Bishop Auckland Methodist Church

A Way Home – see this Northern Heartlands production in Witton Park on Sunday 26th June

1951 saw a third of County Durham’s villages classified as ‘D’. They were no longer deemed worthy of investment and were expected to die quietly. But they wouldn’t.

A Way Home is a new play rooted in the stories and memories of the very people who called those D villages home. A County-wide fight lasting over 25 years becomes a 12-month journey at Bet’s kitchen table as she confronts what loss really looks like.

With humour, tenderness and not a small amount of grit, A Way Home speaks of fighting to be heard when no one’s listening, telling a story just as significant today as it was 70 years ago.

Sunday 26th June 7:00pm Witton Park Village Hall for more details see: or

Prayer Handbook – a new discovery

Methodist Prayer Handbook 2021/2022

I have just discovered that it is possible to purchase the Methodist Prayer Handbook in the Kindle Store and even back copies from previous years, so if you have missed out, or would like it on your tablet, phone, Kindle fire or simply on your Kindle to help with your daily reflections, then take a look.

Buy it here

God bless, John

PS just found it in Google books on my phone for a penny more at £4 – has anyone found it in electronic format on any other platform? Please comment below if you have – Vanessa

A Post-Easter Prayer

A prayer taken from ‘Praying for the Earth’ by Rob Kelsey, Sacristy Press 2021

At this time of new life, we praise you
for the power of your creation.
The bodily resurrection of Christ proclaims
the promised recreation of the universe.
In the renewal of the natural world,
in the blossom of trees in the birth of animals,
help us to celebrate your many gifts of
springing hope and fresh beginnings.

God bless


A morning start with Rev John


It is a Bank Holiday and the sun is shining, but the day started 7 hours ago, before I was out of bed I prayed. I also read the Bible. This has been my daily practice for 36 years.

It changes from year to year, but this morning this was my routine (it takes me about an hour):

