Willen Church Sleepout to Help the Homeless: Saturday 14 September 2019

The church of St Mary Magdalene is hoping others will join them in highlighting the problem of homelessness in our city with the Big Sleepout event which will take place overnight NEXT SATURDAY, 14 September outside Willen Pavilion.

Please email willensleepout19@gmail.com for registration and sponsorship forms. You can read more on Facebook on the bussheltermk page and the Willen Sleepout page on Virgin Money Giving is available for making donations.

Rev Dr Paul Smith, Team Rector of Stantonbury and Willen parish LEP will be taking part himself in support of the MK Bus Shelter, both to help raise awareness, as well as to offer some financial support. He says,

“I would like to invite you to sponsor me. Any amount, however small, will be welcome. It is very easy, as you can go online and pledge your chosen amount. Just go to: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/PaulSmith385.”

If you could download the Willen Church sleepout poster and display it in your church too, that would be really appreciated!

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‘WithIN’ – A Conference on Everyday Faith: Tuesday 8 October 2019

This conference is a Watling Valley Ecumenical Partnership (WVEP) initiative in conjunction with the Diocese of Oxford and HeartEdge/St Martin-in-the-Fields.

The name “WithIN” refers to being WITH God, IN the world.  The keynote speaker will be the Revd Sam Wells.

The day session will start at 9.30am with worship led by the St Martin’s Singers, and will end between 5-5.30pm.  An evening session has been planned for those unable to attend during the day.  This will start at approximately 6.30pm with worship by Testament, and end by 9.15pm.  It is hoped that exhibitions and stalls will be available for folk to look at between 5 – 6.30pm.

As well as having a keynote speaker, there will be a variety of workshops to choose from, looking at the various aspects of everyday spirituality and aiming to be practical, accessible and fun. There will even be a workshop that teachers may find useful.  Workshop leaders include  Barry Lotz, Ruth Maxey, Jonathan Evens (HeartEdge, St  Martin’s), Charlie Kerr (Diocese), and Tina Molyneux (Diocese).

WVEP expects the day to be free, although donations would be welcomed. Tea/coffee/Lunch will be provided, as well as light refreshments in the early evening.  Lunchtime will include ‘Great Sacred Music’ with Sam Wells and the St Martin’s Singers.

Booking is via Eventbrite. All are welcome, and WVEP hopes to encourage a wide range of participation.

Please advertise this event as widely as possible!

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Understanding Mental Health (UMH): Report for 28 March 2019 Deanery Synod

Where we Started: I was looking back recently at the initial notes those on our table made a year ago before UMH met to form a group. I found it interesting to see we are still engaging with all those initial ideas, but I thought it worth reminding ourselves of 3 in particular:-

1. Make church a place where people feel SAFE; feel they BELONG, feel ACCEPTED; and feel is HOSPITABLE.

2. Equip ourselves – our churches – to be BETTER LISTENERS.

3. TALK ABOUT IT (Mental Health) – in context of whole self – the theology of mental health.

I really like the closing thought, which was to “Decide where to focus our efforts. We can’t do it all, but we can do something if we work together.”

What We Asked of You: I don’t think anyone would disagree with points 1 and 2, and in fact I’m sure we all want that across the board for anyone coming to church, not just for those with MH issues. No 3 seems to be more challenging. Our request for each church to bring our project to its PCC and to get feedback about whether their church was ‘mental health friendly’ (and if so, in what way), has highlighted some difficulties. Some misinterpreted the question, feeling uncomfortable about asking people about mental health or targeting only those with known MH conditions, when actually we wanted to know what congregations felt their church’s ATTITUDE was to Mental Health. Nor are we setting ourselves up as experts, or expecting you to be. We had hoped to collate the feedback to give you tonight. However, the response in general has been poor, and few churches or LEPs have engaged with us, never mind got a clear understanding of what we’re asking. In fact only 3 members of the clergy responded out of 27, so thank you to Catherine, Sharon and Matt. I found that really shocking to be honest. I think it’s difficult for lay members to do much without clergy support, but we’ll see how things develop. The members of UMH – all busy people – have invested many hours of their own personal time in this project over the past year – myself included. I’m not doing this as part of my job! I believe everyone in the group is happy to continue to do this as we feel it’s what God wants and as long as it is produces fruit eventually. God has clearly shown he’s opening doors for us, such as being invited through a WI friend of mine to join the Campbell Centre group, and finding when we got there that the Secretary is a member of Sts Peter and Paul’s Church in Newport Pagnell! A new member has also now joined the group as result of our presentation at the last Synod -Iola Samuels from St Martin’s Fenny Stratford – so we’re delighted she’ll be joining us at our next meeting.

