Garstang United Reformed Church | News Page 1


News: 2020

URC GARSTANG is inviting you to Sunday Morning Worship, via Zoom meeting.

On Sunday January 3rd 2021, commencing at 10:45am.
The Service will be led by Lindsay Williamson.

On Sunday, to join the meeting, click here

or enter the following details on Zoom:

Meeting ID: 832 8946 3874
Passcode: 634412

The Order of Service can be followed below or downloaded by clicking here.


The service is led by Lindsay Williamson



Call to Worship
Hymn "Who would think that was needed"
Prayer and Lord's Prayer
"A stable!"
1st Reading: John Chap 1 vv 10-18
"Into the Light"
Hymn "In the bleak midwinter"
2nd Reading: Ephesians Chap 1 vv 3-14
"God with us!"
Prayers of Concern
Hymn "Jesus is born"

Posted: Thu 31st Dec 2020

Thought for the New Year

As we stand at the gate of the new year, no one knows what 2021 will bring, just as no one could have anticipated an unprecedented 2020, with the global pandemic and all the disruption and extreme challenges in its wake. What we do know is that 2021 will bring its highs and its lows: There will be challenges and new opportunities, there will be times of joy and happiness, but also times of sadness and uncertainties. There will be fresh visions and newness of life, but also stalemate and disillusionment. 


We certainly don’t hold the key to the future in our hands and so can’t lock or unlock what happens, yet, we can know and put our trust in the God who holds the key to the future in his hands. As we journey in 2021, we can choose to consciously focus on the positives, finding and celebrating the good and helpful things; it will be worth it in the end. Have faith, be hopeful and joyful for the same God who raised Jesus from the dead, will extend his faithful care to everyday of the New Year (Ephesians 1:15-20): He will be there to shower us with his love and acceptance. He will be there in our times of happiness and fulfilment. He will be there to help us experience hope in the face of despair, light in the face of darkness, assurance in the face of uncertainties. We can confidently say as the psalmist: I know that your goodness and love will be with me all my life (Psalm 23:6).


Below is a poem that I find helpful: 


I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: 

‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown’.

And he replied: 

‘Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. 

That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way’. 

So, I went forth, and finding the hand of God, trod gladly into the night. 

And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day  

(The Gate of the Year, Minnie Louise Haskins, 1875-1957)


Praying you have a good, healthy and blessed 2021

Irene John

Posted: Thu 31st Dec 2020

 Below are some photos of Christmas last year to remind us all of what has passed and what will come again.


Some of the Christmas meal together.

Posted: Sun 27th Dec 2020

Below are the planned services at Garstang URC during January 2021. All services begin at 10.45am

3rd January, Lindsay Williamson, Zoom service

10th January, Communion with Michael Pickles, Zoom service

17th January, Rev David Greenwood, Zoom service

24th January, Rev Irene John, in the Church Hall, places to be booked via Stella

31st January, Mike Hart, Zoom service or in the Church Hall dependant on tier level 

Posted: Sun 27th Dec 2020

Thought of the Week, Sunday, 20th December 2020.

Mary says ‘yes’ to God, Luke 1:26-38

How astonishing that God would decide to come into the brokenness of our world as a tiny baby, born to an ordinary teenage virgin called Mary, who was waiting to get married to Joseph. Mary was a peasant girl, living an uneventful life, thrust into the limelight with the appearance of the angel Gabriel, with a message from God: greetings to you favoured one… (v.28). With this one visit of the angel, and Mary saying ‘yes’ to become God’s vehicle for Jesus to be born, everything changed with her forever.

As Mary processed the information in her mind, she became confused and frightened - What were the implications for her and Joseph? What about the tongues that would wag in her tiny village of Nazareth? Would she be rejected by her family for bringing disgrace upon them? Yet, in obedience, Mary chose to say ‘yes’, staking her reputation and her future on it: I am the Lord’s servant, may it happen to me as you have said (Luke 1:38).

Mary’s obedience started a chain of events that led to the birth of Jesus Christ, his death on the cross, and his resurrection; all testament to the fact that with God nothing is impossible. Today, we may say we believe that God can do the impossible, but do we believe that he can do it through us? As Mary did, are we willing to say ‘yes’ to God, staking our reputation and future in his hands? Are we willing to take the risk in trusting the God, who sees and knows the bigger picture, even when it doesn’t make sense to us?

A Christmas Prayer: By Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894)

Loving Father,
Help us remember the birth of Jesus,
that we may share in the song of the angels,
the gladness of the shepherds,
and the worship of the wise men.
Close the door of hate
and open the door of love all over the world.
Let kindness come with every gift
and good desires with every greeting.
Deliver us from evil by the blessing
which Christ brings,
and teach us to be merry with clear hearts.
May the Christmas morning
make us happy to be Thy children,
and the Christmas evening bring us to our beds
with grateful thoughts,
forgiving and forgiven,
for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Have a peaceful Christmas and a healthy and happy new year
Irene John


Hope you have some fun with the following:

Christmas jokes:
Why does Santa always go down the chimney?
Because it soots him.

Who looks after Santa when he is ill?
The National Elf Service

What did the salt say to the pepper?
Season’s greetings!

Why was Santa’s little helper depressed?
Because he had low elf esteem

What did the stamp say to the Christmas card?
Stick with me and we will go places.


Posted: Mon 21st Dec 2020

Below are the planned services at Garstang URC during January 2021. All services begin at 10.45am

  3rd January, Lindsay Williamson Zoom service

10th January, Communion preacher tbc on Zoom

17th January, Rev David Greenwood Zoom service

24th January, Rev Irene John in hall book via Stella

31st January, preacher tbc Zoom or hall dependant on tier levels and availability of Stewards for the hall

Posted: Sat 12th Dec 2020

Thought of the Week, Sunday,13th December 2021.

Isaiah 64: 1-4, 8-11, Luke 1:46-55, John 1:6-8, 19-28, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

The lectionary readings this week are all about joyful expectation and living in hope of the promised return of Christ.

In Luke we hear Mary rejoicing in the fact that God has chosen her, a young girl from a humble home, to be the bearer of his Son. She recognises that the birth of the child will fulfil God’s promises made long ago to his people-- the hungry fed while the rich and proud are scattered and left to their own devices. A prophecy we find in Isaiah 61.

In John’s gospel we hear of an itinerant preacher called John with a fiery and forthright message. John [later to be called the Baptist] doesn’t mince his words. The prophecy was fulfilled! The Kingdom of God was at hand and the people must repent - change their sinful ways. He warned the well-to-do that they must share their food and clothing with the less fortunate. He exposed the greed of tax collectors and warned them not to cheat people.

We seem to have spent most of this year waiting in hope and expectation; we want to know when we can get back to our usual daily routine; to start living a more ‘normal’ life’. We are tired of waiting. This year has been like an elongated Advent. We have had to stop rushing about trying to fill every moment of every day. We have tried to wait patiently for things to change so we can resume living safely.The pace of modern day society is such that the joy of waiting patiently for anything has been lost. Even during Advent, a special time of waiting, the build-up to Christmas can be so frenetic that it’s easy to lose sight of its true meaning. It’s great to buy gifts for our loved ones, but do we need to spend extravagantly? I’m sure most people would consider spending time with loved ones this Christmas to be a priceless gift worth more than any material gift. This year we can prepare well for the Christmas celebration as we all have more space and time to sit quietly for a few minutes in the presence of God; to take time to wonder at the beauty of creation and to give thanks for all that is good: the skill and dedication of doctors, nurses, care workers and emergency personnel and all those who have kept us able to function, albeit in a different way, this year. Let’s take time to remember the joy of Mary knowing she had been specially chosen; to learn to be a prophet like John foretelling better times to come; to rekindle in the lost and broken a hope for the future. Let us absorb the message of hope from Mary & John that the light is coming, yet is already here, and be ready to be the agents of change that God calls us to be. May he work through us to restore broken lives and bring light to those whose lives have become dark and had their spirits crushed by what has happened this past year.


God of Advent and of Restoration,we praise you for every new day that absorbs the darkness; for every rising sun that calls the night to end; for every messenger of hope and forgiveness that baptises us with your love. Amen.

Posted: Sat 12th Dec 2020

The Revd. John Gordon has written a letter introducing himself to the North Lancashire Partnership. It gives us a good insight into his Christian beliefs and the person he is. To read his letter, click on his photo below.

Posted: Sat 12th Dec 2020

 Daleen Ten Cate sends Chritsmas Greetings and a prayer.


It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.

The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, 
it is even beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime
only a tiny fraction
of the magnificent enterprise
that is God's work.
Nothing we do is complete,
which is another way of saying
that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.

No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No programme
accomplishes the Church's mission.
No set of goals and objectives
includes everything.

That is what we are about.
We plant a seed that will one day grow.
We water seeds already planted,
knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations
that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects
far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything,
and there is a sense of liberation
in realising that.
This enables us to do something,
and to do it very well.

It may be incomplete,
but it is a beginning,
a step along the way,
an opportunity for the Lord's grace
to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results,
but that is the difference
between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders,
ministers, not messiahs.

We are prophets of a future not our own. 

*This prayer was composed by Bishop Ken Untener of Saginaw, drafted for a homily by Cardinal John Dearden in Nov. 1979 for a celebration of departed priests. As a reflection on the anniversary of the martyrdom of Bishop Romero, Bishop Untener included in a reflection book a passage titled "The mystery of the Romero Prayer." The mystery is that the words of the prayer are attributed to Oscar Romero, but they were never spoken by him.

Posted: Sat 12th Dec 2020

 We have receieved this Christmas Greetings from our friends at Bolton-le-Sands URC.

Posted: Fri 11th Dec 2020

We have received this Christmas Greeting from the members and Elders at Forton URC.


Posted: Thu 10th Dec 2020

 We have received this email greeting card from Trinity URC, Lancaster.

Posted: Tue 8th Dec 2020

Thought of the Week, Sunday, 6th. December 2020.

I would like to focus our thoughts this week on the Old Testament passage set in the Lectionary for this week, Isaiah 40 v 1 -11. In these 11 verses sit the essence of the Old Testament message of hope and comfort for God’s people.

This is part of the writings of the “Isaiah in exile”, speaking to the people far from their homes exiled in Babylon, a people suffering and unsure of the future. I have written previously about the relevance I find for our current times in the writings of the Old Testament, and this passage again has an important message for us.
The first thing to focus on is the language that stresses the closeness of connection between your God and my people “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God” (Verse 1)

Repeatedly God is referred to as “our” or “your” God, this is not a remote figure but one who in this time of need is closely entwined with the needs of his people. The word “says” underplays its meaning in the Hebrew – which is more like “keep on saying”. This is a God who is with us for the long term. There are lots of words in this passage that talk of the tenderness of God’s caring and nurturing of the people, culminating in the final verse with the image of the shepherd and the depth of his care for the flock. This is our God who, in times of trouble, puts his arms around us in loving embrace.

But for Isaiah, from that assurance, comfort and tenderness leads into a proclamation of God’s hope, sometimes hard in the sort of situation we find ourselves. There is a stubbornness to this sense of hope – one that believes, despite everything, in God’s persistent grace towards the human race. It is the grace that provides “from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins” (verse 2). For us individually and collectively what does that stubborn hope look like as we go into a further period of local restrictions on our lives? How do we continue to sense that hope borne of God’s comfort and care?

But as Isaiah reminds us, that is not the end of the story. The injunction “Lift up your voice with strength… “Behold your God!” (verse 9); reminds us that because of that comfort and hope we are called to reach out to others to receive that promise, to “prepare the way of the Lord” (verse 3).

Advent is a time when we think of the hope that Jesus bought to the world. It is also a time when, perhaps more than at any other time of the year, others are more aware of Jesus and hence there is more opportunity to share the comfort and hope we find in our faith in Him. Importantly, Christmas cannot be simply be looking back to events 2000 years ago, but to show how that the message is real today. The challenge for each one of us is how we continue to express that to others. A challenge that today requires us to find new ways of communicating what God has bought into our lives.

Dorothea of Montau (14th Century: German Hermit and Visionary) wrote:

“You are my hope,
My food
My trust
My comfort
And all my desire.”

A Collect for today (Taken from David Adam Traces of Glory)

Lord, grant us a glimpse of your glory:
open our eyes to your coming to us,
that we may know that you are with us always,
and that you are a very present help in trouble.
Lord, as you abide is us and we abide in you,
may we show traces of your glory in our lives,
and so glorify you, Lord Jesus,
Who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
One God, now and for ever. Amen.

Posted: Sun 6th Dec 2020

GOOD NEWS - We now have a new Minister. Garstang Elders have received confirmation that the Synod Committees have agreed with the Missional Partnership proposal that Revd John Gordon be appointed as the Second Minister for the group of seven churches in the North Lancashire Missional Partnership.

Further details can be read in the Moderator's letter by clicking here.

Posted: Sun 29th Nov 2020

Thought for week beginning 29th -11-20

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light Isaiah 9:2

Advent is here again! Advent is four weeks of preparation for the Christmas season, when we celebrate the first coming of Jesus Christ in fulfilment of prophesy, even as we continue to wait with eager expectation, and anticipation for Christ’s second coming, when good will finally triumph over evil, and love over hatred. 

This advent we stand in solidarity with those who have experienced and continue to experience the tyranny of inequality, unfairness, suffering, injustice and oppression in a world under the curse of sin. Yet, they have hope in the God who has brought deliverance in the past, and who can deliver in the present, and will bring ultimate deliverance in the future, when the Messiah will bring peace, justice and righteousness to the world. 

In a year which has seen its full share of war, pandemic, death and heartbreak, difficulties and struggles, don’t give up hope - Continue to wait patiently and in hope for God’s timely intervention in our world. Jesus will come with his peace and joy to those looking for him this advent, and at Christmas, and he will come again in the final advent when God’s kingdom will be established on earth.

