Saturday, 19 April 2014

The waiting - a reflection for Holy Saturday

On the Sabbath, they rested.
On the Sabbath they waited.
They waited to anoint your body.
They waited to bury you properly.
They waited to finish the death.
They waited to begin the mourning.

Today, we have rested.
Today, we have waited.
We have waited as members of your body.
We have waited to welcome you.
We have waited to finish the death.
We have waited to begin new life.

Stay with us Lord as we wait.
Stay with us through the long night.
Stay with us, light in our darkness.

© Ruth M Gee April 2001

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Glimpses of Glory in Lent - Holy Week

This week is a journey, a journey towards the cross. A journey through the deeps.
I will be spending it in Shetland, travelling with the people there and entering the depths with them.
Together, we will walk behind Jesus. Together we will stand at the foot of the cross. Together we will wait through the long hours of Holy Saturday.
I want to be there, wholly there.
So, I will not be commiting to blogging my thoughts each day this week.
I will be on a journey.
I will be expecting glimpses of glory.
May your journey be blessed.
May you wait expectantly.
May you glimpse glory.

You can hear my reflection for the week here

Monday, 14 April 2014

Wolverhampton and Shrewsbury District

Rainbow over Wolverhampton
My visit to the Wolverhampton and Shrewsbury District began on Thursday March 27th when the Chair of District, Revd John Howard and Mary, his wife, welcomed Robert and I into their home. That evening we talked with the Assistant Chairs of District and shared a meal together.

On Friday morning we went to Mount Pleasant Church in the Vale of Stour Circuit and here, I spent a couple of hours with presbyters and deacons who are in the earlier years of ministry. Our conversation was wide ranging and we shared many of the delights and the challenges of ministry. There are not often easy answers to the challenges but naming them and sharing them is important. I have had many such conversations during the year, always with the assurance of confidentiality but common themes are emerging, which I will share at the end of the year.  Of course, there are challenges but there are also delights and we shared and enjoyed giving thanks to God for these.

After leaving Mount Pleasant we drove to Wolverhampton Station and met Daleep as this was, in the main a shared visit. It has been good to share with Daleep in many ways this year. We went together to visit ‘Shared Care’ and Action for Children Project in Shrewsbury and I have already blogged about that visit (March 28th). Vitally important work is being done here and I am glad we were able to spend a good amount of time with Faye, the project co-ordinator and the other staff.

On Friday evening Daleep was in Wolverhampton but I went to Wellington to meet with chaplains from around the District. In the group were chaplains in education, in the workplace, in pubs, prisons, and throughout the community. There is much imaginative work being done and huge enthusiasm from those engaged in chaplaincy. In the majority of cases this work is done ecumenically and this usually enriches and strengthens it. All the chaplains expressed the hope that the churches would recognise chaplaincy as part of their mission and encourage others to work in this way.

Cleobury Mortimer
On Saturday, while Daleep concentrated on the urban areas in the district, I went to the rural areas. You may be surprised to learn that the greater part of the wolverhampton and Shrewsbury District is rural. My morning began in Cleobury Mortimer where the Methodist Chapel has been refurbished and now provides space for a good number of groups in the village. Working ecumenically with the Anglican Youth Worker has meant that the chapel is the base for youth work in the village. This is a small congregation but they understand what it really means to be a Christian presence in their community, they understand and do mission.
Talking with people in Cleobury Mortimer
They understand mission and presence in Melville too. I went here to meet some of the people and to share lunch with them. Among those I met was Ruth Downes, community Chaplain in this part of the Shropshire and the Marches Circuit. Ruth has lived in the village all her life and so is known by the local people, a great benefit when working in a group of settlements where there is no obvious community centre. If the gospel is going to be shared here it has to be through living and working within the community, it has to be through presence. But this is not an excuse for keeping buildings open; this really is about being a living and vital presence. So, in this very small chapel the congregation includes all age groups and people from the surrounding area gather here on special occasions.

In the afternoon I went to Ludlow where I met with David Gwatkin, the co-ordinator for rural chaplaincy in the borderlands. David is a local too, he is a farmer and so knows what it is to live and farm in these remote areas. He works for the District and the Anglican Diocese and helps the church to relate meaningfully and positively to those who are struggling to make a living and often struggling because of isolation.

Next, I met with Revd Neil Richardson, a past President of the Conference and the group from Churches Together who have published the report “Ludlow under Pressure.” This is a challenging report and the churches are responding to it by working alongside those under pressure in the community and by challenging the policies which lead to increasing poverty and hardship for many. The report can be read here.

