Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Cliff Festival Monday

What an amazing day. The weather forecast was for rain and storms but that was not to be and after enjoying a Bible Study led by Leo Osborn in a marquee we moved to the terrace at Cliff College for an open air communion service. It was fantastic that the College were so proud of their Principal and President and Martyn preached superbly. We heard testimony from one of the students and the music was led well and sensitively by the worship group. The acting Principal prayed with and for us. Clarence the frog managed to drag a few children into the proceedings as they made and remade things from Clay and the Childrens workers helped us to learn a new song. It was a great service. And then the communion was in a picnic format with the bread being carried out for distribution by small children accompanied by adults with wine in cups made by the students. It was very moving. For me, going back to Cliff College was a special occasion for it was there that I decided to put my trust in God and become a follower of Jesus. A special place and a special service. A time for looking back and for looking forward. Good to see old friends as we moved around the site. Thanks to Martyn and Helen and their pals for great hospitality among all the calls on their time and energy and to all of the people who made the Festival possible.

Sunday, 25 May 2008

At home at Cliff College

The Cliff College Festival is in full swing. It began on Friday evening, and, as you know from Ruby's blog, we were in London for Wesley Day yesterday, Saturday. Now it is Sunday and I've slipped out as several worship events of different types and styles fill the air.

I really fell for it on Friday. For several years now Steve Wild and his green alter ego Clarence the Frog have had a chatshow. Steve asked me if I'd pop in for a few minutes. I duly did so and walked right into a 'this is your life' ambush! Pictures of me as a baby, a spotty adolescent, and dressed up like a Christmas tree at my PhD ceremony wer shown to all via data projector. Steve had sweet talked my parents to part with ancient photographs and had scanned them all in. How embarrassing!

My good pals Martin Turner and Leo Osborn had also been tipped off and turned up to tell exaggerated stories about me! Even more embarrassing!

I am not at my best when being mad a fuss of. It is one of many achilles heels. I just don't know where to put myself. But on the other hand it is really wonderful to realise that you are loved and respected by so many folks - and enormously humbling.

The embarrassment will pass. But the abiding memory of so much affirmation and affection will live on as I enter my last few weeks not only as President of Conference, but also Principal of Cliff College.

Time to do the rounds of the College again. Still time to decide to come tomorrow, Bank Holiday Monday!

Saturday, 24 May 2008

Wesley day with Wesley's Chapel

Today we took part in the celebration of Wesley Day with Wesley's Chapel in London. It is the day when they celebrate the conversion of both John and Charles Wesley - which took place just a few days apart. 24th May is the anniversary of the conversion of John Wesley in 1738. His journal says that "In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street where one was reading Luther's Preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death."

Aldersgate Street is very close to Wesley's Chapel and to St Paul's Cathedral. We began our celebrations at noon with a service at which I preached and Martyn presided. It was good that the vicar of St Giles was able to be with us. Then we processed (see photo of us gathering) from Wesley's Chapel across the road to the grave of Susannah Wesley - the mother of John and Charles (and 17 other children). There we sang a hymn and had some readings from a letter of Susannah and from John's journal before a wreath was laid. We said some prayers and wandered back across the road. We enjoyed a super lunch with Leslie and Margaret Griffiths and their other guests. Leslie (Lord Griffiths) is the Superintendent Minister at Wesley's Chapel and kept us moving to our various venues, leading singing and prayers and directing operations.

After lunch we walked to the Museum of London where the Aldersgate Trust flame sculpture is placed and we sang and prayed here and anther wreath was laid. (Leslie and I are holding the wreath here and Jennifer Potter is doing the readings), Then we wandered off to St Paul's Cathedral where London District Chair, Stuart Jordan, led us in hymns and prayers and another wreath was laid by John Wesley's statue in the grounds of the Cathedral. Then we went to Evensong in the Cathedral where the choir was wonderful. Thanks to everyone for a great day including the staff at Wesley's Chapel, especially Jennifer and Joy, who made sure we did what we were supposed to, more or less! I found it very moving to make those links from the past and recognise the movement of the Spirit then and now. I wonder what other people are doing to celebrate this anniversary.

