Moderator's Snapshots

Meetings... as the body of Christ

This week seems to have looked like a wall of committee meetings. Monday a large gathering from the Synod and Northern College met to continue exploring how we share in partnership; Tuesday the first meeting of the newly formed Ministries Committee (snapshot shows some of the group); Wednesday the Mission and Discipleship Committee; and tomorrow the Synod Executive.

All of which set me reflecting on the way in which every gathering we share with other Christians is about being part of the Body of Christ – whether it be any of these meetings, our Church Meetings, Elders’ Meetings or simply a few friends meeting in a coffee shop. Such sharing and gathering together reflects a strong commitment to Christ often expressed in a willingness to work together in a variety of ways to enable and support the mission and discipleship of Gods people through all our local congregations. It is with grateful hearts that we thank God for all who have, both past and present, served Christ in such ways whether locally, across the Synods, or nationally.

Please pray for:

  • each committee of the Synod as they work to support all God’s people through our congregations in mission and discipleship
  • the ways in which locally, and more widely, we can seek out those we can form partnerships with to bear fruit for the Kingdom (continuing Paul’s prayer in Philippians 1:3 – 6)
  • the Presbyterian Church of Ireland, the Church of Scotland, and the United Reformed Church following the decision of the PCI last week – that God may still stir our hearts to long for peace and unity for the sake of the Gospel, and that each tradition may strive to bear faithful witness to the love of God in Christ.

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Mandarin Chaplaincy

It was a delight on Saturday to preside at a special service at St Peter’s House Chaplaincy, Manchester, to celebrate the work of the Mandarin speaking chaplaincy both in Manchester and in London and to mark the conclusion of the ministry of Revd Shou-Hui Chung after 12 years. We were all grateful to Mrs Angela Bogg (Board member of St Peter’s Chaplaincy, and member of Shou-Hui’s management group) for coordinating everything and organising us so well.                                                     

It was good that representatives from the URC, CWM and Taiwan were able to share in this occasion. In the snapshot (with Shou-Hui and her husand Wei-Hsiang 3rd and 4th from right) the representatives from Taiwan are the Revd Tek-In Tan Programme Secretary for Evangelism Committee of the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan and the Revd Wen-jen Cheng Former Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan (1st and 2nd from left). Revd Wayne Hawkins Mission Secretary Europe, represented the support given by the Council for World Mission. The United Reformed Church was represented by the Revd Paul Whittle (Eastern Synod Moderator, 3rd from left) and the Revd Dr Michael Jaggesar from Church House (far right). The Revd Nigel Uden, next Moderator of General Assembly, was the guest preacher but managed to elude my best marshalling efforts for the photocall!

Please pray:

  • for the new forms for the Mandarin Chaplaincy both here in Manchester at St Peter’s Chaplaincy and at Lumen United Reformed Church in London, and for those who will minister in Christ’s name in those places with fresh and exciting opportunities opening up for Christ’s love to be demonstrated
  • for the partnership of the Presbyterian Church of Taiwan, the United Reformed Church and the Council for World Mission in continuing to shared ministry engaging with the 100,000 staff and students across the four Manchester Universities
  • for the partnerships which all our congregations are forging both locally, and across a wider area, that these will support the growth of discipleship and God’s mission to every local community.

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Visiting Christ Church South Manchester for Pentecost

On Sunday it was delightful to join with the congregation of Christ Church URC South Manchester as we celebrated Pentecost. The Junior Church group had explored the explosive transformation of disciples through making popcorn – wished I had been with them for that, but they brought it in to share with the congregation. And together we celebrated in messy style with party poppers (snapshot above – you can just make out the trails of paper heading towards the ceiling) the outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit in preparation for going out as witnesses to Christ in the world.

We also used the prayer offered in the worship resources for the recognising of Missional Partnerships across the Synod on the 20th. I hope that we can all continue to use that prayer. As we use that prayer, in praying for cities and nations, we continue to hold before God all those who are still struggling with loss, grief, and pain one year on from the bombing at the Manchester Arena.

 

Holy Spirit, Breath of God,


You were there at the beginning

– a partner bringing creation into being
You were there at the baptism of Jesus

– a partner on the way of the cross
You were there at Pentecost

– a partner moving the disciples into the streets and towns,

cities and nations to fulfil their commission to share in the Good News.

Today, you are here with us

– our partner on the journey of Jesus-shaped mission.

Breathe upon your churches in our partnerships

and with all whom we hold or seek a relationship in ministry.

Release us into being all you have created us to be.

Broaden our hearts and minds to deny selfish ways,

to take up our cross and embrace the way of Jesus.

Move us beyond the limitations, physical or otherwise, that we have set and speak through us your good news of poverty undone, lives renewed and sin forgiven.

