Thursday, 15 October 2009

Lancaster Methodist Church Centenary

On Saturday October 10th, still tired from my 25 hour journey home from Sri Lanka, I set off by train to share in the 100th anniversary celebrations at Lancaster Methodist Church. On Sunday morning, a good sized congregation shared in worship led by their minister, the Revd Juliet Wriglesworth. I was the preacher at this service.

The service was followed by an excellent lunch of meat and potato pie.

Then I was taken to another part of the life of Lancaster Methodist Church - and this was quite an eye opener! Faced with the question of what to do with several chiurch buildings near the town centre, Lancaster has decided to concentrate its morning worship in the building whose centenary we were celebrating. Meanwhile, another building, right in the centre of Lancaster, is now the centre for a partnership of three charities and the church. I met representatives of the charities and church people involved in this developing scheme and our conversation gave me a lot to think about. There are certainly other places where Methodism has too many buildings for our present needs. Often we sell the surplus building(s) and use the proceeds towards refurbishing those we keep. And this may be the right thing to do. But I am sure another option which should always be considered is the possibility of being involved in something innovative and creative, working with partners. Cornerstone certainly fits this description. It also has the feel of 'creating safer space', the theme of my Conference address.

Perhaps the thing that impressed me most was when we talked about what difference it makes to the work of the charities having the church as a partner. Initial fears that the Methodists would only be wanting to get everyone going to church have died away. Instead, we talked about people's deep spiritual needs (the charities currently involved work with people with learning disabilities and with carers) and about what 'spirituality' means in this context. I only wish we had more such conversations in church meetings!

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