Moderator's Snapshots

A Service of Hope and Expectation at Carlisle Cathedral

On Sunday afternoon I was present at Carlisle Cathedral for “A Service of Hope and Expectation with a Celebration of Covenant and Companionship in the Ecumenical County of Cumbria” as we entered the season of Advent. What an appropriate time for such a recognition to take place. After a further five years of work since the first Agreement our Cumbria Area President, the Revd Sarah Moore, was able to sign this significant Covenant document on behalf of the Cumbria Synod Area. The other 3 signatories to the Covenant were the Anglicans, Methodists, and Salvation Army in Cumbria.

Alongside this a letter of support and companionship was signed by four representatives for the Religious Society of Friends in Cumbria, the Roman Catholic Church, the North Western Baptist Association, and the Church of Scotland (Border Kirk). The continuing work and partnership in Cumbria is focused around the areas of ministry, mission, and buildings. Cumbria offers a model of working which can provide us with encouragement in seeing what is possible both at a local level and at a wider geographical area. Please pray for:

  • the Cumbria Ecumenical project as it develops significantly over the next 5 years
  • the formation of Mission Communities in the different local areas within Cumbria where a common ministry is shared within a locality, and ministry is provided by any of the denominations dependant on the mission needs
  • each of our Synod Areas in fostering ecumenical relationships, and the opportunities in each locality of identifying ways in which we can share mission, ministry and buildings – especially while we have the vitality to do these things
  • -a shared vision with Cumbria for “God for all”: that every single person within our communities may be given the opportunity to hear the good news of the Gospel of Jesus

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News from Synod Executive Committee Meeting

Last week the group set apart by the Synod Executive to consider all the aspects raised by the deployment concerns we have, the Future Patterns of Ministry steering group, met at Luther King House for the day (I’m pinned against the wall screen in order to try and get everyone in the photograph). As a group we considered several key issues and identified who was going to do the further work necessary before we meet as a Synod in March 2017 (25th) and how the consultation with all our congregations within the Synod will be continue to happen. Some of the major areas we addressed were prayer within the life of the Synod, a deployment policy for future stipendiary ministry, a deployment strategy for the way in which the Synod’s congregations will be connected with each other, and the development and support of all ministries across our churches including that provided by NSMs, retired ministers, local church leaders etc. In particular, we worked with Lawrence Moore on “missional discipleship” which is an emphasis on us all being disciples with an outward focused mission and a sense of purpose where we make a difference in the world together. We also noted the introductions that are being made of small percentages of “released” stipendiary ministry by some congregations (approx. a third of our current stipendiary ministers are being “released”) to enable some supportive work in prioritised and targeted ways with a few other congregations in the Synod.

Please pray for:

  • all those on the Steering Group, the Synod Pastoral Committee, and others who have given freely of their time to work on developing these areas ready for the March 2017 Synod meeting (for many this is on top of all that they do – mostly in a voluntary capacity – to support us in our work together)
  • the careful and prioritised use of “released” stipendiary ministry in the short term, and all those involved in the conversations needed to make this precious gift fruitful in its use
  • those who give freely of their time within all our committees to enable us to support one another across all our congregations
  • the Synod as it tries to identify key new people from within our congregations who will serve: Convener of the Synod Pastoral Committee; as Conveners of the South Area Pastoral Committee, the Central Area Pastoral Committee, the Lancashire Area Pastoral Committee (three different people); and the role of Synod Treasurer – all from March 2017.

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Training at the Windermere Centre

This week I had the privilege of undertaking some training at the Windermere Centre along with seven others, including 2 other Moderators and the denomination’s Church and Society coordinator. The training was led by Jane Baird and Helen Bird from Church House, taking us through many issues concerned with HR (Human Resources). Along with many other areas of Church life we are properly needing to pay greater attention to the society around us and exercising responsible care and support for those who offer service within the life of the church, either a employees or in a volunteer capacity.
Please pray for:

  • the staff at Church House who are acting as a hub which sustains core issues within our common life
  • those from Church House, our Resource Centres for Learning, and the Synod who provide us with training and equipping in many areas that affect the way in which we minister and help us to fulfil the commission of Christ within our local communities
  • those involved in the consultation process concerning the future of the Windermere Centre (leading up to any decisions to be taken at the May 2017 meeting of Mission Council)
  • the Revd Dr Tim Mountain, our newly appointed Learning and Development Officer (a jointly shared role with Northern College) as he begins to find his way around the Synod and as he gets to know us and how we tick.

