Sunday, 29 September 2013

Clotted cream, pasties, saffron buns and glory in Cornwall

Steve Wild, Chair of Cornwall District made sure that we didn’t miss out on any of the delights of Cornish fare when Daleep and I visited the District earlier this month.

We ate pasties and saffron buns on a bench at St Benedicts near Truro, ice cream with clotted cream in Newlyn, fish pie made with Cornish fish in Steve’s home (thank you Laura!) and in every church a  generous feast of Cornish fare.  The regional foods in Britain are varied and wonderful and we must support those who farm and process them for us, they do a great job often in difficult circumstances.

My five day visit began in Saltash Methodist Church on Sunday morning where I was invited to preach. Revd Peter Stephens led the worship and Revds Steve Wild  and  Jane Willcock (MInister of the church) also took part. 

I met many people during the faith lunch that followe. Here are some of them.

With Revd Jane Willcock
Margaret, the Church Steward and her husband

On Sunday afternoon we crossed the Tamar again into Devon and to Plymouth Cathedral for an ecumenical service of thanksgiving. We were warmly welcomed into the Catholic Cathedral. As you can see it is a beautiful, light and spacious building. It was good to be joined by  the Chair of the Plymouth and Exeter District, Rev Pete Pillinger.

The next few days included two meetings with local preachers and worship leaders in Crowlas and in  Launceston. I enjoyed meeting with committed and enthusiastic Christians who were engaging with challenging issues and giving so much of their time to the Church. 

Monday morning was spent in Truro. First we visited the Cathedral for a prayer meeting with ecumenical leaders . Ecumenical realationships are very healthy in Cornwall and in November an Ecumenical Covenant will be signed, The Vice-President will be there on that historic occasion. Watch out for more news about this.

From the Cathedral we went to Truro Methodist Church to join the Luncheon Club and a number of supernumerary ministers. We had lunch together and then I spent time with them talking about expectant waiting for glimpses of glory.

This was the theme again later in the week when I led a quiet afternoon at Degibna Prayer Chapel. This chapel, in the heart of the countryside has been refurbished as a place of prayer open to all. It is well used, both for regular prayer sessions and for retreats. Outside there is a prayer garden. The prayer garden has been designed around the theme o the fruits of the spirit as you can see from the photograph. The garden is bounded by a Cornish Fence. Cornish fences are very broad, bounded on each side by stone walls and filled with earth, in which various plants grow. Cornish fences are living boundaries, they reflect the seasons and challenge rigidity.

Degibna Prayer Chapel

The Fruits of the spirit - faithulness

Cornish crosses mark places of special significance, pilgrimage routes and crossing points at rivers. Sometimes they mark the way taken by funeral parties when carrying the coffin to the nearest consecrated burial ground, which could be many miles away. The crosses marked the route and, often behind them would be refreshment for the journey.  I love the way in which the symbol of our faith is an integral part of Cornish culture, people really value these crosses and resist proposals to disturb or move them.

On Wednesday September 18th  we went to Cubert, 262 years to the day after John Wesley”s first visit The Methodist Chapel in Cubert newly refurbished  and used to be the Sunday School building.  We had a great celebration in Cubert, unveiling plaques to commemorate and inform people about the Methodist heritage and then sharing in a celebratory act of worship together in the chapel. It was very special to be part of this anniversary.

Unveiling the plaque at Cubert

Cornwall is a beautiful county, it is also the county which includes the most deprived ward in England. Daleep and I visited Bugle in the heart of the clay country, a post-industrial area. Here we met representatives from the Methodist Church and a local councillor and the Community Support Officer.  We listened. We listened to the story of that community, a community divided and a community where many are struggling with poverty and exploitation. We listened as the Methodist Minister, Sheila MacInally talked about her work in that community and her hopes for the church’s engagement with the whole community. We listened, we talked and we prayed together.  I glimpsed something of the glory of God who stands alongside the poor and the marginalized in that meeting.
On Thursday I left Cornwall, visiting Gwennap Pit and Trewint on my way to the Plymouth and Exeter District. Both of these are places I hope I will return to, places of historic significance and places where there is real engagement with the present. Places where I felt the presence of God.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Chipping Norton and Stow on the Wold Circuit Bicentenary

On Sunday September 14th I was in Chipping Norton School where the Chipping Norton and Stowe on the Wold Circuit were celebrating their bicentenary. I think this must be an unusual event and it was a privilege to be part of it.

