The Methodist Church has this wonderful device; its full of information; it is revered by most Methodists; it is studied intently; it is used and quoted in arguments. What is it ? The Bible ?

No I refer to that precious document known as……………… THE PLAN !

For the unenlightened amongst my readers the Methodist plan is a document published every three months detailing every preacher in every Methodist Church within the Methodist Circuit on any given Sunday within a quarterly period. Lovingly crafted, worked at and sweated over it is indeed a work of art. Within this Circuit (Trent and Dove) there are 16 churches some with two services on a Sunday, some with one. Some Churches have 10.00 am services whilst others are at 10.30 or 11.00 am On top of that there are mid-afternoon services and evening services at 6.00 pm, 6.30 pm or 8.00 pm That makes 248 appointments (acts of Worship) between June and August for which each requires an accredited Local Preacher or Ordained Minister. In addition I have at my disposal 28 Local Preachers and 9 active members of staff (37 in all) but for a variety of reasons they are not always available (holidays, illness, age, need to be at their own Church etc).

All of this combined creates a wonderful jigsaw of combinations, permutations and desperation. The one thing guaranteed in all of this is that I`ll get it wrong !!

I left the civil service 25 years ago thinking that it would be the last I would see of paper pushing and form filling. I find myself, because of the above and because of Government legislation and the worlds desire for statistical collection, doing as much paperwork now as I did then; at least that’s how it feels.

I fear that in the midst of all this fun and excitement I run the risk of losing my first love and my first calling, “To know Christ and to make Christ known” I came into the Ministry in the belief that I was called to share the Gospel news and make Christ known. Where does my paperwork come into this calling ?

It can be, and often is, argued that the plan making is simply an organised way of ensuring the Gospel is shared amongst a variety of locations, but is it ?  I think that the plan making simply ensures the continuity of that which some of the Methodist folk have always loved. It ensures that there is a preacher for an act of worship and little else. However important this is the plan making rarely addresses the issue of outreach which is what I feel called to.

Today I give thanks for Pastor Phil Crathorne of the Kings Church here in Burton who is encouraging me to keep Kingdom orientated and mission focussed. Please pray for me that I will always seek to love Jesus and bring others to love him also.


Alison and I at Gwennap Pit, near Redruth in Cornwall where John Wesley used to preach


Oh, and by the way I`m down to my last 10 gaps on the preaching plan !!



Mark 11:11-25

MARK 11:11-25

Just a brief resume of this mornings sermon.

Not theologically superb: a bit simple but very much what I believe God wants me to say.

Sermon points
1). So often we want God to bless us, but is this the point of worship ? Surely worship is about pleasing God; feeding God. We often say, look and do the ‘right’ things but how much is it about what we want ? rather than what God wants.
2). So what pleases God? Our worship should be a 24/7 lifestyle of righteousness and holiness. The Temple forecourt was misused; God not honoured. We shouldn’t divorce our worship from the rest of our lives.
3). Not being judgemental pleases God. He alone has that right, not us. We all sin (image of Pope confessing his sins, last week), and so are dependant upon Gods grace.
But because God has given us his grace, we can allow him to improve our lives. In the worship of our whole lives, what are we to hope for/pray for ? That our lives, wishes, desires might be in accordance with His will. In other words we seek the Holy Spirits help in becoming the people he wishes us to be. That is true worship.


In conclusion
Are we seeking to please God, everyday ?
Are we seeking holy, righteous lives ?
Are we seeking Gods help in becoming the people he wishes us to be ?



Rarely does television touch me in a positively challenging way but this BBC 2 programme nearly always leaves me thinking long after the laughter has died down.

For those not familiar with the programme…………………… it concerns an inner-city London Anglican priest, Rev Adam Smallbone, his flock which includes an alcoholic drop-out (Colin), a churchlady (Adoha) who wants to mother him and possibly more, his frustrated wife (Alex) who struggles with the notion of being a Priests wife, and a wide variety of other characters; it also includes an Archdeacon who is more of a friend than his demeanour suggests, and two other hierarchical characters in his area dean and the lay deanery representative (two very formidable ladies, representing the Church Gestapo !).

