Thursday, 30 October 2008

Warning of Worsening Humanitarian Crisis in Zimbabwe

The Methodist Church in Britain is warning that the humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe is likely to worsen over the coming months.

Reports from Zimbabwe indicate that famine is set to grip the African country that has been ravaged by six poor harvests and economic collapse. The combination of the worst drought for a decade and bad government policies, along with lack of seeds and fertiliser, are proving disastrous.

The World Food Programme has estimated that 28 per cent of children under five are malnourished and vulnerable to disease. Many rural families only get one meal a day, but food aid stocks are running out. The number of people requiring food aid is expected to rise to around five million, or 45 per cent of the population, by January 2009.

Roy Crowder, Partnership Coordinator for World Church Relationships with special responsibility for Africa, said: ‘The stalemate in negotiations between MDC and Zanu-PF is making the situation even worse. This is a time when people should be planting for the following year, but the economy is devastated and seeds and fertiliser are in short supply. The delay in achieving a viable political agreement threatens to prolong the economic and humanitarian crisis.’

When the ban on aid agencies operating in Zimbabwe was lifted last month, the Methodist Relief and Development Fund launched an appeal to deliver food and agricultural support to vulnerable people in partnership with ACT International.

Roy said: ‘We urge people to support the Methodist Relief and Development Fund appeal because the current crisis is expected to result in catastrophe in the next few months.’

Donations to MRDF’s appeal for Zimbabwe can be made by debit or credit card on 020 7224 4814, or by cheque, payable to “MRDF (Zimbabwe emergency)”, posted to MRDF, Methodist Church House, 25 Marylebone Road, London, NW1 5JR.

Taxpayers are encouraged to gift aid their donations where possible, adding a value of 28p to every pound they give, at no extra personal cost."

Source: Methodist News Service 30/10/08

Friday, 24 October 2008


Past Presidents and Vice-Presidents of the Methodist Church in Britain have been asked to play an important part in the church’s re-visioning for the future. Revd Stephen Poxon, President of the Methodist Conference, has invited leaders from two decades to a 24-hour conference in December to contribute to ideas for building ‘a stronger, more faithful, bold and creative church’, the Methodist Recorder reports. Mr Poxon hopes the initiative will provide valuable insights for a two-day gathering in February on ‘Risk and Holiness’, being organised by the church’s General Secretary, Revd Dr Martyn Atkins.

Source: Methodist Recorder (23/10)

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Methodists support those affected by Caribbean hurricanes

Jamaicaa, In August and September hurricanes swept across the Caribbean leaving a trail of destruction in their wake:

Hundreds died in Haiti following floods that left 650,000 people homeless.

The Dominican Republic, one of the poorest countries in the region, suffered hundreds of millions of dollars worth of damage to buildings and more than 250,000 people lost their homes.

19 people were killed when Hurricane Ike ripped through Cuba, which normally avoids deaths during hurricanes.

In Puerto Rico, thousands of poorly constructed homes in rural communities were washed away by six weeks of constant torrential rain.

Hurricane Gustav destroyed several rural churches and manses being used as shelters in Jamaica.

The World Mission Group has responded to the devastation with a £26,000 grant.

The Revd Tom Quenet, who works with churches in Latin America and the Caribbean, said, “The need is so vast that it is clear we can’t meet it outright. But this grant from the Fund For World Mission will make a difference and is an expression of our solidarity.

“We would encourage Methodists everywhere to hold the people of the region in their thoughts and prayers.”

Anyone wishing to support the grant should contact -

The Methodist Church Fund for World Mission.
Methodist Church House,
25 Marylebone Road,

Source: Methodist "E" News 22/10/08

Methodists call for the gambling industry to support problem gamblers

The Methodist Church has welcomed yesterday’s Gambling Commission report and its recommendations. The report underlines the responsibility of the gambling industry to provide enough money to help the people who are harmed by gambling.

David Bradwell, Policy Adviser for the Methodist Church in Britain, said; ‘There are around a quarter of a million problem gamblers in the UK. We need more money to make sure that these people receive sufficient support and advice and that vulnerable people don’t develop a problem with gambling.

