Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Within a few days of arriving, and accepting the call to this community in the June of 2015, I attended the early morning clergy prayers, and I remember being acutely aware that the eight people gathered were about to embark on an exciting adventure together. The churches within Shipley have over the years been involved in a pulpit swap during the Week Of Prayer For Christian Unity each January, and occasionally there had been a number of ecumenical Christian Aid events in recent years, but in this place God was calling the local churches to join together for a time of mission. Prior to my arrival, the Shipley clergy had been meeting for morning prayer for two months, so in many ways I was also very much aware that the church leaders meeting to pray together was very much a prayer group in its infancy.
As the months moved on as a group we recognised the similarities within our denominations, and the bonds of friendship were forged. We have since shared that at times each of us felt very much like the character of Frodo Baggins from J.R.R. Tolkien’s acclaimed trilogy, as Frodo is entrusted at all costs to protect the ‘one’ ring the most powerful artefact that had been created in Middle-earth. As the clergy within Shipley, the ‘Believe In Shipley’ mission was to be our ‘one’ ring, and the mission would become our focus for sixteen months.
In and throughout the last sixteen months it was difficult for those involved with the mission to see the seeds that would be sown as we moved closer and closer to the mission. There was a level of the unknown in how the church congregations would respond to a time of mission, but we put our trust in God the Father, in our saviour and Lord Jesus, and in the guidance and presence of the Holy Spirit that all would be well. Each Wednesday morning we prayed and prayed that God would reveal a way forward for each of the churches involved, as each of the majority of the churches had in some way experienced a fall in the numbers of members and adherents. We prayed that God would call the lost and those living on the margins, those feeling isolated and unworthy. We prayed that God would reveal a new vision, and that there would be a ripple of excitement that move within the church communities. We prayed that the name of Jesus would indeed be lifted high, and that there would be an awareness of how much God is present in the everyday, and in the lives of those living across the area of Shipley. During the ten days of the mission our church became the hub at the beginning of each day as the church leaders, and all those involved in each of the mission events, gathered to eat a hearty breakfast, and to pray and pray without ceasing that God would protect us.
As the dust has already settled on the Believe In Shipley mission, we ﬁnd ourselves in a time of post mission, and whichever way we may have reﬂected on the mission it is important for us to remember that God calls us to be His people in the here and in the now, and the act of mission is at the very core of who we are as followers of Christ. So many wonderful things happened during the ten day festival of mission, where the focus for our church communities went above and beyond the denominational walls that have been built over time. Churches across Shipley joined together to worship, pray, eat and witness in so many diverse ways.
The Believe In Shipley mission does not deﬁne us as disciples of Christ, but it does remind us that being a Christian is very much about taking the gospel message out into our community and the wider world, and we will continue to reach out and to serve our amazing God in all that we do.
With every blessing,
Rev’d Caroline Andrews