As we say goodbye to Rob and Carol Cotton it is also an appropriate time to look back on the very exciting and stimulating eight years they have been with us in the Circuit and to express our thanks to them both.
The Welcome Service for Rev Rob & Mrs Carol Cotton was held at Knutsford Methodist Church on 2nd September 2012. It was a Circuit Service, led by Rev Jackie Betts, the Superintendent Minister, and the preacher was Rev Dr Keith Davies, the Chair of the Manchester and Stockport District. Rev Ben Clowes completed the Circuit’s ministerial team, with Jenny Mossman as Children’s Worker at KMC and Ben Williams as the Youth Worker.
Rob has always liked having themes, and was full of new ideas. When he led his first morning services at KMC on 9th September 2012 his theme was ‘The Greatest Show on Earth – Passing and Receiving the Baton.’
Many themes and exciting events were to follow.
A well attended and successful Alpha course was held in January 2013, launched by Darrell Tunningley. This was both challenging and exciting, bringing some to Christ for the first time and bringing some folk back to
the fold. It was followed by the ‘Real Lives Mission’ when Rob challenged us with the question ‘If Knutsford is a good church, how can it become a great church?’
To inspire us a ‘Real Lives festival was held in March 2013, hosted by Paul Hinton, and with Robin Oake, Freddie Kofi, Fiona Castle and Dan Walker as headline guests.
2014 was the year we welcomed Plumley Methodist Church into our Circuit as they transferred from what was then the Northwich and Winsford Circuit. Easter was made more beautiful by the decorated cross and later in the year Rob led a Pilgrimage to the Holy Land with many friends from Knutsford, together with some members of Rob’s previous churches. All found it a most inspirational trip – a journey of a lifetime.
At the Christmas Eve Service there was a live link with a Church in Bremen, Germany which was such a special occasion sharing faith and worship with another country.
Another Alpha was launched in January 2015, marked by another excellent meal, and the talk ‘Copper to Criminal to Christian (in three moves)’ – the True Story of Simon Pinchbeck. Later in the year Rob had a Sabbatical, and took ‘Journeying’ as his theme – much in keeping with the pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 2014.
In February 2015 there was a visit to South Africa to see the work of ‘Hope Through Action’, a charity that several members of KMC were part of founding and continue to be instrumentally involved with.
Key things in 2015 were Rob’s sabbatical and a China trip. In sabbatical he visited Iona, Lindisfarne and Plas y Brenin in Wales, attended Green Belt, did some cycling and wrote some material for the Bible Society
as well finalising his own book.
Rob worked for the Bible Society for 8 years as Campaign Manager before
he came to Knutsford and he was sponsored by them to travel to Eastern China in summer 2015 where he distributed Bibles in rural areas and visited Nanjing, the home of China’s only legal printer of Bibles. Both the
Sabbatical and the trip to China proved very inspirational for Rob.
An unusual event in 2015 saw Rob conducting the very large funeral for an Irish travelling family and this was followed a few years later with another member of the same family. (They might seek you out in Wakefield
In July 2016 Rev Jackie Betts retired and moved back to Cumbria and the Circuit was delighted to welcome Rev Scott Manning.
Scott, his wife Jenny and their three children, moved into Wesley Cottage in
Mobberley in September 2016. Scott was a minister in the Methodist Church of South Africa, and because of the quirks of Methodism, was considered a
‘Probationer’ on his move to Great Britain. This required a supervisor so Rob now took this role on as well as being a minister of a large church, being heavily involved with Firefest and being a husband, Dad and Grandad.
The Circuit Meeting in September 2016 re-invited Rob for a further three years of Ministry from September (The Minutes of that Meeting record: ‘that one member expressed the view that this was ‘Jolly good’
and the whole Meeting congratulated Rob on his reinvitation’). On Jackie’s retirement the role of Superintendent in our Circuit was shared between Rob Cotton and Ben Clowes.
In 2017 Over Peover Church ceased to meet. A sad occasion for many but Rob held a fitting celebration at Over Peover on 10th September and the church was eventually sold – though the Circuit still cares for the
graveyard. In August Rev Ben Clowes, Catherine and the boys moved to Harrogate, while Ben’s place in the Circuit was taken by Rev Sue Swires. Rob then took on the role of Superintendent of the Circuit.
Rob saw the potential for outreach at KMC by taking advantage of the Makers Market, held on the first Sunday of each month. The town is crowded, and many visitors show an interest in looking inside the
Church – enjoying free coffee and taking advantage of our toilets.
After a busy Christmas in 2016, Rob & Carol went to the new Odeon Cinema in Barons Quay, Northwich and he had an ‘Epiphany moment,’ seeing it as an ideal venue for a Christian Celebration. The idea developed into the ‘Northwich Project’ which then developed in Zac’s House Kingdom Community.
Wow! What a moment ! The launch event for the Zac’s House
was held at Weaverham High School on Palm Sunday 2018.
Carol was also busy with ideas. KMC’s Friendship Café was her baby and, with a dedicated band of volunteers, is now held each Friday morning in the church hall and is proving very successful.
KMC held its 2018 AGM on Sunday 18th March with a Blues Brothers theme! Rob invited us all to dress up as members of the Blues Brothers (dark suits, dark glasses and trilby hats) because ‘We are on a Mission from God!’
2018 had several key events with Rob launching his book ‘Hope in the Main Street’ at Easter, Tuesday Fellowship meeting in April welcomed the Bishop of Baghdad and the Welcome Service for Rev Neal Stanton, who had been appointed as the Pioneer Pastor at Zac’s House, was held at Knutsford on 14th October.
To mark the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War, Rob, with others from the town, led a traditional ‘2-minute silence’ and rededication
ceremony on 11th November 2018. It was held at the repositioned War Memorial in the Garden by the Library.
In 2019 Cheshire East Council finally agreed to allow KMC to have glass doors at the Church front entrance, while still retaining the existing wooden doors. The doors were dedicated as we celebrated Harvest on 6th
On Saturday 15th June Rob and Carol hosted a Garden Party at their manse in Glebelands Road. With Carol’s reputation for excellent catering it was greatly appreciated by everyone and the heavy rain did little to
spoil the afternoon.
Rob and a party from Zac’s House went on a mission trip to Uganda in the summer. It was hard work and challenging, but truly wonderful to see the work being done in an orphanage with sanitation and water provision. Rob was delighted to cut the tape (of banana leaves) and turn on the tap. The money for the work had been raised by Christmas collections at Plumley,
Knutsford, and Zac’s House.
Firefest 2020 was one of the last events to be held in our Church before we had to close because of the Coronavirus lockdown. It was held over the weekend of 13th-15th March. Amongst the main contributors were
Ashley Cooper and Bob Hartman, with the Book of Ruth being the Bible theme for the weekend.
Since April Rob and many other people have been learning new skills and worship, Bible study, daily devotions, meetings and coffee mornings have all been held “online”. Who would have thought! It seems unlikely
that we can celebrate Rob and Carol’s eight years at Knutsford and in the Circuit with a Service in our Church building, but we hope we can invite Rob and Carol back when the restrictions are lifted and most of our congregations can safely come to worship together.
We give thanks to Rob and Carol for their love, kindness and leadership and we pray that God will continue to bless them and their ministry when they
move to Wakefield in August.
Henry Waters and Ruth Peak