‘We support the ‘polluter pays’ principle. If not enough money is raised through the current voluntary system, we want to see the Government introducing compulsory payments by gambling businesses.

‘In Britain we are way behind other countries, including Canada, South Africa and New Zealand in terms of dealing adequately with problem gambling. The Government and the Gambling Commission must look again at the international context and find out what more can be done in the UK to help people who are at risk of being exploited by gambling.’

Source: Methodist News Service 22/10/08

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Methodist Church thanks Richard Dawkins for getting God onto London buses

· Dawkins thanked for encouraging a ‘continued interest in God’

The British Methodist Church has welcomed news that Professor Richard Dawkins is to fund an advertising campaign on London buses despite its slogan ‘There is probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life’.

Revd Jenny Ellis, Spirituality and Discipleship Officer, said; ‘We are grateful to Richard for his continued interest in God and for encouraging people to think about these issues. This campaign will be a good thing if it gets people to engage with the deepest questions of life.’

Responding to Dawkins’ comment that ‘thinking is anathema to religion’, Jenny said; ‘As Christians, we respond to Jesus’ call to love God with our minds as well as our hearts, souls and strength. Christianity is for people who aren’t afraid to think about life and meaning. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism believed that no one should be saved from the trouble of thinking, because that is the path to understanding God.’

Source: Methodist News Service 21/10/08

Monday, 20 October 2008

Join the call for justice for persecuted Christians in India

Concern that authorities are failing to prevent violence and unwilling to protect Christians

People killed for their faith in Orissa and victims still suffering at the hands of religious extremists were remembered in prayer at the Synod of the Church of North India (CNI), in Punjab. Churches are not being permitted to contribute to the relief effort, but people are being urged to pray and join in the call for justice.

The 350 Synod members were visibly moved as they listened to two Christians from Orissa tell of their experiences in one of the 311 villages that have suffered violent attacks from religious extremists.

One victim told how his congregation had been attacked during a service and people were forced to flee into the forest. He had been attacked with an axe and left for dead among the trees. To this day he wonders how or why God saved his life. Although he has had to sell almost all he owned to pay for the medical treatment, he said; ‘I praise God for his mercy. My faith is now stronger than before.’

Concern was expressed at the way the police and authorities are failing to intervene to prevent violence, unwilling to protect Christians and their homes, and being partial in their upholding of law and order.

Christine Elliott, Methodist Secretary for External Relationships has written to the Indian Prime Minister, asking him to assure the British Methodist Church that the religious rights of all Indians will be protected and that the police and the courts will do all they can to guarantee the personal safety of individuals, families and communities.

The CNI General Secretary, Revd Enos Das Pradhan, expressed gratitude for statements of support from Partner Churches - including the British Methodist Church – and noted that the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, had been forced to acknowledge the communal violence against individuals because of their faith as ‘a national shame’.

‘The immediate need is for emergency relief for those who are homeless or hiding in the forests and to bring an end to violence and threats’, said Revd Das Pradhan, adding, ‘Religious tolerance has been the basic tenet and hallmark of India’s ancient civilization and history. We condemn all religious violence.’

After discussion with CNI Synod Officers, Partnership Coordinator with responsibility for India Steve Pearce said; ‘Although no Church is allowed to be part of the current relief effort, I know British Methodists will be keen to help the affected Christian communities rebuild their lives and we will launch an appeal when the time is right. Meanwhile, I encourage everyone to pray for peace and to add their voice to the call for justice by writing to the Prime Minister of India and the High Commissioner in London.’

Source: Methodist News Service 20/10/08

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Operations by Robot Surgeon!

“A new £1 million robot that will change the face of surgical procedures has arrived at the Royal Berkshire Hospital", announced my local newspaper, the Reading Evening Post!

The report continues, “The futuristic machine, named the ‘da Vinci’, arrived in 5 boxes, each weighing as much as half a ton. It will be used for urology, gynaecology and ear, nose and throat surgery before being rolled out elsewhere.

“Using the robot will allow surgeons to perform operations that can create a smaller incision as well as offering a more precise tool for complicated operations. A less invasive procedure means a shorter stay in hospital and quicker recovery.

