Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Full circle

One of the highlights of the Methodist Conference is the Reception of presbyters and deacons into Full Connexion and then the ordinations which follow.

Last week I spent 36 hours with the diaconal ordinands at Ambleforth abbey. There are 5 of them

Becky Bawden
Fiona de Boltz
Claire Gill
Ellie Griffin
Liz Rowe

and I have the privilege of being the President at their Ordination service at Shirley Methodist church this coming Sunday.

I should have been with the presbyteral ordinands for 24 hours this week but I injured myself....!!!

I was in London for this final weekend. Going down the steps at Paddington Tube Station I damaged my left leg - the doctor says it's badly sprained...and I'm hopping around very well.
I had gone to share with Women's Network at one of their Consultation Days - it seemed to go well and I got lots of sympathy.....and thanks to the Chair of District, Jenny , who picked me up from Church House and took me over to Blackheath where we were sharing together in the opening of the newly built Sunfield Methodist Church. It is a beautiful building with a marvellous stained glass window.....

and I discovered that the glass artist was from Pilling, Lancashire......what a small world it is!!

and that is where I want to end.......

the service was well attended and lots of people coming in during the past couple of weeks to view not only the new building but also the Methodist Art Collection. Sunday was a 'more normal service' and for me my final one as President - to share in communion with these people was very special....even if I was still limping!!

But it was on the Saturday afternoon, after the service chatting to people including Paddfy on the left that I came across Gloria Braham

and quickly discovered she was the sister of Ted - who had been my senior circuit in St. Ann's Bay, Jamaica for the first 6 years of my ministry. Ted and his wife Madge are God-parents to our eldest child, Matthew........the years rolled away...and our conversation was about Jamaica...about family and familiar places......things had come full circle for me...I didn't even know about Gloria...Ted died a year ago......and he and many others were so instrumental in shaping and forming me to be the person I am now.........it was as if God was saving this up for the end...to show me again how great my debt to those people of Jamaica, to the people of the wider world Church........

a gift of God...a moment of grace.

winding down?

These past couple of weeks have continued to be full of new and exciting things even though the Irish Conference felt as if the 'formal representation' as President and VP was coming to an end.

It was a privilege to share in the induction of Bishop Graham Cray and the Rev Stephen Lindridge, the two new FX leaders along with the Archbishop Rowan and the URC Moderator, John. The chapel at Lambeth Palace was packed with family, friends and FX staff and supporters. During the year David and I have seen countless initiatives of churches finding new and relevant ways of sharing the gospel of Christ.

One unusual event this month was a reunion of those in Manchester MethSoc from the late 1960's into the early 70's. I had been in this MethSoc 70-73 and it was real joy to meet many from that era. You forget how formative these years are on the rest of life! Thanks to Russell Kirby and Marion Rixson for organising it.

The following day I was sharing in worship at Monton Church in the Salford circuit. This is David Walton's home church where he has grown up and people have known him 'since before he was born'. It was also the weekend the Methodist Youth Choir were visiting the circuit and they shared in the worship as well.

I was pleased to be able to share in worship and to thank this congregation for the way they had nurtured David and supported him (and me) so wonderfully through this year. The Choir were great!

I spent 24 hours with those at the superintendent's course - both those preparing to become supers and others who've been doing it a while. It was good to meet up with so many people that I've met in other places and at other times this year. The course was very well run by Anne Topping and her team.

Then onto spend time with former members of Cardiff MethSoc where I was chaplain for 11 years.

Jo and Ken Kingston had invited me to share in a circuit weekend at High Wycombe. There was a circuit fun afternoon at Bucks New University on the Wellesbourne campus. It was rather overcast but as the open air worship began and I was preparing to preach the sun came out...just in time for the BBQ!! Morning worship was at Wesley Church in the circuit then I drove to Hitchin to be with another former student Phil Turner (Smiler as we all called him) who is minister of the Meth/URC ChristChurch who were celebrating their 40th anniversary. Phil had rather uniquely managed to have the URC Moderator lead worship in the morning and the Methodist President in the evening - not bad!!

Finishing Off the Irish!!!

What a wonderful time we had with the Methodist Church in Ireland. We met in Dublin and were treated with wonderful love and hospitality.

The Methodist Church in Ireland is very much alive and well as we heard about and saw some new initiatives in mission and ministry. They are very much a large extended family as it seems everyone knows everyone else. It was a joy for me to meet up with friends, especially those that I have come to know through MMS Ireland

Ken Todd - former MMSI treasurer

Richard Clutterbuck, Principal of Edgehill Theological College and a friend from our time at Queens College....

