Saturday, 29 November 2008


The Archbishop of York and an interdenominational church spokesman for migrants have united in condemning recent remarks made by immigration minister Phil Woolas. Earlier this month, Mr Woolas said ‘The [asylum] system is played by migration lawyers and NGOs to the nth degree. By giving false hope and by undermining the legal system, [they] actually cause more harm than they do good.’ Archbishop John Sentamu branded the remarks ‘unmerciful’ and said the UK ‘must show a better way’ at a time when Zimbabwe’s citizens are tortured and subjected to inhumane treatment. Mentioning the example of a sick Ghanaian woman who died shortly after she was deported, he said, ‘the separation of religion, morality and law has gone too far’. Revd Arlington Trotman, moderator for the Churches Commission for Migrants in Europe (CCME) said Mr Woolas had ‘passed judgment on a very complex area … without first taking sufficient time to understand the complexities and sensitivities of immigration’.

Source: Daily Telegraph (28/11)

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Lord Leslie Griffiths named Chair of Methodist Heritage Committee

Lord Leslie Griffiths of Pembrey and Burry Port has been appointed Chair of the newly formed Methodist Heritage Committee.

The Committee will work to better involve the Church’s heritage in its engagement with contemporary society. By telling the stories of Methodism more effectively and supporting Methodist heritage sites as places of pilgrimage and spirituality, the committee will address how historic locations can be effective in Christian mission.

Lord Griffiths said; “In our post-colonial, post-modern world the question of identity looms large. Our heritage reminds us who we are and gives us the courage to tell our story and to serve the present age. I’m delighted to have a part to play in this imaginative new venture.”

Lord Griffiths is a Methodist minister, Labour peer and broadcaster. He is a Knight of the Order of St. John and an Honorary Canon of St. Paul’s Cathedral. He was President of the Methodist Conference 1994-1995. Among his interests he lists laughter and fellowship as well as literature, theology and sport.

A full-time Methodist Heritage Officer will be appointed to the Church’s Connexional Team in the New Year, to convene and work collaboratively with the Committee.

Source; Methodist News Service 27/11/2008

Monday, 24 November 2008

Sarah Malik named first salaried Methodist Youth President

First role of its kind in any mainstream UK Church

Sarah Malik has been elected Methodist Youth President at this year’s Methodist Youth Conference. From January until September 2009 Sarah will work full time to serve as an advocate and spokesperson for young people in the Church.

This new role is the first to be appointed in the Church’s new £4million Youth Participation Strategy, launched at the Youth Conference in Northampton last weekend. This is the first time salaried positions have been specifically targeted at the 16 to 23-year-olds in order that young people help guide the direction of the church.

Sarah, who is 20, said; ‘I’m really excited about this new role. In my year of presidency I hope to spend time travelling Britain and listening to what young people in the Church have to say and what they want to see changing. I find it easy to motivate myself when I am working towards something I love.’

Mike Seaton, Children and Youth Team Director, said; ‘This new role is about encouraging and empowering the Church’s young people. During Sarah’s travels she will be able to challenge Methodists of all ages to welcome the participation of children and young people in all aspects of the Church’s work and life.’

Sarah is a carer at a residential care home in Eyam, Derbyshire. She enjoys cooking and watching films and is passionate about helping people to participate in worship through the creation of prayer labyrinths.

The Youth Participation Strategy will also see 32 young people employed in new, part-time salaried posts as District Youth Enablers across the Methodist Church in Britain.

Youth Presidents will be appointed to work full-time in the Church annually from September 2009.


This is wonderful news and I look forward to the dynamic energy and vision that these young people will bring to the Methodist Church. We live in exciting times!
Let's make sure that we all pray for them all in their new roles and that God will inspire and empower them for the benefit of the whole church.



This is the title of the second ECG Event to be held at Easter on 14-19th April 2009 at the beautiful North Wales holiday resort of Llandudno. Everyone who experienced the movement of God's Spirit at this year's ECG Event can hardly wait for next Easter to renew that inspiring sense of being equipped, called and sent out in the name of Jesus.

If you dream of being a prophetic voice in your community, if you long to be part of a church that speaks out and seeks to make a real difference in the world, then you need to be at ECG 2009 - because so do we! That's our dream too! This is our passion and we want to share this journey together! ECG seeks to challenge, envision and equip you to be a relevant and radical disciple of Jesus!

