Wednesday, 30 September 2015

An inspirational speech

I have just returned from the Labour Party Conference in Brighton, where I had the privilege of sharing in the buzzing atmosphere, speaking to MPs and watching Jeremy Corbyn deliver his speech – not in the hall – but on a screen in the packed bar next door!

His call for a ‘kinder politics’, one based on values, listening to each other and honest debate, gave me a sense of hope that, whatever the future brings, we might be seeing a seismic shift in the way we engage with each other, and our whole political system might be changed for the better.
As someone who loves words, I was particularly struck by his use of quotes from three inspirational figures:

Maya Angelou, American civil rights activist, ‘You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.’

Ben Okri, Nigerian novelist, ‘The most authentic thing about us is our capacity to create, to overcome, to endure, to transform, to love [and to be greater than our suffering.]’
Keir Hardie, first Labour party leader, ‘My work has consisted of trying to stir up a divine discontent with wrong.’
Now there’s a call to Mission!

Induction of our Methodist Youth President

Craig with me, Andrew Fairlamb (3G Rep) and Jude Levermore
What a wonderful service at Rugby Methodist Church Centre on Sunday night, for the Induction of Craig Gaffney as our Youth President. I learnt so much from Megan's infectious faith last year, and I know I am going to enjoy sharing with Craig this year. Steve and I have already had fun with Craig at our Media Training!
The most moving part of the service for me was when three young lads came to the front and prayed in turn for Craig, as their youth leader. It was from their hearts, and it was real. Jesus was there. I was so thrilled to see how Craig had empowered these boys, and made Jesus real for them.

Craig's mum, Jane Gaffney, is the minister at this church, and everyone I spoke to had a real sense of excitement and anticipation that 'God is moving in this place'.

What a joy to be part of it.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Linking Heritage and Mission at Bishop Street, Leicester

This amazing 200 year old Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, in the heart of Leicester, has a new lease of life thanks to the vision and sheer hard work of the people of God in this place. 
I was delighted to open the new Heritage Room.

Richard and Mary Gill in the Heritage Room, with Chair of the District Peter Hancock, and minister Fran Rhys
I am so impressed that they have had the courage to knock down the back wall and open up the worship space, which retains its WOW! factor, but is now part of a thriving space, with a café accessed from the street, spaces to chat, and there was even a lunchtime Bible Study going on.
The café provides training to help people get into work, and the writing on the wall says it all:

Every person is equally valuable and so we want every person to feel equally welcome … whoever you are.
The CHAPEL CAFÉ is somewhere people can meet, rest, have a chat, warm up or chill out, as well as enjoying good food and drinks that offer good value.

We hope your time here is good for your spirit as well as your body. We use ethical and locally grown products as much as we can. What’s good for others is good for us.’
The way that ‘old’ and ‘new’ have been combined is a real inspiration. Attractive story boards invite people to explore Leicester’s rich Methodist heritage, and a banner proclaims ‘A warm welcome’:
God has been worshipped in this building since 1815. Methodists believe that God cares for all people and God’s love can be fully seen and known in Jesus. Worship and service are our response. All are welcome in this place’.
The next challenge is to raise the money to restore the amazing 18th century organ.
The cherubs are a feature of the organ
I pray that the work here will continue to be blessed, and the love of God shared, as it was with me. Thank you!

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Faith Leaders urge PM to 'Leave no-one behind!'

Yesterday, Steve and I joined other Christian, Islamic and Jewish leaders on the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral, to urge the Prime Minister to back the new Sustainable Development Goals, and keep his promise to ‘leave no-one behind’.
We want to ensure that the UK plays its part in tackling global poverty and inequality, and protecting the environment. We are asking David Cameron to use his power at home and internationally to ensure that these new Goals change millions of lives for the better.

Next week (25-27 September), David Cameron will meet with 130 Heads of State in New York, at the UN General Assembly, to approve the new Global Goals. These will replace the existing Millennium Development Goals in January 2016.
For more information on the Goals, see

A short 2 minute film focused on the SDGs, went live yesterday

The event at St Paul’s was organised by Christian Aid. With Steve and me in the photo are Dr Husna Ahmad, CEO of Global One, Remona Aly, media consultant and former deputy editor of Emel magazine; Major Heather Poxon, Director of International Development, Salvation Army; Very Revd Michael Persson, Vice Chairman Lutheran Council of Churches and Rector of the Swedish Church in London; Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, Senior Rabbi to Masorti Judaism and Rabbi of New North London Synagogue; Margaret Morris, Congregational Federation Chair of Council; Francis Brienen, Deputy General Secretary, United Reform Church, and Canon Mark Oakle, Chancellor of St Paul's Cathedral.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Refugees are welcome in Lancaster

How to be Church in the City? That is the question Methodists in Lancaster asked, and the result is one congregation with two churches.  Their aim is to be 'an inclusive Christian community, with a deep commitment to justice and peace, which affirms and values everyone.' That is just what I found when I met the minister, Steve Charman, at Cornerstone.
The community café is a training centre for people with learning disabilities, as well as providing a listening ear, and absolutely scrummy coffee and cakes!
Briony Scott, the café manager
The changing room with a hoist. 

