Our new Vicar is announced!

We are delighted to confirm that this Sunday (3rd March 2019) an announcement was made at St Mary’s concerning the appointment of our new Vicar: Rev Amanda Featherstone.

The formal announcement is below; please read on after that for a message to St Mary’s from Amanda.

The Archbishop of Canterbury is pleased to announce the appointment of the Reverend Amanda Featherstone as the next Vicar of St Mary’s Wythall in the Diocese of Birmingham. This appointment is subject to the usual checks and a date of licensing will be announced as soon as it is known. We give thanks for all the blessings of Amanda’s ministry at St Luke’s and rejoice with all at St Mary’s over the appointment of a new priest. We pray for Amanda and Paul as they leave St Luke’s and prepare to move to Wythall.

Amanda and Paul Featherstone

To all at St Mary’s Wythall,

I cannot tell you how excited I am to have been appointed as Vicar of St Mary’s. We have felt God open this door and very clearly guide us into what we know will be a new adventure with God and alongside you.

I am filled with joy as I think about serving at St Mary’s. I have loved reading your parish profile and hearing of the many wonderful areas of ministry currently in place. I pray we can build on all that God is already doing as we seek to worship Him and grow as disciples of Jesus. I am eager to explore with you how the family of St Mary’s can continue to be a blessing to one another and to the community of Wythall and Hollywood. I love meeting people and I am passionate about sharing God’s love and enabling people to meet Jesus and grow in faith.

I am married to Paul, we got married last April and we are thoroughly enjoying married life. Paul has two children, Anthony (23) and Susie (20) and I am loving being part of a family. I enjoy the outdoors and going out walking.

There will be plenty of time for lots more information and sharing our stories in the months and years to come and I really look forward to this.
Thank you for your prayers as we leave St Luke’s, move to Wythall and enter this wonderful new season with you at St Mary’s.

Amanda Featherstone

Amanda Featherstone (previously Amanda Howett) is currently Parish Priest at St Luke’s, Birmingham. The date of her licensing in Wythall has not yet been fixed – watch this space!

Andy is Licensed as a Reader

On 2nd March in Birmingham Cathedral Andy Harris was licensed as a Reader to serve in the parish of St Mary’s Wythall alongside our existing Readers- Judith Emery, Dave Darcy and Val Harris. Andy has been a regular worship leader at St Mary’s since Andy and Val came to the Midlands in 2013.
Becoming a Reader is the culmination of over 40 years of life as a Christian seeking to serve Jesus in both his working and church lives. In church this has meant doing many of the things that Readers are licensed to do – leading services, occasional preaching and regular leading of sung worship. He is really looking forward to where this new responsibility will lead him especially as we have a new incumbent joining us very shortly!

Photo credit: Kate Stowe

Defibrillator News

The Coppice have successfully applied for a defibrillator through the charity ‘Charlotte & Craig’s Saving Hearts Foundation’, following the Restart a Heart Day training which Ali Spencer from St Mary’s ran with year 5 and 6 children last autumn. The defibrillator is in the foyer for use by school, church and visitors. A particular thank you to Louise Marks in the Coppice Office for her work to make this happen. Here are some photos, and the article from the Coppice News about the defibrillator.

Ali from St Mary’s, Louise from the Coppice School and Rob Underwood from Charlotte and Craig’s Saving Heart Foundation

From the Coppice News 8 February 2019

 Lifesaving equipment comes to The Coppice
As a result of our Restart a Heart Day back in October, where children in Years 5 and 6 and many members of staff were trained in CPR, we have managed to secure a wall-mounted defibrillator for the school/St Mary’s Church. Many thanks to Charlotte and Craig’s Saving Heart Foundation (http://www.ccshf.org.uk) for the generous donation of this piece of equipment.
Charlotte and Craig’s Saving Heart Foundation was set up with the aim of putting a defibrillator in as many schools and public places in the Redditch area. Rob and Maggie Underwood, who established the charity, did so after the tragic deaths of three of their children from Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome.
The defibrillator has been fitted in the lobby for St Mary’s Church so that
people who use the school, Church, the hall and the field have access to this
life saving equipment.
Ali Spencer, a nurse and member of St Mary’s Church who trained the children and staff of the Coppice in CPR, yesterday met Mr Underwood to thank him for donating the machine.
Staff and church members will now be trained in defibrillator use, although the state of the art equipment talks users through the CPR and shock delivery so that anyone, even untrained members of the public can help to save lives.
There will be some joint fundraising for the charity over the next few months so that we can help fund defibrillators for other schools.

