Tuesday, 30 October 2007
Then today. Supposedly 18 miles which turned into 22! So I am not at my best tonight, in spite of a lovely evening service in Newbiggin by the Sea Methodist Church, focusing on St Cuthbert. Very sore feet, not helped by the legacy of two operations on my ankle because of sports injuries, which have decided to protest against the rought treatment they have received today. We'll see how I am in the morning...
In spite of sore feet and bruised toes however the spirit of the folk we are walking with, and meeting each evening is terrific. And the hospitality we have received everywhere is wonderful. More later.
Monday, 29 October 2007
On Sunday I was up early to be interviewed by Radio Nottingham. Geoff Saville picked me up at 7 am and I really felt like a local lass as I was interviewed by Sarah who asked about my roots in the county.
Later that morning I led worship at my home Church in the village of Clipstone. I must admit to shedding the odd tear or two as the sons of old friends of mine from around the Circuit led us in the worship songs at the beginning of the service. It was a very odd feeling coming back to the Church where I had become a member of the Methodist Church so many years ago. The minister, Bob Jones, and members of Clipstone and other local congregations had arranged a fine homecoming so that after the service there was a great lunch and some time to share. Some people hadn't changed at all and others seemed very different. It was a fantastic time for me.
After the lunch I went to visit Joy and Philip Johnson who had led a youth group in their home when I was a teenager. On my first Sunday at Clipstone after my conversion Philip had preached and invited me to join that fellowship. There were no other young people at Clipstone and it was the start of my introduction to being connexional when I joined groups led by Philip and Joy and by Eddie and Marina (see earlier entry). Joy has been very poorly and this meant that they were unable to come to the service but they made Garry and I very welcome in their home and it was good to catch up and to reminisce - and for me to give thanks.
In the evening I went to Aspley in Nottingham to lead worship and it was good to be in their refurbished premises and hear of the work which was being done in their local community and for people further afield. Tired but encouraged we made our slow way back down the M1 to home. It was great to go back and think of so many things which had inspired me in the early days of my Christian commitment. The "icon people" that I referred to in my Conference address. Who are your icon people - those in whom you can see the image of God so clearly? And how are those of us who have enjoyed such inspiration and unconditional love passing it on to others?
Sunday, 28 October 2007
Thursday, 25 October 2007
But then when the band started we were drawn into something which raised our spirits and caught our imagination. The band sang songs in English and in Gaelic. There was a fantastic number with four of the band playing drums. We sang along to the choruses of many songs we knew and the final encore of Loch Lomond sent the audience out on a high which was for me a spiritual experience. I needed that lift and share some words from one of my favourite songs below. I am interested to know what music lifts your soul. It's not always the things people expect.
Sunday afternoon was spent 'opening' Tubestation (http://www.tubestation.org/). This is a great story of what can happen with a lot of vision, resolve and hardwork. The Methodist chapel has enjoyed the idyllic views over the beach at Polzeath for 100years, and in recent years the congregation got down to a few faithful souls. Led by their minister, Gareth Hill, the small aged congregation caught the vision of a mission to the surfing community that filled the beach.
The result is tubestation, the chapel now completely refitted to include skateboarding facilities, cafe, prayer room and soon to open Christian surfwear shop.
The opening was great. It was packed to the gunnels with young folk and families. Nibbles were served, a band played, I cut the ribbon and said a word or two of encouragement and congratulation.
Over 100 people are currently attending morning worship a-la- surfing community, each Sunday.
I can't forsee a time when there is a tubestation on every beach in Britain. But I do rejoice that a need was first discerned, then resolve and determination was created to respond to the need. Whatever else they bring, Fresh Expressions bring a sense of energy, purpose and relevance. Long live tubestation! And many more equivalents in the near future.
Off to Newcastle, will log in soon.
Tuesday, 23 October 2007
Monday, 22 October 2007
Sunday, 21 October 2007
I'll let Ruby tell you about her visit, but I've had great fun, visiting Newlyn Church, and its lifeboats, and accidentally being driven around industrial estates (thanks Bob)! In a few minutes I go to 'Tubestation' a surfer congregation - I'll say more about this some other time.
Yesterday was a 'resourcing renewal' day at Saltash, and it was great to see so many there on a lovely Saturday - true commitment. I hope it went well. I'm one of these people who, when I am responsible for input, have no idea how it has 'gone'. But at the very least it again indicated a deep desire among many Methodists to be open to God's renewing - both in themselves and the Church. Which is wonderful.
