September 1st A new connexional year dawned hazily on with a promise of a busy schedule. I was looking forward to the visit that evening to the Symphony Hall in Birmingham, where a celebration service was planned for the inauguration of the new Birmingham Circuit. Leo and I had both been invited, and Leo was born and bred in Birmingham. My links are through one of my daughters, who studied and then practised jewellery there, so I had visited fairly frequently. Also, I greatly enjoy the end products from the local chocolate factory!
Preparing for the service with Leo and Bill Anderson in a room marked ‘dignitaries’, it was a great joy when Irene, an ‘ordinary’ yet extraordinary Methodist member, entered the room and invited the President, Vice-President and Chair of District to pray. She led us without a hint of self-consciousness. It’s that kind of thing that makes me proud to be a Methodist.
The service was wonderful, 2 hours of praise and prayer that included drama, dance, a great deal of singing and a very moving meditation on the city. Leo preached a memorable sermon based on his childhood memories of Birmingham and using a number of incidents to illustrate different facets of the theme ‘The River of Life’.
Prayers in the service faced honestly the challenges to be met as such a large circuit, whose three co-superintendents were inducted that evening. May God prosper the work.
September 2nd brought a trip to London to welcome the incoming Youth President, Sam Taylor, and the new OPPs (One Programme Participants) and to say farewell and thank you to the outgoing Youth President Christy- Anna Errington and the previous OPPs. I was glad to be able to honour their work with a certificate. There is a real buzz about the One Programme (previously known as the Youth Participation Strategy). it took a while to refine but now seems to be bringing something really good to the church. The outgoing OPPs had grown in experience and maturity through the opportunity given to them, and were sad to finish. We need to cherish this programme.
For the President, the joy of preaching in Wesley’s Chapel. For me, a second circuit inauguration. This time it was my home circuit; the new Dane and Trent Circuit. Without leaving the same town I have been a member in three different circuits in 3 years! Prior to the service we gathered for cake and conversation before an act of worship that drew on the skills of about 60 singers and musicians. I was able to draw on some of my experiences with MRDF in Kenya as I encouraged those present to face the future with faith and determination.
To London again. Fortunately it’s a very good train from Stoke-on-Trent which takes less than 90 minutes. This time it is the connexional team’s New Year service, which is an annual event. It’s good to have the opportunity to meet afterwards and get to know some of those who work behind the scenes in administration, and who rarely get thanked. The service was poignant because it was attended by some of the staff from Manchester who would shortly be leaving the team after many years’ service.
This time the train was going north, to Durham, where I attended a two-day conference about Diaconal Ministry (oops, we were told that was tautology) which was very stimulating and even more so because it was well attended by deacons from other denominations. It was also good because it focused on both research and practice. Even better, it was 5 minutes’ walk to the magnificent cathedral, and I managed to spend a little time there. Strangely enough, I encountered a man who used to be our lodger 30 years ago!
September 9th involved the longest journey of the month – 5.5 hours on a cross-country train to the south west, to attend the wedding of godson Tom to Annie, and to pray for God’s blessing on the beginning of their married life on the 10th September.