Wednesday, 29 April 2009

As a Chair of District it's interesting to see how other Synods are run and the feel they have. Around 180 people gathered at a High School in the Sheffield East circuit and in our opening worship we heard about the links the school has with Lesotho. The business was done efficiently and then David and I were invited to share for about an hour before lunch on Celebrating our Faith. The afternoon was a 2 hour session discussing some ideas that have come from a survey across the circuits concerning Mapping a Way Forward. We finished as we began in worship, sharing communion together.

Sunday was a full day beginning with a Barnsley circuit service at Emmanuel church.

They have a wonderful set of premises and the extended sanctuary was full with at least 400 people enjoying worship and fellowship.
The prayers of intercession were brought forward on doves (peace), fish (provision) and balloons (power) forming a great worship focus.

This was followed by a great buffet lunch with the circuit leadership team before setting off to join in the annual Inter-Faith walk from the Al-Rakman Mosque, Ellesmere Road to Firth Park Methodist Church.

This is something began years ago by Inderjit and one of the leading Muslims in the city, Abdul Goojar. There were over 50 people from all faiths and we walked for two and a half miles stopping at each place of worship, for a time of silent prayer. I was particularly delighted to share in this as there haven't been too many inter-faith opportunities this year and with us needing to make a stand against the BNP with the elctions approaching it was a very timely witnbess against racism and anything whcih would seek to divide us.

Then on to Chestefield to the town centre church for the Two Counties Service. This is an annual worship service for the Churches of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire - and the bottom end of the Sheffield District are part of these two counties. It was a good two hour worship event (with me only preaching half an hour!) culminating in the Church leaders - bishops, chairs, moderators, .......etc signing the covenant to continue working together. Following on from the walk a very rich day - and then a two hour drive home - with many stories of God's grace to share over these coming weeks

on the streets of Sheffield

I've been in Sheffield over this past long weekend. I began by visiting the leadership team of the Bolsover & Staveley circuit. They've been going through a hard time recently with a minister being off work on long term illness so it was good to share food and conversation with them. There are some exciting things developing and I hope our time together was one of encouragement.

I stayed with the chair, Vernon and his wife Meg. Beth, their 16 year old daughter is about to do her GCSE's and it was great getting to know them all as a family plus their other daughter Jo, at Chester uni, who popped home for a night. Their son Tom is a drummer in a rock band based in Germany.

Friday was spent looking at a number of church related community projects. We met at Victoria Hall in the city centre and heard about ASSIST which works among asylum seekers and refugees offering short term accomodation in the 3 houses they own. They support about 70 asylum seekers a year. This was a vision of a Local Preacher, Robert Spooner and other Christians and they now have 50 active volunteers working in a number of different teams. The quality of their work is seen in that they are the first such organisation to get help from Muslim Aid.

Inderjit Bhogal was also with us and he shared more about the 'City of Sanctuary' initiative. Sheffield became the first city of sanctuary offering a welcome and hospitality to all people. It was great to hear how this grass roots initiative is growing exponentially. Some of you who were at Conference in Scarborough may remember Inderjit spoke about this in the 'resourced debate' and I mentioned it in my Conference address. Please support this initiative in your own village, town or city.

We spent the rest of the morning looking at a couple of chaplaincies which the Mission is involved in. Firstly the superintendent minister, Noel Irwin, showed us the paintings by Ros Norsworthy 'Faithful City' which were featured in the Methodist Recorder recently. They were very impressive oil on board (40 x 7 foot) modern day Sheffield city scenes depicting the Easter Story.

We popped in to the John Lewis Partnership to listen to how apprecited the chaplaincy to the Store is. Then a walk to the Sheffield Hallam University multi-faith chaplaincy centre where we met with5 of the 16 strong team.

Noel with Yusef, one of the Muslim chaplains.

Over lunch I had the opportunity of meeting with the District leadership team and hearing of some of the exciting and creative things happening across the District......and an insight into the following days Synod!

Parsons Cross is a 1930's and then 1950's large housing estate with around 30,000 residents. The original community moved here to be 'above the smog' with new housing and lovely wide roads. More recently it has become a depressed area of Sheffield and the Council have major plans for renovation to try and create a sense of community.

So we met up with the local minister, Judith Jessop and one of her Anglican colleagues Ian who is also Diocesan Missioner, to walk the streets and hear some of the plans and dreams. We ended up at Mount Tabor !!! one of three Methodist churches on the estate.

