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.