What's New?

Connexion People - Brian and Brenda

Our stories

We are among the old stagers in the Connexion, and it is great to see younger folk joining the “family”, and these newer ways of keeping in touch. We love the revamped website!

As for our stories, here’s the quick version. Work brought us closer geographically and then our involvement in Mortimer West Chapel led to a more permanent entanglement. But there are a lot of years to fill in before that.

Brian's earlier years

Brian was born in Yorkshire, brought up in Lancashire, and went to school in Manchester. He became a Christian at a Crusader camp in Wales at 14; and was actively involved in the Christian Union when at Liverpool and then London University. He studied biochemistry. There was also a stint in the Royal Army Education Corps, towards the end of national service.

 

Brian met his first wife, Marjorie, in Liverpool and, after moving to Berkshire, two children, Alison and David, followed. By this time Brian was a research scientist at Jealott’s Hill, Bracknell, with the family becoming involved in the Countess of Huntington chapel where they lived, nearby Wargrave. 

Trustee

In 1968 Brian became a Trustee of The Connexion, eventually becoming Chairman and General Secretary, before handing on to Noel Valelly and Dave Sweetman in 2008.

Brenda

Brenda was born in Plymouth and spent most of her early years in the south west, before studying history at Reading University. She never quite escaped, obtaining a job on graduation at the Museum of English Rural Life. This was idyllic, combining bombing around the country in an old Bedford van collecting old agricultural equipment and archives, with teaching responsibilities in the University. Brenda was baptised when a student but had a period of doubt afterwards. She had recovered her faith by the 1980s and started to attend Goring Free Church.

Coming together

The two met after Marjorie died in 1990, and at a time Brenda had recently lost both her parents. Mike Ward at GFC suggested that she join a team to re-establish the chapel at Mortimer West. Brian, as connexional trustee, was also on the team. Both were very slow on the uptake, but eventually decided that the other was a good thing and married in 1995. That is 25 years ago! Wow!

The Chapel, Mortimer West End

With a brilliant restoration team, led by Max and Ros Rowe, the chapel was rededicated in 1993 and continues to be a place that glorifies God and has a wonderful chapel family. Both of us have undertaken various roles, and are still part of the preaching team, and try to encourage and support others where we can. Of course, we are now all doing things by Zoom, but look forward to when it is possible to come back together on site.

Together in Mission

A joy for us has been our involvement in Together in Mission, an initiative by local Christians to show Christ’s love within our local communities, by setting up a befriending service, a community café, and a School Pastors service. All have been running now for several years and are greatly appreciated. Brian served as a Trustee for this and Brenda as fundraiser, though have handed the baton on to a very capable team.

Our family

To complete our personal story, we have seven grandchildren, all different in personality and interests. Two are married and the youngest about to start university. Employment includes working on a new Shaun the Sheep video game, fitness training, and IT support. As the faith dimension, one is working for a big Plymouth church, another about to start Bible College, and another volunteering for Caring for Life in Leeds. What a great lot!

Update - Jerusalem Avenue School

Excellent progress is being made to the repairs of Jerusalem Avenue School, Sierra Leone, with the installation of a new roof.

jerusalem ave roof

The Sierra Leone Mission express deep gratitude to our UK Connexion churches for helping to raise funds to carry out this work. 

The building became unsafe a few years ago with the roof leaking badly and causing extensive damage to the interior of the school, particularly during the rainy seasons.

jerusalem ave 2

The Sierra Leone Mission has been working to raise necessary funds to cover this restoration project for two years now. With the contributions they have received, work has now begun on the installation of a second floor to the building. This will significantly increase the size of the school and make the entire building watertight with the completion of a new roof.

Huge thanks are conveyed to the Connexion Community for their generosity in making this possible.

We look forward to seeing more photographs as the work progresses!

Donate

If you would like to contribute towards the important work of The Connexion in Sierra Leone and the UK, please click on Donations. All contributions, no matter how small, are of huge value to enable us to continue the legacy of the Countess of Huntingdon.

Online Church Services

Safety guidance and regulations for places of worship during the Coronavirus pandemic are periodically updated on Gov.uk: Covid-19 Guidance. The most recent update is 14 September, following the 'rule of six' announcement.

Some of our churches have been able to reopen their doors to a portion of their congregations, carefully following Covid-19 safety guidelines. But for those who are not able to attend Sunday services by visiting our church buildings, virtual services continue to be available online.

A number of our Connexion churches are continuing to organise virtual gatherings that are available for our community to join via church websites, Facebook, You Tube pages and Zoom meetings.

The initiative has been well received and very popular, enabling members of our Connexion Community to come together for Sunday services, messages, worship and prayer meetings, during the period where our church buildings have been closed or attendance is restricted.

