Friday, 31 July 2009

Tiny church wins £10,000 survival prize

An Anglican church attended by just 22 people has won a £10,000 award to help it continue to exist. St Andrew's Church in South Warnborough in Hampshire has won the Country Life magazine Village Church for Village Life Award. The 12th century church was in poor condition until the church asked for help from the South Warnborough Gentlemen's Working Club. The Club has supervised a complete transformation which means it is now fit to host community events and concerts. The pews were removed, better lighting installed and a kitchen and disabled toilet added. The Country Life award was set up by Sir Roy Strong, former director of the National Portrait Gallery, to tackle the decline of historic rural churches.

Source: Daily Telegraph (29/7)

Baroness believes it’s time for Christians to get into politics

A former deputy speaker of the House of Lords says now is a good time for Christians to consider a political career. Human rights campaigner Baroness Caroline Cox believes this post-expenses scandal era is ‘an even better time for young Christians to go into politics to make a difference’. Speaking at this year’s Keswick Convention, the Baroness told her Christian audience that the current low reputation of politics is ‘all the more reason to go into it and change it’. But she cautioned against students going straight into politics without having some other work and life experience first: ‘One of the problems with some of our politicians is that they have never done anything else but politics.’

Source: (29/7)

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Bible Study Courses

I was a bit disappointed that no-one commented on my report that our Circuit Disciple group had completed our study of the Disciple 4 course, especially as I believe we are probably the first group in the UK to have done so. This is probably because I mentioned it in my post on our Circuit Farewell Service. It could also be because of the current difficulties being experienced by the Methodist Publishing House that necessitates all study materials having to be ordered direct from Cokesbury in America via the Disciple website

However, I want to draw attention to the tremendous benefits that come from the study of the Disciple Courses - in discipline, in fellowship and, most of all, in personal transformation as we all walk closer with Jesus. It seems very daunting at first to commit to spending 34 weeks in in-depth Bible study (for the Disciple 1 course means covering most of the Bible in nine months), but all who make this commitment speak enthusiastically of the experience. Personally, I found the Disciple 2 course to have the deepest, most lasting effect on my Christian journey, though each course added to the others.

So I would urge you to seriously consider committing yourselves to a Disciple course this year. When a number of members in the same church commit themselves in this way, the effect on the church is quite extraordinary.

But if you really and truly feel that such a long commitment is not for you, please consider whether your house group could follow one of the six short Disciple courses that are now available, covering 8, 10 or 11 weeks. The titles of these are -

Invitation to Psalms
Invitation to John
Invitation to the New Testament
Invitation to the Old Testament
Invitation to Genesis
Invitation to Romans

Also I was surprised to find that after Disciple 4, they list two further 30-week courses -

Jesus in the Gospels and

Christian Believer

I am excited to read about 'Christian Believer' on the Disciple website because it looks to me as though this study could revitalise a church if enough people could be signed up to discover what it is we Christians really believe!

If you are alone in wanting to take a Disciple course, I have good news for you! I understand that, just as blogging and Facebook can form groups of friends, it is now posible to become part of an on-line Disciple group! So do make enquiries about this, if you think this is the way in for you.

Finally, I heard a whisper that our Connexional Team are about to resurrect the resourcing of Disciple courses in the UK. I do hope and pray that this is more than a rumour because the Disciple courses are such a powerful tool to enable earnest, committed Christians to grow. Over to you!

Local churches the ‘key’ to international development

The Church is ‘an essential partner in delivering sustainable development at the heart of the world’s poorest communities,’ a new paper claims. The Tearfund document In the Thick of It appeals to governments and international donors to develop strategies to work with faith groups, recognising that ‘in some places development simply would not happen without the local church’. The paper assembles a substantial body of evidence gained from the agency’s 40-year experience. Tearfund’s chief executive, Matthew Frost, said governments should ‘harness the unique position of church-based organisations’ to give people in poor communities ‘a greater say about decisions that impact their livelihoods and wellbeing’.

Source: Baptist Times (23/7)

Friday, 24 July 2009

Chalice withdrawn as swine flu precaution

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have written to their 16,000 clergy asking them not to share the chalice at Holy Communion as a precaution against swine flu. The withdrawal of the cup from which Anglican communicants sip wine during the service is unprecedented. The measure was not taken even during the great plague in the 17th century. The Archbishops are advising ministers to wash their hands before presiding at Communion and dip Communion bread or wafers in the chalice rather than offer a shared cup. The guidance follows Department of Health advice warning against common vessels for food and drink.

Sources: The Times (24/7); Daily Telegraph (24/7)

Christians urged to pray as Church leaders arrested in Fiji

The British Methodist Church is calling on Christians to pray for the Methodist Church in Fiji following the arrests of seven Church leaders by Fiji’s military government.

