Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Emerging Leaders Day


Saturday April 18th 2009

Westminster Central Hall London

During this year David and I have become more and more aware of needing to find ways to encourage some of our younger people into leadership within our Church now.

We know that some have tried and have felt kicked back, not encouraged, not able to give the time commitment other generations have because of changing life-styles and pressures...........

So we are launching this initiative to bring together some of our emerging leaders, particularly lay people, in the 20-40 age range.

I am sorry that this clashes with two events that some of the people we were hoping to attract will be attending, ECG in Llandudno and Spring harvest, but this was the only date that both David and I had free when we launched the idea before Christmas. We hope that this will be seen to be complimentary to all that the organisers of ECG will be doing in sunny North Wales.

The aim of the event is to bring together young adults from across the connexion in order to provide a gathering from which our Church can create a supporting, inspiring network for emerging leaders.

The day will begin with arrivals at 10.30am abd the programme starting at 11.00am. Lunch will be provided, and the event should end by 6.30pm

It is our hope that circuits and/or districts will help cover the cost of travel.

If you are interested or could encourage someoine to come along then more details are available by emailing methodist. emerging@googlemail.com

We hope it will be a great day.

Monday, 30 March 2009

Signs of spring in the South East

The cherry tree blossom is a certain sign that spring has arrived and the sun was trying to shine throughout this District visit

We had fun on the Friday as e mails had gone astray and John and I were in the lovely village of Cookham when we should have been having coffee with the dean at Windsor!! When we got there we had our own private escort into the castle and although the dean was by this time in a meeting he popped out to greet us. Then a look around the Cathedral before we headed off for Slough to visit the 'Art beyond Belief' project. This is a very impressive project funded by the Arts Council, using art to express faith, offer healing, challenge preconceptions and working with both faith and community groups. We heard the story of how in one of their recent projects, Art Monitor, they have worked alongside people suffering from the results of domestic violence,those with mental health issues, children with Asperger's and autism, young people excluded from school, young offenders, young carers and adults with learning difficulties. You can fund out more at www.art-beyond-belief.com.

After lunch we went with some of the circuit staff back to Cookham where we spent time learning about Stanley Spencer, one of our foremsot artists of the last century who spent much of his life in the village and whose exhibition is now in the former Wesleyan chapel.

(John (Chair); Maggie Blake; Barbara McIntivey, Philip Morse and Hazel Forecast in Cookham)

On the Saturday there was a Vocation and Vision day held at Leatherhead Church where about 50 people gathered to think about God's call upon our lives and how we can live this out in the church and wider society today. This event was hosted by Ian Howarth and it was great to catch up with him and his wife Barbara as we shared 5 years ministry together in Cardiff many years ago.

That night we went to Stoughton Methodist Church for the Guilford Circuit Missions evening. there must have been over 80 of us packed into the hall around tables with lots and lots of food and I was invited to share some stories from the World Church.

Mothering Sunday was a full day. John and I left early to go East Peckham where they were holding a special 9.30am all age cafe style worship...we shared breakfast with the congregation as they arrived and it was really good to see such strong BB and GB companies and they shared fully in the worship - and were not embarressed to enter fully into the songs as the photo shows

we dashed from there to share in worship at Tonbridge Methodist Church....arriving about 20 minutes after the start and seeing a huge look of relief on Marie-Anne Kent's face, the minister, as we walked in. She had organised a meal in the hall afterwards for those who were able to stay and also some from neighbouring circuits came. After a wonderful meal we shared in a conversation together in which we were all encouraged.

In the evening we went to the outskirts of the London District to the United Free Church of Feltham for the centenary of their building. It was good to meet up with Mark Savage, who had been a student in Cardiff MethSoc and now active in the leadership of the church. The Mayor was there in all her regal splendour and it was a service rich in memory and challenge for the future. The local MP, Alan Keen, spoke movingly over the coffee and cakes afterwards about how much he owed to Methodism from his early years. During this year I keep meeting many people who have been so influenced in such ways and this should encourage us, especially those who work among children and young people and wondering if it is worth it!! The answer is obviously yes although we may never see it.