“The da Vinci Surgical System is a robot with four arms. Three of them hold objects that act as tools, such as a scalpel or scissors and other operating instruments, and the fourth arm is for a camera with two lenses that gives the surgeon full stereoscopic vision from the console.

“The surgeon is seated at a set of controls and looks through two eye holes at a 3D image of the procedure, while manoeuvring the arms with two foot pedals and two hand controllers.

“Announcing the investment of the robot, that has cost the Trust just over £1 million, Colin Maclean, chairman of the Trust, told the governors’ meeting ‘We are investing and have invested in robot technology. This is part of the future that will allow surgeons to go in through smaller holes, cause less damage and allow the patient to leave hospital quicker. It has cost us an awful lot of money and although we started to look into this technology for the urology department, it will be used for other services as well.’

“Hospital staff are already being trained to use the robot and the first procedure is expected to take place at the beginning of November.”

“Peter Ryan, manager of the Reading & District Hospitals Charity, said, ‘At present this exciting equipment is being leased by the trust but we would welcome donations from the public, companies and other organisations in the area to help us buy the robot so as many people as possible can benefit from it in the future.’

“If anyone would like to help, they should send their donations, with a request that the money be used for robotic surgical equipment, to-
Reading & District Hospitals Charity,
The Appeal Office,
Royal Berkshire hospital,

“Cheques should be made payable to the Reading and District Hospitals Charity.”

Source: Reading Evening Post 03/10/08

New web resource for churches working together for change

The Methodist Church in Britain has launched a new web resource offering information and guidance about how different Christian denominations work together to serve their communities.

The web pages offer a variety of information, from a basic introduction to ecumenical work to more detailed practical guidance about how to get involved. It explores the practical elements of how churches work together in unity and offers some background information for those new to the issues.

Chris Sissons, based at the Methodist Resourcing Mission Office in Manchester, said; ‘When churches work together, sharing their vision and resources, it benefits entire communities all over the world. This is about owning and developing the work that all churches do at local, national and international levels. We want to demystify ecumenism and encourage people to find out what’s going from their locality to churches internationally and get involved.’

The pages also have links to resources and training courses for those wanting to explore possibilities further, as well as regional information for churches in England, Wales and Scotland.

For more information, visit

Sourse: Methodist news Service 15/10/08

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

The October meeting of the Methodist Coouncil

The Methodist Council met on 13-14 October at High Leigh Conference Centre in Hertfordshire. This is the first of three meetings planned for the current Church year.

Issues discussed included the impact of current financial turmoil on the Church, climate change, the shape of the Church’s ministry and deployment, and the setting up of research and strategy projects for the coming year.

The Council endorsed the formation of a climate change and theology working group, to produce a report on climate change from ethical and theological perspectives. The group will be made up of representatives from the Methodist Church, United Reformed Church and the Baptist Union of Great Britain. Their report will focus on the need for both individual and corporate action, particularly in terms of the national Churches’ environmental policies. It will be presented to Council in April 2009, before going to the Methodist Conference in July.

There were lengthy discussions on the nature of ministry in the Church and in particular the distinctive Methodist processes involved in candidating, training and serving as a Methodist minister. Members of Council considered issues such as how to more easily identify and make use of the distinctive gifts of ordained ministers and how to encourage and promote lay discipleship.

The Revd Ken Howcroft, Secretary for Methodist Council, said; ‘This is a complex issue that affects the whole Church as it is renewed for worship and mission. Our current practices have been in place for a long time and determine the nature of Methodist ministry. They affect how ministers are placed around Britain and their experience of serving in the Church. As we seek to fulfil our calling and serve the present age, we need to seek a way forward that can be people-centred and flexible, whilst still retaining those features that make us distinctively Methodist.’

The Council also received a report on some of the consequences of the recent financial turmoil on the finances of the Church. Connexional Treasurer Ron Calver recommended that hasty decisions not be taken and that any detailed judgements affecting the Church’s finances be made next year when the financial situation has become clearer and there has been time to consider some of the long-term issues.

