What's New?

Streamed Services

With the lifting of the majority of legal restrictions from 19 July, churches across the country are now able to open their doors more fully.

However, safety remains of key importance to our Connexion churches, and we are aware that many people may still feel more comfortable accessing Sunday services from their living rooms, rather than venturing out. 

A number of our churches are continuing to stream online services and messages featuring worship, prayers, bible readings and more. There is a variety of Sunday services to choose from each week.

It has been a highly successful initiative that has really helped to keep our communities in touch with each other - and and enabled members to make new connections and friendships.

Choose from the list below of regular online services that are available to all. Please feel free to share with family and friends who may also like to join in!

Streamed church services

  • The Lockdown Band website features songs, video and audio recordings. Link: www.wormleylockdownband.com
  • Copthorne Chapel posts Sunday services on their website. Link: www.copthornechapel.org.uk
  • Wormley Free Church posts Sunday services each week, which can be accessed though their website. The services are followed by a Zoom get-together for a virtual cup of coffee and a chat. Link: www.wormleyfreechurch.org.uk
  • Rosedale Community Church has a selection of Sunday messages available on their YouTube page. Link: Rosedale Community Church
  • Bolney Village Chapel has been streaming Sunday services on their Facebook page. Each service begins at 10.30am, running for approximately 45 mins. The services include worship, bible readings and teaching. Link: Bolney Village Chapel
  • South Street Free Church has also been posting Sunday services on their YouTube page, including bible readings, hymns, songs and sermons. Link: South Street Free Church
  • Goring Free Church streams a Sunday video recording on their YouTube page each week, with a playlist of worship songs to accompany sermons. Link: Goring Free Church
  • The Countess Free Church, Elyhave Livestreams of their whole church zoom gatherings, which occur roughly fortnightly on YouTube at Countess Free Church. They also create weekly messages that are available via their podcasts; to access these, go to their website: www.countessely.co.uk 

 

50 Miles of the Pennine Way

To celebrate her 18th Birthday, Esther is hiking 50 miles of the Pennine Way, beginning 27 July 2021 to raise funds for the Sierra Leone Mission (SLM). 

These funds will go towards supporting the schools, orphanage and churches of The Connexion in Sierra Leone.

The idea came to Esther during Lockdown. The schools were closed and because she would have been taking her GCSE exams, she had no online classes to attend. To fill the time that had suddenly become available, Esther decided to go out walking and enjoy the benefits of the rural woodlands close to her home. In doing so, she discovered a 15 mile walk that took her all around the woods – quite a bit of space to get potentially get lost in! 

Over the year, walking regularly, she became very comfortable hiking through the trees, and this led to an idea for what she might like to do for her upcoming 18th birthday.

Sharing the idea with her mum Bethany, Minister of Rosedale Church, they decided on a three-day walk in the Pennines from 27 to 29 July, where they will be hiking 50 miles of the Pennine Way to raise money for the SLM.

Needless to say, the SLM are delighted with Esther's initiative. With all of the amazing projects that are going on, in conjunction with Magnus Bendu, the vision for outreach in Sierra Leone is growing and growing.

Esther hopes that by making her hike a fundraising event, this will enable the SLM to continue providing support to more of our communities in Sierra Leone, which is so badly needed.

Esther says: ‘It will be challenging - especially if mum doesn’t start training soon! - but we love walking and we love the SLM, so what better thing to do than put two and two together and raise all the money we can! We really hope you will choose to support the SLM and everything we are doing in Sierra Leone - and will cheer us on as we walk the 50 miles!’

To Donate

If you would be willing to donate to Esther’s fundraising hike, this can be done through a Stewardship account that has been set up specifically. Donating with Stewardship is really easy and completely secure. If you are a UK taxpayer, please confirm that you would like to reclaim Gift Aid on your donation. This will add 25p to every £1 you give. The closing date for donations will be 25 September 2021.

Visit the Stewardship fundraising page: Donate to 50 Miles of the Pennine Way

Alternatively, you can donate to the Sierra Leone Mission at any time via our Donations page on The Connexion website.

A huge thank you for your support from Esther and the SLM!

