News (November 2009)

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When in Rome – sing, sing, sing!

It became a pilgrimage with a difference – not only the chance to follow in the footsteps of St. Wilfrid, the founder of Hexham Abbey, but an invitation for Hexham Abbey Choir to sing at a mass in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

The pilgrimage was arranged as part of the celebrations on the 1300th anniversary of the death of Wilfrid, and at the end of last month a party of 48 – including 32 members of the choir – set out from Newcastle to Rome.

The Rector of Hexham Abbey, the Rev. Graham Usher, explains: “"St. Wilfrid was a controversial figure and during his life he made three visits to Rome, not only bringing back relics for his foundations at Hexham and Ripon, but gathering his vision of a universal church stretching across the known world.

His arguments at the Synod of Whitby, and indeed his architectural designs at Hexham, all portray his desire for evangelism united across the world.” Graham adds: "At a time of renewed exchanges between the Roman Catholic Church and Anglicanism, we simply are making this pilgrimage in the footsteps of our Founder, and in the spirit of our ecumenical links with the wider Church.

“We’ve been tremendously excited about taking the boys' and men’s choir to Rome and it is a huge privilege to have been invited to sing at a Mass in St Peter's Basilica, together with the Sunday services at All Saints' -the Anglican church in Rome - and a concert for the Knights of Malta.”

The choir has had support for the visit from local trusts and organisations and members have also been fund-raising locally with cake stalls and car-washing stints. “I even put on my walking boots to trudge 26 miles of the Allendale Challenge to get some blisters and raise some funds,” Graham says. “The aim was to provide bursaries so that every member of the choir would be able to go"

Pilgrimage organiser David Ratcliff says: "We have had huge help from people in Rome to bring this dream to fruition and a wonderful range of opportunities opened up for us. It is a huge privilege to have been invited to sing at St Peter's and the other churches that have been so willing to welcome us. Following in the footsteps of our founder, St Wilfrid, should prove an experience that will stay in the hearts and minds of all of us for many years to come".

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Farewell to Bishop Paul

Bishop Paul Richardson took his leave of the Newcastle Diocese at a packed service held in St. Nicholas’ Cathedral on October 25.

Preaching on the evening reading from Ecclesiastes, Bishop Paul told the congregation that there was a distinction to be drawn between healthy aging and unhealthy aging. While the latter might include anti-aging creams, hair dye and plastic surgery, the former was marked by a willingness to keep learning, thereby avoiding rigidity of the soul. “We stop interacting with others when we close our minds to what is new,” he said.

Presenting Bishop Paul with a cheque from friends and well-wishers in the diocese, Bishop Martin said that the size of the congregation was testament to the respect, affection and gratitude that was felt toward him and the ministry he had exercised in the diocese.

Bishop Paul had been a bishop for 22 years, he told the congregation, making him one of the most long-serving bishops in the Anglican Communion.

“He has endeared himself to the people of this diocese, and he has overseen some exciting developments both in Education and in Reader Ministry,” Bishop Martin said. “For the senior staff he has been a loyal and faithful colleague – always keeping us on our theological toes.”

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Newcastle Diocese and the World Cup

You may or may not be a football fan, but one thing is for sure. Next summer it will be the main topic in every conversation, magazine, daily paper and TV programme – because the Football World Cup takes place in South Africa during June and July, and it will dominate the TV schedules for as long as it lasts.

This offers a terrific opportunity to our churches to engage in some bridge-building and mission challenges, says Local Evangelism Development Advisor Canon Dave Elkington.

“One of the key strategies of mission and evangelism is to start where the people are - and next summer many of them will be following the World Cup,” he explains. “In a diocese like ours, which is football crazy anyway, this is too good a chance to miss.”

‘Higher Sports, Football’ is group dedicated to ‘Sports Ministry’, and Dave believes they can help.

“Higher Sports have carefully researched and developed a Christian-based sports programme offering high levels of football skills coaching alongside the teaching of team and life values based on the life of King David, “ he says.

