Thursday, 31 December 2009

Who walked with Adam?

Over Christmas I read Vaughan Roberts excellent book 'God's Big Picture'. His book gives a chronological overview of the Bible and pulls out the main themes. Its an easy read, short and has a great chart that plots the interaction between God and mankind. This chart ends up showing heaven as a better place than pre-fall Eden.

I got talking to my fellow elder Richard about this and we ended up on a fascinating discussion centering on who walked with Adam and Eve in the garden. Was it God the Father or God the Son?

Richard suggested that throughout the OT whenever God appeared (the theophanies) it was Jesus, the mediator of our faith (not God the Father) . This is how he reconciles the numerous statements that no-one has ever seen God face to face.

Jesus in the garden of Eden is brand new thinking for me and am not sure what to make of it. If the age to come is the first time God the Father will walk with Mankind, this position certainly makes the new heavens & earth a much brighter prospect.

In one sense I think this is , at best, a secondary issue, but it is an appealing idea. If you have any thoughts on this please do post a comment!

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Proper music

One of the joys of being 42 is that I was a teenager in the 80's, the era of proper music. For Christmas, I was given 'Anthems Electronic 80s'. Washing up is now a riot of sound, suds and top grooving!

To honour the brilliance of the electronica genre here are some classic tracks (links to youtube):

Soft cell 'Tainted love' 12" Mix

Gary Numen 'Cars'

Ultravox 'Vienna'

Human league 'Love action'

Heaven 17 'temptation'

Blancmange 'Dont tell me'

Pet Shop Boys 'West end girls'

and of course New Order 'Blue Monday'

Monday, 21 December 2009

Craig's latest blog

The latest from our dear friends Craig & Karena (posted on his blog this morning):

John 14: 1-3 (Jesus said) "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house there are many rooms; if it were not so I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am...."

Karena had her scan on Monday; then for the next few days we discovered the extent of the medical problem - the cancer is back, now in the bowel, and growing rapidly and they cannot operate. Chemo would be permissible if she regained her strength but would be unlikely to have much effect. We are told she may live 3 months, but I will be surprised if that is the case, things seem to be changing very quickly. I have resigned from my job and will look after our children 24/7 for the foreseeable future.

Karena, my wife for 16 years, is on her final journey. Fairly soon she will be with the Lord forever, in his presence where there is no mourning, no crying, no pain....

The day before yesterday we got the christmas tree up and decorations out....without Karena's artistic flair though so it's not quite as good as normal, but the girls did a pretty good job (B+me just bung everything up !). I was glad to get that done to try to make Christmas a special time for the children still, albeit with unwelcome news hanging over our heads.Karena has been transferred to the Dutchess of Kent House which is a palleative care unit. She has a fabulous room which includes a spare bed for a visitor to sleep in, sofa and comfy chairs, big TV, dvd player etc. We did a family film with chinese takeaway the night before last.Their goal is to try to make her as comfortable as possible and hopefully for her to be able to come home for Christmas (either Christmas day or even better...Christmas eve) but that is by no means certain.Yesterday was heart wrenching as we told the children the news....we cried, we hugged, we prayed, we cried some more....then I brought the children home and we did dvd and a pizza, and all went up to bed together. Karena's sister stayed over at DKH with her last night.Appreciating your prayers :-

  • that Karena will be able to come home for a last family Christmas with us all together
  • for strength of faith and hope for Karena in these final days/weeks
  • for our children to be able to laugh and to be able to cry and to be confident that, in spite of the circumstances, God IS in control.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

16 daddy Christmas tips

I stumbled upon a Driscoll list of Christmas tips for dads ... I'm sure you can guess which one is a cultural misfit for the UK!

’Tis the season for Dad to drop the holiday ball, stress out as the money is being spent for presents, and miss yet another providential opportunity to lovingly lead his family. So, this blog is intended to help dads not fall into the same old rut of holiday humdrum, sitting on the couch watching football and eating carbs, but rather intentionally plan out the upcoming holiday season. Our children grow quickly and if we miss the sacred moments God opens up for us to connect with and bless our families, everyone suffers and we set in motion generations of missed opportunity.

#1 Dad needs a plan for the holidays to ensure his family is loved and memories are made. Dad, what’s your plan?

#2 Dad needs to check the local guides for what’s going on to make fun holiday plans for the family.

#3 Dad needs to carve out time for sacred events and experiences to build family traditions that are fun and point to Jesus. Dad, is your calendar ready for December?

#4 Dad needs to not let the stress of the holidays, including money, cause him to be grumpy with Mom or the kids. Dad, how’s your joy?

#5 Dad needs to give experiences and not just gifts. Dad, what special memories can you make this holiday season?

#6 Dad needs to manage the extended family and friends during the holidays. Dad, who or what do you need to say “no” to?

#7 Dad needs to ensure his family is giving generously during the holidays. Dad, who in need is your family going to adopt and bless?

#8 Dad needs to schedule a big Christmas daddy date with his daughter. Dad, what’s your big plan for the fancy daddy date?

#9 Dad needs to schedule guy time with his son. Dad, what are you and your son going to do that is active, outdoors, and fun?

