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Lancashire North Partnership

Lancashire North Partnership 

Daleen Ten Cate has asked to share Dave Fraser's, the Missional Discipleship Mentor from South Area, “meanders” on how we do mission at this time of Covid-19.

How do you do mission in a time of Covid -19?

Over the last few weeks we all have been trying to come to terms with being church at this most difficult of times. We have all discovered new and different ways of leading worship and offering pastoral care to church members. It’s taken a great deal of effort but Holy Week was remembered and celebrated. And as we have overcome the numerous obstacles that the first three weeks of church building lockdown has presented to us, we now have to discover new ways of carrying on the Jesus shaped mission we are tasked with.

I am reminded of Jeremiah in prison, he was having a tough time ,locked up, hungry, isolated and yet God invited him to bring a word of hope to others who were also fearful and afraid. Jeremiah discovered that mission is not something you do when your sorted and alright. Our living and being a church of the kingdom is not something we can only do when we are open for business as usual. Even with buildings locked up, even with Christians self-isolating we have a Jesus shaped job to do.

Jeremiah found himself invited by God to instigate an action that spoke to the despair and fear of his country. Jeremiah was asked by God to buy a field. Spend money in acquiring a piece of land that was occupied by the enemy. In doing so he was demonstrating in action that God had not abandoned Gods people. The buying of the plot of land was a deliberate act to calm fears, reduce anxiety and proclaim that despite how it felt, they were not alone.

Surely at this time, we too have to engage in acts that bring and proclaim hope. What is our potter’s field? What can we do that will proclaim you are not alone to our fellow citizens who are tired and fearful. Yes we can bellow and bang pots to say thank you to all front line staff , but could we also:
• Send a thinking of you card to our local funeral undertakers.
• Send pictures, pizzas, flowers, wishes to staff working in our local care homes.
• Maybe we should put posters up now inviting anybody who lives around our church to come to the biggest harvest festival celebration our community has ever seen.

It would have been easy for Jeremiah to hunker down and wait his disaster out. But God invited him, demanded of him something more.
What is the something more we can do?
What is the something more God asks us to do?

David Fraser

On the first Sunday of 2020, Gordon Bell gave a brief explanation to the congregation of what it might mean to be part of a Missional parnership. Below is what he said.

A brief explanation by Gordon Bell.

This change by the URC doesn’t greatly affect much of what we do at the moment, so we should not feel threatened by what is heading our way over the next few months. It is not being made because individual churches are doing anything wrong. Let me explain some background.
You will be well aware of the challenges the URC is facing, alongside most other churches in the UK, with fewer ministers and smaller congregations. Although the total of members per minister is broadly the same, they are spread across a number of local churches rather than in just one or two. That isn’t new – it was the reason why the FLAG Pastorate was formed, and why we have been sharing Irene with Forton and Lancaster. The move to partnerships is just the next stage of that approach. We will now share two ministers with six other churches, across a bigger area. The seven churches include ourselves, Forton and Lancaster, plus the group of three to the North of Lancaster – Halton, Hest Bank and Bolton-le-Sands – with Sefton Road Morecambe completing the picture.
A pastorate has one minister, and this group will have two, so we will call it a Partnership instead. Each minister will provide some support to each of the seven churches. Some of what Irene has done in the past in Garstang, Forton and Bowerham will in future be delivered by the second minister.
So why is it called a Missional Partnership?
Well, this approach to allocating ministers could have been adopted just as a defensive mechanism as church membership falls. But that would be to ignore the opportunities to be gained from working more closely with fellow Christians from other United Reformed Churches, as together we try to spread the Good News of God’s love to everyone across the area. We will be able to share ideas and experience, and learn from each other. That is how the Partnership will assist us in our Mission.
All of this doesn’t affect most of what we do already. And in addition, we will be able to do God’s work in new and different ways, making better use of our joint resources and talents, and growing together across the group in faith and friendship. Individual churches will invite others to their events and celebrations, and the Steering Group which manages the Partnership will arrange a couple of gatherings each year. But we are unlikely to spend a lot of time in each other’s churches doing joint activities – we each have our own local communities to serve, and that will remain our prime focus.
One thing that will not be immediately obvious to us here in Garstang is the way in which Irene’s job has changed, and will change even more before the end of this year. Since our Partnership was commissioned on December 9th, she has been responsible for pastoral care of all seven churches, and that burden will continue until the second minister is appointed and inducted. So we must do our best to limit our demands on her time and attention as she adjusts to her new duties, and drops some of her old ones (which may include commitments such as chairing church meetings).
With seven churches in Irene’s care and four Sundays in most months, simple arithmetic tells us that we should not expect her to lead worship here at Garstang twice a month, and she may not always be available on Sundays when we have Holy Communion. That will put additional pressure on Sally as she organises our Pulpit Supply, and on the Worship Group as they are invited to deliver more services than in previous years.
Irene will continue to give pastoral care – indeed, this is recognised as one of her strengths and interests – but pastoral leadership will increasingly be for the Elders to give, with support and guidance from Irene and the second minister when he or she is in place.
That’s it in a nutshell. There will be no major changes to our patterns of worship and weekly events. We will carry on much as before.
In addition, we have new opportunities to meet, speak and work with other United Reformed Churches in this area, offering advice and assistance, and receiving similar input from them.
And we will take on more responsibility for our own activities, relying less on the minister to do things.
The changes for ministers are much bigger than for local congregations, so we should support Irene in our prayers and with practical help – and we should welcome the second minister when he or she arrives.
One final thought – if we are to continue along paths similar to those we have followed in recent years, and avoid the decline which the Partnership is designed to avert, then it will require active participation of more members and friends as Elders, on the Management Committee, in the Worship Group and at Church Meetings. Please be ready to share in the work that we do here, and don’t just leave it to the same few people to decide and arrange things. Your involvement will be important in the months ahead if we are to shine the light of God’s love in the darker places of Garstang.


