Thursday, 17 February 2011

Lay Employees and Youth Workers Conference-Connecting Disciples

For the first time in this Connexional year, perhaps surprisingly, two conferences ran into each other. Having been at High Leigh for the Ecumenical World Development Consultation from 11-13th Feb, I stayed on for the Lay Workers Conference from 14th Feb. Starting the conference on Valentine's Day was a great excuse to take everyone chocolate hearts!

I joined Doug Swanney -Head of Discipleship and Ministries (pictured here) and his team Rev Robert Jones and Tamar Knapton. What a great conference it was, exceptionally well prepared and organised by Doug, Robert and Tamar and with a great group of people. An inspiring and thoroughly enjoyable experience in every way, a real blessing.

The conference theme was Connecting Disciples-
  • Connecting us to Welcome
  • Connecting us to Listen
  • Connecting us to transform
  • Connecting us to Do
Over 29 members of the Connexional team called into the conference over the four days to resource worship, seminars, bible studies and workshops providing a rich variety and styles of input.
Workshops themes included-
  • How to Become a Reflective Practitioner
  • Social media and the Church
  • Rediscovering the Bible
  • Transforming Culture
  • Children's Participation in your Context
  • Should we have Faith in Politics?
  • Safeguarding
  • Sports Ministry.
Evening entertainment was provided in the form of a Ceilidh on the first night and the Comedian Paul Kerensa on Wednesday evening.

102 Lay Workers gathered from all over the country amongst them were Children and Youth Workers, Pastoral Workers, Family Workers and Administrators. There enthusiasm for their work and commitment to participate in every way made the conference a truly inspirational event.

Alison joined us on Tuesday to facilitate a session on her theme, 'Listening to God' and participated later in 'Question Time' with our very own Rev Robert Jones as David Dimbleby.

My role was to lead the bible study sessions. On Tuesday morning we looked at 'Listening to God with Moses and Lily Allen' reflecting on Exodus 1-4 and in particular the questions Moses asks in Exodus 3 of 'Who am I' and 'Who is God.' Questions which I believe Lily Allen also asks in her songs, 'The Fear' and 'Him.' On Wednesday morning we looked at Transformation using the very familiar stories of the Woman at the Well, Zaccheus and Mary and Martha asking, 'Where are the moments of transformation in these texts.'

Meeting, talking and praying with our Lay Workers has been one of the highlights of my year of office. My only sadness is that they don't all feel honoured and valued in the way they deserve. We really do need to address the way in which we sometimes elevate ordained ministry inappropriately, creating hierarchies where people do not feel their ministry is of equal worth or value. Methodism is after all, a 'Lay Movement' supported by a few ordained staff!

If you are a Lay Worker (or know someone who is) please, please tell them about this excellent resource it was brilliant and mustn't be kept a secret!

Ecumenical World Development Conference -High Leigh

The Ecumenical World Development Consultation at High Leigh from 11th-13th Feb provided a stimulating environment as we reflected on the title 'What replaces Poverty?' Michael Taylor and Joel Edwards began the conference exploring the multiple dimensions of poverty including the lack of dignity and participation. Dr Sabina Alkire introduced some of her research on defining and measuring poverty and well-being reflecting on the many variable factors in different cultures.

Many of our discussions explored the themes of power, participation and exploitation when working in developing countries with an emphasis on, 'working with' those in poor communities enabling them to make their own choices.

An interesting research project had taken place where those in poor communities were asked, 'What was the greatest factor enabling them to be lifted out of poverty?' - 77% of people indicated that the predominant factor was there own initiative and desire. Perhaps it is no surprise to discover that transformation often begins with our own motivation whilst acknowledging that human flourishment is frequently dependent on structural change in society alongside individual transformation.
Rev Rachel Carnegie reflecting on Matthew 5 text 'Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the Kingdom of Heaven' describing the poor as co-creators of the God's Kingdom, emphasising that being aware of this was not an excuse to stop working towards social and economic transformation and the redistribution of dignity and mutuality.
  • Continue to remind our MP's in the current economic climate of the value of supporting developing countries.
  • Support the many agencies working in poor countries some of whom have seen a reduction in donations.
  • Pray.

Connecting Disciples

I was very sorry to be able to give only one day to this important conference for such a variety of lay workers from around the Connexion.

It was, however, great to share even that brief time. As always, I learnt from them and the others contributing, and enjoyed offering some ideas about Listening to God ~ something I was very conscious that all of those present are doing daily in their service to God and the Church.
The Question Time and the end of my stay was full of laughter as well as information, thanks to the brilliant planning and leading ~ thank you Rob and the others.