In the name of Christ
Amen

 

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Preparing for Pentecost

Last week I had the delight of going to Westminster College (snapshot of the college chapel) to talk with those ordinands who will be seeking to identify a call through the October Moderators’ Meeting, ready for when they finish college in the summer of 2019. It is good to hear some of their questions about the process and the issues involved, and their openness to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

This coming weekend we celebrate Pentecost, and as well recognise across the Synod the new pattern of Missional Partnerships for congregations to relate to. As for those who gathered that first Pentecost we too, in 2018, hope and pray that the Holy Spirit will continue to stir us with tongues of fire and breathe the life giving Spirit into the Body of Christ today.

We all know that change anywhere and at any time feels disturbing and uncomfortable. Yet the reminder from that first Pentecost is that the work of God is always stirring us and reviving us so that we may be equipped for the priority of mission which engages with those who are beyond the walls of our communities. I hope that we will be able to support and encourage one another to be God’s People, engaged in missional discipleship, so that many more may experience that Breath of Pentecost life.

Please pray for:

  • a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit this Pentecost on all God’s People across the north west
  • those ordinands who are preparing themselves (and the paperwork) for consideration at the October Moderators’ Meeting, and for those ordinands who are preparing to leave college this summer and take up posts across the denomination
  • the recognition within the Synod this Pentecost Sunday of Missional Partnerships, and for the blessing of fellowship to be discovered between congregations within partnerships in the months that lie ahead.

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Moderators' Meeting in Newcastle

Over the weekend the Moderators, partners (and children) met in Newcastle hosted by Northern Synod. Unfortunately, I missed the Moderators’ business meeting on Saturday afternoon due to our recovery back to Manchester by the AA, and then starting out again in Ruth’s little car caught up in the joys of Bank Holiday traffic at its best (or worst), arriving in Newcastle at 6:50pm instead of 12:30pm. Ah well, the weather was glorious.

On the Sunday morning we were all able to join with the congregation at St James’ United Reformed Church with a pleasant stroll through the city in fabulous sunshine. Following the service, we were treated to a delicious lunch with some of the church members.

On Monday morning some of us walked on a tour with the Northern Moderator, Revd Dave Herbert, to the Baltic Art Gallery beside the River Tyne. Although the 4th floor was shut for installing a new art display Dave was able to gain us an escorted visit to the viewing platform over the river. It was stunning (for a non-ornithologist) to stand within about 4 feet of nesting kittiwakes – something of a feature for those visiting the Baltic at this time of year.

Please pray

  • for all our congregations within the United Reformed Church as we discern how to be effective in mission in these challenging times
  • for all our congregations within the North Western Synod as we move towards the recognising of new Missional Partnership groupings of congregations at Pentecost, on the 20th May
  • with Jesus that we “may be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:23).

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Marton URC, Blackpool

Preaching at Marton URC in Blackpool last Sunday gave me the opportunity to see the progress that has been made on the development of the front of their building. The work done has provided a tremendous space for welcoming people in, combined with a small kitchen and several disabled toilets. The space is warm, welcoming (as are the congregation) and through the glass has an openness towards the community (snapshot).

One of the most significant challenges facing many of our congregations in the North Western Synod (and the UK generally) is the nature of buildings that we have inherited from a historic way of “doing” church. Buildings which become a millstone and result in us simply acting as caretakers no longer function as a tool for helping us engage in mission in relevant ways to our communities.

Please pray for:

  • the vision to grasp the new ways of “being” church that enable us to grow in discipleship and engage in vibrant ways with those in our communities
  • the energy and enthusiasm needed within each congregation to explore fresh ways of using our premises/sites to reach out to those beyond our walls
  • the denominations’ ministers as they gather next week at Yarnfield Conference Centre (Staffordshire) for a once in 40 years opportunity, exploring Walking the Way as the core of our “being” as 1,400 congregations in the UK.

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Ministers' Conference

This week most of the United Reformed Church’s ministers and CRCWs have gathered together at Yarnfield Conference Centre near Stone, in Staffordshire. It is a unique event in over 40 years of the denomination’s life. The focus is around our common theme of Walking the Way: Living the life of Jesus today. It has been exciting to look around at 300+ people who have responded to God in a particular way in the life of the Church and realise how blessed we are as the United Reformed Church in the gifts of ministry represented here.

The worship has been a highlight for me and a joyous and moving experience in such a large gathering. As part of the input into the week we have been enriched by the story-telling of the former Archbishop of Canterbury, the Revd Dr Rowan Williams through the challenging lives of 3 women (Maria Skobtsova, Dorothy Day and Madeline Delbrêl).

Please pray:

  • with thanksgiving for the blessing and rich gift we have in the particular ministries of those gathered in Yarnfield this week
  • for the increasing awareness among every member of the United Reformed Church that we have all been called to be Walking the Way: living the life of Jesus today
  • that every member of the United Reformed Church will grow in discipleship which experiences Jesus as the centre of their being, and where that focus on the centre leads to an increasing witness at the edges of the church where it meets the world that our faithfulness in living out the call of Christ will lead us to engage with the world such that it is an easier place for all people to be good in.

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