Sunday, 16 August 2009

Scotland District visit - East Kilbride

Our first District visit is to Scotland. Traditionally the President and Vice President have visited in the late spring but we offered to visit in August knowing that the school holidays in Scotland are earlier than in England and so business gets back to normal after the summer break by mid-August in Scotland rather than September as in England. It therefore gave me the opportunity to visit the District along with the rest of the family.

Lily Twist, the Chair of the Scotland District lives in Stirling and so David and I started our visit to the District with an evening meal at her home with her family. It provided us with a chance to learn a little bit more about the District and the role that Methodists play not just in their local communities but also in wider national political life, particularly as the impact of devolution is gradually changing the nature of Scottish society. Lily told us about how Methodism in Scotland may be small but it punches well above its own size on the national stage and it is seen as a valuable and respected partner.

On Sunday morning I led worship at St Andrew’s Methodist Church in East Kilbride, a small town at the southern-most part of the Glasgow circuit. Many other districts have been considering larger circuits in recent months, but for a number of years now the Glasgow circuit has covered the whole of one of Britain’s largest cities. Indeed circuits in Scotland can cover an area the size of many English districts.

East Kilbride is a new town and the Methodist Church was built in 1975. The small but faithful congregation have been considering how they can re-invigorate their mission. Last year, when the circuit reduced the number of ministers it provided the opportunity to look again at how the freed up resource could be used. Churches in the circuit where invited to put forward proposals as to how they wanted to develop their work with the circuit’s help. The church in East Kilbride saw an opportunity to look again at how they met the needs of their local community with the help of a lay worker. The circuit supported their vision and a local woman was employed to take the work forward.

Annette Robb was appointed as a lay worker by the circuit and has since been working to establish a number of projects in the church. She is also a local mum and she has been able to connect with other local young mothers, with the church building now providing a focus for a twice weekly drop in centre for mothers and young children. They’ve also started to provide a weekly soup lunch with the support of a number of volunteers from the church.

The church has gone out of its way to ask the local community what they want from the church, inviting them to suggest what they could provide. The church is set in the midst of a housing estate and they have a good set of premises but they had not been used as well as they could be. They are now planning a more ambitious weekly children’s club focused on primary school children. There is a real need for these projects in the local area, particularly at a time of rising unemployment and social isolation. The result has also been a church that has regained its confidence in mission and I sensed a real excitement about what the future may hold for them.

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