Tuesday, 25 November 2008

more stories from Yorkshire

I am discovering one of the ways the President (and VP) can be used is to open doors quicker than can sometimes be done locally. I had been invited to preach at Ripon Cathedral on the Sunday morning and it turned o.t to be a wonderful event. The two Methodist Churches in Ripon closed and joined the congregation in the Cathedral whilst the young people and families from all three congregations gathered in the Allhallowgate Methodist Church for all age worship. Our worship in the Cathedral was very special, as was that at Allhallowsgate and there was encouraging conversation among lots of people about doing more together. Thank you to the Dean, Keith Jukes (In the middle of the photo)and to the superintendent minister, Graham Sturdy, for enabling this to happen

The younger minister is Richard Andrew, Director of York Institute for Community Theology. He not only accomapnied me on the Sunday but arranged a good morning with the Vice Chancellor of York St John University and also some staff members. This is an excellent Institute which grew out of a local initiative and is providing excellent trainin g and formation for many lay and ordained people.

The evening worship on the Sunday was at Selby for a circuit service.This was really encouraging to see such a large congregation....but I didn't take any photos (sorry).....and then there was a reception for many of those from across the District who helped in a variety of ways at the Scarborough Conference, a world Church evening (see david's entry) and I understand they raised about £1,500 fantastic!

I spent time on the farm....only photo of Stephen Burgess looking at some cows!!and even a tour of Flyingdales...which was fascinating.

Thank you to all who cared for me, talked to me and shared with me during my time with you. There is so much to encourage and stories to tell of God's amazing grace.

What a glorious day - playing on steam trains!

What a glorious day I had on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway along with the Chair of District, Stephen Burgess. I am aware that a large number of ministers are fanatical about steam railways but it has never been a passion of mine........but after this day out I have seen it all in a new light!!

It began with three men from the same community who have a love of steam trains. Nigel Hardwick, the District Property secretary; Peter Bowes, the priest in charge of St Michael's and Tim Bywater who is the Roman Catholic Ecumenical Officer.

They have 'days out on the train' from time to time and it is doing wonders for ecumecial reraltionships...perhaps a model for more of us to follow! This was their gift to the President of the Methodist Conference - thank you.

We had a scrumptious packed lunch on the Richmond to Grosmont leg and I was then invited to travel on the footplate for the return journey and now understand what an honour this was.

The train driver, anxious to get a photo of a Church leader doing sdoemnw ork, invited me to stoke up the fire..........remind you of anything?

Missionaries in Yorkshire

Going from Lancashire into Yorkshire I had a wonderful seven days in the York and Hull District meeting many missionaries from across the Pennines as well as some locals (who were very friendly). It was a very imaginative programme and I was able to meet a real cross section of people. I met with the lay workers at Ambleforth abbey for a Quiet Day. Listening to those who were there I continued to be encouraged that more and more circuits are seeing the potential of creative lay worker appointments which complement the ministry of ordained colleagues. A CDIM Day enabled me to be with a large number of presbyters and deacons from across the District. Sharing together about leadership in our changing Church seemed to meet a real need among those of us who were there.

I was deeply impressed by a new initiative of the Methodist Church inH axby. Here they have created a 'state of the art' coffee shop costing about £465,000 to purchase and fit out. In their eighth week they Aroma Coffee Shop was full when we entered and there was a real buzz. As I chatted to Cameron, the minister, people began to leave (nothing to do with us!) and by the time we left it was filling again as people came for lunch. The shop has a really good ambience and recently has ahd a brilliant review in the local paper from 'the mystery shopper'.

