Thursday, 13 March 2014

Discipleship, art and worship - Hertfordshire & the Wirral

The week beginning March 3rd was filled with a variety of good things and I was busy experiencing them so had little time to blog, but here is a belated account.
Anna Mallender speaking

Daleep invites us to buzz
On Monday March 3rd I went to High Leigh Conference Centre in Hertfordshire to join Lay employees at the Connecting Disciples Conference. What followed were 3 days (I had to leave before the end) of worship, conversation, learning and sharing in the company of committed, talented, fun-loving followers of Jesus Christ - what could be better? I really hope and pray that more lay employees will take the opportunity to share in this gift from the Methodist Church and that Circuits and Districts will encourage lay employees to attend and finance this for them. We are a lay-led church and these people are hugely important to us. Daleep and I were both invited to address the conference and there was input from a wide range of others. This really is something not to be missed.
Miriam leading worship
Barbara, the Director of Education and Jude Levermore
On Wednesday I travelled on to Ellesmere Port where the town is hosting its first ever Arts Festival. This was Ash Wednesday and so I preached in the service in Trinity Methodist Church. Revd Jim Booth (Chair of District) and Revd Christine Jones (Minister of Trinity MC) also shared in the service and we gathered among some of the paintings from the Methodist Collection of Modern Art. Seeing Jim presiding in front of Jacques Iselin's painting, 'The Elements of the Holy Communion'  was a very significant and moving part of the worship for me. You can see the painting here:

The rest of the collection is being displayed in other community buildings: West Chesire College, University Church of England Academy, and the Paperboat gallery. All these are places that have been part of the community renaissance in recent years. 

Earlier in the afternoon, Steve  Cooper (Circuit Manager) and I had visited the Paperboat Gallery This is a gallery which also runs a programme of courses and workshops.  The owner, Sonja Moss-Dolega welcomed us in and we saw how she has arranged the items in the shop to complement the paintings from the collection. Among the items on sale are clay cats made by members of the Wirral Association for the Blind and Partially Sighted at Ashville Lodge. In this photograph you can see Sonja with some of her own work and with exhibits from the Art Collection in the background.

We also visited West Cheshire College where the paintings are hung in part of the main reception area.

On Thursday morning I visited two of the MHA residential facilities in Ellesmere Port. Mayfields is a dementia care home and we were welcomed and shown around by the Manager, Josie. The care that is given and the respect afforded to each resident was very evident and Mayfields also hosts a Live at Home scheme. One of the lounges is in the process of being transformed into a 1940s room, a place which will be comfortingly familiar to some who live here. This picture shows Josie and Steve in the 1940s room.

We also saw the music room, music therapy is an important part of the life of residents.

 Another room is a salon where residents can have their hair done and nails painted. In one of the lounges a pupil from a local school, on work experience, was painting the nails of some of the ladies. Students from the art department in the college are going to provide some pictures for the corridors.

Next door to Mayfields is The Hawthorns, a residential facility that also offers care. I was welcomed by Nick (The Assistant Manager) and Suzanne, the chaplain. We joined some of the residents for the weekly coffee morning. Among them was Mary, whose husband, Bill had been a Methodist Minister. Mary and Bill had lived in China and Sierra Leone before returning to Britain. Mary is also a talented artist and outside her flat there was a beautiful Madonna that she has carved.

Here, I was presented with a portrait of myself which had been done from a photograph by Betsie. Betsie is one of the residents and also an artist. This is a gift I will treasure.

Steve and I went on to Claremount Road Methodist Church in Wallasey where I was able to meet with many of the Supernumerary Ministers in the District. It is always a pleasure and a privilege to share with colleagues in this way.

Thursday evening was the official opening of the Arts Festival, which has been called 'Along the Way'. The launch took place in Trinity Church, Ellesmere Port. The church was packed. People were looking at the paintings  and then we heard the community choir including people of all ages (specially formed for this occasion) sing 'Anthem for the Port', specially written for Ellesmere Port last year.  I was invited to welcome everyone and launch the festival, Revd Graham Kent (Secretary to the methodist Collection of modern Art) gave an introduction to the collection and a local councillor, Pat Merrick, sent us 'Along the Way'.
 Trinity has recently been refurbished and has been transformed into a welcoming place for the whole community in the centre of Ellesmere Port. There was no better place to host this event for the whole community.

On Friday I went from Ellesmere Port to Hinsley Hall in Leeds where I was attending the Faith and Order Committee, of which I am a member. My week finished with theology and work that is vital for the Church in a building that was once one of our training colleges (Headingley) and is now owned and run by the Catholic Church as a Conference and retreat centre. We shared in communion together on Saturday morning when I was invited to preach. After lunch I returned to Darlington and to an evening with colleagues in the North East as we welcomed new Church Leaders among us.

It was a busy week and a week full of those glimpses of glory revealed through many different people and in many different places.  

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