Earlier this week the church leaders, including the general secretary and two former Presidents, were arrested and held for questioning in relation to the Church’s annual Conference, scheduled in August. The government has banned the Conference from taking place, concerned that the Church’s discussions will be politically focused. Those arrested include the General Secretary of the Church, Revd Tuikilakila Waqairatu, the Church’s Finance Secretary, Viliame Gonelevu and two former Presidents of the Church, Revd Manasa Lasaro and Revd Tomasi Kanailagi. Revd Tomasi was a senator in the previous government.

Christine Elliott, Secretary for External Relationships for the Methodist Church in Britain, said; “It is clear that Colonel Frank Bainimarama is making a strong statement about who is in power. The Methodist Church is the largest faith group in Fiji, holds a significant amount of power amongst the people and has considerable influence over voters. The leadership of the Church is determined to stand against the government and has lobbied the UN regarding religious freedom and human rights.

“It is important that we hold our brothers and sisters in Fiji, their government and all in the islands in our prayers during these challenging times.”

The government’s action effectively ensures that the Conference will not go ahead even if the Church excludes the two former Presidents and agrees to refrain from any political discussions. The Methodist Church is the largest faith group in Fiji and Church leaders have insisted that the Conference will take place regardless of the ban. The ministers were treated well, have now all been released on conditional bail and are required to surrender their travel documents.

Prayer for Fiji

od of power and strength,
You make foolish the wisdom of this world.
You call upon us to find your strength in our weakness.
You offer us your guidance when all is in confusion.

We ask your protection and guidance for Church leaders in Fiji,
Your wisdom for the Fijian Government,
Your peace and stability for the people of Fiji.


Source: Methodist News Service 24/07/09

Methodist minister offers spiritual nourishment from the fourth plinth

A Methodist minister will be offering visitors to Trafalgar Square a touch of midweek spirituality as he leads a worship service from the fourth plinth, alongside Nelson’s Column and the imposing facade of the National Gallery.

From 9-10am on Tuesday 28 July, Revd Ken Chalmers, from Castle Cary in Somerset, will offer spiritual reflections and worship to gathering friends, tourists and other visitors to the Square. Visitors will also will hear Bible readings and worship songs and share Holy Communion, administered from the base of the plinth by Revd Martin Turner.

Explaining why he chose to use his hour in this way, Ken said; “Art and symbolism have always been used to express the Christian faith and I want my hour on the plinth to focus on spiritual reflection. Many people have come to Trafalgar square to feed the pigeons, but perhaps we can offer our human visitors a bit of spiritual food for an hour this Tuesday.”

Those who can’t make it to Trafalgar Square needn’t miss out completely – they can join in by visiting, to watch the plinth live.

Ken is one of 2,400 people who will appear on the fourth plinth between 6 July and 14October 2009, picked from more than 28,000 applicants for sculptor Anthony Gormley’s One and Other project. Gormley is asking the people of the UK to occupy the empty fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square. Every hour, 24 hours a day, for 100 days without a break, a different person will make the plinth their own.

Source: Methodist news Service 24/07/09

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Farewell Party

A joint Farewell Party for Rev’d Dermot Thornberry and his wife Charlene – was held on Friday 17th July - by Caversham Methodist Church, Gosbrook Road and Caversham Heights Methodist Church in the hall at Caversham Heights.

About 100 people from both churches assembled to say farewell. A sumptuous buffet supper was prepared by members of both churches and, judging by the empty plates, it was enjoyed by all!

Following supper Eunice Cooper, Senior Church Steward at Gosbrook Road, and Viv Emerson, Senior Church Steward at Caversham Heights, both made speeches of appreciation and presented gifts to Dermot and Charlene.

The evening concluded with a time of fellowship.

We wish Dermot and Charlene every blessing for their move to pastures new in Paignton, Devon, where Dermot will take up his appointment from the 1st September.

Janet Offord
Church Steward at Caversham Heights

Farewell and Thank you

Once again we have reached that time in the Methodist year when we must say
‘Farewell’ to some of our Ministers and Deacons, so our church was packed for the Circuit Farewell Service. The Superintendent Minister, the Revd David Ellis, excelled himself as he preached at length on ‘Journeyings’, highlighting that journeys can begin at any age – Abram’s began at seventy-five – and can go in many different and unexpected directions as the Holy Spirit directs. In particular, David emphasised that the Holy Spirit rarely lets us stand still, moving us on just when we think we have reached our destination.

The Caversham Heights Choir sang the setting of the 23rd Psalm by Howard Goodall (aka the theme tune to The Vicar of Dibley), which had been specially requested.

