Methodist Church press release

The Methodist Church have just released the following response to a proposal by the Westminster City council……………………

News Release The Methodist Church

A homeless man in Paris
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28 February 2011

Church appalled by ‘absurd’ plans to sideline homeless in Westminster

The Methodist Church has condemned plans by Westminster City Council to ban rough sleeping and soup runs for the homeless as ‘disgusting’ and ‘absurd’.
The Council is planning to pass a by-law that that would ban rough sleeping and prohibit soup runs from operating in a designated area around Westminster Cathedral. If approved, the by-law could be in place by October.

Revd Alison Tomlin, President of the Methodist Conference, said: “Westminster Council’s proposals are nothing short of disgusting. This by-law punishes people solely for their misfortune and belongs in a
Victorian statute book, not in the laws of a decent 21st century community. In the 18th Century John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church, described those who would punish and blame the poor for their misfortune as ‘foolish and wicked’. These words seem appropriate for such an appalling piece of legislation.”

Westminster has an active well-informed community of volunteers and agencies who work with local and national government to help ease the homelessness problem in the area. But the Church fears that all this good work, and the many invaluable relationships between different groups and street sleepers
will be torn up if these proposals go ahead.

Alison added: “These proposals rob people of their dignity. We cannot simply shuffle homeless people off our streets like an embarrassing relative that we don’t want ‘important’ people to meet. Where are they expected to go? Will Westminster Council be offering accommodation in hotels and empty
houses? To remove essential support such as soup kitchens without offering alternatives is simply absurd.”

Revd Tony Miles, acting Superintendent of Methodist Central Hall, Westminster, which is located in the proposed exclusion zone, said: “I would never support the criminalisation of rough sleeping through the
implementation of what seem to be draconian measures. It is vital we care for those who are homeless and poor. An answer to the issues will only come through dialogue and addressing the root causes and not legislation. We work closely with the homeless charity ‘The Passage’, who believe, ultimately, street sleepers need a ‘leg up’ and not ‘a handout’. Some churches in Westminster are opening their doors to a limited number of rough sleepers on a short-term basis. Members from the church at Methodist Central
Hall, Westminster, are volunteering to run one of these shelters on Friday evenings. Being a conference centre, we cannot use our church, but we can provide people to support the initiative at other venues.”

Alastair Murray of Housing Justice set up the forum for Soup Runs in Central London in 2006. He believes this proposed by-law sets back the progress being made in coordinating the work of the various churches and other groups. “Westminster Council consistently denigrates the work of church
volunteers and obstructs the efforts of churches and volunteer led agencies reaching out to homeless and poor people on the streets. They believe a centrally managed one size fits all service is the answer, ignoring the truth that churches often have many years of experience and expertise in responding to the needs of the poor and marginalised. Housing Justice disagrees and will oppose this by-law.”

Case study: James* Story

Revd. John* writes:  “James, aged 49, sleeps behind a shop between the bins just off a main high street in East London. I chat to him when I see him and occasionally we go to where he sleeps for some more privacy and pray. He won’t come to the church – I think he doesn’t feel he will fit in or may even be ashamed of how he now appears. James lost his job with a small engineering firm 3-4 months ago due to cut backs. He then split up with his partner and lost his home. As he is single and without dependent children he is not a priority to be housed.

“Three Sundays ago James looked to be in worse health than usual. We talked for a while when I was on the way to do a Church service and we arranged to meet and pray after the service in his bedding down place. He was clearly sick, and I prayed a wordy prayer for healing and for his circumstances to get better. James thanked me and then said all of a sudden in frustration that I had prayed for the wrong thing and it was ‘s**t’. He dropped to his knees and prayed with real passion and sincerity that when he got sicker he would be ill enough that they couldn’t send him back on the streets. He prayed to have a severe and incurable illness, as to him it looked like the only way out of his plight.”

*Names have been changed to protect the identities of those involved.

About twenty-one years ago I spent a little bit of time working with the homeless in London, at the Whitechapel Mission, a Methodist Church on the City Road. At the time I didn`t really understand the issues surrounding homelessness but what I saw will stay with me forever. This is an absolutely DISGUSTING decision and it makes me ashamed to be British. Where are the homeless to go ? Westminster City Council aren`t addressing the problem but are simply moving it onto someone else as if the homeless are simply `bodies` to be moved along.

