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'.

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