Moderator's Snapshots

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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500th Anniversary of the Reformation

Last night I attended an event marking 500 years since the Reformation hosted by the John Rylands Library in Manchester (snapshot above). The evening included a demonstration of the printing of indulgences using an early 19th century press, madrigal singers, Reformation period documents and letters from the extensive collection housed within the library, and a conversation with 3 guests: Revd Dr Canon David Holgate (Manchester Cathedral, canon theologian), Dr Rosalind Oates (Manchester Metropolitan University, Early Modern History) and Dr John Morgan (Manchester University, Environmental science historian). The title for the dialogue was “The Reformation: Who gives a fig?” and the relevance of the Reformation for us today.

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The Library will continue to host an exhibition until March 2018 with documents offering a fascinating insight into the period of the Reformation. The exhibits include an exceptionally fine example of the earliest work in printing of an indulgence from 1455, a beautifully illuminated copy of a rebuttal of Luther by Henry VIII (1521), and copies of the New Testament (eg. 1536 copy). One particular letter on display from Luther to Gerhard Vilskamp in Herford, Germany (1528, snapshot below) gives an insight into something of his personal struggle with depression and illness.

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Please pray for:

  • the continuing work of re-forming within the life of the Church, as together we seek to be faithful to our calling to be “salt and light” (Matthew 5:13-14) in contemporary society
  • boldness to speak of our faith in Christ, in meaningful ways within our fast changing cultures
  • courage so that as a Church we may speak out for those people and places who are desperately seeking justice and truth in their lives.

 

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Marking the 500th Anniversary of The Reformation

Last week I had the privilege of participating in two special services to mark the 500 years since the Reformation in 1517, in Manchester Cathedral and Blackburn Cathedral. The snapshot (slightly blurry as I tried to snap away discretely during the sharing of the Peace) shows our commemoration in the transept of Blackburn Cathedral as around 150 people share the peace – including one furry friend! During the service two keynote speakers addressed us - Pastor George Samiec (Cice-President of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in England) and Fr John O’Toole (National Ecumenical Officer for the Catholic Bishop’s Conference in England and Wales).

Please continue to pray:

  • for the fulfilment of Jesus’ prayer that “they may be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:23)
  • for a striving as locally as possible to share with those of other denominations or independent churches/networks in mission
  • for the United Reformed Church as we seek to be re-formed and to follow Jesus more closely through our common emphasis on Walking the Way: Living the life of Jesus today
  • for our North Western Synod as we seek to support one another through the formation of local missional partnerships as the context for encouraging the ministry of all God’s people.

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October 2017 Synod

 

On Saturday we received a warm welcome from Carver Uniting Church as they hosted our Synod Meeting – an opportunity for us to gather from all our congregations and listen, talk, worship, decide, and pray together.

Our morning Bible study was led by Dr Karl Möller (Principal of the Cumbria Christian Institute) and looked at “Being a disciple” through the lens of what it means to be with Jesus, and to be with those into whose company Jesus leads us. Such discipleship reflects a “reckless generosity” and causes us to be particularly engaged with those who need healing and those who are scorned, rejected and marginalised. Karl noted how these may seem counterintuitive – yet are the places where God calls us to be and the people God sends us to meet.

As for the items on the agenda – the book of Reports has been made widely available, and we received reports which reflected the support given to us all through the immense amount of time and energy that is offered by so many (e.g. those serving on our pastoral committees, drawn from members across a wide variety of our congregations). We thank God for the gifts given to us that support us all, so that that in each local community where we have a congregation we “may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9).

Please pray for:

  • the on-going discussions and consultations across our congregations about how we can support one another as locally as possible through a pattern of Missional Partnerships,
  • the work of our Synod Area Pastoral Committees as they continually reflect on the life of each of our congregations, and how best we can support one another,
  • and for all our Synods in the UK (and Church House staff) as we consider the best way in which we can be connected together under our denominational priority for resourcing and developing our discipleship through “Walking the Way: living the life of Jesus today.”

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Greater Manchester Churches Together

Although the organisation of Greater Manchester Churches Together is wrestling with its identify, the senior leaders continue to meet during the course of the year. This week we met at St John’s Methodist Church, Cheadle Heath, although our ranks seemed depleted due to some sickness and dreadful M60 traffic!

One of the growing strengths of the leaders meeting is the breadth of churches represented, including Moravian, Roman Catholic, URC, Methodist, Congregational Federation, Quakers, Anglican, Pentecostal, Independent churches network, and Salvation Army.

Please pray for:

  • a growing unity between all Christian traditions and networks within the large geographical area covered by Greater Manchester
  • an increasing sense of the mission we can engage in which draws our different church traditions together in each community
  • the Greater Manchester Churches Together Assembly (all welcome to come along and join in) next Monday 16th October at Salford Cathedral starting with food from 5pm, and at 6pm our keynote speaker will be Bishop Mike Royal (director of TLG – the Education Charity – the Cinnamon Trust), and concluding with worship in the Cathedral (finishing at 9pm)

the ecumenical service at Manchester Cathedral this Sunday 15th October at 2:30pm. (All are very welcome to join in, marking the 500th anniversary of the Reformation with a theme of “Celebration of Christ”).

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Commissioning Service - St Peter's Chaplaincy (University of Manchester)

Last Thursday I was able to participate with the Methodist District Chair (Andrew Lunn) and the Bishop of Manchester (David Walker) in the commissioning service at the St Peter’s House Chaplaincy to the Manchester Universities – offering Christian chaplaincy to the 100,000 students and staff. As a Synod we support this vital ministry, together with a denominational contribution, in the employment of a warden (Ben Edson) and two chaplains (Caroline Ryder and Adam Scott). Across the summer St Peter’s House has undergone a significant facelift and development of the café area (enabled by a grant from us and the Methodists) which has been crucial for the start of Freshers’ week as an attractive meeting place providing a reason for students to cross the threshold.

Please pray for:

  • all those staff and students in our colleges and universities as they start a new academic year
  • the chaplaincy work in which our Synod is involved, in the Lancaster and Manchester Universities
  • the opportunities to generate creative and supportive relationships with students and staff through initiatives such as the new café environment at St Peter’s House Chaplaincy.
  • for our United Reformed Church ordinands and teaching staff as they too have begun a new term at our training institutions.

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(in the image l to r: Caroline Ryder, Adam Scott, Andrew Mills, Ben Edson, Andrew Lunn, Stephen Little, David Walker)

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