My journey to faith and the Home Group

My journey to faith wasn’t achieved by sitting in a pew on Sunday morning: it was made possible by small groups meeting informally on weekday evenings. The groups helped me explore my thoughts about faith, learn more about Christianity and the Bible, and start on repentance and renewal. I met like-minded people, made friends and shared experiences and hope. To me, those groups demonstrated the fundamentals of Christian fellowship and discipleship.

Home Groups operate on the same principles. They are places of fellowship, friendship and mutual spiritual and moral support. They are about learning more about our faith, in theory and practice. They are safe places where you can ask questions, and talk about your thoughts and feelings without fear. Groups are autonomous and have diverse approaches to their mission: one group focuses on prayer, some follow courses offered by the Christian Union and others, while other groups focus on Bible reading. Some meet weekly, some fortnightly, some monthly; some always meet in the same place, while some meet wherever and whenever the members can make it.

To find out more, come to our Home Group Fair on 17th June at the Parish Centre, starting at 12.00. All the current groups will be there to explain the benefits of being part of a regular group, and to invite you to a “taster” meeting.

Mike Duncombe, Adult Discipleship

The Griffin Charity Festival

On Saturday 30 June from 12.30 – 7pm The Griffin, together with Altrincham Matters, is having a Charity Festival. This will be a fantastic occasion with the aim of raising money for MacMillan Cancer Support and there will be plenty to interest people of all ages. There will be lots of stalls to enjoy including Honey Beat, Lauren B., Joanne Art, Acorn Bakery and the Bowdon Rooms. At St Mary’s we are lucky to be in such close proximity to two such friendly pubs and we are excited that Bowdon Parish has been asked to have a stall too.

There will also be live music throughout the day, which will create a great atmosphere. Many of the acts are local and these include Liam McClair, Jordan Drinkwater, Folk Remedy and the Music Place Choir.

Please pop into the Griffin: Stamford Road, Bowdon, WA14 2TP, for more details or contact them:
6196@greeneking.co.uk / 0161 928 1211.
Catherine Cleghorn, Ordinand

The Booth Centre – rebuilding lives

At the Ladies’ Continental Breakfast in April we were inspired by a talk on the Booth Centre in Manchester from our churchwarden, Sue Redford, who has been appointed the first ambassador for the Centre.

The Centre is not a hostel, but caters in a wide variety of ways for people sleeping rough; men make up 93% of its clients, around half have alcohol problems, a third have drug-related issues and a massive 85% are wrestling with their mental health.

‘Rough sleepers’ end up on the streets for myriad reasons, including becoming homeless at the end of a tenancy or marriage break-up. They are provided at the Booth Centre with not only wholesome meals – up to 800 a week are served – but also an impressive range of services to help them to get their lives back on track. The Centre offers assistance in finding accommodation, accessing medical, podiatry and counselling services, and developing skills such as literacy and computing, sewing and woodwork, all of which help to restore self-belief.

Many of the volunteers at the Centre have been on the streets themselves, and are therefore fully aware of the challenges someone faces when they have reached ‘rock bottom’. Obviously, they have great street credibility with those they are trying to help out of a life of hopelessness and homelessness.

Bowdon Parish supports the Booth Centre in several important ways. Our harvest collection provides them with their biggest single input of food. There is always a constant need also for socks, gloves, hats, scarves, equipment for housing and towels, which do not have to be new for the Centre’s showers. Please check out their website (www.boothcentre.org.uk) and our weekly pew sheet for their latest appeals.  Items donated should be left in the allotted place at the back of St Mary’s. The Booth Centre also welcomes volunteers, financial donations, offers of help with fundraising, and the possibility of employment opportunities for the homeless people they are trying so hard to help.

Joanna Williams

Funding the Future of Bowdon Parish

From time to time all organisations need to take stock and Bowdon Parish is no exception. Over recent months we have been looking in particular at what money we need to sustain our present work and have also been considering our ambitions for the future.