It was good to chat to some of the church members from the three congregations and then to share with the circuit leadership team some of their plans. Like many churches they have had a 'glorious past' but are now seeking to find the best ways of responding to the needs of their communities today. Please pray for them.

About 8.30pm we went to the Anglican cathedral for a Sheffield wide ecumenical youth event with over 200 young people there - lots of loud music, street dancing, bouncy castle jousting and an artist in residence...and Vernon was desperate for one of the extra large hamburgers that were on sale...we left before the midnight finish!

Emerging Leaders Day

Over 60 people attended the Emerging Leaders Day with one or two confessing they were 'just 40 years old!' David and I were greatly encouraged that so many people had managed to travel from almost all parts of England to the day despite the clash with holidays and other events.

There was lots of energy and a real buzz as we explored together how 'younger adults' can be encouraged into the leadership of our Church now.

The one and a half hours for lunch was a great chance for people to network and this was one of the very positive outcomes of the event. There was a commitment to move forward on this agenda and to create data bases of emerging leaders through the Methodist Church web site and face book. I will post the information in the blog as details emerge.

There were three words on the front of the programme which set out what we hoped the day would do. These were Support - Inspire - Resource. We believe this began to happen on the day and David and I are committed to continue working alongside this age group to encourage them in helping shape the Church both of today and the future.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

The Lord is Risen. Alleluia


It was a real privilege to share Easter Day with the Methodist family in Shetland. An early morning communion at Lerwick, followed by breakfast. This was followed by a packed church gathering for an Easter family Celebration. Then off to Ireland (the village of about 20 houses not the country). here the normal congregation of 2 or 3 was swelled to 12 and there was at least one new person which was a source of great joy to the 3 members of the chapel.

Jeremy, Sheila and I then set off for the hours drive to the ferry for Yell. All the churches on the island came together for one service for the first time. It was great to sense the thrill and excitement among those who came together at one of the kirks....and the food after was a feast of cakes and more cakes. It was late when we returned to the manse and found that david had also had a brilliant the photois above show this is a most beautiful part of God's creation. Ihave met some marvellous, faiothful people and I commend them and the witness of the CVhurch in these islands to your prayers over the coming days.

Thank you to all those who shared with me during this Holy Week pilgrimmage - it has been very special. The Lord is indeed risen.

Mussel Farming in Shetland

On the Saturday we were taken out to see mussel farming by Thelma and Jordy.

It was a lovely sunny morning and the sea was calm.......and David and I were fascinated to see and learn how mussels are being farmed in the sea. With the recession at the moment there is not as much market for mussels and so many of the 'farmers' are keeping them in the sea

but the catch that was being landed by their son was for an order worth a good amount of money, helping pay off some of the over heads........

and we saw some wonderful views including Scalloway from the sea

Good Friday celebrations

It has been a good week so far and David was able to join us on the Thursday evening. On the morning of Good Friday we went to visit some the chapels on our way to Walls. We went to Westerkeld and met Betty who told us the story of the redevelopment of the chapel there which is used by the whole community.

Then we went to Culswick which is in the middle of nowhere. This chapel has 2 members and a service once a month in summer.....but at the Carol Service there were 96 - the whole of the village except the 2 shut-ins!!

'Cafe in the Church' is held on a Friday in the Walls Church and it was magnificent to see so many young families coming for their lunch. Many have had no or little contact with the church but already there are signs of some of them coming along to some of the Celebration events organised by the church - a real Fresh Expression of being church in our most northerly circuit.

The rest of the day was spent sharing in worship. Firstly at a Care Home and then travelling to Yell to share in a service with Jeremy at East Yell. There was a good congregation made up of Methodists and Episcopalians and they all lined up for a photo...we had to do something as the preacher went on a little and we missed the ferry we were booked on and so had an hour to have tea and cake with everyone....

Holy Week in Shetland - the journey continues

One of the joys of being in Shetland was to go on the different ferries. I spent the rest of the day after Synod with David Cooper. He lives on Yell, a population of about 7,000, so we had to take the ferry and then he showed me around the island. We stopped in Gloup at the monument to those who had died in the fishing disaster in July 1881 when 58 men died.