On Saturday November 9th, around seventy members and friends gathered to mark and celebrate the Commissioning of the Lancashire  North Partnership, which links seven churches in and around Lancaster: Bolton le Sands, Forton, Garstang, Halton, Hest Bank, Sefton Road Morecambe (who hosted the Service), and Trinity Lancaster.

The theme was our journey together, in faith, in mission and in life, and this was reflected throughout in the readings, hymns and reflections. One of the hymns included the line “Exploration brings new insights, changes, choices we must face”. There will certainly be many decisions to be made over the months ahead by the participant congregations. Each church brought to the Service an item of interest which reflected part of their history or heritage, and spoke briefly about it. We took along a copy of Brenda Fox’s excellent history of our church, and some Fairtrade items. There were artefacts of all sorts, but each was appropriate in its own way, and together they illustrated the breadth of experience and resources across the new partnership.


The Commissioning was undertaken by Revd Lis Mullen, who convenes the Steering Group, and she shared Holy Communion assisted by Revd Daleen ten Cate (Mission and Discipleship Mentor) and Revd Dr Irene John, now one of the two ministers who will serve the partnership. The other is yet to be recruited.


At the end of the Service, there was a brief recital by David Tattersall, the accomplished organist at Sefton Road, before everyone adjourned to the hall for tea and cake – what better way to cement a new relationship with each other?




A message from Gordon Bell. 

After what seems like a very long wait, the process of forming the new URC Lancashire North Partnership has finally begun. This is the group of seven churches in this area who will share two Ministers, one of them being Irene. The churches are: Garstang, Forton, Trinity Lancaster, Hest Bank, Bolton-le-Sands, Halton and Sefton Road Morecambe. To bring it all about, there is a Steering Group, chaired by Revd Lis Mullen from Windermere, a former Synod Moderator, with a representative from each church (Morecambe has two who will share the role).

The Steering Group had its first meeting on February 26th, and we agreed that our first major task is to produce the Pastorate Profile which will be used in the search for our second Minister. The Elders will be looking at that for us here in Garstang. Once both Ministers are in place, then the Partnership will be formally launched, and at that stage the FLAG Pastorate will cease to exist – although quite naturally we will continue to have close ties with our good friends in Forton and Bowerham.

At some time over the summer, there is likely to be a celebration event to which all members and friends of all seven churches will be invited. Watch out for details!
If you have any questions or suggestions about the Partnership, then please catch me after worship any Sunday.

Gordon Bell (March 2019)



 On Saturday, 29th September 2018, Churches from the Lancashire North Partnership came together at the Lancaster Methodist Church to share ideas and ways forward. 

The meeting was inspirational and was led by Daleen Ten Cate, our Missional Decipleship Mentor.

She likened God to the owner of a fleet of ships, with each local church a ship in God's fleet, each with a different purpose and unique design and set of skills.


Each Church gave a short presentation on one thing they do well. It was hoped by shring great ideas we could all move forward as Jesus shaped churches.


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