United Reformed Church | Churches Preston | Garstang Church

Pastoral Letter

 Below is the latest Pastoral Letter.

Previous letters can be found at the end of this Pastoral Letter.

Pastoral Letter for February and March 2020

 Dear Friends,
Happy New Year! I pray that the year will be filled with God’s best for you and yours.
Tidying up some papers, I came across an old leaflet given to me by a friend, who sadly died a few years back in her 90’s. The leaflet contains information about ‘Carluke Churches Holy Week Services’, April 1941. (Carluke is in S. Lanarkshire, Scotland). A part of the leaflet reads:

Monday April 7, St Andrew’s Parish Church -The Day of Action
Tuesday April 8, Kirkton Church – The Day of Controversy
Wednesday April 9, St John’s Church – The Day of Silence
Thursday April 10, Baptist Church – The Day of Fellowship
Friday April 11, Congregational Church – The Day of Sacrifice
Easter April 13, Original Secession Church – United Communion Service
Offerings in aid of Clydeside Air Raid Distress Fund

It is amazing that today, as in 1941, the fellowship of believers continues. Locally, nationally and internationally, believers continue to come together to proclaim the goodness of God as revealed in Jesus Christ. No doubt, there are denominational, cultural, and other differences, but Christians doing what they can together, while respecting individual distinctions, is commendable.
Locally, various ecumenical activities will take place this February and March. For instance; Garstang URC would host the ecumenical Lenten lunches as a fund raiser for the Christian Aid organisation - Forton ecumenical prayer group that meets in Forton URC, will be praying for the local school, the churches, and the community - South Lancaster Churches Together will have Lenten worship meetings, with the URC hosting one session.

As we journey through Lent, let us reflect on God’s unfailing love shown to us in Jesus, and let us be thankful for the fellowship we share with other believers. Together may we reflect the light of Christ so that others may find their way to him.
Every blessing
Irene John


Pastoral Letter for December 2019 and January 2020

Dear Friends,
The celebration of 25th December, as Christmas day, is almost here again. The first time it was celebrated as Christmas was in the 4th century, when the day for the Roman festival of the invincible sun (Natalis Solis Invicti), was adopted and contextualised by Christians. There were about 6 million Christians, who were mostly prisoners and slaves, in Rome at that time. This Roman festival was a day of revelry and extreme indulgence, but it was also a day of goodwill when prisoners, slaves, and everyone else were free to do whatever they will. So the Christians got together to celebrate their Lord’s birthday on the only free day that they had. This day received the official stamp of approval, by Pope Julius 1, 4th century pope of the Catholic church in Rome, who fixed it as the official birthday of Christ.
In our day Christmas is not just confined to the one day in the year. It comes early each year, and is increasingly becoming secularised and commercialised. Shop displays, Christmas meal bookings, gift giving, festive celebrations, and a lot more begin months in advance. Sadly, the true meaning of Christmas is mostly missing in all that goes on. The true message of Christmas is that Jesus Christ came as one of us, to show us the authentic way to God. Jesus Christ longs for a living, active and dynamic relationship with us, not just for the 25th December, but for every day, all year long. Everyday could be a celebration of the Christ of Christmas as we share his gifts of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility and self-control with others (Galatians 5:22).
This Christmas and throughout 2020, let us celebrate our faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who became one of us, and now as the risen Christ is present with us forevermore– Immanuel God with us
Have a joyous Christmas and a blessed 2020
Irene John

Pastoral Letter for October & November.

