PASTORAL LETTER – MAY / JUNE 2015
For both Fulwood URC and for the wider NW Synod area, the past two months have been a time of departures.
In our Church fellowship we have the sudden passing of two of our own members, both much loved and respected here and as former long – standing members of Grimshaw Street URC. Elsie Hunt’s funeral took place at Lytham Crematorium in March and Peggy Williams’ in our Church last week, both services graciously conducted by Rev’d Nigel Lemon and both reported more fully later in the Newsletter. Our Church is certainly the poorer for the loss of both these faithful members.
In the wider NW Synod Area we were much surprised to learn some time ago that our Moderator, Rev’d Richard Church had been encouraged to explore another role within the United Reformed Church and as a consequence had been appointed to be Deputy General Secretary of the United Reformed Church with a particular responsibility for Discipleship.
Richard is well-known here at Fulwood URC for his regular attendance at Lancashire Area, Area Pastoral Committee and other meetings as well as for leading Morning Worship in December 2008 and June last year. He has been heard to refer to Fulwood URC as “ his second office “ After his appointment as Chair of Churches Together in Lancashire, he was even given his own key to our buildings for his use and to hold local CTL meetings.
When Richard was interviewed recently on Radio Lancashire, it was pleasing to hear that one of the most treasured memories of his ministry in the North West was taking part in the Ecumenical Service on Avenham Park during the 2012 Guild.
Margery Pitcher and I represented Fulwood URC at the Farewell Service for Richard and Sheila held at Albion United Reformed Church Ashton-under-Lyne on 12th April.
The Church was a total surprise! When opened in 1895, the it was said to be the most beautiful Congregational Church building in England, mainly of Gothic design with glorious stained glass windows, which depict the graces and virtues of the Christian character The church can seat one thousand and not for nothing has it been nick-named “the Non-Conformist Cathedral of the North West.”
The theme of the service was “Meeting Christ on the Journey”.
This seemed totally appropriate as journeys have formed a significant part of Richard’s ministry here. You will recall his Moderator’s Cycle Mission during his Sabbatical in 2010 when he cycled around the whole of the North West Synod ; meeting people throughout the communities amongst which we worship and witness and learning what local United Reformed churches are doing in mission.
As part of the service Rev’d Richard Davis, the NW Retreats Group Co-ordinator, praised Richard for his constant emphasis on prayer and his support of the Retreats Group (several of its meetings were held at Fulwood) and his part in the formation of the Emmaus Road Prayer Community, where prayer is focussed on the Stop, Look, Listen and Walk aspects of St Luke Chapter 24: 13-35. (More in a future edition).
Amongst those paying tribute during the presentations, Bishop Geoff, the Anglican Bishop of Lancaster recognised Richards’s contribution to the wider church as Chair of Churches Together in Lancashire, as well as recalling their shared experiences as pilgrims when separately walking with the bare minimum carried in a rucksack, journeying in the footsteps of the millions whom, over the centuries, have walked the pilgrim paths to Santiago de Compostela – further journeys!
Richard has been conscientious, inspirational and most friendly Moderator, known by many in our Church here, and we wish both him and Sheila, God’s Blessing in his new role as Deputy General Secretary of the United Reformed Church. The North Western Synod’s loss is certainly the denominations gain!
As you may know, Margery, as the secretary to the Lancashire Pastoral Committee, found herself appointed to the committee, with others from the wider church, charged with finding a successor to Richard –not an easy task.
We trust and pray that will not be too long before a suitable candidate is found to fill our vacancy and look forward to the new Moderator leading an Induction Service for a new minister to join the Central Lancashire Pastorate.
Richard and Sheila want to express their heartfelt thanks for the Farewell service, kind thoughts and gifts received from you all recently. It meant so much to us and we will always look back on our time serving in the North West with gratitude and love.
A vicar was planning an Easter pilgrimage to the holy Land, and was aghast when he found it would cost him £50 an hour to rent a boat on the Sea of Galilee. He protested to the travel agent that the cost was ridiculous. “That might be true,” replied the travel agent, “but you have to take into account that the Sea of Galilee is water on which our Lord himself walked.” “Well, at £50 an hour for a boat, I’m not surprised!”
