Little and Large

We can’t do BIG church at the moment. Big gatherings are not an option because of Covid 19 and the building is actually closed for a few weeks as the decorating and lighting work are being done.

I can’t wait until we can all be together again. I miss you and I miss the special atmosphere of worshipping together in church. We have to be patient but I do long for the return of corporate worship which can include everyone.

Until that day comes what do we do? More of the same? Yes. Over recent months we’ve moved our services online, been praying and socialising via Zoom, staying in touch via the post, whatsapping, emailing, facebooking and texting. We have found new ways of connecting and new ways of doing church. These are good things, not poor substitutes, but positive and new ways of doing things. Long may they continue!

In the absence of doing ‘BIG’ church the Autumn gives us an opportunity to explore ‘SMALL’ church. Many of you are in small groups and have been finding ways to connect and even meet safely during Lockdown. I want to encourage small groups to meet together regularly in the Autumn, not instead of church, nor as an add on to church, but as church. The way you meet will depend on your group and whatever restrictions are in place but whether it’s Zoom, socially distanced picnics or whatever creative method you can think of, now could be a great opportunity for small groups to thrive.

The original and best small group (Jesus and the 12) shared their lives together. They were a dynamic and loving community who, centred on Jesus, learnt, prayed, worshipped, served, laughed, cried, messed up, forgave and grew together in faith. Jesus attracted some big crowds but most of His time was spent with His small group. If the disciples give us a very early picture of church then it’s definitely small rather than big. The church in Acts followed this model and even as the Gospel spread church seemed most often to be expressed in small settings.

I wonder if God is giving us a nudge here? A nudge to join a small group? A nudge to see the small groups as church? A nudge to small groups to go deeper with God and each other? A nudge to place small groups at the heart of the action rather than it being seenasanaddontotheBIG church.

Before Lockdown we were looking to create more small groups and people were wanting to join. Covid put the brakes on but this has not been forgotten. So if you would like to be part of a small group and explore and experiment with new and smaller ways of being church then please get in touch.

An anonymous quote to end with:

“We will never change the world by just going to church. We need to be the church.” Small groups might just be the answer…

With love

News from Our Missionary Reps

Bible Society

Please pray for discernment of God’s will and plan for China at this critical time. Thank God that the Amity Printing Press is back to operating at full capacity and pray that God will speak powerfully through His Word to the Chinese people.

Pray for wisdom as we make plans for the future and that all the financial needs will be met.

Valerie Collings

Church Mission Society

Praise that David and Shelley are well in lockdown. Food supplies normal. No Covid cases locally but there are some in Formosa city. There is a statue sculpted by a Wichi man which has recently been fitted with a face mask where David and Shelley live!

Pray for wisdom for David and Shelley in knowing how to end their time in N.Argentina faithfully and what the timings should be.

Pat Blanchard writes recently that the President has declared a return to strict lockdown. Oxygen cylinders are in short supply and there has been an increase in infections and deaths. Pat’s 20th Year Anniversary in Lima was on August 17th but celebrations have been put on hold.

Pray for the future of Shalom considering the limitations of therapies. Pray also for the disabled children and families unable to return to the building and Shalom parents facing unemployment as well as health issues.

Jill Flux

Churches Ministry among Jewish People

CMJ continues to be active in Israel, the UK and around the world. Praise God for the many opportunities to witness that Yeshua (Jesus) is the Messiah. Please pray for the health and safety of all the staff and volunteers at this time, and that they will know the Lord’s presence and guiding in the important work which they do.

Dave Clinch

London City Mission

Andrew Barnett works supporting families. Fifteen year old Tristan had a tough start in life. He never knew his father and was expelled from his local secondary school. Growing up in the shadow of Grenfell Tower, he lost friends in the devastating fire three years ago.

His mum Sara has also experienced a lot of trauma and death in her life and she struggled as a single mum with teenage sons. When missionary Andrew Barnett met Sara, while going door-to-door on the estate, he realised this small family unit needed Jesus. Pray for Tristan that he would know God as his father. Pray that he will see that his life has great purpose beyond football and that he invests time in seeking Jesus. Pray for Sara that she will know Jesus as someone who loves her and will never leave her.