These 2 posts are brief not only because that is mostly what I do when on line, but also because we are preparing to go to Israel/Palestine on Friday for a very full visit and some important conversations. Thankfully, God both goes with us and stays with you.

Northampton Distirct

It was very good to be able to visit the district in which I now live again! We travelled south first to learn about some of the new work that has been going on since I left the District nearly 2 years ago.

Chesham's "Church to Community" - C2C - is a very exciting involvement with a number of partners to serve the needs of the community around them.

We had a good day sharing and discussing, and hearing about all the groups involved. My grateful thanks for the joy of the day and for the commitment to God's work in that place. The closing Q & A was both challenging and inspiring - for me at least!

The next day was a District BibleFresh day in High Wycombe. There was a great buzz about the whole day and it was a delight to be able to lead a workshop on Bibliodrama as a way of engaging with the Scriptures, as well as to take part in other activities and to learn more about different forms of our response to the challenges of the BibleFresh events and promises. The banner includes my bare feet as well as many others!

The Sunday at Barrow in the morning and Mountsorrel in the afternoon, was an excellent combination of worship and more engagement with BibleFresh. It was a joy to meet many new people as well as to catch up with those with whom I once worked.

Monday was a Quiet Day at Yardley Hastings - a very familiar venue for me. It was good to be able to share with so many folk some thoughts around the idea that "Love Changes Everything"! We reflected and prayed and used the art materials ~ and talked during the lunch break! the fellowship was a joy, so thank you all very much.

Thursday, 10 February 2011


Not a lot to add to Eunice's excellent report of our time in the Lincoln and Grimsby District. It was indeed both enjoyable and inspirational.
My Sunday morning was spent in Boston, after a very early (for me anyway!) stop at the local radio station to record something of our visit for those who were awake - quite a lot it turned out! The sharing of the service in Boston was great fun, with a profound awareness of God in that place. We were surrounded by prayer, rejoiced in worship, and fed both at the Lord's Table and with a superb lunch.
My prayers for the whole District and the work being done with and for God continue - it is so good that each visit adds to my awareness of the Spirit at work in Methodism and my ability to pray with that awareness for all God's people.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Lincoln and Grimsby District Visit

Alison and myself thoroughly enjoyed our visit to the Lincoln and Grimsby District hosted by the Chair Rev David Perry well known for his excellent prize winning blog.

Click here to visit David's blog.

Epworth, Old Rectory
Alison and myself made a joint visit to the Lincoln and Grimsby District but as I had never visited 'The Epworth Old Rectory' before, my first stop was with the Acting development Officer Ali Bodley and Rev Graham Carter, past President and Chair of the Trustees. It was fascinating to see the Physic Garden and look around the place where John Wesley grew up (I even bought a Tea-Towel!).
Click visit the Epworth website

Meeting John Wesley inside Epworth it felt like I had come from the land of the giants!

Side Door Youth Project, Grimsby
It was great to experience the worship at Side Door Youth Project and hear of the many ways in which this Project is reaching out into the community. Side Door is a Youth Church established recently as a Fresh Expression with a great team of support throughout the Circuit.

Question and Answer Sessions

Alison and myself (with the Chair of Lincoln and Grimsby Rev David Perry in the corner) at the first of two Question and Answer sessions. Here we are in Market Rasen and on Sunday afternoon a similar event was held at Horncastle.

After our Q & A session we were treated yet again to lovely homemade food with members of the Circuit Leadership Team.

District Leadership Team discussion on Big Society

After a very stimulating discussion on the Churches response to the Big Society (I'll upload the paper when it's completed). We were hosted by Richard Wills, Director of Development at Lincolnshire County Council where many redundancies have sadly just been announced. Richard & Jane treated us to the local delicacy 'Lincolnshire Fruit bread!'

Louth Methodist Church

On Sunday morning John and I joined the congregation at Louth Methodist Church whilst Alison and Dave went to Boston Methodist church.

The God Pod!
How much fun is this! A bus which goes around the local area providing a drop-in service for the local young people, staffed by Christians who want to share God's story in an accessible way.

Bailgate Methodist Church, Lincoln
Two Circuits joined Alison and myself in a vibrant act of worship led with a great band assembled by Jonathan Nowell.

Visiting Bardney
Monday morning found us in Bardney visiting Dr Pete and Kath Atkins to hear the wonderful story of how they have seen God at work. Pete is the Chair of Churches Together in All Lincolnshire (CTAL) one of the most vibrant Churches Together groups I have ever encountered. There eight priorities across Lincolnshire are-
1.Regaining Gospel Confidence
2. Prayer
3. Developing Discipleship
4. Identifying Leaders
5. Fresh Expressions
6. Research
7. Maximising Ecunmenical Opportunities
8. Closing the Gap

Kath and Pete lead Threshold Church which is part of the Ground Level Network. Working alongside the National Fresh Expressions Team Kath and Pete designed the Mission Shaped Ministry course.

