Two days later I was privileged to attend a service in Westminster Abbey, where the Church of England and URC were holding a service of reconciliation, healing of memories and mutual commitment. Fortunately the service sheet made up for my very rusty recall on church history of the mid-seventeenth century. It was a very fitting service, and struck me that it would have been impossible, 40 years ago when the URC was formed, to foresee that in 2012 the prayers of penitence would have been led jointly by an Archbishop who was a black man and a woman Moderator of the URC.
Back home and onto Bolton, to visit the Central Mission. This huge building is sought after for concerts due to its excellent acoustics, and the worship area is a fine example of its kind. But overall, such buildings as this present a significant challenge to the local congregation, who must not only deal with ongoing expensive maintenance problems but also seek a vision for the right way forward. The work that is carried out in the lower floor of this Mission is most impressive. Independent charities, as well as church activities, serve some of the most vulnerable members of the community including asylum seekers, refugees, and people with long-term mental health issues. There is a bright and cheerful café serving good food prepared by this latter group., but I was not able to sample it as I already had an invitation to good food at the home of Rev Devadas Matcha and his wife Sarani who provided great hospitality.
The following Sunday I was in another Anglican building, this time the small Parish Church of Ashby St. Mary, the village where we were having a few days holiday with a friend. I preached to a full church of about 50 souls, all of whom were very warmly wrapped up. The choice of hymns which the preacher and organist (both Methodists) had chosen were approved of and sung heartily I’m glad to report.
Against all this, I was contributing to the continuing campaign for minimum unit pricing for alcohol, and articles were in the Methodist Recorder two weeks running. So please forgive me if I insert an appeal to you, the reader, in my blog this week. We think that David Cameron is warming towards this proposal of a minimum retail price of between 40-50p per unit of alcohol, which would save countless tales of injury and illness resulting from alcohol misuse and millions of pounds per annum to the tax payer. You can see more information about the current campaign, Measure for Measure, by following this link: www.jointpublicissues.org.uk/alcohol. If you can, please do write to your MP to show the strength of feeling for this issue. Thank you, it can really make a difference.