Sunday, 28 November 2010

40th Anniversary St Andrews, Sedgley

Despite the snow in Newcastle this weekend John and I made it down to St Andrews, Sedgley to join the congregation and minister Rev Roger Hides, his wife Deacon Sara Windsor-Hides and their son Hugh. It was only a week since we had last met Hugh at the Methodist Youth Assembly, where he was working in a supportive role as were the other 'One Participation Programme Participants', affectionately described as OPP's.

It was a delight to join in the final weekend of what has been a year of celebrations to mark the 40th Anniversary of two congregations coming together in 1970 in a URC/Methodist partnership. On Saturday evening we arrived, slightly later than anticipated to join in the birthday tea and entertainment evening.

ATiC Morning Worship Service
On Sunday morning we joined in ATiC (All Together in Church) an exciting, monthly church service which isn't much like a traditional church service at all! Using PowerPoint, drama, a live band and plain language, ATiC services put a fresh spin on faith.

After I had preached Rev Roger Hides invited the congregation at St Andrews to reflect on their hopes for the future (see below) which I found very inspiring.

I wonder how would describe your hopes for the future of the church you attend?

1. That we may have the courage to move forward – maybe to build a new Church; we pray that those who find this hard to accept, that they will give their support.
2. Let this church grow in numbers and in worship.
3. To be a welcoming meeting place for the local community of faith, love, acceptance, forgiveness, reconciliation.
4. That the issues relating to the Church building do not become more important than the spiritual life.
5. Pray for the youth to carry on the work in and out of the Church.
6. Continuation of friendship and prayer.
7. Bring together more people.
8. To continue with ATiC and similar worship styles, and also the work with children, youth and families.
9. Go forward in faith, hope and charity.
10. To continue in the strength of the lord.
11. Lots of new members.
12. For the next 40 years of St Andrew’s.
13. Change.
14. That there will be people to carry on the work.
15. My hope for the future of St Andrew’s is that we will always be a loving congregation, always looking to help, understand and love each other. May our door be ever open & may all who enter feel our love.
16. Community spirit.
17. To be bigger than this building.
18. To continue to encourage young people to St Andrew’s. They are our future.
19. That our Church will continue to grow and new ideas are accepted and encouraged, and eventually we are able to build a new premises fit for purpose with God’s help.
20. Pray that the young will receive all the encouragement they need to serve . that the elderly will not be forgotten but encouraged as well.
21. Mend the Church
22. That we shall fill the place!
23. Bring all ages of the Church closer together (young and old).
24. Look forward and enjoy another 40 years.
25. Talk to each other about our faith.
26. Help us to be a strong Church, so that we can branch out in all directions to reach others.
27. Stay positive and happy. Place of worship of God forever.
28. To stay a happy place with wonderful people.
29. To widen our horizons and spread the Word beyond these walls.
30. To be central to our local community; greater part of the wider Church.
31. Spiritual well-being; health and happiness for all our family.
32. Encouraging, full, youth work, vibrant, Spirit-led.
33. Happy.
34. To have the strength and good future to create a new Church with vibrancy and youth that will capture the hearts of the community and grow and grow.
35. Growth.
36. That we will take the good from the past and use it as the firm foundation from which to grow and develop.
37. For us to reach out to all people in Jesus’ name.
38. Continued involvement of young people and support in their faith.
39. Hope that St Andrew’s may reach out to the people of sedgley and beyond who may share in the love and care shown in this Church through the love of God.
40. Be part of the community as an inspiration to others. Love and help for the needy, work with youth for Christian fellowship.
41. God-centred people who share the Good News of God in this community.
42. To be forward thinking and not hold onto what we selfishly want, but what is best for all.
43. Guide us to choose the right way to move forward for this Church to become a means of spreading the Christian faith to the community.
44. That we become visible in this community and take brave steps in proclaiming God’s love for all people.
45. A strong presence in the community showing God’s love.
46. To be happy and united.
47. I pray that this Church will allow God’s Spirit to lead us and we will follow.
48. We must look to the future not look back.
49. To be a “beacon of light” in the community.
50. To be there in the future, for the young people of today to know the Lord.
51. Togetherness of all the people.
52. Altogether in hope, love, help, altogether.
53. To move and change under the guidance of God.
54. That our love for our neighbours will be practical, that our welcome will be sincere.
55. To continue to grow, and support the children and youth, and the needs of all ages.
56. To continue to grow as a family Church; to look after the young people.
57. That the young people will continue to keep this Church forever.
58. God’s peace, God’s challenge, God’s love.
59. I pray for the strength of service in God’s work for others.
60. New worship centre; guidance for what we should do for the best.
61. I pray that we will be able to stand out as a Church and be able to make a positive impact on the lives of others.
62. For the Spirit to lead and buildings to follow.
63. My hopes and prayers for St Andrew’s to still be here in Bilston Street in the next 40 years.
64. To be open to the needs of those around us & the wider world, & to respond to those needs.
65. Pray that the Church will continue to grow and become stronger, that more and more people will let God into their lives for the next 40 years and beyond.
66. We pray for the future of our Church and the young people.
67. To find God’s path.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Inauguration of the Ninth General Synod at Westminster Abbey