Val Newman

Operation Mobilisation

Many of you know that the work of OM is centred on its ship ministry. The Logos Hope sails around the world stopping at various ports to organise on board meetings and distribute Christian resources in numerous languages. All crew members are Christians.

A recent article entitled “Living out love in lockdown” caught my eye. A crew member was walking on deck wondering how long it would be before Covid allowed the ship to dock again. She was frustrated. When would she be able to share her faith again? Suddenly a small boat drew alongside. It was apparent that it was a police patrol boat and the pilot asked her who she was and what the ship did normally. Remembering that she had some small booklets containing John’s gospel in her handbag she threw one towards the patrol boat. It was quite a distance away and windy too, so she prayed, “Jesus you will have to make this happen.” To her surprise the booklet landed right in front of the policeman’s feet. He was as excited as she was! What a miracle. It reminded her that even on board a ship, which at the moment is not welcome in any port, God had helped her share the gospel message with a stranger.

Perhaps we can pray for that policeman, the crew of the Logos Hope and for continued giving towards the running costs of the ships. Most days we can look into the bay and see several cruise ships at anchor. Apparently each has about 100 crew members on board. My guess is that many of them are lonely and anxious about the future. Is there some way we can encourage them and also tell them the good news of Jesus? If we pray God will provide the answer!

Dave Moore

Church Pastoral Aid Society

Many young people were looking forward to camps and house parties this summer but have found themselves at home more than usual and missing out on different activities and contact with friends. The leaders have been looking for innovative ways to bless the young people using modern ’technology’ – E-mails, post, phone calls etc.

PRAY for families struggling with the current restrictions. Ask God to bring peace to those facing difficult circumstances that they will know God’s love in their lives.

Anne Bond

The Sidmouth Donkey Sanctuary

This is one of the charities that Frank and I have been supporting financially for many years.

During lockdown the faithful grooms and vets have been going in each day to care for the donkeys and mules. Please pray that things get back to normal quickly so they can reopen to the public.

Sue Akerman

Songs which have helped during lockdown

“All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small, all things wise and wonderful, the Lord God made them all.”

During lockdown many of us were reminded of how wonderful nature and wildlife are – watching birds nesting and feeding their fledglings, watching them leave the nest for the first time, the amount of small insects and animals visiting our plants and the wonder of the brightness and beauty of our gardens.

We take for granted the sunrise, the sunset, the sky and the clouds, sun, rain and wind which we tend not to notice in our fast and furious lives. Covid 19 has slowed the pace of our lives and reminded us of the beauty of God’s world.

Because of the lockdown and shielding we have had time to stop and stare.

“The Lord God made them all.”

Sue Dowle

At the beginning of lockdown the song, Is He Worthy, sung by Chris Tomlin really spoke to me and helped me. It was written by Andrew Peterson who took some of the words direct from Revelation 5. It asks the questions – Do you feel the world is broken? Do you feel the shadows deepen? Do you know that all the dark won’t stop the light from getting through? Do you wish that you could see it all made new? Is all creation groaning?

At that time not being able to see family (especially the grandchildren) and friends, also no church meetings I felt very much that the world was and is broken and this song resonated in my spirit.

The next few lines about The glory of the Lord to be the light in our midst … really lifted my spirit every time I sang along and it brought me to a place of knowing God is in control, that He is so worthy of our praise and adoration and that He is coming to dwell with us again.

Is He worthy? Is He worthy? Of all blessing and honour and glory. He is!

Can I encourage you to play this song? It can be found on Youtube and I have placed it on the church WhatsApp. I will warn you it brought a few tears to my eyes.

Pauline Neels

I really had a desire to share this song, singing, focusing on Him instead does Raise a Hallelujah (by Jonathan and Melissa Helser from Bethel). It’s not just helped during lockdown, but has been a song that’s stayed with me for the last year or so.

Apart from God, worship is something that I couldn’t live without. It draws me closer to Him and in the midst of all that’s going on helps me truly focus on His greatness.