The material is “first rate” according to Dave, and can be adapted for use in various – for example, as an eight week unit culminating in an awards ceremony with guest speaker, a Church summer club, a themed weekend activity, an after-schools club, or as part of youth and children’s group. Schools can also use the material as part of their PE and RE curriculum. The Higher Sports Football pack includes bibs, coloured cones, an equipment bag, two coloured footballs and a detailed coaching and teaching manual.

Any churches or groups who may be interested have a unique opportunity to meet the people who have designed this material, Bryan Mason, Director of Higher Sports, and John Squires, a youth coach with Bolton Wanderers F.C, at a special conference in Newcastle to be held later this month. They’ll be answering questions and sharing ways the material can be used and there will also be a demonstration session so parishes can see how it all works.

And it does work, according to Gavin Peacock, one time player for Newcastle United and Chelsea: ‘Higher Football’ is an ideal coaching and teaching course for the local church,” he says. “It will enable your church or school to serve families in your community and to strengthen relationships. I am pleased to give my support to this ground-breaking initiative.’

Canon Elkington, who has used Higher Sports packages before and has seen for himself the quality of the coaching material, the equipment and back up resources, is in no doubt: “This is a golden opportunity,” he says. “Those churches who would like to take part but lack the appropriate personnel are invited to attend the day conference because the intention is to train some volunteers who will deliver this project on their behalf and in their name, linking where appropriate with that church’s plans and initiatives.”

Andrew Shipton, Youth Team Leader, says: ‘This promises to encourage real competition and fun whilst introducing Christian values, attitudes and understandings. The pack is comprehensive and easy to use. It could be the ideal tool for a church to reach out to young people in their area to build long term relationships’.

Archdeacon Geoff Miller says: ‘I hope that every parish will consider taking a look at this material. It is well produced and could be used by individual parishes or in some cases clusters of parishes or even a deanery.’

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Pilgrimage Products

Pilgrimages are designed to change lives. Newcastle Diocesan Pilgrimage to the Holy Land in May did just that. Those who went returned changed, and informed, beyond their expectations.

As they travelled insights grew; as they met with people, understanding dawned. Their Palestinian Christian guides opened their eyes on issues of peace and justice, and the work of groups like Sabeel and PCDC opened their minds to possibilities.

Sabeel is Arabic for ‘The Way’ or ‘Channel’ or ‘Spring’. Sabeel is a grassroots liberation theology movement amongst Palestinian Christians of all traditions, promoting awareness worldwide and working for justice. It is committed to peaceful negotiation. You can find out more from their website:

PCDC: Practical Compassion for Destitute Children is a local initiative, coordinated by Revd. Malcolm Jones. Groups visit Bethlehem and surrounding villages to support hundreds of children in Palestinian orphanages and schools. PCDC does not get involved with politics, but simply attends to the practical needs of the children, including education, health, hospital treatment or basic needs like shoes or clothes. For details contact:

Moved by the stories from these two organisations, and by the people who work with them, some of the pilgrims elected to design cards for sale, using photographs from their pilgrimage supported by information. All profits go to Sabeel and PCDC.

The first series of cards are Christmas cards. There are three designs – they are unique and limited edition. They are on sale in Newcastle Cathedral and also at Church House. Details and images can also be found on

A series of cards (blank inside) based on ‘Flowers of the Holy Land’ will follow soon – also to be on sale through the Newcastle Cathedral bookshop and Church House. Again these are unique, limited edition, and help to inform people about the Palestinian situation.

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Readers called to help church develop identity

More than 80 of our 153 diocesan Readers assembled for the 102nd annual meeting and licensing at St Mary the Virgin Monkseaton last month.

The day began with the customary seminar, presided over this year by Bishop Paul Richardson, who was present for the last time, not only as Assistant Bishop of the Newcastle Diocese, but also as Warden of Readers.

The focus of Bishop Paul’s address was the enormous missionary challenge presently faced by the Church of England.