 

 

Virtual Sunday Church Services and Meetings

  • 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 You Tube 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: www.facebook.com/bolneyvillagechapel
  • South Street Free Church has also been posting Sunday services on their You Tube page, including Bible readings, hymns, songs and sermons. Link: South Street Free Church
  • Goring Free Church is streaming Sunday video recordings on their You Tube page. Each week there is a playlist of worship songs to accompany the series of sermons. Link: Goring Free Church
  • Sheppey Evangelical Church is posting recorded messages, including prayer and scripture readings each Sunday on their You Tube page. On the first Sunday of each month Communion is celebrated. Link: Sheppey Evangelical Church
  • The Countess Free Church, Ely meet together each Sunday via Zoom. During these gatherings members share how God is working in their lives and the community; there is a thought for both young and old, and a message is given. For details, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Messages are also put out by podcast. To access these, go to their website: www.countessely.co.uk

It's a great way to keep our strong community together during these strange and difficult times, and our churches welcome you to join in!

Jerusalem Avenue School

The Sierra Leone Mission thank our UK Connexion churches for helping to raise funds for the repair of Jerusalem Avenue School, Sierra Leone.

The building became unsafe a few years ago with a badly leaking roof, which has caused extensive damage to the interior of the school during the rainy seasons.

The Sierra Leone Mission has been working to raise necessary funds to cover this restoration project for two years now. With the contributions they have received, work has now begun on the installation of a second floor to the building. This will significantly increase the size of the school and make the entire building watertight with the completion of a new roof.

Huge thanks are conveyed to the Connexion Community for their generosity in making this possible.

We look forward to seeing more photographs as the work progresses!

Donate

If you would like to contribute towards the important work of The Connexion in Sierra Leone and the UK, please click on Donations. All contributions, no matter how small, are of huge value to enable us to continue the legacy of the Countess of Huntingdon.

Connexion People - Janet

My earliest memories of Zion Community Church are from my childhood: three times on a Sunday, church in the morning, Sunday school in the afternoon and church in the evening. My mum was a Salvationist so add in three open airs…. my Sundays were not days of rest! 

Growing up

I grew up with my dad at Zion, while my sister went with my mum to the Salvation Army.  Sunday always finished with hymns around the piano; mum played while my sister strummed the guitar, I screeched on the recorder and my dad played the comb with a piece of paper wrapped around it. Treasured memories.

When I was thirteen, I joined the Youth for Christ choir and started attending the rallies each month. On March 4th1966 Joe Fudge, the evangelist, took as his text ‘You must be born again.’  I have never regretted the decision I took that night. My teenage years were a total blessing!  There were at least twenty of us who would meet together for prayer and bible study, we would hold open airs on the sea front and ran beach missions. We organised these ourselves and didn’t expect the adults to help us. We were all from different churches and remained in those churches not leaving to go to the same church. 

I left St Ives in 1971 and trained to teach at the College of St Matthias, Bristol. Away from my Christian friends this was a period of life when I learnt to trust God wholly and not to rely on my friends.

Friendship and Marriage

Ralph and I met in St Ives after he stopped me to ask about a sticker that was on my coat, ‘Jesus is Alive!’ Our friendship grew but he wasn’t a Christian and many people tried to warn me. I prayed and prayed and a month before we married Ralph gave his life to Jesus. To those in ‘unequal’ relationships trust me it was not easy! 

We were married at Zion and both of our girls Hannah and Ruth were dedicated there. We were blessed with sound bible based teaching and valued the importance of being part of a Christ Centred Church. In 1982 Ralph established the Christian Bookshop in the Sunday School and donated all proceeds to Christian charities.

We were married for 46 years: years of joy, pain, heartache and challenges. A month after we married Ralph severely damaged his back and so started 46 years of hospitals, operations, doctors and ambulances. Four heart attacks, quadruple bypass surgery, COPD…I could go on but I won’t because through it all we were surrounded by saints, many at Zion, who prayed for us. There were many times when I couldn’t pray. Many times when I doubted and shouted at God. Many times when I have despaired. Through it all God didn’t let me go and even when He felt far away He was holding me tight. 

It is important to be part of a church family. We are a small fellowship at Zion which has brought its challenges, but the Lord has blessed us with our pastor’s children and my grandchildren and the work goes on. We have a vision and God is honouring the faithfulness of His people in St Ives.

Retirement and Sierra Leone!

In 2012 I decided it was time to retire. To be honest I didn’t spend hours praying, I went into school one day and told the Head that I would be leaving in the summer. I hadn’t even told Ralph!  I mentioned to Pastor Bob that I might be interested in becoming involved with the Sierra Leone Mission and when he returned from conference he told me that I was on the committee and that I would be going to Sierra Leone the following year!! 

In 2013 I accompanied Gordon Hamilton and six teenagers on a journey that would define my focus in the coming years. Gordon told me that Sierra Leone would get under my skin, into my heart and always on my mind!  What a privilege to be part of a Connexion that treasures and fosters a relationship with a people who are so deprived and poor yet so rich in their love for God.

