Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Labour Party Conference-Manchester

At the Labour Party Conference I joined the
Free church delegation of representatives-

Rev Graham Sparkes- Baptist, Head of Faith and Unity
Michael Bartlett- Quaker, Parliamentary Liason
Lieut-Colonel Marion Drew-SalvationArmy,Sec for Communication
Revd Kirsty Thorpe - URC, Co-Moderator
Gareth Wallace - Salvation Army, Assistant Public Affairs Officer
Dr Helen Cameron - Salvation Army, Public Affairs Officer
Revd Rosemary Kidd, JPIT Faith and Unity Co-ordinator

The Methodist Church and the Religious Society of Friends have historically had individual presences at the three main party conferences. In 2003 the Methodist, Quakers and Baptists organised a joint delegation and were joined a year later by the Salvation Army.
Each denomination commits that where possible a leader from within the denomination will attend each of the conferences. Since 2007 the Joint Public Issues Team (a great model of collaboration of Baptists, Methodists and URC) has enabled staff to attend the three conferences.

Familiar faces around conference.

The aim of the delegation is to enable church leaders to meet Christians and other politicians within the three main parties, to offer solidarity, build relationships, provide a visible witness of support for the ministry of those involved in politics emphasising the importance of Christian engagement and share concerns.

Our round table meeting with Stephen Timms MP who described his proposal to initiate a discussion on how the Labour Party could engage with faith groups.

As free church leaders we attended a breakfast meeting organised by the Christian Socialist Movement and Housing Justice in the Quaker Meeting House.

The theme of the Prayer Breakfast was the crisis of affordable housing being unavailable to many groups of people and reflecting on the significant debt created by mortgages and the challenges of social housing.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Faith and Order Network Conference, St John's College, Durham

The Faith and Order Network met over a three day conference to discuss together, 'What is Arminianism in the 21st Century?'

Sessions included -
What do we mean by Arminianism? - Rev'd Martin Wellings
Are Fresh Expressions inclusive enough?- Rev'd Barbara Glasson
Is targeted Participation inclusive enough?- Jude Levermore
Inclusion,Participation and Learning:Arminian Christian Education? - Rev'd Roger Walton
How far does Ecumenical Inclusivisn go? - Father Colin Carr.

The Faith and Order Committee and Resource Groups (assigned to do work in specific areas of speciality) was officially launched in September 2008. They form a rich and valuable resource to the church in scruntinising reports on behalf of conference and offering advice and support through the variety of Resource groups.

Members of the Committee and Convenors of the Resource Groups
Chair – Jane Craske
Secretary – Peter Phillips
Assistant Secretary of Conference – Ken Howcroft
Stephen Mosedale (Bible)
David Chapman (Ecumenism)
Paul Beetham (Doctrine)
Adrian Burdon (Worship/Liturgy)
Helen Reid (Inter Faith Relations)
Martin Wellings (Methodism)
Helen Cameron (Ministry)
Neil Cockling (Missiology)
Jocelyn Bryan (Pastoral)
Sarah Charlton (Social/Political)
Luke Curran (Theol Educ)
Alan Bolton (Interface)

Chester-le-Street,Durham- Rededication of Community Centre

A wonderful day of celebration and rejoicing as the new Cornerstones Centre is opened.

The Cornerstones project is an exciting new concept for outreach with the declared aim of the Church reaching out and becoming more involved in the life of the community in Chester-le-Street, and for the community to be brought into the life of the Church.

Alongside the Circuit staff team shaking hands with the Architect.

The faithful people of God entering the newly refurbished and re-dedicated community centre 'Cornerstones'

In the new community hall alongside the Rev'd Adrian Perry cutting the celebratory cake surrounded by an immense Methodist tea-party.

Trades Union Congress Sept 2010

The visit of Methodists to the Trades Union Congress is now nine years old and has been important in providing a platform to cooperate over a number of issues most notably migrant workers, asylum (or what we now prefer to call sanctuary) seekers, and vulnerable workers. Methodists were present at the birth of the Union movement, at the iconic Tolpuddle march and later at the first congress. The Forward movement of the 19th Century and the Union movement shared many personnel and links.

The policy making body of the TUC is the annual Congress which meets for four days each year during September. Each affiliated union can send delegates to Congress - the larger the union, the more it can send. At Congress 'motions' (resolutions for debate) are proposed and discussed. These form the basis of the TUC's work for the next year.

This year's Congress was held at the Manchester Central Convention Complex from the 13th - 16th September.

