have felt sad when the Lenham United Reformed Church closed its doors, but Pathways celebrates the coming together of former URC members with some new people who have joined us from Jubilee Church. It is like two different colours mixing together to make a brand new colour for our generation.
Now that the launch celebration is over, we know that it will seem quiet in comparison, but we also have many exciting things to look forward to. We are busy right now helping with preparations for the Lenham family festival, and we are always looking for opportunities to help out in the community.
We are also busy building good friendships in our small groups (or cell groups) which meet in homes in Lenham and Harrietsham, and encouraging each other to grow in our faith in Jesus Christ. Cell groups are the best place to get to know people, and we always give visitors a warm welcome. From now onwards we will also be having regular celebration services on the 1st and 3rd Sundays of each month at Lenham Community Centre.
The Lenham United Reformed Church building in Maidstone Road closed its doors in 2013 and has now been knocked down to make way for new housing. The final URC minister was Rev Andrew Mills who many will remember for the numerous childrens holiday clubs he led.
The photograph shown here was taken in 2012, sixty years from the date the building was erected and 350 years from the date that the Reverend Thomas Shewell founded the first independent church movement in Lenham in 1662.
Thomas Shewell had been Lenham's vicar but in that year had made a stand against the second stage of the current Act of Uniformity. In May that year every clergyman had to formally declare his acceptance of the revised liturgy. Thomas Shewell was one of the twelve hundred who refused to do so, preferring to resign. He chose instead to preach the gospel at his own private school
Little is known about the next hundred years or so, but by the late eighteenth century and often to much opposition, travelling preachers would give sermons in the market place. Their popularity, however, led to the establishment (through the determination of a lady from Harrietsham) of the first actual Lenham Congregational Church building here in 1784. So many crowds flocked to it that the chapel had to be rebuilt in 1824 to seat 500 worshippers. This became an Ebenezer Chapel (meaning 'stone of help').
Attitudes have changed much since Victorian times when its minutes recorded the expulsion of a member 'for running footraces for money' thereby bringing ‘scandal upon the cause' – especially as the culprit refused 'to promise the church that he would discontinue ‘these disgraceful activities’.
In 1940 the Lenham Congregational Church, as it then was, and its school hall were completely destroyed by a bomb accidentally dropped from an Albacore biplane from 826 Squadron, Fleet Air Arm, based at Detling. The aircraft was returning from a raid on Nieuport Harbour, where the bomb had failed to drop. Luckily the church and school hall were empty at the time, although Lenham resident Beryl Wiltshire remembers that her mother had a narrow escape. She was the cleaner and had only just finished her job there.
Undaunted, the church continued to function and a new building opened in 1952, the United Reformed Church. In front of the church there was a Memorial Garden of Remembrance. In the late 1960s two cottages standing in front of the chapel were demolished, and in their place the Memorial Garden was established in the early 1970s with villagers donating rose trees in memory of their loved ones. Behind the church lay its former graveyard which was in use until late in the nineteenth century. Many of the names in the early Congregational Church register are still familiar in Lenham today.
Only the building of the church has gone, however. The church itself continues, as the former URC members have joined with some Jubilee Church members to form the new Pathways Church. The new opportunities that have come through our link with Jubilee are already having an impact on village life, for example the popular Creative Arts Academy students helping at the Lenham family festival.
What do you do when you want to prepare your team for a church plant?
You take them away for a series of team building weekends, and throw in a few surprises too of course! This video is from our first camp together.
Gail Robinson shares her experiences in this poem: