Friday, 24 September 2010

Walking Normandy (England)

P1000366 Early Saturday starts – are they a good idea?

The answer has to be ‘yes’ on a fine clear September morning with the sun emerging into a pale blue sky and taking the chill off the air.
No doubts that the day fits the name of the walking group this month (Fine Weather Walkers).

Our walk started at Wood Street Village near Normandy (Surrey not France). Seventeen of us set off to enjoy walking beside fields, through copses and under the canopy of more wooded land; every month we are reminded of the pleasing variety of the English countryside virtually on our doorstep. This time we were delighted to discover (and sample) blackberries both sweet and tart growing luxuriantly amongst the hedges, and there were sloes and rosehips for the more ambitious to collect for future use.

P1000369 It paid to look closely where we were walking – or taking a coffee break – as we espied a small frog amidst the grass; but equally the distant view showed a group of deer bounding in a line across a field which sloped up to the Hogs Back in the distance, and a glance upwards at one stage revealed a pair of para-gliders taking the concept of fresh air to new heights.


A Fine Weather Walkers’ walk always promises interesting terrain, and often the chance to appreciate the physical heritage of our forebears. This month was no exception; we paused for a while to look at St Bartholomew’s Wanborough’s, a 12th century church restored in 1862 from having been a farm building, proudly noted as mentioned in the Domesday Book.(Wanborough was worth £7 in 1085.)

But just as important to the success and enjoyment of the walks is the chance to be out and about with convivial people who rapidly become friends, who share in the delights of the walk and joke about the awkward stiles or the unexpected muddy patch. On a glorious September morning, with only three easy stiles and no mud to speak of, conversation sparkled and good fellowship reached its culmination over the excellent lunch which was our reward at the end.

walk For more information on the St Paul’s Walking Group, see Walking Back To Happiness. A list of all our events at St Paul’s, including scheduled walks, is available here. If you’re interested in coming along to a walk, we would love to hear from you.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Curate Conquers Iron Man

photo 5 The ‘iron man’; a gruelling, excruciating , agonising triathlon, evidently a hobby for fit people. Why on earth would anyone want to do it? I mean, do people really do this for fun? With my journalistic hat on I decided to investigate this matter further and lo and behold our very own 28 year old curate Graham has actually conquered the iron man. Now Graham seems to be relatively normal; quietly spoken, unassuming, a friendly chap you could comfortably chat with in the pub but the iron man? Why? I decided to ask him.

Graham “It is the amazing sense of achievement that does it for me. Really pushing my body to the limit. I have done a few triathlons before but nothing like the iron man. It is completely bonkers but amazing!”

Nikki “So remind me, what distances did you do?”

photo 1 Graham “We start with a 2.4 mile swim, followed by 112 mile bike ride then the marathon (26 miles)”

Nikki “Swimming in a pool? Followed by nice leisurely bike ride? I guess you could walk the marathon? No?” (Graham shaking head)

Graham “No, this is a serious challenge. The triathlon took place in Bolton so we started with the swim in the lake at Pennington Flash Country park. The bike ride was a bit hilly with 2183m climbing and the marathon was not exactly level ground. The rules say you have to complete the triathlon within 17 hours and you are not allowed to have a break between each event so no one can afford to hang around.”

Nikki “I guess you had to train quite hard then?”

Graham “Well you have to be fit. For the few months before the triathlon I had been doing long cycles from Camberley to Oxford and Southampton, swimming in Mychett Lake early on Thursday mornings and running to the ‘Look Out’ and back to Barossa.

photo 4 Nikki “Wow! I am just exhausted hearing about it! How did you get through it, I mean what goes through your head when doing something like this?”

Graham “Well for a start I had told so many people I was doing this I didn’t want to have to tell them I hadn’t finished it and I also knew if I didn’t finish I would keep entering until I did! Giving up was not an option! I kept thinking that the pain I was putting myself through was nothing compared to the pain Jesus went through on the cross for me. I could have stopped at any time. So could Jesus; he could have got off the cross any time he wanted but he chose not to because of his love for us.”

Nikki “Gosh we often forget that Jesus did actually have a choice. So, would you do it again?”

Graham (laughs) “Well I am not planning anything at the moment and I am still recovering from the last one!! Perhaps I could be tempted to do a flatter course as Bolton is very hilly, then I could get a better time.”

Nikki “What was your finish time?”photo 3

Graham “12 hours 48 minutes.”

Nikki “I am no expert but that sounds pretty good”

Graham “It is not bad! It was a real high for me when I realised I was going to complete the marathon in under 4 hours!”

Nikki “Graham, I think you used the word “bonkers” earlier and I have to say that word keeps coming back to me but you have my full admiration! Thank you so much for talking to us about this amazing achievement of yours.”

So, bonkers or blooming marvellous? Possibly a bit of both but certainly something you can be proud of. If you would like to find out more about iron man you can check out their website Well after that inspirational interview I am off for a run now. What’s that? Cup of tea and mars bar? Oh ok then, if you insist. Ill take that run tomorrow.

Alpha_Logo_RGB Graham helps run the Alpha Course at St Paul’s. This is where anyone who has questions about faith can come along.  Camberley Alpha course begins 21st September at the RSVP and continues for the following 10 weeks. Each week starts at 7:20pm with drinks, followed by a meal at 7:30, a talk and then group discussion ending at 9:30pm. You are invited to come along, alone or with friends. For more information contact Graham Shaw:

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Cambridge to Camberley via China – New Youth Director

china I caught up with Sarah Percival during her first week as the new Youth Director at St Paul’s. We chatted about her background, plans she has, and why she took on the role. What instantly strikes you is how enthusiastic and professional she is, and I’m sure this role is something she will flourish in.