Magnus preaches at new church

The new church at Kamakontakay was filled with local villagers on Sunday 27 June for their Sunday service. Magnus Bendu travelled to the village, which is 160 miles from Freetown and a three hour journey, to preach to the congregation, bringing treats of bread for the adults and sweets for the children.

The church, which is constructed from mud blocks and a corrugated iron sheet roof, was largely built by members of the village community, with support and funding from The Connexion. The premises will be used as both a church and a school for the local children. The new Christian nursery school now has the regular attendance of a small fellowship of children. With the nearest primary school being three miles distant, it is has provided a first-time opportunity for children to attend a school in their own village.

Magnus and his team work tirelessly to serve some of the poorest communities in Sierra Leone, often in far-flung, small villages. Continuing the legacy of the Countess of Huntingdon, and her passion to spread the gospel, The Connexion now has more than 30 churches in Sierra Leone with over 3500 members.

Kamakontakay is a Muslim dominated village to the north of Sierra Leone, and when the first foundations were laid for the new church building, the village Imam joined in prayer for the dedication of the land and building, bringing the whole community together in shared celebration.

Magnus says: ‘We are so thankful for your prayers. It takes faith and passion to step out, mobilise and venture. These villages are poor places with some of the poorest people, and so many things, including food and medicines, are a blessing for them. Our aim is to provide as much as we can'. 

 

Making a donation 

If you would like to make a donation to support Magnus' Christian outreach in Sierra Leone, please click on the Donations button at the top of the website page. This will take you through to the SLM donations account. We thank you for all donations - large or small - which are vital to our continuing work to serve communities Sierra Leone.

 

The Voice - Summer Edition

Check out the most recent edition of The Voice, which contains some great articles to keep you both informed and entertained. 

From Ken Hart’s Bible study on 2 John and 3 John and a fascinating article by author Deborah Green From Slavery to Sierra Leone, to memories of the Youth Conference in the 1970s, outreach updates from Magnus Bendu and Esther’s planned Pennine Way Hike, to raise funds to support the many amazing projects going on to serve our communities in Sierra Leone. 

Thank you to Esther Green for her hard work and to all of the contributors for another fabulous edition.

Click on the link below - and enjoy!

The Voice - summer edition

Sheppey Church - Beginnings

Brenda Riddle takes us back to the beginnings of Sheppey Evangelical Church.

Do you ever wonder who built your church and what prompted them - and why choose the site that it stands on?  For some of us it's an easy question to answer. Peter and I were there at its inception.

A little over 35 years ago God brought together a group of people living on the Isle of Sheppey and that's when our wonderful story began. George and Ann Wiggins had advertised in the local Post Office and the FIEC Christian magazine, inviting 'like-minded people' to meet them on a Saturday afternoon in September 1985, to see if we'd be interested in joining them in a time of prayer and to discuss what they felt about Christianity. 

There were approximately 16 of us, comprising mostly of small families. We didn't know each other. Some weren't Christians. Some had been wondering in the wilderness between churches for a while but the factor we had in common was that of a sense of restlessness or dissatisfaction. For all of us, our church experiences had been disappointing or upsetting. We weren't sure where this was taking us but as a result of that first meeting, we decided to meet again two weeks later at the Wiggin's home for informal worship. 

Led by George we kept meeting like this for a couple of months and a few more people joined us. We soon came to the conclusion that we needed more space. So we rented Leysdown's tired village hall, which was set among seaside holiday camps; an array of fish-n-chip shops, cafes and arcades.

Growing numbers 

The numbers continued to grow and in September 1986 an American couple with their four children put their heads around the door and asked if they could come in. They'd joined the mission field and were living in a small bungalow up on the cliffs. Their first assignment was to salvage a struggling Christian Book Shop no bigger than a garden shed and located on the mainland in Sittingbourne. They were also instructed to offer their services to a local Church. God was weaving together a very interesting church of people.  

Before long we decided that the village hall was not big enough. During the summer months we took the children across the road and used the bus shelter for lessons. It wasn't very satisfactory though with passing holiday makers creating a lot of distractions. The pub kindly offered us their bar-room, but that didn't work either. The new distractions were caused by two whopping great Alsatian guard dogs padding around looking menacing and the clunking and flashing of multiple slot machines, randomly kicking in and drawing on the children's concentration. What would we do in the winter we wondered? We needed a separate room for Sunday School.  

