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by Jackie Mill
SEP 2019 was a genuinely lovely, peaceful and safe camp with a very impressive group of campers. They were a pleasure to get to know and a delight to work with. SEP continues to have an international flavour with campers and staff from Australia, America, Canada, South Africa, Argentina, Spain, Germany, Holland and, of course, Wales! This year we welcomed 73 campers, 10 mini campers and 33 staff.
What is interesting is, that for the second year running, about one third of those campers have never attended SEP before. Where is all that new blood coming from? Most of them have heard about camp through word of mouth, from former campers. They have had such a great experience at SEP that they are telling their friends to come along. And importantly, when their friends come, they like it and want to come back again.
We are also getting some young people whose parents attended SEP many, many years ago and who, although not affiliated with our church any longer, want their children to have the same camp experience that they had. SEP is bridging the gap and drawing people back to God. We had one lady who came all the way from Argentina, bringing her young girls. She had attended SEP in Loch Lomond twice and wanted to see if it was as good as she remembered. It must be, as she is planning to come back next year, God willing.
SEP WalesAs you know, it was our first time visiting Wales and the first time we have been at a coastal location. It was still very much SEP but it had a different vibe – no mud, no midges and no mountains. It did however have wonderful weather most of the time, a beautiful beach and friendly locals - especially the Morfa Bay staff who went over and above to make us feel welcome and to give our campers an amazing experience. The campers enjoyed some different activities such as coasteering, coastal walks, body boarding and caving. One highlight was the baptism in the sea of Alex Wisdom. The whole camp walked down to the beach on the Saturday afternoon and witnessed this special event. Alex has attended SEP for many years and it was moving to see him make his commitment to God and to give his heartfelt testimony the next day during worship.
Spiritually, there were a lot of valuable lessons learned by both campers and staff – the theme this year being ’resilience’ and how developing important life skills and dependence on Jesus can help you successfully navigate life’s ups and downs. One young lad, first time at camp, failed to reach the top of the Gladiator challenge despite trying over and over but he remarked “when I looked back down and saw how far I’d come I was proud of what I had achieved and I will be back next year and I will get to the top!” I for one want to be there to see him make it.
Many thanks for your prayers for SEP. Over and over during camp we witnessed first-hand the miracles God was performing in the lives of the young people (and for some of us oldies too). It wouldn’t happen without your prayers and your support.
by Joe Casey
The Irish Harvest Festival took place this year from 11th to 15th September with 26 in attendance.
The festival took place in the beautiful setting of Salthill, Galway. There was ample time for relaxing fellowship, including the now internationally (there were visitors from England and Scotland) famous house party in Spiddal Connemara.
It was a welcome opportunity to meet together and share the warmth which is the hallmark of our Christianity and a major part of our strength as a denomination.
The subjects chosen for sermons coalesced around the Christian response to adversity. Sermons covered tops from the book of Job and the new covenant, to Psalm 69, to SEP and resilience.
We plan to hold the festival in Galway again next year, so you should consider coming to join us in early September 2020. It is sure to be a rewarding and memorable experience.
We wish our fellow disciples attending festivals in England an inspiring time this year.
Luton Ladies’ Day 2019
by Nancy Silcox
Saturday 14th September 2019 was the 17th annual Luton Ladies Day. Around 30 ladies attended and enjoyed a day of fellowship, worship, instruction, encouragement and inspiration. There were two speakers before lunch. Our first speaker was Maggie Mitchell. Her presentation entitled ‘I Think I Can, I think I Can – Believing in Yourself,’ began with a clip of ‘The Little Train Who Could.’ This talk about Self- Efficacy was very educational and helpful and encouraged us to visualize our goals, plan action to achieve them and to develop self-efficacy by mastering through practice and following examples. Maggie read some encouraging scriptures such as Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Our next speaker was a Chiropractor, Christian Caswell, who explained that chiropractic does not focus on the muscles but on the spine and nervous system. Improving brain communication through good posture is key to good health as the spine is the channel for the nervous system. Christian said he is not a healer - the body heals itself.
After the buffet lunch, Nancy Silcox’s talk was entitled ‘Life Is Like A Cup of Coffee.’ She used three inspirational stories to encourage the ladies with another way to view the trials and stresses of life. Following Nancy’s talk there was a piece of Special Music – a group of ladies sang ‘What Is Love’ and following this Daria gave a Reading about ‘The Worry Machine.’
Our final speaker was Shirley McLean with ‘From Duet to Solo.’ After a bereavement, a new chapter and season of life begins. James 4:13-17 says we don’t know what will happen tomorrow but look for God’s will. Bereavement is not something you ‘get over’ but something you ‘get through.’ Keeping Jesus as the centre of our lives and knowing about the resurrection helps us to cope.
Daria announced next years’ Luton Ladies Day will be on 12th September 2020.
