As I am about to go away for Christmas, I want to take the opportunity to send my Christmas letter to my many blogging friends who will not have had it by post. God has been good to me this year and I hope that 2009 will be an equally good adventure with Him, both for me and for you.
"Christmas greetings from Caversham. I hope that you and your family are well and looking forward to Christmas and the New Year 2009. I think you’ll agree that 2008 has been a very mixed year, both with the weather and the economy, but I hope that overall it has been a good year for you and that you will manage to escape the worst terrors of the credit crunch in 2009. It looks like being a difficult year ahead for most people but there are many more across the world whose situation is far worse than ours and we remember them as we approach Christmas once more.
I expect to be celebrating Christmas with Tony and Caroline and their family in
Derbyshire. I have enjoyed really good health this year as a result of being asked to take part in a research project to see if taking penicillin VK tablets twice a day for a year would prevent the recurrence of cellulitis. It looks as though I was taking these (and not the placebo) because I’m thankful to have had a whole year free of cellulitis.
I began the year by attending the first ever Methodist Bloggers’ Meeting on 4th and
5th January at the Community for Reconciliation Centre, Barnes Close, near Birmingham,where a small group of us discussed good blogging practice and ways to improve this method of communication. Since I was in that part of the country, I went on to Widnes to spend a couple of days with the widow of one of our former Ministers and we really enjoyed catching up on all our news.
After our annual ecumenical Good Friday March of Witness here, I went north again,
this time to steward for a new venture called the ECG Event (‘A Heart for the Nations’) which was held at Easter (25th-30th March) in Llandudno. This took the place of the former Easter People and, although run by different people – ‘NXT Ministries’, Hope ’08, ‘Youth for Christ’, and ECG – was very similar, especially in regard to the in-depth Bible Studies so popular at ‘Easter People’. A main emphasis at ECG is in catering for the 20s and 30s age group and the provision of events and activities specially geared to their needs and aspirations. For me, ECG was one of the highlights of 2008 and I am eagerly looking forward to the 2009 ECG Event which will also be in Llandudno, on 14th to 19th April 2009 – see www.ecgevent.org.uk.
Another highlight this year was a family gathering at Bethany School in Kent for my great granddaughter Louisa’s first birthday on 10th May, which was much enjoyed by all of us.
Then I went to High Wycombe for the annual Wycliffe Associates Conference on 16th to
18th May where, as always, I was amazed at the amount of work that has been, and
continues to be, undertaken in support of missionaries working overseas. Of the speakers at the Conference, I was most impressed by Heather Patrick who has been doing translation work for Wycliffe Bible Translators in Papua New Guinea.
I went to the Methodist Conference in Scarborough in July where I was glad to be able
to step in to run the MET (Methodist Evangelicals Together) stand in the Exhibition,
which gave me a unique opportunity to meet old friends from far and wide as well as
listening in to the debates when not busy. As well as finding people I knew who were
manning other stands, I found myself opposite a stand run by two people who had been
teachers in the school across the road from me some years ago! It’s a small world!
I spent a week with Tony and family in Derbyshire, when we visited National Trust
Houses and then early September found me travelling north again – this time to Newcastle for the wedding of my great-niece, Nicola, to Neal, a direct descendant of John Wesley! I was met at the station by my nephew, Michael, who also lives in Newcastle, and I was delighted that he first took me along the waterfront to show me the bridges and the buildings on the Gateshead side of the Tyne in which he had been involved in the planning, before he took me home for a meal.
Despite the rain, the wedding was a very exciting occasion – both the ceremony in their local church and the reception in the magnificent Longhurst Hall in Morpeth,
Northumberland. Nicola and Neal are a lovely couple and I found myself thoroughly
enjoying the company of their many friends, who were all calling me ‘Auntie Olive!’
After staying the night at the Hall, we returned to Newcastle for an ‘Open house’ at the bride and groom’s very interesting house, which has only one room on each floor!. My only regret was that I was not able to see more of Nicola’s parents, who were kept busy seeing to the rest of their guests.
From there, my nephew Michael and I did something we have been talking about for ages
and we headed out towards Stanhope and the North Pennines’ National Park, despite the
rain that was so heavy that we were obliged to travel very slowly along the flooded
roads. Then we spent three wonderful days in Upper Teesdale, visiting familiar places from our youth, exploring places we’d only heard of previously and researching our family history. We made two visits each to the two Methodist Chapels that I remembered with such affection from the days of my youth when we had a family concert party and gave concerts there. The former Bowlees Primitive Methodist Chapel is now the Bowlees Tourist Centre, popular because of its proximity to the High Force waterfall and Gibson’s Cave, and the Newbiggin-in-Teesdale Methodist Chapel is very proud to be the oldest Methodist Chapel still in regular use in the world and jealously guards the pulpit from which John Wesley preached. Seeing a sign to Ettersgill, we followed the sign to see where my school friend, Lilian, had hailed from, but no-one remembered her – not surprising since she must have left the area in the early 1940s and then spent many years in Ghana. We visited the site of the Lady Rake Lead Mine where my father had driven an ancient vehicle in his youth – there is a photograph of him in the Beamish Museum – and,
when we went to the farmhouse where my grandfather had farmed, the current farmers
there came out to talk to us about the difficulties of farming today. A memorable trip!
I had two day trips to London (at the end of September and in early October) for a
Christian Bloggers’ Day and for the launch of the 2009 Pentecost Festival.
In September we began the 34-week Disciple 4 course, with participants from 3 Circuits. We are working hard, with quite a lot of homework, but there is such a lot of laughter in the group. The course is called ‘Under the Tree of Life’ and includes the study of the Writings, John and Revelation. I believe we are the only group in the country who have progressed through the other Disciple courses to the Disciple 4 course.
I am a representative on the Churches Together project to carry out Street Evangelism in Caversham, with a Welcome Café in the New Testament Church of God opposite the shopping precinct, but it is proving hard to recruit volunteers at present.
I have continued to proofread translations of Scripture in strange languages for Wycliffe Associates and now I have 1 John and Jude in Achi de Cubulco (a Guatemalan Language) awaiting me when I have finished writing this. I am still a representative to the Circuit Meeting, I prepare Prayer Guidelines each month and I am Media Publicity Director with a lot of work awaiting me in 2009 because of the very full programme of preachers and events arranged for our Centenary Year – see http://cavhmc.org.uk .
I continue to blog on www.octomusings.blogspot.com and I was recently interviewed by
email for an article on ‘post retirement use of the Internet’, which appeared on the front page of the US Methodist Reporter – more because of my age than its content, I guess!
Wishing you a Happy Christmas and every blessing in the New Year."
P.S. Have you read my post entitled 'Letter to a Friend'? Please don't miss it!