They have struggled with how to evangelise. 'What makes this coffee shop different from any other?' They have begun in the early weeks with some imaginative ways including being a collecting point (in the window) for the Christmas Shoe Box Appeal and then later inviting people to tie a ribbon on a bare branch during the weeks leading up to Remembrance Sunday. It would be good to know how other such expressions of church are tacking this particular issue.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Along the coast from Hull to Filey

(above - Derringham Bank
below - Filey)

It was great to see a full Church at Derringham Bank in Hull where they were celebrating their 75th Anniverary. They have a thriving Boys Brigade which in these days of equality have a good number of girls too; I was also impressed with the Traidcraft stall. The children and adults had been making up shoe boxes to send as practical Chirstmas gifts to children in Eastern Europe.
The Church is currently undergoing a redevelopment programme and the foyer (pictured) is being converted so that it can serve as a coffee lounge at the entrance of the building - which is in a prominent position at the heart of the local community.
Stephen Burgess and I were welcomed by an energetic team of stewards and the local minister, Keith Parr. Also in the congregation was the Rev. Trevor Dixon who had grown up in the Church and was marking his 65th birthday with a return visit.
We had an opportunity over lunch to meet the Super of the Hull Central Mission the Rev Luke Smith together with his wife, the Rev Viv Smith, who serves in the Hull (East) Circuit; with them was Deacon Peter Ogle who is appointed to both Circuits - clearly a man who can multi-task! They have big challenges but a big vision too.
From there we travelled all the way up the coast to Filey to be met by the Rev Chris Kirkman.
He has overseen a major refurbishment of the Church premises and it really is a very welcoming place to be. A circuit choir added to the colour of the worship and it was good to hear encouraging stories of a Boys Brigade which had in increased from 6 to 22 over the last couple of years; and of a music festival which has brought many people through the doors of the Church and will be held again in 2009.
Overall a very positive visit to the York and Hull District. Our thanks to the District Chair and to Heather Shipman for all their careful organisation.

York - Dining in style

What diverse and rich talent!
The waiting on staff at
York Central Methodist Church
included the Chair of District and his
wife, the Deputy Chair and various circuit officers!

The meal was excellent by any standards and the event was to raise money for the Methodist Fund for World Mission.

After dinner the President spoke about his visits to
Tonga and Bangladesh. A silent auction helped
raise several hundred pounds to support
the world church.

I seem to be on the trail of former Vice-Presidents of the Conference and it was very good to meet Rosemary Wass (pictured).

With local preachers in Pocklington

My visit to the York and Hull District began in Ravenscar where the President and I were please to meet and thank some of the 'backstagers' who had worked so hard for the Methodist Conference in Scarborough this year.
They were a really dedicated crew and had some keen questions for us on the future shape of Conference.
On Saturday morning, whilst the President was playing at being a train driver, I was with the District Local Preachers at the very attractive Pocklington Church.

My theme was 'Communicating faith in ways that make sense' and I concentrated on relevant and rooted preaching; there was good participation by the 30/40 attending.

I was pleased to meet seasoned preacher Harry Smith (pictured below) and we thanked the Conference organiser Gordon Peacock (pictured with his wife) who was retiring after a good stint as District Local Preachers' Secretary.
We enjoyed a healthy lunch and the kitchen ladies kept us well supplied with tea and coffee!

The Workplace as Cathedral

Workplace chaplains
come in all shapes and sizes - from football clubs to retail stores, the police service to the science park.
They are a listening ear and a sign that the church is interested in people in their daily life and work.
So it was a pleasure to be invited by Stephen Willey to join them for part of their Annual Conference, this year held at Ushaw College near Durham.
The theme of the Conference was 'The Workplace as Cathedral' and I was able to stay for their introductory session and a tour of the magnificent Durham Cathedral - including a talk on their chaplaincy to visitors.
I was sorry to miss the rest of the programme which was to take in the Angel of the North and St James' Park. I have aleady met a number of chaplains in situ and it will be good to meet others on our journeyings around the country.
Thanks to Rosa Leto (pictured below) and the others for organising such an imaginative event.

