Sunday, 29 June 2008

from graduation to thorpe hesley

One of my last engagements as president today. I went to open a new community centre in thorpe hesley. A lovely service and an example of 'good local ecumenism'.

Local ecumenical partnerships are a mixed bag. Some are fantastic, deeply relevant to their context and with a lot of purpose love and grace about. Others seem to be an 'enforced inevitability' with little missionary vision - just two congregations choosing the points of least resistance to sustain their lives a little longer. I've come across both over this year.

Yesterday was Cliff College graduation day. I've always enjoyed it down the years and yesterday the weather was fine and folk were in their finery. My last time, with lots of happy memories.

So into my last week as president. Tomorrow I go to London for my 'next job', then it is off to the Ordinands retreat on Tuesday and down to Scarborough for Conference. So this may well be my last blog entry. Thanks to you all.

And a special thanks to Ruby, my blog companion and a wonderful vice president, and a great pal over a fantastic year.

Monday, 23 June 2008

People of God are doing good all over the world

"People of God are doing good all over the world" was the theme for the "Service on the Eve of The National Prayer Breakfast 2008" at which I was involved in leading prayers this evening. It was a lovely service held in St Margaret's Church, Westminster Abbey. It was led by Canon Robert Wright and involved Members and staff from both Houses of Parliament. The address was given by Labib Madanat, Executive Secretary of the Palestinian Bible Society and Development Director of the Bible Lands Bible Societies. He spoke movingly of the need for Christians to change the rules of encounter to break the cycles of damage which humans get into and how Christians need to be bearers of hope. Andy Flannagan and a talented cello player called Lucy led the modern worship songs and Richard Pearce played the organ for the more traditional hymns. A really interesting mix which came together well. It was good to see Martin Turner (Superintendent Minister of Westminster Central Hall) there too. Well, I think it was! When someone came up to me as I was speaking to Martin at the end and said how he had heard every word of my prayers Martin teased "Oh yes, you can always hear what Ruby says - you might not always agree with it but you can definitely hear it!" It's a good job we are old friends. The prayer breakfast is back at Westminster in Parliament at 7.30 tomorrow morning so I better try to have an early night or I might not make it.

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Wolverhampton and Shrewsbury, the final countdown...

This weekend I have done my last District visit - to Wolverhampton and Shrewsbury. I drove up to Kingswinford early on Saturday morning and there was a programme led by the Chair, John Howard, where I gave a talk on what I have been doing this year and then a panel discussion took place which I chaired on the topic "Is democracy all it is cracked up to be?" Then there was a short time for general discussion and questions from the floor. A really interesting opportunity for people to discuss things that matter to them in this area.
After lunch I went to Stafford to hear about the work that is being done with young people in that Circuit and the way the team of lay and ordained people work together in a ministry team. Really fabulous. I was impressed by the way the Circuit had been prepared to do things differently and the strategy for the work with young people. It really got me thinking about how all the good work I have seen this year can be shared with other people.
I stayed overnight with John and Mary Howard (great hospitality) and then today I was with Chasetown Methodist Church in Burntwood to celebrate their Church Anniversary. In the morning service the Boys Brigade, St John Ambulance brigade and the Brownies shared some of what they do in their meetings and the Brownies followed those collecting the offering, giving out cakes to all of the congregation. A planned picnic on Cannock Chase took place in the Church foyer due to the windy weather. I had tea with Carol and Steve Whitson and their girls and the cockateel, Pearl before returning to Church for the evening service. I have known Carol since she was a teenager and her father was a fellow youth leader in the Birmingham District. Doesn't time fly? The advocate of the Leaders of Worship and Preachers Trust, Keith Rothery, was with us in the evening service and we shared some stories with each other of our travels during this year before I set off back down the motorway.
So the last District visit and I am reminded of all of the good work which the Methodist Church is involved in and the need to share the good news of that and build on it.

