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At the start of this new term / year / week (depending on how much effect the school calendar has on your life) I wanted to communicate a few bits of info over a series of blog posts to explain our priorities and practises for the next few months.

Some of us joined the St Marks village during Covid times, and so are not entirely sure what happens in “normal times”. Those who have been around for a little longer will smile ruefully and tell you that there is rarely such a thing as a “normal time”! And of course, whatever times these are, they ain’t normal!

Below then are a few of our guiding priorities for what lays ahead. 

WISDOM AND LOVE

Legally we are now allowed to meet, indoors, with no masks or distancing and without washing our hands every time we enter a new room.
Legally we are also allowed to wear shell-suits and eat cornish pasties while using public transport. 

All of these options, though legal would be unwise and unloving to our neighbours!

I am aware that many of us are running at different speeds this term. Some of us are shielding as much as is possible for physical reasons, some for the sake of our mental health. Some of us are primarily concerned for ourselves, others for children or elderly parents. Some of us are trying to live as normal a life as possible but walk a constant tightrope between exposure and isolation. And some of us have consigned Covid to the past and are charging ahead full speed. 

All of our gatherings will remain as safe a place for us to be as possible. We will prioritise the health (mental and physical) of those around us, committing to do our part to ensure that everyone is safe and feels safe. This probably means some things will stay on Zoom (this will also save time, require fewer babysitters and less travel) – other things will be outside (make sure you have a coat or a couple of jumpers) and the way in which we serve food and drink may change. 

We want to be wise to the fact that Covid has not disappeared. 

We want to be loving enough to recognise the fear many of us feel. 

We want to be able to continue to serve others across MK without needing to shut down. 

THE TABLE

You will know intuitively that the thing we have missed profoundly over the past 18 months has been table time. Eating together, passing ketchup, washing dishes, serving each other, informal and meandering conversations. 

These things were always vital to the way St Marks was. 

This term therefore we want to make up for lost time. We have missed some kids growing up, new schools, new jobs, new houses, new ideas, life milestones. We know that travelling together is integral to travelling well. 

The diary has plenty of meals for us to enjoy. Curry club. Breakfast club. Top Table. Sabbath Meals (where we will eat dinner together while telling the story of our faith and then enjoy a Sunday filled with space to re-create ourselves after busy weeks).

These table gatherings are where relationships are formed and joy is developed. Prioritise them as much as you possibly can. They will feel weird to begin with because we are going to begin again in some relationships…but as always, we will reap what we sow. 

MEALS

While we have been locked down, St Marks Meals has grown massively. We now (as at time of writing) serve 67 centres across MK, have trialled working with one church in North London to run Meals in their neighbourhood, and are about to create a Network of places running Meals in their contexts. 

We are doing all of this compelled by NEED, not DESIRE. 

We are not seeking to grow a charity or make a name for ourselves (the exact opposite), but the vision that ‘No child should ever need to go to bed hungry” drives us to serve as many families as we possibly can. 

We will need to raise more money than ever before, pack more boxes than ever before, campaign louder than ever before and, it would be great to enable more of us than before to be involved. Rachel and Angie have worked wonders and will continue to do so, but owning all this more as a village is a joy that Covid robbed us of in many ways. 

If you want to get involved and help volunteer to shop, pack, deliver, represent us at events etc, have a word with the team!

SANCTUARY

At the end of September we launch the Sanctuary Network – helping churches across MK become safe spaces for survivors of domestic abuse. 

We have been working towards this for a LONG time as you may know. Gail has been working hard behind the scenes for the past 4 months and doing an incredible job. 

As part of this network we will be providing resources for churches and also convening learning communities foe church leaders and youth workers. This is a unique and long term approach and is one I think will have a real, lasting impact on the way churches are able to respond to abuse survivors for a long time. 

Please pray for this launch and the subsequent training and learning communities that follow. 

SYRIAN FRIENDS

Over the past 18 months, our Syrian friends have had to navigate Covid and isolation just like the rest of us. Except they had to do it in a strange land. They also had to move house, change schools, their English lessons came to an end and much of the support offered by the Government under their resettlement scheme has come to an end. 

At the start of this journey for us, we said we were committed to the long term support of this lovely family, and honestly, they need friends, company and community now. We will be making a conscious effort to invite and involve them as much as possible. If you see them around, then let’s all commit to much past the awkward language barrier and show them some love!

DISCIPLE

And of course, we do all this because we are disciples of Jesus. Apprentices in the way of the Master. Not a social club, book group or bunch of religious aficionados. 

Our rhythms, practices and activities are all built around helping each other grow as disciples. Quite how that works and what it looks like is the subject of the next post!