#10 Dad needs to help Mom get the house decorated. Dad, are you really a big help to Mom with getting things ready?

#11 Dad needs to ensure some holiday smells and sounds. Dad, is Christmas music on the iPod, is the tree up, and can you smell cookies and cider in your house?

#12 Dad needs to snuggle up and watch some fun shows with the kids, especially the little ones. Dad, is the DVR set?

#13 Dad needs to take the family on a drive to see Christmas lights while listening to music and sipping cider. Dad, is it mapped out?

#14 Dad needs to help Mom get the kids’ rooms decorated. Dad, do the little kids get lights or a small tree in their room?

#15 Dad needs to read about Jesus and pray over his kids. Dad, how’s your pastoral work going with each of your kids?

#16 Dad needs to repent of being lazy, selfish, grumpy, or just dumping the holidays on Mom. Dad, are you a servant like Jesus to your family?

Friday, 18 December 2009

Come & have a go if you think yer hard enough!

The staff team challenge any contenders to a snow ball fight in the carpark at lunch time.


We promise to show mercy by initially only fielding our two most competent all rounders (me & Joe) before unleashing the mighty Scott 'snow bundle' Taylor, the scary Claire 'curve ball' Whyborn and the awesome Karen 'blizzard' Dwight...

Thursday, 17 December 2009

the Marriage Course

When Liz and I attended the Marriage Course a few years ago we really enjoyed it. I so appreciated having a framework to talk about our relationship. Since then, we have always wanted to lead the Marriage Course and have decided to do that in the New Year.

We plan to invite every married couple who are part of our community at RFC and it will be held at the church offices on a Tuesday evening, 7:30 until 10pm:

26 Jan - Building Strong Foundations.
2 Feb - The Art of Communication.
9 Feb - Resolving Conflict.

23 Feb - The Power of Forgiveness.
2 Mar - Parents and In-laws.

23 Mar - Good Sex.
30 Mar - Love in Action.

In order to help with babysitters, we have blocked out all other church activities on those nights (no Alpha, Foundations or CAP courses!). You will have your own table and not be expected to talk to anyone but your spouse!

There will be a cost of £60 per couple to cover the evening meal and bursaries are available if required. You can book in via Lucy Thomas but we
only have space for 15 couples, so husbands, now is the time to take the initiative!

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

A highlight from the weekend

On Sunday afternoon, our lifegroup hosted a Carol Service at Douglas Court (A home for the elderly at the end of our road). 12 of us went and we sung our hearts out, read passages from the bible and we reminded them that Christmas is about Jesus.

Whilst there I met Jim (name changed). He used to live in a caravan until it burnt down leaving him with nothing (he went out but had left a frying pan on the stove). He showed me the part of the garden he maintains, the leaves he had raked up that morning, his room and beloved cat. It was a privilege to meet him and hear his story.

The residents seemed to enjoy meeting us all, and Lucy & Zoe were a real hit! The staff have invited us back again to run an Easter service ... I still smile when I think of our time there.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

A Womens Refuge - our Christmas Project

Last Saturday at our women's breakfast, Bernadette Adams of Berkshire Women's Aid (BWA) spoke on the issue of domestic abuse. She recounted some shocking statistics;

1 in 4 women will suffer domestic abuse in its widest form (verbal bullying, control as well as physical violence).
1 in 9 women require hospital treatment as a result of domestic violence.
Every 60 seconds, the police are contacted regarding a case of domestic abuse.
Every 3 days a woman is killed as a result of domestic abuse.

BWA is involved in supporting women who are suffering domestic abuse. In some cases, it is necessary for the woman and her children to leave their home and be rehoused in a refuge house. There are 5 of these houses in Reading.

This Christmas, the women at RFC (and any boys who want to be involved too!), want to support a local refuge house. The house has a small playroom for the children and the staff would love to have a few more toys for the children to play with. We have been given a list of items that the refuge would like, most are for role playing. Bernadette informed us of the importance of role play for the children, as they often re-play what they have seen at home. This helps the workers to understand the children and counsel them through very difficult feelings.

We have a list of the items they would like and most of them cost no more that £10-£15. Please would you consider buying one of the items (most available at The Early Learning Centre). We would love to have all the items in by Dec 22nd to pass them on in time for Christmas playing!

In order that we don't purchase the same thing, Kerry Cowieson is co-ordinating the list, so if you would like to be involved do contact her.

