Thursday, 31 March 2011

Channel Islands - Jersey

Another first for John and I as we visit Jersey. We stayed with Rev Billy & Pauline Slatter who we last saw over twenty years ago when John trained as a Methodist Minister alongside Billy.
Jersey is divided for ecclesiastical and civic purposes into twelve parishes and has a resident, multi-cultural population of about 90,000. This increases in the summer months with holidaymakers.
Currently, the Circuit comprises of thirteen congregations. There are 5 full time Ministers, one part time Minister, one URC Associate Minister and a variety of churches.
Our first visit was to a Housegroup to engage in conversation over rather delicious cup cakes. We talked and prayed together discussing the specific challenges of sharing the gospel here in Jersey. It was great to hear of the Circuit being willing to reflect on their future mission and strategy together.

Retired Deaconess - Sister Ruth
Here Billy and I are with Sister Ruth Baudins at her home. It is always a treat to meet a retired deaconess and be very aware of their continued prayerful support of the Methodist Diaconal Order.

Jersey Women's Refuge
Visiting a Safe House always leaves me with mixed emotions whilst appreciating the fantastic work done, and this Project was exceptional in every way it is always incredibly sad to be aware of how many people's lives continue to be damaged through domestic violence.
The Safe House seeks to provide-
A caring and safe environment where all women suffering abuse and their children are welcome.
A place where you are encouraged to realise your strengths and take control of your life.
A relaxing positive place for you to have space away from the abuse to discuss your options.

The Refuge staff were passionate about their work and very grateful for the huge amount of support they receive from local churches including methodist churches.

Grace Trust, Jersey
All the way to Jersey to meet a man from Chester-le-Street! This is Gerry Padden, General Manager of the Grace Trust, Jersey. Established in 1999 Grace Trust is a registered Charity, embracing Christian principles and providing both practical and personal help to some of the most vulnerable and needy in the island. Every Saturday a community lunch is served for the homeless, addicted, lonely and depressed. Grocery's are distributed, furniture is supplied and regular outreach work occurs in the park where many vulnerable people regularly gather.
An inspiring project has also emerged called the Parklife Choir formed by the vulnerable men and women from the park, who meet to sing and now perform uplifting songs. It was great to discover this choir, we also have a similar Project in Newcastle called Recovery Rocks formed by men and women recovering from alcohol addiction.

Meeting Emma was good fun, she is one of the new Youth reps to Methodist Council. She is off to London soon to receive some training from Jude Levermore and will attend her first council meeting in September.

St Aubins Methodist Church Youth Club
Liz in the centre is the energy behind this Youth Club where young people meet from all over the Island to chill out together over food and games.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Wonderful Week-end

On Saturday there was an amazing day at The Queens Foundation in Birmingham to celebrate the work of the World Church in Britain Partnership Programme. It was my privilege to be with a number of our partners as well as with many of the folk who did so much of the very hard 'behind the scenes' tasks to give thanks for all that our partners have brought to us over the years. It was good to get to know each other better; to hear the stories; to laugh together; to eat together; to worship together; and to give thanks to God for all we have shared and continue to share. We pray that we will continue to learn from each other and celebrate this world wide family to which we belong. Then on Sunday, I travelled to Burford to share in their morning service, along with visitors from other Christian communities in the area and from around the Circuit. It was good to meet with old friends and to be introduced to new ones. It was also good to give God thanks for the possibilities that continue to be offered to us as we seek to serve. I pray we will find the right ways to use our fascinating old buildings in the new ways that God requires, sometimes in spite of the law of the land! And I give grateful thanks for the hospitality of both events.

Tri-Service Chaplains' Conference

We had a wonderful 24 hours with Chaplains who serve God and the Methodist Church with the Forces. We explored a number of issues together about the ways we listen to God and how we create community that is both supportive and open. And, thanks to the gracious welcome and giftedness of both the chaplains and the folk who were with us from Church House, I felt that we were offered a very good model of precisely that sort of community!

