Monday, 30 November 2009

Former BBC newsreader appointed as “chaplain to older people” in Alton

Broadcaster Debbie Thrower becomes the country’s first Simeon Chaplain

Broadcaster Debbie Thrower has been appointed by Churches in Alton as the new “chaplain to older people”. The appointment has been funded by The Simeon Trust through The Greater Alton Project or GAP, a partnership of Anglican and Methodist Churches in the town.

Working as Simeon Chaplain, Debbie will be concerned for the spiritual welfare of people in residential care and sheltered accommodation in Alton. She is the first Simeon Chaplain in the country.

The Simeon Trust was founded to promote the spiritual welfare of older people and it is intended that more chaplains will be appointed in other parts of the UK. In the Bible, Simeon was the elderly man who first discerned that Jesus, who was then just a baby being brought by his parents to the Temple, was the Son of God and long-hoped for Saviour (Luke 2: 25-35).

“Hope is what the new job is all about,” said Debbie, who is also a lay minister (or Reader) in the Church of England. “I seek to come alongside not only older people but also their relatives, carers and staff working in residential care. It is the clearest possible message from the churches I’ll represent that older people matter.”

Debbie, 52, is a former BBC national newsreader, presenter of South Today and was for many years one of the best known faces in the region presenting ITV’s “Meridian Tonight” with Fred Dinenage.

“It is a fresh challenge for me and it is a great privilege to be taking on this representative role for the congregations who are demonstrating their commitment to help people at a time in their lives which can be beset with difficulties,” she said. “As health fails, fears can grow and a chaplain comes alongside people to bring reassurance and hope that the God of love is with us at all stages of our life.”

Debbie, who starts as chaplain in January, will be using her married surname Thompson.

“I hope to combine this part-time work with my other freelance broadcasting projects working as Debbie Thrower, and I am very excited by the opportunity to become an advocate for older people,” she added. “It is pioneering work in many ways, and it is the dream that Simeon chaplains will become commonplace in communities across the country. The need for it is immense, especially with a growing older population.”

Revd Canon Peter Doores, who is the Priest in Charge at St Lawrence Church, said: “We are pleased to appoint Debbie as Simeon Chaplain. It has been our aspiration for some time to offer older people better spiritual support and help them to continue to make important contributions to the life of our local community.”

“Debbie has both knowledge and experience of the changing needs of the elderly,” said Revd Keith Underhill from Alton Methodist Church. “Her journalistic background is a bonus that will make her a valuable asset to this pioneering post.”

Since leaving ITV Meridian earlier this year, Debbie has returned to her former station BBC Radio Solent as guest presenter. She fronted a weekday show on BBC Radio 2 for five years in the 90’s and regularly appeared on BBC 1’s “Songs of Praise.”

Six years ago she began the three year training to be a Reader, licensed to preach, teach and lead worship, gaining a Certificate of Christian Theology and Ministry from the University of Winchester. She is married with two teenage children and lives near Alresford.

Source: Methodist News Service 30/11/2009

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Poirot actor fears Christianity is getting a raw deal

David Suchet worries that Christianity is being marginalised in Britain in deference to other religions. The star of the long-running Poirot TV series believes ‘we should embrace all religions and marginalise none. But we seem more concerned with marginalising Christianity, and not offending other faiths.’ His concern crystallised after Government aid was recently withdrawn from a Christian charity that he supports. He says: ‘We are in danger of losing the importance of the Christian faith in our own country.’ Christian Peoples Alliance leader Alan Craig agrees: ‘Christianity is being marginalised by those who rule our society.’ Suchet, who found God after reading the Bible 20 years ago, has been open about his beliefs in several interviews.

Sources: Daily Mail (26/11); Daily Express (26/11)

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

10,000 attend Salvationist meetings in India


Salvation Army Chief of the Staff Robin Dunster has toured the Army’s India Northern territory to encourage the troops. Over 10,000 have attended events led by Commissioner Dunster, including a rally of more than 3,000 young people in Amritsar. The Indian Salvationists were excited to see the Chief, and wherever she went she and her support officer, Lieut-Colonel Edna Williams, were given gifts like garlands, flowers and shawls. In two cities, thousands of Salvationists took part in grand marches of witness, backed by Punjabi bagpipes and drums. Another event was attended by India’s Agriculture Minister, who told the Salvationists he supported them in their service of the Indian people.

