‘Thy Kingdom Come’ is a global prayer movement that invites Christians around the world to pray between Ascension and Pentecost for more people to come to know Jesus Christ. It started out as an invitation from the Archbishops’ of Canterbury and York in 2016 and  has grown into an international and ecumenical call to prayer.

The hope is that:
…. people will commit to pray with God’s world-wide family – as a church, individually or as a family;
…. Churches will hold prayer events, across the UK and in other parts of the world;
…. people will be empowered through prayer by the Holy Spirit and find  new confidence to be witnesses for Jesus Christ.

In All Saints Church the 9 days between Ascension & Pentecost are to be kept as a focus for prayer.

Ascension Day – Thursday 10th Sung communion at 7:30 followed by cheese & wine.

Monday 14th, Tuesday 15th, Thursday 17th Friday 18th May – Church open for prayer between 5:30 – 7pm.

Wednesday 15th May – Prayer time at 11:15 and church will be open throughout the day as usual.

Thursday 14th May – Ecumenical prayer walk of the community, starting at All Saints’ at 7pm and finishing at the Baptist Church.

Saturday 16th May – Church open for prayer 2pm – 4pm

Vigil service for Eve of Pentecost 4pm

Find out more about ‘Thy Kingdom come’ movement by visiting their website.

Dear friends

Alleluia, Christ is risen!  Jesus, who died, is now risen and reigns with the Father.  One day every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.  So, though we face all sorts of trials and challenges, pains and (in parts of the church) persecutions, we must not lose hope, but remain steadfast.  We know that God wins, that goodness and life and love will prevail over evil, death and sin.  So long as we are faithful to Christ we are on the winning side of history.

It’s important to base our confidence on God and on what he has done in the death and resurrection of Jesus, for that alone can give us a firm and constant hope in the midst of the many challenges we face.  As we know, its not an easy time for the Christian Church in this country.  Most churches are celebrating many more funerals than weddings, and the age profile of those attending Anglican (and many other) churches is weighted towards the over-70s.  More and more people take secularism and materialism for granted.  If there is room for spirituality, it is more about self help and self awareness than about communion with a creator God.  Some parishes are struggling acutely.  Others are undergoing gentle decline, gradually seeing attendances decline, gradually spending their reserves.  One sign of this gradual reduction is that our ‘parish share’ which we pay the diocese each year is up 5.6%.  Only 2% is due to increased costs, the rest is due to a smaller number of people to share the total costs between.

Two weeks before Easter representatives from all parishes in the diocese were asked to a meeting which was held locally at St Christopher’s called ‘Resourcing the Mission of God in Lancashire’.  We heard a very inspiring talk from Sir John Spence, who had worked his way up to be a managing director of Lloyds Bank, despite going blind in his thirties.  Since retirement he served as a Church Commissioner, helping them get back into profit after their investments suffered some years back, and now chairs the Finance Committee of the Archbishops’ Council.  He is one of the key people working with the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to try and help resource the church to grow.  Money is being invested in projects which are designed to make a lasting difference – in this diocese this includes a church leadership hub for urban ministry at St James Lower Darwen and re-inventing Preston Minster as a major ‘resource church’ guided by Holy Trinity Brompton and training curates who can help transform churches in our diocese.

The message he gave was one of faith in God and of making bold decisions rather than settle for managed decline.  Within our own diocese, we have Vision 2026 which is a call to do things differently.  The vision is that healthy churches really can transform their communities, but for that to happen we need to be imaginative and not just ‘keep on doing what we’ve always done’.  In line with the vision, the diocese is developing a leadership strategy which is positive and aimed at growth rather than managed decline.

We need a similarly positive, and faith-based attitude in our own parishes.  We need to have confidence above all in the God who wonderfully created us and yet more wonderfully redeemed us in Jesus Christ.  The God who raised Jesus from the dead and has all in his hands.  We need to be positive about the opportunities open to us.  And we need to be creative and unselfish in our approach to Church life, ready to try new things as we seek to proclaim the gospel afresh in this generation.