A poem:

Advent, 1955
The Advent wind begins to stir 

With sea-like sounds in our Scotch fir,
It’s dark at breakfast, dark at tea,
And in between we only see
Clouds hurrying across the sky
And rain-wet roads the wind blows dry
And branches bending to the gale
Against great skies all silver-pale.
The world seems travelling into space,
And travelling at a faster pace…
On some momentous journey bound –
Journey to what? to whom? to where?
The Advent bells call out ‘Prepare,
Your world is journeying to the birth
Of God made Man for us on earth.’

(John Betjeman)

Take care and blessing

Irene John

Posted: Sun 29th Nov 2020

Weekly Reflection, Sunday, 22nd. November 2020.

Gospel Reading: Matthew 25 v 31-46

Today is The Feast of Christ the King

The feast of Christ the King was first marked in 1925, Pope Pius XI was deeply concerned about the state of the world; worried (as he said in the encyclical that established the feast) that “the majority of men had thrust Jesus Christ and his holy law out of their lives; that these had no place either in private affairs or in politics”.  

As we find in our Gospel reading, the bringing of the world into the order of God transcends political vision and political authority, but that does not mean that this is an otherworldly vision. Matthew reminds us of how we prepare for the kingdom of God through our actions in this world. As well as praise and worship, recognising Christ’s kingship is also about responding to injustice and about speaking out against the ways in which authority supports injustice.

Many churches have developed statements of mission which illustrate both the breadth of Jesus’s message but also its connections with our actions (individually and collectively) in the world. The Anglican Communion’s five marks of mission provides an accessible summary of this, affirming:

“The mission of the Church is the mission of Christ 

·      To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom 

·      To teach, baptise and nurture new believers 

·      To respond to human need by loving service

·      To transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and pursue peace and reconciliation 

·      To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth”

The Anglican Communion’s Five Marks of Mission

For us in Garstang, this year has seen us receive significant recognition of our work in respect of the final one of these marks, with the achievement of the Eco Church Silver Award.

In my family, we’ve been reminded in the last few months about both the global dimension of the challenge to safeguard the integrity of the creation and the contribution as individuals we can make. Lauren was a finalist in the Lancashire Business View’s Sub36 Awards in the Go Green category having been nominated for work during a summer internship. She described this work in a blog for the university website as “helping the next UN Climate Conference (COP26) hopefully achieve certification to ISO20121 for the event in November 2021…. advising the UK government on how to create a sustainable event… being actively involved in the project, attending meetings virtually and assisting in the creation of the ISO (Quality) manual.”  COP26 is obviously a major international event with the potential for a significant influence on the future sustainability of creation, and I know Lauren feels incredibly proud to have been able to play a part in the preparations for it.

If COP26 is international in its scope, the Eco Church criteria have made me think more carefully about how in the way I live my life more consistently with principles of sustainability of creation. Like the church, we have done a lot of the obvious things at home, we use LED lighting wherever possible, we purchase our household electricity on a green tariff. The more difficult items are where it necessitates a change in the way I do things, so how do I make less use of my car, how do I get better at recycling and reusing things (especially when the cardboard bin is overflowing again). 

These are all things that as part of our commitment to the integrity of creation and being an Eco Church that we are all being encouraged to think about both collectively as a church but also as individual Christians.

Let us Pray:

Rainbow God,

You give us a beautiful and fragile world

filled with colour and variety,

a world seasoned with your splendour.

Yet you also give us the freedom

To make your world a wilderness,

a place where there is desolation and darkness,

a place of ugliness and fear.

And that’s what we’ve done 

again and again.

We have disturbed the balance of nature,

we have polluted the atmosphere,

we have violated our neighbours,

so that at the end of the rainbow

there are blood and tears, a cross and a tomb.


Dress us in a new robe,

rainbow God

a coat of many colours

so that Eden may not be past history

but an urgent goal,

and life may be rich again

for all your creatures.




Adapted from Donald Hilton: The Word in the World

Posted: Sun 22nd Nov 2020

Thought of the Week, Sunday, 15th November 2020

Matthew 25:14-30, 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

‘...friends, you’re not in the dark, so how could you be taken off guard by any of this? You’re sons of Light, daughters of Day…let’s not sleepwalk through life ... Let’s keep our eyes open and be smart’. [1 Thessalonians 5:4-6 The Message]

Just as we were getting back to some form of normality in our lives after months of lockdown, isolation and social distancing, we find ourselves just over a week into another lockdown, Not quite as severe as the first but for the very vulnerable another time of darkness and uncertainty. How do we get ourselves through and encourage others to stay positive? How are we to spread the ‘love, hope, peace and joy’ we will no doubt be sending to people in our Christmas cards? Will they be empty greetings or backed up by positive action large or small?

Thessalonians reminds us that we are people of the light because we have Christ in out lives; we must keep our eyes open for opportunities to bring light into the lives of others. The parable of the talents in Matthew 25 reminds us further that we all have talents or gifts; we are to use them wisely to bring the Kingdom of God to those in our world who so desperately need it at this time. During the pandemic we have all been encouraged to wash our hands more [who remembers being told by parents to wash your hands before coming to the table for meals?]. We are lucky to have easy access to water and, nowadays, hand sanitiser. However, 785 million or 1 in 10 people [2019 Water Aid statistic] do not have clean water close to home. In addition, 2 billion people do not have a decent toilet of their own. 19th November is World toilet day. Could you help bring the statistic down? Bring a little light into the lives of people who struggle to live dignified, healthy lives, let alone fight the virus, because of the inaccessibility of clean water and decent toilets, both necessary for good hygiene. So many charities find themselves with depleted funds this year but could you, perhaps, donate some of the money you have saved from not going out for meals or away on holiday? We can all at least pray for those working to improve sanitation conditions for those not as fortunate as we are and for monies to be found to support all the charities in need at home and abroad. Individually we cannot help all causes that require it but we can all help in small ways ’..let’s not sleepwalk through life’ but look for glimmers of light where God is working and offer encouragement in whatever way we can.

The Bible passages this week call us to be alert to what God is doing in the world. In the light of God’s reign, we are called to assess the resources that we do have – the gifts and abilities that we have been given – and how they can best be used to further God’s liberating, saving activity in our world. Faced with the global challenges that surround us, we may feel our contributions will be insignificant.What is clear is that, whether it’s using our wealth, our influence, or our voices, we all have a role to play and a contribution to make As we all obey the call, we do make a difference because together we become a force for change.

PRAYER:There is no shortage of ways that we can help to heal our world, Lord; we just need the willingness to see them and the courage to act. So, we pray for Your inspiration and strength, to use the abilities and resources we have for the sake of those who need them. [John van de Laar]

More information on providing clean sanitation is available on the Water Aid website

Posted: Sat 14th Nov 2020

Thought of the Week, Sunday, 8th November 2020.

Remembrance Sunday 

God is our shelter and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble Psalm 46:1 
We honour the memory of all those who have fallen in war, paying the ultimate price in the service of others. As we remember we think of the real cost of conflict and war, borne by families, friends and the community – the unimaginable grief, the shattering of security, the permanent scarring of lives both mentally and physically. As we think of the cost a conflict brings, we remember that there are many children born and raised in war zones, for whom conflict and terror are part of daily life. Sadly, these children don’t ask to live in areas of conflict but they do, and war becomes the only reality they know; every day they don’t know whether they would live or die, whether they would become displaced, desensitized, brutalised and dehumanised. 
The World can be a frightening place, where violence breeds violence. There is evil, selfishness and greed in the world, and forgiveness and compassion can be in short supply – we really need godly wisdom and intervention in learning the art of settling differences peacefully.
To compound things, this year in particular we also think of the continuing effect of the global pandemic; an unseen enemy that has resulted in the cancellation of almost all physical gatherings to commemorate the war dead. Key workers are referred to as frontline staff battling the virus, the race is on to find a cure, while deaths occur all too frequently. There are communities overwhelmed by the virus, there are those grieving the loss of loved ones, those with economic insecurities, and those affected mentally, spiritually and physically, and whose lives will never be the same again. 
In the midst of all the challenges faced, let us find reassurance in the tested and proven words of the psalmist that: God is our refuge and strength, whose presence and help will not fail (Ps.46:1). God demonstrated this fact when he offered his Son Jesus Christ as the ultimate sacrifice for all people of every race and nation. To those who believe hope is offered through Christ in the midst of suffering. What might seem like utter defeat and disappointment can be transformed into victory. So, in our remembering let us commit ourselves to God, seeing and treating human life as sacred with dignity and respect. Let us also, in our own way, place and time, seek to promote a culture of peace not of war, so that God’s peaceable kingdom may draw close. 
Take care and blessings
Irene John
Posted: Sun 8th Nov 2020

Thought of the Week, Sunday, 1st November 2020.

All Saints Day– called to be saints (Romans 1:7)

Today, on all Saints Day, and throughout this week, we are celebrating all God’s servants, who lived saintly lives, and witnessed to God’s truth and love, in their own time and place. We also think of those in the present, who answer the call of God, and are trying to do what God wants them to do with their lives, and are willing to even lose their lives in service to others. Most of the time, these saintly individuals are ordinary people who quietly work to help others making the world a better place. As we celebrate, we also remember the endless list of those who have touched our individual lives in many special ways, ranging from family, friends and even strangers – all of them are God’s gifts to us because they were and some still are there when we need them, lighting up the way. 

We too are called to be truly God’s people, living out the gospel where we are, loving mercy and walking humbly before God. As saints we are called to be people of integrity, love, grace and care to a watching world, allowing our testimony to stand out for Jesus. 


Activity – Make or do something simple as a visible reminder of all those saintly people who have touched your life, and who you wish to celebrate this week. 

I have made a pasta necklace; to represent some of the special individuals, who have made a lasting impact, nurturing, challenging, and inspiring me on my life’s journey.

Take care and blessings

Irene John

Posted: Sun 1st Nov 2020

Thought of the Week, Sunday,  25th October 2020

From not racist to anti-racist

As black history month draws to a close, the issues raised and the awareness created will continue, especially in this year that has seen mass protests against the level of institutional racism. Moving on, there is need for policies to be not just reactionary, but proactive, maximising the created space and opportunity to go further and deeper. Along with other denominations, the URC is also seeking ways of expanding the good work they already do in addressing the issues of racism. With this in mind, the Mission Council has agreed to bring a resolution to its meeting in November, asking the URC to commit itself to a journey from being not racist to being actively anti-racist. Also, Karen Campbell, secretary for the URC’s Global and Intercultural Ministries team, has launched a dedicated webpage that explores the legacies of slavery. The page features a range of resources and will be updated regularly – for more on this go to

Something to reflect upon, is this deeply moving poem written by Karen:


If the night sky wasn't inky 

Could the stars shine so bright? 

And if there wasn't darkness, 

Tell me, how could light be light?

No dark depths of earth – 

How would the flora grow? 

Black is essential, don't you know? 


You tell me black is no good – 

The shade of evil, shade of sin; 

How do I then make sense 

Of the blackness of my skin? 

The skin I didn't choose 

No more than you could choose your own; 

The skin that I was gifted – 

Only skin I've ever known. 


Black is what I am; it's who I am; 

It is my pride. 

It's the strength on which I stand – 

Where I refuse to be denied. 

Black speaks of where I'm going – 

How the world relates to me; 

Black speaks of where I've come from – 

Heritage and history. 

But it's hard not to internalise 

The message all around – 

Before a word is spoken 

That in Black offence is found; 

Explicit or implied. 

Yet from your view you cannot see 

The shackles to be broken 

Until Black lives full and free. 

(Karen Campbell 2019)


Take care and blessings

Irene John

Posted: Sun 25th Oct 2020

Thought of the Week, Sunday, 18th October 2020.

As I think most of you will know, listening to music is an important part of what makes me tick. Alongside streaming music, I’ve returned to my childhood love of the warm crackle of vinyl records and the wonderful sleeve art, which never was quite the same resized to a CD. One of my tasks over the summer has been to sort and sell the boxes of CDs which were gradually gathering dust in the house. Of course, the task bought back lots of memories of favourites that I hadn’t listened to for years and in some cases the need to track down a vinyl copy of something rare but particularly important to Jane and I from nearly 30 years ago.

In a similar way, in our worship we all have hymns that bring back particular memories for us. There is a family story of my sister’s baptism, the last verse of “My song is love unknown” and her mischievous older brother….  The hymn “Now thank we all our God” always reminds me of my father as it was one of the hymns that we sang at his funeral.

It’s a hymn that I knew dated back to the 17th century, but until very recently didn’t know the background to the hymn. It was written by Martin Rinkart, at a time when he was the only pastor in Eilenburg in Saxony during the 30 Years’ War. Eilenburg was a walled city in which many people had sought refuge from the war and its accompanying pestilence both of which had bought illness and death to the city. Martin Rinkart’s wife was one of those who died, Yet, in those circumstances, he wrote this wonderful prayer of thanks and gratitude. In a year in which our lives seem to have been dominated by restrictions and death, how easy to do we find it to offer God, the sort of praise and thanks expressed by Martin Rinkart.

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been reading the theologian Walter Brueggemann’s short book of essays “Virus as a summons to faith”, written earlier this year.  In it he reflects particularly on what particularly the Old Testament can teach us about faith in our times. In one essay he reflects on Jeremiah who describes a time where those rites of passage weddings and funerals are no longer taking place, yet the prophet is clear that the sounds of social gladness will return.

Give thanks to the Lord of hosts,

For the Lord is good,

For his steadfast love endures for ever!

For I will restore the fortunes of the land as at first says the Lord” Jeremiah 33 v 11


That phrase “restore the fortunes” is a favourite of Jeremiah occurring no less than eight times in the book. As often the translation hides the real meaning which is about a return to the land of God’s promise, not simply to the “good old days” Our God is a God of restoration, recovery, revival, of new gifts.  The rhetoric of Jeremiah and the words of Martin Rinkart remind us that God calls us to a ministry of unrelenting hope, one that is based on God’s “steadfast love” or as Brueggemann prefers to describe it God’s “tenacious solidarity” with his people. 


We are called to the service of the God of homecomings after displacement and exile, the God of Easter who does not quit on Good Friday. The God who celebrates the return of the Prodigal son with singing and dancing.