Once again the inspiring worship will be led by the popular, lively (and very noisy) Y-Friday and Philippa Hanna in two very different main venues. The Key Bible Teacher for ECG 2009 is Martyn Atkins (General Secretary of the Methodist Church of Great Britain) and there are aslo a whole host of world-class speakers, Bible-teachers and specialist experts, including: Roy Crowne, Pete Greig and Michelle Guiness. There will be prayer spaces, outstanding children's, youth and sports programmes, and the fringe brimming with the best of Christian music, theatre and comedy talent and even more community-based mission activities on offer.

As last year, there is special emphasis on catering for the 20-30 year olds, as Gav Calver and Kate John, both in their 20s and part of the ECG Exec Team, can testify. They say, "If, like us, you are in your 20s and 30s and want to see your heart, life and community changed by God, then Venue 2 is the place to be. Together we will share in a range of worship experiences and learning opportunities specifically with people of our age-range in mind. We're committed to equipping Christians in their
20s and 30s with interactive workshops run by experts in their fields on key issues such as money/debt, relationships/singleness, career/calling, fair-trade/environmentalism. There is also a multi-stage prayer-path for you to chill out with God in your own time, town-wide mission activities to dive into (including cafe/sports evangelism and social action), plus some not-to-be-missed performances from top singer-songwriters."

Bookings made before 31st December are at least £5 cheaper than after that date and group bookings of 20 or more will earn you one free place! There is Kibbutz as well as other accommodation available.

The ECG Event has the same buzz that Easter People had and provides the same level of in-depth Bible study that was so popular at Easter People. All age groups were inspired by ECG this Easter and there is such eagerness to make sure of being involved in 2009 that I have found that many of the modestly-priced guest houses are already filling up. You will have an unforgettable experience at ECG 2009 and I will look forward to seeing you there.

To book, or for any other information, visit .

Friday, 21 November 2008


A quarter of children with a religious belief are bullied at school because of their faith, a new survey reveals. The findings prompted BeatBullying, the charity who funded the research, to call on the government to compel schools to record all incidents of faith-based bullying and to fund more extensive research and preventative measures. The study of 1,000 11- to 16-year-olds found that half of them practised their religion, twice the proportion of adults who do. But 20 per cent said their friendships were largely with others who shared the same religious background. Behind incidents of verbal and physical violence, there is a lack of cohesion between different religious communities and not enough support for discussing faith issues with their peers, a Beatbullying spokesperson said.

Sources: The Independent (17/11); Church of England Newspaper (21/11); Baptist Times (20/11)

Churches urged to mark World AIDS Day

An Asian Worship Service for World AIDS Day has been commended for use in churches across Britain.

The background to the liturgy endorsed by the Christian Conference of Asia highlights the fact that someone dies of an AIDS-related illness every 15 seconds, often because of a lack of medicine.

Rev Stephen Penrose said: “As the Director of the London Ecumenical AIDS Trust and also as a Methodist Minister, I would commend this liturgy to be used around World Aids Day by our churches. I particularly like the sermon notes; they not only give the facts, setting them in a theological context, but hopefully will stir people into action.”

The information from the Ministry of Health Indonesia 2006 points out that all people are at risk from HIV and AIDS and everyone can make a contribution to reducing that risk.

Statistics also illustrate the problem of the HIV epidemic in Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, Pakistan, China and India.

A copy of the sermon is attached along with this press release and is available online at .

Source: Methodist News Service 21/11/2008

Thursday, 20 November 2008


Extraordinary gifts for Christmas

As many of us rack our brains for the perfect gift for that difficult relative, the Methodist Relief and Development Fund (MRDF) is encouraging people to do something life-changing this Christmas. It has launched an all-new range of gifts: ordinary-sounding things that make an extraordinary difference to people living in some of the world’s poorest communities.

Extraordinary gifts provide a variety of opportunities, such as sending a child to school in Bangladesh or giving families in El Salvador a wood-saving stove. A colourful card and magnet explain all about the small miracle that each item enables – and with prices from £7 and gifts from around the world – it’s not hard to find the perfect miracle – whomever you are buying for.

MRDF’s Director of Supporter Relations, Amanda Norman, says: ‘Understandably, people will want to be careful with their money this Christmas. Buying one of MRDF’s Extraordinary gifts is money well spent – a meaningful gift that will change the lives of some of the world’s poorest people.’

Each gift comes from ongoing work carried out through responsible, local agencies that know what is best for their communities. MRDF works closely with its partners ensure everything it supports is safe, sustainable and situationally appropriate.

Extraordinary gifts can be bought online from, or by calling 020 7467 5132 to order a catalogue.