Giving his audience a searching glance, he drew attention to the “grey profile” of church membership. In Soviet Russia, successive regimes held the cynical view that as one grey-haired generation of worshippers died out, another would replace it. Bishop Paul feared that this was unlikely to happen in England because those generations born since the 1960s had no understanding of religious terminology, nor experience of corporate acts of worship or the bible study known to those born in earlier times.

Furthermore, the religious revival of the late 1970s and the 1980s had by-passed Western Europe.

The Church of England’s response to the need to regain contact with contemporary society has been the strategy known as “fresh expressions of church”. Bishop Paul suggested that Readers were being squeezed by new forms of lay ministry, including “fresh expressions”, and by the expansion of ordained ministry. His hypothesis was supported by the statistic that 73% of Readers believe that their gifts are under-used. Yet Readers are theologically- trained lay people who can act as animators in parishes, where most people are reluctant to talk about their faith. Bishop Paul concluded his address by summarising his hopes for the future.

These were: that the church would develop a clearer sense of identity; that the church would keep its sacramental forms; that the church would place more emphasis on lay ministry and the consecrated life; and that the church would welcome multiculturalism as a force for renewal.

The morning’s business was concluded with the AGM at which Bishop Martin presided. Reports were received, Reader Certificates presented and Emeritus status conferred. Following addresses from the President and Warden, Bishop Paul was presented with a retirement gift, a lamp which everyone hoped he would put to good use in his London flat.

At the licensing service Bishop Martin admitted and licensed to the office of Reader five women and two men: Karen Charman, Val Cowan, Lynne Craggs, Judith Dobson, Susanna Swales, Michael Spears and Victor Spong. In addition, the Bishop licensed Julie Barham as a Reader in this diocese. The service was attended by a congregation of about 350 people, and worship was enlivened by the singing of a group of young people and the playing of organist Sarah Boutwood. The sermon was delivered by Bishop Paul, who was undoubtedly the star of the 102nd Readers’ meeting. We thank him for all he has done to further Reader Ministry in this diocese.

If you feel you are being called to Reader Ministry, please contact Sue Hart on 0191 2523941 or Gloria Cadman on 0191 2846729

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Hospital Chaplains on retreat

Some of the Anglican clergy in the Newcastle Diocese also serve as chaplains to hospitals in the Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust in general hospitals at North Tyneside, Wansbeck, and Hexham, or at community hospitals across Northumberland. Several of them gathered at the annual ecumenical Chaplains' retreat at Nunraw Abbey guest house neat Garvald in East Lothian, at the foot of the Lammermuir Hills.

The Rev. Claire Greenwood, curate in the Willington team, priest and psychotherapist, conducted the retreat, on the theme of Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Day for a hospital patient living through a diagnosis of terminal illness. The Rev. Andrew Patterson, chaplain at Hexham General, gathered up the creative prayers and reflection of the 24 hours together in a final Eucharist, at which the Rev. Dorothy Robinson, curate at Holy Saviour Tynemouth, was welcomed as part-time chaplain in to the team.

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Supporting Ministers visit Blyth

A team of Supporting Ministers from the diocese visited St. Benedict’s Church in Cowpen, Blyth, last month to give congregation members an idea of the services on offer to parishes from the diocese. The Rev. Pamela Ingham (pictured) spoke about the work of PICA (Partners in Community Action), Richard Gascoyne, parish giving officer, talked about stewardship, and Sue Scott, diocesan communications officer, offered some tips on improving communication with the community.

The Rev. Derek Carberry said: “It’s been a useful exercise for us, being able to check out our ideas, and get one or two new ones to think about.”

Supporting Ministers can be contacted at Church House on 0191 2704100.

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Harvest Praise in Scots Gap

The ecumenical Harvest Praise service in Scots Gap Auction Mart last month was the brainchild of the Rev. Fiona Sample and the service wonderfully brought together the local rural community and neighbouring churches. Fiona enthused over 20 local musicians (with Northumbrian Pipes to Ukuleles and much in between) to take part, as well as the local First School whose children wrote prayers (including one which began: "Thank you for the JCB, John Deer, New Holland, Massie Fergie ..."!) Everyone enjoyed it and was grateful to the Methodist Chapel across the road for opening their doors afterwards for a hot drink. And Fiona might find she's started a tradition!