During the service, certificates and badges were presented to 12 people who had completed studying the 34-week Disciple 4 course together, having previously studied the three other 34-week Disciple courses. This group included 3 from the Slough Circuit, 3 from the two Caversham churches, 5 from different churches in the Reading and Silchester Circuit and the Revd Valerie Fisher.

There was much applause for the next presentation, which was a certificate in recognition of his 50 years as a Local Preacher, to Professor Sir John Marsh, as we all showed our appreciation of his faithful preaching.

Then our Superintendent invited us to rejoice in the news that Chris Evans, who had been our Youth and Evangelism Lay Worker in Caversham for three years and has since been living and working in the Burghfield area of the Circuit, will become a Probationer Minister in our Circuit in September 2010; also that Andrew Wigley and his wife Judy had both been accepted as candidates for the Ministry – Andrew for the Methodist Presbytery and Judy for the Anglican Ministry. Again, there was loud applause.

The service concluded with the Farewells to the ministers who are moving on, with speeches by the Circuit Stewards and the Ministers concerned. So we said farewell to Deacon Maggie Blake who has steered our new Emmanuel Church through difficult times and is now moving to the Wokingham Circuit; and to the Revd Dermot Thornberry who, with his wife Charlene, will move from Caversham (where he has had charge of both Churches and has served as Chair of Churches Together in Caversham, as well as caring for the Silchester Church in the South of the Circuit) to Paignton in Devon. A special Thank you, instead of Farewell, was extended to the Revd Dr. John Ogden, who at the age of 70 is ‘sitting down’, though he will not be leaving the Circuit and is hoping to continue to serve the Circuit while living life at a more leisurely pace.

The rousing hymn ‘This, this is the God we adore’ concluded this very inspiring service and the Farewells continued with refreshments in the Hall for the folk from this very large Circuit.

All photos by Owen Jewiss

Monday, 20 July 2009

The Geek Shall Inherit the Church!

It gives me great pleasure to introduce you to the first Christian Web and New Media Awards advert, made by geeks for geeks.which can be found at

It's a bit of light fun that we hope will encourage others to share what the awards are about - recognising those who use technology to share the Christian message.

I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I did!



A Black Theology exploration of what it means to be a person in a Black skin

The aim of this conference is to explore what it means to be a Black human being. How do we interpret, theologically, the meaning of being born into a Black skin? Black theologians have long wrestled with the meaning of Blackness and what it means to be a Black human being. The continuum of Black theological thought runs from essentialised forms of Black Christian nationalism from the likes of Marcus Garvey and later, Albert Cleage, through anti-essentialist and postmodern critiques emanating from the likes of Victor Anderson and Anthony Pinn. For some, we can only understand our humanity by means of our Blackness, for others, Blackness is a second order category that supplements the more universal attributes for understanding what it means to be human. The latest thinking on this issue, in the context of Black theology, is perhaps to be found in Dwight Hopkins Being Human: Race, Culture and Religion (Minneapolis: Fortress press, 2005). But he is African American – so what is our take on this!

The framework for the conference will be similar to last year, in that we will be featuring 5 papers over the two days. By having only 5 papers, presenters will have ample time (45 minutes) to talk to their work. This will be followed by an equal amount of time for creative and challenging conversation from conference participants.

This is very short notice, as bookings should ideally be made today. There is still time if you visit Black Theology Conference at Queen's Foundation where you will find details of the programme.

Source: Methodist News Service 20/07/09

Friday, 17 July 2009

Methodists take a lead in discovering the nation’s Biblical literacy

A Methodist supported biblical literacy study has made headlines around the world.
The National Biblical Literacy Study 2009, which found that knowledge of the Bible is declining with fewer than one in 20 people able to name all the 10 commandments, received two-thirds of its £22,000 funding from the Connexional Team and Methodist related trusts CTVC, the Gibbs family Trust and the Rank Trust.

Seven of the nine churches used as locations for interviewing more than 900 people from faith and non-faith backgrounds were Methodist Churches in Newcastle, Mumbles, Redditch (joint Methodist/URC) Lewisham, Hornchurch, Poole and Sutton.

The project was initiated by Revd Brian D Brown, a Methodist minister and Fellow in Media and Communication at St John’s College, Durham University, and Revd Jonathan Kerry, also a Methodist minister and Director of the Guy Chester Centre in Muswell Hill, London.

Brian worked with Revd Dr David Wilkinson, Methodist Principal of St John’s College, to establish the Centre for Biblical Literacy at St John’s College, Durham University in September 2006 with the help of a grant from the Rank Trust.

Brian said: “The study happened to hit at the right time and we are extremely pleased that there has been so much interest in it. The Church needs this information and needs it now. The Methodist Church saw what we were doing as important.

