At the Northern Clergy Conference in March 2020 the need for some literature explaining our identity and mission was discussed. During one of the clergy Zoom meetings that took place when pandemic restrictions came into force, it was agreed to produce some information leaflets to be available in our churches once they started to re-open. A series of leaflets has therefore been created, designed for those who had been in touch online during the lockdown and had expressed an interest in visiting one of our churches once it was possible to do so. Four separate leaflets were therefore drafted with as little ‘technical’ language as possible.
The text was drawn up in consultation with several of the clergy and others and approved by the Diocesan Secretary and Treasurer. The final design was done for us by one of the Bishops of the Continuing Evangelical Episcopal Communion (CEEC) as a practical expression of their commitment to partner with us. Donations totalling £300 were received towards the cost of their production. The first printing of 200 was soon used up and a second print run ordered. Copies are available from the local churches or direct from Bishop John.
2. A Brief Introduction to the Free Church of England
The need was also felt for a short and simple introduction to the FCE vision and story for use in Northern Churches and for enquirers who wanted to know more than the basic information in the leaflets. Several people – both members of the Diocese and people outside the denomination – helped to produce an agreed text which was ‘signed off’ by the Diocesan Officers.
The resultant booklet – A Brief Introduction to the Free Church of England – is 26 pages long and is illustrated. Copies cost £2.50 each. Once lockdown is over copies should be available in each church, but until then they can be obtained from Bishop John.
Church Planting Conference
When Canon Dan Alger of Always Forward, the church planting arm of the Anglican Church in North America, visited the UK in October 2019 and helped us begin the journey towards being a church planting Diocese, it was envisaged that he would return in October 2020 to help us continue the process. Covid restrictions have made that impossible, but he and Molly Ruch (the Director of the Always Forward Institute) led online sessions on the evenings of 26th and 27th October.
Wonderfully, while only 8 people had been present in 2019, there were 27 participants this time! These included a few from the Southern Diocese and the FCE Commissary in France (the Revd Robert Leone), as well as a participant from Novosibirsk. Bishop Gerhard Meyer and four members of the Anglikanische Kirche in Deutschland also participated.
All those taking part were asked to watch two videos to complement the teaching and discussion in the live sessions.
A small group will now reflect on the sessions and begin to plan church planting strategy, recognising that the situation in the various parishes and countries is very different. More plenary group sessions are envisaged. We pray that the Holy Spirit will continue to drive us forward in this vital new area of witness.
An International Ordination
People from Taiwan, Siberia, the United States and the Isle of Man joined together on Sunday 25th October for the ordination of Deacon Scott Ellinger to the presbyterate.
The actual ordination took place at St David’s church, Preston, but careful preparations had been made to enable the service to be shared with those unable to be physically present, and to comply with Covid-regulations. The Epistle was read by Mr Ian Singleton, one of the Wardens at St David’s. Scott read the Gospel in Mandarin and Bishop John preached. The Revds Tom de Lacey and Anthony Roberts took part and laid hands on Scott (separately) before Bishop John did so.
A lot of planning has gone into the launching of the work in Taiwan (including the level of churchmanship appropriate for the context). A group of people – expatriates and Taiwanese – has been gathered and is eagerly looking forward to Scott’s return when a full ministry of Word and Sacrament can begin.
Virtual Diocesan Synod
The Northern Diocesan Synod took place via Zoom on the morning of Saturday 24th October. Twenty members took part, including representatives of St Augustine’s for the first time. Bishop John welcomed new members to Synod and invited them to introduce themselves. He then introduced three visitors: The Revds Stephen Jenkins and Scott Ellinger (who had been ordained deacon at Morecambe the previous day) and Mr Alex Salter (an FCE Reader), who joined from Taiwan.
Synod heard news from Central Trust and General Council, including the 2020 quota bands that had been set. Bishop John announced that in relation to retirement issues he would be guided by the proposals currently before the Constitution & Canons committee, pending the passing of appropriate bylaws.
