CMS Link Visit @ Sedbergh, Cumbria ❤️

Ah Sedbergh, such a lovely town, where the streets are so empty early on a Sunday morning, and where the smell of bacon lingers in the air from all the delicious breakfasts on the go (which might explain the empty streets!) ….

and where the pubs and shops have wonderfully evocative names like the Dalesman and the Thirsty Rambler….

or Sleepy Elephant…

and where a classic car might just appear around the corner as you stand to take a photo in the main street…

and where the White Rose of Yorkshire flag flies at the end of town…

while up above the town are the real ‘sleepy elephants’, the Howgill Fells, gentle, grassy rolling hills that can be seen from far and wide, and are such a pleasure to walk on and climb up, especially appreciated after all the rock, stone and boulders of the nearby Lake District. This is the view of the Howgill Fells of all who arrive by car from Kendal, from the M6, from all points west….

And the view from the Howgill Fells of Sedbergh Town nestling just below…

Nestling is not exactly the right word for what Sedbergh does, because the wind is usually so strong that you more likely get the impression that the town is holding on by the skin of its teeth or the claws of its hands to the side of the fells that anchor it down so it doesn’t blow away. At least that was the case on Saturday, when I arrived in Sedbergh for my first CMS (Church Mission Society) Link Church visit of this home leave. It was a typically blustery day, with a cold weather forecast of high winds with sunny spells and showers ~ but how could I not go up those Howgill Fells? I was blown up or staggered up all the way via Winder, Arant Haw and Calders to The Calf 676 m (2,218 ft) and back ~ that’s all the way over the sleepy elephants, so named by Wainwright, and it so fits!

You will see from the panoramic photo below a new development of houses going up in a field on the west (centre right) side of Sedbergh. Like most towns in exceptionally scenic areas of this country, so many of the houses in Sedbergh are second homes or let as holiday homes, with the result that local people can’t afford to buy into the property market, and this new development is planned to help alleviate that problem. Fifty homes are going up, some for sale on the open market, some for rent via Housing Associations and some for sale to local people.

Sedbergh is a Book Town – so it’s full of bookshops, and even the old bus shelter is a book shelter…

And it has a famous public school, Sedbergh School, with its library, chapel, boarding houses, classrooms and playing fields scattered all over the central part of town ~ the school is the main source of employment, and of course the staff and pupils keep all the shops and businesses going too, a win-win for everyone.

Right in the centre of town, St. Andrew’s Church, Sedbergh is part of the Western Dales Mission Community, described on their website as ‘an ecumenical initiative in the Cumbrian part of the Yorkshire Dales National Park that brings together Anglican, Methodist, United Reformed Churches and our companions along the way’.

Since my previous visit in January 2019, they have a brand new vicar, Rev. Andy Burgess, who started in January 2022, taking over from Rev. Andy McMullon, who has moved to Belguim. Yes, Sedbergh Church is dedicated to St. Andrew and both present and past vicars are also called Andrew. The previous one to Andy McMullon, who I also knew, was Rev. Alan Fell, so it’s definitely the amazing A-Team at Sedbergh! They are all so lovely. This is Andy Burgess with Susan, one of the world’s most cheerful churchwardens …

My connection with Sedbergh goes back to 1996, when my parents retired and moved to Sedbergh, not far from my brother who lives in the Lake District. They stayed in Sedbergh for 18 years, and got to know lots and lots of really great people, many of whom are still friends even today. I must mention our wonderful next-door neighbours who I visited yesterday, and who recently celebrated their Golden Wedding – hence the pose! My mother, bless her, remembers them more than anyone else in Sedbergh, they were just fantastic neighbours, and so good to us!

In 2008, the then Bishop of Taiwan, David J. H. Lai and his wife, Lily, along with Rev. Charles C. T. Chen and his wife MaryJo visited Sedbergh before the Lambeth Conference. Many Sedbergh people still remember their visit (including Susan the churchwarden, above) and even yesterday they were talking about how they had been asked to drive them around and where they had taken them, and all sent their greetings to Taiwan. Charles Chen particularly loved Sedbergh, and always said it was his idea of paradise!

