Sunday, 14 February 2010

Leeds District visit

This weekend I’ve been able to carry out a district visit and at the same time sleep in my own bed. We’ve both been in the Leeds District and it has been good to share in services with many friends as well as an opportunity to see parts of the district we didn’t know so well.

However we’ve also had to create plenty of time to engage with the media after our visit to General Synod on Thursday. People who rely on reports in some of our national papers could be forgiven for thinking that the Methodist Church in Britain was about to merge with the Church of England in the next few weeks, but those who have read what we actually said, or whom we have spoken to this weekend, have been uniformly supportive and understand that we were talking about a covenant between our two Churches that is now 7 years old.

On Friday David was on Radio 4’s Today programme, together with the Rt Revd Tim Stevens, Bishop of Leicester, and was interviewed by John Humphries. They both spoke as one about the importance of our Churches working together more closely and being “The Church” in a community. This morning I was back at BBC Yorkshire in the centre of Leeds, this time appearing on Radio Leeds with the Rt Revd Stephen Platten, Bishop of Wakefield, as well as doing an interview for another BBC local radio station, 3 Counties Radio.

In all our media work there has been an opportunity to talk positively about what the Church is doing, and how our focus on working on mission together and responding to God’s call to us all is so important. There may be more opportunities for many more of us to do the same in the coming weeks, and we hope Methodists will take up such opportunities if they are available.

We’d also recommend a visit to Pete Philips’ blog site for an excellent summary of current Methodist thinking on the issues relating to the Anglican/Methodist Covenant. Pete is the secretary of the Faith and Order committee. His blog site, postmodernbible can be found at

On Saturday we spent the day at West Wakefield Methodist Church leading a discussion on “A Welcoming Church”. David spoke about creating safer space and how churches can provide a safe space for people, not least recognising and valuing difference, as well as offering a safe space to explore our doubts or concerns. I spoke about removing barriers that prevent people from engaging with the church, barriers for young and old, men and women and those with physical or mental illness or disability. We then had an open session in which we talked about our recent experience in Israel/Palestine, ecumenical relations and issues relating to sexuality, amongst many other subjects. It was a good day and thanks to those who organised it.

On Saturday evening we had an opportunity to relax in the company of District Chair Liz Smith and her husband Peter, together with former Vice-Presidents Peter and Susan Howdle.

After the early visit to BBC Yorkshire this morning I returned to Sandal Methodist Church in Wakefield, the church I grew up in, to lead worship. They offered a wonderfully warm welcome, as well as digging out some old embarrassing photos! Members of my family were able to take part in the service during which I was presented with a beautiful picture of the Yorkshire Dales, for which I’m very grateful.

There used to be a thriving young peoples group at Sandal, which helped to bring me in to church membership in 1981, but sadly it is no longer active, and whilst the congregation remains large, with a wonderful choir, they have few children worshipping in the congregation on a Sunday. However they have recently started a Messy Church which is now attracting over 30 children and families, which is certainly good news.

Leeds District is relatively compact compared with many others in Britain, but I was to travel from one end to the other to join David and District Chair, Revd Liz Smith at Pateley Bridge, north of Harrogate, in Nidderdale. Pateley Bridge Methodist Church has recently completed an extensive refurbishment which has left them with a very useful building at the heart of this rural community. The building was made possible in part with funds released from the closure of Kettlesing Methodist Church. They are starting to host a number of new initiatives, including “The Big Fish”, a new style of service once a month on a Sunday evening and Toddlers Praise every fortnight.

David had led worship in the morning, and after lunch we joined in a session called “Church in the Dale” led by Revd Elizabeth Clark, the rural officer for Leeds and York and Hull Districts. The picture shows us with Elizabeth, as well as local vicar Revd Peter Dunbar and Revd Liz Smith. It was clear that there was strong ecumenical working in many rural areas that should be an example to us all.

We concluded our day back in Leeds at my home church in Chapel Allerton. Members from around the Leeds North East circuit came to join in a service led by Revd Andrew Atkins and superintendent minister Revd Dr Jane Craske. We took the opportunity to present two long service local preachers certificates, one to John Witt for 40 years service ( John was recently the LPWT national advocate) and one to Joan White for 70 years faithful service.

1 comment:

Ginia said...

I really appreciate reading your blog about the vast amount of work you both do (and miles covered) on behalf of the Methodist Church. Thank you so much for keeping us up-to-date with what other Methodists are doing all over the Connexion, and the world.