Monday, 17 July 2017

Celebrating Methodist lay leaders at Tolpuddle

"Tolpuddle" is a name I seem to have known all my life.  I think it was probably in Sunday School that I first learned about the Tolpuddle Martyrs - six Dorsetshire labourers who, in a desperate attempt to save their families from total degradation in 1834 at a time when wages were falling, formed one of the earliest trade unions.  Because they then also took an oath to secrecy, they were tried and sentenced to seven years' transportation to Australia - an extremely harsh sentence which caused major public outcry.  After three years they were pardoned and able to return, and their names and their courageous actions have lived on ever since.  You can read much more about them and their stories on the Methodist Heritage webpages.

Annually in July the Trades Union Congress (TUC) organise a festival in the village of Tolpuddle which now attracts about 10,000 visitors and yesterday (Sunday 16th July) I made my first visit.  It was everything a festival should be - sunny and hot (with no mud in sight), happy and noisy, celebratory and yet serious, as all sorts of unions, groups and organisations took the opportunity to highlight their desire for justice and holiness (although they may not all have put it in those words!)



I was proud to march under the church's banner, which, on the reverse listed the names of the six martyrs along with their Methodist connections.  Rev. Steph Jenner, the local superintendent minister, has done much to increase the involvement of local Methodists and other Christians in the festival and to take this opportunity to bear witness to the faith of the martyrs which led them to take their courageous actions.  As Rev. Inderjit Bhogal commented to me as we marched, "all these people are here because of the commitment, faith and actions of Methodist lay preachers" - Wow!

We did glimpse the festival's most famous visitor - Jeremy Corbyn - who has been attending regularly for over thirty years, but now draws crowds in his own right of course!  Inderjit preached powerfully at the service which ended the Festival in the "new" Methodist chapel (around 150 years old, but newer than the "old" chapel, which is the focus of a major restoration project) and I was glad to lead prayers there too.  In a day which focused on justice, liberty, faith, government, heritage and celebration, there is still much to pray for around the world.  Jill

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Honouring Pauline Webb

On Saturday 8th July I had the great privilege of attending the Memorial Service for Pauline Webb at Wesley's Chapel, London. Pauline was an outstanding lay woman in the life of the Methodist Church - and on a much broader platform too - and much has already been written about her in many places which I will not duplicate here.  (See the Guardian obituary for example).

My reason for being there was as one of her many successors in the role of Vice-President of Conference, an office which she held in 1965-66 at the age of 38; the youngest person ever to have served as Vice-President.

It was during her year of office, when I was about 7, that I first heard of Pauline Webb. As chance would have it, I had a friend in Sunday School with the same name; when the JMA awards were given in church that year there was a ripple of laughter as "Pauline Webb" was called - I later asked my mother why and still remember her reply; "Pauline Webb is the Vice-President of the Methodist Conference and one of the greatest Methodist women of all time"! I didn't understand what "Vice-President of the Methodist Conference" meant but was intrigued. Her name - and her great achievements, especially in the areas of world mission, gender and racial justice and religious broadcasting, have woven like a thread through my life ever since and have blessed and challenged me and so many.

I left Glasgow in cool, damp weather at 6:30am and returned there (after the hottest hours on a train I have ever experienced) at 11pm, but I was more than glad to be there; to bring a short greeting from Conference this year, where Pauline was remembered with great affection and respect, and to read from Romans 8 in the church and then the 23rd Psalm outside as her ashes were interred - close to the feet of John Wesley's statue.

But it was at the feet of Christ that Pauline lived her life - receiving and acting on the challenge of the Gospel to work for the coming of God's kingdom of justice, peace and righteousness. Thanks be to God.

