Monday, 31 December 2007


Happy New Year everyone
Let us celebrate
Another year we can enjoy
Hope that it will be great.

Ring out the old, ring in the new
A wish I have for you
That you have a year of happiness
And a year of prosperity too.

Let us be very thankful
For the life we call our own
And thank our troops that keep us safe
So very far from home.

So as we end our party
Let us thank the Lord above
For our friends and our family
And bless them all with love.

Ginny Bryant © 2007
Journey Of Love

Wishing you good health,
peace, love, cheer,
blessings and prosperity
this New Year and always

The Book they used to burn now fires new revolution of faith in China

In China it is known as the “sacred doctrine” and it has become one of the country’s bestselling books. Yet it has nothing to do with the thoughts of Chairman Mao and its teachings have been in conflict with the forces of Communism for generations.

Demand for the Bible is soaring in China, at a time when meteoric economic growth is testing the country’s allegiance to Communist doctrine. Today the 50 millionth Bible will roll off the presses of China’s only authorised publisher, Amity Printing, amid public fanfare and celebration.

In the past, foreign visitors were discouraged from bringing Bibles into the country in case they received some heavy-handed treatment from zealous Customs officials.

Such is the demand in China for Bibles that Amity Printing can scarcely keep pace. Early next year it will move into a new, much larger factory on the edge of the eastern city of Nanjing to become the world’s single-biggest producer of Bibles.

New Zealander Peter Dean, of the United Bible Societies, bustles between the humming state-of-the-art presses. Mr Dean, who has been in China at Amity since 1991, said: “This platform has been built as a blessing to the nation. It will print Bibles for China for as long as it takes to do it.” Authorities at the officially approved Protestant and Catholic churches put the size of China’s Christian population at about 30 million. But that does not include the tens of millions more who worship in private at underground churches loyal to the Vatican or to various Protestant churches.

Of the 50 million Bibles Amity has printed, 41 million were for the faithful in Chinese and eight minority languages. The rest have been for export to Russia and Africa. Sales surged from 505,000 in 1988 to a high of 6.5 million in 2005. Output last year was 3.5 million and is expected to rise in 2007.

One of Mr Dean’s bestsellers is a pocket Bible, a version not suitable for the older generation to read and which may indicate a rapid expansion in the number of new, younger believers. He cited a surge in demand during the Sars crisis in 2003, but refrained from commenting. The enterprise has clearly flourished through its discretion and careful adherence to China’s laws that prohibit evangelising.

The Bible is not on sale in mainstream Chinese bookshops but through a distribution system managed by the official church, for example at stalls set up for people attending morning service. But it does figure on a recommended reading list of useful books in the glitzy metropolis of Shanghai.

A country where the Communist ideology has lost much credibility is seeing an upsurge in conversions to Christianity. Li Baiguang, a prominent lawyer and Christian activist who was received by President Bush at the White House last year, said: “Rising wealth means that more and more people have been able to meet their material needs, the need for food and clothing.

“Then they are finding that they need to satisfy their spiritual needs, to look for happiness for the soul. In addition, they are seeing a breakdown in the moral order as money takes over. Thus, more and more people are turning to Christianity.”

In the ultra-leftist Cultural Revolution between 1966 and 1976, Bibles were burnt as tomes of superstition. Much has altered since the 1980s when government policy required tourists and visitors not to bring in Bibles “in excess of personal use”. Many faithful took to smuggling the book into China to meet demand.

Cases of Bible smuggling are still reported and some people have been deported and locals even jailed. The Bibles they are smuggling usually contain the accepted gospel and an additional chapter slipped in among the pages relating to a particular sect or cult trying to spread its own beliefs.

It is such a sensitive issue that Chinese officials denied rumours recently that China would ban international athletes from bringing in Bibles to the Olympics in Beijing next August. However, the official Olympic website states: “Each traveller is recommended to take no more than one Bible into China.”

With China’s economy set to boom, Amity expects even higher demand when its new factory opens.

Mr Dean gestures to a new paper-sorting machine destined for the printing plant that had to be installed in the old facility recently to cope with demand. He is unconcerned about possible excess capacity. “Our lamp is full and the wick trimmed,” he said.

The believers

31% of China’s 1.05 billion adults consider themselves religious

200m of them are Buddhists or Taoists

40m the estimated population of Christians in China

1-2% are Muslims

1949 year China became officially atheist

Sources: China Daily; Central Intelligence Agency
The Times 8/12/2007

New Year 2008

Time to come down from our high horse
Get on the straight and narrow path
Turn over all our pride and vanity
Before God throws out His wrath

Our life on earth is not forever
We know not the day we shall die
We will then meet our maker
And bid this cruel world goodbye

We now begin another new year
Knowing not what it will bring
We hope for peace and love
With improvement in everything

We go forward toward the future
With faith we face each new day
Meeting the challenge it brings
Giving encouragement all the way

Reaching out with hope and kindness
Greeting our fellowman with love
Voicing praises and appreciation
To our Heavenly Father above

© 12-27-07 Norma Duncan ~aka~ Mistymaiden

Wishing you good health,
peace, love, cheer,
blessings and prosperity
this New Year and always

Friday, 21 December 2007

Christmas Greetings and summary of my year

Christmas 2007
Christmas Greetings from Caversham to my blogger friends who will not receive this letter by any other means! I have enjoyed good health this year, apart from a severe flare-up of cellulitis that necessitated 3 weeks in hospital in August.

Here, this year has been a year of mission called Regenerate Reading, which began with a big commissioning service in January and saw many new mission projects initiated by the various individual churches in the town. On Good Friday there was an ecumenical Walk of Witness through the town centre, with a very talented actor miming the story of the crucifixion in Broad Street and ending with a service outside St. Mary’s Minster Church. Recently we had a huge Thanksgiving Service in the Globe (a large West Indian Church), when we heard reports of all these new ventures and an inspiring and challenging address by the Bishop of Reading. Speakers on the platform remarked on the very good reporting from the Methodist churches, and it is all very encouraging. We have never had all the Christians in the town uniting together like this!

It was good to be back at Easter People – this time in Blackpool - in April as a Steward and Intercessor, among so many old friends, for the 20th and Final celebration. There were huge crowds and many more than were expected, so that the morning Bible Study session became two sessions instead of one and new venues had to be found for other events. It was very exciting and the hardest stewarding I have ever done (or am ever likely to have to do) but it was a great joy to be able to do it. I am very sorry to see the end of this great festival. Many will miss it!

Now we are all very sad because (the Revd Dr) Rob Frost, its founder and principal speaker, died on Remembrance Sunday at the age of 57. His funeral was at Raynes Park Methodist Church where we were members many years ago in the early years of our marriage, and a Thanksgiving Service for his life will be held at Westminster Central Hall at 3pm on 12th January. We also mourn the death of Janice Palmer, the Lay Minister of the Reading Deaf Church in a tragic road accident.

In June we completed the 33-week Disciple 3 course, with participants from 4 Circuits, and it is planned to begin studying the Disciple 4 course in September 2008. At my own Church (Caversham Heights) we have just ended the 6-week ‘Lost for Words’ course to train people to talk naturally about their faith in their ordinary everyday conversations, and it is hoped to offer more such courses next year. It has felt good, if a little strange after a few years without doing any leading or teaching, to be sharing the leadership of ‘Lost for Words’.

I went to the Methodist Conference in Blackpool in July where it was good to be able to listen to all the debates at this time of change within the Methodist Church, and it is always good to meet old friends from far and wide.

We welcomed a new Deacon in September who is learning to sign for the Deaf, so I took her with me when I went to the Oxford Diocesan Harvest Service for the Deaf at Wendover. and to the signed Diocesan Christmas Service for the Deaf when the speaker was the Archdeacon of Oxford.

At Caversham Heights we held our ‘Back to Church Sunday’ on the last Sunday of September and were well rewarded by the number of returnees.

Recently, about 8 of us went from our church to the Southampton District Fresh Expressions Roadshow when it came to Thatcham. This was extremely helpful and we came home with much to think about. It is hoped that we can organise our own version of Fresh Expressions next year.

In October I started a one-full-day-a-month course on spirituality at Sarum College, Salisbury, so I have journeyed there three times so far. The course is called ‘The Heart of the Divine’ and I am finding it very interesting, with much of it very new to me. It is well worth the early rising and catching two trains – because I have to change at Basingstoke – in the rush hour!

A major effort this year has been helping to identify photos and other information for the book on the family history of the Emmersons (my father’s family and the Bauls (my mother’s family) being compiled by my sister Muriel’s son, my nephew John. I had not bargained for the amount of work that this would entail, but it has thrown up much that is very interesting, including an account of the D-day landing by the commandos in the War! Then the Morgan family asked for my help with their family history, but I couldn’t help so much with that, except for a few old photos.

I have continued to proof-read translations of Scripture in strange languages for Wycliffe Associates, including the Bible in the Igbo language used in Nigeria. Now I have part of the Sotho 1985 Bible to check for use in Lesotho, Botswana and South Africa.

Sunday, 16 December 2007


BBC Radio 4 is to broadcast a series of plays on Luke’s Gospel that could have the same effect as Dorothy L Sayer’s radio classic The Man Born to Be King, according to one scholar. Mike Thompson, Vice-Principal and Lecturer in New Testament at Ridley Hall, Cambridge made the claim after seeing the scripts for Witness, five plays inspired by Luke’s Gospel. The ‘eye-witness’ accounts by Peter, Judas Iscariot, Andrew, Mary Magdalene, Jesus’ mother Mary, Caiaphas and Pilate will be followed by an in-depth exploration by contemporary Bible scholars. The plays have been written by award-winning writer Nick Warburton.

