I spent today with the Halifax Opportunities Trust where I am the Vice Chair of the Board. This Social Enterprise Company delivers government work programmes and Sure Start Children’s Centres, and is based in Hanson Lane Enterprise Centre and the Elsie Whitely Innovation Centre. It’s a two way process – I bring my own expertise to their Board and I bring back things I have learnt from them, and how we might use this experience within the Minster. Alison Haskins is the new CEO, and brings a wealth of knowledge from working across the Third Voluntary sector both in Leeds and Wakefield before coming to Halifax. One of her real strengths is getting the right structures in place so that everyone including their staff, Board, Clients, and the local community know why they exist as an organisation, what their values are and what their aims might be. This is then fleshed out in the setting of their objectives which result in the delivery of their aims and core business. It sounds so simple but few organisations sit down and remind themselves why they exist and what their values should be and their principal aims. I know from the Minster how easy it is to get into the delivery phase on a daily basis, and forget why we do what we do. Lent provides a good time to reflect on what we do and why? Our mission statement reminds us of how we see ourselves: Seeking God: Sharing Faith: Serving Halifax. As a faith community we are called to follow in the way of Jesus, and to adopt his values and his aims and objectives of love of neighbour and the environment, justice for all, healing and wholeness for the creation. This experience of God in Jesus propels us to share our faith with our families and friends, and with the wider community in which we live. This is expressed through our ministry of Welcome, both as new members of the worshipping community and as casual visitors to the Minster, be it as tourists or for events. As a community of faith we serve the community both at home and abroad: be it the use of our building and the use of our time and talents across the town and borough, OR through our support of the Church in our twin town of Aachen in Germany or in Tanzania, through our mission partners at the Cathedral church of St Peter at Kowack, or the neighbouring diocese of Mara. Recently we sent a cheque to Mara Diocese for £750 to support the Safe House at Musoma, where girls are received escaping Female Gentile Mutilation. As a faith community we are in the middle of a Stewardship Campaign, in which we are asked to reflect on the use of our time, our talents, and our money. It’s not so much about what we choose to give, but what opportunities we have to give back, that which God has already given us? It’s also not about what I want to give, but what the needs of the Minster might be, and if I can serve the Church with a joyful heart? There is a parable about giving in secret, so that only God knows what we are giving, and that we don’t become pretentious and egotistic. Much of what we do is in private and not in public, and doesn’t require constant public recognition, other than knowing that we are serving God. As a Minster community we need to grow: numerically, financially, and most importantly of all spiritually and closer to God. Good luck with your reflecting, and make sure you fill in the returns and bring them back to church by the 18th March! Hilary Barber Vicar
Last weekend we celebrated Candlemas, when the whole church celebrated the presentation of Jesus in the Temple, and good old Simeon and Anna recognised Jesus as being the long awaited Messiah. This Festival brought to an end the Advent/Christmas/Epiphany cycle, and as we stood at the font and blew out our candles, we turned away from Christmas towards Lent and Holy Week.

Lent begins on Ash Wednesday which this year falls on the 14th February (Valentine’s Day!). The Midday Service will be at 12.30 at St Mark’s Siddal, with the evening Service in the Minster at 7.30pm. Please come and begin this season together as a worshipping community. Lent is an opportunity for spiritual growth and spending time with God. You are encouraged to DO SOMETHING as part of your Lenten journey: read a book – we are recommending a Lent Book you can buy; come to Compline on a Tuesday at 8.30pm; come to one of the daily Eucharists and spend extra time being with and listening to God; make Holy Week a priority by attending the Triduum: Maundy Thursday Liturgy; Good Friday Liturgy; Easter Day. Lent should not be about giving things up – it’s about doing something extra!

