Pastor's Piece

The Senior Pastor writes his Pastor's Piece each week to connect with the St Alban's Community and its Alumni. This section of the website contains the current and past editions.


November Happenings

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Welcome to St Albans, where we seek to support one another in our living for Jesus and engaging in his mission in our world.  It’s hard to believe it’s November already….only 52 days till Christmas!

This Tuesday:  “Uncovering the Top Belief Blockers of Today”.  A top Australian Christian media specialist will share his research along with five important implications for the church and its mission to reach our modern culture.  This seminar is at St Albans from 10.30am-12.30 followed by lunch then 1.30-2.30pm.  $10 per person and you can come for just the morning if you wish.

Next Sunday we will have a brief congregational meeting after our 9.50am service to vote on two new elders (Monica Mealy-Barnes and Sheena Lapwood) and one returning elder (Ivan Gore).  If you did not receive the Elders’ Profiles attached to the two email Updates, there are hard copies available this morning.  You will be asked to vote on paper in a secret ballot.

Ivan is a retired primary school teacher and has been a serving elder at St Albans for 36 years and has served alongside three ministers and a significantly changing congregation!

Sheena has belonged to St Albans since the mid-1980s and has raised her children during this time.  She is an Occupational Therapist working in vocational rehabilitation and also a trained Life Coach.

Monica and her family have been at St Albans for nearly four years and was born on Long Island, New York.  As an educator for over 20 years, she has worked in mostly impoverished areas in Philadelphia, and currently works full-time with the Salvation Army in Palmy.

All three are mature followers of Jesus and have been actively involved in our church’s life.

Sunday 16th:  Our longest serving mission partners, Murray and Ruth Salisbury, will be speaking at our morning services.   Murray works with Wycliffe Bible Translators, both as a translator and as a trainer of translators.  He also teaches courses in Hebrew Poetry at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and he and Ruth offer Prayer & Refreshment Retreats for missionaries and other Christian leaders.  All these ministries have Murray travelling throughout the world many times each year.

Murray’s experiences of Bible translation are always so encouraging, as people get to read God’s Word in their own heart language.  St Albans has supported them since 1990!  Don’t miss him!

Sunday 9, 23 & 30:  We will have a focus on the Bicentenary of the Gospel and watch some clips from the new DVD on 200 years of the gospel in NZ, called ‘Te Rongopai – Good News!’

Saturday 29th:  ‘Women’s Christmas Challenge’ for everyone at 6.30pm at St Albans!  Are you ready?  Let the Games begin!

Shalom,

Hope and Prayer and Sunday Services

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Welcome to St Albans, where we seek to support one another in our living for Jesus and engaging in his mission in our world.  A warm welcome to those who are on holiday this Labour Weekend.

This past week has been an exciting one!  The gospel booklet ‘Hope for all’ has been delivered to most homes.  The feedback from Christians and churches has been very positive.  So much so that many more churches (5 a day the Hope Project office tell me) are coming on board and ordering more books to deliver to the homes with “No Junk Mail” signs.  Our St Albans people are finding a few who’ve said “No thanks” and more who were very warm and appreciative.

Please keep praying!  Thanks to those who came on the Prayer Walk last Sunday and those who attended the Praise & Prayer evening last Thursday.  Thank you too to those who have been prayer walking in your locality.  Ive written a brief note from St Albans to include with the booklet if you are willing to deliver them to ‘No Junk Mail’ homes or letterboxes if people are out, identifying who we are.  Please let me know if you are available – spare booklets are in our church office.

At the Mardi Gras next Friday, we are aiming to be more intentional about a gospel focus.  We will have an information table about St Albans Activities next to the kitchen and a Prayer Room in the Retreat, offering prayer for any need, any situation and any person.  A different pair of pray-ers from the Prayer Ministry Team will be available every hour.  This is a bit of a trial as the Prayer Ministry Team is also considering offering prayer to passers-by on Saturday mornings, in our church foyer, with a big sign on the footpath!  We will try this in November and early December.  Tell me if you want to join up!

Today and next Sunday we are conducting a survey about additional church services at St Albans.  This is a response to our church review process this year. We have committed to having one or two mid-week ‘Prayer & Praise’ evenings during school terms and possibly a day-time one in 2015.

