This is a first in what I hope will become a regular communication to keep everyone informed on decisions we have made towards merging Stoke Chapel and Hocking Road, Wyken. And to share questions we need to answer together.

So First -Some dates for your diaries

10:30 am 31 January 2016 – a Joint Service at Hocking Road followed by a short Joint Church Meeting that will look for a consensus (or at least a shortlist) on a name and listen to views on progress so far.

10:00am 19 June 2016 – The final Service as Wyken United Reformed Church. A Communion Service led by Craig.

10:30am  26 June 2016 – Final service at Stoke Chapel. A Communion Service led by Craig. (No service at Hocking Road).

Saturday 2nd July – Margaret Botterill organising a party at Stoke.

10:30am Sunday 3rd July – First Service of the Merged Church. A Communion Service led by Craig.

10:30am will become our normal start time for Sunday Morning.

Elders have not discussed but at Church Meeting Craig will suggest that 2nd Sunday becomes our normal Communion Sunday as there tend to be less clashes with holiday weekends than occur on a 4th Sunday.

Synod Decisions

The Synod Pastoral Committee have concurred with our decisions to merge the churches.  Synod Trust have agreed to the sale of Harefield Road and will instruct an agent. They have also agreed that the money from the sale of Harefield Road can be used to re-order Hocking Road and to seek shop premises in Stoke. We need to do so within 5 years.

Elders Decisions

The Elders have had one joint meeting and have set meeting dates for  15 Feb, 4 Apr, 6 June but will communicate in-between as necessary.

Craig will meet with organists, Over 50’s/Senior Fellowship, Womens Own, Coffee ’n Chat to work out future plans.

Craig, Roger and Tony will draft a new Constitution.

Tony will liaise with Charity Commissioners.

Nigel and Caroline will discuss merging finances – when and how.

Ray and Mary will discuss Pulpit Supply.

The furniture we will keep from Stoke, will be the new chairs, the coffee tables and cabinet from the lounge, the Go-pack tables, the piano, the prayer table, Margaret’s pictures. Which means that at Wyken we will dispose of the metal framed chairs and the trestle tables, but still need to make decisions on other items.

Communion Furniture 

There is a view that we should dispose of both communion tables, all chairs and lecterns and make a fresh start. There is a view that we should keep one or another. There is a view that we ask a carpenter to merge them into something new. We will listen to views when we meet together on 31 January.

Naming our New Church!

We need something that is distinctive and descriptive and that could also be used at Ball Hill. We need something we are happy with and can help us create a distinct image. The header that Craig has used on the first page and at Joint Services shows how we can sub-title as “The United Reformed Church in Stoke and Wyken” and therefore describe our denomination and location without needing to put that in the title. The suggestions so far are :-

  • Ansty Road

Official address is 210-214 Ansty Road

  • Caludon Chapel

Castle, School and the name used by the Anglican Parish.

  • Wyken and Stoke United Church
  • Stoke and Wyken United Church
  • Stoken
  • East Coventry

Hopefully all self-explanatory!

  • New Chapter

A fresh beginning for us and for anyone who joins with us

  • Labyrinth

We will continue to develop our use of the Labyrinth

  • Apple Tree

We are growing one, some biblical imagery.

  • The Well

Meeting place, refreshment, lots of biblical imagery

  • Shepherd’s Chapel

We follow the Shepherd, and Luke 2:10-14 tells shepherd story and link to address above.

  • Martha Chapel

A biblical character who creates welcome

  • Bethany Chapel

biblical place of welcome, learning and resurrection – home to Martha, Mary and Lazarus

  • Barnabas Chapel

biblical character who encourages and reconciles

  • Sanctuary Chapel

Place of worship, safety, renewal

  • United Christian Chapel

We are a united, Christian place of worship

  • United Christian Ministries

our purpose is to bring Christian ministry

  • United Christian Fellowship

we are a Christian fellowship

  • Imagine!

I’ve been using this as a space saver, challenge, question, but it’s grown on me as a possible name that can be played with in many imaginative ways.

  • Community Chapel

A community of disciples serving local communities.

  • Immanuel Chapel
  • Christ’s Chapel

These names have been reproduced on a separate sheet. Please circle up to three that you would be happy with or add another. Put your completed sheet in the box left at each church and we will see if a couple of names emerge as favourites and hope to create a shortlist by the time we meet on 31 January. If any additional names are suggested we will gauge opinions on 31 January to see if they will be added to the shortlist.

And for those who aren’t happy with any of these names – some thoughts that have come to me whilst typing, Caludon means Bald Hill and we also want to establish something on Ball Hill – is there a play on Hill we could use? Is there an old name for the whole hill that is now Walsgrave & Ansty Roads?

