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Rob's Blog

Rob's Blog App LogoEach month our Minister, Rob Hilton, writes to the Christchurch Family.
His thoughts both inspire and challenge us - he doesn't tip-toe around issues, but tackles them head on.
We hope you too will find them of help.

This link takes you to his monthly blog from 2012

Click on the Title for a printable pdf download.



November 2013 We Live In Peaceful Times

November is the month of remembrance. There are two reasons for this in my mind, and our worship and public life together.

I heard some statistics recently, taken from a Harvard lecture by the journalist and author Fareed Zakaria (in May 2012). We are probably living through one of the most profoundly peaceful times of human history. None of the richest countries of the world are engaged in fighting one another, in arms races, or even ‘cold’ wars. I quote directly:

“The number of people who have died as a result of war, civil war, and, yes, terrorism, is down 50 percent this decade from the 1990s. It is down 75 percent from the preceding five decades, the decades of the Cold War, and it is, of course, down 99 percent from the decade before that, which is World War II. Steven Pinker says that we are living in the most peaceful times in human history.”

We may be used to seeing bombs go off on the news most days, footage caught on mobile phones, but compared to the lifetimes of our oldest living friends, these are most peaceful times. Let us as we remember those who have died, be grateful for the peace in which we now live.

Photo of Rob HiltonSecondly, our evening service on November 10th will be a service of remembrance and thanksgiving for the relatives of those who have died. We will invite all those for whom Christchurch and its ministers have conducted a funeral and read the names of those remembered. A gentle and quiet service, but one which simply acknowledges that people are walking through grief and sadness, and need to both mark some of the steps and join with others who are walking a similar journey.

The God who was silent when Jesus died, is the God who crept into humanity through a baby’s birth; who often refused the psalmist words but heard his cries; who confused the nations with the babble of the tower that tried to reach to the skies, and yet in the breath of the Holy Spirit brought the gifts of tongues, understanding, and above all, love, the most powerful language of all.

Whatever you will remember this month, I pray God may be found in the quietness created around the memories.



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August 2013 – Mission

In my opinion, the top priority for the church today. Why?

Because God is Love, and love is always outgoing. Love does not and cannot exist alone, it needs to go out - God creates as an expression of his love, he calls, cares, and guides Israel in the Old Testament as an act of love. Jesus is an act of Love, and so is the sending/coming of the Holy Spirit an expression if the nature of Love, which is God. The trinity itself, as a mysterious effort at understanding God, is about relationships between outgoing expressions of Love, and therefore, Mission.

To go out is to become vulnerable, take a risk, and invite the possibility of being affected, changed blessed, and hurt.

Mission must be our top priority because it is about the God in whom we believe. But we don’t have all the answers, all we have is Love, an understanding of the nature of God, and the examples of creation, Jesus, the Spirit, and the Biblical histories of Israel and the Church.

So, our mission, as an expression of God’s mission is about crossing ‘our’ boundaries and going out, blurring those edges in order to make them two way access points. Mission involves risk, it can include partnership, and it must involve the possibility of being affected or even changed.

Two examples:

The baptisms of Benjamin and Emily in the river Wharfe were a profound moment - we went outside the comfort of our familiar worship environment and had to be aware of what people thought of us singing Jesus songs in public, and using ‘religious’ language in a very public place - what sort of witness did we give? Did we influence anyone towards faith? Were we changed, do we come back different because of where we went and what we did?

Liz Day is making some wonderful partnerships with community groups for the older people in Ilkley, she is becoming aware of the possibility of us going out more, partnering with them and together achieving more than either of us can achieve alone. But if we’re serious about her work, our work, we have to be ready to think differently, be affected by the encounters with others she has and we have.

Mission is so much more than ‘bringing people in’. To love is to be like God, that can be painful and joyful, and hard work, and very rewarding - as any lover knows.



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July 2013 – Time

Sometimes a great enemy, to be fought, cheated, argued with, given in to; chronological, tick tock, passing at a constant rate that timetables and organisation can manage.

Sometimes a gift, beautiful, of God, valuable but free, and everlasting; moments, which have their own intrinsic value, spirituality, and purpose.

Jesus knew about moments and their importance, He accepted interruptions because of their importance, He sought time with God because prayer is not about chronology, but now. He told his disciples initially to keep secret His being the Messiah, then, when the moment was right, on Palm Sunday He let them acclaim Him as He rode towards the purpose of His life - His death which was to define His life.

