Written during Easter week, and just published by the Church Mission Society, my latest CMS link letter ~ click on the link below…
Just published in the last few days by the Church Mission Society ~ my latest link letter, giving an overview of my 6-months home leave in the UK. Click on the link below, and it opens in pdf format.
Since writing that letter, I’ve discovered that the front cover of the Taiwan Episcopal Church diocesan magazine (Chinese edition) for the 4th quarter of 2018 featured my photo, presenting the Archbishop of Canterbury with an artillery shell cross on behalf of Bishop Lai. Feeling very honoured!
I returned to Taiwan on February 15, and since then I’ve been very busy moving house, now I’m back on the St. John’s University campus. Grateful thanks to all in the diocese, church and university who have helped to make this possible, especially facing the challenges of the damp weather ~ everything everywhere was covered in condensation for days, just gotta smile! 🙃😊🙃 Now I’m looking forward to some warmer dry weather. Soon I’ll be set up for visitors too ~ so do plan to come and visit!
PS Update on March 5, 2019: If you’ve read my link letter, in it you’ll see how I lament the no-photos policy in Durham Cathedral. Well today’s news report says that as from this coming Friday, the photo ban is to be lifted. The link is here. At last! Thank you Durham Cathedral. I’m not expecting to be there again for a long time to come, but yes, it’s great news for everyone!
YES YES YES!
Lots of smiling faces at our Church Mission Society conference last week – and my new variation on a group photo… Hey, why all stand in a long boring line when you can do oh so much more?
The conference was held at the King’s Park Conference Centre in Northampton…
And it was great! Great to meet so many old friends and make so many new ones, catch up with what’s what and who’s who, and listen and share and learn and enjoy. And be inspired too. The Bible studies were led by Rev. Anita Smith, former CMS mission partner in Nairobi, and they were brilliant. All on Jonah, and all really I.N.S.P.I.R.I.N.G. Lots of other worship and prayer times and sessions relevant to everyone and everything as well. And tons of good food. And some rest time in the afternoons for exercise in the parks at the back – where the snow and ice were oh so beautiful!
Thanks to all at CMS Oxford for their hard work, time and energy in organizing the conference. Being very modest, and very English, they all run away if I take out a camera, so you’ll just have to imagine what they all look like. But I did get one photo of the most wonderful couple, Tanas and Anne. Anne is our CMS personnel person for Asia and she does such a great job encouraging us all; emails from her always brighten my day, and make me smile. Thanks Anne – she’s one in a million!
While at the conference, CMS announced the appointment of the new CMS CEO, replacing Philip Mounstephen who left to become the new Bishop of Truro a few months ago. Please pray for Alistair Bateman, his family and CMS – the link is here.
Today is Chinese New Year’s Eve, and Taiwan is celebrating for the whole of this week. Your prayers are appreciated as I finish my time in the UK, say goodbye to family and friends, and prepare to leave the UK on Wednesday February 6, first for Dubai, then Sabah, Malaysia and finally arriving in Taiwan on Friday February 15. Hoping to write a CMS Link Letter somewhere en route. Watch this space, and thank you all!
Just spent the weekend at one of my favourite CMS Link Churches: Holy Trinity, Huddersfield, and this year, they celebrate their 200th anniversary, YES! Congratulations and thanks be to Almighty God!
I’ve been supported by Holy Trinity ever since I first joined CMS in 1989, and have been visiting every 3-4 years since then. My previous visit was in March 2015 (see that blog post here), and I’ve also kept in touch with several clergy and church leaders who have moved away, they’re all so wonderful! One such couple is Kevin and Sandra Partington, who were originally part of Holy Trinity Church, then he was ordained and I came across them again when Kevin became rector of Dewsbury Team Parish, one of my supporting link churches. Now they’re retired back to Huddersfield, and they came over on Saturday evening to visit, bringing 20 angels, all hand made by the team at Dewsbury Minster – I had ordered them on my visit there in October, and now they’re ready for me to take to Taiwan to give as gifts – aren’t they so lovely? (The angels that is – but so of course are Kevin and Sandra – and Tina too!)
Holy Trinity is a lively group of people, and I was delighted to go there this weekend, my last CMS Link Church visit of this home leave. The current vicar is Rev. Mike Wilkins, and he has a great leadership team, Steve – the curate, Wayne – the youth leader, Natasha – in charge of ministry among children and families, and many others including churchwardens, lay readers, pastoral workers – there’s names and photos of them all on the notice board…
I preached at the combined morning service at 10:00 am, followed by coffee in the church – and lots of photos!
