Moderator's Snapshots

Cumbria Ministers' Gathering

The gathering this week of all the ministers in Cumbria for 24 hours (including some of our ecumenical colleagues from the Methodist Church and Church of Scotland) took place in the Windermere Centre – where we were looked after wonderfully by the staff. The ministers encouraged me to take a “selfie” – not something I normally do and at which I am not very proficient. Six attempts later produced a picture almost in focus and without anyone appearing to be decapitated! This snapshot is the result. Unfortunately, the keynote speaker and facilitator for our sessions had already had to rush to catch a train – so the Revd Nicola Furley-Smith (Moderator of Southern Synod) is not in the picture.

Our sessions focused on the conversations which have been taking place between the URC and the Anglicans. The Revd Nicola Furley-Smith has been the URC Co-Chair of these “Church of England - United Reformed Church Informal Conversations” with the Rt Revd James Newcome (Bishop of Carlisle) as the other co-chair. In view of the ecumenical project underway within Cumbria the sessions produced lively discussion around a topic which is a “live” issue for every URC in Cumbria.

Please pray for

  • the continuing development of conversations between the URC and the Anglicans, especially around the issue of sharing ministries
  • the continued work within Cumbria to provide a model for the whole of the UK of the way in which our denominations can work together in a way which makes a significant difference for the mission of God’s Kingdom and our partnership in the Gospel of Jesus Christ
  • the Cumbria Ecumenical Pilgrimage taking place over the next fortnight to the Holy Land with almost 80 pilgrims from all four traditions (Anglican, URC, Methodist, Salvation Army) participating. We are seeking prayer for this sign of our unity – and next week I will point you towards the blog if you wish to follow our progress (I am co-leading with the Rt Revd James Newcome – Bishop of Carlisle – and the Revd Richard Teal – Methodist District Chair).

Thank you for your prayers.

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Anniversary at Greenmount URC

Anniversary celebrations are so important for us in many aspects of our life. Last Sunday morning I had the delight of worshipping with the congregation at Greenmount URC as they mark their 150 year anniversary this year, and were joined by their sister congregation at Dundee URC. It wasn’t possible to have fireworks (after all, it was daylight) and so party poppers were the next best thing to assist the celebration (top image). The congregation launched a very special collaborative project to mark their anniversary – a new Communion table fall. Every member of the congregation was invited to stitch a small cross onto the fall, and a beautiful prepared cross will be added at the final stage. In the meantime there will be plenty of community opportunities for others to add a stitched cross – and everyone was invited to sign a book, which in turn records the cross they stitched (in the image the creative designer Val Maden, with Kath Lonsdale adding her stitch).

Please pray:

  • with thanksgiving to God for the life and vitality of each of our congregations, for the years that are past and the expectancy of the years ahead
  • for those creative opportunities for celebration which enable others in our communities to rejoice with us and discover the wonder of Christ at work in us
  • for our Synod as 128 congregations seek to support one another in prayer and a variety of ways – to sustain our worship and witness in each community
  • for the strengthening of relationships with other churches in each community, that together our work and witness to Jesus Christ may be even more fruitful

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Installation of "Ecumenical Canon" in Carlisle

On Sunday afternoon I was privileged to be present in Carlisle Cathedral for the collation and installation of two new Canons. The Revd Peter Clement, an Anglican priest, was being both collated (and Anglican process) and installed as a Residentiary Canon. The Revd Sarah Moore, our Cumbria Area President and SCM minister, was simply being “installed” as an Ecumenical Canon – an honour being bestowed in view of Sarah’s contribution and commitment on behalf of the URC over the past 5 years towards the ecumenical Cumbrian project “God for All.” (The photo shows Sarah with the Bishop of Carlisle, the right Revd James Newcombe).

The efforts in Cumbria towards ecumenical unity across the county now include the Salvation Army together with the Methodists, Anglicans and United Reformed Church. The work continues to progress in the formation of Mission Communities across Cumbria. The work is exciting though of course, as with any changes, not without its wrinkles. However, a meeting last week of one of the launch sessions for the ecumenical Bishop’s Mission to Cumbria in March 2018 showed something of the enthusiasm for our partnership in mission with a packed meeting at our Carver Community Church in Windermere.

Please pray for:

  • further opportunities across the Synod for ecumenical enthusiasm to work in partnership across wider county or denominational areas
  • a willingness of our congregations to continue to explore the possibilities for partnerships where we can support and strengthen the witness of the Gospel
  • the gatherings of denominational church leaders both locally and at county levels, and for the building up of these relationships through good fellowship which will enrich our work and witness together

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URC national consultation on Local Ecumenical Projects

Last week I attended a URC national consultation on Local Ecumenical Projects, and with a focus on the new framework document that is being produced to support our LEPs. Every Synod was represented (with Sarah Moore and Nick Mark also being present from our Cumbria Synod Area, so North Western Synod was well represented) and the 24 hours provided a good forum for considering different aspects of our ecumenical working. Much of our consideration about the way we work ecumenically indicated that we need materials that help us to work flexibly, supported more locally (ie with oversight provided by Synods rather than the Churches Together in England forum), in a much “lighter” way, and in particular with non-traditional denominations or churches.