We have also thought about having an 8.30am service every Sunday and whether to have an Evening Service every Sunday during term time.  We would appreciate your feedback.

There are two reasons for having an 8.30am service every Sunday.

Firstly, for outreach purposes, to reduce the congestion at the 10am service so that newcomers can more easily find a car park and a seat in church.  Secondly, some people prefer the 8.30am service – the time of day, length of service, a quieter more reflective atmosphere.

A Sunday Evening Service would be held in the church hall, be more informal than Sunday morning, be an open style of worship where those attending could participate, a 10-15 minute message followed by interaction, open to all ages but comfortable for young people.  The service would be about one hour long with coffee afterwards.

Shalom, 

 

St Alban’s Update

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Welcome to St Albans, where we seek to support one another in our living for Jesus and engaging in his mission in our world.  Today our guest preacher is Alvas Ongaru, an evangelist from Kenya.  Alvas and his wife June (who spoke last Sunday) are here at the invitation of the Anglican Church Missionary Society as part of the celebrations for 200 years of the Gospel in NZ.

Alvas is a Creative Director and runs his own advertising agency called ‘OG+A’ in Nairobi.  He has a keen interest in the creative industries and the creative economy.  Alvas also serves as the Chairman of the Mwamba Rugby Football Club, one of Kenya’s leading clubs which provides most of the players in the Kenya’s Sevens Rugby team.  Alvas is exploring ways in which rugby can connect Kenya and New Zealand for the furtherance of the Gospel.  His hobbies include reading and fly-fishing.

Tomorrow, Monday October 20th is National Distribution Day for the Hope Project Gospel Booklets – they are very attractive and colourful with stories about the coming of the gospel to NZ and testimonies from Kiwi Christians.  This is an historic day!  The Gospel has never been put into every NZ home in our history!  Would you be willing to help in four ways?

  • Pray for people to be receptive to the gospel of Jesus as they see the TV adverts and receive the booklets.
  • Come to our Prayer and Praise night this Thursday 23rd from 7.30pm to 8.45pm to pray for the Hope Project.
  • Do some prayer walking around the streets of your area over the coming three weeks, praying that people would be receptive to the gospel message.
  • Be willing to take a copy of the booklet into the houses in your area that have a “No Junk Mail” sign.  Say that it is a gift from St Albans Church and the Hope Project to mark 200 years since the Christian faith came to NZ.  Please tell me if you could do this – any time in the coming weeks is fine.

I hope you received my General Assembly Report attached to the email Update this week.  If you did not, there are copies on the Reception Counter.  Please ask me, Nancy, Jasmin or Michal if you have any questions about Assembly or its decisions.  Both the one-day Presbyterian AFFIRM Conference and National Ministers Training Day were valuable times of teaching and fellowship.  Our Ministers’ Day had 200 attending and we focussed on how to remain resilient and healthy in ministry (and not drop out) and explored the differences between Transactional Leadership and Transformative Leadership in a local church.  We explored these topics with a keynote speaker, some personal testimonies and group discussion.

Thank you to those who have responded to our current cash flow crisis.  We invite you to continue to pray and contribute some extra offerings if you are able to.  The Finance Team has asked ministry leaders to limit spending to essential budgeted items at present.

Shalom,

The Hope Project Starts Today!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Welcome to St Albans, where we seek to support one another in our living for Jesus and engaging in his mission in our world.  Today our special guest is Mrs June Onguru, an evangelist from Kenya.  June and husband Alvas are here at the invitation of the Anglican Church Missionary Society as part of the celebrations for 200 years of the Gospel in NZ.  June will share her testimony this Sunday and her husband Alvas will preach next Sunday.

June works for UNICEF in Nairobi, serving the Eastern and Southern Africa region as budgeting control officer.  She is a leader in Mamlaka Hill Chapel’s women’s ministry, Ladies Aglow, a former worship leader and enjoys running and swimming.  June and Alvas have a 12 year old girl Awuor and a 9 year old boy Polo.

Our preacher today is one of our youth interns Michal Baken, who is doing a Laidlaw College paper on preaching and needs to do some preaching!