We were joined by many from this large circuit for an open meeting in the evening when I spoke on the theme - 'Glimpses of glory in meadow, marsh and muck'

Sunday was a day that was personally significant for both Robert (my husband and I) as it was Mothering Sunday and we were visiting churches that had close family links.
In the morning I was leading worship and preaching in Chasetown Methodist Church, celebrating its 150th anniversary. My father had grown up in this area and as a teenager had gone with his friends to the Methodist Church in Chasetown. It was there that he grew in faith and he and my mother worshipped at Chasetown in the early years of their marriage. The chapel they knew is no longer there but the congregation now worship in the building where I was preaching. My father went on to become a Methodist Local Preacher and his love and influence were and still are very important to me. Although there was no-one there who remembered my mother and father it was very moving to be worshipping in that church on Mothering Sunday.
Chasetown Methodist Churh
In the afternoon we went to Springhill Methodist Chapel. This was where Robert had grown up and we met with people who had known him as a child and teenager. We talked together and shared in a short act of worship and it was wonderful to have this opportunity.
Robert with David and Christabel at Springhill Chapel
In the evening, I preached at a circuit service in Brownhills Methodist Church. We were joined by a local male voice choir and I was privileged to presenr long service certificates to two Local Preacher, both of whom spoketo us affirming the joy they had in their calling.

With people from the District in Springdale MC
On Monday morning Daleep and I were together again to meet with presbyters, deacons, lay employees and their partners in Springdale Methodist Church, Wolverhampton. We were joined by Revd Anastase who was visitng the District from Rwanda. The Wolverhampton and Shrewsbury District has a well established partnership lik with Rwanda and it was clear from talking with Anastase that this is greatly valued. It was also very clear that the partnership is valued in the District and that those who have contact with the people from Rwanda or who visit Rwanda grow and mature in their faith as a result. This partnership benefits both the Rwandan church and the District. Anastase spoke to the meeting, sharing deeply with us about his own experiences and the situation of the church now. Daleep and I both spoke to the meeting and then answered questions on a wide range of subjects.

Darlington Street MC
After lunch the final visit for Daleep and I was to Darlington Street Methodist Church in Wolverhampton. Darlington Street was in the news recently because of a major fire in the building. Although the fire did not spread throughout the building and did not spread into the church the whole building has been smoke damaged. The fire happened on a Saturday night and 6 fire tenders and about 60 firefighters attended the blaze. The damage was severe but the work of feedingthe homeless continued the following day and by early the next week meals were being cooked for those needing food. It is remarkable and due to the hard work and commitment of those involved that this essential work is able to continue. 

There was still a smell of smoke throughout the building when we visited and we saw the extent of the fire damage. This is amajor challenge for the circuit. I am very pleased that one of the ordination services will be held here in July because the church and ancillary rooms will be completely suitable for this by then. 
Fire damage in Darlington Street MC
This was another visit which held important memories for me as Robert was ordained in Darlington Street in 2002 and I was the assisting minister at his ordination. That was a great privilege and joy and it was good to visit the church and to know that others will be ordained there later this year.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Glimpses of Glory in Lent - Day 40 The Speed Skating Nun

The crowds shouted Hosanna! Expecting power and glory, greeting a king.
But Jesus lived by a different story. His way was that of true humility, his power was the power of the word become flesh, he came alongside us in our vulnerability and he offers healing and transformation.

Tonight I watched "Songs of Praise" because it was recorded in Bradford where I was stationed as a probationer Minister.

Among those interviewed was a Franciscan nun who told us that she had been a speed skater and had competed in the winter olymics coming 6th in the world. But she felt unsettled, felt that there was more to life than the fame she could achieve through sport and so responded to the call of Christ. Now she lives in a community in Bradford and works among the people there.

And then we heard from Ben and Kongossi. They came to Britain from the Congo and I met them several years ago when they were speaking at an event in Touchstone. I have never forgotten them or their account of the desperate situation they fled from. Tonight we heard a little of that from these two people of great faith. People who have been sustained by the God who has reached into the depths and is alongside us in our suffering.


(You can read Stephen Cherry's meditation here)

Glimpses of Glory in Lent - Day 39 Generosity

A very brief blog today.
It is best to read the meditation (here)
I note that in the final words generosity is linked with doing God's will (not mine), the smile of uncertainty and the joy of faith.
Submission, uncertainty and faith - that is some trio!