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 'At your service!’ - after 20 years

Shops come and go, as the high streets of England can witness, but St. Matthew's at the Big Lamp, Summerhill, in Newcastle's West End, has clocked up 20 non-stop years of trading at its Nearly New shop.

The shop was originally set up to raise money for an extensive church fabric appeal, but when the appeal closed, parishioners realised the shop had developed a useful social as well as economic function. Originally trading from a former funeral parlour in Summerhill Street: McGee& Beckett - unofficial slogan 'We'll get you in the end' - the shop eventually moved to more spacious premises adjoining the church hall, underneath the south aisle of the church building itself.

Currently open three days a week, on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, 10.00 a.m. until 3.00p.m. the shop supplies customers with a wide range of quality clothes at reasonable prices, as well as bedding and small household goods.

Mrs. Carolyn Sharmin, a server at the church, who is shop manager, says that regular customers like to pop in to see what is available and have a chat, as well as a cup of coffee.

She is helped by a number of assistants, largely drawn from the congregation of St. Matthew's and St. Philip's. Over the years, the Nearly New shop has become firmly established as part of the church's outreach into the community. Not only does it provide the opportunity for locals to purchase quality clothes and bedding at prices they can afford, but it provides a place for a chat and some company, friendship and conversation.

Carolyn says that the shop can only continue to be successful because of the generosity of friends who donate goods that can be sold. Continuing links with other churches provide a steady supply, but there is always room for more. Unsold goods are never thrown away, but are 'recycled' through other charities and refuges.

If you have good quality clothes, bedding, or household items which you would like to donate to help the work of the shop to continue, please ring: 0191 273 5103 or 0191 2746876 . Unfortunately the shop cannot take large items of furniture, although small things like coffee tables sell well. Collection can be arranged throughout Tyneside, Northumberland and North Durham.

Our picture shows Carolyn Sharmin, St. Matthew's shop manager (right) with customers Jean Denham and John Watling.

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An evening with Sister Elizabeth

A Roman Catholic nun who was born in Newbiggin, returned home – albeit for a brief visit – last month to give a presentation with slides about her worldwide role working in the USA, Columbia, El Salvador, the Phillipeans, Uganda and Zambia as well as the United Kingdom.

Sister Elizabeth Dawson, a member of the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, finally professed as a nun in August 1973 and based in Ormskirk in Lancashire, worked in the field of learning difficulties in England for 22 years. In 1995 she went to work in Zambia with children who have special educational needs. Last year she was elected as the Congregational Leader of her order, and she is now based in Chigwell in Essex.

The evening – jointly organised by Carol Sampson and Liz Underhill on behalf of St. Bartholomew’s Church - took place in the Church Centre at Newbiggin with Sister Elizabeth’s talk about working with the poorest of the poor, serving a poignant reminder to all those in attendance as to how fortunate we are in this country to be able to turn on a tap for water or flick a switch for electricity.

The proceeds from the evening - £260 - were given to Sister Elizabeth for the Bauleni Street Kids Project in Lusaka, Zambia, adding to the £600 donated from St. Bartholomew’s Church following last year’s harvest supper. To date more than £1,000 has been given to the appeal.

Pictured from left to right: Andrew Maxwell, a friend of Sister Elizabeth; Sister Elizabeth, Carol Sampson and Liz Underhill, both members of St. Bartholomew’s.

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Botswana duo welcomed by task group

Members of the Botswana Task group, friends and guests met at Holy Saviour church hall to welcome two visitors from our link diocese in Africa on October 24. Bishop Trevor Mwamba (pictured left) and the Rev. Prof. James Amanze, chair of the Botswana Newcastle Link Group in Gaborone, are pictured at the supper hosted by the Rev Geoff Lowson, vicar of Holy Saviour’s, and his wife, Monica.

