On Sunday night I returned home following a four-day mission in Cumbria as part of the Moving Mountains campaign. The ecumenical mission involved Anglicans, Methodists, Salvation Army and URC. 33 teams worked across the county and were engaged in around 500 different activities reaching about 25,000 people. Each team consisted a group of local Christians supported by a number of others who volunteered to help. Four Synod Moderators (Steve Faber, Andrew Mills, David Pickering and Paul Whittle) and myself each brought a few others with them.
My little, but perfectly formed, team consisted of Gwen Collins and Kate, my wife. In addition, we were supported by Alan Winstanley, the ex-Bishop of Peru and Bolivia. Our team was allocated to the Furness peninsular region, excluding Barrow-in-Furness. This is a rural area that has the feel of an island. It is bordered on three sides by water and to the north by the A5092. Typically, people do not go south of the A5092 unless they need to. Despite being beautiful countryside, typical of the Lake District, it is just outside of the National Park and so not a tourist hot-spot. A peninsular, but definitely not insular! My team was made to feel very welcome and we quickly became part of the community.
On Thursday, 8th March, Moving Mountains started with a commissioning service held in Penrith (in the Penrith Auction Mart) directed by the Mike Talbot (the Evangelism Enabler in the Carlisle Diocese and the programme manager for Moving Mountains) and included the Archbishop of York, The Most Revd and Rt Hon John Sentamu, Loraine Mellor (President of the Methodist Conference), Major Drew McCombe (Divisional Commander for the Salvation Army in the North West) and myself. The mission
ended with the UK’s largest Messy Church held in the Rheged Centre, Penrith on the Sunday. The main work of the mission took place on Friday and Saturday. Our work centred on Urswick, a market town close to the centre of the peninsular and covered many activities from school assemblies and country markets to coffee mornings and a film night. On the Sunday morning I took the service in the Urswick URC. This was quite a poignant service given the church meeting has recently decided to close the church, which only has eight members.
Was the mission a success? It is too early to say if we have enabled new people to get to know Jesus. I’m sure that this is the case, but I believe two other significant benefits have already been ‘delivered’. Firstly, through the commitment made by a whole host of senior people (27 bishops, nine Methodist District Chairs, five URC Moderators and one Salvation Army Divisional Commander) we have encouraged and inspired the local teams to enhance their mission focus. In addition, we have demonstrated that the four denominations are more powerful together than they are apart. This is ground breaking in the life of our churches in England, and in no small part due to the ecumenical vision, grace and enthusiasm of the Bishop of Carlisle, the Right Reverend James Newcome.