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Glimpses of Glory in Lent - Day 38 Kindness

Kindness is such a precious gift. Precious to give and precious to receive.
Stephen Cherry reminds us how easily kindness can be tarnished, becoming patronising, bland or diminishing. (Read the meditation here)
Kindness is a fine art.
Receiving kindness is also a fine art.
Receiving kindness is not always easy for those of us who like to think we are capable, self-sufficient, able to stand on our own two feet.
And yet, I think I am stronger when I recognise my need of others.
Strengthened by the kindness offered and received.
More able to be kind to others.
Undiminished by kindness, I can be kind to others without diminishing them.
So, with Stephen Cherry, I pray:
Give me the gift of kindness

Friday, 11 April 2014

Glimpses of Glory in Lent - Day 37 The Courage of Gethsemane

Courage was the theme of Thursday's meditation (Read it here)

"Bless me, I pray, with the courage of Gethsemane"
This is courage of a different order.
It is not the courage of the popular super-hero.
It is not the courage of Indiana Jones.
It is not the courage of Braveheart.

This is the courage that faces betrayal and denial.
This is the courage that trusts in God even when God seems absent.
This is the courage that says "Your will not mine be done."

This is not brash and forceful bravado.
This is the courage that is deep rooted in faith.
This is the courage of Christ.

"Bless me, I pray, with the courage of Gethsemane."
Give me the courage to ask such a blessing.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Glimpses of Glory in Lent - Day 36

Praying for space in which to have my complacency challenged - now that is a challenge.
Asking for the irony that troubles my certainty - do I really want that?
Well, maybe not, but it is probably good for me. And I do value those friends who know me really well and who will tell me the truth and laugh with me - and cry with me.
So the meditation challenges me today to be unsettled that I might be made whole.

Read the meditation by Stephen Cherry here

An Easter Reception in Downing Street

This evening I was the guest of the Prime Minister at an Easter reception for leaders in the Christian community. After going through the Downing Street gates I went through the front door of No. 10 and there was the famous cat. I was directed up the stairs past the pictures of former Prime Ministers. I particularly noticed Sir Winston Churchill, Harold Wilson, Neville Chamberlain, John Major and Gordon Brown.

Drinks and canapes were served and the guests mingled, introducing ourselves to one another. There were representatives from different churches and Christian charities and organisations. Amongst others I talked with Chris Mould (Chair of the Trussell Trust), Neville Kyrke-Smith (Director of Aid to the Church in Need), Commissioners Clive and Marianne Adams (Territorial Leaders of the Salvation Army) and Lynn Green (General Secretary of the Baptist Union).

The Prime Minister joined us and was talking to people until it became obvious that something was going to happen - and what happened next was very special. Chorister, Laura Wright sang for us and her voice was simply beautiful, it was a high point of the evening for me.

After Laura had sung the Prime Minister spoke. He began by affirming his Christian faith and saying how important he found it to attend communion during the week. He also spoke very appreciatively and movingly about the pastoral care he received from his local vicar.
He went on to make 3 main points:
1. He said that he wanted to ensure that Christians were supported and that he would do all he could to remove any obstacles that prevented Christian churches and groups from flourishing.
2. He said that the government would speak out against persecution of Christians and he also spoke of the draft modern slavery bill.
3. He suggested that the churches and the government had in common a tendency to be deadened by bureaucracy and a need to evangelise, both wanting to work to support people and to improve people's lives.
It would have been good to have the opportunity to discuss these things further, there was plenty I would have liked to say, especially in relation to the third point. However there was only opportunity for a brief hand-shake.
So, my first reflections on this evening are that it was good to meet people engaged in working out their Christian faith in many ways and to talk with them about some very important issues. These included the persecution of Christians around the world, the way in which churches are working with chidren and young people including those young people who hav been excluded from schools, the work of the Trussell Trust and the iniquity of the need for food banks in the UK, The exciting and creative relationships that are developing ecumenically including those between the Methodist Church and Pioneer Network.

It as undoubtedly a privilege to be invited into Downing Street and to be a guest of the prime Minister. However, it was frustrating not to have the opportunity for any real engagement or conversation.

Glimpses of Glory in Lent - Day 35 Gentleness

Gentleness is so often underrated.

Too often gentleness is equated with weakness.
In this meditation we pray that we will be gentle when angry, gentle in word and work. (Read it here)
These things are possible but all too infrequent.
Too often we believe that the loudest and strongest, the harsh and unrelenting voices will and should prevail.
Too often we drive ourselves hard and beat our pain and anxiety into submission.
Too often we do the same to others.

