On the last day of September I set off for my first proper district visit, to Bolton and Rochdale. The weather was baking hot for 2 visits to MHA homes, Epworth Grange in Bury and Beechville in Bolton. Accompanied by Paul Martin, who had hardly had time to settle in to the post of District Chair, we met up with Revd Keith Albans and Angela Robinson from MHA who escorted us for the day.
It turned out that it was ‘Africa day’ at Epworth Grange and many of the staff were in African dress – if only I’d known I could have worn African dress too! We were served the most delicious African snacks, which the residents also enjoyed, and a wonderful curry lunch. Sadly we couldn’t stay for the drumming workshop that afternoon! The social activities run at the home are impressive. There is something every day to engage the residents. There are also 2 garden areas, including raised beds which the residents are able to work themselves if they wish. Although all the rooms are bright and airy, the room that impressed me most was the hairdressing salon, which was a room fit to be pampered in!
Moving on to Beechville, we joined in a harvest celebration and then witnessed a music therapy session. We saw how effective making music can be for dementia sufferers, and how skilfully George encouraged people to share their story by means of familiar songs. The holistic approach to life in the ‘fourth age’ in both these Homes was evident.
Saturday dawned even hotter – just the weather to discourage people from turning up to an all day workshop. Nevertheless, more than sixty people from across the district arrived to take part in a day to explore their ‘gifts differing’ and think about how they can use them in teams to care for each other and for the life of the church. An important visual aid was a game of Jenga! Aspull Methodists were great hosts for the day.
Sunday was another busy day – first a service at Chorley Old Road, where I was warmly thanked not only with a bouquet but also an Indian garland beautifully made by Mrs Matcha, wife of the minister. Then after a good bowl of homemade soup, off to Leigh, to a church confusingly (to my PA) called Bedford Methodist Church. Here was to be my first official ‘opening’, of the brand new Bedford Methodist Church Community Hall. I cut the red ribbon and unveiled a plaque, and the Head Teacher of the local Methodist School unveiled a plaque for a time capsule that the children had assembled.
A great feast was then laid out, and much conversation filled the time until the evening Circuit service. It was indeed a day of celebration and a fitting end to the visit.
Monday 3rd October:
Sadly my next duty was tinged with a great deal of regret. A service of thanksgiving was held at the Resourcing Mission Office in Manchester to mark the end of an era, as only three posts will remain there in 2012 following the culmination of the Team Focus process. The chapel was full of people who had come to pay tribute to the staff teams who had worked there over many years, originally in the Property Office.
Thursday 6th October dawned cold and blustery as I made my way to Manchester airport to catch a plane to Edinburgh. Autumn has arrived! It was good to be met by a former colleague and good friend Helen Wareing, spend a little time doing something really normal like walking the dog (shame about the ferocious Jack Russell who terrified said dog) and then to the home of the Letbys (Andrew and I did our MA course work together a few years back) for a delicious meal. Probably sooner or later I shall stop commenting on the delicious meals because they seem to crop up very regularly!
Next morning I met with the Edinburgh and Forth Circuit staff for a tour of their churches, which fortunately took place in a church hall, with a named ‘place’ on the floor on which to place symbolic items. The staff are looking seriously at the kind of resources that each congregation needs to engage in mission. It was a prayerful journey as we held each congregation in turn before God. Then I was whisked off to meet with Lily Twist, (District Chair), Sheilagh Kesting (Ecumenical Officer and former moderator of the Church of Scotland) and David Bradwell (Church and Society Council of the C of S) for a useful conversation on Scotland’s political and social concerns. It’ s good to hear of the close working relationship between many of the churches. By train, then, to Stirling for tea and then a car journey to Paisley for an evening at the Methodist Church looking at ‘Glimpses of God’ with my prayer cards. Home-made cakes too! That was a very full day!
I’m learning quickly that district boundaries in Scotland (the whole country!) are indeed far flung in comparison with England. On Saturday we travelled to Perth for a whole day workshop on the treasure of early Methodism – small groups. ‘Meet, pray , love (where love is an active verb) was the theme, which we explored in groups with great energy – despite the fact that some had travelled four hours or more to be there. What commitment! Methodist churches can be widely separated from each other and the district is working hard on imaginative plans to reorganise for maximum benefit from scarce resources of personnel.
Perth Methodist Church welcomed me for the Sunday morning service, which incorporated Communion taken ‘in the pews’ – a first for me. Then, via Stirling to Glasgow, to be met by Alan Anderson and taken to Shettleston MC for a lively circuit service (all songs from Singing the Faith).
This hectic but fruitful visit had a leisurely end in the Kelvingrove Art Gallery where I enjoyed the works of the’ Glasgow School’ chief among whom was Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Wonderful! And thank you to the three couples who provided me with bed and breakfast (not to mention the other delicious meals.)