Please pray for those who have lost loved ones this week, and whose sorrow is very real. 

Please also pray for those whose families have moved away, especially for Julia and her family as she settles into a new life @ university.

Friday September 28th

At the end of another week; this ones been crap. A friend of mine has died, a resident from Maple Leaf House has died, I`m involved with both funerals and they`re both pulling at my heart strings.

Why is it that I can conduct so many funerals without difficulty but every now and then one comes along that really hurts ? And in this case its two !!

My Dads still waiting for his knee replacement, but was able to manage an enjoyable trip to Carlisle on his birthday (Wed.) Good on ya Dad ! If I had to list my heroes Dad would definitely be at the top of the list. I just hope and pray that I can turn out like him.

Rebecca and Vikki seem happy and settled in their house now. Vikki’s back to University soon for her final year. Had to experience another Uni parting this week as our friends daughter Julia left to go to Plymouth Uni. I`ve always had a special affection for Julia and her sister, Eleanor, so it does feel as though part of my family have left.

So its been a week of partings in many ways; I believe that God is in the partings as well as the joys. I praise God for my Dad and I trust him for those who are departed and those who have left for new chapters in their life.

The Psalmist gets it right when he writes “The Lord is my Shepherd…………….” (23rd Psalm). God does walk beside us in all things. 

Friday September 21st

When I first came into Ministry I was assured by older and wiser Ministers that no one could understand the life of a Minister unless they had experienced it fully. Today is an example of this; already by 9.20 a.m. I`ve had three phone calls , I`ve got sermon prep. to do, a Bible study to prepare, an act of worship for Maple Leaf House to take and all alongside the day to day things like getting the wheel changed on my car and picking my Mother in Law up as she comes to stay for several days.

It all makes for a very hectic life, but one that I wouldn`t change for the world. Yes, no one knows what its like to live in a Manse, but then again I don`t know what its like to live in other houses either and face the pressures that other people have to face.

May be we should simply give thanks for the blessings we experience each day and ask for strength and courage for the difficulties. Above that, life is great and I`m thoroughly enjoying it !!

Church Councils

Please pray for me as I enter what I call the Church Council season.

I will have Church Councils on…………………………

26th September   (2 meetings)

3rd October

4th October

11th October

17th October

22nd October

31st October

Please pray that each individual church will be moved by God to a new vision.

Welcome to my World !!

New category. Now the sabbatical and the cruises are over there won`t be anything else to add into those groups so I`m starting a new category. I hope in this simply to record some of my thoughts, ideas, general craziness !!  We`ll see what happens. Please continue to visit my prayer requests and hold me in your prayers. They are much needed and certainly valued. The Fresh Expressions category will also continue as I intend to keep exploring this whole movement.

Back to work

Only a few days left. Please pray for me as I prepare to return to work on Sunday, with an open air service at Waingroves show. I give thanks for the last few months and pray that I may be able to bring some of this understanding into my Ministry.

Bolton Wanderers Football Club

Well, my last `official` sabbatical visit proved to be something special. I met with Rev. Phil Mason (Methodist Superintendent Minister) and spent the day with him following him around as he worked at Bolton Wanderers football club.

It was quite amazing to see how the club have taken him on board into all areas; the staff were quite comfortable with his presence and this was evident from the amount of banter and fun that went on, alongside the more serious moments when his advice was sought. Players, officials, management and catering staff all knew him and had a word for him.

The first person that I was introduced to was the head of Human Resources. She explained to me that Phil was a valuable part of the club. Apparently the club had approached Phil about becoming Chaplain, so in that way they had a vested interest in making the chaplaincy work. However I got the impression that in Phil they had found just the right person.  In post for 6 years Phil had intropduced ino the cluban annual remembrance service (now in its 4th year) where supporters and staff could be remembered. This attracted about 300 people to the stadium to remember loved ones. In addition to this there was a floor of memorial bricks just outside the reception and nearby a book of remembrance with a place for flowers to be laid. This showed how the club were connecting with the eeds of the community. Phil was a regular contributor to the match day programme and was part of the “unity & diversity” group which helped community relationships by recognising the diversity of the community and yet seeking to unite as one.

Phil has also been a part of the reason BWFC had reached the intermediate level for racial equality standards.

On a match day he is wired up so that if necessary he can be contacted quickly to assist in any given situation. There is even a quiet room on the concourse for the supporters if they need a bit of space for peace and quiet, or for use in an emergency.

Phil has also been part of the drawing up of a bereavement policy within the club.

The head of Human Resources described Phil’s role as crucial to the club for he touches every part of the club.

His job description is annually appraised because Phil and the club see it as a means of improving the quality of their work year on year.

On a day to day level Phil’s sees his work as meeting people, exercising pastoral care and teaching core skills and values to the academy youths. He visits on one day each week and on match days. As with all chaplains this adds a stress to his ministry for he is also the minister of Bolton Victoria Hall with a staff of 43 and all of its projects.

The Church/circuit however are largely supportive of what he is doing and the circuit have taken it seriousy re. Phils future work amongst them. I felt that this was quite visionary of them in being prepared to release their Minister into the community. How many churches/circuits are prepared to do that ?

When I quizzed Phil about how he saw chaplaincy he explained it in two ways……………….

1    he felt it was important to show that faith is relevant in all areas of life

2    he saw his work (Victoria Hall, BWFC, and other chaplaincies) as a Fresh Expresion of Circuit

After this Phil took me to the training ground where I was to meet various people, players, manager, coaches etc. While Phil wasn`t around I took the opportunity to ask them about his work. They were all hugely supportive and spoke about him as part of the team. One person even went as far as to say that the club would suffer badly without his input ! High praise.

Why was this ? Well, perhaps the answer lies in the fact that while I was there a particularly sensitive issue arose which needed to be resolved. A small group of people expressed their opinion and all sought Phil for his. Once the decision was made it was left in Phil’s hands to ensure the result was carried out. I felt that this showed how the club understood the need for a holistic approach, dealing with issues from a practical sense, through a business sense, and inclusive of the spiritual realm. In many places I`ve heard the chaplan speak of the need to see their work holistically or see players in a holistic way, but here it was evident that this wasn`t just Phil`s view but it was the view of the club.

We spoke about how sometimes a club would go through depressed times and how the chaplain needed to be the upbeat voice; the one offering support and the one offering the listening ear. Phil echoed the sentiments of Graham Locking (newmarket) when he spoke of the need to listen to anxieties and also to peoples stories.

Phil also recognised that he was the chaplain to all people irrespective of nationality or faith. In the club there are approximately 19 different nationalities with all of the cultural and religious dimension that brings. It was Phil`s job to try and ensure that much of this is met. Consequently he would find Mosques and Churches for players to worship in, he would learn about dietary needs at festival times and so on. Phil also needs to relate to all people from the chairman to the person at the entrance on a match day. Phil was to be Jesus to all people.

This was a fascinating day of just wandering around behind Phil and observing, but it opened up so much in the way of potential and I could see how BWFC embraced Phil in all ways. In many ways it was an exciting conclusion to my sabbatical visits.