Monday, June 7

Today we began the Pilgrimage Experience at St Thomas Philadelphia and St Thomas Crookes parishes in Sheffield.  By we I mean nearly 75 people from Australia, Finland, Germany, the United States, and the United Kingdom.    By pilgrimage I mean an immersion process – an opportunity not merely gather information but to live among those who are called to ministry here.  To enable this kind of process, there is at least one St Thomas parishes staff for every two of us pilgrims.

We who have come here with Church Doctor Ministries have been immersed in the culture and ethos of these missional churches since Friday – staying with families here, sharing life with them, and participating in several events Sunday.

Mike Breen, former vicar of St Thomas Crookes, founding vicar of St Thomas Philadelphia (born from St Thomas Crookes to reach into the city of Sheffield), and now resourcing missional congregations around the world began our day by grounding us in the truth of God’s covenantal relationship with the world and our call to be representatives of God’s Kingdom.  Excellent Bible study in both the Old Testament and the Gospels breathed new life into these familiar images for me.

We spent a good bit of the day exploring how invitation into covenant with God and challenge to representing/incarnating God’s reign shape a missional life, and a missional church.   We also began looking at a tremendous teaching tool for shaping disciples of Jesus called Lifeshapes.  Using simple shapes like a circle, a semi-circle, a triangle, a square, and a pentagon, we can continually discover what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.  I will be praying about how we might begin to employ LifeShapes in our context at Olivet.

Following each day of Pilgrimage, we Church Doctor folk head to one of the most familiar places in British daily life – the pub (pronounced poob).  There the 20 of us have about 90 minutes to talk with one another about what we are hearing and how we might apply it.   Monday evening was left open for us, so Chad, Becky, and I made our way by foot to the Tiffen’s house, where Pam and Doug had dinner ready for us.  We enjoyed fish pie, peas, carrots, and dessert.

After dinner, they suggested we take a walk in the woods to see an English moor covered with heather, and possibly locate a geocache.  Because the sun doesn’t set until 10 PM we had time, but oh my, was it an adventure.  The moor was easy enough to find – the park is built around this tall, flattened expanse covered with evergreen heather.  The cache simply eluded us.  I don’t know what went wrong – but the trails never got us closer than 80 feet.  That we all managed to get back to the car with little more than a few scrapes and bits of heather covering us was a miracle!   Thanks be to God+

The sun sets at 10ish, and the sky begins to show morning light at about 4:15 AM right now, which makes for short nights.  But sleep comes easy after a full day like this.

Thanks for following this blog…perhaps I’ll have some more pictures for you tomorrow.

May you live in God’s amazing grace+



Saturday, June 5

Today we went with Doug and Pam and several others (12 in all) to the Peaks – a national park southwest of Sheffield.  The region is filled with peaks – small mountains, really – covered with sheep and cattle, divided into countless grazing areas by stone fences, and watered by rivers, streams, and reservoirs.

We drove to Litton and began by crossing the River Wye.  Then we mounted the effort to scale the steep slope ahead of us.  It took the better part of an hour to climb the stony path that led us up some 2,000 feet.   From there we hiked a ridge that followed the river.  We climbed over many stone walls and saw a lot of livestock – some were even friendly!

Sheep and Lambs

We packed a lunch and stopped to eat it at the top of the ridge, then continued on along the river’s edge and railway that had been re-purposed as a trail.

River Wye near Litton

Clearly, walking like this (over 6 miles of strenuous hiking  over a 3 1/2 hour period) is quite a popular pastime for people of all ages.  Pam is a few years older than I – she hikes like this nearly every week as weather allows.

We stopped at a delightful cafe in Tideswell – the Vanilla Kitchen.  There were baked goods, ice cream, coffee, and fruit frappes’, which were so cold, they could hardly be enjoyed – lots of laughter over that!

After returning to Sheffield, we went to the home of St Thomas Crookes parishoners who hosted a cookout for us.  There were salads, burgers, sausages, and chicken, as well as fresh fruit and desserts, including a really nice rhubarb-apple ginger concoction.

Great day!  Tomorrow will be very full from 10:30 until 20:00 hours.  What a privilege to be here!

May you live in God’s amazing grace+


Sunday, June 6

Dear friends in Christ,

The prayers of the 20-strong Church Doctor Ministries Sheffield Team are with all who have been struck by the tornadoes that destroyed so much there. We pledge our continued prayers throughout the week ahead.