Source: The Salvationist (21/11)

Friday, 20 November 2009

Government minister sides with faith community

Communities Secretary John Denham aims to give religious groups a greater say in government policy and has rejected calls for faith to be pushed out of the public sphere. In a move that has angered secularists, Mr Denham says he wants Christians, Muslims and others to contribute to policy-making because their views are vital if the UK is to be a ‘progressive society’. He has created a new team of religious advisors to give their suggestions on the economy, parenting, climate change and other subjects. Conceding that in recent years Labour has too often ignored religious opinion, the minister praised faith as ‘a strong and powerful source of honesty, solidarity, generosity – the very values which are essential to politics, to our economy and our society.’

Source: Daily Telegraph (14/11)

Urgent call to prayer for those affected by flooding

Special prayer available online:

The President of the Methodist Conference has called for people to pray for all those affected by last night’s severe flooding.

Revd David Gamble is asking churches to pray in their services this Sunday for people affected by the flooding and has written a special prayer for use by churches and individuals across the UK (below).

Revd Richard Teal, Chair of the Cumbria Methodist District, has asked for Christians to pray particularly for the people of Cumbria.

Loving God

We remember in your presence all those who have been affected by the recent flooding:
people whose homes and livelihoods have been devastated;
people who feel they have lost everything and don’t know what to do next;
people who fear for the safety of ones they love.
We remember, too, all those involved in bringing help and support:
those who work in the emergency services, sometimes at risk of their lives;
volunteers, wanting to do whatever they can to help;
and the churches in Cumbria, especially those in the Methodist district.
And we remember the land.
As the elements rage, we remember that you have called us to care for your creation.
In the midst of all the confusion, pain, fear, anger and loss may your Spirit brood over the face of the waters and bring hope.
And may your love be known,
through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Source: Methodist News Service 20/11/2009

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Churches encourage politicians to prioritise the common good

On the occasion of the State Opening of Parliament, three British Churches are reminding politicians that they still have a duty to work for the benefit of all people.

With a general election looming, political parties are already focusing on their campaigns. But the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church have expressed concern that many of the proposals they welcome in the Queen’s Speech may not become law because time is running short.

Speaking on behalf of the Churches, David Bradwell, Public Issues Policy Adviser, said: “Now more than ever we need politicians to work for the common good, and not let party politics and the imminent election distract them from the important work that is before them. I hope they have the courage to do what is right, even if it is not universally popular.”

The Churches highlighted key issues in the Queen’s Speech such as the Bribery Bill, which will criminalise the bribery of foreign officials in order to get business, and the Cluster Munitions Bill, which the churches are urging the Government to make further progress on. They consider the Constitutional Renewal Bill as an important step towards greater accountability in politics. The three Churches have also urged policy makers to focus their concern on those who made little out of the good economic years so that the public services they rely on are not cut in the bad years.

“As the General Election approaches, it is a good time for churches to think about how they can engage with politics and build relationships with politicians,” added David. “Many churches hold hustings meetings during election campaigns, but the election should be seen as the start of a relationship with an MP, and not the end of it. We have a duty to hold politicians accountable for their policies and promises.”

Local churches may also be interested to follow the Flood and Water Management Bill, which might be amended to allow community organisations a discount on water rate tariffs.

Source: Methodist News Service 18/11/2009

Youth Assembly appoints new full time Youth President

Attendance of Youth Assembly up by 75%

Last weekend, the Methodist Youth Assembly appointed Pete Brady from Bradford, aged 23, as its President.

Pete will be the Methodist Youth President, working full-time for one year to serve the young people of the Methodist Church in Britain, making their voices heard and helping them to get more involved in every aspect of Church life. The Youth President is a paid post as part of the Children and Youth Team of the Methodist Church in Britain

“It’s a real honour being appointed to this role” said Pete “Ensuring the voices of young people are heard within our church is something that I have felt passionately about for a long time and it’s amazing to be given the opportunity to be that voice for young people across the country. My aim for the year is to be easily accessible to young people across the Connexion, to voice their opinions and represent them to the very best of my ability in everything I do.”