Lewes Church Visit
by Doug Palmer
On September 1st the Lewes Congregation held their Sunday service at The Beechwood Grove Care Home in Eastbourne where long time GCI member John Read has resided for the past year.
John has been unable to attend services for the last three years, since suffering a stroke, so on this occasion the Church came to John.
Alongside his brothers and sisters in Christ, of the Lewes Congregation, John was able to participate in Holy Communion and enjoy several of his favourite hymns, many of which he had introduced to the congregation over the past few years. Also present was John’s niece Joanne Cornwell who has been, and continues to be, a constant blessing and support to him.
Although John’s speech was affected by his stroke, he always manages to say a resounding "Amen" which is a joy to hear.
Adventure Camp 2019
by Geoff Sole
Adventure Camp 2019 ran from the 23rd - 27th of August, at the John Lowther Scout Centre, near Kettering, Northamptonshire. 36 children and 28 staff enjoyed the activities which included archery, bouldering wall, camp-fire, candle-making, Christian Living, felt-making, fitness, France & French, leatherwork, Lego, memory games, messy games, movie-night (Pinocchio), nature habitats, pedal karts, pond-dipping/mini-beasting, quiz, swimming, team-building and tunnels.
The theme of this year’s camp was Charles Spurgeon – a famous and prolific preacher who was well known for his outspoken opposition to slavery. This year the children visited and donated over £130 to the Spurgeon Children’s Charity, a few miles away at Rushden. They also had the opportunity to listen to several stories from Spurgeon’s life during their time at camp.
At the certificates presentation, the best junior camper was awarded to Euan Templeman and the best senior camper was awarded to Elsbeth Egbe.
Looking forward to next year’s Adventure Camp, it is planned to base it on the theme of: Animals, Birds and Plants of the Bible
by David Bedford
July 27th was a very special service for the Manchester congregation with the hosting of two visiting ministers and their wives, for the ordination service of three members.
David Gibbs, our District Pastoral Worker, and his wife Alberta along with David Silcox and his wife Nancy, who served the Manchester congregation prior to David Bedford and his wife Margaret.
Kevin Fajkis lead the worship service and David Gibbs gave a brief overview of the responsibilities of an elder in the church. David Gibbs then led the ordination of Zygmunt Bartosz, as a Church Elder with all three Davids laying on hands. Zygmunt has been a member for over 30 years and is a member of the Pastoral Council.
Next David Silcox led the prayer ordaining John Hanlon to the responsibility of Deacon, again with all three ministers laying on hands. This was followed by David Bedford praying for Maureen Hanlon’s responsibility of Deaconess with the other two ministers assisting with the laying on of hands. John has been a member over 40 years and is a member of the Wesham Pastoral Council. Maureen has been a member for over 50 years. With Wesham only holding services once a month they are able to serve both congregations, particularly when we have our twice-yearly combined service in Wesham.
David Silcox then concluded the service with some of his experiences in Nigeria, plus explaining the origins of some of the ministerial terms used in churches today. He referred to some of the shortcomings of the early disciples and how Jesus laid down his life for us. He ended by reminding us Jesus went to "prepare a place" for us and is preparing us for that place (John 14).
After the service there was much conversation while enjoying a meal together organised by Margaret Bedford with the assistance of others.
A tentative date of 12th September 2020, has been set for the Manchester congregation to celebrate their 60th anniversary, for those who may be interested in attending.
by Bill Winn
After a long dry spell, the rain was welcome. My family and I watched the huge drops fall on our thirsty lawn and the struggling dogwood trees I had planted earlier in the spring. We listened to the song the raindrops were playing on our roof. It was like experiencing nature’s musical ensemble.
The soothing rhythm of the rain-drop melody was rudely interrupted by a cacophonous, off-beat, out of sync crash. It was as if the kettle drummer or cymbalist in a symphony had stuck his instrument at the wrong time. With this single clap of thunder, the house lights went out.
It was late in the evening when the power company arrived to restore the electricity. A 1.5-million-volt lightning bolt had melted our transformer, and the three-man crew and their equipment would need access through our yard to replace it.
It was nearly 10 p.m. when the crew moved their equipment into the work area in our yard. They told me that the three of them had worked together on the same crew for almost 30 years. I asked if I could hang out and watch them work.
I spent the next five hours fascinated by how well the crew worked together. These three men knew each other so well that they sometimes seemed to function as one person. They gave me a small sense of how the Father, Son, and Spirit relate. They even drew me into their relationship. I loaned them a shovel and helped them take down a part of a fence that was blocking access to the work site.
They were three close friends and they were just enjoying being themselves and sharing the joy of their friendship with me.
They finished at 3 a.m. As I helped them load up their tools, one of the men asked me the question I had hoped all night would not be asked.
