Harry, from Mickleover, shares his experience of being welcomed into an inclusive church
I am 87 years old. I used to think that when I am old, faith would be stronger, easier, more “stuck in the mud”. We often hear said that old people don’t like change. Perhaps that’s true. But I have discovered that sometimes change can be a positive thing.
A friend with a car phoned me, he had gone online and found a church, St Werburgh in Spondon, which openly makes it very clear that its policy is totally inclusive.
Most churches would, I’m sure, say that and the parishioners like to think that is true.
When a church goes inclusive it often attracts different people looking for greater acceptance than they feel they have previously experienced. My friend John and I turned up on a particular Sunday morning not really knowing what to expect.
I’ve been attending an Evangelical church for many years and the congregation and its current vicar have been kind to me knowing I am gay.
For years I’ve felt that my faith was ebbing away for many different reasons and, although I have been encouraged to be an active participant at church, I was never really at home there.
As John and I entered this inclusive church, the organist was thrilling us with his superb playing in a truly beautiful building.
The lights glittered, the candles flickered. To my delight the choirs and clergy processed and the space filled with joy and a tremendous feeling and expectancy that something great was about to happen. We were not disappointed.
The priest started by welcoming us all - whoever or whatever we are. This included his welcome to LGBT people of whatever nature or persuasion they may be.
Halfway through the service, I realised tears were running down my cheeks.
Someone sitting next to me asked if I was unwell. I happily told her I felt I’d come home and that my tears were of joy and relief as I realised my faith was intact.
That old feeling of many years that I’d lost the plot, but I had in fact been suppressing my desire to worship the way that is natural to me and made myself isolated, lonely and depressed.
I left the service smiling and aware that the freshly snuffed candles mixed with the lingering of the perfume of incense had lifted my spirit and I felt I’d come home.
I no longer had to pretend and realised there is not just one way to worship our God of Love, whose reality is in difference and diversity - and this includes LGBT people.
About St Werburgh's, Spondon
St Werburgh Church in Spondon believes in Inclusive Church, a church which does not discriminate, on any level, on grounds of economic power, gender, mental health, physical ability, race or sexuality. They believe in Church that welcomes and serves all people in the name of Jesus Christ; is scripturally faithful and seeks to proclaim the Gospel afresh for each generation. They do this in the power of the Holy Spirit, allowing all people to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Jesus Christ.
More information is available at:
St Werburgh website: www.stwerburgh.com
or the Inclusive Church website: www.inclusive-church.org
God of hope,
in these times of change,
unite our nation
and guide our leaders with your wisdom.
Give us courage to overcome our fears,
and help us to build a future
in which all may prosper and share;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Bishop Jan, the Bishop of Repton and Acting Bishop of Derby, has called for churches to join in with five days of national prayer for unity as the deadline for Brexit approaches.
Churches will be encouraged to host informal café-style meetings over the weekend of 30th March to bring together people of all standpoints and encourage open discussion.
Backed by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, resources launched this week at www.churchofengland.org/together include prayers for use in services and special gatherings.
They also include invitations for people to ‘get together and chat over a cup of tea and pray for our country and our future’.
The prayers and events will go ahead, even if the date for Brexit is delayed.
Bishop Jan said: "Friday, 29 March 2019 will be a significant day for our nation, whether or not we leave the European Union on that day.
Our church communities, like the rest of the nation, are divided over whether or nor Brexit is the right way forward.
But as Christians, our role is to promote peace and reconciliation in the places where we live and worship, and to demonstrate that we can live peacefully together even when we disagree.
Could I encourage you then to take up the invitation of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to stand up for peace and Christian neighbourliness by joining in five days of prayer for our nation from Friday, 29 March 2019.
You might even be able to open up your church on Saturday, 30 March 2019 as a place where people can call in to meet their neighbours over a cup of tea and to find a place of quiet for reflection and prayer.
Or why not advertise your after-church coffee on Sunday as a time when people could congregate?
The Church of England Website contains some some excellent resources.
Let’s do all we can to live out the truth we proclaim each Sunday as we strive to love God and to love our neighbours as ourselves.
With every blessing
Mention the Derbyshire village of Eyam, and the chances are that the word ‘plague’ will also end up being part of the conversation.
Eyam (pronounced ‘eem’, by the way!) had its extraordinary history shaped around 350 years ago when the village quarantined itself to avoid the plague spreading beyond its locale.
The effects were devastating – but the resulting legacy is an incredibly deep sense of community.
As you might expect, the church and its then rector, William Mompesson, were central to the community – and to the story. And these days a stained-glass window in St Lawrence’s ensures the story lives on.
The plague in Eyam began in 1665, with the arrival of a parcel of cloth sent from London, where the disease had already killed thousands. A tailor had ordered the cloth to make costumes for Wakes Week, a celebration of Harvest.
By the time it arrived, the cloth was damp, so the tailor's assistant, George Viccars, hung the cloth in front of the fire to dry. What he didn’t know was that there were fleas in the cloth that were carrying the plague. Within a few days, Viccars became the first of the plague's victims in the village.
By Christmas 1665, 42 villagers had died and the following year many in the village were ready to leave everything behind to escape the pestilence.
But William Mompesson came up with a plan: the village was to be sealed off and no one allowed in – or out.
The cordon did its job – it prevented the plague from spreading to nearby Bakewell and Sheffield. But the cost to the village was terrible. In the year that the plague was rife in the community, 260 of Eyam’s residents succumbed.
Among those who dies was the rector’s wife, Catherine Mompesson, and there are countless heart-breaking tales of those who suffered and lost their lives.
But there were also survivors, including Elizabeth Blackwell.
