Last July, as we made the final preparations to begin the refurbishment of our Worship area, we asked the children what they would like to see in the church. Phoebe and Harrison suggested a slide from the top of the pulpit to the ground, leading to a ball pool to save me nipping up and down the pulpit stairs during services! Sadly, I had to explain to the children that great as it would be, this probably wouldn’t meet with architectural approval. So, I was highly amused on seeing the pictures of a helter skelter in Norwich Cathedral! The 50ft helter skelter has been set up short term in the Nave as part of a ‘Seeing It Differently’ project with the aim of giving people the opportunity ‘to experience the Cathedral in an entirely new way and open up conversations about faith’.
As I say, we don’t have a helter skelter but we do have a church that is very different in its appearance from how it has looked during its previous 140 years. And yet, despite the changes to the colour, décor and furnishings, it is still very much Emmanuel, a beautiful building where for decades people have gathered to praise God, and still do today, a building renewed for future generations.
At the end of this month our leadership team will be spending a day together to explore how we can move forward as a church community in new, refreshed ways, to make God’s love for all people real. I know too that over the summer, many of you having been praying for the future life of our church. At our service of re-dedication on Sunday 8th September, we will sing these words, written by Marty Haugen, ‘Let us build a house where love can dwell and all can safely live. Built of hopes and dreams and visions, here the love of Christ shall end divisions: all are welcome in this place’.
So as we celebrate and take pleasure and comfort from our new surroundings, let’s continue to nurture a community with Jesus at the centre of everything we do, where all feel welcome and accepted and loved by God – with or without the slide and ball pool!
As I write this, Mark and I have just returned from a weekend visit to Bath, a much appreciated gift from all the lovely folks at Emmanuel. This was our first visit to the City. The sun shone and we enjoyed a tour of the fascinating Roman Baths, a mini cruise on the river and some delicious meals accompanied by excellent live Jazz Trios.
On the Sunday Morning we attended a service of Holy Communion at Bath Abbey. Taking a weekend away from the challenges of the refurbishment of our Worship space, we found ourselves looking upon a project on an even bigger scale than ours! Parts of the beautifulAbbey’s floor are collapsing and the floor is sinking where bodies buried beneath it have decomposed, resulting in huge gaps being created, making the floor unstable. That’s one problem we didn’t have! Whilst the Abbey floor is being repaired, all 891-ledger stones that make up the floor have to be lifted, documented and repaired. As with Emmanuel, a new underfloor heating system is being installed, but unlike us, there are plans to tap into (excuse the pun) the city’s underground hot springs. Fascinating!
As Mark and I spoke to Abbey staff, we reflected upon the stresses of raising funds and changing the inner fabric of what are two very special buildings, loved by many. They too have had to deal with the sensitivity of removing pews and other fixtures. But it was a joy to share our passion for preserving the heritage of our buildings, whilst making them fit for purpose to welcome present and future generations. And we also spotted six other very special inhabitants of the Abbey. High up in one of the Abbey’s majestic towers, two Peregrine Falcons have nested and hatched four chicks. We witnessed the soaring of the parents as they gathered food, and through an internal camera, we were able to watch the chicks being fed. Despite the building activity below, within the towers of the Abbey the birds have found warmth, shelter and security and it was just a stunning reminder of new life and the wonder of creation. As we continue to settle into our new worship space, may it continue to be a place where people find warmth, shelter and security and we may we continue to spread the message of new life to be found through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
Preparing to move back into the Church has given us the opportunity to reflect upon new ways of reaching out to our local community, so please pray for the new initiatives ‘Together on Wednesday’ and ‘Little Fishes’, that will both be launched in May. We are currently in the season of Lent, when we take the opportunity to reflect upon our relationship with God and our response to Jesus’ call to be his disciples. We also look forward to our ‘Talking of God Together’ sessions, which have resulted from our newly formed ‘Faith Forum’. Everyone will be welcome and we would encourage you to bring friends along to these sessions as through scripture, poetry, artwork and testimonies, we can come together, informally, to simply talk about, and deepen our relationship with God.
