Saturday, 26 July 2008

A Week of Farewells

This has been a week of farewells.

On Sunday my home Circuit of Salford bade farewell to its Superintendent Minister, Roger Stubbings (pictured).

Roger has been my minister for the last seven years, coming into what was then the Cadishead and Eccles Circuit following the untimely death of Michael Austin.

He has been instrumental in bringing a new Circuit into being and has been a great pastor, as well as taking pioneering practical steps to foster links with the Muslim community.

190 people - including representatives from all his former circuits - sat down for a lunch superbly organised by Julie Herbert. In the evening there was a packed congregation at Patricroft - where the exuberant singing of the French West African congregation from Emmanuel Church cheered Roger on the way to his sitting down.

On Tuesday I was at Methodist Church House where a farewell tea-party was in progress for three of our Co-ordinating Secretaries - Anthea Cox, Jonathan Kerry and Peter Sulston. Tributes were paid by Methodist and ecumenical colleagues; we were reminded of their particular gifts and contributions as the week before we had expressed our gratitude for so many who over the last dozen years have served the Church through its Connexional Team.
Another personal farewell was to Amilcar Solorzano (left), Secretary of the Methodist Church in Guatemala. He had been one of my generous hosts when I visited the country earlier in the year; I had been full of admiration for the significant work he has done to set up the John Wesley College, a primary and secondary school which in the space of a couple of years has acquired an excellent reputation.
I was delighted that he was able to read one of the lessons in Spanish at the Conference Sunday Worship in Scarborough and since then he has been seeing more of Britain in the care of an expert tour guide, the Rev Tom Quenet. This included a visit organised by Paul Flowers to a school in Bradford. He told me how much his Church appreciated the links which are being strengthened with the British Methodist Church - he thought we organised our Conference business very efficiently!- and I shared with him how much I had learnt from the commitment and vision of the church he so impressively but modestly represents.
Finally we said au revoir to the President and pray for travelling mercies as he and Myrtle visit New Zealand before attending the coronation of the new King of Tonga. I for one look forward to his safe return ...!

Monday, 21 July 2008

Breakout 08

The weekend after Conference and as Stephen has reported we were off with well over 1000 (other) young Methodists to Cliff College in the Derbyshire hills for Breakout.

Those who were camping found it rather damp the first night but by Sunday morning the sun was shining on us all. It was good to meet up with Alison Barnett and her group from Peterborough (pictured) and to have the chance to talk to lots of different people from around the country.

As always it was encouraging for teenagers to realise they are neither weird nor on their own but part of a national and worldwide family of Christians who are committed to living out the way of Jesus. And encouraging for Stephen and me to see what is possible - we are both committed to a reinvigorated youth outreach in and through the Methodist Church.

The theme of the weekend was 'Going Beyond..' and we were challenged to step out of our comfort zones - have a go at grass boarding, take to the floor with salsa dancing, experience the beat of African drumming, learn some circus skills. The President showed off his prowess on the football field...or at least that is what he told me (and has published here, so I have to believe him!).

More reflectively there were practical sessions on 'Crossing the room' and' telling your faith story' - a good model of evangelism and something everyone can do with a little help - ideas for tired youth leaders and a chance to learn more about Christian Aid, NCH and the Methodist Relief and Development Fund.

I enjoyed the Iona-style Communion but was equally impressed by the Christian band YFriday who set the weekend going and the closing Sunday worship - with Mark Slaney giving a challenge to discipleship which was simple and direct but in no way superficial or cheesy.

Our thanks to all who made it possible - the organising team, the MAYC staff, the Methodist Youth Executive and the youth leaders from local churches who do a terrific and vital job.

If you haven't thanked your Junior Church helpers or children's work and youth leaders recently go and do it now! They need your support...

Musings from the Lambeth Conference

Since Conference life has been good but busy. We had a great time at Breakout and met some wonderful people. It was estimated that there were about 1500 young people on site on the Saturday and despite the rain there was an excellent atmosphere with a huge variety of events to choose from....I played football with a group of others, including a few ministers, against a group from the Preston circuit.....and i managed to score this wonderful goal on the volley....but sadly we lost 5:1.

I was really impressed with the quality of youth leaders I managed to meet and talk to. We really need to encourage them more as they are offering their time and gifts so freely to young poeple right across the connexion.