As we continue to live and make sense of the limits on our lives, the letter to the Hebrews reassures and reminds us:

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11 v 1)



A prayer adapted from Walter Brueggemann “Virus as a summons to faith”


We now miss out on so much

The graduation of a granddaughter

The wedding of a niece

The cup final

The beginning of the season

The great Easter liturgy

The day by day interaction of the street.

The virus has imposed a huge silence among us.

It is a silence that evokes loneliness,

And domestic violence,

And job loss, 

And the end of life in the bars, and on the beach and in the street.

We wait; we may wait in despair, or at least in deep disappointment.

But we may also wait differently:

We wait in confident faith

We wait in eager longing.

We wait in the Lord.

We wait for the future and against despair,

Because we know that you, the God of life, will defeat the force of death.

We know that the Friday execution could not defeat the life lived by Jesus

Nor the life lived by his faithful people

As we wait, we practice our next moves for the coming dance;

It is only a little while…” yet a little while”;

We will walk the long march of obedience;

We will run the race of discipleship;

We will soar like eagles into God’s good future of neighbourliness.

We know that you will overcome the silence

because the silence… no more than the darkness…

can overcome the Lord of Life.      Amen

Posted: Sat 17th Oct 2020

Thought for the Week, Sunday, 11th October 2020.

Racism is downright blasphemous – It is as if we are spitting in the face of God – Desmond Tutu

October is Black History month – throughout this month some TV channels are featuring programmes to celebrate black individuals who have made significant contributions to Britain. I watched one such programme this past Tuesday 6th, on ITV, presented by Alison Hammond: Back to School. It was educational and truly inspirational as through interviews with historians and various others, she uncovered some of the significant black figures who have been overlooked in the history books, and are absent from school curriculum. 

I was fascinated by the story of Walter Tull, the grandson of a Barbadian slave, born in Folkestone, Kent in 1888. Orphaned at 9, he spent his growing up years in a Methodist Children’s Home and Orphanage, in Bethnal Green, London. His faith helped to shape his character and resilience. He enjoyed a distinguished footballing career before enlisting in the British army in December 1914. He was commissioned as 2nd lieutenant in May 1917, which defied army regulations prohibiting ‘Men of Colour’ from serving as officers. He was recommended for the Military Cross (award still pending), for his bravery in WW1 combat. As I watched the programme, I couldn’t help but ponder over the question of why Walter and others who in the past contributed so significantly to the life of Britain are not included in the school curriculum? It was Nelson Mandela who said that: Education is the most powerful thing you can use to change the world. Inclusion of significant minority figures in the curriculum is not about erasing history, but making it fair, balanced and authentic.

Sadly, the society we are living in today is still not free from bigotry, racial prejudice and discrimination. Racism and discrimination find new expressions every day, not only in overt and outrageous ways, but also in subtle and covert ways. Even individuals with good intentions can fall into a trap of unconscious racial bias and profiling. Yet, for us as Christians, the biblical mandate is a call to engage in the mission of a God who has created all individuals as equals and who seeks to ensure life in all its fulness for all He has created. Part of the URC commitment is to challenge and equip all its members to resist racism within themselves, within the church and within society as a whole. 

I leave you with this quote: Our story is one of a people from rich and diverse journeys. Differences, not similarities, are the source of our vitality and strength in our common faith in Jesus Christ. This includes our Church heritages, theologies, cultures, national heritages and life experiences. As a multicultural Church, we are building a biblical understanding of God’s mission to which the gospel calls us to living God’s word, embodying God’s love and promoting God’s justice as we aim to include, affirm and welcome all. We will continue to live our calling of prophetic witness to holiness, hope and reconciliation, as we seek greater participation of all to reflect our rich and diverse journeys in all our life together. (The URC Vision 2020, Statement 5).

Take care and blessings

Irene John

Posted: Sun 11th Oct 2020

Thought of the Week, Sunday, 4th October 2020.

I am the bread of life. Those who come to me will never be hungry, those who believe in me will never be thirsty. John 6:35

With most people still spending more time indoors, there are lots of food programmes and recipes, on television and in the newspapers, all aimed at encouraging us to explore ways of improving our diets, losing weight, beating disease and keeping healthy. There is an argument for these programmes as it is said that since lockdown, obesity and its health-related issues are on the rise. It is also said that on average, individuals start and fail close to 200 weight loss diets in their lifetime. I think that what we choose to eat, or not eat, does have an effect on our health. A little junk food does no harm, but excesses do have health repercussions.  What applies to physical food also applies to the spiritual. So, in John 6:35, Jesus says: I am the bread of life. Those who come to me will never be hungry…

This saying comes just after Jesus had fed the great crowd, with five loaves of bread and two fish (John 6: 1-15). In Jesus’ day, bread was a staple food in Palestine, so he describes himself as bread, by way of explaining to his followers who he truly is. He is the true bread of heaven, the life-giving food sent from God. Like his then followers, we too need Jesus, the bread of life who came and died that we might know freedom. We need Jesus, the new wine who is there to satisfy our deepest yearnings and hunger for inner peace, forgiveness and hope. He invites us to come to Him for His feast for the soul, urging us to eat until we are full. 

The question is what choices do we make from the tables that are spread before us? Do we feed on food that creates worry, anxiety, selfishness, bitterness, hatred and despair? We read the newspapers and watch the news and become anxious and depressed. We listen to politicians and become cynical. Instead, let’s look for reasons to rejoice and be hopeful even as we allow ourselves to be nourished through scripture, through prayers and through fellowshipping with other believers. There is a longing in every heart that only Jesus can satisfy – He invites us to eat from his table and be satisfied.

Take care and blessings

Irene John

Posted: Tue 6th Oct 2020

 As it would be Harvest about now, here are some photos from 2018 to remind us how things use to be and will be again.

Posted: Wed 30th Sep 2020

Thought of the Week, Sunday, 27th September 2020.

Love never fails. In times of crisis, love unites us all. (Christian Aid, Autumn appeal 2020)
The above phrase appears in the Christian Aid Autumn appeal 2020, encouraging churches to help their global neighbours who are still facing environmental disasters, due to climate change. Right now, the current global pandemic is posing a further threat to the already existing climate crisis. No matter where we live, we can all acknowledge that there are climatic changes in the natural world. Sadly, those who are worst hit by the impact of these changes are those already poor, and living in the developing world. To give just two examples: There is famine and drought in parts of Africa, where it is estimated that the effects of climate change are being felt by over 580 million people, who rely solely on the land for survival. In Nicaragua, 80% of the population depend on agriculture, with many growing coffee farms which are now in crisis because of climate change, affecting the livelihood and wellbeing of the farmers and their families. Christian Aid is working with local partners to help those in desperate need – to find out more go to
As this is the season of harvest when we celebrate the bounty of God, we can help our global neighbours, by becoming proper stewards of God’s earth. We are given custody over the created world, not to destroy it, but to live in it, enjoy it, and take care of it. Part of taking care of the earth involves our responsibility to our global neighbours - like us, they are created in the image and likeness of God, we shouldn’t destroy their lives by the way we live ours.
This season, let us all be encouraged to take up the challenge of empathising with our global neighbours who live in parts of the world already experiencing the effects of environmental changes - Enter into their world, and feel the pain and suffering inflicted upon them by these changes. Then, let us play our part in helping, with our donations, but also in taking on the URC eco-challenge: to become a people committed to caring for God’s creation. To be intentional in reducing our carbon footprint, improve recycling, minimise waste, and improve efficiencies on finite natural resources in all our operations (URC Environmental Policy, 2016).

A prayer:

Loving God,
Come now and make us into a global neighbourhood
looking out for each other through struggle and crisis,
reaching out to strangers who become sisters and brothers,
shape us into a caring community, strengthening each other
through every challenge, standing together
until justice comes for all.
In your name we pray. Amen (Christian Aid/Wendy Lloyd)

Take care and blessing
Irene John

Posted: Sun 27th Sep 2020

Thought of the Week, Sunday, 20th September 2020.

Psalm 105 v 1-6, 37-45 and Philippians 1 v 21-30


As I expect many of you are already aware, not least if you subscribe to the URC’s Daily Devotions, we are in the middle of the Season of Creation Time. This runs from the 1st September to the 4th October (The Feast of St. Francis of Assisi). This provides an opportunity to reflect about matters of the climate crisis and our stewardship of God’s creation.

A fortnight ago today, Jane and I walked a circuit around the island of Lindisfarne. It is a walk we have done a number of times before, but I am always surprised to rediscover the contrasts between the different parts of the island, and how in no more than ½ an hour you can walk from the bustle of the tourists in the town, through the nature reserve and the dunes to the beaches of the north of the island, where people are rare and you are left with vast vistas of sand, sea and sky.

I also over my week’s holiday managed to read James Rebanks’ latest book, “English Pastoral”. Unlike his first book which was very much of an autobiography, this is much more of a reflection on his journey from a recalcitrant teenage farmhand helping his father and particularly his grandfather, to the sustainable farmer that he now seeks to be. The middle chapter in particular describes his journey through the growing commercialisation, the increasing use of artificial fertilisers and pesticides and the mechanisation of farming, to his realisation of the balance that must be drawn if it is to done in harmony with nature. In particular, he describes an epiphanal moment following the death of one of the last of the old style farmers in the area. His neighbours intrigued by what they might find sent a soil sample away for testing assuming that it would need plenty of work to become fully productive, as James writes:

“The analyst reported back that the soil was some of the best he had ever tested. Henry’s soil was healthy. It needed nothing. My father found this news a revelation. It shook him, because it said something about what the new farming was doing to the land. The most traditional farmer in the district had the healthiest soil”.

One of the things that many people commented on particularly during the strict lockdown of April and May was the connection that they found with the natural world. I remember someone walking past our drive and commenting on the strength of smell from the blooms of our neighbour’s magnolia bush. We also encountered deer on the A6 in Cabus on one of our walks and of course the audibility of the birdsong. In our garden that means a large group of sparrows (mingling beyond any rule of 6) squabbling over the contents of the bird feeders.

Our Psalm of praise is unusual in that it tells the story of Israel’s journey from Exodus in Egypt to the Promised Land. It is both a celebration but also a call to prayer for us We are called to journey with them from the commercialisation of Egypt through the desert to our promised land. As Andrew Louth commented, “The desert is a threat, a warning, a spur to activity between the Garden of Eden and the City of God. In Philippians, Paul challenges the traditional thinking about getting away from it all – to escape to another place and instead to express the depth and value of living your life right now in hope and in justice. In essence telling his readers that living – the more demanding option – “is Christ”. He reminds us that the contribution we make, known or unknown to the world, will be valued by God.

As a congregation, we have started on a journey as an eco-church to place our stewardship of God’s creation as a key part of our life and witness. It is a journey that we make together, but also individually as we reflect and act prayerfully in our individual lives. 

Let this creation time be an opportunity to recommit ourselves to that work in witness and mission to our world.


Posted: Sat 19th Sep 2020

Thought of the Week, Sunday,13th September 2020.

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made – Psalm 139: 13-16.

To some others, who after last week’s thought, also shared their concerns about children and youths in education within the current situation, the encouragement is that this situation won’t last forever - stay positive in the present, and hopeful for the future well-being of your family members, and of the children and youths of today. Just as the caterpillar is transformed into the lovely butterfly, something good can come out of chaos and change. In addition to her concerns, Val Gill (Hest Bank), shares a good news story of one of her grandchildren, who with the love, care and dedicated support of her mum has seen good come out of the chaos of lockdown and change. Val writes: On a positive note, we have a disabled granddaughter with learning difficulties, age nine, who has gained a great deal from the lockdown experience. Her mother took over her education and …she quickly improved in reading and number skills and in her self confidence and self-esteem … she appears to be valued and is happy.

Val’s granddaughter is a testament to the fact that something new and good can, and does, come out of challenging situations. As Christians we keep hope alive even in periods of great challenge and change, and say with the psalmist: For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Our precious lives are in the hands of the God who created us beautiful, and gave us the responsibility to take care of it, and develop it. Wherever we are, and whatever happens God knows and is with us. God will always be there for us, He notices everything about each one of us, and wants the very best for us: For you created me and shaped me, gave me live within my mother’s womb. For the wonder of who I am, I praise you: safe in your hands, all creation is made new (Bernadette Farrell, 1957).
Take care and blessings
Irene John

Posted: Sun 13th Sep 2020

Thought of the Week, Sunday, 6th September 2020.

What lasting memories do you have of Summer 2020?

I asked the above question in last week’s thought. Two of the responses I got, sums up some of the thinking of others. Comments from Jean Rogers (Garstang), includes: I think my memories of 2020 will encompass all that you have mentioned, in fact I feel that this year will stand out on its own for a long time to come.  I know that each and every one of us has been affected by all the situations but I feel particularly sorry for the youth of today. They have been thoroughly put through the mill as they say regarding their education at all levels and Hope and pray that there are no long lasting effects for them.  Just listening to our three grandsons who are still in education (one at University and two at College) it really pains me to see them quite stressed at times just wondering about the eventual outcome of all this and the effect it could have on their future. Jean’s comments would resonate with many who are genuinely concerned about the ongoing uncertainties and chaos, experienced by the children and youths in education, and also in the way they experience life in general, due to the current situation.

There are no easy answers or way forward, but let’s consider, and learn from the butterfly. The photo of this particular butterfly, taken on their flower bed at home, was sent to me by Mary Thornber (Garstang). She was inspired by the words, and photo of the sunflower in last week’s thought, to recall: God’s love and care, and the wonderful natural world that God has given us. Look closely at the butterfly, it has beautiful and brightly coloured wings, resting on the pretty bed of flowers, yet, its wings developed as a result of struggling in the cocoon until it broke free – In the process of breaking free, what was the end for the caterpillar, was a new beginning for the butterfly. 


Facing the unknown future, change and the challenges of a new routine, can be an uncomfortable, depressing and anxious experience for many -so, let’s be a source of strength and encouragement to the children and youths that we know, for something new and good can come out of chaos and change. Let us also trust that the God who takes care of the natural world, will take care of us and our families – His promise is: I will never leave you nor forsake you Hebrews 13:5.

