Thursday, 26 January 2012

Blog for January

What a blessing to have good weather for January so that it has been possible to fulfil all the engagements.

Like many Methodists, I started the year with a Covenant Service, but not at my home church. I was fortunate to be able participate in the service at Central Hall Westminster, which was wonderful. The newly refurbished organ led the music superbly (well the organist did the work) and the choir blessed us with their singing and the Spirit was truly there. It was a privilege to administer the wine to people who had come from across the world, and who crossed the age spectrum. The refreshments afterwards went on for about two hours! Then Leo and I had a quick tour of the newly opened library in the Epworth Room – just about all the books ever published by the Epworth Press, including – to our surprise- one on cricket!

I was given two nights’ accommodation by a gracious member of the congregation who lived in Pimlico – a name that has fascinated me for years – and I got a taster of what living in London is like. Then on to two days of meetings, before returning home for a day to pack for my visit to Jersey.

David was able to accompany me on this visit, and we arrived at Jersey airport to be met be Graeme Halls, Superintendent Minister and Synod Secretary. What followed could be described as a working holiday: excellent hospitality from Graeme and Elaine, lovely sunny weather, and the right balance of work and relaxation. The programme included an introductory open evening; a session with lay workers; a morning of participative bible study with Local preachers and Worship Leaders (at Bethlehem would you believe); a visit to the Women’s Refuge ,which some local people mistakenly think there couldn’t possibly be a need for, and a cup of tea and photo at Samares which is the most southerly church in the British Methodist Connexion. Inside there hangs a photo that is a gift from the most northerly church – in Haroldswick in Shetland. I’ll check when I go there if they have a photo of Samares.

Add to this a radio interview in which I was questioned about the alcohol campaign for minimum unit pricing. Jersey is aware that there is an alcohol problem on the Island and the States of Jersey (the Government) is wondering what it might put in its proposed alcohol strategy.

A service at Bethesda – possibly the chapel with the most breath-taking view in Methodism – on the Sunday morning was followed by lunch in the hall and a chance to talk about the reshaping of Methodism. A good exchange of views took place. The evening circuit service was very different for all concerned – we actually made bread at the front of the church, and sat cafĂ©- style. It worked!

It was really good to get a feel for Methodism away from the mainland, under a different jurisdiction. It can be quite easy to feel detached from things, although the flight to London is less than one hour. But the weather is not always permissive to travellers, and then you are stuck.

The flight to London for us was so that we could be present at the Parliamentary Covenant Service. This is held in the chapel of St Mary Undercroft in the Palace of Westminster. All I can say is – stunning. But, even more wonderful, is the little broom cupboard through the back doors of the chapel. Kathleen Richardson showed us this secret place – the cupboard where suffragette Emily Davison (she who later threw herself in front of the King’s horse at Epsom and died) hid on the night of the 1911 Census so that she could put her place of residence as The House of Commons. Tony Benn has arranged for a plaque in her memory to be placed on the inside of the door – thank you Tony.

Back to London again a week later for the Methodist Council, and then to parliament again – this time for an event by Action for Children to publicise the research done into child neglect. This is hugely important work, and fortunately a number of PMs were present including the minister Tim Loughton. At a time when the poorest families are suffering the most under Government budget cuts, it was a timely reminder of how vulnerable many of our children are. Neglect is by far the most common type of child abuse, but often not reported. You can read more about it if you follow this link: You can also sign the petition asking for government action.

Well, that’s it for January – time to prepare for February.

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