Inside the Conference hall in Manchester debates were orientated around the concern over the new coalition governments emergency budget and the forthcoming comprehensive spending review which are dominating the political landscape. The Unions fundamentally disagree that cutting expenditure is the correct way forward for the economy. Believing that fairer taxation and maintaining employment are crucial they argued that the reduction in public sector employment will hurt the poor the most.

We had a very informative meeting with Hannah Reed highlighting her concerns regarding the extent of the potential cuts and their impact on some of the most vulnerable people in our society. Hannah is the Senior Employment Rights Officer for the TUC and leads on issues relating to vulnerable employees, casual and agency employees. Hannah is also a practicing Methodist and a member of the Faith and Order Network.

Gareth Wallace- Assistant Public Affairs Officer, Salvation Army
Chris Chesters- Moderator of the Industrial Mission Association
Rev'd Alison Tomlin -President
Paul Morrison - Policy Advisor Joint Public Information Team (JPIT)
Hannah Reed - TUC Employment Rights Officer
Deacon Eunice Attwood- Vice -President
Rosa Leto - Chair of Methodist Workplace Chaplains Council

Monday, 20 September 2010

Round The World in 80 Days!

Not! It just feels as though I have not stopped travelling since I left the Cameroon.

We had a wonderful time in Lowestoft, sharing a great anniversary, generous hospitality and very good food. Then the travel was local and related to all sorts of personal issues - sort of catching up on my life!

Ripon Cathedral was another example of generous hospitality. Presidents tend to expect that from colleagues, of course, but Deans and Bishops who take so much trouble to offer care and prayer are a real gift from God - and there was more good food.

And then it was on to Byland Abbey for the Easingwold Churches open air service, with wonderful sunshine and both old and new friends. It was so good to celebrate God's love on that historic site and to share again with generous people of faith. And then yet more hospitality, this time with friends we have not been able to see for a while, so my thanks to Methodism for that!

Next stop, the Trade Union Congress. Conversation and discussion, starting with both serious issues and a great deal of laughter with colleagues over an evening meal, and followed by important meetings with those who have much to say to us about how we live our faith. A man once said the issue of the day was "Education, education, education" but I felt during that hard working day that the issue is "Poverty, Inequality, Need". I look forward to exploring that further at the Party Conferences, and in our own meetings.

From there to Edinburgh for the State welcome of the Pope. So important that Methodism in the UK was represented not only be myself - Eunice being involved with very important matters relating to her 'day job'! - but also by the Secretary of the Irish Conference who shook hands with the Pope and received a small medallion. And back for Westminster Abbey and a sense of the grace of God as such a wide variety of Church Leaders processed down that historic aisle. There are always going to be the differences, and the need for much further conversation, but we worshiped God together and prayed together for God's world, remembering that we also work together in so many communities in these lands. Those of you who enjoy being on line will be able to find all the pictures of these events that you want!

Then a wonderful and very Methodist event in Solihull, where it was a privilege to be part of the induction of the new Women's Network President and to share in worship with so many women - and men - who represent our faith and our commitment to working together for justice in our world. The theme of "A Taste of Honey" will continue to feed me during the continuing travels of the coming weeks.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Beginning the New Connexional Year

The New Connexional Year began for me on 1st September at Methodist Church House as the President and I joined the Connexional team for a New Year Service at midday. This was followed by spending the weekend in London where by tradition the President or Vice-President join in worship at Wesleys Chapel and Westminster Central Hall. I also had the pleasure of a spending the Saturday in the Enfield Circuit.

Wesleys Chapel, London-Morning Worship

Greeting the morning congregation after worship with Rev'd Dr Leslie Griffiths. A vibrant congregation of all ages joined together for the first communion service of the new Connexional year. I preached on Psalm 139 'God the Knower and the Knitter!' Reflecting on what it means for us to be completely known, loved, intricately made and cherished by God.

Wesley's Chapel was built in 1778 by John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. The Chapel was his London base and replaced his previous London Chapel, The Foundery which stood about 200 yards away. It was designed by the architect George Dance the Younger, who was then the surveyor to the City of London. Wesley described his Chapel as 'perfectly neat but not fine'.It was the first Methodist Church to be built specifically for the celebration of Holy communion as well as for preaching services.

Today the Chapel is a thriving place serving a congregation of hundreds, the local community as well as the thousands of pilgrims and visitors that come each year to see the ‘Mother Church of World Methodism.’