“I am particularly grateful for the support we have received from the people in the Connexion. Everyone has been very supportive at the grassroots level.”

The project’s research team also included Brian’s son Dr Paul Brown, lecturer and researcher in mathematics at Birkbeck College London.

Jonathan said: “The results confirmed our impression that there is a small residual awareness of the Bible among people in Britain, but the level of real knowledge is quite low.”

The survey brought to light the fact that 33 per cent of the under-45s interviewed could not name anything about the Feeding of the 5,000 compared to 12 per cent of over-45s.

More positive findings showed that 75 per cent of the interviewees owned a bible and significantly high numbers of them knew central facts about the crucifixion and resurrection stories which are at the heart of the Christian faith.

Methodist minister Revd Dr Peter Phillips has now taken on the baton from Rev Brian Brown and heads up the Centre for Biblical Literacy at St John’s College, Durham University, which is part of a larger research institute, Communication in the Digital Environment (CODEC). The Centre will use the data for further research over the next four years.

At the Methodist Conference, Peter seconded a successful notice of motion calling Methodists to make 2011 a year of the Bible. The motion proposed by Rev Ashley Cooper of Swan Bank Methodist Church called for a celebration and promotion of the Bible’s impact on British culture alongside the Evangelical Alliance's BibleFresh initiative.

Source: Methodist News Service 17/07/09

, Further to my post 'Only ten per cent of Britons know the Bible', I am very glad to be able to enlarge on this story that has evolved from Methodist research I feel I must also link it with what the President-Designate the Revd Alison Tomlin said about the Year of the Bible in my post 'Methodist Church elects President-Designate and Vice-President-Designate'
. There are exciting times ahead for the people called Methodists.

City Bed and Breakfast

Now that I’ve caught up on much of the backlog of work that piled up while I was away for 10 days, I can write about my experiences at Conference and elsewhere.

When Conference last met at Wolverhampton, I was a District delegate and our District delegation were lodged right out at Edgbaston, which meant a great deal of travelling to and fro. So, this time, as I’d been asked to look after the MET (Methodist Evangelicals Together) stand in the Exhibition area, I determined that I would find somewhere much nearer to stay. However, there are not many B & Bs in Wolverhampton itself, so I didn’t have much choice. I ended up by booking with the Wheatsheaf Inn, even though I knew it was next door to a Night Club and the landlady said that they no longer do breakfasts! She added that she thought either she or her sister could bring me some cereal and toast to my room. It was just the right walking distance from the Civic Hall where the Conference was held, so I decided to risk it.

When my taxi drew up at its door, I really wondered if I’d been very foolish but I went past the small, dark, noisy bar on the right and found a warm welcome from the landlady. She was joined in my room, up two flights of stairs, by her sister, and the two of them made a great fuss of me. It was very funny watching the two of them falling over each other, both trying to make me a cup of coffee and I couldn’t help myself saying, ‘Are you sure you aren’t going to drink it for me as well?’ They said that they had lost their own mother and so they wanted to look after me. What more could I want?

But I soon found that living in a city centre has its drawbacks! Opposite my bedroom window was a bus lane and a bus stop, so the buses came incessantly from early morning to late at night an usually with four buses nose to tail. And what noisy buses they were! Here in Reading our buses are run on bio-ethanol and are quieter than the cars! Outside my Wolverhampton B & B there was a constant loud Psss! Grrr! Psss! Grrr! Psss! Grrr! Psss! Grrr! And the street cleaning vehicle at a very early hour was even worse! On the other side of the street, under my bedroom window, there was a black taxi rank! Well-chosen accommodation indeed!

However, it was just the right walking distance for me, through the shopping centre which was kept very clean and made a pleasant walk, so I decided to give it a try. The first night was the hottest night of the year and I slept little and heard the noisy nightclub revellers, but I certainly rested. I gathered that nobody slept well on that hot first night and some who were lodged at the Premier Inn, also next toa Night club, changed hotels the next day! However, on the second day, I returned at about 6.30pm and lay on my bed, fully clothed to watch the tennis on TV. By the TV programmes, I judged that I went to sleep at about 9pm and wakened up at 11.55pm, when I undressed and slept again until 7am. I never heard the Nightclub at all, nor on subsequent nights – only the buses! And the two ladies fussed over my every need, including getting the car out one morning to save me walking in the rain. So I was well satisfied!

The Mysteries

The Olivier Award-winning South African company whose critically-acclaimed production of The Magic Flute thrilled London in 2008, returns to the West End with their triumphant new production of The Mysteries.

