Yes, ‘God’s Own Country’ as they say about Yorkshire ~ and I just had a wonderful weekend visiting 2 of my very supportive CMS Link Churches in West Yorkshire. As the locals know, you just can’t beat Yorkshire for anything!
The towns of Batley and Dewsbury are only about a mile apart, in a very hilly area, both are old mill towns, and both have large – and growing larger – Asian Muslim populations, mostly from one area of Pakistan. Like many areas of the country, the churches are facing huge challenges of aging congregations and declining Sunday attendances. The Anglican churches are now mostly working in town-wide team ministries, and both have new clergy (or at least new to me!) since I was last in the area. Special thanks to Anne, lay reader from Dewsbury Minster who kindly welcomed me to stay with her over the weekend ~ this is us with Rev. Simon Cash…..
First stop, St. Thomas, Batley, looking lovely in the autumn sunshine!
I last visited St. Thomas in April 2015 (see that blog post here), and this past weekend I joined them and gave the sermon for their 9:30 am service, led by the vicar, Rev. Martin Naylor. Last weekend I was in Cornwall, visiting Joy, who is originally from St. Thomas, Batley ~ I had stayed with her in her Batley home on a previous link visit many many years ago, that’s how come we are friends! I was delighted to see Gillian, one of my most delightful supporters, and Jeremy, churchwarden and lifelong member of St. Thomas. Here we all are with Martin…
Myra is also a special person, she also came along to hear me speak at St.Helen’s Church, Sandal only a few weeks ago. She’s now heard my sermon twice, that’s true dedication! And I must mention Mary, who arrives early to set up the church, and works hard to sell poppies for British Legion – she was wearing her beautiful poppy outfit of skirt, scarf and shirt all covered in poppies! And John Walker, warden emeritus ~ ah, so many faithful members of the church were there, even though it was half term and everyone said that many of the younger ones were away. Then, after the service, we had continental breakfast, yummy yummy!
Later that day, I visited Dewsbury Minster for their 6:30 pm combined evening service of Holy Communion – for all the churches in the team ministry. The church is right in the middle of town and looked lovely as I passed through in the sun at midday!
My previous visit to Dewsbury Minster was in March 2015 (see that blog post here), and since then they have said goodbye to Rev. Kevin Partington, and welcomed Rev. Simon Cash. Simon invited me to show some photos during my sermon, and they all gathered to pray for me afterwards. Very touched. And we had a choir and hand-bells and Holy Communion, and lots of beautiful music. And it was all followed by refreshments.
In between visiting these 2 churches, Anne kindly took me to lunch with some Dewsbury Minster friends, and then she took us to visit the nearby Community of the Resurrection at Mirfield. We were welcomed by Anne’s friend, Br. Philip who took us on a tour. This was my first ever visit. Quite an incredible place. This is the chapel…
And one of the altars…
But back to the main purpose of the weekend, and thanks to all at St. Thomas and Dewsbury Minster for your warm welcome, and all the support and prayers over the many years we’ve been linked together. It’s really appreciated. Wonderful place, wonderful people. God’s Own Country indeed!