 Dear Friends,
I hope you have had a good summer, and feel refreshed and reenergised. If, like us, you did set out upon various car journeys during the summer holidays, you may have encountered a lot of road works, and the accompanying road closures, diversions, speed limits, and various other traffic restrictions, affecting journey times. Despite all the frustration, disappointment and delays, traffic restrictions are all necessary to ensure road safety, and safe arrival at our destinations.
What is true of car journeys is also true of life’s journey - We sometimes travel uphill or sometimes downhill, sometimes the journey is smooth and easy, at other times the journey can be difficult and dangerous. Sometimes as we journey there are road closures, diversions, and speed restrictions, and as Christians, we need Jesus to guide us and help us find the right way safely. The right way may not always be our way, so we need to exercise our faith, trusting that God can order our steps and our stops.
At the recent Forton Open Church (4-9-19), we learnt from Major Margaret Watkins the fascinating story of William Booth, and how God ordered his step and his stop. Booth was a Methodist minister who was disappointed at the closed door in his denomination to engage with his vision and passion for evangelism. He left the church, and a preaching encounter at a meeting in the East End of London, led to him establishing the Christian Revival Society, subsequently renamed The Salvation Army – a Church that is still renowned for its evangelistic and social work.
It is indeed a blessing that we really don’t have to travel alone on life’s journey, and even though some of the time we go our own way, Christ is always ready and waiting to redirect us in the right way. We can also be encouraged by the fact that delay is not dangerous when God is at the steering wheel. Diversions, speed limits, and road restrictions can perhaps be divine interventions, with God ordering our steps and stops: Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track. Prov. 3: 5&6 MSG
Every blessing
Irene John

Pastoral Letter for August & September 2019.

Dear Friends,
In the June-July newsletter I shared a bit about my morning routine, namely, listening to the news and weather forecast on the radio. Another aspect of my morning routine that I consider to be essential is the time and space I set aside to connect with God – I pray and praise, and read my Bible and notes. As I read I try to listen to what God, through his Spirit, has to say to me for the day. This time set aside, doesn’t just inform but transform my life on a daily basis - I am challenged, encouraged, and inspired by it. Being in this space and time gives me the boldness to invite Jesus to journey with me, and to share in everything that I do for the day. Becoming aware of His presence with me, and conversing with Him as I go along in the day is so rewarding – Praise and Trust feature a lot in my day. At the end of each day, in addition to us praying together as a family, I write down in my ‘thanksgiving’ note book at least one thing I am thankful to God for in my day. As I reflect on the question – what am I thankful for today? I am helped to put things into perspective, and I keep on discovering that there is always something to be thankful to God for.

Friends, my encouragement to you all is to set aside time each day to connect with God through prayer and reading of the Bible. Follow this up, perhaps in the evening, by reflecting on the question – for what are you thankful today? If possible make a note of your answer. As you put things into perspective, praise and trust in God would bubble from deep within. I leave you with a simple prayer: O God, Creator of Life and Love and Laughter: Fill me with joy and thankfulness for all Your good gifts, that I may learn to praise You with my whole heart. Help me to praise You in the glad days when everything goes well. Teach me how to keep on praising when trouble or disappointment makes me sad. For Jesus’ sake. Amen. (J.M. Macdougall Ferguson, 1941)

Every blessing
Irene John


Pastoral Letter for June and July 2019.

Dear Friends,
My usual early morning routine is to listen to the news and the weather forecast on the radio. I am always amazed at how changeable the weather could be even on the same day- For instance, I am writing this on a May morning, and the weather summary given for the day is: mostly dry and partly cloudy day, scattered showers or longer spells of rain in the…, a few bright spells in …, and generally a cool day in all places. The changeable nature of the weather, can mirror life’s varying circumstances – a day could bring a mixture of sunshine and shower, cloud and brightness. Indeed circumstances may change, within a day, yet, God remains unchangeable. He is the one who can transform things, making the impossible, possible.

The above concept of God is illustrated in the story told of a classroom discussion about mammals, during which a little girl said to the teacher that: Jonah was swallowed by a whale. The teacher replied: it is physically impossible for a whale to swallow a human, because even though it is a very large mammal its throat is very small. The little girl insisted: he was swallowed by a whale, because God did it. God made it happen. The little girl’s conversation with the teacher is in a way, her statement of belief in the God, in whose hands the impossible is made possible.

Jesus himself made a link between the familiar biblical story of Jonah and himself – as Jonah did, so the Son of Man will spend 3 days and nights in the depths of the earth (Matthew 12:40). Being in the depths of darkness and despair, is an uncomfortable and traumatic experience. Yet, out of it can come transformation and something new. So, today, whatever the weather in life’s circumstances; be it mostly dry and sunny, or cloudy with some wintry showers, or a mixture – stay in sync with God, he can turn things round, the impossible, can be made possible in his hands.

