Thursday, 24 January 2013

VP - A quiet week?

If there's no District visit or exciting event on the official calendar, some people assume that Mark and I have 'quiet' weeks. Actually, mine started on Sunday with a difficult, snowy journey to a village preaching appointment about 8 miles away in Cropredy. A hardy bunch of a dozen and a half braved the dangerous roads and lethal pavements - and the tea/coffee afterwards was as warm as the welcome. On Monday the Methodist Council roadshow hit London until lunch time on Tuesday - lots of important governance, finance and management business, but also discussion about future mission, inter-faith work and the possible future shape of circuits. And as with every other Council meeting for the last couple of years, Fruitful Field was a key item on the agenda. We met in the old Committee Room of MMS and Council chaplain, Nigel Hardwick, brought a Cross from Malton, Yorks, to centre us. It used to belong to the Revd Douglas and Margaret Prescott (ex Missionaries in Dahomey/now Benin). They would be thrilled to know that the first outing of 'their' Cross at Council was in that room! I first got to know them many years ago at World Village - and perhaps other readers of this blog remember happy summer days with challenging speakers and a world to love. So to Wednesday evening's spectacular launch of the 'IF' campaign at Somerset House.
Isabel and I were suitably dressed by MRDF in IF shirts (large enough thankfully to go over our coats). The IF campaign is a natural successor to the Jubilee campaign. IF nations use land more wisely and grow more food; IF aid commitments of nations are kept; IF governments work together to stop big companies evading their tax responsibilities in poor countries; IF international trade was more transparent - then there would be no need for 1 in 8 people in the world today to go hungry, when globally we grow more than enough food. The campaign, run jointly by the major aid agencies and faith bodies, including Christian Aid, MRDF and the Methodist Church, is targeting 2013 because this is the year that the UK has the Presidency of the G8 - and therefore David Cameron has a key role in leading other influential nations. I hope all Methodists can get behind IF and together help change the world. So, a quiet week? - hardly; a cold week? - certainly; but with much to warm the heart.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

VP - Happy New Year

Possibly a little tardy, but nonetheless sincere HNY to all who are reading this. What kind of happiness does one wish for another human being? Certainly not unbridled joy for 12 months, because that's completely unrealistic. One thing I wish for people is 'something to hope for'. What did Robert Browning write? "A man's reach should exceed his grasp,or what's a heaven for?" In the church we certainly need hope, whether in the small local chapel or large national committees. We would do well to discern where God wants to lead us, and follow with both hope and expectation. This last week-end Isabel and I have been in the Newcastle District. The visit started in Houghton le Spring (East Durham Ct) with afternoon tea (= excellent!), worship and conversation on Friday evening. On Saturday, with the President, we shared with a goodly number in a District Study Day in the Chester-le-Street circuit on the subject of 'Being a welcoming church.'Leo Osborne then took us to see the soon-to-be-completed 'The Ark' at Crawcross. A Methodist fellowship agreed to hand over their building for a new vision - soft play area and cafe, and a completely different approach to presenting the gospel, of being Church.
This was something for the South West Tyneside circuit to be both excited by and hopeful about. In the photo with Leo, Mark and myself are Revs Paul Saunders and Liz Kent, Deacon Tracey Hume and Ruth. On Sunday morning I was in Hexham with over 40 young people for their Covenant Service, and in the evening at Ponteland for a Newcastle West gathering - and we had some wonderfully worded prayers. It was a week-end of meeting joyful, yet thoughtful, Christians. I sensed a desire to learn more and to risk things; and so my prayer is that the Church, locally and nationally, helps to give these well-grounded disciples the tools to move forward with hope.