Growing faith in Leeds

It was good to celebrate a combined total of 70 years preaching at a Circuit Service at Roundhay in Leeds North East.
Florence Doku was presented with her 20 year Certificate - her father was a former Vice-President of the Ghana Methodist Conference - and Peter Harper had clocked up an impressive half-century.
The Circuit Worship Group had put much thought into the theme of the service - Growing Faith - and involved a number of members in choosing hymns and reading lessons. We heard about a successful house group which had helped many people learn more about the basics of their faith; the Superintendent Minister, Jane Craske (pictured with local minister John McNeill), introduced the service and led some of the prayers.
I was delighted to be looked after by Susan and Peter Howdle - both distinguished predecessors of mine and members at Roundhay.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Postcard from London

I was in London for most of last week. On Wednesday evening David and I had a great evening at the Houses of Parliament. It was November 5th and the Methodist Parliamentary group hosted an evening for us. We were joined by the Martyn and Ruby and also Graham and Dudley who have served in our roles the two previous years. Martin Turner managed to gate-crash the party (something about he helps organise the parliamentary group) and he brought his colleague Malcolm with him and Moira Sleight (of Methodist Recorder fame). David Bradwell, from our Joint Public Issues team, organised the evening and did a great job.

The Speaker of the House of Commons held a reception for us with a good number of Methodist MP's and peers present, then a conversation with a slightly different group followed by a lovely meal together.

It was good having Ruby with us as she know everyone and although she left being Sergeant at Arms a few weeks ago everyone was delighted to see her.

It was a grand evening and once again affirmed my commitment to supporting all those who are working out their vocation in the field of politics.

Thank you to those who oragnised the event and hosted us.

On the Sunday I had the privilege of representing the Church at the national service of remembrance at the Cenotaph. It was very special being there.....and I've been amazed at the number of people who've said 'I saw you on Tele'.......even one of my own children...it's a bit rich when your own kids have to watch TV to get to see their dad! Such are the demands of being President!!!

In the evening I shared in the service at Hinde Street. There was a good congregation and then afterwards people were invited back to the minister's manse. (Sue with the gingery hair) There are a number of photos showing the group - many of them young adults but John Hicks was there supporting us and looking for a new generation of people who love CPD!!

What is David Bradwell praying about - I was meeting his girlfriend and perhaps it had something to do with that?

and here is John Cooper trying to cut up some food...?

and I left feeling what a gift such people are within the life of our churches. We must nurture them and bring them into leadership now.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Faith speaking to Faith

Bruce Thompson has been developing good relations with the small but significant Muslim population in Taunton.
So it was that we had been invited by Helal Thafader (pictured) to join in the celebration of Eid which brought together people of all ages from the local area. It is very much a family occasion and marks the end of the 30 days of fasting during Ramadan.
We had to leave before the games and festivities got fully under way but we had a taste of the buffet and the opportunity for some good conversation with a very friendly group of people. I was just sorry not to be able to stay to see the party get into full swing!

Commitment in Taunton

All Saints weekend saw me heading to Somerset where I was to preach at the historic Temple Methodist Church in Taunton.

The Superintendent there is Bruce Thompson who I knew as a dynamic minister in Timperley, South Manchester. He has not changed! He and Karen, with their sons David and Robert (not forgetting Rupert the dog) made me warmly welcome, as did the local congregation.

Although it has a long history, the Church is looking forward. Already it has well-used refurbished premises on four floors, and they are about to embark on an imaginative development of the sanctuary itself.

I enjoyed the comfortable lounge area, where young people can chill during the week - outside a 'Stop the Traffik' poster reminded us of their more serious involvement in the campaign to halt sex trafficking, the modern equivalent of the slave trade.

The Church is advertising for a worker with those in their 20s/30s and has a vision of renting a shop in the town centre. They are involved in partnerships with the local Council and student deacon Julie Portland (pictured with Bruce) is developing the pastoral ministry.

Monthly after morning service those who wish are able to join in a discussion and it was good to share in a lively question and answer session. Here is a Church committed to its local community - and it is encouraging to see this practical engagement being replicated in different places around the Connexion.