Friday, 6 March 2009

Ministry and Mission at its best!

On the Friday of my visit to Wales I visited two places that were very familiar. the first was Cardiff prison! I used to take groups of MethSoc students to lead worship and also passed the outside almost everyday. Stephen and I spent a couple of hours with Mark, the senior chaplain and other members of the chaplaincy team including Tony Davies our Methodist chaplain who has just been appointed to work in the prison in Preston.

The chaplaincy team in Cardiff were the inspiration and pioneers of the SORI programme which has been further developed by Alan Ogier (our Prison chaplaincy co-ordinator) and it is being delivered in a good number of prisons across Britain. Supporting Offenders through Restoration Inside is about helping prisoners face up to what they have done, sometimes meeting the vicitms or their families, and the emphasis is on resorative justice. It is proving very effective.

We then travelled to visit the Amelia Trust Farm in the Vale of Glamorgan. This is one of the best kept secrets of Methodism. About 20 years ago a man wandered into worship at Trinity Methodist Church in Cardiff and afterwards asked the minister what he would do if offered a farm with a large acreage. This was as a 'thank-you' to the Methodist church who through a minister in the South-East had cared for his mother (Amelia) in her latter years. Thankfully the Rev John Stacy-Marks was the right person to ask and over the years he has transformed a run down farm to a living community.

This working farm has people coming to be there as volunteers, young people who have been excluded from education are taught the national curriculum in the recently built classrooms and also experience life on the farm as well. People with learning difficulties, those with special needs all have a place within this vibrant community.

Schools from all over Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan come on educational trips and churches, youth groups and thousands of visitors each year continue to flock to this place.

They now employ 17 staff with a budget of £600-700,000 and the new Director, Deacon Lorraine Brown, (above) is doing a great job building on all the good years of John's ministry and seeking to make it more and more young people centred.

It was good to revisit this precious jewel in our Methodist family and see it so vibrant and meet such dedicated trustees and staff.

I met Mike, who I remember vaguely. He shared how he had been in John's youth club in Splott and like many of that era and area was never far away from trouble. He found his way to the farm as a volunteer and learned things there that led him to get work and now 18 years later is employed as a member of staff to give back to this Church 'project' that transformed his life and contiues to offer life and hope to hundreds of young people each year.

If you are ever in the area (between Cardiff and Barry) you must visit...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I new John Stacy many years ago in Bude Cornwall when I was a youth leader and he our minister. It is good to see him still active and well.
I have the greatest respect for John who taught me so much. I remember when he was asked to go to Cardiff, he asked me if I would go along with him to look at this new and exiting project. John as usual like a little boy in a candy day shop could not wait to get started and saw the potential from day one.
The strange thing is, we have since both worked with the same groups of people young and old. Those excluded from society for being different. The Methodist Church should be most proud to have had John as on of their most worthy advocates, an expression of Christianity in the community. He has always been someone to look up,to. More like John the world could do with.