Tag Archives: Yorkshire

Reblog: My CMS Link Visit to St. Thomas Church, Batley, W. Yorkshire

RIP Jo Cox, MP for Batley and Spen, tragically killed yesterday in a vicious act of violence. St. Thomas Church, Batley is one of my beloved CMS Link Churches, full of great people, the salt of the earth. When I last visited Batley in April 2015 it was in the midst of the election campaign in which Jo Cox won the seat for Batley and Spen. Praying for her family, friends, and the whole community of Batley at this sad time.

This is my blog post from that visit to St. Thomas Church, originally posted on April 13, 2015….


“My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”

The Church of England’s Holy Week and Easter short film of Psalm 22….

“My God, My God why have you forsaken me ?” The words spoken by Jesus on the Cross from Psalm 22 inspired our new JustPray video for Easter. The film follows on from The Lord’s Prayer advert launched by the Church last Christmas which was banned by cinemas for its religious content.

The stars of the film have struggled with drug addiction, crime and homelessness on their journey to faith. Find out more about their stories here: http://www.justpray.uk/Psalm%2022/  Visit www.justpray.uk to learn more about prayer and to share your own prayers.

So do check the Just Pray website here and especially the background stories of the people in the film, and their Saturday Night Gathering…. brilliant!

Selby Abbey ~ wedding venue for Jay Chou 周杰倫!

On January 17, 2015, Selby Abbey suddenly became England’s most famous church.  Not to the English in England maybe.  But in Taiwan and perhaps Mainland China, definitely yes.  Suddenly more famous than Canterbury Cathedral, York Minster, St. Paul’s or Westminster Abbey.  And the place has been humming with Taiwanese and Chinese visitors ever since. All coming to see the church and town where famous Taiwanese singer Jay Chou 周杰倫 and his wife were married on that day.  The internet is buzzing with reports of the great event, the Daily Mail one is here. The couple certainly kept it secret at the time, but now the place is well and truly on the tourist map.  It suddenly got itself on my map of must-see places too.  So today, me and good friend Shelagh, off we went on our first ever visit to Selby ~ only 15 miles south of York ~ and what a jewel of a place it is!


Selby Abbey was the first monastery to be founded in the north of England after the Norman Conquest of Britain, and the abbey church is one of the few to survive the Reformation. And it all started when St. Benedict had a vision from St. Germain telling him to build a monastery in England in a place where he saw 3 swans swimming.  That was 1069.  About the same time, William the Conqueror was ravaging the north of England, and his son, later to be King Henry I, was born in Selby, the only Norman king to be born in England.   So there you have it.  The 3 swans are a symbol of Selby.  The town guide book is even called ‘Swanning around Selby’.  So that’s exactly what we did for a few hours. We swanned around the town in the sunshine.  Met some Chinese tourists and Selby locals. Heard firsthand about the Chinese tourism boom currently hitting Selby.  So of course we joined in too, took the required photos and had tea and scones, like all good tourists should…

There’s no doubt, Selby Abbey is completely overshadowed by the dominance of York Minster just up the road, and Beverley Minster not far away too.  Selby’s glory is described as that of “a stately old lady, retired to the country with her dignity and memories intact.” But perhaps not for much longer!  It’s now on THE tourist map.  It deserves all the attention it’s getting, it’s been bypassed for way too long.  It is truly a little gem of a place.

So, get there before the crowds, it’s a jewel in the crown that is Yorkshire!

CMS Link Visit to St. Thomas Church, Batley, W. Yorkshire

Some churches just look kinda amazing on the outside – but then are a major disappointment when you get in.  Well, they’re often ancient, beautiful, calm, lovely, but oh so dark, oh so huge, oh so impractical…..

St. Thomas Church, Batley is the opposite.  Huge, dark, imposing and grim on the outside, especially on a rainy day.  But get inside and it’s a whole different world.  No pews, they’re long gone.  It’s all chairs.  And carpet.  And the best thing is the big east window.  RED, so very RED!  And the choir stalls have little red lamps, matching the red window.  Just in case you hadn’t noticed, I LOVE red!  And I love St. Thomas Church.  Always have.  Ever since I first came here in about 1990, when Rev. Lindsay Dew was vicar.  That’s 4 vicars ago.  I measure time according to the number of vicars past.  So it’s 25 years.  Where has the time gone?!

Now there’s a new vicar, Rev. Mark Umpleby.  Just arrived as vicar last November. Fantastic. Such a blessing. He’s so lovely!  As are all the church members.  Hearts of gold. Salt of the earth.  True Yorkshire folks.  Spades are definitely called spades round here. And Yorkshire hospitality at its best.  Roast dinner with 8 dishes.  Yes 8!  That was Molly ~ where I stayed.  She cooked and cooked all weekend.  And she’s over 80.  Amazing. Incredible.

