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!