Books I've read this year

The reason for God - Timothy Keller
Axiom - Bill Hybels
Trusting God - Jerry Bridges
When Heaven invades Earth - Bill Johnson
Journeys of hope - Christians Against Poverty
Death by love - Driscoll & Breshears
for men only - Shaunti & Jeff Feldhahn
Money, Possessions & Eternity - Randy Alcorn
Feminine Appeal - Carolyn Mahaney
for women only - Shaunti Feldhahn
Worship Matters - Bob Kauflin
Spurgeon - Arnold Dallimore
Wigglesworth - Julian Wilson
The true Vine - Andrew Murray
The Soul Winner - C H Spurgeon
it - Craig Groeschel
Crossing the Divide - Owen Hylton
Father, Son & Holy Spirit - Bruce A Ware
Extremely loud & incredibly close - Jonathan Safran Foer
The monkey and the fish - Dave Gibbons
The Shack - Wm Paul Young
Authority - D. Martin Lloyd-Jones
Grace for the afflicted - Dr M Standford
From Fear to Faith - D. Martin Lloyd-Jones
Lance Armstrong - John Wilcockson
Ordering your private world - Gordon MacDonald
It's not about the bike - Lance Armstrong
A Resilient Life - Gordon Macdonald
Gods Big Picture - Vaughan Roberts

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Jonathan Bell

Today I travelled to Oxford to meet up with my great friend Jonathan Bell. Jonathan leads Church Central and I have quite a history with him. When they first started the church, Liz and I spent a weekend with him & Helen wondering whether to join them! Clearly we didnt, but we have been friends ever since.

Today I picked his brain about multiple meetings. In the New Year they are going multi-site; two morning meeting but in different locations. He talked me through the logistics of the same preacher & worship band at both the 9:45 and the 11:15 meetings (which are in different parts of the city)!

I probed him on his experiences of starting an evening meeting, which they closed after just two terms. Strangely, their experience stirs me to learn their lessons and press on in faith for our venture!

It was such a great investment of time ... and it had a comedy journey to it. Jonathan got on the the wrong train out of Birmingham and headed to Plymouth. After a long & tortuous route via Cheltenham & Swindon he arrived 2 hours late! Very funny though!

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Your story from 'Across the Divide'

This Sunday is the conclusion of the sermon series 'Crossing the Divide'. I plan to paint a compelling picture of what a multi-ethnic/cultural RFC will look like!

As part of my message, I would like to read out your short stories, journal entries or reflections on how this series has provoked, challenged, annoyed or resonated with you.

So, could you RFC'ers please stop for a few moments, reflect on the series and then send me a something I could read out on Sunday morning. A blog or facebook comment is fine, as it text or email.

I do think it will be really helpful to hear how we have journeyed over the past month ...

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Being honest about this sermon series

When I read Owen Hylton's book in the summer I really had no idea how difficult a series on embracing diversity would be.

I don't mean preparing the material, Owen did a great job capturing our discussion and proposing a series. Neither has the church received the teaching recticently, in fact I sense we are all open to this journey.

For me, the pinch comes when standing at my daughter's school gate on a Monday afternoon. Whilst I wait for her smiling face, I am among the most diverse group of my week. And we all stand in our invisible enclaves and only say hello to those who look most like ourselves .

Worse still, because it's a Monday and I'm tired, I have no overwhelming desire to cross any divides! I keep thinking how exhausting it will be if I try to bridge the differences and try to make a new friend... and how easy it is to stay quiet.

I write this because, in my world, this is where the series hits the ground outside of church life. And it is provoking and it is hard.

And it is about Whitley & Earley. And it's about immigration & education & identification. It's about socio economic grouping and my emotional energy.

Diversity goes well beyond gathering lots of different people in the same room. Embracing diversity is very complex and can make at least 10 minutes of your day off very uncomfortable ... ;o)

On a different note on embracing diversity: Our lives, our cultures, are composed of many overlapping stories. Novelist Chimamanda Adichie tells the story of how she found her authentic cultural voice -- and warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Owen Hylton @ RFC

We are currently using Sunday evenings to help us engage with some of the issues that the current sermon series 'Crossing the Divide' throws up. Last Sunday night we watched the film 'Cry Freedom' at the church offices. Simply watching this film in a room with black Africans changed the way I viewed it!

This Sunday night my friend Owen Hylton will be with us to tell some of his story (he is married to a White British Girl). Owen will also be part of a panel to help answer our questions as we journey on embracing diversity.

Do try to get along 7:45 until 9:30pm at the church offices ... and come prepared to ask your REAL questions even if they are not politically correct!

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

A Resilient Life

Last summer, Liz and I spent a day with Gordon and Gail MacDonald (courtesy of our friends at Kerith Community Church). We both thoroughly enjoyed their personalities, their teaching and their openness.

I have just finished another of his books 'A Resilient Life' and found it so helpful. Here is a man who in his early 70's is reflecting on his life and how he intends to finish well.

His honesty about his past mistakes and the lessons he has learnt is very refreshing. When people fail they have a unique perspective to bring. His reflections on the influences on his life has helped my journey into memories I have shut out for years.But most of all I like his idea of 'thinking big picture whilst doing the small things well'.

I think that this will be an important book for me, one that I keep revisiting as I journey into the second half of my life ...

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Gift Days & Faith & Healing

Sunday was one of those mornings.

It was the second & final Sunday of the Gift Days. The total for the two Sundays ended up being twice the amount we asked for - God was extravagant and His people are truly generous!

During our time of worship the faith levels were so palpable that I felt compelled to give a general prayer for healing. I told people to place their hands on their ailment and I asked God to heal them.

It was fantastic when Joe Smith came and testified to his knee being healed ... it was such a supernatural yet ordinary moment!