Where We Were: Even last March there was the recognition that this subject is vast. The more we’ve learned since, the more overwhelming and urgent it seems to become, and the more we see the cross-over into other areas such as homelessness and addiction. Moreover, other areas of community are affected. The Police now spend 90% of their time dealing with calls concerning Mental Health – and this after only 45- 60 minutes’ training. How does that leave them adequately prepared to deal with the issues, or time to do other police work? What knock-on effect is this having?

What UMH Has Been Doing: We’ve made great strides in our research and have continued to strengthen our relationship with the Campbell Centre and build trust, primarily via the User and Carer Improvement Group, in which Gill and Linda have now been accepted as members instead of onlookers, so we are able to contribute suggestions and help influence improvements in care while we work towards identifying where we can best offer future help through our churches.

In January a member of the Quality Care Commission (QCC), who was carrying out an inspection of the Campbell Centre, joined the group. Kingsley Akuffo, the new Service Manager, has also attended several meetings, though sometimes the managers’ meeting clashes or over-runs. Therefore from June onwards the meeting day is going to change to ensure managers are able to attend.

Gill and Linda have also finally managed a meeting with Re-Think and this is a charity we might be able to partner with in the future.

Separately, through Citizens:MK (of which the Deanery is a member), Gill has met up with Patrick Gillespie, the Interim Service Director for MK Mental Health Services at Central and NW London Foundation Trust (CNWL). Unfortunately we’ve just learned that his temporary term has ended and a new Service Director is being sought, which is a bit of a setback for all concerned, not least because of the time this may take. A few weeks ago we managed to arrange a meeting of the UMH team (including Tim), with the Campbell Centre team. Sadly there was an emergency, so it ended up with just 4 of us with Mark Sanderson, an Associate Practitioner and Chair of the User and Carers’ group. Nonetheless we learned a great deal. They have been trialling what they call a Recovery College, which consisted of 18 sessions on a variety of topics. It has not been particularly well attended, but this was most likely due to inadequate advertising, coupled with the bus route being changed due to road works. If this Recovery College is rolled out, (which it may not be, due to a lack of response), it is certainly an area we could engage with, not least through helping to advertise it, or offering venues for it to take place.

We were aware that the Point was to close imminently and that The Mix Drop-In was actively seeking an alternative venue. However, they turned up one day to find The Point padlocked, and no notice had been given! Thankfully it has temporarily re-opened, as the number of attendees for a couple of hours on a Monday has now risen to over 90. The high numbers are worrying in and of themselves, as many people with MH issues do not like large crowds or noise. However, it’s the only thing of its kind available, for a few hours once a week, and I understand one of the main draws is having a member of the Citizens’ Advice Bureau there. As well as that they have 3 qualified support workers, and I was told that a member of The Samaritans attended recently, though the Council has just cut the position of the fully-trained MH Social Care Assistant, so it’s a case of ‘win one, lose one’.

We believe our churches are ideally placed to hold similar Drop-Ins, and it would be amazing if we could have one or more open and welcoming on each day of the week across MK. So this is another area we’re keen to get involved with, and it’s been hard not to just jump in with offers of help. However, we’re mindful that the right structures and support need to be in place first, and our help needs to be appropriate and sustainable. To this end our intention is to raise awareness, offer training, and ensure we have consistency in volunteering, otherwise we could do more harm than good. Hopefully we will be able to say more on this in July.

Since the last Synod Linda and Hilda have done a mapping exercise, drawing the parish outlines on a map, and putting different coloured dots to signify what we understand churches are doing, and identify where there might be potential for involvement.

UMH has also continued to hold its own meetings, one of which took place at Cornerstone following Citizens:MK’s Delegates’ Assembly in February. We were expecting to meet up with Alison Webster, Social Responsibility Adviser for Oxford Diocese, to discuss training and draw on her considerable expertise, but unfortunately she was ill that week.