On the Tuesday David and I were privileged to 'preach' at the Service of Thanksgiving for the life of the Connexional team. There were a couple of hundred people at Wesley's Chapel. Those who were part of the Team at its inception in 1996 and lots of those presently working at MCH.
After the worship many of us went on a boat trip/cruise on the Thames....and the sun came out.
Then I was off to the superintendent's course at Swanwick where I was able to share in the final act of worship and communion. Some of the super's to be went home looking more worried than when they arrived!

This weekend I have been with our Anglican friends at the Lambeth Conference. I arrived in Canterbury for the Saturday along with other ecumenical guests. There is an official rep from the World Methodist Council and I was invited because of our Covenant with the C of E. They are trying to face up to some of the difficult issues which are pressing in from many different areas and really need our prayers.

The worship yesterday was very rich with music and liturgy from around the world. One of the highlights for many was the dancing and singing by a group from the Solomon islands as they carried the bible in a boat for the gospel reading. There was an excellent sermon from the Bishop of Colombo, Sri Lanka who spoke out prophetically at the issues facing the Anglican communion at this time.

Sadly I have had to leave today, Monday, as I'm off to Daniel's graduation (our 3rd child) tomorrow afternoon and then Myrtle and I fly off to visit the Church in new Zealand and then on to Tonga to share in the Coronation of the new king. So watch this blog for photos and an account of what I'm sure will be a memorable few days

Stephen Poxon

Saturday, 19 July 2008

At last (2)...!

It has taken longer for me to get posting but I have just managed a photo of Stephen and I at the Conference in Scarborough.

I want to say a big thank-you and echo all that Stephen has said about the warmth of support and encouragement we have received, not least from Martyn and Ruby. We have a tough act to follow as they have brought great vision and energy to their year of office (and they have been tireless bloggers!); we do feel a great sense of continuity with them however.

Throughout they have been outward looking, urging the Church to open its doors and windows, and we hope that we can continue that stimulus to interact with our society and 'serve the present age'.

We know that we are simply your representatives and you have given us the great privilege of seeing how God is already at work in the local communtities where our churches, circuits, chaplaincies, fresh expressions are all seeking to live out the Gospel, not always in easy situations.

So we are very excited about journeying with you this year...

Thursday, 17 July 2008

At last!!

I've finally been able to access the blog! Sorry to those of you who have been waiting with bated breath for the first entry from the new President and Vice-President....we can only get better.

These past two weeks have gone very quickly since the beginning of Conference on the 5th July. It was a very special moment being inducted as President and to hold in my hand, for a short while, John Wesley's field bible. To think back on those who have held this office over the years is a very humbling experience.

We had a good Conference by all accounts....and there are details of this on the web and in other was really enjoyable sharing the leading of the sessions with David Walton..even if I did keep forgetting to adjourn Conference at the end of the day!

It was very special having so many friends and family with us for the opening weekend. I would like to thank all those who have been supporting me through prayer, sending cards and greetings. All of these have been a real source of encouragement and strength. Thank you.

I've some photos that have been sent me and I'll try to work out how to get them on to this ....but will post this now and see if it works!!

Monday, 7 July 2008

The handover

Just a quick note. The Revd Stephen Poxon and Mr David Walton have been inducted as the new President and Vice President of the Conference, and will continue this blog during their year of office. But for the next week they are actually running Conference, and so things will be a bit quiet here.

You can keep up with everything happening at Conference here

Many thanks to Martyn and Ruby for all their blogging this year, and to the readers whose comments have made it such an interesting conversation.


Tuesday, 1 July 2008

All change

Well, what a strange week. From the Prayer breakfast last Tuesday which was fabulous to a few days where a new job came on the horizon, my little car let it be known that it was needing to be replaced, a project that I had been involved in at work came to fruition today, keeping me there until after 8pm and I put off the packing which is necessary for me to go off to Scarborough tomorrow.
It has been an amazing year and is not quite over yet. Martyn will have more to do than me over these next few days as he chairs the ministerial and diaconal sessions of Conference and I know he will do that with his customary care and prayerful approach. He has been a great President and a fabulous person to be alongside - I shall miss seeing you at such regular intervals. Thanks, Martyn. And thank you to all of those people who have been reading this blog and made a point of mentioning it as we travelled around. I hope that there might be the opportunity of a last posting before I hand over to David on Saturday but if not then do keep on reading this and give the same support to Stephen and David that you have given to us.
And thanks to God whose inclusive love is open to all. May you know the peace of God which passes all understanding.