As we know, worship isn’t just about song singing, it’s a heart ‘thing’ about stepping into His presence. To help us do that there are many genres of songs; songs for exalting who God is, for helping us to be aware of His presence, praise, declaring breakthroughs, victory, the list goes on…

When facing a challenging time it can be so easy to focus on the circumstances, but learning to take a step back, letting go of being ‘in control’ and looking at God and absolute wonders. I believe it says to the enemy ‘stuff what’s being thrown at me, God is bigger and greater, He is so faithful, always there for me and more than enough’.

So that’s why I want to share this song. The song in itself was written during a testing time. It’s a song that can change the atmosphere. It’s a shout of ‘God be praised’ in all that’s being thrown at us. It’s a shout of ‘God be praised’ and I’m going to keep praising Him whether the circumstances get more challenging or not, that He is right there, He is faithful and my focus and hope is entirely.

Trudy Dickson

You can hear the song here.


After the disappointing cancellation this year because of Covid 19 the dates for 2021 have now been released.


Week 1: 6th – 10th April 2021 Week 2: 10th – 15th April 2021

The title for 2021 is UNRIVALLED and the theme is Worship

Online bookings will open at 8am on Tuesday 22nd September 2020 which is not far away. Please check out the website www.Springharvest.Org for further details.

We are hoping to attend with 2 of our grandchildren so please do make contact with us if you would like to join with us.

Pauline and Alex Neels

Sammy the Seal

It was the early days of Sammy’s appearance this summer.

One morning, Bella and I had just come to the end, or so I thought, of our usual beach walk from Bowleaze Coveway to the blue sign near the Oasis Cafe.

That day she had seemed a bit preoccupied about something in the direction of St. John’s. She was not interested in playing in the sand with her figure of eight rope toy, or Ball-eez, but had stopped to sniff the air more times than usual.

Just as I was about to put the lead on her, she bolted, running at top speed down to the rocks near Greenhill. So I had to move fast to keep up with my Personal Trainer. Once there, she was barking in a friendly way, at something, which looked like a dog swimming in the sea. There seemed to be a conversation going on between them.

Then I could see that it was not a dog, but a seal. He seemed to smile at Bella and swam towards her. Bella has never swum, not really needing to, as she can paddle comfortably with her long legs. She waded into the water as far as she dared go and then saw with dismay that Sammy was not like her, in that he had flippers and no legs. That meant that he could not play ‘chase me’ with her on the beach. Then she got out of the water, stopped barking and walked to heel, off the lead, back along the water’s edge towards the Oasis. Sammy swam alongside. Bella trotted along happily keeping an eye on Sammy all the way, as they exchanged friendly glances. Once back at the blue sign, Bella barked at him again, maybe telling him that she had to go?
By this time a crowd had gathered. A man stepped forward and politely said to me, “I think you ought to get your dog away from the seal.”
“That’s just what I’m trying to do now,” I replied. “I think she has been trying to communicate with him.”

His tone of voice changed, “But the seal wouldn’t know that!” he barked.

Bella came on the lead, “I wouldn’t be so sure about that!” I said, leaving him nonplussed, as I made a quick getaway.

Val Collings

Seal encounter

One Saturday in August at about 08.30am. Gill and I decided to go for a swim in the sea off Greenhill. Being early in the day there weren’t many other swimmers about. After the first 5 -10 minutes getting used to the temperature of the water we were really enjoying our dip in the sea.

To our complete surprise at about 9.15 a seal popped up behind Gill and put its front flippers on her shoulders from behind. Gill assumed it was me ‘mucking about’, but a startled “OH” was heard when she turned round to face, head to head, a seal!

Watching this at about 10 feet away I was anxious for Gill. Fortunately that worry evaporated when the seal swam around us, observing us both!? The seal’s touch with his or her flippers was very gentle. In return Gill and I stroked the seals back, similar to stroking a friendly dog. Its colour was of dark grey, with small black patches, some green areas, large round black eyes, being about 5 feet in length and 2-3 feet wide.

At one point he dived to my ankles and opened his mouth and gently took hold of my right ankle. This is when I saw his teeth – very dog like and large! We kept stroking him gently and at times encouraged him to swim in front of us so we could see him.