The choir sang an introit at the start of worship
Members of the circuit were joined by minsters who had served there including Revd Ronald Frost, who had been in the circuit in 1945. Friends from other parts of the country joined us along with the Mayor and other community representatives.

The singing was led by a combined Circuit and Church choir and the hymns included one specially written for the occasion by one of the choir members. We enjoyed it so much, we sang it twice!

A candle was lit for each church in the circuit

Revd Soba Sinnathamby, Superintendent Minister
 Each church in the circuit has been challenged to begin something new for mission in this bicentenary year and they are rising to the challenge.

Among the many documents that I have signed this year are the authorisations for lay people to preside at communion. As I signed them I prayed for each person so it was especially significant for me to be invited by the Chair of District to present the authorisation to one of the Circuit Local Preachers.

We celebrated 200 years and looked forward in faith and in hope to the next 200!

With Revd Peter Hancock and some members of the circuit

Some September musings

Well, so much for blogging every few days! I really intended to do that but then September arrived! It has been great but left little time to blog so over the next few days I hope to make up for that.

After the Methodist year had begun for Daleep and I in London we found ourselves in Manchester on September 3rd where we led a NewYear Service for the staff of TMCP, the Connexional team based in Manchester and some members of the Circuit. The next day we did the same thing in Methodist Church House, London and were joined by the Youth President, Tamara Wray. It was good to begin the year by worshipping with members of the Connexional Team including those newly appointed to the Discipleship and Ministries Learning Network and to other roles. I am enjoying working with the Connexional Team and I am very grateful for the work they do and the support they offer. Please remember them in your prayers.

After a week of various meetings I travelled to Liverpool where I was attending 'Together for the Common Good', a conference exploring the ways in which we work with other churches. I was given the task, along with two others of reflecting on the conversations we had shared and looking to the ways in which we can continue to work together. We remembered the work that had been done in the 1970s and 1980s by the Anglican and Catholic Bishops and the Free Church Leaders including Norwyn Denny and John Newton.  More importantly, we recognised the way in which church leaders in Liverpool are working together now in so many powerful ways. You can find more about this conference and see videos of the sessions at

The following week, Daleep and I attended the World Methodist Council meeting in London at Wesley's Chapel. Here we shared in inspirational worship and shared in some of the work of the Council. I was able to sit in on the work of the standing committee for worship and liturgy and thoroughly enjoyed the two sessions especially as this was a committee that is clearly going to get things done.

The World Methodist Council at worship

Steve Pearce playing the organ in the Foundry Chapel which was played by Charles Wesley.

I was invited to offer the greetings of the Methodist Church in Britain in the opening session and also to take part in the British evening on Wednesday. I was given the challenge of describing British Methodism in 10 minutes, Daleep,Tamara and Jo Cox also took part. After the presentation which included a piper, who was very well received, we were served fish and chips and ice cream from vans parked at the back of Wesley's Chapel. As we queued for our food, we were entertained by Morris Dancers.
I had to leave that night but it was a very good two days in which I met many of our partners from the World Church and enjoyed talking with them and learning from them. We belong to such a rich and varied family.

