Tuesday, 25 March 2014

From the eastern coast to the source of the North Tyne

My visit to the Newcastle Upon Tyne District began on March 15th when the Chair of District, Revd Leo Osborn, accompanied me to Milfield Methodist Church in the Lindisfarne Circuit. The coffee morning is normally held during the week but they were holding it on Saturday so that I could meet people from this part of rural Northumberland. We had a good time together and people joined us from the surrounding villages.

The Circuit had recently been part of Together in Mission, a Mission initiative in the District co-ordinated by Rev Elaine Lindridge, District Evangelism Enabler. They had exciting stories to tell about the way in which they have been energised for mission - as one person said, "We realised that we had to get on with it and do something if we think it is important."

Caroline told me about her call to preach which had resulted from "Together Mission" - it was something she just couldn't resist, and the circuit has seen a number of new Local Preachers recently. There was a real buzz of excitement here.

We travelled on to Bamburgh and as we crossed the hills towards the coast I had a view of Holy Island, a place that is special to me, as it is to many others. But this was the closest I would get to Holy Island on this occasion.
The Chair of District points to Bamburgh Castle - it would make a good manse!
In Bamburgh we visited the Grace Darling Museum. Grace was the daughter of the lighthouse keeper who played a major part in the rescue of the Forfarshire which was shipwrecked in September 1838 on the treacherous rocks near Longstone Lighthouse. Longstone was the outermost lighthouse on the Farne Islands which can still be visited today. You can read the story of Grace Darling here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grace_Darling
We also visited Grace Darling's tomb in St Aidan's churchyard.
With Revd Pauline Fellows at Grace Darling's tomb
I was invited to lunch in Bamburgh with members of the Circuit Leadership Team and here again I heard personal testimony as people spoke of their faith and of the way in which they have experienced renewal.

In the afternoon we were at Seahouses Methodist Church where I preached in a Circuit Celebration which included the rededication of the church after recent refurbishment. The church was packed. The celebration was led by the Minister, Revd Pauline Fellows and began as the young people from the Girls Brigade came in with candles (artificial ones) to represent the light of Christ in the church.

The girls also sang for us with Pauline accompanying them on the guitar.
The cake was cut by George dawson, a retired fisherman who was the first person to be baptised in this church when it opened in 1926.

Cutting the cake

Along the gallery are hung life-buoys from fishing boats - the names linked to the Christian faith and the Methodist tradition.
The names of the fishing boats are John Wesley, Providence, Childrens Friend and Good Fellowship
The refurbishment here included a new, spacious and welcoming entrance area with facilities for serving tea and coffee in a prominent place on the main street in Seahouses, The new window was designed and made locally and reminds everyone passing by of the inheritance of this area.
Here is a circuit where there is a real and renewed heart for mission and where the churches are fully engaged in the community and relating to their context. Of course, it isn't all easy but what people were talking about here was transformed lives and hope for the future.
With Pauline, Gerald, and Leo outside Seahouses Methodist Church
Pauline with one of the Church members
As we travelled back to Newcastle we called to see Carla and Juan Quenet and their new daughter Anaya Rosa, just 8 days old. It was really good to spend some time with them and, of course, to hold Anaya.

On Sunday we went to visit the Tynedale Circuit and in the morning I preached in Haltwhistle Methodist Church. I was welcomed by the Superintendent Minister, Revd Tom Quenet. It was good to see Tom again, he had arranged my visit to Bolivia last year when he was Co-ordinating Secretary for the Caribbean and  America. Tom spoke of the strength of the community in Haltwhistle and the church is ideally positioned in the centre of the town.
Briefly in Scotland
We then travelled north to Kielder and for a few minutes I was in the Scotland District! On land farmed by the family of Fiona Hall, a Methodist member, is the source of the North Tyne. Very recently a plinth has been erected here to mark the place and we walked to it meeting Fiona's husband, Jimmy who was out working with their sheep. This is border country, it is beautiful and remote and Fiona says that the people in the borders relate to one another, across the border, as a distinct community. We prayed at the source of the North Tyne for the communities that live and work in these valleys.
With Jimmy, Eddie, Deacon Anne, Fiona, Revds Leo and Tom at the source of the North Tyne
Deacon Anne Taylor lives and works in this northern part of the circuit and she and Fiona took us to visit Kielder Methodist and URC Church as we began our journey down the valley. Services are held monthly here in the chapel that was given to the community by the Duke of Northumberland.
Kielder Castle

The next destination was Kielder Castle. Built as a hunting lodge for the Dukes of Northumberland this is the visitor centre for Kielder Water and Forest Park.
Gathering for worship
Over 100 people gathered for worship in one of the rooms here.
The worship band

A worship band led us in the singing and we heard from one of the National Forest staff about the conservation work and the industry of the forest. This is the place in England where you can see red squirrels but it is also a working forest and important for the life of this area.
Kielder Water is the largest artificial reservoir in Northern Europe and was opened in 1981 although it took two years for the reservoir to fill. Numerous farms and a school were lost when the land was flooded.
It was appropriate that the theme for our worship was water and I reflected on this theme in conversation with the Chair of District.

In this service I was also asked to present a number of long-service certificates to Local Preachers. I always enjoy this opportunity to present certificates which I signed last year, not knowing who would receive them. It is good to be able to thank Local Preachers who give so much to the Methodist Church as they respond to God's call in their lives.

From Monday to Wednesday I was with Presbyters and Deacons from the Newcastle Upon Tyne, Cumbria, Darlington and Scotland Districts who have been in ordained ministry for up to 10 years. I was leading a retreat for them and it was a rich time of sharing together. As always, I will not blog any details of the retreat as these are times and places of confidentiality and are safe spaces.

This is the view from the room where we met at Shepherd's Dene in Riding Mill.

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