And so, dear Father God, we pray for your presence, guidance and support in every way, and at all times, for Jean’s grandsons, and all the children and youths associated with the various church families, and all others within our communities and beyond, who are in education, and all their educators. We also pray that your presence, care and love be felt by all children and youths, and especially by those under stress, and facing great times of chaos and change. In the midst of the challenges, and as they all adjust to new routines and patterns, may the doors of endless opportunities and new beginnings open up for them, today and in the future. In Jesus name. Amen! 

Take care and blessings

Irene John

Posted: Sun 6th Sep 2020

Thought of the Week, Sunday, 30th August 2020.

The Summer of 2020 – I believe tomorrow’s sun is always burning, round the rim of night (J.B. Lawrence)

This summer has been an unforgettable one! As it’s nearly at an end, and autumn begins to peep out, what lasting memories do you have of summer 2020? Do your memories include the continuing impact of the global covid-19 pandemic? Is it the demonstrations against institutional racism, and those against unjust systems of governance? Or, is it the heat wave, followed by the unseasonal wind and rain? Is it the opportunity to travel and spend more time with family and friends? Is it the increase use of digital technology? Do your memories include the birdsong, the rich variety of colours and textures of the landscape?
Whatever our memories of summer 2020, we can include the goodness of our ever-present God, whose love is beyond measure, and who is the only constancy in an ever-changing world. Below is a picture of a sunflower, sent to me by Alison Hale (Trinity Lancaster). This sunflower, grew from a tiny seed, planted by her dad, and against all odds, surmounted all obstacles to become a 2m tall plant - Its majestic beauty represents, the mystery and miracle of life, pointing to the faithfulness of the God, who gives strength for each new day, and hope for each tomorrow.

The hymnwriter recognised the trustworthy nature of God in the words of this hymn:
Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father,
there is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not,
as Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.

Great is Thy faithfulness,
great is Thy faithfulness;
morning by morning
new mercies I see;
all I have needed
Thy hand hath provided, -
great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

(Thomas O. Chisholm, 1866-1960)

Take care and blessings
Irene John

Posted: Sun 30th Aug 2020

 Thought of the Week, Sunday, 26th August 2020.

There is more to life than measuring its speed. Let me look upward into the branches of a towering oak and know that it grew great and strong because it grew slowly and well. Slow me down Lord, and inspire me to send my roots deep into the soil of life's enduring values. [Author unknown]

Ecclesiastes 3:1-15 A time for everything.
For the last 4 weeks I have been meeting with Ann Wicks and 4 others in Ann’s garden on a Sunday morning. It began when we were allowed to meet with up to 6 people in our gardens [social distancing has been observed at all times]. We all take a poem, reading or article which has inspired, given hope or generally encouraged us especially during the difficult times we have been living through this year. We listen, reflect and comment on what we hear. Last week a theme seemed to develop around trees. During this week as I thought more about what I had heard I realised that trees have a relevance to each of our own lives.

Other than people, trees are mentioned more than any other creation in the Bible. There is a tree in the first chapter of Genesis and at the end of Revelation.
Trees make life possible. They provide us with food, shelter, shade and beauty. They lower temperatures, filter water, remove harmful carbon dioxide and replace it with the oxygen we need to breathe to keep us alive. Beyond meeting our physical needs, trees can teach us things. Anyone who has ever planted any kind of seed knows that they all need light to help them grow. Trees, and we, are no different. A tree naturally seeks light; we find our light in Jesus. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.” [John 8:12] so we can follow the example of the trees and seek the Light of the world by reading His teachings and following them as best as we are able.
As well as light, trees need water and plenty of it. Psalm 1 exhorts believers to be like a trees “… planted by rivers of water” encouraging meditating on on God’s law i.e. studying and drinking in what the Bible reveals about God’s will and plan for our lives. Given light and water enables a tree to put down deep roots which in turn enables it to grow strong and healthy. Ready to face the storms that may rage around it. The deeper our “roots” go in the Bible, the more we’re able to withstand the trials, troubles, and other threats that come our way.
Ann has a crab apple tree in her garden covered in fruits which are yet to mature. Planting crab apple trees encourages insects and pollinators into the garden which then benefit everything else growing there. What good would any apple tree or other plant be if it never produced a crop or seeds? Likewise, our lives should produce meaningful fruit and help others to do the same. Jesus said that we’d be known by the fruit we produce (Matt 7:16-20).
Genesis 1:11-12 mentions not just one variety of tree, but various kinds. They are not mentioned just for their beauty, but because each gives fruit with seeds in it. We cannot produce fruit of any kind unless we have strong roots and healthy minds based on what we read and learn from the Bible. In Ecclesiastes 3:1 we read that ‘There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.’ As we learn and grow with our roots firmly embedded in the knowledge that God is in overall control, we are all free to produce our own different fruit in abundance for the benefit of others.

Sally Watson with grateful thanks to my friends in Ann’s ‘Sunday Bubble’.

Posted: Tue 25th Aug 2020

Thought of the Week, Sunday,16th August 2020.

How wonderful it is, how pleasant, for God’s people to live together in harmony! Ps.133:1
In Psalm133 (a lectionary reading for this week), we have two images describing the beauty of God’s family here on earth: Firstly, there is the image of Aaron’s anointing oil, saturating his beard and running down his robe, signifying God’s grace, and his total consecration for holy service. Secondly, there is the dew of Mount Hermon; a high mountain in Northern Galilee, from whose base flow the source of the river Jordan. The dew, from its snow-covered mountain was a constant source of nourishment and fruitfulness for all. In the passage a link is made between Hermon and Zion, the hill city of Jerusalem - even though in different locations, both are referred to as members of the same family, called to live together in harmony. These images are linked to us, and the degree of communal harmony that should unite us, bringing fruitfulness for God’s glory.
There is beauty and blessing in accepting each other as a part of God’s family. Acceptance helps us develop companionship and trust with others, as a vital expression of our fellowship in Christ, through His Spirit. We are part of a family, that transcends the natural bonds of physical kinship, and is made sacred by the love of God. God is calling us to live together in harmony with each other - such harmony will help us to enjoy the common bond we have in Jesus Christ. This kind of harmony will help to break down the walls and fences that divide us, thereby ensuring that we display the grace and love of God as a model for community life. Living in harmony is not an easy option, as it does not exclude the need for accountability, integrity, fairness and justice, but it does include graciousness and kindness, standing alongside each other in our shortcomings and achievements, becoming responsible, faithful and trustworthy in all our dealings. Living together in harmony is a gift – as members of the same family do you hold each other as precious gifts from God?
Brother, Sister, let me serve you, 
let me be as Christ to you;
pray that I may have the grace to 
let you be my servant too. 
We are pilgrims on a journey,
and companions on the road;
we are here to help each other 
walk the mile and bear the load. (Richard Gillard, 1953-) 
Take care and blessings
Irene John
Posted: Sun 16th Aug 2020

Thought of the Week, Sunday, 9th August 2020.

Psalm 105: v1-6, 16-22, 45b and Matthew 14v 22-35

The focus of much of my work for the Synod over the last 10 days has reminded me of the interconnectedness of our lives as Christians not just in this country but across the world. As some of you will know, the Synod has a longstanding partnership with the Presbyterian Church of Taiwan. They have sent us, for our churches, a gift of 10,000 face masks. A wonderful expression of Christian love and charity. It’s been a delight to be able to tell people about this generosity, from individuals as I deliver another set of parcels to the post office, to the audience of Radio Lancashire’s Sunday Breakfast Show. But from that simple gift also comes responsibility to make the best use of what we’ve been given. So in deciding how these masks should be shared, I’ve been reminded of the many ways in which Churches in our area reach out in love to people in their community, through support for refugees and asylum seekers, in opening their buildings to local food banks, and running community cafés to provide food to the homeless.
Today’s Psalm uses the story of Jacob and Joseph to remind its readers of the stories of God’s goodness in our lives and the lives of our community. As with them, I feel blest by the understanding of God’s goodness that I have received this week. As the Psalm ends “Praise the Lord!”, so I respond “Amen!”
But If the Psalm reminds us of God’s providence, so the passage from Matthew reminds us of God’s presence, in time when we are faced with difficult decisions or situations. Here are the disciples floundering in a boat on the storm-tossed Sea of Galilee, seeing what they think is a ghost walking across the water towards them. But as Peter walks towards him his human uncertainties are balanced by the power of our faithful God.
Next week our Elders will meet to discern under God’s guidance how we can best move forward as a fellowship into the next chapter of our journey together. Its easy to characterise this as a binary decision about whether or not to reopen buildings for worship, but the reality is far more complex. Being a church is about how we worship together, how we have fellowship together and how we serve together in mission. If you’ve read Brenda’s history of our church, you will have sensed both the faithfulness of those who have gone before us, but also how in the twists and turns, sorrows and joys, they have never felt abandoned, despite the countless storms. We find ourselves today at one of those twists and turns and I hope you will join with me in remembering our Elders and the responsibility they bear, in thinking about our shared future, in your prayers at this time.

Mike Hart

Posted: Sun 9th Aug 2020

Scroll down for the answers.









Posted: Sun 2nd Aug 2020

Thought of the Week, Sunday, 2nd August 2020.

Genesis 32: 22-24

That night…a man wrestled with him till daybreak 

Jacob was experiencing a crisis in his life. He wrestles throughout the long night with God for his blessing, by day break a new Jacob called Israel was born. As was with Jacob, there are times in all our lives when we wrestle throughout the long night, until we are exhausted and feel we could do, or take no more - Times when the sun disappears, and dark clouds of trouble obscure the sky. Times when faith is changed to fear and doubt - When joy gives way to sadness and desperation, and when cheerfulness and laughter falls silent. When guilt, tears, pain, loneliness and anxiety dominate. But in time the dawn breaks anew, and the darkness clears, because God’s love is always shining.

This was the experience of the writer of the hymn: O love that wilt not let me go, sung last Sunday, during Hest Bank’s Zoom service, led by Brenda Mills. The writer, George Matheson, a Scottish Presbyterian minister, attained distinction as a preacher, author and hymnwriter of many hymns. Sadly, his personal problems including blindness in early adulthood, got him to the point of despair. He felt like giving up, but discovered that God hadn’t let him go. He says: I was sitting alone in my study, in a state of great mental depression caused by a real calamity. My hymn was the voice of my depression. In that ‘night time’ of distress, and in a short space of time, the inner voice spoke to him the words of the hymn:

O Love that wilt not let me go, 

I rest my weary soul in Thee;

I give Thee back the life I owe, 

that in Thine ocean depths its flow

May richer fuller be. 


And even though blind he added:

O Light, that followest all my way, 

I yield my flickering torch to Thee; 

My heart restores its borrowed ray,

That in Thy sunshine’s blaze its day 

may brighter, fairer be. (George Matheson, 1842-1906)

In the night time of our struggles, when we wrestle with many challenges, may daylight reappear, and may we all experience the love and light of the God who will not let us go.

Take care and blessings

Irene John

Posted: Sun 2nd Aug 2020

Thought of the Week, Sunday, 19th July 2020

Reflection: Who am I?

Lectionary Readings: Genesis 28 v10 -19a, Matthew 13 v24-30, 36-43

I am not always the greatest fan of lavish TV dramas but next Sunday I am looking forward to the start of the adaptation of Vikram Seth’s novel of post partition India, “A Suitable Boy”. My interest stems from the fact that I hope before the TV drama starts, I will have completed reading the book.

From the title and a cursory reading of the first chapter, you might be forgiven for thinking that this is some straightforward tale of a mother’s search for the right future husband for her remaining unmarried daughter. However, whilst that is an important strand of the tale, the novel has a far broader palette to cover in addressing questions of personal identity, between generations, within families, through political affiliations, and of course religious observance, all in 1500 pages. 

So, what has this to do with the readings that the lectionary has to offer us this week. I want to particularly turn to the reading from Genesis. Those of you who use the URC’s Daily Devotion will have come across this passage not long ago as part of a whistle-stop tour of some of the highlights (and lowlights) of Genesis and Exodus. Here we find Jacob in flight from home after acquiring his brother’s birth-right by trickery and deception. As he sleeps, God comes to him in his dreams and sets out the full span of his inheritance:

·      his past: his family history, 

·      the present: the place where he finds himself, 

·     his future: the legacy his actions and offspring will leave

All because God roots Jacob in His identity and offers Jacob the same covenant as he offered to Abraham. In that and Jacob’s response his identity becomes entwined with God.

As we seek to follow Jesus what are the things in your self-identity that you draw from your family; from where you grew up, or other places that you live, from what you do and from your understanding of God. Some of that is easy, for me I can say I grew up in the URC (or the Congregational Church as it was until I was nearly 9); I had a rather nomadic early childhood, so I have a restlessness about place; and obviously my finance qualifications defines a lot of what I do. But if those are the simple bits, more complex and challenging is my understanding of scripture and my faith in Jesus.

If the Genesis reading asks us about who we are, then the parable from Matthew challenges us about what we do, about how we live a righteous life, and the contrast with those who choose not to. The modern translation of tares as “weeds” loses much of the sharpness of the old comparison – tares were something particularly horrible if eaten. For the Hebrews, righteous is a doing word (a verb) so in the Gospels the identity of followers of Jesus is not simply about who we are but about what we do to further His kingdom. Perhaps verse 43 should be read as “those keeping the commands of God will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father (note the Biblical pun!). 

So, in our identity as followers of Jesus we need to be proud of our identity and what makes us each who we are, but we must also listen with our ears to understand what that means we must do. (Matthew 13 v 44). Sorry Biblical pun number 2!)


A short prayer

Thank you, God for all that you are.

Thank you that I find myself in you and that my identity come from who you say I am

Thank you for my past, my present and my future hope

Help me to inhabit my inheritance

Help me to live out my identity in Christ for all to see.



Mike Hart

Posted: Sat 18th Jul 2020

Thought of the Week, Sunday, 12th July 2020.

Genesis 25:19-24, Psalm 119:105-112, Matthew 13:1-9,18-23, Romans 8:1-11.