Saturday, 21 June 2008

fit for purpose

Spent this morning in my home (Sheffield) district. I was asked to lead the sessions on 'Methodism: fit for purpose'. Quite a number of people turned up on a grey drizzly June day. I enjoyed it, and a number of good comments and observations were made. I come back - as I have so many times this year - to some basic convictions. First, that Methodism is instinctively a missionary movement. Second, that God is not finished with us yet, but cares about the world so much that God is not content to leave us as we are. Third, that God is more ready to renew us that we are to be renewed, and therefore the reasons for aspects of renewal tarrying cannot simply be shunted onto a bland 'God does not want to renew us yet' comment.

It was nice to 'go local' near the end of the year, and to see so many folk I know from Synod and other occasions, who have faithfully prayed for me over this year. Thank you all.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

first phases of handover

I've been with Stephen Poxon today. I hand over the presidency and presidential 'bling' in under three weeks! Can't believe it's gone so quickly. Still a few more engagements to look forward to, but talking with Stephen reminds me that the end is near! We've talked together about many things pertaining to being president, and I am sure that he is going to lead our Church with wisdom and passion. He will, I am sure, with David, continue to represent us at various groupings. Please pray for them both (Stephen and David) in these last couple of weeks of preparation. I bear testimony to the power of your prayers, and know that they will be borne along with prayer also.

Monday, 16 June 2008

Recognition and celebration and a glimpse of things to come

Yesterday I went to Shernhall Methodist Church in Walthamstow to witness Adam Dyjasek being recognised as a Local Preacher. It was a great service which also included celebrating David Bowes being a Local Preacher for 50 years and Peter Dawe being a Local Preacher for 40 years. A brass band played for the hymns in a rousing manner and the singing was pretty impressive, beginning with O for a thousand tongues to sing.

The preacher gave me a glimpse of things to come - it was David Walton, Vice President designate, who in two weeks time will inherit this blog with Stephen Poxon, the President designate. David's sermon was short and to the point with humour and grace - a great foretaste for what he will bring to the Church next year. Adam, David (Bowes) and Peter each got a few minutes to share with the congregation and it was good to hear their testimony. The letter to Adam from the President of Conference was read out to the congregation so we got to hear from Martyn even though he was in Yorkshire! (Happy Birthday Mr President.)

It was good to meet up with old friends and colleagues as there were a number of Connexional staff there to support Adam who is a member of the Connexional Team. These included Anthea Cox, Margaret Sawyer and Michaela Youngson. John Cooper from MRDF and the Methodist Council was there too. Roger Dawe, ex Chair of the Strategy and Resources Committee was there to support his brother Peter and it was good to see Jenni Sweet who had been with us in Ireland and is the minister at Shernhall. Lots to celebrate then and hope for the future too.

Oop, t'ut Yorkshire

Went back home this weekend, back to Yorkshire.

Saturday was spent in Ilkley. About 200 folk gathered in the sum changing to light rain for a day about mission and mission shaped church. I did not bring this theme. Rather the West Yorkshire Methodist district, ably led by Nick Blundell and a mission strategy team, and strongly urged on by Peter Whittake the District Chair, was drawing to a close a year long project called 'touring West Yorkshire'. The local input in the morning was excellent, with drama and testimony to real changes and hope given in a selection of varied contexts throughout the District. In the afternoon I led a bible study from Acts, and we concluded with worship. I make it sound more routine and boring than it was!

Yesterday it was to Brighouse for a morning service. I did the unusual thing of changing what I was going to preach/speak about minutes before preaching/speaking. To all local preachers etc I do not recommend this as normal practice! But I became aware that the sermon on Paul I had chosen a couple of weeks before was not right for what I had now picked up about the context of the local congregation. So I chose something else, a selection of stories from around the world which remind us of the cost, commitment, honour and grandeur of belonging to the worldwide Christian family of the People Called Methodists. Whether it was right to make this change, I don't know - but it's too late to wonder now!

So I return to College for a couple of days. Lots of writing to do, a serious attempt at the last Methodist Recorder article, the Pastoral Address for Conference, a few letters and a 30foot square study that needs looks like a bombsite the contents of which now need to begin to be packed up in boxes. That's for today. Tonight I celebrate being a mere 53 (though I feel a bit older at the moment!)