I have been pondering the connection, if any, between the outpouring of faith for giving money and the faith for healing. I do find it curious that when faith is being exercised in one area of life (giving money), God responds to faith in a different area of life (healing a knee).

Joe Smith is a engineer, logical, faithful and needs 'good knees' to better serve his internship with us. I don't know why God, in a moment, healed Joe's knees but and other ailments in the congregation remained.

There is clearly much mystery and no favouritism when it comes to healing. But this I will say, when faith is being exercised, whether for giving money or healing, there is no telling what God will choose to do!

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

1 in 4

On Sunday I kicked off the new sermon series looking at embracing diversity. As part of my sermon preparation we conducted a brief survey of ethnic diversity at RFC and then compared that against the town.

1 in 4 adults at RFC don't come from the ethnic group White British which matched the stats for our town. However, we do have some work to regardings interns & deacons! (more data on Reading here).

75% of RFC are aged between 16-45 whilst Reading is only 50%. Interestingly, the 16-29 age group in Reading is at 25.3% whilst the South East of England is at 17.5% (more data on Reading here)

The series is based around Owen Hyltons book entitled 'Crossing the Divide'. Owen is with us on Sunday 22 Nov in the evening to be part of a Q&A session.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

A risk worth taking

Starting a Sunday evening meeting in the New Year has created quite a lot of discussion here at RFC.

Yesterday I had a great conversation with Gary Watkins about the danger of us creating a mono-culture evening meeting. Starting at 6:30pm isn't a great fit for young families and given we value the inter-generational & multi-ethnic feel of Sunday mornings, how does that work on a Sunday night?

A wise question that I don't think has one 'silver bullet answer' but here was my gut reaction to Gary's question:

There is a real danger we shipwreck our momentum in diversity and build a mono-culture evening congregation. Yet, simply knowing that this 'dangerous reef' exists help us as we navigate.

Whenever you pioneer a new work, 'values' are more important than initial profiles. Our values should shape who we become. When we started RFC we were 100% British White but now we are 80% British white! We are multi-ethnic and increasingly inter-generational because of our dogged commitment to our values and God given calling.

That said, I do think that each meeting will have a different feel to it. The morning will be more family friendly (kids work) whilst the evening meeting end with an invitation to go for drink together. The expression of our values can look different and different people will prefer the different expressions. All that we do should be underpinned by our high value on inter-generational, multi-ethnic, socio-economic diversity.

Lastly, the risk of building a mono-culture congregation is eclipsed by the need to reach the unchurched & backslidden Christians in our town. These people may find an evening meeting an easier door to enter than our 10am Sunday morning meeting. On this basis alone, the risk of a monoculture evening meeting is a risk worth taking.

Clearly this is a not an exhaustive answer but Gary thought it helpful if I publish this on my blog!

Sunday, 1 November 2009

7 reasons why preaching is not enough

John Piper recently addressed his small group leaders on the essential nature of what they do:

Last Sunday when I met with the small group leaders I tried to show them how essential their role is at this church by giving them seven reasons my preaching is not enough—seven reasons why perseverance in faith and growth in faith call for Christians to meet regularly in a face-to-face way to “serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace” (1 Peter 4:10). God intends to do things in you which he will only do through the ministry of other believers.

7 Reasons We Need Small Groups - He has given pastors to the church “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (
Ephesians 4:11-12). I believe in what I do. And I believe that it is not enough. Here are the seven reasons I gave the small group leaders.

1) The impulse to avoid painful growth by disappearing safely into the crowd in corporate worship is very strong.

2)The tendency toward passivity in listening to a sermon is part of our human weakness.

3) Listeners in a big group can more easily evade redemptive crises. If tears well up in your eyes in a small group, wise friends will gently find out why. But in a large gathering, you can just walk away from it.

4) Listeners in a large group tend to neglect efforts of personal application. The sermon may touch a nerve of conviction, but without someone to press in, it can easily be avoided.

5) Opportunity for questions leading to growth is missing. Sermons are not dialogue. Nor should they be. But asking questions is a key to understanding and growth. Small groups are great occasions for this.

6) Accountability for follow-through on good resolves is missing. But if someone knows what you intended to do, the resolve is stronger.

7) Prayer support for a specific need or conviction or resolve goes wanting. O how many blessings we do not have because we are not surrounded by a band of friends who pray for us.

RFC in the news

"SOMETHING clicked for winners of a competition to find a photo that captures the spirit of Reading.

Keen amateur photographers roamed the streets hunting for an iconic shot that would win vouchers for photo shop Jessops and a place on display at Reading Family Church's refurbished town centre offices".

For the full story click here.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

What now for Prayer Meetings?

'Devote yourself to prayer, being watchful and thankful' Col 4v4.

Starting a Sunday evening meeting presents many challenges, not least that our church Prayer Meeting is currently on Sunday nights.

At our last elders meeting we tasked Sitho with coming up with a proposal that reflects our commitment to prayer. His initial thoughts have sparked a long email discussion between us all!

I thought it would be good to open up the debate to a wider audience, hence this blog entry. Here's my questions for you to answer:

"When and how should RFC gather as a church to pray?"