Bishop Trevor and Professor Amanze have been visiting various parishes and groups through the diocese, attending the leaving party for Bishop Paul at Newcastle Cathedral, as well as visiting the Regional Training Partnership Lindisfarne at Church House – and later in their stay, the Holy Island of Lindisfarne itself.

Bishop Trevor has also been signing the five-year companion link renewal document as both dioceses commit themselves and their people to a further period of friendship and mutual support.

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Angela launches her new book

Angela Ashwin, writer, lecturer and retreat leader, makes a welcome return to the diocese this month to launch her latest book: “Faith in the Fool: Risk and delight in the Christian Adventure”

Angela, along with her husband Vincent, the former vicar of Haltwhistle, is a Canon of St. Nicholas Cathedral, and it’s to the cathedral that she’ll be returning on Thursday November 26 to sign copies of the new book.

The event begins at 5.30 p.m. after Evensong and will include a talk from Angela about how she came to write the book, with some reflections on how the Fool can help us now in Christian life and prayer.

There will be light refreshments, and a chance to buy signed copies of the book. In the book Angela looks at the figure of The Fool in art, literature and religion. She uses this to help people see that ‘the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom’ and explores ways in which the fools can help us to hear the inner voice of God’s wisdom.

She says; “The wise and holy fools show us how to free up a little and enjoy life more; they remind us that we do not have to be productive or important in order to be valuable; and they help us to face our limitations and failings; sitting alongside us when we are broken.”

The publishers say that the book will appeal to Christians who want to explore the potentials for delight in faith and life; those who live with doubt as well as faith; and those looking for support when they feel vulnerable and ‘foolish’ as Christians in a cynical world. It will also speak to people on the edge of the institutions of the church who nevertheless want to develop their spiritual life and explore who Jesus is.

Faith in the Fool: Risk and Delight in the Christian Adventure by Angela Ashwin, £12.95.
ISBN: 13:978 0 232 527704.

New Canon for Newcastle Cathedral

The Rev. Canon Sheila Bamber, currently Director of Education in the Diocese of Durham, is to be the new Canon for Learning, Education and Discipleship at St Nicholas Cathedral, succeeding Canon Robert Gage who retired at the end of September.

As well as playing a key role in the worshipping life and governance of the cathedral, Sheila will have special responsibility for encouraging a culture of learning within the Cathedral community and enabling the Cathedral to be a focus for the Bishop’s teaching ministry in the life of the Diocese the city and the region.

“Cathedrals touch people’s lives at many different levels and afford many opportunities for making connections between life and the Christian faith” commented Bishop Martin, “Sheila has done a superb job as Director of Education for Durham and I am delighted she has accepted my invitation to join the staff of the Cathedral at an exciting time in its history.”.

The Dean of Newcastle, the Very Rev. Christopher Dalliston, welcomed Sheila’s appointment. “We look to welcoming Sheila as part of the Cathedral team” he said. “She brings a wealth of experience and a proven ability both to create effective structures and to engage others in a shared vision. There are tremendous challenges ahead and great opportunities for us as we seek to develop the Cathedral’s ministry at the heart of the city and of the diocese. I believe Sheila will make a very important contribution to this project.”

Sheila Bamber will move to Newcastle at a date to be agreed in the coming year.

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Girlguiding UK’s centenary launch

On the first Saturday in September 1909 a few groups of determined girls ‘gate crashed’ the first Boy Scout Rally at the Crystal Palace in London and demanded ‘something for the girls’. Just months later the Guide movement was formed. 100 years on, over the weekend of the 5th and 6th of September 2009, girls everywhere celebrated the launch of Girlguiding UK’s Centenary.

As part of their fantastic launch party Rainbows, Brownies and Guides from Blyth met in the grounds of St. Mary the Virgin Church, Horton, for an afternoon of activities followed by a picnic tea. With the help of Father Derek Carberry, the event concluded by ringing the church bells 100 times to mark Girlguiding’s 100th birthday.