Attendance at the Youth Assembly increased by 75% from last year. Over 200 11 – 23 year-olds gathered at the Ushaw Conference Centre in Durham to take part in a programme designed by young people for young people. They came from as far afield as the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, Scotland and Wales, from churches in the inner cities to rural chapels in the Cotswolds. The issues they explored ranged from youth violence to equality and diversity, human sexuality and self-esteem.

“Maybe it’s the economic times we’re living in,” said Jude Levermore, Youth Participation Development Officer for the Methodist Church. “Or maybe it’s the attention given to global climate change, or Afghanistan. But the age of apathy seems to be over. Young people want to see the world in which they live transformed. And they seem to see the church as being a place where that change can start.”

The decisions taken and commitments made by the Youth Assembly will influence policy-making at the annual Methodist Conference next year and will be input into the work of the Connexional Team, as well as impacting immediately on the work of the Children and Youth Team.

“These are exciting times for the Methodist Church and for young people,” said Jude. “Anyone who was at Youth Assembly cannot fail to have been impressed by the level of engagement and passion and desire on the part of young people there to get involved and to be the change they want to see - in the world and in their church.”

Source: Methodist news Service 18/11/2009

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

‘Living peace wall’ on Belfast’s dividing line

A church initiative has seen Catholics and Protestants joining hands to form a symbolic link through the gates in Belfast’s 26-mile dividing wall between the two communities. The action was part of a 40-day peace vigil arranged by New Life City Church. Community members as well as churchgoers took part including a young motorcyclist who stopped to apologise to Pastor Jack McKee for having smashed his home windows and petrol bombed his car ‘on orders’ some years ago. The church owns a former warehouse on part of the concrete ‘peace wall’ erected during the Troubles to protect people on both sides from attack. It hopes to eventually refurbish this as a community facility.

Source: Christianity magazine (Dec)

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Personal Debt Cancellation

I am being constantly getting phone calls telling me how to cancel my debt. I'm afraid i get annoyed and immediately hang up, so that the last call said, "This is a public announcement, so please don't hang up. From April 6th the Government plans to relieve you of your debts..." As soon as the word 'debts' occurred, I hung up once more.

For someone of my generation these calls are an insult, because we were brought up never to be in debt no matter how hard times were for us - and somehow we managed to keep free of debt. One of the most vivid memories I have of growing up in a large family in the North-East of England in a recession is of my mother often having to say "We can always do without what we can't get!" This was always greeted by a loud, disgusted chorus of "Mum!" from her seven children - but it was very good training for us and she was a wizard at coming up with alternatives that were nowhere near as good but clamed us all down. My mother also managed to be a keen supporter of Methodist overseas Women's Work no matter how tough it was for her to make ends meet, because "their situation is much worse than ours".

The result is that throughout my long life I have followed this principle and never been in debt, though sometimes life has been hard and it meant that because I was the fifth child I was the first to, of necessity, be denied College education. (I have never ceased to take every opportunity to keep on learning.)

There is no doubt that this generation has unprecedented debt problems for various reasons and has great distress because of this. My grandchildren incurred huge debts in order to pursue their chosen University courses. While I applaud their academic success, I can't come to terms with the fact that this is a heavy burden to bear at the start of their careers. I can just about accept this kind of debt for the huge benefit that a university degree can bring (and because I had so wanted to take up the place I'd been offered in my youth).

However, it continually distresses me to see the TV adverts which advise viewers to "buy now, pay later. Nothing to pay for the first year." I have great sympathy for young people setting up home for the first time (and I help them when I can) but is there no other way in these days? Is life really harder now than it was for us in the recession of the 1930s? I know that there are some - homeless and immigrants, for example - who are in dire straits through no fault of their own, but, those apart, are families being encouraged to spend above their means? Would they be happier managing 'to do without what they can't get' until they could really afford it. You may say that it's easy enough for me to write like this because my hard times are over. In a sense that is true, because I have a nice house and garden (where I can grow my vegetables) but on a widow's pension I am still having to watch what I spend and leave enough to support tsunami appeals, etc.

Here in Reading, Christian Community Action is doing a wonderful job to give practical help and advice for those in desperate need and I am glad to support them. But I still ask whether so many people ought to be in debt, just by buying what they fancy instead of waiting until they can afford it.

