Monday, 30 May 2011

Cliff College Festival

Arriving at Cliff College for the May Bank holiday Festival brought back wonderful memories of camping here as a teenager and in subsequent years bringing young people from churches we were serving. Sadly Alison was unable to join us at Cliff due to feeling unwell we offered prayers for her as she took some well earned rest. I am deeply grateful for the many ways in which Cliff College has been an important part of many people's faith journeys and equipping for ministry over many generations and continues to respond to that challenge today.

The Festival theme this year was, 'Ask for the Ancient Paths' an all age programme was offered from morning to late at night with vibrant worship, bible studies, seminars and a new Youth 'Pulse' tent.

Why not think about bringing your young people next year?

Speakers this year included Rev Jonathan Edwards, General Secretary of the Baptist Union, Matt Sumerfield, Urban Saints, Joanne Cox, Evangelism & Contemporary Culture Officer for the Methodist Church, Roy Searle, Leader of the Northumbria Community, Dave Newton, Youth for Christ, Krish Kandiah, Evangelical Alliance.

It was a great privilege to preach at the morning celebration with Rev Piers Lane leading worship alongside a band from the student community.

In the afternoon several seminars were an offer I led a session
reflecting on my year as Vice-President other seminar options included-
Unlocking the New Testament -Peter Ensor
Raiding the history of Cliff - Rev Howard Mellor
A King, A Horse and a Poor man - Piers Lane
Effective Learning for Today's Church - Mark Bagnall

The college offers a wide range of courses both full and part-time
Click here to visit the Cliff College website.

Englesea Brook, Mow Cop & Tunstall

John and I arrived at Englesea Brook Chapel & Museum to begin a special day of remembering the events of 1811 when the camp meetings movements of the Bourneites and the Clowesites came together to form the Primitive Methodist Connexion. Sadly Alison was unable to join us due to feeling unwell, we prayed for her and Dave throughout the day.

Englesea Brook Chapel and Museum
Englesea Brook Chapel and Museum is a place where you can discover the origins of Primitive Methodism in a traditional magic lantern show, explore the values of Victorian people through the collection of religious banners, musical instruments and other artefacts, and hear about some nineteenth century women who defied the boundaries of gender and took to the
pulpit and much more besides.

Chair of District Rev Peter Barber had just completed 120 miles of walking through the Circuits of the Chester and Stoke District. Here he is holding onto Rev Hugh Bourne's rather battered shoe from the museums collection reflecting with sympathy on how he must have felt.

Morning worship in the Chapel with some of the volunteers.

Mow Cop
The birthplace of the Primitive Methodist movement, starting in 1800 with Hugh Bourne from Stoke-on-Trent and William Clowes from Burslem. On 31st May 1807 a large 14 hour camp meeting was held, these camp meetings became a regular feature at Mow Cop and outdoor events have become a feature of Anniversary celebrations.
We arrived at Mow Cop to discover that the outdoor events planned for the afternoon had been re-arranged due to the weather. We gathered inside for a jubilant service and delicious tea afterwards.

We were joined by Radio Stoke who were recording the service for
a special broadcast on the following Sunday.

Monument on the Mow Cop Folly remembering the Camp meeting of 1807. After the service several of us walked up to sing, pray and give thanks for the passion and commitment of the Primitive Methodist tradition.

Outdoor Praise.

Tunstall Methodist Church

It was in Tunstall that the first Primitive Methodist Chapel was built, we arrived to share and celebrate together in a Circuit Service.

Chair of District Rev Peter Barber and the Circuit singing group 'Harmony'.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

London ~ another PS!

Again I record my gratitude to Eunice for being willing to record our visits so promptly. Those who know me will be aware how very grateful I am that she takes so much of the burden for me.

Sunday Morning was the time we went our different ways. I shared with the congregation at Forest Hill in a very special anniversary and circuit service when we were able to fully accredit four new Local Preachers. We had fun with building towers on shaky and firm foundations, and rejoiced before God to hear the testimonies of the new preachers.
It was also a delight and privilege for me to meet with Jeffrey Matthews who designed both the amazing window at the chapel and the Presidential Cross. Some of that story I already knew, but it was good to hear more of it from Jeffery himself.

