Tag Archives: 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!

CMS Link Visit to Holy Trinity Church, Huddersfield

Fantastic church, wonderful people, and a whole lot of lovely new Chinese friends!

My links with Huddersfield go back years and years, and Holy Trinity Church, just north of the centre of the town, has always been really supportive of CMS ~ and of me too!

IMG_3462_1When my good friends Pam and Nigel moved to Holy Trinity from Heighington, Co. Durham in the late 1980’s, and there I was, preparing to join CMS and go to Tanzania, Holy Trinity offered their support – and hey presto, they’re still supporting me all these years later.   Actually Pam and Nigel have been away all this weekend, but came back in time to welcome me to visit this morning and were even persuaded to pose for a photo ~ smiling away as ever!

Last time I was at the church a few years ago, Sharon, wife of Rev. Calvert Prentis was inspired to come to Taiwan to visit, which she did a few months later.  It was a great time for everyone!

Now Holy Trinity has a new vicar, Mike ~ so yesterday was the first time we’d met.  A very moving morning service followed by ‘bring and share’ lunch, and then an afternoon of fun activities ~ my PowerPoint of Taiwan and then Chinese calligraphy, lanterns and spring blossom art activities.  30-40 people stayed on for the afternoon ~ a very creative bunch!

Ever grateful to Wei from China who brought along her Chinese friends to help run the calligraphy.  A great success.  And really nice to make some new Chinese friends.  One was actually visiting for the Chinese New Year, and visiting a church for the very first time, so it was a special welcome for him!

It may have been pouring with rain for most of the day, but hey, inside was as happy, fun and sunny as can be ∼ yippee!

IMG_3465_1And this morning, Monday, snow and wind and cold alternating with bright sun, and to round off my visit to Huddersfield, off I went with 92-year-old church member Pam to visit 99-year-old church member Joan. Such a great time we had together! Joan still does all her own cooking, and although she’s housebound, she’s in great shape!  Turns out that Joan’s 100th birthday is on April 20, and guess what? Instead of presents she’s asked her friends and family for donations to CMS.  Wow!  Definitely the salt of the earth, so supportive.   Thank you Joan!

And a big THANK YOU to all at Holy Trinity for all your support over the years, and your very warm welcome this past weekend, as always!

Hillsborough, Sheffield

Almost 7 hours on the M1 yesterday to get to Sheffield, long delays of hours for 2 separate accidents in the middle of 2 separate sets of roadworks, plus of course the roadworks themselves.  Groan, groan!  But finally got here, following the postcode to find that the place I’m staying in turns out to be in the Hillsborough area of Sheffield.

Sadly the name ‘Hillsborough’ is synonymous with the Hillsborough Disaster of 1989, when 96 Liverpool football fans were crushed to death during a match at the Hillsborough Stadium during a FA Cup Semi-final match.  There’s a memorial to those who died at the front of the stadium, plus banners and notices appealing for justice for the victims.



wpid-img_20150228_080833_1425116134319.jpgHillsborough Stadium is actually the home of Sheffield Wednesday Football Club, also known by their nickname The Owls, and just a few minutes walk from where I’m staying ~ so a few photos before I get out of here quick, as there’s a match here in a few hours time, and the traffic will be huge!

PS later.  Y’know something? Sheffield has really good signposts, so it’s one of the only cities that I haven’t got lost in, at all.  AT ALL!  Congratulations Sheffield!

Top of the World @ Tan Hill Inn

Yep, the highest inn in the whole country, Tan Hill Inn, at 1,732 feet (528 m) above sea level ~ and off we went yesterday for lunch, after a sharp frost but in bright sun – yes glorious sun!  My first ever visit ~ just how could I have never been there?!


Actually located only 28 miles from us here in Sedbergh, via Hawes over the Buttertubs Pass and up from Keld…. and only 26 miles back via Kirkby Stephen…

What scenery ~ the top of Wensleydale, Buttertubs, top of Swaledale and then Tan Hill itself ~ and what a destination!  Built in the 17th century as a hostelry for coal miners, and originally surrounded by miners’ cottages – now long gone, the Tan Hill Inn stands alone and proud, high up above the bleak moors and overlooking the Pennines in all directions. Views of the A66 at the back are amazing!  As are the chickens that crowd around, ever hopeful of something yummy to eat ha ha…

Had great tomato, stilton (and-something-else-that-I-can’t-remember!) soup, followed by coffee ~ and it don’t get much better than that!  And I bought 2 bottles of Tan Hill Inn Ewe Juice (made in Dent Brewery just up the road) for my real ale friends… can’t wait to try it too!

