Moderator's Snapshots

First 4 Synod Roadshows

Last week we held 4 Roadshows across the South Area and Lancashire Area of the Synod (pictured is the Friday evening session at Fulwood URC). With over 250 Elders and ministers attending it was exciting to gather together with so many committed members involved directly in the week to week worship, work and witness of our congregations. The roadshows consisted of a mixture of information about the current situation we face as a Synod and the way forward as we look at Future Patterns of Ministry together. The sessions provided us with time to discuss in smaller groups the various issues and insights which we can all contribute as together we work towards the next steps in encouraging our congregations through the ministry of all God’s people. A key part of our life together is through prayer, and each roadshow contained a focus on how we as a Synod will be involved in prayer for one another. In writing to the Ephesian church the Apostle Paul uttered words in prayer which I hope we too can continue to express:

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21)

 

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Preparation For General Assembly

I got so carried way yesterday with the Clerk’s unfolding of what’s in store for those of us who are going to General Assembly this year that I forgot to take a snapshot (so the view – with the Moderator’s head visible – is of the one day Assembly last year in Birmingham. This year General Assembly meetings from the 8th to 11th July in Southport at the Convention Centre (where we held the Big Day Out last year – and also where we plan to return for another Big Day Out in July 2017). The agenda is full, covering the papers contained within the 260 pages of the Book of Reports (see the image) as well as worship and meals together.

Please pray for the gathering of General Assembly this year...

• as representatives from all 13 Synods meet to worship and work together

• that those gathered may discern the mind of Christ in many matters for the common furtherance of the gospel across our 1,400 congregations

• for Alan Yates and Kevin Watson, our Moderators’ of General Assembly for 2016 – 2018, as they guide us through the agenda

• that business may arise from fellowship in Christ, and that way of working may connect us deeply as we face the challenges of deployment within the URC and of declaring the gospel within our communities

• that we may join in Jesus’ prayer (John 17) that in a divided and separated world “may they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (17:23)

Please use the Assembly prayer of preparation in your personal devotions and within your church:

Lord, as People of the Way
your joy is our strength.
As we assemble in Southport
fill our meeting with the joy of your Spirit.

May that same joy and expectancy
be in our hearts and minds as we prepare
ourselves to meet together as your people.

Lord, as People of the Way
your strength is made perfect in our weakness.
As we assemble in Southport
give us strength to trust, and be open to, your guidance.

May that same strength, trust and openness
be in our hearts and minds as we prepare
ourselves to meet together as your people.

Thank you for the opportunity to be part of General Assembly 2016.
Help us to take that opportunity seriously and to prepare well.
Guide those who have particular responsibilities for this meeting.
Bless similar meetings of our sister churches in UK and around the world.
May we all, as People of the Way, be agents of your generous grace.

For Christ’s sake,
Amen

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Meeting Greater Manchester Church Leaders and Borough Mayors

On Monday evening I had the pleasure and privilege of being with the senior Church leaders of Greater Manchester and meeting with the 10 Borough Mayors of Greater Manchester and their consorts, together with the Lord Mayor of Manchester and the Lord Lieutenant. Our host for the evening was the Bishop of Manchester and thanks to the culinary skills of his daughter (whilst she juggled a 3 month old) served us up a delightful dinner. The atmosphere was designed to be very relaxed, so although the mayors were all wearing their regalia it was a time for “letting the hair down”. The importance of our gathering was to recognise that they have just been elected to office and will now spend an intensive year giving of themselves to their communities, and that our paths will cross with theirs at civic events during that year and they need our support and prayers. The Bishop of Manchester also made mention of the passing of Jo Cox MP, and the pressure on those who arrange for the security of all civic leaders.
Please pray for:
• those serving our communities through a variety of civic offices
• the creative partnerships with others in our communities that are part of God’s mission
• the family and friends of Jo Cox MP as they come to terms with her tragic death last week
• our witness within communities that helps to break down barriers

