We looked at the words of Pharaoh in Exodus 12:32, "and bring a blessing on me too" and wondered how we, as individuals and as church, might bring a blessing on our public life and society. Everyone settled down for half an hour before lunch to write their own blessings to be given to family, friends, neighbours, colleagues, politicians... who knows? Some of the thinking for this came from my experience in the Isle of Man district in July when Loraine and I met with a group at Ballagarey who meet every morning with the explicit purpose of asking God's blessing on their communities. (See a previous blog entry). In the afternoon the group responded powerfully to an invitation to offer prayers of intercession around the words of the Beatitudes - so relevant to the world we find ourselves in now.
Sunday was spent mainly at Elvet Methodist Church in Durham; and the 35 years since I graduated slipped by as I reacquainted myself with this beautiful church. In the morning I was glad to preach and share in the leading of worship with Rev. Shaun Swithenbank and in the afternoon attended the growing Chinese Congregation which meets monthly at Elvet. They were celebrating their third birthday, a joyful service at which Ruth preached (on John 2, "The party must go on"!) and 6 people were baptised. The party certainly did go on with plenty of delicious Chinese food and cake afterwards too!
On Monday I moved on to Newcastle and spent four hours with UK Biobank having all sorts of scans and tests as part of a national survey of health and well-being... not really a VP task, but as Newcastle is one of only 2 centres in the country offering this, it seemed a good opportunity to participate.
Tuesday was to be an exciting day - not only my birthday (!) but a Newcastle District pilgrimage following the Pilgrim Poles to Lindisfarne - one of my very favourite locations in the world! The weather was fair, the spirits were high, the water was not as cold as I have known it, nor the mud as deep or sticky as sometimes, and I was thrilled to be able to include such a special adventure into my year of office, organised by Rev. Gill Welsh, minister in the Lindisfarne circuit, who has often led my pilgrim groups in worship and communion before our crossings in the past few years.
Along with around 25 walking pilgrims from the district (plus a few others who joined us on the other side by car) our party included a woman who was on holiday and had been disappointed not to be able to cross to the island for various reasons. She shared this with a member of staff at the hostel where she was staying, and that staff member just happened to be a Methodist who knew of the event and arranged for her to join us! I feel that the day played an important part in her life's journey and she was a great blessing to the pilgrim band.
After the crossing we gathered in St. Cuthbert's Centre on Holy Island for picnic lunches and some reflections from me on rhythm and from all of us on our experience. Within my thinking about rhythm, for some time I have been captivated by the idea that much of life is about finding the balance between Adventure and Security (a pair of words I first heard used together in a Radio 4 Sunday Worship, applied there to the journey of ordination, but, I think, relevant to most if not all of us on our own life's pilgrimage).
Chair of district, Stephen Lindridge, was amongst the company and took many photos which, I think, capture something of that blend of adventure and security which filled the day.
We were all transported in cars back to the mainland before the tide cut us off at 4:30pm and I headed to Berwick-upon-Tweed station, remembering that this time I did need the "northbound" platform! Jill