If God can raise Jesus from the dead, he can raise the Church in our country from its slumbers, and renew faith here in our nation.  So this Eastertide let us renew our faith in the new life he brings and pray that with his help we and our whole diocese may be healthy churches transforming communities.

Yours in the risen Lord

Toby

 

Annual Parochial Church Meetings

Please do endeavour to get to the annual church meeting of your parish.  As in previous years, we make this easy and hopefully enjoyable by placing the meeting within the context of Sunday morning worship.  So Altham St James’ APCM is on 15th April at 9:30am and Clayton-le-Moors All Saints’ APCM is on Sunday 22nd April at 11am.  It is an important opportunity to be informed about what is going on at your church, and the opportunities and challenges we face.

At the meetings we will elect Churchwardens for the coming year – they will then be admitted to office by the archdeacon on Monday 14th May at St Peter’s Laneside, in Haslingden.  Nominations for the office of churchwarden must be made in writing and received before the start of the annual meeting.

We will also elect representatives of the laity to serve on the PCC for three years.  At All Saints’ there are five regular vacancies, plus two casual vacancies (one for one year and one for two years).  At St James’ there are two regular vacancies.  Anyone who is at least 16, a regular communicant, and whose name has been on the electoral roll for at least 6 months, is eligible to stand for election (unless disqualified from serving as a trustee).  PCC meetings are usually held every other month and there are some committees and working groups which meet in between.  We hope that PCC members would see themselves as sharing in the leadership of the church and would be active in giving practical, moral and spiritual support to what is going on.

 

Transforming Lives for Good

St Christopher’s High School is setting up a new initiative, in collaboration with local parishes, called ‘Transforming Lives for Good’.  Lay people will be trained to act as mentors to some of the more vulnerable pupils on a long-term basis (at least 1 year).  It would be great if there were a few volunteers from these parishes to help with this important work.  See the letter from St Christopher’s elsewhere in the magazine for more details.

Blackburn Diocese Youth Camp runs 22nd – 24th June, at Hothersall Lodge, between Ribchester and Longridge and  is open to those in years 6 – 9.  The cost is £90.  This is a wonderful opportunity for young people wherever they are on their faith journey; be they exploring faith, recently confirmed or preparing for confirmation, and/or are actively engaged in discipleship in your church. All young people in connection with your parish are welcome.

For details and booking form, please click here or speak to Rev Toby.

Our Annual Parochial Church Meeting took place on Sunday 22nd April within a service of thankgsgiving.

Sarah McMinn and Linda Vine were elected as Churchwardens.

Julia Allen, Barbara Anderson, Jan Clemson, Tony Cousins and David Woodcock, together with Stuart (2 yrs) and Sarah (1 yr) were elected to the PCC.

Elaine Lockwood was appointed as deputy churchwarden.

Click through to read the PCC annual report and financial statement and notes for 2017, together with the vicar’s report.

 

If your name is not on the electoral roll, now is the time to apply to have it added prior to the Annual Parochial Church meeting in April. You need to be baptised, 16 year old or more and either resident in the Parish or a regular worshipper.

Electoral roll forms are available at the back of church attached to the notice board, alternatively speak to the Church Warden.

Dear friends

At the end of the month we will celebrate the freedom from sin, guilt, fear, isolation, and eternal death that Christ brought us through his death and resurrection.  He became a prisoner that we might be free, he went down into the prison house of death, that we might be set free to live with him for ever.

Do take the opportunity to share in the range of services taking place during Holy Week.  There will be special services each evening (Monday to Thursday) – Monday and Wednesday at Altham St James, and Tuesday and Maundy Thursday at All Saints.  On Good Friday we shall have a special act of worship at 10am, for all ages, starting at church and following the way of the cross to Barnes Square.  A quiet Good Friday Service follows at Altham at 2pm.  All this will make the celebration of Easter morning – and our keeping of the whole Easter season – far richer.

As usual, if you know of anyone who can’t get to church at Easter and would like Holy Communion to be brought to them at home, please have a word with me or a member of the pastoral team.

