Friday, 21 January 2011
Chester and Stoke District Visit
The President and I made a joint a joint visit to the Chester and Stoke District although we visited different Projects and Churches. Whilst Alison was hosted by the Chair of District Rev Peter Barber, John and I stayed with Rev Simon Simon Sutcliffe one of our Venture FX Pioneer Ministers. It was a joy to stay with Simon exploring some of the joys and challenges of this new and exciting Project.
About Venture FX.......
The Pioneering Ministries Scheme is a bold and exciting initiative to reach young adults with no Christian heritage. Over the next five years it is planned to identify 20 people with the gifts to pioneer new Christian communities among people of this age group, and 20 locations where this can happen.
The scheme is named VentureFX to reflect its objective, which is to establish fresh expressions of church in new places and in new ways within a culture of holy risk-taking. The scheme is intended to complement the grass roots development of fresh expressions throughout the church and will add a strategic dimension to what is already happening, by focusing on this age-group and by releasing those who are identified as having pioneering gifts to devote their energy and vision to this task.
Rev Ian Bell, the coordinator of the scheme, says, "I believe that the connexional Pioneering Ministries Scheme has the potential to release people with the appropriate gifts to establish new models of church and to offer an alternative pattern for creating Christian communities among some of the people who are hardest to reach in our contemporary culture. I am excited that the Methodist Church has the vision and determination to pursue such a ground-breaking and risky project."
The Revd Dr Martyn Atkins, General Secretary of the Methodist Church endorses Venture FX by saying, 'A stated priority of the Methodist Church is to seek fresh ways of being church, particularly ways which enable groups of people largely missing from very many local churches today to encounter Christ, and his community of followers, and be invited to become Christian disciples. The Pioneering Ministries Scheme is an intentional attempt to pursue this priority in sensitive, authentic, apt and culturally appropriate ways.'
Venture FX Blog
Simon's role........ Simon is based in the centre of Stoke where there is currently no Methodist presence his ministry is to look at what it might mean to create community with people who do not attend church. Simon has just begun in Stoke and is spending time walking, networking and engaging with various Projects already based in the city and praying about how to engage with the night and daytime economy of the city. We spent several hours walking around the city (below is the rather colourful Town Hall) and talking about the challenges of this new and exciting Project and how we as a Methodist Church might be able to learn from all of our Pioneer Ministries. I thank God that as a church we have had the courage to invest in doing things differently and pray for all of those engaging in Pioneering, Venture Fx and Fresh expressions of Church.
Rev Simon Sutcliffe's Blog -VFX Hanley
Town Hall - Stoke on Trent
The Beacon - House of Prayer
The Chair of District Rev Peter Barber began our visit to the Chester and Stoke District by taking Alison and I to meet the team at The Beacon, House of Prayer meeting Rev William and Karin Porter again after many years, it was great to see how this ministry has developed. The Beacon's vision is to be a vibrant regional prayer facility praying for spiritual transformation in our city and nation and helping people explore prayer and the spiritual dimension to life. The House is open for anyone to use at regular times. There work is categorised into four main areas of presence, purpose, love and life.
Presence -Multiple prayer rooms to use within the house and several website based prayer rooms where prayers can be posted and responded to.
Purpose -Engaging in corporate worship and prayer with a revival vision, asking God to release a greater measure of the Holy Spirit in our city and nation
Love - Love City hub - Our calling we believe is to be a prayer hub for our city and nation.
Life - Life Prayer outreach
Cross Rhythms Radio Station
If you will look carefully through the glass screen you might be able to spot the President and I being interviewed by the Chief Executive Officer of the local christian based community radio station Cross Rhythms. The President did a great job of answering some tricky questions about Methodism and where it was going in the future.
Cross Rhythms City Radio broadcasts as a community station for the whole community of Stoke-on-Trent and Newcastle-under-Lyme, with a Christian values ethos.The station is underpinned by Christian values but its content is driven by local issues. In the last three years they have established working partnerships with many community organisations including the police, council, local newspaper, health, employment and education agencies. They support and profile the theatres, local businesses, arts groups, ethnic organisations and many more and have been invited to support, and play an active role, in city wide initiatives such as Citizen Of The Year Awards, Stoke-on-Trent Music City, and CQ5 - The Cultural Quarter Festival. In describing their vision for the future, 'We are already in discussion of how we can provide media training for young and disadvantaged people; how we can support drug awareness and education into schools; and how we can raise the profile of local businesses. We really believe we are a valued contribution to the whole community, and we hope that value will increase in the coming years'.
Night Church, Hanley
On Friday night around 10pm I joined Night Church in Hanley just as the volunteers were gathering for the evening.....and yes I stayed for the whole night until 3am, drinking tea and talking to the volunteers and clubbers. I've been a Street Pastor for over two years now in Newcastle and it was good to experience a different approach. Night Church is a great space that has been created as a 'Chill Out lounge', using an empty shop front.
Opening in November 2007, every Friday between 10pm and 3am volunteers provide a refuge where clubbers can drop in to relax and unwind. Street Pastors has just begun in Hanley and the two Projects provide a wonderful example of Christians reaching out into their communities, making a difference and keeping, 'the rumour of God alive' on the streets of our towns and cities.
Methodist Book Centre -Hanley
It was a very pleasant surprise to be taken to a 'Methodist Book Centre' in Hanley. I must confess to not even knowing that we even had a specifically named 'Methodist Book Centre.' Given the increasing tendency to buy books on the Internet, I'm very aware that many christian bookshops have had to close down.
Even more surprising was the discovery that there has been a 'Methodist Book Centre' here since 1945! Initially providing a space for a reading room, lectures, exhibitions and discussion groups. In 1947 the Book Centre obtained a catering licence from the Food Office allowing the use of rationed food for light refreshments, including sandwiches and beans on toast! Now there is a small Fair trade cafe staffed by volunteers from churches in the area.
Swan Bank Methodist Church
On Sunday morning I met the vibrant community that is Swan Bank Methodist Church, joining the Superintendent Rev Ashley Cooper at the 9am traditional service followed by the 10.30am service, where over 300 people of all ages gathered for worship. It was great to hear about a growing church that also reaches out into the community and to see the building work for the new coffee shop which will create a much needed community space in the centre of Burslem.
Click here.....for Swan Bank website
Nantwich Methodist Church
The final part of my visit to the Chester and Stoke District was to preach at a Circuit Service held at Nantwich Methodist Church in the Cheshire South Circuit. Worship was led enthusiastically by the Praise band. The Circuit is led by the two Co-Superintendents Rev Malcolm Lorimer and Rev Michael Parrott with the staff team working in mission areas enabling greater collaboration and support across the Circuit.