And yet, Jesus was gentle with Zacchaeus. Jesus was gentle with the rich young man who couldn't let go of his wealth. Jesus was gentle with his friends when they still didn't understand.

There can be great strength in gentleness -
the strength of God who - thanks be to God - is gentle with me.

(Reflection on Gentleness by Stephen Cherry in Barefoot Prayers)

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Glimpses of Glory in Lent - Days 32, 33, 34

When I began my attempt to blog every day during Lent I wrote of the blogs, "They may be very brief and because I am human I may miss the occasional day." I have missed three days and this evening I met some-one who had been following each day and was pleased to see me because they thought I might be unwell. Thank you for your concern.
I haven't been unwell but there has been much to do and not enough time to blog as well. At least, there was time to blog, but not the time and space for the reflection that is necessary preparation for the blogs.
So, tonight I looked at the themes of Stephen Cherry's meditations for the three days I missed - they were Grace, patience and simplicity.
I have no doubt of my dependence on God's grace, of my need to grow in patience with myself and with others, and I share the prayer for simplicity and for contentment.

Now, I am allowing myself to move on and to engage with the meditation for today. I hope to blog about it later tonight, or perhaps tomorrow morning. But I am still human so I ask your patience and rely, as always. on God's grace.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Glimpses of Glory in Lent - Day 31 "Those who cry out"

Who are the ones who cry out tonight?

I look at the news website and read about:
Afghanistan where more have died as the nation prepares to elect a president.
A nine month old boy accused of planning murder in Pakistan.
Multiple rapists sentenced to death in India.
North Korean sailors missing at sea.
Flash floods in the Solomon Islands.
A missing student from Middlesbrough.
Victims of bullying.

I think of those I know :
Those who are ill.
Those who are bereaved.
Those who are worried about their future.
Those who are lonely.
Those who are anxious.
I cannot hear their cries - God does.

And when human hearts are breaking
Under sorrow's iron rod,
Then they fifind that self-same aching
Deep within the heart of God.
(Timothy Rees)

(Reflection based on Those Who Cry Out by Stephen Cherry in Barefoot Prayers)

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Glimpses of Glory in Lent - Day 30

In a meditation on sitting, Stephen Cherry invites us to remember those who have nowhere to sit. Those who have no resting place and nowhere to abide.
As I sit and write this at the end of the day, I am thankful that I have somewhere to sit, to relax, to be quiet and comfortable.
"Thank God for sitting places."

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Glimpses of Glory in Lent - Day 29 - A woman lost

This evening I saw a woman lost in grief. She was crying so that it was hard to speak. She was small in stature and seemed lost in the vast clean lines of the television studio.
The interviewer was kind and compassionate. The questions were gently put but the context was too sharp and painful to be alleviated by softness.
Next to her, the head-teacher spoke fluently and occasionally offered a comforting hand, reaching out to the distress.
A mother whose daughter was to be deported.
A mother who was helpless to ensure that her daughter could complete her A level course before being sent away.
A mother who was lost - lost in the exercise of justice without compassion.

This evening I saw a woman who was lost.
This evening my heart ached for her.

A reflection on Lost by stephen Cherry and the decision to deport Yashika Bageerathi.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Glimpses of Glory in Lent - Day 28

Rainbow over Wolverhampton

Rain can be life-giving when it falls on fields and waters crops.
Rain can be life-threatening when it causes floods.
Rain can be refreshing when it falls after a hot dry season.
Rain can be energy sapping when it beats down on me relentlessly as I am walking to a destination.

So many things in life are like this. A mixture of good and bad, of benefit and challenge.

In "Rain" Stephen Cherry reminds me to pray for those who are feeling the benefit and to pray for those who are being challenged.

And I am reminded that some are tracing rainbows through the rain.

Glimpses of Glory in Lent - Day 27 The Depths of the news

"Let me attend to the depth of the news" (Stephen Cherry - On hearing the news in Barefoot Prayers)

It can be so easy to miss the depths of the news:
to listen to it in the background as I do something else;
to skim the headlines without attending to the substance of the text;
to forget to question;
to believe the spin.

It can be so difficult:
to recognise my own prejudice;
to challege my presuppositions;
to allow myself to hear what is dfficult and painful.

Yet, when I do enter the depths.
When I do "let my inner eye run with tears"
When I do "let my soul sing"-
then the news ceases to be remote;
then response ceases to be an option and becomes an imperative.

So "let me attend to the depths of the news"
for God's sake.