It strikes me that because we read the New Testament, we Christians sometimes get a cock-eyed view of Jewish Faith. I have started reading a little book simply called ‘The Sabbath’, written by an American Rabbi in the 1950s. He speaks of Sabbath, not as I would assume, as a rigid law that has to be strictly kept, but as a cathedral of time, a momentous space in which to experience and encounter God. The experience of entering a cathedral is designed to be an awesome one - space, sound, speed, encounter, moment, gift.

Some of us will find time may drag, living alone, longing for the boredom to cease, and something to fill the days. I remember as a child being moved by an elderly great aunt telling my Mum as we visited that she got so bored sat in her little terraced house she was fed up of counting the tiles round the gas fire. 

Some of us have busy schedules and have to try organisation and time management, some of us are better at it than others!

I appeal for us to hear the wisdom of the rabbi, who, I think was very close to what Jesus knew, time is a gift; Sabbath is God's gift to us, it's about rest not because it is about doing nothing, but because it is about doing the most important thing - encountering God.

As the old hymn says: “take my moments and my days - let them flow in ceaseless praise.”



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June 2013 – Be Still & Listen

Dear Friends,

Why not try this at least once this month?


Sit still.


Let all the concerns of your mind be still and quiet.


Imagine a candle flame burning, gently responding to a draft or a whisper, then burning very still (or light a candle flame and watch it).


Listen to God, and let God listen to you.


In the quietness and stillness, if you have a prayer for God, let Him hear it. Think about it, and formulate your prayer carefully and deliberately.


Continue to sit still for at least another 5 minutes.

Where does God lead you now?


Rise and obey.


Your friend and minister,


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May 2013 – Moving Forward

Pentecost is the festival of May - used to remember the work of God’s Spirit in creating the Church, giving gifts to people that develop, enrich and fulfill their lives, and growing fruit that is so often expected of Christians - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.

Over our Holy Week talks before Easter, there seemed what felt to me like a coming out, an honesty over the way some of us read the New Testament. This was a relief to some as they spoke openly about what was important to the integrity of their faith, and it came as a gift to others who had yearned for such honesty but never heard anyone express the desire of their hearts before. Others found it very difficult and stayed away from hearing. The talks were attended by perhaps 50 people altogether. Many have said what a good time of preparation for Easter they were.

The Dan’s Den Team have formed and are looking to their task of implementing the vision for our Children’s soft play area and cafe. A new venture of outreach and mission as well as provision of something sadly missing in the town.

The government’s benefit reforms have taken place, people’s lives will be affected, and much response is being made - the Chancellor has taken objection to the Churches having a vested interest in the poor, and many economists are despairing at calls for justice and equality. The two denominations of which Christchurch is a part have contributed to a major report busting the myths about poverty perpetuated by our government and media.

We live in very changing times in society and church. I firmly believe the Spirit of God can lead these reforms, as in the past God has inspired people to object to slavery, build churches (both fellowships of people and buildings), schools, hospitals, and other movements for social welfare and the common good, as well as reformations and tidal shifts in redefining the faith.

I also believe the Spirit oils the wheels of change by contributing peace, understanding, conversion and measure to change. The Christian way has to be evolution rather than revolution, even if that change happens very quickly sometimes! This is the belief I am coming to slowly as a passionate and fiery person who often jumps to conclusions and sometimes thinks only after speaking!

As we move forward as a church and as we live through changing times I hope and pray the Spirit of God is very active in both bringing justice and truth, as well as integrity and peace. God’s Kingdom is radical, but encompasses both aspects of change.

Come Holy Spirit, Come!
Your (Presbyteral) Minister and Friend, Rob Hilton.

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April 2013 – Dan’s Den

The point of Jesus was, in the words John reports ‘to bring life in all its fullness’ (John 10:10).

The research behind the Dan’s Den vision has shown up some of the people in Ilkley who are not provided with the fullness of life as much as they may be - parents with pre-school children, disabled people, young children; there are lonely, needy, and vulnerable people for whom Dan’s Den will be good news.

And so we have given the go ahead for the project, and set ourselves the ambitious but necessary aim that it will incur no costs from the church’s budget.