This wonderful encounter lasted for 5-10 minutes. Gill and I were absolutely thrilled at such a meeting with a wild creature of the sea. About 10 people had arrived on the beach to watch, but we didn’t think to ask for their photos or videos they may have taken.

A marvellous moment, never to be forgotten.

Roger and Gill Welch

In Christ Alone

The hymn ‘In Christ Alone’ has a special significance for me, as it was the one that our daughter Rachel chose when she got married in 2016. For me, it tells the essence of what a Christian believes, and how the focus of life is changed from being self-centred, to allowing Christ to be in charge of our life. Let him be the one in the driving seat, but that is much easier said than done at times, but I know He has my life in His hands.

I have had many problems and crises in my life, where I have had to trust in God.

During the Covid lockdown, I’ve had more time to read a variety of books, both secular and Christian. I find encouragement in the books written by Jennifer Rees-Larcombe. She was brought up by Christian parents who served God throughout their lives. In her childhood she suffered greatly at school, as she was dyslexic, but in those days the teachers didn’t understand it, so she was deemed to be ‘thick’. She married, had 6 children, so had a very busy life, as well as serving the Lord. I don’t think she had much time for relaxation whilst bringing up her children, but she was ‘married’ to the work ethic.

Major illness, divorce and other problems plagued her life, but through her experiences and God’s guidance, she was led to set up the charity Beauty from Ashes, which offers a counselling service to people whose lives are falling apart for a variety of reasons. She also gives talks at various functions in different parts of the UK, and writes Bible notes. Each week as a ‘prayer shouter’ for Beauty from Ashes I receive a newsletter about people who are hurting and have been counselled by Jen and her team. People’s names are anonymous and I am encouraged to pray for all these people and their personal situations. We support this charity by sending donations as the Lord leads us.

Jennifer Rees-Larcombe has been such an encouragement to me in person, through her prayers, and by reading her books. She has told her life story, revealing her feelings during happy and sad times. She has a heart for God which she expresses so well, and the Holy Spirit shines out of her.

So, why not have a look at the web-site at

Hilary Lidstone

Face Masks and the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

Face masks have become compulsory in shops in England. For deaf people and those who are hard of hearing communication will be difficult.

How can we help?

Make sure you face the person and speak clearly. Remove your mask if requested by someone using a prompt card shown to you. Learn some sign language. Be patient. Maybe you could write stuff down or use a speech to text app.

On a positive note, one person commented, “For the first time in our lives, through lockdown we’ve had choice because there’s been so much online with subtitles, with interpreters, church through Zoom, events like New Wine and Spring Harvest have had interpreters on their online festivals.
This item was prompted by a discussion on Premier Radio News (July 25th) and included on the diocesan news sheet (July 31st). You can find the complete original item by clicking on the link below. Thanks to Diane B.

Memories of the last renewal

I remember my part in working with children on a Sunday. At 9.30 until 10.30 we met in St John’s Mission House, Chelmsford Street which later became The Park Church Centre and now The Park Community Centre. I ran the group with the youngest children (5-7 year olds). We used the smaller of the two rooms. It was packed out every Sunday. We used Scripture Union material and were called Climbers. Helpers with me, but not at the same time, included Sue, daughter of Pat and Roy and Sue, daughter of Jane and John. At the end of the session we joined with the older group in the main room for worship. Then my own children and I would clear up and rush to church for the service at 11am. Looking back it must have been hard for our children.

Coming Together With God was the name given to the last project for reordering the interior of our Church. In 1986 it was decided at a youth leaders’ meeting that all Sunday youth groups would meet at 10.30am in the church when certain work was completed. Faculties were obtained in 1987 for the preliminary plans which included the removal of the wooden pews and carpeting areas of the church. Three meeting rooms were created from the North and South Transept and the Chancel Chapel. After 2 years this work was completed.

Climbers met in one of the meeting rooms where we soon made use of the wall boards for displaying art work.

Unfortunately the new arrangement meant our numbers were reduced as we no longer had children from non-church going families. However, it was good that the whole church family now met under one roof.

Linda Miles

As a young Christian I was taught the lesson of how good a project manager God was!

Finance – we needed £35K which my tiny mind did not think possible. It was.