The Council is also responsible for approving the work plan of the Church’s Connexional Team. Projects approved for the coming year include further research on alcohol use and health warnings, a study guide on early human life and establishing a Methodist Heritage Committee."

Monday, 13 October 2008

Do we need Methodist membership tickets?

There is discussion here about the necessity in this 21st century of the requirement that all members of the Methodist church shall be issued with a membership ticket duly signed by their Minister and pastoral visitor.

We are reminded that, historically, the Methodist Ticket was developed by John Wesley. In Wesley's day, the ticket had an entirely different meaning. It was a form of discipline. Without evidence of attending class groups, you were excluded from communion. Eventually the harsh regulating led to the demise of the Methodist class group.

For many Ministers in the present age the annual issue of membership tickets takes up an awful lot of time that could arguably be more profitably spent in other ways. So, the question is being asked, 'Do we really need a membership ticket to remind us of our faith?' Our Minister says that it would be very sad if the answer is 'Yes'!

He has set us a challenge in our church magazine, where he asks what happens to our membership ticket, once issued. He writes -

"Does it end up on a mantle piece or tucked into some favourite book or even the Bible? Is this membership ticket a yardstick when we enter worship. Learning and caring, service and evangelism. Or is there a secret "One hundred ways to use a membership ticket" book to be written? Come on, I challenge you to share this in the next magazine."

He goes on to challenge us still further to consider how much value we put on our membership ticket and whether, given that it is in our constitution, we ought to give it more prominence. He goes on to write -

"Are we just holding on to a relic of nostalgia? Today our understanding of Methodist membership is changing. With the advent of Fresh Expressions, we are looking for a more fluid type of membership which will help us to connect with communities in the world. However, this seems to make the class ticket more irrelevant! From an eco-congregation (as we are) point of view, there comes the clarion call, 'How many trees are we using?'

However, it's still in our constitution. But could we give it a little more integrity and dignity by leaving the cards in church, perhaps beside a lit candle, to be prayerfully picked up by members during a service? Then deliver tickets to the housebound, where pastoral visitors share a prayer with them. How many tickets would be left behind?"

At my age, I have been receiving membership tickets for a great many years and i have to say that I do value them very much. They always go into one of my Bibles and, as I read my Bible(s) or pursue Bible study in house group or courses like the Disciple courses, I come across one of my tickets. I always pause to remember the particular ministry of the Minister whose signature I read and pray for them if they are still alive. Sometimes that is all. At other times, the text may leap out at me and give me a message that I need at that time, or my attention will be drawn to the 'short guide to church membership', leading to a brief time of reflection on how this applies to me at that time. I would greatly miss these gentle reminders of my faith journey - both the bad times and the (many more) good times. I suppose shortage of time often precludes this, but I like to think of our Ministers briefly commending each member to God as they sign their membership ticket. I would welcome a less casual issue of the membership ticket, lifting it from an annual chore (speaking as a pastoral visitor) and emphasising a rededication of all the members.

What happens elsewhere? Do other Methodist churches have anything to share that would help us in our exploration of a more dignified way of annually highlighting our church membership. For me, the Covenant Service is a high point of the Methodist year, but the membership tickets are issued at a different time of year.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

More Church Weddings?

My local newspaper, the Reading Evening Post, has recently appointed a Faith Reporter to work alongside the Health reporter and the Education reporter et al and it has made a difference to our reported news. Here is a recent example -

"Couples planning to tie the knot now have greater choice over church weddings, thanks to new rules that came into force yestersay. Before the Church of England's new Marriage Measure, brides and groom-to-be would often have their perfect day marred by not being able to get married in their parents' church or the one they grew up in if they themselves were not still members of the parish.

But now couples can get married in any Anglican church in the country as long as they can prove they have a link to it. Couples just need to prove that one of them was baptised or confirmed in the parish, has lived in the parish or attended church there for at least six months. They can also wed there if their parents or grandparents married there and if one of their parents attends the church or lives in the area.

The Bishop of Reading, Stephen cottrell, who spearheaded the national launch, said, 'People want to get married in church but often the laws we used to have reflected a different society. When our laws were first nmade we didn't live in a mobile society like we do now. People were born and lived and died in the same place but now we all move around a lot.