After a delicious lunch at the vicarage, at 4:00 pm we had a confirmation service at Holy Trinity, where 7 new members of the church were confirmed…
The confirmation service was led by Rt. Rev. Dr. Jonathan Gibbs, Bishop of Huddersfield, one of 5 area bishops in the new Diocese of Leeds. I presented Mike and Jonathan with artillery shell crosses from Taiwan…
Holy Trinity Church is really growing, it’s great to see lots of people sitting in the upstairs balcony – and full downstairs! Many students from the nearby University of Huddersfield have made this their spiritual home, got involved in the music and other ministries, and it’s so encouraging to see a good many young people and families.
There’s at least 9 ‘Life Groups’ meeting during the week with a total of about 100 people. During yesterday’s service there was a report of their community review which has taken a year of knocking on the doors of the parish to find out what people need, want and would like to see their parish church doing. It’s quite a multicultural area with mixed housing, with many retired people, and also houses converted into student accommodation. Providing more activities for older people – and especially to combat loneliness – is one of the challenges for the church in the future.
One of the newest outreach activities is the Walking for Health group, meeting every Thursday morning in the nearby Greenhead Park, followed by coffee in the church. This is also being supported by the local authority, and is part of a nationwide attempt to improve people’s physical and mental health. Wish I could join!
Holy Trinity has long been an outward-looking, mission-minded church, and has been associated with, and supporting the Church Mission Society ever since the very beginning. This is from the churchwarden’s blog on the church website, under ‘No. 3: Holy Trinity – a giving church’…
“Holy Trinity is a ‘tithing’ church. This means that the church gives away 10% of its income to God’s work elsewhere. The Mission Support Team co-ordinates this giving which is shared between 6 agencies in the UK and abroad. This giving is in addition to the Parish Share, (which is our contribution to the diocese for funding the wider work of the church and paying the clergy costs) which is around £50,000 per year.
The Church Missionary Society (CMS) has been supported by Holy Trinity since the church’s beginning. Benjamin Haigh Allen the founder of Holy Trinity, was also a founder member of the Huddersfield CMS branch in 1813, aged just 20. CMS sent Rev Henry Maddock on a preaching tour that visited Huddersfield in 1814. CMS was collecting subscriptions to educate and provide for African children recently released from slavery. The donors were entitled to name the slave child. Allen gave a £5 subscription and named a child ‘Sarah Whitacre’ after his fiancé whom he was soon to marry. Allen also appointed Maddock to be Holy Trinity’s first minister.
The campaign to abolish slavery was led by the Yorkshire MP, William Wilberforce, who visited Allen and stayed at Greenhead several times. Slavery was finally abolished throughout the British Empire in 1834. In 1899, through CMS, Holy Trinity joined the ‘Our-Own-Missionary’ scheme and £184 was given to support the work of Annie Graham in Hangchow, China where she worked until 1918.
A well-loved Holy Trinity couple, Clem and Mary Davies, upon their retirement served at the Ngora Hospital, in Uganda through CMS in 1972, returning to Huddersfield in the mid-1980s. Jillian Cossar, was Holy Trinity’s next C.M.S. link missionary she served in Kenya until September 1988. Our current CMS link is Catherine Lee who taught in schools in Mwanza and Dodoma in Tanzania. Since 1999 Catherine has been in Taiwan, at first teaching in Taichung and now supporting the church, chaplaincy and kindergarten ministry of the Diocese of Taiwan in Taipei.
Our mission partners remind us all that we are all called to serve God in our lives – indeed our church strapline is ‘Loving God, Loving Huddersfield’ which reflects this. Our God is a generous God and as a church we have learnt time and time again that we cannot out-give Him and that we should be generous with His gifts to us for the benefit of others.”
I’m posting this blog in Birmingham, where I’m now staying with Mike’s predecessor at Holy Trinity – the former vicar, Calvert Prentis and his wife, Sharon ~ such gracious people, and Sharon really makes me laugh. She once came to visit me in Taiwan and it was such fun ~ just don’t mention those Taiwan cockroaches! Ah, Holy Trinity is full of such smiling people!
I finished my visit to Holy Trinity by attending the Little Lights Toddler Group this morning in the church – they are all so gorgeous and I had great fun playing with them all! Thanks to Mike, Steve and all the mission support team, pictured here, for their hard work over the years, and especially to Tina for her welcome to stay at her home this weekend.