Source: Methodist News Service 20/11/2008

Wednesday, 19 November 2008


October 4-13, 2009

Following the tremendous success of our 2007 China Challenge, we invite you to join a team of people who accept the challenge of walking part of the Great Wall of China in 2009 to raise funds through sponsorship for persecuted Christians.

This is a fantastic experience and an opportunity to do something extraordinary for your brothers and sisters in Christ. We are planning for participants to have an opportunity to meet local Chinese Christians and hear accounts of the persecution they face.

The cost of next year's China Challenge is approximately £1,525 per person including airport taxes, insurance, transfers, food and accommodation (where arranged).

Find out more on our website. To request an information pack containing the full details, including the itinerary, please call Paul on 01689 823491 or email

Source: Release Update 18/11/2008

Tuesday, 18 November 2008


The popular Christian satellite channels Revelation TV (Sky 585) and Genesis TV (Sky 592) are to broadcast a special one-hour programme, featuring the ministry of Release, in December.

The programme will be an overview of the persecution facing Christians worldwide, and will be followed by a 30-minute discussion which looks ahead to the prospects facing the persecuted church in 2009. The discussion will include CEO Andy Dipper and journalist Andrew Boyd as special guests.

When these are first broadcast on Tuesday December 9 (see below), the discussion will include a live phone-in, allowing viewers to put their comments and questions.

If you receive these channels, please consider inviting your Christian friends round to watch this special coverage, which promises to be both inspiring and informative.

The programme and discussion will be broadcast as part of World in Focus as follows:

2100 Tuesday December 9 Genesis TV (Sky 592) followed by live phone-in
0100 Wednesday December 10 Revelation TV (Sky 585)
0800 Wednesday December 10 Genesis TV (Sky 592)
1330 Wednesday December 10 Revelation TV (Sky 585)

Sourse: Release Update, November 2008

Churches gear up for Year of the Child 2009

Church leaders are being encouraged to help make 2009 ‘a year to remember’ for young people and the Church with the launch of an interdenominational Year of the Child, to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the United Nations’ International Year of the Child.

A group of Children’s Advisers from across the Church of England’s dioceses, alongside representatives from the Methodist Church and other denominations and agencies, identified widespread interest in making a distinctive Christian contribution to this anniversary. In light of this enthusiasm, the network plans to promote 2009 as an opportunity for local churches to review the work they do with and for children and young people, and to do more to recognise and celebrate their contribution in the life of the church and society.

The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, comments: “In the lead up to the Year of the Child 2009 it is my hope that individual churches and Christian denominations throughout the country will opt in and make available the resources needed to make it a success.

“Young people all over the country need to hear the words of Christ's love for them in all manner of ways. So too, we the Church need to hear afresh God speaking to us through the life and witness of children. Come and join the celebration, be challenged and inspired.”

Some of the early initiatives already being prepared for next year include:

From Lancashire, a pilgrimage of 14 – 21 year olds from the Diocese of Blackburn to the Diocese of Free State, South Africa. The young people will spend two weeks next summer in local schools and churches and will also get involved with practical community projects – such as working with people with HIV and AIDs – with the aim of building on the two dioceses’ existing twinning relationship;

In West Sussex, the Youth and Children’s Work department of the Diocese of Chichester is running a conference on ‘Changing Childhood’ in July, in collaboration with the University of Chichester;

Again in Lancashire, up to 3,000 people are expected at a ‘Big Day Out for the Family’ at Lytham St Annes in June. This will include music, worship, games and other special activities as the Blackburn Diocese celebrates the Year of the Child on school playing fields at the seaside;

In Northamptonshire, the Diocese of Peterborough has issued a list of 30 tips for churches interested in getting involved in the Year of the Child, including ensuring that children and young people’s work is discussed at every parochial church council meeting, that young people’s concerns are expressed in intercessory prayers at the main Sunday service, and that churches consider donating books to a local school;

In Liverpool, the diocese is continuing to develop a ‘Child Friendly Church Awards Scheme’ recognising those parishes which have adopted various aspects of good practice in children’s ministry – and nearby Manchester diocese is planning to promote the scheme to its parishes;

In Norfolk, the Diocese of Norwich’s Youth Task Force hopes to develop a web based youth forum to improve communication between young people across the rural county.

The Revd Mary Hawes, National Children’s Adviser, stresses that Year of the child 2009 is not a prescriptive project or even a centrally driven programme: “It is simply an open invitation to the Christian church in the UK to join in by making 2009 a special year for children and young people. There are no plans for big national events, but rather to create a spotlight to help churches focus on their work with children and to explore partnerships with other churches, both locally and globally. We are hoping that 2009 will be a year in which the issues, injustices and challenges facing young people today can be highlighted, and for work with children and young people to be celebrated,” she comments.