It wasn't impossible in the past for people to get married in a different church but it was very complicated. We're trying to make it easier for people now. Really it's common sense and it's what people want. It's part of the church wanting to offer a beter service to people. I wish it had happened 10 years ago.'

A special wedding breakfast took place at St. Laurence's Church, Friar Street, yesterday to launch the new law. Workers were treated to uplifting choruses from the Souls of Prophecy Gospel Choir who sang outside the church, while the bishop spoke to passers-by about the new law.

Around 120 vicars from Berkshire aslo visited Greyfriars Church, Friar Street, yesterday to learn about the changes the new law will bring. All vicars in England have to complete a legal refresher course to hear about the Marriage Measure.

The Church of England worked with wedding experts on the laws after a survey by the company found that more people would choose a church wedding if they knew one was possible. The study also found that 53 per cent of the general population think church weddings 'feel more proper'."

Visit for more information.

Source: Reading Evening Post 2/10/08

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Church urges Government to ‘get serious’ on Climate Change

Action must not be overshadowed by fear of turmoil on financial markets

The Methodist Church in Britain has responded to the report of the Committee on Climate Change by calling for concrete action and a commitment to long-term change.

The Church has welcomed the Committee’s proposal of an 80% target for the reduction of carbon emissions by 2050. This will require a greater investment in energy efficiency and rapid ‘decarbonisation’ of the power and transport sectors. The Church has expressed concern over an apparent lack of direction from the government as to how this is to be achieved.

Christine Elliott, Team Secretary for External Relationships, said: ‘This is a huge challenge. We cannot let the fear of turmoil on the financial markets paralyse us. In the Britain of the future the use of fossil fuels must become the exception rather than the rule.’

The Methodist Church has raised particular concerns over the use of carbon offsetting by industrialised nations. In submissions to Parliament the Church called for the use of carbon credits to be very limited (offsetting no more than 10% of the UK carbon reduction effort). The Government has argued for industry to have the flexibility to use carbon credits to buy out 50% of the carbon reduction effort required by the EU Emission Trading Scheme (ETS).

‘It would be unethical to dodge our responsibility to cut emissions in the UK by purchasing carbon offsets’, said Steve Hucklesby, Policy Advisor. 'Investment in clean development projects overseas is vital but cannot be a substitute for reducing carbon emissions in the UK. We are looking to the Government to provide strong leadership in mapping out the path to a low carbon economy’.

Source: Methodist News 9/11/08

REAP (Rural Extension with Africa's Poor)

Today I want to share the news that has just come in from a friend who is working with REAP (Rural Extension with Africa's Poor). He writes -

"At the beginning of September, I travelled to Dodoma in Tanzania on behalf of World Relief Canada(their equivalent of Tearfund). REAP's work is very much in line with what they hope to achieve. We were revising the work plan for the Diocese of Central Tanganyika development programme as regards food security and the environment. This was followed by a week of training relating to the outcomes, including two days with the pastors and church workers on the Biblical basis of stewardship.

"The REAP team had a very successful week at their Kisumu Show stand this year. They came back with two trophies and a second place! The second place was for the Best Stand in Environmental Management, for which they were particularly pleased to have beaten many of the 'big boys', including the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources! The Kisumu Show has proved to be an ideal platform to promote REAP's many concepts, which enable Africa's poor to improve their standard of living by more efficiently using resources that are readily available to them. One exhibit at the show was a fireless cooker that enables slow cooking to continue and will also keep food warm.

"Another series of workshops are planned in November to establish new church contacts. This will be a chance to bring more people on board. The starting point will be Natural Medicines, but the Biblical basis of stewardship, and all that that implies, will be incorporated throughout the training.

"An example of Natural Medicines is the aloe vera plant. When broken off, the leaves ooze sap, which is a soothing healer if applied immediately after a burn, so it is very valuable when grown near to where the cooking is done. Moringa leaves are an extremely efficient source of nutrients and when dried can be easily stored and added to the family meal. Over the last few years, the introduction and cultivation of moringa trees has been a major focus of REAP."