The Sowe Valley loops around our area .

Our mission priorities talk about Welcoming, Praying, Celebrating, Growing, Encouraging, Witnessing

We have a rare opportunity to bring fresh ideas. Be prayerful, imaginative and think to the future.

CNM 2 January 2016


Our summer news has been dominated by swarms of marauding migrants, threatening our standard of living and social infrastructure. Such is the threat that there have been calls to bring in the Army, to create new detention centres, to speed up deportation procedures. There has been outcry against Songs of Praise for wasting licence payers money by filming at St. Michaels Church in the makeshift camp outside Calais known as  “The Jungle”. And now we are faced with the images of Aylan Gurdi’s little body washed up on the seashore. Perhaps that image will change the rhetoric, but the great tragedy is that when you look beyond the rhetoric the numbers of migrants coming to this country are tiny compared to those faced by the countries that surround Syria or border the Mediterranean Sea and yet this need to de-humanise people seeking a better life for themselves and their families is so high on our political and media agenda.

At the heart of these events are individual human stories of aspiration, achievement, adventure – stories that in other contexts we would want to celebrate. But the moment we de-humanise, we also remove our ability to empathise, encourage, welcome and in doing so we lose some of the basic facets humanity. The bible encourages welcome; whether in Leviticus, “The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as a citizen among you; you shall love the stranger as yourself” [19:34] or on the Day of Judgement, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me”, [Matt 25:35] or in early church “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.” [Heb 13:2]. Many who de-humanise migrants, are also those who call for Christian Values to return to our country, they seem to have missed the value of welcoming strangers in our midst and in doing so engaging with our own humanity.

We talk about churches as places of Sanctuary, and Coventry is a City of Sanctuary, an organisation I’m pleased to belong to and encourage. We look to find ways to welcome those who seek a new beginning, who invest in their children whilst facing great risks, hardship, discrimination and suspicion. We look to celebrate the skills and insights that peoples stories reveal and in doing so we learn the human story behind scaremongering headlines. This month I hope to share some of those stories as we mark Racial Justice Sunday at St. Columba’s on 6th September and at Stoke Chapel and Hocking Road, Wyken on 13th September and then give thanks for the Harvest on the 20th and 27th September. I look forward to doing so with you.

Be blessed, Craig

The Well at Shibah

Do you remember the well at Shibah, (Genesis 26) where different communities are brought together, where dialogue happens, resources are shared and peace breaks out? I wrote about it last August and thought it was time to draw from there again.
Over the last month we have seen the consequences of those who will not create dialogue; share resources; let peace break out. A gunmen in a Charleston church; (less well reported) the burning of black majority churches across the United States; the shooting of holiday-makers in Tunisia; (less well reported) the bombing of a Mosque in Kuwait; the burden of austerity placed upon the poor; the tightening of border controls and continued demonisation of migrants. The wells of Esak and Sitnah continue to flourish, whilst Reheboth and Shibah grow quiet and fearful.
Yet these terrible actions have brought people together. In Tunisia, Moslem staff formed a human shield to protect their guests, in Charleston people have experienced a message of forgiveness and grace and all across the world musicians have added their verses to a song by Peter Mulvey called “Take Down Your Flag” Mulvey wrote three verses, He invited others to write and record their own second verse, sharing with all who would listen. Each version finishes with the same final verse,

It will take all of the love in all of our hearts,
but it will also take something more.

Take down your flag to half-staff. x3
And then take it down for good.

When across cultures, languages, communities we take down our flags and sing songs of hope, then the gospel of grace and mercy flourishes. In such moments, perhaps the well at Shibah still refreshes and we need to stay there awhile.

be blessed

Embracing Creativity

How creative are you? or put another way, how creative do you think you are? I’m fairly confident with words, but have always struggled with images. somehow I just can’t draw things the way I would like to. So this years Ministers’ Summer School was a challenge. We looked at Lukes’s gospel, responding to the input creatively and I opted to join the art workshop. The first challenge was to doodle with coloured pencils rather than write notes, the next was to turn those doodles into a picture that expressed something of what we had heard.

I found the whole thing a wonderfully liberating process, I found my mind working in different ways.enjoyed the freedom to take time to produce a piece of work – usually (like now) I’m being rushed by deadlines and found myself relaxing as images emerged on my paper. The result was two pictures that won’t make it into an Art Gallery, but which have allowed me to explore a different side to creativity and will challenge me in my use of (often) too many words.