One of my favourite verses in the bible is Psalm 119:105
’Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path’.
In verses 105-112 the psalmist celebrates God’s word, committing to obeying God’s commands even when life is difficult and enemies threaten.
Nearly 20 years ago, when David & I were in New Zealand, we hired a car which happened to have a CD player. Wanting to make use of this ‘extra’ we went into a large discount store where I found the only CD to our tastes contained a track based on these very words. It was the first time I had heard a Psalm set to a ‘modern’ tune. It was completely different to any tune for a Psalm I was used to singing in church. This new, for me,way of praising God accompanied us as we toured the beautiful landscapes of NZ.
Singing hymns whether to an old familiar tune or a catchy new one can lift the spirits whether we can sing in tune or not!! I have found the three programmes ‘The Choir-singing for Britain’* with Gareth Malone moving and inspiring. He worked with front-line staff, key workers and those who have been in isolation during lock-down to come up with songs which reflected each of their situations:much like the writers of the Psalms did. In the final episode he completed his mission to write a song that he hoped would bring the people of Britain together. Much of the inspiration for the song came from 18year old worship leader Rae-Kwan. Together with participants from the other 3 programmes he delivered a moving rendition of the new composition which included the words ‘This is just another storm and every storm must fade. We will rebuild together’. Words so fitting for the times we find ourselves going through at the moment. What a great message to convey to the nation that God is in it with us and will be with us as we rebuild a new future together.
The music might not be to your taste-too modern or jazzy but I’m sure you will have your own favourite passage or hymn you can turn to to keep your spirits up and your faith alive until we can meet together and praise God for his light which is leading us through these dark days.
God’s Word is a lamp or guiding light for us to follow but He has called us all to bring His light to shine into the lives of those who are broken, hurting, lost and alone.The Word came to us in human form in Jesus so that we might better understand. Through him too we have the Spirit to inspire and give us hope and help us fulfil our calling.
In Matthew’s Gospel Jesus talked about the word of God as seed that is scattered and reproduces in abundance in good soil. I pray that many of those who watched the programmes will have received the seed of God’s Word and that it finds good ’soil’ in which to grow. May we be ready to serve God in encouraging those who come newly to His Word through whatever route so that their lives too might be lived abundantly for Him as they follow His guiding light.
Every blessing, Sally.

* available on BBC I player. If you have not watched I recommend it but have the tissues ready!!

Posted: Sat 11th Jul 2020

Thought of the Week, Sunday, 5th July 2020

Isaiah 61:3, Colossians 3:12-14  

The weather in recent days has been quite cold for this time of the year. We have experienced blustery winds, lots of clouds and long showers of rain. It is interesting to observe that some folk are choosing to wear warmer clothing items more appropriate for the weather – waterproof jackets, wellies, jumpers and cardigans, hats and caps, scarves and gloves and even some winter jackets, replacing the light summer items. Watching folk go by, have got me thinking that, every day, we all make multiple choices including the choice of what to wear. To some extent, what we choose to wear says something about us. Applying this to our faith, I wonder what do we choose to wear that says something about us and our relationship with Christ? 

Do we in unpleasant weather, when there are lots of clouds, long showers of rain and blustery winds, wear the pain and tears of ourselves and others? When there is brokenness and despair, do we wear the garment of praise and hope? When others need our encouragement and support, do we choose to wear clothes of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience? Furthermore, we are encouraged in Colossians to wear love at all times: And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. it’s your basic all-purpose garment. Never be without it (Col. 3:14, The Message). We must allow everything we do and say to be our garment of witness to the Lord, thereby saying something about us, and our relationship with him to the world. 

One of the classic films that I have enjoyed watching is ‘My Fair Lady’, with Audrey Hepburn as lead actress. In addition to her acting career, she was also a humanitarian. As one who was always well dressed, she often shared her beauty tips using a quote that included the following: 

For attractive lips, speak words of kindness.

For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people.

For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry.

For beautiful hair, let a child run his/her finger through it.

For poise, walk with the knowledge that you never walk alone.

(Audrey Hepburn 1929-1993, adopted this quote from Sam Levenson, 1911-1980)

Stay safe and blessings

Irene John 

Posted: Sun 5th Jul 2020

There are names of sixteen (16) books of the Bible hidden in the paragraph below. Let's see how many you can find:

I once made a remark about the hidden books of the Bible. A certain luke, kept people looking so hard for facts, and for others, it was a revelation. Some were in a jam, especially since the names of the books were not capitalized. But the truth finally struck home to numbers of our readers. To others it was a job. We want it to be a most fascinating little moment for you. Yes, there will be some really easy ones to spot. Others may require judges to help find them. I will quickly admit it usually takes the preacher to find one of them, and there will be loud lamentations when it is found. A little lady says she brews a cup of tea so she can concentrate better. See how you will compete. Relax now, for there really are sixteen books of the Bible in this paragraph.
Happy searching!!

Answer - The 16 Books are:
1. Mark
2. Luke
3. Kings (looking so hard)
4. Acts
5. Revelations
6. James (jam especially)
7. Ruth (truth finally struck home)
8. Numbers
9. Job
10. Amos (almost fascinating)
11. Esther (yes there will be)
12. Judges
13. Titus (i will quickly admit it usually)
14. Lamentations
15. Hebrews (she brews a cup of tea)
16. Peter (compete. Relax)

Irene John


Posted: Sun 28th Jun 2020

Thought of the Week, Sunday, 21st June 2020.

A reflection on Psalm 86
This is the Psalm that is set to accompany the Lectionary readings for this week. I would encourage you to read the Psalm in full before going any further.
The Psalm is a fascinating piece of scripture including in its 17 verses forty quotations from the Torah. Perhaps the Psalmist has been challenged to provide a short summary of its teaching. In its four parts it offers us a framework to reflect on God’s presence in our lives and our response.

Appeal for Help (Verses 1 -7)
For us, the Psalm is written from the perspective of an ordinary member of the church. It reminds us of the elements of prayer we should make as a regular part of our worship (personal as well as collective) – Affirmation of God’s grace and glory, Our confession and receipt of forgiveness, and our requests for help in our intercessions.
In our current circumstances, we should perhaps particularly reflect on verse 7
“In the day of my trouble I call on thee, for thou dost answer me”

Finding God (Verses 8 -10)
The next three verses read like a response to that appeal. The Psalmist asserts his confidence that God will be there for him even on his darkest day.
As we’ve gone through the last three months, reflecting the impact of events on our personal life, our local community, and our nation, have we wondered where God is. Perhaps we have prayed for signs of his presence in those difficult times.
The Psalmist should give us confidence that God is and will be there, read the affirmation in verse 10
“For thou art great and doest wonderous things, thou alone art God”

Plea for Guidance (verses 11 -13)
In the third part, the Psalmist offers plea for God’s guidance:
“Teach me thy way, O Lord, that I may walk in thy truth”
At a point where our traditional patterns of support and worship have stopped, and we now starting to think about what happens next, how are we reaching out to God, to seek his guidance. Change presents all of us with a challenge, to our traditional expressions of faith, but also an opportunity to start renewed for the next stage of that journey. At points like this, the Psalmists asks us to be open to God’s guidance, but confident in his steadfast love.

My Faith (Verses 14 -17)
In the final section the Psalmist shares something of his personal faith, the challenges of living a faithful life; of being slow to anger, constant and faithful in the face of what the world throws at him. His honesty is refreshing but also his determination to continue to work faithfully, verse 16:
“Turn to me and take pity on me; give thy strength to thy servant”
Three weeks ago, we celebrated the feast of Pentecost when we were reminded of the gift of God’s Spirit as a sign of his blessing and his help as we journey through our world, proclaiming His Kingdom. Like the Psalmist aa we journey in faith we should be confident that our “Lord, has helped us and comforted us” (Verse 17) and will continue to do so.

A prayer for our journey of faith.
Hearing God,
Help us hear what You hear

Speaking God,
Help us receive what You say

Eye-opening God,
Help us see what You see


Mike Hart

Note all quotations from the Revised Standard Version

Posted: Sun 21st Jun 2020

Thought of the Week, Sunday, 14th June 2020.

Exodus 19:2-8a, Psalm 100, Matthew 9:35-10:8 and Romans 5:1-8

Leaders of a small community, having heard of a serious threat heading in their direction, set off into the hills to find a place of refuge for their family and friends. Once they had found such a place they intended to return and lead the people into safety until the menace had gone away. They hoped the threat would pass leaving all unscathed.
After a long day of travelling, clambering over rocks and boulders, they decided to rest for the night. Seeing an opening in the hillside the weary souls took shelter. It was very dark and they were soon fast asleep. In the morning they found they had stumbled upon a cave which seemed to stretch way into the hillside. They decided to explore its depths and sent a message back home of their intention. It soon became obvious that they had stumbled upon a hidden passageway and they all wondered whether this would lead them to the place of safety they sought. They pressed on. It was not easy terrain, the tunnel was dark, they stumbled and fell but helped each other along, pooled their strengths and resources so made steady progress.
After some 80 or more days they glimpsed a speck of light ahead. It was quite a way off but there was now no turning back. They persevered and, encouraging one another, eventually emerged into a world where the birds were singing so loudly it drowned out their previous worries; the sky was bluer than they had ever known; in the valley below were people waving and shouting for joy at their sudden appearance.
Unknown to the explorers the threat had come so close that those they had left behind had decided to find another way round the hillside to reach a place of safety. Young and old had travelled together encouraging and supporting one another. The whole community was now reunited, the perseverance of each member meant they had come through the difficulties together and now had hope for their future together. As each person had found reward in being neighbourly and sharing their resources, knowledge and time with others they knew that life was going to be different from then on.
…We gladly suffer because we know that suffering helps us to endure, endurance builds character, which gives us a hope that will never disappoint us… God has given us the Holy Spirit, who fills our hearts with his love.[Romans 5: 3-6]
Shout praises to the LORD, everyone on this earth. Be joyful and sing as you come in to worship the LORD! You know the LORD is God! He created us, and we belong to him; we are his people, the sheep in his pasture. Be thankful and praise the LORD as you enter his temple. The LORD is good! His love and faithfulness will last forever.[Psalm 100]

Posted: Sun 14th Jun 2020

Garstang URC and Eco Church

At their meeting on 9th June, the Elders accepted without hesitation an offer from Mike Hart to coordinate and guide activities to extend our Eco Church achievements and adopt more ways of learning about God’s Creation and protecting the environment. Mike cannot do all this alone, and we should expect to hear of opportunities to become involved in the various projects he has in mind. These range from themed worship to revitalising areas of the church land and gardens, so there should be something for everyone. We thank Mike for his willingness to take on this role, and we wish him success in the months ahead. 

Posted: Thu 11th Jun 2020

Extracts from the URC leaders statement on racism.

The following statement and prayer comes from Karen Campbell, the United Reformed Church’s Secretary for Global and Intercultural Ministries, and the Moderators of the URC General Assembly, the Revd Nigel Uden and Derek Estill:
“I have come that you might have life in all its fullness.” Jesus Christ said this more than 2,000 years ago. But when will that fullness of life be afforded to all people – irrespective of the colour of their skin?
The United Reformed Church has no hesitation in adding its voice to the outrage and dismay expressed following the brutal killing of George Floyd. Floyd is the latest in a long line of black people killed in the USA by police officers - those whose sole authority comes from the motto “to protect and to serve”.
Together with our sister Churches in the USA, the United Reformed Church declares that racism - in any form - is a sin against humanity, and a sin against God, who created all people in God’s own image and likeness. As Christians, we heed Christ’s call that we should be one, we reaffirm our unity with all people through the love of our one parent-God, and we declare that it is meaningless to claim that "all lives matter" until Black Lives Matter.
Eternal God,
deeply troubled by what is happening following George Floyd’s death,
and by too much other inhumanity that doesn’t reach the headlines,
we cry to you as the one
whose love was the victor at Easter and
who pours it into our hearts at Pentecost.
As we observe the pain of a fractured world,
use your love to drive us from sadness to compassion;
as we watch the pain of the bereaved,
use your love to move us from pity to companionship;
as we are faced with the pain of marginalised people,
use your love to point us from complacency to your commonwealth.
In our praying,
let us not just talk to you,
but yield to your love;
in our anger,
let us not just rail against injustice,
but manifest your love;
in our actions,
let us not just flail about aimlessly,
but build the civilisation of love.
Until none of us are disregarded for who we are
nor any diminished by what we fail to be,
we keep on praying in the name of Jesus Christ,
Posted: Mon 8th Jun 2020

Daleeen Ten Cate invites you all to a Partnership Online Communion and Coffee Morning this June.

Please join me for communion and fellowship around Jesus’ table on Thursday, 11th June @ 10am for the Lancashire North Missional Partnership.

Please join me for a brief act of worship and fellowship around the coffee table on Thursday, 25th June. Don’t forget to bring your coffee/tea in your favourite cup.

If you haven't signed up before, drop me an email and I'll send you a Zoom invite.  


Blessings, Daleen Ten Cate

Posted: Sun 7th Jun 2020

 Sunday, 7th June 2020, Trinity Sunday.

(Genesis 1:1-5, 24-27, Matthew 28:19, John 16: 12-15, 1Peter 1:2)

Today is the first Sunday after Pentecost known as Trinity Sunday.  Trinity was first introduced as part of the church worship in the 14th century, celebrating the idea of the one God, who has shown himself in three persons. Trinity is the model of God living in a community of unity with diversity – There is God, the Father and Creator of all things - there is Jesus, the Son and Saviour, who shows us what God’s love truly is – there is the Holy Spirit, the comforter and advocate. The partnership between the three is one of standing together, of shared actions, and existing for others. An example of this togetherness within the trinity is found in the Genesis passage mentioned above where the Spirit moved over the deep, and God the Father says to the Son: ‘let us make human beings’ Genesis 1:2, 26.

