A 150th Anniversary in Bolton

Getting across the Pennines to Bolton proved to be challenging on Saturday but once we arrived there was a warm welcome and we were well cared for.

P1000143I was due to lead worship at the 150th anniversary of the building of the church which is now The United Reformed Church of St Andrew and St George. This is a church with origins in 1754 in Dukes Alley Chapel. After 84 years of worshipping there as an Independent Congregation some members left to form St Andrews Presbyterian Church. A further 25 years on and other members moved out to form St Georges Road Congregational Church. 116 years later the two churches joined together again to become the fellowship they are today within the United Reformed Church.

This is a church building, set near the centre of Bolton, which is well used during the week, housing a Fairtrade shop and a day centre for adults with learning difficulties. Both these

One of the Lent Prayer stations

One of the Lent Prayer stations

activities involve church members on a regular basis. The gathered congregation and town centre location bring their own challenges and currently there is work going on to enable the congregation to discern the way forward for themselves in this place. It was lovely to find a series of Lent Prayer Stations around the church as encouragement for private prayer – a new venture instigated by their new minister.


 The service included an item during which the children reminded us all what it might have

Cutting the cake

Cutting the cake

been like for them 150 years ago and after the service there was tea and coffee for everyone with a cake to be cut by the Lord Mayor. It was so good to see a whole page article in the local paper about the church, its celebration and its history. A whole page of postive as someone said but more important I think was the opportunity this church had taken to tell the rest of the world about their life and to invite civic leaders to join their celebrations too.

It was Palm Sunday and I had processions in my mind, this having been the week of the installation of Pope Francis as well as the Enthronement of Archbishop Welby both with their plethora of processions and celebration. I reflected on the way in which people want to get behind the public persona. The media drop small nuggets of firstly good and positive views, before moving on to the skeletons in the cupboards of such figures, feeding the desire of people to discover who the man is, what he stands for and is he credible as a person? It seemed to me that there was little different in Jesus’ day except the medium of the telling, the same questions were being asked and rumours being spread. It was true then and it remains true that the answers to those questions only come from those who know the people concerned personally and that is where our faith comes in. We have the opportunity – the invitation – from Jesus to be his friends, to get to know him personally and when we have done that it is our job to tell the world about him, just what he stands for and how credible he is.

So as you travel through Holy Week spend time with Jesus, develop your relationship so that as you meet other people you can help them to get to know him more too.

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