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Light Seeds

In May I enjoyed leading worship with the folk at The Church at the Centre at Tonge Moor. As they celebrated their 10th anniversary we reflected on the lectionary Psalm 97 and a focus on verse 11 (The Message translation by Eugene Peterson):

"Light-seeds are planted in the souls of God’s people,

Joy-seeds are planted in good heart-soil."

Within the service we planted Russian Giant sunflower seeds. I am grateful to Sue for this wonderful picture that showed just how tall the sunflowers could growth. The world needs those "light-seeds" within God's people to see lives transformed, and for communities to experience the justice, joy and peace of the Kingdom of God.

Please pray for:

  • the world as (whatever your political views) it comes to terms with the election today of Mr Trump as the next US president
  • for the “light-seeds” to be planted and rooted in the lives of God’s People that we will grow in discipleship as we walk more closely with Jesus as individuals and as Christian communities
  • for the light of our congregations within the Synod to plant seeds of the Gospel in the communities where they are – please think of the 3 nearest URC congregations to you and pray particularly for their life and witness as part of God’s mission in their localities
  • for God’s people to be renewed by the joy of the Gospel, and equipped for works of service in response to God’s love in Christ for all people

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From Mission Council October 2016

Last Wednesday to Friday the URC Mission Council meeting took place at High Leigh in Hertfordshire. Our Synod was represented by Pam Dent (Cumbria), Mike Walsh (SCM), Brian Jolly (Clerk), and myself (Moderator). During our time together we discussed key concerns affecting the life of our denomination including ecumenical matters, ministry issues that affect every Synod, the nature of “call” within any form of ministry, the Windermere Centre, and the “Walking the Way” discipleship theme amongst other matters (a full set of Mission Council papers are available on-line for anyone to view). A roundup of the business can be found at http://urc.org.uk/general/2173-october-2016.html. It was a lively meeting over the 3 days with many opportunities for participation both within the plenary sessions and within smaller group work sessions.

Please pray for:

  • the General Secretary, Revd John Proctor, for continued wisdom as he works across so many different areas of our denomination’s life
  • the staff at Church House as they continue to resource the essential needs of a denomination
  • the envisioning of the denomination in its discipleship through following the Way of Jesus
  • the work that is needed concerning the future of the Windermere Centre & the care of its staff
  • the opportunities that we may have as a denomination to enable the ministry of all God’s People
  • our continued working especially locally with our ecumenical partners to bear witness to Christ Jesus together

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Meeting the Bishop of Jerusalem

On Monday morning I had the privilege of meeting with a church leader who seeks to serve a diocese which spans five countries facing so many troubles and conflicts that it is often difficult to know where to begin our praying.

The Most Revd Bishop Suheil Salman Dawani (centre in the picture, our Synod Clerk Revd Brian Jolly on the left) is the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem in January and the 14th Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem in 2007. He was born in Nablus, West Bank in 1951 and is married to Shafeeqa Fu'ad Massad; they have three daughters, Sama, Tala, and Luban.

As Diocesan Bishop, Archbishop Dawani serves the 27 parishes spread through the five political regions of Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon. He also chairs the Boards of more than thirty education and healthcare institutions spread throughout the five countries of the Diocese, including Gaza. The diocesan schools, hospitals, clinics, rehabilitation and vocational training centres provide the best possible services while reaching out to assist those who cannot afford to pay for services and strengthening the Christian presence in this region.

Please continue to pray for:

  • those indigenous churches who work with some of the poorest in these biblical lands
  • the work for peace and reconciliation
  • those of all faiths (and none) who jostle side by side in these lands, that they may seek the common welfare of all people
  • the crisis faced with refugees fleeing conflict in Syria, and all those churches and organisations seeking to provide emergency and long term aid

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Snapshot from Israel and Palestine

My snapshot this week contains only one lad rummaging through a drum of refuse for any salvage. A sobering reflection against the backdrop of the Israeli wall as it severs the road through the Palestinian community at Abu-Dis, of the impact of conflict in a land which should know the meaning of Shalom.

I have in the last few days been privileged to meet many individuals working to bring transformation whether Mohammed overseeing the planting of 11,000 olive trees (so far) offering a livelihood to farmers or Sister Martha in Bethany as director of an overflowing school with 480+ children.

Please pray for:

the land of Israel and Palestine for a lasting peace

for those individuals in the Holy Land committed to bringing about transformation in communities

that we may offer our communities a hope rooted in Christ which brings reconciliation and peace

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