Where We Are Now: UMH was elected by you as the highest concern to your churches. To be clear, the intention was never to set ourselves up as a Counselling Service, or as experts in dealing with the more serious MH conditions. However, we could make a huge difference if we could offer places of safety, refuge, belonging and understanding, even to those with depression, loneliness, and isolation, which can themselves lead to homelessness, or addictions such as gambling, or drug, alcohol or food misuse, or internet/phone addiction. (I learned from Mark that there are now detox centres to help those addicted to their mobile phones…)
UMH is not asking for your support – quite the opposite. We’re saying we’re here to help you if in fact you are ready to accept the help the Deanery is offering, and which you’ve said is a priority for your church. We’ve therefore decided to extend the deadline for feedback to the end of May, and to offer more specific help, because I believe some churches do wish to get involved but don’t know how to begin to get the information we’ve asked for. (Please consider this during the time of worship.)

Where We Go From Here: I thought what we’d asked for in November would be easy to achieve – one conversation a month with one person at church. After asking you to do this, I realised that in some churches this would mean only getting feedback from 3 people – hardly a cross-section viewpoint! So it was tempting to ask more of you. However, as even this first goal has not yet been achieved, we’d like to offer the St Frideswide’s model as an achievable way of carrying out the request.

St Frideswide’s Model: Prior to the PCC meeting following the November Synod, we sent an email to PCC members explaining the Deanery context, what we hoped to achieve, and asking them to think about the answer to the question before the meeting. At that meeting we made virtually the same presentation, and members then discussed the question in pairs, then gave feedback. They were then tasked with asking the same question of their spouse/partner/significant other, plus one other person, before sending feedback (in writing) to Gill or I. We tried to get the views of a cross-section of age groups and backgrounds, with a potential total feedback of at least 40 people. If you would like one of us to come to one of your PCC meetings and talk about UMH and what we are trying to achieve, I’m sure this can be arranged.

Summary: People turn to a variety of sources to help them cope with the stresses and strains of daily life, such as bereavement, loneliness, anxiety and depression, debt, bullying, etc, but these can lead to addiction and suicide. That’s not what God intended. He is clearly at work amongst us, judging by the opportunities we have been presented with. UMH will soon be ready to assist those churches who choose to join in. It just depends which way we move forwards when assessing risks vs opportunities, and who is ready to step out in faith.

Linda Kirk (on behalf of UMH)
27 March 2019

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Call to Prayer

The Presidents of Churches Together in England, together with our partners Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, are calling the churches to prayer as we approach the date when the United Kingdom is scheduled to leave the European Union.

From Wednesday 27th March to Sunday 31st March the Presidents urge churches in our nation to find ways to pray, and to enable church buildings to be opened for any in their communities seeking a space for prayer. Churches Together in England supports every opportunity for local churches to pray together and urges Churches Together Groups and other expressions of Christian unity to take hold of this moment to pray together for our nations.
This builds on other calls to prayer from member churches over recent months and reflects the increasing urgency of the moment as Brexit approaches.
In particular, we suggest that as the Presidents of Churches Together in England and other church leaders meet to pray at 10.30 am on Saturday 30th March in central London, churches throughout the nations may wish to join in similar expressions of prayerful concern for the future of the peoples and nations in the British Isles and Ireland, and beyond, during that morning.
Rev’d Dr. Paul Goodliff
General Secretary, Churches Together in England
26th February 2019

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If so, you might be able to do something about it by joining your Local Authority committee that oversees religious education in Milton Keynes.

Each local authority has a SACRE (Standing Advisory Committee for Religious Education). More can be found through the following websites:-

Milton Keynes SACRE: https://www.milton-keynes.gov.uk/schools-and-lifelong-learning/information-for-schools/sacre

National SACRE website http://www.nasacre.org.uk.

RE is in danger of being sidelined by government pressure on schools to give increasing attention to the core subjects of English, Maths and Science, whilst other subjects which enrich life such as the expressive arts, other humanities and religious education get squeezed out. However local children are crying out for time given to the more enriching subjects including religious education, ethics and morality. The success of MK Youth SACRE, headed up by an award-winning RE teacher at Denbigh, Shammi Rahman, indicates the importance that children place on spending school time on areas of faith and belief.