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Visit at Dalton-in-Furness

Preaching at Dalton-in-Furness last week it was exciting to be with a congregation where different things are coming to fruition, which may reflect aspects going on in many of our congregations. A journey of 5 years or more with their sister Methodist Church has involved a coming together in worship using alternating locations. This will now see the 2 congregations coming together in the one building and, once the necessary council approvals have been granted, the development of the building to provide a venue which contributes to the mission of the church and will be of benefit for the local community too.
The Sunday before my visit the congregation were led in worship to explore their nature as community – and an activity with balls of wool generated a web of relationships! The congregation decided to use those balls of wool and have every member of the congregation contribute to the knitting of a cross (see the image of the knitting underway in the picture) – though the experience varies such that the knitted cross which began with a row of 12 stitches has now increased to 16 stitches!. In taking up one of the lectionary readings my sermon on “Being the Body of Christ” amplified that practical knitted expression by the congregation, as Paul wrote to the Galatian churches (2:20), “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Please pray for all our sister congregations as:

• they gather each Sunday in worship, and those who lead that worship

• they work to build partnerships with other churches that will be fruitful for the work of God’s Kingdom

• they continue to offer buildings which are attractive both for mission and for local community activities

• they find creative ways to connect with one another, and in reaching out with the Gospel

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Our Synod Staff

This week Hazel (my PA) celebrated a significant birthday. The picture shows Kerry and Hazel (on the right) with some celebratory flowers. Hazel and Kerry are the two cheerful voices you will often speak to when phoning the Synod Office. Together with the other couple of paid staff they help form the Synod Office (Kath as Trust Secretary and Tony as Finance Officer) and field staff (Leo as CYDO, and Jane as Mission Officer currently off ill) resource which is here to help all our churches. In addition, we are blessed within the Synod to have many volunteers from amongst local church members and ministers who help support our working together as a Synod. Your church may be one of those who has one of your members involved on a pastoral committee or as a property/finance office for your Synod Area. We need to remember that when we talk about “Synod” we are talking about those who have freely offered of their time to help churches and members in different parts of the our North Western Synod.
Please give thanks in your praying:
• for the cheerful greeting everyone gets from Kerry and Hazel when they contact the Office
• for the commitment of the staff to help us in specialist areas of Synod life
• for the willingness of church members and ministers who support all our sister congregations within the Synod by being involved on pastoral committees and in particular roles within the Synod or Synod Areas
• for the many gifts God has given his people which can be shared to enrich the life of all the churches within the Synod in their witness to the transforming life of the Kingdom of God
Please pass this e-newsletter on to other Church members in your congregation so that they can be encouraged in their praying for the Synod. Thank you.

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Forton, Garstang and Lancaster Pastorate

Last week I enjoyed the privilege of leading worship with the churches of the Forton, Garstang and Lancaster Pastorate, with the service taking place at Garstang URC. The picture is probably a familiar image of what our buildings look like 45 minutes before the worship: a few early birds have arrived to find a moment of stillness, the duty Elders, and musicians, and technology whizzes have almost got everything ready. There is an air of anticipation that something important is about to happen – as God’s people gather together – somewhere, anywhere – and prepare to worship the Lord who has called us to be his holy people. And within our Synod we have 140 congregations worshipping and witnessing in local communities – please remember to pray for your sister congregations as they prepare to encounter God, respond to his call to bear faithful witness to his love and grace where they are set, and enjoy being that worshipping community. In Philippians 1 the Apostle Paul reminds us in his opening words of how powerful that praying is – that in partnership we have a Gospel for the world.

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Special Category Ministers (SCMs)

Our denomination’s Special Category Ministers (SCMs) are a gift to any Synod in that they are an additional resource for the sake of the church’s mission. Last week our EM2 ministers (still within the first 3 years since ordination) met up at Chorlton URC for a day with Revd Mike Walsh, our Synod’s Minister for Contemporary Spirituality. This wasn’t to be a static day – rather with walking shoes on we headed out to gain insights into what Mike is doing in this pioneering ministry around the area. In Chorlton there are 53 coffee shops or open bars to explore. The next time you are in one (or in your area) reflect on how a conversation, maybe a passing one, in such a place could transform someone’s day or life, and how God may be speaking in the midst of that place. I hope at some stage that we will provide a forum for hearing more widely from the experience of our SCM ministers, for us to explore insights that will help us in the mission going on in our 141 congregations.
Please pray particularly for:
• our SCM ministers in different roles within the Synod (Mike Walsh, Sarah Moore, Ruth Woollaston, Stuart Nixon)
• our Church Related Community Workers as they help us to build bridges in fresh ways with communities
• those in chaplaincy work e.g. in university setting, shopping centres, industrial settings, hospitals and hospices

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