We moved to a large workmen's porter-cabin in a field. It had been sited there as a temporary community hall for a recently built housing estate. The children poured out of the estate and very quickly we had 40 children and several teenagers attending Sunday School.  

An unexpected dimension to our congregation were the prison inmates on work release, who were painting the cabin at the same time as we met for church. We were warned not to speak with them, but when the guards disappeared to the pub, they'd stop their work and listen to our services. Pretty soon they were making prayer requests and we saw God answer some of them too.

We held our first Carol/Nativity presentation that Christmas and the turn-out was phenomenal. We got permission for the inmates to attend and they in turn invited their families. As a thank you they made us a cross and a little offering box made out of matchsticks. Needless to say, the offering box quickly 'vanished' but we still have the matchstick cross on the wall.

The blizzards

January 1986 was the year that most of the country remembers being hit by severe blizzards. For us at the eastern end of the Island, travel was impossible. Twenty-foot snow drifts separated us from civilisation and brought down the power lines too. The army eventually dug us out about 10 days later.  

For us it was an exciting diversion. Everyone pitched in to help the elderly and farmers distributed bread and potatoes. There were no roads visible, therefore no traffic! Instead, a magnificent array of snowmen peppered the landscape. For our Florida friends, the Veldbooms, it was a disaster. Their bungalow seriously leaked snow and they didn't possess warm and appropriate clothing or footwear! Eventually, we helped them resolved these problems - except for footwear. No one had boots big enough for Don or their son Paul, so they had to resort to wearing carrier bags over their trainers!

New property  

Yet again, we needed to improve our church accommodation. We were spending too much valuable time creating a worshipful atmosphere each Sunday and the rent had doubled! Ann Wiggins recalled working as an office junior for Gilbert Kirby, who was now chairman of the Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion. So, she wrote to him asking for help for our fledgling Church. In response three trustees visited us and, to cut a long story short, they told us to find a property and they would buy it. The God-incidence of this was that the Connexion had recently sold two properties and the money wasn't ring-fenced. We'd already spotted two units in a little shopping parade. Our side comprised a fish-n-chip shop with all the frying equipment and a second-hand furniture shop which smelt of musty furniture.

There was a tremendous amount of work needed to transform this building into a place of worship for our Lord. Were the Hebrews as excited when they made the Tabernacle?  Were the masons as euphoric as they chipped away at the stones for Canterbury Cathedral?  It would take many chapters to detail the work we did - the practical gifts and meals, delivered by those who cooked better than they laid bricks, and the outrageous bargains we sourced to create what we have today. Every detail, from the ceiling to the floor, were blessing from God. However, the biggest blessing was the connection we made with our community, the love for one another that grew out of working for the Lord and the hilarious laughter as we laboured into the night. There are so many things that have happened over the years since then; what is recorded here is now only remembered by a few - but still too precious to be forgotten. 

Lasting friendships and memories

To this day we have treasured a firm personal friendship with the Veldboom's. They returned to the States after their three years of duty. A testimony to their serving hearts is the memory of them painting the church walls right up to the day before they left us. Since then, they have been instrumental in arranging occasional mission team visits from the US to help us in various outreach projects. 

Pastors have come and moved on. Peter and Joe were home-grown from within the congregation, but the man with the vision was George Wiggins. A modest man, much loved by those who remember him, now resting in the arms of Christ. We look forward to meeting him one day and remembering all the adventures we shared.

One of the overriding factors in the development of Sheppey Church was that each time we moved or changed our practices, it was borne out of a sense of dissatisfaction (a burr under our saddles). The lesson we've learned is that although God is unchanging, His intentions are to change and refine us into His image.  

Brenda Riddle

Sheppey Evangelical Church 

Memories of Ken Stone

On the 5th of June we learned that our dear friend and brother Ken Stone had ‘gone home to Jesus’.

This tribute is by Ben Quant on behalf of the Trustees, with contributions from Ken's colleagues and friends.

Ken had given the Connexion a lifetime of service, attending a number of our churches, including Westcott, Basingstoke and, for many years, Hailsham. In this time he also guided us as the Chair of the Trustees and Sierra Leone Mission. His first wife, Prudence, was the daughter of Quinton De’Ath, a Trustee and Connexional pastor, and in more recent years he worshipped and led the work at Hailsham with Christine.