The Ministerial Session lasted for a day and was jointly chaired by the President of the Methodist Church in Ireland, the Rev Aian Ferguson, and myself.
There was then a Civic Reception given by the Cathaoirleach of Dun Laoghaire and then we all went to share in the Election and Installation of the President of the Methodist Church in Ireland, the Rev Donald Ker. Donald is also Secretary of their Conference. It was a wonderful service and made even more special with the attendance of the President of Ireland, Mary Mcalease and her husband Martin. The first time ever that the President of the nation has been to the Methodist Conference. Donald in his address spoke about the 3 remaining marks in the present uncertainty...faith, hope and love.

It was a real joy to share in the chairing of the Representatice session of Conference with Donald - there were times he didn't know if he was the President or Secretary!!

David and I took with us 2 representatives from our own Conference here in Britain. These were Deacon Eunice Attwood and Mr Mike King. They all shared fully - bringing greetings from the Britsh Church and also Mike through addressing their World Church evening event; David through leading prayers one morning and Eunice through sharing about Diaconal ministry and encouraging the Irish Church to embrace a Diaconal Order.

the photo shows Eunice about to speak with David and Mike behind fully engaged!

I had the privilege of preaching at the Conference Service on the Sunday morning at the Methodist Church in Dun Laoghaire. It was here that something catastrophic happened.....that maybe a cause for a charge!

Myrtle was with me and perhaps there is a similarity between Eunice and Myrtle...both full of laughter, strong personalities, good looking, young.......(etc!)
but imagine my horror that in the prayers of intercession the local minister prayed for the President of the British Conference Stephen and his wife Eunice..........
I didn't know whether to be full of joy or scared...and this was picked up for the rest of the Conference that I now have two wives!!!

though it looks good!!

The Conference ended with a service of celebration including the ordination of 2 younger presbyters. It was a wonderful time .....but why did I finish them off?

Well this was the 240th Conference and since the time of the Rev John Wesley the British President has also been President of the Methodist Church in Ireland...whilst the Irish President has only been Vice-President of his/her own Conference....confused???

After many years of discussion this Conference made the final vote to allow the change in their constitution that the President of the Methodist Church in Ireland is also President of the Conference ....a real alleluia moment, although some are sad at its passing it does signal a new springboard for the continuing growth and development of our sister church

Please pray for Donald, his wife Sandra and for all our sisters and brothers in the Irish Methodist Church

Thursday, 25 June 2009

More than Bakewell Puddings

Our visit to the Sheffield District began for me in Bakewell - almost as famous for its puddings as Eccles is for its cakes!

Deacon David Clark and others from the Methodist Church had invited the local mayor, the Chair of the Chamber of Trade and other members of the community for an evening to talk about the social and economic future of the town - especially for its small businesses as they face the effects of the credit crunch.

It was a lively and constructive evening with some practical suggestions for action - including encouraging a reduction in local shop rentals as a stimulus to trade. The Church is to be congratulated on its initiative.

On Sunday morning I was planned to preach at The Crossing Church in Worksop - a joint Methodist /URC venture which was celebrating the third anniversary of life in its new building.

And what a splendid building it is. The coffee shop and entrance opens right onto the high street and there are lots of activities and outreach throughout the week; currently over 90 volunteers are involved. Local impresario and church organist Dave Jordan masterminds a popular series of concerts in the Church itself.

The Rev Mark Pengelly (pictured with his family above) leads a strong lay team and I look forward to watching their progress over the next months as they seek to deepen the spiritual life of the Church.

Little Lever Weekend

Wesley Day celebrations in London

Members of the Ghananian Fellowship and the Susanna Wesley Auxilary at Wesley's Chapel London

The Rev Katharine Rumens, Rector of St Giles Cripplegate and the Rev Lord Leslie Griffiths Minister of Wesley's Chapel lead prayers at the Aldersgate Memorial, the Barbican

Channel Island Odyssey

Traditional transport on Sark (above)
Loraine Nicole the local potter on Sark gives me a lesson! (below)

John and Mary Le Greslay, my hosts on Jersey (above)
Circuit staff and stewards on Guernsey (below)

Outside Sark's one room jail ! (below)

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

A day after returning from The Gambia I was with my friend, Keith Davies,(Chair of Manchester & Stockport District) visiting a unique organisation known as CiC - Commitment in Communities.