Updates on the activities taking place under the Church’s Year of the Child umbrella will be published periodically during 2009 and distributed to local churches. Parishes interested in finding out more can find inspiration and resources at

Early next year, the Church’s official publisher – Church House Publishing – is due to release ‘Through the Eyes of a Child’, a book drawing together a range of contributions on children’s theology to help extend the legacy of the Year of the Child.

Source: Methodist News Service 18/11/2008

Monday, 17 November 2008


I've been struggling with this week's assignment for our Disciple 4 group tonight - to tie up the Proverbs with the Ten Commandments. The one I really got stuck with is 'Keep the Sabbath day holy.' I can't find a proverb that links with that! That's one way to make us read and re-read the Proverbs, isn't it? But not even my concordances have been able to help with this one! Well, I shall soon find out what the others have made of this assignment!

On a lighter note, now that I am slightly diabetic, the Proverb I like best (in a modern translation) is 'Eat too much chocolate and you will be sick.'



While walking down the street one day a "Member of Parliament" is tragically hit by a truck and dies.

His soul arrives in heaven and is met by St. Peter at the entrance.

'Welcome to heaven,' says St. Peter. 'Before you settle in, it seems there is a problem. We seldom see a high official around these parts, you see, so we're not sure what to do with you.'

'No problem, just let me in,' says the man.

'Well, I'd like to, but I have orders from higher up. What we'll do is have you spend one day in hell and one in heaven. Then you can choose where to spend eternity.'

'Really, I've made up my mind. I want to be in heaven,' says the MP.

'I'm sorry, but we have our rules.'

And with that, St. Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down, down to hell. The doors open and he finds himself in the middle of a green golf course. In the distance is a clubhouse and standing in front of it are all his friends and other politicians who had worked with him.

Everyone is very happy and in evening dress. They run to greet him, shake his hand, and reminisce about the good times they had while getting rich at the expense of the people.

They play a friendly game of golf and then dine on lobster, caviar and champagne.

Also present is the devil, who really is a very friendly & nice guy who has a good time dancing and telling jokes. They are having such a good time that before he realizes it, it is time to go.

Everyone gives him a hearty farewell and waves while the elevator rises...

The elevator goes up, up, up and the door reopens on heaven where St. Peter is waiting for him.

'Now it's time to visit heaven.'

So, 24 hours pass with the MP joining a group of contented souls moving from cloud to cloud, playing the harp and singing. They have a good time and, before he realizes it, the 24 hours have gone by and St. Peter returns.

'Well, then, you've spent a day in hell and another in heaven. Now choose your eternity.'

The MP reflects for a minute, then he answers: 'Well, I would never have said it before, I mean heaven has been delightful, but I think I would be better off in hell.'

So St. Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down, down to hell.

Now the doors of the elevator open and he's in the middle of a barren land covered with waste and garbage.

He sees all his friends, dressed in rags, picking up the trash and putting it in black bags as more trash falls from above.

The devil comes over to him and puts his arm around his shoulder. 'I don't understand,' stammers the MP. 'Yesterday I was here and there was a golf course and clubhouse, and we ate lobster and caviar, drank champagne, and danced and had a great time. Now there's just a wasteland full of garbage and my friends look miserable.
What happened?'

The devil looks at him, smiles and says, 'Yesterday we were campaigning. . ..

Today you voted.'

Friday, 14 November 2008

Methodist Church calls for UN emergency food aid access into Gaza

The Methodist Church in Britain has urged for Gaza border crossings to be kept open so that emergency food aid can reach people in need. The current crisis developed after Israeli troops entered Gaza to destroy a tunnel, killing a Hamas gunman. Since then, five more Palestinians have been killed by an Israeli airstrike and Palestinian militia have fired rockets into Israel.

Steve Hucklesby, Methodist Church Policy Adviser, said: “In recent years Gaza’s isolation has devastated the economy. The lifeline of food and fuel has become crucial and half of the population of Gaza currently depends on UN food supplies.

“Palestinians have a right under international law to receive essential humanitarian aid. We appeal to the UK and EU to exert pressure on Israel to ensure that the border crossings are kept open. We must hope for progress on dialogue in the coming months. The additional tension created by military incursions into Gaza makes this more difficult.”

This year Methodist Conference adopted a motion calling on Methodists to write to their MPs and MEPs to demand urgent action to alleviate the humanitarian crisis facing the people of Gaza and to pray for peace and justice for all God’s people in the Holy Land.

