CMS Link Visit @ Dewsbury Minster, W. Yorkshire ❤️

Yesterday, October 10, was St. Paulinus’ Day, the date Paulinus of York died in AD 644, though he didn’t die in York, but in Rochester where he later became bishop, and where he is buried. Paulinus got around quite a bit, coming from Rome to England to share the Gospel. He became the first Bishop of York, and in AD 627, he preached in Dewsbury, which has an ancient stone with the carved words, “Hic Paulinus praedicavit et celebravit” meaning “Here Paulinus preached and celebrated”. “In Anglo-Saxon times, Dewsbury was a centre of considerable importance. The ecclesiastical parish of Dewsbury encompassed Huddersfield, Mirfield and Bradford”. Dewsbury is on the River Calder, and the place where Paulinus is thought to have preached is the site today of Dewsbury Minster, one of my link churches and where I visited this past weekend. What a great history!

Fast forward to the 1770’s, and the construction of the canal, linking Dewsbury to Manchester and Hull, access to coal mines, and then the building of the railway in 1848, so the Industrial Revolution saw Dewsbury develop into a major centre for textiles. William Blake’s so-called ‘dark, satanic mills’ sprang up all over the area, along with rows of housing for the workers. The mills started to decline in the 1960’s and 70’s, and these days they’re now making mattresses or turned into beautiful apartment buildings. Massive immigration into the area started in the 1960’s, and there is now a large Muslim community, mostly of Pakistani and Indian origin or descent. Large areas of the town are classified as deprived, and there are huge challenges.

Walking around a very empty, but lovely and sunny Dewsbury Town Centre early on Sunday morning, it’s not difficult to see what some of those challenges are. With 3 large supermarket chains now established in Dewsbury, so the actual town centre is in decline, and the shops are dominated by bookmakers, slot machines/casinos, discount stores, coffee shops and pubs, while smaller shops specialize in Polish, Asian or Middle-Eastern goods, and the main Dewsbury Market is clearly more or less closed down.

Just across the road at Dewsbury Minster, though, the church is humming with activity early on a Sunday morning. The sound team arrive very early to set up the “Dewsbury Minster of All Saints” Facebook Livestream of the main service, starting at 10:30 am….

There are stalls set up in the main church entrance of ‘Heavenly Handmade’ knitted goods and shoeboxes ready for filling for Christmas, and people coming and going. There’s even a knitted bicycle up in the rafters with AD 627 on the wheel. Ah, yes, it’s a happening place!

In the minster Heritage Centre, I persuaded Rev. Neil Walpole to stand for a photo in front of the exhibit of the preaching cross where Paulinus preached, now also used temporarily for storing gifts for the food bank. I am sure Paulinus would approve.

Neil has just been licensed as Associate Priest in the Benefice of Dewsbury. The rector, Rev. Simon Cash is receiving medical treatment and is currently unable to be at the services. It was Simon who invited me to come and visit Dewsbury on the eve of St. Paulinus Day. There are several other clergy helping out, and also Anne, reader emeritus, who has been supporting me for many many years. There’s also Rev. Elizabeth Lee, now retired, but we share the same surname, so have to have a photo together! Please do pray for Simon, Neil, Anne and all the team at Dewsbury Team Parish.

The services at Dewsbury Minster are always beautiful, worshipful and uplifting. They have a new organist, a young man aged about 16, who is amazing, and plays with great skill and enthusiasm. I preached the sermon, and we had Holy Communion too. Here, the priest wears a facemask for the Holy Communion, and only the bread is distributed. Different churches have different rules and customs for the pandemic.

After the service there was coffee…..

Anne and some of the ladies kindly invited me to join them for lunch. Over lunch, I asked them all to share with me some of the good things that were happening in Dewsbury and that were not immediately obvious when walking around the town. We discussed local government initiatives, the town council and the local MP. One of the ladies said that the best thing in Dewsbury was ‘Churches Together’, and everyone else agreed. They were all impressed how the churches in Dewsbury join together (although they expressed disappointment that the evangelical and RC churches were invited, but didn’t participate) for so many wonderful services and outreach activities, particularly mentioning the Baptists, Elim Pentecostal, and the URC Church which is just over the road.

The most exciting outreach project in Dewsbury is clearly the bus, Destination 211, which Neil is running. I’ve also found this article here on their diocesan website, which tells you about it. Currently, the bus goes out to serve 2 needy areas of Dewsbury. Large numbers of children and families come to the bus straight from school and enjoy crafts, games, Bible stories and verses, and lots of fun. It’s clearly a very worthwhile ministry. Please do check it out and consider supporting it. So perhaps it’s quite appropriate that outside Dewsbury Town Hall is a sculpture of the Good Samaritan…

Ah, yes, it was a wonderful visit to Dewsbury! Special thanks to the lovely couple who hosted me for the night, and have the most amazing house on top of the moors, an old shop that became a post office, and is now set up with a model railway, and each room decorated in a different style, there’s Art Deco in one room, Georgian in another and Victorian in another!

Thank you to everyone at Dewsbury Minster for all your support over the years, and long may we all continue to work together, supporting each other, going to the edges with the good news of the Gospel, and crossing borders and frontiers in mission! YES!

PS Updated October 12, 2022: At the Dewsbury Minster PCC Meeting on October 10, the decision was made to continue financial support for my ministry with Church Mission Society CMS, with an annual donation of £100, which is great news. Thank you! I understand that at that meeting, there was mention of the historical connection between Dewsbury Minster and CMS, and I did write a bit about that in my blog post after my visit there in 2015. In 1813, vicar John Buckworth set up in Dewsbury the first CMS association outside London. He also helped train missionaries for service overseas, and in 1815 two of them were sent out by CMS as the first priest missionaries to North India, and 2 more were sent to South India the following year. The CMS theme is ‘With Jesus, with each other, to the edges’, which is kind of what my sermon was about, and it’s clear that it’s what Dewsbury has been doing all along. Long may they continue!

4 thoughts on “CMS Link Visit @ Dewsbury Minster, W. Yorkshire ❤️”

  1. Thanks, Catherine, for your write up about the town and our Christian heritage. Great to see you again. I hope you are soon better. I’m still OK.

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