Monday, 28 April 2008
I was there as part of a group who organise the British Tanzanian society, raising funds and awareness for people in need in Tanzania. I met Elizabeth and Ron Fennell some time ago at Westminster Central Hall and they were responsible for hospitality to the Masai warriors who were in the UK to run the London Marathon in aid of their home village. I had a little involvement in their programme, although sadly was in Cameroon when the warriors were here, and was invited to join this group this morning. The Mayor had been impressed by a concert Elizabeth and Ron had arranged with visiting blind musicians which was held at Central Hall to raise money and this invitation was in recognition of this.
It was a great opportunity to hear of the work of the different voluntary groups and the work of the Mayor and I was very impressed by these people working in the Borough where I live. So many people give of their time freely for the benefit of others and our communities are the richer for it.
Sunday, 27 April 2008
Thursday, 24 April 2008
The three services on Sunday were all quite different. The morning at Walls was a lively affair with a little worship band and hearty singing. The afternoon service was in a chapel as remote as any I have every preached in. We wended our way into the moors and when we arrived I could not see any other building in any direction - and you could see for miles. The regular congregation of a small handful meets monthly, but a huge crowd of about 20 turned out for this service. The evening service was in Scalloway (Scalwae!) and a district affair. The church was full and as always these people were serious about their faith. They travel for miles to get to worship and their loyalty and devotion to God and each other is highly impressive.
On monday I was taken north to the islands of Yell and Unst, via ferry. I went to Haroldswick Methodist Church, the most northerly chapel in the British Isles. And very nice too. The foundation stone was laid by Donald English in 1990 and it was opened in 1993.
On the way back to Yell we set off on the ferry, got half way across the water then turned back in order to pick up two cars that had arrived late! Shetland is like that. Drivers wave to each other as they pass, and everyone acknowledges each other.
Back on Yell we visited another little chapel, were made very welcome, and served the neverending supply of traybakes and tea. This place is not for dieters!
Tuesday morning I left Shetland, via Edinburgh then Birmingham arriving back at College later afternoon. Just in time to catch up with a pile of mail and emails. So I have hit the ground running.
Today Helen and I are having a 'packing up day'. We are summoning up the courage to venture into the loft to begin to chuck out and keep various things, ready for our house move which, we hope, might be able to take place in June. That would be good, so please pray the processes involved go smoothly and we can get one transition taking place over summer earlier than late July and early august.
Tuesday, 22 April 2008
By Saturday lunchtime, after meetings with the staff, there was no sign of the case (which went on a trip to another island altogether!) and so a shopping trip for "essentials" took place. Here you can see the President being advised on his purchases by the Chair of the Shetland District, Jeremy Dare. This meant that Martyn too could be a fresh expression of the President aws he led a session on Fresh Expressions of Church on Saturday afternoon and preached at a gathering in the evening.
In the evening I joined the Chair and a packed vehicle full of people up to the top of the mainland to North Roe where I was privileged to open a sale to raise monies for the North Roe Church. It was a really good community evening held in the Community Hall. I came home with a number of purchases but wouldn't put my name against my guesses for the name of the toy dog, instead asking the young lady selling the names to tell me five names of children on whose behalf I could pay for entries. One of these was the winning entry and the winner, Stuart was thrilled - his mother maybe less so as the dog was bigger than Stuart.
A late night by the time we returned to Lerwick after the 2 hour drive but a good time was had by all and over £1000 raised.
On Sunday morning I preached at Lerwick in the morning and then at Burra in the afternoon before being driven by Jeremy's wife Sheila back to the airport and the journey home. As I was checking in we were given the good news that the missing suitcase had been discovered on Kirkwall and would be arriving later that evening.
Thank you to Jeremy and Sheila and Marianne and Craig for their hospitality and to those in the District for their love and care. My first time in Shetland but I hope it won't be the last.
Wednesday, 16 April 2008
Monday, 14 April 2008
Thoroughly enjoyed the visit to Bolton and Rochdale district last weekend. Great folk and great events – the evening in Bolton was tremendous with choirs and bands everywhere.
On Monday (last) I unveiled the plaque on the house where Thomas Champness, a Wesleyan Methodist missionary started the newspaper (The Joyful News) and founded the group which became Cliff College. Thanks to the mayor, the civic reps, and all the supporters who braved the rain and hail to witness the event. In these days when my leaving of Cliff, which has been both my home and ministry for the last 12 years, draws nearer it was a moving and cathartic event for me.
Then it was 2 days with a group of young ministers, a fantastic time of sharing and listening – I am writing about this occasion in this week’s Methodist Recorder.
This last weekend was spent in Manchester and Stockport district. Friday was spent having my photograph taken every 5 seconds while looking round the Methodist insurance co. Then a fertile conversation with a group of lay workers, lunch with some of the staff at Manchester Central Hall, and off to a great infants/primary Methodist school in Tameside.
Last night I shared in the 150th anniversary of Langley MC in the Macclesfield circuit. Thank you to you all for a lovely time – and a great display of nostalgic memorability.
Then down to London, where I am now, girding my loins for the Methodist Council tomorrow. Joy heaped upon joy!
Saturday, 12 April 2008
Friday, 11 April 2008
Thursday, 10 April 2008
These last two days have been spent on a field visit around the Momo district in the North West province of Cameroon. This posting takes you up to this morning - access to the internet and to mobile phone was absent during these two days so this will all be coming in instalments!