With Christmas approaching some families run themselves into debt because they want to 'put on a good show' of food and presents. Other families stop giving presents to the adults in the family to save money. So I'm repeating what I wrote in an ealier post, in case it helps one or two families to enjoy a happy debt-free Christmas -

My daughter-in-law came up with a suggestion that I think is worth sharing in case it will help your family too. The idea is that all the adult names are put into a hat and each member of the family draws one out and buys a present for the person whose name (s)he has drawn, thus buying only one present - but the children are excepted. Before making the draw, a reasonable price is agreed that each present should cost. This way, every adult receives a good present and no-one knows who has bought which present for whom - and, best of all, no-one has run themselves into debt by trying to buy more presents than they can afford!

Friday, 13 November 2009

Churches propose Christian prison

Cornish churches have united behind proposals for a prison run on Christian principles as a solution to woefully high reoffending rates. Free, Independent Evangelical and Pentecostal churches have joined Quakers and Anglicans in support for a new model of prison. The Carpenter’s House would draw on approaches used by the Kainos Community programme which has slashed reoffending rates in three prisons by 87 per cent. The idea coincides with Prisons Week (15–21 Nov) and an appeal for churches to become much more prison-aware. Revd Bob Payne, chair of the Prisons Week Committee, urged churches to invite prison representatives to present the ‘reality of prisons’ to congregations. Churches should also learn about the challenges for ex-offenders and the developing role of community chaplaincy, he said.

Sources: Church Times (13/11); Baptist Times (12/11)

ITV People's Millions - Thornaby Methodist Church

We have yet another Methodist nominee for ITV People’s Millions! Noah’s Garden, based at Thornaby Methodist Church in Stockton on Tees, will appear on ITV Tyne-Tees at 6pm on Wednesday 25 November. Do vote for Thornaby if you are able.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Synchronised Blogging on Digimission

Today is designated as a synchronised bloging day on the subject of Digimission but i have seen no evidence of this on any of the blogs i have visited. Digimission is a subject very close to my heart because it was the reason I took up blogging in the first place.

My earliest years in blogging were the happiest because I was in direct touch with so many young people, many of whom had problems that they discussed with me and I answered them from a Christian viewpoint. But my blog then was also a mixture of fun and seriousness, as I posted games and puzzles and trick questions. It really was great fun and I felt that I had a host of young eager blog friends, including a 25 year old who was traumatised after escaping the 9/11 bombings. Then my server Modblog went out of business and i lost my digi-family.

I have not found such a ministry since then, despite my yearnings to find another effective way of digimission. I enjoy blogging still, but it is now much more a sharing of information with like-minded Christian people and there seemms to be no contact with the unchurched people, especially young people, out there in the world. I sem to be fulfilling a purpose for a number of people, but it is certainly not what I felt called to do when i took up blogging. So I shall be very interested to learn what IS being effective NOW in digimission.

I get the feeling that one has to be on facebook and twitter these days to be really in touch with the 'real' world, but i don't feel that these are for me. Twitter is such a shallow means of communication and certainly NOT a channel on whch a young man could pour out his heart, pleading for help. I may be wrong but I shy away from Facebook because it seems to me that I would get such a huge number of followers that I would not have time for all the other things that I do besides blogging. So I have not entered that hiher echelon of blogging - yet.

I was hoping that I would be reading lots of brilliant ideas for digimission today, so I am very disappointed. I hope I haven't disappointed you too much! So all I can do is to refer you to this link: .

Update - For those who have not yet visited the Slipstream website, I feel that the following details might be helpful and perhaps encourage others to book for this Digimission event.

When: 1st December 2009 10.30am to 3.00pm

Where: St. Paul's Church, Robert Adam Street, London W1

Cost: £12 early bird rate until 16 November
£15 after 16 November, booking deadline 25 November
Booking online only

For other details, visit the Slipstream website.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Pressure to drop court case against Fiji Church leaders

British Church leaders to meet with Foreign Office

At a court hearing today, a lawyer representing nine Fijian Church leaders appealed for the case against them to be dropped.