Sources: Baptist Times (14/12); Church of England Newspaper (14/12)

A word in your ear…

A Word in Time, the online Bible study for daily life, was launched at the beginning of September and has been hugely successful, with around 300 visitors to the site every day.

But now the team have decided to make the studies even more accessible. An audio file of each day’s Bible study, and a bigger file with all of the studies for each week can easily be downloaded onto a computer or mp3 player, so that users can listen at a time convenient to them.

Alison Pollard, Web Writer and Researcher and the new voice of A Word in Time says; ‘People find it increasingly difficult to make time to read and reflect on the Bible in today’s busy world. A Word in Time made it easier by giving people access to a Bible study on the internet. Now we’ve taken it to the next level and you can catch up with your daily Bible study at a time most convenient to you – whether you’re cooking dinner, doing your weekly shop or on the daily commute to work.’

A Word in Time features a daily Bible reading, background and an explanation of the text, reflections and questions to ponder from that week’s contributor. It follows the readings in the Methodist Prayer Handbook bringing the 40,000 readers of the handbook together with online disciples in their search for daily spirituality.

Each audio file is available in two formats – a high quality version for those using broadband internet connections and a lower-quality file for those using a dial-up connection. The audio files for past Bible studies are available online in the Word in Time archives.

The audio Bible studies are also ideal for sharing with those who otherwise might not have access to daily Bible notes, perhaps because of a disability or simply not having access to the internet.

Source; 3/12/'07

Friday, 14 December 2007


The Bible has become a best seller in China, with 50 million copies produced so far by the country’s only authorised publisher, Amity Printing, a joint venture between a Chinese Christian charity and the United Bible Societies. As demand is nearly outstripping supply, Amity is set to become the world’s single-biggest producer of Bibles. Their move into new and bigger premises in Nanjing is scheduled for 2008, with a view to increasing their current output by a third, to one million copies a month. According to lawyer and Christian activist Li Baiguang, the success of the Bible and the rapid growth of the Chinese church – an estimated 40 million believers – in the face of growing material wealth are the result of people seeking ‘to satisfy their spiritual needs, to look for happiness for the soul’.

Source: Sunday Times (8/12)

What joyful news to hear just before Christmas!

Saturday, 8 December 2007


Most people over 50 think too many Christian practices are being ‘downgraded’ in public life out of sensitivity to multi-culturalism, The Times reports. The Saga Populus survey of 10,000 over 50s found widespread concerns about the celebration of Christmas. Some 85 per cent objected to councils replacing ‘Christmas’ lights with ‘winter’ lights and 84 per cent were dismayed by the replacement of nativity plays with non-religious productions in schools. The poll release came on the same day that MPs held a special debate at Westminster Hall. Conservative backbencher Mark Pritchard urged the government to protect public expressions of the UK’s Christian heritage.

Source: The Times (5/12)

Our local newspaper has an advertisement for our newest shopping mall The Oracle that reads 'Come and celebrate the true meaning of Christmas - the birth of Santa.' On the other hand, the same newspaper will soon be having a roundup of local schools' Nativity plays.

Christmas Stamps

I understood that this year the Royal Mail were to produce specifically Christian stamps and I was therefore disappointed when the post office assistant affixed ordinary stamps to all my overseas mail - nothing at all festive about them! Some of my letters were a 'once a year' mailing just to keep in touch with friends I haven't seen for years, and it seemed a pity that they should miss out on the festive stamps. With the Post Office bursting at the seams with the long queues of people waiting for service, I just let them go. However, when it came to requesting a batch of stamps for my inland mail, I was asked 'Do you want Christmas stamps?' Fine, I thought, until I looked more closely and discovered that the stamps merely depicted an angel!

Now I see that Richard Hall on has gone into the question of our 2007 Christmas stamps in great detail, uncovering strange things like the various angels depicted and their significance! Whoever wouuld have thought that this is a celebration of the tercentenary of the birth of Charles Wesley who wrote 'Hark the herald angels sing'!

Stranger still, it seems that we are supposed to ASK specifically for them if we want Christmas stamps and, even then, we will only get the stamps depicting angels! We have to be even more specific if we want either of the two stamps depicting the Madonna and Child! What I want to know is - How can we ask specifically for something that we don't know exists? In the rush to post before the last posting date, who is going to consult the Royal Mail's website?

If I have aroused your curiosity, please go to Richard's website and feast yourself on the array of stamps available, with the explanations and names of the angels. Thank you, Richard!

A Commoner in the House of Commons

For those who are not following the accounts of their itinerary during their year in office written by this year’s President and Vice-President of the Methodist Conference, there is a very interesting and important write-up by the President, the Revd Dr. Martyn Atkins, of his visit with other Christian church leaders to the House of Commons to champion the important, vital role that the churches play in the community.

Their visit to hold a conversation with Hazel Blears, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government was to plead for greater recognition for all that faith communities do (and particularly Christian churches) in terms of developing and sustaining communities – and have done for a long time.

They made the point that most Christian churches are more concerned with who benefits from a particular neighbourhood project than who runs it. They also drew attention to the suspicion levied at ‘faith communities’ that results in many deeming them unable (by simple virtue of being faith communities) to receive any Local Authority grants for good, socially cohesive projects. The church leaders made it clear that they are committed to dealing justly with migrant workers and that they are against political extremism.

However, you would be much better reading the President’s full account for yourself on .

Friday, 7 December 2007

Passport to Peace this Christmas

Peacebuilders, IndiaRelThis Christmas, new worship material is encouraging adults and children alike to become Messengers of Peace.

Produced by MethodistChildren, the Messengers of Peace service material invites congregations to make a Christmas ‘Peace Box’ containing items including a passport, iPod and nappy pin. These items can be used to tell the story of the Nativity on Christmas morning, or throughout Advent, and to draw out its significance for our contemporary search for peace.

Steve Pearce, Children’s Secretary for the Methodist Church, says; ‘In our mixed-up world, peace can often seem in short supply. But this material reminds us in a fresh way that we can all be messengers of peace as we seek to communicate God in our daily lives.’

Using Christmas Day as a focus for peace, there are also ideas for music and prayer, including making ‘peace doves’ and using sign language during worship songs.

Steve says, ‘The use of symbol and sign language in the service will not only make it more accessible to those with hearing difficulties, it will also introduce a new dimension to worship for everyone.’

The material is based on the highly successful Peacebuilders resources, launched in March this year in India. Because each church is different, the material is flexible enough so that it can be tailored to suit the church and congregation.

Source: 28/11

Saturday, 1 December 2007

A Changing Church for a Changing World

On Wednesday most of our house group went to the Fresh Expressions Roadshow which was visiting Thatcham, a few miles from here. I liked the prayer on the front cover of their brochure. It read, 'Living God, set our hearts on fire to risk ourselves for your mission to change the world.' The key questions being posed during our time together were -
What are the loud words of Jesus to your Church community now, which speak to you of God's call to journey to new people?
What are the possibilities that are emerging for new initiatives in your situation?
What particular gifts/charisms has God given to your Church community? (What is the essential nature of your Church?)
In what ways is your Church responding to changing times?

Right at the start we were reminded that 'It is not the Church of God that has a mission in the world, but the God of mission who has a church in the world.'

First we were startled by a presentation that vividly depicted the situation in the UK today, where 10% are 'regular' at church (attending monthly or more), 10% are irregular at church (less than monthly), 20% are open to come back, 20% are never coming back and 40% are non-churched (who have never come). It was then explained that until now we've tended to work with those on the fringe of the church, only to come to a stop when we reach those who declare that they are never coming back. So the suggestion was that we should work anti--Church-wise and employ alternative radical new initiatives which go out to the unchurched, allowing new forms of church to emerge. This approach certainly makes sense!

The suggested starting point was loving service, and it was emphasised that there are many ways in which we can show the people in our community that our Church really cares about the community and wants to share its love for the people in it. Becoming involved with the community is vital to fresh expressions of Church, because from that loving involvement spring opportunities for evangelism and discipledhip. We explored three possible routes to discipleship - building in Christianity from the start, building in spirituality from the start or creating a separate group. We were reminded0 that there are 4 dimensions of a mature Church -
UP - towards God
IN - fellowship
OUT - mission
OF - connected to the whole body of Christ.

Then we each chose two of a number of 'taster' sessions in which we learned more about recently established forms of Fresh Expressions. I chose 'The Liquid Church' or 'Cafe Church', in which an ordinary coffee shop is used to get alongside the people and gently introduce them to the Good News of Jesus. This is what some of us in our Church have vaguely talked about and it seems to be the most likely for our community. Time will tell whether we actually take the risk and put this into practice. Then I went to the session on 'What makes a healthy Church?' to learn more of the 4 vital dimensions of a healthy church.

Other possibilities that were presented to us were,'What do they say about your church?' - and our attention was drawn to Bridge Builders, a Christian organisation dedicated to providing training for mediation and facilitation services to equip Christians with appropriate skills; Global Mission Network who can offer a trained consultant to use consultancy skills in the Church so that Ministers and Church Workers can explore their work together to find the right way forward; Godly Play which is built on the Montessori tradition of religious education and can be used in a variety of settings; the Positive Parenting Course which lasts 8 weeks and is produced by The Family Caring Trust; a 'Holiday at Home', designed for those who don't normally have a holiday and specially useful at times when the normal church activities shut down in December and August; the Essence Course, which is a 6 week course exploring contemporary spirituality at quite a deep level (a very rich experience); Hope 2008 which provides ideas and practical examples of initiatives for Christians engaging with their communities; and the faith development potential of the small group.

Fresh Expressions has so many possibilities and is so flexible that each Church should be able, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to find the right way forward for their particular community. It involves faith and risk-taking, just like the first disciples, but we are challenged to try it. The Fresh Expressions roadshow booklet ends with the wise words 'Start with the Church and the mission will probably get lost. Start with mission and it is likely that the Church will be found.'

