CUMBRIA was the scene for a huge ecumenical mission weekend last week, featuring dozens of bishops, four denominations, and more than 500 separate events reaching an estimated 25,000 people.
The mission, Moving Mountains, was part of an initiative begun by the Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, in 2015. The diocese of Carlisle was the fourth diocese in the northern province to hold the event.
This year, for the first time, it spread outside the Church of England and encompassed the Cumbrian wings of the United Reformed Church (URC), Methodist Church, and Salvation Army: who all work with the diocese as part of the “God For All” ecumenical county scheme.
Dr Sentamu said that Moving Mountains was pinnacle of the northern province missions so far: “I have worked harder on this this than any other mission. It has been really encouraging with lots of opportunities and lots of people making a response to God.
The weekend saw a blizzard of different events across Cumbria, from photography exhibitions in Windermere to a Q&A event with a former star of TV’s Gladiators, Warren Furman, in Workington.
A “strongman act” was held at Kendal Rugby Club, a “supper with a magician” in Barrow, and in Cockermouth residents gathered for a “Pets in the Park” service where both animals and owners were blessed.
DIOCESE OF CARLISLEMessy Church at the Rheged Centre, Penrith
On Friday of last week, many of the teams of clergy and bishops who had gathered in the diocese visited about 50 local schools in total, holding worship sessions, telling Bible stories, and giving people the chance to quiz a bishop.
The culmination of Moving Mountains was on Mothering Sunday, which saw a huge Messy Church service at the Rheged cultural centre in Penrith, and an open-air service in Whitehaven Market Place.
The Bishop of Carlisle, the Rt Revd James Newcome, said that while big mission events were wonderful, the diocese’s focus was on following up the enthusiasm and opportunities created by Moving Mountains in the future.
“Right across the county there has been a wonderful buzz, with people saying how excited they have been. But it’s what happens next which will matter even more.
“And although local churches will be drawing breath as they get ready for Easter, I know that they are also thinking what they will do next to build on this success.”
The ecumenical partners involved also hailed the weekend as a success. The Cumbrian area president of the URC’s North Western Synod, Sarah Moore, said: “People have been hugely impressed and amazed by the way all the different Christian denominations are working together, and by the way institutions like schools have welcomed senior church leaders with open arms.”
The chairman of Cumbria Methodist District, Richard Teal, said: “One of the really encouraging things was the number of people not normally linked to church who came along and went away with something positive.”