We are followers of a creative imaginative God, who gives us more images than words. So how can we each tap into the creativity within us, how can we give ourselves time to do so and how can we encourage each other to be creative? And from this wordy preachers point of view, can I make better use of image than I do? A sermon in a picture – now there is a challenge!

be blessed

Going Viral

The week after the General Election URC minister Mike Walsh went viral. Don’t worry he wasn’t ill, he had instead created a social media response that carried his message around the world. He had written an open letter to the Prime Minister trying to explain the fear that many people had of “policies … couched in terms of reducing the deficit and balancing the books, [that] don’t seem to take into account the social and human cost of such actions.” Mike suggested that  David Cameron might “Come to Manchester and talk with those who have been sanctioned for having a spare room, but have nowhere else to go. Go to Liverpool and meet people with disabled dependents who can’t afford even one nanny, or to Newcastle and talk to people still living in poverty due to the demise of the coal industry. Spend a week or two living on the minimum wage, or volunteer in a food bank for a whole day.” As I write Mike’s letter has been shared over 100,000 times, it has been featured on the news media, but there has been no response from the Prime Minister.

Every Wednesday evening at St. Columba’s we see the social and human cost of poverty within our city, We offer space for people to sit and talk, a listening ear and a simple meal. Most of the people who come do not vote – they don’t see the point, as whoever is in power, they are the people most likely to bear the cost. But we hear the fear, about bedroom tax, the introduction of Universal Credit, the threat of sanctions, of being sent on pointless work placements. And they appreciate that every evening in Coventry there is somewhere to go for a free meal, that it is one way of squeezing some value out of the money they do have, but for many there is also a sadness that life has left them living this way. Providing that free meal is not really the answer to people’s problems but I hope it provides some sustenance in the quest to escape the harsh grip of poverty.

Just over a week after Jesus left the disciples on a hillside looking heavenwards. They were visited by the Holy Spirit, and the message they were inspired to share went viral. They did not have social media to help them, but they did have a unrelenting desire to share the good news of Jesus Christ and to introduce people to this radical way of living. One in which the whole community supported and encouraged one another, that shared everything they had, that ensured that everyone had enough to eat, that engaged in physical and social healing, that acknowledged the generosity of God with their own generous living.

I’m glad that the church continues to be inspired by the Holy Spirit in ways that challenge the powerful, serves the poor and heals the broken hearted. I’m happy to be in a position to share stories and food, but also know that this is not enough, that our response also needs to provide hope, raise people out of despair, offer a glimpse of God’s reign and create a home amongst those who follow the way of Jesus. Share if you like that idea, we might just go viral.

be blessed


Space to Grow

Lent Gatherings
If you ask many Ministers about their favourite comedy shows, the BBC series Rev will be somewhere on the list. This was a show that got to the heart of what it means to be involved in pastoral ministry. Funny and sad, sometimes far too close to reality, it brought some harsh truths. The third series broadcast through Lent 2014 felt like a lenten journey, a pilgrimage to the cross and finally gave the hint of resurrection that can encourage us beyond Good Friday. This year throughout Lent and then into Easter, we will use that final series of Rev alongside Mark’s gospel to once again explore the story of Jesus’ journey to the cross. We will meet at Holyhead Road at 2pm or 7:30pm on 5 Tuesday’s in Lent, including Holy Week as the story demands that we should and then on 14 April so that we can experience Easter together and bring a dark story into the light of new life. Please put it in your diaries and plan to gather with us

Space to Grow
One of the things that Lent reminds us is that all life comes to a natural end, so that new life can grow, At Wyken we have decided that the Advent Fair has run its course, at Stoke we continue to imagine a different future. It’s sad when things that have become a big part of our life come to an end but just like that moment when a gardner removes the bush that has always filled one corner of the garden, suddenly there is space for something new to grow. We don’t yet know what that new growth will be, but the excitement will be in the planning, the digging, the re-working, the discovering.Let’s do that together, looking forward to new growth that God can bring.

be blessed

Wells of Contention, Enmity, Room and Oath

Following on from last months visit to the well at Sychar, let me take you to some other wells by encouraging you to read Genesis 26.They are the wells of Esek, Sitnah, Rehoboth and Shibah – Contention, Enmity, Room and Oath.

At Esek, the herdsmen are unable to share resources and chase away the new herdsmen forcing them to seek new pastures. It is a familiar scene in our world as those who possess resources seek to deny access to others and would rather see them die off than share.

At Sitnah, a new well is dug but the competing herdsmen, find themselves quarreling, unable to put their differences aside. The newer group are again forced to move on in the quest for a source of water and the means for life.

At Rehoboth, they find water and Room to live, they are given space and left in peace. Around this well they are able to prosper and be fruitful. In time, their neighbours see that they are blessed and seek to make peace. They do so with risky dialogue, shared food, and by exchanging oaths that commit them to live in peace with one another. At the same time servants are out digging a new well and discovering fresh water. The work of the whole community is only completed when peace is made and water is found. This becomes the well of Shibah.