Coming Christmas

I've heard that it is snowing
With that Christmas atmosphere.
You're planning shopping lists
For the time is drawing near.

The sales are on, you're running fast
To find just what you like,
There's more to bake, so much to buy,
The budget's getting tight.

But, knowing you, you'll pray a lot,
Commit each thought you have
In caring for the good of all
To make another glad.

God bless you at this busy time
As upon His strength you rest.
He will guide you through each day
In Him you will be blessed.

Soft Whispers from
Derry's Heart Poems ©2007
Poetry from the Heart

And yet I do love a kind of light, melody, fragrance,
embracement when I love my God; for He is the light,
the melody, the fragrance, the sustenance, the embracement
of life - there in a brilliance that space cannot contain,
a sound that time cannot carry away, a perfume that no
breeze disperses, a taste undiminished by eating,
a clinging together that no saiety will sunder.
This I love in the love of my God.

Reproduced by permission.

Friday, 30 November 2007


International recognition for church-based programmes caring for people with HIV and Aids came this week. In the US, Senator Hilary Clinton and other presidential contenders joined a thousand Christians for a Global Summit on AIDS, held by the church of author and pastor Rick Warren. Warren, Author of The Purpose-Driven Church, and his wife Kay called this third summit as part of a plan to mobilise a billion Christians in humanitarian action and to deliver Aids care through local churches. In the UK, the Archbishop of Canterbury pays tribute to church-run local programmes in his message for World Aids Day (Saturday). Dr Williams challenges governments to work effectively with faith-based organisations, but admits that churches themselves have not always treated HIV positive people with the ‘dignity, liberty and freedom’ they deserve. In Uganda last week, the Queen made her first ever visit to a specialist AIDS centre set up by the UK-based Christian charity Mildmay.

Sources: Christian Today (30/11) ; Methodist Recorder (29/11)

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Free-of-charge Audio Production for Churches and Schools

May I draw your attention to 'Advent 24′ - a series of 24 short dramatic spots charting the story of Advent in the style of the hit American TV series ‘24′.

Each episode is 30 seconds long and can be downloaded free of charge from Audiopot - the UK’s online library of creative Christian audio - at

For further information on this series that gives a growing feeling that something big is about to happen, please go to I am indebted to Tony for this information.


Consumers should boycott chocolate that isn’t fairly traded to help end child labour, the Archbishop of York has said. Speaking to church and community leaders in Hull to mark the work of abolitionist William Wilberforce, Dr John Sentamu cited research connecting child labour with cocoa production. According to the Stop the Traffik campaign, 12,000 trafficked children work on Ivory Coast plantations to farm 43 per cent of the world’s cocoa beans. Stop the Traffik claims that manufacturers who don’t subscriber to Fair Trade practices cannot guarantee that their chocolate is produced without child labour. The irony, The Times points out, is that most of Britain’s original chocolate makers were Quakers, who spearheaded the campaign to end slavery.

Source: The Times (31/10)

Friday, 23 November 2007

Methodist Relief and Development Conference in Africa

MRDF conference celebrates going from strength to strength in Africa

The Methodist Relief and Development Fund (MRDF) is holding its first conference for African partner organisations from 22-26 November 2007. The conference, entitled Strength to Strength, will be held in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa. Representatives from 29 local partner organisations based in 11 African countries will be taking part.

There will be a packed schedule of workshops on issues such as HIV/AIDS, advocacy, sustainable agriculture and financial planning, but most importantly there will also be opportunities for delegates to share their own stories, advice and experiences with one another. Those closer to home can find out the latest news from the Strength to Strength daily blog, available at .

Francis Njuakom is travelling from Cameroon to attend the conference. He is the director of an MRDF partner organisation that runs social and income-generating clubs for poor and isolated elderly people. He says: “It will be such a lovely and enriching experience to have MRDF's most trusted partners across Africa to come together and share the magic of differences that we are all using in our various organisations to transform lives and communities.”

Margaret Nakato is the co-ordinator of a women’s development project in rural Uganda. She explains why she feels that this conference is so important: “I believe when there is face to face interaction, people relax and get to know each other better. In the process they share a lot of information about themselves and the work they are doing. Some of this will be unique and provide new insights. I am looking forward to hearing those stories that are difficult or are not normally put in writing.”

MRDF Director Kirsty Smith, says: “At MRDF, we are very excited about this opportunity for our partners to get together and share their knowledge and experience. Good financial management or strategic planning may not sound very glamorous, compared to buying goats or sinking wells, but only well run, financially sound organisations can improve the lives of poor communities in the long term. Training events, like this conference, help ensure that money from our supporters is well managed and that programmes are delivered by well equipped and trained staff. By sharing skills and resources, we can all become stronger.”

Source: 19/11/'07

Monday, 19 November 2007


Tearfund believes that a survey on prayer commissioned by the Christian aid charity ‘flies in the face of the view that faith is increasingly irrelevant in today's secular society’. According to Chief Executive, Matthew Frost, the poll 'demonstrates the prevalence and potential of prayer'. While only about one in five adults goes to church at least once a year, twice as many pray. Of the twenty million who say they pray, just under half of them do so every day. Some 68 per cent pray for family and friends, 41 per cent give thanks to God and 25 per cent intercede over world issues. The highest percentage of praying Britons was found in the capital, with roughly three in four adult Londoners praying and one in five attending church at least once a month.

Source: The Observer (11/11)

Monday, 12 November 2007

Methodist Church launches Mexico flood appeal

The Methodist Church has launched an emergency appeal for funds following the devastating floods that have swept through South Mexico in the wake of the heaviest rains to hit the country for 40 years.

The Church’s Fund for World Mission has already pledged a solidarity grant of £7,500 towards the appeal and charity Methodist Relief and Development Fund (MRDF) has offered £5,000 to assist relief work.

The extent of the flooding is massive with the states of Tabasco and Veracruz particularly affected. At least 500,000 people have been made homeless and are facing the destruction of their crops and outbreaks of disease.

Revd Thomas Quenet, World Church Officer for Americas and the Caribbean, says; ‘The full extent of this tragedy is yet to be seen, but we do know that thousands of people will be faced with rebuilding their lives from scratch. We are encouraging people to offer whatever support they can, not only with their pockets, but also with their prayers.’

Those wishing to support the appeal can send cheques, made payable to The Methodist Church Fund to World Mission, to Mexico Flood Appeal, World Church Relationships Office, Methodist Church House, 25 Marylebone Road, London NW1 5JR.

People can also give securely online at This is part of the Church’s new easy-to-use online giving facility through UK tax payers can even GiftAid their donations, offering the appeal an extra 28% of their donation at no extra cost to them.

Source: 9/11/07

Sunday, 11 November 2007

Remembrance Day Hymn

At our Remembrance Day service today we sang a hymn that is not in our hymn book and I have never sung it before, though we all thought it was very appropriate for tday -

O valiant hearts who to your glory came
through dust of conflict and through battle flame;
tranquil you lie, your knightly virtue proved,
your memory hallowed in the land you loved.

Proudly you gathered, rank on rank, to war
as who had heard God's message from afar;
all you had hoped for, all you had, you gave,
to save mankind — yourselves you scorned to save.

Splendid you passed, the great surrender made;
into the light that nevermore shall fade;
deep your contentment in that blest abode,
who wait the last clear trumpet-call of God.

Long years ago, as earth lay dark and still,
rose a loud cry upon a lonely hill,
while in the frailty of our human clay,
Christ, our Redeemer, passed the self-same way.

Still stands his Cross from that dread hour to this,
like some bright star above the dark abyss;
still, through the veil, the Victor's pitying eyes
look down to bless our lesser Calvaries.

These were his servants, in his steps they trod,
following through death the martyred Son of God:
Victor, he rose; victorious too shall rise
they who have drunk his cup of sacrifice.

O risen Lord, O Shepherd of our dead,
whose cross has bought them and whose staff has led,
in glorious hope their proud and sorrowing land
commits her children to thy gracious hand.

Gustav Holst

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Methodist Response to Queens speech

Anthea Cox, Coordinating Secretary for Public Life and Social Justice, says;

"The Government wants to make education, housing and health care the centre of its work over the new Parliamentary session. Methodists care passionately about these issues and welcome the opportunity for debate.

The Methodist Church welcomes the introduction of the Climate Change Bill. Earlier this year we responded to this bill in its draft form. As a nation the UK must achieve real year-on-year cuts in carbon emissions. The urgency for action is underlined by a report published by the UN today stating that carbon emissions from industrialized countries are at a record high. We argue that long-term targets should be revised in the light of the findings published this year by the International Panel on Climate Change. In addition we must not use the purchasing of carbon credits overseas to buy out our own responsibility at home.

The Human Tissues and Embryos Bill will prompt further debate on abortion and the ethical and moral issues around early human life. The Methodist Church will seek to listen, learn and speak with great care on this sensitive issue.

We take a keen interest in the proposals to combat terrorism. The Methodist Church previously opposed extending the time for which people can be held before trial to 90 days but we recognise the need to consider how a balance can be achieved between providing adequate powers to address terrorism and ensuring the right to liberty and justice for all."

Source: 6/11/07

I don't agree with the proposal to make it compulsory for young people to stay on at school or in training until the age of 18, although I fully understand the reasons behind it and am always encouraging those who left school early without much in the way of qualifications to take every opportunity to study to get those qualifications later in their lives. Anything that is compulsory tends to evoke rebellion in many teenagers, whereas I have known several who thought school was a waste of time until they found a job. Then they realised the point of it all and are quite happy to do that same study now because they can see how much it will help their work.

The opposition, who say that the Government is tackling the problem in the wrong way because we should, rather, be dealing with the cause of unqualified school leavers, has a very good point. However, it is far from easy to find a way to prevent the perfectly natural rebellion against compulsory education which happens even now and will surely increase if this legislation goes through.