So a weekend of feasting and talking and speaking and meeting all my old friends and making new ones.  There’s 4 churches in the Batley Cluster, and yesterday St. Andrew’s Church, Purlwell also joined us for the morning worship.  So good to see so many families in church.  All supporting everything, including CMS.  And they presented me with a £250 cheque for CMS, raised from their Lent Lunches.

Batley is close to Dewsbury, where I was a few weeks ago, both are old mill towns.  Now Batley even has the UK’s biggest retail mill just down the road.  Both towns have very large Asian Muslim communities, and the churches are on the front-line of community building and interfaith ministry.

So a fantastic weekend – and so nice to meet all my old friends again!  Oh yes, and some visitors came who it turned out I’d known years ago in Holy Trinity Church, Huddersfield. Ah, it’s a small world!

Thank you Mark, Molly and everyone at St. Thomas, Batley ~ YES, a great church!

Yorkshire Sculpture Park

An hour.  Never long enough of course.  Certainly not to see everything at Yorkshire Sculpture Park.  But worth it on a sunny spring day with an hour to spare….

There’s tons of sculptures by famous people like Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth and even Ai Weiwei… so many in fact that it’s impossible to look at everything – so a few highlights only!

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Iron Tree by Ai Weiwei (above) is located right next to what was the old chapel, now used for an art installation about coal.  The tree is constructed from branches, roots and trunks from all different trees.

Recycled chapel, recycled tree…. it’s a fun place – do GO and check it out!

Mainsgill Farm, N. Yorkshire

Crossing the A66 yesterday on my way from Dewsbury, West Yorkshire to West Kilbride, on Scotland’s west coast ~ and called in at Mainsgill Farm.  Been past this place many times in the last few months and noticed camels and llamas in the front field ~ kinda seems strange for the Pennines!  But hey, it’s a great place with lots of farm animals, many with babies on show or eating away, and ignoring the visitors!

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Great place for a coffee break, and to say hi to the animals!

CMS Link Visit to Dewsbury, W. Yorkshire

From mills to minster ~ Dewsbury used to be famous for its mills, now it’s the minster that has pride of place in the town.  Actually there’s been a place of worship there ever since about AD 627 when Paulinus came to visit and soon the ancient minster parish covered 400 miles all across northern England….

These days Dewsbury has a large Asian community, mostly Muslim, and Dewsbury Minster is the designated Christian Interfaith Centre for the area, so lots of groups come to learn about the Christian faith.  In the mid 1990’s the minster was completely reorganized – the east end was converted into a refectory, exhibition area, shop, counseling rooms, office, prayer chapel and all sorts of meeting rooms.  It is fantastic ~ and much used by the church and community for all sorts of events and outreach.

Dewsbury Team Parish have been supporting CMS for many years, in fact in the church history booklet there’s a whole section devoted to Dewsbury’s early connections with CMS ~ in 1813, vicar John Buckworth set up in Dewsbury the first CMS association outside London. He also helped train missionaries for service overseas, 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.

So here I am at Dewsbury Minister, thanking the clergy and congregation for their wonderful support ~ and it goes back many years.  Back to before the church was reordered under the previous rector, John Hawley.  In fact, I knew the present rector, Kevin Partington and his wife Sandra as church members of Holy Trinity Church, Huddersfield 20 years ago – and they haven’t changed a bit, as lovely as ever!

Today is Passion Sunday ~ we had 10:30am Morning Worship…..

And 6:30pm Team Parish Holy Communion…..

Dewsbury Minster’s music is amazing, the organist and choir are very special.  And the building is great.  If I lived in Dewsbury, I’d be there all the time!  The UK HQ of Reach Beyond, a Christian organization involved in Radio Planting and Medical Mission overseas, are nearby in Bradford, and their CEO, Colin and his wife Dawn belong to Dewsbury Minster ~ and so does Mike, who works for a Christian radio station broadcasting locally, so he got me interviewed for his broadcast…..

Grateful thanks to everyone!  Especially Anne for such a warm welcome and hospitality, Kevin and Sandra for a delicious lunch, Mike for his interview, Richard for his church history booklet and guided tour, and to everyone for all your support over the years! Oh yes, and I mustn’t forget Mary, who turned up once in Taiwan to see me, totally out of the blue. This time she brought me some party poppers.  I like her style ~ spontaneity at its best!

Thank you Dewsbury Team Parish, such a great group of people ~ you are all AMAZING!