It began on Saturday, with a snowy car ride over the moors listening to Paul Simon's 'slip sliding away' - which was exactly what the car was doing! But I did manage to get to Stoke in time for the first event, a morning with over 100 local preachers and worship leaders. Ruby - being much more sensible than me - had travelled up the evening before.
It was an encouraging meeting. A music group led worship, and some young dancers danced beautifully. Ruby spoke powerfully about the need to listen and learn and about a humility but confidence about preaching a proclaiming the gospel. I did a power point on (hopefully) 'helpful hints for preaching today. This was followed by a lovely buffet lunch then an interview for Radio Stoke. It was ok, but we were recording it on Saturday lunchtime and had to pretend it was Sunday morning. As the Radio presenter put it 'when you say today you mean tomorrow and when you say yesterday you mean today!' Too much for a bear of little brain!
Then followed a tour round the wonderful venue, the 'Potter's House: church for the 21st century' with its state of the art worship space, and multiple rooms for hire, and housing all sorts of good community engagement projects. Great work guys, keep it up.
We then went on to visit 'The Beacon' a community focused on prayer and witness in the city (of Stoke) and led by William and Karen Porter. Another example of deeply spiritual, connected ministry taking place in our church. Then yet another, coffee and a chat at 'taste and see' a coffee shop, becoming church community which some of you might have seen featured on the earlier Fresh Expressions video.
I know that this president thing is prone to 'the smell of fresh paint' syndrome, but it is simply a fact that all sorts of interesting, engaging, authentic, experimental, potentially renewing ministries are springing up. An impression I have long held is getting stronger not weaker. Where we are not passionate, engaged, mission minded, open to change and renewal I do not, humanly speaking, seek much hope of a bright future. Where we are, even modestly, all sorts of interesting things start to happen...