Saturday, 3 November 2007

'The Bent Bow'

Since being introduced to the Desert Fathers and Mothers on the course 'The Heart of the Divine' at Sarum College, Salisbury, I have been reading a little about their sayings. Here is an example:-

Once Abbot Antony was conversing with some brethren, and a hunter who was after game in the wilderness came upon them. He saw Abbot Antony and the brothers enjoying themselves, and disapproved. Abbot Antony said, 'Put an arrow in your bow and shoot it.' This he did.

'Now shoot another,' said the Elder. 'And another, and another.' Then the hunter said, 'If I bend my bow all the time it will break.'

Abbot Antony replied, 'So it is also in the work of God. If we push ourselves beyond measure, the brethren will soon collapse. It is right, therefore, from time to time to relax.'

Friday, 2 November 2007

Croeso i Gymru! The Methodist Youth Conference is coming to Cardiff

For three days in November, Cardiff will become the focal point for Methodist young people all over Great Britain to meet. The reason? Cardiff will be hosting the annual Methodist Youth Conference from 16-18 November 2007 in the new Urdd Centre in Cardiff Bay.

The Methodist Youth Conference is an annual conference that gives an opportunity for young people aged 13-25 from all over Britain to meet and discuss important issues they are interested in and how they relate to the Church. It is aimed at young people who are connected or wish to be connected with the Methodist Church.

Many young Methodists across Great Britain benefit from this annual meeting as not all are fortunate enough to have the chance to mix with many people their own age in their local church. ‘This is a great opportunity for the young people,’ says Reverend Susan McIvor from the Cardiff Circuit, who is one of the organisers of the conference. ‘They have chance to meet lots of other Methodist young people, talk about their concerns and draw the whole church’s attention to these issues.’

Each year the conference has a specific theme, and this year the young people have chosen to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the abolition of slavery in the UK and the freedom Christians find in their faith today.

The conference is held in a different location in Britain every year and this time it is being held in the Urdd sleepover centre in Cardiff Bay. Katie Demery, 16 from Cardiff said, ‘We think that the young people will love Cardiff Bay with its Doctor Who and Welsh Assembly connections. We also have lots of great activities planned for them. In fact, we’re a bit concerned that it will be so good they might not want to leave at the end of the weekend!’

The event has been organised through a planning committee involving young people from around the Cardiff Circuit area aged 13-25, offering the opportunity for all the young people involved not only to work as part of a team, but also to develop planning and social skills.

A hi-res image accompanying this story is available at

Thursday, 1 November 2007

'Keepin' It Real'

'Keepin' It Real' aims to help children through the challenges of modern life. It is a resource book for children and youth leaders and aims to help 9 to 13-year-olds focus on the issues of respect, reputation and conflict.

'Keepin’ It Real' is produced by the Methodist Church and ecumenical children’s charity CURBS. It is aimed for use with 9 to 13-year-olds and addresses four main topics: communication, reputation, conflict and negotiation as they affect young people today.

Keepin’ It Real comes at a time when the Government is asking schools to help teach children good manners and behaviour, and also to help them deal with anxiety, anger and conflicts.

Penny Fuller from MethodistChildren says “there are lots of resources to help young people deal with topics like sexuality and drugs, but not to help with less tangible things like reputation. Yet we frequently hear that some teenagers are carrying weapons either for self-protection or ‘Street Cred’, and we see in the news the terrible consequences this can have. 'Keepin’ It Real' aims to help young people deal with these situations in very practical ways.”

Charity CURBS specialises in working with children in urban situations, and its experience enriches the practical wisdom offered by 'Keepin’ It Real'. But, says Penny, it does not only apply to inner cities. “Children and teenagers everywhere are under tremendous pressure. 'Keepin’ It Real' will help equip them to deal with difficult situations. Everyone gains when young people can find their way through life.”

Source: 25/10

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

For all the Saints ......

Loving God, we thank you
for all those who have listened to your call,
followed you faithfully,
served you wholeheartedly
and witnessed to your truth, justice and love.

We thank you for the prophets
who bravely declared your word
to hostile and uncaring peoples.
We thank you for the disciples
who embraced the strange adventure
of following Jesus.
We thank you for the evangelists
who risked their lives to bring the good news
of your saving love to the world.

We thank you for Christian people
in every age and in every place,
who have lived out your gospel
as shining lights in a dark world.
We remember those whom we have known,
who have shown us the way of love
and given us insights, comfort or challenge.
We thank you now for those who have died,
and rejoice that in you we are all made one
on earth and in heaven.

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

New Young Congregations!

Another major report [before the Methodist Council] is into the appointment of pioneers to build new congregations. The Fresh Expressions organisation, which is jointly sponsored by the Methodist Church and the Church of England, has been successful in developing new forms of church and growing new church groups. But most of those attending Fresh Expressions-style churches are those who previously have had some contact with traditional churches. The pioneer scheme is designed to reach out to those who have never had any significant contact with any church, and this group includes a growing proportion of young people. The innovative and exciting scheme aims to fund about 20 pioneers for five years to build new young congregations across Great Britain and to support up to 60 more local initiatives. Council agreed the plan in principle.


Monday, 29 October 2007

Last part of the Mountain to Climb!

This week I have received a further batch of sight-checking in the Igbo language from Wycliffe Associates which will occupy much of my time in the next few weeks. It was several years ago, when I was about to be housebound for 6 months with my leg in plaster after an ankle operation, that I saw a small advert asking for proof readers. Ever since then it has been a great joy to feel part of the team 'working here, helping there' to make the Scriptures available across the world.

I never know which language will be sent to me for checking and people ask me how I can possibly do the checking if I don't know the languages. Wycliffe Associates has a team of typesetters to computerise the original text and it is their work that I carefully check with a copy of the original text. Recently we have been working in this way on the Igbo Bible and I think this is probably my last batch in this language, for others will probably be given the final chapters, Jude and Revelation, to check.

Igbo (also written as Ibo) is a language spoken in Nigeria by around 18 million people (1999 WA), the Igbo, especially in the south eastern region once identified as Biafra. The language was used by John Goldsmith as an example to justify deviating from the classical linear model of phonology as laid out in The Sound Pattern of English. It is written in the Roman script. Igbo is a tonal language, like Yoruba and Chinese.

Also this week I have received a 3 months Plan for Daily Prayer for Bible Translation from Wycliffe Bible Translators because, as they tell us, "The gospel is not good news for hundreds of millions of people who don't have God's word. Wycliffe's vision is that Bible translation will start in every language that needs it by 2025 ('Vision 2025'). More Bible translation is going on now than in any time in history but there's the last part of the mountain to climb!

"Up to a billion people do not have Scripture in their heart language. Of these more than 196 million people in 2250 language groups are waiting for work to start. 2426 languages do have Scripture. Of these 429 have a complete Bible, another 1,144 have a New Testament and 853 others have at least one book of the Bible. Since
'Vision 2025' started in 1999, project starts have accelerated to 3 times the rate seen in the 1990s! Now a project starts every 5 days! Work is now going on in 1941 languages!"

Thank you WBT. What a wonderful record, with much more to come in the next few years! I have always been a keen supporter of Wycliffe Bible Translators and so I was delighted to come across the fact that John Wycliffe, Bible translator (1324-1384), came from my own home town of Barnard Castle and was educated at Egglestone Abbey (which I have only known in ruins), then at Oxford!

Please join me in prayer that 'Vision 2025' will become a reality, though it is unlikely that I will live to see it myself.

Sunday, 28 October 2007

1.25 million OAPs 'always lonely'

Almost 300,000 pensioners have gone a full month without speaking to family or neighbours in the past year, according to the charity Help the Aged. Research published last week painted a bleak picture of isolation for many older people in Britain, with more than 1.25 million of them always feeling lonely.

The charity has now launched its new campaign to combat loneliness, with the slogan "1 is the saddest number." While a proportion of Britain's 11.4 million pensioners enjoy a more prosperous and fulfilling retirement than their predecessors, there are many thousands of elderly people who feel abandoned and alone, the charity said. This Christmas it aims to provide 25,000 festive meals for older people to enjoy with friends at day centres across the country.

Help the Aged said a £4 donation would cover the cost of a meal, which would have a huge impact on an older person' enjoyment of Christmas, and it was campaigning to raise £100,000 before the end of the year. In the spring, it wants to recruit more volunteers to reach out to the loneliest people in society and befriend people suffering from chronic isolation.

Research conducted by the charity found that currently 29 per cent of pensioners have to rely on family and friends to get out and about, but 2000,000 of them are trapped in their homes as they receive no help on a regular basis. Help the Aged said that 730,000 elderly people are unable to leave their homes more than once a week. More than a quarter of people aged 64-74 and almost half of those over 75 live alone. This is compared to one in eight people aged 24 to 44.

The charity estimated that, in 50 years, 7.5 million pensioners could be living alone - the equivalent of more than a third of the elderly population. Anna Pearson, policy manager for Social Inclusion at Help the Aged, said, "For many younger people, the thought of being old and lonely is their ultimate fear for the future, yet for thousands of older people in the UK today it is their harsh reality.

There is no substitute for human warmth and contact and our aim with this campaign is to ensure older people no longer feel abandoned by society. We know that something as simple as getting out of the house, to meet, eat with and be with other people can have a lasting effect, so please help us to really make a difference to the lives of hundreds of thousands of older people this Christmas and beyond."

Source: Reading Evening Post 10/26/07

In the Methodist Church we have a system whereby at least every member (and very often every regular worshipper) is allocated a pastoral visitor and I expect that other denominations have similar systems. Even so, I have sometimes known of older people who have had no visitors and so have stayed in bed all day or not bothered to get dressed, simply because they have ceased to expect anyone to ring their doorbell. When this is discovered the social services put them into a council-run retirement or nursing home, when all that they need and long for is to feel valued, loved and cared for and still part of the community.