This morning Ruby and I were at Truro Methodist Church, along with several hundred others, and Mayors and Civic officials from all over West Cornwall. We paraded from the town hall to the church dressed in great finery - chains of office everywhere. The bubble was burst a little when we heard a small child say as we passed in dignified silence - 'Mummy, why are all these people dressed funny?' Out of the mouths...!
The service was great. The young adults of the church were having a weekend as 'slum survivors', camped out with a wood fire and some bin bags, and some ghastly grub in order to raise awareness of the millions of people worldwide who live permanently in such conditions. Well done, guys! Ruby did a great ten minute address based on slavery and freedom through the Gospel, which really hit the spot. So a good do all round.
Anyway, off surfing (I hope they don't want me in a wetsuit!)...
Wednesday, 17 October 2007
Life is very busy but enormously enjoyable. I am enjoying every minute of being President! Not in the 'pomp and ceremony' bits so much, which aren't really 'me', but in the honour and privilege of going places and being received with warmth by people who do not necessarily know me, but rejoice in the visit of the President.
Someone asked me a couple of weeks ago to describe the role, and almost before thinking I replied 'It's swanning around with purpose'! That one-liner has stuck, and I repeat it often.
Last week in Germany was great - see next weeks Methodist Recorder article about a deep spiritual experience in Barmen.
My life is made harder, inevitably, by the unexpected privilege of being the nominee to Conference as the next General Secretary of our Church. So, for example, last week this involved returning from Germany to participate in interviews for Connexional posts, then a 4.00am start the next day to catch a plane back to Germany, where what was originally 7 days activities were squeezed into 4.
So intensely enjoyable but, at the moment, considerably exhausting.
This week Ruby and I attended the Methodist Council Monday and Tuesday, and I then traveled on to Queens Foundation in Birmingham. I was asked to preach at the weekly Eucharist, but also to welcome those from all around the world who have come to study at SOCMS (Selly Oak Centre for Mission Studies), many through the Methodist systems of bursaries and the like. That was a highlight for me. I enjoy all worship, but after all these years of belonging to the Cliff College Community, which is international in nature, I am most at home in such an environment. It is just better when we gather from north and south and east and west to worship the Lord! So thank you Queens for the invitation.
Today has been a day in the office, meeting a couple of folk and answering lots of letters, inquiries etc. I've struggled a bit because Sue, my secretary is on holiday this week.
I turn now to get ready for a visit to the Cornwall district, so that's the rest of today and tomorrow till lunchtime spoken for.
Thank you for all your assurance of prayer - we really do appreciate them.
More in due course.
Monday, 15 October 2007
Yesterday I went to St Mary's Oatlands, Weybridge where I preached at the 8am and 10 am services. Good to remind ourselves of the Anglican Methodist covenant and wonder how that works out in practice. What are our links and our differences? Managed to get through without making too many gaffes in the standing up and sitting down activities with the odd turning to face various directions and nodding - a bit like being at work. I am not convinced about early morning worship for myself. I prefer to be awake when I worship. I have rarely had Communion twice within three hours either. But it was interesting to see the different people who come to the services. I was especially encouraged to meet young couples who had been on their marriage preparation courses, which are taken very seriously.
St Mary's are taking time to look at their mission and values and this service broke up a series of sermons on those. Something we can all learn from, I think. All the hymns were by Charles Wesley - an effort to make me feel at home perhaps. It was a good time and important for me to experience different types of worship. Certainly more traditional than Martyn was experiencing in Germany. But the question arises as to how we ensure that different people are given opportunities to worship in ways which allow them to come closer to God, becoming more of the people God wants then to be and making a difference in the world. The picture shows me with the Curate, Lynne Bowden and the Vicar, Andrew Parsons. Thanks to them and the congregation for their welcome.
Some people in the UK may have seen the first of the two Songs of Praise programmes to celebrate the tercentenary of the birth of Charles Wesley last night. The next one is next week - an oportunity to learn a little more. I thought they did a good job last night of piecing together the hymn singing with the background information. Always interesting to see how the media approach subjects related to Christians.
Sunday, 14 October 2007
Not quite, I've been in Germany! I've been there for the last 8 days, with a late-in-the-day arrangement to return to London for three days in the middle of the week. So sadly my carbon footprint is huge this week, though I have tried to walk somewhere of distance each day.
