Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Wesley's Chapel, Queen's and Cliff College week-end

Just getting my breath back after a wonderful week-end of celebrations. It kicked off on Friday, which was Aldersgate Day, and Evensong at St Paul's Cathedral, with Mark. Then graciously led by Leslie Griffiths and Jennifer Potter, a couple of hundred people (Americans, Koreans and Ghanaians well to the fore) joined in short acts of worship in St Paul's churchyard before John Wesley's statue, at the Aldersgate memorial at London Wall, and in Bunhill Fields at Susanna Wesley's grave. Did it matter that it rained and was really quite chilly? It was a 'warmed heart' experience. Over the road to a service in Wesley's Chapel where I was privileged to use the pulpit (and lost my footing as I left it - thank you, Jennifer, for catching me!), before a final wreath-laying in the garden at the back of the Chapel. What an evening! On Saturday Isabel and I joined in the end of year celebrations at Queen's Foundation in Birmingham. Plenty of good conversation with ecumenical friends, course leavers of both diaconal and presbyteral vocations, staff - and not least both old and new friends from our world church partners who are at Queen's for their MA courses. A lovely sunny afternoon with good worship, fellowship and food. Not an easy year for all our theological colleges and the staff concerned, and I was very aware of this all afternoon. However, there was another feeling of celebration in the air on Monday when we joined Mark, Judith and a number of their family at Cliff College for their annual week-end of teaching and worship. The entire act of worship on Monday morning when Mark preached was very powerful, and it was good to be a small part of the afternoon programme amongst hundreds of eager and expectant Christians. How blessed we are in the Methodist Church to have such gifted people teaching on all our courses throughout UK. The whole week-end confirmed for me what a talented Church I belong to and what an extraordinarily rich year I am having, being able to meet and share with such brilliant preachers, teachers and organisers - for which I give thanks to God.

Monday, 20 May 2013

VP - Cambridge

Wesley Church in Cambridge is celebrating one hundred years of existence this year, and I was asked to preach last Sunday with a world church theme. It was also Aldersgate Sunday, so significant to Wesleyan Methodists and, much more importantly, it was Pentecost. So what a wonderful day to worship God for both his faithfulness in the past as well as the rich promises of God's Spirit in the present and future. Rev Tim Macquiban led the worship and had chosen some new songs from around the world that are in Singing the Faith, which gave a richness to the celebration. I was invited to speak about world church matters over a lovely lunch, and the discussion that followed went in a number of directions, including the new learning network and the importance of developing the exchange of ideas, students and teachers with other world institutions. An old friend, Rev Peter Graves, joined us for lunch, as did Rev John Barrett after they had both led worship elsewhere in the Circuit. It was an excellent time of listening and sharing, of fellowship and care; it was a good anniversary occasion. The photo shows us around the memorial stone in the church garden with Tim and John. Isabel and I stayed on in Cambridge to enjoy a sunny afternoon with Isabel's cousin; before evensong and eucharist at Clare College where our niece was singing is in the choir. A different style of worship, but a real privilege to be able to share so freely with other Christians from all around the world - especially significant at Pentecost.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Deacons and Ecumenists - local and global

Last week it was a relatively 'domestic' few days in Banbury, punctuated by a funeral service for an old friend back in Hertfordshire. The May Bank Holiday celebrations in the village were excellent - lots of stalls, morris dancing. crowning of the May King and Queen, followed by many other children from the school dancing round the maypole on the green. A very happy afternoon. On Tuesday I was at Swanwick for the opening day of the Methodist Diaconal Order's annual convocation, which was a lovely blend of the old and the new. There was a vibrancy about the proceedings and new opportunities, as well as an appropriately respectful honouring of what had happened previously. Honouring the past is hard to do well; and there have been many occasions over the last year when I have wondered if, in the natural urgency to respond to the rapid changes, has the Church properly acknowledged the faithfulness of those who have enabled us to get to this point? I know that I owe a great deal to Deaconness Mary, who was such a wise counsellor to me in Sierra Leone. Would I be the person today without the quiet guidance of such experienced Christians? The next day I was at High Leigh as one of the Methodist representatives to the CTBI annual gathering. For me, this was a wonderful opportunity to meet up again with ecumenical chums, many of whom had been colleagues on joint pieces of mission work when I worked in the Connexional Team. The afternoon was taken up with some 'in depth' hearings; first I attended ones on the Israel-Palestine situation (and it was good to hear John Howard talking about his recent sabbatical as an EAPPI volunteer), and secondly on what the Churches' response to Poverty might be. The recent excellent JPIT report (Myths and Lies about Poverty) was quoted a number of times. I was again struck by how local and global issues are so inter-related, and how much more all of us Christians could be doing socially, economically, politically etc to transform situations, if we had the will and energy to do so. The topic of foodbanks inevitably cropped up in the Poverty 'hearing' and someone mooted the point that if every time food was given out at a church, it generated a separate letter to the local MP (or PM?), the scandal of the situation might hit home more forcefully. And I again wondered if I care enough?