Girlguiding has come a long way since 1909 – the movement has travelled all over the globe with over 10 million members worldwide and over 500,000 in the UK.

If you would like to find out more about Girlguiding UK, and maybe have a go at getting involved, then this is the right time. The Launch Parties are just the beginning of a whole year of events and projects celebrating Girlguiding’s Centenary, running until October 2010.

Why not join us by contacting Ann on 01670 735036

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New Bookshop at Shepherds Dene

The Bishop of Jarrow opens a revamped bookshop at Shepherds Dene on December 8. It will be managed by Canon Peter Middlemiss, an expert in theological books. The bookshop, always popular with Shepherds Dene guests who liked to browse, was forced to close when SPCK shut down. Housed in the entrance area at Shepherds Dene, it will open to passing visitors as well. All the proceeds will be donated to Shepherds Dene.

Peter Middlemiss has sold books for the past forty years as part of his work as a University Chaplain, Parish Education Adviser and, most recently, as Warden of Holland House in Worcestershire, a post he held until retiring with his wife Fritha to Berwick upon Tweed last year.

George Hepburn, Shepherds Dene's Director, says: " We have expanded the programme at Shepherds Dene next year and the bookshop will be a real attraction for our guests. We are very lucky to be working with Peter, who is one of the most highly respected people in the retreat world. It gives our staff the chance to learn from his long experience as we open the next chapter at Shepherds Dene".

The 2010 programme at Shepherds Dene starts with a retreat led by the Rt. Revd Stephen Pedley, and is followed by a weekend about protest songs from the southern world with Dilly Baker and Geoff Weaver. Another innovation is the chance to follow the passion story with New Testament theologian, Dr Stephen Barton during Holy Week. Details are on the Shepherds Dene website at

A limited number of tickets for the bookshop opening and afternoon tea at Shepherds Dene are available from Kathryn Hope on 01434 682212 or

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Volunteers needed for Grace Darling museum

The Grace Darling Museum, opposite St. Aidan's Church in Bamburgh, is looking for education volunteers to help with the large numbers of schools and adult groups that visit the museum.

Many schools offer units of study on Grace Darling so it's a popular place for school visits - and many go on to visit St Aidan's to learn about the saint's influence on Britain's Christianity. Volunteers do not need to be experts on museums - the need is for people who have some experience of working with children and/or the ability to engage with them on their level. Alternatively, volunteers may enjoy engaging adult learners. Working alongside the Outreach and Education Officer, duties could include delivering workshops to children in the museum or giving talks to schools or adult groups.

Hours of volunteering are flexible and designed to suit individual needs as well as those of the schools/visitors. Full training and resources are provided. It's an opportunity to meet new people, gain new skills and experience and input into our education programme.

Verity Wood, who co-ordinates volunteers, says: "Your volunteer contribution really will make a difference in helping the RNLI. You will be helping people to appreciate sea safety and the lifesaving work carried out by the RNLI, not to mention the local history of this special region, including its Christian heritage. You will also help to boost our visitor numbers and generate important donations and sales revenue for the RNLI as museum donations and shop sales go to the RNLI."

To find out more, contact Verity Wood on 01668 214910 or by email to:

Alternatively, download a volunteer registration form from our website (follow the "volunteer with us" link), complete it and email it to us or send it to: Verity Wood, RNLI Grace Darling Museum, Radcliffe Road, Bamburgh, Northumberland.

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Ales in Advent!

All Saint’s Church, Gosforth is inviting everyone to get into the Christmas spirit with a fun night of drinking beer and singing carols in their church hall on Saturday, December 5.

The team promise a great evening with music provided by a live band and special guest speakers introducing the carols and songs.

To lubricate your throats and voices, a selection of real ales will be supplied by locally based Big Lamp Brewery, with the emphasis being on traditional beers for the winter season. Other drinks will be available for the non-beer drinkers out there. The team are hard at work planning, choosing suitable beers and rousing music for this special pre-Christmas event. Be sure to join us and get into the Christmas spirit early.