This year there will be a Stewardship Campaign during Lent. This will be launched by The Archdeacon of Halifax and will enable us to reflect on the giving of our time, talents, and money, to further the work of God’s Church here in the Minster. There are a number of people who have recently joined the community and this provides an opportunity for them to sign up to Planned Giving, which means they can give their money to the church in a tax efficient way, and make a real contribution to our ministry and mission. Everyone will receive a Stewardship Pack inviting them to respond to God’s generosity in all that he has given us. Katia Shoesmith will come to end the Stewardship Campaign as our new Area Dean, giving us encouragement and hope for the future.

Last night at the Church Council meeting we received reports form the Friends of Music and the Education Department. The Friends of Music reported on the growth of the choir, and plans to travel to both Bury St Edmunds and Norwich Cathedrals in the summer. The Education Department reported on the 860 children who visited the Minster in the Autumn term alone, and the 560 children who throughout last year came to explore Christianity and Islam. The Minster takes on a marvellous atmosphere when the building is full of children experiencing both awe and wonder, and we are so very lucky to such good quality staff to enable this to happen.

The new Calendar for 2018 comes out this month, giving the whole community a thumb nail sketch of what to expect throughout the coming months. Make sure you pick one up and put dates in the diary, otherwise you might miss something!

Hilary Barber          

From the Vicar

The last few days have been dominated by Christmas Trees! It’s the first Christmas Tree Festival the Minster has planned, and currently there are 32 trees all in place, with over half already decorated, and the others to be done before tomorrow night’s Preview Evening. All the trees have been sponsored by different organisations across the town and borough, and it’s been wonderful to have such support from all sectors towards the Minster. Tomorrow BBC Radio Leeds will broadcast their Breakfast show from the Minster and we look forward to welcoming hundreds of people over the coming Weekend celebration.

This Tree Festival comes as winter takes hold, and temperatures plummet and the days get shorter and the nights longer. As human’s we crave for the light and the warmth of the sun. Scientists recognise the importance of regular intake of Vitamin B. In recent month’s there has been a strong sense of the world living in darkness, with natural disasters, civil wars and ethnic cleansing, large scale migration from terror and oppression, and terrorist attacks across Europe and on mainland England.

It can be no surprise that the Pagans chose this time of year to have a Light Festival which other faith communities soon adopted. As Christians, the Bible uses the image of Light as a reference to the Word of God, and of the birth of Jesus as The Light of the World. At Christmas we celebrate the incarnation of God as a human being in the person of Jesus – or as he is often referred to as Emmanuel – which means God with us. In the birth of this vulnerable child, God brought about a fulfilment of the promises he had made to the ancient Prophets, and the renewal of the Covenant made between God and humanity. Society had turned away from following God, and placed their hopes in their own ability to reach their potential – sometimes they even tried at playing God themselves.

The birth of Jesus as Lord of All, provides humanity with the opportunity to choose a new way of living, and to place their trust once again, in the God who created the world and everything in it. Each Christmas we are reminded that this opportunity to come and worship the Christ child is offered freely to the world, to hear God’s Word afresh, and to respond in love of God and to the world around us.

The Minster is uniquely placed to offer this love for God and neighbour, as we provide significant hospitality to hundreds and thousands of people throughout December, who come for Carol Services and Events. Its remains a real privilege to shake the hands of these people as they leave, and to wish them a Happy Christmas and a Happy New Year. I’m thankful to everyone who shares in this calling, as December at the Minster is a team effort, with lots of people volunteering on a daily basis. Hospitality is a key plank in our Benedictine Spirituality – it’s one of our Unique Selling Points – it’s part of how we see ourselves and how we are viewed by others. The challenge for us, is to welcome visitors not just at Christmas, but all year round, and to welcome all those who are lost, confused, grieving, the lonely, the stranger, all as if we were welcoming Christ himself, into our family home.

Happy Christmas and New Year to everyone!          

From the Vicar

January sees the New Year in. Where has 2017 gone – the answer seems to be very fast! So rather than looking back, how about looking forward, and making plans so that visions and dreams can come true?