Today our emphasis is on attracting younger people - and it is quite right to try Fresh Expressions of Church for them - but are we in danger of neglecting large numbers of elderly people who crave more than the monthly prayer in church (with a list of those unable to get to church now) or the occasional bunch of flowers after a stay in hospital? It is costly, difficult work to care for all these housebound elderly folk, many of whom were stalwarts of our churches in former times, but surely we should be doing at least as much to help as Help the Aged is proposing?

Methodist Blogs Weekly Roundup

Thanks to Allan R. Bevere we have another weekly roundup of Methodist blogs, with four blogs selected as Best of the Methoblogosphere, and I am very surprised to find that he has chosen my 'Lost for Words' post as one of them. I feel I must give credit to the writers of the CPAS course material, on which I drew heavily in order to write about our first 'Lost for Words' session. I hope it will encourage other churches and Circuits to use this extraordinary course.

Saturday, 27 October 2007


A West Yorkshire Methodist chapel has reopened its doors as a children’s playhouse and café as part of a Fresh Expressions of Church initiative. The Wesley Playhouse Project at Howden Clough began as the dream of local preacher Caroline Holt and a congregation of 13 people. Thanks to grants from various businesses and from Methodist funds, the playhouse will open from 10am to 6pm six days a week. The centre will provide a soft-themed play area for under 12s while their parents enjoy a chat over a cuppa and fair trade food. It takes the theme of Noah’s Ark to convey how God provides a place of safety. Yorkshire District Chair Revd Peter Whittaker said, ‘Wesley Playhouse is an opportunity to reach into the community in a way the community understands.’

Source: Methodist Recorder (25/10)

One thing puzzles me though! Shouldn't the children be in school each day from 10am to 6pm - or most of that time? We will be starting an after-school children's club in one of our Caversham churches but surely it would be wrong to open earlier and tempt childen away from school?

'Let us Play' could be the title of another Fresh Expressions church in Devon called 'Tubestation' which the President of Conference opened recently and has written about on his blog

Friday, 26 October 2007

'Lost For Words'

Last night we held the first of 6 sessions of the CPAS course 'Lost For Words' at our church, with the Minister, two Local Preachers and myself as leaders. As its title suggests, this course starts where the ordinary Christian people are in their Monday to Saturday daily lives and helps them to see that whatever their personality - bold or reticent - everyone is capable of sharing their faith naturally, just as they would share any other good news with the people they meet.

Many Christians feel inadequate or even guilty about sharing their faith because they believe it involves door-to-door knocking, handing out leaflets or speaking on street corners but I am reminded of the saying that 'Christianity is caught, not taught'. So it is a very natural face-to-face evangelism, as we come across people in our daily lives, that we are looking at in depth in this course, and to do that we had to identify and examine our own hang-ups that prevent us sharing our faith.

First, we must recognise that God is the evangelist, not us. Our role is to live a life of prayer in tune with God and to make ourselves available to him, as we make the most of every opportunity to speak about Jesus. FEAR is one of the most common reasons given for not sharing the faith - fear of looking a fool, of not knowing what to say, or of damaging a friendship. The key is to be honest with ourselves and with God. Love overcomes fear, so if we have a genuine concern for people, wanting to help them, fear can be held in check. We need to remember to rely on God and his love for us. We need to equip ourselves, so that we are as informed as we can be, we need to share our fear with other Christians, and we must pray about our fears and for the people to whom we want to talk about Jesus.

WRONG IDEAS about evangelism sometimes prevent Christians from speaking of Jesus. One of these is that evangelists are all of a certain extrovert type of personality whereas God made us all different for a purpose, so that he could use each one of us just as we are. We can't emphasise too much that God wants us to be ourselves.

Others say that they are too busy and have no time to spread the Gospel outside the Church, but this course helps them to understand that we can use our normal time - the time sitting next to someone on a bus, or standing next to someone in the supermarket queue, etc. Still others say that they are struggling with their own faith and so have nothing to share, forgetting that it is often in sharing our doubts that we suddenly realise that our own faith has been strengthened. Besides, it is often those who have 'been through it', as we say, who 'ring a bell' with someone who happens to be in that same situation.

We stressed that HELP is at hand -
H Honesty: admitting our inadequacies, sharing them, being honest with God.
E Explore the issues, learn from one another.
L Learn new insights and ideas on how to share our faith, what to say, etc.
P Prayer for ourselves, others on the course and in the church, and 'outsiders'.

Then we looked at Prayer clues in Colossians 4: 2-6 and stressed again the Key Principle - Be yourself, with God, for others. We asked those doing the course to think about all the human contacts they had had this week and helped them to see that we all have many more contact people than we realise. So there is plenty of opportunity to speak about Jesus if we keep our eyes and ears open enough to be sensitive to the openings or questions that occur naturally and which give us the chance to speak. To help us select which of several often-asked common questions we will deal with in future sessions, we briefly tackled the question 'Hasn't science disproved Christianity?' before asking our friends to select, from a list of common questions, which 5 questions they would like us to discuss and in which order of preference. This gives us a chance to prepare adequately and to tackle the questions that bother local people most.

We ended by praying that we may have the courage to respond to those opportunities and the wisdom to know what to say, so that we may learn to speak about our faith with anyone, in a relaxed, natural, helpful way, so that they may discover and respond to God's love for them.

Thursday, 25 October 2007


Have you ever noticed when you sit and stare
The warmth turns to chill and the sun has no glare
Is time moving faster or is it just me
But for some reason the seasons are changing
Faster than they should be

While the summer sun and the flowers blooms
Seem to give way to the bright full moons
Rainbows, flowers, sun so bright
Stars so clear, never out of sight


We never think of the change, that is very near
Gray clouds, drooped flowers, skies not so clear
Then the leaves on the trees, it's time to do their thing
Bringing glorious colors, and the birds still sing

When all of a sudden, the winters mighty hand
Takes control and makes us see, another season grand
Sparkling snow, iced up trees, still the sky is bright
Frost appearing on your window pane, what a beautiful sight


The cold wind blows, howls in the dark
And yet we know God's working his wonderful work of art
Each time the seasons change, they are never the same
Each time their beauty is astounding, with the same glorious name

It's God's way of showing us, Life has changes too
We change like the seasons, it's between God and you
Embrace the beauty God has given, its beauty everywhere
Take the time to Let God know, kneel and say a prayer

Thank you God, for the beauty you allow all of us to see
Somehow when we look your way, we know You will always be
There to remind us of your mighty, powerful hand
Giving us these seasons, so beautiful and so grand

Cathy Carletti © 2007

[Reproduced by permission.]

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

The Heart of the Divine

Last week I began a course on spirituality entitled 'The Heart of the Divine - Christian Spiritual Formation For Today' at Sarum Theological College, Salisbury, along with 29 others from far and wide. One lady was from Devon (perhaps staying overnight at the College)and another came from the Isle of Wight, while others could walk to the College. I had to leave home at 7.30am in order to catch the 8 o'clock train to Basingstoke, where I changed into a train for Salisbury. Then I enjoyed the walk along the canal, which was full of ducks, to arrive at the College in the Cathedral Close just in time for the 10am introductions.

This was the first of the six days making up the course, one each month until March, and was called 'The Desert and The Call'. We began by looking at how the tradition has understood the call of God arising within the desert of the heart and examined the tradition in scripture and the first Christian fathers and mothers. I had never heard of St. Antony of Egypt who died in 356 and therefore I had not heard of the hermit monasticism that he began in the Egyptian desert, from which we have the Sayings of the Fathers. Again, I had not previously heard of these sayings, many of which came from lower Egypt. Silence played a big part in our day at the College - in our study sessions and in the experiential session when, in small groups, we experienced a Quaker Bible reading session.

'If a man cannot understand my silence, he will never understand my words.'
(A Desert Father)

We spent time considering the When? Where? Who? How? What? and Why? of this desert spirituality and discovered that these hermits met together from time to time and changed the world through their holiness. The desert was a place of recovery, the edge of the known world and the place of meeting with God. In silence, facing the demons and the darkness, the cell was a place of battle; conflict was a sign of God. The desert was not a place of escape - rather the opposite. In silence, facing the barrenness, there were no distractions, but manual work to survive, minimum nourishment and no change of scenery. With no church and no status, just you and God, the odd visitor and the creatures of the desert, the questions are 'Who are you?' and 'What are you looking for?'

In silence, facing the times in which they lived, the Desert Fathers and Mothers became a bridge between empires, prophetic voices proclaiming the narrow way, seeking perspective on the disintegration of society, treasuring the seeds for the conversion of Europe and beyond. I had no idea how much we owe to them and it was good to reflect on their desert spirituality in relation to our lives today.

Monday, 22 October 2007

Publicity and Prayers

It always comes hard to me to have to think about and sort out all the services around Christmas time so many weeks before Christmas and this year was no exception. Yes, I know that these things need forward planning (especially for Christmas and Easter, when the Newspapers try to make a composite list of all the services in all the churches) because, as Media Publicity Director here, I always have to be working several weeks ahead or I wouldn't get the coverage like, for instance, the paragraph that appeared in the Reading Chronicle last week advertising our Autumn Fair with an African theme to be held on November 3rd.

So it was a great relief when, with 65 days still to come before Christmas, that I answered the annual (and very early) request of a local Newspaper and emailed the list of services and other celebrations to be held in the Methodist churches in the North of the Circuit. It includes an annual Christmas Carol service at one church for those who have been victims of polio and a 'Birthday Cake for Jesus' at another.