I hope none of us would be content with creating Esek or Sitnah, even if we are the people who claim the resources for ourselves. Rehoboth is probably a good place to be, and it is the desire of many people to just be left in peace to grow and prosper. But, the work of the gospel often happens at Shibah, where different communities are brought together, where dialogue happens, resources are shared and peace breaks out. I wonder at which well you you are refreshed?

Reconciling, Welcoming and Participating

During Holy Week we planted white and red poppy seeds in the grounds around St. Columba’s and Wyken. This is part of a national URC campaign to plant symbols of peace and remembrance with the hope that they will bloom on or around 4 August, the 100 year commemoration of the declaration of the First World War.

Of course seeking peace is not just about commemoration, it is about marking all that divides us today, and seeking reconciliation for a broken world. Fine words, but what does that mean in practice? It means welcoming strangers in our midst, especially those who have fled war ravaged countries. It means supporting the work of Christian Aid, who this year will tell the story of Anoon as she and her family returned to South Sudan to escape the growing tensions for South Sudanese in Khartoum. On her return all she found was bush and her son died from Pneumonia. With the help of CA’s partner Hope Agency for Relief and Development, Anoon was given the means to build a house and till the soil “giving her a sense of dignity and the chance of a life free from fear.”. Christian Aid Week is from 11-17 May and there will be opportunities to collect and donate.

At the end of the month there will be Council and European Elections. A chance to vote for the people who have an impact upon peace or divison within a community. Many of us do not know our MEP’s yet they make decisions that have an impact on human rights, migration, climate change, tax justice and the financial crisis. Closer to home our Councillors create the environment that can make a difference to creating work and homes within Coventry. We need to bring our faith into the political arena and use our vote and our voice to encourage policies that seek peace and reconciliation.

be blessed


Easter horizon

As I write we have just 2 weeks left on the Night Shelter. In the last 9 weeks we have provided 128 beds for 50 different guests, covered 105 volunteer shifts with 45 volunteers, provided about 200 meals and  must be over a thousand cups of sgar-filled tea, coffee and juice, We have received donations of bedding, food and money in the region of £2,500 and spent £700. We will hold the rest until we see whether we repeat the project next year.

We have heard many stories of homelessness, they can be sad, angry, uncomfortable, unjust. We have acted as a totally unsuitable Womans Refuge, mental health facility, drunk tank, last resort and we have had lots of fun. It’s not all plain sailing of course, people have been sent away too drunk to cope with, asked to leave because their behaviour is unacceptable, have left because they are not happy with others there. Volunteers have let us down and some have been more willing to engage with the guests than others. But most of the time the atmosphere has been good, the mood positive, the welcome genuine and shelter appreciated by those in need of such a place.

It’s been a privilege to be involved, and as some have noticed it’s provided a host of sermon illustrations! For it is in such places that we find community at it’s most raw, and we find the strength and warmth of the human spirit, and we catch a glimpse of God’s grace flickering through the broken pane. Best of all we have seen people take the opportunity to find new hope in their lives, move into permanent housing, come back as a volunteer, access job support, contemplate the life they wanted to live before they ended up on the streets.

Sounds like Easter is on the horizon ….

be blessed, Craig


All are welcome

18th January was an interesting day. In the morning we began a process of reviewing the Chapel of Unity’s vision. We were reminded that it began as a Christian Service Centre and we wondered what that meant for today, based in a building in which design took precedence over function.As part of the opening prayers we sang:

Let us build a house where love can dwell 
and all can safely live,

…… all are welcome in this place. 

In conclusion we remembered that the Chapel of Unity is not a building, but a community called into relationship with one another.

In the evening the Winter Night Shelter began. We drew together a  a collection of rough sleepers, of shift volunteers, of co-ordinator’s, of seamstresses, of gifters, of prayers, of faith and of no faith and created community, We welcomed people into a building, but most of all we were came into relationship with one another and with Christ.

Here the outcast and the stranger
bears the image of God’s face;

…… all are welcome in this place. 

The following Wednesday was a Christian Aid meeting, A reminder of our relationship with refugees in South Sudan, farmers in Columbia , corporate tax avoiders in the City of London and UK street collectors.

Built of tears and cries and laughter,
prayers of faith and songs of grace.

all are welcome in this place.*

The theme for Christian Aid is Fear Less and as we create houses of welcome, we do so drawing courage from our relationship with God and our communities of care.

be blessed, Craig

PS. Look out for a showing of “The UK Gold” a documentary on the UK tax avoidance industry made by Christian Aid in partnership with Oxfam and Action Aid. It is hoped to show it in Coventry at the end of February but the date hasn’t yet been fixed.

* Marty Haugen © Gregorian Institute of America GIA Publications Inc