Our worship together was encouraging and stimulating. The laughter we shared was a joy. I invite you to continue to pray for this amazing variety of women and men who serve God and those among whom they minister in difficult and often complicated circumstances.


It feels as though the retreat was a very long time ago, but it was a good and refreshing time for me. I caught up on my sleep; spent time walking in the delightful country of the Brecon Beacons; committed myself to hour long times of dedicated prayer three times each day; and did some thought-provoking reflective reading. When I go on my annual hermitage retreat, I take with me very little. This year it was 3 books of hymns/songs (in case I need to look up the words of something that comes to my attention as I pray) my music (which this year I did not play at all) and whatever I may want to reflect with as well as my Bible. My reflection tools were simply some books about praying with Icons and the Icons themselves, plus my pastels for any drawing and the materials for creating my place of prayer. I so needed this space to let God re-focus my life! There was nothing dramatic at all - simply an awareness of my own need to "seek to be holy" and to be in God's presence. I explored how I seek the God who is always present The joy is that there is nothing to interrupt my seeking. Even my daily prayers for others are strengthened by this process of "retreat". I pray that those of you who read this may find your own way to become more aware of the God who loves you so much and patiently waits to be gracious to you.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Leeds,Oxford Place

Visiting Oxford Place, Leeds you cannot fail to be impressed by the incredible building. Oxford Place Centre comprises Oxford Place Methodist Church and Oxford Place Community Care alongside Oxford Chambers which provides office accommodation.

As with many of our city centre Mission churches it has a long history of team ministry, the staff team currently being made up of the Superintendent, Rev Adrian Burdon, Deacon Jenny Jones and Rev Caroline Ryder, Chaplain to the University.

I discovered the church is normally open six days a week from Monday to Friday with the lounge coffee bar and every Sunday for worship with the Methodist congregation in the morning and an Ethiopian congregation in the afternoon. On the second Sunday of each month there is a Reflective Service at 6.30pm and on the third Sunday of each month Time to Talk.

Person to Person - A drop-in listening service opens Monday-Friday 10.00am-2.00pm for people who are worried, anxious or distressed.

The Brunswick Prayer Chapel and the Church are both open daily for prayer and reflection.

The Oxford Chambers building provides office accommodation for, Women's Counselling and Therapy, Home-Start, Christian Aid, Mediation Leeds, Leeds Bereavement Forum, West Yorkshire family Mediation, Leeds Life Pregnancy Care, Genesis Leeds Project, Relate, Terrence Higgins Trust, West Yorkshire learning Consortium and the Leeds Methodist District office.

Located in the basement of the church is the Children's centre, providing support for children whose parents are attending the adjacent courts as defendants or witnesses, because of domestic proceedings, or to support friends.

I joined the morning congregation for worship and we shared in lunch and conversation together about the future mission of the church with the staff team and Chair of the Leeds District Rev Liz Smith.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Venture FX Pioneers

On Wednesday I travelled down to London, staying at the Methodist International Hotel overnight, and as often seems to happen when you go away, the first person I met in the restaurant was from Newcastle!

Venture FX Pioneer Ministries New ways-New places-Holy Risk
It was an absolute privilege to join with our Venture FX Pioneers for their monthly meeting of learning and support with Rev Ian Bell and to listen to the stories of what God is doing amongst them.

The Methodist Church has always taken seriously the need to make the good news of Jesus Christ known to all people and especially those who don’t easily connect with the church. 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 Venture FX 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.

I am very proud that we as a church are investing in these Projects with our time, money and energy. Many of us are deeply aware that for some people to engage with the story of God in our communities, church needs to be done very differently. It is a simple fact not everyone can relate to the traditional ways of being church that we have established.

I hope you will join me in praying for our Pioneers and those who support them, particularly Rev Ian Bell and the Chairs of District where the Projects are located.