From the Creation to the Resurrection through Noah's Ark and the Nativity, some of the greatest stories ever told are brought to life in this vibrant spectacle of music, dance, colour and spirit. First seen in 2001 in two sell-out London seasons at Wilton's Music Hall and the Queen's Theatre, The Mysteries now returns to the West End in a new production for 25 performances only.

This uplifting and passionate production is a moving and inspiring experience for all – DON'T MISS IT!

11 Sept — 3 Oct – Three weeks only!

BOOK NOW on 0844 412 4662
or online at

Tickets: £20 – £45

Performance times:
Mon — Sat at 7.30pm;
Thurs & Sat at 2.30pm

GARRICK THEATRE, Charing Cross Road, WC2H 0HH

Thursday, 16 July 2009

A Blogging Treat!

If you haven't done so already, please visit the President and Vice-President's blog
President and
Vice-President's blog
because from the day of their induction our new President David and Vice-President Richard have been assiduously blogging about all their experiences. It makes exceptionally good reading - but you will need time if you start right at the beginning. We are all going to enjoy their blogging if they keep up this high standard.

'Thought for the Day'

The General Secretary of the Methodist Church has responded to the BBC Trust consideration of a non-religious Thought For The Day on Radio 4.

Martyn Atkins, General Secretary of the Methodist Church, said: “Faith-based communities have a distinctive voice, and large numbers of people listen to Thought For The Day for that very reason, so I would be saddened to lose those crucial few minutes of spiritual reflection. I recognise, however, that faith-based communities do not have a monopoly on ‘thoughts’!

“The BBC as a public broadcaster has a challenge to represent a variety of views in society, and it is important that this slot remains available as a pause to reflect on spiritual or ethical issues. Sometimes it serves to reassure, sometimes to challenge, but it is a vital space in the middle of a busy news programme.

“Methodists are not afraid to be challenged about what we believe, and we are not threatened by hearing secular voices on Thought for the Day. But we, along with other Christians, will hope to continue to be given opportunity to speak of the things that matter so deeply to us.”

Source: Methodist News Service 16/07/09

Young Methodists challenge Church to broaden its horizons

Young people have highlighted ways in which churches can be more open and accessible to all, regardless of age or sexuality.

Young Methodists have asked the 2009 Methodist Conference in Wolverhampton to train preachers in leading services which can speak to young people in ways relevant to their lives. The Conference welcomed the Youth Conference’s report and committed itself to making funding available for such training.

Sarah Malik, Youth Conference President, said: “Being able to relate to young people is quite a skill and so it should be part of preacher training. Young people have needs in worship and this resolution is about young people being valued and recognised by the Church.”

The report also requested that vocational programmes could be aimed at young people to equip them for ordained and lay ministry in the Church.

“The vocational programmes are already open to everyone but they are quite specific and a lot of people attempt them but don’t finish them,” said Sarah. “If they become more accessible to young people then they will be more accessible to everyone.”

Young Methodists also asked the Conference to help resource conversations among church leaders and congregations on the 1993 Resolutions on Human Sexuality, which emphasise that the Church is open to everyone, regardless of sexuality.

Sarah said: “It has not been the reality for all young people that churches have been open to people of all sexualities. Young people want to be able to raise these issues and talk about them with their ministers and pastors, but many feel that they aren’t able to.”

The Youth Conference report to Conference informed members that human sexuality had been an important item of its business this year.

Source: Methodist News Service 08/07/09

MRDF goes bananas at Methodist Conference!

The newly inducted president and vice-president of Conference cut a giant banana cake to mark the official launch of Methodist Relief and Development Fund's new harvest resource, Enriching Harvest, at Methodist Conference in Wolverhampton.

The banana theme reflects the work that MRDF is doing in India, which is the focus of this year’s harvest pack. With MRDF support, Dalit communities are transforming once barren land into fruitful fields. Gangi (pictured) used to look at his land in dismay – now he sees a small but profitable banana plantation. He says, "We are getting livelihoods from this land and food for our families. For this we are thankful to you."

Source: Methodist News Service

A Free Lesson!

For some time I've been frustrated that I could not seem to work out how to create a link from my blog to another (and I was even considering going to Learn Direct for more education of this sort). However, last night, over on Connexions http://theconnection/wp/ , Richard gave a free lesson on How to add a link in a Blogspot post. Unfortunately, as you can see, it hasn't worked for me because no box appeared in which I could type or paste the URL. I'm very cross!

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Church calls on all to repent of climate change sin

There has been some controversy in some circles about the use of the word sin in this context, but I think that this is a timely reminder that God, our Creator, charged the human race with taking care of His creation for Him, and failure to do so is surely 'sin'. This year's Methodist Conference has certainly been tackling many down-to-earth (if you'll excuse the pun) issues this year and we can be proud of its leadership in this and on other current issues:-

"Church to reduce carbon emissions by 80%

The Methodist Church is urging Christians to repent of the sins that contribute to climate change. A report received by the annual Methodist Conference in Wolverhampton today encourages people to acknowledge their complicity in systems that exploit creation and prey on the powerless.

