Dear Friends

How many groups do you reckon you belong to, beyond family? My guess is, quite a few. For, while it's not impossible to live a good life without reference to God, it is impossible to be Christ's body without other people. The letter to the Hebrews tells us: 'Don't give up meeting together!' and churches like ours take that advice very seriously. We thrive on interest groups, like the Chandler's Ford craft group or Freemantle's badminton; on groups set up for particular people, like the Avenue St Andrew's lunch club for older people or the Isaac Watts Boys and Girls Brigades, on groups making decisions, like each of our Elders and Church Meetings. Then there are the non-church groups that are also part of our lives: hobbies, volunteering, campaigning. For, if all your social groups are church people, you're missing out on a lot that God has in store for you!

The problems facing our mental health services, particularly regarding lack of funding, have repeatedly made the headlines in recent months. Specific problems have included the sporadic provision of CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) across the country meaning that some children and young people have had to travel hundreds of miles to get the care or beds they need. This suggests that there is a widening gap between what is set aside for physical health needs, and that made available for mental health services, a very worrying trend if indeed true. Politicians have responded by saying that there needs to be greater parity of esteem between physical and mental health sectors if we are to tackle the increasing mental health needs of our citizens.

Tim began his talk by telling us that the Wessex Synod has a special relationship with the UCZ, i.e. the United Church of Zambia, which is a mixture of Presbyterians and Methodists. This link was brought about through the vision of Rev. Derek Wales and the Rev. Murage Chilekura, and it initially started as a women's exchange. In fact our Community Minister Pat Oliver was also involved with the original link in 2000. Pat also took part in a reciprocal visit to Chilenje, Zambia, in November 2002. Since then the Synod has developed the link with the Lusaka South Presbytery of the UCZ. From this link has developed a Synod/ Presbyterian Youth exchange in 2009.

Dear Friends

A few weeks ago, Freemantle URC celebrated its first café service since I've been there. To be honest, it was the first cafe service I've ever led, so I can't tell you whether or not it was a proper one - Chandlers Ford might be able to help me here! We sat around tables (with lovely lacy tablecloths); we called ourselves to worship by the lighting of tealights on each table; we confessed our sins by helping Shaun the Sheep get back home through a maze (well, it was Good Shepherd Sunday) and instead of a sermon each table had its own discussion of our Bible passage. But for our Communion I said all the usual words before we shared the usual small cubes of bread.

Hello everyone

I hope that you had an Easter to remember, an Easter that helped your faith to develop in some way. I am writing this after being reminded strongly of what standing around a fire in the early morning may have been like in the time and country of Jesus and his followers, two days after the crucifixion. Huddling together for warmth, struggling together to find the hope to carry on as Jesus had requested.....not yet heard that the tomb was open and empty and what that mystery might mean.

Yet now we do know the meaning....we have the stories of hindsight, we know that Christ is alive today but through God's people....us!