Monday, 30 November 2009

East Anglia District visit

I started my visit to the East Anglia District on Saturday morning at Thetford Methodist Church where a group of GPs, nurses and others with medical backgrounds from the District came together to discuss the ethical issues related to our ageing society. We had a stimulating discussion about how we should respond to the challenges and dilemmas of an increasing number of people with dementia, how our society often fails to place enough priority on the needs of its oldest members or respect their wisdom and experience, and how the Church should respond.

I then travelled with District Chair, Rev Graham Thompson, to Soham in the Ely and Newmarket Circuit, where the church hall along with the kitchen and other rooms had been extensively refurbished. We had been invited to take part in a service of dedication and re-opening of the building. A large number of people from around the circuit had come to support them and it was clear that the effort put in to the redevelopment had also re-invigorated the congregation.

The service was led by local minister Rev Edwin Myers. Someone had let on that it was my birthday and it was a wonderful surprise to be presented with a birthday cake by superintendent minister Rev Barbara Garwood.

On Sunday we returned to the Thetford, Diss and Mildenhall Circuit, this time being welcomed at Stanton Methodist Church where I lead the morning service. It marked the start of their 125th anniversary celebrations and they have a programme of events planned for the year. They’ve clearly had 125 years of practice, but the singing was excellent as we celebrated not just their anniversary but the start of Advent. It was lovely to be presented with a picture of the church after the service and to meet members of the church, some of whom had been baptised here over 80 years ago.

Following the service we returned to Norwich were David and I had been generously hosted by Graham and Alison Thompson. Not only did they act as hosts but also as guides and chauffeurs throughout our stay in the District, for which we were very thankful. We shared lunch with representatives from the District and we were joined by General Secretary and past president Rev Martyn Atkins and his wife Helen. Martyn had been preaching nearby and was en-route to an evening service in Dunstable, 2 ½ hours away in the neighbouring district. We should appreciate more the time offered to the Church by many of our Connexional team members.

On Sunday afternoon we had the privilege of visiting Rev Stuart Luckcock at Eckling Grange in Dereham. Stuart is 101 years old and the oldest minister in the Methodist Church in Britain. We heard about his many years of faithful service, including his time as a mission partner in South India. He remains remarkably alert and was not afraid to challenge the President on the fact that David had more lines in the Minutes of Conference than he did.

On Sunday evening we travelled back across the District to a tea and circuit service at Haddenham in the Ely and Newmarket Circuit. A music group led by a local farmer and local preacher led the service alongside other members of the circuit. I was invited to preach. It was then time for me to return to Leeds, leaving David to continue to enjoy the warm hospitality of this friendly District.

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