"How and when do other churches with evening meetings, pray together?"

We do need a plan by January next year so please comment on this or send me an email direct. Please be creative, and do state what you think is obvious (we may well have missed it!).

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

A great email

I received this email today from Paul who came second in our photo competition.

Dear Frances and Sean,

Thank you for providing such an enjoyable evening at the reception for your Photo competition and many thanks for the Jessops Voucher. Both Barbara and myself were made to feel very welcome on Wednesday by your very friendly group and by the Reading Chronicle. It was interesting to see such a good selection of pictures. We shall make a point of looking at the dome pictured in the winning photo when next in the Oracle - an inspiring idea for a photo.

As I mentioned I do think it was very original idea to have such a competition and you are to be congratulated for your work and efforts into making it a successful venture. Perhaps an annual event!?

So, again, many thanks, and we would like to send to you and all of your members our best wishes for the future.

Kind Regards

Paul and Barbara

Sunday, 18 October 2009

RFC Gift Day Video

In case you missed this on Sunday morning

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Photo winners

Last night we hosted a drinks reception where the winners of the Photo Competition were announced (we teamed up with the Reading Chronicle newspaper to run the event).

It was a great evening and all of the 7 finalist photos were framed and looked fantastic. Only one finalist was from the church, so well done Kat Starling!

The first three photos below took First, Second and Third place. Friends from the Reading Chronicle were also there and I will link to their article when it is posted.


Sunday, 11 October 2009

Rested #2 - Sabbath Rest

Today I reminded us that, as Christians, we are released from the rules and regulations of the Jewish Sabbath laws and into the freedom of 'The sabbath is made for Man'.
  • A day for ceasing from our work.

  • A day for giving thanks to God for who He is & what He's done.

  • A day that reaffirms the truth of the Gospel.

  • A day to see the old Truths of the Gospel in new ways.

  • A day to gather to worship Jesus as church.

  • A day to be strengthened & encouraged in our faith.

  • A day to meet & express our unity in Jesus.

  • A day to serve & care & feast & laugh with others.

  • A day to reflect & ponder & review & learn from the previous week.

  • A day to ponder the pattern our life is weaving.

  • A day that helps to redefine our calling in life.

  • A day to settle in our hearts to 'want we we have'.

  • A day to be distinctively set part as the people of God.

  • A day each week to usher us into Biblical Rest.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

5km Time Trial @ TVP

This morning a number of us from church ran the 5Km Time Trial at Thames Valley Park. It was a beautiful morning ... and I had a lot to prove.

My 11 year old son is at the cusp of beating me over this distance. His PB is 21:52 and he set that 2 years ago (he hasn't done a time trial since). I simply had to beat that time today.

Thankfully I red-lined all the way and came in 29 seconds quicker but I think I will have to soon concede this distance.

Irritatingly, Jethro (who has just started drumming at RFC), beat me by 48 seconds whilst wearing tippy-tappy skater-boy plimsoles and Bermuda shorts. I seem to have all the right gear but no idea!


Barbie did her first run since having Rachel and Scott faithfully cheered us all home whilst holding the baby.

Kat LF did her first ever 5km in preparation for the Reading 1/2 and managed a sprint finish.

Richard first rode 45km then joined the race 10minutes after the start and still finished before the tail-enders!

My daughter Lucy ran an amazing 27:51 (with Liz) making her 50th out of the 71 finishers!

Thankfully Joshua didn't run today ... I'm still king of the 5km, for another week at least!

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Mental Health - Fragments of a Care Giver's diary

We are hosting a day on Mental Health to support people like this Care Giver. These are actual diary entries of my friend's father, when my friend battled psychotic episodes.

“I felt all was up with us, and then she suddenly perked up after tea (which I had to encourage down, by directing every mouthful). We went into long, long talks. Mostly about grace. She really thinks she has blown it with God & condemned for ever. I told her that there was nothing that she could do or be that would cause God to love her less. I realised with inner tears that the same was true for my love to her. (I only allowed myself to cry once in her presence, and it distressed her a lot, so I confine my sobs to silent ones in the bathroom, when I was allowed in there)”

“At some point in one of her more lucid moments today I tell her that she has confused her academic examinations with her moral and spiritual responsibility. That is, she is re-living an examination in her brain. All of life is a test.

“Cold, frosty night. I have to get away, I can’t stand it anymore. A friend agrees to cover me for a couple of hours. I drive off in the Punto and park at the side of the road in Pepper Lane. I sit for two hours in the freezing cold. Nowhere to go, can’t talk to anyone. Not interested in anything. Can’t cope. Too painful.”

“She’s gone, and I can’t get her back & as I write, the tears fall on the bed sheet. I must now develop ways of forgetting the daughter I once knew”.

“I sat outside the hospital doing telephone battle with social services, psychiatrists, their consultant, currying help from the GP and our consultant, while my faithful friend, bless him, who had given up his day to join with me in trauma sat in the passenger seat and tracked every transaction to make sure I made the right decisions.”

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

A day on Mental Health

On Saturday 7th November, RFC are hosting a day entitled 'Cloudy days in Summer'. The day is open to anyone who has experienced mental illness and to those who support people through episodes of mental illness.