Creator God, thank you for the gift of our Pioneers.
Risk-taking God, thank you for their willingness to serve you.
Give us the wisdom and courage as a church to listen
and respond to the challenges they offer to us.
Life giving God, breathe your Spirit into their lives and ministries that they will be channels of your love in new ways, in new places, taking holy risks for your sake.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Shetland District Visit

Visiting Shetland for the first time has been a wonderful experience of warm and generous hospitality with more home made cakes than I have seen in a long time! A rugged yet stunningly beautiful landscape, the Shetland District is overseen by the Rev Jeremy Dare alongside his colleague Rev Nigel Barton, they are serving God in this unique place with all the joys and challenges of an Island community.

A Stunningly beautiful Landscape

An afternoon stroll on the cliff edge!
Here we are at Eshaness in the North of the Island, Jeremy is kindly holding onto me to keep me attached to the cliff, the wind was howling but the view was incredible.

Staff Lunch

Lunch with the Chair of District Rev Jeremy Dare and his wife Sheila, alongside Lauris (new Lay Worker) and Gary Williams one of the regional development team and Paul and Joy members from the North of the Island.

Saturday evening took us to 'Rebellion' at Cunningsburgh, a village 10 miles south of Lerwick (major town of Shetland). Rebellion is an ecumenical youth meeting for teenagers with songs, testimony and great use of video clips and Power Point.

Walls Methodist Church
Sunday morning was spent with the congregation at Walls Methodist Church.

Sunday dinner on the Croft

We enjoyed wonderful hospitality on Shetland and received a special treat of having a traditional Sunday dinner of Shetland roast lamb with Alma on her Croft, kept warm by the Norwegian peat stove. Alma's sister and her husband joined us for dinner, another Eunice!

On Sunday afternoon we joined the Chair of District Rev Jeremy Dare at a small village church in Tresta where a very small but dedicated group of people meet each Sunday at 3pm.

Circuit Service at Scalloway

Sunday evening Worship took place at Scalloway Methodist Church where an all age congregation joined together for a Circuit Service led by the Chair of District Rev Jeremy Dare and I preached. We were treated to a wonderful rendition of Psalm 139 in Shetland dialect which was almost incomprehensible to me, but great to hear.

Saturday, 12 March 2011


On Thursday I had the great pleasure of sharing with students in Cambridge about Methodist Spirituality. We agreed that Methodism cheerfully borrows from a number of traditions but that there is a "flavour" that is almost instantly identifiable even when we are adapting our own or others' material. It was good to meet a number of new folk as well as catching up with some I had met before. As always the hospitality was excellent, but more important was the challenge to think clearly and then articulate well my own thinking and my own approach to the various questions raised.

We ate together, worshipped together, discussed and relaxed together, and I am grateful for the evening.

And now I go on my hermitage retreat. I will not speak to another person for 7 days, once I am settled in my small self-catering chalet in the Brecon Beacons. As I seek to listen to what God is saying, I shall remember the Methodist people and our suffering world in prayer. I trust that I shall return home strengthened for the time ahead, and trusting in God's love and truth as I face the challenges God's love always offers. I usually find that these annual retreats re-create me, as my heart is searched and known by God, and my faith is made new again by God's Spirit.


The Bristol visit started with the official opening of the Beacon Project in Chippenham. We had an evening of great rejoicing as we celebrated the work that is being done here in serving God and the local community.

This second picture will serve for me as a reminder of the huge privilege that is offered when one finds oneself named at a celebration, when all the hard work has been done by others and we are surrounded by the achievements of so many servants of the Living God.

After generous hospitality in Chippenham, we went on to Ammerdown to meet with Circuit Stewards and spend time in listening to them as well as sharing some ideas about Spiritual Leadership. We were reflecting on the responsibility of Leadership Teams for the "spiritual and material wellbeing of the circuit".

It was an excellent time including the first time I have been a member of a winning quiz team. Nothing to do with my input , but clearly related to the knowledge of certain members of the District Leadership as well as gifted Circuit Stewards.

The next day was time for a visit to The New Room ~ the first time I have had the opportunity to really explore, instead of simply a quick look. There was time to learn a little more of the history, and something of the exciting ventures in using history as a basis for mission. Then on to Midland Road and a meeting with some of the clients who are served by this hard working group who offer hospitality to the homeless and needy.

