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.

Llanyrafon MC
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 long day!


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.

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