A recording of the live stream can be found on Wesley's Chapel website

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

The Methodist Church has expressed its disappointment and concern following a ruling of the High Court, announced earlier this week, allowing the UK to continue to export weapons to Saudi Arabia. 
The High Court judged that the UK Government had gathered sufficient information to entitle it to rationally conclude that there was no 'clear risk' of a 'serious violation of International Humanitarian Law.'
Saudi Arabia has led a coalition of forces against Houthi militias in Yemen, a conflict which has claimed the lives of over 10,000 civilians since 2014.
Despite atrocities taking place on both sides, the largest single cause of civilian deaths is thought to be air strikes by Saudi-led coalition forces; which have come under criticism from the UN, human rights groups and NGOs.
A UN panel of experts concluded that the bombing campaign of Sa'dah in 2015 represented a grave violation of the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution defined within International Humanitarian Law. 
Yemen is now in the grip of a severe famine and cholera epidemic exacerbated by the destruction of infrastructure and health facilities.
Steve Hucklesby, Policy Advisor for the Methodist Church, made the following comment following the High Court judgement: "Our Government told the High Court that it tracks all allegations of strikes on civilians and shares this data with the Saudi military who engage in constructive dialogue over incidents of concern. However in the case of the majority of these strikes, the UK Government was 'unable to identify a legitimate military target'. In the light of evidence from the UN and elsewhere, it is difficult to understand how the High Court can say this is okay."
The Revd Loraine N Mellor, President of the Methodist Conference, added: "The judgement of the High Court yesterday will do nothing to provide civilians in Yemen with the protection that they so desperately need.
Our hearts go out to the people of Yemen who have come under attack from both sides in this brutal civil war and we will continue to pray. It is difficult to see how a lasting peace can be achieved through a conflict that kills over 10,000 civilians and leaves 300,000 people infected with cholera."
Jill Baker, Vice-President of the Methodist Conference said: "Many of us try to express our ethical standpoints through the way in which we spend our money. It seems only right that we also expect ethical standards from our government in engaging in trading relationships that respect human rights and international law. We hold the people of Yemen and those providing assistance in our prayers."

Monday, 10 July 2017

On Friday I travelled to Southport to take part in the ‘FIRE FEST' weekend.  I had been invited by one of the trustees of ‘Summer Fire’ Revd Rob Cotton, which is the new name for the ‘Southport Holiness convention' which began in Southport in 1885. Now the conference  travels all around the country and local churches host Fire Fest events. Some  reading this may remember the tent on Mornington Road where the event was held for many years, but now the hosts are Leyland Rd Methodist church which stands on the corner of Manchester Road and Leyland Rd with its grand steeple, wonderful worship area and suite of rooms. 

Friday night  started with a celebration when Rob Cotton preached on ’Movement or Monument’ and encouraged is to think about if we are dying or being raised to new life which very much chimed with my thoughts in my presidential address. Saturday morning was my first opportunity to unpack Acts 2: 42-47 which was the biblical stream running through the weekend. This was  followed by  a seminar when we  looked at what we do well in our churches, what we wished we could  do better and what are the key factors for growing churches and of course the key question for us all how can we do better at sharing our faith so that we can make new disciples. 

We were ably led over the weekend by the local team working away in the back ground and upfront by Revs Sally Ratcliffe and Phil Gough  and a very accomplished worship band made up of Leyland Rd folk and Phil Nankivell. 

Saturday was also the anniversary for many of our presbyters who were received not full connexion at the Southport conference and  were ordained 10 years ago and so it was for Revd Sally Ratcliffe  who had been ordained at Leyland Rd and I was her assisting minister  we took a photograph in the same positions as 10 years ago, special memories.

I preached on Saturday night at a celebration and again on Sunday morning  and also shared in a family event when the whole  of the worship was based around our five a day spiritual practices  which gave me lots of ideas for the coming year.   I had so many positive conversations it was a real blessing. 

After  we left Andrew Roberts was leading another seminar  on his book ‘Holy Habits’,  based on Acts 2:42-27  which was eagerly anticipated and the weekend was concluding with a  evening celebration. 

‘SummerFire’ was once described as 'Methodism's  best kept secret as holiness is part of our DNA' and this weekend bore that out,  so why not  give it a try next year  and watch out for FireFest events around the country.  


Loraine 

Friday, 7 July 2017

To be a pilgrim

From Tuesday until Friday this week I have been at Rydal Hall, Grasmere with 40 women from the five northern districts (Shetland, Scotland, Newcastle, Darlington and Cumbria) leading a retreat about pilgrimage.  Not so much about how to do pilgrimage as about how to adopt “Pilgrim Attitudes” in our lives.  Our mornings have been spent in study, reflection, discussion and some silence on these themes.