Materials were always available when needed. The carpet came from the Co-Op at an amazing price.

Work Force – Always enough people with the right skills – they often did 5 hours after a normal day’s work. There was a great sense of unity amongst us all.

I remember well one of my tasks was to run the cables from the sound desk to the chancel. The space under the floor was only about 12”.

The refurbishment in 1986/87 convinced me when God is the architect and builder. He provides the resources needed.

Barry Pye

Pauline Neels talked recently about the refurbishment to Chris Savidge (then known as Buzz) He left St John’s to move to Bath in 1994. These are Chris’ memories.

  • I was a member of the Building Committee alongside John De La Mare, Barry Pye and Roy Worrall. Getting the Faculties approved and planning all the work was a major task for those concerned.
  • There were many challenges along the way especially with the heating. I remem- ber Barry Pye climbing under the floor to run wires along the heating ducts to the new sound desk before the carpets were laid.
  • One evening Frank Dallimore was painting the walls and was quite high up when he fell but appeared to be uninjured.
  • Another occasion we were in the church and carried on working until very late into the early hours of the morning. The Police came knocking at the door to find out what was happening at that late hour and who was in the church.
  • All the wood on the Altar or table was rubbed down by hand and Linseed Oil put on.
  • The new chairs arrived but had no holders for books so John De La Mare arranged to get them made locally and fixed to the chairs individually.
  • In the upstairs tower I found a prayer book with my Uncle’s name on it – he had been a Japanese Prisoner of War and had been prayed for.
  • The toilets by the Vestry had work done and needed a black grill for the waste pipe which Dave Willshire managed to get.
  • Everybody involved used their skills, their knowledge and so many of the congre- gation turned up in their spare time to do various jobs and it formed a real bond amongst them all.
My Memories of the Re-ordering of St Johns Church 1986/87

The main aim of the last re-ordering of the church was to enable the whole church family to meet and worship together on one site and at the same time on a Sunday morning.

Prior to this the Sunday School consisting of Scramblers, Climbers and Explorers plus the over 11’s group known as Pathfinders used to meet in the Mission Hall (now The Park Church Centre).

At that time Roy Worrall and I were Church Wardens and much involved in the planning.

The plans were drawn up by church architect Roy Fewtrell with whom we worked very closely over the period of renovation, which was carried out by a local builder.

To make the building more comfortable and adaptable the pews and choir stalls were removed and sold on to be replaced with comfortable padded chairs and, amazingly, we sat in pews one Sunday and chairs the next! The church floor was levelled, boarded and carpeted and two side rooms and the chancel room were created, one each for Scramblers, Climbers and Explorers to meet in, while Pathfinders met for the first part of the service in church and then went back down to the Mission Hall to continue.

As we didn’t have room for a full kitchen a beverage point was created in The Tower.

A lot of research went into finding and installing a quiet, reliable heating system which involved visits to other churches to find the correct one for us.

When the builders left it was over to us – the church family – to complete the work of decorating and finalising the project, for which we hired a large Tower Scaffolding unit on wheels and an industrial vacuum cleaner.

At the time Tessa and I owned our own shoe shop on Lodmoor Hill, and I took three weeks off work to oversee the decorating etc. This was only possible because dear Kath Sawkins gave up her time for free to work alongside Tessa in the shop. I just remember such an amazing team of workers ready to put their hands to whatever was needed to get the work done!

My Highlights:-

Dave Clinch and I were working very late one night when two policemen, on seeing lights in the church, called in to see what was going on.
As we were unable to get the scaffold tower up into the chancel I can still see Dave Clinch at the top of a very long ladder painting the chancel wall. Where was Health and Safety then!!
Seeing Florence Ayres up to her elbows in soapy water ‘washing down’ the Angels that top the panelling in the chancel.
And now it’s time to do it all again in order to meet the needs of today’s church.
St Johns has always had an evangelical heritage with a heart for mission; seeking to reach out with the love of Jesus to our community and town and therefore needing a building that is ‘fit for purpose’.

I finish with these words of scripture, ‘In Him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit’. Ephesians 2 vs 21,22.

John de la Mare