Derek Estill reflects on his recent work as one of the General Assembly Moderators
In my last blog I said I was getting ready to go on holiday. Margaret and I went to Wales for a few days with stops near Chester, in Ross-on Wye and in Llandovery.
This gave us an opportunity to explore places we hadn’t visited before and to enjoy the journey. We also went to the Gower Peninsula near Swansea in south Wales. The weather was good, and we had a lovely relaxing time.
The picture shows a beautiful beach on the Gower, one of many which we know very well and enjoy visiting most years.
Since our return there have been meetings with the local town council on social integration and preparations for marking Holocaust Memorial Day in 2019, which I am involved with through the local Interfaith Forum.
I have also been involved in a project which my local church, Westbury Gardens URC, is leading in tackling the scourge of litter and fly tipping.
As Christians, we want to look after our God-given planet and this work involves many churches and as such is very important shows us working out our faith in practical ways.
In this project three schools, two residents’ associations, two housing associations and our church are working together, and there is huge potential to expand the partnership. This will bring an ecumenical and interfaith dimension to this work, contributing to the development of good community relationships with opportunities to build deeper connections.
The picture below shows the work done by local children during a Bible-based holiday club held at Westbury Gardens URC. The construction behind the group was conceived and designed by children from local schools and built by adult supporters of the church. It makes people think before dropping litter.
You will also see the ‘Dusty Bins’ (who remembers Ted Rogers of 3-2-1 fame?) the children made to take home and use.
There continues to be a lot of planning and preparation for the forthcoming Mission Council. Nigel and I met our chaplains, the Revd David Coaker and the Revd Elaine Colechin, as part of this. Papers have now been sent out and we will be meeting at The Hayes Centre, Swanwick, from 16 to 18 November.
The North West Synod, which I am a member, is implementing new missional partnership arrangements to bring groups of churches together to share ministry. I recently attended a gathering of representatives from 12 local churches which went very well with each church enthusiastically sharing their outreach work and making new connections. I am sure that similar work is going on in your own Synod or area and I hope you can support it somehow.
After my break I led worship at Alkrington and Providence United Reformed Church, Manchester marking the 27th Anniversary of the churches coming together. We celebrated communion and during the service thought about travelling, considering the importance of the journey and not just the arriving.
We remembered that children often ask: ‘are we nearly there yet?’ not long after setting off. We thought that this might also be something we ask ourselves as we travel on our journey of faith.
I think it is important to enjoy the journey and to recognise the many opportunities we have, as we walk the way, to share the good news about our faith and to tell others about accepting Jesus into our lives.
I recently attended the Tonge Moor Bolton URC CRCW Building Bridges project AGM. This project has many local partners who work to foster respect and trust so the local church and children’s centre becomes a community hub, for local people to use and appreciate and to know the church is for all.
Many of you will be involved with Messy Church. I attended at a local infant school which used the theme ‘I will make you fishers of men’. Great fun was had by the children playing games, making paper fish and flags to be used with a fishing boat built especially for the session.
The children really enjoyed the art and craft, story, prayers and songs and, of course, the food at the end. Parents who took part expressed their appreciation that the church had run the session making feel like an after-school club. I am sure this is typical of many others across the country. Whilst it may not translate into more people coming into church, such work is helping churches engage with people in a real and effective way.
Tree of Life Synagogue
I was part of the church’s response with its prayer and comment following the horrific attack at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, USA, where 11 people were killed.
It is crucial that we quickly condemn all hate-filled attacks and express our horror whenever such things happen.