The leaders of the Fijian Methodist Church, including the Church’s President, General Secretary, Accountant and Trust Secretary, have pleaded not guilty to charges of breaching Public Emergency Regulations. Their solicitor met today with the Director of Public Prosecutions, opposing counsel and magistrate to argue that there is no case to be answered.

Tomorrow afternoon, Revd David Gamble, President of the British Methodist Conference and Dr Richard Vautrey, Vice President of the Conference, will meet with Meg Munn MP and Chris Bryant MP, Foreign and Commonwealth Office Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State.

David said; “We are very concerned for our sister Church in Fiji. This situation threatens to consume so much of their time, energy and finance. Strict bail conditions have robbed the Church of its leaders and we hope to seek a way forward that will enable the Church to continue to worship and serve its communities.”

The Fijian Church leaders are appealing against their bail conditions, which prohibit them from public speaking, preaching or taking part in church meetings.

The Church represents around a third of Fiji’s population and has challenged Fiji’s military government, which is lead by Commodore Bainimarama. Earlier in the year the Church was forced to cancel its annual Conference and choir festivals.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Hold Fast to Hope for Prisons Week 15-21 November 2009

Churches across Great Britain are being encouraged to hold special services and events to mark Prisons Week from 15-21 November.

The theme for Prisons Week this year is Hold Fast to Hope, encouraging Christians to focus on real stories of hope and redemption from around the world.

Revd David Gamble, President of the Methodist Conference, said; “Prisons week reminds us of the harsh realities of crime and imprisonment, but it also speaks of hope in dark places. This is a time to pray for those in prison and those affected by crime as we seek a better future for all. It's also a time to give thanks for and remember the contribution made by chaplains to the lives of those living and working in prisons.”

The Prisons Week website ( offers a range of free resources, including prayers, sketches and stories of hope from the UK and further afield.

Revd Alan Ogier, Superintendent Methodist and Free Church Chaplain to the Prison Service, said; “The Christian message is one of real hope for all – not just shallow optimism. This is a solid belief that no one is beyond redemption, that change can and does happen.”

You can listen to an interview with Alan about the reality of prison life online here:

Source: Methodist News Service 09/11/2009

Friday, 6 November 2009

Put a little Christmas in your pocket

The Methodist Church is hoping to spread a little festive cheer with the latest edition to their hugely popular In Your Pocket booklet series.

Christmas in Your Pocket offers readers an inspiring collection of images, Bible verses, prayers and reflections on the Christmas season. It draws together contributions from authors as diverse as Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Benjamin Franklin and Bob Hope.

Joy Fisher, Series Editor, said; “This is a pocket-sized reminder that Christmas starts with Christ and finds its home in us. Christmas is for everyone - it’s a time of miracles, hope, expectation, excitement and the most precious gift that anyone can receive.”

Christmas in Your Pocket is ideal for personal or group reflection, but churches are also encouraged to share the Christmas spirit with their communities by giving the booklets away.

The whole range of In Your Pocket booklets (also including Prayer in Your Pocket and Hope in Your Pocket), are available from Methodist Publishing at £5 for 50 copies. They can be purchased online here:

Source: Methodist News Service 06/11/2009

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Date and venue announced for Methodist Conference 2011

In 2011, the Methodist Conference will be heading northwest to Southport, from 30 June to 7 July.

The Methodist Conference is the governing body of the Methodist Church and meets annually in June or July. Next year’s Conference will be held in Portsmouth, from 24 June to 1 July, at the Portsmouth Guildhall.

Six months of searching for a suitable venue to bring the event back to the north of England for 2011 have concluded with the Southport Theatre and Convention Centre.

“This is a newly refurbished venue, well suited to the needs of today’s Methodist Conference,” said Ben Bradley, Connexional Events Coordinator. “I’m excited by what Southport has to offer. Not only does it boast all the best features of a Victorian resort town, but it has all the amenities the modern conference goer would expect.”

The opening ceremony of the Conference and Conference worship are due to be held in the Southport Theatre Auditorium with a capacity for seating over 1,600 people. Conference business sessions will take place in the Art Deco Floral Hall in the adjoining convention centre.

Source; Methodist News Service 05/11/2009

New Youth Assembly comes to Durham

More young people’s voices will be heard in oversubscribed event.

This year more young Methodists than ever will be making their voices heard through an interactive-styled assembly that replaces Youth Conference.

