Moderator's Snapshots

New Year Synod Pastoral Committee Meeting

A belated Happy New Year to you all.

This week the Synod Pastoral Committee met at the Synod Office (based in premises of Patricroft URC). January is a busy time for both our Synod and four Area Pastoral Committees as they consider the variety of ways that we can support and encourage one another, as well as looking at our focus on Missional Discipleship underpinning all we do.

A major part of the Synod Pastoral Committee meeting this week (and it has an additional meeting later in the month) was to look at the work of a small group who had worked through all the responses from Elderships and congregations received before Christmas. We examined all the reflections and comments made on the first attempt at putting together the Missional Partnership groupings of churches which will become the focal point for equipping and enabling Missional Discipleship, and support the growth in the ministry of all God’s People.

Please pray for:

  • the Area Pastoral Committees as they meet over the next 2 weeks, for discernment and wisdom in their work supporting the congregations in each Synod Area
  • the Synod Pastoral Committee as it continues to draw together all the initial responses, and prepares the further work involved in establishing our Missional Partnerships
  • each of our congregations as during the season of Epiphany we build on those connections made with those in our communities during the Christmas celebrations; and for the strengthening of relationships where the Good News of Jesus will be experienced.

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Moving Mountain in Cumbria...

Last week I attended an exciting meeting in Workington (Cumbria) exploring the way in which a URC team with me will be part of the (especially ecumenical) Archibishop of York’s annual mission to a different diocese each year. The mission “Moving Mountains” will take place across Cumbria next March and the teams will include those brought by Methodist District Chairs, the Chair of Methodist Conference, URC Moderators (4 of us), and one of the Moderators of General Assembly.

The snapshot also connects with Cumbria, and the Ecumenical Pilgrimage I co-led back in March this year. Whilst out there one of the pilgrims introduced us to some olive wood producers in Bethlehem which his company, Lakeland, have dealings with. As a gift to the pilgrimage leaders (Bishop James Newcombe of Carlisle, Revd Richard Teal the Cumbria Methodist District Chair, and myself) Martin offered each of us a complete set of nativity figures to be used and displayed by us. For Bishop James it is relatively easy when you have a Cathedral at your disposal. Richard and I don’t – so we will be more creative in our use. Over the coming years the figures will travel with me round the Synod during the season of Advent – but I wanted you all to be able to see the fabulous gift this year that I accepted on our behalf, and mark the generosity that lies behind the gift. (the figures stand approx. 12 inches high, made of olive wood)

Please pray for:

  • “peace and goodwill” to prevail in the land of Jesus’ birth, and for reconciliation and renewal between those living in the Holy Land to mark 2018
  • the “ordinary” people in the Holy Land who seek to live in fractured communities, and especially those who rely on tourism to provide an income for their families
  • the ecumenical county of Cumbria as the churches gear up for the “Moving Mountains” mission next March, and for all the coordination and preparation involved
  • our Synod congregations as they provide opportunities for communities this Christmas to focus on “the reason for the season” and for individuals to meet the Light of the World
  • those who will struggle this Christmas, and for all who will provide care and compassion to those pushed to the edges of our society.


May I wish you all a very joyous Christmas and may you know the blessing of Immanuel, the Saviour of the World, in the midst of all your celebrations.


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Ordsall Hall and Ecumenical Officers' Meeting

The snapshot this week was taken in the “Jewel in Salford’s Crown”, Ordsall Hall. If you are in the area this historic Grade 1 listed hall and gardens is well worth a visit, with free entry and a small tea shop area to enjoy. On Monday evening a quartet from the BBC Philarmonic Orchestra provided a delightful programme ranging from Mozart’s Divertmento in F major to Leroy Anderson’s Blue Tango, and of course including several festive items. A moment to relax.

I had intended a different snapshot but only remembered on my way home from Barton in Lancashire from a meeting with our Ecumenical Officers from each of the Synod Areas. It was an opportunity to share what is going on across the Synod ecumenically, identify the continuing focus we have as a denomination in working ecumenically, and to explore some of the issues and difficulties that we are experiencing.

Please pray for:

  • our Ecumenical Officers as they support our mission and partnership across a range of ecumenical congregations within the Synod
  • the regional Ecumenical Officers, and others nationally, who are working to enable us to connect more visibly, demonstrating the work of the Kingdom and the Joy of this season in our communities
  • each of our local congregations as they are encouraged and supported in exploring deeper partnerships with congregations from our sister denominations or independent churches.

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Advent Sunday with Bank Top URC

Like many of you I was involved in worship on Advent Sunday as we marked the start of a new Church year and the preparations to celebrate the coming of Christ. At Bank Top URC (Bolton) we explored one of the lectionary passages from Isaiah 64 (“You are our father, Lord. We are like clay, and you are like the potter.” verse 8) and thought about how Advent is a time when we can be shaped and fashioned by God to be his disciples in the light of Christ’s coming. The snapshot shows a few of those present holding a tray of clay with thumbprints from the whole congregation – a mark of being shaped together by God in Christ – alongside the traditional Advent candles with the first being lit this week.