Eunice has already shared with you about the meeting I was booked to attend immediately after the District visit, but before I left Bristol, I shared a small part of the Ministerial Synod, where I preached on the text I chose for the membership tickets this year ~ The Lord waits to be gracious to you.


A whole day in Oxford! I spent the morning with the congregation at Wesley Memorial Church, when we explored what it might mean to take the Biblical idea of 'Laments' seriously. At the time, I was aware of how much I was reflecting on our visit to Israel/Palestine, but now, of course, there is other pain and distress and suffering and grief to lament; other lives to mourn; other people and places to pray for with all our hearts.

In the evening, I had been asked to preach at evensong in Worcester College on the Sin of Gluttony. This was made even more interesting by the fact that the generous invitation included the offer of dinner at High Table followed by a very special and historic dessert by candle-light! I had a wonderful time, but am still not sure whether I was truly able to distinguish between a proper enjoyment of God's good gifts, and the right rejection of temptation! I remembered that Jesus went to parties and greatly enjoyed meals with his friends and trust I followed his example appropriately.

Catching up!!

Life has been full of a number of both urgent and important issues in recent days. And then, as Eunice has reminded us, all our concerns are taken up into the wider concerns of our world. As I go on Retreat this coming week, I shall inevitably be reflecting on all that our sisters and brothers (of all faiths and none) are facing in the Pacific area. So I catch up on this particular means of sharing what has been happening for me with an awareness that our minds and hearts are burdened for others' suffering.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Prayers for Japan

Our lives are placed in perspective when sudden and tragic events happen like those in Japan today.
Please join in prayer for the people of Japan.
The following was posted today by our World Church Asia Co-ordinator Steve Pearce.
Several powerful earthquakes have hit northern Japan today including one of 8.9 magnitude, this may be the worst for 140 years.
Many people are waiting in fear for the coming aftershocks. The whole of The Pacific rim is on tsunami alert, one of 10m has already struck the northern port of Sendai. Such a height of water could completely engulf some of the pacific islands. Many countries have warnings in place.
Inevitably the numbers of dead and injured are increasing hour by hour.
Our Mission Partners in Japan are safe and well, though worried about people they know in the north and on the coast. Many areas are without power and the government is asking people not to use the phone network so contact cannot be made with family members. They ask for our prayers.
God of love,
Be with the people of Japan as they cope with this earthquake,
God of peace
Be with those in fear of aftershocks and tsunami,
God of hope
Be with those who grieve and those waiting for news
God of all
Be with the island nations at the mercy of the sea,
God of the Church
Be with your people as they show your love and care.

We pray especially for our brothers and sisters in the United Church of Christ in Japan,For our Mission Partners, Daniel and Yasuko Dellming and their children, Momoko, Daisuke and Yoko and their relatives in Japan and also for Sheila Norris, currently on a brief visit to the UK.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Methodist and Anglican Church Leaders Meeting

The annual meeting of Methodist/Anglican church leaders is one of several meetings throughout the year with our Covenant partners. The aim of the meeting is to share in prayer and fellowship together alongside discussions around areas of shared interest and concern. Our meeting provided an opportunity to hear an update of the work of the Joint Implementation Committee, developments in the Anglican Communion and the World Methodist Council.

After the meeting The Archbishop of Canterbury, Revd Rowan Williams and The Archbishop of York, Revd John Sentamu kindly took a moment with Alison and I to join in writing out a verse for the handwritten bible (an initiative of Biblefresh, a movement of churches, agencies, colleges and festivals seeking to encourage and inspire churches across the UK to a greater confidence and appetite for the Word of God).

We were joined in our meeting by our Methodist colleagues, Revd Martyn Atkins, Revd Ken Howcroft, Chris Elliott, John Ellis and our Anglican friends, The Bishop of Guildford, Revd Canon Jonathan Goodall and Revd Canon Paul Avis.

A reminder below of the affirmations and commitments which we agreed together in 2003.

