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.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Moving Out Together - The Conference of the Methodist Church in Ireland

I travelled from Belfast to Dublin to attend the Methodist Conference along with Daleep, Jonathan and Jenny. The train was running late but I was met at the station by Rev Donald Ker, the Secretary of the Conference and he took me to Rev Andrew Dougherty's manse where Andrew and his wife welcomed us warmly and we shared a lovely meal together. These were just the first of the whole series of warm welcomes I received for the next few days.

The next morning as I ate breakfast in the hotel, I was greeted by the President Designate, Rev Peter Murray and his wife, Liz. I went with them to the Ministerial session of the Conference.
The Conference was held in a church building owned by the Church of Ireland, that had been the home of the Methodist congregation for a few years and was now the place of worship for the Romanian Orthodox Church. It was a fitting ecumenical setting in the year when intrchangeability of ministry has become a reality between the Methodist Church in Ireland and the Church of Ireland.

The Ministerial Session was chaired by the President, Rev Heather Morris. Heather was the first woman to be President of the Methodist Church in Ireland and we have met on a few occasions during the last year. I have enjoyed being with Heather and have valued her inspirational ministry and leasdership.
The ex-President, Rev Heather Morris with a colleague
That evening the representative session of the Conference opened with a service of thanksgiving and the induction of the President. As in our tradition, the President handed on the Presidential cross to her successor. fter this there was a significant difference as two archbishops and a bishop of the Church of Ireland joined the President, The Secretry of the Conference, the Lay Leader and myself for the induction of the President. As we stood around him and commissioned him, I was deeply aware that history was being made.
Discussion groups in progress

On the following three days, each day's business began with a Bble Study led by the Archbishop of Armagh. The theme for the conference was 'Moving Out Together' and built on the theme of the last year which focused on the warmed hearts, wet feet and tough hands of the people of God called to mission. We all agreed that the Bible studies were a highlight of our time together. During the days of the Conference we met in formal sessions to do business and at other times were facilitated by Diane Clutterbuck as we worked in groups considering the mission of the church.

The ordinands with the President
The final event of the Conference was the ordination service and I was honoured to be invited to preach and to take part in the ordination of Sam, Ken, John and Ruth as presbyters in the Church of God. They are worthy!
Daleep with Azra