Westminster Central Hall, London - Evening Worship
A moment of relaxation for Superintendent Rev'd Martin Turner and Rev'd Jo Cox prior to the monthly Healing Service at Westminster Central Hall where a team of people offer prayer after sharing communion. A service clearly appreciated by those who came, many of whom are not regular attenders at worship. It was inspirational to share in this act of worship by preaching and joining the healing team in prayer for others and anointing with oil.

Welcome Service for Rev'd Louise Morissey
Preaching at a welcome service is always a joy as new beginnings, opportunities and relationships are celebrated. The Enfield Circuit welcomed Rev Louise Morissey pictured here with the Circuit Superintendent Rev Geoff Cornell, Chair of District Rev Stuart Jordon, the local Mayoress and myself.

Enfield Circuit Day
A day spent with the Enfield Circuit exploring 'Friendship Evangelism' was a great experience, the commitment, energy and faithfulness of those gathered both ordained and lay was a testimony to their love for God and desire to engage with others.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Cornwall District Visit

The sun shone as we arrived in Cornwall for my first District visit. A wonderful welcome awaited us from the District Chair Rev Steve Wild and his wife Laura. It was a pleasure to stay with them and listen to stories of how the church is engaging with the community.

Welcome Service for Deacon Tom Luke at Truro Methodist Church

A great occasion led by the Superintendent Rev Mark Dunn-Wilson and Rev Steve Wild. The service included a wonderful rendition of Katrina and the Waves 'Walking on Sonshine' and ended with an organ recital accompanied by dustbin lid percussion - great fun!

Radio Cornwall Sunday Breakfast Show

Sunday morning began with an early morning cuppa with Steve at 7am and then onto Radio Cornwall for an interview on the Sunday morning programme at 7.30am

Welcome Service for a new diaconal appointment at Falmouth Methodist Church
It was a delight to preach at the Welcome Service for Deacon Michelle Legumi & her husband Dave. Michelle was introduced by Clarence the frog as the new Beacon Deacon!

Sunday dinner with the residents of the Langholme Methodist Homes for the Aged

Gwennap Pit

Gwennap Pit is a natural open-air amphitheatre in which John Wesley preached in the latter half of the 18th Century. Wesley preached at Gwennap Pit on eighteen occasions between 1776 and 1789, always on a Sunday. On the first of these, he was unable to stand in his usual spot in Gwennap village due to high winds and wrote in his diary; '... but a small distance was a hollow capable of containing many thousands of people. I stood on one side of this ampitheatre towards the top and with people beneath on all sides, I enlarged on those words in the gospel for the day Blessed are the eyes which see the things that you see and hear the things that you hear.' Rev Steve Wild led the worship, I preached after which we were all invited for the most gorgeous clotted cream teas in the visitors centre.

What an absolute pleasure it was to meet Sister Dorothy, one of our retired Wesley deaconesses. Hearing about the old Wesley Deaconess Training college at Ikley and her ministry was just a joy. Sister Dorothy not only rejoiced in a life well lived but also articulated how fulfilled her life remained and her sense of being prepared for whenever the God she serves and loves will finally call her home.

Reflections on Cameroon

Visiting MRDF Projects was an amazing and wonderful experience. I was reminded again that African hospitalty has so much to teach us! We were welcomed as a gift from God by people who own very little but generously wanted us to have everything of the best. They danced in welcome; they fired ancient guns for us; they poured the waters of blessing; and they brought gifts that had been especially made when they knew we were coming.

We met elderly people who climbed steep hillsides which exhausted me, and who delight in the possibilties that MRDF grants have opened up for their grandchildren. And we bring from them to all of you their greetings, their prayers and their thanksgiving.

These 2 pictures are farming groups whose hard work both feeds their families and gains an income for school fees and other opportunities. They work in community as well as in their own small gardens.

The 2 projects are called PRTC Fonta (the Presbyterian Rural Training Centre at Fonta) and CDVTA which is a Community Development project offering technical assistance specifically to the elderly. This picture shows a meeting of some of the women involved in one area, with just a glimpse of the bowl containing the soap and washing powder they had made.

Many of you may have realised by now that I struggle with this form of communication - I would far rather talk to people face to face - but I long for those of you who follow this to glimpse for yourselves the great things God is doing through Methodism. So here are some more pictures.

Possibities include small shops - which turn into places to have a chat and a drink if you like corn beer! Or learning how to grow crops when before you only knew about herding. Or the advantages of the sort of farming where, handled well, growth comes naturally - try goats as well!

And don't forget the constant offer of music of all sorts, from their own traditions, to varieties of modernised options. And the simple joy of living.

The glory of God is a human being fully alive!