We went over on the ferry to Unst and visited the most northerly church in Britain - Haroldswick Methodist Church. Four of the church members were there to meet us - Joan, Alison, Vivienne and AnnMarie. This is a lovely church building and well worth a visit - if you are ever near Unst!

then a Holy Week Service at the Kirk before heading off back onm the 2 ferries and jeremy was there to meet me.

I really enjoyed staying with jeremy and his wife Sheilka. They also have their daughter, Marieanne and her husband Craig living with them until they finish renovating their cottage.

It was a great disappointment that the weather was too bad for me to fly to Fair Isle and spend the day with John. So we looked did some visits and also bought some wood and took it out to the cottage - ready to make door photos were taken of my hard labour.

In the evening we went to the chapel at Nesting for a World Church evening. We were having trouble with the video projector so one of the members rang her husband who came to help out - and we discovered we had grown up in Beeston and Wollaton - only a couple of miles apart - what a small world it is.

On Maundy Thursday Jeremy and I visited some of the people in Lerwick who were ill and others in hospital before being taken over to Walls where I shared a wonderful meal with Malcolm and Janet McCall - there was so much food, it was a feast.....and then into the chapel for an ecumenical communion service which was well attended and very meaningful.

The smallest Synod in the connexion!!

I was privileged to Chair the ministerial Synod of the Shetland District - which must be the smallest one in our connexion.....and here they are

Rev Jeremy Dare (Chair); Rev Leonard Bridgeman; Deacon Elizabeth Colley (just retired within the District); Rev David Cooper (serving with the Church of Scotland); Rev Nigel Barton and Rev Malcolm McCall had just left when I remembered to take the photo! Dispensation was given to John Best - too ill to come from Fair Isle. The Synod business lasted a couple of minutes but we had a wonderful morni9ng of fellowship and sharing communion. It was special for me to be able to renew my own promises along with my colleagues.

Holy Week in Shetland 1

Nobody wants the President (or VP for that matter) during Holy Week and Easter so Jeremy Dare said 'come and join with us in Shetland' and we had a wonderful time.

There are 19 churches in this one circuit District with 2 full-time itinerant ministers - the Chair (Jeremy who is also super, circuit minister of 7 churches etc) and Nigel Barton (who I suppose is Synod sec, Deputy Chair, circuit minister of 11 churches etc) and John Best looks after the congregation on Fair Isle. He hasn't been well recently and needs our prayers at this time.

I arrived on the afternoon of Palm Sunday and was met by George and Mae Anderson, a wonderful caring couple so committed to Christianity and Methodism in Shetland. They fed me and then took me to share in the worship at Scalloway.

there was a young Nigerian student visiting Malcolm and Janet McCall (supernumerary minister) for the weekend and she gave a very moving trestimony. The church was full with a good number of children and young families and we had a great time of worship and then fellowship afterwards.

The following morning Jeremy took me up to the top end of the island visiting North Roe and I met with Paul seeing the work there on building their first indoor didn't have a door on at the time so there was lots of whistling going on!!

This, like most congregations in Shetland, is small but Paul and his wife have brought a new sense of life to the chapel since moving to the village.
We spent time visiting folk in their homes in North Roe, Loch End and Queyfirth. It was fascinating listening to the stories and learning so much about the way of life and history of these communities.

In the evening I was back at Scalloway at the Kirk for a Holy Week ecumenical service - I was told by the Kirk elder I could come back!!

Back Home

After three weeks away from home it was good to be able to spend some time with Myrtle, Daniel and Joe. I had a couple of days to catch up before my 'official visit' to my own district in North Lancashire.

The Bishop of Blackburn had arranged and hosted a meal for me at Whalley Abbey to meet up with the other Church Leaders in Lancashire as well as our new Churches Together Officers who have recently been appointed. It was a lovely meal, good conversation and a chance to catch up on all that has been happening in our lives over these past nine months.

On the SaturdayI was the main speaker at Inspire 3. This is our now annual Leadership Conference and was once again held at Lancaster University. There were around 220 people at the event, most from Lancashire but a smattering from neighbouring Districts.

On the Sunday I was invited to preach at the Church in Preston where I was minister before moving to become Chair of District. This was the final service at Fulwood Church before they began a £1m+ renovation and rebuilding scheme. The dreamong began 11 years ago whilst i was amonmg them so it was a real joy to share with the congregation as they have reached this important moment in their witness as a church. There was both sadness and a real sense of optimism as everything was packed up and moved out for the builders to move in!!