We were amazed to visit the rather dilapidated old barn Pete and Kath have purchased which they intend to renovate to provide a centre for mission in Bardney. It was a privilege to join with them in prayer as they seek God's guidance for the way ahead.

Friday, 4 February 2011


While I was in Birmingham, I received news about a friend who was terminally ill. I arrived home in time to help prepare a bedside wedding; to weep and rejoice with the families and friends on that day; and to share in the pain and sorrow of her death. Please pray for the families and friends of Pete and Lucy ~ and for me to be able to focus on the work ahead. Thank you.

Methsoc ~ & Other Students!

Joint Week End for Methsocs plus...
The invitation from Birmingham was very clearly open to any student who had links and wanted to come. It was a joy and a delight to be with them, and the shared hospitality of Selly Oak Methodist and the Birmingham Methsoc students was amazing. Especially as I was in a proper bed thanks to Doreen, the minister there!
We talked about the future of the church; about their issues and concerns; about listening to God and growing in faith; and celebrated and laughed together. The workshop I went to was about drumming prayer and was an eye-opener for many of us. With the other workshops, all the ideas were used in worship on the Sunday, which was both inspiring and challenging.
If you want to know more about this week end from the students' point of view, try Twitter or Facebook! Grateful thanks to Kara and to all the students involved ~ I look forward to hearing about next year.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

VP visit to the Bristol District

Gloucester Street Pastors
The Bristol District visit began with the Gloucester Street Pastors as they commenced their Friday night shift from 10pm-4am. It was good to experience a different location to Newcastle upon Tyne where I volunteer as a Street Pastor. Whilst the streets were quieter than Newcastle (thankfully) the work is clearly much needed and valued by the clubbers, security staff and Police.

Gloucestershire Circuit Staff Pub lunch
Lunch and lively conversation a pub somewhere between Gloucester and Bristol?

Hanham Methodist Church - Chat Show
Theresa and Jessica hosted a fun evening in chat show format with myself as guest being interviewed on the role of Vice-President, Methodism and Young People, the difference between Presbyters and Deacons (a frequently asked question) and Methodisms vision for the future. In between the interviews we were treated to music from a young peoples Gospel Choir and Rock band.

The Early Bird Service at Longwell Green Anglican/Methodist Church
Look carefully at this picture and see just how many 'birds' you can spot in the form of soft toys. This is the 9am very successful 20 minute service designed for small children and held monthly at Longwell Green. As they enter the church all the adults and children are offered a soft toy bird all of which make a noise (with actual recordings of birdsong). A short service follows with music, prayers and a story followed by refreshments. Around 30-40 people were present many of whom attend regularly, it was just great to see something which catered specifically for families with very young children.

Bath Methodist Church

At 10.30am we joined Rev Rachel Borgars and Chair of District Rev Ward Jones as several of the local Methodist congregations came together for worship and lunch.

Westbury-on-Trym Methodist Church

Sunday evening in Bristol found me at Westbury-on-Trym joining the congregation in worship. My colleague and our host during our visit to Bristol Deacon Gary Hoare led worship and I preached.

Trinity Anglican/Methodist Primary School, Portishead
Meeting the Headteacher Mrs Karen Sancto and the enthusiastic staff and pupils of this new school (only three years old) was great fun. Telling a story during Assembly I asked the pupils if with an accent like mine they could guess where I came from a young voice immediately replied 'the church!'

Kingswood Methodist Independent School - Bath

It was a real treat to visit Kingswood School for the first time, where we were warmly received by Revd Mike Wilkinson,School Chaplain, Deputy Head (Pastoral) and the HeadMaster, Simon Morris. We shared a delicious lunch with the staff and students pictured here. Founded in the 18th Century by John Wesley, Kingswood provides education for pupils aged 3 to 18 years. The school has a Christian ethos believing that each person should be uniquely valued and their God-given gifts and potential nurtured and developed and that no person should expect to live his or her life without reference to the needs of others.

The Southside Project

Southside is an independent charity supporting families in their communities in Bath and North East Somerset (BANES). In the centre is Penny, Director of the Project alongside Jane Parsons, a trustee of the Project and local Methodist member who also runs a shop in the local Methodist Church which works alongside Southside. Penny and Jane are both inspirational women whose passion, energy and commitment enthuse others to join in and support communities that others find easy to ignore. The Southside Project offers family support, domestic abuse advice and advocacy, community based groups and counselling.