Moderator's Snapshots

Northern Church Leaders

After attending Mission Council last week, in High Leigh, I was able to attend the 24-hour retreat for Northern Church Leaders at Hinsley Hall in Leeds. It proved to be an extremely reflective opportunity with input from the Revd Dr Malcolm Guite, a poet theologian, Bye-Fellow and Anglican Chaplain at Girton College in the University of Cambridge.

As you journey in this Holy Week, through the Passion towards Easter Sunday, I would offer you one of Malcolm’s sonnets set for the start of this week and simply called “Palm Sunday”:

 

PALM SUNDAY

Now to the gate of my Jerusalem,

The seething holy city of my heart,

The saviour comes. But will I welcome him?

Oh crowds of easy feelings make a start;

They raise their hands, get caught up in the singing,

And think the battle won. Too soon they’ll find

The challenge, the reversal he is bringing

Changes their tune. I know what lies behind

The surface flourish that so quickly fades;

Self-interest, and fearful guardedness,

The hardness of the heart, its barricades,

And at the core, the dreadful emptiness

Of a perverted temple. Jesus come

Break my resistance and make me your home.

 

Web links:-

Malcolm Guite: https://malcolmguite.wordpress.com (a sonnet for each day in Holy Week)

Linda Richardson: http://lindarichardson.net/ (to see a series of paintings to accompany Malcolm’s sonnets)

I pray this Easter that you, and all within our congregations in the Synod, may know in a fresh way the joy of resurrection hope and the work of God in Christ through us who “graciously gives us all good things” (Romans 8:32).

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Synod March 2018

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At the recent Synod meeting, Bekki Radcliffe (North Western Synod representative to URC Youth Executive) took the opportunity to take a selfie with the rest of the Synod.

Bekki was there, along with a few other young people, to work through the Jesus Shaped Church material that accompanies the Missional discipleship booklet.

"We only managed to get through 3 sections (Leo thought we’d do all five, but what does he know?)

"It meant that we were unable to watch the ordination and induction of Daleen ten Cate, the Missional Discipleship Mentor for Lancashire Area – although we found out there wasn’t much space anyway! But, after everyone went back into synod, we raided the buffet 😊

"We spent time looking at who Jesus was and how our churches might change to more accurately reflect Jesus’ values.

"We plotted journeys and opportunities."

Please pray for:

  • Daleen, and the other Missional Discipleship Mentors, as they continue and develop their ministry helping local churches in North Western Synod to develop their’s;
  • The children and young people in our Synod who can be catalysts for change in our local churches, and for those who enable and encourage them to come to Synod youth events;
  • Yourselves – that you may be clear in what your mission is and open to new opportunities to show God’s love wherever you may be.

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Cumbrian Moving Mountains Mission

What an amazing 4 days. Last week from Thursday to Sunday I, and my team of four (Leo Roberts, Daleen Ten Cate, Marion Tugwood, and Dave Fraser), sharing in the Cumbrian ecumenical county’s Moving Mountains mission. It was an opportunity initiated by the Archbishop of York with Bishops, Moderators and Methodist District Chairs bringing teams to all parts of Cumbria to engage in mission organised by the local Christian communities.

The mission began (snapshot) with the opening service in the Auction Mart (still smelling of sheep from the previous day) at Penrith, followed by us gathering to form a “heart” shape outside in the car park with media pictures taken by a drone. Then my team headed off to the west coast to Workington area for an exciting 4 days.

How was it exciting? ….in that churches of all denominations (and independent churches too) worked closely together to lay on events….in the array of opportunities created for Moving Mountains to be involved in the different communities across the Workington area….and most of all in that the Gospel was able to be shared with people through these opportunities.

Is that it? Yes – for the team. No – for the area. The Christian communities will continue doing what they have been doing. The hope and prayer is that Moving Mountains has given them inspiration and a greater vision of what they can achieve together in serving Christ, and that there really are things that they can only do together if they are to see Jesus move mountains in people’s lives.

Please pray for:

  • Cumbria churches as they build on the 500+ events held across Cumbria (involving 33 teams) and continue to share the Gospel
  • the ways in which we can work in partnership within our local areas, and to take seriously the call to be “one” in Christ for the sake of others (read Jesus’ prayer in John 17)
  • Mission Council as it meets next week in Swanwick with a myriad of papers and issues to consider, and for the wisdom and discernment to see what will aid the work of local congregations in sharing the gift of Christ with all.

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Central URC Darwen

" />Giving away Bibles on Sunday at Central URC, Darwen. What a joy and a privilege to be involved in sharing with a Church who have taken the step of giving away Bibles to those without – in the snapshot to some of those adults and children who are going through the legal processes seeking asylum, with all the strain and pressure that puts upon them.

Eugene Peterson puts a scripture I learnt as a teenager into language which captures the essence of these verses in a fresh way:

But don’t let it faze you. Stick with what you learned and believed, sure of the integrity of your teachers—why, you took in the sacred Scriptures with your mother’s milk! There’s nothing like the written Word of God for showing you the way to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us.

