Moderator's Snapshots

Mission Council May 2017

My snapshot this week comes from our attendance at Mission Council over the weekend (Friday to Sunday) at High Leigh, with 4 representatives from each Synod and central staff and conveners building up a body of around 70 people. Our meeting was framed by worship, and in particular a focus in unfolding portions on Romans 12:1 – 21 as we sought to listen closely to the Holy Spirit and one another. A lovely touch was the marquee in the grounds for the wedding on Saturday of a couple who first met at High Leigh – a truly wonderful celebration as we looked out upon their joyous gathering.

Much of the business of Mission Council would be considered important, but the issue in which many of our energies and passions were most challenged was the extensive time and debate given to the future of the Windermere Centre. As you will know from the URC website the decision was taken to consider the resolution in Paper D1 to close the Centre, and not to explore the Mersey and North Western Synod’s resolution in Paper Y1. However, a very full debate was held before that decision was made, with a generous airing of the proposals contained in both papers. Although, sadly, the decision was made not to explore any future the Centre might a positive outcome was the incorporation of the majority of the joint Synod’s resolution within the resolution passed to close the Centre whereby the denomination will produce a full strategy for the development of lay people across the country. This will be brought back to Mission Council, and once agreed any funds from the disposal of the Centre will be put to good use in lay development across our congregations within the wider denomination. This was not the outcome we had worked so hard as Synod’s to achieve, but nonetheless it has the potential to ensure that the legacy of the Windermere Centre continues in resourcing lay ministry for the future.

Please pray:

with thanksgiving for 30 years of the Windermere Centre, for the dedicated team of staff who have worked to ensure all received a generous hospitality, for all who have supported its work over the years, and for the blessing it has brought to so many individuals and churches

for the staff as they have heard the news this week and come to terms with what the future holds for them

for the denomination as it explores creatively a strategy for the development of lay ministry, and the legacy of the Windermere Centre which will contribute to the delivery of that strategy

for the future life, work and witness of the denomination and its congregations as Mission Council explored a paper Z1 “Where is God calling the URC?”, and the developing conversations which will now take place before the next meeting of Mission Council in October.

092-17 May 17.jpg

Views: 872

Meeting Northern College Ordinands

This week I had the real delight of meeting with 6 of those training for CRCW or stipendiary ministry at Northern College (in the snapshot l to r: Jenny Travis, John Grundy, Jo Patterson [CRCW], Andrew Mudhara, Barnabus Shin, Maria Lee [CRCW]). Each year a Moderator takes the ordinands through the process involved in discerning a call to their first pastorate or post – and it usually works out that the nearest Moderator to the training institution meets with the students. The process from this point onwards for this cohort of students involves meeting with Moderators in September and then being introduced to the Moderators’ Meeting in October. This will, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, lead to a call and being ordained or commissioned [CRCWs] around the summer of 2018.

Please pray for:

  • our students in their studies and placements, that they may be equipped for future ministry but also enrich the life of the Church through their experience and gifts used in the course of training
  • our college staff as they train those placed at our colleges, but also as they continue to develop the wider strand of work where they offer to resource lay ministry in a variety of ways
  • our Mission Council as it meets this weekend, and particularly as it debates the role of the Windemere Centre and its potential continuing contribution to lay training within the denomination

091-10 May 17.jpg

Views: 891

Society for the Study of Theology

Blue skies above the Trent Building on the campus of Nottingham University, and the venue for this year’s annual conference of the Society for the Study of Theology over a couple of days (I thought this made for a better snapshot, for once, than a hall full of 240 people all facing the front listening to one speaker). As a member of this Society I try and attend the annual conference, which moves around a small number of university campuses who can accommodate the 200+ members during a semester break close to Easter. This is supported as part of the denomination’s Education for Ministry phase 3 (EM3) funding which enables ministers to continue their development and formation throughout their time of ministry, and is taken up in a wide variety of ways that encourage and support those in ministry.

It was encouraging to see a good number of URC colleagues from across the denomination present and contributing to the discussions. It is a society which brings together the academy and the church into dialogue in a way which generates theological thinking about relevant issues for us all. This year’s theme was simply “Peace” explored in a variety of ways, although a few seminars helpfully picked up themes in connection with the 500th anniversary this year of the Reformation(s).

Most importantly for our work one former bishop, reflecting on 65 years of the society toasted with cake and wine, said “Theology is the only thing standing between the Church and quick fixes.” Please pray for:

  • all who work within the academy to explore theology and engage theologically with contemporary issues, and are supporting students and ordinands to deepen their capacity for theological thinking and reflection
  • the Church as it wrestles with the strains of being Church today that it may more deeply understand the nature of God, who raised Jesus from the dead and pours out his Holy Spirit upon his people, and our calling to be a missional people
  • our ministers that they may continue to be enriched by opportunities for reflection, study and fellowship with others

089-26 Apr 17.jpg

Views: 869

Central Area Retired Ministers and Spouses' Meeting

This week I enjoyed a delightful post-Easter gathering with some of the retired ministers and spouses in the Central Area, organised by Kath Lonsdale, at St George’s and St Andrew’s URC in Bolton together with our new Central Area Pastoral Committee Convener Revd Nigel Adkinson. The Revd Andrew Lonsdale joined us and gave an inspiring account of the sabbatical he and Kath shared a few years ago, generously illustrated through the use of photographs in a PowerPoint presentation. Their sabbatical took them to many famous pilgrimage destinations which provided an enriching experience and gave them much to reflect on and, in turn, to be refreshed by through their travels. We all know how easy it is to be a church of “doing” and lose sight of our “being” as Christians and as a journeying People of God – and Andrew’s sabbatical reflections gave us insight into how the very different forms of Christian spirituality all contained the capacity to aid a recovery of that “being”.