With thanks to ‘New Life’, the magazine of the Parish of Dalton-in-Furness, Newton, and Ireleth with Askham
ANNUAL GENERAL CHURCH MEETING – THURSDAY 26th FEBRUARY 2015
The meeting opened at 7:30 with Duncan taking the chair, alongside our secretary Mac and treasurer Viv. Eight other members were present. Duncan has been covering for Ian who we heard was improving after his recent operation. The sad news about the loss of Elsie Hunt was shared and our thoughts were with her family. News and concern about other church members were shared and we prayed for all not present.
A full annual Church report was presented by Mac; this should prove very useful to prospective ministers for our new pastorate. Jean gave her report on Churches Together in Fulwood & Broughton and Duncan gave a report on pulpit supply. Viv presented her annual accounts with the continued good news that our income exceeded our spending by over £8000. This was due mainly to money bequeathed and to the manse rental.
All church officers agreed to continue in their current roles and were unanimously re-elected.
The meeting took a secret ballot on whether the URC Synod should pursue the question of whether individual churches should be allowed to decide on allowing same sex marriages within their premises.
There have been thoughts for a long while that money bequeathed to the church should be used for new lighting throughout the building. Two quotes have been provided and due consideration is being given.
Our next Quarterly Meeting has been set for Thursday 4th June. The meeting was closed by the sharing of the Grace just at 9pm.
LECTIONARY READINGS FOR MAY & JUNE 2015
3rd Acts 8: 26 – 40; Psalm 22: 25 – 31 or Exodus 19: 1 – 6; Psalm 118: 19 – 25; 1 John 4: 7 – 21; St John 15: 1 – 8
10th Acts 10: 44 – 48; Psalm 98 or Genesis 35: 9 – 15; Psalm 101; 1 John 1: 1 – 6; St John 15: 9 – 17
14th Ascension Day Acts 1: 1 – 11; Psalm 47 or 93 or Daniel 7: 9 – 14; Psalm 68: 15 – 20, 32 – 35; Ephesians 1: 15 – 23; St Luke 24: 44 – 53
17th Acts 1: 15 – 17, 21 – 26; Psalm 1 or Jeremiah 10: 1 – 10a; Psalm 108; 1 John 5: 9 – 13; St John 17: 6 -19
24th Day of Pentecost Acts 2: 1 – 21 or Ezekiel 37: 1 – 14; Psalm 104: 24 – 34, 35b; Romans 8: 22 – 27 or Acts 2: 1 – 21; St John 15: 26 – 27; 16: 4b – 15
31st Trinity Sunday Isaiah 6: 1 – 8; Psalm 29; Romans 8: 12 – 17; St John 3: 1 – 17
7th 1 Samuel 8: 4 – 11, (12 – 15), 16 – 20, (11: 14 – 15); Psalm 138 or Genesis 3: 8 – 15; Psalm 130; 2 Corinthians 4: 13 – 5: 1; St Mark 3: 20 – 35
14th 1 Samuel 15: 34 – 16: 13; Psalm 20 or Ezekiel 17: 22 – 24; Psalm 92: 1 – 4, 12 – 15; 2 Corinthians 5: 6 – 10, (11 – 13), 14 – 17; St Mark 4: 26 – 34
21st 1 Samuel 17: (1a, 4 – 11, 19 – 23), 32 – 49; Psalm 9: 9 – 20 or 1 Samuel 17: 57 – 18: 5, 10 – 116; Psalm 133 or Job 38: 1 – 11; Psalm 107: 1 – 3, 23 – 32; 2 Corinthians 6: 1 – 13; St Mark 4: 35 – 41
28th 2 Samuel 1: 1, 17 – 27; Psalm 130 or Lamentations 3: 23 – 33; Psalm 30; 2 Corinthians 8: 7 – 15; St Mark 5: 21 – 43
5th 2 Samuel 5: 1 – 5, 9 – 10; Psalm 48 or Ezekiel 2: 1 – 5; Psalm 123; 2 Corinthians 12: 2 – 10; St Mark 6: 1 – 13
12th 2 Samuel 6: 1 – 5, 12b – 19; Psalm 24 or Amos 7: 7 – 15; Psalm 85: 8 – 13; Ephesians 1: 3 – 14; St Mark 6: 14 – 29
FRIENDS OF SABEEL UK and the “THE STONES CRY OUT”
As you are aware, we at Fulwood U.R.C. support humanitarian work carried out in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory as part of “Commitment for Life”.
On a wet night back in March, Mac and I spent an interesting evening at Fulwood Methodist Church, watching a film about the plight of Christians in Palestine and joining in a discussion about the issues the film raised with representatives of “Friends of Sabeel UK”.