As I reflect on how we have got to this decision, it has been a process of accepting a vision from God. It’s taken 10 years for people to understand, grasp, and support that vision. The writer of Proverbs knew ‘where there’s no vision the people perish’, or in other words ‘where there’s vision people prosper’. Not long after arriving at Christchurch, I was soon convinced that Dan’s Den was a vision from God that rightly deserved the energy and resources of the Church. The challenge was to let the Holy Spirit do her work in convincing the rest of us. And in true Christchurch fashion, that process has taken time, graciousness and prayer, and finally, we have said with the apostles ‘it seemed good to us and the Holy Spirit’ (Acts 15:28).

Please pray now for the people who will be asked by the leadership team to form a management team to make the vision a reality; the Christchurch family as we step out into the unknown, again!, and ultimately of course that God’s blessings will pour out into the community from this next project.

As ever, it remains a privilege to be the Minister of Christchurch, an open, prayerful, and Christian Church. I want to say, on God’s behalf, ‘Well done, and thank you, faithful servants’ (Matthew 25:23). Keep up the good work.

Your Minister and friend,

Rob Hilton

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March 2013 – Easter

The question that matters is not about whether Jesus died on the cross, or whether he was raised from the dead, but what do those things mean?

If what happened to Jesus after his death says something about God, then what it says about God is real and true for us now as well.

If the death of Jesus was an angry God punishing his own son for the sins of the world, then his resurrection means a very powerful God demanding repentance and offering forgiveness now. If the death of Jesus was seen as a failure by God, then his resurrection ultimately says he succeeds now. If the death of Jesus was the ultimate act of love and self communication, then the resurrection says He is an even greater power of love beyond love.

For me, the death of Jesus speaks of God’s vulnerability. I know about human vulnerability, risks and dangers, and a hope for more that is sometimes difficult to achieve. The resurrection of Jesus for me is about the power of love and grace, because it shows a God who in vulnerability transforms pain and suffering. It’s a love whose power is about the transformation of humanity - and I know I, and my brother and sister human beings, stand in need of love and transformation; another word could be salvation.

For me, resurrection is only as much about Jesus’ coming ‘back to life’ after his death as his birth is about an event in a stable in history. The history only sets the scene for faith today - his birth is about his presence in our lives now; his death is about locating God in human pain and suffering
My hope of resurrection today is about all the reasons Jesus died then - religious power, empire builders, the helpless poor, the powerless and vulnerable - being transformed by hope and love now.

Happy Easter!

God bless


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February 2013 – Covenant

With Easter being early this year, Lent begins in February, not long after we’ve finished Epiphany - God made manifest to the whole world following the celebration of his birth - and then we move so quickly to the journey towards his death, and celebration of resurrection.

In the brief pause between the two this year, we shall renew our covenant with God. A strong Methodist tradition, but with roots in German Protestantism and deeply Biblical themes, the renewal of a covenant with God is rather like the renewal of marriage vows. It’s about recognising the other partner in a
relationship - recognising God’s love, devotion, and faithfulness to us, and recognising that deep in God’s psyche (if that’s appropriate language!) he longs to be in relationship - with his creation, this world, and ultimately all people.

Initially, to fall in love is an easy thing, everything in the garden is rosy; to let that love blossom into a formal, public relationship involving promises is to take it a whole step further. Then, to live in that relationship so that it transforms, shapes, moulds, and becomes an integral part of you is to live in a covenant. The word contract is so legal, covenant involves human frailty, the possibility (perhaps the inevitability) of failure, difficulty, frailty, and just plain waking up some mornings not wanting to do it any more. Human frailty involves sliding away from the love without even knowing it sometimes. Yet the other partner, God is always there, never falls away or gives up, and always, always, always welcomes, renews, chooses, and decides to be faithful.

Looking again at sustaining our spirituality in Housegroups this year has reminded me of my initial ‘yes’ to God at the age of 17. I’ve changed a lot since then, I’ve learnt a lot about God that I didn’t know then (and about myself too!), I’ve argued with Him, I’ve rested in Him, I’ve loved and served Him with a passion, and I’ve found myself sneaking back to Him in the darkness hoping He wouldn’t notice I’ve been away.

But each year, in the Covenant service, with its very formal words, its deep traditions, and its setting with Holy Communion, I’ve found the renewal of His promises to me, and mine to Him, an opportunity to make the conscious decision to renew that ‘yes’ whatever it may mean. This year, setting just before Lent begins seems a most appropriate time to do that again.

Sunday 10 February at both On-Line and 10:30 – the opportunity to renew our covenant relationship with God.

See you then!



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