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.