So ended a long but fruitful day once again coveing many many miles across this SE District. The Monday morning I only had to travel about a mile to the Horley Church where a number of ministers and lay workers gathered with me for the morning to share stories among ourselves which gave encouragement that there are many green shoots beginning to emerge across the connexion - signs of spring which may yet lead to a summer!

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Discovering Dover and Deal!

If I thought the journeys in the Southampton District were long I realise they were but preparing me for my time with John Hellyer in the South East District. Part of this is the joy of travelling so much on the M25 but also the geographical area which this new District covers. Our first day was an almost 2 hour trip down to the Dover and Deal circuit - which was a good day.

We went first to the Buckland estate in Dover where there are 3000 homes and about 7000 people. Crosslinks, a Methodist initiative became in 2000 an ecumenical project and the two workers Nigel and Nikki are developing the project as a FX with after school clubs, a drop in, a cafe serving coffee and lunches with messy church on a saturday. They have developed close links with the newly created Green Park School and we spent an enjoyable hour with the principal and children there. The photo is of the pastoral minister, Nigel, the superintendent ministerJames McKnight and the Chair of District, John walking back from the school.

They have just appointed 2 part-time youth workers to continue developing this imaginative project.
(staff and trustees of the Cross-links project)

We went from there to the Dover Immigration Centre where we were shown around by the chaplain, John Lines, who is deeply respected by staff and detainees. We met with Andy Bell, the centre manager, and heard about the differences bewteen running a prison and a detention centre. We heard how there are 2,500 deatinees in the 11 centres across the UK and some of the issues facing such centres at this time. John works as part of a multi-faith team and the authorities spoke very highly of the quality of chaplaincy provison and very happy to welcome more if we could provide it!

Our next visit was to the London Road Methodist/URC site where they have plans for a £1.4m development scheme. They have opened up one of the shop fronts they ownto offer a place for meetings, coffee, communion, financial advice and a baby clinic. This is called 'Footprints'

and the children have designed the logo in the shop. Just that day they had been able to financially and physically help a young man get his own place to live from being on the streets.

some of the church members around their ministyer, Bruce Allinson.

A lovely meal with invited guests at the Deal Church was followed by an evening with people from across the circuit at the River Methodist Church. I was able to share stories of hope and challenge from my travels around the connexion this year and the wider World Church....and I've seen much to encourage and share during today as well.

Engaging with society across Southampton

One of the real joys for me this year has been the privilege of staying in the homes of our Chairs if District, and other people who kindly put up with me. Being with Andrew, his wife Dawn and their two children Laura and Jonathan has been great....reminding me of my own home particularly in the dash to get the children off to school without too much shouting and stress!!

Laura was being confirmed at Chandler's Ford on the Sunday so it was special being in the home with her and the family for this important moment in her life. So Andrew was a dad that morning and an old friend, Brian Coates, from my time as a VSO in Zambia (35 years ago) took me to my morning worship at Verwood where Ralph Ward is continuing to lead this church into new areas of growth and mission. I was privileged to present 3 of our Local Preacher's with their long service certificates;
David Mainbridge (50 years)
Eric Brown (40 years)
Grahame Downer (40 years)

130 years service between them - thank you to them and all those who continue to fill our pulpits week by week. We need to find ways of encouraging a newer and younger group of people to hear the call to preach.

In the afternoon Andrew and I went to St Andrew's Church in Eastleigh to meet and share with the Zimbabwean Fellowship. I was able to bring greetings from the connexion and share some stories of my time in South Africa and the ministry there among many refugees from their country.

At this time we need to continue praying for the people of Zimbabwe and if we wish to send donations then direct them to the Fund for World Mission(at Methodist Church House) as they continue, on our behalf, to give large grants to the Zimbabwean Methodist Church for aid, relief and rebuilding of the nation.

We then drove to Reading to share in the centenary service at Caversham Heights Church. It was good to share with them and to hear their hopes for the future.