Please pray that

  • many in our communities will enjoy and engage with the opportunities to celebrate through special services this festive season with our congregations
  • each person in our congregations may be inspired though this season of Advent to walk more closely with Christ Jesus as his disciples today
  • we will continue to pray and seek to work more closely with our sister congregations across the Synod, and our ecumenical partners in each local community, so that in our partnership we will more faithfully bear witness to the coming of the Light of the World.


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Gather of Retired Ministers, Cumbria


This week I had the delight of sharing lunch at Rydal Hall, in Cumbria, with the gathering of retired ministers & their partners and widows. It was a lovely occasion in a beautiful setting with grounds close to Rydal Water. We spent time catching up about the welfare of one another, as well as those not able to be present, and chatted about some of the work and issues within the Synod and denomination.

Please pray for:

  • all those who are retired within our congregations, especially those known to us, and for their gifts and ministry exercised in a wide variety of ways
  • those of our congregations who are struggling with the issues that aging brings, especially in identifying the call of individuals to serve in particular roles either within our congregation or more widely in the Synod or the Areas
  • our congregations as they continue to explore the opportunities for sharing the Gospel with those who are retired, especially in this time of Advent.

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Refreshing Your Ministry Conference

This week I am in Derbyshire for three days at the “Refreshing your Ministry” conference organised for the URC’s Group for Evangelism and Renewal. Staying at the Swanwick in The Hayes conference centre we have had a good mix of Bible study, worship, and input including from our own Sheila Coop – on the journey of faith of God’s people in Macedonia Oldham, Failsworth, resulting in a new building – and Stephen Newell on the development of the URC’s focus on Walking the Way: Living the life of Jesus to Day. This afternoon the Revd Dr Martin Robinson, who for a decade worked for the Bible Society, spoke on planting missional communities. This evening the worship and the Lord’s Supper was led by Louise Franklin. Louise spoke about the way in which fear can paralyse us so that we forget God’s promises to us. It is no wonder that over 20 times in the Gospels Jesus is recorded as saying “Don’t be afraid”!

117-2 Nov 17b.jpgThe snapshot is of a slide Louise put on the screen. Connected is the story of Jim Elliott, a 28 year old American missionary who was called by God to the Huaorani – also called the "Auca", the Quichua word for "savage" – a group of Ecuadorian indigenous people considered violent and dangerous to outsiders. Having made contact with the Huaorani people over a period of time they were to establish a base close by. Tragically one tribe member misrepresented the intentions of the missionaries – and Jim together with 4 other missionaries were killed and their bodies were found washed downstream. They died on the 8th January 1956. It is remarkable that following their death’s the wife of Jim, Elisabeth, and their daughter along with the sister of another missionary returned to continue reaching out to the Huaorani people.

In his journal entry for October 28, 1949, Jim expressed his belief that work dedicated to Jesus was more important than his life (see Luke 9:24. "For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it."). The snapshot contains the words of Elisabeth, who had to overcome much to return, “sometimes one must do it afraid.”

Please pray for

  • every congregation in the United Reformed Church - that we will be renewed and refreshed by the Holy Spirit to follow Jesus’ call to be disciples today who are “Living the life of Jesus today”
  • our Synod as we continue to work out what it means to share a “partnership in the gospel” (Paul’s letter to the Philippians ch 1 verses 3 – 6) and support one another in prayer in these days which affect the whole denomination
  • our sister denominations and independent churches (our conference is sharing the space with a gathering of Baptist leaders from “Big Churches”) as they too wrestle with bearing faithful witness to Christ where cultural, societal and scientific changes have transformed the world we share at a pace we struggle to keep up with; and for the way in which locally we can partner with one another in new ways to reach our community.

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Area Pastoral Committees

Every other month I meet with a group of God’s people in each Synod Area – always a privilege and a joy to share together in worship, work and concern for the witness of God’s folk in each of our congregations. Of course we give each group a name – in this snapshot it’s the South Area Pastoral Committee meeting at Heald Green URC yesterday. Sometimes I wish we could come up with another word than “committee” for those who gather together, volunteers from across our congregations, to share and pray and work so that the light of Christ might be sustained in the 135 communities around the Synod.

Please pray for:

  • the Pastoral Committees in each of the Synod Areas, as they continue to strive to ensure that we truly are partners in the Gospel, with a mutual responsibility for the care and support of each other
  • each Pastoral Committee as each year the need arises for new members to be identified from across the congregations in each Area
  • each of our congregations – that we may discern under the guidance of the Holy Spirit the different gifts which each member has been given for the building up of all God’s people in each congregation, and in serving Christ faithfully together.

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