Alex Salter and Scott Ellinger spoke about the FCE work in Taiwan.
In the light of Dr Gordon Wareing’s recent operation, Synod appointed Mr Neil Turner Acting Treasurer. Mr Turner presented the 2019 accounts which were approved by Synod. The annual honoraria were also approved.
Representatives from each of the churches then shared how they were faring in the present pandemic. It was good to hear that most were maintaining activities of some kind.
Bishop John thanked Synod members for their faithfulness and closed the Synod in prayer.
Two New Deacons
On Friday 23rd October Bishop John ordained two deacons at Emmanuel, Morecambe.
The candidates were Scott Ellinger of the FCE mission in Taiwan and Steven Jenkins. Steven is a Reader in the Reformed Episcopal Church in North America, where he serves at Bishop Sutton’s church in Dallas. He has been in the UK in recent months and helping out at Christ Church, Harlesden. He recently completed the ordination requirements for the REC (including an oral examination). In view of travel complications caused by the pandemic, Bishop Sutton requested Bishop John, by Letters Dimissory, to ordain him on his behalf.
It was a joy that Steven’s wife Mary and son Alex (pictured) were able to travel to Morecambe for the ordination.
Scott Ellinger is a Reader in the FCE based in Taiwan (pictured with Alex Salter, whom Bishop Paul licensed five years ago). A former Lieutenant Colonel in the US Army he speaks Mandarin and has degrees in theology.
Diocesan Finance Focus Group
Much of what we wish to do for God is hampered by inadequate funding. At the national level this is being addressed by the Finance Committee which has begun by suggesting re-structuring of the denominational budget. In parallel with this Bishop John has invited three members of the Northern Diocese with professional administrative and financial expertise – Elaine Wilson, Werner Alberts and Neil Turner – to serve on a ‘focus group’ to take a fresh look at Diocesan Finances and make recommendations in due course.
The group held its first meeting via Zoom on 20th October.
A New Presbyter for The Northern Diocese
The 5th October was a special day in the story of St Augustine’s congregation. On that day Bishop John travelled to the Isle of Man to ordain Sir Laurence New, as a Presbyter in the Church of God.
Laurence has a long preaching ministry behind him and was licensed an FCE Reader at the beginning of this year. The congregation unanimously signed a petition requesting his ordination.
The Isle of Man is currently Covid-free, so special permission for the ordination to take place had to be obtained from the Isle of Man Government according to agreed procedures in a facility at the harbour. Following his ordination, Laurence and his wife Anna are having to quarantine for fourteen days.
Although most of the congregation was not able to be present, Bishop John had preached to them the day before on the topics specified in the Prayer Book rubric: ‘ a Sermon or Exhortation, declaring the duty and office of such as come to be admitted Presbyters; how necessary that Ministry is in the Church of Christ; and also how the people ought to esteem them in their office.’
Once his period of quarantine is ended, Laurence will be able to preside at the Eucharist and the congregation will be able to receive Holy Communion for the first time since February. The ordination is an answer to much prayer.
Ascension Day Eucharist
Bishop John Fenwick, Primus of the FCE leads the Ascension Day Eucharist.
Good Friday Worship
Bishop John has recorded a devotional service. You can find links to the hymns below.
When a hymn is announced, pause the service by clicking on the screen, then follow the Link to the hymn. When the hymn is finished, close that screen so that you can return to the service.
- There is a green hill far away
- O sacred head sore wounded
- When I survey the wondrous cross
- My song is love unknown
Northern Diocesan Clergy Conference
The Northern Diocesan Clergy Conference was held at Whalley Abbey from 9th to 11th March.
After prayer, the opening session began, as usual with a roundup of news from the parishes so those present were aware of each other’s situations and could support with advice and prayer.
A major section of the Conference was concerned with church planting. We had begun the journey to become a church planting Diocese with Canon Dan Alger from Always Forward (ACNA) last October. Dan had received a report of our activities since and sent a number of observations and comments which the conference discussed.
