Moderator's Snapshots

Preparing for Pentecost

Last week I had the delight of going to Westminster College (snapshot of the college chapel) to talk with those ordinands who will be seeking to identify a call through the October Moderators’ Meeting, ready for when they finish college in the summer of 2019. It is good to hear some of their questions about the process and the issues involved, and their openness to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

This coming weekend we celebrate Pentecost, and as well recognise across the Synod the new pattern of Missional Partnerships for congregations to relate to. As for those who gathered that first Pentecost we too, in 2018, hope and pray that the Holy Spirit will continue to stir us with tongues of fire and breathe the life giving Spirit into the Body of Christ today.

We all know that change anywhere and at any time feels disturbing and uncomfortable. Yet the reminder from that first Pentecost is that the work of God is always stirring us and reviving us so that we may be equipped for the priority of mission which engages with those who are beyond the walls of our communities. I hope that we will be able to support and encourage one another to be God’s People, engaged in missional discipleship, so that many more may experience that Breath of Pentecost life.

Please pray for:

  • a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit this Pentecost on all God’s People across the north west
  • those ordinands who are preparing themselves (and the paperwork) for consideration at the October Moderators’ Meeting, and for those ordinands who are preparing to leave college this summer and take up posts across the denomination
  • the recognition within the Synod this Pentecost Sunday of Missional Partnerships, and for the blessing of fellowship to be discovered between congregations within partnerships in the months that lie ahead.

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Moderators' Meeting in Newcastle

Over the weekend the Moderators, partners (and children) met in Newcastle hosted by Northern Synod. Unfortunately, I missed the Moderators’ business meeting on Saturday afternoon due to our recovery back to Manchester by the AA, and then starting out again in Ruth’s little car caught up in the joys of Bank Holiday traffic at its best (or worst), arriving in Newcastle at 6:50pm instead of 12:30pm. Ah well, the weather was glorious.

On the Sunday morning we were all able to join with the congregation at St James’ United Reformed Church with a pleasant stroll through the city in fabulous sunshine. Following the service, we were treated to a delicious lunch with some of the church members.

On Monday morning some of us walked on a tour with the Northern Moderator, Revd Dave Herbert, to the Baltic Art Gallery beside the River Tyne. Although the 4th floor was shut for installing a new art display Dave was able to gain us an escorted visit to the viewing platform over the river. It was stunning (for a non-ornithologist) to stand within about 4 feet of nesting kittiwakes – something of a feature for those visiting the Baltic at this time of year.

Please pray

  • for all our congregations within the United Reformed Church as we discern how to be effective in mission in these challenging times
  • for all our congregations within the North Western Synod as we move towards the recognising of new Missional Partnership groupings of congregations at Pentecost, on the 20th May
  • with Jesus that we “may be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:23).

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Marton URC, Blackpool

Preaching at Marton URC in Blackpool last Sunday gave me the opportunity to see the progress that has been made on the development of the front of their building. The work done has provided a tremendous space for welcoming people in, combined with a small kitchen and several disabled toilets. The space is warm, welcoming (as are the congregation) and through the glass has an openness towards the community (snapshot).

One of the most significant challenges facing many of our congregations in the North Western Synod (and the UK generally) is the nature of buildings that we have inherited from a historic way of “doing” church. Buildings which become a millstone and result in us simply acting as caretakers no longer function as a tool for helping us engage in mission in relevant ways to our communities.

Please pray for:

  • the vision to grasp the new ways of “being” church that enable us to grow in discipleship and engage in vibrant ways with those in our communities
  • the energy and enthusiasm needed within each congregation to explore fresh ways of using our premises/sites to reach out to those beyond our walls
  • the denominations’ ministers as they gather next week at Yarnfield Conference Centre (Staffordshire) for a once in 40 years opportunity, exploring Walking the Way as the core of our “being” as 1,400 congregations in the UK.

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Ministers' Conference

This week most of the United Reformed Church’s ministers and CRCWs have gathered together at Yarnfield Conference Centre near Stone, in Staffordshire. It is a unique event in over 40 years of the denomination’s life. The focus is around our common theme of Walking the Way: Living the life of Jesus today. It has been exciting to look around at 300+ people who have responded to God in a particular way in the life of the Church and realise how blessed we are as the United Reformed Church in the gifts of ministry represented here.

The worship has been a highlight for me and a joyous and moving experience in such a large gathering. As part of the input into the week we have been enriched by the story-telling of the former Archbishop of Canterbury, the Revd Dr Rowan Williams through the challenging lives of 3 women (Maria Skobtsova, Dorothy Day and Madeline Delbrêl).