It will be held at our London Street offices from 10:00 - 16:15 and lunch will be provided. There is a £5 charge for the day and to book your place email the church office here.

The day will have three main sessions:

Session #1 A theology of Mental Health. This session aims to give a biblical overview of the holistic nature of Mankind and sin's effect since Adam's rebellion in the Garden of Eden. Andrew Ryland will be leading this session and he is the pastor of Beacon Church, Chertsey.

Session #2 Treatments & working with agencies. This session aims to give an overview of the various treatments & medication associated with Mental Illness. It will also outline the services available through Local Health Authorities & Social Services. It will be led by Dave Webb-Peploe who leads Jubilee Church, Shepperton. Dave suffered a psychotic breakdown at Uni, then worked as an approved social worker (authorised to section people ) and then a senior practitioner in mental health with Surrey County Council.

Session #3 - Supporting those with Mental Illness. The final session will be led by Pippa and Julie Sussex. Pippa has personal and professional experience of Mental Illness and works as an OT in Psychiatry. Julie works on staff at Beacon Church Camberley and has experience of supporting people with mental health issues. Together they will explore some of the areas surrounding how to best support those with mental illness.

Worship - the day will start and finish with time spent worshipping the God of all creation who has revealed His love for us. These times will be led by Andrew Gordon who is a trained social worker and is senior support worker in a drug and alcohol recovery house.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Rested #1

This week we started our new series entitled 'Rested?'. Essentially I will be exploring Jesus' promise that if we come to Him, He will give us rest (Matt 11v28-30) .

This morning I looked at how the pace of our lives is speeding up ... and that leisure is a very poor substitute for Biblical Rest. Chilling out with friends when you have crushing debts, or wracked with guilt, is a very flimsy shelter in which to seek rest.

'Rhythm' is a root of Biblical Rest that we all need to rediscover and I hope to unpack the rhythm of Sabbath Rest over the next two weeks. Matt Hosier wrote that "we need to be Easter People & Christmas People and Sabbath People", and I think he is right.

The essence of Biblical Rest is 'Peace', peace with God; a peace that is found only in Christ and anchored in the future. I sense it will be a very helpful series and I am really looking forward to the study.

RFC Media made the film below to introduce the sermon series ...

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Rested

Earlier in the year a friend of mine blogged on keeping the Sabbath and I found it very provocative (Matt Hosier 'keeping the Sabbath'). His writing got me thinking and this Sunday I plan to start a new sermon series entitled 'Rested'.

Essentially, I want to explore REST and Jesus' invitation to 'come to me all who are weary and burdened and I will give you REST' (Matt 11v28).

I sense many of us have different concepts of what REST is (or should be) and also many different ways of obtaining REST.

As busy, results orientated, Western Christians, what does it mean to be RESTED yet straining with all our might to do life & advance His Kingdom?

I would love to know your thoughts and questions around REST to help shape the series...

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Lunch with friends

Today we had a few friends over for lunch. In total we had 13 nations represented and many brought a national dish ... the Indian bargies were fantastic as were the Lithuania sausages and the Ghanaian style prawns & planten!

Food and friends - a winning combination!

Friday, 18 September 2009

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Naomi won!

How cool is that! After a facebook vote, Naomi is off to South Sudan ... for more details click here.

Its a crazy, wonderful, God filled world! And Vodafone Foundation are helping Naomi to play her part!

Liz & I are in the same lifegroup as her and we're meeting tonight - it's going to be a hoot!!!! 

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

RFC in the news

RFC has teamed up with the Reading Chronicle for a photo competition. The deadline is soon so they ran an article on page 3:

'Make it snappy for photo competition'

READING scenes will be in the frame in a church competition to find a photo for its offices.

Reading Family Church is challenging amateur photographers to snap a scene that shows the spirit of the town. Pastor Sean Green, who earlier this year based his sermons on news stories from sister paper The Chronicle, said: "Images that capture the changing face of Reading, new buildings coming up or old buildings going down would be interesting. I do like looking at our history but also what we are becoming as a town."

For full story click here

Together @ Butlins

Friday 22 - Sunday 24 Janaury 2010

In January we are joining with other Newfontiers churches in our region at Butlins, Bognor Regis for a weekend of worship, teaching, vision and encouragement. Speakers this year include David Devenish and David Stroud.


Just as last year, you have to book in yourselves - so team up with those in your lifegroup if you want to share accommodation. If you book before September 30th you get the cheaper prices. For more details click here.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Vote for Naomi


Naomi Pendle is a member of our church and Vodafone have offered to sponsor her return to South Sudan for a year if she wins a facebook vote. She is passionate to be one of the first trained school teachers to serve the Dinka tribe of South Sudan, thereby helping to rebuild that war-torn land.

To support her in that vote, all you need to do is:
1) Go to
www.facebook.com/worldofdifference;
2) Scroll down to the second post and click on 'Naomi'
Please do find out more at the facebook group 'A School in South Sudan'. They have many stories to share with the world. Oh, and
ask your friends to vote for her!

