Monday, 29 June 2009

Methodist President marks 15th anniversary of Rwandan genocide

Revd Stephen Poxon, President of the Methodist Conference, has joined public figures from around the world in lighting a candle for Rwanda on camera (

‘Candles for Rwanda’ is global initiative marking the 15th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide and helping destitute survivors who still suffer from its consequences 15 years on.

“I want to light a candle of hope, that it may burn brightly for all those Rwandan people who are trying to rebuild their lives,” Stephen says in the film.

Stephen features alongside Desmond Tutu, David Cameron, Clive Owen, Sandra Bullock, Sidney Poitier and Scarlett Johansson in the 100-second film.

Over the course of 100 days from 7 April 1994, around 1 million children, women and men were slaughtered in Rwanda because they were Tutsi. Hutus opposed to the onslaught were also killed. Today, Rwanda is rebuilding and its economy is growing. But thousands of survivors whose homes, means of living, loved ones and communities were taken away from them still suffer the material consequences of the genocide.

“A hundred days of genocide will take many generations to know true healing. And today the stories are still coming out, like the story of Anne-Marie,” says Stephen.

Anne-Marie was widowed, gang-raped and left HIV-positive, her baby killed in her arms during the genocide. Thanks to a little support, today she is able to work and provide a home for her surviving son, Patrick.

“Fifteen years ago the world turned its back on Rwanda, and today, as we light candles of hope, it's an opportunity for the world to turn its face towards Rwanda,” says Stephen. “I'd like to invite all the Methodist people here in Great Britain to light a candle, a candle of hope for Rwanda, that in this small way a light may shine in the darkness.”

The Wolverhampton and Shrewsbury Methodist District, one of the host districts for this year’s Methodist Conference (2-9 July), is linked with PHARP Rwanda, an organisation that works for peace building, healing and reconciliation in Rwanda. For more information, visit

Source: Methodist News Service 29/06/2009

Monday, 22 June 2009

Centenary Celebrations

Caversham Heights Methodist Church has never looked more resplendent than on its Centenary Weekend, 20th to 21st June. The church vestibule was skilfully arranged to display the people and the highlights of the whole of its 100 years’ history since its opening on 23rd June 1909 until and including today. So there was much rejoicing as members and visitors alike recalled happy, and sometimes spectacular, events of times past.

In the church itself there was a Flower Festival, lovingly created by members and friends to present a glorious, breathtaking blend of vibrant colours, which brought great delight to all who came to see it. The ingenuity of the individual window displays showed great talent in flower arranging that is to be admired.

The church hall was full of a variety of different talents, from cross-stitch to needlework, paintings to photography and many more. Here again, the wealth of talent on display was outstanding and it was good to have time to enjoy it in full as the whole display was open to the public from 10am to 4pm on the Saturday and again after the morning service on the Sunday.

There was a steady stream of visitors all day on the Saturday and it was good to welcome back many friends from former years. Whole families came together for the occasion and it was lovely to see groups of former Squash members, former collectors for the JMA (Junior Missionary Association), and former members of the Network Women’s Fellowship renewing friendships and catching up with their news.

On the Sunday it was exciting to have to queue up to get into the church service at which the visiting preacher was former Minister the Revd the Lord Leslie Griffiths of Pembrey and Burry Port. There was not a single spare seat as Leslie preached with his unique blend of humour and spiritual challenge. He recalled the celebration in Caversham Court on the occasion of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee‘, as well as several humorous events in the life of the church. He said that the DNA of the church is ‘Thou shalt love the lord thy God with all thy heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and love your neighbour as yourself.’ He continued, “It is time to unpack that loving God means loving him with your whole self, not just by cheque, and loving your neighbour means who needs you, needs you now and needs you most. If we can’t love our neighbours whom we can see, how can we love God whom we cannot see,” He extolled good preaching and the importance of having the Eucharist in the main church service. Reminding everyone that decade after decade, loving God and loving our neighbour show a love that knows no cost, and now we must go forward to the next 100 years or there will be nothing for others to celebrate. “The church is like a big ship waiting to be launched. Now the adventure begins. God bless you and all who sail in you.”

At the end of the service, the Centenary cake was cut by one of the oldest members of the church, Myrtle Moorey, and one of the youngest and most regular members of the Sunday School, Lucy Dawson. Then this truly wonderful weekend ended with a very happy and delicious hog roast lunch for all the church family in the garden of two members of the church.

[Photographs by the getreading Newspaper (top right and centre), and Peter Bean.]