Dropped Martyn at the station to go back to Cliff. Will be driving up to join him there tomorrow evening.

Sunday, 18 May 2008

North to Northampton - then south and north again! Then south to home.

Just got in from the Northampton District visit. Friday evening found us in Leicester (Martyn had been to a meeting about inter faith work which I just caught the end of in the afternoon which sounded really interesting). We enjoyed a meal with Jill and Clive March then off to Street Pastors where Andrew, Jill, Trevor and Dennis were the team on the street and Andrea looked after Alison Tomlin (District Chair) and Martyn and I who were observers. Barry and Peter were acting as base control and providers of refreshments. We went out and walked up and down the main streets where the pubs and clubs are. The real members wore street pastor clothing so that people knew who they were and a number of young people greeted them warmly, as did police officers, pub managers and homeless people living on the streets. It is really important work, reaching out to people who need anything from a listening ear to help mopping themselves up after being sick, from ringing an ambulance to finding their friends and being given flip flops to shield their bare feet when those ultra high stilettoes have proved too much. A great night out until 3 am. Keep up the good work guys.

On Saturday we moved to Northampton and I parted company with Martyn. I stayed with Andy and Kathy, more good hospitality, and I was fetched to go to Aylesbury Vale where we held an agape service which I found very helpful and I hope the people there did too. My geography has never been very good so I was feeling a little lost as to where I was exactly in the terms of the District.

My sense of direction continued to be challenged on Sunday when I went south to Stony Stratford but fortunately I was being picked up by a member of the church. We had a great time there. The service was in a school hall because there were too many people for the church. It was a special Wesley service with Mark Topping dressed as Wesley enacting one of Wesley's sermons. Rousing Wesley hymns. Excellent. (A bit more bling envy as the new Mayor was present.) Then we went out with the minister, Mindy, to Weley's tree where I unveiled a plaque on the replacement for a tree which it is thought Wesley preached beneath. (The old tree died of Dutch Elm disease). Then a celebratory anniversary cake was cut and I gave a short talk, ate a quick sandwich and was whisked off by my next chauffeur who took me to pick up my car in Leicester before going to the Rutland and Stamford Circuit for the annual Barn service. (This was definitely north of Stony Stratford!)

There was an afternoon programme with a wonderful Pentecost drama by the minimal Theatre Company and then the children and young people went off for crafts and games whilst I gave a talk before we all had a picnic tea. The service included the commissioning of 3 Worship Leaders and it was a privilege to congratulate sue, Rosemary and Pauline on this special occasion. The music was wonderfully done although I thought the preacher seemed a bit weary!

A good weekend and a safe journey home. Allelujah.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

meanderings on a train

Well the Pentecost Festival came and went. I enjoyed doing the sessions and there seemed to be a buzz around Westminster Central Hall where I was based.

Monday and Tuesday were spent on retreat. Forme this means various things at various times of my life, but in recent years 'retreat' has often been 24 hours with a couple of good friends who know me well, and we prayerfully share with each other and receive a careful listening ear, wise responses and thoughtful, caring prayer. So it was on Monday and Tuesday and I am grateful to God for the opportunity and for my good freinds.

Yesterday, Wednesday, I went to York to do a 'Town and Gown' lecture: 'evangelism - nasty? naughty? Nice? Necessary?' I was amazed hom many folk had turned up! I was honestly expecting 30 or so in a room. But no, a couple of hundred turned up, I did my best. I think it went ok,but I was aware how out of practice I am these days at the 'formal lecture'. I've just done so few in recent months. Then out for a lovely meal in York, returning home early Thursday morning.

By the miracles of technology I am entering this blog on the train, bound for London. This, like many other engagements, was not in the prayer card and pertains to my ministerial role post September.

I have less than 8 weeks to go as President. An email from Stephen Poxon, my successor has brought that home to me, and already planning for Conference 08 is proceeding apace. I have had a wonderful year, and enjoyed every minute of it. And will continue to do so, i'm sure. So in that sense I am not looking forward to giving it up! But what I am looking forward to is only doing one job! Just passed Leicester.... London here I come!