And I ask you to consider how you might bless those who are struggling, suffering, trying to make sense of this disaster. These are our neighbors, whom God commands us to love. As we reach out to help, we offer them nothing less than the healing touch of our Lord Jesus.

May you live in and share God amazing grace+


We’ve Arrived in Sheffield

Every time you cross my mind, I break out in exclamations of thanks to God. Each exclamation is a trigger to prayer. I find myself praying for you with a glad heart. I am so pleased that you have continued on in this with us, believing and proclaiming God’s Message, from the day you heard it right up to the present. There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.

Colossians 1:3-6 The Message

With these verses of thanksgiving and faith, we began our first full day together. Dr. Hunter invited us to think about what the Church in Acts would look like now in the 21st century. St Thomas Crookes and St Thomas Philadelphia are perhaps the closest iteration we can see right now. We spent about 3.5 hours being oriented to these congregations and to what we will see while we are there.

We took a group photo, but I do not have the ability to post it at the moment because I do not have internet access for my laptop. Maybe tomorrow.

This afternoon we boarded a train for the 90 min trip to Sheffield. We watched city scenes give way to pastures defined by stone fences. Sheep and cattle dotted the fields. I almost have to pinch myself to really believe that I am in England!

We passed through three tunnels as well, and as we entered Sheffield we could see the seven hills on which the UK’s 4th largest city is built (just like Rome!).

A quick taxi ride later we were at St Thomas Crookes (Crookes is to Sheffield as West Toledo is to Toledo.). Our hosts met the 20 of us there.

I am blessed to be staying with Pam and Doug, a couple with 2 grown sons. They definitely have the gift of hospitality. In fact, their ministry at St Tom’s is welcoming intl students at the nearby U to lunch on Sundays after church. We looked at pictures of the many people they have hosted. What a special gift to give to young people so far from home. And God has given them many opportunities to speak of their faith to those who expressed openness to hearing about it.

We ate, laughed, and talked for nearly 4 hours! I know that spending 5 more evenings with Doug and Pam and Chad and Becky(two others from our group of 20) is going to be great.

Tomorrow we are going for a hike in the Peaks National Park west of here, and then to a bbq.

Maybe I’ll be able to post some pictures then too.

May you live in God’s amazing grace+

a scene from the train ride to Sheffield June 4

Travel Day(s)

From the rising of  the sun to its setting…

I enjoyed two very good days of travel to the UK, beginning with an on-time flight out of Detroit, and continuing with an exit row seat for the 7-hour flight from New York City (JFK) to Manchester.  It was delightful to watch the sun setting behind us as we were leaving the US, only to watch it rising as we approached the British Isles.  My camera was tucked away in the overhead bin, so I could not get a picture.  But I promise there will be some tomorrow.

I tried to manage the affects of jet lag  by taking a brief nap midday, and a two-mile walk after that.  I looked for two geocaches…was probably right on top of one, but couldn’t find it.  The second had a LOT of poison ivy growing around it, and I wasn’t about to get mixed up in that mess.  I never ate lunch today…sense of  hunger is off with the jet lag.  Tonight, we ate in the bar/lounge area as most of the hotel guests do.  It is casual and noisy and quite fun in terms of people-watching.

Tomorrow our group of twenty will meet for the morning and take a group picture.  I’ll tell you more about our diverse group then. After lunch, we will board the train for Sheffield.  There we will meet those persons who are graciously opening  their homes to us.

You, O Lord, make me lie down in safety.

May you live in God’s amazing grace+


The Gift of a New Day

I give you thanks, Almighty God, that you have brought me safely through the night… a portion of Martin Luther’s Morning Prayer

Today is the beginning of a six week leave period, during which I will be engaged in study and time with our family.  I’ll be departing for the study segment tomorrow afternoon, flying to Manchester, England and then continuing to Sheffield and London.  In Sheffield, I have the amazing opportunity to witness two churches that together have been raised from near-death to vitality.  Members of the St. Thomas Crookes and St. Thomas Sheffield parishes are hosting us, so that we can get a 24/7 sense of what it means to be followers of Christ in these settings.

Many people have supported me and this journey, both financially and in prayer.  I am grateful beyond words for you all.  I plan to record my thoughts and experiences here, and I invite you to follow along.

Look for more tomorrow.

May you live in God’s Amazing Grace+