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Bouquets and brickbats for Fresh Expressions

A new book promoting a raft of alternative worship ideas has been backed by the Archbishop of Canterbury and slated by traditionalists. The materials have been piloted by congregations belonging to the Fresh Expressions partnership between the Church of England and Methodist Church. They range from services including physical activity and symbolic actions, ‘U2charists’ employing songs by the Irish rock band, and ancient prayers set to ambient dance music. Rt Revd Graham Cray, the Fresh Expressions leader, said ‘It is important to offers spirituality to people who are offered a multi-choice lifestyle and think the last place they’ll find it is in church’. But Revd David Houlding, prebendary at St Paul’s Cathedral, dismissed the idea as ‘a passing fad, irrelevant, shallow and pointless’. Despite its critics, Fresh Expressions has just signed up the United Reformed Church as a third partner and has also expanded into Canada.

Source: Daily Telegraph (13/6); United Reformed Church (June 09)

Friday, 19 June 2009

Tsvangirai will appeal for refugees to return to Zimbabwe

The new Prime Minister of Zimbabwe will use a two-hour address at Southwark Cathedral on Sunday afternoon to urge fellow Zimbabweans to return to rebuild their shattered country. Morgan Tsvangirai is on a three-week tour to boost financial investment in Zimbabwe and political support for his party, the Movement for Democratic Change. Colin Slee, the Dean of Southwark, said the MDC leader will tell Zimbabwean refugees here to ‘please choose your moment and come home to Zimbabwe to help rebuild your country’.

Source: The Times (17/6)

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Dazzling and inspirational Methodist Art Collection now online

A masculine Christ, a radiating Abel eyed by a simmering Cain and a floating vision of a dove are just a few of the works of art now online in the Methodist Art Collection:

Art lovers have already been inspired by the Collection, which began in the 1960s following the enthusiasm of Methodists Dr John Gibbs and Revd Douglas Wollen and the help of a charitable fund. It includes more than 40 works by Graham Sutherland, Elisabeth Frink and many other renowned artists from William Roberts’s ‘The Crucifixion’ in the early 1920s to Ghislaine Howard’s 2004 ‘The washing of the Feet’. The modern creative expressions of Christian faith come alive through a range of materials; from oil through to tempera and gouache, acrylic through to aluminium.

Toby Scott, Director of Communications and Campaigns, said: “The touring Collection is often on display, but its online debut makes it available to everyone at any one time. The works challenge the way we think of God, and how we visualise Jesus. Religious art has been at a cornerstone of western art for centuries, but these works of art continue to find new ways to depict the divine. The website is a delight for art lovers and anyone seeking a different way to think about faith.”

Most of the online works are accompanied by commentaries, either from the artists themselves or by art critic Francis Hoyland.

David Webster, Internet Communications Coordinator, said: “This is a great new resource for people, whether Christian or not. Looking at the images in the art collection is an exciting way to reflect on the Christian message. Now they are accessible online this will also make more people aware of the Collection and, hopefully, inspire them to visit the touring exhibition.”

Information on the work and on the artist can be found, together with a relevant Bible passage, in 'The Methodist Church Collection of Modern Christian Art: An Introduction' by Roger Wollen, published in 2000 by the Trustees of the Collection (ISBN 0-9538135-0-9). In full colour, it is obtainable at £3.50 from Methodist Publishing

Source; Methodist News Service 18/06/2009

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Commendation and Commital BEFORE Cremation?

Since there appear to have been few visitors to my blog since I wrote about my cousin's Thanksgiiving Service, I am trying again to see if I can get a response to my one area of concern, and I am therefore repeating the particular paragraph today.

"I found it strange that the commendation and committal took place during the church service, before the final hymn ‘Love Divine, all loves excelling’ and that the coffin then went off to the crematorium in Harrogate without any family and not even the Minister! I was told that this was the usual practice in Ripon because of the distance between Ripon and the crematorium, but what happens when the deceased has no church connection and the family would not be happy with a church service like the one we had? Surely, they must go to the crematorium?"

Can any Ministers in rural areas tell me of the normal practice where their church is several miles away from the crematorium and whether the practice I describe is normal in their area, please? If Jackie had been a much closer relative, this could have been most distressing for us all. As it was, it just seemed a rather undignified way of ending the service and our connection with our cousin.

Back home here, one friend suggested that this practice could be 'illegal' and another suggested that I write to the Methodist Recorder to express my feelings about this strange procedure, but I prefer to air the subject in the Methoblogosphere. Perhaps this IS normal procedure in rural areas and we are just fortunate here to be able to choose either to have the whole Service at the Crematorium or, as we did when my husband died, to have a short service at the crematorium followed by a Thanksgiving Service in our church.

Friday, 12 June 2009

Methodist Conference comes to Wolverhampton

The Methodist Conference will meet in Wolverhampton this July. The Conference is the governing body of the Methodist Church and is also a festival of celebration, worship and friendship.

More than 300 representatives from across British Methodism will gather at the Civic Hall from July 2 to 9, as well as hundreds of visitors. New Methodist ministers will be ordained in a two-part ceremony and then at services across the Midlands.