Please pray for:

  • the engagement in mission of all our congregations working with local churches from other traditions in the local community
  • and give thanks for the ecumenical project in Cumbria leading to mission communities across Cumbria with shared ministry across all Methodist, Anglican, URC, and Salvation Army congregations
  • the closer working regionally with other denominations, for example the South West Cumbria United Area between the URC and Methodist churches
  • our work with newer expressions of church and stronger partnerships with a wide variety of old and new traditions
  • those working nationally to create the frameworks which will be flexible and “light” to help us in working well with our local church neighbours as together we make Jesus known
  • the ecumenical initiative for prayer in 2017 between Ascension Day and Pentecost (see www.thykingdomcome.global for information and resources)

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Ecumenical Meeting about 500th Anniversary of the Reformation

Last week it was a privilege to be meeting sisters and brothers from other traditions, in the Library at Manchester Cathedral, to plan an event(s) to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation this coming October. The meeting was chaired by The Dean of the Cathedral, the very Revd Rogers Govender (head of the table) with leaders from the German Lutheran Church in Manchester, the Roman Catholic Church, the Methodist Church, the Anglican Church, the URC (me) and apologies from the Baptist representative. A special service is being planned for Sunday 15th October 2017 from 2:30pm – 3:30pm (please book the date in your diary – more information in due course), along with several other events.

Please pray for:

the continuing work in drawing together sister churches to celebrate Christ and the renewed focus on God’s gift through the tumultuous events of the Reformation

our engagement within our communities seeking reformation and a new way of being as we journey with God (Micah 6:8)

the work of the German churches in helping us to celebrate, especially through the “Storymobile” roadshow (the show-truck has now set off to visit 19 European countries and collect Reformation stories from five centuries. This ‘storymobile’ will take all the stories from Sibiu and Dublin, Rome and Turku, from Zurich, Villach and Schmalkalden, from Worms, Augsburg and Osnabrück – and all the other stopovers – to Lutherstadt Wittenberg. "Stories on the Road" is a roadmap with 67 way-stations between 3 November 2016 and 20 Mai 2017. If you would like to follow the route and see some of the stories please go to https://r2017.org/en/events/european-roadmap/blog/ )

the visit of the Storymobile to our region when it stops in Liverpool on the 21st February 2017 (only one of 3 stops in the UK) and the opportunity for the Reformation story to be heard in a fresh way today

our ongoing work locally with sister churches to be salt and light (Matthew 5:12-14) in our communities

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Ashton-on-Mersey URC

On Sunday evening I had the privilege of preaching at a joint pastorate ecumenical service (at Ashton-on-Mersey URC in the pastorate with Sale URC, with Revd Brian Acty leading the worship in the snapshot). For many of our congregations in the Synod the focus on the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is a great opportunity for gathering with local ecumenical sister congregations to reflect on the call of Christ to be one, and for prayer together for our common mission in each community. It was an uplifting time at Ashton-on-Mersey URC through the focus on the CTBI prepared materials, with the particular input for this year coming from Christians in Germany. The German churches involved in preparing the materials focused on the Scripture reading in 2 Corinthians 5:14-20, and the theme of Crossing Barriers.

Please pray for:

continued opportunities for prayer with our ecumenical partners in our communities

a willingness in each community for sister congregations to seek fresh opportunities for sharing their life and witness in a unified way “that the world may believe”

encouragement for those in Christian leadership in their work involved in Crossing Barriers, whether at a national, regional, or local level

every member of our congregations to have a heart for developing strong relationships with our sisters and brothers in other churches, that we might support, encourage, and pray for one another to bear fruit of the Kingdom of God

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Streetlife in Blackpool

Cold winter nights with any combination of wind, snow, or persistent drizzle can make us glad to get into the warmth of our homes. A visit last week to Streetlife in Blackpool was a reminder of the increasingly more visible needs of young people who are homeless. Whether city, town or village our communities are noticing a marked increase in those who are sat on the pavements with an empty Costa cup for loose change or pacing the spot whilst waiting for a sale of The Big Issue.

Blackpool has acute issues involving young people and Streetlife, with its 8-bed night shelter for 16 to 25s and a Centre half a mile away offering support during the day, is meeting some of those needs. Local congregations provide support, especially in the provision of a cooked meal which the overnighters can enjoy around a central table with the two staff/volunteers.

In the pictures (a) the sculpture on the plaza next to St John’s Church with the night shelter attached to the Church, and (b) our EM2 ministers Frin, Pam and Jim together with Lesley Husselbee and Tim Mountain (on the right - our new Learning & Development Officer for the Synod) in one of the small “cells” that provide a secure room with a bed and comfy chair for each overnight guest.

Please pray for:

  • Streetlife and all those young people it supports, with the likelihood that all the beds will be full until at least Easter
  • each of our Synod’s congregations and their involvement in the community to engage with social needs, whether with individuals, young people, the elderly or families
  • the way in which the Gospel can be communicated through our involvement in the community where we live
  • our ministers as they work to forge partnerships within communities that will enable others to experience the Kingdom of God

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