In the Minster, there are a number of tasks waiting to be dealt with. Firstly, the Minster Development Team, will continue to work with the Architect and build up a new business plan to take the Minster forward. There remains a number of things on our shopping list that are outstanding: the new proposed Treasury and Exhibition space; to re light the Minster and reveal the heritage; improve access to the West end including the introduction of some toilets and improved kitchen area; repair and protect the windows; and the overhaul of both the organs.

Secondly, with the increase in visitor numbers we urgently need to review our tourism strategy, which includes a fresh look at how we interpret the building, The Welcomers, and the shop, all which contribute towards the Benedictine hospitality we want to offer more effectively.

Thirdly, I want to have a campaign that encourages people across the town and beyond to become Minster People, and help us both become ambassadors for the Minster, but also ambassadors for Christ, and help us to grow the congregation and make it stronger. We have some lovely new badges in the Minster shop, which look nice to wear, and can be a great evangelistic tool: I go to the Minster because I am a Christian; I enjoy the liturgy, the music, and find the preaching challenging for the week; I can volunteer to support the Minster in my spare time; why don’t you come with me and try it?

There is plenty of evidence that tells us people love to be invited to come to the Minster, but as Vicar I can’t invite all your friends because I don’t know who they are! So that means you need to think of friends, neighbours, and family, who you could invite to come with you. Imagine if we all brought someone with us – the congregation would double overnight. Making the Minster secure for the future isn’t just about money and bricks and mortar, its about ensuring that we hand the Christian faith onto others, and that the church truly reflects society in an intergenerational way – for God calls everyone to come and follow him.

As we enter the season of Epiphany, it’s a good time to reflect on how God makes himself present to us in the people we meet, through his Word, and in the Sacraments. Epiphany is about knowing Christ, and making Christ known! The New Year is a good time to invite people, as they try to live out their lives under new resolutions and to help make the coming year one that brings happiness and joy. We’ve seen significant growth over the last 12 months with new children joining the choir. We still urgently need help with running Sunday School, supporting and nurturing these children not only to sing, but in their Christian faith. Please let me know if you can help – the more we have, the more we can share it out!

Here’s wishing you all a very good New Year and God’s blessing on all that it to come in 2018!         

Vicar swaps Pulpit for the A and E Department

The Accident and Emergency Department at Calderdale Royal is part of the Calerdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust, covering principally Calderdale and Kirklees. The Trust currently operates two A and E departments located in Halifax and Huddersfield. I had the enormous privilege to spend some quality time with Mr Andrew Lockey, A and E Consultant at Calderdale Royal.

The Health Service has become somewhat toxic in the media, with competing claims made by politicians and sensational headlines in the media. Whilst the sound bites are written and political decisions are made or not made, health professionals simply try, as hard as it may be sometimes, to simply get on with the job of providing Accident and Emergency Services 24 hours every seven days. From the canteen staff and cleaners, to porters, Nursing staff and Radiographers, to junior doctors and consultants, they all work their socks off day in day out, providing the best care that they are able to give to patients who present themselves at A and E.

Fortunately, there were only some 35 patients in the system when I arrived, and mostly were minors and not majors. This meant Andy Lockey had a few minutes to talk before the day took off. When a patient presents at A and E, they book in and head to Triage, where they are immediately assessed. Category 1 – 4 with 1 needing life saving immediate intervention, and 4 to be seen within 2 hours. The Sister in A and E has the joy and challenge to ensure the system works efficiently and effectively. There are 10 A & E Consultants in the Trust, with 5 on each site. It’s difficult to attract staff to work for the Trust as it has A&Es on two sites, and the stress generated by the nature of the job. Consultants cover 8am - 10pm Monday to Friday, then it’s On Call and Weekend Cover. Sundays and Mondays are generally the busiest days of the week.