But first there is our Autumn Fair for which the church and hall will be decorated with African artefacts and there will be a picture competiton with entrants' work on show. Any photos or artwork with an African theme taken or created by the entrant in any medium is eligible, and there are several age groups. There will be lunches, musical entertainment and children's games, including rides on 'the little red train', as well as the usual stalls with goods for sale. The money raised will be divided between the Racecourse Community School conected with our twin church in Mindolo, Zambia and the Groom Street Methodist Church in Koksted, Natal, where our Minister was once stationed and where they are now building a community hall. As you will gather, this is a time to have fun together as well as raising money for our friends overseas.

I have also been working on the draft of the November Prayer Guidelines for the Methodists North of the River Thames and, when it's been approved by the Minister, I will be creating a large print version before both versions are sent to be printed ready for distribution on Sunday. It is surprising how long it takes to gather all the information from all sources, so that our people can be praying for the President and Vice-President on their travels, other Connexional issues and happenings, District and Circuit affairs, local ecumenical and community events, our own immediate needs and challenges and, of course, world-wide concerns.

Saturday, 20 October 2007

Should all church workers train in kickboxing?

No one would attack our new Deacon lightly because they would find her defending herself by kickboxing! She came here straight from College into her first appointment and introducing herself to her new congregations she wrote, among other surprising things, "For pleasure, you will find me shouting from the touch-line of the Harlequins' Rugby field at the Stoop in Twickenham, or down at the gym training to trade in my green belt for the next level up in the discipline of kickboxing." She tells a tale of her visit to a youth club where they had the kind of games console that requires you to physically interact with it. When it came to her turn, the youngsters ran downstairs calling,"Come quick! The vicar's kickboxing!" Of course her street cred went up dramatically and instantly! This is the first Minister or Deacon that we have known who has been trained in this discipline, but after reading this week's Methodist Recorder, I wonder if it could become the norm?

I read "Churches should be more proactive in helping ministers protect themselves against violence, according to independent crime-prevention body, National Churchwatch. Christian workers should be trained to handle violent and difficult people, but the various denominations have a ‘hit and miss’ approach to training and security, National Churchwatch co-ordinator Nick Tolson told The Methodist Recorder. ‘The Church needs to be alert and proactive’, he said. ‘The statistics show that all church workers – no matter what their denomination – are at risk’. National Churchwatch, which works to safeguard church communities, calls for the church to put resources in place to promote safety issues and self-protection.
‘Ultimately, the church needs to be prepared to accept responsibility for the safety of its staff”, said Mr Tolson.

Academic research into the incidence of violence among clergy has revealed that more than 70 per cent in the South-East had been verbally abused, while between 10 to 12 per cent had suffered from a physical assault during a two-year period. The study, published by Royal Holloway, University of London,also showed that church leaders were more likely than GPs or probation officers to be attacked at work.

At present, the Methodist Church does not offer a standardised safety awareness course for pre-ordinands. Instead it relies on training institutions to instruct new Ministers on how to handle difficult situations. According to the team leader in Formation in Ministry in the Methodist Church Connexional Team, the Rev. Margaret Jones, such instruction is best given on a local, District basis.

Source: The Methodist Recorder (18/10)

A Super Harvest Festival!

Last Sunday afternoon, on the invitation of the Oxford Diocesan Chaplain for the Deaf, I travelled to Wendover (north of High Wycombe) to join in the Diocesan Deaf Church Harvest Festival, taking with me our new Methodist Deacon who is very keen to learn (and use) sign language which she enrolled to learn a few weeks ago.

I always enjoy this occasion and it is one of the highlights of my year. The service was held in Wendover Free Church and, in welcoming us, its Minister told us the history of the church. I had remarked to my Deacon companion that it was odd to find a crucifix at the front of a Free Church - but it wasn't odd after the history of the church had been explained.

Their Minister told us that the Wendover Free Church was formed when the congregations of the Wendover Baptist Church and the Wendover United Reformed Church decided to join together in one church, but neither of their buildings were suitable for the combined congregations. So the Wendover Catholics offered their building and this explained the presence of the crucifix, the Stations of the Cross and the statue of Mary, the Mother of Jesus.

There were also three stained glass panels from a window of the old URC Church. The new Wendover Free Church then signed a covenant with the Anglican Church in 2000. He then went on to explain that now on Sunday mornings the day begins in the Wendover Free Church with a Catholic service,then there follows an Anglican service and then the Wendover Free Church service. "Of course," he said, "we also have joint services from time to time as well." I heard no mention of a Methodist church in Wendover (to complete this ecumenical picture) but I found it thrilling to hear of these Christians working and worshipping together so well.

The inspiring preacher on this occasion was the Revd Gaynor Turner from Manchester and she decided to preach/sign about the Harvest of the Sea. She held up a model of a trawler and signed her question "How many men work on a trawler like this?" She had many signed answers - "Five." "Fifteen." "Twenty." "No," she signed, "Forty. And who do you think is in charge of those forty men and the trawler?" Someone signed, "The captain." "Well, the skipper", she signed, "and it is his job to make sure that all those men work together as a team, just as we mustlearn to work as a team to do God's work." Then she held up a tool, signing, "What do you think this is?" No-one knew, so she continued, "It's a tool for mending the nets which get big holes in them. The holes must be mended because otherwise the fish would escape." She went on toshow by signing what happens to the fish when they are caught and involving the congregation by asking if they had fish fingers or fish and chips, etc. recently. She left us in no doubt of the value of the harvest of the sea and the brave men who risk so much to harvest it for us. During the sharing of the peace which followed I suddenly found myself embraced by my niece who is a Signer for the Deaf in London. What a surprise! She had come because a few years ago she had been on a trip to the Holy Land with the Revd Turner and wanted to renew that friendship - and to see me.

During tea my Deacon friend was excitedly asking my niece and members of the Deaf Church "How do you sign ....?" She was just like a child who is learning to speak for the first time! Tea was followed by a signed auction of all the fruit and vegetables that had been brought and placed at the front of the church. This is always a very happy and amusing event. My Deacon friend bought a jar of crab apple jelly, the name of which puzzled a young man sitting near us. So he queried it, signing 'crab' and then 'apple', to send everyone into fits of laughter before he could have it explained to him what 'crab apple' is!. The auction also has a serious purpose because of the money that it raises. This year it raised £75 for Deaf children at the Holy Land Institute for the Deaf at Salt in Jordan run by Brother Andrew.

We had such a happy and inspiring afternoon but we were much quieter on our return journey when a sports car immediately in front of us suddenly had a puncture and spun off the road into the bushes at the side of the road. We stopped to make sure that the two men in the car were alright (although very shaken) and able to call for help before continuing our journey. It happens so quickly and without warning!

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Reigious Tolerance is Thriving in Reading

Faith leaders from across Reading say religious integration is thriving in Reading. At Reading Interfaith Group's autumn event on Sunday, members of the Christian, Islamic, Jewish and Sikh communities gave their views on the importance of dialogue between faiths.

The meeting, chaired by the Bishop of Reading the Rev Stephen Cottrell, featured a talk by Dr. Hugh Boulter, the chair of the Oxford Diocesan Committee for Interfaith Concerns (ODCIC) on the Importance and Nature of Dialogue.

In it he said three factors - isolation, hostility and competition - often framed relations between different religions. He said: "We all have an obligation to not allow us to become isolated and for all communities to become mainstream. Monologue is not dialogue. Dialogue is where each party expresses its own views on its own terms." He added: "People of different religions should also look beyond similarities between themselves. It's the things which divide us which are important because we are not all the same."

Following Dr. Boulter's talk, a panel of religous leaders added their own views. Mustafa Chaudhary, the Secretary of the Reading Muslim Council, said that being isolated was "something alien to being a Muslim". He said: "Now is the time to be very proactive in coming out and maintaining that dialogue."

Mark Drukker, the warden of the Reading synagogue, said: "Reading is very lucky. There are no no-go areas. I live in a small close and everyone from every faith lives there. I think there's something very English about not wanting to talk about your religion."

Sukhjit Singh, a member of the Reading Gurdwara Committee said: "We are in a very fortunate position in Reading compared to some communities, like Slough or Birmingham. People get on here; there's very little friction between communities in Reading."

Reading Interfaith Group is an independent organisation that has been running for more than 20 years. For more information visit .

Reading Evening Post - Tuesday, October 16 2007

Tuesday, 16 October 2007


A new and serious threat for developing world farmers is on the horizon thanks to biotechnology designed to protect the profits of global seed companies. The Tablet reports that ‘terminator technology’ – the genetic modification of plants to produce sterile seeds at harvest – is being researched in the USA and, with European Union money, in Europe. The aim is to protect the seed companies’ property rights over crop varieties. But it could decimate the livelihoods of 1.4 billion small-scale farmers who rely on saving, sharing and replanting seeds for a living. The technology has not yet been field-tested and currently faces a UN moratorium although governments such as New Zealand and Canada have already tried to overturn the ban. A campaign against ‘terminator seeds‘ by development agency Progressio has been backed by the World Council of Churches since 2005.

Source: The Tablet (13/10)

Monday, 15 October 2007

"Let go and let God"

The story is told of a man who tripped and fell off a cliff. Clutching at the grasses on the edge of the cliff he found himself for a moment or two able to hang on and delay his fall.

"Is there anyone up there?" he cried out desperately. "Yes", came the reply, but no further response. "Who are you? Why don't you help me?" shouted the man. "I'm God," said the Voice, "and I will help you. But you must do exactly as I say."
"O.K.," whispered the man, "what have I to do?" "First, let go!"

"Is there anybody else up there?" called the man.

It is many years now since I was advised to "Let go and let God" and over the years I have KNOWN and proved that this works and is good advice. Yet even now, at my advanced age, I sometimes find it hard to let go and let God. So if you who read this story are hanging over some kind of cliff, do put your faith into practice and have the confidence to let go so that God can put his plan of salvation into action.