The Parish is a thriving centre of Christian worship celebrated at St Mary’s Church, St Luke’s Church and at the Parish Centre where Zone2 meet, adjacent to St Mary’s. We are also grateful that we often have the chance to engage with the local community in myriad different ways. For the old and the young there are opportunities throughout the year to meet, socialise and have fun in the community facilities offered at St Luke’s and the Parish Centre.

Naturally, for the future we want to sustain all this, and especially to develop our work with young people. They are the ones who will generate the energy and life to create a new future for the Church, our community and our society. They also face significant challenges as they navigate the pressures of social media, a world flooded with information and choice, and rising expectations to perform.

We want to continue to provide somewhere safe, positive and interesting for them to go so that they can experience great social, personal and spiritual rewards. Our volunteer youth team make this happen but they need the leadership and support of a full time Youth Missioner to be fully effective.

All that stands in our way is lack of funds.

There is a myth that Bowdon Parish receives funds from the government, or the national church, or the diocese. Nothing could be further from the truth. All the £330,000 a year it costs to run our Parish – that’s about £6,500 every week – has to be found from within the Parish. Half of it comes from hiring out our buildings – the Parish Centre for example – but the other half – over £3000 per week – comes from giving by the members of the Parish.

At the moment there is a shortfall between our income and expenditure of about £25,000 per annum, and that is before we fund our full time Youth Missioner. Properly funded work with young people adds about another £40,000 per year, so we have a significant challenge on our hands.

Not surprisingly, Bowdon Parish has embarked on a fund raising drive! The centrepiece is a Future Fund for Youth, through which we hope to raise £200,000 to meet the costs of our youth work for at least five years. The great news is that we have already raised £100,000 towards our target.

At the same time, we are also working on increasing our regular income to support the day to day work and running of the Parish.

We would like to say a big thank you to all those who have already made generous gifts, and do urge you to keep in touch with our progress on the Parish Website.

Philip Smyth

If you would like to help with funding the future of Bowdon Parish please get in touch with Ian Rumsey at
ian@bowdonchurch.org, Philip Smyth at philipsmyth@bowdonchurch.org or Simon Wood at simonwood@bowdonchurch.org

Together we can withstand the storms

Christian Aid Week 13 – 20 May

For 70 years, Christian Aid has been supporting people in need around the world; not only Christians, but people of every faith and none. It works through local partners to respond to humanitarian crises and to help people in some of the world’s poorest areas to build sustainable lives. In Haiti for example, there is a desperate need for homes strong enough to withstand the hurricanes that sweep across the island.

During Christian Aid week our team of collectors will be delivering Christian Aid envelopes to every home in the parish. By giving, you can help to build secure, disaster-proof homes in Haiti.

£30 could buy high quality cement.

£50 could buy basic building tools.

£210 could up-skill a local builder to build disaster-proof homes.

We aim to collect all the envelopes, but if yours isn’t collected and you want to donate, please bring the envelope to the Parish Centre next to St Mary’s Church. In addition, if you gift aid your donation its value will be increased by 25%, at no cost to you.

Please give generously. Thank you for your support.

Kate Stross – Parish Coordinator for Christian Aid

Bowdon Church School Experience Easter

During the BCS Experience Easter Week, St Mary’s welcomed every class at Bowdon Church School to take part in a five station interactive prayer walk around the church. The children were read the Easter story and then journeyed from Palm Sunday, placing pebbles at the cross, to feet washing and then the Last Supper where they were fed real bread and blackcurrant juice. After that, they thought about solitude, made plasticine models in the Garden of Gethsemane and prayed for all those in need at the foot of the huge wooden cross, draped in red cloth. The empty tomb was erected at school and apparently involved chocolate eggs!

The cumulative effect of the interactive stations brought out brilliantly the hope, sorrow, solitude, humbleness, agony and joy of Christ’s Passion to us all in a really meaningful way. The thoughtful questioning, openness, honesty and unbridled joy I witnessed from the children who took part in this Easter experience made me realise how important it is to have an honest faith in God and that, as children do, we should simply take God at His Word and trust that our Father in heaven will be with us wherever we go.

Kirsten Wood, Parish Development

Rwandan lessons

In February I spent eight days in Rwanda with some friends from my theological college, St Mellitus, one of our lecturers and some representatives from the amazing charity Tearfund. The aim of our trip was to learn about reconciliation and community transformation, and to take back what we had learned to our own churches.

