READING WEST LIFE DEVELOPMENT By Pastor Trevor Thomas

Reading West Life Development has become a real asset to the wider community of Reading providing community discussion for all. Covid-19 has proved itself to be an obstacle to community social interaction with its strong emphasis on social distancing. However, it has also given birth to new means of reaching out and connecting to others around us that we could not imagine possible a mere 6 months ago. Today Zoom conference meetings have become almost as simple as picking up the phone or sending a text message.

It is in this environment that Reading West wanted to reach out to the wider community of Reading. As the Pastor of Reading West it has long been my belief that the nature of the programmes presented within the walls of the church were of such a high quality that the wider community would be benefitted by them.

However, the four walls of a physical location meant that community members would have to travel to and from their homes which is not always convenient or easy to do.

Zoom has allowed us to make these programmes easily accessible to all and as convenient as clicking a button on your phone or notebook. Our first community wide presentation was in June this year on the subject of a ‘Matter of Conscience’ giving us insight into the challenges of being an objector to war and violence.

Since then we have had presentations on ‘Boosting Your Immunity,’ ‘Covid 19 & Social Stigma,’ ‘Mental Health First Aid Training,’ and ‘Be Kind to Yourself,’ during July and August.

Reviewing the presentations with the Life Development Core Team we recognised that we wanted to continue these discussion group meetings as they provided a wide range of interesting topics that community members could identify and engage with thereby breaking the chains of social isolation and providing a means of making new friends with members of the wider community.

In addition, we noticed that participants from the wide diversity of society express faith perspectives while discussing these topics of physical, mental, and emotional health and well-being.

It is with that in mind that Life Development now aims to make a second monthly presentation titled Tough Questions. These will allow community member to discuss in a safe environment questions related to worldview, ethics, and morality such as ‘Is There a God?’ ‘What Happens When We Die?’ and ‘If God Exists, Why is There Suffering?’ Life Development will also partner with Community Health Education for Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, and Surrey to provide health education classes for the wider community.

Community Health Education leader Mufalo will be making an initial presentation in September with ‘Know Your Numbers’ and following up with a series of 8 presentations titled New Start.

Outside of our online community programmes Reading West is strongly involved in the wider community of Reading with a youth football team and youth discussion groups.

Our youth football team was started two years ago and even throughout Covid-19 has been active playing both home and away matches. The team manager Mr Thomas Ondieki takes great pride in the team who play enthusiastically and have risen to almost top place in their division. Thomas commented that these teenage boys enjoy the physical activity and grow in personal maturity as the socialise together.

The Reading West youth discussion groups also provide and arena for young people and young adults to discussion relevant personal, relational, and social issues affecting their lives. The youth team including Angelina, Alex, Jewel, and Neil, coordinate these programme and can be contacted via my email address (tthomas@secadventist.org.uk). These discussions allow young people and young adults to share their views, listens to the opinions of others and develop a strong network of friends.

The core leadership team at Reading West would like to make special mention and give thanks to certain community leaders who have both encouraged and supported Life Development from its inception to the place we are today. These include Victor Koroma from ACRE and Cecily Mwaniki & Esther Onduso. The Life Development core team consists of Andrew Singo, David Aboagye, and Michael Oppong-Mensah, and I am very pleased to be working alongside such committed and dedicated team members who are passionate about community well-being.

It is because of this passion that the Life Development Team recognise that one of the greatest needs of our community is social interaction and it is with this in mind that we aim to provide a number of new Friendship Groups where small groups of community members can discuss topics that are important and relevant to them. The purpose of these Friendship Groups is to create a ‘family’ of friends that we can share life experiences with.

If you would like to join one of the Friendship Groups, please contact me at the email address above. Life Development are interested in making contact with well-meaning groups within the community of Reading and from the wide range of ethnic and cultural diversity. Lastly, we would like to thank the editors of this magazine for the opportunity to tell our story and to reach out to all its readers.