Sunday, 30 September 2012

Roots and Branches

I had a ‘coming home’ sort of Sunday for the 50th Anniversary of Park Lane Methodist Church Wembley.  My paternal Grandfather found Methodism at Park Lane Methodist Church in Wembley in the 1920s.  I never knew him, but he took my father as a young boy with him, and thus that side of my family ended up Methodist.

Samuel Wakelin was much impressed with the Hymns of Charles Wesley finding great comfort in the sense of ‘all are welcome’ which up and ‘till then had not been something he’d come across.

It started a journey for my father, Paul, as a Pacifist going to Ethiopia in the 2nd World War, and then after the war as a Methodist Mission Partner in West and later East Africa.

I grew up a Methodist Missionary Boy – with my twin sister Mary and my brother Michael.  To come back, then to a church, admittedly not the same building, as my grandfather and to find the Church blessed with ‘every nation, ethnic group and language’ was thrilling.

What a fine church celebrating 50 years of the new building.  I preached, ‘place matters but people matter more’, and enjoyed the company of God’s faithful people.

Mark Wakelin

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Retreating to move forward

Up to Northampton again – less rain but still the road improvements which seem to be a work without end.  I’m not sure how we will cope when they are finished, so much spare time!  I’ve been asked to share in the Discipleship and Ministries Cluster away day.  D&M cover loads of things that matter to the Church from Local Preaching, Youth, Children, Theological Education, Evangelism and Chaplaincy.  It is thus a very powerful and committed team and I felt duly honoured to be with them.

I had two sessions which I led as a mini retreat with some reflection on work and the Connexion.  It was a good time of fellowship and though it is easy to feel life is too pressured to pause and think, it is amazing how such discipline and sacrifice of effort and time is blessed.  It’s a big year for D&M as, among other things, they start pulling together the Fruitful Field project and ground it some creative and courageous decisions. Keep them in your prayers.

You can read more about the D&M team here:

Mark Wakelin

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Leadership and Fellowship

I drove up through impossibly heavy rain to Kings Park in Northampton for the Connexional Leaders’ Forum.  In my previous job as Secretary for Internal Relationships I had been part of this group and had learnt to both dread and enjoy it in equal measures!  However going in a new role was different and everyone was so very kind and keen to find out how things were going for me.  We discussed as always an extraordinarily wide range of issues.

There are great many people in Methodism who care a great deal about a great deal and this has its advantages and disadvantages. It’s always difficult to trust others when you care a lot about something, and maybe we as a Church have lost trust in each other.

If is very important that we seek to regain it so our genuine care and concern for so many things can be delivered with a greater deal of comfort and happiness!  There’s an oblique point if you want one.  The best bit about CLF is when we share in small groups and we prayed for each other.  Thank you Connexional Leaders for such kindness and grace.

Mark Wakelin

Saturday, 22 September 2012


The last ten days have been very varied. Wednesday Sept 12th was the official farewell to Christine Elliott as Secretary for External Relationships. I said publicly then, and repeat the slight paraphrase here, that we won't know what we've lost till she's gone. Chris was a great colleague for me to have worked with in the World Church Office, and has since worked tirelessly with the wide-ranging brief that the Conference gave her in 2008. I was reminded of the high esteem with which Chris is held worldwide when I attended (probably as much for my previous world church experience, as for representing MCB) a Sri Lanka consultation in Geneva over the last couple of days. It drew together members of the Christian Council in Sri Lanka and external partners - of which the Methodist Church in Britain is highly respected as accompanying SL on its long journey to reconciliation and a lasting peace. Notwithstanding the present excellent relations with MCB's World Church Relationships' staff, many delegates from Asia were genuinely sorry to hear that Chris was no longer in the Connexional Team, so soon after the successful All Partners Consultation in 2010. The photo below shows one of the sessions, hosted by WCC, and chaired jointly by WCC and the National Christian Council of Sri Lanka. Much still needs to be done on the road to reconciliation, and MCB remains committed to the future, and possibly painful, process ahead for SL.
In between those events was a very happy evening at Oxford Brookes University, very closely allied to the Methodist Church through its merger with Westminster College. The event was specifically to open two new student residential blocks; and they were designed and finished to a very high standard. The great joy was that one of these blocks was being named after the Revd Professor Frances Young, who served on the Governing Council of Westminster College, was a Governor of Brookes and Chair of the Westminster College Oxford Trust. In 2010 she was awarded an honorary Doctorate by the University. It was a happy, largely informal and yet very significant evening. I know that for all of us our rewards are in heaven, but I am still left wondering whether we always do enough in the Methodist Church to honour appropriately those who have served us well?