I long for a government who seek to address the greater issue of what is the cause of homelessness, but this government (as others) are simply seeking the short-term “lets hide the issue” response !

I don`t know what we can do except lobby our MP`s who might not be able to influence Westminster City Council but who can raise the issue in Parliament and in the Governments hearing. We can also commit this to prayer for I believe in a God who values ALL human life and despises the injustices and inequalities of this world. We need to commit the situation to Him.

Handwritten Bible/Scriptorium

Well, we’ve now completed our two days of Scriptorium. As I said before the Methodist Church is creating a handwritten Bible prepared by people all over the country and expecially (hopefully) people who wouldn`t usually engage in anything to do with the Bible under normal circumstances. Here are a couple of photographs from both events.

  Don`t know how well this will work. If it doesn`t it can also be found on my facebook page.

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Rotary Charter 2011

Family and friends who supported me

Regular readers of this blog will know that I am the President of my Rotary Club (West Ashfield) for this year; last night was our 2011 charter which was also our 25th since we began. The club charter is in effect our birthday `bash` when we all get dressed up, eat too much, drink (hopefully not too much !) and have some good quality entertainment.

Val Leivers, the District Governor with Alison and I

When you`re President it is usually regarded as your special night and as I had recommended the entertainers the pressure was on for it to be right.

Well, the food was good (at the Derbyshire Hotel, Jct 28 M1) it always is, the service to 105 people was excellent, speeches were suitably short (thankfully) and the entertainment of Jonathan Panton and Hilary Leam was absolutely spot on. Jonathan has appeared in West End shows professionally and next month starts a new season at the West Yorkshire playhouse. Hilary has spent many years semi-professionally singing in a band (I believe) and also solo. They are two very good friends and they put on an amazing evening of top quality entertainment. They were so good that they allayed all my fears about whether or not I`d done the right thing.  One or two thought that the sound was a little too much but everyone else was simply full of praise and many remarked that it was the best charter they had been too. It was certainly the first one that I had attended where there was a standing ovation at the end of the entertainment, instead of the usual rush to get out at the end of a long night.

As you can imagine I`m feeling rather elated and extremely proud this morning. Combined with staying at the hotel overnight, having a relaxing morning and breakfast this morning (Sunday off) and a lazy afternoon today this is proving a special weekend. On top of all this I was delighted that not only Alison, but Vikki, Rebecca and Tom were there and they did me proud. I was also privileged to have had Jim and Jane (my co-superintendent), Judith from Oldham, and Alison and Stuart Wood in attendance as well. Even last years President Graham, his wife Tina and other friends travelled all the way from the Isle of Wight to be there. I feel quite honoured.

As I said in my speech last night Rotary has given me the opportunity to play a small part in having a practical effect on people’s lives; the eradication of polio is almost complete thanks to Rotary, we have supported local schools and Shirland Miners Welfare training band from our own area, Poiana in Romania and the ongoing Tibshelf school project in Sri Lanka. Over the years we have had school governors, carried out mock interviews, looked after overseas visitors and given them a cultural experience (Mansfield ?????). In many ways it doesn`t seem much but Rotary International has given me a chance to be a part of all this, and to try to make the world a better place.

Good friends, good food, good fun……………………..what a great way to spend an evening. 

Alison and I

Handwritten Bible

The title page to the 1611 first edition of th...
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I`ve just finished printing out chapters 6 and 7 of Ezra for our handwritten Bible project which begins tomorrow at Blackwell Community Centre and continues at the Idlewell Shopping Centre, Sutton on Saturday. Please hold us in prayer.

What is the handwritten Bible project ?

2011 is the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible and in conjunction with the Bible Society (Biblefresh initiative) our annual Conference resolved that Districts would work collectively to handwrite the Bible during the course of this year. Every District and Circuit has been allocated a portion of Scripture to write out and the idea is to creat a “Bible of the people”.

Consequently we have been encouraged to go beyond our Church walls and seek innovative ways to achieve this. In the Borders Mission Circuit we are holding two events, first one tomorrow and the second on Saturday. Tomorrow we have been allowed to `hijack` the Blackwell residents action group coffee morning which is held every Tuesday and Thursday; I will be allowed to have a table at the top end of the room with my lectern and I will simply sit and await anyone who wants to come and copy out a verse of Scripture. I give a lot of thanks to the people of Blackwell for allowing this to happen.