Source: Methodist News Service 15/11/2008

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Boys face longer wait for adoption’

I am very glad to give prominence to this article in last nnight's edition of my local newspaper, the Reading Evening Post, which seeks to explode the myth that boys are harder to bring up and therefore to adopt. One of my sisters adopted one and fostered a surprising number of others during her lifetime.

Laura Herbert writes:-

"Boys could wait longer to be adopted as they are perceived as being more trouble and harder to parent, according to a new study.

The research commissioned by the British Association for Adoption & Fostering (BAAF) is part of its National Adoption Week, which started on Monday. Results in the South East show one in five people think boys are tougher to parent than girls, while 45 per cent of people thought there was a nationwide perception of boys being more trouble. Just over half of those asked felt the media played a big part in the perception of boys and believed it portrayed them in an overly negative way.

However, Reading-based adoption and fostering agency Parents and Children Together (PACT) disagreed with the results. Sarah Pepys, director of adoption at PACT, said: “When someone is approved to adopt, they receive several family-finding magazines in which they see the picture and summarised lives of just a handful of the children in local authority care every month needing new ‘forever families’.

“A glance at the pages of any one of these does indeed show there are more boys than girls seeking adoption but they would also see a disproportionate number of children who are special for a different reason; maybe they belong to a sibling group, or they are older or have special needs.”

Ms Pepys added: “We at PACT work hard with our prospective parents to identify what aspects of a child’s personality or background they could most comfortably deal with.
“We have found that many families seek to have girls placed and are therefore keen to recruit families for those little boys for whom placements have not yet been found. “We are very keen for families interested in adopting boys to contact us to find placements for those waiting.”

Since its launch in 1997, National Adoption Week aims to encourage more families to come forward to adopt children who wait the longest. A majority of them are older children, children with disabilities, brothers and sisters, and children from some black and minority ethnic backgrounds.

For more information about adoption and fostering visit or contact PACT on 0800 731 1845 or visit

Source: Reading Evening Post - Laura Herbert - 12/11/2008

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Bad hair day!

A number of ladies at our church are quite upset at the news that our faithful hairdressing establishment closed down on 3rd November 'due to circumstances beyond our control'. There is, of course, speculation as to the unforeseen circumstances that have led to this, but we know that the owner hairdresser has not been well lately and we see other small businesses closing down because of the credit crunch.

It is nevertheless a great shock for people like me who have been reliant on that hairdressing establishment for a long time - in my case 60 years! Of course, it has changed ownership in those years and the staff has changed from time to time but to have a good hairdresser just down the road has been so very convenient.

So now the search goes on for a suitable, reliable and local hairdresser. It makes quite a difference which one we choose because your hairdresser can change your whole appearance. I had my last appointment during the last few days of their days in business and I remember thinking that it was odd that there were only two 'girls' in the salon and no customers, but I put it down to it being lunchtime.

I do hope that, when I next need the services of a hairdresser, I don't find that they have too many bookings because of taking on the large clientele of the oldest established salon in Caversham! I notice that several small businesses of various kinds are now closed in Reading, so perhaps we shall have to get used to more closures as the recession takes its toll on local businesses.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Methodist Church welcomes push for the responsible pricing of alcohol

The British Methodist Church has welcomed calls from MPs to set minimum prices on alcoholic drinks.

Today’s report from the Home Affairs Select Committee ‘Policing in the 21st Century’ highlights the serious problems of alcohol-related crime and anti-social behaviour. It calls for an end to ‘happy hours’, supermarket loss-leading promotions, and the introduction of minimum sale prices for alcohol.

David Bradwell, Public Issues Policy Adviser, said: ‘Alcohol misuse is a growing problem. This is partly due to the easy availability of cheap booze – alcohol was 69% more affordable last year compared to 1980. This is why we support the recommendations of the Select Committee.’

The Methodist Church has a long tradition of promoting abstinence and moderate drinking as a way of tackling the problems alcohol causes.

David continued; ‘John Wesley railed against cheap gin in the 18th century because of its devastating impact on the lives of the most vulnerable people. The Methodist Church today urges the Government to move towards imposing minimum prices for alcohol and ending irresponsible promotions by retailers.

Source: Methodist News Service 10/11/2008

Increasing the price is only a partial solution but it should help quite a lot. A year or two ago I had to go in search of a young man whose family (and church) had lost touch with him and there was considerable worry concerning him. So I braved going into a 'club' that I had once overheard him mention. I was so shocked to find him in that scruffy place - the darkest, dirtiest, most uninviting and smallest social space I had ever seen or could imagine. It was straight out of a Dickens TV film! It was even more of a shock for me to discover that this dreadful place was also being frequented by young men from a neighbouring Methodist church, all from good families, and the ONLY reason they all gave for going there was that it was the only place where they could get cheap beer.