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Weekly 5km Timed Run comes to Reading

If you are a runner, one of the nice things to do in order to check progress is a timed 5km run.

My whole family have run the Bushey Park 5km time trial ... although Zoe has yet to race it! Unfortunately it's at Hampton Court in London but given it was so well organised, it was worth the journey.


Wonderfully a similar time trials has started in Reading. The first took place today and will continue every week on Saturday morning at 9am at TVP.

I plan to make use of this ... as soon as my Saturday mornings free up! Oh, and its free ...

For more details, click here.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Mental Health @ RFC

I am currently reading 'Grace for the afflicted' by Dr M Stanford, which seeks to give a Clinical and Biblical perspective on Mental Illness. It's not an easy read but I find it very stimulating.

Statistically, 1 in 4 people will suffer from Mental Health related illnesses and yet there is still massive amounts of stigma associated with it, especially amongst Christians.

If someone contracts heart disease and another Schizophrenia, I can guess which sufferer will most likely request public prayer during a meeting.

On Saturday 7 November, RFC will be hosting a day entitled 'Cloudy days in Summer' which we hope will give people both permission and a framework to discuss Mental Health issues.


We hope that the day will lay a theological foundation for Mental Health issues and equip us to approach them with a holistic, spiritual perspective. We also plan to look at various treatments and how to best support someone suffering from this type of illness.

The details of each session are still shaping up so if you have any thoughts please do contact me.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Bacon & eggs with Garin Jenkins

Earlier this year Sitho travelled to Liberia with a group of sportsmen, one of whom was Garin Jenkins. Garin is Wales' most-capped hooker and he played in the 1995 and 1999 World Cups and the Five Nations (The picture below is him getting his eye gouged by an Argentinian during an international)!

Garin is married with 2 children and currently coaches at the Ospreys academy as well as doing rugby commentary for the BBC. He is a truly inspirational guy and will be speaking at our men's breakfast on Sat 19th September 7:30am @ church offices.

The cost of the breakfast will be £5, so invite a friend and then book your place with Sitho!

Monday, 7 September 2009

Reading Town on Parenting

Yesterday I spoke on parenting and we included a short film shot on the streets of Reading. We asked passers-by "What makes a good parent?".



This is the first of Joe's film projects ... its going to be a good year for the RFC Media team! Why not subscribe to our youtube channel by clicking here and following RFC Media film projects over the year.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Interns!

Yesterday our two new interns, Claire and Joe, joined the team. RFC tradition states that all new starters go to lunch at Sweeny & Todds Pie Shop and obviously their pie choice says much about them.

Claire studied Psychology at Reading Uni and will be taking a lead on media and working with Kat Starling as she leads the musicians. Claire's pie choice was interesting, Chicken with honey & mustard. Not really too sure what that says about her, other than she left the carrots and has a hearty appetite!

Joe studied Electronic Engineering so I now have a fellow engineer on the team (Oh to be able talk again about how diodes works). Joe will be working with students and also taking a lead on short film projects. Joe's pie was a firm favourite, the Five Nations. Needless to say, the dish was wiped clean... a true engineer.

For completeness, Scott went for Venison & Boar, Karen had Steak & Mushroom and I had Steak and Stilton!

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Holiday reading

Over August I wanted to read a bit wider than usual and have really enjoyed the variety.

Extremely loud and incredibly close: This is a fictional story about a nine year old boy 'Oscar' who loses his father in the 9/11 attacks on the twin towers. Oscar discovers a key in his father's possessions and begins a quest to find out what it unlocks. The story is funny and moving and intriguing. It is very creatively written and has a host of colourful characters to carry you along.

For me though, the real plot is the story of fathers, and it is this that is the most compelling. Its a story of fatherhood lost and regained - the legacy and influence of ''dad". An easy read, complex in places, but captivating.


The monkey and the fish: I heard Dave Gibbons speak at the Willow Creek Leadership Summit and really enjoyed his contribution. Essentially he writes that church should regain third culture thinking: 1st culture is your ethnic culture, 2nd culture is your host culture, 3rd culture embraces & moves between both. He then develops this thesis as it relates to church life.

It's not the most fluid read but he has some excellent insights and seems to be on the Christain fringe where there is a lot of innovation. I don't agree with all his conclusions, nevertheless its a provocative read and helpful on thinking through cultural boundaries.


The Shack: I decided that I would hate this book before I even opened a page! Having read it there is much in it that made my blood boil - the obvious two being God the Father and Holy Spirit portrayed as women and how the Trinitarian relationship work. However, having recently read Bruce Ware's excellent book on the Trinity it helped me chill on these points and finish the book.

Annoyingly, I really enjoyed the book because it does attempt to reveal the three persons of the Trinity clearly. Yes in a deeply flawed way but God is portayed as three persons and one God which is a hugely important distinctive of our faith. I am not sure it really answers the questions of suffering but it does open a dialogue. Worth a read.