And then I stayed with the London District while Eunice went home to catch up and prepare for her next visits, and led a three day retreat at Wychcroft. We reflected on crossing places and the gates and stiles on our journeys in particular, as well as laughing and praying together in a variety of ways. The "art table" was popular and revealed just how differently gifted the ministers of the District are! Thank you for organising it for us and for all that we learnt together.

Convocation ~ a PS

What an amazing gift to be able to be part of the MDO Community for a while. Eunice has already given news of our time at Swanwick, but I want to emphasise how much fun and laughter there was between the serious matters and the necessary work.
I was able to offer a couple of mini-retreats during two of the afternoons as well as sharing in a Bible study and many of the sessions.
It was so good to renew friendships with many of the Deacons i have met and worked with over the years, and to begin to get to know many more. It was also great to experience the power of the Rule of Life, which joins Deacons across the Connexion in such a prayerful way, in spite of how dispersed the community is. They have much to teach the rest of us.
And it was a joy to see for myself how God is at work among the new and student deacons. I look forward to seeing how Methodism will grow and change as they continue to serve God alongside their more experienced colleagues.
Thank you all, and God be with you.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

London District Visit

Alison and I began our visit to the London District by joining the three London Chairs Rev Stuart Jordan, Rev Ermal Kirby, Rev Jenny Impey and the District Council for an evening meal. During the meal we heard about some of the unique challenges in this Global city and listened to presentations from the Probationers Secretary, District Youth Officer and the coordinator of the Ghanaian Fellowship.

South Norwood Methodist Church
On Sunday morning accompanied by Rev Ermal Kirby, I preached at South Norwood Methodist Church where worship was led by my presbyteral friend and colleague Rev Nigel Cowgill, Superintendent Minister of the Croyden Circuit.

Wesley's Chapel - District Celebration

On Sunday evening we journeyed to Wesley's Chapel for a wonderful District celebration and the launch of a new initiative called MEDAL 2012 (Methodists Enabling Disciples As Leaders). Experience in recent years has been that new volunteers and leaders have been slow to emerge. In response to this the London District set up the Lay Leadership Strategy Group which will run a two year programme to find and nurture new leaders.

The MEDAL 2012 twofold task is to
1. Celebrate and support all current lay ministries.

2. Recruit and nurture new leaders.

The evening service was a vibrant celebration of over 600 people with choirs from around the District.

The MEDAL initiative was inspired by the vision of the church in Ephesians 4 v12
'The gifts God gave are to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ'.

Conversation with Circuit Stewards at Westminster Central Hall

On Monday morning Alison and I joined Circuit Stewards and some of their presbyteral colleagues for a conversation on ministry, particularly focusing on the value of presbyteral, diaconal and lay ministry working together sharing their gifts and of course limitations!

After sharing lunch together Alison and I joined the deacons of the London District for a lively conversation on various aspects of ministry.

Visit to the House of Lords
On Monday evening Rev Dr Lord Leslie Griffiths and his wife Margaret invited Alison and Dave, myself and John, Ermal and Jenny to join them for dinner in the House of Lords followed by a tour. What a treat it was to see inside the House of Lords for the first time and glimpse the preparations in Westminster Hall as security checks were being made for the visit of President Barack Obama. We had an unforgettable evening which concluded rather spectacularly with us all on the roof! (I couldn't resist a little dance whilst humming,'Up on the Roof...').

Whitechapel Mission, East London
On Tuesday morning we met Rev Phil Summers, Methodist Minister in Tower Hamlets and a member of my favourite christian drama group Applecart. The day began with a visit to an amazing group of people at Whitechapel Mission who reach out to homeless people 365 days a year. We were deeply impressed by the commitment of staff and volunteers providing food and advice in a caring environment. The mission is dedicated to providing a lifeline to the poor and homeless people of London who struggle each day against hunger, poverty and exclusion.