St. Andrew’s Church, Sedbergh

Rev. Andy Burgess and his wife Joy both come from Kendal so it’s lovely to hear a local accent, they went through the local schools in Kendal too, and they’ve been warmly welcomed to Sedbergh, it’s clear that everyone loves them to bits! They have their hands full with 4 small children, including a new baby, but they kindly invited me and some of the church members to their home on Saturday evening for a meal. So kind, and it was all so delicious! Actually, that very morning, Andy had been in Carlisle Cathedral at a ceremony when Heather Fraser, from one of the remotest churches in his area of the Western Dales at St John’s Cowgill, received her ‘CMS Certificate in Pioneer Mission‘. Among other things, they report how they have 10 children meeting regularly there for outreach activities. That is incredible, Cowgill is about as far from anywhere as it is possible to be! Yesterday afternoon, they had their Harvest Festival and Apple Picking at Cowgill, and Andy has an article and photos of the event here. Do read it – and please pray for them! Cowgill is so remote that it’s not even signposted in Sedbergh ~ it’s up way beyond Dent…

Since September, St. Andrew’s Church has changed the time of its main Sunday service from 10:30 am to an hour earlier, 9:30 am, so that Andy can get up to Dent for the service there at 11:15 am. Fortunately, he has a whole team of wonderful people who help out with services and running everything, everything seems to work so well! The church was looking lovely too, having just had Harvest Festival last week….

The church has a small and very interesting sculpture called ‘Christ of All Nations’, cold cast bronze by Ruth Pavla Davey, 2012: “This sculpture of Christ expresses a timeless quality which combines contemporary simplicity and rough textures with memories of icons and Romanesque stone carvings. Although its pose retains a traditional sense of authority, it also suggests a possibility of friendship and deep emotional and spiritual connection. The inclusiveness of Christ’s message is very important in the Twenty-First Century, and here He belongs to no specific time, place or race. His multi-national features contribute to the idea of an accessible universal image. Initially modelled in clay, the figure’s movement and energy flow upwards from the earth towards heaven, and outwards to us in a gesture of loving welcome. His strong bare feet remind us of Christ’s earthly life, and time spent in the desert, and of the human suffering which he shares compassionately with us” …..

Yesterday, I gave the sermon at the main Sunday service at Sedbergh, and while the vicar went off to Dent, so we continued on with coffee and refreshments while I showed some photos and shared about Taiwan. No time to grab everyone for photos, but I did try, honest!

Thanks to everyone who came and listened to my sermon and talk and asked so many good questions! 😊😊 The church also had a collection in the main service for my support at CMS, and raised £200, which will be added to their 2022 donation of £150 and sent off to CMS. I’m so grateful to everyone, and to Almighty God! A special shout out to my wonderful and generous hosts, the Dentons, who kindly welcomed me to stay with them, and to the Copes who are so friendly and charitable in every way, as neighbours, friends and ecumenical supporters! It was such a great weekend, and special thanks to Andy Burgess for organizing everything so well, through phone calls and emails (all 10 of them, I counted!) and for his warm welcome. Please do pray for him and his family as they continue to settle in Sedbergh, for the church – and their vision and plan to reorder the back of the church to give more space for ministry, and for the wider Western Dales Mission Community and their outreach into the local community.


Thank you Sedbergh for such a great welcome! ❤️

6 thoughts on “CMS Link Visit @ Sedbergh, Cumbria ❤️”

  1. Thank you Catherine for your lovely anecdotes. God bless you every step you take. Hope to see you again if we visit Taiwan.

  2. Great to see Sedbergh again after moving away 10 years ago. Thanks Catherine. You did it ‘justice’. And how lovely to see that ‘happy’ face of yes “one of the world’s most cheerful Church Wardens” my good friend Susan who took me under her wings when my beloved husband left me to go ‘home’ to Heaven!
    It’s one of the wonderful things about being a Christian. Our Father brings people into our lives that we might never have met elsewhere. People who literally put their arms around us to welcome us. That’s what Susan and husband John did to me. Now l count them as 2 of my besties!
    And Sedbergh was really our home. We loved it.
    Blessings Catherine. We pray for you as you continue your journey of faith.
    With love.

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