Tag Archives: Yorkshire

CMS Link Visit @ Sandal & Walton, Wakefield ❤️

St. Helen’s, Sandal

Without a doubt, the very best thing about Wakefield is definitely the very lovely people of Sandal Magna Parish! The parish includes St. Helen’s Church, Sandal Magna and the nearby St. Paul’s Church, Walton, plus the area of Portobello. Among many other things, they run a wonderful community shop and cafe, known as The Spring, it’s a great ministry. I was in Sandal this past weekend, which included bonfire night, so we started the visit with Sandal’s community bonfire and fireworks. All free, and ah it was fun!

St. Helen’s, Sandal

In contrast, the very worst thing about Wakefield is, also without a doubt – for me anyway – the journey there and back. On a map, Wakefield looks to be in the middle of a huge urban sprawl of West Yorkshire cities and towns, with motorways, bypasses and roundabouts that confuse even the best satnav, and in autumn with the dark and rain, means that any journey from here to there is, let’s face it, not one of life’s greatest pleasures! 😭🤣 And if it involves driving round the Bradford bypass on a Saturday afternoon when Bradford City are playing at home, well, it’s almost the stuff of nightmares ~ which all means that I’m so happy to actually arrive, that I appreciate their warm welcomes even more! 😊😊

St. Helen’s, Sandal

Sandal Magna is on the south side of Wakefield, along the Barnsley Road, and St. Helen’s Church (named after Helen, the mother of Emperor Constantine the Great) may be dark and austere on the outside, but inside it is warm and welcoming. There’s lots of beautiful artwork filling the church, on the altar, in the side chapels, and the children’s area is especially colourful, check it out below!

St. Helen’s, Sandal

Much of this art and all the many projects were introduced to the church under the artistic leadership of the much-loved previous rector, Rev. Rupert Martin and his wife Sally, who retired last year after 26 years at Sandal. They’ve now moved to Bristol and long ago invited me to visit – but I’m running out of time, and Bristol is way off my beaten track. Sorry Rupert and Sally! They were also responsible for the Tree of Life Memorial Garden at the back of the church, which continues to this day, though there are ongoing challenges maintaining the stones and clearing the weeds around the stones ~ fortunately it’s still looking good!

When Rupert and Sally retired, the church and diocese made the wise decision to sell the large and lonely Sandal Vicarage, which was old, cold and sandwiched between the church and a car dealership. The diocese is in the process of buying a house for a new vicarage, but no news yet. Their new vicar, Rev. Hannah Smith was only installed 2 months ago, check out this report of the event here in the Wakefield Express. A big welcome to Hannah! Everyone is so pleased to have a new vicar at last, and so happy that she’s settling in, listening and learning all about the parish, visiting all the congregation, and getting to know everyone. Please do pray for Hannah, she is very clearly called to this new ministry, and has many gifts that will help develop and lead the church forward. Currently she’s living in temporary accommodation in the parish, and it will be good for her to be able to settle into a new vicarage once the sale is complete.

Hannah is assisted by Ruth, who runs the church office…

A big thank you to Neale and Olivia who kindly welcomed me to stay overnight in their home, and took me to the fireworks too. Here they are in front of the church, and inside the church with John the organist and Andrea, one of the churchwardens….

There are 2 Sunday services, one at 9:30 am and one at 11:00 am. I did the sermon for the first service, which had a much larger congregation than I was expecting – and a talented choir too….

Followed by coffee in the rooms at the back of the church….

And then I rushed off to St. Paul’s, Walton for their service at 11:00 am. Walton has a strong lay leadership team, and really good church premises…

St. Paul’s, Walton

The service was led by lay leader, Susan Lee, who informed me that there were 2 Lees in the church, herself and Rose Lee, so the 3 of us had our photo taken together. Ah yes, the 3 Lee sisters!

Three Lee sisters!

The service was the only service at St. Paul’s that day, and had lovely music, and beautiful flowers!

