Friday, April 28, 2006

What do you want?


Since we started this blog it has perhaps been a bit hard going. The general idea was to allow it to be a forum that we as churches could share ideas and thoughts. It could be a place for debate. However, it has not quite worked that way so far, so perhaps now is the time to ask the question 'what do you want?' let us know.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Men's Group

We are holding the first gathering of the men’s group on Tuesday 28th March at 8.00pm. The idea is that as a group of men connected with the churches through different ways it might be good to get to know one another better. The first such gathering is entitled 'curry and conversation' and will set the tone for future gatherings, casual conversation, enjoying each others company and just having a bit of a laugh together. If you are interested we will be meeting at the Punjab restaurant possibly the finest restaurant in Rusholme. See Stuart or Paul for further details.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Children The Church of Tomorrow?


As a church we are lucky enough to find ourselves in the position where we are starting a new youth group on March 5th. However this does raise the questions about how we involve young people in the life of our church. Does the old Victorian maxim still apply ‘children should be seen but not heard’ or should they be as valued as any member of our church.

I spent some time as the district youth secretary for Cheshire and used to become cross when people told me how children and young people were important for after all they were the church of tomorrow. I would politely correct them and tell them they were wrong. Children and young people are in fact the church of today and the leaders of tomorrow.

How do we ensure they are represented in all aspects of our church life? Should for instance we be canvassing their opinion as to whether or not the worship meets their needs. Should we be offering an alternative youth service, perhaps this could be an ecumenical venture. How are children and young people catered for in the social life of the church?

Perhaps the more contentious question is how are young people catered for in the power making bodies of our church? How would the church feel about a young person being represented on the elders giving their views about how the church should move forward?

These are just ideas to be floated, discussed and added to, feel free to agree or disagree, modify or dismiss and I look forward to your comments.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Message From Not the Manse

I would like to take this opportunity to share with you the great news that there has been an addition to our family. Once again the patter of tiny feet can be heard around the Radcliffe household, no don’t worry we have not been concealing a baby we are now the proud owners of a German Shepherd dog. It is crossed with another breed (something stupid we think), 1 year old and came from the dogs home.

As you can imagine taking on a dog has brought new responsibility for us all. Learning to care for a family member who is dependant upon you be that a dog or another human being is not something to be taken lightly. This new burden of care started me thinking about how we take care of one another within the church and the wider community in which God calls us to live and serve.

Being church is not about us looking within our own walls, nor is being a Christian about worrying over our own welfare at the expense of others. No, God calls us to love and care for those around us.

The U.R.C’s ‘Catch the Vision’ project is about the church rethinking how we should be church. So how are we church? Do we exist as an exclusive member’s club concerned primarily with our own membership rights or does God call us to more? When Jesus was asked:

‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’
He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.”
This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it:
“You shall love your neighbour as yourself.”
On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’

We have a responsibility to care for one another, not to be looking within the entire time but to share what we have with others. It doesn’t need to be through large actions or grand gestures. We need not undertake programs of large scale evangelistic mission, we do however, need to make sure our churches are welcoming, caring and looking for and finding ways to reach out to those in need.

Pastoral care of one another is often the small things we do, the favour for our neighbour, checking on a friend, being available to listen, offering a hand. God is to be found in these gestures, in the small things, the intimate things of life, in the day to day business of being human. Here in the midst of our humanity God is found.

Being Church in today’s society means being prepared to take God out into the world, no longer being content for the world to come to us (perhaps this was always so). May God bless us as we struggle and learn together how to be the church that God calls us to be.

Stuart.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Seasons Greetings

On behalf of Sale and Ashton United Reformed Churches may I wish you a happy Christmas and a peaceful new year.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Sash Magazine Letter

How good are you at planning ahead? I always have plenty of good intentions it’s just that at times my intentions don’t live up to my plans. For instance I had intended to tell you about myself long before I started working with you, yet somehow here I am having spent a month amongst you already.

So where do I start in telling you something about myself? I am married to Karen and we live in Chorlton We have three children, Kathryn who is 14 and Hannah aged 11 go to school in Hulme and Rebekah aged 8 who goes to school in Chorlton.

So what else can I tell you about myself and how I ended up in Chorlton? I grew up in Timperley and went along to Woodlands United Reformed Church with my parents. I became a Christian when I was about 16 thanks to a combination of church, Christian Endeavour and Billy Graham’s influence. When Karen and I married we moved into exile in Warrington, however this was soon to become home and the place we were to find so hard to leave behind in years to come.

I suppose I had felt a call to ministry almost from the moment I committed my life to Christ; however I had always dismissed it, as the time never seemed to be right. We both continued to bring up our young family and ploughed our time into working with our local church, St John’s United Reformed Church in Warrington. Yet no matter how busy we were, there was still a need within both of us that we were unable to fill.

Shortly after Kathryn was born a friend left us with the words of Jeremiah 29:11 ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ We believed firmly that God was calling us; yet failed to see how this could be to full time ministry. There seemed to be too many obstacles preventing us from answering this call. One Spring Harvest we sat down with some friends of ours who were on home leave from Tanzania where they were working as missionaries. We talked and prayed all evening about our situation and felt God telling us to step forward in faith, to push doors and see where they opened.

I went to see Graham Cook, who at that time was the Mersey Synod Moderator, only to discover my academic qualifications were not sufficient for me to train for the ministry. So the first door I had pushed on seemed to have closed in my face. However, to my amazement, I found myself (thanks to the generous support of my church) studying part time on the Faith In Living course at Luther King House, as a way of proving my ability for further study. So, to cut a long story short, I applied for the ministry the following year and was accepted to commence training in September 2003.

I spent my first year in an ecumenical placement working with St Edmund’s and St James’ C of E churches in Whalley Range and Moss Side. The time I spent there was both challenging and fulfilling. Having struggled to say goodbye to our church family in Warrington, we could not have wished for a warmer welcome. Karen and the family quickly settled and made friends. They continue to attend there regularly to this day. My second year was spent on placement at Hulme, Chorlton Road and United Peoples Churches which formed part of The United Reformed Church South West Manchester Group. Again this past year has been both challenging and rewarding as I have settled back into life in the URC.

The past years that led us to where we are now have been a long journey. We look forward to this time now where our journeys meet. We are excited at the prospect of getting to know you all and working alongside you. I close by reminding you of the words that have guided and encouraged us over years gone by and I hope will sustain us in years to come:

‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’

Yours in Christ

Stuart, Karen, Kathryn, Hannah and Rebekah.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Welcome

Welcome to those from both of the churches who are viewing this for the first time. As I promised at a recent meeting the first person from either of the churches to leave a comment wins a prize.

I do hope that you will find this a useful forum for discussion, debate and exploration and that it will add to the many and varied ways that we communicate with each other. So thanks for visiting and bookmark this site and come back on a regular basis. Do check out the links on the side all are worth a check and should you have any suggestions as to links we could add or ways to develop this blog please post them.

Best wishes
Stuart and Paul