October beckons and that means its autumn and Conference Season is upon us. This month John Hardy and I will be attending the Greater Churches Network Conference at Christ Church Priory in Dorset. This year there will be site visits to Romsey Abbey and Wimborne Minster. Both John and I sit on the national Council, which brings all the Greater Churches of England together in a loose association. It was back in 2008 that John Hardy, Anne Coldwell and I went to our very first conference near Bath, when we first applied to join the Network, and two years ago the conference was held in Leeds, and the site visit was to Halifax Minster. Each of the Greater churches ministers in its own context, be it rural, suburban, or inner city. Whilst each is uniquely different, there are things we all share in common: usually a large ecclesiastical building; open most days of the year; a significant civic ministry; employed staff and large volunteer base; huge opportunities for mission that are usually totally under resourced!

Unless you have ever worked in a Greater Church, most clergy and bishops find the Greater Churches a strange beast to understand? Certainly local parishes often look with envy at what resources they perceive we have, with little understanding that most of the time we have to beg, borrow or steal, and we are always trying to punch above our weight in order to achieve the major contribution we make to the life of the town and diocese. My experience after ten years is that it’s a roller-coaster, and not for the faint hearted!

As the town continues to regenerate its self all around us, so too we need to look to our future? Last month we began to openly discuss the possibility of a permanent exhibition space where we could display all our treasures, and try to tell the story of our faith more effectively. The 900 Trust, the Friends, and The Minster PCC have come together to form a new Campaign Team, to build a new Five year Business Plan for the Minster and tackle some of the projects we have long wanted to achieve. Following the set back from the last two failed HLF Bids, we have needed time to lick our wounds, and regain strength to gird up our loins and have another push.

Caring for the heritage of the building takes a huge amount of time and effort, and I’m always left frustrated about the time we need to build up the community of faith. Is it me, or are people worshipping less frequently than they used too? There is no point restoring the Minster unless we have a community that worship in it – otherwise we become a museum piece? The Association of English Cathedrals have a useful Self Evaluation Tool Kit which the staff are looking at. This helps to balance out fabric and mission and evangelism. There can be no doubt we need to grow our community and whilst its my job to lead, I can’t do it on my own, we all need to work together. One of our volunteers, Oli Burgage Hall, has made some attractive Minster badges – if we all wore one, maybe we could initiate conversations with our friends about coming and supporting the Minster on a Sunday? Buy one in the shop next time you pass through – it might just be the start of something?

Hilary  

The Minster has moved up a gear in the last few weeks: Summer Dinner, Patronal festival, Heath Founders Day Service, Deanery Synod Eucharist, and this week the Summer Festival begins on Thursday. This morning I did an interview with BBC Radio Leeds promoting 10 days of arts and culture. Christianity has always used the arts - both visual and performing – as windows onto God. Like iconography, they give a glimpse of what God is like and of God’s glory. The Trinity Academy Art exhibition which runs through the summer, will be replaced with an exhibition by the Halifax Art Club, and then a project coming out of Square Chapel. Our newly re ordered space is already being put to good use, and enabling different sections of the whole community to come and claim the Minster for themselves.

Music is fundamental to making worship sour, and in the Festival there everything including the Minster Choir Concert, Black Dyke Band, the male and women’s barbershop evening, and the Senior Citizens Orchestra, and the folk music of the Suitcase Dwellers – hopefully something for everyone!

Two new additions to the Festival this year: is the Sans Illuminere – an evening candlelight tour of the Minster, where visitors get to meet some Living History characters from the Minster’s past; and the School’s Poetry Festival sponsored by the Bearder Trust and organised by the Minster Education Department.

In recent weeks I’ve been busy consulting on the proposed road changes and the station gateway project. It’s an exciting time for the whole town as capital money is made available to support the economic growth of the community, securing jobs and the future. Look out for the Public Consultation in the Town Hall in the new few weeks.

Next month the Minster Choir will head off to Germany and our twin town of Aachen, the Eifel Region, and Dusseldorf. The invitation was to join in the commemoration events of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. The choir will sing at concerts and services across the region. Holly Lynch the MP for Halifax will join the group and will share in discussions with me and the German authorities about plans for 2018 and the end of WW1. If we are to achieve anything like 2014 we need to get planning now!