The trinity model of existence can be helpful in our individual living and interrelationship with others, especially in our world today, where there is so much fear and hatred. Today, we live in a world where racial, economic and social divides are blatantly evident, and where there is an appalling disregard for human life and dignity. Yet, God created all human beings as equals, and wants the human race to be a community of diversity, but of mutuality and unity. Desmond Tutu highlighted the issue of community when he said: What invests people with worth is not biology, but that all without exception is created in God’s image. Each one of us is a God carrier, a God viceroy... In God’s family there are no outsiders, all are welcome all are the children of our heavenly Father. (Tutu’s address as guest speaker to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, Edinburgh 27-5-09).

Indeed, we are communal beings, everyone yearns to belong and be accepted. No one wants to live in isolation or exclusion, all want to experience the power of standing together. All need to learn the art of living for others. Could it be that irrespective of theology and traditions, God is encouraging us as Christians to keep working towards the breaking down of all barriers, thereby proclaiming the forgiveness and reconciling love of Jesus? 

Could it be that God is calling us not just to be tolerant, but genuine in our acceptance and embrace of others, until the whole human race is brought together as one family to the love and mercy of the God in three persons, blessed trinity?

And so, we pray: For real peace, enriching all the human race. We pray for peace, and not the evil peace defending unjust laws and nursing prejudice, but for real peace of justice, mercy, truth and love.  (We pray for peace, Alan Gaunt 1935)

Stay safe and blessings

Irene John 

Posted: Sun 7th Jun 2020

Thought of the Week, Sunday, 31st May 2020.

Acts 2 v 1-21
Today, we celebrate the feast of Pentecost, one of the most important festivals in the Christian calendar, but perhaps one whose significance to our faith is overlooked.
I want to take as my starting point an observation that Sally made in her reflection a fortnight ago, when she wrote:
“hopefully we have conveyed the message that the community of faith to which we belong is one of grace and welcome – that God is available to all and affirming that, through Him, all people “live and move and have their being”.
As you read the Luke’s account of the events of the day of Pentecost, what are the things that strike you? Yes, I know we all raise our eyebrows about the view that the disciples were drunk.
The first thing that draws my attention is the equipping of the disciples with the Holy Spirit. If we are to understand what they are being equipped for we need to go back to the accounts of Jesus’ ascension in Luke chapter 1.
“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth.” Luke 1 v 8 RSV)
If you read through both volumes of Luke’s work you will find a recurring emphasis on the spirit as an enabler of mission, starting with the account of Jesus’ baptism (Luke 3 v22).
The second point that the passage emphasises is that no longer is God’s message limited to a chosen few, but is now open to all – the disciples preaching in many languages is as though the Genesis story of the tower of Babel has been reversed. God in Jesus is a God for all.
Have you ever located on a modern map the places from which those who heard the disciples preaching had come? It’s a guided tour of some of the most divided places in our world; Israel and Palestine, Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Libya as well Turkey, Italy, and Greece. Sally wrote about the church as a place of refuge and support for those at times of grief, trauma, and unimagined difficulties, but as well as compassion, the Gospel calls us to a mission of peace and justice.
For all of us adapting to new situations is difficult, particularly at a time when many of the traditional patterns of our lives seem to have been shattered by the extended restrictions on what we can and can’t do. On Sunday, it will have been 75 days since I last worked in the Synod Office or met face to face with any of my colleagues. We have had to adapt our ways of working to use the technology we have available – I’m becoming adept at video meetings; to establish new routines for working at home around the demands of a full household; to become more aware of the patterns in which each other work, and so on. It’s not been straight-forward and I’ve certainly had days when I’ve missed the 40 mile commute down the M61, but I try and whisper that quietly, and the fellowship of being with people engaged in the same mission.
As you’ve probably worked out, I’ve found this an opportunity to read, one of the books I’ve recently finished is Jim Wallis’s latest book Christ in Crisis, in it amidst the challenges to our witness, Jim reminded my that the most repeated phrase in the Bible is “Do not be afraid”. For those who are counting it appears 365 times. The coming of the Holy Spirit on the disciples at that first Pentecost should give us the confidence as we move to the next stage in the life of our church, that God will equip us and we should not be afraid.
A couple of weeks before lockdown began, I attended a workshop for worship leaders exploring new hymns set to familiar tunes. As we celebrate Pentecost and look forward to new life, I want to leave you with some words from one of those hymns written by John Bell and Graham Maule. If you want to sing them, they are set to the Sussex Carol.
“God’s Spirit came at Pentecost
to folk who feared their hope was lost;
inspired by wind and fire of grace,
they faced a crowded market place.
There speaking in tongues, unlike their own,
they preached the Gospel Christ made known
Even now as on that earliest day,
we feel uncertain. So we pray:
Lord, give us Pentecost again
through city square and country glen.
With or without new tongues of flame
make your church worthy of your name”
Copyright Wild Group Resource Group
Mike Hart
Posted: Sat 30th May 2020

Several Church members joined others from the North Lancashire Partnership for an on-line Communion Service via Zoom last Wednesday.


Posted: Sat 30th May 2020

Communion Service For Pentecost.

Daleen ten Cate invites you to join her for a Communion service by Zoom on Wednesday 27th May at 10.00am.

Download Zoom on to your PC, laptop, tablet or phone and click on the invitaion web address below.

Topic: Daleen ten Cate's Zoom Meeting
Time: May 27, 2020 10:00 AM London

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 821 9642 3171
Password: 670672

Posted: Sun 24th May 2020

Thought of the Week, Sunday, 24th May 2020.

Ascension, (Matthew 28: 16-20, Acts 1:6-9)  What are you waiting for?

For forty days after his resurrection, Jesus appears and disappears and reappears, preparing his disciples for the next phase of God’s plan, and their new role in it. After this preparation, Jesus is taken up into heaven, in a scene that was completely different from what happened at Calvary. The disciples know that it was the end of a period, and a beginning of something new. First, they had to go back to Jerusalem, and wait for the full reception of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. It was essential that they wait, as the new beginning would take them into frightening situations, and into places where they were inadequate to carry on without the help of the Holy Spirit. In the new phase they were reassured that even though Jesus would no longer be with them in a physical way, he will always be present with them.
Waiting is a common experience that impacts every aspect of life. Currently, we find ourselves waiting for the Covid-19 global crisis to come to an end, with some drug to successfully treat it. Due to the crisis and the resultant lockdown, some are waiting for medical appointments and treatments to be rescheduled, for employment opportunities, for jobs to recommence, for memorial services for deceased relatives, for celebration of special events... Some are waiting more patiently than others, but collectively, we are all waiting for the ‘what is yet to be’. There is a Chinese proverb that says: one moment of patience may ward off great disaster, one moment of impatience may ruin a whole life. So, let’s be encouraged to wait patiently, and in hope for God’s timely intervention in our varying circumstances.
Also, just as it was for the disciples, we too, could use the waiting period to consider where God is wanting us as individuals, and his church to be after lockdown. In the coming new phase, we can in the power of His Holy Spirit, discover Christ anew in our daily living. Then as we go about, with confidence we can heed his call to be people-centred, reaching out to others in our words and actions with the message that: Jesus lives! Jesus saves! We do so in full assurance that Jesus’ living and loving presence never ends. He is with us through all the changing scenes of life- And I will be with you always, to the end of the age – Matthew 28:20.
Stay Safe and Blessings,
Irene John.

Posted: Sat 23rd May 2020

Thought for the Week, Sunday, 17th May 2020.

As I sat in my garden this afternoon [Friday] I realised that the birdsong I had become used to as the only sound I heard was now accompanied by the ‘thrum’ of traffic. Cars going where? Work, garden centres or just out for a run? After 7 weeks of isolation I know people are desperate to get back to ’normal’. Many need to earn a living again or just get out of the house to stop themselves going ‘stir crazy’ but with self distancing still required of us what will we accept as ‘normal’ and how long before, if ever, it becomes the normal we had before the virus took hold of the world?
As the lock-down was loosened slightly this week the URC sent out a document to the churches called ’The New Normal’.* It aims to help churches make a plan now to carry us past lock-down and into a healthy future. As well as considering the practical aspects of the return, Elders and management teams are encouraged to ask ‘Do we need to do things differently, and live differently as we work through the pandemic and emerge into this new set of circumstances in which we unwillingly find ourselves?’

Will everything be the same as before or will we want to stop doing some things and instead adapt and include others we have learned to do in lock-down? Slowing down and connecting with others more are two of the things I have appreciated and hope to continue with.
In Acts 17:24-27 Paul said
God who made the world and all that is in it… does not live in temples made by human hands… he is not far from any one of us. Indeed, it is in him that we live and move and have our being.
Yet in the past perhaps we have been guilty of having made God appear available only to a select few. We might be guilty of having implied that God can’t be found except within our church buildings. As we have adjusted to life in lock-down, spoken to our friends and neighbours over the phone or across the fence more than before; shopped or collected prescriptions for someone else, if we have been able, hopefully we have conveyed the message that the community of faith to which we belong is one of grace and welcome – that God is available to all and affirming that, through Him, all people “live and move and have their being”. Imagine what it would be like if, in our new ‘normal’, the Church was the first place people turned to in times of grief and trauma. If our church communities became a place of refuge and support for those who find themselves in unimagined difficulties through no fault of their own.
We have seen God’s spirit moving in all sectors of society where people have been selflessly giving of themselves to help others. May we recognise that God is at work and present in the most unexpected and surprising places… not just in our church buildings!

Prayer: Without You, Lord Jesus, we would be lost in a dark and despairing world, without joy and without life. Without You, Lord Jesus, we would be frozen in a cold and meaningless existence, without hope and without a future.
But, You are the Risen and Living One Who leads us out of our tombs of despondency & fear and fills our lives with rejoicing. And so, we give You our gratitude – in the words we speak, in the songs we sing and in the lives we live, wholly filled with You. AMEN John van de Laar,

*Ready for the new “normal”. A discussion paper from The United Reformed Church. See the website ,or contact your Elder or Gordon Bell for more information.

Posted: Sun 17th May 2020

From Daleen Ten Cate.

Dear Friends,

Over the last few weeks I attended the “Church on the Margins” zoom meetings. In one of these sessions we were invited to reflect alongside Deirdre Brower on how does “walking alongside” God’s people look like in our current situation. She said the following: I’ve always thought it was an important Christian virtue to cross the road towards people. The Good Samaritan and faithful responses to need make me think that Christians should be those willing to move into a space where danger has been and help the most vulnerable. Where we do all we can to defy our stereotypes, reject our impulses of pure and impure, touchable and untouchable – and be those who touch – in the right way – the most bloody and battered of travellers. And yet, here we are in a space where the kindest action, the most just, the most right, is, in many cases, to cross the road away from people... I’ve always admired the notion of the courage of Christians continuing faithfully to meet – in spite of all instructions against that. Christian heroes met at 4am in secret, slinking through back streets in defiance of the empire and its alternative rules. The long history of Christians meeting in underground churches, early morning or late night rituals of faithfulness – expressions of gathering in Jesus’ name, of being fearless, of resistance, of knowing that death is not our worst defeat has always resonated and moved me. And, YET here we are, in a space where the most courageous display of our faith is to express solidarity differently and NOT gather, in secret or otherwise, and keep worship in physical distance from a community of bodies who follow Jesus.

In Christian Aid week we are ask to walk alongside the most marginalized people in the world. However, we cannot come together as we did before, for the Big Brekkie, Soup Lunches or our door to door collections. I think many of us who express their faith in the do-ing (faith in action) feel a bit off- balance and sometimes frustrated in the current climate, me being one of them. However, I have to say I find comfort in the events building up to Pentecost, many years ago. In the same way the disciples were ordered to stay in the upper room and pray until the time is right, we are today. Some of us maybe feel scared, anxious, frustrated or lonely but this monastic way of living can become the place where the Holy Spirit fall afresh on us and inspire us. When a person on a serious inner journey to their own vulnerability is also in immediate contact with the vulnerable of the world, then some form of community will almost always result. Without an interior life and a love of justice, most communities just serve themselves. The idea of a beloved community emerged from the deeply contemplative activities of a besieged people.

In the midst of the social distancing necessitated by this pandemic, people have nevertheless come together in creative and loving ways. Some have called this virus a massive “trigger event” with the potential to change everything. As individuals and communities, we can respond with justice and compassion, as we have seen in the Many Good News Stories across the NW Synod. How can we “walk alongside” and show solidarity in lock down?
- By praying and raising our awareness of the many projects that Christian Aid and Commitment for Life support.
- By donating money to Christian Aid via their gift page or e- envelopes
- By writing letters of thanks and appreciation to care home staff, funeral directors, your bin man, milk man, your local school’s teachers or local shops.
- By making that phone call to an isolated or lonely Elderly or refugee

In order to raise our awareness for Christian Aid week, I would like to share this Christian Aid and Commitment for Life service with you. Many of you have met Rev Dr Kevin Snyman during his recent visit to the NW Synod regarding his role with Commitment for Life. With permission and their blessing, he and his wife, Rev Nadene Snyman would like to share this service with you.
Please find the link:

May we all use this time wisely for the greater glory of God’s Kingdom.
Every blessing,

Posted: Wed 13th May 2020

Thought of the Week, Sunday, 10th May 2020.

Christian Aid Week, 10th – 16th May

The story is told of a mum, who praying with her young daughter, would always finish with the words: Surely goodness and mercy shall follow you all your days Psalm 23:6. One morning after prayers, the curious girl asked: Who is Shirley Goodness, and who is Mercy? And why are they following me?’ The mum responded: You are special to God, and to Mummy and daddy! Daddy, Mummy, Nana, Papa, and everyone else who is there for you, showing you love, kindness and care are God’s goodness and mercy following you, on and on and on!’