Really loved it, really appreciate it all, thank you. And wishing Holy Trinity well as they prepare for their next 200 years of ministry in the exciting Yorkshire town of Huddersfield!
Spells of sleet, hail, snow, rain and sun accompanied me on Tuesday as I drove north up the A41 through Shropshire and Cheshire, passing signposts to places I am sure I had never heard of before, let alone ever been to – Tong, Weston-under-Lizard, Crackleybank, Child’s Ercall, Whitchurch, Malpas, No Man’s Heath. What evocative place-names. And the sleet, hail, snow, rain and sun continued on into the afternoon as I rolled into Chester, that great city of the north, not far from the Welsh border. And by the time Wednesday morning arrived, there was a thin layer of white snow everywhere, glistening in the sun, and Chester looked beautiful.
So pleased I was to have a day off from driving too. This is my ‘new’ car, picked up from London last week, in exchange for my silver VW Polo that had served me well, but was no longer running as smoothly as I wanted it to, so I’ve exchanged it for this – blue is just sooo much nicer than silver! Anyway, though the roads and paths in Chester on Wednesday morning were icy and fairly treacherous, but hey, how could I stay indoors when I just saw my first real snow of winter?
I was in Chester, invited by my good friends, Peter and Vicki. I had also visited them over the Remembrance Day weekend in November, so this was my second visit on this home leave – I just can’t keep away! Peter is senior chaplain at the University of Chester (see their really good chaplaincy website here), and on Wednesdays at 5:30 pm, they have a chapel service. I was invited to speak, and share a little about CMS and Taiwan ~ and also presented the chaplains with an artillery shell cross…
On Tuesday evening I joined the chaplaincy team, staff and students for a yummy dinner, and on Wednesday after the service, we also had a meal together. I got to meet the other chaplains and staff, plus a whole host of lively students studying all sorts of things, all full of interesting conversation. The very top photo was taken of a group meeting in the chaplaincy house on Wednesday afternoon. A few I met at the chapel service were international students – particularly delightful were identical twins from Malaysia, so lovely! Thanks to Peter and Vicki for their hospitality, and to all in the chaplaincy for their very warm welcome!
And in-between the chaplaincy events, so I went into Chester to see the cathedral, and walk around the walls. The walls are amazing. Saw so much – the streets, castle, racecourse, river, shops, the famous clock and more.
I had visited Chester Cathedral for the first time in 2015 (see my photos of that trip here), and also been on the cathedral tower tour on that same visit. It was so much fun then, so on this snowy Wednesday morning, well I just had to go again.
The tower tour of the cathedral is really a bargain – in the world of cathedral tower tours that is – and it was so beautiful up there at the top, looking down on all of Chester, and out at the Welsh mountains covered in snow. Loved it all!
Let’s face it, Chester Cathedral is very medieval – everything about it is dark and heavy and old and sombre. It’s built of red-brown sandstone, so while that colour makes for a stunning appearance on the outside, is also makes it very dark inside. There’s a great view down on the nave as part of the tower tour. As we stood above the altar looking along and down, so it’s easy to imagine what it must have been like in the Middle Ages. Oozing with atmosphere. You can kinda imagine all those ancient monks creeping along to their services in the dead of night. Eerie stuff.
And in my humble opinion the very best thing inside Chester Cathedral is the west window, with all the northern saints pictured on it. Love it!
There’s another colourful window in the cathedral café. Love that one too!
And there’s currently an art exhibition in the cathedral, called ‘Knit One Share One’, of characters and stories from the Bible – all of them knitted. It is so much fun, so delightful and really brightens up the place. You just gotta smile when you see all the knitted characters like David and Goliath, the Last Supper, Zacchaeus, the Wedding at Cana. They’re gorgeous!
And on Thursday morning, we woke to the sound of rain on the roof; the snow had mostly all gone in Chester itself. As I set off in my little blue car for further north, so the clouds rolled in, the fog came down – and by the time I arrived here in the Lake District, you could hardly see a thing, except patches of snow in the mist. Kind of ethereal. Ah, snow, it was great while it lasted – and the snow and daffodils at the back of Chester Cathedral did look stunning yesterday….
Snow, Sun and Smiles ~ thanks Chester for supplying them all, plus the daffodils. A great combination. And what a great welcome from the city and chaplaincy. You’ve made my winter, you really have!