  • By email I receive daily prayer and Bible meditations, already sitting in my inbox by the time I wake. Today the first was from Green Christian
  • Monday 18th April
  • Medical schools across the [US] are increasingly reckoning with the need to teach the intersection of climate change and health. Schools of public health have been on the forefront of that progress…But more recently, medical schools have joined in the shift, updating curriculum and launching special programs to teach future doctors about the climate change-health connection….  climate change doesn’t just bring hotter weather and more extreme storms. It also makes many health issues worse – issues doctors need to recognize and treat.
  • Then JPIT was next
  • Today we pray for the South African province of KwaZulu-Natal, as more than 300 people have died due to flooding and mudslides. Some areas saw months’ worth of rain fall in one day. God, we pray comfort for those who have lost homes and loved ones. Help those now working to rebuild and provide aid.
  • Every day, we’re encouraging you to lift up your eyes and pray for others around the world as part of #StayAndPray.
  • Read more about this issue.
  • From I receive two emails, one a prayer after a Bible verse, the other a quotation or reflection to think about
  • Daily Prayer for April 18
  • Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. Revelation 3:8, NIV
  • Dear Father in heaven, we thank you that you know us all and that you look deep into our hearts, watching over us in everything we go through, whether easy or difficult. We thank you that we do not stand alone but that you hear the smallest sigh of each of your children. We thank you that darkness must give way to light, distress to joy, and fear to strength and courage. For you lead us through everything; it is what you bring about from your future world, not anything within our sight, that gives us strength and courage and that endures through everything. We thank you from our hearts for your unending gifts, and we are amazed that it was possible for us to receive all this from you. Protect us and keep us childlike, so that we remain in the fellowship that the Lord Jesus has given us, singing praise to him and to the glory and honor of your name. Amen.
  • Consider the Lilies of the Field
  • Christina Rossetti
  • Flowers preach to us if we will hear:
    The rose saith in the dewy morn:
    I am most fair;
    Yet all my loveliness is born
    Upon a thorn.
    The poppy saith amid the corn:
    Let but my scarlet head appear
    And I am held in scorn;
    Yet juice of subtle virtue lies
    Within my cup of curious dyes.
    The lilies say: Behold how we
    Preach without words of purity.
    The violets whisper from the shade
    Which their own leaves have made:
    Men scent our fragrance on the air,
    Yet take no heed
    Of humble lessons we would read.
    But not alone the fairest flowers:
    The merest grass
    Along the roadside where we pass,
    Lichen and moss and sturdy weed,
    Tell of His love who sends the dew,
    The rain and sunshine too,
    To nourish one small seed.
  • Source: Goblin Market, The Prince’s Progress, and Other Poems
  • Following the plough came the Methodist Church in Ireland (my home Connexion’s) daily prayer focus
  • A new email I have recently started receiving comes next – from Christian Art
The Holy Women at Christ’s Tomb, from The Passion of Christ, plate 20,
Engraving by Grégoire Huret (1606–1670),
Executed in 1664,
Engraving on paper
© Metropolitan Museum, New York
  • Filled with awe and great joy the women came quickly away from the tomb and ran to tell the disciples.
  • And there, coming to meet them, was Jesus. ‘Greetings’ he said. And the women came up to him and, falling down before him, clasped his feet. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers that they must leave for Galilee; they will see me there.’
  • While they were on their way, some of the guard went off into the city to tell the chief priests all that had happened. These held a meeting with the elders and, after some discussion, handed a considerable sum of money to the soldiers with these instructions, ‘This is what you must say, “His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.” And should the governor come to hear of this, we undertake to put things right with him ourselves and to see that you do not get into trouble.’ The soldiers took the money and carried out their instructions, and to this day that is the story among the Jews.
  • Reflection on the engraving
    Today, one day after Easter, is a good day to reflect upon our own reaction and thoughts to the event of the Resurrection which we celebrated yesterday. How does Easter impact us? We encountered the risen Jesus yesterday. So did the women in our Gospel reading today. The women Matthew describes are the very first people to see the Lord after he rose from the dead, and the first words Jesus speaks to them are crucial: ‘Do not be afraid’. Why did he say that to them?
  • The reading conveys a very unusual mix of emotions: the women were overjoyed and followed with awe (see the start of our Gospel reading), and yet Jesus saw them as being filled with fear. Don’t we too often have these emotions in our faith lives? We are in love with God, but yet we are afraid to talk about Him. We want to serve Jesus, yet we hold back from serving him fully. We enjoy going to church on a Sunday, yet privatise our faith the rest of the week. We are full of joy, yet fearful.
  • This mix of emotions is beautifully conveyed in our engraving by Grégoire Huret from 1664. We see the risen Christ meeting the women. One woman is holding an ointment jar, one is perplexed, another overjoyed, one fearful. In the foreground we see the woman who ‘came up to him and, falling down before him and clasped his feet’. In the background we see the scene where the women discovered the empty tomb, surrounded by sleeping soldiers. In the distant left against beaming rays of sunlight, we see Peter and John running towards the tomb.
  • The women, filled with joy and feelings of fear, are now sent out into the world to bear witness to the events and spread the news: the Lord is risen!
  • by Patrick van der Vorst
  • Next I read the Bible from a reading plan I set up at the start of every year. Today as you see, the readings were Psalm 1, Joshua chapters 1 and 2 and Proverbs 18 (but most days there is a New Testament reading somewhere in the mix) and in 365 days all the Bible is read from the start of Genesis to the end of Revelation. I choose a different version of the Bible to read each year, this year I am reading the Complete Jewish Bible, hence the ‘Adonai’ as the word for God and ‘Torah’ instead of Law in the Psalm below.
  • The Methodist Prayer Handbook has readings and prayers for each day that are also available on the Methodist Church website.
  • In the Prayer Handbook for this year, “A Place for All”, Day 18 has us praying with Christians in Asia and Britain, in particular the Church in Indonesia and the Methodist Church of Upper Myanmar. There is a special prayer for persecuted Christians and closer to home, prayers from the Liverpool District and from the Vice President of Methodist Women in Britain.
  • Last but not least I pray for those who are on my heart: family, friends, congregation, people I will meet during the day, families I have met with recently in connection with Christenings, Weddings or Funerals, and other prayer requests that come to me through conversation, email or Facebook. I don’t promise to remember everybody in prayer, but each morning starts with this mix of Bible Study, reflection and prayer. I encourage you in whatever way you do it, to spend some time with the Bible and in prayer each day. It has served me well for 36 years.

God bless


Easter Letter from our District Chair

Easter 2022

‘He disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in it.’ Colossians 2:15

Dear friends,

As I have been praying and preparing for Holy Week and Easter in recent weeks, this verse from Paul’s letter to the Colossians has particularly resonated with me. On Palm Sunday I was leading worship at Hutton Rudby and reflecting on something which clearly happened but isn’t referred to directly in any of the gospels. Some days before Jesus enters Jerusalem from the east down the Mount of Olives, Pilate has entered the city from the west. Festival time was always a time when the occupying Romans were on high alert: Pilate was in town to keep order. The contrast between these two processions could not be starker. Nick Page puts it in the following way:

‘Two processions, then. One from the east, tumbling down the Mount of Olives, wild with cheering and rich with messianic symbolism. The other coming from the west, but just as symbolic: gleaming armour and burnished leather, cavalrymen on horseback and the imperial eagle leading the way. From the west comes the kingdom of the world; from the east comes the kingdom of God’ (The Wrong Messiah, p.227)

Page goes on to describe Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem as a ‘…politically charged act, a two fingered salute to the empire, the world and the Gentile ways of power’. We cannot help but be acutely aware of the destructive power of militarism in our world today not just in the Ukraine but in many other places of conflict. Power and its misuse, of course, is not just a political issue: it has social, economic, community and psychological forms.

Paul’s choice of image then in describing the cross in these terms is both deliberate and thought provoking. Victorious Roman generals would parade the captives of war in chains through the city. It was a form of ridicule and humiliation entirely in character with an oppressive regime. It is perverse forms of power, political and religious, which send Jesus to execution, to the humiliation of the cross. Yet just at the hour at which they seem to have won, Paul claims, the table is turned. It is now these forces, indeed all the powers of evil, which are humiliated, relativised and ridiculed like a defeated army.