There was then a paper and discussion on the topic ‘What are we planting?’ which opened up a lively discussion on the identity of the congregations we are seeking to plant. (You can see the categories of ‘Gospel-centred, Sacramental, Missional, Anglican Churches’ on the flipchart in the photo!)
One session was given over to Mrs Cathy Jacobs, the newly arrived and commissioned SAMS missionary who introduced her work regarding passing on the legacy of faith to grandchildren.
Bishop John updated the conference on national and international developments in GAFCON and elsewhere.
The closing session was devoted to a discussion of options and strategies in relation to the spreading coronavirus pandemic.
During the conference there was a visit from PC Paul Pountain and DC Tim Fryer, of the Lancashire branch of the Christian Police Association. They shared details of the stresses and threats to faith faced by policemen and women in the course of their duties and the various ministries by which the CPA seeks to help. It was a salutary introduction to an area of Christian living and witnessing that most of us seldom think about.
The next residential Clergy Conference is scheduled for October.
Northern Diocese Welcome Missionary
On Sunday 8th March at St David’s, Preston, Bishop John commissioned Mrs Cathy Jacobs to work in the Northern Diocese.
Cathy is an accredited missionary of the Society of Anglican Missionaries and Senders (SAMS), society of the Anglican Church in North America. She is a member of the Diocese of South Carolina which left the Episcopal Church in 2017 and joined the ACNA.
In recent years Cathy has developed a ministry helping grandparents pass on the faith to their grandchildren. Her book Pass the Legacy: 7 Keys for Grandparents Making a Difference can be bought online.
The intention had been for Cathy to be based at St David’s Preston and to visit other parishes in the Northern Diocese. However, no sooner had she started to settle in, when the coronavirus pandemic intervened and SAMS advised all its missionaries to return home.
Cathy is therefore now back in South Carolina (quarantined!) but, having seen a little of the FCE on the ground, is working on a strategy for when she is able to return. We remember Cathy in our prayers and hope it will not be too long before she is back among us.
On 23rd February Bishop John chaired the Inaugural Congregational Meeting of St Augustine’s, Douglas on the Isle of Man.
The previous evening he had met with the Management Committee who will now form the Church Council. On the Sunday morning Bishop John presided at the Eucharist and preached on the importance of the Transfiguration for understanding the congregation’s mission on the island – namely to enable others to catch a glimpse of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
During the course of the service Bishop John licensed Sir Laurence New as a Reader. Sir Laurence had served as a Reader in the Church of England for over forty years. Now, having completed his FCE Reader’s papers, he exercises this important ministry in St Augustine’s.
After the Eucharist there was a congregational lunch. This was followed by the Inaugural Congregational Meeting. Reports and accounts were presented and the first generation of officers – Churchwardens, Delegate, Treasurer and Clerk elected. The meeting also adopted Safeguarding procedures which satisfy the requirements of Manx law as well as of the FCE. Quotas were paid.
On this visit Bishop John was accompanied by his wife Lis. The ferry crossing in a Force 8 gale was memorable – as were the kindness and generosity of the congregation.
A New Congregation Joins The Northern Diocese!
On 19th January 2020 St Augustine’s congregation on the Isle of Man petitioned to be admitted to the Northern Diocese. Bishop John issued a licence accordingly.
St Augustine’s had existed as an independent Anglican congregation on the Isle of Man for approximately four years. It currently meets for worship in the Jim Crosbie Memorial Hall, Junction of Park Road and Derby Road, Douglas, IM2 3EN.
The congregation comprises about thirty adults and ten children.
Bishop John had previously visited the congregation, presided at the Eucharist and preached. He had also had meetings with the Management Committee and the wider congregation. The decision to join the Free Church of England was unanimous.
On receiving the congregation Bishop John said, ‘It is a joy to welcome the people of St Augustine’s into the Northern Diocese. I hope that they will very quickly feel at home. I am sure that they will be a great blessing to the Free Church of England and I look forward to working with them as they work out the next stages of their witness and mission.’