The inspiration for the event came after the hugely successful ‘Beer and Hymns’ event in April when more than 80 people came and raised the roof with their singing. All Saints’ Youth Worker and Ales in Advent protagonist, Chantal Noppen, says: “There are many instances in the Bible where Jesus and his disciples combine theology with alcohol, so we are following in hallowed footsteps. This a great chance for people to get into the true Christmas spirit, while letting their hair down.”

Doors will open at 7pm, with singing starting at 7.30 – be sure to come early – and join with the happy throng raising glasses and voices in hearty song. Tickets are £5 and include your first drink. The team are anticipating they will sell out, so to make sure of yours, book now by contacting or phoning 0191 285 1905, or mobile 077452 78514.

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Big Read update…

Churches in the Newcastle Diocese are gearing up for Lent's Big Read in which Christians across the North-East will be getting together to study Luke's gospel with the aid of a new book written specially for the project by the Bishop of Durham, Tom Wright.

The Gospel book for the Revised Common Lectionary Year C, which begins on Advent Sunday, is Luke, and the Big Read will help us focus on Luke's Gospel in a variety of ways. Churches can use the material for their own Lent Course or combine with other local churches during Lent. Lindisfarne (the Regional Training Partnership) is currently running a one-off training session for group leaders in different areas.

Bishop Tom will be speaking on Luke's Gospel at venues across the region between January and Easter, followed after Easter by a series of talks on Acts. And, of course, it will also be possible to study Luke's Gospel on your own with the study guide to help you.

The locations for Bishop Tom’s talks are as follows:

Before Lent –

Evenings –


January 14 Stockton Tabernacle, January 21 St Nicholas, Durham, January 28 All Saints, Lobley Hill, February 4 St Paul's Alnwick RC church.

During Lent –

Evenings -


February 18 St Hild's School, Hartlepool, February 25 St Mary & St Cuthbert, Chester-le-Street, March 4 Newcastle Cathedral, March 10 Methodist-URC Church, Crook.

After Easter –

Mornings –


April 24 Teesdale School, Barnard Castle, May 1 St Bede's, Lanchester, May 8 The Ven Bede School, Sunderland, May 15 West End Methodist Church, Hexham.

The Big Read book called "Lent for Everyone - Luke" will be available in the shops in December. Churches which group together to order 100 copies or more direct from SPCK will be given a 55% discount, making each copy available at £3.15p. Clergy will get details shortly after Christmas on how to buy in bulk.

The Book contains Bishop Tom’s translation from "Luke for Everyone" but with a completely new (shorter) accompanying text which provides specific topics for discussion.

The whole of Luke can be read during Lent but for those who prefer something shorter there is a highlighted passage for each day along with Bishop Tom’s reflection. Each week the Saturday reading will be the Lectionary Gospel reading for the following day.

There will be training for facilitators of Big Read Groups at Alnwick St Michael’s Hall 7-9 on November 11, at Hexham Abbey, 7 – 9 on January 13, and at Gateshead Civic Centre, 7 –9 on January 18.

For more information on the Big Read facilitator training, go to the Lindisfarne website:  and click on News.

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Growing Disciples

Developing Discipleship director AlastairvMacnaughton reports that the North East Religious Learning Resources Centre has lots of Advent course material available for parishes and groups, and also that the revised ‘Lord teach us to pray’ course is now available. This contains lots of practical ideas about how to pray.

Alastair adds: “Three parishes have trialled ‘Struggling with suffering’. The short course Struggling with Suffering has already been trialled in Barnard Castle and Riding Mill. We are now looking for parishes and deaneries to assist us with further trials. Struggling with suffering is written by Rev. Janet Appleby BSc MSc BA who trained at Cranmer. It arises from Janet's feeling that many of the introduction- to-Christianity courses such as ALPHA and Emmaus are pretty 'thin' on the subject of suffering.

