Friday, 19 February 2010
What the Vice-President never told you...... about the Leeds District visit
The Leeds District visit was action packed, as you can tell from Richard's previous blogs. Following our visit to the Church of England's General Synod in London, I arrived in Leeds on the evening of Thursday 11th February and returned to London on Wednesday 17th. What follows is a quick canter through a few of the events and visits in which I was involved.
On Friday, accompanied by Liz Smith, the District Chair, I went to Ashville College in Harrogate - one of the Methodist schools. During the course of the morning I led the Senior School Assembly, met some of the senior staff, had a lively question and answer session with the Upper VIth form, and went on a guided tour of the school. It was good to meet and talk with the Headmaster, Andrew Fleck (pictured), about many matters, including Methodism's contribution to the world of Education.
From there we went to hear of the work of the Oastler Centre and the Leeds Church Institute. We talked with the Revd Philip Bee and Institute Director Margaret Halsey (pictured) about the role of the church and of Christians in the city centre and of how to respond to city issues. This is exciting and important work, and it's great to see how the Church is involved and can make a significant contribution on 21st century issues.
Saturday's event is well covered in Richard's blog, as are most of Sunday's. I need to add that the drive from Leeds to Pateley Bridge is absolutely magnificent (particularly on a clear, sunny morning), as are the views from Pateley Bridge Methodist Church's car park.
Even better was the view from the front of the church, seeing a large ecumenical congregation representing what is now known as 'The Church in The Dale'. The covenant at the heart of this ecumenical initiative includes Methodist, Church of England, Roman Catholic and United Reformed Churches and the morning service was a wonderful celebration of commitment to each other.
On Monday I went to Oxford Place Methodist Church to meet with presbyters, deacons and lay employees. We had a lively and, for me, very helpful discussion on all kinds of matters. I was also allowed to accompany the hymn singing - in readiness for my return to duty as one of Muswell Hill's assistant organists in July.
From this meeting we went to the Oxford Place Children's Centre, where children up to 12 years old are cared for while their parents appear in the adjacent law court. A very impressive piece of work, carried on for many years -and much needed.
In the late afternoon I met with supernumeraries and their spouses, widows and widowers at Burley Methodist Church. As well as the formal session, this was a chance to meet a number of old friends and experience how much Methodism can feel like an extended family. I was very much 'at home'.
Tuesday saw me supposedly 'cutting the turf' at MHA's South Leeds Interfaith Housing with Care project. It meant donning fluorescent jacket and hard hat. And the 'turf' turned out to be tarmac, so I enlisted the help of two of the project's patrons, Bishop John Packer (Ripon and Leeds Diocese) and Sister Agatha from the Bar Convent in York. This is a very exciting project - both in terms of what it will provide and also in terms of who it will involve. The 'Interfaith' part of its title is at the heart of the vision.
From there I went for lunch at the Live at Home Scheme based at Stanningley Methodist Church in Leeds Wesley Circuit. Talking to some of the other lunchers (and Superintendent Minister Godfrey Nicholson) it was clear that what is provided here makes a huge difference to people's lives and their ability to remain in their own homes. Very much a political issue at the moment.
From Stanningley back into Leeds centre to meet Inderjit Bhogal at Yorks and Humber Faiths Forum. I always enjoy meeting Inderjit as a friend, but also as a challenger and inspirer - and yet again he didn't disappoint. We talked of many things, particularly the Cities of Sanctuary initiative. Churches can work with other organisations and local authorities to ensure they provide a proper welcome for those seeking sanctuary.
From Inderjit we went to meet George and Molly Lovell, celebrating their 58th wedding anniversary. And thence to Rothwell for Pancake Praise (see Richard's blog). I achieved a lifetime best by tossing a pancake 81 times in a minute. Unfortunately this is not (yet) an Olympic sport.
On my final day in the District I went first to the Meeting Point Cafe in Leeds East Circuit. This is what it says on the label - a cafe which provides a meeting point for all sorts of people. As we talked with Deacon Vicky Atkins, members of staff and customers, it became increasingly clear to me that a project like this is not just 'something the church does'. It IS Church. Finally we drove to Bradford, where I joined West Yorkshire church leaders for lunch and presentations at an occasion organised to share their latest public statement on the theme 'Every Person Matters'.
I arrived back in London tired but inspired by so many different ways in which the Methodist Church and other churches are finding new ways to respond to the challenges of life in our society in 2010.