Monday, 25 November 2013

Golden Jubilee at Brigg Methodist Church

A week-end of celebration in Lincolnshire was a good way to end one week and begin the next! Brigg Methodist Church was celebrating its 50th anniversary and 50 years in the present church building. Ofcourse, Methodism has been in Brigg for longer than 50 years but the present church came into being when three congregations joined together.

On Saturday afternoon I arrived from the United Reformed Church Mission Council, at which I am the Methodist representative. I was warmly greeted and given a welcome cup of tea before I delivered  a talk about my year so far. After this we had tea and shared the usual, very generous Methodist fare, including tempting cakes and delicious cheese straws (I find it very hard to resist cheese!). After tea others joined us from around the circuit for a service in which I preached.

During the service I was able to present a local preacher with a certificate marking 60 years of service, it is always a huge pleasure to present one of the certificates I have signed and it was good to meet Geoff. We also commissioned 3 worship leaders, Eleanor, Myra and Ros.

On Sunday I led worship in the morning along with worship leaders and local preachers who worship in Brigg Methodist Church. We had a good time of celebration together and after lunch with the two circuit ministers I left Lincolnshire to drive home to Darlington and a night in my own bed.

There are pictures to add to this blog but my camera is still in Darlington and I am now in London preparing for my next visit - to the RAF.

Friday, 22 November 2013

From 3Generate to Easington Colliery and then a retreat

Last week-end I travelled to the Pioneer Centre in Cleobury Mortimer at the invitation of the Youth President, to spend time at 3generate. What a brilliant time I had there! On Friday evening Tamara (Youth President) welcomed us all and we shared in worship together, enriched by the musicians from Cliff College. For the whole week-end children and young people aged from 8 to 23 were participating fully in the life of the Methodist church. I was very impressed by the variety of ways in which they were able to learn, share and feed back their opinions and ideas. I had to leave before any resolutions to the Methodist Council and Conference were prepared but I look forward to being challenged by them.
On Saturday the Vice-President and I were among those who listened to the opinions of the 8-11 year old group. They were enthusiastic and eager to share, they were also very well worth listening to - I expected that but I wonder how often they are really heard in their local churches, I hope they are.
In the afternoon I was one of four people who were on a panel for a Question Time event. Paul Morrison (from JPIT), Tamara and Sam Taylor were the other three who responded to questions from the 11-23 year old groups. The questions ranged from those about belief to those about ethical issues - I really enjoyed that session. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I was late for the next session where I was with an 18-23 year old group who were thinking about spiritual gits. My tardiness did not matter as the session was being led by Megan who didn't need me there, it was good to sit at her feet.
I had to leave on Saturday night but fitted in a quick visit to the bonfire before I left.
I love the fact that we really expect young people to participate fully in the life of our church, and we expect to learn from them.
Thank you 3generate for a fantastic couple of days.

On Sunday I was at Easington Collliery Methodist Church in County Durham. The people there were celebrating the centenary of the church and we had a good time of worship and thanksgiving. They are really looking for ways to work with their community and to work ecumenically.
They are also generous with their hospitality - we had 2 cakes!

From Monday until Wednesday I was leading a retreat for a group from the WestYorkshire District. We were at Ampleforth Abbey - a beautiful setting especially when the weather was so good for us. It is always good to take some time apart to focus on God, in fact I believe it is essential.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Silence at Cenotaph and in studio

People at Westminster Abbey
 Last Sunday I represented the Methodist Church at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday. For me, this was a time to remember all those who have died in conflict; those serving in the forces and civilians. It was also a time to hold our human failings and frailty before God. The poppy is a reminder, both of the battlefield and of the transience and fragility of human life.

It was also a time that was personally significant as my grandfather was once the National Chairman of the British Legion and so had been at the cenotaph and laid a wreath. He was in my thoughts as well.

People arriving at Horse-Guards Parade, early on Sunday morning

In the evening I shared in the service in Hinde Street methodist Church and afterwards in a round table discussion with young adults and others as we shared food together.