We travelled around the country and met some incredibly inspiring groups and individuals. We learnt about how churches working together had been able to build and transform communities through very practical projects. Many of the projects that we saw and heard about involved groups that had been formed in order that they could share their resources, work together, and help to support one another in any way that was necessary. As soon as they were able, these groups then started to work for the benefit of the communities around them.

In 1994 conflicts in Rwanda escalated in an horrific fashion and led to a genocide that resulted in nearly one million people being killed in under a month. We had the privilege of visiting memorial sites and meeting both survivors and perpetrators of genocide. We heard mind blowing testimonies of forgiveness and reconciliation from people who had been on extremely difficult journeys of spiritual and emotional healing. We heard not only of the challenge of living by the words of Jesus on the cross: ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing’ but also of the profound sense of peace that this brings.

We were personally told over and over again, by the villagers that we met, by church leaders, by members of Tearfund and by the Archbishop of Rwanda, Onesphore Rwaje, that the message we should take home is that forgiveness, healing and reconciliation are possible, even in the most difficult circumstances.

 

Catherine Cleghorn, Ordinand

Kingdom Club 2018

Meeting in the Parish Centre during the Easter holidays, the Kingdom Club 2018 helped about 60 primary school children and a scattering of pre-schoolers explore the true meaning of the Lord’s Prayer and generally learn more about the Gospel. This year the storyline of the ever popular Disney film “Shrek” was used to help put across the Christian message.

When I dropped in on the second morning one of the four groups of children was trying to distinguish between their “needs” and “wants”, with varying results. In this lively session they learned that we need God in our lives to provide us with our daily bread, that is, our spiritual nourishment. Another group were learning about the parable of the sower through a game. The third group was learning an appropriate Bible verse and in the craft room pots were being decorated before being planted with seeds by the final group. Fun and relevance were essential elements in all the activities I saw. The end of each of these short sessions was marked by a burst of “I’m a Believer” in the main hall, to which many of the children danced and let off steam. I had to resist the urge to join in!

Over the course of the week the children learned that if we live with God in our lives, doing things together in a community and not on our own, then we can be truly happy and have heaven on earth. Each year, by working together tirelessly the leaders and teenage helpers make the Holiday Club such a success. I learned, too, however, from chatting with helpers that close friendships can be forged between the teenagers when they get involved, and that their own faith can flourish and deepen.

 

Hilary Gartside

Three little words

If you could ask God for one thing and be guaranteed he would grant your wish, I wonder what your request would be?  I imagine most of us would quickly get past the immediate thought of a punnet of blueberries each morning for breakfast for life (or whatever your self-concerned luxury might be), because if this is indeed a serious offer from God, then we need to consider it very … well … seriously.  And then a whole range of candidates line up, vying for front-of-queue position, eagerly putting up their hands and clamouring, ‘choose me; choose me!’

Do you ask God for something global?  Peace for the Middle East?  Human trafficking to cease?  Safe habitats for the endangered species of our planet?  The political will to cut carbon emissions?

Perhaps it’s something much closer to home.  A cure for your relative’s terminal illness?  For your friend’s depression to come to an end?  For that addiction to lose its power? For the bullying at school to stop?

The trouble is, in my experience anyway, for all of these complex circumstances and hundreds like them, it’s difficult to know exactly what to ask for.  Finding the words to fully articulate a request to God can be hard.

Fortunately, help is at hand. The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have written to every parish in the land challenging us to use one particular phrase urgently and fervently. Three little words which come straight out of the Lord’s Prayer. Three little words with which we can hold up to God the knottiest, most labyrinthine, unsolvable of problems.

Three little prayer words: Thy kingdom come.

Three little words we can start using even today.

Ian Rumsey, Vicar

Puppet

Puppets play an important role in children’s ministry and no-one recognises this more than our vicar.

The parish Knitting Collective has decided to honour Ian’s views by creating a knitted Ian to be used in All-Age services. The life-sized puppet will be dedicated in a special service – more details to follow!