The Anglican-Methodist Covenant
We the Methodist Church of Great Britain and the Church of England, on the basis of our shared history, our full agreement in the apostolic faith, our shared theological understandings of the nature and mission of the Church and of its ministry and oversight, and our agreement on the goal of full visible unity, as set out in the previous sections of our Common Statement, hereby make the following Covenant in the form of interdependent Affirmations and Commitments. We do so in a spirit of penitence for all that human sinfulness and narrowness of vision have contributed to our past divisions, believing that we have been impoverished through our separation and that our witness to the gospel has been weakened accordingly, and in a spirit of thanksgiving and joy for the convergence in faith and collaboration in mission that we have experienced in recent years.

The Affirmations

1. We affirm one another's churches as true churches belonging to the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church of Jesus Christ and as truly participating in the apostolic mission of the whole people of God.
2. We affirm that in both our churches the word of God is authentically preached, and the sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist are duly administered and celebrated.
3. We affirm that both our churches confess in word and life the apostolic faith revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the ecumenical Creeds.
4. We affirm that one another's ordained and lay ministries are given by God as instruments of God's grace, to build up the people of God in faith, hope and love, for the ministry of word, sacrament and pastoral care and to share in God's mission in the world.
5. We affirm that one another's ordained ministries possess both the inward call of the Holy Spirit and Christ's commission given through the Church.
6. We affirm that both our churches embody the conciliar, connexional nature of the Church and that communal, collegial and personal oversight (episkope) is exercised within them in various forms.
7. We affirm that there already exists a basis for agreement on the principles of episcopal oversight as a visible sign and instrument of the communion of the Church in time and space.

The Commitments

1. We commit ourselves, as a priority, to work to overcome the remaining obstacles to the organic unity of our two churches, on the way to the full visible unity of Christ's Church. In particular, we look forward to the time when the fuller visible unity of our churches makes possible a united, interchangeable ministry.
2. We commit ourselves to realise more deeply our common life and mission and to share the distinctive contributions of our traditions, taking steps to bring about closer collaboration in all areas of witness and service in our needy world.
3. We commit ourselves to continue to welcome each other's baptised members to participate in the fellowship, worship and mission of our churches.
4. We commit ourselves to encourage forms of eucharistic sharing, including eucharistic hospitality, in accordance with the rules of our respective churches.
5. We commit ourselves to listen to each other and to take account of each other's concerns, especially in areas that affect our relationship as churches.
6. We commit ourselves to continue to develop structures of joint or shared communal, collegial and personal oversight, including shared consultation and decision-making, on the way to a fully united ministry of oversight.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Newcastle upon Tyne District Local Preachers Weekend in Saltburn

This weekend was spent in my home District of Newcastle upon Tyne leading our annual District Local Preachers Weekend at Brockley Hall in Saltburn.

Click here to learn more about Local Preachers in the Methodist Church

Our theme was Preaching that Engages and Transforms.

Session One - Great Expectations? We reflected on our expectations of Methodist Local Preachers asking, what is preaching and what is the purpose of preaching.
Session Two - A View from the Pew using a pilot research Project from St John's College, Durham.
Session Three - Our Contexts was spent looking at post-modern culture.
Session Four- Preaching that Engages asking what communication tools are needed in our pulpits.
Session Five- Preaching that is Transformational reflecting on our personal discipleship and the way in which the story of God has the power to change lives.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Shared blog of our visit to Israel/Palestine

Alison and I have spent a week visiting Israel/Palestine, our aim was to meet a variety of people and listen carefully, exploring the dynamics of the current situation across the faith communities. We are deeply grateful to all those who gave us their time and particularly to Steve Hucklesby, from the Joint Public Issues Team (JPIT) who arranged and accompanied us on the trip.

We were both deeply challenged by what we heard and saw and have re-committed ourselves to pray for peace and justice for all in this land. It was particularly sad to hear of so little hope amongst the Palestinian community for peace and justice against the backdrop of check-points, settlements, house demolitions and water restrictions. Our visit took place amidst the significant disruption and dramatic political change in the Middle East and we were very aware of the increasing unease this creates in Israel/Palestine.

