From the Moderator
Surely salvation is at hand.
Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet,
righteousness and peace will kiss each other.
As we enter Advent, the season of hopefulness, I love to recite these beautiful words and visualise the picture the psalmist paints for us of a time of salvation, the time that is on its way. The language evokes a scene of trust between peoples and I try to imagine a picture of fairness, justice and peace joining hands – though I have to say that sometimes I think I’ve forgotten what that really looks like! I find myself instead filled with images of bedraggled, cold, muddy refugees – hopeful of salvation. I see people hiding in basements or fleeing bombed out cities – desperate for peace. It feels like it would be more appropriate to sing psalms of lament!
But Advent reminds us to be hopeful and I think we are challenged by the psalmist to find ways and means to enable love and faithfulness to meet and righteousness and peace to embrace! I know many of our individual members find many different ways to do just that and I see it throughout the Synod in the work of the committees and in our church congregations. I am particularly heartened by your response to the request from Mission Committee to create a fund that we can draw on when refugees arrive within the towns and cities in the North East. So far you have raised £1,334 so when you see a need, please ask Helen in the office for some of it and use the opportunity to meet them with a warm and loving welcome.
At our Synod meeting in October we shared time thinking about the environment and how we can echo the psalmist in our response to the abuse that humans have inflicted on this beautiful earth. Surely salvation is at hand – but we each have a part to play in preventing further destruction. We learned that Zion URC, Northallerton is an Eco-Congregation and how it has enhanced their worship, understanding, fellowship, and spirituality. Perhaps this is something other congregations could embrace as a witness to God’s love for creation and lead us all towards the time when righteousness and peace will kiss each other.
The Ministries and Development Committee are keen to see our Synod grow – not only in numbers but in our discipleship and commitment to sharing our faith. We have been unable to recruit a Training Office/Discipleship Enabler which we had hoped to share with NW Synod and so, believing that this is not be the right way forward we are now trying to think of a different approach. One of our priorities is to find ways to help congregations to use ordained ministers differently as the number of them decreases over the next 5-10 years. To this end, we have now held two Elders Conferences and so far almost 60 Elders have benefitted from John Ellis’ wisdom and been refreshed and inspired by meeting together. May I take this opportunity to thank each and everyone of you who is prepared to serve God as an Elder. Such leadership is an enormous responsibility and I am aware that many of you give sacrificially – ensuring steadfast love and faithfulness meet among the people you serve.
The whole Synod is cared for faithfully and lovingly by Pastoral Committee who are challenged more and more by issues of deployment and church closures but who also hear the good news of churches who feel they have benefitted from the LMMR process, who tell stories of new members and exciting services and of groups supporting people suffering with dementia. There is no doubt we are living in challenging times for our individual churches, but I believe every challenge is also an opportunity, every crisis can be creative and we are aiming to face the future with the knowledge that God is present with us, believing with the psalmist that salvation is at hand.
May I suggest you journey through Advent with us on the blog on the Synod website and take this opportunity to wish you all a very happy Christmas,
NEWS OF CHURCHES
Stockton Road, Sunderland commemorated a Season of Remembrance throughout November as the church became a centre for Paint a Poppy workshops led by local artist Ian Potts. Many people from the local community and further afield participated, either taking their poppies home with them, or contributing to a collage that stretched around the church. People were also able to add their materials to a book of remembrance for family members who fell in the Great War.
Northgate, Darlington has saved a local work club set up to provide unemployed people with the tools they need to get back to work. When eVOLution was threatened with closure, the people of Northgate with the help of other town centre churches took over, and built on their earlier experience of a community-focused computer class. There are hopes that the club will see people finding jobs, as well as more people making use of the facilities.
St Mark’s, Amble is the centre for a new initiative in the town to support people with dementia. Church secretary Sue Swanston is helping spearhead the push for Amble to become a dementia-friendly community, meaning that people are more aware of and understand more about the condition, and that people with dementia feel included in their community.
Harvest Festival at West End was enhanced by the Arts Project held to strengthen links between the church and its own children’s groups and also local schools. Over a hundred entries were received, all illustrating an aspect of harvest thanksgiving. Prizes were given to the winning entrants; and the project was supported with a synod Mission Fund grant.
NEWS OF PEOPLE
We have welcomed two new ministers to Synod. Jane Rowell is now working as Mission Enabler across Northern Synod and North Western; and Matthew Prevett, who was ordained at St Andrew’s, Monkseaton in September, also has a dual role, and at present is exercising the synod part of his ministry at Thornaby.
The Northumberland Lay Preachers and Worship Group members continue to meet regularly. At their recent meeting, led by North Northumberland minister Dave Herbert, they discussed possibilities for ecumenical co-operation across small rural churches with a number of Methodist local preachers. Margery Tate, who convenes their meetings, would be glad to hear of anyone interested in joining them: contact her at 5 Park Side, Hepscott, Morpeth NE61 6LZ
Thomas, a scout from St Columba’s, North Shields, was one of a group of scouts from Northumberland attending the 23rd World Scout Jamboree held in Japan this summer. On his return he shared with the church his experiences of visiting Hiroshima and Tokyo, and enjoying hospitality with a Japanese family – and commended scouting to his own age group.
Andy Lie, our ecumenical officer, left for his EAPPI placement in Bethlehem at the beginning of December. We send our greetings and remember him and his colleagues in our prayers.
ADVENT AROUND THE SYNOD
Glitter and glue…
“This is the time of year when children can lead the way when it comes to decorating church with angels, or stars. Why not use the Messy Church idea of having a sheep trail in your local community? – this event really gets people talking and children and families visiting shops, libraries and church, to find the sheep. Having used this resource for a few years it was a great way of promoting your Messy Church….”
So says Synod Children’s Worker Hannah Middleton – and much more besides in her first edition of Building Blocks, downloadable from the synod website.
Christmas Trees and foliage…
St Cuthbert’s, Heaton brought in local organisations for a successful Christmas Tree Festival. St Andrew’s Dawson Street, Crook contributed to the town’s Community Festival Weekend with a spectacular Winter Foliage Festival – leaving the pulpit surrounded by a sea of poinsettias!
Carols and Music…
Jesmond are hosting Joy to the World on December 4, and O Magnum Mysterium on December 12.
The Newcastle Hospital Chaplains invite carol singers to join them singing round the wards at the RVI on the 23rd, and the Freeman on the 24th.
No doubt there’s more going on that we haven’t heard of: details of these are on the synod website.
And telling the story again….
Retired minister Ruth Crofton has published, just In time for Christmas, A Dead Man’s Gift, a new take on the gospel story of the wise men’s visit to the infant Jesus. The story is told in the words of an old man looking back over years as a leader of camel trains and remembering this out-of-the-ordinary journey from his youth.
The book costs £5, with half the profit going to the Waddington Street Centre, Durham, a charity resource for folk with long-term mental health problems. It can be purchased from the Durham Cathedral bookshop, or directly from Ruth – c/o The Waddington Street Centre, 3 Waddington Street, Durham DH1 4BG (p&p £1 per copy).
And remember the daily contributions to the Advent Blog on the synod website.
Keep the news coming in! –
Contact Wendy Watson at Synod Office – Tel 0191 2321168
A printed version of this news is sent to each church with the monthly mailing