The Hope Project starts today!  The target of $1.3 million has been raised.  TV adverts start today on TV1 and TV3 and run for the next 2 weeks.  The new website for enquirers is launched today at Hopeproject.co.nz and the new discipleship website, the Ten-Day Challenge is up and running at 10DayChallenge.co.nz.  Please read the 3.5 minute tutorial on how to follow up someone who is interested in the gospel.

Then Monday October 20th is National Distribution Day for the Gospel Booklets – they are very attractive and colourful with stories about the coming of the gospel to NZ and testimonies from Kiwi Christians.  This is an historic day!  The Gospel has never been put into every NZ home in our history!

Would you be willing to help in four ways?

i)  Pray for people to be receptive to the gospel of Jesus as they see the adverts and receive the booklets.

ii)  Come to a St Albans Prayer and Praise night on Thursday October 23 (not 16th) from 7.30pm to 8.45pm to pray for the Hope Project.

iii)  Do some prayer walking around the streets of your area over the coming three weeks, praying that people would be receptive to the gospel message. We will also meet next Sunday afternoon October 19 at 4pm for a one-hour prayer walk around our Hokowhitu suburb, meeting first at St Albans.

iv)  Be willing to take a copy of the booklet into the houses in your area that have a “No Junk Mail” sign, saying it is a gift from St Albans Church and the Hope Project to mark 200 years since the Christian faith came to NZ.  Please tell me if you could do this – any time will be fine in the weeks after October 20.

Remember the International Cultural Evening next Saturday night at St Albans at 5.30pm.

It would be great to have as many as possible attend and express our new purpose of “Growing closer to one another”.  We will also be hosting All Saints people and the guests from Kenya.  It’s a fun night for all the family (5.30-8.30pm), bringing your favourite food dish and contributing or enjoying some items.

Shalom,

 

From the Youth Pastor's Desk

Sunday, October 5, 2014
The recent Network Course has highlighted the value of being involved in serving God using our gifts and passions. These are things we all have, and have for a purpose. “Our” gifts, however, are really not ours at all. They belong to the church (Ephesians 4:11) and are to be used for the benefit of others (1 Corinthians 12:7).
 
One thing I’m convinced of is that no one can do ministry alone and for that reason I’m indebted to the team I work with in the youth ministry which encompasses intermediates to young adults. There is so much more however we could do and so let me share with you my top five “wish list”. Maybe some of you have passions and gifts that could see God use you to further His work among young people.
 
Intercessors: We need people with a passion for prayer who will adopt one of our teenage LIFE groups, praying regularly for its leaders and the young people in it.
 
Intermediate ministry: Do you have a passion to work with 11-13 year olds? We need leadership for our Sunday programme but does anyone have an interest in seeing an afterschool outreach club started?
 
Young adult ministry: Currently I’m looking to establish a team of leaders for a young adult ministry – and you don't need to be a young adult to get involved! As well as young leaders I’d love to see some adult mentors commit to this. 
 
Parenting ministry: Raising teenagers is not easy. Have you parented teens and would you love to facilitate a group for parents of teens eager to share and learn together, inviting friends from outside the church to participate. 
 
Special interest facilitators: Do you have a special interest young people might be interested in and are willing to teach a skill? It could be automotive repairs, hunting, cooking or craftwork. If you’re keen we ask around and see if we have young people who would be willing to invite friends to join with you over a number of weeks. 
 
These are some ideas but don't be limited by them. I don't believe in creating jobs then looking for people to fill them. Rather, I prefer to offer encouragement to people to come forward, sharing their ideas, passion and gifting and together finding ways for them to be involved. So if you have an idea about how you’d love to be involved with youth by all means get in touch with me. And if youth ministry is not your thing then talk with one of the pastors or ministry leaders. Don't wait for us to come to you.
 
Whenever we are silent about our passions and withhold our gifts, we rob others of God’s blessing and thwart the growth of His church. True, it might be the easier path, but it will never be the most fulfilling. 
 
Shalom
 
Murray, Youth Pastor
 

Our Finances & General Assembly

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Financial Update – inserted with this newsletter is a financial update for the first two months of our financial year, covering July and August.  I’m glad to say that we have been receiving more income than expenditure but we still have a problem – our Cash Flow is exceptionally tight!

