Tuesday, 27 January 2009


Above -Aquila Way project offices
Below - Action Station, South Shields

Below - Youth President Sarah Malik with Church members and flood victims at Morpeth Methodist Church

Friday lunchtime saw us at Aquila Way, an enterprising Christian charity working with the homeless in the North East. We were particularly impressed with their focus on helping people to take the next step into living independently - with the support of a local mentor.
Action Station in South Shields provided us with delicious scones and afternoon tea! An initiative of the local Methodist, Anglican and Catholic churches it runs a credit union and debt counselling service - more needed than ever in these financially stretched times - as well as a drop-in cafe. It also houses the Workers Education Association and courses for local people in computing and other skills.
We were very concerned to learn that its funding is under threat and we hope that its application for new funding will be successful as it is meeting a great need.
Our final visit was to Morpeth Methodist Church where we met the Minister Keith Harbour and other members together with some of those who had lost homes and possessions in the floods which hit the town last year.
Some people have still not returned to their own homes and we were able to hear their stories and of the acts of generosity and the sense of comminity spirit which had been engendered.
A full day but one that reminded us forcefully of the goodness, commitment and self-sacrifice of so many people in challenging situations. Thanks be to God.

Newcastle (1)

Above - local groups at Brunswick Methodist Church Newcastle
Below - toilet rolls and jewellery; Traidcraft HQ in Gateshead

Leo Osborn, the District Chair, had organised a wonderfully action-packed and inspiring visit to
the Newcastle-upon-Tyne District.
It began at Brunswick Church in the heart of the city where Eden Fletcher and Deacon Eunice Attwood are the ministers. It has a very varied outreach programme and on Friday morning we met representatives from a number of groups who clearlyfeel very welcome at the Church.
These include those who work with young people who go missing (Scarpa), women caught up in the sex trade, and teenage asylum seekers. Each group said how helpful it was to be able to be located in the same place and share some of their experience.
From there we went to the Headquarters of Traidcraft in Gateshead and had a tour of their warehouse - bigger than we expected, which is not surprising for a £22m business.
It is a tribute to organisations such as this that some fairly trade goods are now to be found in every supermarket in the country - but there is still much pioneering work to be done. So please consider having a Traidcraft Stall at your church or school - even once a year would help.

Media messengers

Michael Wakelin with the President (above)

The Vice-President with Moira Sleight (below)

The Church has not always had an easy relationship with the media so it was good to be able to visit two of its expressions during January.

We visited the Methodist Recorder at its offices in Golden Lane London and were pleased to meet some of the staff and see how the paper is put together.

We heard from Moira Sleight, the editor, about the pressures of running a small business in a difficult market. If only our stationing system was more like the Anglicans who pay large amounts in advertising to a certain other paper! If only Methodists were not such sharing people - 100,000 read the Recorder but only a fifth of these actually buy it!

It remains the only organ which regularly shares Methodist news in this country and, just as I recognise it is an independent publication, we as individual Methodists do need to support it.

Later in the month we were invited to the BBC Religion and Ethics Department in Manchester. This is headed by Michael Wakelin a Methodist local preacher and brother of Mark, our new Head of Internal Relationships.

We were accompanied by Anna Drew and Karen Burke from our Methodist Media office (doing a good job just now!) and Keith Davies the local District Chair.

It was a great opportunity to hear from those involved in Songs of Praise, the Daily Service, the Sunday programme and others and to learn about some new programmes - Around the World in 80 Faiths which is showing at the moment and a new History of Christianity which is on the way.

We expressed our admiration for the quality of the programmes produced by the BBC - and also our concern at the relative lack of TV coverage of religious and ethical issues compared with radio. The BBC Religion and Ethics website is excellent.

All those who work in the media - particularly the religious press and broadcsating - are proper objects of our prayers and we hope that we were able to give tangible expression to that in our visits.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Cold feet in Liverpool

Sorry not to have written anything since the new year. We are having the kitchen refitted and after Myrtle cleared all the contents around the manse I couldn't find my camera lead to download the photos but having now done that there aren't that many good ones!!

I made a short visit to the Liverpool District on the 10 and 11th January. My first visit was to share in a District/Circuit initiative on the Brackenwood Estate which is on the Wirral. This is a former council housing estate which now has a large number of owner occupied but there are no community facilities except the scout hut which keeps getting vandalised. The local minister wants to see what it is the church can offer the poeple on the estate so this was the launch day of this initiative. A number of people from across the District gathered to share in a prayer walk and then to kncok on a few doors to intoduce themselves and ask one or two non-threatening questions. It was bitterly cold and my feet were frozen after about 10 minutes of walking.

