From the Moderator
At the end of February I will be halfway through my time with Northern Synod, and the knowledge that we have a finite amount of time together gives me something of a sense of urgency. Inevitably, the first half has been about getting to know the people and places, learning the ways and traditions, instigating changes and setting plans in order. And I’ve appreciated the warmth and energy with which you have responded to ideas and possibilities and the welcome I’ve received as I’ve visited 50 or so of the churches.
I’ve learned a great deal from the ecumenical meetings and various events with other Church Leaders and it has been a privilege to get to know people I would not have met in any other circumstance. Perhaps the most memorable events have been the two occasions when the different Faith Leaders met together in Newcastle Cathedral to pray in our own traditions for peace – especially after the attack on the Charlie Hebdo office.
Moderators’ meetings make me very nervous as we deal with things on a national scale and there seems so much to take in and understand. The movement of ministers, the placement of ordinands and matching them with the right vacant church is a huge responsibility and one that is given great care and consideration. Getting the right forms filled in correctly, understanding how different Assembly committees work and serving on one, trying to act as both pastor and disciplinarian and taking flack from angry people and praise from happy ones is all part of the rich tapestry of this joyful work. Moderators meet every month.
This next year promises to be a busy one, but a very privileged one. In April, four of us are travelling to the Igreja Presbiteriana de Moçambique for ten days to meet our friends there, to worship together and experience church life. I am having a go at learning Portuguese, but I’m no linguist and I really don’t think we’ll get very far when I tell them ‘the boy is eating an apple’! We are hoping Gordon and Elaine Brown, who are there now as part of their Sabbatical, will have been successful in teaching some useful English.
There is also a Synod visit to Iona in May. Iona is an island that has some of the oldest rocks on earth and a long history of Christian tradition and worship. It is described as a thin place where heaven and earth are not too far apart. Members from the Iona community are responsible for much of the hymnody and liturgy we use today and they are strong advocates for peace and justice issues.
While we are on Iona, we will no doubt join in the pilgrimage that takes place each Tuesday around the island. To be a pilgrim is to walk in faith, to journey with an open heart to whatever the Holy Spirit might want to say. In July members of Northern Synod will make their own pilgrimage along St Cuthbert’s Way – from Melrose to Holy Island (booking forms available from Linda Gowland). The 64 miles will be both pain and blessing as we fight tiredness and blisters, stopping regularly to admire the beauty around us and reflect and pray along the way.
Also, there will be the ‘Thinking Day’ on 28th February, a course for anyone who would like to improve their listening skills after Easter, and another Elders’ Conference in October. I am personally looking forward to the birth of our second granddaughter at the beginning of March, and in May I will learning ‘how to retire’ at the Windermere Centre. You will no doubt be wondering, how will I ever do any real work? I can only ask you to pray with me that the journey we in Northern Synod are on together will reflect the glory of God and the work of the Holy Spirit in and amongst us all.
And an invitation from Lis to the…..
SYNOD THINKING DAY
at Jesmond United Reformed Church
Saturday February 28th, 9.30 – 3.45
“to explore widely and without inhibition the future shape of Northern Synod and how we can utilise ministry (lay and ordained) to its best advantage in a way that is realistic, practical and sustainable”
with Ven Peter J A Robinson, Archdeacon of Lindisfarne
Names please to Wendy at Synod Office
(0191 232 1168 ) by February 25th
TEN YEARS OF PARTNERSHIP
We’ve now passed the ten year point of our Belonging to the World Church partnership with the Presbyterian Church of Mozambique (IPM). 2004 saw eight IPM members visit us, and a few weeks later eight members of our synod church pay a return visit.
Since then there has been a good deal of to-ing and fro-ing, although visa problems have frustrated some of the visits we had hoped to host. The members of our synod world church group continue to be grateful to synod for their financial support of the programme, as well as to our local churches and members who have contributed to the various appeals we have run over the years.
These have included providing a 4-wheel drive vehicle for the IPM President to get around in, the setting up of a women’s sewing project at the IPM headquarters in Maputo, and providing travel for a trainee minister to take up a scholarship to study in Brazil. Vasco Sithoe has just spent a month back home, his one trip there in his three year course. He wrote to us recently, thanking us for this opportunity, adding “Along goes my hug to All Reformed United Church of England….”
Most recently we have provided IT equipment and software for the IPM central church finance & admin department — and just now Gateshead ministers Gordon and Elaine Brown are spending a month of their sabbatical in Maputo, and we hope will be seeing the new equipment in place.
Check out the Browns’ progress on the synod blog (linked to the synod website home page). Their first week in Mozambique was spent with many of the IPM leaders and ministers on retreat, as pictured below. Then they led the English language service held at the Khovo church in Maputo (which an earlier visit of ours helped set up), after which they were ready to lead English language and conversation classes.
Meanwhile another group including our moderator Lis Mullen are preparing for a visit after Easter. Newcastle minister Meg Robb will be one of their number — her second visit, following an earlier exchange with Pastor Rosa Zavala in her parish at Xai-Xai in Gaza Province, on the coast of the Indian Ocean.
We look forward to hearing from our travellers on their return, and to finding ways in which this rich partnership can be nurtured for at least another ten years. And we hope very much that next year it will be possible for us to be on the welcoming side, and that visa and travel difficulties can be overcome.
Lindsay Cross, Project Director of West End Refugee Service (WERS), has been nominated as an Honorary Ecumenical Canon of St Nicholas Cathedral in Newcastle upon Tyne. Lindsay is an elder at St James’s in Newcastle, and is well known to many people in our churches through her active advocacy of the needs of asylum seekers and refugees.
When asylum seekers were first dispersed to the North East in 1998 Lindsay and a small group of volunteers began to work on their behalf by collecting second-hand clothing, blankets and food parcels. The clothing and blankets were initially stored in Lindsay’s garage. With the support of many of the local churches, the work quickly developed and in 1999 West End Refugee Service was formed.
Today WERS has eight paid staff, 60 approved volunteers and over 800 clients. It is highly regarded by other service providers in Newcastle and forms a vital link in the chain of local support services.
Synod Moderator Lis Mullen has said “We are all delighted to hear of this wonderful honour for Lindsay. It would be great if colleagues and friends from the Synod could support her by being at her installation service, which will be held on Sunday 8th March at 6.00 pm in the Cathedral.”
The Middlesbrough Traidcraft shop run by Jenny Medhurst over the Christmas period was again a great success, taking over £31,000. Jenny thanks synod for once again providing the start-up loan.
Jesmond URC are holding an open weekend March 28-29, to include the official opening of the Community Garden in Haldane Terrace, and a service of celebration and rededication on the Sunday afternoon at 3.00, at which the preacher will be Mr John Ellis, Moderator of General Assembly.
Synod Pilgrimage this year will follow the St Cuthbert’s Way, July 13-18. Details from Linda Gowland on 01434 605837; and there’s a good write-up about it in February’s Reform!
Synod meets at St Columba’s, North Shields on Saturday March 21.
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