As a community, embarking on a new chapter in the life of our Church, I thank God for the opportunity to continue to Minister here at Emmanual, and pray that as the body of Christ, we will continue to encourage one another in our faith, serve our local community and experience the joy of the resurrection of Christ our Lord.
May God continue to bless us all this glorious Eastertide
On Thursday November 15th, the nation waited impatiently for a much-anticipated event. I’m not referring of course to the proposed deal on Brexit, but to the release of the John Lewis advert. For those of you who may not have seen the advert, it recalls the memories of the singer Elton John as he achieves musical success. The advert ends with the moment his career began when, as a little boy, he received his grandmother’s piano for his Christmas present. The strapline of the advert is ‘Some gifts are more than just a gift’.
Watching the advert with Mark, my husband, Mark recalled the first time, aged five, that he played a piano. Mark’s early musical talent was nurtured by Mrs Walmesley, a wonderful lady, suffering with Parkinsons, who, as the illness progressed, deferred to asking her husband Mr Walmesley to demonstrate certain techniques when the disease prevented her from doing so herself. But her gift of music was more than just a gift to Mark. His love of the piano enables Mark to serve God, through worship, in a very special and individual way. And I’m sure our organists Carole, Roy and Tom would each be able to share their love of music and the piano with us.
At Christmas we celebrate a gift that is so much more than a gift. Isaiah 9:6 -7 says ‘For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace’.
This year we have remembered the cessation of World War 1 in 1918, but 2018 has been far from peaceful for many people. Sadly we have seen an increase in knife crime. The numbers of people finding themselves without a home and employment has risen too, and I know many of you have found your peace disrupted through illness or the loss of loved ones. And yet amidst this, God gives us the assurance of his love and his peace. When we remember the child in the manger, we remember too the man who he became, the man who showed us how to bring hope, love, justice, peace and joy into our world.
And so, on behalf of myself, Mark, Rebecca, Alasdair, Chris, Ellie, Connor, Leana and Ezekiel, may we wish you all every Christmas blessing and may we continue to be thankful for the gift of the Christ Child,
I wonder what kind of stories you like to read? I admit to being someone who likes to unwind with a story involving laughter, romance and a happy ending! I have to confess also to being someone who gets caught up in the stories of the lives of fictional soap opera characters – much to Mark’s dismay! But I wonder how many of you have had the opportunity to share your life story with other people? Wearing a clerical collar when I’m out and about, nipping into supermarkets, petrol stations etc, is always an interesting experience. I tend to find that when people realise I’m a Minister they either want to share their story with me or run away from me as quickly as possible! But of course we all have a story to tell.
For the connexional year 2019/2020, 3Generate, our Methodist Children and Youth Assembly, are asking us to engage in a ‘Year of Testimony’, but we are encouraged to begin this process now; to take opportunities to share our faith stories with one another, to share what Jesus means to us in our day to day living. Through our stories and sharing of experiences we can encourage one another in our faith. People often thank me for visiting them and listening to them, but believe me when I say that Iam the one who is truly blessed to have the opportunity to sit with people and listen to their stories and their faith. It is always an honour and a privilege to hear of how God is at work in the lives of other people, to share stories that testify to the awesome love he has for us. And so, over the coming months I hope we will be encouraged to talk to and listen to one another, and to continue to support and care for one another, through happy times and sad, as we journey together in faith.
As I write this letter I have just returned from a week studying The Reformation. I wonder if any of you have ever been to Morebath? Morebath was, and is, a tiny sheep-farming village in Devonshire. In the sixteenth century it was inhabited by thirty-three families who worked the land on the edge of Exmoor. During the English Reformation, this tiny community found themselves living with the effects of reforms in the Church, whilst living under the Monarchial rule of Henry VIII, and his children; Mary Tudor, Edward VI and Elizabeth 1st.