As Trustees, we felt it was important to express our sense of loss at his leaving us, to celebrate his life and give thanks for him, and to stand with his family and friends through prayer. 

My personal memories of Ken go back to soon after I became a Christian in 1990 at our church in Ely. In many ways in those days Ken was the Connexion, leading the Trustees as their chairman and the correspondent and later chairman of the Sierra Leone Mission (SLM). I was fortunate to experience first hand his insight, leadership and experience over the years that followed.

What comes to mind when I look back?

I remember Ken being an active supporter of Youth Conference, our annual gathering of the Connexion’s young people. He would often call in on our weekends to keep up with what was happening and to encourage us. Before traditions changed, I recall him chairing a number of the Youth Conference AGMs. His involvement in Youth Conference went much further back than the 90’s though. Graham Squibbs informs me that he attended the Youth Conference in its very early years. This, along with his career as a secondary school teacher in Basingstoke and Knaresborough (Deputy Head) would certainly explain his interest.

Ken was appointed as a Connexion Trustee in 1965 at the age of 35, which indicates the confidence people had in his qualities and judgement.

Looking back, Brian Baldwin, who first met him at Conference in Herne Bay in 1963, reflected: ‘This was a time of transition in the Connexion as younger people took up roles, replacing those who had carried the responsibility faithfully until then. In time he became Chairman, leading meetings in a professional, though friendly, way. He encouraged young people in training, for ministry both here and in Sierra Leone by his work as a Trustee of the Cheshunt Foundation and through his links with the Sierra Leone Bible College (now TECT).’

It would seem Ken's experience of being a young leader inspired him to help others in such situations.

I remember sharing lunch with him and another much loved and missed pillar of the Connexion, Kitty Anscombe, in West Hoathly. I was then based at our church in Westcott, whilst training at Spurgeon’s Bible College. Ken had invited me to lead their service that morning and to chat about possibilities going forward; he was clearly concerned that the Connexion should support me once I finished my training and also support the ongoing ministry at West Hoathly, asking if it would be possible that I could work at West Hoathly part-time, as well as part-time at Westcott, and so achieve both? He’d even foreseen transport being an issue and believed he had found a car I could use!

This was one of many such discussions that made clear his devotion to the Connexion and attention to detail. I wonder how many other similar discussions he had, the impacts of which have rippled out across the Connexion? I may not have ended up at West Hoathly, but it was the encouragement of the likes of Ken that brought me to faith and kept me in ministry within the Connexion.

Other memories include his extensive slide shows about Sierra Leone, which revealed his detailed knowledge of the Connexion there, its history, buildings and people. Succeeding him as the chairman of the Sierra Leone Mission (SLM) many years later was daunting. We missed his vast expertise, and he was always eager and willing to advise us. His letters and reports to us were always detailed and thorough.

On the occasions when I visited Sierra Leone, I was frequently reminded of the esteem and affection with which he was held. As our Leonean friends might say, he was a ‘big, big man’. I know he was much missed by the likes of Reuben Dove and Clinton Jackson, two of our former agents there, also now remembered with gratitude and fondness for their friendship and service.

There is no doubt that the Sierra Leone Connexion would not be in the position it is today without Ken's great heart for the people, his relentless effort over many years, extensive knowledge and meticulous attention to detail. His cataloguing of the land owned in Sierra Leone and securing its registration and deed records, has proved vital in securing the sites where our churches and schools stand. But maybe his greatest legacy in that time was supporting our brothers and sisters there along with the rest of the SLM Committee during their civil war, and ensuring that they continued to receive the financial and material assistance that they needed, especially rice and foodstuffs. After leaving the SLM, Ken continued to visit and offer support through The Friends of Sierra Leone.

Outside the Connexion and Sierra Leone, Ken enjoyed going on cruises and watching county cricket.

Noel Vallely, former Connexion Chairman, knew Ken from 1982. He wrote the following when I asked about his memories: ‘I also recall him as Chair of Trustees, where his careful attention to detail was very evident at AGMs until he stood down. He had a heart for the Connexion that he never lost and to Hailsham Gospel Mission, to which he was wholly committed. He was a key figure in Hailsham, never losing sight of its potential and it is in no small measure thanks to him that it is still an active and ongoing fellowship.