Tuesday, 11 September 2012


A week-end of anniversaries and celebrations! Last Friday I was one of the Methodist Church reps at Yattenden, near Reading, for the 40th Anniversary of the Arthur Rank Centre, the ecumenical body which has helped rural communities so much in recent times. It was a lovely occasion rounded off by a service of worship, with Pam Rhodes interviewing both the Revd John Clark (Director 1988-99)(in the photo) and the Revd Graham Jones (National Rural Officer for the Methodist Church and URC).
On my way there I was pondering on the ARC initials, and for me they could stand for Approachable, Rural expertise, and Credibility. The Revd Gordon Gatward (present Director)at Conference this year reminded us that probably the only organisation that kept credibility with the farming community during the Foot and Mouth outbreak, was the ARC; acts of kindness, compassion, practical help and just being there for people when it was most needed. On Sunday, after leading a morning Harvest Festival in Chacombe (as part of which we exhibited the art work of the village group), having found a way across the paralympic marathon route, I went to Westminster Central Hall to be with the Ghanaian Methodist Fellowship and join in their 10th Anniversary service. Much celebration about what has been achieved, the big strides forward in integration, the ways in which the British Church is being changed by influences from beyond these shores. Yet the challenge throughout was the further need for Ghanaians and those of other Fellowships, to take more of a lead in ministry and mission here in UK. In the Body of Christ, in the Methodist Church in Britain, how we need to make the most of each other's gifts.
It was a week-end to give thanks to God, and especially for the Church being a credible presence in the lives of very different communities.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Opening and Closing, thanksgiving and hope

A visit to the Nottingham and Derby and what a lovely time!  Excellent hosting with thanks to the Chair of District Loraine Mellor and John Mellor – and two really lovely dogs!  Just be careful when they show affection after enjoying a large amount of water.  I’m not experienced about such visits, but I can’t see how this would be improved.

I had the privilege of meeting with Chris Hughes Smith and Dick and Kathleen Jones for an evening meal on the Friday – and then on Saturday taking part in a very uplifting Synod.  I reflected here on ‘The winter is over’ and had some fascinating conversations afterwards.

Sunday was replete with good things – with a full and lively service in the morning at Bulwell, afternoon taking part in the closing and thanksgiving for Queens Hall Methodist Mission in Derby and in the evening the reopening of Tissington Methodist Church.

The picture above is of Queens Hall – sadly to be closed, but what a good service and a lovely people.  It is never the end of a story, but some turns are easier to bear than others.  

Tissington, small but perfectly formed after its refurbishment, seemed to bring together a sense of worthy tradition with a new sense of purpose and direction.  A weekend of thanksgiving and hope, with sadness but much good.

Mark Wakelin

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Feasting and Fun in York

A very pleasant journey on my favourite rail way route to the fine city of York to be taken out and excellently hosted by the Chair of District, Stephen Burgess and Barbara Burgess.  Such good company and what a lovely place to be.  I was there, in good time, to take part in the thought provoking and challenging ‘York Institute for Community Theology’  

I have been there before in various capacities, and this year I was sharing with a post graduate group some approaches to collaborative ministry.  Good day again – and not too late back to London so I could get ready for a busy weekend! 
With David Dadswell learning a good deal!