Sunday, 14 October 2007

Prayer for those in trouble

We hold before God:
those for whom life is difficult;
those who have difficult decisions to make, and
who honestly do not know what is the right thing to do.

We hold before God:
those who have difficult tasks to do and to face,
and who fear they may fail in them;
those who have difficult temptations to face, and
who know only too well that they may fall to
them, if they try to meet them alone.

We hold before God;
those who know that they can be their worst enemies.

We hold before God;
those who have difficult people to work with;
those who have to suffer unjust treatment, unfair
criticism, unappreciated work.

We hold before God:
those who are sad because someone they loved has died;
and any who are disappointed in something for
which they hoped very much.

William Barclay

Friday, 12 October 2007


At our Church Council this week, it was decided that our Church should apply for an Eco-congregation Award, so we will now be awaiting the result in due course. If we should happen to fail in any particular we will be working to improve until we have achieved that object. Application forms can be obtained from -

Eco-congregation, The Arthur Rank Centre, Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire, CV8 2LZ
or email to:

The Eco-Congregation Award is given to churches that have:

Ø Worked through the churches environmental check-up
Ø Helped the whole congregation to make the link between their Christian faith and environmental concerns (growing in faith and understanding)
Ø Taken practical action in the church and/or church grounds (putting God’s house in green order)
Ø Had a positive impact on and/or worked with their local or wider community (changing lives: changing communities)

Churches must have undertaken one reasonably substantive piece of work or a number of smaller projects in each area. When there is overlap, for example a church involving the local community in improvements to their grounds, the church will be given credit for taking action in both areas.

For their first Award, churches may submit information on projects undertaken both prior to and since registering with Eco-Congregation.

The Eco-Congregation Process

It is not necessary that a church has used the Eco-Congregation modules - the Award recognises appropriate activities initiated or inspired by any source.

However, it is important that the church is able to show that their environmental concern and activity is sustainable and ongoing. For this reason, the award is renewable every 3 years. The suggestions below are not absolute criteria for gaining the award, but credit could be given to a church that has:

Ø Involved a number of people from across the church community in working through Module 1 and in undertaking particular initiatives
Ø Formed links with/involved others in the local area
Ø Sought and gained support (time/money/advice) from another organisation
Ø Reviewed and monitored progress regularly

Important Note

Eco-Congregation aims to offer something to every church, regardless of size, location, denomination or circumstances. Hence, each church will be assessed according to its own circumstances and potential.

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

"The Silence of God Touches Our lives."

Speaking at our District Network Celebration last week, Mrs. Christine Stuckey told of her attendance at the Cenotaph in London with her husband Tom during his Presidential Year and what an experience it was to be part of the emotion and pain of that 2 minutes silence! She then added a phrase that has stuck in my mind - "The silence of God touches our lives!"

This was the experience of all those who attended a four-Circuit Quiet Day recently at the Benedictine monastery of Douai Abbey. This beautiful Abbey is so steeped in Prayer and Worship that even those who find it difficult to be silent before God are involuntarily caught up in the all-pervading atmosphere of peace and serenity - whether in the magnificent Church, the conference room or outside in the well-kept,inspirational and peaceful grounds. Silence is also requested even in the Book Room (accessed through the Church), with its extremely helpful display of books and leaflets. One leaflet I found particularly helpful was called 'How to Deal with Difficult People'. One of the monks smiled as he gently said, 'Ah, yes! The monastic life, community life, marriage........'

Our leader for this Quiet Day was the Revd Veronica Faulks who has returned to our Circuit as a Supernumerary Minister and whose theme was 'In the wilderness', based on I Kings 19. The Day was divided into three sessions - 'Into the wilderness', 'Sustained in the Wilderness' and 'An Unexpected Meeting'.

First we were told that this day was to be spent in the presence of God - just ourselves and God, as we communed with Him. We were reminded that our faith journey includes the wilderness. Elijah went there on purpose. He went there to hide, to match his mood. There were no roads, no paths, no signposts - but there were wild beasts, loneliness and thirst. We must realise that the wilderness experience is central to God's people. [Then we dispersed throughout the Abbey and its grounds for our first period of meditation.]

Veronica continued, 'Why the wilderness? Because, despite the terror, aridity and depression, the wilderness is always where God is found. We don't escape the wilderness in order to find God. He is waiting there. Abraham and Hagar had a son, but Abraham and his wife Sarah threw Hagar and her son out into the wilderness. Yet it was not to Abraham the Patriarch nor Sarah who was to carry the child of God's promise, but to Hagar and her son that God gave his promise.

"After his conversion, Paul went to Arabia for three years - to get to know Christ. Jesus followed the high of his baptism with the low of the desert. However barren the wilderness we're in, God is waiting and we are sustained. An angel ministered to Elijah. The angels we meet are one another, even when not recognised! After the angel had fed him, Elijah's fear and depression turned into a pilgrimage. people have discovered this for ages. What people always discover is that the journey is as important as the destination. [Here we were asked to make a list of the angels who had ministered to us, before dispersing again for private contemplation.]

"Pilgrims are always in search of holy places. You can do this at home in your armchair - an outer journey that turns inward - a journey in search of God. As if drawn by a magnet, Elijah found himself going to the holy mountain. Mountains are holy places where God is found, but the high point of this story wasn't the holy mountain, it was the drought! When God said, 'What are you doing here, Elijah?', Elijah was hurt and cried, 'Look what I have done for you and they're trying to kill me.' He was angry, he needed to say how angry he was and he wasn't afraid to say it. So we shouldn't be afraid to be angry with God. Why don't you say angry things to God? Pauline Webb once said, 'Until you can be angry with God you cannot claim your salvation is complete.' God is always passing by. He never sticks around. Jesus does the same after the resurrection! You have to keep your eyes and ears open to catch the moment. [We broke here for lunch.]

On our return, there was a challenge! "Be ready! Ready to hear the still small voice, the soft whisper of a voice in the sheer volume of silence. We expect God to speak in spectacular ways and we lose sight of God in the silence. For Elijah, It was in the wind, storm, rain and cloud that God came to Elijah's people, but Elijah himself had the wisdom to wait for the unexpected. What would the unexpected be for you? The negative things could sometimes be how God speaks. A Sri Lankan Methodist Minister wrote about the time when he was a boy and his Hindu friend took him to a Temple, where he was overwhelmed by the sensory effect it had on him. Later, his Hindu friend said, 'Can I come with you to a church?' His heart sank. What would his friend find in a church after what he regularly experienced in the Temple? Yet it turned out to be an amazing experience! His friend exclaimed in amazement, 'You did everything together!'

"It was not just the food, drink and rest that revitalised Elijah. It was being noticed! It was the unexpected meeting with God. First the cake, water and rest, and then 'Take care of yourself, otherwise the journey will be too much for you.' That message should be written on the fly-leaf of every Bible and given to every Methodist member, Local Preacher, Minister, etc. In the story of the Exodus, in those 40 days in the wilderness, there was only enough manna for one day at a time. If they gathered more, it went rotten. We have to trust that we have enough for each day, one day at a time. So many haven't enough for today. You are to trust that the spiritual food you are given is for today. You can't store up spirituality or faith for the future. It's for NOW - the next step of the journey. Elijah had just enough to get to the mountain of God."

Our Quiet Day ended in an intimate sharing of what we had learned and experienced in our day in the silence of God.

Monday, 8 October 2007


The Southampton District Celebration Day for 20 years of Network took place at Wesley Church in Reading on Thursday, 4th October when a large number of women came from all over the District for the commissioning of Mrs. Ceri Ellis (wife of the Superintendent Minister of the Reading and Silchester Circuit) as the District Women’s Network President. Many of the women came from Ceri’s previous church in Bournemouth. After a welcome by the Rev’d David Ellis, Deacon Glenda Sidding (the President for 2006-2007) led the worship and, following reports from the District Project Secretary, the District Treasurer and the District Enabler, she added her reflections on the past year.

Then Glenda commissioned Ceri Ellis as the District President for 2007-2008 and this was followed by ‘Forward Together’ – the moving service written specially for the 20th Anniversary of Women’s Network. For our picnic lunch, many of us enjoyed sitting in the church garden created and tended by the Women’s Centre at Wesley, which was awarded a third prize in the 'Reading in Bloom' Competition.

At 2pm we re-gathered in the church to hear Mrs. Christine Stuckey speak on ‘Your will be done’, based on Ephesians1; 1-14. She began by saying, “It is difficult to discern what is God’s will. Where does our world fit into God’s world? My husband’s first Circuit appointment was in Scotland, so far away from family and friends or anyone that I knew. It was knowing that God wanted us to be there that helped me to cope. My mother was killed in an accident when I was 19. God’s will? How could it be? Much later, I still had no explanation, although I realised that God doesn’t inflict pain like that on us - but God is there with us. I spent 14 years as a District Nurse worrking in terminal and chronic care, where many people suffered from ‘multiple systems atrophy’ – a living death! God’s will? Never! All things work together for good to those who love God’, it is often said, but the translation is faulty and it should read ‘IN all things God works together for good….’."

Using her experiences during her husband Tom's Presidential Year, Christine then gave us examples of the way the Church across the world is changing, with tremendous growth in places like Cuba, where once there had been despair. She continued, "God is moving throughout the world. New things are happening in the church here with ‘Fresh Expressions’, with the right people in the right places at the right time. There is ‘Nexus’ below Manchester Central Hall providing a refuge for night clubbers; The Mint in Exeter open between 11pm and 2am for clubbers; and the café bar in Guisborough allowing people from the offices and shops to have lunch with a team there to talk to them, which has been so successful that they have now hired a disused pub up the road. [She could have mentioned Tubestation, the church in Cornwall which will be officially opened by the President, Dr. Martyn Atkins, on October 21st and which has replaced its pulpit with a skateboard ramp, attracting a congregation of surfers - though that had not even been started in Tom's Presidential Year!]