'After I became Chair of Trustees, until sadly his memory started to fail, he was one of the people I would turn to when I needed information, or his take on past events that might have had a bearing on something we the current Trustees were considering. 

'He was unfailingly courteous and helpful and his detailed recall at times proved invaluable. Ken was “Connexion” to his fingertips. And he gave the best of himself to it.’

Brian Baldwin writes similarly: ‘So we will miss a very professional man who was not afraid to make his views known, always with grace and gentle persuasion. I know his family will miss him greatly and we offer them our prayerful support.’

Both from personal experience, and listening to the recollections of others, it is clear that as a person and through decades of committed work, Ken has had a massive impact on the Connexion both here and in Sierra Leone, and the life that we share together now is a legacy of his service before us. Let's give thanks and be inspired by his example of how God can work through us and, as Brian encourages us, support his family and friends in prayer.

Memories of Ken Stone: 15th August 1930 - 5th June 2021

By Ben Quant, on behalf of the Connexion Trustees. With thanks to Graham Squibbs, Noel Vallely and Brian Baldwin for their recollections and Christine Stone for the lovely photo of Ken.

 

 

Lockdown updates

Lockdown restrictions will now remain at Step 3 until 19 July, with only some changes from 21 June.

There is a short summary of what is allowed below. For more detailed information and for regular updates, it is advisable to check the official Covid restriction page at gov.uk

Family and friends

Groups of up to six people or two households can meet indoors, and outdoors groups of up to 30 people can meet. Clearly, it is safer to meet outdoors where possible, and sensible to open a window when inside. Overnight stays are also be allowed with people who are not in your bubble.

People are given the choice of whether to socially distance with close family members or friends, but they are now allowed to sit closely with one another and hug. Some caution is still advised if a person you want to hug has not yet been vaccinated.

Among wider society

People will still be expected to socially distance when mixing with members of the wider society, including shops, bars, restaurants, businesses, adult social care and medical environments. In care homes, residents were allowed to see up to five named visitors from 17 May. For full details of regulations, check Guidance for Care Homes, which is updated from 15 June.

Indoor entertainment, including museums, theatres and cinemas will be able to open, as well as indoor play areas and bowling alleys. Indoor parties must still be kept small – six people or two households, and outdoor parties are restricted to 30 people.

A limited number of large pilot events will be running from 21 June. This will include some UEFA EURO matches at Wembley and a small number of other sports, arts and music performances.

Weddings and funerals

From 21 June the limit of 30 people attending weddings has been lifted. The number of people who can now attend is determined by how many people a Covid-secure venue can accommodate with social distancing measures in place. More than 30 people will be able to attend funerals, but again gatherings must be held in Covid-secure venues with social distancing measures in place..

Travelling

People in England are able to take holidays abroad to the small number of countries on the green list. Any travel will also need to meet the requirements of the destination country. Not all of the countries on the green list are admitting tourists.

Churches

Churches continue to be encouraged to take all steps necessary to limit the transmission of the virus.

Whilst some churches have been able to open for prayer and worship, following Covid-secure requirements, many are continuing to provide online access to services for those who cannot attend, or would prefer not to mix in groups for the time being.   

Connexion churches online broadcasts

  • The Lockdown Band website has been hosting songs, video and audio recordings, put together during the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. Link: www.wormleylockdownband.com
  • Copthorne Chapel is posting a weekly services on their website. Link: www.copthornechapel.org.uk
  • Wormley Free Church is posting Sunday services each week, which can be accessed though their website. The services are followed by a Zoom get-together for a virtual cup of coffee and a chat. Link: www.wormleyfreechurch.org.uk
  • Rosedale Community Church has a selection of Sunday messages available on their YouTube page. Link: Rosedale Community Church
  • Bolney Village Chapel is streaming Sunday services on their Facebook page. The services begin at 10.30am for approximately 45 mins and include worship, Bible readings and teaching. Link: Bolney Village Chapel
  • South Street Free Church has also been posting Sunday services on their YouTube page, including Bible readings, hymns, songs and sermons. Link: South Street Free Church
  • Goring Free Church is streaming Sunday video recordings on their YouTube page. Each week there is a playlist of worship songs to accompany the series of sermons. Link: Goring Free Church
  • The Countess Free Church, Elyhave Livestreams of their whole church zoom gatherings, which occur roughly fortnightly on YouTube at Countess Free Church. They also create weekly messages that are available via their podcasts; to access these, go to their website: www.countessely.co.uk 
  • It's a great way to keep our strong community together during these challenging times, and our churches welcome you to join in!