Seeing Salvation: Welcoming the Messiah, a talk by Paula Gooder

Seeing Salvation: Welcoming the Messiah

In this talk, on 6th February 2019, Paula Gooder looked at the Presentation of Christ at the Temple, in particular why it was so incredible that both Simeon and Anna recognised Jesus. Paula is Director of Mission Learning and Development in the Diocese, and is a writer, lecturer and Reader.

Mission News from Kira Farm

In 2017 St Mary’s supported Betty Nalubega as a student at Kira Farm in Uganda.  After completing her year at Kira she has now been back home for a year and has put her Kira training to good use. Here is a report written by Joshua, who runs Kira Farm, who visited Betty towards the end of 2018.

From Prostitute to Youth Minister

Once strangled and left for dead, today Betty Nalubega is truly a new creation

‘After my parents died the only thing I looked forward to in life was my own death,’ admits Betty.

‘My childhood had been a happy one until I started losing my family. We couldn’t believe it when my two siblings died within the space of two years – we were all devastated, but my parents mourned the most.’

‘My parents were so distracted by their grief it felt like they didn’t care about me,’ Betty says. ‘They never celebrated the fact I was still with them and it made me wish I would die, so that would recognise that I also had life.’

Desperate to get her parents attention, Betty started acting out – stealing money and refusing to do any work. ‘They barely noticed, or sometimes they said something negative that hurt me even more.’

When Betty’s parents passed away she was embraced by the local church and gave her life to Christ, but she was still in great pain and felt deeply unloved and lonely.

A spirit of death

Soon after, she met a boy in church who promised to marry her. ‘Before the wedding happened he got me pregnant,’ says Betty.

‘Because he was a minister in the church he was told to marry me, but he refused, saying he would end up dead if he took me as his wife. He claimed I had a spirit of death following me and that’s why I’d lost all my family.’

Betty says the words of her boyfriend hurt even more than the loss of her family. ‘I left the church and was alone in the responsibility of taking care of my son, Lawrence.’

‘I tried a number of jobs but I couldn’t make enough money to sustain myself and my child so I resorted to prostitution,’ Betty explains. ‘It was a painful decision because I knew it was wrong in God’s eyes, but the more it provided food on the table, the easier it became to do.’

Over time Betty began to believe that she really did have a spirit of death. ‘I knew I was going to die any time, so even while I was working as a prostitute I didn’t worry about using protection because the dangers I faced every day were more of a threat than HIV.’

The young girl’s fears weren’t misplaced. ‘One time a man nearly killed me when I asked him for my payment – he strangled me and left me for dead. In the morning I was picked up by friends who were doing the same job and dumped at the church which was taking care of my son.’

The church pastor took pity on Betty and gave her a job as a house girl, later connecting her with Amigos.

Cleansed from the inside out

On arrival at Kira Farm all students are given a thorough medical check-up.I wasn’t shocked when I discovered I was HIV positive because I had been living a very tough life,’ says Betty. Instead of seeing this as a setback, Betty was determined to embrace everything Kira had to offer.

‘My life on Kira was a time of cleansing from the inside out,’ she smiles. ‘I’d been carrying the guilt of all the horrible things I had done in the past, but the love and discipleship training I experienced on Kira helped me to love myself and let go of that guilt.’

Betty acquired life-saving vocational skills whilst at Kira Farm. ‘Thanks to the training my thinking changed. It gave me hope and made me want to live a long life because I knew I could use my skills to provide a decent future for myself and my son.’

A new life

When Betty returned home after 12 months at Kira Farm, she hit the ground running.

‘I never imagined I could support myself and my son without having to depend on anyone, but with my new skills I can,’ she beams. ‘I can’t believe I’m saying this, but life is getting better every day!’

Betty found the training she’d received in business skills particularly beneficial and promptly set up a samosa and chapatti making business.

With her new-found confidence and business nous, Betty secured three contracts supplying snacks to local schools. With the profits she made she was able to open up a small café.

Today Betty earns over £65 a month and has created employment for two local girls – a real gift to a community where there is no work for young people.

Keen to diversify her income, Betty decided to put into practise her new hairdressing skills.

‘At first there were some women who knew about my past and weren’t comfortable with me plaiting their hair,’ explains Betty. ‘I couldn’t blame them because they remembered the old me and I was horrible. Thankfully, over time, people have started loving me and believing in me.’

Betty now has a good customer base and is making nearly £20 a month from hairdressing alone.

Today this entrepreneurial God-fearing young woman is making four times more money than she ever did in sex work.

‘I once was a prostitute, but today I am a minister in the church and I am using my journey of transformation to encourage the youth,’ she smiles.

‘I am so happy I can pay for my son’s school fees with money that comes from a proper business, it’s something that fills me with joy.’

‘Thank you so much to Amigos for making me a better person, and to my sponsors, St Mary’s Church, Wythall – you have helped changed my life.’