One of our challenges is that much of our money in the bank is “tagged” money.  This means it is provided for or committed to specific ministries and cannot be used for general expenses.  For example: (1) the Ministry of Social Development gives us an annual grant (currently $20,000) which can only be used for the Buzz Holiday Programme’s wages and expenses; (2) the Women’s or Men’s Ministry may have made a profit from a camp or event which they want to carry forward to help fund a future event; (3) Mainly Music has a weekly income from their fees which is slightly greater than their expenses; (4) the Overseas Missions Team has built up a fund of $7,600 in case they need to evacuate home one of our mission partners or families from overseas in an emergency.

So although we have about $39,000 in the bank, we were actually $12,000 short for paying our bills at August 30th.  We could actually do with an injection of $12,000!  The Finance Team has put a hold on all non-essential spending.

If we had to pay out all the tagged funds at once, we would become insolvent as we have no other financial reserves!  We rely entirely on God’s provision through your regular offerings and other income to keep our church’s ministry and mission going.  Please pray for God’s provision to maintain our ministries and mission .... and for some significant donations to help us improve our cash flow.

General Assembly 2014 - Next Saturday this two-yearly meeting of our national church will begin; concluding on Tuesday.  Every one of our 420 Presbyterian or Union Churches (with a Presbyterian partner) is entitled to send their minister or an elder.  Nancy Hazeleger will be the St Alban’s commissioner, I am going on behalf of the Dannevirke church, and Jasmin Vanderwerff and Michal Baken are attending as youth commissioners for our regional Presbytery Central.

The major matter for discussion is a document called ‘Bringing Clarity to our Mission’.  Our national and local churches need to continue giving serious attention to becoming mission-focussed churches who are connecting effectively with our communities.  We will also discuss many other reports plus proposals sent by churches on: Amalgamating congregations, fossil fuel divestment, whether Presbyterian ministers should officiate at same-sex weddings, and seeking to overturn the ban on non-celibate gay people being church leaders.  Our democratic system allows churches to do so.

Please pray for the General Assembly: for the new Moderator Rev Andrew Norton, for the worship and teaching, the organisation and catering, the fellowship and decision-making, for respectful debate and the Holy Spirit’s leading, that we would make decisions that honour God and His Word and serve God’s mission to our world.  Please pray before and during and after Assembly!

Shalom,

The Countdown Has Begun!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Welcome to St Albans, where we seek to support one another in our living for Jesus and engaging in his mission in our world.  Thanks to all of you who attended our AGM last Sunday.

Warm appreciation was expressed for the leaders and willing servants of our church.  Some helpful suggestions were made.  The 2014-15 Budget was approved and I encouraged our congregation to maintain regular and generous giving to sustain our ministries and mission, even though our building is now mortgage-free.  We will circulate the minutes of the AGM as an attachment to the weekly emailed ‘St Albans Update’.

The long-awaited ‘Hope Project’ will be launched next month!

So far, $1 million has been donated and the TV, online and social media advertising campaign will happen from October 12-26.  Also on October 12, the new Gospel and Discipleship websites will be launched.  The Gospel Booklet will be delivered in every home in NZ from October 22-26.  Goto: alltogether.co.nz for all info and resources.

This is a very exciting project as no-one has previously delivered the gospel into every NZ home – never in our history!  Please pray for this wonderful opportunity... for receptive hearts and minds, for God’s Spirit to be at work bringing the truth to people through what they hear and read.  And please be praying about your role to aid God’s Spirit by asking if people have read the booklet, encouraging them to do so and to tell you what they think of it.  Ask your family, friends, neighbours and workmates.

And please consider a donation.  It costs $1.3 million to reach NZ but only $1 a home!

I like the Hope Project’s tag-line: “Engaging your world one conversation at a time.”  On the coming Sundays we will consider how to be better equipped to engage in conversation with people; how to listen better, how we can learn to ask questions to keep a conversation going and to learn what the other person thinks... and why they think that.

You may recall Dave Mann’s three key questions:

1.  Why do you think that?

2.  Where did you get that idea from?

And then if you are willing to ask it:

3.  Have you considered.... and share your Christian viewpoint.

OR say “My experience has been like this....” and share something briefly of your faith-story.