(2 Timothy 3:14 – 17, The Message)

Please pray for:

  • those opportunities we have for being salt and light in the world, and to those in desperate need of justice, mercy and peace; especially families who have fled their homes, seeking asylum, and living with great uncertainty in their lives
  • the opportunities we have to freely offer the Word of Life to people in our communities, and the challenges every congregation faces in finding fresh ways of connecting people with the Gospel
  • all the churches (all denominations) in Cumbria as communities receive teams led by Bishops, Methodist District Chairs, and Moderators as part of the Moving Mountains Mission: for the Holy Spirit to breathe Life into individuals and communities through this exciting opportunity from Thursday to Sunday (8th – 11th ) this week.

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St Peter's Chaplaincy, Manchester

On Monday at St Peter’s House Chaplaincy, based on Oxford Road in Manchester amidst the university buildings, it was exciting to see the opening of the Milk & Honey Café. I was attending the Chaplaincy Board Meeting and enjoyed a bowl of soup afterwards. If ever you are passing do pop in – a very pleasant environment and friendly welcome awaits you. This is a vital and key part of enabling the chaplaincy centre to engage with some of the 100,000 students and staff of the universities around. The Synod was able to further support the work of the chaplaincy in helping fund the start-up costs/renovation to create the café (together with a grant from the Methodist Circuit) to enable the work to take place and a café manager and chef to be employed. It is envisaged that the café will produce enough income to cover its own share of the costs of offering the chaplaincy service.

One of the key aspects of the café and chaplaincy is providing opportunities for students to volunteer and the café has already had interest from 20 – 30 students. Within the chaplaincy the Warden and Chaplains have already built up a strong team of student chaplaincy assistants. Together with creative ecological work, such as the bee hives on the roof of the building and allotment patches which produce food for use, the chaplaincy is providing space for encountering a wide range of students and staff.

Please pray for:

  • all involved in chaplaincy work with our colleges and universities across the Synod as they create positive environments for meeting with students and opportunities for the call of Jesus to be heard.
  • those involved in other forms of chaplaincy within the Synod – in hospitals, hospices, shopping centres, rural, or workplaces – as they minister with the love of Christ to the needs of people in a wide variety of situations and stages of life’s journey.
  • each of our congregations as they continue to seek those creative and caring possibilities as points where the message of God’s abundant love in Christ can be expressed in new and fresh ways to touch the lives of those communities where they are rooted.

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Jacob's Ladder

I was intrigued while walking down from the second floor landing, as I looked out of the window across the grounds at High Leigh Conference Centre, to see some ironwork chained to the wall. Perhaps looking at the snapshot you have already worked out what this object is. It took me a few moments to realise that, for someone who is “geographically challenged”, this was my quickest escape route in an emergency. If I could climb out far enough from the stairwell window and cling across towards this contraption, release the chain, pull the segments of ironwork off of the retaining hooks, and allow it to fall to the ground forming a ladder then I could climb down safely. Watching the actor Tom Cruise do this sort of thing in the Mission Impossible films is one thing, but in real life I’m not so sure.

Imagining what this ladder would look like when dropped to the ground brought to mind another ladder, in Genesis 28:10 – 22, where Jacob lies down to sleep and “had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.” That encounter with God was profound, and a stone was set up by Jacob to mark that place called Bethel, meaning “house of God.” Wherever we gather as God’s People I hope that we too are anticipating such an encounter with God resulting in fruitful action through our discipleship and mission.

Please pray for:

  • the Synod Moderators as they meet this week at High Leigh, and their time with the General Secretary; and for the northerly Synod Moderators (Scotland, Northern, Yorkshire, Mersey, and North Western) as they meet at the end of the week
  • each member of our congregations as we approach Lent, that they will experience a fresh encounter with God through prayer
  • the growth in the connections between the congregations within our Synod that will enable us all to discern fresh ways of encouraging one another in discipleship and mission.

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Moving Mountains Cumbrian Mission

This week I was in Cumbria for two days having organised for the moderators who are taking part in the moving Mountains Cumbrian mission in March to meet at Albert Hall in Grange.

Our time together was an opportunity to hear from various key people in Cumbria about the vision for the mission, but also the whole ecumenical vision which is so key to the work of the church as a whole in Cumbria. We heard from Cameron Butland, Chaplain to Bishop James of Carlisle, about the ecumenical coming together in Cumbria over the last 15 years. Mike Talbert, the Evangelism enabler for Cumbria, spoke about the context for the Archbishop of York’s mission to Cumbria this year involving 33 teams brought by a combination of 33 bishops, Methodist Chairs, and United Reformed Church Moderators. Sarah Moore spoke about the way in which the United Reformed Church is practically involved in the formation of mission communities across Cumbria.

In the snapshot David Pickering, the Moderator for the Synod of Scotland, is leading us in a reflection on the early part of the gospel where Jesus encounters the disciples. In particular, we considered the ways in which the disciples communicated and invited others to come and meet Jesus. It was a crucial reminder of the nature of the mission to invite the whole of Cumbria to meet with Jesus.

Please pray for:

  • The moving Mountains mission from the 8th to the 11th of March this year
  • The six United Reformed Church Moderators who are participating in the mission, and their preparation with the communities where they will be based
  • The way in which Cumbria can inspire the whole church across Britain to engage far more deeply in mission together as our focus for being one in Christ Jesus
  • The whole church to pray with Jesus in his prayer contained in Johns Gospel, Chapter 17.

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