Alison and I joined many other denominational leaders at Westminster Abbey on Tuesday 23rd November for the inauguration of the ninth general Synod followed by a service of Holy Communion where Dame Mary Tanner, president of the World Council of Churches, preached, and Archbishop Rowan Williams presided. It was a great occasion and we committed ourselves to pray for one another as we serve God together.

Her Majesty the Queen’s address
Your Graces, The Convocations of Canterbury and York, duly called together in obedience to Our Royal Writs, are on this day joined together in accordance with the Synodical Government Measure 1969 and the House of Laity is added to them in accordance with that Measure, so as to constitute the ninth General Synod of the Church of England. Those who serve the Church of England in its public ministry are required to affirm their loyalty to its inheritance of faith as their inspiration and guidance under God. They also declare their commitment to bringing the grace and truth of Christ and making him known to those in their care. The opening of a new Synod is a moment when we can all give thanks for the witness of those who have gone before, and pray for wisdom as you seek to balance change and continuity in the decisions that lie ahead of you.

Next year will see two important anniversaries. It will be four hundred years since the publication of the Authorised Version of the Bible commissioned by King James, and two hundred years since the foundation of the National Society for Promoting Religious Education. Both developments had a lasting impact on the life of the Church and the nation.
The Authorised Version has remained one of the defining elements of our heritage. Similarly the Church of England’s initiative to build new schools at the beginning of the nineteenth century created a momentum which led eventually to Parliament establishing a universal right to education.

In our more diverse and secular society, the place of religion has come to be a matter of lively discussion. It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue and that the well being and prosperity of the nation depend on the contribution of individuals and groups of all faiths and of none.

Yet, as the recent visit of His Holiness The Pope reminded us, churches and the other great faith traditions retain the potential to inspire great enthusiasm, loyalty and a concern for the common good.

The new Synod will have many issues to resolve to ensure that the Church of England remains equipped for the effective pursuit of its mission and ministry. Some will, no doubt, involve difficult, even painful, choices. But Christian history suggests that times of growth and spiritual vigour have often coincided with periods of challenge and testing. What matters is holding firmly to the need to communicate the gospel with joy and conviction in our society.
For at the heart of our faith stand not a preoccupation with our own welfare and comfort but the concepts of service and of sacrifice as shown in the life and teachings of the one who made himself nothing, taking the very form of a servant.

A report to the last Synod concluded with St Paul’s encouragement to the Ephesian church to “… lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
Archbishops and members of the Synod, the five years ahead will not always be straightforward. But I am confident that with the encouragement of these words of St. Paul and the certainty of the love of God, you will find the strength and the vision to work together to succeed.

May the Lord’s blessing be on you as you embark on your important deliberations.

Youth Assembly 2010 GENERATE

The Methodist Youth Assembly provides an opportunity for young people in the church to get together and participate in having their say. This year’s Methodist Youth Assembly took place at the PGL Liddington Centre near Swindon from 19 to 21 November. Around 200 young Methodists gathered to make key decisions affecting the life of the Church with education, sports ministry, and peace in Israel and Palestine on the agenda.

Youth President - Christy-Anna
Alison and I were very impressed by the way in which our current Youth President Christy-Anna Errington presided over the Assembly, supported by our hardworking and deeply committed children and youth team.

Christy-Anna says, 'Youth Assembly is a great way to meet new friends, have fun and get closer to God. It's a chance for young people to have their say and influence what happens in the Methodist Church.'
Click here for - Youth Presidents blog.