Every blessing
Irene John


Pastoral Letter for April & May 2019

Dear Friends,
Irene has asked me to introduce myself and my new role to you as I am now working as the convenor of the Steering Group for the 7 churches in the North Lancashire Missional Partnership. I hope that in serving you in this capacity, I will be doing God’s will and together we will be working for the growth of God’s Kingdom.

Some of you will have met me, but let me give you a few personal details: I was Minister of Carver URC in Windermere for 11 years until I was asked to be the Moderator of Northern Synod for short time and I served there for 3 years. When I retired in 2016 I moved back to Windermere where my family has lived for the past 35 years. I am married to John and we have 2 sons and 2 granddaughters.

The role of the Steering Group (each church has nominated a representative) is to ensure that although we are 7 different churches in the North Lancs. Missional Partnership, we will work together with 2 Ministers and Daleen ten Cate (your Missional Discipleship Mentor) to show our local communities that we live out the faith that we profess. We will aim to learn from one another, support each other in our mission activities and assist those who have difficulties or special needs. This, of course, depends on us getting to know one another and developing new relationships.

The first task of the Steering Group is to consider what the N. L. M. P. needs in a second Minister: gifts and graces that will complement those of Irene and how you and they might work together for God’s Kingdom. The FLAG pastorate churches (Forton, Lancaster, and Garstang) have been sharing a Minister and some events for some time. The churches in Halton, Bolton-le-Sands and Hest Bank have similarly shared a Minister (who has now retired) and Sefton Road in Morecambe shared with another church which has now closed and their Minister has also retired. They will be replaced by 1 Minister who, like Irene, will serve the whole partnership. For all of you, it will be quite different to share 2 ministers between you and to be part of a bigger group of churches. This will involve some different thinking, fresh organisation and new ways of working for you and your Ministers.

The Steering Group will be organising some activities so that we can begin to get to know each other and start this new journey together as a Partnership and to this end we are hoping as many of you as possible from all the churches will come together on Saturday June 15th at Trinity Lancaster from 10.30-3.30 with a Jacob’s Join lunch.

I have already led worship at Trinity Lancaster and in Garstang, and have a further date for Lancaster. I would love to be invited to lead worship in the other churches of the partnership, so please don’t hesitate to contact me to lead worship in your churches.

I am looking forward to working with you all and discerning the right path that lies ahead to the glory of God.

Lis Mullen


Pastoral Letter for February & March 2019


 Pastoral Letter for December and January.

Dear Friends,
Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus, are words repeated countless number of times, in this season of Advent, leading on to Christmas. The key features of advent are the watching and waiting; the expectant longing for the fulfilment of the promise made by God, that the Messiah would come to lighten the darkness of those living in the shadow of death (Isaiah 9:2). Jesus Christ, came on the first Christmas to fulfil this promise, and he will come again as ruler of the world. So, we celebrate Christmas even as we continue to wait with expectation, and anticipation for his return.
Our expectant waiting is heightened by the sense of hopelessness and despair covering our world today. Someone describes it as: light going out of life, and the feeling of sinking into a dark and bottomless pit, with the need to be rescued. Today, we hear the deafening cry for help and rescue from: the family who fled their homeland for somewhere deemed to be safe, only to be brutalised and dehumanised, we hear it from the young man who has lost the will to live, and from the lonely elderly couple who have no family, and no longer know anyone, in the neighbourhood they have lived for over sixty years. We hear the cry from a parent waiting for justice for an only child that was murdered, we hear it from the child born and raised in a war zone, and from the farmer and his family who suffer because of environmental changes, and unfair trade patterns, and the list goes on.
Friends, we all long for a better world where suffering, unfairness, inequality and injustice are ended. We wait expectantly for the day when good will finally triumph over evil, and love over hatred. But we must acknowledge that even though the world is a place of hopelessness and despair, it is also one of hope and promise, for at advent and Christmas we are reminded that God sent Jesus Christ, his only son to bring us light and hope in the midst of darkness. So, don’t give up hope – if you lose hope, somehow you lose vitality that keeps life moving, you lose courage to be, that quality that helps you go on in spite of it all – Martin Luther King Jr.  Christ will come again in the final advent when God’s kingdom will be established on earth. Until then, let’s overflow with joy, hope and inner peace, and be a part of the faithful who share hope and light to others in the world.
Wishing you a happy Christmas, and a good New Year.
Every blessing
Irene John



Pastoral Letter for October and November.