Last Saturday I had the privilege of attending the Ordination of Simon Scott as a Priest in the Church of God. Simon is a great addition to the ministerial team, and as well as being a Head Teacher, has much to offer the Minster and the whole church. A few weeks ago I was able to announce the appointment of Linda Maslen to come and live in the Vicarage at Siddal, where she will complete her training working across the Minster (her day in residence will be Monday) and at St Mark’s Siddal, and leading The Saturday Gathering – the new congregation that has emerged out of the Food Bank Project. The intention is that when Linda finishes her training she will stay in post as an Assistant Priest in the new benefice!

Here’s wishing the whole community a wonderful summer and hopefully some rest!         

Hilary

From the Vicar

Alleluia Christ is risen – words which rang around the Minster on Easter morning. My thanks to everyone who contributed is any small or big way this year to Holy Week 2017. The weather on Palm Sunday was blue skies and sun, and the donkey behaved impeccably. The music throughout the week was performed to a high standard, both by the Minster Choir and Chamber choir, and with organ and brass on Easter Day. The stark building was adorned with flowers for the Easter Vigil, and whilst I carried the Paschal Candle into a darkened church followed by well over 100 people, a certain son of mine who had lit the fire, admitted afterwards to cooking marshmallows on the fire once we had disappeared from sight

The joy of the resurrection faith is matched by the blossom on the cherry trees around the Minster, and the warm sun certainly improves all our vitamin D levels! 

The month of May begins with an Organ recital on May Day 3pm by Dr Simon Lindley. On Sunday the 7th  Canon Wendy Wilby will preach at the 10.30am Sung Eucharist, and at 4pm instead of Evensong, we have a one man drama of John’s Gospel – do make the effort to attend this extraordinary reading of the Gospel during this Easter season. On Saturday 13thMay I shall be attending the re dedication of Holy Trinity Hull as Hull Minster, by the Archbishop of York in their Year of Capital of Culture. Sunday 14th we host the Loyal Georgian Society for their annual Evensong, with The Archdeacon’s Visitation on Wednesday 17thwhich this year we are hosting for the whole Episcopal Area and the Diocesan Bishop will give his Charge, as Church Wardens are all sworn into Office for the coming year. Saturday 20th we host West Yorkshire Police Band in a concert hosted by Holly Lynch our MP. Wednesday 24th The Friends have their trip to Liverpool, whilst the following Day is Ascension Day, and the Archdeacon of Halifax will preach at the Sung Eucharist in the evening. 

This month there are also numerous Weddings and baptisms, and no doubt some Funerals too. At this time of the year the Minster gets busier and its all hands to the decks to keep this great ship afloat. Planning for the Minster Summer Festival 29th June – 9th July is in full swing, as the program will be announced shortly. 

As I write at the end of April, we are about to have the Annual Meeting. This is an important occasion to give thanks to God for all the blessings we have received throughout the year, and to thank those who have played significant roles in the life of the Minster during the past year. This week the Halifax 900 Trust (the fundraising arm of the Minster) and The Friends Executive, and the Minster Finance Team, are have a joint meeting at which to try and plan more effectively the way forward for the Minster, taking the Quinquennial Inspection and the priorities from the Church Council residential weekend together. Hopefully God will bless us in the way he has done for some 900 years already, and we will be able to continue sharing that Easter Gospel for many years to come!      

Dear All

June beckons, and summer is on its way. The nights get longer until the 24th June, and then we start the journey the other way.

June the 8th is General Election day. Many people are somewhat fatigued by election madness, but there is no doubt that the outcome will shape the next five years. I’m grateful to those who have had the courage to stand for both the Halifax, and the Calder Valley constituencies. For the past nine year’s I’ve worked alongside both MPs, and they have all worked hard for people here locally. When we look at many other parts of the world, we begin to realise how important it is to cherish our democracy, and how important it is to have both a strong Government, and also a strong opposition. Whatever the outcome, I shall work alongside whoever is elected, and make sure the Minster is able to serve them and their needs as we all serve each other and the wider communities of Calderdale.

The Manchester bomb brought close to home the realities of the dangerous world we now live in. The question for me, is to try and understand why? If we have some comprehension of what drove a young 22 year old, with life ahead of him, not only to kill himself, but to also kill and injure others at the same time, then just maybe, we can begin the process of re building a society, where everyone is loved and valued, and try to make the world a kinder and better place for everyone to live in, and stand up for the great injustices of the world, where the inequalities between peoples and nations seem to grow year on year?