Authority: This was my first Dr Martyn Llyod-Jones book and a huge contrast to the others! It is based on three lectures where he examines the authority of Jesus, the Bible and the Holy Spirit. It was his last chapter on the authority of the Holy Spirit that most caught me by surprise. He states that "from a practical standpoint, all that we have been considering up to this point may be of no value to us unless we know and experience the authority of the Holy Spirit". His comments on the Church's vain attempt to recapture authority through bigness & programmes & social action is as relevant today as it was in 1957 when he spoke.

I loved reading this book and had to keep slowing myself down as it is a short book!

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Wig-tastic Fun

A few weeks ago we had friends over for lunch and someone produced a wig ...

Thursday, 13 August 2009

The best church website 2009?

Today I got a phone call from Premier Radio informing me that RFC's website has been shortlisted for an award.

Apparently someone entered our site and out of the 300+ nominations, we are now on a shortlist of 7. Very Cool.

They then asked if someone from RFC could attend the awards ceremony on 18 September in London.

Given that Dave Burt and Andrew Cracker live and breath our website, they are the ones to don penguin suits and rehearse acceptance speeches!!!

To find out more and check out the prizes, click here.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Willow Creek Leadership Summit

Last week Liz and I attended the Willow Creek Leadership Summit in Chicago. I've left it a few days in order to let my thoughts settle before I try to capture them.

The summit is as much an 'experience' as it is a mean of receiving excellent content. To be in an auditorium with 7000 other delegates, on a vast campus (with lakes) is inspiring in itself. The sheer size of the carpark beggars belief, as does the army of volunteers that keep everything so well maintained.

If I had to sum up the entire summit in one word it would be 'inspiring'. Here's why ...

For me, the spectrum of the speakers plays a big part: an advisor to 4 US Presidents (David Gergen), a former UK Prime Minister (Tony Blair), a Pastor (Tim Keller) and a Rock Star (Bono from U2). I long for the Church to be shaping culture and these speakers do just that.

There were also inspiring entrepreneurs: Jessica Jackley is co-founder of Kiva.org, the world's first peer-to-peer online micro-lending website. Andrew Rugasira is the Founder of Good African Coffee, and he who helped us consider 'Trade not Aid' as the primary means to develop Africa's economy.

What Bill Hybels has built over 30 years of ministry is truly inspiring. He clearly loves people and is endeavouring to make disciples of Jesus. For example, Liz and I stayed with two wonderful Willow Creekers who open up their home regularly to international delegates to keep costs down.

It wasn't a conference for my theology, ecclesiology or vision casting for the movement I am part of... that is the Newfrontiers Leadership Conference at Brighton.

The Willow Leadership Summit is about inspiring leadership. Its lazor sharp on this. The summit is about being exposed to world class leaders from all walks of life. It's about the church being led well and learning from todays thinkers and movers & shakers.

Tomorrow I hope to capture a few of the specifics I am pondering for us in Reading ... The problem is literally trying to pin it down given how different the context is that I heard it in!

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

RFC in the news

Last week we announced that RFC have teamed up with the Reading Chronicle to run a Reading based photo competition ...

Can you snap up church's top prize?
Reading Family Church's Frances Florides and Pastor Sean Green are looking for photos to display in their offices. A church hopes to develop community links with a competition to find the best new photos of Reading. Judges from Reading Family Church and the Chronicle will be looking out for top amateur pictures to be put on display at the church's London Street offices.

For the full story and competition rules, click here

Friday, 31 July 2009

Father, Son & Holy Spirit #6

Chapter 6 - Beholding the Wonder of the Truine Persons in Relational Community.

While the Father embraces and revels in his position of being supreme in the Trinity, so too do the Son and Spirit embrace and revel in their positions as second and third respectively. No competition, no jealousy, no bitterness and no dispute exists among these Persons...

Unity and diversity, identity and distinction, sameness and difference, melody and harmony - these are the qualities that mark the rich texture of the life of the one God who is three. p157

So ends the final chapter of this extraordinary book that Terry Virgo recommended at the Brighton conference.

To be honest, I feel a little overwhelmed with the content.

Whilst reading it, I have felt like a tree in the spring-time that is drawing up vast amounts of new sap. It's as though I have drunk 'sweet, refreshing water'; I feel like I have been peering into the Holiest place and seen the wonders of God as never before.

What I am saying is that is have been more than a 'good read'. It has been a tonic to my inner man. It has enlarged my delight in our Truine God. It has done me good.

Get hold of a copy, read it slowly, and tell me what you think!

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Father, Son & Holy Spirit #5

Chapter 5 - Beholding the Wonder of the Holy Spirit.

'When the Spirit came into the world, it is so clear that even though the Spirit proceeds from the Father, he is also sent from the Son (John 15:26; Acts 2:33). Yet although the Spirit is sent from both the Father and the Son, he shows no resentment. The Spirit accepts this role. He embraces it. He joyfully, willingly takes the position of third - all the time third'. p129

I initially felt uncomfortable with Ware's conclusion that the Holy Spirit takes the position of third, all the time third. I guess it exposes my desire to jockey and compete for the winning first place ... who wants to come third in anything?

As Brits we love the underdog ... yet the Holy Spirit is no underdog. He willing embraces being third not because he can't do any better ... rather because it is an expression of the harmony with the Father and Son.