This is a bold claim. What sense can we make of it? It’s interesting to note that the idea of Christ defeating the powers and principalities on the cross –the Christus Victor – was the most important way of conceiving the meaning of the cross in the early Church. I think about this in three different ways. First, I view the cross as having revelatory power. Amongst other things this means that the cross makes clear the forces that are ranged against God in our world and which are still active today. We cannot ignore the parallels between the misuses of power and the use of violence that sends Jesus to the cross with the experience of the world today. We have a duty to name and expose these abuses wherever we see them. Secondly, I sense that there is something here about the resisting power of mockery, satire and ridicule. It’s interesting isn’t it that those who misuse power find it difficult to accept being mocked. It undermines their power and also reminds them of their mortality – it is interesting to note at this juncture the role of the Holy Fool in the Orthodox tradition who is able to speak truth to power in a way in which others are not. Thirdly though, none of this makes sense without the resurrection. Christ is Victor simply because he is the risen one. It is this which turns a cross of disgrace into a demonstration of the power of God. It demonstrates that ultimately there is a power which is greater than the powers of death which stalk our world. It is the resurrection which ultimately relativises any other claim to power and authority in the world.

I pray that Christ, risen from the grave, might be your light, life and hope as you journey through Holy Week and Easter.

Yours in Christ,

Richard Andrew

District Chair

Weekly Communion service in St Peter’s Chapel

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

In the near future, we are re-establishing a weekly Communion service in St Peter’s Chapel here at Auckland Castle.

This will be taking place at 11.15am on Wednesdays. I have arranged with The Auckland Project that those attending the service will be able to do so without having to pay for admission (the ticket barrier will be moved from the entrance to the castle to the entrance to the first of the rooms) and will also be able to access the Castle café afterwards to purchase refreshments, without going through the whole of the castle. The plan is for the first services to be on Wednesday 13th and 20th April. There will then be a break (due to other commitments that I have) before they resume on Wednesday 18th May, and should then be each week.

While the service will, of course, have to be a Church of England one, folk of all Christian traditions (and none) are more than welcome to join us.

I look forward to being able to welcome you and your people to this service.
Many thanks, all good wishes and every blessing,

Chris Knights

The Revd Dr Chris Knights

Chaplain to the Bishop of Durham

Methodist Presidential Statement on Ukraine

The overwhelming response to the Government’s Homes for Ukraine scheme shows clear support amongst the public for helping those seeking sanctuary. Methodist churches and members around the UK stand ready to open their homes and lives to Ukrainians who desperately need our friendship and solidarity.

The scheme also demonstrates that when called for, the Government can find resources and commit to helping people in need. We are grateful that the Government has listened to the widespread calls for them to act and to begin to open routes by which Ukrainians can come to the UK for safety.

However, whilst communities are united in offering support and protection to those fleeing an unimaginable situation, we remain concerned that this welcoming approach appears to be at odds with the Government’s response to refugees from other parts of the world.

Over the past few weeks, non-Ukrainian nationals fleeing the conflict have been treated with hostility across Europe. Many foreign students, refugees who have settled within Ukraine and others who have made Ukraine their home have struggled to find routes out of the conflict, and have instead faced discrimination and harsh treatment. All people fleeing Ukraine need to be offered safety, not only those holding a Ukrainian passport.

In the UK, this hostility is particularly demonstrated in the Nationality and Borders Bill currently going through Parliament.

With this Bill, the Government is continuing to pursue a hostile and unwelcoming approach towards some of the most vulnerable people in the world. The Bill will have a detrimental impact on many people seeking refuge, criminalising people with a legitimate claim to asylum, keeping families apart and undermining people’s right to refugee protection. The Bill currently presents no new safe routes by which refugees can reach the UK, leaving people fleeing conflict and persecution in places such as Yemen, Syria and Iran without options. At the same time as the Government asks us to open our homes to Ukrainian refugees, they are closing the door on refugees from around the world.

The Refugee Convention was established over 70 years ago in 1951, in the wake of war. Signatories to the convention committed that the way someone travelled to seek refugee protection should not matter, acknowledging that escaping conflict, oppression and persecution was the immediate priority. Despite the risk of war rising once again, the Nationality and Borders Bill directly undermines this principle.

As Christians, we are called to welcome the stranger, and to recognise God amongst them. We cannot abide any kind of discrimination which seeks to ignore or mar the image of God that all people bear. This Bill which judges a person’s legitimate claim to sanctuary based on how they arrive in the UK should not be tolerated. Just as the Government is right to make every effort to welcome people from Ukraine, we must ensure that this effort is made whenever necessary.

Any response to people fleeing conflict in Ukraine must now be applied across the board. We urge the Government to look carefully at the Nationality and Borders Bill, recognise this inconsistency, and take immediate action so that all who seek sanctuary are protected.

The President and Vice-President of the Conference
Revd Sonia Hicks and Barbara Easton

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