Sunday, 27 July 2014

Reflections from Conference 2014

A number of people have asked me for a copy of my addresses and sermon from the Methodist Conference.

This can now be downloaded from the Manchester and Stockport District website; click here and then on 'Reflections from Conference', under the heading 'Worship & Fellowship'.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Zambia visit 9th-16th July

As soon as Conference was finished, I was making preparations for a visit to Zambia, sponsored by World Church Relationships! I was privileged to meet many wonderful people and see some of the projects which are sponsored by the Methodist Church.

One of these, the mission at Kafue, near Lusaka, was originally a Primitive Methodist foundation, begun in 1919.

This is the headmaster of the boys' secondary school, showing me around with Bunmi Olayisade, from WCR.

The mission also operates a health centre. As a hospital pharmacist, I couldn't resist checking that their drugs trolley was in order. (It was)
Sadly though, the mission struggles to find the money for enough drugs and equipment to treat the many cases of TB, AIDS and malaria they are faced with.

Finally, we met the members of the women's self-help project. These women, all widows, raise pigs and chickens to sell. The small profit they have made in this way has enabled them to buy seeds and tools to grow maize. An amazing, courageous, joyful  group of women. I was humbled to meet them.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Prayers and Reflections from Conference

Many, many thanks for all the messages of love and support given to me both by those attending Conference and those who sent cards or e-mails. being Vice President really is a great privilege!

For those who were kind enough to ask for copies of my reflections delivered at various Conference worship events, I am putting them together with the prayers and thoughts written by other members of the Manchester and Stockport District, which were given to me at my induction and they will all be available here soon! Watch this space!

Friday, 27 June 2014

The bright succession

Thank you for this year, for your prayers and for all that many of you have shared with me. It has been a privilege to serve as President.

Tomorrow afternoon Revd Ken Howcroft will be inducted as President for 2014-2015 and Gill Dascombe will be inducted as Vice-President.

And so the bright succession runs.

Please pray for Ken and Gill.

God bless.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Marsett - Bicentenary thanksgiving and the nettle and the donkey

Outside Marsett chapel - just look at that view!
On a beautiful sunny Sunday (June 22nd) I drove through the stunningly beautiful Yorkshire dales to Marsett, a hamlet near Hawes. We were celebrating the bicentenary of the Methodist Church, or to be accurate of the existence of Methodist Chapels - Methodists were there earlier.
View out of the chapel door
 We were also celebrating the completion of their development scheme which had been to provide a water supply to the building, convert the porta loo to a properly equipped toilet and to provide ramp access to the chapel. This was a big challenge for the small congregation (membership below 10) made no easier by being in a National Park.

They were commited because on of the young people who attends every week is in a wheel-chair and it was becoming impossible and unsafe to carry him up the steps into church. But they have a bigger vision as well of being a place of hospitality in this beautiful place. I am told that, though the church is small they have the youngest age profile in the upper dale. The photographs will not reflect this as I cannot show pictures of children!

A packed chapel

Barbara and Stan
The chapel was full and overflowing for the service, some were sitting in the gazebo outside hearing the service through loud-speakers. The Young Singers took part in the worship under the direction of Barbara, a Methodist from nearby Gale. When Barbara took early retirement from her teaching job the children were keen to carry on singing with her and so the Young Singers began. At first, the group was small enough to meet in Barbara's home but now they are far too many for that. They sang magnificently, accompanied by Stan.

After the service there was abundant food served - true dales hospitality - and the weather was good so we could eat outside.
Tea in the gazebo
 This was my last preaching appointment as President and it was good to be in this beautiful part of the Darlington District where the numbers are not high but they are sustained and they have vision and hope for the future.

And the nettle and the donkey?
Marsett is the only place in the country where caraway grows wild. The story is told that this is because of a mischievous Marsett boy who put a nettle under the tail of the pedlar's donkey. The donkey reacted as you would expect and the caraway seeds were spread all over the green.
The caraway certainly grows here and is used by the villagers.

Keith and Mary, Keith is a Church Steward
Elaine and Tom who brought water to the chapel in a milk churn before the mains supply was connected. Tom is the treasurer and Elaine has played organ here for 50 years.
Jane with family and friends
Queueing for tea after the service
Jane with Rev Janet Park, after Janet was stationed here they discovered they had been at the same junior school (for just one year).

