St Martins Church Ashton Upon Mersey

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               Some of the many faces of priesthood

Dear friends,


A month into 2020 and I'm still here! During the past few weeks many people have asked if I know anything yet about when I might be finishing my ministry at St Martin's and it is frustrating not to be able to give a clearer answer than ‘who knows?' Starting another month with no real idea of when I might be moving from St Martin's to Prestwich continues to be disconcerting, not least because there now seems to be a rumour that I've changed my mind and am not moving after all. Which is not true, but I can't say the situation is more than a little trying. However, I can do little other than continue to trust God and in the meantime get on with the responsibility of being a priest in his Church here in Ashton-upon-Mersey.


Inevitably, though, there have been a number of conversations in recent weeks and months about the future of St Martin's and whether there will be a full-time clergy appointment or some other pattern and form of ministry. These conversations have, at this point of time, no answer. There are all sorts of elements to the reflection and prayer upon what the future here might look like and these include finance, sustainability, partnership with other churches, ministry teams, the needs of the parish and so on. In December the members of the Church Council met with the Archdeacon and explored a number of these questions and ideas a little - but there is still much thinking, praying and conversation to be had, locally and within the diocese - the ‘outcome' is as unknown at this point of time as my moving date!


Reflecting personally on some of these things, I was attracted to a quotation by the sociologist William Bruce Cameron. He said: Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts. It's an interesting phrase to ponder in relation to the ministry of Christ's Church anywhere, and so to ponder in relation to the ministry of Christ's Church in St Martin's.


Numbers in service registers and on church electoral roles tell a story - but only part of a story. Church accounts tell a story, but again, only part of a story. Even entries and comments left in a visitors' book only reveal a portion of a church's story. Numbers and statistics are no basis in and of themselves for making every decision about how successful or needful the ministry of a particular church is. If the Church (meaning the building and the congregation, separately and together) is proclaiming the Kingdom of God then it can't all be captured  in such simplistic ways.


Who knows how someone attending a baptism service might have been moved to consider faith for themselves when they never have before? How many of those who pop into the church building or visit the churchyard come to an understanding of God's presence or strength in their lives? The effectiveness (success is maybe an unhelpful word) of proclaiming the Kingdom of God is not only measured in numbers who are confirmed by the Bishop or who attend on Sunday morning. Recently I have been delighted to hear two very different stories which have rejoiced my heart.


One was from a lady I bumped into in Sainsbury's. I conducted her husband's funeral over two years ago and she was completely devastated in her bereavement. They had no children and had been together since they were teenagers. On a number of occasions after the funeral she visited the church, both for services and also just to sit or light a candle when it was open over the summer months. She said to me that she was simply pouring out her emptiness and sadness to God. Then, completely unexpectedly she has met someone else, through the initial offering to her a lift from the nursing home where her elderly mother is, next door to where his cousin is. This man has grown to be a friend and now even more and she is totally amazed. She said to me he has saved her, but she also said that she believes God was there in all of it.


The other was of someone who came to worship at St Martin's after being diagnosed as terminally ill. He came back to a faith that he hadn't practised for a long time, and found not only comfort and hope in that faith, but also a welcome at St Martin's that made him feel a part of the congregation and community very quickly. Part of this was also to do with his sexuality - as a gay man he had often felt sidelined or even unvalued by the Church in his life (despite having been a choirboy and having a very positive experience of faith as a young person). He felt affirmed in who and what he was by God, by a member of clergy and by a congregation.


Neither of these stories can be captured in statistics, beyond two entries in our burial register. But they speak of people whose lives have been touched by God and by the community of faith at St Martin's in ways which have been rich in blessings and hope and newness of life.


Whatever decisions might be made about the shape and nature of ordained ministry at St Martin's, this should not change the fact that so much of what is revealed of God's love and his kingdom in this community is hidden or only partly known to us. Jesus' own ministry didn't always produce positive or encouraging statistics (only one of the ten lepers whom he healed one day returned to thank him...) but his ministry produced positive changes in people's lives and in their attitudes to God's presence and love in their lives.


Let us all continue hopefully and prayerfully into God's future, maybe even embracing another very different quotation I came across recently, from Herman Melville's Moby Dick: 

‘I know not all that may be coming, but be it what it will, I'll go to it laughing'


With my prayers,





The Methodist Covenant Prayer


I am no longer my own but yours.

Put me to what you will,

rank me with whom you will;

put me to doing, put me to suffering;

let me be employed for you or laid aside for you,

exalted for you or brought low for you.

Let me be full, let me be empty,

let me have all things, let me have nothing.

I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things

 to your pleasure and disposal.

And now, glorious and blessed God,

Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

you are mine and I am yours.

So be it.

And the covenant made on earth,

let it be ratified in heaven.



"BE PREPARED"  Our Lord tells us that he will come again... but he doesn't say when!  For over 2000 years people have been waiting but it could be tomorrow!


St Martin's Church, Church Lane,  Ashton-upon-Mersey,  Sale,  Cheshire ,    M33 5QQ  

0161 976 4086 
0161 973 4204