Monday, 6 October 2008
Almost the first person I met on my visit to London was the caretaker at Wesley's Chapel, tending the church garden. It reminded me of the importance of those who care for creation, whether they be farmers or public park keepers, environmentalists or refuse collectors.
The theme of the all-age worship at Hinde Street Church on their Harvest Sunday morning was Jesus's feeding of the five thousand - how the offering by a young lad of his packed lunch enabled a whole company of people to be fed; we reflected that perhaps the miracle was that his example encouraged others to share what they had brought.
The Service was led by the Rev Sue Keegan von Allmen the newly appointed Superintendant of the West London Mission and some of the younger members shared in a dramatised reading of the gospel; in addition the congregation had brought gifts of food for the day centre to use. Rather dauntingly I discovered that my sermon can be downloaded from the Church's website!
We enjoyed a convivial lunch afterwards prepared by John Hicks' class and then a small group of us discussed some of the ethical dilemmas and other stresses we face in our working lives; this was ably chaired by Rachel Corvill (pictured) one of the Church Stewards.
The President has related some of the other activities of the weekend; on the Saturday the Chairs had arranged a meeting for me with a number of lay leaders from around the London District. This was a frank and helpful discussion and we were able to air some of the concerns both of growing and declining congregations, the challenge of getting people who lead already busy lives to volunteer for office, and the differences in the expectations of congregations and ministers which sometimes lead to conflict or misunderstanding. There were some clear points for action which the District leadership team would take up.
Our visit ended on the Sunday evening in the White Hart pub in Whitechapel. The event was the opening night of a new venture by the drama company 'Applecart'.
The brainchild of Peter Moreton and Phil Summers, the hour long two-man show presented an inventive, entertaining and challenging take on a portion of the gospels. I found it utterly compelling - perhaps more accessible to those who are familiar with the bible stories, but I would recommend anyone and everyone to go along to the next performances and taste and see.
It is really encouraging to see people with natural humour and theological understanding using it to such creative effect - I am glad to be part of a Church where this kind of talent and professional skill is being harvested for the Kingdom.