 Pastoral Letter for September.



Pastoral Letter for August.


Pastoral Letter for June & July.

Dear Friends,

Sitting down and writing this article, I am drinking in the wonderful scenery of my back garden – I can feel the warmth of the sunshine. I see a crow perched on a tree branch, I hear  birds singing on the trees, and I see some others in flight.  I see many small insects attracted by the colours of the flowers and plants in the garden. I  see the leaves swaying gently on the trees, while the smell of freshly cut grass lingers in the air. Somewhere, not too far away I hear the distinct sound of a lawn mower – it’s all so beautiful and serene. To think that this is all part of God’s design and not a coincidence or an accident takes my breath away. Indeed as the hymn writer says: Summer suns are glowing over land and sea; happy light is flowing, bountiful and free. Everything rejoices in the mellow rays; all earth’s thousand voices swell the psalm of praise. (William W. How, 1823-1897)

Friends, summer is a time to see the greatness of God reflected in the beauty of nature that surrounds us. So please try to find time each day to stop your activity, to enjoy and praise God for who he is, and what he has done, and continues to do. Look with fresh eyes and appreciate God’s creativity – his attention to details, the freshness of the morning mist, the moon and stars at night, the rich variety of colours and textures of the landscape, the miracle of growth, and much more. Whether at work, or recreation, enjoy the feeling of being alive, and the freedom to worship - find God in what you do, and see, and listen to, and be at one with him – for He has made all things beautiful in its time, Ecclesiastes 3:11.

Enjoy this photo of bluebells and an Orange tip male butterfly from Alison Hale’s garden.

Have a lovely Summer

Every Blessing

Irene John


Pastoral Letter for May

Walking the Way

Do you remember “The Good Road Show” – Ann and June’s super musical version of the Acts of the Apostles?  One of my favourite songs was  “Roads.”

“Roads, Lord, roads Lord,

How hard my road can be,

Take me by the hand,

And walk this road with me.”

Walking has always been one of the great loves of my life. So when I saw the new U.R.C. material called Walking the Way,  I Googled it and found lovely  images of beautiful roads, pathways and tracks. Walking the Way reminds us  that we walk in the footsteps of Jesus. Jesus walked everywhere teaching, preaching and healing. The parables tell stories of  a  man walking from Jerusalem to Jericho, the shepherd who lost his sheep, the sower sowing his seed, the workers in the vineyard.  They show Jesus observing the world around him and showing the deeper significance  of the ordinary things in God’s creation.

Several years ago Sally asked us all to compile a page of photos and images of our favourite Bible texts  for a book she was making. It is still in the church porch. It was a lovely idea, and those of us who created a page got a lot out of it. I chose the text “I am the way,” and put in photos of our family and friends walking along tracks and paths –  some were smooth and easy , some were more uphill and difficult.

One of the walks I remember vividly was when our children were small. There was a ten year old, a seven year old and a four year old, and we were walking in the lakes. We found ourselves higher than we meant to be,  and the mist came down. It was all very scary! We prayed, and somehow found our way down a very steep track, David carrying little Emily on his back.

 I sometimes think about that experience. One moment we all seemed to be happily enjoying our walk, knowing where we were going and looking forward to our evening meal.  Then suddenly the scene changed, and for a few worrying minutes we thought we were lost. Then all was well.

How often does that happen in life? We think all the good things we have, like health and strength, will be there forever . We think that our church life will remain the same, but then  quite suddenly that can change too. We think we are happy as we are  - then something new happens, and God calls us out of our comfort zones to move  in a new direction.

This is what we are all being asked to do on Sunday 20 May.  We have a special service for Pentecost to embrace our new Mission Partnership – in which the eight churches of North Lancashire will join in partnership and mission.  It will be a new path, a new direction and a new challenge for all our churches.

But we are not alone!  As we prayerfully enter this  new stage in our church life, Jesus has promised to walk with us – to hold our hand whenever we need Him - for He is the Way.

"Take me by the hand, and walk this road with me.”             

With every blessing,


United Reformed Church | Churches Preston | Garstang Church