After the service, we had a shared lunch, their first one since the pandemic. The food was delicious, especially the puddings! Hannah and a group from St. Helen’s also joined us for lunch, after which I gave a short talk followed by questions. There were lots of good questions!

And finally, off I went with Hannah to visit Mavis, one of the original overseas mission committee in Sandal who set up the CMS link with me as long ago as 1989. In those days, the committee was chaired by Derek Wales, the connection then being that the Diocese of Wakefield had a companion diocese partnership with the Diocese of Mara, Tanzania, which is where I went for language school many moons ago. This is us with Mavis and her good friend Teddy….

Ah yes, such a great weekend, renewing friendships and reconnecting with all the lovely people of Wakefield. Thank you to everyone in Sandal and Walton for a wonderful weekend and for all your support over the years, so very much appreciated!❤️

PS This is the live stream of Sunday’s service on YouTube, my sermon starts at about 20 minutes in. I’ve just watched it, the sermon is definitely a little wacky, but anyway, do check it out!

Bumper Weekend of CMS Link Visits @ Co. Durham❤️

Yes, it was quite a weekend! Full of church visits and meeting lots of great people in Co. Durham, starting on a very autumnal murky day at St. John’s Church, Neville’s Cross, on the west side of Durham….

St. John’s, Neville’s Cross

The church is a modest building that’s currently got scaffolding in the chancel to deal with falling plaster, which kind of adds a new perspective to worship, but there’s also lots of colourful banners on the walls too. Last week, the church had a half-term holiday club on the theme of scarecrows, and several of the scarecrows and other artworks were decorating the church. It may have been a dull and miserable autumn day outside, but inside it was definitely warm and cheerful, full of light and joy!

Durham has been in News reports in the last few weeks with scenes of university students queueing overnight, desperate to get somewhere to live for September 2023 ~ it seems there’s way too many students for such a small city. Out at Neville’s Cross, there’s a big mixture of people who have made St. John’s their home – many connected with the diocese and/or university, including the theological college at Cranmer Hall. Spot at least one hospital chaplain, one ordinand, one archdeacon, one bishop’s wife, one retired vicar, one theology professor – and their families in the photos below. It’s always a challenge doing the sermon in such a place, trying hard not to feel too intimidated! 🤣🤣

The rector, Rev. Barnaby Huish is also in charge of other churches in the area and has deanery responsibilities, and he was also away this weekend for half term, so I didn’t get to see him. The services on Sunday were taken by Rev. Nicky Chater, assisted by husband Mike as lay reader. They kindly welcomed me to stay at their home for the whole weekend, along with their very lively dog and quietly assertive cat, though we missed the children, Harriet and Peter. Harriet has visited Taiwan twice, in 2014 with her father to celebrate the end of her GCSEs, and then with her mother after her A-Levels in 2016 (see that blog post here), such happy memories! Among many other things, Nicky is now diocesan chaplain to the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities – for more details, check out these articles in the Travellers Times and The Guardian ~ it’s a really amazing ministry.

Nicky and Mike Chater

There were 2 services on Sunday, at 8:45 am and 10:30 am (with a very talented music group playing for the second service, led by music director Amy) and there was also an afternoon event with Taiwan food and me sharing a PowerPoint about Taiwan. I also went to the church house group on Monday night where Jo the churchwarden led the discussion on topics related to my sermon, plus Nicky and Mike invited different church friends to meals at home. It was all wonderful ~ they are such a friendly and very lovely church! Special thanks to Adriel, from Singapore who provided a lot of challenging insights, as well as all the Taiwan / Chinese food …..

Yummy Yummy!

On Monday, I spent all day at Heighington, near Darlington, meeting up with so many friends, former colleagues and pupils. Heighington is officially my home church ~ having gone from there to Tanzania in 1990, and then on to Taiwan in 1999, all with the Church Mission Society (CMS), though this time we just arranged an informal visit, and the vicar, Rev. Lissa Scott was away on holiday. The village is very scenic, with a large village green, where they are collecting wood for bonfire night.