MK Deanery is looking for two individuals to join the other two Anglican reps. (You do not have to be an Anglican, just be approved by the Deanery Synod as Anglican reps!) The commitment is to attend our once termly meetings which last for only an hour and a half during “twilight” hours. SACRE is made up of reps from other faiths, teachers and local councillors.

For more information, please contact me, Rev Paul Smith (Chair of MK SACRE). We always invite interested reps to attend one of our termly meetings to see what we’re like before deciding whether to join!

Contact details: Tel: (1908) 606689. E-mail: paul.a.smith.mk@btinternet.com

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We’re Nearly There – But Not Quite!

For the past few years we’ve run a big radio advertising campaign based around the theme “Christmas Starts with Christ”. You’re probably already aware that this year we’ve made three new radio ads of our own linked to this, focussing on the theme of ‘Where’s Jesus?’, because we want to remind people that Jesus was born so God could be with us. The message of the Gospel is for everyone – particularly those who normally feel left out, or left behind – the poor, the marginalised; rough sleepers; the refugees. I hope you’ve managed to hear the ads live on Heart FM (it’s so exciting to hear ones we’ve written and recorded ourselves!), but if not, you can find them on our new website: WheresJesus.uk.

Although 82 services in both Milton Keynes and Newport Pagnell Deaneries have already been listed, not every parish or church has joined in the campaign. It’s not too late – and it’s free! If you’re not sure how to go about it, please email me (admin@mkdeanery.org) and I’ll do my best to help. The site usually gets thousands of hits (especially now the radio ads are repeated more frequently the closer we get to Christmas), so it’s well worth the effort!

We’re nearly there with the funding for this campaign too, so thank you to everyone who has contributed so far. Every single pound has been put to good use, and we appreciate every gift, because the more you put in, the more we can do! We’re not quite there, but are confident that God will provide. The Jerusalem Trust made a very generous grant of £2,000, but this can only be used for the cost of producing the adverts themselves – now and in future years – not air time or other costs. This is where we are:-

(If you would like to download the graph, it can be found in the documents under the Information tab.) If haven’t yet got round to contributing and think you could help us reach our target, now’s the time to do so! Payments need to go to “Milton Keynes Mission Partnership”, CAF Bank Ltd, Sort Code 40-52-40, A/C No. 00030666.

As well as the radio advertising and listing church services on Wheresjesus.uk, we’ve been busy with a visual campaign to make the concept of Jesus being amongst us more real, and get across the message that he’s here in Milton Keynes too! Every day we’ll be posting a different photo on our Facebook site, so please help us to broadcast more widely by copying these to your family and friends.

Finally, and most important of all, please remember to pray – that the Good News will be heard in our homes, streets and churches this year, and that lives will be changed because people discover that Jesus is there for them – not forgetting to give thanks to our wonderful God for his amazing love and provision!

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A Prayer for World Mental Health Day

By Alison Webster

God of compassion,
You meant us to be both fragile and ordinary.
Silence the voices that say we are not good enough,
Haven’t achieved enough,
Haven’t enough to show for our lives,
That we are not enough.
Help us to know that we are treasure,
We are prized,
We are cherished,
We are loved.
By you.
So be with us in our corrugations of feeling:
When our hearts are in downward freefall, be with us
When our minds race with anxiety, be with us
When our throats close in fear, be with us
When sleep will not come, be with us
When waking hurts, be with us.
In the name of Jesus,
Who knew trauma, abuse, despair and abandonment
And has nothing but love for us,

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MK Deanery: Draft Agenda for 2017-2020

1. Church Growth
• Pioneer Ministry in New Areas
• Lay-led Fresh Expressions
• Re-planting struggling congregations
• Filling in the Gaps
• Building up Resource Churches
• Looking beyond the original borders…
• Local Training and Vocation

2. The Common Good
• Proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom
• Ecumenical Partnership through Mission
• Interfaith relationships through shared agenda
• Action and discipleship go together
• Partnerships work!

3. Developing Leadership
• We need more leaders!
• There will be fewer “vicars” available
• Leaders need to be nurtured and supported
• Different models?
• Training and Vocation
• Community Organizing?