So said Bill Bryson, famous author and chancellor of Durham University – describing Durham as ‘a perfect little city’ and ‘one of the most beautiful little cities in the world’. So if Bill Bryson said it, then of course it must be true. But hey, the people are great too – all smiling away!
This past weekend I was honoured to visit 2 churches in Durham, St. John’s Church, Neville’s Cross and St. Edmund’s Church, Bearpark, and give a sermon in each. These are actually in 2 different benefices, and I have been linked with both for many years. My last visit to St. John’s was in February 2015 (see that blog post here), my last visit to Bearpark was possibly 7 years ago. Nevertheless, a very warm welcome awaited in each place! I stayed with Mike and Nicky, who have each visited Taiwan in the past few years with daughter Harriet, they kindly provided meals, transport, advice, fun and friendship all weekend – ah, it was great!
First to St. Edmund’s Church, Bearpark (see above photo) – an old coal mining village just 2 miles west of Durham. The mines ran from 1872 – 1984, there’s the miners’ banner hanging in the church, along with other memorabilia, also a list of all the men and boys killed in the mine. Very sad, such dangerous work.
We had 16 in the congregation on Sunday. Special thanks to Joan, Enid, Pat and Susan who run many of the church events and activities at Bearpark – all faithfully serving God and the church there. The salt of the earth, really wonderful ladies. But all are worried about the future of Bearpark church, with decreasing numbers, an aging congregation and few young people ~ a challenge faced by many churches in the UK. Pray for them.
The service on Sunday at 9:00 am was led by Rev Alan Bartlett, who is on the staff of the diocese but lives in the village – here he is with Mike, who kindly took me there….
A quick cup of coffee with the congregation and off back to Durham to St. John’s Church, Neville’s Cross (just 15 minutes from the centre of Durham). The church is filled with a great mix of interesting people, many involved in the university as students or academics, plus quite a few young people and a great leadership team. This was the church on Sunday morning, with Nicky in front!
Our first event of the weekend was actually a ‘bring and share’ supper on Saturday night, after which I shared my Taiwan power point. Lovely to see many friends, old and new. Rev. Barney Huish, the vicar, was also there, he’s the very youthful-looking one in the blue stripey jumper!
On Sunday morning, I gave the sermon at the 10:30 am service, followed by coffee and a small discussion group. Great! Delighted to welcome Stephanie who was my colleague many years ago in Heighington School and who has also visited Taiwan in recent years. Also met Pat, whose husband Rev. Raymond Hay served for 3 months as chaplain to the English congregation at St. James’ Church, Taichung, Taiwan in 1998, only a year before I arrived there. It’s a small world! Sunday’s service was led by lay reader, Mike, and vicar, Barney, and Barney was very moved to receive one of Bishop Lai’s artillery shell crosses. He put it on display for everyone to look at, and encouraged them all to light a candle and pray for peace.
On Monday I went to the church morning prayer service, and met my former teacher, Douglas who was in fine form (on the right below, next to Nicky). In the middle is Abby, the St. John’s children’s worker, and tomorrow, off I go with her to do a school assembly. There’s also Peter, retired priest from Spennymoor. Really lovely people, all of ’em!
So many many thanks to all in Durham for your warm welcomes, I really appreciate all your support over the years! Durham is indeed a ‘perfect little city’ partly cos of all the friendly people, but it does help that they also have an amazing cathedral ~ this is the inside of Durham Cathedral, where we attended Choral Evensong on Sunday afternoon. Check it out ~ it’s oh so beautiful!
I love Durham, YES!
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!
Beccles in Suffolk is not just beautiful, it’s also busy, though you wouldn’t think so if you looked at the roads at a weekend – all empty! But relaxing in the restaurants, climbing up the tower, and out on the boats at the quayside, there were lots of people. And this past weekend it was very blowy and blustery too ~ real hold-onto-yer-hats weather. Ah yes, I love a bit of fresh air!
Beccles is a charming old town (town sign photo above shows Queen Elizabeth I granting the town charter in 1584), full of quaint houses and lovely people, and this past Saturday the sun was out, the sky was blue, and it was perfect for a walk around: and so, welcome to beautiful Beccles!