As we prepare to celebrate that freedom, it is sobering to face up to the reality of those whose lives don’t share in the freedoms most of us enjoy.  Around 46 million people around the world are modern day slaves.  And its not just a problem in far off countries.  It is estimated that there are 11,700 of them here in Britain.

Modern slavery is an umbrella term for all forms of slavery, trafficking and exploitation.  At the core of this crime is deception. Survivors of modern slavery tell stories of being sold a better life. They are often vulnerable, coming from areas where there is little possibility of work. They are offered a job, a chance to make money and to build a new life for themselves. Those who offer these opportunities may even organise their travel to a different country, controlling every aspect of their trip.

The job they are offered turns out to be a lie and instead they are forced to work in difficult and degrading conditions, with little or no pay. The threat of violence, to themselves or their families, hangs over them and traps them in their situation. Even if their trafficker does not physically control them, a mistrust of authority may stop them from going to the police. This is the reality for 11,700 men, women and children in the UK.

LABOUR EXPLOITATION

Victims of forced labour are made to work long hours, often in hard conditions, without relevant training and equipment. They are forced to hand over the majority, if not all, of their wages to their traffickers. In many cases victims are subjected to verbal threats or violence and often large numbers of people are kept in the same house in horrific conditions.  Cases of labour exploitation have been widely reported in car washes and nail bars, but this is only the tip of the iceberg. Victims have been found in the manufacturing, entertainment, travel, farming, and construction industries.

SEXUAL EXPLOITATION

Sexual exploitation involves any non-consensual or abusive sexual acts performed without a victim’s permission. This includes prostitution, escort work, or pornography. Women, men and children of both sexes can be victims and many will be controlled through violence and abuse.

DOMESTIC SERVITUDE

Victims of domestic servitude are forced to work in a private household. Their movement will often be restricted and they will perform household tasks like childcare and house-keeping over long hours and for little, if any, pay. In rare circumstances where victims receive a wage it will be heavily reduced, as they are often charged for food and accommodation.  Victims will lead isolated lives and have little or no unsupervised freedom. Their own privacy and comfort will be minimal, often sleeping on a mattress on the floor.

ORGAN HARVESTING

Organ harvesting involves any organ that can be removed and used, of which kidneys and livers are the most commonly traded. Traffickers may force or deceive their victims into giving up an organ, or victims may agree to sell an organ but are not paid or paid less than the promised price. Sometimes victims are treated for an illness, which may or may not exist, and their organs are removed without their knowledge.

Modern slavery knows no borders, and people of all ages and races can be victims; it is a global issue.  Potential victims referred to the National Crime Agency in the UK came from 108 different countries, the most common of which were Albania, Vietnam and the UK.

The Church of England’s Clewer Initiative is seeking to encourage us all to be alert to modern slavery – and even to the possibility that we might come across someone who has been trafficked or is being kept as a slave.  It highlights certain signs to look for.  Signs of being malnourished, having untreated in juries, wearing no safety equipment.  Living accommodation that is dirty, cramped and overcrowded.  Not being allowed to travel alone – perhaps being collected and dropped off in a crowded minibus with other workers.  Avoiding eye contact and hesitant to talk to strangers.

As with other crimes, it is important that you report any suspicions of modern slavery to the police. Do not attempt to intervene yourself, as you may put yourself and those around you – including the potential victim – in danger.

  • If there is an emergency and someone is in immediate danger, call 999.
  • To report any non-emergency suspicious activity then call your local police on 101.
  • For further advice call the Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700.

As well as being aware of potential victims here, and seeking to buy ethically produced goods from overseas, do pray.  I will leave you with this prayer which you can make yours.

Lord of the lost, we pray today for all those who are victims of modern slavery: people lured from their homes and families; people deceived while trying to find a better life; people who are desperate to trust anyone. Help us to be more vigilant and watchful; to be aware of those who may need our help, and those who do not know where help may lie. Amen

I pray that Lent continues to be a precious time of growth for you, and Easter when it comes brings you renewed joy and peace.

Love in Christ.