What is very special about this community is that detailed records were kept of all their Parish activities by their Priest, Sir Christopher Trychay (in the sixteenth century priests were known as Sir, not Father). In a commentary spanning fifty years we read of the daily lives of a Priest and his Parishioners who experienced first hand the events that took England from a Church rooted in Catholicism, to early forms of what eventually became the Protestant Church. Through the accounts of Sir Christopher, we are given a glimpse of life in a rural world subjected to instability and rebellion. But throughout all the tumult of events happening around them, the villagers and their Priest never wavered from their commitment to worship the God in whom they placed their trust.
Significantly, they always had a new project afoot connected to the upkeep of their Church and how its inner fabric reflected their beliefs and worship.
We are soon to embark upon the refurbishment of our building, a project in which many people have invested of their time, their money and most importantly their prayers. The architects, builders, electricians, plumbers and other professional bodies will provide us with a fabric within which we will have the opportunity to celebrate our faith and beliefs. New disabled access will entitle everyone to enter and exit the building through the same door. Movable seating will give us the opportunity to explore alternative ways of worshipping. A kitchen and open space in the porch will provide further facilities for hospitality and fellowship. And of course, new plaster and paint will brighten our surroundings reflecting the glory and goodness of our God.
I won’t promise to keep detailed records like those of Sir Christopher but I truly believe that when people look back on our efforts, they will see a community committed to serving God in this place, in this time. We walk forward in faith. Let the next stage of Emmanuel’s journey with God begin!!
On Sunday May 6th we held my Testimony service. Following a delicious tea I was thrilled to celebrate the occasion in a full Church. The singing was awesome and we were blessed to have our musicians and choir. It was also lovely to have prayers led by our young people. For me personally, it gave me the opportunity to reflect upon my training to date.
Six years ago, as I attended two days of interviews by the Connexional Candidates Committee, I took with me the verse John 15; 12 ‘My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you’. My journey since then has had its fair share of ups and downs, U turns, no entry and full speed ahead moments. And of course challenges, surprises and blessings. The challenge and exhaustion of juggling a teaching position, whilst studying for a degree at college in Birmingham and still trying to be a good Mum, wife and in the latter stages, Grandma. The challenge and headache of being required to read hundreds of books and write 6,000 word essays thirty years after I left formal education. The challenge of placements in hospitals, soup kitchens, dementia units, hostels and a Church that disagree strongly with the ordination of women. The challenge of going before various committees and receiving reports written about me, and the surprise, relief and sheer joy of being told on March 6th that I am deemed ready to be ordained. And amongst this has been the unbelievable blessing of being given shared pastoral responsibility for our Church here in Ormskirk.
Since arriving at Emmanuel I have had so many wonderful experiences. I remain truly humbled that people allow me to journey alongside them at the most liminal moments of their lives: the death of a loved one, the baptism of their child, their union in marriage. I’ve learnt how to play bananagrams whilst on the wayward wanderers walking weekends, got far too competitive in the quiz on the Church weekend, peeled potatoes on the Boys Brigade camp and competed in team races, also involving potatoes, with the Girls Brigade. I‘ve got Messy at Messy Church and sung carols with the Sunday School and the choir, played the ukulele with the women’s fellowship and eaten delicious home-made cakes with the Guild… so many activities too numerous to mention. But of course amongst all this activity, I have prayed with people, read and studied scripture and presided at the Sacrament of Holy Communion.
As a Minister I have the privilege and responsibility of seeking to discern God’s will for the Church and how we can seek to serve the wider community. I go into our schools to assist with the nurturing and developing of the spiritual lives of our young people. I have the opportunity to work with my ecumenical partners as we seek to make Christ real in the lives of the people of Ormskirk and I have just been asked to support the students and staff of the diverse community at Edge Hill University. But together, as a Church community, we have the privilege and responsibility of being part of a corporate journey with Christ as we seek to understand what Jesus really meant, in very practical terms, when he said ‘My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you’.
And so, I would like to say a huge heart-felt thank you to all those of you who have been and will continue to be a part of my journey in ministry. On July 1st as I kneel for ordination, I will feel the joy in my heart of knowing that you continue to pray for me as I continue to pray for you. We journey together as a people called to love one another as Christ loves us. May God continue to bless us all and everything we do in his name.