Mark Wakelin
On Sunday September 2nd, the first Sunday in the new Connexional Year, Mark and I were invited to Wesley's Chapel in the morning.It was a time of praise and worship with a real international flavour, we enjoyed two baptisms, an uplifting sermon from Mark on '...the best is yet to be', and shared in communion. After the service, outdoors at the back under the watchful eye of our founder, an international buffet was laid on for a veritable multitude. Conversations with Ghanaians, Sierra Leoneans; with others from Cote d'Ivoire, Tonga, Fiji, Ireland, Singapore. What a joyous occasion - and thanks to all involved! The evening service was a more reflective time at Westminster Central Hall. It was a healing service and was lifted in prayer well before 6.30. Walking into the sanctuary there was an almost palpable sense of expectation, and people were clearly wanting to hear God speaking to them. The theme for my sermon was 'Longing for Grace'. The integrated communion and prayers of healing was such a special time. The Revd Peter Edwards will now co-ordinate this healing ministry. I was very impressed by the quality of leadership evident on Sunday. Not just the superintendent ministers, Leslie and Martin the right people at the right time, but also by the team of ordained and lay people who are involved in so many ways in both Wesley's Chapel and Westminster Central Hall. Without such quality lay commitment, up and down the country, Methodism would be very much poorer - indeed, probably not exist at all. Yesterday, Mark and I were together again at Methodist Church House to take part in the new year service for the Connexional Team. The Revd Jo Cox led the worship and I kicked off with a reflection on 'We'll praise him for all that is past...' followed by Mark on '...and trust him for all that's to come.' It was not the easiest reflection that either of us will do this year. Decisions taken at Conference, or even by Methodist Council, sometimes taken without much debate, often have a real impact on people's jobs and lives in the Connexional Team, and we were both very conscious of this; for me the real impact was in 2007, for Mark it is, of course, very recent. We all need healing, we all need God's grace, we all need to trust God - and yes, the best is yet to be!

Vice President

On Saturday August 25 I joined Mark at Greenbelt. We did some things together - photo opportunity at the Christian Aid bus re Tax Justice (please watch out for it on its current national tour); and a late evening 'Methodist mingle' in a very soggy tent. In between, some stimulating speakers, good worship, and a fascinating discussion on prayer. The Goan fish curry was good too! There was the joy of unexpected meetings with Mission Partners, Chairs of District, old friends and colleagues. I am interested too, at ecumenical events like this, in the number of conversations with total strangers who have Methodist connections. Do I lament that all these people are not now regularly worshipping in the Methodist Church; or rejoice in the seeds that Methodism continues to sow? And which is nearer to the vision of John Wesley? The next day, in between leading worship am and pm, I attended a service in a village called Wroxton at a chapel where the fellowship was 'ceasing to meet'. It was the first time that I had attended such a service - a sensitive mixture of thanksgiving for all that had happened there, mixed with a sense of bereavement, and the difficult task of 'moving on' for the faithful few - but to where, and to what - how to discern what God was actually asking them to do now? Where now to sow the seeds? The building itself is in good condition and the local school will use at least one of its rooms for the next two terms. After that, decisions will need to be made about the various options: realising capital for the circuit, releasing money for mission, keeping a 'presence' in the village, using the chapel for other Christian purposes, etc. God is present in all this; but what does God want us to do? I keep thinking about that discussion at Greenbelt on the importance and purpose of prayer.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

We’ll praise him for all that is past, and trust him for all that’s to come

Mike and I took part in the Connexional Team Start of Year Service – and it was a very odd experience for me, and a poignant theme.

As many seem to know my post as ‘Secretary for Internal Relationships’ was made redundant at Methodist Conference this year, and I was officially no longer in post from the 1st of September.  Under normal circumstances I would not have been seen for dust but because I was President I had to come back and look positive!

Being made redundant is not fun, whatever the rhetoric that comes out from the organisation, ‘this is not personal’, ‘this does not imply you have done a bad job’, ‘it’s the post that has been made redundant’ etc., etc., it doesn’t feel that way.  You feel rejected, you feel that what you have done has ‘failed to come up to expectations’ and not just ‘The post that has not come up to expectations’ as the report on which the decision was based suggested.  I have been surprised and to be honest deeply embarrassed how badly I have taken this turn of events.

I’ve tried to understand why.  It’s partly because Methodism does these things in the most impersonal way, there is very little conversation and round robin emails are the usual way of keeping you up to date.  It’s partly to do with ordinary crushed ego and pride, ‘but I thought I was doing a good job, how can they not need me or what I did?’  It’s also partly about insecurity – ‘I’d rather relied on being settled for a while so the Wakelin clan (Oakwood Branch), could finish off paying a mortgage!  But underneath all this was a sense of personal doubt – ‘am I really that unnecessary’,’ has God really not been behind all the hard work of the last four years?’

