The President of the Methodist Conference, the Revd Loraine N Mellor and the Vice-President, Jill Baker, blog about their year of office which began on 24 June 2017. Read about the places they visit, the people they meet and the issues that concern them.
Sunday, 6 May 2012
VP visit to Wales and Shetland
My district visits resumed
on 20th April with a train journey to Cardiff for a weekend in
Wales. Cardiff has been transformed since I was last there in 1990, and the
magnificent sea front development is impressive. On the Saturday I had an
enjoyable day at St. Michael’s College co-leading with Rev Stephen Adams a
Myers-Briggs workshop on leadership. We had a great time and I was very
grateful to Stephen Wigley, District Chair, for enabling me to do one such
workshop during the year.
Following that we went on to an event which was fun
in a very different way: Trinity MC was hosting an Urdu Convention, led by Rev
Irfan John. Irfan and his family fled
from His home country under threat because of their faith, as did many of the
families present that day, some of whom had travelled four hours to be there.
It was inspiring to be amongst them, from babes in arms to grandparents.
Entertained by juggler Peter Cole, who used his art to present bible stories,
and led in gospel singing in their own language those present had a day that
fed them in many ways – including of course delicious food. Trinity has a
particular ministry to those who have been forced to flee their home land, and
is a wonderful example of wider Methodist hospitality.
Next morning it was up to
the valleys, to Llanyrafon in the Cwmbran circuit, for morning worship, where
two of the young people who had recently returned from Spring Harvest gave an
account of the inspiring time they had there, and the music group led us in
some newly learned songs.
Wrexham Methodist Church
Sunday dinner was provided by two local members and
then Stephen drove me for nearly four hours through beautiful Welsh scenery to
Wrexham, venue of the evening service. Minister Richard Sharples has been
running a Youth Emmaus course and had asked if we could aim the service at the
group of young people, plus their parents and any young at hearts, and it was a
pleasure to do this. David (my husband if you remember) joined me there to take
part and we did reflections on the crucifixion and resurrection from the points
of view of Peter and Mary Magdalene. Supported by a superb music group I think
the service went well, and the young people led conversation groups on the
theme. Afterwards we joined them for their session. It’s been encouraging to
see the work that is enabling young people to grow as disciples. But what a
Why the butt of so many
Methodist jokes? What a wonderful place! And the weather is consistently sunny
(though people have asked if we have brought it with us). It’s easy to fall in
love with these Islands, and the Shetlanders are very welcoming people –
everyone David and I meet wants to start a conversation. It’s not all holiday though, we have to remind ourselves,
and so an evening has been held on growth through small discipleship groups, an
afternoon with the District Leadership Team on strategy re manses and churches
and three services on Sunday.
Some of the members at Lerwick MC
Lerwick MC is the biggest in
Shetland, and being in a port regularly receives visiting mariners from other
countries. Fortunately they have a member, Derek, who speaks more languages than
there are days in the month, so visitors can soon be made to feel at home. He gets
called out as translator when medics are called to emergencies on ships. The
warm fellowship at Lerwick MC enables a number of people with complex needs to
contribute fully to the life of the church.
Culswick MC is very different. A tiny chapel on a hillside overlooking a few dwellings, it is only
open once a month in the summer, and for a Christmas carol service. It’s always
unlocked though, to offer a dry space
for walkers to shelter (apparently it does rain sometimes). Perhaps there is
potential to develop this hospitality? Anyway, the church was nearly full and
afterwards sandwiches and ‘homebakes’ (a regular feature of church occasions)
were consumed eagerly by the congregation. It’s a good job they don’t weigh
passengers as well as luggage on planes because we two were certainly carrying
excess personal weight when we came home.
We just had time to get to
the evening service at Scalloway, where the local worship group led us and then
I ‘took us to Kenya’ giving my MRDF presentation. Afterwards – guess what – more homebakes, but
also the first time I have been offered ‘pigswill’! Well I guess it was Dream Topping or the
like, but Messy Church that day had focussed on the Prodigal Son so ‘pigswill’
was an obvious choice of food! It was a long day for the folks at Scalloway,
but they, like so many others, have found Messy Church a very helpful outreach
tool to local families.
Add to that the visit to the
most northerly MC at Haroldswick where we checked that they had a photo of
Samares (the most southerly, visited in Jersey), lunch at the church café in
Walls, a check on progress at North Roe where the old building is being
beautifully modernised, and tours around various islands surrounded by cobalt
blue sea. It’s a land where there are few large communities, and some chapels
appear to be in the middle of nowhere, with a handful of faithful members.
There are challenges to be faced, as in many other areas of Methodism, in order
to be mission focussed. But we found the people to be in good heart, with an
openness to new ideas.
Finally, a trip to an old mill, a drive down narrow lanes
where new-born lambs explore their new environment, and a walk up Sumburgh Head
to see the nesting seabirds, including some puffins. This was a lovely end to a
lovely trip; thanks to our gracious hosts, Jeremy and Sheila.