My final day in the District was spent in Salisbury where the minister, Malcolm Hiscox, had organised an imaginative morning entitled:

Towards an Agenda for Mission
Engaging with the Community

There were 8 presentations from Christian agencies working in Salisbury:

The Bridge - exploring faith with young people in schools
Alabare - supporting the homeless and vulnerable
Town Chaplaincy - engaging with Salisbury's commercial life
The Listening Place - listening to the troubled and distressed
The Shine Project - reaching out to the lonely & isolated
Street Pastors - engaging with Salisbury's night life
Trussell trust - alleviating poverty, deprivation and despair
Action for Children - supporting families

and then Fiona Hulbert from Sarum college shared how we might engage with these political and social concerns.

I was then invoted to reflect for 30 minutes theologically and bringing together the common strands. Some of the obvious stands were about being alongside people and the sharing of grace, offering hospiotality to those on the edges of society and the engagement in mission. It was a very creative way of bringing Christian groups together who had never met in this way before......there is much to build on.

(Malcolm, Andrew and Janet the church family worker outside the church)

After lunch we popped next door, a property owned by the Church, which is now the home of one the the Sure Start projects managed by Action for Children. A group of young mums gathered to meet us and it was particularly interesting to learn about the support they give to families from the Polish community

from here we had a longish journey down to Poole where we visited the MHA, Maidment Court. They are awaiting the appointment of a new manager but it was good to meet with the volunteers and in particular the chaplain, David Poidevin, who is much appreciated.

I met some marvellous people....of all denominations and none...including supernumerary ministers,(Methodist & URC) and those who have served the church so faithfully over many years at both a local, District and national level.

The next day we set off for thwe Connexional Leader's Forum in Northampton....this has been a really good visit, meeting lots of people and hearing stories of new initiatives, growing churches and countless opportunities for outreach and mission....there is so much to encourage us.

Shaping the future - Southampton


Andrew Wood, the Southampton Chair, gathered together around 120 people from circuit leadership teams from across the District. We spent the morning looking at leadership and how we can enable the churches and circuits to move forward and enabkle the change needed to make us 'fit for purpose' as a Church today.

Following this we travelled down to Weymouth....being Chair of a fairly compact District I am amazed the distances some of my colleagues have to travel in the larger Districts - similar to last week in East Anglia. We went to share in the opening and dedication of the newly built church in Weymouth.

on 17th January 2002 the Maiden Street Methodist Church was destroyed by fire - and this just after they had finished refurbising the building. The members of Maiden st. have now joined with members of Westham to form this new church community, Weymouth Bay Methodist Church.

We had a wonderful celebration. The service, led by the minister, David Plumb,

was a fitting end to years of worry and dreams and a new beginning for all that God is asking of the people at Weymouth Bay. The premises have been imaginatively developed with a good number of rooms of different sizes and good catering facilities so there are now many opportunities for the church to connect with the community which include the nearby hospital and college.

Exciting visions in Basingstoke

The sun was shining as I began my visit to the Southampton District. We travelled to be with the people of St Andrew's in Basingstoke to hear about the South Ham project. After years of seeking a way forward with a large 1950's building in need of lots of work
the church/circuit are developing a partnership which will result in the total redevelopment of the site providing a new doctor's surgery, dentist practice, a pharmacy and also a new church community building.

This is a real exciting project and the day was superbly organised by Margaret, the superintendent minister and Terry Ayers , a circuit steward. Over 50 people came for the event including the 3 local councillors, members of the medical practise and other church and community groups.

One of the medical team, Dr Western spoke of his gratitude to the church for finding this innovative way forward and the local councillor who spoke was wanting to develop the community side of the new church building. The meeting split into gro0ups to share their hopes and visions for this new project.
Please pray for them.

Drumming for God!

David and I journeyed together to High Leigh Conference Centre to be with over 120 youth workers, pastoral workers, family workers, evangelists etc....This was the coming together of two previous conferences for 'lay workers' and youth workers. We were able to be there for 24 hours and arrived in time to share with the Psalm Drummers.
What an array of drums and other instruments.

We were invited to choose our drums or shaker of choice

and after an hour we were transformed from a rabble to a group of people who drummed together and made a magnificent sound.

It was a tremendous team building and confidence building hour and a half.....and good fun...I've already recommended it for next year's Diaconal Convocation.