The day started with former head of Heighington Primary School, George Dixon, inviting me and our former colleagues round for coffee – George is nearly 89 and has the same enthusiasm for life as he always had, he’s still playing the organ and leading choirs, plus driving his caravan to the Lake District!

In the afternoon, I had arranged to go along to the Heighington Church Monday afternoon drop-in coffee hour, which attracts lots of people each week, including many who are not particularly part of the church. The curate, Rev. David Lucas was there, in charge of St. Matthew and St. Luke’s Church, Darlington, another of my link churches. There was also a 90th birthday celebration for one of the ladies, here they all are getting ready…

It was great to see so many friends, many were parents of children I taught at Heighington School – or pupils themselves, now with children in the same school. Thanks to Pat for organising it all, and inviting me to lunch, plus Gordon and Michelle, now returned from Canada, who invited me for tea. It was Halloween, and children and their parents were out on the streets tricking and treating. Ah, it was such a great day, just wish I had more time of course to talk to everyone!

Tuesday November 1 was All Saints Day, and I was invited to speak at the evening service at another link church, St. Andrew’s Church, Tudhoe Grange, Spennymoor, where the vicar, Rev. John Livesley and his family also welcomed me for tea. But first, I visited their former vicar, Rev. Neville Baker and his wife, Jean, now living right on the sea in Whitburn, up near Sunderland – we had such a lovely lunch and walk. Neville, now 87, reminisced about taking a group from St. Andrew’s to attend my CMS commissioning service in Heighington just before I left for Tanzania in January 1990, where he met my parents – he remembers everything in so much detail!

And so to Tudhoe Grange for the All Saints Day service. St. Andrew’s Church is unique among all my link churches in that it is affiliated with ‘Forward in Faith‘ and comes under the pastoral care of the Bishop of Beverley, and it’s really interesting for me to see how the church has moved considerably – and very happily – ‘up the candle’ (as they say!) since I was first linked with them. Everyone in the church says that Fr. John is so lovely that the congregation has willingly moved with him!

In this fairly unique arrangement, the vicar is in charge of 2 churches, as is common, but the other church is quite some way over in Bowburn, just outside Durham – and in a different deanery. Very noticeably, in between the two stands a brand new and very large Amazon Distribution Centre, complete with new roundabouts and roads. A sign of the times indeed. St. Andrew’s itself is built in an area of Spennymoor that originally housed workers of the old iron works. The air is much cleaner these days, and has become quite a desirable area to retire to, cheaper than Durham but easily accessible to the city.

St. Andrew’s, Tudhoe Grange

St. Andrew’s has just completed a reordering project in the left aisle of the church, taking out the pews and using 4 of them to make a big table (with new chairs coming from the old Darlington Memorial Hospital Chapel), installing a kitchen and toilet, and making the whole place so much more accessible and welcoming. With the church hall being hired out to many different community organizations, so the church can use their own space for things like messy church and children’s holiday club activities – there’s lots of children in St. Andrew’s these days! With many churches reporting how difficult it is to resume children and youth activities since the pandemic, it’s really encouraging to see the way St. Andrew’s has grown and flourished.

The All Saints service was led by a very lively and friendly retired priest, Fr. Michael Thompson, who turned out to have once been vicar of North Hartismere area of northern Suffolk, neighbouring benefice to my link churches in South Hartismere, and where my good friend and former CMS regional manager for Asia, Adrian Watkins, is now vicar, and where I’ll be visiting in a few weeks time. We had to take this photo for mutual friends in Suffolk – Betty Wells, this is for you!

Thanks to Fr. John, Fr. Michael and everyone at St. Andrew’s for such a warm welcome! They were having a big service for All Soul’s Day yesterday too, so the numbers were expected to be much lower for All Saints, and in the event, most of those in the church building were actually part of the choir and procession ~ with incredible anthems of choral music directed by Fr. John, himself a former choirboy of Manchester Cathedral. They raised the roof with such inspiring and beautiful worship!