90th Birthday at Morecambe
On the 15th December Mrs Lis Fenwick presented a floral display to Mrs Betty McLean on behalf of the Diocesan Ladies Fellowship to mark her upcoming 90th birthday.
Betty has been a lifelong member of the Free Church of England. Her baptism was performed by Bishop Frank Vaughan following his return from visiting the Canadian parishes of the FCE which were then under his jurisdiction (they now form part of the Reformed Episcopal Church in North America). She has served the church in many capacities, not least that of organist at Emmanuel for many years. Through her marriage she brought John McLean into the Free Church of England. John was successively Churchwarden at Emmanuel, then Minister, then Bishop of the Northern Diocese and Primus.
The presentation was made at the end of the service of Lessons and Carols. The congregation then shared a birthday cake prepared by Mrs Lisa Mann, wife of the new Minister of Emmanuel Church.
Church Planting Planning Meeting
The Diocesan clergy met at Holy Trinity, Oswaldtwistle, on 18th November for a church planting planning meeting as a follow-up to the Swarthmoor Hall conference.
Replies to the Diocesan Systems Inspection forms supplied by Always Forward were collated and the results discussed.
From them a number of priorities were identified and tasks allocated.
The Bishop has appointed the Revd Anthony Roberts Diocesan Church Planting Coordinator.
Songs of Praise
The BBC's Songs of Praise programme on 20th October featured a clip of Impact Community Church - our Associate Congregation worshipping in the former St James', Hollinwood.
The theme of the programme was homelessness and Lee Marsland of Impact was interviewed talking about his own experience of homelessness and how he and others were now ministering to those living on the streets today.
The FCE didn't get a mention as such, but as a Diocese we can be proud that one of our congregations has merited this attention.
ACNA Church Planting Canon trains Northern Diocesan Clergy
The clergy of the Northern Diocese (plus a few others) met for a residential conference on church planting from 30th September to 2nd October at Swarthmoor Hall, Ulverston, Cumbria.
The sessions were led by the Revd Canon Dan Alger, Canon for Church Planting for the Anglican Church in North America.
Over the 48 hours of the conference Canon Alger took the clergy through the fundamentals of church planting, then helped them decide on the next steps. These include a day meeting in November to begin to firm up some of the issues raised at the conference, to be followed by a further residential conference in March which will consider in detail what recommendations to make to Diocesan Synod and eventually to Convocation. The aim is to bring church planting into the mainstream of the life of the Diocese and wider Free Church of England.
To ensure that any initiatives are rooted in prayer, prayer cards have been printed for every member of the Northern Diocese to enable them to structure their daily private prayers. Every church member is also being given a prayer bookmark ‘Praying for Church Planting’, setting out the vision, goals and strategy, and providing some wide-ranging prayer material.
As one of the first steps to becoming a church planting Diocese, the Northern clergy identified a number of places in which they and members of their congregations will be in prayer about: Harrogate, Leeds, Newcastle, York, Ulverston, Carlisle, Mallaig, Durham, Liverpool and Manchester.
The partnership is one of the fruits of the ACNA’s pledge to work together with us for the proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ and the making of his disciples throughout the world. Always Forward, the church planting arm of the ACNA, will be keeping in regular contact with the Northern clergy and it is anticipated that Canon Alger will attend next autumn’s Clergy Conference to monitor progress and give advice about the next steps.
Cathy Jacobs is from St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Summerville in South Carolina. She will be partnering with the Free Church of England between
1st March and 24th April 2020
Acclaimed Author of ‘PASS THE LEGACY: 7 Keys for Grandparents Making a Difference’
Many seniors desire to be godly grandparents of their families. They simply do not know how. As you listen to Cathy, you will be empowered to live into the utmost calling God has on your life: to pass a legacy of faith in Jesus Christ to your grandchildren. What an awesome calling!
Cathy is available for Speaking engagements throughout the UK
Contact Revd Tom de Lacey 07817 965850 for bookings