We are asked to pray that the vision of REAP's work will continue to spread throughout the continent of Africa and enable more people to live more productively and more comfortably. Our prayers are also needed for the annual Cush consultation being held this month in Sudan, bringing together the Christian NGOs, missions and churches and that faith may result in changed lives.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Jesus, My Unseen Guide

Jesus walks with me each day
He is a wonderful guide
No matter how narrow or steep the road
He never leaves my side.

He is with me by the cool waterfall
We sing, talk, laugh and pray
My life is full of happiness
Because He is never far away.

Throughout the dark long night
Jesus guards me from above
I am secure and have perfect peace
In His eternal love.

Jesus promised never to forsake me
Even when I feel despair
He reaches out with a helping hand
In my heart He is always here.

Glenna M. Baugh © 2008

"Whenever you travel let
Jesus be your guide"
~Quote by Glenna~

Saturday, 4 October 2008

A Wesley Wedding

Now that I have caught up with the backlog of emails etc., waiting for me when I returned, and all the other things that needed to be done, like the Prayer Guidelines for October that I draw up for the Northern section of this Methodist Circuit and the proof-reading in a Guatemalan language sent to me by Wycliffe Associates (UK) plus the storing of the apple harvest, etc., I think it is high time that I continued the story of my trip up North last month.

We awoke on the wedding morning to pouring rain, which showed no sign of easing. But we all had to carry on regardless. The bride’s aunt on her father’s side took me to the picturesque church on the outskirts of Newcastle where the couple worship, and we waited expectantly for the bride to arrive with her father. She looked radiant in her elegant white dress and carried a bouquet of white and lilac flowers. Her bridegroom, waiting for her at the altar, is a descendent of John Wesley – a fact that was of special interest and pride for the Methodist members of the family.

Since the vicar knew the couple so well, as he is their own pastor, the service was a very intimate and moving ceremony. It began with the hymn ‘One more step along the world I go’ and there were three readings. The vicar read the first from
I Corinthians, Chapter 13; the bride’s cousin read ‘I married my best friend’ (written by the bride); and the groom’s sister read ‘On your wedding day’. After the exchange of vows and rings, the ceremony ended with ‘The Lord of the Dance’, which ends with ‘I’ll live in you if you’ll live in me, I am the Lord of the Dance, said he.’

It was an unusual wedding in that all the bridal party were in black and white – the bridesmaid wore black dresses with white bouquets and all the men and little pageboy wore black suits with white waistcoats and cravats and many of the ladies at the wedding wore black and white dresses. Someone asked if they were Newcastle supporters, but he answer was ‘No’. The order of service booklets were black with white printing and the tables at the reception were decorated in black and white! All the photos had to be taken inside the church, at the altar, because of the torrential rain.

We then travelled several miles North to Morpeth in Northumbria for the reception at Longhirst Hall, which has magnificent grounds, ideal for wedding photographs. Alas, the rain made this impossible and there was disappointment, for a bridge in the grounds had earlier been decorated with flowers ready for the photographs. The majestic staircase of the Hall had to be substituted instead.

In his parental address, the bride’s father spoke of the way in which his daughter had had to grow up quickly, forgoing a normal childhood because her older brother, who had been born severely handicapped at birth, had needed so much attention, all day, every day, until he died just before his twenty-first birthday. When she saw how much had to be done for him that he could never do for himself, it had made his sister determined to spend her life helping others, and so today, after years of study, she is employed in research into new pharmaceutical treatments for the seriously ill.

Between the meal and the dancing, we watched TV in the lounge and there was a loud gasp when the weather forecast showed a big black cloud – ‘It’s right over us’, they said. On the TV next day, by which time we were safely back in Newcastle, there were dreadful pictures of Morpeth under flood, with a wedding ruined and people having to be rescued by boat and helicopter. It could have been us!

