Wednesday, 9 October 2013

A week-end of celebration in Leeds

People from across the connexion gathered in Leeds in the first week-end in October. The focus of the celebration was Sunday October 6th. On this date, exactly 200 years ago the first Methodist Missionary Society was formed in a meeting at the Old Boggart Chapel. The society was formed to support the missionaries who were travelling overseas to share the gospel. Other Districts followed the example of Leeds and a few years later the Conference agreed the establishment of the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society.

On Saturday, my day began in Oxford Place Mission where the World Church Forum were meeting. The Forum included representatives from the Districts, the World Church RelationshipsTeam, Mission Partners on Furlough and others who have served as Mission Partners. We were joined by 3 very special guests: Rev Dr Albert Jebanesam (President of the Methodist Church in Sri Lanka), Rev Arnold Temple (President of the Methodist Church in Sierra Leone) and Rev Dr Cuthbert Edwards representing the Methodist Church in the Caribbean.

Rev Dr Albert Jebanesan, Rev Dr Cuthbert Edwards and Rev Arnold Temple
 These were the first three countries to be visited by Methodists from Britain.  During the day we heard from all three special guests and learned so much from them. They gave us much to think about and to pray about and reminded us that we are part of a world-wide church.

I was given the opportunity to share some of the glimpses of glory from my visits to partners in Bolivia and Kenya and to MRDF Partners in Cameroon. (See earlier blogs for details of these visits)

If you don't know about our relationships around the world, do look on the website and find out more.

On Saturday evening I went to Hinsley Hall in Leeds where there was a meeting of the Methodist Missionary History Society. I joined them for their evening meal and for a book launch. The book, 'Methodists and their Missionary Societies' is written by Rev John Pritchard and is the first volume, the second volume will be published in the next few months. Read more about it here:

David's Harp leading worship

On Sunday morning, Daleep joined us and we both took part in morning worship at Oxford Place. Worship was led by Revd Stephen Poxon who was Secretary of the Methodist Missionary Society until Conference this year when we agreed new ways of supporting mission. We were also joined by David's Harp, a talented and lively music group from the circuit in London where Stephen is now serving.

Unveiling the plaque

After lunch a crowd of over 200 people gathered at a place very near the site of the Old Boggart Chapel. Here I unveiled a blue plaque celebrating the formation of that first missionary society.

The Salvation Army band played for us and we sang enthusiastically in true Methodist style. Revs Arnold, Albert and Cuthbert and Daleep joined me while I gave a brief address and Jebi (as Rev Albert is usually known) pronounced the blessing. This was particularly appropriate as the missionaries  led by Thomas Coke, left Leeds 200 years ago for Sri Lanka (then known to the British as Ceylon).

Rev Dr Albert Jebanesan, Rev Dr Liz Smith, Rev Ruth Gee, Rev Arnold Temple, Rev Dr Cuthbert Edwards, Dr Daleep Mukarji

The crowd around the plaque after the unveiling
 From the site of the blue plaque it was a short walk to Leeds Minster and a service of celebration. The Minster was packed, we were joined by the Mayor. Music was provided by the organist in the Minster, the Aire and Calder Music Group, The New World Steel Orchestra and David's Harp. Applecart dramatised the story of that first mssionary meeting and the resulting mission. In the first part of the service we joined in an act of repentance for those times when we had failed to recognise God's presence in the rest of the world. We were given absolution by the 3 church leaders from Sri Lanka, Sierra Leone and the Caribbbean. That was an important and very moving part of our worship. Daleep gave an inspiring and challenging address calling us to  one mission, God's mission.

Daleep addressing the congregation in the Minster
Members of the World Church Relationships Team took part in the service
The service concluded with an act of commitment which I led after reflecting on the vision for the future of mission in God's world.

The words of the commitment we made were:

We commit ourselves to be part of:
a world transformed by God's love;
a confident church motivated to share God's love;
a people celebrating being part of the worldwide family.
Alleluia! Amen.

I invite you to say these words aloud and commit yourself to one mission, God's mission.

We left the Minster singing 'We are marching in the light of God'.
An amazing week-end, full of celebration of  past, present and future and full of the glory of God.

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