“Struggling with suffering brooks no glib answers,” he says. “It faces some of the horror of global suffering, the apparent absence of God in much of it, before realising how much God is indeed present, even in the worst situations, far more than we perhaps thought. I believe people will find this profoundly helpful, though there are no ‘easy’ answers. There are songs and worship to suit the mood, but it’s not all sadness. After Good Friday comes Easter joy!”

For further information contact Alastair Macnaughton by email: or by telephone on 0191 2340371

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Inter-Faith week will highlight tolerance and understanding

The week November 15 to 21 is Inter – Faith Week, an event happening right across England.

While this initiative has Government backing and ministers have been encouraging the week, the idea was proposed by the faith communities themselves through the Inter Faith Network - part of the process leading to the Government publication of ‘Face to Face and Side by Side’.

Inter-Faith Week is designed to include and highlight activities organised by the faith communities, activities which aim to strengthen inter -faith relations at all levels, to encourage local faith groups and communities to reach out to each other and build stronger bonds of understanding and co-operation, and to increase awareness of the different and distinct faith communities. The week will have a particular focus on the contribution members of the different faith communities make to their neighbourhoods and to wider society.

Newcastle Council of Faiths works towards increasing the understanding between the faiths and the contribution they make to wider society, and to encourage the involvement of faith communities with each other at local levels.

Lesley Carson, Inter-Faith advisor for the diocese, says: “It is hoped that we’ll all get involved in marking this very important event. The week offers a chance for local people, churches, mosques, gurdwaras, temples and groups, to come up with their own innovative ideas. It’s not intended to be a ‘top down’ week.”

She adds: “Inter – Faith Week will give the Diocese the opportunity to show how it works together in promoting interfaith and contributing to a more understanding and tolerant community.”

Activities which have already been planned include: Wednesday November 18, Knoplaw School, Chapel House, Newcastle, will host a multi faith event with the help of the Holy Nativity Church, Chapel house. Prayers will be said from different faith groups, there will be exhibitions, singing, displays and many other activities. The event will begin at 6.30pm –8.30pm; Thursday November 19, the Council of Christians and Jews will be holding an interfaith event beginning at 7.30pm (Tickets available); Saturday November 21, the new Pakistani Mosque in Newcastle will have its inaugural opening with guests from all faith communities invited. As well as these events, groups of women will visit various places of worship throughout the week and young people from the different faiths will be working to produce booklets about their faiths and places of worship.

Some other ideas for activities include: A church and gurdwara arranging an exchange visit for their congregations; a rural parish in Northumberland organising an event with Buddhists; a mosque hosting an event looking at different aspects of Islam; a multifaith chaplaincy working with students and staff to put on talks or an exhibition; a coffee morning inviting members of other faiths to share in discussions around faith and practices; the Temple arranging a visit with other people to explore Hinduism; a group of people from different faiths meeting and eating together.

If anyone would like help to organise Inter-Faith activities please get in touch with Lesley
Carson at Church House on 0191 2704149 or

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Celebrate Christingle to help Newcastle children

Go along to your local Christingle service this year and you can help The Children's Society fund vital projects for children and young people, including the Help and Hope Project in Newcastle.

The Help and Hope Project supports children, young people and their families who have recently arrived on Tyneside giving advice on housing issues and education to help them settle in. The project also works to promote tolerance and understanding. Local Christingle services raise money for this project, enabling The Children's Society to make a real difference to improve the lives of children and young people in the community.

Last year, thousands of people came to 89 Christingle services across the Diocese of Newcastle raising more than £9,000. St Bede's in Newsham raised the highest amount in the diocese in 2008 with a grand total of £343. By attending your local candlelit Christingle service this year, you can light up the lives of children and young people in your community and make childhood better.

Christingle services are a fun and engaging way to bring together families, friends and communities to celebrate the Christian story in an inspiring way. Whether you are new to Christingle or one of our regular supporters, these festive events have something for everyone.

To find your nearest Christingle service, visit  or call 0845 300 1128.

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