The staff manage a jigsaw of administering medicine, quality care for the patient, and managing the finances. Everyone is aware of the challenges, as the number of patients seems to be growing. Andy has worked at the Trust as a Consultant for 15 years, after training in Leeds, York (as a GP), South Africa, and now in Halifax. Andy finds the Trust an inclusive organisation with a ‘can do’ attitude. His length of tenure demonstrates his vocation and ultimate job satisfaction in the career he has chosen.

The Sister in charge has her desk suitably positioned to be able to see most of what is going on. Aided by computer systems, she can monitor each patient who is booked in, and ensure that they are seen appropriately. She tells me that often they are short staffed, which means longer hours and longer waiting times. The Red phone rang – this was the Stroke Line – a patient was on its way and would arrived in 10 minutes. The Sister then alerted the Stroke Team that a patient was on its way. By the time the patient arrived, they were met by two Stroke Consultants and the specialised Stroke Nurse, the patient was taken by the Paramedics straight to Radiology, where a team of six staff were ready with a scanner, to see what was happening in the brain. This patient was local, and the hospital had their file on their system, had the patient been visiting the area, this would not have been so. The patient had other complications and other long term conditions, all essential information for medical assessment. Back into Resus more observations could begin, and for Stroke victims, the speed of medication is hugely important in having the best outcome. Here a well drilled routine was actioned, and the very best of patient care was provided. The NHS working to its strengths. A bed in the Stroke Unit was available and arrangements were made to transfer the patient to the ward.

I now had a chance to spend time in Triage, observing patients arriving and being assessed and prioritised. First in was a patient with a sore foot, followed by a septic finger, followed by a pregnant woman with stomach pains, followed by a mother with a sickly child, followed by an older patient slightly confused. The patients came in all day and the majority were minor complaints, most of which should have been dealt with by the local GP. A separate Triage deals with Ambulance arrivals.

Here lies the conundrum, with regard to the large numbers attending A and E. We now live in a society where we demand instant access to everything including health. Gone are the days when the GP would see us in a day or two, and we would happily wait for something non-urgent. Today the mother with her child came straight to A and E, and when the Triage Nurse enquire if the child had been given any Calpol, the answer was no! The breakdown of family life has left a number of parents with little resilience to deal with basic health care, both for themselves and their offspring. We want medical care and we want it NOW!

This plays into the drama over the proposed closure of one of the A & E departments. The decision has gone to the Secretary of State with a Judicial Review pending. Sensational headlines outline all the negative arguments over improved health care, better use of resources, more effective and efficient financially. I’m no expert, but the staff at Halifax A & E are convinced that by having one A & E department, where ever it is located, is a significant move forward in the right direction. Whilst the final decision drags on and on, it becomes harder and harder for the Trust to recruit and retain staff, and the real fear is that Kirklees and Calderdale could end up losing both A and E Departments, with everything being centralised in Bradford and Leeds. The large conurbations in Urban Britain have become used to accessing hospital care on the door step, and the honest answer is that those days are now over, for medical reasons and improved patient care, never mind the financial implications. This vision of the NHS needs to be carefully spelt out by honest politicians and civic leaders across communities, making sure that the energy of opposition and protest, can be challenged into positive action for increased spending and quality care, and improved hospital environments for the sick and dying.

Generally, the media reports of doctors and nurses when something has gone terribly wrong. Rarely do we read about the amazing vocation and commitment of large numbers of men and women, who work hours of overtime, and who haven’t had a significant pay rise for years now, in caring for thousands of patients year in year out. The NHS certainly isn’t perfect by any means, but for those who work at the coal face, the professional care and attention to detail cannot be faulted, and of their vocation there is no question. Many doctors and nurses had come from abroad to support our local hospital, and for them to experience one of the best health systems in the world, and to them I’m truly grateful. Goodness knows what effect Brexit will have on our health service – I shudder to think? It was immensely humbling to spend a day shadowing Andy Lockey and his team, and it leaves me with much to reflect and pray about, and in good faith, to know that people who work for the NHS really do care about the communities they serve.