Thursday, 12 June 2008

back from Derry

Yes, as Ruby said we had a great time in Londonderry/Derry. The Ordination service on the Sunday evening was a highlight of the year for me. About 1000 people in the Millennium Forum: very hot but a wonderful blessing. 6 ordinands, all of whom give testimony during the service.

Monday and Tuesday saw the end of Conference business. Donald Ker, the secretary and long time friend (since we shared on the Methodist Worship Book committee in the 1990's) was designated the next President. A good choice.

The trip back took along time, but I got back home about 8.00pm and have spent most time in College since then. Today was the College Photograph. Another reminder that the end of term is fast approaching, and with that an end to 12 happy years at Cliff College.

And still no house to move into...!

Sunday, 8 June 2008

A warm Irish welcome

Martyn and I are both in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, for the Conference of the Methodist Church in Ireland. Together with Jenni Sweet and Steve Wild we are the representatives of the British Methodist Conference. I am just grabbing a few minutes break before the ordination service this evening but Martyn will be taking part in the service so he has already set off for the Millennium forum. Martyn is the President of the Conference here and the President of the Irish Church is the Vice President of the Conference. But that may change in 2010.
We arrived on Thursday and Martyn and Steve led a meeting for Headway Ireland which was excellent. On Friday I wasn't allowed in the ministerial session of the Conference so went with Claudette and Nan on a walking tour around the walls of Derry which was really interesting. The murals on bogside are something to behold. But what a history.
On Friday we all went to a mayoral reception at the Guildhall and then to the installation of the new Church President, Aian Ferguson. Yesterday we had a full day of Conference, which included Bible Study with Tom Stuckey, then Jenni and I went to the MWI -Methodist Women in Ireland buffet and Worship celebration. We had a great time. Superb singing and good speaker, Jean from 'Care for the Family'
This morning we had the Conference service with great input from Steve Wild and 'Orace the frog (Clarence being indisposed) and magnificant preaching from Martyn.
The welcome we have received here has been warm and fulsome. Off to the service now. More joys in store I am sure.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Outcome in Chelsea and Anniversary in Kings Lynn

Had a fantastic day yesterday in Chelsea. Great to visit this Methodist Church on the Kings Road. Was there to join in a day with Outcome. OUTCOME is a group of LGBT ordained and lay Christians and their supporters engaged with the Methodist Church. Over 40 of us met up at this event. I talked about the mission of the Church as set out in Our Calling and how this can be affected by witholding blessings from people in civil partnerships. Then we shared lunch and broke into groups to consider a range of things. Before we went our seperate ways we shared in an agape service where we thought of many people and groups who do not feel included by Church and how this contrasts with the inclusive love of God who invites all to the feast. A privilege to share in this day. Thanks to all.
Then today Garry and I set off at the crack of dawn to drive to Kings Lynn for the Anniversary services at London Road Church. 150 years since the foundation stone was laid and 149 since the worshipping community moved in.There was a communion service in the morning and a Circuit service in the evening. I have known Neil, the minister at London Road for some time. Although he produced the Bible which he received when he became a member of the Methodist Church which I had signed and I think we were both shocked to realise that was over 20 years ago! It was good to meet with friends old and new. Neil will be ordained at Conference in Scarborough and I look forward to seeing him again then. He was touched by the gifts which were presented to him by the Circuit at the evening service and I know many of them will be travelling to support him in Scarborough too. Good to celebrate Church as the people of God and not just the building.

end of a nice week

Just come back from London. I was preaching at Westminster Central Hall this morning and, as always, I enjoyed it very much.Lots of good stuff going on.
It brings to an end what is, in comparison with recent weeks, a welcome quieter time. Monday brought the Cliff Festival to a close, a great time for most, and the feedback has been very good. It was very moving for me to preach at Festival at what will be, certainly as Principal, for the last time. It was a precious moment to do a wonderful outdoor communion accompanied by loads of children.

Tuesday was spent in London: another trip getting ready for the 'next job'. Then after that was a real treat - 2 days just going to the office and working my way through the massed piles of 'normal' correspondence. And also giving first thoughts to worship and input for Conference. So soon!!

And the chill out days continue! The next couple of days are 'at home' even if getting stuff together for a busy but exciting prospect of the Irish Conference.