Despite spending 4 nights in Durham and driving around the city, and spotting the cathedral in the distance, unfortunately I didn’t have any time to visit the city centre and walk around. However, I had spent 24 hours in York on my way to Durham, visiting my very energetic and lovely friend Shelagh, formerly with CMS in many different countries in Asia, and we walked around the whole of the York City walls on a beautifully sunny Friday afternoon last week. Gotta share those photos with you all ~ thank you Shelagh!

And finally, I left Co. Durham via a visit to a RC priest friend, formerly in language school with me in Musoma, Tanzania, and now in charge of 3 churches in Stockton. There was lots to catch up on, not least news of the pandemic and how he, his church, and his diocese have been affected. So many stories. He took me for breakfast, and this was it ~ what a wonderful way to end my visit to Co. Durham, a full English breakfast! 😋😋😋

Thank you everyone in Co. Durham ~ and thanks be to God for all His blessings! ❤️

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!

Advent Word 2019, Day 5 ‘Raise’

#AdventWord #Raise

When we raise something, we put it above everything else, make it stronger, better, and more noticeable. What is our focus for all the things that we raise in our own lives: children, questions, concerns, taxes, salaries, walls, fences, money, prayers, and more?

Isaiah proclaims that the mountain of the Lord’s house “shall be raised above the hills.” It will draw all people and nations to God. Advent echoes this prophecy and offers us the ability to focus and redirect all that we raise up in the present to the future hope and promise of Jesus Christ.

Shelagh Casey Brown is the director of Alumni and Church Relations at VTS and is the president of the Consortium of Endowed Episcopal Parishes board of directors.

The Lantern Tower at Sheffield Cathedral. ‘The wooden structure represents Christ’s Crown of Thorns and the colours symbolise humanity’s struggle and conflict (blue and violet) transformed through the Resurrection and the Holy Spirit (gold and red) into healing and growth (green)’.

Advent Word 2019, Day 4 ‘Humble’

#AdventWord #Humble

“…do justice…love kindness…walk humbly with your God.” These words from the prophet Micah stand in contrast to the ways of the world, where power and self-importance reign, and humility is seen as weakness. As followers of Jesus we are called to lives of humble service, letting go of ego in order to care for the oppressed, love our enemies, and share Christ’s peace with all.

The Rev. Canon Loren Lasch (VTS ’08) is the Diocese of Missouri Canon for Formation and the president of the VTS Alumni Association Executive Committee.

The Celtic Cross in St Aidan’s Chapel at Bradford Cathedral depicts people of all times and places in their pilgrimage towards God.

Advent Word 2019, Day 2, ‘Visit’

#AdventWord #Visit

In Palestine, visits are not planned or coordinated in advance. Guests just show up at your door. In traditional Palestinian houses, there is a saloon designated for guests and always available. The household always has food and drink set aside for such occasions. So, when the guests arrive, they can enjoy their presence. So, we should always be ready for God to visit.

Shadia Qubti is manager and lead for faith and development for World Vision in the Jerusalem, West Bank and Gaza branch.

The steel nativity in the city of steel ~ Sheffield Cathedral

Holy Trinity, Huddersfield Celebrates 200 Years: 1819-2019 ~ and 200 years of supporting the Church Mission Society!

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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…

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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’…

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“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.

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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.

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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.”

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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!

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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.

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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!

Farewell to 2018!

The end of 2018, and I’m here in the UK’s Lake District for Christmas and New Year, and looking at mountains and lakes and spectacular scenery. People pay thousands of £ € ¥ $ to come here on holiday, and, well, here I am, enjoying it all, courtesy of my family who live here. So far, the weather has been mostly grey, often foggy, sometimes frosty, but mainly mild. On Christmas Eve, we had a day of brilliant blue skies and sun, all day. The above photo is Ullswater on Christmas Eve. Pretty nice, eh?