The Tour de France is coming to the Dales - yellow bikes everywhere

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Celebrating the 40th anniverary of the ordination of women

What a great day it was!
The sun was shining as people arrived at Wesley's Chapel for the service of celebration marking the 40th anniversary of the ordination of women to the presbyterate in the Methodist Church. Its a bit of a mouthful but it is important to be accurate. Presbyters are Ministers and so are deacons but this anniversary is one for presbyters.

It was in Bristol in the Conference of 1974 that the first 17 women were ordained as presbyters. Three of them were with us for the celebration and they presented a bible to the Methodist Conference that will be used in our worship.
Receiving the Bible from Revs Jennifer Lunn, Marjorie Hopp and Elizabeth Hodgkiss

Others who had been ordained that year but were not able to be present sent their greetings. Among them was Rev Irene Morrow who is now living in Ireland, she sent her greetings to us along with her bible.
Greetings were brought from:
The World Methodist Council - Gillian Kingston,Vice-President
The United Methodist Church - Bishop Mary Ann Swenson
Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI) - Christine Elliot
The Church of England - Revd Canon Jeremy Worthen
Women and the Church (WATCH) - Rev Emma Percy

I had the great privilege of presiding and preaching and should you wish to read my sermon (or a close approximation to it) you can find it here

Rev Michaela Youngson, who had prepared the liturgy also wrote a hymn for this occasion. The music was written by Rev Nicola Morrison and we were led by a small choir as we sang it together. the words of the chorus are:
We are worthy by your Spirit
we are worthy, by your Son,
to proclaim your gospel story,
of a world in Christ made one.
By the grace of God - we are worthy!
Rev. Siperire Mugadzaweta from the Swansea Circuit wth her husband. They travelled to London for the service.

Wesley Study Centre - past, present and future

Last Wednesday evening (June 18th) I went to the leaving service for the final cohort of students for ordained ministry from the Wesley Study Centre in Durham. Afterwards we had a lovely meal in the undercroft in Durham Cathedral - a great setting! Please pray for all those going into circuit appointments in September as they move on from the community in which they have been trained and where formation for ordained ministry has begun.
Leavers - Helen, Steve, Suzie and Tim all candidated from the Darlington District
I have visited the Wesley Study Centre twice during my year as President. On March 12th, I spent a day in Durham which began with a conversation with the Director, Calvin Samuel and the other teaching staff - Jocelyn Bryan and Andrew Lunn.

The Wesley Study Centre has always worked in close partnership with Cranmer Hall, (the Anglican training institution), the University of Durham and the Cathedral. I met with representatives from all these places and we had a fascinating and stimulating cross-disciplinary conversation together around the relationships between academia and the church.

In the afternoon I met with the Cranmer Hall and Wesley Study Centre students to share reflections on women in leadership.
After the session with the students, I went with Calvin to meet the Vice-Chancellor of Durham University. He spoke of the importance and high value to the university of links with the church, this is a relationship that thrives in Durham.

My second visit took place on June 17th when I was invited to take part in one of the sessions of a conference with the theme 'Formation for the Future', arranged by the Wesley Study Centre and held in St John's College, Durham. This was the second day of what had clearly been an excellent conference with contributions from a wide range of scholars and practitioners. Unfortunately I was unable to attend most of the conference because of other commitments but I arrived towards the end to take part as one of a panel.

After lunch many of us went to Elvet Methodist Church where we were joined by others for a service of thanksgiving for the work of the Wesley Study Centre in which I had been invited to preach.
Music was provided by some of the very talented musicians among the students and the liturgy enabled us to give thanks, to acknowledge sadness at ending and to look forward to the future of the Wesley Study Centre as it moves into a new phase within St John's College.

Candles were lit to represent past, present and future. As we looked towards the future, the Chair of the Wesley Study Centre Committee, Professor Peter Howdle, commended the continuing work and witness of the Centre to St John's College.

This was a service which included sadness, thanksgiving and hope for the future, it was a privilege to be part of it as President and as Chair of the Darlington District.