Bishop Leonard Wilson Memorial @ Askrigg Church, Wensleydale

Yesterday ~ a sharp frost, but bright sun all day, and at my father’s suggestion, went to check out Askrigg Church in Wensleydale, N. Yorkshire to see the memorial to Bishop Leonard Wilson, most famous for being Bishop of Singapore during the Japanese occupation, when he was imprisoned and tortured….


His sermon of how he suffered, yet kept the faith, shared the Gospel with some of his captors and led some of them to faith is retold in his sermon here, published in 1946.  He retired to Askrigg in 1969 and although he died only a year later, he clearly found peace in Wensleydale ~ the story of the memorial is here.

The church is beautiful, the village too….

Very moving story, do make time to check it out….

Tree of Life Memorial Garden @ St. Helen’s Church, Sandal Magna, Wakefield

You’ve just gotta go and see this, it’s truly amazing, honest!


A brand-new Tree of Life Memorial Garden for the interment of ashes, unique in the whole world, and right there in the churchyard of St. Helen’s Church, Sandal Magna, Wakefield!

The parish of Sandal Magna is one of my most wonderful CMS Link Churches, so on my visit there this past weekend, I just had to go and see the Memorial Garden….

It really deserves to be more widely known, and the vicar Rupert Martin has kindly given me permission to use some of his original photos and info about the whole project….

This was his original letter sharing his vision with his congregation last year….

The Genesis of Tree of Life: A Memorial Garden in Sandal Churchyard.

“For some years we have been thinking about creating a Memorial Garden in Sandal Churchyard mainly for the interment of ashes. Up until now there has been space for this to be offered, but that space is running out and there has been a significant increase in people wanting interment of ashes rather than burials.

The PCC set up a group consisting of myself, Neale Clark, John Ellis and Brian Pratt to find a suitable location and develop plans for a small garden, about 50 m2 in size. The best site seemed to be the free area at the bottom of the Churchyard, within walking distance of the Car Park in the Land Rover garage. The consecrated land near an old Chestnut Tree was ideal, and a rectilinear plan was drawn up based on three interlocking crosses. This didn’t work very well, and the idea arose that the interlinking crosses could be translated into a tree, and the plaques could take the shape of leaves.

After Liz Ashmore and I visited Portobello to see the superb murals next to the shops, created by sculptor, Dan Jones, we brought him in to develop this idea further. He came up with a drawing with further additions to the tree, drawing inspiration from the passage in Revelation 22, where the tree of life is described beside the river of the water of life, bearing 12 kinds of fruit.

The resulting design includes all the main symbols of that Biblical text; the water, the tree, the street, the fruit and the leaves, which speak of the healing and fruition of life in a beautiful vision of heaven. What could be more appropriate for a Memorial Garden, where people will be reflecting on the big issues of life and death? The sculpture with its Biblical vision of life after death will bring comfort and healing to those who visit. Its location near a real tree, and with lovely vistas of the hills beyond the hedge, will provide a place of tranquility and peace, full of beauty and birdsong.

The area is much larger than originally intended, covering 450 m2, and consequently will be about nine times more costly than planned. The advantage of creating a garden on this scale is that it will serve the needs of Parishioners for more than 30 years, depending on demand. The disadvantage is that it will cost significantly more. With the help of funding from recent legacies, we only need to find half of the total cost of £67,000. So let’s be praying that gifts or loans will be forthcoming to enable this work to go ahead sometime in 2014, so that our caring ministry to the bereaved can continue to grow. A gift day will be held in the Autumn.

In addition to the excellent work of the Bereavement Visiting Team, and the Funerals and Memorial Services which we hold, we will be developing a 5 week course entitled The Bereavement Journey, which will help people come to terms with their loss in a gentle and sensitive way. Through all these means we hope to embody the love of God to those in need, as James wrote in his letter: Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. 

May God bless us as we embark on this adventure of faith which will bless many people in years to come.” Rupert Martin

Fast forward to only 6 weeks ago ~ and the Press Release, produced for the dedication on October 26, 2014….


“The Tree of Life Memorial Garden for the interment of ashes in Sandal churchyard is an original work of art created by architect, Liz Ashmore and sculptor, Dan Fraser Jones, from an idea of the Vicar, Rupert Martin, with help from Richard Williams furniture designer and Tecni-build Building Contractors. The Tree will be dedicated by The Rt Revd Tony Robinson at a service on Sunday, 26th October at St Helen’s Church, Sandal and in the Churchyard.