Sabeel is an organisation that works for a just peace for the people of Palestine and Israel. Started by Palestinian Christians, Sabeel promotes non-violence and reconciliation. Friends of Sabeel UK is working in Britain to support that vision.
Christianity was born in Palestine two thousand years ago. From there it spread throughout the Middle East and to the rest of the world. Yet many are unaware Christians still live in the land. For more than 60 years the Palestinians, Christians and Muslims, have suffered displacement, expulsion, wars, occupation and oppression.
The voices of Palestinian Christians have all too often been drowned out in the turmoil of events. The film we watched called “The Stones Cry Out” is their story, in their voices, from the Palestinian exodus of 1948 (the Nakba) until the present day.
Before watching the film it would have been hard to imagine the scale of the restrictions imposed on the movement of Palestinians. The high concrete walls that have been built and the paperwork required to cross these barriers, made even for a very short trip, from home to what was once the land your family farmed, not only very difficult but also dependent on the mood of the border security. This made the shelled homes within these high wall barriers appear and feel like a prison.
What was also distressing was the fact that many Palestinians have never been able to return to the family homes, that so many villagers were driven out of, in the fertile hills and valleys of Galilee, back in 1948.
The evening was concluded with the sale of Palestinian crafts and gifts and the sharing of information about the region and the work of Sabeel.
Sabeel – Working For Peace for the People of Palestine and Israel.
Justice and peace in the Middle East will only happen with the cooperation of all the faith communities in the region. Sabeel, a grassroots ecumenical liberation theology organisation based in Jerusalem, encourages this cooperation. Its work involves:
+ Exploring the meaning of the Gospel in the Palestinian situation.
+ Supporting the Palestinian Christian community.
+ Working for a more accurate international awareness of the suffering of the Palestinian people.
The word Sabeel is Arabic. It means ‘the way.’ It can also mean a spring or channel of living water.
We will be holding our annual Fellowship Lunch of soup, bread & cheese on Sunday 17th May following the morning service. A collection will be taken for Christian Aid at the lunch.
GLOUCESTERSHIRE POLICE MALE VOICE CHOIR
In April several of our congregation went to Christ Church, Longridge for a choral concert in aid of Christian Aid and enjoyed a varied programme of songs and piano solos plus a tap dance by the pianist. All the members of the choir have a connection with the Gloucestershire Police Force. One of the choir members acted as compére, introducing the items and at one point said that most audiences liked to hear anecdotes about old police work so he told us the following story.
There was a small-time criminal called Arthur Roberts (usually known as Arty) who was regularly caught for petty crimes. A man in the same town found out that his wife was having an affair and decided to do something about it. The man contacted Arthur and asked him to get the boyfriend away from his wife but offered him very little money for the job. Arty was desperate for money so he agreed to do it and started to follow the boyfriend, looking out for a good opportunity. One day he saw the boyfriend in the frozen food aisle at the supermarket, crept up behind him and throttled him. Leaving the man lying there, Arty went into the next aisle and, seeing the wife there, decided to complete the job and throttled her too. Unfortunately, Arthur wasn’t a very good criminal and the next day the headlines in the local paper were “Arty chokes two for a pound in Tesco”.
Their successful tour of the North West also included an impromptu concert at Manchester Cathedral , a trip to Blackpool and a concert at St Michaels Ashton-on-Ribble in aid of church repairs These two concerts raised £1,560 for church repairs and Christian Aid.
CHURCHES TOGETHER IN FULWOOD & BROUGHTON
This year’s Annual Pilgrimage is to Warrington Churches on Saturday 19th September 2015. The coaches will leave at 9.30am with free time to explore Warrington. An ecumenical service will be held at All Saints Daresbury followed by a buffet meal at Walton Hall and departing for Preston at 7.00pm.
The Cost including Coach and Buffet meal is £24 Please see Jean for further details and early booking will be appreciated.
We held a most enjoyable and well supported table-top games evening with refreshments in March. The ever popular and always entertaining Pat Ascroft is coming on 10th September to tell us about her latest adventures and we are planning to hold another Coffee- evening in October to support the MacMillan Nurses. We are still looking for ideas for future meetings and/or offers to help in arranging a meeting If you could help in this way please have a word with Mac or Margery
APPOINTMENT OF NEW NW SYNOD MODERATOR
Last Autumn we heard that Rev Richard Church had been appointed as Deputy General Secretary (Discipleship) for the URC and would be leaving his post as Moderator of the North West Synod in April 2015. Also last Autumn, Rev Dave Coaker was on sabbatical so Derek Estill (Lancashire Area Chair) and I as Area Secretary deputised for him at some Synod meetings. Derek attended the Synod Executive meeting in November when discussions started about the process of appointing a new Moderator. A follow up meeting was arranged which I attended as Derek was not available.