But the Church also wants to empower Christians to make positive lifestyle changes, in line with the report’s title, Hope in God’s Future.

Revd David Gamble, the President of the Conference, said, “The first step in making a difference is the recognition of what we’ve done wrong so far. But we can’t just stop there. We must not be beholden to economic growth at the expense of our world and the lives of those who are most vulnerable.

“In the face of climate change, do we give up and treat it as a lost cause? No. We are people of faith. We can turn the tide if we commit ourselves to acting together to make our planet a safer space. So the report challenges the Church to tackle the issue head on, committing itself to significant action over the coming years.”

The report outlines plans to reduce the Church’s carbon emissions by 80% by the year 2050, in line with the target set by the UK Government. The Government is criticised in the report for its failure to outline how these tough targets can be achieved.

“But we are also challenging ourselves,” added David. “We cannot expect the Government to take the issue seriously if we fail to do so ourselves, and this report outlines some big changes for the Church.”

Bishop Michael Baroi of the Church of Bangladesh urged the British Church to prioritise this work. He said, "By 2050, two thirds of my country will go under water and about 30 million people will be displaced and have no place of their own to live on this planet Earth, if we do not deal with this issue of global warming and climate change urgently and seriously".

Source: Methodist News Service 07/07/09

Methodist Church will bar members from joining BNP

The annual Conference of the Methodist Church, meeting in Wolverhampton, has agreed that no member of the Church can also be a member of a political party whose constitution, aims or objectives promote racism.

This specifically includes, but is not solely limited to, the British National Party (BNP).

The resolution was brought from the floor of the Conference, known within Methodist circles as a Notice of Motion.

Revd Sylvester Deigh, who proposed the Notice of Motion, said; “We must be clear that racism is a denial of the gospel. An openness to all people, regardless of nationality, is at the heart of Methodist identity.

“This does not mean that people will be excluded from attending church – God welcomes all, saints and sinners alike. But it does mean that members of racist political parties will not be able to become full members of the Church.”

The notice of motion reminds the Church that those who support racist parties are also God’s children, and in need of love hope and redemption.

People who speak on behalf of the Methodist Church will also be barred from membership of such parties. The Church will now undertake the legal work required to put this into practice and report back to the Methodist Conference in July 2010.

Souce: Methodist News Service 09/07/09

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Turkish reality show to turn atheists to believers

This is NOT the best way to turn atheists into believers nor to educate Turkey's Muslims about other faiths:-

Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Buddhist leaders will attempt to convert non-believers in a Turkish TV game show designed ‘to turn disbelievers to God’. An eight-strong theological team will vet entrants to ensure they are genuine non-believers and then monitor their progress during the show. Those whose religious transformation is genuine will win a pilgrimage to the spiritual home of their new faith. Muslims will visit Mecca, Christians and Jews go to Jerusalem and Buddhists travel to Tibet. The show’s producers say it will educate Turkey’s Muslim majority about other faiths, but critics believe it will trivialise faith and God.

Sources: The Guardian (2/7); Daily Telegraph (3/7)

Methodists celebrate their shared identity with all Christians

And here is something from the Methodist Conference that is very dear to my heart. It is high time that all Christians worked together to make a big difference in our world. We are beginning to work more together here but there is still a very long way to go to see us working together as jesus would have us do:-

The Methodist Church has reiterated its commitment to ecumenical relationships at its annual Conference in Wolverhampton.

A vision statement received by the Conference stated that the Methodist Church would commit itself to worshiping, learning and working with other Christians wherever and whenever possible.

Christine Elliott, Secretary for External Relationships, said: “This is about sharing the Christian gospel together with partner Churches to make a difference in the 21st century and expressing our identity as Methodists in new ways.”

The vision statement voices a commitment to pray and worship with people from other Churches regularly. It also affirms the Church’s dedication to learning with other Christians about common faith and heritage in order to support mutual growth.

The vision statement will be made available to local churches to encourage them in ecumenical working and help them to share resources for worship and mission.

The report also acknowledged the Methodist Church’s commitment to other denominations in particular its covenant relationship with the Church of England and Churches in Wales. The report was focused on the British context but also affirmed the continuing development of partner church relationships worldwide.

Source; Methodist News Service - 08/07/09

Methodist President: Church must make the world a safer place

I haven't got around to writing about my time away at the Methodist Conference and with my family, but i'd like to share part of the speech made by the new President of Conference for 2009-2010, the revd David gamble. I hope to write more later.