Toby

 

Cathedral Festival of Prayer

At the beginning of February, Blackburn Cathedral welcomed hundreds of people from across Lancashire to share in the Festival of Prayer.  Our own ‘Open the Book’ team presented the gospel story to families present as part of the ‘messy church’ option.

I was accompanied by Stuart Dilworth who writes, “Thank you to Rev Toby Webber.  It was good to see a lot of people at Blackburn Cathedral.  The Bishop of Burnley took the service and then the lunch was good.  I went to the workshop on prayer through music.”

It was a really good day, indeed.  I expect there will be a similar festival focussing on another topic next year, so look out for it.

 

Scargill House

I am really pleased to report how well bookings are coming in for the weekend 28-30 September.  I still have plenty of spaces available for single rooms – just £135 per person, full board.  If you’re interested, please complete a booking form, available from either church or I can email it to you if you contact the vicarage.

We are organising a church weekend away at Scargill House near Kettlewell in the Yorkshire Dales, arriving Friday 28th September between 4:30 – 6:30pm and leaving after lunch on Sunday.

We will enjoy the excellent hospitality of the Christian community who will cook lovely meals, put on engaging children’s activities; lead those who wish on beautiful walks; offer a range of fun workshops and give us something to think about!

There is no pressure to take part in anything – if you would rather miss the Christian input on Saturday morning, that is ok (though don’t worry it won’t be heavy); just join in with what you want. To find out more please take a leaflet from the back of church.

The weekend promises to be a fantastic fun time together, with friends old and new from across the church families of All Saints’ and St. James Altham. Prices of just £135 (£155 en-suite), children can go for free.

Twin and double rooms have been allocated, but there are plenty of single rooms still available.

Dear friends

Communications take many forms nowadays, many of them electronically based – including this brand new website designd by Roger Edworthy of East Lancs Chamber of Commerce together with a small team led by Elaine Lockwood.  We also have a presence on social media –  I hope that you have already found All Saints on Facebook @allsaintsclayton and on Twitter @churchallsaints.  There is also the more traditional medium of the montly Parish Magazine.

St James’ Altham already has a website – designed by the same team – and if you haven’t found that at www.stjamesaltham.org then I’d encourage you to do so.  We also now have a Facebook page @althamstjames.  Again, if you’ve not yet ‘liked’ that then why not do so?

Communicating factual information is really important, but in some ways it’s the easy bit.  Communicating the faith, helping others understand why we are here and what we believe can be more challenging – but it’s a challenge for every one of us who calls ourselves Christian.

Within my induction service I promised to

be faithful in studying, teaching and proclaiming the truth of Holy Scripture, ordering your life to reflect to others the Gospel of Christ.’

The congregation – representing all those who belong to our two churches likewise promised to

‘be faithful in Bible Study and seek to grow as disciples of Christ.’

A parishioner then charged me to

‘be among us as one who helps us joyfully hear and obey and proclaim the Word of God.’ 

These promises and exchanges remind us that we are all called, each in our own way, to read God’s word and reflect on our own faith, and to take a part in proclaiming it.

As we enter Lent, in the middle of February, I would encourage you all to take to heart the invitation to join one of the home groups meeting around the parish as part of ‘hearing’ and being helped to ‘proclaim’ the word of God.  Meeting in small groups gives an informal and supportive environment where we can explore, learn, discover, share and encourage one another.  Many have appreciated the groups that met in Lent during the last two years.  Some indeed meet through the year – our Wednesday morning group weekly and our Monday group monthly.  By sharing together members have found themselves feeling more confident to share what they believe.

This Lent we are using a resource called ‘Generous God, Generous People.’  It is designed to help us look a bit deeper at who Jesus is and how we can respond to his love by leading generous lives.  Please do sign up for one of the groups as soon as possible and we will order you a copy of the booklet.

I pray that Lent may be a season of growth and renewal for us all in our Christian lives.

With every blessing

Toby

On Ash Wednesday – 14th February we shall have special services at

10am – Holy Communion with ashes in All Saints’ Church

7:30pm – Holy Communion with ashes and hymns in St James’ Church, Altham

You may have noticed that this year it is the same day as St Valentine’s Day!