In the last seven years I have witnessed God doing ‘immeasurably more than we can think or imagine.’ I have had the joy of watching street children develop into mature, Christian young men and women.  Churches being built in Brama, Fabaina and Mabang, where folk are hungry to learn about Jesus.  Shipments increasing so that more folk can be blessed with material items sent with the love of Jesus. And now a new Health Centre… words fail me! 

Last year Ralph was ‘promoted to glory’ and suddenly the world has been turned upside down with Coronavirus. Everything has a season and although I do NOT consider myself old, I can look back over my life and with confidence acknowledge that God has never failed me. His Grace has been sufficient and I look forward in expectancy and excitement to the future.

Janet O'Shea
Zion Community Church, St Ives

Voice - Summer edition

Welcome to the new Editor of The Voice, Esther Green, and congratulations from the whole Connexion Community for her fabulous first issue!

The Sierra Leone Mission summer edition of The Voice includes a Bible Study with David Sweetman, news of the construction of a Health Centre at Bethesda, shoe bag distribution to local children, Covid-19 updates, mission news during the Lockdown, and much more...

Click on the link below to read the whole issue:

Voice - Summer 2020

To send articles, news and photographs for future editions, please email Esther at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Enjoy!

More Shoe Bags!

More of the shoe bags sent to our communities in Sierra Leone have been happily distributed to children from local schools and churches.

Magnus and Daniel send their grateful thanks to all of the Connexion church members and volunteers who have made the shoe bags possible with donated items - and quite a bit of hard work putting everything together. 

The shoe bags contain practical items, clothing, books and a selection of toys.

Below is a snippet of some of the children in receipt of their goodie bags!

shoe bag grid

 Donate

If you would like to contribute towards the important work of The Connexion both in the UK and in Sierra Leone, please click on Donations. All contributions, no matter how small, are of huge value to enable us to continue the legacy of the Countess of Huntingdon.

 

Prayers for August

We thank God for the completion of the badly needed new block at Makomba School (illustrated in the photograph) which has been made possible through the generous support of Save the Children.

We pray for the right conditions to complete the building project for another of our schools at Jerusalem Avenue. 

Conference

Last week our Sierra Leone churches were able to come together, within Covid-19 safety guidelines, for their half-yearly conference.  

Commenting on the event, Magnus Bendu said: “It was great to be together again, albeit in the Covid-19 way. There is so much enthusiasm now for helping each other, with the stronger churches keen to support those who are weaker. The new health centre is also at the heart of the people. It was a hugely positive meeting. Everyone was happy and grateful.”

 

Prayers for the communities

We thank God for the blessing of Magnus, Daniel and the Sierra Leone leadership team, and for the care and support our churches wish to provide for each other.

We pray for continued development of the new Health Centre, which will provide a dramatic improvement for the poorer communities in Bethesda and surrounding areas. We also pray for protection over their health and wellbeing, not just from Covid-19, but also malaria and typhoid.

Covid-19 numbers for Sierra Leone (as of 4 August) are 1855 cases and 67 total deaths.

Donate 

If you would like to contribute towards the important work of The Connexion both in the UK and in Sierra Leone, please click on Donations. All contributions, no matter how small, are of huge value to enable us to continue the legacy of the Countess of Huntingdon. 

 

Shoe Bag Surprise!

Children attending the church at Fabaina, Sierra Leone, were treated to a surprise arrival of shoe bags containing a host of goodies!

The church was able to reopen with restrictions, following four months of closure due to the coronavirus crisis.

 

Releasing the containers

During this time, considerable effort was being made to release two containers from the docks at Freeport, having been held there since their arrival on 5 December.

As well as the shoe bags, the containers held a whole range of items eagerly awaited by Bethesda Orphanage, schools and the local community.

 

  • Sleeping bags, blankets, sheets, towels, curtains 
  • Table cloths, crockery and cutlery
  • Clothes and shoes for adults and children
  • At least 60 boxes of new school uniforms
  • 100s of school text books - children's story books, adult Christian books, and some new books that have been donated for the Evangelical library
  • Assorted toys, as well as balls for football and netting for goals
  • Furniture, bunk beds, cots, settees, and desks for Magnus and Daniel
  • Sewing machines and manual typewriter for blind folk

The shoe bags were collated and donated by church members at Zion Community Church, St.Ives, Cradley Chapel, Ebley Chapel and Woodmancote Church.

Many thanks

On behalf of The Connexion and Sierra Leone Mission, please may we thank everybody for their prayers for the safe delivery of these invaluable items. Praise God!

Donate

If you would like to contribute towards the important work of The Connexion both in the UK and in Sierra Leone, please click on Donations. All contributions, no matter how small, are of huge value to enable us to continue the legacy of the Countess of Huntingdon.


The Blessing Sierra Leone

Be inspired by Christians in Sierra Leone, who have come together 'remotely' in worship to sing a blessing over their country during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Click on the link below to view the You Tube recording.

the blessing sierra leone thumb

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