“What do you do for a living?” Cornered and on the spot, I said, “I’m a pastor.” With those words everything we had shared that night ended. All three men stiffened, and one even corrected his posture, as if he were not standing straight enough to be in the presence of a “minister.” In a flash the conversation turned superficially religious. They became nervous and not at all like the comfortable, relational people with whom I was interacting earlier. It was as if they had gone from real people to plastic and fake robots. Instantly and automatically I had been excluded from their circle of friendship.
Religion does that to people. It makes them think that being real, being really human, is either wrong or not good enough. It teaches us to be ashamed of or embarrassed about who we are. It teaches us that God is around only when we’re acting or thinking “religiously.”
This is all wrong. The gospel is not religion; it is good news. It teaches us that God is always present with us in all the “everyday” things we do, and that he loves being with us. The Son of God became flesh, one of us, Jesus, because God values us in every detail. In Jesus, who is our life (Colossians 3:4), we are redeemed, made righteous and brought into the love and the joy of life he shares with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
We are no more or less in the presence of God at church than we are at any other time in our lives — working, enjoying life and in our interactions with loved ones, friends, co-workers and people we have just met. If we truly live and move and have our being in Jesus (Acts 22:17), then are we not always in his company?
That means we are free to be ourselves everywhere and anywhere, all the time. We can be ourselves when we’re fixing transformers. We can be ourselves when we’re cracking jokes and making new friends. And we can be ourselves in the company of pastors.
We can even be ourselves with God.
About the author: Bill Winn is the pastor of the Richmond Grace Fellowship church in Richmond, Virginia.
Commissioning of Pastoral Councils in Leeds and Camberwell
by Barry Robinson
On 20 July 2019 David Gibbs and I had the privilege of commissioning a new Pastoral Council in Leeds. The ceremony began by thanking the previous council for their service to the Leeds congregation, followed by an outline of the purpose, benefits, and responsibilities of Pastoral Councils within the church structure in the UK and Ireland. Robert Harrison (Chair), Ray Walker, and Johnathan Heyes were then commissioned to serve as the council for Leeds. After the service the congregation provided a splendid spread of food and drink in celebration of the occasion.
A week later, on 27 July 2019, I re-commissioned the Pastoral Council in Camberwell which now comprises, Barbara Wilkinson (Chair), Winston Gyimah, and Kofi Asirifi (see photo). Please pray for both councils that God will give them wisdom and a servant heart as they embark on this leadership role in their respective congregations.
Glasgow Pastoral Council
by Julie Dickson
On 21st July 2019 Glasgow congregation had a service to celebrate the recommissioning of our Pastoral Council and officially invest James McIvor onto the Council.
James Henderson, European Superintendent and Pete Mill, from National Ministry Team led the commissioning and the message which was based on thankfulness for a congregation (2 Thes 1:3). It was a bright, joyful and encouraging day with enjoyable fellowship afterwards.
We are blessed to have a such a faithful and committed team serving the Glasgow Congregation.
James Henderson included a very appropriate scripture in his service, 1 Tim 4:12. Be an example to the believers in speech, conduct, love, faith and in purity. An inspiring message to all servants of our denomination and giving God the glory.
by Gavin Henderson
The Church has sent $3,500 to help with disaster relief in The Bahamas following the devastation from Hurricane Dorian and we appreciate the contributions we have received from our members and churches in this regard. Robert McKinney, GCI National Director for the Caribbean, writes:
"Tania, Gillian, Lydia and I have been working late into the night comforting evacuees as they disembarked planes coming out of Grand Bahama and Abaco. Officials are trying to get all Abaco residents off the island as soon as possible. The population was believed to have been around 20,000. I understand the plan is to burn everything that remains and start over, as the level of contamination is severe. The hurricane brought 185 m.p.h. winds, storm surge, and spin-off tornadoes.
Our members, who we thought were safe in Moores Island, were among the evacuees coming out of Marsh Harbour. Imagine how happy we were to see the eight of them make it here safely. They all came out with only the clothes on their backs and what little they could carry. The storm was horrendous, but every person who survived tells a story of God’s grace and mercy. Recovery will no doubt take a few years, but most are determined to rebuild. Thanks again for all the prayers and support, and until next time, may God continue to be with you."
European Denominational Conference
by Alexis Luckhoo
If you haven’t yet signed up for the European denominational conference, you still have time to do so. We would very much like to see you at the conference on the 10th and 11th November 2019 at the Park Inn Hotel, Northampton.
Our guest speakers this year are GCI president Dr Greg Williams and GCI European Superintendent James Henderson.
The Sunday session is open to our general membership and to any guests you may wish to invite. The Monday session will be more interactive and designed with our elders, ministry leaders, preachers, pastoral workers and pastoral council members in mind.
To book a space at the conference please sign up via the link on the www.gracecom.church website or you can ring Alexis on 01858 437 099. This year we will need to give the venue final numbers ahead of the event. Please advise Alexis of whether you plan to attend, and the names of those coming from the congregations.
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