Rev Toby’s July /August letter

Dear friends
Ministry, ordination and vocation are in my mind as I write this month’s letter.
The changing face of bishops is crystalised in the arrival of the first woman bishop to serve in our diocese. When you receive this magazine, Dr Jill Duff will be the newly ordained Bishop of Lancaster. She is well known to Jane, having set up and run the North West hub of St Mellitus theological training institute. She has brought to this plenty of flair and a real enthusiasm for the gospel which I’m sure will shine in her ministry as a bishop. And she is no ivory-tower academic – before her last role, Jill was a parish priest in some pretty tough and deprived parishes, so she knows what its like on the ground.
At the same time Jane is just one year away from her ordination as a deacon (and subsequently all being well as a priest a year later). We continue to benefit so much from all she brings to the life of our parishes and I know that you will continue to support her through this coming year which will be a busy and fast one for her. She will be away from the benefice from 23rd September to end October, on a short-term placement in Chorley (at the parish where I was curate.)
Thinking of St Laurence’s Chorley reminds me that its now 15 years I’ve served as a priest, 16 as a deacon. Where does the time go? It remains an amazing privilege to serve God in this way, and to share so many special occasions, happy and sad, with so many people. Thank you for your continued support.
God is always in the business of calling people to his service – all Christians through their baptism are called to use their gifts to serve him. And from the great company of God’s people he calls some to be priests and deacons, and specific lay ministries such as reader. Maybe that’s you. If you’ve an inkling God may be calling you to a new form of service in our parishes, or perhaps even to an authorised or ordained ministry in the wider church, don’t keep that to yourself, but do have a word.
In the meantime please pray for Bishop Jill, for Jane, for those being ordained at this time of year as deacons and priests, and for me your friend and vicar


If you were at All Saints’ annual meeting in April, you will have heard John Blysniuk talk about the stewardship programme planned for the autumn. A small group is continuing to plan for the programme and you will hear a little more about it across our services in the middle of July. The main programme will run from harvest – which this year will be held on 7th October – to All Saints’ Sunday on 4th November. Stewardship is the principle that undergirds Christian giving. It is the conviction that all that is, and all that we have, belongs to God. What is in our hands has been entrusted to us by God and we must use it wisely – and give from it towards the work of the church and the spread of the gospel. Such giving should be generous, willing and proportionate to our means. There is a financial focus, but the stewardship principal applies equally to how we see our time, talents and gifts. Please join me in praying that the programme will help us all to respond to God’s generosity with open hearts and minds, remembering that it is not intended as a fundraising appeal but as a chance for us all to grow in our understanding and in our response to God.
At St James’ we are also looking to hold a stewardship programme, maybe in 2019.
Have you heard of Cursillo?
Cursillo is a movement in the Anglican church that seeks to inspire and support Christians to have a living faith and to make a difference for Christ in their parishes and wherever they find themselves – at home, work or leisure. It fits in very well with the themes of the diocesan vision.
Cursillo is a Spanish word (the movement began in Spain after the War, originally in the Catholic Church, before spreading to the Anglican Communion). Cursillo literally means ‘short course’ – it is a short course in Christianity, aimed not at seekers, but at baptised, practising Christians who want to grow in their faith and action. The short course is a three day programme, which locally takes place in Whalley Abbey. The rest of life is then considered as the ‘fourth day’ living in the light of the gospel.
Cursillo teaches participants to have a rule whereby you are active in prayer, study and action. To encourage each other, people are encouraged to attend gatherings or ‘ultreyas’ – another Spanish word, which means keep going! You can gather regularly as part of a small group, but also attend diocesan gatherings several times a year. We are hosting the next one here at All Saints’ on the evening of Tuesday 10th July at 7pm. Everyone is very welcome and it would be an easy way to find out a little bit more about Cursillo and meet some of the people who are involved.
I found my Cursillo to be a valuable experience, and I know that for a lot of people their Cursillo has had a lasting (positive!) effect on their faith. If you’d like to find out more, including details of the next Cursillo weekend, which comes up in late October, please have a word with the vicar.
School anniversary services and leavers
July gives us a chance to celebrate the life of our very special parish primary schools and the good work of teaching and learning within a Christian context that takes place within them. Do come and support the school anniversary services at Altham (1st) or All Saints (8th) – and do keep all the leavers in your prayers as they prepare for new beginnings in their high schools. This year we have a large group of confirmation candidates beginning their preparation, so please pray for them too – and look out for them at church and given them a warm welcome!
Dementia Friendly Church
We are working towards being dementia friendly churches. One step in this gradual programme is that Dr David Woodcock will give a talk on dementia awareness in place of the sermon on Sunday 1st July. Then on Thursday 5th July (which fortuitously is the 70th birthday of the National Health Service) there will be a special meeting on the theme of dementia friendly churches with Brian Topping who chairs the very active ‘Dementia Friendly Rossendale’. If you’d like to attend this meeting please contact David or Caroline Woodcock.
Garden Party and Songs of Praise
Everyone is welcome to the vicarage garden (weather permitting – if wet in church) on Sunday 15th July for tea and cake from 3pm and informal ‘songs of praise’ at 4pm. We’ve had a lovely time doing this over the last two years so if you’ve not been before do come and join those who have!
Benefice service and brunch
On 22nd July everyone is invited to Altham to celebrate the feast of their patron saint, James the Apostle, at 9:30am, followed by ‘brunch’ at Simply Classic. The cooked breakfast will cost c.£8.50 and booking sheets are now at the back of both churches. Do come and enjoy this simple time of worship and fellowship for people from all congregations in our benefice.
Summer Activity Day – 21 August
Our theme this summer will be super heroes. All children have heroes, and superheroes are quite a thing. We will be thinking especially of some of the heroes of the Old Testmanet and of Jesus our greatest hero of all. If you can help on the day please speak to Barbara Anderson or Elaine Lockwood. Last year we welcomed almost 90 children, from all four local schools, so this is a significant outreach for our parish which appreciates your support and prayers.