Then came the dancing and for the first time I wondered if I had been wise to travel so far for my great-niece’s wedding! I knew that I could not dance with both my ankles completely fused and the only people I knew would be busy looking after their guests. I needn’t have worried! A large group of ‘twenty-somethings’, friends of the bridal couple said, ‘Come on our table.’ The result was that we all had a wonderful time together, with much laughter and they were all calling me ‘Auntie Olive’. At one point in our conversation, I happened to say, ’I wrote about that on my blog last week.’ And there was a big chorus of ‘What’s a blog?’ This surprised me, so I got out my mobile on which I was able to bring up my blog for them to see. They had great fun, passing it round among them and scrolling up and down to see what I’d written. Finally we went to bed at 2am!

The next morning the bridal couple held an Open House in their home in Newcastle, which is a very unusual house - very tall and very narrow, with just one room on each floor and a winding staircase in between! So the kitchen is on the ground floor and you go up a floor to the sitting room, and so on, with only one room on each floor! It was from this house that I was collected by my nephew, who had not been at the wedding, for the start of the next stage of my exciting visit to the North-East, which I will write about later.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Saving the Family

What an extra busy week it was last week! On Monday evening we had our first full session ‘Under the Tree of Life’ , with its sub-title of ‘Family’, as we discussed the wonderful story of Ruth and Naomi and Boaz. We had learnt that the book of Ruth was one of the Festal Rolls read at each of the Jewish Festivals and that Ruth was read at the Feast of Pentecost.

As you know, the story begins with crop failure and Naomi and her husband and two sons becoming refuges in the land of Moab, where her husband died. Her two sons married Moabite women but both died before they had children. So the three landless, childless women decided to return to Naomi’s family in Bethlehem. On the way, Naomi advised her daughters-in-law to go back to their own homes and Orpah was persuaded to do so, but Ruth declared that she would stay with Naomi, saying ‘Your family will be my family.’ They returned at the beginning of the barley harvest and Ruth was able to support herself and Naomi by gleaning in the harvest fields of Boaz, a kinsman.

Since Boaz was a kinsman, Naomi encouraged Ruth to take advantage of the levirate marriage law, which meant that if a man died childless his brother should marry the widow and give her a child, so that the dead brother’s name would not die out.. But Boaz knew that there was another kinsman who was a closer relative of Naomi and he had to be consulted first. However, he was unwilling to marry Ruth because it would jeopardise his own family. So Ruth and Boaz were married and had a son, Obed, who became the grandfather of King David.

In studying the levirate law, we looked at the strange (to us) story of Tamar, who went beyond the boundaries of the levirate law in order to save the family (Genesis 38). Someone wondered how old the widow would have to be for the brother to marry his brother’s widow and, quick as a flash, someone else said, ‘As old as Olive’. (I am always getting cheek from that young man.) We also looked at times when we include others in our family.

Questions that we discussed were –
What priorities strengthen your family life?
What threatens relationships of lovingkindness in families?
How does your experience of faithful community strengthen or weaken your family’s cohesiveness? What determines the effort and/or sacrifice you are willing to make to maintain connections with extended family?
Identify some of the inconveniences that keep us from including the outsider in our family life? And
What actions and attitudes overcome barriers of inconvenience?

My own thoughts on these questions were that families are much more dispersed today, right across the world, which has made keeping the family in touch with each other much more difficult. However, e-mail has made a huge difference in maintaining contact, not only because of the speed of communication but also because i have found that the male members of the family will gladly send an e-mail whereas they never sent anything by ordinary mail!

For the rest of last week we were set the task of studying the whole of I Chronicles!

Autumn Season

Autumn season is here once again
Such pretty trees of red, yellow and gold
The autumn winds are strong and chilly,
As the leaves fall, it's a beauty to behold.

The leaves fall and break from the trees
Oh how nice stepping on the crunchy leaves
Listening to the sound of the autumn wind,
God created everything from beginning to end.

Summer is over, the flowers have faded
The grass is not growing as tall
The leaves break and fall to the ground,
A shifting change, God's hand is in it all.

We know who holds the world in place
Who gently holds us in His hands
We too are living in the autumn of life,
Autumn winds blow, but God understands.

Yes, we feel the gentle chill of fall
We smell the scent of lovely flowers
With summer past and autumn here,
We give God thanks for His love and cheer.

Bernice Ward © 2005
Bernice's Inspirations