I heard recently about a Christian man who visited his dentist.  The dentist asked his patient what he did on the weekend and the man said, among other things, that he had attended church (a good way to open up a possible discussion about faith).

The dentist replied, “I’m an atheist!  I can’t believe in a God when I see so much suffering and violence and poverty in the world!”

The patient responded, “Actually, I don’t believe in dentists!  When I hear of so much tooth decay and gum disease and rotting teeth, there can’t possibly be any dentists at work!”

The dentist got the point!

Rotting teeth, overgrown gardens, forest-fires, polluted rivers and evil actions do not automatically deny better possibilities or even purposes in our world – do they?

Shalom,

Annual Gratitude Meeting!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Welcome to St Albans, where we seek to support one another in our living for Jesus and engaging in his mission in our world.  After our shorter service today, we will hold our AGM.  It has been called our Annual Gratitude Meeting!  I hope you have read the many reports which reflect some of the wonderful range of ministries and missions in which our congregation is involved.  We present them with much gratitude to God and to the people who have been faithfully and joyfully engaged in God’s purposes.

Two of our long-serving elders are stepping down at this AGM.  Alan Little (who began as an elder in 1998) and Anne Higgins (2002) and are not seeking re-election.  Anne’s workload and travel as National Director of Ebenezer Emergency Fund has increased in the past year and she cannot give the time to the eldership that she wants.  Alan wants to focus on his ministries with the Pastoral Care Team and Site Management Team….and make space for some younger elders.  We are so appreciative of the commitment and contribution they have made to the church council.  We will miss them!

We hope to have some new candidates for eldership in the coming weeks so will not be having an election at this AGM.

The Elders are also glad to announce that we are giving a gift of one month’s mortgage repayment ($3,300) to two local Christian ministries working in poorer suburbs.  We wanted to express our gratitude to God for the blessing of our mortgage-free building by blessing others in our city.  We will divide the gift between Te Aroha Noa Community Services in Highbury (TANCS is a ministry of a Central Baptist Church Trust) and Legacy Church, who are based in the former Presbyterian Church buildings in Highbury.  Both these groups are providing wonderful services to support and empower their local community.

The gift for Te Aroha Noa will go towards a van for their Teen Parent Learning Hub, ‘He Ngakau Matua’ (the heart of the parent).  It has arisen from their Teen Parent worker’s observations that while young teens and their babies who were well supported and already educationally motivated did well at the Teen Parent Unit at Freyberg High School, young parents who were educationally disengaged before becoming pregnant, or for whom becoming pregnant was a way of disengaging, often were at risk of very negative social outcomes for them and their babies.  TANCS have bought and renovated a two-unit building as a Learning Hub with an Under Two Early Childhood Licensed Centre attached.

Legacy Church (the former House of Breakthrough) provide a free weekly meal and Christian teaching for about 150 people, as well as running a well-attended Opp Shop for used clothes and a drop-in Cafe.  I will tell you when we make these gifts. 

Also today, we have published an updated version of the booklet of ‘Opportunities for Service’ that we produced for the ‘40 Days of Purpose’ course in 2005.  This will help you find areas of service in which you can serve God’s purposes using your own particular gifts and passions.

Shalom, 

 

Financial Matters

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Happy Fathers’ Day to all the dads among us this Sunday!  During August we had a great month of different preachers and testimonies from those being baptised.  This Sunday it is back to me!  And in a way it’s back to earth!  Read on....

Next Sunday is our Annual General Meeting when we review the life of our church from July 2013 to June 2014.  The Annual Report booklet is available today.  My thanks go to all the contributors and especially to Prue Drake for chasing us up, compiling the reports and getting it to the Massey Printery in time for today!

Also included in our Newsletter today is the Final Quarterly Financial Update for the last year, ending June 30th.  This update and the Annual Financial Report show that we finished the year with a $15,000 cash deficit.  Of course this has to be considered alongside the generous giving which cleared our mortgage before June 30th.

Our monthly mortgage instalment has been about $3,300 in recent years, paid both from tagged giving to the Building Fund by our members as well as from our General Funds.  But in the past year, the $50,000 given which cleared the mortgage, all came from special donations to the CTM appeal.  This means that no principal repayments were made from our general offerings.

