Moderator's Snapshots

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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A New Year...

As the new year gets underway Church life moves into a different gear. The trappings of Christmas are packed away and we are left with the Gospel of God incarnate, with Jesus Christ calling those earliest people from different walks of life to “come, follow me” as disciples and his enduring call heard in contemporary society for us as disciples today to be salt and light in the world.

My picture this week (unlike recent snapshots by journalists you cannot decipher the scribblings on our papers thanks to my unsteady hand) is of our Lancashire Synod Area Pastoral Meeting formed of those who freely give of their time to support our congregations in the Lancashire Area. The core of every meeting “agenda” is time spent hearing from each member of the committee and the link they have with the different congregations. Each of our congregations, bearing the light of Christ, face different challenges and our prayers and concern are for the way in which we can strengthen that partnership we have in the Gospel.

Please pray for:

  • each of our four Synod Area Pastoral Committees in South, Central, Lancashire, and Cumbria and the support they seek to foster within each Synod Area
  • the process which is underway to identify new conveners for the South, Central and Lancashire Areas and for the Synod Pastoral Committee
  • the pattern of support our congregations can provide to one another in prayer and practical ways
  • the opportunities for new mission ventures that can happen as we share Good News stories of what is taking place in other communities which encourage us and point to new ways of being salt and light.

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Epiphany - Whitehaven URC

As we mark Epiphany, a moment of revealing light in the travels of the Magi, my snapshot was taken just before Christmas on a visit to Whitehaven URC on the west coast of Cumbria. This thoughtful stained glass creation greeted visitors into the Church – and with the bread and wine pointed to a deeper and far-reaching significance beyond a manger scene which otherwise is packed away until Advent in 11 months’ time.

So join with me in praying for:

  • the follow up by all out congregations with those who, like those wise men, visited over the Christmas season so that they can understand more deeply the impact of the light of Christ for their lives
  • the fresh opportunities within this New Year for each of our congregations to explore their God-given mission through new ventures within their community
  • all those who preach the Gospel week by week – that they may continue to be inspired and empowered by the move of the Holy Spirit
  • the growth of discipleship within each member of our congregations, not simply as a New Year’s resolution but rather with a resolve to be more faithful to Christ’s call upon our lives every day of our lives.

And I wish you all a very happy and blessed New Year.

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Wharton & Cleggs Lane Church at Little Hulton

Last weekend on the third Sunday in Advent I had the pleasure in the afternoon of worshipping with the congregation at Wharton & Cleggs Lane Church at Little Hulton. Their special Carol Service was led musically by the talented Integra Brass Band and providing a striking accompaniment encouraging some strong singing.

This will be the sort of service that you will be part of during these few weeks before Christmas Day (albeit probably without a brass band!). What an amazing opportunity we have at this time of year to make the most of inviting people to share with us in our celebrations in order to glimpse the work of God afresh in the birth of Jesus, the one called Emmanuel.

Please pray for:

the joyous opportunities across the Synod in seeking to share the Gospel at the point of Jesus’ birth

the pastoral care and prayers of our congregations offered for those who struggle with this time of year, perhaps through the loss of close family members

the love of Christ which our Christian communities share through including those who are otherwise alone or isolated at this time of year

the additional support needed in many of our communities for those who rely on the essential work of homeless shelters, foodbanks and money advice at this time of year

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Northerly Synods Representatives' Meeting

Last week representatives from the five northerly Synods (ourselves, Scotland, Yorkshire, Mersey and Northern) met together and enjoyed the warm hospitality of the Windemere Centre and Carver Church. Once again we were grateful that our meeting was led and facilitated by the Moderator of the Synod of Wales, Simon Walkling.

Over the last few years this building of relationships has led to an evolving commitment to do better those things that we can do together. This has led us to explore issues together e.g. HR, finance & accounting, but also where some things make sense to a couple of the Synods this has resulted in cross-border collaboration. An example of this for our Synod is that we are working together with Mersey to finalise the partnership in dealing with all issues of safeguarding with a common policy and practice.

This, and other examples, are providing us with exciting models of good practice to be shared more widely and at the same time make better use of some of our precious people resources. However more deeply than resourcing is the biblical practice of working in partnership and fellowship with our sister churches wherever we can.

Please pray for:

  • our continued partnership and work across the five northerly Synods
  • the other eight synods within our denomination as they too explore different patterns of working in fruitful ways together
  • the different working groups of the northerly Synods as they meet during 2017 and seek to develop new areas for us to share: Human Resources group; Finance; Being Church; Safeguarding; Communications; Listening and Reconciliation
  • the start of a new exploration into how we foster children’s and youth work across the five synods, and areas where we may support one another

 

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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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