In his inaugural presidential address to the annual Methodist Conference, Revd David Gamble spoke of the need for the Church to be a ‘safer space’ for people from every walk of life.

David spoke particularly of the importance of supporting the survivors of abuse, affirming his commitment to making the Church and the world a safer place. He said; “When I’m talking about creating safer space I’m talking about places, situations, moments, relationships, occasions where and when people feel accepted as they are, able to tell their story, not judged and not put at unnecessary risk.”

David was inducted as the President of the Methodist Conference as the first order of business at opening of the Conference in Wolverhampton. He will serve for one year, representing the Church and meeting people across Britain.

Speaking of climate change as ‘the biggest issue facing our world today’, he said, “In the face of what is happening to this planet as the direct result of how we live, do we just give up, or is there a word of hope and are there possibilities to turn the tide and make this planet a safer space? Christians and churches need to be fully involved, and have things to offer in making our world a safer space.”

David also called for greater openness and understanding between people of different perspectives, traditions and faiths, commenting that, “If we really listen to people’s different perspectives we may come to a fuller and richer understanding ourselves. We can challenge and be challenged if there is respect between us. Not to seek to cast out those who think differently, but to listen, to understand and to grow.”

People can follow David’s travels on the President and Vice President’s blog (

Source: Methodist News service 04/07/09

WORKING HERE …….. HELPING THERE with Wycliffe Associates!

At a recent Wednesday afternoon service at my church, I used slides of Vision 2025, the aim of Wycliffe Bible Translators (htp:// to provide at least a part of the Scriptures for every people group in their heart language by
2025. Unfortunately, a situation has arisen through natural wastage whereby the work is being held up for want of more proof readers. This is an important job where a sight check is made between the original paper copy and the keyboarded paper copy in order to find as many errors as possible so that we can correct them before it goes to print or on to the Internet. Below is an example for you to have a go to see if you can find all 17 errors in the keyboarded copy.

{Sorry! So far i have not managed to copy the Sight Checkers' Quiz in an acceptable form. I will keep trying, but if you are really interested, you can always ask for a sample from Wycliffe Associates.]

If you enjoyed that or found it a challenge, I would love to encourage you to think about volunteering as a Proof Reader. Please contact me if you are interested in helping Wycliffe Associates to get the scriptures ready for people groups all over the world who, as yet, don’t have a Bible or New Testament in their mother tongue or have an ancient translation that needs updating.

I have been proof reading for Wycliffe Associates for several years and find great joy in the knowledge that I am helping to spread the Good News. Do, please, consider if God is calling you to help in this way.

If you find this work too difficult and you still wish to help missionaries in their work, Wyclife Associates have groups of volunteers helping in all kinds of ways - so do find out if you are the one they are looking for to fill hundreds of volunteer vacancies.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Methodist Church elects new President and Vice President Designate

This news is very exciting to three members of our Disciple group who are looking forward to the new Presdident- Designate for 2010-2011 coming to their Circuit in September:-

The Revd Alison Tomlin has been elected President Designate of the Methodist Conference for 2010-2011, and Deacon Eunice Attwood has been elected Vice President Designate. The elections were announced at the annual Methodist Conference in Wolverhampton.

Alison Tomlin is currently Chair of the Northampton Methodist District, having previously chaired the Oxford and Leicester District. In September she will become co-Superintendent of the Thames Valley Methodist Circuit with her husband Dave. She has served the Church as a minister for 25 years, having originally been ordained in Wolverhampton in 1984.

Alison said; ’It is a great privilege to be elected as President Designate and I am humbled to be trusted with this role by the Conference. In my year of Presidency I will seek to help the Church be more receptive to go where God is inviting us. The Church has not always been very good at risk-taking but it’s easier to take risks when we are confident in God’s love and listening for God’s voice.’

Central to Alison’s ministry has been the imaginative use of the Bible in prayer. She said; ‘The Church has designated 2011 as the Year of the Bible and this will be very important and exciting for me in my year of office.’

Eunice Attwood works as part of a team of lay and ordained ministers in a busy city centre church in Newcastle. She has been instrumental in establishing the Newcastle Street Pastors Project and supports work with asylum seekers, street workers and teenage runaways. Eunice spent 12 years working as an Intensive Care Unit nurse and brings experience of hospital chaplaincy and 10 years of serving the Church as a member of the Diaconal Order. She is a Methodist Local Preacher and a part-time diaconal tutor at the Wesley Study Centre in Durham.