4. Being a Blessing Beyond MK
• Milton Keynes is growing! Tipping point?
• A Blessing not a Burden
• New mini-region – “Heart of England”
• New Development Corporation
• National Leadership
• Rural Areas?

5. Resources for Mission
• From Sustainability to Investment
• Need for new resources as city grows
• Need for new resources to fulfil our vision
• Risk: Return to dependency?
• Planning: How do we manage our share and budget?

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NHS Pilgrimage “Thy Kingdom Come” – Stafford to London via Milton Keynes.

Background.  Rev Becky Richards, Curate at St John’s Benefice in Ingestre near Stafford, had a vision several years ago following the Stafford Hospital Enquiry. The result of prayerful discernment of this God-given picture is that Becky and a group of walkers will be making a pilgrimage from Stafford hospital to St Thomas’s in London during the Archbishop’s national 10 days of prayer, “Thy Kingdom Come”.  As a compassionate agent of healing, the National Health Service is truly an expression of God’s Kingdom.  This Pilgrimage of Prayer is for our NHS.  They will be praying for the NHS and the thousands of health care workers who are under mounting pressures and suffering from increasingly low morale.  Each day during the walk a different church in Stafford will be meeting at the hospital chapel to pray for the pilgrimage, and a service will take place at each place where the walkers stop for the night.

At a meeting at Milton Keynes hospital last week, Becky hastened to explain that this is NOT a political demonstration, but a move of prayer, recognising God’s heart. The organisers are hoping to connect with local churches ecumenically along the route and invite local Christians to join their leg of the walk.  However, if anyone feels moved to walk the whole way, they would be made most welcome!

The plan.  This is to walk approximately 18 miles a day, stopping at hospitals along the route to worship and pray.  They will be carrying the cross which had previously been set up in a field by those who had been protesting about losing so many departments from Stafford hospital.  This cross is covered in blue ribbons holding the prayers of the people of Stafford.

The route.  This will take walkers through Cannock, Walsall, Birmingham, Solihull, Coventry, Rugby, Northampton, Milton Keynes, Luton, Hemel Hempstead, Harrow, and will pass by St Mary’s Paddington and go through Hyde Park, before arriving at St Thomas’s, where a final Service of Thanksgiving will take place. The walkers will be arriving in Milton Keynes at about 6.00pm on the evening of Tuesday 30 May, and Rev Philip Winn, Hospital Chaplain, is co-ordinating the service at Milton Keynes hospital chapel.

People can follow the pilgrimage via social media. A dedicated Facebook page is being co-ordinated in Stafford to keep people informed, and a map showing the route will be published daily.  There is also a website (www.nhsprayerwalk.co.uk) which will probably be live by the time you read this.

If you wish to participate in this pilgrimage in any way at all (see list below), please contact me, Linda Kirk (admin@mkdeanery.org) or Philip Winn (Chaplain, MK Hospital).  The closing date for signing up will be Saturday 6 May.  There is no petition to sign.  However, the organisers plan on having a ‘Just Giving’ page linked to the website, where people can make donations to cover expenses.  (These include printing costs, blue bibs for walkers, prayer books etc.  Any excess will be donated to the hospitals visited.)

How to Help:-

  1. Pray – individually and as churches – for the NHS as an instrument of God’s Kingdom in our nation. Pray that God would bless and encourage all who work in health and social care.  Pray for the walkers, our hospital and health service, both in Milton Keynes and those along the route, as well as for GP surgeries.  Give thanks for our own health and healing.  (Prayers will be available on the website, which can be used however you want.)
  2. Offer simple hospitality (food and accommodation) for those pilgrims walking the whole route. Those involved will probably want to go to bed as soon as they’ve eaten!
  3. Volunteer to join the support team for our leg of the journey. (This will involve wearing a yellow jacket and being willing to deal with any protestors if there are any problems.)
  4. Offer to guide the pilgrimage to the hospital once it reaches Milton Keynes.
  5. Provide a rest stop at your church if it is on the pilgrimage route.
  6. Put up a poster at your church, club or place of work.  (Download here Invalid download ID..)
  7. Spread the word!

Final Thoughts

The pilgrimage will cover 180 miles. It will be a sacrifice of time and energy, especially as it is taking place over Half Term Week.  It is hoped something good and beautiful will come out of it, and with God’s help, something surely will.

“Act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).


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