Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Bristol & South Gloucestershire Circuit

On Tuesday morning I left Wiltshire and travelled to the Bristol and South Gloucestershire Circuit. Revd Andrew Prout met me at Hanham Methodist Church and took me from there to Hanham Mount. In his journal entry for Sunday 8th April 1739 John Wesley wrote: 'I preached to about fifteen hundred on the top of Hanham Mount in Kingswood'. Wesley was following in the steps of George Whitfield as he 'consented to become more vile' and to preach in the open air. The view over the valley was very fine this morning though it is likely that Mr Wesley was facing in the opposite direction when he preached. The Circuit still hold open air services here, most recently they gathered here for messy church, re-enacting the story of John Wesley in imaginative and fun-filled ways.
The view over the Avon Valley from Hanham Mount
We left Hanham Mount and went back to Hanham Methodist Church where I met a group of people from the circuit. After some informal time together we gathered in the church where I was interviewed by Andrew and then questions were invited from the floor. We talked about ecumenism, religious education in schools, the importance of connexionalism and the position of women in the Methodist Church.
The people gathered in Hanham Methodist Church
The worship area in Hanham Methodist Church
ISR-Churches for Work and Social Justice is an ecumenical body which supports churches as they engage with the world. You can read more about ISR on their website
I met with the Chair, Dr John Savage and with some of the commited people who work for ISR, including workplace chaplains, the co-ordinator of B.friend which supports asylum seekers and refugees, administrators and co-ordinators. There are over 100 volunteers engagrd in different aspects of the work of ISR. At the heart of all the work is the expectation of glimpses of the glory of God in every part of the world and the call to enable others to know the love of God wherever they are. We ate lunch and talked together before I went to meet one of the chaplains at work.

Matt Albury is chaplain at Rolls Royce. I met him there and he took me around the workplace. Here Matt works in many different environments, quiet office spaces, large project rooms, design and manufacturing areas. Matt exercises a ministry of presence here. He makes himself known and available for those who want to talk with him. As we walked round Matt never missed an opportunity to greet people. This is a ministry that requires patience, perseverence and the conviction that God is at work here. Amongst the desks, the robots and the engine parts, I glimpsed glory thanks to Matt.
With Matt at Rolls Royce

With chaplains and students, Alice is on the left
Another place where chaplaincy is important is in the University of Bristol and my next visit was to the inter-faith chaplaincy. The chaplaincy is a meeting place, a place of safety, a place of friendship and an important base for students and staff in the university. Each week 200-300 students come to the chaplaincy where there is always a chaplain available to talk with them. There are two full-time chaplains who are supported by a number of volunteers and part-time chaplains who provide links to faith groups. Alice is employed by the Methodist Circuit as their link person in the chaplaincy and she took me to meet others there. We drank tea and coffee together and talked about the importance of this work. Again, the chaplains spoke of being present in order that those they meet, in the chaplaincy or elsewhere, can be invited to meet God. Glimpses of glory abounded today.

My time in this circuit ended in conversation with Jayne and Andrew about the circuit review and the vision for the future. This is a circuit that has determined to work with God in God's mission for the world and is reshaping itself as a discipleship movement shaped for mission.

It had been another inspiring day.
Thanks be to God!

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