The message I saw on every notice, and in every space, was welcoming, and inclusive. 

Cornerstone also hosts Thumbprint, Relate, Multiple Sclerosis Society, CVS Volunteers, and a range of counselling services.  

Janet Pybon in the chapel
As I left, people began gathering for the Tuesday Quiet Time in the chapel space, which can be seen from the café.  
Steve, Alison, Arthur and Janet

For me, Cornerstone is a model of how to live out the Gospel; a listening place, engaging with the community in all its need and joy.

Monday, 14 September 2015

John Wesley is alive and well and living in Peru

Methodist School in Piura
One of the most surprising, and inspiring, aspects of my visit to the Methodist Church in Peru was to discover how John Wesley is continuing to win souls for Christ!  In the new mission churches, they know all about John Wesley’s experience of God’s saving love, when his heart was ‘strangely warmed’.  A passion for Jesus, the Bible, and social holiness is at the heart of these new Christians as they strive to be true to John Wesley's teaching.

  • ‘The church doesn’t teach a religion but a relationship with the living God.’
  • ‘We teach Wesley’s sermons … that every Christian who really desires to follow Jesus should love God above all things and love their neighbour as themselves. We cannot say we love God but turn our backs on the needs of the people, our neighbours, those that we see each day.’
  • ‘Learning God’s word is the most important thing for us and our world.’
  • ‘The challenge is training and equipping leaders in the local church from childhood. Leaders who know deeply the word of God, have spiritual discernment, and who have a personal relationship with Christ.’

It was quite a shock to find John Wesley looking down at me from the wall of the school hall in Callao High School. On the wall to the left you can see a board giving his story.

The school vision statement begins (roughly!), 'In our community we practice the teaching of John Wesley, transformative and healing....' 

Alongside it is Wesley's admonition to parents and teachers not to punish children, but to use persuasion tactics instead.

Colegio Americano

'Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.' Revd John Wesley.

In Colegio Maria Alvrado, Lima, there is a plaque in gratitude to God for the 250th anniversary of the first Methodist School, founded by John Wesley in Kingswood,  in 1748.

At Colegio America La Victoria, in Lima, the students gave me a wonderful presentation, in English, about the history of their school. It began with the story of John Wesley (you can just see him on the screen behind).
I couldn't help but feel that we in the Methodist Church in Britain have missed something crucial which we need to rediscover at the heart of our faith.



Three weddings and an anniversary at Mount Zion!

200th anniversary celebrations at Mount Zion yesterday - what a wonderful time!  The chapel was built in 1815, but the sundial on the front is from the first chapel here, known as Mount Zion Bradshaw, opened in 1773, with the cottage next door.

John Wesley stayed in the cottage at Mount Zion in 1774.  He records in his journal, 'I rode to Bradshaw House, standing alone in a dreary waste.  But, although it was a cold and stormy day, the people flocked from all quarters.' 
Thankfully it was not a cold and story day, and the people certainly did flock from all quarters! Here is Dorothy Moore, an organist and local preacher, who was a representative to the Ghana Conference, with Revd Stuart Rhodes, in 1987.
The Special Anniversary Service included the renewal of wedding vows for three couples, Alison and Bob Hillman, Julie and Neil Makin, and Wyn and Janice Markham.  What a celebration - there was scarcely a dry eye in the chapel!

A Wedding Dress display inside the Chapel brought many visitors over the weekend.  
Here is Paula Prosser, the lay worker at Mount Zion, standing beside her own wedding dress! Mount Zion is one of our Methodist Heritage Sites, and the oldest New Connexion Chapel still in use. It is well worth a visit!
I was thrilled to see the new garden, created in memory of Miss Irene Cunliffe (1936-2010), with t generous bequest she made to her favourite chapel - Mount Zion.  This is a peaceful space for quiet reflection, but also where children can eat their packed lunches on school visits.
In the garden is this stone.  It represents one of the diamond shaped windows in the cottage on which this was etched: 'Time how short - eternity how long. C.W.' Could Charles Wesley have left his mark?