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June 2021.

Friends of the Lancashire North Missional Partnership,

As I write this letter, following the national URC guidelines, our churches in the Lancashire North Missional Partnership are planning to open up for worship on Pentecost Sunday. While the preparation is being done in attitude of thanksgiving that we are returning to our churches there is caution as well. We recognise the healing process of returning back to church for some will be a gradual process.

On Pentecost Sunday the fire of the Holy Spirit fell upon the apostles and the church was born and grew through the signs and wonders that were being performed. Such growth did not go unnoticed by the authorities, and following the martyrdom of Stephen and the persecution of the church, many believers were scattered around the Mediterranean.

It was during these days of dispersion that the early Jewish Christians from Jerusalem mingled with Gentiles who became Christians in significant numbers, as Luke records, “The hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number became believers and turned to the Lord”. Acts 11v21

Not only did the early church have to deal with the persecution and the scattering of believers from Jerusalem, but now had to adapt to the influx of Gentiles into the growing church which inevitably brought new challenges to the Jewish roots of the early church.

The pandemic has thrown up for us big questions about what it means to be church, and how we relate to and include each other during periods of isolation.

We take encouragement at what the Jerusalem church did next:

“They sent Barnabas to Antioch.

When he came and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced,

and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord

with steadfast devotion;

for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith.”

(Acts 11: 22-23)

Barnabas was a good man full of faith. He immediately recognised that God was doing a new thing in the church at Antioch. Yes, the church in Antioch may have a different feel to it compared to the Mother church in Jerusalem but it was still the work of God!

As we move into the new future of the post-lockdown church we need to eagerly look to see where God’s grace has blessed us and take these blessings into our new future. Barnabas saw the hand of God working in the midst of the dispersal and influx of new and different folk into the early church.

There are real challenges we face as we move together as the Missional Partnership towards the summer. Let us not lose heart, but develop that Spirit of encouragement which was very much part of Barnabas’ ministry. I pray for us all that we will be blessed with the Holy Spirit, with faith to grow and serve each other within our churches, communities and homes!

On a personal note, many of you will know that I am still living in Surrey waiting along with the NW Synod for the sale of the new Manse in Bare in Morecambe to be completed. Hopefully we shall be moving up in June.

My Induction into the Lancashire North Missional Partnership will take place via Zoom on Sunday 13th June 2021 at 3pm. Please put this date in your diaries. More information will be sent out later.

With every blessing,

Reverend John Gordon.