Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Back to North Lancs, May 19th to 23rd

For my final District visit of the Presidential year I set off to the North Lancs District, knowing I'd be well looked after in the safe hands of its Chair (ex-President, Stephen Poxon) and Past Vice-President of the Conference, Deacon Myrtle.

First stop was Burnley, at the Faith Centre used in a whole range of creative ways by a number of Burnley schools and the wider community. This part of Lancashire has a very high Muslim population and exploring ways in which people of different faiths can live and flourish together is high on the agenda. The Faith Centre makes an impressive contribution.

From the Faith Centre we went to the Basement Youth Project, based at Burnley's Central Methodist Church. Various pieces of work have been done here, including a non-alcoholic night club (see mural!) There's a well equipped recording studio, giving young people an opportunity to develop their musical and technical skills. The premises were decorated and refurbished by the young people themselves - an impressive achievement. We were joined on our visit by the new Leader of Burnley Council, who was also very impressed with what he saw and the opportunities it provides.

The evening was spent at Ingol Methodist Church, at a World Church event. We had a presentation on a recent visit to Sierra Leone, where the District has links and is involved in a project. I was also able to share some pictures and reflections on my visits over the past year to the wider Methodist family around the world. Quite a travelogue - but also some wonderful memories of places and people committed to sharing God's love and making the world a better place.

The morning of Thursday 20th was spent at the Central Methodist Church in Preston. The church's main entrance is directly opposite one of the main entrances to a shopping centre, and the church provides a thriving coffee bar. It was quite hard to find a seat while we were there!

We then went to the rear entrance to the Church, where the premises have been converted to form the Fox Street Community, providing accommodation for 20 ex-homeless people, along with various forms of support to enable them to move on into settled accommodation. We lunched here with Ken Wales (chair of the Methodist Church's Strategy and Resources Committee, but here on his home territory) and the CEO of the Fox Street Community Charity, Nigel. On our tour of the premises, Nigel managed to pursuade two ex-residents to join us for a 'photo opportunity'.

In the afternoon we went to Ribbleton Avenue Methodist Junior School, one of a number of Methodist day schools in Lancashire. A high proportion of the 180 children who attend are Muslim. I very much enjoyed this visit, and the chance to meet the headteacher, one of the foundation governors, and a number of other teachers and children.

From there we went to Fulwood Methodist Church, where the building has just been opened after having been refurbished to serve wider community needs. Members of the church community have been involved in creating a fascinating piece of work on what was one of the external walls of the earlier building.

From Fulwood to Ashton, where again the premises have recently had a major makeover. Here already the buildings are used by many different community groups all week long. The church's own programme has included a meeting for people to come and discuss important matters of faith and life in a safe, accepting environment (strong links here with my 'creating safer space' theme). (Picture shows Revd David Wood at one of the entrances to the church)

So, there are very intersting things going on in Preston (which, by the way, is where I was received into full connexion at Conference in 1976).

Friday 21st was my birthday - and throughout the day I kept receiving kind celebratory emails. Many thanks to all senders! Most of the day was spent in the North Fylde Circuit (where we kept coming across people waving and selling orange and white flags. I thought it was a nice touch to help me celebrate my birthday, but it turned out to have something to do with Blackpool's hopes of promotion to the Premier Division the following day.) First we went to Poulton le Fylde, and had coffee at 'Coffee Plus', the church's busy coffee shop. I had visited this church and preached here in the early 1970s (though I met no-one who remembered the occasion). It has recently been refitted as a church for the 21st century, and is a good place to visit. They even marked my big day in a very 21st century way.
From Poulton we drove to Anchorsholme, where there are hopes of a development scheme to enable the church better to meet the needs of children and families in the local community.

Next stop was Thornton, where a major refurbishment is taking place. We were joined on this visit by the Mayor, and there is clearly a lot of community interest in what the new premises will provide and enable. I asked the builder if they'd come across any unexpected difficulties as they worked on the site. He told me they had found what they feared was asbestos. But, on further investigation it had turned out to be horse manure. What a relief!(?)

Lunch was at Bispham Methodist Church, where there is a Day Care Centre. I remember Bispham from the early 70s. As a student at Wesley House, I spent two very happy summers acting as Social Secretary at the Palm Court (Methodist) hotel. I remembered preaching at two consecutive morning services (9.30 and 11.00) at Bispham Methodist Church, with a bacon roll being shipped in from the Palm Court between services to keep me going.

After lunch, we went to Cleveleys where minister Mike Payne took us along the award winning sea front development (where next year it's hoped to do a Passion Play at Easter). It was a warm sunny day at the seaside, so it was here that we stopped long enough to have an ice cream (picture shows Mike Payne and Stephen Poxon discussing the new sea front development with the ice cream shop's owner).

Last stop in this circuit was at Fleetwood, where we held a short service at The Mount Methodist Church.

Then it was over to the other side of the District, to Nelson, where the children at Christ Church - a Methodist/Roman Catholic church - had prepared a presentation for Pentecost. This was followed by tea and the evening event described in Richard's blog (where you'll also see what Christ Church looks like).

My day ended back at the District Manse, with a specially prepared giant birthday cake and candles to blow out.

Richard has described what happened on Saturday, so I move to Sunday 23rd May, Pentecost. In the morning I preached at a service to celebrate 200 years of Methodism in Freckleton, in the South Fylde Circuit. I was particularly impressed that the members here had decided one of the ways they would mark this special year was by raising money for an MRDF project in Cameroon. They have already nearly reached their £2010 target. 200th anniversaries don't come along that often, so at the close of the service we had a church photo taken (with me lurking in the shade at the back).

In the evening I preached at a Circuit service at Penwortham, as part of that church's centenary celebrations. Clearly, there's at least one cricket fan in this congregation, as the banner above the door said '110 not out'!

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