I’ve been supported by the Beccles Parish of St. Michael’s – that’s the church in town, and St. Luke’s on the outskirts, for many many years. My previous visit to Beccles was in February 2015 (see that report and photos here), when it was very cold and instead of meeting in the church, we met in the nearby Waveney Centre, which overlooks the River Waveney, down below. Great views of the river around the town, and boats all over…
Beccles was once a river port, which explains why the church tower is built at the wrong end of the church, to stop it falling off a large cliff down near the river. The Beccles Bell Tower is 30 m (97 ft) tall, free-standing, and was sold to the district council for the price of one penny. So the council own it and on Saturday it was open to the public, £2.50 entrance fee to climb the 120+ steps to see a glorious view over the town and river.
St. Michael’s Church is a huge building, with large noticeboards of all their mission activities. This church is VERY supportive of CMS!
Since my last visit, sadly, we’ve lost Guenever who was the former leader of the CMS mission support group, but we give thanks to God for her life and ministry over the years. Her son, Philip was ordained a few years ago, and now serves in a parish not far from the town. Since my last visit also, Beccles has a new vicar, Rev. Rich Henderson, who was once the curate, so I’ve known him for many years too. He is assisted by 3 (yes, three!) curates. Wonderful! He also has a whole group of retired clergy living in Beccles who help out, and one lovely retired bishop, Gavin Reid, who was running the parish during the interregnum when I was last there. One of the retired priests, Peter Langford has famously just completed the Lands End to John O’Groats cycle ride – aged 85, and it’s his 3rd trip, his first was to celebrate his 75th birthday, his second at 80, and now his third at 85. His son kept a daily blog of the ride, see here. Amazing! This is Rich and Peter…
Many thanks to Keith for his welcome and hospitality, and taking me around from place to place. We started off on Saturday evening with a ‘bring-and-share’ evening at St. Luke’s Church, and I showed everyone my powerpoint about Taiwan. What a great evening, and wonderful food!
On Sunday, I shared a little in an interview at the morning service at St. Michael’s Church. The church is currently focusing on the theme of ‘Extravagant Welcome’ and has a sermon series on ‘Hospitality, Inclusivity and Diversity’. So on Sunday, I also had the chance to hear a great sermon on Inclusivity from Ben, one of the curates.
This is Anne (below right, with me), a long-time and very faithful CMS supporter, who many years ago taught in Uganda; and Keith, and his double, Ray (below left) ~ and no they’re not related!
On Sunday evening, there was an informal and very moving service, and I gave the sermon. These lovely people who came along deserve a medal, some were hearing me speak for the third time in one weekend ~ and they were still smiling!
And on Monday, the sun long gone, replaced by drizzle and fog, and Keith led the way as I said goodbye to Beccles and we headed over to Norwich to join the Norwich CMS Prayer Group (kindly invited by Louise Wright, former CMS mission partner in DR Congo – in the middle below) ~ where I had the chance to share about what’s going on in Taiwan. My first visit to that group – thanks to them all for their warm welcome and their great prayer support for CMS!
So a big thank you to Rich and Keith ~ and all the great people of beautiful and very blustery Beccles. I received a wonderful welcome from one and all, and am grateful for many many years of prayer and support for me and CMS. Thanks be to Almighty God for providing such faithful supporters and friends. And to finish, some of Keith’s plants that grace his garden – beautiful!
Off to Oxford for 2 days ~ yippee! Main purpose – to visit CMS Church Mission Society HQ today – to meet all the wonderful people who work there and share with them a little about life in Taiwan. Oh, and to give them all a few smarties, glitter, bubbles – and fun. After all there they are, working hard all day long. Helping us. Supporting us. Always cheerful. Always ready to stop their work and welcome visitors like me. Ah yes, I’m so happy to visit them all 😊😊😊 – and this is the place, on the outskirts of Oxford….
But first a day of soaking up the Oxford Vibes….
Yes, a whole day yesterday in that great city of learning, the ‘city of dreaming spires’ ~ Oxford! What a city, what a university, and what glorious weather!
I admit, I’m not an Oxford person. I can’t recognise any college or building or landmark, haven’t got a clue what the colleges are, nor why they’re famous, other than just being part of Oxford University. So all I can tell you is that the buildings and colleges are beautiful, and spires are many. Spires and steeples and towers and gargoyles and churches and chapels everywhere.
And amazing autumn trees…
And some street art, especially on the Cowley Road – this poem, ‘Slowly Slowly Cowley Road,’ by Steve Larkin…
And I found a tower, belonging to the university church of St. Mary’s. It’s £4 to go up, and well worth it on a beautiful day. Great views of the Radcliffe Camera and lots of colleges. Do as I did and tag along with people who know what they’re looking at!