Breaking new ground for youth in the Methodist Church

Young people are on the verge of becoming empowered by ground-breaking changes that will be the talk of this year’s Methodist Youth Conference.

Around 150 16 to 23-year-olds will celebrate the launch of the £4 million Youth Participation Strategy (YPS) at Kings Park Conference Centre in Northampton from November 21 to 23. YPS was conceived by Youth Conference and will enable young people to become involved in making decisions about the direction of the church on a level never seen before.

The strategy will see 32 young people employed in new, part-time salaried posts as District Youth Enablers across the Methodist Church in Britain and one young person employed in a full-time salaried post as Youth President. This is the first time salaried positions have been specifically targeted at the 16 to 23-year-olds in order that young people help guide the direction of the church.

The Youth Conference, which came into being in 1995, will elect the Youth President who will be tasked with being a representative and spokesperson for young people in the church. Chair of the Youth Conference, Sarah Malik, 20, said: “This is the first stepping stone of the YPS with young people actually participating in the Methodist Church. With the new system, there will be lots of support in place to help young people who want to make a difference.”

President Brian Caveney, 23, said: “Within this next year there will be changes to the whole Connexion as to how young people can get involved on every level. That is all down to YPS and it is exciting. I think when it gets going fully in September 2009 it will be very empowering for young people.”

Youth violence will also be a returning item on the Youth Conference’s agenda. At The Methodist Church Conference in Scarborough in July 2008, members accepted the Youth Conference Resolution to investigate how local churches could address the issues that lead to violence among young people, including knife crime.

In response to this, members from the existing Youth Executive, the Association of Black Methodist Youth and three young people elected by Youth Conference will form part of a group who will take this resolution forward.

There are still a few places left for young people wanting to attend Methodist Youth Conference. To book, check out

Source: Methodist News service 10/11/2008

This is wonderful news and is long overdue. I have been longing to see an injection of the drive and enthusiasm of youth into the decision-making and direction of our Methodist Church and this new initiative will have all the backing that I am able to give it. As I have recently written on this blog, I firmly believe that the best way forward for a healthy, vibrant church is for all age groups to be working together and encouraging each other. May God bless both the Youth Conference and the Youth Participation Strategy.


It has been ‘a large response’ of a different kind for Billy Graham. People whose lives had been impacted by his ministry were invited to send personal stories and birthday greetings – for the man who helped them find God has turned 90. Now their many testimonies are being compiled into books, to be presented to the famous preacher at a tribute dinner later this month. ‘Nothing could uplift him more on this special day,’ said his son Franklin. His father has been preaching for more than 60 years, addressing an estimated 215 million people. Dr Graham has had Parkinson’s disease for the past 15 years and is very frail. But his mind is still alert, according to longtime British colleague Maurice Rowlandson.

Source: Church Times (7/11).

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Reading Single Homeless Project

i have just returned from our annual Autumn Fair, which this year was in aid of the Reading Single Homeless Project. We don't know the full amount raised yet because there are sums to be added yet, like donations and the money raised from the 'Host a meal' events held in the run-up to the Fair, but today we have taken just over £1,100, which should help the cause considerably.

Amongst other things, I bought a centenary mug, a special assignment being sold in advance of our Centenary next year (and all next year, of course), and also a beautiful doll for my litle great-granddaughter, Loiusa, for her Christmas present. Then I had a satisfying lunch to the accompaniment of interesting conversation before returning home.

Reading Single Homeless Project (RSHP) is dedicated to ending social exclusion caused by homelessness. RSHP is determined to provide the standard of housing and support needed to enable its clients to achieve their full potential in life. RSHP houses people who live alone, and who are in need of housing because:
• they can't live in their current accommodation anymore
• they need supported accomodation
• they have nowhere to live.

In alternate years, we choose overseas or home projects, so that next year we shall be on the lookout for a suitable overseas project to support. We are in the fortunate position that we do not need to organise fund-raising events for our own church here.


Amid economic uncertainty, the ‘kingdom values’ of the Christian Socialist Movement have never been more crucial – says well-known musician Andy Flannagan, who is new head of CSM. ‘There is a passion stirring across the UK to partner with God in seeking justice, both locally and globally,’ he added. Flannagan, who’s been serving as Youth for Christ’s singer-songwriter, takes over from CSM’s current director Andrew Bradstock in January 2009. Church Army chief Mark Russell welcomed the move. ‘Since our school days in Northern Ireland I have known the remarkable gifts God has given Andy,’ he said. ‘His passion for engaging with the political structure – and his conviction in a God of justice – make this an inspired appointment.’