The theme of Youth Assembly this year was
think, talk, be disciples.

Worship at the Assembly took place in a large lounge with enormous and incredibly comfy bean bags for seats with the young people planning and leading the worship alongside the President.

Youth Participation Strategy - One Programme

It was great to meet the young people on the Methodist Church 'One Programme.' Here I am with our OPP's - One Programme Participants. They are unique individuals who give a year of their time, committed to one place and project. The One Programme is part of our Youth Participation Strategy which is committed to enabling young people to participate in shaping and making the church.

Login's were sessions designed to enable discussion around several issues, raising awareness and concerns. Six login's were available -
A Question of Sport - Do sport and faith go together and should the church be into sport?
More than just reading the bible- Should worship be done to you, with you or for you?
Futureshock-The future is out there, but for lots it's scary. What will it really be like?
Why Methodism-Explore, be informed, encouraged and inspired about all things Methodist.
Israel/Palestine- Exploring conflict in the Holy Land and in our lives.
Love/Sex and Relationships- What do you have to tell the church about sex and relationships?

After the Logins came the opportunity to vote on resolutions and decisions using the fun electronic voting system or have items put onto the GENEROUS website for discussion.

What did the young people think of Youth Assembly this year.............

Photo Gallery.................

The President and I with Sam Taylor the newly elected Youth President for 2011-2012.

From September 2011, Sam will work part time for one year to serve the young people of the Methodist Church in Britain, making their voices heard and helping them to get more involved in every aspect of Church life. The Youth President is a paid post as part of the Children and Youth Team of the Methodist Church in Britain. Sam said, “I want to focus on empowering young people to be more involved in church life - it has to come from young people if we are going to get more young people coming into the Church. Young people need God in their lives and they need other young people to help them to find God. So the church needs young people at the centre of this, to make sure it is happening, and that the people that need God most are being reached.”

Methodist City Centre Network Conference (MCCN)

Every two years the Methodist City Centre Network hosts a conference in Swanwick bringing together those who work in city centres or large towns. I have been a part of this Network for the last nine years as a result of working at Brunswick Methodist Church in the vibrant city of Newcastle upon Tyne. The conference provides a great opportunity to meet with other city centre practitioners ordained and lay to share the joys and challenges of working in this environment, listen to seminars and worship together.

Rev Dr Pete Phillips is the Secretary of our Faith and Order Committee and Director of Research for the Centre for Biblical Literacy at St John's College Durham.

Pete began our sessions on Tuesday morning looking at John 1: Embodied mission in a digital age. We were encouraged to reflect on how we might use the digital world which we are now all part of to communicate the gospel and share the story of God in the emerging and constantly developing environment of the digital world.

Revd Lucy Winkett has recently been appointed Rector of St James Piccadilly in London after nearly 13 years at St Paul's Cathedral where she had responsibility for music and liturgy. In her session 'It's like Piccadilly Circus around here...where is the God of peace in a chaotic world?' Lucy explored some of the issues and challenges of the modern city and the ways in which we as a church can remind people of a different way of being and valuing each other.

Revd Peter Hancock is currently chair of the Northampton District and was previously chair of the RUN -Reaching Unchurched Network. Peter shared his belief that new pioneering forms of Church can be a prophetic sign to the Church as a whole of the future that God is leading it to. He advocates the non-denomination, non party all in it together for the Gospel and the Kingdom ethos of RUN.

Phil Summers from APPLECART joined us for an entertaining session describing his work. APPLECART is an arts project which uses storytelling, music, drama and visual arts to explore the richness of the Gospel with a twenty-first century audience. Normally performing in an East London pub they are amazing - if you ever get the opportunity do go and watch them, they share the Gospel story in a unique style with integrity and passion.

After I led a seminar called 'Sex and the City' based around some of our work at Brunswick with vulnerable women Revd Paul Smith and I led our final act of worship, sharing Holy Communion together.

This service symbolised for me all that the Network is about, meeting with each other centred in the God who in Christ gave himself for us.

Old and Young

Dave and I spent a brilliant time at Ammerdown with a group of people who were not at all old, but who walk alongside the elderly. These are MHA Chaplains, full of deep concern for the work, gifted and full of grace. It was a joy to lead a retreat where they could have space to pay attention to their own needs for a brief while, before returning to the various communities where they serve. I am very grateful that MHA were kind enough to invite me to do this for them.