Click here for the full Conference Report 'Justice for Israel/Palestine 2010'

Click here for Frequently asked questions about the conference decisions

Prayer from a Palestinian Christian
Pray not for Arab or Jew,
for Palestinian or Israeli,
but pray rather for ourselves,
that we may not divide them in our prayers,
but keep them both together
in our hearts.
Here are some of the places and people we visited in Israel/Palestine-

Al-Liqa Centre
Our first visit was to the Al-Liqa Centre to meet Dr Geries Khoury. Dr Geries is a trustee of the Al-Liqa Center and works in the theological division of the Mars Elias Educational Institutions. The Al-Liqa Centre was established in 1982 by Palestinian Muslim and Christian academic and religious leaders with a program of interfaith and cultural dialogue, Palestinian Contextualised theology and youth activities.

Al Qasemi Academic College of Education

This college is the first Israeli-Arab Institute of higher education to obtain certification from the Ministry of Education. Their faculty is both Muslim and Jewish, while the student body is Muslim (95% female). The Academy educates for the acceptance of diversity, empowerment of women and standards of excellence.

Rabbis for Human Rights - Rabbi Arik Ascherman
Founded in 1988, Rabbis for Human Rights (RHR) is the only organisation of Rabbis in Israel from all the streams of Judaism that gives voice to the Jewish traditions of human rights. Dedicated to physical security and moral vision of the State of Israel as reflected in Israel's Declaration of Independence. RHR develops educational resources on Judaism and human rights and teaches in Israeli schools and pre-army programs; lobbies for economic justice in Israel; provides support for Palestinian families facing home demolition. Rabbi Arik Ascherman came to Israel in 1988 and trained as a reform Rabbi, he has been beaten and arrested, including for running in front of a bulldozer demolishing homes in East Jerusalem in 2003.

Btselem - Jessica Montell
Btselem in Hebrew literally means , 'in the image of' and is also used as a synonym for human dignity. The word is taken from Genesis 1 v27, 'And God created humans in his image. In the image of God did he create them.' Btselem is the Israeli Information Centre for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories and was formed in 1989 by a group of prominent academics, attorneys, journalists and Knesset members. It documents and educates the Israeli public and policymakers about human rights violations in the Occupied Territories, combats the phenomenon of denial prevalent among the Israeli public helping to create a human rights culture in Israel. Recent work includes:-
  • Work around settlements and not contravening the rights of Palestinians.
  • Friday demonstrations and the right to peaceful protest.
  • Accountability of the Armed Forces particularly after 'Operation Cast Lead' in Gaza.

Rabbi David Rosen
We were generously treated to lunch with Rabbi David Rosen. He served as the Chief Rabbi in Northern Ireland and was a founder of Rabbis for Human Rights. Currently he serves as International Director of Interreligious Affairs of the American Jewish Committee, he is a special advisor on interfaith relations to the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. Rabbi David offered us a rich history of Jerusalem and Israel illustrating the competing narratives over history. He stressed how important he felt it was that faith leaders meet in the Council for Religions where dialogue can take place on the current conflict.

Bishop Suheil Dawani
Meeting Bishop Suheil Dawani was a great joy but we were very concerned to learn that Israel’s Interior Ministry has revoked the residency permit for The Rt Revd Suheil Dawani, to live in Jerusalem. Bishop Dawani is Palestinian and has spent most of his life and ministry here, but cannot obtain either citizenship or legal residence in Israel, since he was born in Nablus, i.e. in the West Bank, which has been under Israeli occupation since 1967, but has not been annexed to Israel. Since the Bishop has of course remained at his post, in Jerusalem, without the permit, he could be arrested at any moment, be put on trial for being in Israel illegally, be sentenced to a prison term – or simply be forcibly removed from Jerusalem. This situation is causing deep worry to the Christian community in the Holy Land and we committed to praying that the situation would soon be resolved.

Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem
We spoke with Bishop William Shomali and the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem who were both anxious to remind us to pray for all of the people of this land, for justice and peace to be a reality.