CiC grew out of the Manchester & Salford Mission and is about capacity building for faith groups. The Chief Executive, Davy Iredale, spent most of the day with us, along with Helen Boardman their DDE. They are involved in numerous projects and initiatives including:
Excell - a resettlement programme for ex-prisoners and offenders.
Community Chaplaincy - working among ex-prisoners living in the community.
Quality Living Scheme - working with vulnerable people
Community Safety Network - 1500 members working with local community and neighbourhood groups, Greater Manchester Police and Manchester City Council - and it often concerns'low level crime'
Learning Skills and Development Network - English as 2nd language, Big issue.
Refugee and Asylum Seekers
Moston youth project...and much more

We talked about a range of issues and how CiC helps faith groups get a place at the table when policy issues in communities is being duiscussed.

We spent some time with the people running EXCELL and heard more about this particular project. They offer 26 week paid placements for ex-offenders helping them in the re-settlement process. We met two people who through this organisation have set up their own computer re-cycling business

One of the youth projects is based at Moston Road Church and we went to visit some of the church people there and heard of how this very successful scheme was envisioned and been running for the past year.

the room above has been given over to the young people from the community and there was some fabulous art work and stories of how the congregation are supporting those working among the teenagers and young people.

Later on we met with the Methodist students studying at Luther King House which led into a meal for District staff and folowed by a time of the Vice-President and myself sharing our reflections of where the church is at this time...with lots of questions to follow.

We were very pleased to be able to visit the offices of Methodist Insurance - a few weeks before they move to their new location - a couple of hundred yards down the same street! We spent time with the General Manager, John Coates, Paul Rowley (head of Operations) and some of the Trustees.

It was good to spend time meeting with the staff who are involved in the huge task of putting all the paper data into software on the computers. At the moment Methodist Insurance insures 99% of all Methodist churches and manses in the UK and Ireland (what has happened to the other 1%??) They are keen to continue improving the services they offer, working as an independent company in partnership with Ecclesiastes and the Baptists and despite the recession seem to be in a helathy financial position. A little known fact is that over the last 5 years they have gifted £3.7m to the Methodist Connexion.

We walked to Manchester Central Hall where David (VP), Keith and I spent half an hour with Cris Acher at Nexus. This is a wonderful new expression of church being a real presence in the heart of the city among young professionals, young adults living in the city and the wider night club scene. The basement area has been transformed into a very successful cafe/restuarant which has recently won an award and is often full and a hive of activity at lunch time and in the evening.
then we went upstairs to spend time with those who work in our connexional property offices and TMCP. They continue to serve our Church so well and it was encouraging to hear of the new provisions for property consent and the way the staff of TMCP are responding to the untimely death of Neville Johnson.

Please pray for all these people (Methodist Insurance, Nexus, TMCP and the Property Team) as each of them are seeking to live out their faith and calling through serving the Methodist Church.

In the afternoon we went to spend time with Kevin Ball (left) and Kennedy Bedford (right)

at Manchester Airport where they are both chaplains. They are part of a multi-faith team who are funded by the Methodist, Anglican and Roman Catholic church, Manchester airport plc, SSP catering and others......They told us some fascinating stories and it is clear that this chaplaincy is highly valued by the authorities and all those passangers and staff they care for through the weeks and months of each year.

On the Friday evening we went to 'awaken' - a District youth event at Rosehill Methodist Primary School

There was a great band from Ivy Cottage.....who brought some dancers -

the organising group had worked so hard and transformed the hall

there were various activities

with a graffiti wall

and even a time to ask the Prsdident and Vice-President those questions you've always wanted to know the answer to...

the first one was....do animals go to heaven!!!?

It was a great evening but the real sadness was that there were so few young people there - I want to say a really big thank you on behalf of all those of us who were there to Helen Bell and Helen Boardman and their helpers who did such a fantastic job.

On Pentecost Sunday morning I had the privilege of being with the the people of the High Peak Circuit in the newly built Disley Church.It is a wonderful story of how this lovely church came to be built - it was a packed congregation on a beautiful hot day....and after a great time of worship there was a real feast in the hall afterwards.......

Keith Davies (Chair) David Philo (super),me and Nic Bentley

The evening service was a District Pentecost Celebration held at St Peter's Chaplaincy centre in Mancheter University and there was a great crowd of people - we worshipped and celebrated together and cut a cake for the Church's birthday.