Please pray for:

our continuing renewal as a people who are called to be disciples of a risen Christ

the great variety of ministries which we are given “so that the body of Christ may be built up” (Ephesians 4:12) and the development of the breadth of these ministries within the North Western Synod

all who in retirement continue to faithfully bear the light of Christ in their lives and to their communities, and who at times themselves need to be carried by the company of God’s People.

the United Reformed Church that it may balance our call to “doing” with a deepening sense of our “being” in Christ

088-19 Apr 17.jpg

Views: 857

Holy Week 2017

Holy Week. Where will your journey take you this week from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday? Our congregations across the Synod will be marking points along the way with different patterns of services this week. Some of you last Sunday will have celebrated Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, recognising the path Jesus will take before we reach Easter Sunday. Others will have used the texts associated with this same Sunday, but with a focus on the Passion Sunday which draws out the agonising decisions which lead to the depths of the cross on Good Friday. Throughout Lent, and now through Holy Week, the emphasis is on the Church’s mission of discipling people in the way of Jesus.

This week my snapshot is of a painting hanging in the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, entitled The Deposition (painted by the Italian artist Palmezzano [1459 – 1539] in Forli, in oils). This moment in time is frozen in the painting, where Nicodemus supports the broken body and Joseph gazes in contemplation on the face of Jesus and they mourn his death as they take his body to prepare it for burial. In Matthew’s Gospel we hear how “there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus” (Matthew 27:57). A vital part of that discipleship is in our identification with the brokenness of Jesus, and the place of brokenness within our own spiritual journey.

Please pray for:

our congregations as they offer worship and witness to their communities this Holy Week and Easter, that others may gaze on Jesus and “become a disciple of Jesus”

those who are preparing to lead our congregations, as they wrestle with texts and the ancient story – and then share the depths of the Passion in a vivid way where we can offer up our self-will in taking up the cross of Jesus today

a world which needs the hope of redemption and resurrection more than ever, in places and peoples across the globe

those who walk this week in brokenness and pain, seeking a healing and wholeness which comes from a Saviour who has trodden “the valley of the shadow of death” and comes to us in our darkness and distress.

087-12 Apr 17.jpg

Views: 900

Central Area Pastoral Committee

This week one of our four Synod Area Pastoral Committees met in the Central Area. The 10-strong committee wrestled with all manner of concerns involving the very varied mission situations of our congregations in the Central Area. One of the strengths of the committee is the way in which many forms of ministry are present and contribute different perspectives about how we can best support our congregations in their worship and witness. These ministries include those in local Church leadership, those involved in fostering ecumenical relationships, NSMs (Non Stipendiary Ministers), Church Related Community Work ministry, Lay Preachers, those with finance hats, and Stipendiary Ministers, and more. We are blessed in our common life with those who are willing to serve our wider partnership in the Gospel and bring these many different outlooks to shape the support we offer to one another.

Please pray for:

  • the work of our four Synod Area Pastoral Committees as they seek to facilitate the support we can offer across all our congregations in mission and ministry
  • the Area and Synod Pastoral Committees as they participate in shaping the work of missional discipleship and Missional Partnerships across the Synod following the work of our recent Synod Meeting
  • the continuing development of all the gifts of God’s People through many different ministries so that “From Christ the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” (Ephesians 4:16)

086-05 Apr 17.jpg

Views: 949

Cumbria Holy Land Pilgrimage (2)

The tranquillity of the Sea of Galilee, and a snapshot of me leading Holy Communion beside the Sea for our 75-strong Cumbria Ecumenical pilgrimage (with Bishop James sat in readiness for the reflection). It was a powerful occasion for prayer concerning our walk with Jesus today as we walked the land he trod 2,000 years ago.

There are more frivolous images taken a few seconds before of Bishop James and I roaring with laughter together – I don’t know what at. But as the Apostle Paul writes, “I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel” (Philippians 1:4) and through close fellowship (and fun) we have bonds which cause us to pray deeply for one another.

However, the presence of Jesus was experienced more keenly on the pilgrimage where we met and talked with those in a variety of situations (schools, YMCA, former IDF soldier, Eritrean refugee workers, work of Anglican Archbishop across 5 countries and more). In these situations, people shared experiences of rejection, division, hostility, enmity, marginalisation and painful hardship.

In these places we saw where Jesus was leaving footprints today, as people wrestled with the difficulties and struggles that living in Palestine and Israel bring. It is possible that we strive too often to find Jesus beside the quiet waters, when in fact the footsteps in which we are to plant our own are to be found in the highways and byways and the turbulence of other lives lived in the shadow of darkness where Jesus would seek to bring his light.

Please pray for:

  • all those who shared in the ecumenical pilgrimage as they in turn share their story and strengthen the ecumenical working across Cumbria
  • our Synod as it meets this Saturday, for Grace and Peace to be experienced as we wrestle with a full agenda and big questions as we work to support one another in our congregations and all the forms of ministry we share across the Synod.

083 22 Mar 17

Views: 873