And this is Jesus Church, Troutbeck over Christmas…

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In case you’re wondering, yes that big stained glass window is all in Pre-Raphaelite style, designed in 1873 by Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris who used to come up to Troutbeck for fishing. The window even has 4 trout depicted in 4 small separate windows. I know, cos I counted them this very morning. Love it or hate it, it’s kind of famous.

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I’ve been in the Lakes since I came back from a weekend in Anglesey (that’s it, above, with the mountains of the mainland in the background). What a beautiful island! I kind of like islands, and Anglesey is one special one. Google told me that 2 of the most famous places to visit on Anglesey are Menai Bridge and Beaumaris, so knowing the weather forecast for that weekend was going to be terrible, I went there on the Friday afternoon. Then off to visit a friend, and we spent a wet weekend putting up Christmas decorations and worshiping at her church at Llanfaelog. Wales can be wet, but wonderful!

And then there was my visit to the Wirral, en route to Anglesey. One of the highlights was a short visit to Port Sunlight, home of Sunlight Soap factory and a model village set up by the Lever brothers to house their workers in the 1880’s, and it’s really lovely. There’s even an art gallery and museum with an amazing collection of stuff. Definitely needs lots of time to see it all. Fascinating place.

My friends in the Wirral, Nigel and Linda, kindly took me for a delish Christmas lunch at the local college, cooked by students in the catering section. Here we are. Note the new Christmas jumper and my chubby cheeks – too many Christmas dinners ha ha ~ diet will commence on January 1!

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And before the Wirral, though it was some weeks ago now, I also visited Chester – it’s the same area, in fact the Wirral is in the Diocese of Chester. That was actually over Remembrance Sunday, and we went to the Chester City Remembrance events outside the cathedral…

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And then across the Peak District, to Buxton, where the Methodist Church has solar paneling in the shape of a cross. Imaginative or what?! And a whole lot of other beautiful buildings. Loved it all!

And I called in at Eyam, the plague village in the Peak District, really fascinating!

And so to Sheffield. This was the first time I think I had ever visited the Cathedral…

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Loved that stained glass artwork in the ceiling!

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Plenty of street art in Sheffield around the university area and the newly-renovated section of Parkhill Flats, home of Yasmin Khan from the new Doctor Who series – plus there’s even a green tardis, in the form of a police box in the centre of Sheffield. Impressed, I was. Sheffield could rapidly become one of my new favourite cities.

And somewhere on my travels, there was a Catherine Street. Always love a good name for a street! This one was in Chester.

This photo, below, is one of my favourite photos of 2018, taken here at Lake Windermere. It’s a black-headed gull in winter plumage with the moon reflected in the water. When people ask me what I miss about England when I’m in Taiwan, this is my answer. Seagulls. They are so much part of UK life everywhere I seem to go, and although Taiwan has a lot of sea, it doesn’t have many seagulls. In Taiwan we have egrets, but they’re just not the same. Seagulls can be a great nuisance, especially herring gulls. But when you don’t have any seagulls, it’s oh so quiet without them. They have a huge amount of character, make a whole lot of noise and bring a bit of excitement to the place. Appreciate them, dear people of Britain!

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So there you go for another year. Grateful to you all for all your support over 2018. Thanks be to God for another year of many blessings. And wishing you all a Happy New Year for 2019!

St. Thomas, Batley & Dewsbury Minster: CMS Link Visits @ God’s Own Country!

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…..

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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…

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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!

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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…

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And one of the altars…

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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!

Sandal Parish, Wakefield ~ And what a great CMS Link Visit!

Setting the scene, ‘Welcome to Worship’ ~ with a beautiful photo of Yushan, Mt. Jade – Taiwan’s highest mountain…..

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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….

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And I also gave Rupert one of Taiwan’s artillery shell crosses….

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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!

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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’

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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!

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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!

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And thanks be to Almighty God for his many blessings, and such good friends and supporters around the country!