We were picked up yesterday morning by Barnabus, our driver from the Presbyterian Church, at 7.45 and moved out into the rural countryside on track roads through settlements and past markets until at 10.30 we reached an area called Fum within the great sprawling village of Oshie, Although called a village it does not indicate that this is a gathered community – far from it! We left the car at the side of the road and began the climb up the hills to visit one of the "club" gardens. CDVTA (Community Development Volunteers for Technical Assistance), the MRDF partner we were visiting, particularly works with elderly people in these areas. A walk to share a drink with a neighbour is likely to be a two hour journey on foot so elderly people get particularly isolated. CDVTA have set up clubs for the old people to gather, usually once a week to share stories and concerns and food, with singing and a whole range of activities. One popular development is the club gardens where the elderly people share a garden which they tend and where they grow vegetables. Going to the garden provides some purpose for the day and offers further opportunities to meet people. I only wish I was as fit now as many of these people are in their 70's, 80's and beyond. Where they have club members who can no longer attend because of age and/or bad health, other club members are encouraged to visit them as well as the field officers of CDVTA. The CDVTA staff and volunteers do things such as trimming the nails of the people who can't get out when they do their home visits and these things are really important. Goat plans and bee hives are other bits of important work.
During the day we visited a number of club gardens on the hillsides and visited Fum and Bachaza club meetings where I got to join in the singing and dancing as well as visiting the garden where a number of elderly women were hard at work. We also linked in to a number of home visits. (Kirsty and Isabelle did more of these while I was singing and dancing!) I was honoured to visit the home of a woman who belonged to the Bachaza club who told us of the importance of the club to her, even though she was less able to visit now that she was blind. She blessed us with a traditional blessing, blowing into our hands which we had to hold to our hearts. I truly felt blessed to have met her. One of the garden visits was to a medicinal garden where one club member from Bemban showed us a number of herbs and plants and spoke to us of their medicinal powers. Peter was in his eighties and very sprightly indeed so you felt that the herbs were definitely helping. We next visited another man called Peter who lived up a real scramble on the hill. He was over 100 years old and sadly had not been able to leave his compound for 23 years. He told us how he felt that God had forgotten him and was ready to die. Two of his sons had already died and the other one had moved to Nigeria many years ago and he had not heard from him – fearing that he too had died. However he did say how good it was to belong to the club, whilst suggesting that people could visit him more often! It was very moving when he said that he had heard we were to visit the area and that if we had not gone to see him he would have felt his life was totally over and useless.
After a visit to another farm/garden we went to meet a whole lot of older people from the area who had come together near to where we were to stay the night. Hundreds had turned up who would have had to walk for hours to get there. The older people performed a number of traditional dances and there were speeches and prayers. A truly spectacular end to the day. We had been invited to stay at the house of one of the field staff, Alahjah, who is a devout Muslim. It felt a generous act for me to be asked to pray before we ate and he asked that I include his family in the prayers. Blessings galore and evidence of not a few small miracles enabled by donations to MRDF and the work of the local people.
Tuesday, 8 April 2008
Saturday, 5 April 2008
By later in the evening the sneezing was in full flow and I rang David Perkins in the Isle of Man to suggest I waited unti today to join them. He listened to my voice and said "Don't come at all!" I didn't take it personally and he was obviously right as I don't think I would have been able to do very much. I am now taking various cold remedies and being waited on hand and foot by my husband. Every cloud...............
Am hoping to be well enough to set off at the crack of dawn on Monday to Cameroon to visit some MRDF projects. Am praying for the people in the Isle of Man and for a return to health.
Friday, 4 April 2008
Tuesday and wednesday were spent at CLT (Connexional Leadership Team) at HighLeigh in Herts. I think my car knows its way there by itself! But it is always a good meeting with 'weighty' topics abounding.
Then, yesterday it was down to London to the Tony Blair lecture at Westminster Cathedral. I expected the security, but was unprepared for the protesters!
The lecturer was very impressive, as was the lecture. It wasn't that Tony B was saying anything that hadn't been said before, more that it was him that was saying it. Religions and Faith communities often are and can be a Good Thing, contributing wonderfully to humanity and the fragile planet we live on. Equally they can be divisive, isolationist, etc.
In this increasingly Globalised world peaceful co-existence is vital. Not 'melting pot, all religions are the same' but genuine respectful diversity. Religion can choose to be either 'open' or 'closed' - with his preference on 'open'.
He suggested that as the 'centre of gravity' goes east, and fast, the world is in crucial need of values. A humility before God is required.
He used the occasion to launch the Tony Blair Foundation, committed to pursue the Millennium Goals by helping faith communities to embody these, and together. b) to produce high quality material designed to educate and express what people of faith really believe.
In a final section he asked why, in the face of so much secularism, has religion not disappeared in the way that some suggested it would. Tony B's answer was the beyond all the dogma, ritual, etc is a profound yearning in humans, for spiritual betterment, putting aside self, and helping others.
Faith communities remain the most fertile potent networks in huge parts of the world, and governments and Religious groupings need garner resources to galvanise communities.
One funny incident. When he started there was a lot of noise from the back of the cathedral, which he naturally took to be heckling. It turned out however that it was folk at the back who couldn't hear (the sound system was appauling all night). Said TB 'I'm more used to people shouting that they can hear me rather than they can't!'
I was impressed. He appeared (and I believe) was genuine,in his own convictions and aspirations about his Foundation.
I write this having just arrived in the Bolton and Rochdale district for a weekend visit. So off to a Local Preacher evening, and hopefully more later over the course of the weekend.