Rydal Hall is a wonderful venue set in beautiful grounds (with its own waterfall) and the surrounding area has also offered opportunities to walk “in the footsteps of the poets and writers”, with visits on Wednesday afternoon to places associated with Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter. 

On Thursday afternoon groups ventured out in different directions to experience the “Sacred Centre” of our pilgrimage together, some walked to St. Bega’s Chapel, others visited Allen Bank, some chose to remain in Rydal Hall’s own quiet garden.  

I was part of a small group making a mini-pilgrimage to the nearby Rydal Cave, which was indeed cavernous.  Great to stop to pray, sing and reflect along the way – then there were the unexpected encounters with people along the way including a Methodist from Maryland, USA and a family whose roots were in Methodism in Roker and who were amazed to discover that members of our group also originated there!  Coincidences?  Serendipity?  The Holy Spirit?    


Our Cumbrian hosts have been assembling a Fellowship Quilt for some years, started through their strong partnership connections with Methodist women in Argentina, and this time the “visiting” districts were invited to bring squares along to contribute.  I was delighted to discover that the making of my Methodist Tartan kilt (my wonderful gift from the Methodist Church in Scotland) had created the opportunity for the Scottish women to purloin a square of this tartan as their contribution - and very smart it looks too!

Our final morning at Rydal Hall began with an unplanned gathering in the courtyard as the fire alarm sounded at 6:40am.  Thankfully no fire and no rain, so an opportunity for grace and fellowship!

On Saturday I will be attending the Memorial Service for Pauline Webb in Wesley’s Chapel, London – a great privilege to do so – more of this in due course.


 Jill 

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Religious persecution in Sri Lanka

The Revd Loraine N Mellor, President of the Methodist Conference, has written to MP Boris Johnson, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, expressing the concern of the Methodist Church over the escalating level of religious persecution in Sri Lanka.
The letter was in response to a Notice of Motion received by the Methodist Conference, which met in Birmingham last week (22-29 June). At the Conference, members heard of the ongoing situation from the President-Bishop of the Sri Lankan Methodist Church, the Revd Asiri P Perera. 
You can find out more about the situation by reading the  Notice of Motion and watching the relevant section of the Conference proceedings at 1 hour and 19 minutes in  this video clip.
In the letter to the Secretary of State, the President highlighted the recent attacks against places of worship in Sri Lanka and asked for appropriate representations to be made to the Government of Sri Lanka. The Methodist Conference called on all Methodist people to act for justice, peace and freedom and to hold the people of Sri Lanka in their prayers.
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I had the opportunity to talk privately to Bishop Perera about this and I know he would value our prayers for this escalating situation. 
Loraine 

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

My first visit as President happened on Saturday the 1st of July to Lidgett Park in Leeds to share in the celebration of the district before a new district is formed in September, Yorkshire West. It was a joy to meet colleagues I had served with in previous districts and to meet many people who had been at conference last week or who had been watching on line. 
After a very splendid tea, the worship began with a very moving prayer reflection with photographs of the district. We then encountered the many ways in which the district engaged with the world church and we received greetings in person from Bishop Asiri Perera from Sri Lanka when we learned that the very first Methodist missionary to Sri Lanka was from Leeds. Deacon Jenny Jones shared with us the many ways in which the district engages in mission before we heard about chaplaincy in the university and the airport. 
The Wesley and the Ashfield singers graced our worship which was led by Revd Anne Brown the district chair and it was good to have four Vice Presidents all resident in the district with us Professor and Mrs Susan Howdle, Dr Edmund Marshall and Dr Richard Vautrey. Our reading from the Gospel of Luke was read to us by Revd Roger Ducker a previous chair of district and it was really good to catch up wit Revd Dr Liz Smith also previous chair. looking so well. Brian Hoare’s hymn ‘Looking back but moving forward’ was sung with great gusto before the Gaelic blessing by Rutter.
A very important occasion when the connexion through the presidency was represented on such a significant moment in the life of the district as it moves to a new beginning. I was struck with and thought how pertinent the last verse of Brian’s hymn was:
Looking back but moving forward
as we celebrate today.
giving thanks for all that’s past, we
pledge ourselves to walk your way.
Holy Spirit , lead us onward;
keep is faithful to your call.
May this ever spur our mission:
Jesus Christ is Lord of all! 
God bless
Loraine