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Two more aspects of the Pentecost Festival

ne Yesterday lunch time I went to West London Mission (Hinde Street Methodist Church site) to be part of a group of people, some homeless, some living on the streets and some living in dwellingss, looking to take part in a conversation about Homelessness spirituality. It was a privilege to hear the stories of those who had ended up living on the streets, some of whom would now not make a choice to change that. There were others who had roofs over their heads but felt homeless and there were those of us who would be challenged about our attitudes to those who live on the streets. We recognised that there were many who would not join in this kind of conversation, particularly those whose addictions or mental health had landed them on the streets and were now keeping them there. Rev Leao Neto opened with prayers and then we ate a lunch of soup and bread together before breaking up into groups to have more intimate conversations. It was a really worthwhile but challenging time. Next time you see a homeless person please be sure to look them in the eyes and say hello rather than treating them as a lesser being.

In the evening Garry and I went to St Johns, Smith Square for a wonderful blend of the best in performing arts - a 21st century musical theatre parable with professional accredited artists. Life and Tonic, put on by 3inOne International, included fantastic music, drama and dance. The show is set in the cafe bar of a thriving city-centre theatre where the action takes place over one day. All sorts of issues, abortion, abuse, relationships, drug peddling, the needs of older people were addressed and biblical themes ran through. It was very cleverly done. Very worthwhile.

Friday, 9 May 2008

Pentecost Festival - City Temple

This evening I am sure that Martyn had a great time at Westminster Central Hall. But having heard him regularly this year Garry and I went to a different venue as part of Pentecost Festival in London. http://www.pentecostfestival.co.uk/ We went to City Hall to an evening with american evangelist Tony Campolo and singer/songwriter Graham Kendrick.

Tony Campolo was funny and challenging and inspiring. He is at his most passionate when talking about the poor and encouraging Christians to live out the Gospel message. He is also not averse to laughing at himself and the Church. One story was of him, a Baptist, asking a Methodist friend why he was a Methodist. His friend replied that his father was a Methodist, his mother was a Methodist and so he had become a Methodist. So, said Tony, if your father was an ignoramus and your mother was an ignoramus I suppose you would be an ignoramus. No, said his friend, I'd be a Baptist! Maybe you had to be there.....

Graham was great and led worship at the beginning and sang more of his own songs related to justice for the poor at the end of the evening. Both of them were encouraging people to support the child development ministry, Compassion.

I got the opportunity to speak to Tony's wife Peggy in the interval, which I was really pleased about as she is a real supporter of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people and I have admired the way that she and Tony have spoken together showing that people can live together (literally) with respect for each other whilst having different views on this issue. After the interval Bubba McNeely who is Music Director at New Life Praise Center, Houston, Texas and is in UK with Tony and Peggy, sang a couple of gospel songs.

It was a really good evening with much food for thought about following in the steps of Jesus.

what's new and lacking concentration!

Well I got back from Guernsey ok. No bags went missing this time, and I arrived in one piece.

Bank Holiday monday was a real treat. I went sailing with some old college pals now stationed in Guernsey. We went to Sark, had lunch and returned, almost all under sail - fantastic!

Tuesday I shared in a staff meeting with the local circuit ministry team. I haven't had many opportunities this year to meet small groups of ministers so this was a real treat. Then it was off to the Guernsey 'parliament' to see the elections for some of the key posts in the new parliament. I listened to a few speeches.... I was like being back in Conference!

Then the plane home and straight off to London where I attended two days of meetings, the first day mainly to do with 'my other job' which, try as I might, keeps dripping into my life; the second day to share with 'Fresh Expressioners' and reflect on how that whole thing is going.

This morning I opened a school in Ashford, Kent with Bishop Stephen of Dover. I've never opened anything before (except things akin to cans of beans!) so it was a real privilege. And what a lovely school it was, the fruit of a happy partnership between the Methodist Church and the Church of England. So how appropriate it is named 'The John Wesley School'. Amen!

I write this from London. I should be preparing my sermon for tonight at Westminster central hall, as part of the Pentecost Festival event in London, but I'm finding it hard to concentrate, so I thought I'd update the blog instead! I'll let you know how it goes in due course, but it is an occasion when I know I will miss Rob (Frost), bless him, who should have been here this weekend...

