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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!

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.

 

Prince Philip

Our thoughts and prayers are with the Queen and the royal family following the passing of Prince Philip on Friday 9 April, aged 99.

The Duke was described as 'an extraordinary man who led an extraordinary life' and he will be greatly missed by many. 

The Church of England have set up a link to an Online Book of Condolence and if you would like to contribute a message, words or prayer, please click on the link below to access:

Online Book of Condolence: HRH Prince Philip 10 June 1921-9 April 2021

The funeral will be held at St George's Chapel on Saturday 17 April at 3pm. Attendance is limited to meet the Coronavirus restrictions of 30 people, but the service will be televised. A minute's silence will also be held at 3pm nationwide, in memory of the Duke.

 

Recorded Services

If you were unable to attend your church over the Easter weekend, there is still a chance for you to visit a service online.

A number of our Connexion churches have posted recordings of videos and sermons that took place on Good Friday and Easter Sunday. These are streamed through YouTube and Podcasts, and are easy to access using the links below, which will take you to the correct page.

From 'Lip Service or Sacrifice' to 'Resurrection Life' and 'Christ is Risen', there is a broad selection of reflective and inspiring messages available for all Connexion members and website visitors.

Goring Free Church

Countess Free Church, Ely

Bolney Village Chapel

Rosedale Community Church

Wormley Free Church

South Street Free Church

 

 

Wanted Trustees!

We are looking for 4 new Trustees to join our existing friendly team.

About us

The Connexion includes 22 churches spread across the UK. Each church has its own style, and all are bound together with a shared love of Jesus.

Our background

The Countess of Huntingdon established The Connexion in the 18th Century, using her resources to build new churches and train preachers to spread the Gospel as far and wide as possible. She was highly respected by people from all levels of society, and she had the courage to challenge and break the rules of an intensely patriarchal and prejudiced social system. She became a good friend and confidante of John Wesley, Charles Wesley and George Whitfield, who were celebrated advocates of the Methodist Revival and she dedicated her life to spreading Christ’s mission.

Today, The Connexion is a strong family community that is dedicated to continuing The Countess’ legacy and love of Christ, with a strong emphasis on outreach, friendship and caring. Our collective aims to welcome, network and support are deeply embedded in our culture.

What's involved

Our agendas vary, but our main focus is to help our ministers and congregations to share their love of Jesus with their communities. Resources are limited, so one role of the Trustees is to help us to use our assets and modest income in the best way to support our churches.

Time commitment

4 Trustee meetings a year, either held in London or at one of our churches (and currently via Zoom). Between meetings we keep in touch by email, phone and online platforms. 

The amount of work you are able to contribute entirely depends on your personal circumstances. All of our Trustees are volunteers and some also have full-time professions. 

What's needed

No formal qualifications are necessary, but each of our Trustees regularly attends one of our Connexion churches. 

To apply

To apply, please email our Chair of Trustees, David Lockett at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. David will be pleased to provide you with more information or answer any questions you may have. Alternatively, please get in touch with your minister or another of our Trustees.

We'd be delighted to welcome you to our enthusiastic, friendly and happy team!

Bethany Green - Trustee

‘One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.’ (Psalm 27:4)

The beauty of this verse never fails to take my breath away. It is as though the world stops spinning and everything pauses as I realise the deepest longings of my soul – to enter into the holy place, the temple of God and His presence. 

Yes, I know that God is omnipresent. I know that we come to Him in faith and His presence is always with us no matter where we go or where we are. But my love of history and sense of being part of the ‘great crowd of witnesses’ (1) means that I seek out those places where God has been worshipped for years, centuries and even millennium. I love to tread the ancient paths that lead to abbeys, cathedrals and chapels. The worship that I offer today in my generation mingles with the eternity of voices crying, 'Hallelujah!'(2) to the Lord God, creator and sovereign of all. This is my small part in the endless praise of my Heavenly Father and what a privilege it is.

This, then, is why I love the church. God’s people, whom He has called to be holy and set apart for Him; the people He loves, the folk we will spend eternity with. And since my mid-teens when I grasped the picture of the body of Christ given by Paul in 1 Corinthians 12, I have made a commitment to do whatever I can to contribute to the ‘common good’ of the church.

Over the years this desire has led me to different areas of ministry in different countries and parts of the UK. Aged 18 I helped with humanitarian aid trips to Eastern Europe supporting churches and ministries that were serving in the new opened countries of the former soviet block. And then I headed to California and spent some time with the Vineyard church. Aged 21 I moved to Belfast and worked for a mission organisation called Logos Ministries whilst also living and ministering in a very rough, paramilitarily controlled area of south-west Belfast. After meeting my husband we moved to Stoke-on-Trent where John worked for UCB and we helped a church that had lost their leaders. In 2008 John was called to pastor at Rosedale Community Church and this is now ‘home’.

It is my love of God’s church and the desire to encourage its health and growth that causes me to serve the Connexion at present as a Trustee. The role is a voluntary one and we all bring our own gifts and contributions (like the ‘members of the body’ that Paul talks about), our own peculiarities and personalities. But we are all followers of Jesus and genuinely care about the people in the Connexion, those who make up our past heritage, those who are members today, and those who will follow on after us.

My prayer is to faithfully serve in my time. Perhaps you too feel a passion for God’s people and have gifts and talents to offer that will be invaluable? Please do consider joining us and experiencing the joy and privilege of working in partnership with God and others for the sake of His church, His people, His bride.

Bethany Green, Trustee and Pastor at Rosedale Community Church

(1) Hebrews 12:1

(2) Revelation 19:1

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