Source: Church Army Online (5/11).

Friday, 7 November 2008

Giving up at 80???

What a shock it has been in these last few weeks to find that my blogging has become the subject of publicity, first in the local newspaper, the Henley Standard, and then in the United Methodist Reporter! When the Henley Standard reporter phoned to ask if he come to interview me and I asked 'What for?', he said 'My colleague says that you're 87 and that you do blogging.' I tried to wriggle out of it, but he had me in a corner because he is the best reporter for publishing anything I send out in my job as Media Publicity Director for my church. So I have to keep him sweet! Then he went and repaid me by publishing a large photo under a huge headline that read 'Olive the Blogger - at 87!' Fortunately, its readers are mainly in Henley with a growing number in Caversham and Sonning Common, but it doesn't yet sell too many copies in Reading or the rest of the Circuit, so I can still pretend to be younger in some places!

The managing editor of the UM Reporter asks why it should be assumed that activities such as blogging would not be undertaken by people over 80 and I was so glad to read that comment. Most of my contemporaries give up everything when they reach the age of 80, saying that they have done their stint and it's up to the younger ones to do everything now. Well, they don't give up altogether, but confine themselves to coffee mornings and gentle support of whatever is going on. (Actually, there are many much younger people who are afraid to try the computer, believing that it will be beyond their capabilities - but how do they know if they never try it?)

While it is wrong for elderly people to keep doing work that younger folk are eager to do just because they have gained expertise in that direction, there is plenty of work (and a great variety of work) that can and should be done by older people to help bring in the Kingdom. The healthiest and most vibrant churches are surely the ones where everyone plays their part, with a good mix of all age groups working together and encouraging each other.

Some weeks ago, one of my blogging friends asked if I'd given any thought about what to call my blog when it was no longer appropriate! I hadn't thought of it at all, but I opened it up for suggestions and someone suggested that I should call it 'Olive Branches'. That's a good name and I was drawn to it. In fact, I considered changing it there and then, but now i am of the opinion that it would be best to leave it as it is until 2010 or 2011 (if God grants me that long) so that it might just possibly encourage other octogenarians to become bloggers.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Peacemaking for Remembrance Sunday

The Methodist Church is encouraging services for Remembrance Sunday to reflect on the call to be peacemakers.

This year marks 90 years since the end of the First World War - the war to end all wars. It is a fitting tribute to those who have died that The Church honours their memory and continues to work for peace and justice

Karen Burke
Media Officer
Methodist Church House
25 Marylebone Road
Tel: 0207 467 5208
Fax: 0207 467 5229

Church calls for wider debate on NHS following Government “top-up” decision.

· More questions than answers following NHS top-ups decision.

The Methodist Church has responded to the Government’s announcements to allow National Health Service patients to buy extra medical treatment not available on the NHS with a call for clarity and a wider debate about the principles and values of a universal health system.

The NHS has an enviable history of providing state of the art healthcare to all, free at the point of delivery, and regardless of gender, race, age or ability to pay.

The decision by the Government raises new questions about equality and fairness.

Paul Morrison, Public Issues Policy Adviser for the Methodist Church, said: ‘While this announcement is welcome news for some, it increases the potential of developing a two-tier healthcare system in the UK. I am concerned that without Government commitment and vigilance we will wake up some day in the future in a country with a first class health care system for those who can afford it and an economy class system for those who can’t.

‘This decision may lead to challenging ethical questions within our Churches and wider communities. Drugs such as Donepezil are not available to NHS patients with early stage Alzheimer’s disease. How do we react to two people sitting on the pew next to each other both wanting this treatment, but only one is able to afford it? This raises huge ethical questions for individuals, church communities and society as a whole.’

Source: Methodist News Service 5/11/08

Christmas comes too early! ???

I am one of the many people who complain each year that Christmas comes too early in our shops and high streets, but this year I am having second thoughts! Today is the deadline for submission for the December edition of our local ecumenical newspaper entitled 'Caversham Bridge' of details of all our various Christian events and services to be held in the Christmas period.

So, as the Media Publicity Director, I have spent this last week contacting those responsible for organising such events and services in our two Methodist churches in Caversham. It was still October when I received the email requesting the information and it came as a shock to me, as well as some of those whom I contacted, making them spring into action to make vague dreams become realities. This makes me realise that we definitely do need early planning if our message is to come across as interesting, challenging and clear.