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Cream of Jersey

Well, what a great time I had in Jersey. Martyn has said quite a bit about what happened whilst he was still in the island (note we were told by the Bailiff that you live in an island and on a rock - so not on but in Jersey!) We were privileged to visit the States Chamber where their 53 Members of the States - their Parliament sit. All with their own seat and the facility for electronic voting. Great stuff. People don't represent political parties and are voted in in different categories. Really interesting for me!

We met two formidable Methodist women who had been the first two women constables in the Stastes which was very impressive.

On Sunday, after Martyn had left for Guernsey, I got up very early and went back to BBC Radio Jersey to do a live slot for Radio 4 where they homed in on me being on Jersey leaving too little time to speak about MRDF and Cameroon which I had hoped to major on.
I preached at St Aubin later in the morning then Garry and I went to the Biarritz Methodist Hotel for Sunday lunch with David Coote, the District Chair, and his wife Barbara - very plush hotel, highly recommended. Great views.
On Sunday evening I was at Georgetown where we had an Agape service which seemed to go well and we were joined by some holiday makers who risked missing their evening meal by staying to the very end.
What wonderful people we met on this beautiful island and what memories we take away. Thanks to everyone, especially the Circuit staff and stewards for driving us around and generally looking after us so well.

Saturday, 3 May 2008

From Jersey to Guernsey

Well after a couple of great days in Jersey I've just arrived in Guernsey for the second half of the 'Channel Islands' visit. We arrived on Thursday and since then have met the Lieutenant-Governer (see photo), and led a well attended evening meeting in St Aubin Methodist Church. Yesterday, Friday we met other church leaders on Jersey for an interesting conversation and a large cooked breakfast! Then on to BBC Jersey for an interview. 'When did you arrive?' '24 hours ago'. 'What observations about Jersey would you like to pass on to listeners?' 'Well, none really, I mean I've only just got here!' Scintillating radio!

We then went to meet the Bailiff, and witness the royal court in session. Ruby came across another mace - a bit like the one she carries around in Parliament, but I'll let her tell you all about this debating chamber. Then last night we had a nice gathering of the ministers, spouses and circuit officers. A very friendly crew they are too.

This morning was spent looking round properties belonging to a Jersey Christian Housing Trust, in which Methodists play a leading role. Then a nice lunch, followed by the shortest flight I've every been on in my life - 12 minutes - and here I am in Guernsey. Will log in again before I leave on Tuesday afternoon.

Thursday, 1 May 2008

The leaving of liverpool

Last weekend was spent in the Liverpool District. I arrived hotfoot from York Minster where I had been attending a service of consecration of three bishops in the Church of England. One of them, Chris Edmondson, is a long time friend, and that is the main reason for my being there. Chris and Susan go to Bolton from Lee Abbey in Devon, but I first came across them way back when I was a Methodist Circuit minister in West Yorkshire in the late 1980's. I was minister at Shipley and Saltaire and Chris was Rector of St Peter's Shipley in Saltaire. He will make a great suffragen bishop.

Then to Liverpool and to Synod where I got a generous amount of time to regale the good folk there with my passion for mission-shaped church. Then, later in the day, many stopped on to a testimony service for Alistair a probationer minister who is proceeding to ordination at the fast-approaching Conference in Scarborough.

Sunday was spent at Liverpool Rd church in Southport, celebrating their centenary, and in the evening at Kensington Methodist Church. Jim Booth and I shared in the administration of anointing with oil - I have invited this response many times this year and it is always humbling and precious to be involved in it.

Monday was spent with Church leaders from Liverpool, Belfast and Glasgow who meet each year in a rotating venue of these three cities. In the morning Archbishop Kelly showed us round the Metropolitan Cathedral, but also the extensive work being undertaken in the crypt of the Cathedral originally intended to be built in the 1930's-50's. It is massive and will be a wonderful resource when it is fully upgraded. A wonderful addition to the already rich resources of the European City of Culture.

I'm currently in Jersey, just beginning a visit to Methodists in the Channel Islands, so more from here shortly.