She continued “Network has come of age and is becoming independent from the Methodist Church. It is a time of change and we have to be open to what God is doing." Christine will in fact be our last District Network President because next year Network will be an independent charity with a new name - yet to be discussed. She concluded with a personal list of times when she had found herself having to say 'Your will be done' and challenged her hearers with her closing words "So the message is ‘That you may be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being’."

God's Blessings

Counting my blessings from God is a pleasure
Many have become my greatest treasure
God's blessings are special, you see
And each one brings peace to me.

God sends new blessings each day
His blessings are received in mysterious ways
Every joyful blessing He gives is free
And I pray my eyes be open that I may see.

All blessings from God are everlasting
They cover the world in every place
Every blessing speaks of His mercy
And He sends them with loving grace.

God's blessings of love He does bestow
Only He knows what our future will be
His blessings will continue we know
Because He loves you and me.

Glenna M. Baugh © 2007

[Reproduced with permission]

"May God be merciful unto you
and may His blessings bring peace"

Friday, 5 October 2007

Cellulitis Research

Yesterday I was called to the Royal Berkshire Hospital to be interviewed and to give my consent to my taking part in "randomised controlled trials to investigate whether prophylactic antibiotics can prevent further episodes of cellulitis of the leg".

The research is being organised through the UK Dermatology Clinical Trials Network (, a group of skin doctors and nurses who have agreed to work together in order to research important questions of relevance to both doctors and patients. None of the doctors or nurses helping with this study will receive any payment other than for administrative costs. The information collected will be analysed by researchers employed at the University of Nottingham. The work is being funded by two different charities; Action Medical Research ( and The BUPA Foundation (, with additional support from the UK Dermatological Clinicaal Trials Network.

The purpose of the research is to find out whether taking a low dose of penicillin every day for six or twelve months helps to prevent further episodes of cellulitis of the leg in patients who have previously suffered from this. Half the participants in each trial will be given tablets containing a low dose of penicillin and the other half will be given 'dummy' tablets containing no active ingredients (a 'placebo'). At the end of the study period the number of repeat episodes of cellulitis in each group of patients will be compared and it will then be possible to find out whether the penicillin helped to prevent further episodes.

I have been placed in the trial group that will take the tablets for twelve months and, like all the other participants, I will not know whether I am taking penicillin or the 'placebo', nor will the research doctor. This is so that no-one involved in the trial can influence the results. All information collected during the research will be kept confidential and stored in a locked room.

When I was interviewed by the dermatologist yesterday, I was amazed at the thoroughness of the details needed from my medical history - I expected that! - but also about anything that had affected my legs during the past week and my quality of life in general. There were pages and pages of questions! Indeed, I don't think I've ever answered so many questions in one go in my life, but it will all be worth it if the recurrence of episodes of cellulitis can be prevented - not just for me but for many other patients in the years to come.

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

An Autumn Event with a warmer feel

The next big event at our Caversham Heights Methodist Church will be the Autumn Fair with an African flavour on 3rd November, starting at 11.30am, to raise funds for The Racecourse Community School in Mindolo, Zambia and for the Community Hall being built at The Groom Street Methodist Church, Kokstead, Natal.

The Racecourse School is part of our twinning with the United Church of Zambia church in Mindolo in the Copper Belt and our Minister, the Revd Dermot Thornberry has strong links with the Groom Street church in Natal through his time as a minister in South Africa where he was ordained.

Lunches will be served. There will be a number of stalls including books, CDs, Videos, jigsaws, boxed games, gifts, cakes, produce, and more. Games for the younger ones will be available, together with musical interludes to entertain the diners. Rides on the Little Red Train will be an added attraction.

Raffle prizes will include a luxury food hamper.

The Autumn Fair will also include a picture competition. Any picture on an African Theme taken or created by the entrant in any medium would be eligible. Age groups are Under 6, 6-8, 9-12, 13-16, and Adult. Although essentially a fund-raising event, our Autumn Fair is always looked forward to as a warm. happy community get-together.

Tuesday, 2 October 2007


The invitations plopped through a large number of letterboxes telling people that we would love to see them back in Church to meet old friends, worship with us at our Harvest Festival and to discover the progress we have made since their last visit. As a result we had a full Church on the Sunday morning of 30th September and there was great rejoicing all round! It was good to see all the push-chairs at the front of the church and the Sunday Starters were delighted to welcome so many extra children for the second half of the service.

Various groups who meet at the church decorated a window each, on the theme of farming, making the church not only colourful but interesting by their different displays. There were lots of sheep and poppies, but the Girls’ Brigade window with colourful caterpillars that became butterflies according to the angle from which you were viewing them drew much attention, as did the Zambia link window with the help of many photos, two miniature beehives and 'hundreds' of bees all over it!

The very happy service began with people bringing gifts of dried goods (to be sent to ‘Feed The Children’) and tinned goods (to be sent to CIRDIC, the Churches in Reading Drop-In Centre), followed by the presentation of a Duke of Edinburgh Gold Service Award to Tara Keating and a certificate to me for completing the 33-week Disciple 3 course. (Two others completed this course but one was ill and the other was preaching at the Kentwood church.)

The Minister, Dermot Thornberry gave an ingenious children's address, illustrating what we would miss if the potato had no EYES, the corn had no EARS, the bananas had no HANDS and the cabbage had no HEART and pointing out that God needs our eyes, ears, hands and heart to praise Him and appreciate His wonderful creation.

Deacon Becky Bawden and the Minister Dermot entertained with an amusing sketch in which a dahlia (Becky) and a dandelion (Dermot) debated their own importance in God’s colourful creation. There was a choral item by a small group and Dermot spoke on various moods of harvest before the lively hymn ‘You shall go forth with joy’. We certainly did, and the happy fellowship continued with tea and coffee in the hall afterwards, with many joyous reunions. It was especially good to have former Sunday School pupils bringing their own children now to enjoy Sunday Starters and the Girls’ and Boys’ Brigades.

Monday, 1 October 2007

Methodist Blogs

This week's 'The Methodist Blogs Weekly Roundup' can be found on and it makes interesting browsing. Allan R. Bevere has singled out my post headed 'Survival: A Taste of Overseas Mission' so this morning I have added an email that has just arrived to tell me that there is another fortnight yet before the booking deadline.

Sunday, 30 September 2007

Methodism - It's Effect on Gilbert and Sullivan

The Vice-President of the Methodist Conference, Mrs. Ruby Beech, in writing a post entitled 'Methodism - It's effect on Gilbert and Sullivan' on talks about the way in which Methodism is alluded to and portrayed in the media and asks the question 'What makes the writers have their particular view of Methodism?'

Ruby has had no comments yet but I would think that an interesting discussion could come from this question posed by our Vice-President and I shall be watching to see if this happens.


Britain is facing a desperate shortage of mission-minded ministers willing to ‘get their hands dirty’ in the country’s most deprived areas. The Baptist Union of Great Britain (BUGB) Mission Network says churches in pioneer settings are closing because of a lack of ‘risk takers’ willing to ‘break new ground’. BUGB mission department head Revd Ian Bunce said the lack of ministers willing to consider community-based work rather than traditional preaching and pastoral roles is a ‘hugely significant’ issue. Revd John Bayes, a minister and mission enabler in the East Midlands, said that in some situations a community outreach worker rather than a pastorally trained minister might be more fitted to the need.

Source: Baptist Times (27/9)

I am not in a position to speak authoritatively about the Methodist Church in this respect though I have a feeling that this may also apply to many of our itinerant Ministers. However, I have known a few who have specifically asked to be stationed in mission situations and our Deacons always put themselves wholly in the hands of the Church to be sent wherever the need is greatest.

This Baptist report comes in the same week that the President of the Methodist Conference, the Revd Dr. Martyn Atkins, writes an article in the Methodist Recorder with the title 'Doting on Deacons'. He writes, "Deacons also challenge me in relation to their continuing deep commitment to itinerancy. (I haven't moved house in 11 years now!) Of course, most ministers are itinerant , but my personal experience is that deacons I know place 'going wherever the Church sends me' at the very centre of their ministry, regarding it as a signal aspect of obedience to God, through the decision of the Church. I admire them greatly for that.

"This means that deacons are being increasingly used by the Church not simply as 'stop-gap' measures when ministers can't be found, but more properly as those who go where they are needed most: planting churches, supporting projects, ministering to marginalised and disadvantaged groupings in our societies and churches. In this sense they are hugely important in missional terms.

"Lastly, I find their focus on servant ministry very moving and highly attractive. In our cultural context when hierarchies are increasingly suspect and even despised by some, when superiority and elitism are so often so unattractive, real live servants of the servant - Jesus Christ - are vital to healthy Christian witness and service."

Locally, at our recent Circuit Meeting we rejoiced that we have as many as four young men candidating for the Methodist Ministry - one on Foundation Training, two on EDEV (Extending Discipleship and Exploring Vocation) Training, and one Candidating this connexional year, having finished Foundation Training several years ago. In the years since completing Foundation Training, this young man has devoted his life as a Lay Worker and Evangelist to the reclamation of young people who have fallen foul of the Law, giving himself wholly to them and their needs (often at great cost to himself). He has struggled over these years with a call to the Ministry and the conflicting need of the young men he serves to have a firm and continuing friend to whom they can turn and on whom they can rely. This would not be possible if he became an itinerant minister, so he has resolved this dilemma by candidating as a Non-Stipendiary Minister. Many of us are praying that in this way his valuable, costly ministry may continue, changing lives in the process.