What I have now submitted for publication is an exciting variety of events that should appeal to a wide variety of people and age groups. One church (near to a relatively new housing estate) has planned two evenings of 'Rock Nativity' by the Masquerade Players, a morning Children's Christmas Service and evening Carol Service on the Sunday before Christmas, a 'Crafty Christmas' craft event for children aged 8 - 11 years on the Monday afternoon, a Pram Service followed by lunch on the Tuesday morning, with 'Carols round the Crib - a Teddy Bear's Picnic' followed by refreshments on the afternoon of Christmas Eve and the Family Christmas Service on Christmas morning.

The other church, with fewer children and young people, will host the annual Christmas Carol Service for the British Polio Fellowship, a Toy/Gift Service on December 14th when toys and gifts are donated for the local charity Christian Community Action which serves any who are in need in a large area (with shops and drop-in centres right across town), a Service of Holy communion in the morning and a Special Nativity Service for young children in the afternoon of December 21st, the annual Midnight Communion Service on Christmas Eve, with a Family Christmas Service on Christams Day and a Carol Service on December 28th.

As I have said, all these services and events need careful planning well ahead of time if they are to succeed. So why do we moan about our shops using similar strategy? This year in particular many families are having to beat the credit crunch by buying their gifts and food gradually, well ahead of other years, to avoid disappointing their families - children in particular. So I am wondering whether, instead of being irritated by the jingle bells ringing too early in our shops we ought perhaps to be using this time to talk about the coming of Jesus and why it is so important to us - and to those who have never heard of or considered His coming very much?

If nothing else, please can we spare time to pray for all those who are preparing services and events to spread the Good News of Jesus, and for all who will feel the effects of the credit sqeeze most keenly this Christmas.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Cyberspace Seniors, enjoying the benefits of being online

Quite out of the blue, I recently received an email asking me if I would be prepared to answer a few questions about my blogging for an article being written for the United Methodist Recorder, which I imagine to be the American equivalent of our Methodist Recorder. I was also asked if I had a photograph for the article.

Today I have had a message saying "The story is now posted on the Reporter's website: " Not only do I find myself to be quite prominent in the article, which even begins with my name, but my photo is embarrassingly large, too. It is not as if my blog is as intresting as it was in its Modblog days when its comments were filled with the vibrance of youth, with its laughter and tears. I am still missing all those young bloggers who took me to their hearts and turned my blogging into a real ministry. It was a real privilege to be a part of their hopes and dreams and fears - something that I shall treasure always.

With my current blogging, I have made many (mainly Methodist) friends and even met some of them at a bloggers' day or conference, but there is something lacking! We are predominantly people of similar interests and faith and there are few visitors from out there in Cyberspace who have never even heard of Jesus and His church! I want to be in touch with the real cyberspace again where there are people like the 26 year old that a minister doing our disciple course with us last night told us came to her house to do some electrical work and he was completely ignorant of anything to do with the church. He had no idea of what a minister is or what goes on in church. So, I keep asking myself, why don't I switch to Facebook or Beebo? I wish I could define my aversion to these very popular social networks, but it is something intangible. Is it because they seem too public? or too, sort of, commercialised? I don't know yet. I do know that Facebook would take up too much of my time, however interesting and however involved I might get.

I find that I need to discipline myself in my use of time, and especially in blogging and using the Internet, and prioritise in order to achieve all that I feel called or am asked to do. Going online can eat up your time quicker than anything else I know! (For that reason, I recommend it to those who are lonely or live alone, especially in these dark winter evenings.) I keep promising myself to smarten up my blog - with photos, etc, - but so far I have not been able to devote enough time to my blogging. That's interesting! Having written that, I am conscious that if I had still had my young bloggers visiting, I would have MADE the time to do what was necessary to keep their interest! H'mmm.

Saturday, 1 November 2008


Every Roman Catholic worldwide will be urged to have their own Bible and to ‘read and pray’ it. The church’s Synod of Bishops will make the call as 240 bishops conclude their discussions on the role of the Bible in worship and modern life. The synod is expected to publish an eight-page message and to vote on over 50 final propositions. One of these reminds Catholics that the Bible contains the Word of God who speaks to them in the Scriptures. Earlier this week Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Vatican’s ecumenical council, stressed the role of the Bible in working together with other Christians. ‘Nothing else unites the Christian churches and communities like the Bible does," he said.

Sources: The Universe (26/10); (22/10)