Over the five days this group of people grew together and were left better equipped for the lay ministry they offer. It was busy and a packed programme but all those I met wanted to get as much out of it as possible...a big thank you to Penny Fuller and her team for organising such a good conference.

Celebrating God's Gifts at Convo

Much of the new and often ground breaking ministry within our church is being pioneered by deacons. It was a real privilege to share with them in their 3 day annual Convocation at Swanwick.

Here all the active and many retired deacons gather to share faith, renew their vows and seek to be better equipped for the ministry they share in through being accountable to one another, through study and prayer and the encouragement given.

It was a wonderful time of laughter and prayer, of listening and fellowship - much of this was because of the leadership of the new warden, Sue Culver and her team. There is something special about our MDO and I was encouraged to meet those in training, and the probationers, to see that they display the gifts and graces needed as diaconal ministry continues to be affirmed and central to our life as a church in the days ahead.

They are truly a gift of God

Papua New Guinea to Peasenhall

My visit to the East Anglia District began with a very special visit to one of our oldest ministers, the Rev Stuart Luckcock, whose year of travel is 1932.....which means he is in the 77th year of his ministry....wow...... It was a joy to share time with him. he still has a sharp mind and a quick wit...keeping his Chair of District, Graham, on his toes at least! He drives a small motorised scooter around the corridors of the Christian residential home he lives in...and recently has been given 3 points on his license for speeding!

The next day was Women's World day of Prayer and it was a joy to share with an ecumenical group of both men and women telling them some stories from my visits to PNG.

We then travelled to Cambridge where I was able to spend an hour with the chaplain, the Rev Clifford Meharry, at the Leys School. He had arranged for us to meet with some 6th form students who later showed Graham and I around this marvellous school complex. There were some encouraging stories of young people finding faith .. I am aware that there are different views about our Methodist residential schools but as long as they bear our name we must make them the best we can and The Leys is certainly seeking to do this.

Then on to Ely where we met up with David (who took some photos) for an District Overseas Event. There was a marvellous turn out from nearby circuits and food both before and after the worship with songs and music from across the world.
Photo of Ely with Brenda Jaggard, celebrating 50 years as a Local Preacher this year and the Chair, Graham, and superintendent Barbara Garwood.

Graham took the Vice-President to visit a number of projects so Alison, Graham's wife, took me for a full day's visit to the Lowestoft and East Suffolk circuit. We began at Carlton Colville which is growing from a village to a new community of 6000 homes. The small chapel has been refurbished and is a growing Christian community.

The deacon, Ian Cartwright, shared with me some of the new and exciting opportunities. They offer a craft club, music group, children's clubs, cafe church, cinema club and a developing ministry in the local schools.

The church members who met me were full of enthusiasm not only for the way the church is developing but also for athe possibility of building a new church and community centre which would include a cafe, cinema, health and fitness facilities and community rooms This is a wonderful story of a small elderly congregation being transformed and there is great hope for the future from the whole church family.

We then found our way to to Beccles
for another District World Church event. This was a lovely lunch followed by the opportunity for me to share some stories of the way God's grace is being shared and revealed around the world. It was a time for me to meet lots of people who continue to have a commitment to be part of the World Church. Being such a large geographical district they had decided to have two similar events at different ends of East Anglia and for me it worked really well.

Then on to Peasenhall.

here this small chapel were celebrating 200 years since it was opened. There were 2 moving testimonies from David Cole and Jason Vineyard - one an 'old boy', the other a 'new Christian' now a student minister in Cambridge both sharing the importance of this chapel and Christian community. It was a wonderful evening of celebration and hopefully another springboard for the church to continue their mission and service to the village and wider communities.

Sunday was a day of anniversaries as well. The small chapel at Litcham in the Mid Norfolk circuit were celebrating their centenary and then later in the afternoon I preached at Bungay United Church celebrating at the end of their 350th celebrations. After this service I was met by Brian and Eileen Chubbock who showed me a photo from when they had met Myrtle and I in February 1980 just after we had arrived inJamaica....a time of reminicising........and we did look young!