The Conference will also celebrate new President, the Revd David Gamble, and Vice-President, Dr Richard Vautrey, at the start of their year in office. The ceremonial swearing-in of President and Vice-President will open the main Conference on the afternoon of July 4.

Debates on climate change, young people and leadership and ethical investment are on the Conference agenda.

The Methodist Media Service will run a full press office for the duration of Conference. Journalists wishing to attend for some or all of Conference should contact Anna Drew or Karen Burke.

There will be two ISDN-equipped radio studios for broadcast interviews throughout the week. Audio from the Conference sessions will be streamed live in partnership with Premier Media Group ( and will later be available on the Methodist Web Radio page ( A twitter feed and a daily blog update will also be available.

There is great excitement here in Caversham because our Deacon, Becky Bawden, is one of the 64 Ministers to be ordained at this year's Methodist Conference.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Churches Concerned as BNP makes Election Gains

Churches’ steadfast message: God loves all, racism is a ‘sin’

Disappointment and concern have been expressed by Christians following gains made by the British National Party (BNP) in last week’s European Parliament Elections.

In elections held last Thursday, the BNP won two seats in the European Parliament and three seats in local councils around the UK.

Rachel Lampard, Public Issues Policy Adviser for the Methodist Church, said, “The limited success of the BNP does not change our steadfast message: God loves all. Racism is a sin. The campaigning work of the churches and other grass-roots organisations has helped to highlight the need for people to vote positively, especially at a time when public confidence in politics has been shaken.”

Many commentators predicted success for the BNP due to low voter turnout and the political scandals of recent weeks. However, the gains were nowhere near as great as the BNP themselves predicted.

Revd Graham Sparkes, Head of Faith and Unity for the Baptist Union of Great Britain, added; “It’s deeply disappointing that we now have a racist party representing Britain in Europe for the next five years and it is vital that our remaining UK representatives dedicate themselves to promote the common good.”

Secretary for Church and Society for the United Reformed Church, Frank Kantor, said; “We must never become comfortable with the BNP using their position to promote their racist policies. We will continue to counter their messages of hatred and fear.”

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Faith schools the key to civic renewal

British society is much the stronger for the values generated by faith-based schools, the new Archbishop of Westminster has said. Archbishop Vincent Nichols took aim at education that was primarily results-driven and neglected children’s ‘innate spirituality’. He said, ‘There are plenty of indicators’ that British society needs the nurturing of ‘virtues and a sense of civil responsibility’ that Catholic and other faith schools provide. Archbishop Nichols defended the values-based education of religious schools, saying they are ‘upfront, overt and very reasoned’ about their values, ‘whereas … those that claim to be neutral are covert in the values they present’.

Source: Daily Telegraph (4/6)

Friday, 5 June 2009

London gets taste of Pentecost

An estimated 10,000 people took part in the Pentecost Festival in central London last weekend. Live music, dance, comedy, theatre, political and scientific debates and art shows featured at locations including Leicester Square and the Victoria Embankment. Director Andy Frost said the festival made ‘a significant impression’ on the city. It succeeded in showing ‘the vibrancy, diversity, life and relevance of the Church’, he believed. ‘Many people who have no Christian faith were inspired, challenged and received prayer.’

Sources: Methodist Recorder (4/6); Baptist Times (4/6)

Thursday, 4 June 2009

My Cousin's Thanksgiving Service

After an early start and a long journey last Friday, I was met at Harrogate Station by my nephew, Michael, who had picked up his cousin, my niece Anne, en route and we were met at the Methodist Church in Ripon by Anne’s husband and a third cousin, John and his new fiancĂ©e for the Thanksgiving Service for the life of my cousin John Baul, whom everyone knew affectionately as Jackie.

Since he was quite a character, we had been afraid that we would probably make up most of the congregation, so it was a pleasant surprise to find that the church was half full. We knew that his Minister and his pastoral visitor were both abroad and had sent messages.

The service was very caringly conducted by the Revd Susan Richardson, who welcomed all present saying, “Some of you have come because you were at Ripon Grammar School with Jackie, or you knew him in the photography Club, or from Ripon Cathedral or, not least, from this church. I’m told he used to enjoy the coffee mornings and the Wesley Guild, where he was not afraid to ask strange questions.

After ‘Guide me, O thou great Jehovah’, Scripture readings and ‘The Lord’s my Shepherd’ (to Crimond), Jackie’s cousin’s son John (my nephew) delivered this affectionate eulogy –

"John Robertson Baul (Jackie) was born on the 15th of November 1924. I believe at Straw House on the farm his parents ran.

I have many memories of Straw House. Auntie Ella, Jackie’s mother, was a wonderfully gentle slight lady with the most incredibly cold hands, and wonderfully warm heart. She used to cup my face in those hands every time we visited. I can still remember quite clearly closing my eyes waiting for those hands on my cheeks.