We had hoped to have a surplus of around $3,300 per month in this new financial year to invest in more mission-focussed ways.  At present, it doesn’t look like we will.  And it is a tough way to start a new year with a $15,000 cash deficit as we have no reserve funds.

One of the elders’ hopes arising out of our recent time of review, is that we can employ another staff person in 2015 on a half time basis, to provide leadership in Discipleship training/Small group coordination, in a new Connecting Team to better welcome and incorporate newcomers, and to help us build on the relationships we have with unchurched people in our current programmes.

Some of this staff position will be funded by Presbytery Central which pays St Alban’s for 10 hours per week to release me for my role as the Presbytery Convener.  We have been employing Alison Angel with this money, to assist me, until the end of this year.

Some funds have also been freed up by employing our Youth Pastor for 25 hours per week, although we also provide some funding for our two youth interns, Jasmin and Michal.

We also hope to put aside funds each month into a Building Maintenance Fund in preparation for the predictable refurbishing of our building as we move past the tenth year of its life.

So the challenge for us as a congregation in this new year, is to not relax our giving now that the mortgage has been cleared!  It will be important to clear this $15,000 cash deficit and to be building up funds for other plans to be good stewards of our building, and of the mission and ministry that our Lord has entrusted to us.

Shalom,

Mission and Worship

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Welcome to St Albans, one congregation of Christ’s body in our city, where we encourage people to worship God in all areas of their lives.  Today we welcome singer/songwriter and a Presbyterian minister Malcolm Gordon.  He is the Worship, Music and Arts Enabler for the Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership of the Presbyterian Church.  He helps churches worship more creatively and encourages creative people in their ministries.  He lives in Auckland with wife Vanessa and two young children.

Part of Malcolm’s role is to identify younger musicians, worship leaders and song-writers in Presbyterian churches and give them encouragement and training.  Each year the Knox Centre offers Music Scholarships which provide a weekend in Dunedin with other recipients and mentors.  I’m delighted that our own Peter Gardner has recently received one.

What a wonderful Mission Month we’ve had; hearing about cross-cultural mission in Africa, Asia and Vanuatu.  It was capped off by the extraordinary story of Libby Little who spoke at All Saints on Thursday.  Quietly spoken Libby shared her powerful story of humility, grit, and courage, of sacrificial love for others plus trust in and obedience to God.

From a poor unchurched family, her story began when a Presbyterian minister in up-state New York agreed to conduct her father’s funeral and care for the family at no cost, with no strings attached.  This greatly impressed 12 year old Libby and the pastor faithfully discipled her and her family, and her future husband.  Romans 12 verses 1 and 2 were the life theme that he planted in her and he kept the call to costly mission before her from the beginning.

“Present your bodies as a living sacrifice to God....and do not be conformed to this world’s ways of thinking....”  These verses continued to uphold and challenge her as she and Tom began medical mission work in Afghanistan.  Dr Tom was another ‘Fred Hollows’, offering simple eye treatment that made a profound difference.  Libby had three learnings about mission. 

It is about mutuality – doing life together with those she lived among.  The Afghan women where she lived were very suspicious of a foreigner and shut her out for two years.  It wasn’t until the Russian invasion and their family’s refusal to play it safe and leave the city, that they were accepted and people opened up to them.  They stayed for 35 years!  This is incarnational living as Jesus did - “The word became flesh and lived among us.”

Second, mission is messy.  It is unpredictable, nothing significant happens for long periods, plans are easily shattered.  Their home hosted a birthday party for Jesus as their pre-school daughter invited 50 neighbours.  It was also a hospital ward with surgery conducted on those injured in the fighting.  Another time they hosted 20 Mujahedeen fighters!

Finally, mission is a mystery.  The opportunities God provided through their faithful medical work were usually unexpected and created by their loving service.  Why Tom and nine other medics were murdered by locals, was the greatest mystery.  Libby is not bitter and continues to love the Afghanis.  “Oh the mercy of our king, who takes from death its bitter sting, and with his blood and sometimes ours, brings triumph out of hostile powers.”  Amen!

Shalom,

 

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