At the end of the week I went to a meeting of the Churches Together in England Enabling Group in Cambridge and travelled from there to the Chipping Norton and Stow on the Wold Circuit - which I will write about in the next blog.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Syria - prayer for peace and prayer for action

The attention of the world is focused on Syria and on the international response to the use of chemical weapons with devastating effect on children, women and men in the area around Damascus.
The Methodist, Baptist and United Reformed Churches issued two statements in the week that the British Parliament met to decide whether to authorise a military response and you can read these here:

Among Methodist people there will be a variety of personal opinions about the response that should be made by the international community but all of us will be united in praying for peace and in praying for those in Syria whose lives have been affected for so long by conflict in that country. The Pope has called Catholics to a day of prayer and fasting on Saturday and I hope that many of us will join in the prayers on that day, it may be that there is an opportunity for you to join with local Catholic churches.

Whatever you do on Saturday, I hope that you will continue to pray for the people of Syria, for those who are making decisions about their response to the use of chemical weapons, for the United Nations and for political leaders in the region.

We must also continue to pray and work for a quick and effective humanitarian response to those who have suffered so much in Syria and for the thousands of refugees facing an uncertain future.

As we focus on Syria, which is a proper response at this time, we do not forget those other areas of the world, which may not be receiving media attention but where injustice and violence continue and children, women and men live with pain, fear, hunger and the consequences of exclusion and marginalisation.

Gracious God,
We pray for all those who suffer from violence;
May they know your healing and peace.
We pray for those who have died and those who are bereaved;
May they be comforted and sustained by your love.
We pray for political leaders in Britain and across the world;
May they seek wisdom and work together for peace.
May your kingdom come, your will be done
And the earth be filled with your glory.

If you want to read further about some of these issues Steve Hucklesby has written a  blog on the JPIT website which you can find here:

You might also like to read 'Peacemaking: A Christian Vocation' which was produced by the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church and was commended to the Methodist people by the Conference of 2006 for reflection, study and guidance on action. You can read it here:

Monday, 2 September 2013

New Year in London

Sunday September 1st was the beginning of the Methodist Year and I spent the day in London with Daleep. This was the first time we had been together since sitting next to each other at Conference, it was good to see him again.

Our day began in Wesley's Chapel where we were warmly welcomed by the Stewards and by the pastoral team (The Revd the Lord Leslie Griffiths, Revd Jennifer Potter, Revd Brian Goss  & Kido Baek). It was my joy to preach and then to be invited with Daleep to serve communion from the table at which the first Methodist Communion was celebrated and which was used by John Wesley. 

I have found during this last year that it has been important to me to rediscover and explore my Methodist roots and rootedness, and what better place to do that!

The history was all around us but clearly this is a vibrant Christian community. Eight young people were received into membership on Sunday morning and among the visitors were a group of Methodist Bishops from South Africa. The singing refreshed the soul and I found it especially moving when people were coming forward for communion and singing from the depths of their heart.

In the congregation were Peter and Winnie. Winnie is one of our Venture FX Pioneers and Peter is a lay employee and they had been married in Wesley's Chapel on Saturday by Jennifer.
Winnie, Jennifer and Peter
 After lunch and a chance to visit the refurbished museum and John Wesley's house, Daleep and I left to travel to Methodist Central Hall. I may have an Oyster Card but I am not at all used to travelling on London buses so was glad that Daleep was there to guide me. 
Daleep at a bus stop - somewhere in London!

We arrived in time to meet the team at Central Hall and share tea with them. It was good to be there again and to be able to thank some of the people who had helped the Conference to run smoothly and had been so helpful to all the representatives.

Daleep and I were sharing in the healing service and this time it was Daleep's turn to preach. Revd Martin Turner (Superintendent Minister) invited me to preside and, together with the healing team we participated in the ministry of prayer and the laying on of hands. This monthly service attracts a growing number of people and now takes place in the Great Hall, having outgrown the smaller chapel in Central Hall. The Spirit moved with healing grace among us.

Sunday was a special day of varied worship with committed people who were generous in their hospitality towards us. It has been a good start to the Methodist year.
Daleep, Jennifer and me with Mr Wesley