On Monday I travelled to Stoke-on-Tremt where I had been invited to visit UCB Media. I was shown around the radio and television studios and met many of the staff, it was extremely interesting to get a flavour of the variety of work that this Christianmedia organisation is involved in. At 10.45 I was interviewed by Paul Hammond, talking about remembrance. At 11.00 we observed the 2 minutes silence in the recording studio and as 6 of us stood in silence in that small room, it was a moving and prayerful time.

Some of the staff working at UCB

Thursday, 7 November 2013

The Queens Foundation - a place of excellence

Yesterday the Vice-President and I visited the Queen's Foundation and met with the staff and the students. We talked together, worshiped together and shared meals together and I came away energised by the encounters and carrying an olive tree (more about that later).

This picture shows Daleep and I with the staff, the Methodist Students and the overseas students. We were in the chapel because it was pouring with rain outside.

Had we been able to take the photograph outside we would have been joined by the rest of those who had been at lunch with us, and there would have been about 130 people, that is about half the total number of those who form the vibrant, diverse and gifted community here.

Our day began at lunch-time, when Daleep and I were able to talk with some of the Methodist Students. It is still quite early in the first term for the first year students but they were clearly enthusiastic and engaged. It was good to meet Tim, who had candidated from the Darlington District (where I am Chair) and to see him playing in the music group at worship in the evening.

After lunch we met with the staff. It was a joy to be able to spend time listening to and sharing with this group of highly skilled, academic and gracious colleagues. The past two years have not been easy for any of our training institutions, including Queens. I was deeply impressed by the professionalism, excellence and grace of the tutors here. I would have loved to have spent much more time with them and would grab any opportunity to share with them or to learn from them, the students here are very well served.

Some of the staff of the Queens Foundation - From the left - Back row: Revd Gary Hall, Simon Sutcliffe, Deacon Eunice Attwood, Revd Dr Judith Rossall, Dr Rachel Starr, Revd Dr Joseph Suray, Deacon Kerry Scarlett, Revd Sam McBratney. Front row: Revd Helen Cameron (Senior Methodist Tutor), Daleep, Ruth, Revd Canon Dr David Hewlett (Principal)
After the conversation with the staff we met a group of students and were led in this session by Daleep. There was an engaging and lively discussion on the theme of global discipleship. The group of students included a number of the overseas students who came from Kenya, Zambia, and India; our conversation was enriched by them. The links with the world church are foundational in this community as are the strong ecumenical links. Of course, the students from Britain were equally varied in their background and were just as engaged in the conversation.

With the staff and overseas students
We had a break for a cup of tea and some cake and then Daleep and I were able to talk with Helen and David. It was good to have that opportunity.

After a full and interesting afternoon we went to the chapel for Foundation Worship. The chapel was very full with over 80 students and staff. Helen presided at this communion service, I preached and Daleep led the intercessions. The gospel was read in Tamil, the Lord's prayer was spoken in many different languages, hymns and songs were sung from varied traditions and nations. All of this helped us to recognise and rejoice in the diversity of God's people.

After supper and the opportunity to talk to another group of students during the meal, I left Queens feeling nourished, challenged and thankful for this community which is such an important part of the Methodist Church in Britain.

Please pray for the staff and the students here at a transitional, exciting and challenging time. And please, give thanks for this gift to the connexion.

I left Queens with the gift of an olive tree. This had been an important symbol in the worship there during the first part of the week, worship that was linked to Psalm 52:

But I am like a green olive tree
in the house of God.
I trust in the steadfast love of God
for ever and ever.
(Ps 52:8)

I will cherish my olive tree and will remember the chapel in which it was the focal point of a community's worship. I pray that this community will continue to grow and to flourish and will be given the nourishment, resources and support to do so.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Visiting Hartley Victoria College

Today I visited Hartley Victoria College in Manchester. I met with staff, students, members of the oversight committee and ecumenical partners.
We talked together and prayed together. We shared ideas, concerns, hopes and visions. We gave thanks for all those who have been formed for ministry in Hartley Victoria over the years.
It was good to be with them.
Please remember them in your prayers in these transitional years.