Video Interview with Sarah Percival


Tell me more about your gap year. What experiences did you take away from that?

“So I spent the year working with Youth For Christ in Swindon. I spent a lot of time working in the local secondary schools, doing lessons, assemblies and lunch clubs. The rest of my time was spent either running youth clubs and youth events or working with my church there to help them run their youth work. It was such a great year. I had the chance to work with an amazing team of experienced youth workers and to get to know LOADS of fantastic young people, from all walks of life. Swindon is a really varied town with some really middle class areas and others that are really deprived. But what came through everywhere was that young people are people no matter what their social background. They’re all fun, they all have pressures and questions and they all have so many talents and so much they could be doing with their lives. Having come from a fairly sheltered, middle class existence, my eyes were opened to what the rest of the world is actually like and to the fact that even though I came from a totally different background to many of these young people we were essentially the same and could still get on. And we both need God in our lives just the same amount! There’s SO much that God is doing in this country, in the middle class areas, in the council estates, in the schools and in the churches, it was an amazing opportunity to be able to be involved in it all as a full time volunteer for a year. I learnt that spending your life serving what God is doing – whether that’s in your office, your church, your school, your university or anywhere - it is just the most rewarding thing that you can do.”


image licensed under creative commonsWhy did you choose a career in youth work?
“I wish I could explain how I got here. And I wish I could explain why I love working with young people. It would make it much easier to explain to people why I’m doing what I’m doing. All I can say is that it’s God’s idea! I went into my last year of university completely confused about what I wanted to do with my life, but through a whole lot of praying God led me to the conclusion that he wanted me to work with young people. It really gets to me the amount of pressure put on young people from all angles, and the way in which I saw many of my contemporaries drop away from the Church. God is the only answer to ALL the problems face by young people today – he’s the only one who can give them true identity, who can offer true fulfilment and who can give them the strength not to conform to all the things the world is telling them. I couldn’t just go into a comfortable job in the city and stand by and watch society push and break so many young people – I wanted to get stuck in, for God to use me in whatever way to make some kind of difference. I wasn’t sure exactly what that would look like, but after more prayer, I ended up here at St Paul’s! So yeah... I can’t explain why on earth it gets to me so much, or how I ended up caring about young people, I just do. I blame God!”

How do you feel in your new role? 2006_0325ApprenticeSermon0082

“It’s been a big life change arriving here two days after graduation. And that was pretty daunting. But now I’m here and in the thick of it all I am so excited. I still can’t quite believe God is letting me to do this for a job. It’s a big job and a big responsibility, but I know that wherever I can’t manage, God is bigger than me! Plus, everyone in the Church has been so friendly and welcoming – it’s a lovely place to work and worship!”


2010_0901SarahPercival0018 Sarah comes from a strong Christian family. Her parents help run Anglican Marriage Encounter, and one of her two brothers is currently training to be a vicar. Brought up in Sandhurst, she attended Yateley Manor School. At secondary school she studied gold medal lamda acting, and obtained a Bronze Duke of Edinburgh award. Then onto Cambridge University, where she studied a Degree in Theology & Religious Studies, focusing on New Testament Studies and Church History. She took a gap year to do full time youth work in Swindon, as part of the YFC gap year programme. Last summer Sarah spent 9 weeks teaching English in China and talking about Jesus.Youth Director at St Paul’s is her first position since graduating.


What would you like to achieve?

“Wow, big question! My prayer is that God will use me how he wants here at St Pauls – whatever that might look like. Ultimately, I would love to see all the St Paul’s young people absolutely sure of God’s love for them, and sold out for him so that they go out to change the world and to tell people about God and his love. God is amazing, I just want to help other people to see that! We’ll just have to wait and see what God has in mind though!”


A Frame St Paul’s run the following youth groups, and everyone is welcome, regardless of faith.

  • Freezone – youth club for year 6-8. Thursday & Friday evenings
  • Rock – youth club for year 9+. Thursday & Friday evenings
  • Youth Cells - Sunday discipleship programme for young people
  • Youth Alpha – introduction to the Christian faith for young people

For more information on youth work at St Paul’s, Sarah may be contacted at or telephone 01276 700210.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Services & Young Children in All Age Engagement


All Age Engagement is a specific time when we worship together in church, rather than children attending their own groups. This is often a difficult time for parents, in judging what they believe is acceptable, and what is actually expected.

Nikki had a conversation with some of St Paul’s leaders and members about All Age Engagement.

  • Mark Chester is the vicar at St Paul’s. He has 2 grown up sons
  • Becca has 2 young children
  • Daniel has 4 children

In their 30 minute chat, they discuss openly and frankly, what has and has not worked for them in parenting their young children through a service, sharing their experiences. They give encouraging advice, and tips on how to do more than survive a service, but actually make it a fulfilling and engaging time for children. St Paul’s is here to support you, is a key message.

Here is an introduction to the interview from Mark…

2005_0325Miisc0028 “All age engagement is something that we take seriously in the Sunday services at St Paul’s.  I believe that keys to making all age engagement more of a reality are similar expectations being shared, or at least understood, by ALL members of the church and practical suggestions about implementing these expectations.  This recording has been made in an attempt to achieve these aims in a non-threatening and accessible format.
This is our first attempt at anything like this so your comments, both positive and negative would be appreciated.
You might also find it interesting to buy or borrow from the church a copy of ‘Parenting in the Pew’ by Robbie Castleman.  A book that is both stimulating and thought provoking.”

Here is the interview for you to listen to …

Now we would like to hear your response to the interview, including your experiences with children in services, and your advice.