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:
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.