Sunday, 8 March 2009

New Initiative in Chester & Stoke

Towards the end of half term I visited the Chester and Stoke District and had a great time. It began with being taken to the Beacon House of Prayer, a really innovative project where a house in Stoke has been transformed into a 24/7 house of prayer. We shared in their regular Thursday evening gathering and I heard that there are a few similar initiative beginning across Britain.

The following morning the Chair, Peter Barber, and I went to Englesea Brook

where we were met by the newly appointed warden, Kevin Watson,

and Margaret Veal dressed in costume, the education and museum officer. A number of the other trustees and volunteers also turned out to greet us

and having heard so much about Englesea Brook it was great to spend time there and I was not disappointed - if you get the chance you must make a visit to this living museum of Primitive Methodism and the way of life in the 18th and 19th century. Each year over 3,000 vistors come to Englesea and through going into schools there is contact with about 10,000 - a real imaginative mission opportunity.

The afternoon was spent with the supers and some of the ministers from the Stoke circuits sharing together some of the pains, challenges and opportunities they are experiencing. One of their concerns was the problem of setting up hopes that aren't delivered either connexionally or more locally - something we must take seriously as so many circuits and Districts are re-organising for mission.

There are many excellent projects and new initiatives within this District. We went to visit the Methodist Book Centre and I heard there about the Salt Box and of their developing telephone minsitry to the housebound. In the adjacent building there is an exciting development of a ministry to the 'night life' of Stoke through the 'Church without walls'.

The District had organised a Discovery Day on the Saturday and over 100 people gathered to be challenged about using their gifts and responding the calling of God.

This was held at the Potters House which is an incredible story.

if you go to www.this there is a marvellous article about the way this church plant has grown and developed a whole school site for worship, mission, ministry and community use with 31 enterprise units. The photo is of the Chair (Peter Barber) and the VP with Phil Barber (senior pastor of the Potters House) and brother Brian. it obviously helps to have the surname Barber in this District!

We then went off to Congleton for a marvellous District World Food and Worship Festival. This had been organised by Jill Baker and a hard working group of people. Hundreds from across the District came to see the stalls, sample the food, listen to testimonies and choirs from different parts of the world.

This led into a sit down meal for 200 people -

the food was great and David and I were privileged to share some of our stories about the World Church....this is the cross David brought back from Guatemala and is a great visual aid.

Throughout my visit I was hosted by John and Joan Bell who cared for me wonderfully. They took me to Frodsham Church for a special circuit service on the Sunday morning...after lunch we visited one of supernumerary ministers the Rev Roland Twinn and then onto share in the evening worship with Ashley Cooper at Swan Bank. For me it was a day of rich worship and the opportunity to meet some wonderful people who continue to give such dedicated service to God. This is a District where there are many exciting and new things happening alongside many hard questions and decisions that have to be taken....please rememeber them in your prayers.

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