His father John, was a large strong man who was never still, & always had a job to do somewhere on the farm.

However, it is not my intention to go through family history, as there are those present who know far more than I. I simply want to recount some fond memories of this extraordinary character. Yes, Jackie was a certainly that. A character.

I never saw Jackie much on my visits to Straw House, but those occasions always left an indelible impression. I must have been about eight or nine years old, the first time I really came face to face with him. He examined me closely with a thoughtful expression & than said ‘Can you tell the difference between a Heinkel & a Dornier!’

For those who don’t know, as I didn’t then, these were Second World War German bombers. He promptly gave me a Penguin aircraft recognition hand book, so I could do my homework. I still have it. I do believe I was actually supposed to return it. I suppose it’s a bit late now!

It was a few years before I saw him again, but he was just as forthright in his approach. Those who knew him will know of his passion for Meccano. Hence his next question was ‘Do you know how to make a catapult out of Meccano?’ Well, I didn’t. But I soon found out how. Would you believe I also still have that as well! The rubber band has perished but this is the catapult!

Jackie then passed fleetingly in and out of my life for many years. It was just before my marriage to Sue that we met again. I went to see them with her and was invited to tea. Aunt Ella looked frail but bright. Jackie said ‘Do you want to go for a walk before tea?’ I didn’t think it was a bad idea. A short stroll down to the pub & back before tea would be fine. Sue was up for it.

FIVE hours later on our return from circumnavigating the county, we returned. Sue and I were exhausted. ‘Do you want some tea now’ asked Aunt Ella. ‘Only if I can soak my feet in it!’ was my not too charitable response.

As we all know now, Jackie liked to walk. Not just little walks but some lasting days - or even weeks!

He was indeed a free spirit, as those who met him and knew him understood only too well. So his recent existence, confined to his bed must have been most terrible for him.

At last his spirit is free, and can now soar along those lanes and highways of his youth for eternity. I just hope when he asks St Peter to let him out of the gates for a walk, St Peter understands that he won’t be back any time soon!"

I think I should say at this point that, in the family, we now think that Jackie was probably suffering all his life from the Asperger's Syndrome form of autism which, of course, would not have been diagnosed 80 years ago. It's a bit late now, but it would explain his somewhat strange behaviour combined with a very high intelligence.

I found it strange that the commendation and committal took place during the church service, before the final hymn ‘Love Divine, all loves excelling’ and that the coffin then went off to the crematorium in Harrogate without any family and not even the Minister! I was told that this was the usual practice in Ripon because of the distance between Ripon and the crematorium, but what happens when the deceased has no church connection and the family would not be happy with a church service like the one we had? Surely, they must go to the crematorium?

After the service everyone was invited to the Spa Hotel for light refreshments and conversation. Having lived so far away for so many years, it was good to hear the stories of Jackie from the church people, which included that after walking all day he would turn up to a dance in his Wellington boots and proceed to dance in them! We are very grateful for the care that the church folk gave to him in his old age.

As often happens, after a lapse of many years, the next generation of cousins (my late brothers’ and sisters’ children) were so delighted to be meeting each other again, that they are now planning a big family get-together – and there is also the wedding of John to Annaliese in February to look forward to! It is so good that a few years after the death of both their spouses these two families will join together to find new happiness. The wedding is planned for February so that it will not interfere with the exams that Annaliese’s two boys are currently facing.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Bishop Crispian sets a Challenge

As a continuing part of our celebrations at Caversham Heights Methodist Church in this our centenary year we were honoured on 24th May by a visit of a distinguished Roman Catholic prelate and theologian the Rt.Revd Crispian Hollis, R.C. Bishop of Portsmouth.

The service was led by the Revd Dr. John Ogden who warmly welcomed the Bishop “over the river”. (Bishop Crispian’s diocese ends at the River Thames!) and the large congregation sang the hymns with gusto, ably led by organist Margaret Bensley.

Bishop Crispian started his sermon with happy recollections of his association with the Revd Tom Stuckey (past Superintendent minister of Reading and Silchester Circuit and former President of Conference) and took as his texts Acts 1 vv 1-11 “The beginnings of the church”and Luke 24 vv 44-53 “Understanding the scriptures” - in other words “Pentecost” - the birth of the church - then and now,

In his sermon Bishop Crispian said that Caversham Heights is now! But he asked what of the future? Drawing from the past but looking to the future, its current witness is important - but what of the future?

Do we have the folk to witness? Are we in a regenerative age? Do we have a common hope? Do we have the gift of the regenerative or Pentecost Spirit? Is this the coming of age or a challenge to move forward? i.e. Renewal?

A challenge indeed not just for us in Caversham but all our fellow Christians throughout the World.