We all experience the goodness and mercy of God in the kindness and care shown to us by others. In return, we equally should extend it to others in real and meaningful ways. This is Christian Aid week – Sadly, fund raising activities are mostly shelved, or have moved online due to the pandemic. Now more than ever kindness and care are needed by the poor and vulnerable in the places where Christian Aid operates. For millions living in the poorer countries around the world, the global pandemic is a further threat to the already existing one of climate crisis - People find themselves living in appallingly cramped conditions, suffering from poverty and deprivation, with food and water shortage, and in grave danger of catching, and dying from Covid-19. Christian Aid, through its partners on the ground is providing essential support, helping those in need to stay as safe as possible. Please let’s support the organisation with our prayers and giving. For further details about online giving please visit - Alternatively, save your donations in an envelope until an opportune time. I leave you with a prayer for this week:

On this Christian Aid Week, we pray for and with communities across the world who are most vulnerable to coronavirus. We pray for people living in refugee camps and city slums, with limited sanitation facilities, who are unable to wash their hands regularly, and have little opportunity to isolate from others. We pray for Christian Aid partners working to provide soap and buckets, communicating clear, accurate information, raising the voices of the most vulnerable and ensuring they are kept as safe as possible. In Jesus name. Amen.

May goodness and mercy continue to follow us, and may we extend it to others.

Take care and blessings

Irene John

Posted: Sat 9th May 2020

Daleen Ten Cate has invited us all to join her for another virtual Coffee Morning on Wednesday, 13th May at 10.00am.

To recieve an invite, please email her at

Two weeks later she will be holding a virtual Communion service during the week before Pentecost on Wednesday,27th May also at 10.00am. Again to recieve an invite, please email her at

Click on the posters below for more details.

Coffee Morning Poster     Communion Service Poster

Posted: Sun 3rd May 2020

URC Sunday Service and Daily Devotions

During the Covid-19 emergency, while URC church buildings are closed, we are providing a weekly Sunday service in a radio-style / podcast with hymns, readings, prayers and a sermon, provided by churches around the denomination. It begins at 10.00am every Sunday morning but you can listen to it anytime after that. You need never be late for Sunday Worship again! You can even pause it to sort out lunch or fast-forward if you find the sermon not to your liking.

To listen to the service, click the link below.


Leprosy Sunday

With Churches closed, the Leprosy Mission has produced a virtual service for Leprosy Sunday. Paul Moores, who came to preach at our church is giving the sermon. 

You can watch it anytime, pause and even fast-forward by clicking on the link below.

Many thanks,

Mary Thornber

Posted: Sat 2nd May 2020

Thought of the Week, Sunday, 3rd. May 2020

Reading Acts 2 42 -47

I don’t know whether you’ve settled into a new routine after nearly six weeks of the current restrictions. At least on weekdays, my routine includes my work for the Synod, and ensuring I keep time to take my daily exercise, usually walking our Miniature Schnauzer, Maisy. Having read a couple of articles early in this period, about the experiences of people whose jobs require long periods of isolation or restrictions (including a Submarine Captain) I try and ensure that the weekend has a different routine.

Alongside continuing to support local churches meet their present challenges my job, working with colleagues in our Synod and also across the five Northerly Synods of the URC, is starting to turn to thinking about what will need to be done when churches are able to open their doors again.

With that as a frame, I found John Bell’s (from the Iona Community) Thought for the Day on Radio 4 on Monday fascinating. John started by talking about the inspiration he drew from prophetic figures, from the Bible like Isaiah, or more recently such as Martin Luther King. John spoke about how these figures did three key things:

  • They analysed the present situation
  • They expressed empathy and solace with those affected, and
  • They reimagined the future

Our reading for today from Acts, is a well-known one that sets out in a wonderfully succinct way the features of life in the early Church. Different commentators analyse this is different ways, but I like one which reflects on how the early church responded to God’s grace and the example of Jesus in four ways by the principles of justice, community, fellowship (including worship) and service.

I’m sure like me, you are finding plenty of time at present to reflect and as all good prophets do analyse the present situation. As we look ahead and reimagine the future for ourselves and our church, perhaps now is a good time to start to ask ourselves what are the things we’ve discovered in the last six weeks that we would not want to lose in the new world.

From my reflection so far, I have found more time to read (in great variety) and reflect on that reading, and I will return to one recent book in the next newsletter. I’ve also joined a virtual reading group which is a great stimulus to both of these and I hope will be an encouragement to continue reading more. Looking more broadly, there are many aspects of the current community togetherness and mutual support, which I would be deeply sorry if we didn’t find ways to perpetuate in the future.

I offer these words adapted from a hymn as a prayer for us all in this time.

“In our learning, praying, caring
may your word spring into life;
in our time of doubt and challenge,
may its truth affirm belief;
and in days of pain and darkness,
may it heal our guilt and grief.”

Take care,

Mike Hart



If you want to listen to John Bell’s Thought for the Day it is available on BBC Sounds until 27th May on

Prayer (adapted from “In the name of Christ we gather”, by Shirley Erena Murray, Hymns of Glory Songs of Praise 677)


Posted: Sat 2nd May 2020

 A very Happy 90th Birthday to Dorothy from everyone at Garstang URC.

Posted: Sun 26th Apr 2020

Thought for the Week, Sunday, 26th April 2020

Luke 24:13-35

‘Are you the only one who does not know the things that have happened?’[v 18]
There can’t be anyone who doesn’t know what has been happening in the past few months. Worldwide people know the devastating effect coronavirus has had, and is still having, on ordinary folk who just want to go about their daily lives. Everyone knows that the world has been brought to a virtual standstill as everyday routines have been quashed. No-one can failed to notice too that throughout the world neighbours who have barley spoken to one another before are going out of the way to do what they can to help anyone they see in need. That inbuilt kindness which I believe is in everybody but has been dormant for years, is beginning to emerge.

2 weeks after we celebrated the resurrection of Christ surely Christ was the only one who did know the true reality of what had happened in Jerusalem? He had, after all, predicted His suffering and resurrection when He was still alive [ see Luke 9:22. Mark 8:31]. The travellers on the road to Emmaus were fleeing the heartbreak of the crucifixion. The reality of the resurrection and what it meant for them came only when Christ broke bread with them. ‘Their eyes were opened’, ‘…were not our hearts burning within us?’.[vs 31-32]. They turned around and went back to Jerusalem to share their Good News with their friends. Previously lost in grief they could now rejoice that all was not lost. God was still in control and needed them to play their part to spread His love. So what does the resurrection of Christ mean for us today and how should we respond?

God doesn't need a response from us in order to love, forgive or save us but he does want us to take what he has given us and respond in kind to the realities of life around us. If we look closely we can see where God is already at work and either choose to be part of His life-giving work, taking appropriate action,e.g. pray, or we can go about our lives as if the problems we see don’t matter; imagine we can’t make any difference.

God’s life is always breaking out whether we see it or not. Our task is not to make anything happen, but to respond – to get on board with – what God is already doing. [John van de Laar]
A change has come upon our society and perhaps the whole world. This time through the deaths of 1000’s of people worldwide. People’s hearts have been stirred as they respond to the needs of others and/or recognise those who are doing what they long to do but haven’t the skill or physical ability. Christ called us to ‘Love one another’. Can we recognise this ‘new world’’ that is emerging as a fulfilment of that commandment?

‘We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.’ C.S Lewis.

Sally Watson

Posted: Sun 26th Apr 2020


Posted: Tue 21st Apr 2020

 Easter Sunday in 2019 was on today's date 21st. April 2020.


Posted: Tue 21st Apr 2020

 Thought of the Week, Sunday, 19th April 2020

Dear Friends,

Late that Sunday evening, the disciples were gathered together behind locked doors…Then Jesus came and stood among them. ‘Peace be with you!’ he said. (John 20:19)

On Easter evening, the disciples, cowered behind locked doors feeling powerless and genuinely afraid of the authorities. They had witnessed the torture and horrific crucifixion of Jesus, and they feared they would be next. In the midst of their turmoil, Jesus showed up, stood among them, and offered them his peace. Peace -Shalom in Hebrew, and Eirene in Greek, occurs more than 250times in the Bible. Here in the passage, peace refers to Jesus acknowledging and reassuring his disciples to trust God in the midst of their challenges. Their lives would not be plain sailing, they were still in danger, but the presence and help of Jesus was promised them.

Are you locked in? Do the restrictions of life encompass and seem to hold you fast? Circumstances can lock us in, making us feel powerless and afraid, but don’t be shut out from faith and hope. Jesus comes in through the locked doors and windows we erect, offering us the same peace he gave to his disciples. Jesus’ peace is definitely not the absence of perils and dangers, but a state of calm deep within ourselves, and trust that in the midst of it all, and come what may God is in control. This was the experience of Horatio Gates Spafford, who following the family tragedy in which his four daughters drowned on a sea voyage from America to England penned the words of the hymn: When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea-billows roll; whatever my lot You have taught me to say, ‘It is well, it is well with my Soul.’ (1828-88)

Peace be with you!

Irene John

Posted: Sat 18th Apr 2020

Thank you to everyone who enjoyed receiving the Easter Blessing email.

Revd. Irene's Easter Cross.

Mary Thornber's  Easter Cross.

Sally Watson decorated her Easter Cross in her window.

Posted: Sun 12th Apr 2020

Easter Blessings to you all, from everyone and to everyone at Garstang URC.

The Lord is risen!       He is risen indeed!        Alleluia! 

Posted: Sun 12th Apr 2020


Daleen Ten Cate is arranging a series of online coffee mornings for the various Partnerships.

 The one for North Lancashire Partnership is on Thursday April 23rd at 10:00am. It is an open invitation to all Church Members. Details are on the poster below. 

If you want to give it a go then do make contact with Daleen, so that she can send you a Zoom invite. In the mean time please try to download Zoom on your computer, laptop, phone or tablet. Email Daleen for more details on.

Click here for more details.


Posted: Sat 11th Apr 2020

Thought of the Week, Sunday, 12th April 2020


Easter Sunday Reflection 

Matthew 28:1-10, Mark 16:1-11, Luke 24:1-12, John 20:1-18.

Dear Friends,
It’s Easter Day! The long dark night is over, the dawn is breaking as Mary and her friends journey to the tomb. We join them on their journey, noting their pain and bewilderment. Their anguish is palpable: no time for a final embrace, no time to say proper goodbyes (currently the experience of many people). Now mourning the loss not only of his death, but of all the hopes and dreams they thought were dead, they cry: How did it come to this? How are we going to cope? Who is going to roll away the stone of heaviness, and the burden that is too great for us to bare?’. Approaching the tomb, they made an alarming discovery- the tomb is empty!

Staggered by this alarming discovery, Mary turns to the ‘gardener’ saying: tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him. Then Jesus called her by name, Mary! Longing to embrace him, but denied any physical contact, Mary is drawn into a deeper awareness of Jesus’ presence. At his voice her confusion melts into peace - Jesus had risen from the dead! He had said he would, and he did it! God had done the unexpected. The impossible is made possible by God.

Friends, these are unprecedented and difficult times, and life seems almost to be at a standstill, but God remains faithful. In the midst of the Covid-19 crisis, we are unsettled by the many unanswered questions we might have - How did it come to this? When and how will it end? Even when there are no answers and uncertainties remain, we can trust God that this crisis shall pass. So, listen, and in the silence hear Jesus calling you by name, reassuring you of his presence and peace in whatever you feel threatened by, and in whatever circumstances you find overwhelming. Be encouraged that the resurrection affirms God’s power to bring goodness out of evil, life out of death and hope out of despair.

As we experience anew the power of his resurrection this Easter, let us remain grateful for the self-giving love of Jesus. One of the most uplifting effect of the current crisis is the community spirit and good that it is bringing out of many individuals, Christians included. As Easter people, let’s continue to demonstrate the self-giving love of Jesus in our words and actions – While staying safe, reach out the best you can, wherever you are, whenever possible to those in need of love, hope and care.

I leave you with some words from a favourite Easter hymn: Lo! Jesus meets us, risen from the tomb; loving he greets us scatters fear and gloom; let the Church with gladness hymns of triumph sing, for her Lord now liveth; death hath lost its sting …No more we doubt thee, glorious Prince of Life; life is naught without thee: aid us in our strife;…Thine be the glory, risen, conquering Son, endless is the victory thou o’er death hast won. (Edmond Budry, 1854-1932, tr. R.B. Boyle 1875-1939).
May love, hope and peace be yours this Easter!
Irene John

Posted: Sat 11th Apr 2020

Good Friday

“But God shows His love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

Every year early on Good Friday morning, Christians Together in Garstang & District would gather for their walk from St Mary and St Michael’s Church to Greenhalgh Castle. They would follow a cross borne on the shoulders of two worshippers and pause along the way for readings and prayers on the events of that first Good Friday. Standing by the ruined castle and looking over an awakening town we would listen to the words of John’s gospel on the death of Jesus.

This year will be different. For many of us it will mean self-isolation, even quarantine, for all of us social distancing – terms unheard of till very recently but now in common parlance. Unprepared, we are removed from our familiar social world and maybe come to contemplating our own thoughts. We are encouraged to take daily exercise. What better time to take a walk of meditation, visualising Jesus’s final walk on earth: the turbulent crowd, the bewildered disciples, the rising apprehension of his loyal followers trying to protect a stumbling figure from the hostile onlookers. This Good Friday will be marked by unsettling news, feelings of helplessness and recognition of our reliance on hospital staff and key workers. Let’s pray we learn from this.

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were an offering far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

Stella Clarke

Posted: Fri 10th Apr 2020

ECO Church Silver Award

Over the past two or three years, in an effort to care more for the Earth, God’s wonderful creation, various members and friends at Garstang URC have been undertaking projects and changing the way we do things.
This was coordinated by Management Committee, where John Allen was an enthusiastic champion. We have been measuring our improvements against standards suggested by the Christian charity A Rocha, who work with churches and other organisations in practical ways to show that the Gospel is good news for the environment.
Our achievements to date have been assessed in four categories:
• our worship and teaching
• how we look after our buildings and land
• how we engage with our local community and support global campaigns
• the personal lifestyles of our congregation.
… and we have been given a Silver Award.
The challenge now is to maintain and increase our activities, encouraging others to do the same, so that together we can lessen our impact on the environment.
There will be more news about this in the months ahead as we have more opportunities to make a real difference. Let’s all play our part.
Management Committee

Posted: Sun 5th Apr 2020

A message from Revd. Dr. Irene John.