The scouts had erected a tent for us to return to and get warm!!
The local labour councillor joined us and was impressed by what the church was seekinbg to do.

In the afternoon we went to warrington for a District event focusing on |Mission and Evangelism. there was a gathering of people from different circuits who shared in worship, listened to my account of the MRDF visit to bangladesh and then wandered around the 'market place' engaging with Christian Aid, MHA, Action for Children, Sticky Church, MRDF and other groups. Warm soup, sanwiches and cake were very welcome on such a cold day and then we finished with a celebration of the World Church.

On the Sunday I was privileged to share in a service with the Chair of the Liverpool District, Jim Booth, in the St Helen's and Prescott circuit where people from a good number of the churches gathered together. The people shared some of their hopes and dreams for the future of methodism and the wider Christian church in their communities. We popped in at the last minute to visit a French speaking congregation in a church not too far from Jim's manse. Having been a missionmpartner in Cote d'Ivoire Jim was in his element speakingh fluent French to this mainly Congolese and Angolan congregation. our visit was greatly appreciated and has strengethened the links between themselves and the Methodist Church.

The evening was a wonderful service on the wirral where the four circuits joined together in worship and praise. They are coming togather to form one circuit this coming September and their new superintendent to be had sent a message which we were alll able to watch and listen to at the close of worship. It was a true celebration and culminated in a sharing of grapes and pringles, an agape, where peop-le came and took some on a plate and then we shared in small groups whilst discussing a couple of questions I'd been asked to provide coming out of the sermon. There was a really good spirit andit was a privilege to share with everyone.

This past weekend David and I have been in Newcastle.

We've had a great time and we will post some photos (a quick preview above!!) and stories over the next couple of days...as I'm now rushing off to Manchester where we are meeting with people from the BBC Religion and Ethics unit.....more of that another time

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Happy New year

It is the 1st January 2009 and the New Year holds so much promise for us all. For many around the world it will continue to be one of survival in the midst of war, poverty, struggling for justice and peace, rebuilding lives and communities after recent disasters as well as trying to cope wuth the economic downturn affecting us all. Some of you may well have made new year's resolutions or shared a deep hope with God for the coming months. Over these next Sundays many of us will renew our covenant with God asd we once again seek to be in the centre of God's will for our lives as individuals, as a nation as well as part of all he has created.

So Happy New Year.

I think particularly of some of the people I met on a visit in December to Germany. My main purpose was to spend time with the some of the army who are based there and went to Rheindahlen, Gutersloh, Herford and then Church House at Lubbecke. I met some great people and commend to especially the chaplains who are sharing a vital ministry at this particular time with the wars in Iraq and Afganistan. It was a particular joy to meet the Rev Josefe Mairara and his wife. They had literally just arrived as the first Fijian (Methodist) chaplain to the British Army. Please remember them in your prayers at this time of tremendous transition.

Whilst in germany I was able to spend a couple of days visiting with the United Methodist Church there. On one of the evening I preached at a special English speaking service in Dusseldorf where there were people from the English speaking congregation, the Ghanaian fellowship and the regular UMC.

The following day I went by train to Frankfurt and spent the day with Bishop Rosemarie Wenner (pictured on the right)
and we shared how we can continue developing the relationship between our two Churches.

Also just before Christmas I had a short visit to the Leeds District and was impressed with the ministry being offered from Oxford Place in the city centre. More and more of our city centre churches are offering a really dynamic and diverse ministry which we need to cherish, develop and resource. We visited the newest MHA home in Harrogate and just happened to be there when it was carol singing so we added to the choir of angels.

It was impressive and encouraging to hear of ther work here which is more and more focusing on work with people suffering dementia and much of the pastoral work is amongst the relatives who are trying to cope with what is ahppening to their loved ones.Les, Angela, Mandy and Shaun look on as I take another lady on my arm!

Whilst in Leeds I wanted to visit the office of the Yorkshire & Humberside Faith Forum whose Director is the Rev Inderjit Bhogal. We should be proud of all that Inderjit is doing not only here but in the much wider area of inter-faith relationships.

It also gave me time to chat to him about the developing work of Sanctuary as more and more cities follow the lead of Sheffield to become communities of Sanctuary.

...and what better way to begin the new year. ... than with stories of the wider world and the role that the Christian community can play - of hospitality and challenge - whether this be among the elderly, the asylum seekers and refugees, those of other faiths, those who are engaged in seeking peace in a war torn world andf all of this in a wrold and a world church context.

A Happy New Year to you and may you be aware of God's presence in your life in all that lies ahead