Thank you to Graham and alison and all those who came to any of the worship and events....it was good to share with you and to leave feeling that there is so much to celebrate and give God thanks for.

reunion in Beeston

On the saturday of my recent visit to the Nottingham & Derby District ity was great to meet up with some of those who were part of the Youth Fellowship all those years ago at queens Road. A good meal and then lots of stories and slides reminding us of pantomimes and holidays with dear Stuart Burgess as our minister........much laughter and many happy memories...

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Back Home 3!

Spent all of the Friday at Southwell. Meeting the circuit leadership team and then after lunch some of the members of the church. Once again we had a good conversation together how this growing congregation can continue to witness to the love of Christ.

They are of course in the 'shadow' of the Minster and I was delighted to be invited by the Dean to preach at their evening prayers (the choir had been given the night off after a busy Ash Wednesday!)

The following day I was able to visit the new Pearson Centre in Beeston. This is the new BB and GB suite of premises after finally closing down the old Beeston Lads Club which had been the home of the 17th Nottingham BB Company I had been involved in for many years. This new centre is brilliant with halls, recording studios, dance studio, gym and much more. A quick photio with wendy, the full-time BB captain and youth officer and some boys arrivign for a games competition.

then off to my home Church at Queens Road which was the venue for a District World Church Day entitled, 'Many Nations - One Church' and hosted by the Korean congregation. They led worship (bad photo of some of the children dancing)

and then i was invited to share some stories from around the World Church. then a wonderful lunch, again proivided by the Koreran congregation and lots of entertainment and testimonies.

We next went off to find Gedling Road Methodist Church where there was a community day for people to come and look at their refurbishment - which was excellent and I was also excited to hear of the chaplaincy that the minister, Louise Grosberg, is developing with the NHS Trust who share the same car park as the church.

a quick photo shoot

but on closer inspection can be seen the lovely face painting images...the things you do as President!

The visit ended on the Sunday. A packed Chilwell Road Church for aNottingham Trent Valley circuit service felt like a home coming as there were so many people there from my past....those who knew me before I was even born! to those who were at school with me, in the BB and my home church...people who were my Sunday School teachers, past Presidents, and so many who knew my dad........I was so busy talking I didn't get any photos...but they are in my memory. Then later on to a circuit service at Mickleover where a good number of people came to sing and share the story of God's grace.

This has been a special time, as is perhaps obvious by the comments above. It isn't always easy going back home....but I was made to feel so welcome and once again thank all those people who encouraged and shaped me in my early years.

Back Home 2

I had never been to Tissington until Wes took me to this lovely village of over 200 people. It is well known for being the first in the Well Dressing season and the Methodist chapel is at the 'end of the village'......
this Methodist society began in a caravan, then into a rail carriage and eventually they made it into a wooden hut and in 1965 a stone chapel. They have grown from 4 to 10 members and have plans to develop their premises now they can get running water into the building! It is always open and if you go to the well dressing it is used as a base for mission and outreach.

Thanks to the minister Tim Morris, Sister Merle and the other people who gave their time to welcome me and share their vision.

We spent time that day with people at the main church in Ashbourne, at the Corner Cafe - if you go I recommend the special hot chocolate drink.....comes with lots of cream and chocolate flake.

They have great hopes and dreams for redevelopment as have the church in Uttoxeter
and were taken around the circuit by the minister, Christine Hey. The people at the village of Hilton have already done a marvellous conversion of their village chapel to create an excellent suite of premises that are being used more and more by the community. A good group of members came to greet us and we spent a good hour sharing together how the church through their hospitality can share the gospel more fully.

This day ended with a very special event for me. One of the people who has shaped my ministry has been Jean Vanier, the founder of the L'Arche communities. The West Bridgeford Church in the centre of Nottingham host two Faith & Light group - one for children and young people and the other for adults. These are gatherings of people with learning difficulties, special needs and autism - offering a caring, supportive environment for all.

I was deeply honoured that the two groups had come together on this Thursday evening to meet the President.We shared a meal together and I was able to wander around meeting members of the two groups as well as some of their families.

We then gathered for worship. what a celebration of God's love, joy and grace this was.

There was a very moving trstimony from Alison, some great singing and marching around the church waving flags and banners.
People are working very hard to raise money to begin a L'Arche community in Nottingham - please pray for them.