Saturday, 24 September 2016

(Channel) Island Hopping: part 2

For those of you waiting with baited breath for Part 2, the wait is over.  Here is more about our amazing visit to the Channel Islands.

As second in the tag team, I arrived on Saturday evening into Guernsey on a sunset flight and tagged with Rachel (and ate some of her ice cream), after her visit to Jersey.  Chair of District David Hinchcliffe, was there also, together with Andrew and Esther Male with whom Marion and I stayed that evening. 

The Sunday saw Rachel and I up early for an interview on Radio Guernsey followed by a service to celebrate forty years since the forming of the Bailiwick of Guernsey Circuit.  In 1976 the French speaking and the English speaking circuits came together to form one circuit, which also included the islands of Sark and Alderney.  Whilst Rachel worked with children and young people, I preached on the theme of ‘Life Begins at Forty’ and we all joined to share bread and wine and sing our final hymn, Thine be the Glory (À toi la gloire O Ressuscité) in English and French. It was a wonderful sound of praise.

After a splendid lunch with the Bailiff of Guernsey (the first citizen of Guernsey, who has number 1 as his car registration plate) and ecumenical guests, we were whisked off by boat to Sark.  Sark is an Island of a little under 500 inhabitants and has its own government.  There are no cars on the island. All transport is by bike, tractor, horse or walking.  We got a lift on the ‘toast rack’ pulled by tractor up from the harbour and the rest was on foot.  We travelled with the Rev Karen Le Mouton, the Methodist Minister on the Island, and headed for the exciting new Sanctuary Centre.  On the way we called at the Jeremiah Project.

The Jeremiah Project is a potter’s workshop where visitors are invited to make a pot under the guidance of master potter Loraine. It is later fired and finished and sent to the visitor at no charge. The Methodist Church covers the cost and uses the engagement with tourists to relate to the notion of God forming people (Jeremiah 18).  Lots of correspondence comes back after the pots are received and many have been prompted by this gift to think more about God in their lives. 
The Sanctuary Centre is an ambitious project costing around £650,000 and it is nearing completion. When finished, it will house support services for the islanders including the island’s only youth facility, as well as medical and psychological services. There are few, if any such services on Sark because the island has no social security provision; health care must be paid for and there are few safe spaces for people to seek help without everyone being aware.  For historic reasons, the land is owned by a small number of people but the Methodist Church owns land on which to build due to an incident in the Church’s early history. Originally the Methodist Church was on land owned by a land owner but apparently their singing was so loud, it disturbed the land owner, who then gave them land much further away on which to build a new church.  This has worked well because it means the Church now has land on which to build the Sanctuary Centre and it is away from the main centres and thus ensures some privacy for folk seeking help.  

After returning to Guernsey and having an informed tour of the Island, including standing on the stone on which John Wesley preached, we attended the MHA Care Homes, Maison L'Aumone, and Maison de Quetteville, which offers Dementia care. There we met staff, residents and the Chaplain, the Rev Mark Street, and learned something of the challenges facing those involved in care for the elderly.  Like elsewhere in Britain, the cost of quality care is above what local authorities (and individuals) want or are able to pay but as we saw high staff ratios and active programmes make a huge difference to the experience of those living there.  I reflected that if and when I needed such support for later life there is nowhere I would rather go than this MHA (Guernsey) facility.

Then it was time to go home and get ready for our next trip.  We will treasure this visit and are grateful to Revd Dr David Hinchcliffe and everyone who made the experience so special.

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