The new process has been designed to maximise the impact of young people’s influence on the Methodist Church in Britain and enable a greater number of 11 to 23-year-olds to have their say. For the first time in 14 years, the event is oversubscribed with around 200 young people set to take part.

The Youth Assembly will also elect its Youth President; a full t ime, salaried role open to 18 to 23-year-olds.

Youth Conference was modelled on the style of the annual Methodist Conference, but the new Youth Assembly will involve sessions facilitated by young Methodists who have been trained with the skills to help groups run their own debates. Youth violence, vocation, climate change and self-esteem are among the issues expected to be discussed during the weekend conference from November 13 to 15 at Ushaw College Conference Centre in Durham. Conversations will be streamed via webcams around the venue and outcomes from the debates will be displayed on plasma screens and graffiti boards as they happen.

Fiona Holmes, 20, from Newcastle, has been part of the planning team right from the start. “The Youth Assembly is ground-breaking, something totally new to the Church, something that will let young people feel they are a part of the Church,” said Fiona, a British Gas engineer. “This will show the Church who young people are and what we can do. We are not the Church of the future; we are the Church of today.”

There will be a “drop-in zone” on Saturday 14 November where a team of consultants from the Connexion will be on hand to help answer any questions which come out of the young people’s discussions. Consultants in areas of work from Faith and Order through to Equalities and Diversity will be asked to share their knowledge in the style of Who Wants To Be a Millionaire’s Phone-A-Friend. Revd David Gamble, President of Methodist Conference, and Vice-President Dr Richard Vautrey will be among the team members who have all been given guidelines by the young people about how to carry out their consultative roles on the day.

Jude Levermore, Participation Development Officer, said: “I am really excited at the way young people have been involved in the planning of this event, so that the format has completely changed. I am confident it will have more of an impact on the wider Church because of their input. I am very proud of every thing that the planning group has achieved.

“The Youth Assembly will enable young people from all different backgrounds and abilities to engage – not just those who are articulate and confident about speaking to a roomful of people.”

Newcastle Upon Tyne District is hosting the event and not-for-profit organisation - Dynamix - has helped enable the young people’s democratic vision to come to life.

Source: Methodist News Service 05/11/2009

Monday, 2 November 2009

Christmas is coming!

There are 52 days to Christmas - with all that that means for us as Christians as well as all the preparations for a big family get-together.

Ecumenically, we usually use one of the shop windows in the shopping precinct for a large Nativity scene. This year there seem to be a number of difficulties in the way. The window in question has been papered over with brown paper, which will need to be removed (and replaced after Christmas)- involving quite a lot of work! It so happens that the hard-working secretary will be away for several weeks at a crucial time and another stalwart is recovering from an operation, though he himself is making light of whether he will be fit to work on the project. It will be a great shame if we have to break with tradition are unable to mount the usual Nativity scene, so your prayers will be appreciated.

Now for the family get-together! I wonder if you have a similar situation in your family? Ours was a big family to start with, but it keeps on growing and growing!
Not only are all my grandchildren finding soulmates (? future spouses) who want to be included, but more great-grandchildren are being born. Well, at my age, in this recession, I am just about making ends meet each week, so what can I possibly do about buying presnts for each and every one of them?

My daughter-in-law, when I made a quick trip up to Derbyshire this week to meet my new-born great-grandson, came up with a suggestion that I think is worth sharing in case it will help your family too. The idea is that all the names are put into a hat and each member of the family draws one out and buys a present for the person whose name (s)he has drawn. Thus buying only one present - but the children are excepted. Before making the draw, a reasonable price is agreed that each present should cost.

This way, every adult receives a good present and no-one knows who has bought which present for whom - and, best of all, no-one has run themselves into debt by trying to buy more presents than they can afford! That has taken a great weight off my mind and it leaves me to enjoy Christmas as it should be enjoyed, with everybody happy and blessed.

But my immediate task is to send out advertisements of all our Christmas services and other events to the three local newspapers and local radio.

Update: Alas! A message has now been received from the owners of the premises in the shopping precinct that are normally used for the Nativity scene to explain that a change of use behind the window covered in brown paper makes it quite impossible for this window to be used by the churches this year.