The German Methodist Church is very interesting. It is based on the United Methodist (American) model of Methodism, and therefore 'has bishops' - Rosemarie Wenner, a lovely person and good leader, and operates mostly 'pastorates' - one minister to each church.
Last Sunday (a week ago today) I visited a 'fresh expression' - one of very few in German Methodism from what I could glean. It met in the suburbs of Hannover, in a bar. It was great, filled with children and younger middle aged couples and singles. Some were members of the main Methodist Church in Hannover and attended both churches; others were new members and some clearly newish Christians.
What was slightly odd was that although in a cafe/bar, they rearranged all the chairs so it was like rows, they had a modern choir and good musicians, and the service was lively but not unusual (songs, sharing, readings, sermon etc). But it had a good feel to it and everyone was most welcoming.
The highlight for me was the way they celebrated it was harvest festival. Loads of them, young and old, had brought some item for which they were thankful, and filed to the front to lay their item on a makeshift altar/table. Then they spoke a sentence into a microphone explaining what they were bringing forward and why. Some of it was veruy moving. A woman brought a picture of her aged mother; a young man a bible - he had just become a Christian and had never read one before; a young couple brought each other!
It struck me again, even in this cultural context quite different to our own in a number of ways, how when 'the people' worship, and we share in it together, that is when we are at our best.
More later this week.
Thursday, 11 October 2007
Monday, 8 October 2007
Thursday, 4 October 2007
Wednesday, 3 October 2007
These included the Dean of the Abbey, John Hall and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams (pictured here - I am the one in the middle!)
The congregation seemed to be made up of a mix of Methodists and Anglicans and all joined in the lusty singing of three Charles Wesley hymns. The introit and some of the other choir pieces were by Samuel Sebastian Wesley so it was a real Wesley celebration. The Archbishop of Canterbury preached wonderfully, helping us to think about Charles Wesly as his own person and not just one of the Wesley brothers. Indeed, he looked at some of the areas of conflict between the brothers as examples of how we can disagree and still be alongside one another. He praised Charles' hymns for their ability to encapsulate the gospel message.
I was privileged to be invited to stay afterwards for a "Spiritual Pilgrimage" of the Abbey where a number of people had tours of the Abbey conducted by Canons of Westminster. That was fascinating, seeing graves and monuments and learning more of the historical links of the Abbey - as well as the reminder of the tourists who are coming to follow up from Dan Brown's book and related film - The Da Vinci Code. A tour of the Abbey is well worth the £10 charge that is made.
I enjoyed this opportunity to represent the Methodist Church at this special ecumenical gathering. The tercentenary is certainly giving opportunities for people of all denominations to give thanks for the birth of Charles Wesley and to think about the Christian message that we share, as well as what I think Martyn would describe as our distinctive Methodist charisms. I hope that there will be opportunities for others to share with us the benefits of such gatherings across the country in the next few months as well as those which have already taken place.
Tuesday, 2 October 2007
It was a great occasion and I was particularly moved by the interview with Chirhalwirwa Murhambro from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He had gone on the march to emphasise the message that his country has contributed virtually nothing to the causes of climate change but is being massively effected by the results.
It was a wonderful service with excellent music in a fabulous setting but the campaign goes on. Why not go to http://www.christianaid.org.uk/climatebill and email your MP? And what are you doing to reduce your carbon footprint? Let us campaign but also make sure we are examining our own actions too.
Monday, 1 October 2007
Back late last night from a great weekend in Notts and Derby District. Spent Saturday with about 80 local preachers - what a lot of people remain deeply committed to the ministry of preaching, and desperate to become more effective ministers in this respect!
Sunday was spent on local radio and then three services, and a couple of pastoral visits in between.
The evening service was a district celebration to mark St Thomas' Rd Methodist Church centenary, and 300 years since the birth of Charles Wesley. There was a large choir, and a large overflow in the back hall. It was a great sing, and i got the feeling of a time of mutual encouragement.
Observation? 'Dry' as we are in many places, and struggling in all sorts of ways, there remains among us a deep desire for greater passion and commitment. In the words of one of my mentors, Donald English, 'Methodist people want to be better than they are'. By this he did not mean they want to be upwardly mobile, but they experience, deep in their spiritual bones, the desire to be better Christians. I think last night many of us realised that that desire has not yet disappeared. Therefore there is hope.
Off to the Conservative Party Conference. I wonder what level of hope I will encounter there...?