I struggled with that so much because I had felt so strongly called to work in the Connexional Team – so much prayer and worrying about applying for the job.  Losing your job doesn’t involve you very much unlike applying for one!

But here we were with Mike and I taking a lead in a beautifully planned service for the beginning of the year.  Mike took, ‘we’ll praise him for all that is past’, and as usual gave a carefully crafted and compassionate talk about praise and the past.  I had to tackle, ‘we’ll trust him for that’s to come’.

After much thought I focused on one thing – ‘how little we do actually really know about the future – but how much we do know about God’s love.  I’ve no idea what this year will bring, but I do know that come hail and high water I will be loved, and so will you.

Though waves and storms go o’er my head,
Though strength, and health, and friends be gone,
Though joys be withered all and dead,
Though every comfort be withdrawn,
On this my steadfast soul relies,
Father, Thy mercy never dies.
Johann A. Rothe (tr. John Wesley)

Having told this story – a little self pitying I’m afraid, I need to notice that my colleagues, John Ellis, Christine Elliott Hall and Paul Winyard also lost their jobs and without the luxury of being a Minister who is guaranteed an appointment and a house.  My colleagues have given a great deal to Methodism and I want to thank and honour them, if I may, from my rather odd position as a Methodist President currently on his own, ‘President’s List’.

Mark Wakelin

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Service providers and Bishops

Higher Education Chaplains

 Judith’s new term started on the Tuesday, and I was away at an ecumenical Conference for Chaplain’s in higher education. This was a lesson in how far Universities have changed! The fascinating speaker from Warwick University who line manages the chaplains, talked about ‘customers’, and ‘service provision’, and the cost per student of a one to one chaplain encounter! I wore the ‘Presidential Cross’ and everyone thought I was a Bishop and all the nuns at another conference in the centre call me ‘Father’. Odd you have to admit for a plain and simple Primitive Methodist from Puritan stock. Not sure what my ancient relatives would have said – my great grandfather’s, great grandfather’s, great grandfather, Henry Oasland, who lost his living as the Minister at Bewdley Parish Church 350 years ago this August just gone!

Here’s a good piece of work again so do click on -

Do pray for our Chaplains in HE as they continue to welcome back bunches of students all eager and ready to learn!

Mark Wakelin

Sunday, 2 September 2012

The winter is over and now is the time for singing

Preparing for the first services of the year I read this as the Hebrew Scripture reading for the morning service!  It felt very counter intuitive.  Methodism, and to be honest, this Methodist minister feels so very old at times!  Just holding, for example, the ‘Field’ Bible at my induction as President put you in touch with hundreds of years of history.

Songs of Songs 2

“Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away; for now the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land. The fig tree puts forth its figs, and the vines are in blossom; they give forth fragrance. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.”

I preached both at St Giles Cripplegate and Wesley’s Chapel in the morning of the 2nd of September, and both impressed with their sense of tradition and age!  I’ve decided I like a good mahogany pulpit and nothing less will now do.  But that reading – instead of saying, ‘Summer is over’ – the Church’s summer, the good things that were, the great preachers, ministry, mission, success and glory; the reading reminded us that it was winter that was over.  What we look back on, our history and tradition, were not the glorious summer soon to be forgotten, but the first day of spring, with the best yet to be!  I have been haunted by the reading for the whole month; winter is over!  I wonder, you see, if Methodism is not over and done with, or indeed the Christian Church over and done with, glory days behind, but instead we’ve only just begun.  I shared that with someone, full of enthusiasm and not a little pride at the rather nice turn of phrase, and they told me, ‘That’s like the Archbishop argued when he said, ‘perhaps we are the early church!’’

Moving on rapidly in a long day, it was lovely to go Westminster Central Hall in the evening.  These two Methodist Churches are different from each other in a dozen ways, but both stunning as well.  Our healing service was excellent, gentle, powerful, encouraging and effective.  Mike King preached and what a pleasure it was to hear him expound scripture in the wise and passionate way he does.

Mark Wakelin