Bethesda Boys Complete Exams

Six of our boys at Bethesda have now taken their National Primary School Examinations (NPSE).

Bethesda Orphanage was founded by The Connexion to provide support and education for a large number of children who were previously living on the streets of Sierra Leone, and also orphans whose family cannot be traced.

Primary schooling in Sierra Leone stretches over six years, educating children between the ages of 6 to 12. The curriculum is typically designed to provide core fundamental skills in reading, writing and mathematics, and it is necessary to pass the NPSE in order to move up to secondary school education.  

Pictured from left to right are: Bernard, Alansan, Moses (Jnr), David, Joseph and Mohammed. The results of their examinations are expected in 2-3 months.

We offer our prayers for all of the children at Bethesda, and ask for these young men to receive positive results for their exams, which will open new doors for their futures.

 

Connexion in Brighton 1761

The first of the Connexion churches was founded in North Street, Brighton in 1761. 

The Countess bought a house in North Street, Brighton in 1755, and added a small, private chapel to the grounds. Her reason for coming to Brighton was that she hoped the sea air would be beneficial to her son, who was suffering from ill health, but sadly, both of her sons died from smallpox.

The early church 1761

Returning to Brighton in 1760, the Countess invited Rev George Whitfield, a well-known Methodist leader, to preach. And as popularity for the ‘new faith’ increased, she opened her private chapel to the public in 1761. 

Over the coming years, the congregation continued to grow and the chapel was enlarged many times. In 1822, to accommodate further growth, her former residence was converted into a long gallery with a Doric entrance on North Street.

The church rebuild 1871

In 1870-1 the church was entirely rebuilt in flint and grey stone by John Wimble, having a triple-arched entrance and a tall, graceful spire. The interior had stained glass windows, a marble pulpit and galleries on all sides, with space for 900 congregation members.

The church opened on 20 March 1871 and was initially very well attended. Over time, however, congregation numbers began to dwindle, making it difficult to raise funds necessary to keep the building in good repair. The church closed its doors in September 1966 and the spire, which became a safety hazard was taken down in November 1969. The North Street church was finally demolished in February 1972, which is a great shame, and has since been replaced by office blocks and shops.

The Countess

Selina Shirley, who became The Countess of Huntingdon, was born on 24th August 1707. She founded the Connexion following her conversion in 1738, beginning a legacy of gospel influence that continues today in 22 churches. She faced innumerable challenges throughout her life and retained a personal interest in every one of her chapels until her death. She died in London on 17 June 1791, aged 83. 

Sources for information and images include: My Brighton and Hove

Read more about The Countess of Huntingdon’s life and works: The Elect Lady

The photograph of the church's interior was taken before its demolition in 1972

Donate

The support we give to our UK churches is to enable them to flourish and continue The Countess of Huntingdon’s mission. This includes funds to preserve church buildings, sponsored theological education, trips to Sierra Leone communities, financial and legal assistance for our chapels, resources and pastoral support for our ministers. With limited funds, we rely on donations to fulfil our purpose. If you are able to help by making a gift or regular donation, we'd be very thankful. To make a contribution, please click on Donations

 

MIND

Every year one in four people experience a mental health problem, and hundreds of thousands of people are still struggling.

This has been further exacerbated during the past year with often severe difficulties in dealing with the Coronavirus pandemic.

The mission of the charity, MIND, is to provide advice and support to help anyone who is experiencing problems associated with mental health and wellbeing. Their website mind.org.uk provides a raft of information and sources of help, including a broad section on issues relating to the pandemic, and the knock on effects of periods of lockdown and isolation.

If you are finding things hard, or you know somebody else who you feel is struggling, it may be worth accessing the site to source help and more information.

MIND: Coronavirus and your mental health

 

Philippians 4: 6-7

Do not be anxious about anything,
but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving
let your requests be made known to God.
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

 

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