Dear Friends,
Holy Week
I hope you are all well and coping in the current crisis situation.
As part of Christians Together in Garstang, I want to encourage you all to display a cross in your home window during Holy Week.
The cross could be one you already have at home, perhaps a palm cross from a previous Palm Sunday, or one you could make from tree branches in your garden, or from a cardboard cutting.
On Easter Sunday, the cross could be decorated with flowers, ribbons and colours, as a symbol of hope and new life.
Stay safe and God bless you all

Posted: Sat 4th Apr 2020

Thought of the week, Friday, 3rd. April 2020


Palm Sunday Reflection

In these days of “social distancing” and “self-isolation”, today’s Gospel reading (Matthew 21 v 1-11) as Jesus makes his triumphal entry to Jerusalem through the adoring crowds chanting “Alleluia!”, seems like a scene from another age. Perhaps it reminds us closer to home of some of the great festivals we have experienced in our community and lifetime. I remember the impact when we moved to Garstang with Six and Three-year-old girls of the first Children’s festival we and they enjoyed, or as an adopted Coventrian of the celebrations that followed the 1987 FA Cup Final. “Alleluia We Won” announced the Parish Church notice board in the city centre.
For all of us, the current restrictions on our normal life are causing us to have to rethink some of the assumptions we make about how we live in the variety of communities of which we are part. We are spending more time in some communities – for me a household with both girls permanently at home for the first time in four years; less in others – the Synod Office is closed, so I have to interact with our staff by phone and video; and in some like our church we are having to rethink how we provide that active belonging that is an important part of our lives.
I’m just finishing reading Julian Baggini’s excellent exploration of the global history of Philosophy, “How the World Thinks”. In his chapter on relationships, he focuses specifically on the Japanese approach to community. In this he challenges our western stereotype of a society based on conformity and explains a set of values that are inherently pro-social, “because everyone behaves in the best interests of everybody else, not because they are trying to fit in”. An approach which is gently reinforced by visual reminders for example on the Subway.

  Image extracted and edited from

The nature of individual’s place in society is determined by how they stand in relation to others and the respect that they give to others’ position and needs.
In many ways, current circumstances are asking us to rethink our traditional western focus on the individual and instead ask us to think and behave in a way that recognises the impact of the way we live our lives on others. As with anytime of change and uncertainty many of us will find this hard and perhaps feel fearful, but as the American evangelist “Jim Wallis” wrote in a recent editorial on “Amid this, we must not let fear become a way of life. We remember the words of Jesus: Love can cast out fear. Leaning into love and learning what it really means to love our neighbours in this crisis will be crucial to our collective health and survival.”

A prayer for ourselves and our community
“Lord Jesus, you give abundant life, yet we feed on fear; you give abundant life, yet we make our home in the valley of the shadow of death, fearing every evil, unsure if you are with us. Helps us to receive the life that is life, to face fear with courage, to raise our voices in abundant praise. “

Mike Hart


Posted: Fri 3rd Apr 2020

 Thought of the week, Saturday 28th March 2020

Dear friends
At the beginning of Lent we were encouraged to make time for quiet reflection: to stop, take stock and reflect on the health or otherwise of our faith; to develop a closer relationship with God. As we approach the end of Lent we are all being compelled to stop all daily activities and examine what is important to us like never before.
The poet William Davies wrote ‘What is this world if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare?’ Being housebound for 3 weeks [12 weeks for many] has given everyone plenty of time not just to ‘stand and stare’ but to assess what life might be like on the other side of this pandemic.
The world around us is changing. We applaud the selflessness of NHS and care workers and members of the other emergency services. We are amazed how many people are volunteering to help others in this time of crisis. Will this change from a self-centred society to a more caring one continue?
May this Lent have been the time when more people have discovered that what is most important in life is the love of and for family, friends and others and the importance of caring. That material gains fade into insignificance when compared to the pleasure of reaching out to a world in need of a little TLC.
Show me the right path, O Lord, point out the road for me to follow. Lead me by Your truth and teach ,me…I put my hope in You. Psalm 25:4-5
Sally Watson.

Posted: Sat 28th Mar 2020

 Stay safe, stay at home, save lives.

Posted: Fri 27th Mar 2020

Dear Church Member,

Like all medicines, we receive a long list of the possible side effects that can appear in a few or a large number of cases.
These warnings are for our help and guidance and can be very useful.

I have found that coronavirus itself, not medicines or jabs since they are not yet available, but the situation that the whole world finds itself in can also have some side effects.
The Government and medical advisors have given many clear instructions as to how we should conduct ourselves and what we should and should not do to help prevent the spread of this deadly virus.

Here are some of the side effects that I have found and would be included on a list with any medication if it were available.

  1. You may find that people are more friendly
  2. Neighbours offer to help with shopping or doing other necessary errands (posting letters etc)
  3. More and longer telephone calls can happen as people check on each other
  4. If a walk is taken for the allowed exercise the obligatory two metres apart is accommodated by both parties
  5. All the jobs in the house or garden that you have been putting off will be tackled as more free time is found
  6. Air pollution improves as aircraft and cars are used less
  7. Adverse effects can be that some people become greedy and buy more from the supermarkets than they really need
  8. There are many more and if you can think of any please add to the list

Stay safe, follow the advice, and the long dark tunnel will come to an end.

David R,

Posted: Fri 27th Mar 2020

 Congratulations to Audrey and Basil on

their Diamond Wedding Anniversary.

Posted: Thu 26th Mar 2020

Revd. Dr. Irene John would like to pass on the following statement.

Greater Manchester Faith Community Leaders Coronavirus (Covid 19)

Our communities are following the latest Government guidance on public association and good hygiene in response to the spread of Coronavirus. This guidance is updated daily on the Government website. It is the best way in which we can demonstrate care for one another and all for whom we share responsibility.

We are working hard within our communities, and with one another, to find ways of supporting all who are in isolation. We will work together tirelessly to ensure that no group, race, culture or faith are discriminated against or treated prejudicially - and will be vigilant in care for all our neighbours. Some quote Covid 19 as an excuse for a rise in racist incidents. This is indefensible - and we stand with the victims.

We commend the work of all in the NHS, the emergency services and in local government at this critical time, as well as our national leaders - and assure them of our prayers and our co-operation, with one another and with them, as we face these challenging circumstances together.

Endorsed by Greater Manchester Faith Community Leaders.

A full text of the statement can be view by clicking here.


Posted: Tue 24th Mar 2020

Thought of the week, Monday, 23rd March 2020

At this point in time, what is your biggest fear?
Travelling on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem was a long, lonely and dangerous journey - Many a time it was a matter of life and death. For the pilgrims, the much-needed reassurance of God’s unfailing love and protection came from Psalm 121 - The Lord’s presence and protection will be with them when they leave and when they return again the next time. His presence would also be with them in their everyday activities.
In life’s pilgrimage, especially in the current crisis situation caused by the coronavirus pandemic, our security rests in God. God promises us his presence even in the midst of danger and challenges. He is our source of safety and protection. Keep your focus on him, and say with the psalmist: I look to the mountains; where will my help come from? My help will come from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He never dozes or sleeps. The Lord is by my side to protect me from all danger. He will keep me safe. Ps.121 Trust him and allow faith to overrule fear.

Irene John

Posted: Mon 23rd Mar 2020

 The following notice has been posted on the Church Hall door.

Talking of posting notices on doors. . . 

Martin Luther and the Plague

Back in 1527, a deadly plague hit Martin Luther’s town of Wittenberg and he wrote a letter to a friend, the Rev. Dr. John Hess, on “Whether One Should Flee From  A Deadly Plague”.

 “I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbour needs me however I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely as stated above. See this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.”

Posted: Fri 20th Mar 2020

A message from Revd. Dr. Irene John.


Dear Friends,

Re: Coronavirus

Following advice from the URC to its churches, we have suspended all acts of worship, physical meetings and other church activities. We are deeply sorry that we have had to make this decision, but in view of the current circumstances, and with the government strongly discouraging public gatherings we feel it is the right thing to do. No one knows the full extent of the crisis, so the closure could be for a few weeks or even months. We shall keep you updated as guidance changes.

We recognise that this closure will be a blow to those for whom gathering for worship and church activities is a lifeline, helping to curb the effects of loneliness and isolation. In view of this the Elders and members of the Pastoral Care Group, are working closely together to support you in the following ways:

1.   If anyone is in need of urgent help please contact me on 01524923736 or Jean Wadsworth on 01995238192.

2.   Those on the pastoral care list will be contacted weekly, by phone or email, for a chat to see how they are, and what help is required. Help could include listening, receiving and passing on prayer requests and pastoral news. It could also include practical help with shopping, and anything else that is feasible for others to take on board. If you or anyone you know would benefit from this, please contact your elder.

3.   Please be assured that we shall be careful at all times, not to put anyone’s health and well-being at risk.

4.   We shall continue to pray and for each other via the prayer chain coordinated by June.

5.   There will be a ‘thought for the week’, uploaded to the Garstang website each week.

6.   URC daily devotions will now include a short act of worship. See You can also access worship services on TV and Radio Stations.     

Friends this is a challenging time for all, be assured of our prayers. Draw strength from the words of the psalmist: You are my God; in you I trust. He will keep your safe from all hidden dangers and from all deadly diseases. He will cover you with his wings; you will be safe in his care; his faithfulness will protect and defend you. Psalm 91:3&4.

May the Lord bless, protect and take care of you all.

Irene John

Posted: Wed 18th Mar 2020

Charity Coffee Mornings

The Charity Coffee Mornings have been cancelled for the next thre months.

They would have been;





Posted: Tue 17th Mar 2020

Corona virus outbreak

Due to the Corona virus outbreak and following guidance from the URC, Catholic, Methodist and Anglican websites, the Lent Lunches have been cancelled with immediate affect. 

Please inform anyone you know who might have been thinking of attending. It has been suggested that when the crisis has passed, a joint meal in celebration with donations to Christian Aid could take place.

Similarly, the Tuesday morning prayer services as part of Christians Together in Garstang and District have also been cancelled.

In our own church, The Third Wednesday Club talk this Wednesday has been cancelled as too has Tea & Chat for April and May.



Posted: Mon 16th Mar 2020

 Tuesday, 10th, 7.45am -8.00am, Christians Together in Garstang meet at Garstang URC Church.

Tuesday, 10th, 2.00pm, Women's Guild - Talk by Ray Armstrong about Men's Ties.

Wednesady, 11th, 12noon, Lent Lunch in the Church Hall.

Wednesay, 11th, 1.15pm, Bible Study in the Quiet Room.

Sunday, 15th, 10.30am, North Lancashire Patrnership joint service at Bowerham URC, Lancaster. The service will be taken by Revd. Higel Uden, Moderator of the General Assembly.

Posted: Mon 9th Mar 2020


Soup, bread and cheese for the 2nd Lent Lunch was provided by Garstang Methodist Church with some of their ladies serving soup.


The Charity Coffee Morning on Thursday in support of CRY, Cardiac Risk in the Young, was very busy.



Posted: Fri 6th Mar 2020

Wednesday, 4th     2nd Lent Lunch, 12noon -1.00pm, Church Hall

Thursday, 5th         Charity Coffee Morning in aid of CRY, 10.00am -12noon, Church Hall,

Sunday, 8th             Church AGM


Posted: Sun 1st Mar 2020

The Lent Lunches got off to a wonderful start with 8 different soups provided by St. Thomas's and a full house from all the Garstang churches to enjoy them.

Join us next Wednesday for the second of the six Lent Lunches.



From Revd. Dr. Irene John, "Don't forget there is Bible Study each Wednesday during Lent at 1.15pm."

Remember there will be a Fairtrade chocolate demonstration - this Wednesday 26th in the Church Hall at 7pm with Free Admission. Please support Fairtrade Fortnight and come to a demonstration with samples on 'How to make FIG Tree vegan bean to chocolate bars’.


Posted: Wed 26th Feb 2020

Just a reminder of a few things coming up this month.

Women's Guild will meet at 2.00pm. on Tuesday, 11th. Please bring items such as photos, poems or needlework for "Our Magazine"  meeting.

Next Sunday, 16th,  the service will be led by Mike Hart.

Tea & Chat is on Wednesday, 19th at 2.00pm in the Church Hall.

That evening, The Third Wednesday Group will be showing the film North by North West. Start time 7.30pm

The service on Sunday, 23rd February, will be led by Revd. Dr. irene John.

Lent Lunches begin on Wednesday, 26th February. See message below from Sally Watson.



Do you enjoy a bowl of good, home-made soup with a piece of chunky bread and maybe some tasty cheese? Would you like to spend one lunchtime a week in a warm and friendly environment? Read on….

February 26th marks the beginning of Lent and the start of our Lent lunches. Once again the lunches will be Ecumenical. All the churches in Garstang have been asked to cater for one week each. There will be soup, bread and cheese on offer each Wednesday, 12noon-1pm, from February 26th for 6 weeks. ALL IN OUR CHURCH HALL. The only payment requested is a donation to Christian Aid.


This is our annual fund-raising event for Christian Aid and your full support is necessary for it to be as successful as previous years.  Sally Watson.



Posted: Mon 10th Feb 2020

A cheque for £960 raised from last year's Coffee and Tea sales is presented to Dr. Penny Foulds of Lancaster University Defying Dementia programme.

Dr Foulds gave an update on the development of a drug treatment for Alzheimer's Disease at Lancaster University and thanked everyone at the coffee morning for their support. The proceeds from today's coffee morning will be added to the £960
to fund clinical trials at their Centre for Ageing Research.

More photos can be seen on the Charity Coffee morning page of the website. CLICK HERE.


Posted: Sun 5th Jan 2020

 Happy New Year to all our subscribers.

Below  are some photos from Christmas week.

Sunday, Nine Lessons and Carols followed by a hotpot lunch.


Christmas Eve, Carols with June.



Christmas Day, Cafe Worship.


Sunday, 29th December 2019. The congregation were treated to the Tour de Tractors after coffee!


Posted: Fri 3rd Jan 2020

Garstang United Reformed Church | News Page 1