Towards the end of the month the Minster Summer Festival begins, with 10 days of arts and culture. We’ve tried to up our game this year, as we look forward to the opening of the Cornerstone Project, at Square Chapel, and The Piece Hall. The Industrial Museum is also having a new look, as the Cultural Quarter begins to really take shape. Please come and support the Festival, we need this to be a financial success as well as a great opportunity to provide good Benedictine hospitality to many artists and visitors. One event is the Minster Choir concert on Saturday 1st July. This concert is to help raise money for the choir tour to our twin town of Aachen. I have no idea when the Minster choir last gave a concert in the Minster, but as the choir has gained in confidence, so they are now able to provide an evening of popular music, drawing from their expanding repertoire, and music for their German tour.

Before the Summer Festival there are numerous other activities: the Minster Summer Dinner with Hannah Cockroft DL MBE; Heath Founders Day Service; The Ordination to the Priesthood of The Revd Simon Scott at Dewsbury Minster 11am on Saturday the 24th; the following day we shall keep our Patronal Festival, with the Bishop of Leeds as President and Preacher, in the presence of The Lord Lieutenant of West Yorkshire; a special Diocesan Service for Year 6 Leavers; and a celebration event for Ackroyden Academy.

With so much going on in the Minster I look forward to seeing hopefully more of you tha usual, before we all go off for summer holidays. Have a great June!

Hilary         

 Vicar's Letter April 2017

Next Sunday its Passion Sunday, and Holy Week beckons. Last weekend it was wall to wall sunshine and lawnmowers were heard throughout Yorkshire! All of this tells us that the seasons come and go in their turn, and at last Spring is on its way, and the Liturgical cycle is moving on, as we prepare to commemorate Christ’s death and resurrection at Easter. Last Sunday the clocks moved forward into British Summer Time, and the Minster moved into summer opening hours 10am – 4pm every day.

Last week we had a lunch for Welcomers: that loyal band of Volunteers who provide hospitality for all our visitors throughout the year. It was a chance to say thank you and to share with them some of changes we know are on the way. Firstly, there is much excitement as we anticipate the reopening of the Piece Hall in August – a soft opening to begin with, as it slowly continues to take shape and to become the Town Square of Halifax. The Piece Hall Trust share Office space with the Minster, and we have a growing affection for one another and the mission that we share. The Piece Hall, the new Library, the Square Chapel Cornerstone Project, and the re vamped Industrial museum, together with EUREKA, will make for a potentially interesting future for this end of the town, and we must seize the moment, and not let it pass us by. The Church Council is now entering formal consultation with Calderdale Council with regard to proposed changes to the road layout surrounding the Minster, as together we look to work in partnership with all the public and statutory authorities, as the town looks forward to a new and prosperous future. Another consultation on its way will be the Station Gateway, as the town prepares for an increased number of visitors, and the impact we hope it will bring.

April in the Church of England is when most Churches have their Annual Meetings. It’s a time when Officers stand down and others are elected. It’s a time to say thank you, and a time to entrust responsibility to particular members of the worshipping community, as collaboratively we work together for the mission of the whole church. This year Andrew Sutcliffe is standing down as Minster Treasurer. When he took the task on nothing was computerised and the annual deficit well over fifty thousand. This year there has been a small profit on the end of year accounts, and following a Finance Review, the Finance Team has been strengthened again. On behalf of the whole community I want to thank Andrew for everything he has given in this role and for the legacy he is now handing on to a new team. Andrew will continue as a Welcomer and has accepted my invitation to become a Director of the Halifax 900 Trust – he aint going anywhere!

Last Sunday people were waxing lyrical about the Choristers and how well they had sung. Last Sunday I had to not only direct the choir but also take Children’s Church because no one is volunteering to help? If the community wants to have children in the choir then you need to step up and help, because I can’t do everything – I’ll have a nervous breakdown and be no good to anyone! The community is full of retired teachers – if we had a healthy rota of people, it would be an enjoyable experience and not burdensome – we urgently need to get this sorted. Please talk with Alison Moss who has volunteered to co ordinate Children’s Church.

Have a wonderful Holy Week and Easter when it arrives!

Hilary