Ralph Cunnington is the Senior Pastor at City Church Manchester,
We’ve all been learning new skills, flexing and pivoting over these past six months and it’s certainly meant changes for the way City Church runs our intern programme. Our new interns – Martin, Laura and Martha – were thrown in the deep end having to help us re-launch in-person services at our permanent city centre venue within their first month. For the past couple of months, we’d been running in-person services for up to 40 people at our secondary facility in east Manchester but returning to Methodist Central Hall in the city centre was like planting a church all over again (City Church was planted back in 2014).
We had to re-think how to do welcome, seating, production and music and had to innovate how we ran the services in order to remain interactive and participatory while adhering to government guidelines on singing. Our interns were crucial to this endeavour, bringing innovation and fresh insight to the table in order to find creative solutions. By the end of our first in-person services at Central Hall, attended by over 140 people, we were feeling tired but also exhilarated. What a privilege to be able to serve the church by bringing people together again to sit under God’s Word and enjoy the Lord’s Supper for the first time in 6 months. That put a smile on our faces.
Aspects of the intern programme have obviously had to change in order to be Covid-compliant and wise: the staff team has been divided into bubbles and we have introduced flexibility about where we work. Nevertheless, we have sought to retain those parts of the programme that help us to grow in our knowledge, experience and love of Jesus. The intern “Formation Programme” is taking place in-person but socially distanced. Each Monday the interns meet together with me and Emma, our Operations Manager (herself a former intern). One of us leads a devotion based upon the morning Bible readings we are doing together (we are using the Robert Murray M’Cheyne’s Bible reading charts to read the Bible in a year), we then share and pray for each other and then there is a teaching session covering pastoral formation topics: morning routines, guidance, alcohol, pornography, relationships, money. The interns also attend our Wednesday staff meeting on Zoom where the staff team are discussing Dane Ortlund’s new book Gentle and Lowly. (If you haven’t read it, we highly recommend it!) And we were delighted that the North West Gospel Partnership training course has re-started meeting in person and our interns attend that every Thursday. Further ahead, we are still hoping to send each of our interns on a 4-week placement at one of our partner churches in the US or Dubai in 2021. Quarantine restrictions and the cancellation of transatlantic flights have made this harder but we hope these may ease in time for them to go.
Our intern programme is tailored around the particular gifts, skills and experiences that the Lord has given each of our interns. This encourages them to grow in their specialisms in a way that will serve the church but also train them for their future vocation, whether in the church or the marketplace. Laura, a graphic designer, has joined as our creative intern. She has worked extensively with Tessa, our Creative Director, on the launch of our re-brand and getting things ready for the new term. They have also put together a billboard and bus campaign that is seeking to follow up on the increased spiritual interest that is being shown among unbelievers in Manchester. Martin, who studied engineering, has been working with our Families Worker to launch our new City Youth Club. He has also been working as my research assistant helping me to prepare the preaching and teaching programme as well as resources for our small groups and ministry team leaders. Martha is focussing on operations and helping newcomers settle at the church. She is also hoping to use her acoustic engineering skills to enhance sound production at our services.
We have been immensely blessed by the contributions that Martha, Laura and Martin have already made as they support our purpose of “inviting everyone to enjoy Christ for the glory of God”. We’re looking forward to seeing what the Lord does in and through each of them – both here, at City Church, and beyond.
Find out more about City Church’s intern programme here.