Amazing people totally committed to building community and improving the lives of men, women and children in the area, based in a shop but reaching out to many different locations.
Their mission is to empower local people, particularly residents of social housing, to come together to help themselves and one another to have more fulfilling lives, to strengthen their voice in the community and secure a better future.

This visit was heart wrenching. Journeys is a children's bereavement and loss service greatly needed in Tower Hamlets where sadly many families facing loss also live with issues of domestic violence,parents in prison alongside drug and alcohol addiction. The centre desperately needs more resources for its work (sadly there is a waiting list of children who are struggling to cope with the loss of a parent or close family member).

London Citizens
Over lunch we heard about the work of the London Citizens which seeks to develop the capacity and skills of the members of socially and economically disadvantaged communities in a way that enables local people to help meet their own needs and participate more fully in their communities.
As a Methodist Church we engage with them on several levels including supporting work on a National Living wage framework.

Rev Ermal Kirby very kindly escorted John and I during our visit all over London on buses, tubes, car and here on the Thames Link boat-great fun.

Wesley Day celebrations - 24th May 2011
What an experience it was to be in London for the Wesley day celebrations. After joining the congregation of St Paul's for evensong we stood at the North steps under the statue of
Mr Wesley recalling his words and celebrating his life.

At the 'Flame Monument'
Here we are for the second stop on our pilgrimage at the, 'Flame Monument,' the commemorative site to mark the conversion of John Wesley on 1738 pictured here with the Susanna Wesley Sisters from Ghana.
At the Grave of Susanna Wesley in Burnhill Fields.

A wreath was laid at the graveside as the Susanna Wesley Sisters sang to us.

After a service in Wesley's Chapel at quarter to nine in the evening we gathered for the final part of our journey at the grave of John Wesley and were reminded of John Wesley's final words, 'the best of all is God is with us'.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Methodist Diaconal Order -Convocation

Convocation is the annual gathering of the Methodist Diaconal Order at the Hayes Conference Centre, Deryshire. I was really looking forward to introducing Alison to everyone, Convocation is not easily explained it really is one of those events which has to be experienced to be understood.
Here we are with the Warden (Leader) of the MDO Deacon Sue Culver who has done a great job in facilitating vision and change within the MDO alongside the Leadership Team (Deacons, Karen McBride, Ian Murray, Janet Thomas, Margaret Cox).

As the Methodist Diaconal Order gathered this year there was a sense of deep thankfulness and gratitude as we received news of 13 new students for Sept 2011, adding to the existing 16 in training. The MDO currently has 266 members, including 18 Probationers and 114 retired deacons.
Convocation in session.

Our nine Diaconal Ordinands being presented to Convocation as they go forward to the Southport Conference for ordination.

The General Secretary Rev Dr Martyn Atkins delivering an outstanding bible study on Acts 2 relating it to early Methodism. Martyn also presided at our final service of Holy Communion and participated as Secretary of Conference at our Diaconal Committee.

The MDO's rather stunning creative contribution to the National Handwritten Bible Project

In the MDO we are deeply aware and appreciative of the support we are given by our presbyteral and lay colleagues who enable the Order to flourish and grow in
many and varied ways.

Here presiding at early morning Communion is Rev Jenny Impey (one of the three London Chairs) and also Chair of our Diaconal Probationers Oversight Committee.

Another example of presbyteral support with Rev Paul Wood and Rev Ian Worsfold who contributed to our sessions with their musical talents.

Community building ......great fun!

Dr Andrew Orton is a lecturer at Durham University and is co-ordinating a research Project on 'Good Practice in Diaconal Ministry.' At Convocation we heard some of the highlights of the research and responded to further questions on diaconal practice. A conference exploring
Diaconal Ministry will be held at St John's College, Durham 8-9th Sept 2011 with Dr Paula Gooder and Dr John Collins in attendance.

Ann Morisy author and community theologian joined us, to present two sessions on the, 'Potency of Early Methodism.' Many of us in the MDO have read and valued her books particularly, 'Beyond the Good Samaritan' and 'Bothered and Bewildered'.

Our National Safeguarding Officer Elizabeth Hall came along and updated us on good practice and care of ourselves.