A patch of brambles in Sandal Churchyard has been landscaped into the shape of a tree with symbolic sculptural features which reflect the verse in the Bible which speaks about heaven; “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the peoples.”

(The Tree of Life design pdf: Tree of Life vertical)

Dan Fraser Jones has sculpted the main features of the river, the fruit, and the leaves out of Kilkenny Blue Limestone, to create a beautiful work of art, which will provide a haven of peace and comfort to all those who visit. The seating, representing the throne, has been designed by Richard Williams of rwfurniture.

Any resident of the Parish of Sandal Magna, which stretches from Busy Corner through Sandal to Newmillerdam, and from Portobello across to Walton, is entitled to have their ashes interred here, and each plot will be marked by a plaque in the shape of a leaf which can be engraved with two names.

The Tree of Life Memorial Garden is placed at the end of Sandal Churchyard, near an ancient Chestnut tree, overlooking Oakenshaw Beck with Heath Common in the distance.

It can be accessed from the main road down past the Church or from the nearby car park which is available when the Guy Salmon Land Rover garage is open.

Rupert Martin has used his experience of commissioning works of art in the landscape for the Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail, to meet the need for a place in which ashes of Parishioners can be interred in the ancient Churchyard.

Liz Ashmore, based in Golcar, Huddersfield, has worked on a number of projects including the Barnabas Rooms, St Paul’s, Walton, and the Spring Community Shop and Cafe in Sandal.

Daniel Fraser Jones, based in Doncaster, created two large scale murals in Portobello three years ago, and recently exhibited his work at the Beverley Art Gallery. A gifted draughtsman and sculptor, he is familiar with the challenges of working in the landscape.

Richard Williams based in Huddersfield, is well-known for creating unique works of furniture for specific places.

Tecni-build Building Contractors are based in Holmfirth, and have worked with the Church refurbishing the Rainbow Cafe in Portobello and The Spring in Sandal.

Rupert  Martin writes: “It has been a delight to work with Liz, Dan and Richard and the team of Tecni-build, to create a beautiful and practical Memorial Garden which will provide a place of peace and comfort for Parishioners and all who visit, for many years to come. Its iconic shape and artistic design will be an inspiration to many.”

Really inspirational ~ you just MUST go and check it out!

Updated April 30, 2015: Congratulations on winning the Wakefield Civic Society Award for best New Project! Read all about it in the following article:

Civic Society Award for Tree of Life in Wakefield Church | The Diocese of West Yorkshire and the Dales.

CMS York ~ Osaka / Taiwan ~ and yep, more bubbles!

Big trip to York yesterday, with my mother along too ~ yippee, I just LOVE York!

Sedbergh to York is almost 100 miles each way over the A66 via Scotch Corner which means driving high up over the Pennines directly east into the rising sun, and back in the dark with gale-force winds ha ha!

What a fun day ~ first to check out York University campus and its beautiful lake….

Then off to a church on the east side of York for the autumn meeting of the CMS York Association – very delicious home-made soup and rolls and puddings and tea and coffee, followed by me giving a talk about Taiwan…

So many lovely people, including my good friends, Pam Cooper and Evelyn Wroe who’ve retired to York after many many years with CMS in Osaka, Japan.  The Dioceses of Taiwan and Osaka are companion dioceses, so we have lots of mutual friends, and as Pam has also been to Taiwan and met half the people in the powerpoint photos, well the connections are many and run deep!

Oh yes and more good friends who turned up on the day, Shelagh from CMS and Louise from well, long ago in Tanzania – altogether a total of almost 40 delightful people….

But as you know – a delicious lunch followed by a talk in a darkened hall to look at pictures of a far-away country on a warm Saturday afternoon, and well, just how to keep everyone awake?  Fortunately enough left from my visit to CMS HQ for everyone to have their own little jar of bubbles to blow every time the picture changed….

End result: bubbles everywhere and only one or two drifted off (people that is, not bubbles), but promptly woke up every few minutes to take another deep breath and BLOW!

And then off to the city centre down by York Minster for meet-up with family over cup of tea and scones – oh so very English!

By which time the sun was almost set and it was time to wind our windy way back over those Pennines to Sedbergh…

A great day, lovely people and yes, so much fun!