Festivities began with COM ('Come on Mondays') Club Christmas crafts and festive nibbles, with a 'pause for thought' on the Season. A good time was had, though for various reasons attendance was low. (Much prayer is sought for the future of this monthly get-together for 50s & overs, a joint venture shared with St. Mary's church.)
Two days later it was 'all available help needed' to cater the Minis & Minders Christmas lunch, a very busy but lovely event, and a chance to mix & mingle a bit more with the parents and carers who come along regularly each week.
The next evening it was Carol-singing around the neighbourhood, led by St. Mary's Church.
The day after that, Messy Christmas took centre-stage - full-on Christmas crafts for all ages (glitter & glue!), a nativity presentation, a carvery-style Christmas dinner, Christmas carols between courses, and then of course, pudding!
Some of us had to go for a long lie-down by the end of this week - but rest was only for a day, as our first Carol Services were the day after that, and Summerstown Christmas Choir were once again asked to sing at the combined 'Carols by Candlelight' service at St. Mary's Church across the road. Attendance was encouraging, and Vicar James Fletcher made good use of the opportunity to present the Gospel, 'the real message of Christmas'.
The following weekend, just before Christmas, our Sunday School ('Sunday Club') took centre-stage for our Youth Carol Service, presenting a dramatisation of The Wise Men's part in the Christmas story, which Sunday Club members had helped to write.
Our Christmas Day service was very well attended; favourite carols were sung, young &
old-er showed their favourite Christmas presents, and Peter gave a presentation 'blowing some of the myths' surrounding the Christmas story, emphasising the vital truths instead.
(Please pray for those who joined us that day who do not yet know the Saviour.) Then nearly 20 of us stayed at church for Christmas lunch all together, followed by traditional games and general festive good cheer - an excellent day! (Thanks once again to Dave & Maggie Connor for hosting this - it's quite an undertaking!)
We are absolutely delighted to welcome Jacqueline Scott into our church family, new daughter of Randy & Joanna, who was born on 16th November (weighing 7lb 7oz). Initial problems (burst pipe, so no heating, and then another spell in hospital) delayed their return home, but all is now well, and we wish them God's rich blessings for the future.
Sadly (see following article), just two weeks later, our dear sister Stella Fifield succumbed to her lengthy illness, and left us to be with her Lord. The very-well attended Thanksgiving Service celebrating her long life was held on 17th December. Please pray for Stella's family & close friends as they grieve her loss.
(For any who could not attend this service, it is now available on our SMEC website under 'Sermon Recordings'.)
We remember Stella as a most gracious, godly lady, who was always willing to help and undertake whatever tasks needed doing. Nothing was beneath her. The words faithful and loyal come to mind as well as gracious and godly.
She was a wonderful teller of Bible stories and had an amazing ability to bring them to life. We remember a number of occasions where she shared stories with the children during services at Summerstown, and of course the adults thoroughly enjoyed them too. She spoke at the Women's Meeting at Summerstown on many occasions and was always most encouraging and interesting to listen to.
Since we knew her for over 40 years, we tend to think of her and Eddie, her husband, at the same time. Elaine recalls a snowy journey to church one winter many years ago (to Merton EC where we knew Stella and Eddie before) when she was pushing our younger son in a push chair through the snow. Eddie and Stella took the older one's hands and swung him in the air as they walked along. That was typical of their helpfulness.
We can also thank them both for introducing us to the Lake District, which became a favourite place of ours too. They told us of a lovely country house hotel in Ambleside where we stayed for many years until it closed. They loved walking so we also had that in common with them.
My most abiding memory of Stella will always be as a faithful and constant prayer warrior. When Stella said she would pray for you or about a particular issue, you could rest assured that this would be carried out regularly and diligently. Over many years she prayed for us as a family weekly and in more recent years she lifted up the children and I before the Lord on a daily basis. She would also follow up on issues mentioned in our prayer letters, asking how things had worked out and mentioned people by name, even unfamiliar Malagasy names that were difficult to pronounce.
Not long after the Lord suddenly and unexpectedly took Ravaka to be with himself, I received a lovely card and letter from Stella. The part that struck me the most was: 'I too know the heartache of losing a beloved husband.' , yet she was also sensitive to the pain I would be facing in my particular circumstances, being far from family and with two young children to comfort too. She assured me of her prayers and reminded me of the Lord's presence and faithfulness. In particular she shared a verse that had especially blessed her since being a widow, the second stanza of Psalm 27:1 with the reminder that our true strength is in the Lord and not those we tend to rely on in this life: The LORD is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid? (New King James Version).
Stella will be greatly missed and her memory will continue to challenge me, and I hope others, to demonstrate that same faithfulness and perseverance in prayer for the Lord's work and for His people.
Stella showed great care, kindness and generosity to us as a family. She was always interested in how our three children were doing and showed concern and thoughtfulness to us, especially around the time that I was made redundant and re-training. We are so grateful for her prayers for us.
Stella showed amazing faithfulness in coming to Minis and Minders week by week to make the teas and coffees, even when she was tired. She always arrived early enough for a time of prayer before the meeting. The parents and carers really appreciated her.
What I will remember about Stella the most is fact that when she sang in church she would almost get a spring in her steps and dance her own little dance to certain songs to express her joy in the Lord, something I think that is uncommon for someone of her age. Whenever we sang "Bind us together Lord" she made it a point to look around at us smiling on the last verse which says:
"You are the family of God you are the promise divine..."
Stella and her husband Eddie had a Christmas tradition which she carried on long after his death. Instead of giving Christmas cards, she listed the names of everyone in church and tick each one as she wished us Merry Christmas. The money that would have been used for cards would then be given to a Christian charity. A wonderful gesture!
My favourite memories of Stella are spending time with her in church. She always sat in the same seat in the right hand side by the window where she loved to praise God. I remember her exuberantly singing "Teach me to Dance" by Graham Kendrick whilst clapping her hands to praise God. I loved her freedom of worship. I also remember her adding a wholesome "hallelujah!" after an especially good sermon Peter had preached. I especially remember the amazing stories she used to tell during Family Focus. This amazing woman wrote to me every single week for months and months to encourage me when I really needed it. It meant the world to me and I now treasure these letters. I love and miss Stella!! But she's with Jesus now - and I know she's happier than ever.
Stella was a lady who really loved the Lord! I got to know her through the weekly Women's Meeting at Summerstown, where I learned so much from her. I got a lot more confident in sharing my faith and leading others in learning from the Bible, from Stella's encouragement and example.
Stella was always so generous, inviting us to her home, and showing love to everyone - a godly lady who loved to serve her Lord!
Stella with Noah Joseph - December 2007
Stella giving a children's talk - July 2006
'Let's take a selfie, Stella!', with Bisi Obamakin - Feb. 2018