Eunice said; ‘As a member of the Methodist Diaconal Order it’s a real honour to be elected Vice President Designate. I am passionate about enabling the people of God to reach out to and better engage with their communities. In my year as Vice President, I hope to inspire God’s people to reconnect with the servant ministry to which we are all called and celebrate the rich contribution of the Diaconal Order to the life and work of the Church.’

Alison and Eunice will be inducted as President and Vice President as the first items of business at the 2010 Methodist Conference, which will meet in Portsmouth,
24 June -1 July.

Source: Methodist News Service 08/07/09

Only ten per cent of Britons know the Bible

Despite fatigue and time pressures, we still have so much work to do, according to this new survey:-

'The British public is widely ignorant of the stories and people who form the basis of Christianity, a new survey has found. The National Biblical Literacy Survey discovered that just 10 per cent of people understand the main characters in the Bible and their relevance. Only 7 per cent were familiar with the story of Pentecost and only 15 per cent knew the Advent stories. Despite the TV and stage musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, over half of respondents knew nothing about Joseph’s story and 60 per cent had no idea of the parable of the Good Samaritan. Revd David Wilkinson, from St John’s College, Durham, the survey’s sponsors, said these levels of ignorance meant most people are unable to appreciate the ‘depths’ of many pieces of music, Shakespeare’s plays or many works of art. A full report of the survey is due later this month.

Sources: Daily Telegraph (20/6, 24/6); Daily Mail (22/6)

South African government must find new purpose

South Africa’s leaders must move beyond political slogans of past generations and address the ‘messiness’ of democracy and social justice, the Archbishop of Cape Town has said. Archbishop Thabo Makgoba said the government must move on from the victim mindset of the apartheid era and respond to current challenges. ‘The bondage is over and God’s comfort has been made real to us,’ he said. ‘It’s our turn to be channels of his comfort’. Now South Africa faces many ‘complicated’ issues ‘with no big simple answers’ and leaders must move out of their ‘comfort zones’, he said. Archbishop Makgoba also gave a rebuke to President Jacob Zuma who said at an ANC rally last week, that the party ‘will rule until the Son of Man comes’. The archbishop feared it could give sanction to some who might resort to unconstitutional actions to prolong ANC rule indefinitely.

Source: Church of England Newspaper (3/7)

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Britain’s workaholic Church ‘tired but hungry’

Today, my highlighted news item confirms what most of us have suspected for some time - that fatigue and time pressures are greatly affecting the way people live as christians - but it is very encouraging that so many still offer themselves in Christ's service.

‘It is no longer just prayer that brings the church to its knees, but also tiredness.’ This is the finding of a London Institute for Contemporary Christianity (LICC) and Spring Harvest survey conducted recently. The biggest struggles identified by 55 per cent of three thousand respondents were fatigue and time pressures. Home/work balance was an issue for almost half of those surveyed (47 per cent), long hours at work for 45 per cent and parenting a challenge for 33 per cent. The survey also found that the workplace was the biggest challenge for people to live out their Christian faith (43 per cent), followed by the neighbourhood (34 per cent) and home (24 per cent). Despite these pressures, some 57 per cent said they ‘actively’ see themselves as apprentices of Christ and 54 per cent pray intentionally about how God will use them.

Source: Eg (June 09)

Catholic Leader Receives Symbol of Office

And now for some happier news:-

The new Archbishop of Westminster was one of 34 archbishops to be given a symbol of office by the Pope at St Peter’s Basilica on Monday. Pope Benedict placed the pallium, a band woven from lambs’ wool, over the shoulders of Archbishop Vincent Nichols as a symbol of ‘the office of shepherd’. ‘It reminds us of Christ himself, who as the Good Shepherd, took on his shoulders the lost sheep, humanity, to bring it back home,’ the Pope said. As ‘the bishop of souls’, Jesus watches from God’s point of view, seeing ‘dangers as well as possibilities’, Pope Benedict told the archbishops who had travelled from 20 countries.

Sources: Catholic Herald (3/7); The Universe (5/7)

Britain Gets First Atheist Summer Camp for Children

Sorry for the long gap while i was away and out of reach of the Internet - and Now I have to mention a rather troubling news item:-

An atheist alternative to Scout and Scripture Union camps is being subsidised by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins. Twenty-four children will take part in Camp Quest in Somerset later this month. Samantha Stein, who will lead the camp, said the emphasis would be on critical thinking. One activity will be the Invisible Unicorn Challenge. Children will be told it is believed that two unicorns inhabit the area but their task will be to prove unicorns do not exist. ‘We are not trying to bash religion, but it encourages people to believe a lot of things for which there is no evidence,’ Ms Stein explained. Since launching in the USA in 1996, Camp Quest’s growth has been modest. It now operates camps at six sites there.

Sources: Sunday Times (28/6); The Observer (28/6)