We prayed and reflected; shared and discussed; created pictures and bracelets and rings; and heard the voice of God in all we did together. It was a holy time.

Then I went, without Dave, to the Youth Assembly at Liddington - just outside the District I used to serve and into the Bristol District. A time of energy and noise and passion for life and for God. Late nights and early mornings; laughter and serious conversation; prayer and song and dance; shared sorrow and pain; and the voting and decision making of any good conference. I do like electronic voting, even though I don't understand the technology behind it!

It was great to be working with all the folk who work so hard to enable our young people to participate well - and with Christy-Anna our current Youth President. It was also good to be there for the designation of next year's Youth President - Sam - and to catch up on news from the 'old patch'. Please pray for them both as she continues to do such a great job around the connexion and he prepares for next year.

Monday, 15 November 2010

History and State

Next visit to London, which I confess is not a place where I feel at home - but where I do have some amazing friends. Staying this time with Sue and Daniel ready for my engagements at church and the Cenotaph.

Hinde Street at its best represents the Methodist ability to combine good worship, community, and social action. It was a delight to share in a Quiet Day with them as they prepared for the great Anniversary celebrations this coming week end. Sue provided many additional possibilities for prayer as we reflected together on choosing, and discerning God's call.

After the Morning event on Sunday, I was able to share in the evening communion service and then we ate and drank together while the members/attenders provided questions and I tried to supply some answers. My grateful thanks to everyone for the hospitality, and for the challenge to think and reflect even more about God's grace and the future.

The morning at the Cenotaph was a privilege and a fascinating event. Such an opportunity to remember in so many ways, and to engage in conversation with politicians, leaders of faith communities, representatives of many other nations, and the paid and voluntary staff who served us all so well. I am grateful to Methodism for giving me that moment with those people.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Gatherings and Retreats

Last week I enjoyed being able to be part of the Women Ministers' Annual Gathering at Loyola Hall. We met to reflect and share, being led by Sister Anne Marie and offered both wisdom and space for our needs. I am always greatly encouraged by the women who gather on these occasions - by their faith, their courage and their giftedness, and by their willingness to offer those gifts in the service of others. I thank God for the time I spent with them; for all that we learnt together; for the real sense of re-creation; and for the laughter and joy that this sharing makes possible. We meet next year in Ammerdown.
Then it was on to West Yorkshire and a warm welcome into Doreen and Peter's home. We joined in the celebration of the Bicentenary of the Holmfirth Circuit where the worship in the Civic Hall was also attended by Civic Dignitaries. It was good to meet with old friends and catch up on their news, but it was also good to meet new people and rejoice in their hopes and dreams for the future.
Next stop was Whirlow Grange and the District Retreat, where again I was able to catch up with folk I knew when I too served in that District, but rejoiced in meeting new friends as well. Taking time again to pray and reflect was refreshing for all of us - including the cuddly toys who shared in our time together! My grateful thanks to all of the group - and to the Living God who makes all things possible.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Edinburgh and Forth Circuit

Travelling North for the first time on a Vice-Presidential visit took us to the Edinburgh and Forth Circuit to stay with our friends, Rev Andrew Letby, Superintendent of the Circuit and his wife Deacon Belinda Letby. Andrew and Belinda lived in Newcastle upon Tyne several years ago where Andrew served as District Economic Enabler and Belinda was a member at Brunswick prior to diaconal training at Wesley Study Centre, Durham. Andrew shares responsibility and oversight alongside the staff team for eight churches with approx 500 members and a variety of projects.

On Sunday morning I joined Deacon Belinda Letby where she ministers at Nicolson Square, part of the City of Edinburgh churches. Four congregations have come together on this site and are now looking at their new future together alongside re-ordering their premises.

Chatting with the Circuit staff team, I was deeply impressed by the depth of their friendship and colleagueship. It was very clear that here were a group of people committed to teamwork, growth and the challenges of mission in their churches and communities. It was good to hear of exciting opportunities and new idea's for the future.

Holiness and Risk (equivalent of EDEV-Extending Discipleship Exploring Vocation) is a good example of the unique way in which a team of people have adapted a concept for the specific Scottish context. Using the title from the Methodist conference event the intention is to create a far-reaching lifelong culture of extending and exploring discipleship. The programme hopes to offer a chance for people of all ages to explore their journey as Christian disciples by looking at what has brought them to this point, seeking to discern what God is saying now and where the journey will lead next. The four main elements of this national programme are:-
- recognising past adventures and discovering new ones.