No one will be pressured into this and I hope that the Churches will turn out to support the coffee morning, as a thank you for allowing this to happen. I also hope and pray that it will give an opportunity for me to speak to folk about Scripture.

Similarly, on Saturday, we are going to the Idlewell Shopping Centre in Sutton. This is a very busy shopping centre and again we`ll simply put out the lectern and allow passers-by to take part.

Should we have any verses left after this we will have plenty of time to complete the exercise elsewhere before we have to send it off.

What will happen to it after that ?

Well it will be presented to the Methodist Conference in July 2011, but after that who knows ? I know of various suggestions that have been made including a presentation to the Queen, but what her Majesty will do with approximately 8000 sheets in 20 hardbound volumes I do not know !!

All in all it is an exciting project and I find myself really looking forward to tomorrow Those of you who are on the Borders Mission Facebook page may get to see quite a few photographs of this event. For others I will try to put one on here tomorrow night or after Saturday.

Most importantly pray for the events, that Jesus may be glorified.

Bible usage

Picked this up on my Facebook account earlier today…………………….

WARNING!!! Bible usage can be Habit Forming. Regular reading can cause Loss of ANXIETY and FEAR. Decreased appetite for LYING, CHEATING, STEALING, HATING, ANGER, and ENVYING. Symptoms Include: Increased sensation of LOVE, JOY, PEACE, COMPASSION, and CONTENTMENT!! If symptoms persist: Just PRAISE THE LORD

What a great message because it points out the importance of Scripture. I find it fascinating that so many Christians can revere the Bible, declare that it is the book they live by and yet very few ever read it on a daily basis. I don`t know the current statistics but certainly 10 years ago the Bible Society were noting that less than 17% of practising Christians read their Bible on a daily basis !

This year the Bible Society are acknowledging the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James Bible, and are using it to encourage all Christians and members of society to begin to engage with the Scriptures afresh. This initiative is called BibleFresh and they are hoping that there will be many creative and innovative ways of raising the profile of Scripture. It doesn`t matter what version of the Bible people use, but this is simply an encouragement to read the book that Christians proclaim to be the primary revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ

My own preference varies depending on why I`m reading the Bible and perhaps on what I`m hoping to gain from it, (at the moment I`m using the English version for the Deaf, a particular favourite); but whatever version I use there are three things which I think are important and which I always encourage people to do.

1)   Prayer before opening the Bible; even if it’s just a short arrow prayer for help  

2)  Prayer for God to speak to you as you read the Scriptures and pray for understanding

3)   Prayer after reading the Scriptures that God would show you what to do about it.

I believe that if we can read the Scriptures with more expectancy then we are opening our minds and hearts to the possibility that God will speak through them and show us the way forward for our lives and then the little quotation I put at the beginning of this article will be so very true.

Why not give it a go; look up the BibleFresh website and see if it can help you to revisit the Bible.

Scrabble again………….

  Regular readers will know that Alison bought me a new style Scrabble game on my birthday in January, in an attempt to beat me (Scrabble Trickster), and I still won. Well, for valentine’s day, she`s found another variation on the game. This time its Scrabble with cards, and its called Scrabble Dash. Played it this evening and I couldn`t get the hang of it; We said we`d play until one person won five games.

Well, Alison won four off the trot and then I began to come back and got to four games to two when Alison decided it was time for her to go to bed !!!!!

Just as I was on my Arsenal v Newcastle moment (Newcastle came back from four down) it was robbed from me. We`re going to continue tomorrow night, so we wait to see what happens.

Isn`t life fun ?

“The Kings Speech”

George VI of the United Kingdom
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Just got back from watching the film “The Kings speech” and I have to say it is one of the finest pieces of cinematic experiences I have ever had. It was awesome.

The story of King George VI`s struggle to overcome his stammer, using an unusual mix of tricks and methods. It spoke to me of courage, determination, friendship and a sense of duty.

Right at the end of the film there were many tears shed (including me) and I think that many in the audience were genuinely moved by what they had just seen.

Colin Firth took the role of the King with powerful acting, and Helena Bonham Carter made me believe that the Queen Mother was present, as did Timothy Spall as Churchill. I don`t think there was a weak actor throughout the film.

If you get the opportunity try to see this film; it’s not often I declare something to be a `must see` but this one truly is.