Israeli Committee Against House Demolition
ICAHD is an Israeli peace and human rights organisation dedicated to ending the Occupation and achieving a just peace between Israel's and Palestinians. In particular ICAHD resists Israel's demolition of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories where over 24,000 homes have been demolished since 1967. Israel's policy of house demolitions violates International law and constitutes a major obstacle to achieving peace and reconciliation. What kind of peace can exist for any community in the absence of justice? We spent a morning with the staff of ICAHD visiting area of East Jerusalem, where over 2,000 homes have demolition orders over them.

Arab Evangelical Schoool, Ramallah
Alison and I visited the Arab Evanglical School in Ramallah joined by our colleague, Jude Levermore (Methodist Youth Participation Development Officer) where after a tour of the school we chatted with some of the students. They were wonderful to engage with, lively, energetic and full of fun until we asked them, 'What were their hopes for the future?' They sadly all responded quickly that they had no hope for peace and justice in the future for their community. In all of our visits this was the first time we had heard this from young people with such firm conviction. We were deeply saddened and felt that any society where the young people were growing up without hope for their future needed to urgently reflect on a different way ahead. The encounter reminded me of an old song by Martin Joseph.
When the children have no hope there is no hope at all.
When the children cannot smile there is only tears.
When the children cannot see.
No-one to set them free.
When the children have no hope what have we done?

Bethlehem Checkpoint
One of the most heart-wrenching experiences during our visit (Alison described it as gut-wrenching) was to go through the Bethlehem check-point at 6am as the Palestinian community leave to go to work. Some of the men in particular sleep outside near the check-point so they can be the first people in the queue. We travelled though wire cages and scanners presenting our documents on several occasions. Whilst we acknowledge security is important, it seems deeply de-humanising to treat people in this manner.

We met two members of the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel – EAPPI on duty at the checkpoint. EAPPI is a scheme whereby Christians from all parts of the world can live and work in Israel and Palestine, alongside ordinary people, for a period of several months. The Methodist Church supports the EAPPI, and in recent years a number of British Methodists have gone to Israel/Palestine as Ecumenical Accompaniers. By living alongside Jews, Muslims and Christians, the Accompaniers can demonstrate solidarity and support to those affected by the political, economic and social difficulties. Accompaniers also learn a great deal about the issues, and are encouraged to report back on their return to their home country. General information and real-life stories from Ecumenical Accompaniers can be found by clicking here....

Our visit to Hebron was accompanied by one of the World Council of Churches Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme Participants (EAPPI). Hebron is very much a divided community with Jewish settlers and Palestinians living with different laws and access rights. Below is a street of shops, the metal grids are to prevent the objects which are thrown down by Jewish settlers from hurting Palestinians. Apparently urine used to be poured out of windows but currently bleach is preferred thus destroying the goods for sale below.

Blockaded streets in Hebron dividing the Palestinian and Jewish community, since Jewish settlers returned. Over 2,000 soldiers permanently guard the 400 members of the Jewish community.

Separation Wall in Bethlehem

Worship at the Separation Wall in Bethlehem
Early one morning we joined members of the Sabeel conference to worship beneath the separation wall in Bethlehem. It was a deeply moving and disturbing experience. We gathered at this part of the wall, near the oldest refugee camp and the oldest settlement and beside the only play area for children in Bethlehem As we heard read the text from Ephesians 2 v14, 'For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility' there was a profound sense of prayer and yearning for all of the people of this land.

Sabeel Conference

Alison, Steve and I all had the privilege of attending and addressing the Sabeel Conference which took place in Bethlehem during our visit. The theme of the conference was 'The Church and Empire' and reflected on the bibilcal themes of power, justice and faithfulness and resistance.

Sabeel strives to empower the Palestinian community as a whole and has programmes directed towards woemn, youth, clergy and community development. Sabeel, 'seeks to be a refuge for dialogue and to pursue ways of finding answers to ingoing theological questions about the sanctity of life, justice and peace.

Meeting at the British Consul in Jerusalem

Sir Vincent Fearn, HM Consul-General at the British Consulate-General, Jerusalem.