Moderator's Snapshots

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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Closure of Trinity Lancaster Church

On Saturday a special service was held in the building of Trinity Lancaster Church as they marked the closure of their building, an occasion tinged with sadness for those all the years of ministry (just short of 250 years) exercised through that setting yet also an event positively looking forward to the next stage in their journey united with the Bowerham congregation.

Please pray for

  • the united congregation in Lancaster as they are led forward in the next steps of their journey of discipleship together, and in their mission to the community in which they are set
  • the northerly Synods meeting as they/we meet in Newcastle at the moment, with particular focus on what we share in the area of ministries, local leadership, IT and children & youth work – for fruitful areas of cooperation and discernment
  • our ecumenical opportunities to be grasped at every level, and that at the close of this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity we may all continue to pray with Jesus (The Gospel of John, chapter 17) for the oneness which helps the world see him more clearly.

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Area Pastoral Committees

There are some weeks when my photographic skills reach an all-time low. Trying to do a “selfie” (something my family warn me against attempting- as you can see I didn’t manage to get my own face in it!) provided 4 blurred images on Monday morning with this one being the least indistinct. Unfortunately, it is also the image which coincided with the arrival of fresh coffee which is eagerly being reached for!

This week the South, Lancashire, and Cumbria Area Pastoral Committees all met, and today the Synod Pastoral Committee is meeting. The snapshot shows the South Area committee meeting being welcomed for the first time to meet in a very pleasant room at Gatley URC.

A vital part of the work of all our pastoral committees at this moment is looking at the responses from our congregations to the proposed Missional Partnership groupings, and reflecting on updates about the work around Missional Discipleship. On top of these key aspects of work there are also the other myriad of matters which normally consume the meetings where those who have been willing to serve and support each Area wrestle with how best we can all support one another to be the Church of Jesus Christ in the setting of each congregation.

Please continue to pray:

  • for those giving freely of their time in these committees to support all our congregations
  • for the discernment and wisdom of the Holy Spirit to be evident as we wrestle with new ways of being
  • for courage for each of our congregations as they seize opportunities to share the life of Jesus in their locality
  • for Cumbria (and especially the 5 of us URC Moderators involved, with their teams) as it continues to prepare for the Moving Mountains mission 8th -11th March with so much to be prepared in the next 8 weeks.

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New Year Synod Pastoral Committee Meeting

A belated Happy New Year to you all.

This week the Synod Pastoral Committee met at the Synod Office (based in premises of Patricroft URC). January is a busy time for both our Synod and four Area Pastoral Committees as they consider the variety of ways that we can support and encourage one another, as well as looking at our focus on Missional Discipleship underpinning all we do.

A major part of the Synod Pastoral Committee meeting this week (and it has an additional meeting later in the month) was to look at the work of a small group who had worked through all the responses from Elderships and congregations received before Christmas. We examined all the reflections and comments made on the first attempt at putting together the Missional Partnership groupings of churches which will become the focal point for equipping and enabling Missional Discipleship, and support the growth in the ministry of all God’s People.

Please pray for:

  • the Area Pastoral Committees as they meet over the next 2 weeks, for discernment and wisdom in their work supporting the congregations in each Synod Area
  • the Synod Pastoral Committee as it continues to draw together all the initial responses, and prepares the further work involved in establishing our Missional Partnerships
  • each of our congregations as during the season of Epiphany we build on those connections made with those in our communities during the Christmas celebrations; and for the strengthening of relationships where the Good News of Jesus will be experienced.

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Moving Mountain in Cumbria...

Last week I attended an exciting meeting in Workington (Cumbria) exploring the way in which a URC team with me will be part of the (especially ecumenical) Archibishop of York’s annual mission to a different diocese each year. The mission “Moving Mountains” will take place across Cumbria next March and the teams will include those brought by Methodist District Chairs, the Chair of Methodist Conference, URC Moderators (4 of us), and one of the Moderators of General Assembly.

The snapshot also connects with Cumbria, and the Ecumenical Pilgrimage I co-led back in March this year. Whilst out there one of the pilgrims introduced us to some olive wood producers in Bethlehem which his company, Lakeland, have dealings with. As a gift to the pilgrimage leaders (Bishop James Newcombe of Carlisle, Revd Richard Teal the Cumbria Methodist District Chair, and myself) Martin offered each of us a complete set of nativity figures to be used and displayed by us. For Bishop James it is relatively easy when you have a Cathedral at your disposal. Richard and I don’t – so we will be more creative in our use. Over the coming years the figures will travel with me round the Synod during the season of Advent – but I wanted you all to be able to see the fabulous gift this year that I accepted on our behalf, and mark the generosity that lies behind the gift. (the figures stand approx. 12 inches high, made of olive wood)

Please pray for:

  • “peace and goodwill” to prevail in the land of Jesus’ birth, and for reconciliation and renewal between those living in the Holy Land to mark 2018
  • the “ordinary” people in the Holy Land who seek to live in fractured communities, and especially those who rely on tourism to provide an income for their families
  • the ecumenical county of Cumbria as the churches gear up for the “Moving Mountains” mission next March, and for all the coordination and preparation involved
  • our Synod congregations as they provide opportunities for communities this Christmas to focus on “the reason for the season” and for individuals to meet the Light of the World
  • those who will struggle this Christmas, and for all who will provide care and compassion to those pushed to the edges of our society.


May I wish you all a very joyous Christmas and may you know the blessing of Immanuel, the Saviour of the World, in the midst of all your celebrations.


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