- exploring the place of the Methodist Church in this journey.

- discovering what God is doing in the world and how we can join in.

- gathering what we need to equip us for the continuing adventure with God.

We spent Bonfire night in the manse garden with members of the Circuit staff team after a gorgeous meal cooked by Belinda.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Border Country

Eunice is right about the hospitality of the Wolverhampton and Shrewsbury District - and a lot more besides! Dave and I stayed with John and Mary Howard and the welcome was warm and full of laughter. After the conversation with the presbyters, we went to visit MHA, where there is caring and supportive independant accomodation for those who need a range of help - but also a wonderful and stimulating home for those who live with varieties of dementia.

I found it particularly moving as we joined in the singing which enlivened so many of the residents. I was sitting with a gentleman who had been a choir member and had sung in local pubs and clubs to the great joy of many. And I remembered my mother, who was part of a famous choir before she married and left (as you had to in those far off days) to"sing for her children." My mother 'left' us some years before she died and I wept as I sang with that community.

The dinner with Superintendents was fun and informative, as was the morning Bible study the next day. It was good to explore the chosen theme of Christ the King and I trust it was of use to those who will be preaching on that Sunday! Eunice has mentioned the reflections on the Israel/Palestine report and debate. I am grateful to Anthony Hick for all that he shared with us and to the rest of the gathering for their contributions.

Sunday was the real border country day for us. Morning service at Wem, where we were able to feel completely at home and worshipped God with great joy. Thank you! And then, after a delicious lunch of local and home grown food (thank you, Sue) we wandered through England and Wales visiting local chapels before we reached our evening destination.

Chirk - and the window behind me contains the words
"I have kept the faith". That phrase informed my preaching and has stayed in my heart. It is my prayer for the people of that new border circuit as they explore serving God in new ways.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Wolverhampton District Visit

Here are some highlights from our recent visit to the Wolverhampton District organised by the District Chair Rev John Howard.

As we travel around the Connexion, we are very appreciative of the hospitality offered by so many people. During our visit to Wolverhampton John and I stayed with Deacon Ann Shephard and her husband Tony, who looked after us with great warmth, kindness and generosity for which we were deeply grateful.

On our first morning we gathered at Dawley Christian Centre where I met and chatted with the Deacons whilst Alison shared in conversation with the Presbyteral Ministers.

Reaching out to the pubs and clubs in Cannock

Pictured here with Deacon Ann Shephard, Rev Antony Hick and his wife Rossalyn and Student Deacon Georgina Brook, I joined the Cannock Churches Together team distributing tea/coffee/soup etc from 10pm-1am. The team stand near the pubs and clubs opposite a taxi rank every Friday/Saturday evening and are highly valued by those they serve.

Reaching out in the Marketplace.......

In the market town of Stone, St Johns Church wanted to reach out to their community, they contemplated renting a shop but the expense was prohibitive so instead they decided to run a monthly market stall on the High Street selling cards and Christian books. Every month they give items away from balloons to Christian booklets and mince pies at Christmas.

Here I am alongside a member of the team. This Saturday's gift was a flower with the greeting, 'You are a unique, unrepeatable miracle of God-God likes you and loves you.' The team commented that many people are astonished at receiving something 'free.'

Reaching out through walks in the countryside......
In Trinity Church, Stafford a coffee shop is open everyday but on Saturdays they allow other groups to run the coffee shop and keep the money! Here I am with a member of Bishops Offley Church who were running the cafe on this occasion. Bishops Offley is a very small rural chapel of around 12 people who have started to engage in outreach by leading walks around their local area and providing food for the walkers when they return.

Saturday afternoon found us all at Great Wyrley Methodist Church for a session led by Revd Antony Hick. Antony recently attended a study tour in Jerusalem and presented his experiences, after which Alison reflected on the report accepted at Methodist Conference this year on Israel/Palestine.

On Sunday I joined Shifnal Methodist Church alongside the Chair of District John Howard to share in morning worship. The premises have recently been refurnished and the congregation here are exploring how they might reach out to the surrounding community, they are already doing some great work with the MHA Live at Home scheme.