Did you watch the royal wedding? I was pleased for the example of such a prominent young couple getting married in Church. The Queen and her family are excellent advocates for the Christian faith, and not only in her annual Christmas message. It made a statement about the value of a church wedding, of making lifelong vows in the presence of God. Meghan Markle getting confirmed before the wedding and that made a statement that Christianity is at the heart of our national life; the Church of England is blessed to play a major part in such ceremonies – as we do on Remembrance Sunday, Thought for the Day, Broadcast services, not to mention the life of the Queen. Did you know that every Diocesan Bishop is invited to the palace for a weekend with the Queen and Prince Philip, including preaching before the royal couple? Apparently Prince Philip at lunch after the sermon is a challenging presence at lunch!
Much comment has been passed about Bishop Michael Curry’s wedding sermon. With passion and conviction he spoke longer than expected, carried away with his message. And what a message it was: “We must discover the power of love, the power, the redemptive power of love.”
Thank you for a no-holds-barred message; I would hope to say, “#Me too”, Bishop.
Prayer for the City
The Churches of Bradford are holding 24 hours of prayer on the 15/16 June at the Light Church on Jermyn Street, near the cathedral. It starts on Friday 7 p.m. with Prayer and Praise celebration till 9 p.m. followed by themed prayer for every aspect of the city, till 7 p.m. on Saturday. If you believe in the power of prayer, be there for an hour.
12th May was an especially busy day at All Saints with a Coffee Morning at 10 followed by a ‘Come and Sing the Messiah’ from 2-5, a meal and performance at 6. Margaret Blackwell and her team managed all this, and raised £120 from the Coffee Morning and £529 from the choir, making £649 in total. Where does she get her energy?
A new START! course began on 20th May, but there is still time for others to join. START! is six sessions from where you are as a Christian to how to fall into the arms of God. The 2nd session is 3rd June 7 p.m. at the vicarage. A Confirmation course will follow in late Summer or Autumn.
All Saints and Shine Together are combining for a joint party on Saturday 9th June. The Coffee Morning will start at 11 a.m. not 10, and Shine will continue with their games, stalls and food when they arrive a little later, to end at 2 p.m.
The West End Centre is joining forces with St Oswald’s to arrange a ‘Summer Fun and Frolics’ on Saturday 30th June 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. It will be vintage-themed, so wear any outfit from the 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s or 90s or try one on – we hope to provide some. There will be a Bouncy Castle, food, music, rocking through the years, games, teas, cakestall etc. A chance to build on our great local community spirit.
CMS Mission Partners
Nigel and Joan Bull have been our mission partners for many years, first in Pakistan, then in Girlington, but they no longer require our support. We have approached CMS for new partners and they have offered us two options to take to our PCCs.
Derek Jones will be ordained priest on 23rd June, 3 pm at Bradford Cathedral, a great joy for his congregations at St Oswald’s and All Saints who have benefited so richly from his ministry. Once a priest he will be able to conduct weddings, and especially to preside at Holy Communion. Priesting signifies the Church’s confidence in Derek’s ministry, and invites him to look forward to the not-so-distant time when he will have his own responsibility.
For the party afterwards at All Saints, bring offers of food and help to Margaret Blackwell on 01274 722476.
Wake up, wake up!
Our PCCs have had two wake-up calls recently. The first was where we discussed the reduction in the number of clergy in the country as 40% of us retire in the next decade. Lay people are going to carry more responsibility in churches, and clergy leadership will in future be shared. St Oswald’s and all Saints may not get a full-time replacement when I retire.
The Diocese is being pro-active in this respect, and has organised a lay training day in Harrogate on 9th June for those who will be expected to take leadership roles in the next decade. Janet Firth, Fidelis Ikhifa, Sarah Grievson, Sam Rushworth and Juliet Aigbomian are going from our churches; we trust they will find the training supportive and useful, and we are asked to take a minimum of 40 minutes at the following PCC meeting to hear their report.
Second, Bishop Toby has been discussing with many of us the prospect for a ‘Resource Church’ in Bradford. There is money from the Church Commissioners on a once-only basis for an initiative that will promote growth. Bradford has no city-centre church that is lively and attracts students, as other cities do. So the plan is to rent or purchase secular premises in the city-centre, possibly in City Park itself, and send in a team with a church planting vicar, curate and worship leader. This would be different from a normal parish church, designed to create new Christians and to take them to plant new churches elsewhere, for instance into a failing Anglican Church elsewhere for a planting team to breathe new life into that church.
It is bold and exciting vision, taking seriously the decline in numbers of our churches over recent years and doing something about it. However the challenge is to create a starter congregation for the Resource Church in the first place; where would they come from? Bishop Toby is asking our Churches to send in one or two people, or families, to make up the first cohort. So we might need to release members from St Oswald’s and All Saints to support the new initiative.
Both PCCs found this challenging; we struggle to maintain numbers as it is and both churches are short of people with leadership potential. But then we began to dream dreams; what if we were to be a ‘sending’ church? What if instead of looking at bigger, better-off churches enviously, we were to be bold ourselves and take the first step in our city? Would anyone be prepared to go? Could we be as outward-looking as the first disciples in the book of Acts?
We have been taught over the years to be loyal to our church, to love it, support it, tithe our money, give our time. Now it seems God is telling us to be deployable wherever he needs us –more like an army ready to be sent into combat than a group of volunteers. This vision is then wider than our own congregation; we are here to make a difference to the city of Bradford, to seek its welfare, and to present Christ together, whatever the cost.
The PCCs will be considering this further, so let us know your thoughts.
May saw the second of our Sunday evening services, a Baptism, a funeral, and a diocesan training event about weddings and how we best reach out to our communities with the love of Jesus, Thy Kingdom come prayer week, Ascension and Pentecost (which I’m sorry to have missed celebrating due to illness). Add to that being randomly asked to drive a caravan to Middlesbrough for someone, and a panicked trip to doggy hospital, and you get a flavour of the diversity of the last month…..
Diversity always brings with it both excitement and challenge. There’s often a cost, or some pain, as well as excitement along the way. But that’s what this journey of discipleship is all about. I keep looking for the bit where Jesus says ‘Come follow me for an easy life’, but I’ve not found it yet. I see the bit where he offers life in abundance – life in all its fullness: with births and deaths: with the joy of being able to say yes to someone asking a favour: the frustration of sitting on the motorway on a bank holiday weekend with a caravan dragging down your miles per gallon: a life which recognises the full human experience, with its ups and downs. (If you ever need reminding that the Bible relates to all of life, flick through some of the Psalms!)
Please don’t get me wrong. I’m blessed with an amazingly privileged and joy-filled life, but this month’s experiences have been a real reminder that discipleship isn’t simply a fair weather journey. It’s a call to faithful commitment. It’s a call to focus on God and proclaim Jesus as Lord over everything we come across in our lives.
It’s in this faithful commitment that we see the other side of Jesus’ promise of Life in abundance – the promise of new and redeemed life, the promise of all that is and all that’s to come, the promise of the now and not yet, of spotting the moments of glory through tear-filled eyes, as well as looking forward to the eternal glory that we can as yet only imagine.
That’s the journey of discipleship, and I’m glad to be walking it alongside you all.