One day, being incredibly thirsty due to the effects of plague, she went to the kitchen and grabbed a jug, which she thought contained milk. But it was actually filled with bacon fat. She downed the lot and was violently sick as a result. Whether or not it was the fat that cured her is debatable, but she recovered and lived to tell the tale.
And now, nine generations later, churchwarden Joan Plant – one of Elizabeth Blackwell’s descendants - is still telling the tale.
“There are about a hundred of us who can trace our ancestors back to survivors of the plague.” Said Joan. ”For me, being part of a family who did survive, knowing the tragedy of it all and the huge self-sacrifice and being able to transmit that to today’s generation is just a great privilege as a church.”
Eyam’s history draws tens of thousands to the village each year – each visitor keen to learn more about the Derbyshire village that gave so much.
“That’s all they want to talk to me about,” said Joan, “…the lady at Eyam who’s ancestor survived because she drank the bacon fat.”
The stained-glass window in the north aisle was given by a member of the church in 1985. You can clearly see the depiction of the arrival of the cloth, Mompesson, a young couple, engaged to be married, who were separated when the cordon was put in place. The church contains other testaments to Eyam’s story, too.
If 350 years ago, the village shut itself in and others out, then the polar opposite is true today. The church continuously reaches out to other groups, other villages and other communities.
The current rector is the Rev’d Mike Gilbert. He said: “Although it isn’t a museum in any way - it’s a thriving and lively church and community – it certainly does impact on virtually everything in the village.
“[The plague story] brings in thousands and thousand of visitors and part of our ministry here is to those visitors.
“It’s lovely because it’s just a small village and the church still is geographically and emotionally at the heart.
“We want to tell the story of Christ’s love and self-sacrifice and we want to model it and live it both in the community and in the wider area of the Peak District.
“From toddler groups to youth groups of all ages; we’ve just set up the Repair Café which is an exciting venture of sustainability, messy church, café church – the list goes on - right at the heart of it is a core of people who are committed to the story of Jesus’ love, and they give themselves willingly to proclaim that message.”
Joan added: “Because as a community we work together, there’s an excitement that we can then share with other people – they see how we live our lives and they think ‘I might want a bit of that’. It’s just a case of living our lives in the community.
“Sharing things that God’s done in our lives and sharing how we live life when it’s hard just helps people along the way.”
There is also a wonderful church centre in Eyam, gifted by a previous generation 25 years ago, which Mike says has made a massive difference to their ability to put on events and serve the community.
But he says that Eyam church has the same struggles as any other – a lack of money, a congregation that isn’t getting any younger and a lack of volunteers. But he says: “We’ve had a wonderful messy church and café church - young families – a congregation of about 50 people who have just come recently. And that’s because we’re saying we need to leave the 99 and go looking for the one – the lost sheep who is yet to discover the love of God.
“Prayer has got to be at the heart of it and a sense of welcome – and a willingness to take risks. We could stick with what we’ve got but if we do that it will gently alter our hand. It’s about saying ‘where is God taking us today?’”
Mike Gilbert is Rector of St Lawrence, Eyam
Joan says that people who come to Eyam and see what they are doing there go back to their own villages and churches and try to start new things there.
Meanwhile, the village’s story continues to add to help keep the church lively: “In the summer, we get hundreds of people joining us for worship. They stay in the village knowing that they can come to church on Sunday - and they come back year on year because they’ve enjoyed what they’ve had, so we’ve always got people wanting to join the church.”
The Rt Revd Libby Lane legally became the Bishop of Derby on Monday, 11 February 2019.
At a service at St Mary-le-Bow in London, The Archbishop of Canterbury confirmed Bishop Libby's Election by the College of Canons.
It was attended by members of Libby's family, Bishop Jan, Archdeacon Carol and other representatives from the Diocese.
Ilkeston's first Winter Shelter is proving to be a huge success.
Based at St John's Church, Ilkeston, the shelter was originally set up to sleep 12 people each night - but demand has meant that number has expanded to 17, plus a dog, during the freezing cold nights at the end of January.
Guests not only get a warm bed for the night, they also get hot drinks, supper, breakfast and a lunch bag. They get access to a shower and the offer of clean clothes and a warm coat.
Once described as a “stone-built preaching box” St Mary’s in Cromford has evolved into a uniquely decorated Derbyshire church.
“Wow! Really impressive”, reads a comment in Cromford St Mary’s visitors’ book. It’s not untypical of the many remarks.
They are, no doubt, referring to the collection of magnificent murals painted around the inside of the church.
Jacqueline Stober decided at the age of nine that she was going to work for God.
And as well as her own route to ordination, she’s been exploring those of other BAME clergy in the Church of England.
Remembering the ‘light-bulb moment’ is something many people do when it comes to discovering God or hearing His call.
The next Bishop of Derby will be the Right Reverend Libby Lane.
Bishop Libby is currently the Suffragan Bishop of Stockport, in the Diocese of Chester – a post she has occupied since 2015.
Libby describes Derbyshire as ‘the place that holds my heart’. She grew up in Glossop in the north-west of the county and was selected for ordination while working in the parish of St Thomas Brampton, Chesterfield.
Ever wondered what it's like to be a churchwarden?
Hazel Massey, the churchwarden at St Wilfred's, West Hallam, says it's more than just a position, it's a vocation.
So if you've ever thought that you might be called to do work for the church, but not inclined to be ordained, read on...
I’m sure most of you are aware that as a churchwarden generally we have responsibility for the fabric of the building and work with the Priest to enable worship to happen.
I am a volunteer and this a part of how I can give back to my faith and church.