Saturday, 22 December 2007

Carols, Charles and a celebration of a life well lived

This last week has been very hectic. Lots of meetings at work as we are right in the thick of reorganisation - to say nothing of various Christmas celebrations. It was good to be at home last Sunday and go to Ruislip Methodist's Church for the Candlelit Carol Service with drama and readings telling the Christmas story.

On Tuesday I read in the celebration eucharist for the tercentenay of the birth of Charles Wesley at St Marylebone Parish Church ( the picture is of Marylebone and not of Ruislip!). The Archbishop of Canterbury presided and the President of the Methodist Conference preached. Before the main eucharist we had a short act of thanksgiving outside by Charles Wesley's grave. This was led by Geoff Cornell, Superintendent Minister of the West London Mission and Christopher Gower, Rector of St Marylebone with the Archbishop and the President also taking part. Those of us who were in the robed procession missed some introductory narration on the life of Charles although as we gathered at the back of the Church I did recognise the dulcet tones of one of the narrator - Susan Howdle, past Vice President of the Methodist Church. Her husband Peter, another past Vice President was part of the procession as Co-convenor of the Joint Implementation Commission (the body that seeks to implement the covenant between the Church of England and the Methodist Church). There was also a Civic procession. So it was a pretty formal affair but with a real spirit. Martyn preached wonderfully and as people were leaving it felt like a real bringing together of Methodists and Anglicans in worship which I think would have pleased Charles Wesley.

Then yesterday I was back in Ruislip for a service of thanksgiving for the life of a member of our Church who died the previous Thursday, Eric Birtles. Eric was one of those people who was always around to welcome new people and was a real encourager. He was incredibly supportive when I became a Co-ordinating Secretary, working for the Methodist Church, in January 1998 and again when I was nominated as Vice President. I will miss Eric. In listening to reflections of the 85 years of his life it would have been impossible to remain unmoved as we heard about his war service and his service as a missionary in Rhodesia and his work as a member of the Methodist Church Overseas Division, based in London. We heard too of his family life and his love for his wife Margaret and his children, Christopher, Jane and Sarah. Those of us who knew him a little reflected on that privilege and on a life well lived.

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