The four Areas in the Synod were asked to supply a description to be included in the Synod profile and a standard job description and person specification were provided by the URC office in London. At the meeting we discussed the content of the profile and whether there was anything specific to NW Synod needed adding to the job description. The other thing to be arranged was the short-listing & interview panel. The URC states that this should comprise 4 members from the Synod and four from the wider URC and contain a mixture of ages, men/women and ordained/lay. The General Secretary and someone from HR would also be present as advisers. The Synod Clerk was automatically included but as he is fairly new to the Synod the Treasurer was also included and a ministerial student was suggested to represent the lower end of the age range. This resulted in three men on the panel so my name was suggested for the fourth person. As another lady had also been nominated we were both asked to give a potted biography including any experience of interviewing so that the Synod Executive take part in an email vote to decide which of us should be included. I’m not sure whether being appointed to the panel meant that I won or lost the vote…?
The date for the short-listing meeting was set for 26th March in Manchester and a few days beforehand we were emailed the application forms and a marking grid so that we could go through them and submit our scores prior to the meeting. The panel was chaired by the Clerk to the Southern Synod and the other wider church members were the PA to the Moderator of the Wales Synod, and Elder from Nairn URC and a retired Minister. At the meeting we were given a summary of the combined scores and comments as a starting point for our discussion. Several of the others had been involved in the process for other Synods previously so I was feeling a bit out of my depth but I was reassured when I found that although we didn’t all rate the candidates in the same order, my scores were generally in line with the others. We discussed the six candidates, especially where the scores showed that we had interpreted some things differently. It was decided that we would interview 3 of the candidates (all of whom had been nominated for the post) and a variety of questions were suggested. Following the meeting the General Secretary emailed a summary of the meeting with a list of the questions which needed to be whittled down to keep the interviews down to a reasonable length.
The interviews took place on 16th April, again in rooms near Piccadilly Station in Manchester. The candidates had been given a question beforehand on which they were asked to speak for up to 15 minutes with the opportunity for the panel to ask questions afterwards. Following the three presentations we had the first of the interviews. Thirty minutes before the interview the candidates were handed a letter giving brief information about a situation which a minister wished to discuss with the Moderator and the candidate had 10 minutes to explain to the panel how they would deal with the matter. The panel then began to ask questions on a variety of areas relating to a Moderator’s work and each of us completed a scoring grid based on the candidate’s answers. The second and third interviews took place after a short lunch break then we collated the scores. Again, the scoring wasn’t the same across the panel but this was just the starting point for the discussion. About an hour later we had come to our unanimous conclusion as to which name we wished to put to Mission Council for approval. The General Secretary would contact the successful candidate to offer them the post and, if they accepted the offer, would pass their name to Mission Council.
The following morning the General Secretary emailed the panel to say that he had spoken to Rev Andrew Mills who promptly agreed to accept the post so the nomination will be taken to Mission Council on 9th May for confirmation. All being well, our new Moderator will be in post by early Autumn.
… and a PS from your Roving Reporter…
The short-listing meeting and the interviews were held in an office block near Piccadilly Station in Manchester so travelling by train was the obvious choice. Coming home after the interviews I was a little disappointed to see that the train was already rather full but as I moved away from the doorway into the carriage I spotted a seat in the corner only occupied by a bag so I politely asked the man in the aisle seat whether it was taken. He picked the bag up and stood up to let me get in.
The following week my friend and I spent a few days on the Furness peninsular, and passing through Dalton in Furness we went to look at the Parish Church where I bought their newsletter (a co-editor is never off duty). I was amused to find the following poem inside:
Sometimes I climb aboard a train
And find it quite hard to refrain
From criticising people who…
Have bought one seat, but take up TWO.
They take a seat beside the aisle
And sit, with a triumphant smile
For no-one else, standing, wants to dare
To challenge that forbidding stare!
They fill the vacant window seat
With luggage, junk, or just their feet
My sense of humour gets a lift –
When some brave soul gets them to shift!
By Nigel Beeton