This is David's home District and it was wonderful so many people came to welcome him back home.

Please continue to pray for all those within the Manchester & Stockport District.

Monday, 15 June 2009

The Gambia Experience - Celebration day

There is so much I could say about this very special day.... It was May 24th Wesley Day. Many of us as overseas visitors were preaching in some of the churches. This is a very small Methodist Church with 5 circuits and only 17 ministers, some of whom are supernumeraries, living in the UK or USA, studying on scholarships or training for ministry. In this predominant Muslim country it has taken 188 years for the Methodist Church to feel able to become autonomous. Throughout our visit there was a continuing anxiety about the future. I kept assuring them that the British church would not desert them but we were entering a new era of partnership and maturity.

The Inauguration of the Foundation Conference of the Methodist Church The Gambia was held at trinity Church, Serrekunda. The building was packed with hundreds more outside........and it was a glorious and memorable celebration....with choirs, children dancing, reading and praying and preaching.

The signing of the papers (21 people signed and witnessed about 12 copies of legal documents) took about 25 minutes and it was during this period that the whole church spontaneously burst into singing and dancing....

It was a privilege to induct the Rev Norman Grigg as the first President of their Conference

Malcolm Clarke as the Vice-President

and the Rev Dr Mark Jason as the Secretary of Con ference.

There was a real joy as people came forward for communion and a glimpse of God's Kingdom as children came for a blessing during the final hymn as the Anglican Bishop, the Roman Catholic Bishop and our new President gave them a blessing.

the worship lasted a good four hours....and nobody cared...we have waited 188 years for this..why worry!!

We should have been back at the Jamma Hall for a Grand reception at 7.30pm....we made it by 10.00pm. Once again we 'clashed' with the President as he was having his 'birthday party' at the same venue....so it took a little while for everyone to get their food....but why worry...what a fabulous day.

The Foundation Conference was held on the Monday. Government cabinet ministers were there to bring greetings, as were the 2 bishops and leaders of the Muslim community. It all went off well.

Just before we left on the Tuesday we were invited to meet with the Vice-President of the country, HE Aja Dr Isatou Njie-Saidy. She spoke so warmly and enthusiastically about the contribution this small Methodist Church has made to the life of The Gambia. Once again God continues to use what many see as weak and small to buold his Kingdom and bring glory to His name.

The Gambian Experience part 3

On Saturday 23 May we gathered at a new housing development area for the Opening and Dedication of the Brusubi Manse. It was a grand occasion with a good gathering of local people and all the overseas visitors with the Ghana Town Church choir. The former Chair of the District, Peter Stephens, opened the new manse. The minister living there is Bannie Manga. He is at the moment studying at Queens College in Birmingham on a World Church scholarship and he had come back to the Gambia just for the Celebrations. One joy was he was able to meet and beiwth his newly born child whom he had not seen since she was born.

At the moment there are about 15 people meeting once a month for worship in the manse but as more and more houses are built this will develop. It is hoped that there will be a school and church built on this same site over the next few years.

A group of us went on a short tour to visit gahna Town. This is a village where about 80 years ago a group of Ghanian fishermen and their families cam eot settle. They follow the fish around the coast and they have recently begun to moved again...so many from this community, following the fish are settling in neighbouring Senegal where they have begun a small Methodist community.....so we went to the nearby town to see how the fish are dried and prepared for export to parts of africa and the UK

The celebration Concert in the evening was great. Hundreds of children and young people from all over The Gambia came together to share in drama, music, singing and dancing.

The Gambia Experience part 2

On the Friday the Church in The Gambia organised a trip for all their overseas guests. We went to board a boat at Denton Bridge and were taken through the mango swamps down the river which leads into the sea.

We had a great time of conversation, enjoying the sun and the views.

The boat stopped for an hour and we were all invited to fish!!

Some were better at this than others........the only one I caught was as I brought my line back it happened by sheer chance for the hook to catch in the fish which Joe had just caught and was reeling in.

I claimed a 1/2 catch!!!

We landed at Lamin Lodge where we had a great lunch and lots of photos........

the look of our President 2009-10....it will get better David!

Jean and Nwabweze relaxing before our lunch

(the whole group - not drunk but we were singing 'This this is the God we adore')

The Bethel Women's Group hosted an evening for us which brought a wonderful end to a relaxing day.