Please pray:

  • with thanksgiving for the blessing and rich gift we have in the particular ministries of those gathered in Yarnfield this week
  • for the increasing awareness among every member of the United Reformed Church that we have all been called to be Walking the Way: living the life of Jesus today
  • that every member of the United Reformed Church will grow in discipleship which experiences Jesus as the centre of their being, and where that focus on the centre leads to an increasing witness at the edges of the church where it meets the world that our faithfulness in living out the call of Christ will lead us to engage with the world such that it is an easier place for all people to be good in.

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Northern Church Leaders

After attending Mission Council last week, in High Leigh, I was able to attend the 24-hour retreat for Northern Church Leaders at Hinsley Hall in Leeds. It proved to be an extremely reflective opportunity with input from the Revd Dr Malcolm Guite, a poet theologian, Bye-Fellow and Anglican Chaplain at Girton College in the University of Cambridge.

As you journey in this Holy Week, through the Passion towards Easter Sunday, I would offer you one of Malcolm’s sonnets set for the start of this week and simply called “Palm Sunday”:

 

PALM SUNDAY

Now to the gate of my Jerusalem,

The seething holy city of my heart,

The saviour comes. But will I welcome him?

Oh crowds of easy feelings make a start;

They raise their hands, get caught up in the singing,

And think the battle won. Too soon they’ll find

The challenge, the reversal he is bringing

Changes their tune. I know what lies behind

The surface flourish that so quickly fades;

Self-interest, and fearful guardedness,

The hardness of the heart, its barricades,

And at the core, the dreadful emptiness

Of a perverted temple. Jesus come

Break my resistance and make me your home.

 

Web links:-

Malcolm Guite: https://malcolmguite.wordpress.com (a sonnet for each day in Holy Week)

Linda Richardson: http://lindarichardson.net/ (to see a series of paintings to accompany Malcolm’s sonnets)

I pray this Easter that you, and all within our congregations in the Synod, may know in a fresh way the joy of resurrection hope and the work of God in Christ through us who “graciously gives us all good things” (Romans 8:32).

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Synod March 2018

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At the recent Synod meeting, Bekki Radcliffe (North Western Synod representative to URC Youth Executive) took the opportunity to take a selfie with the rest of the Synod.

Bekki was there, along with a few other young people, to work through the Jesus Shaped Church material that accompanies the Missional discipleship booklet.

"We only managed to get through 3 sections (Leo thought we’d do all five, but what does he know?)

"It meant that we were unable to watch the ordination and induction of Daleen ten Cate, the Missional Discipleship Mentor for Lancashire Area – although we found out there wasn’t much space anyway! But, after everyone went back into synod, we raided the buffet 😊

"We spent time looking at who Jesus was and how our churches might change to more accurately reflect Jesus’ values.

"We plotted journeys and opportunities."

Please pray for:

  • Daleen, and the other Missional Discipleship Mentors, as they continue and develop their ministry helping local churches in North Western Synod to develop their’s;
  • The children and young people in our Synod who can be catalysts for change in our local churches, and for those who enable and encourage them to come to Synod youth events;
  • Yourselves – that you may be clear in what your mission is and open to new opportunities to show God’s love wherever you may be.

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Cumbrian Moving Mountains Mission

What an amazing 4 days. Last week from Thursday to Sunday I, and my team of four (Leo Roberts, Daleen Ten Cate, Marion Tugwood, and Dave Fraser), sharing in the Cumbrian ecumenical county’s Moving Mountains mission. It was an opportunity initiated by the Archbishop of York with Bishops, Moderators and Methodist District Chairs bringing teams to all parts of Cumbria to engage in mission organised by the local Christian communities.

The mission began (snapshot) with the opening service in the Auction Mart (still smelling of sheep from the previous day) at Penrith, followed by us gathering to form a “heart” shape outside in the car park with media pictures taken by a drone. Then my team headed off to the west coast to Workington area for an exciting 4 days.

How was it exciting? ….in that churches of all denominations (and independent churches too) worked closely together to lay on events….in the array of opportunities created for Moving Mountains to be involved in the different communities across the Workington area….and most of all in that the Gospel was able to be shared with people through these opportunities.

Is that it? Yes – for the team. No – for the area. The Christian communities will continue doing what they have been doing. The hope and prayer is that Moving Mountains has given them inspiration and a greater vision of what they can achieve together in serving Christ, and that there really are things that they can only do together if they are to see Jesus move mountains in people’s lives.

Please pray for:

  • Cumbria churches as they build on the 500+ events held across Cumbria (involving 33 teams) and continue to share the Gospel
  • the ways in which we can work in partnership within our local areas, and to take seriously the call to be “one” in Christ for the sake of others (read Jesus’ prayer in John 17)
  • Mission Council as it meets next week in Swanwick with a myriad of papers and issues to consider, and for the wisdom and discernment to see what will aid the work of local congregations in sharing the gift of Christ with all.

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