Monday, 8 March 2010

More from the Liverpool District

My visit to the Liverpool District started on Tuesday March 2nd, at Nutgrove Primary School (in St Helens), a Methodist school. Though I have visited most of our secondary schools over the years, I'd never visited one of our primary schools before, and was delighted by what I saw.

Year 5 had prepared an excellent presentation on John Wesley, which was both informative and very funny. It was also very appropriate, as John Wesley died on March 2nd. The John Wesley at Nutgrove was very much alive, however, and I had my photo taken with him.

Nutgrove School is a very good example of why the Methodist Church has placed great emphasis on the importance of education - both in Britain and around the world.

From Nutgrove Primary I went with District Chair, Jim Booth, to meet Col Lerczak at the Circuit Resource Centre in Warrington to discuss her work with survivors of abuse, through the CASAI (Church Action on Sexual Abuse Issues) project. The cross (right) was painted within the project.

Our evening meal was at Hood Manor Methodist Church, at a project called Spindles. Once a fortnight an evening meal is provided for a number of families from the neighbourhood. Our meal was a very tasty lasagne. As well as chatting with others at my table, I got a chance to talk with a young couple both of whom had been members of the same rugby team! They had with them their two children, the youngest only weeks old.

On my travels I seem to be coming across a number of places where churches provide opportunities for people to meet and share conversation at meals. Not a particularly new idea - I seem to remember a few such instances in the gospels!

On Wednesday 3rd March we drove to St Deiniol's Library (a place I've been wanting to visit for some time) to spend the day with staff and stewards of the Wirral Circuit, looking at how they will work together in their new, much larger, circuit. I was able to meet the whole team and share in some of the small group discussions.

Thursday 4th March started with me going to Court Hey, a local Methodist church, to be filmed for a DVD on 'Creating Safer Space', to be used as an introduction to Safeguarding training. I was a bit nervous to start with but actually it turned out to be quite enjoyable, with an excellent production team - 'Bubbles'. It may not win an Oscar, but I'm sure the DVD will be showing in a church near you in the not too distant future. Do try to see it. It's about a very important aspect of our life together in the church.

From there we went to 'Somewhere Else' in Bold Street, Liverpool. This was my third visit to what has become quite a well known expression of Methodist life and worship in the city centre. We made bread together (and having now tasted my two loaves, I'm amazed at just how good bread you have made yourself can taste).

We also reflected and prayed together for 45 minutes, using the Parable of the Good Samaritan as a starting point. I've heard so many sermons on the parable encouraging us not to be like the priest or levite but to be like the good Samaritan. At Somewhere Else the discussion was rather different - 'I was mugged once....' The discussion and the prayers had a reality about them that is hard to describe but wonderful to experience.

As I sat in reflection throughout this session, from time to time I studied the cross on the wall facing me (see below).

From Somewhere Else we travelled to Ellesmere Port and walked the town centre with two Street Pastors. The work of Street Pastors in town and city centres at night is become well known. To see the different way in which Street Pastors use the daytime to engage with individuals, shops and organisations in the centre of town was quite an eye-opener.

Street Pastors have been one of the most exciting ways of expressing faith today that I have seen on my travels. It's also a great example of Christians from a wide range of traditions working closely together and gaining hugely from doing so. This was very apparent when we had afternoon tea with a larger group of the Street Pastors.
While here, I was given a copy of Les Isaac's recent book (written with Rosalind Davies) on Street Pastors.

Friday was spent at Penketh Methodist Church. The morning session (with presbyters, deacons and lay employees) was on the theme 'Church Without Walls'). A slightly different group met in the afternoon, including a number of supernumeraries, on 'Living with Difference'. 'Church Without Walls' turned out to have been an inspired choice of topic when we arrived at Penketh church (see picture), which currently is literally 'without walls' as it is part way through a redevelopment scheme.

Richard's blog has already described our Saturday at Southport - though I thought it worth including a picture of Richard in action at 'Dr Luke's Surgery', introducing the theme of medical ethics. This led to a very powerful set of conversations.

On Sunday, after our trip to Radio Merseyside, I preached at Court Hey Methodist Church at a communion service led by the Revds Caroline Ainger and Sally Binymin. This was a very positive end to a much enjoyed District visit.

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