I spent hours walking the streets and looking at everything. What a great city!
This is the area around Christ Church Cathedral, which is also the college chapel of Christ Church. £8 entrance fee, so I didn’t go in – too much else to see. And yes, there was a field of cows there too…
Came back along the Iffley Rd ~ Roger Bannister’s famous 4-minute mile was done here!
Other scenes along the Iffley Rd, including the Mad Hatter Pub…
And The Oxford Blue….
And so to CMS HQ today. And it was quite some day. Non-stop action all day long. So many old friends and new, and lots to catch up on. And photos to take. Did a short talk about Taiwan at lunchtime. And I was very well looked after for the whole day by Anne, who smiled all day long. Ever cheerful. The salt of the earth. We all love her to bits. Spot her in the photos below, we’re the ones in red!
These are all the great people who spent 30 minutes listening to me talking non-stop about Taiwan…. and they were still smiling at the end ~ YES!
I presented CMS with an artillery shell cross from Bishop Lai and the Diocese of Taiwan, one for CMS, and one also for our CEO Philip Mounstephen as he leaves to become the new Bishop of Truro. He wasn’t there today, so everyone else posed for a photo on his behalf instead! Actually, Bishop Lai called me earlier this morning from Taiwan, and so I brought greetings from him to everyone at CMS.
A big thank you to all those who made my visit to Oxford today really wonderful – including those in the CMS house where I was given a warm welcome. And special thanks to all those in CMS HQ, these guys have been taking such good care of me all these years. Y’know, CMS is a great group of people, and I love ’em to bits. God is so good!
Setting the scene, ‘Welcome to Worship’ ~ with a beautiful photo of Yushan, Mt. Jade – Taiwan’s highest mountain…..
And the sun was out at St. Helen’s Church, Sandal Magna, Wakefield, W. Yorks as I arrived on Saturday afternoon for my CMS Link Visit to the Parish of Sandal Magna – which also includes their daughter church of St. Paul’s, Walton ~ and it was quite some weekend!
These lovely people have supported me and CMS (Church Mission Society) for many many years, since 1989 in fact, and every time I visit, they always roll out the red carpet! What’s more, their vicar, Rev. Rupert Martin just loves art and the church is beautifully decorated with works of art ~ he also loves taking photos, so hey, worshiping there is just like in Taiwan – photos galore of smiling people! Photos in fact of everybody except Rupert’s lovely wife, Sally (spot her in the distance in one photo only!) but she rarely stopped still long enough to have any photos taken ~ the vicarage cat, on the other hand, barely moved all weekend, and enjoyed the heat of the radiator ~ so, well there it is!
My previous visit was on Advent Sunday 2014 (see that report here), when it was the 5th Sunday of November and we had a joint service at Walton on that occasion – while over at St. Helen’s, they had just opened the most beautiful Tree of Life Memorial Garden ~ and there are now many leaves added to the Tree of Life in memory of those who have died. It is really stunning and so meaningful to have this memorial garden in the churchyard.
First though, a visit to nearby Sandal Castle as the sun was just going down…
On Sunday, I did the sermon at both the 9:15 and 10:45 services at St. Helen’s….
And I also gave Rupert one of Taiwan’s artillery shell crosses….
And in-between the services there was coffee, and the second service was followed by their monthly baked potato lunch – so yummy! I also visited Mavis in Walton, one of my dearest friends, she has been so faithful over the decades in her support – I gave her an artillery shell cross. She is the salt of the earth!
There’s about 200 people in total at St. Helen’s and St. Paul’s on any given Sunday, but about 2,000 who are reached through the week, via The Spring Shop and Cafe, the CAP (Christians Against Poverty) project, school assemblies and all the other outreach ministries. Lots of exciting things going on!
I loved staying at the vicarage all weekend, such a nice welcome ~ and on Sunday afternoon, we went to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park where there were 2 interesting exhibitions, Guiseppe Penone, ‘A Tree in the Wood’…
and THE most beautiful exhibition in the chapel by a Japanese artist – from Osaka – Chiharu Shiota, ‘Beyond Time’ – I LOVE THIS! Spot Sally and Rupert gazing upwards!
So, thanks, and more thanks to all at St. Helen’s and Sandal Parish for such a warm welcome and for all their great support over the years, they are amazing! Much appreciated. Love them to bits!
And thanks be to Almighty God for his many blessings, and such good friends and supporters around the country!