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’."