But what sets the programme apart from the previous portrayals of Christian clergy is the earthy realism that lies behind the comedy. Here is a human Priest who smokes, drinks, has sex, swears and struggles with balancing his life with his calling to the Priesthood.

This is series three and so far seems to be the most cutting edge of them all and so, in my estimation, the best.

Last Mondays episode saw Adam wrestling with the red-hot potato of same-sex marriage and left me thinking at the end of it “Wow, how would I handle this ?”. Adam has to face the dilemma of a situation in which two gay friends have been married in a civil ceremony and who now wish to complete the marriage ceremony in their Church and before God. However Adam is faced with the dilemma that the Church of England forbids the conducting of same-sex marriages in Church. First of all he attempts to get round the regulations by praying for the couple during a mid week Eucharist but their friends and indeed Alex, expect more for they are seeking a full acknowledgement that God approves of their marriage.

Eventually Adam comes to a point where he conducts a private ceremony behind closed doors as he really wants to support this couple.

Some rambling thoughts…………….

This summer Methodist Conference is set to debate the whole issue and I suspect that we run the risk of extreme division over the matter. There will be those who struggle with the thought of same-sex relationships let alone marriage and those for whom its marriage and nothing less; There will be some clergy who will feel pressured beyond their consciences to conduct such ceremonies and others who will do so gladly; there will be churches which will find it abhorrent and others who will question what the fuss is all about, leaving presbyters torn because there may well be some who have churches at either end of the spectrum (I found under the homosexual discussions in the early 1990`s, that I had three churches all with a different position on the matter, but all expected me to take their view as I was `their` Minister !).

Sadly, I predict a summer of discontent over the matter because many will form their views on gut-instinct, prejudice, culture originating in years gone by, lack of understanding and certainly lack of knowledge. Sadly, there will be few who will wrestle honestly with the subject whilst holding the most important parts of the equation in the centre of the debate; and what are the most important parts ? I would say quite simply God and people !

Too often we remove God from the equation or we decide what we feel/think and then impose it upon God. I have heard Biblical material/evidence supporting a prohibition on homosexuality and also supporting a position on non-condemnation. Have the people who would argue one way or the other actually decided their views and then used Scripture to support their established position ? It is hard to fully and conclusively know Gods will on specific subjects as we are human beings, influenced too often by other agendas, but it must be a daily desire to seek Him out and seek His will however unsure we may be that we have a final answer. It’s not too long ago that many in the Church used the Bible to establish a position against women preachers in pulpits whilst avoiding the issue of women wearing hats !

Secondly, we remove people from the picture. We talk theologically as if the topic of our conversation was no more than a philosophical dilemma to be resolved. There are emotions involved, pain, distress as well as joy and hope. These are real people with real hopes and fears the same as everyone else. We must learn to listen to them also, to try to get alongside and meet their concerns head on, not to dismiss their pain under the cloud of theological dispute. Jesus always met people where they were and dealt with them in a loving, caring manner. When harsh words were needed they were reserved for those who didn`t care and who were bound by petty rules and regulations rather than Gods love for people.

And for me ?   I`ve reached the stage of the journey where I think that if we`re discussing Gods stance on this and other issues we need to consider His love for all people. The God of creation is the God of love, and if His love is for all people then surely I am called to follow His example.

Whatever the Church decides regarding same-sex marriage I will follow its leading for I have placed myself under its disciplines, but my prayer is that in all of the deliberations, in all of the thinking and most of all in all of the prayer we will seek Gods love for people and then have the guts and conviction to show it.

I know I`ll be condemned by some quarters for not taking a condemnatory stance on this (indeed I already have been) but I also will NOT let down my gay friends or family who are on this journey and who know only too well the pain that the Church can cause.

Marriage ? I continue to wrestle with my understanding of marriage (procreation, companionship, faithfulness ?????) but I do so with a supportive, loving heart for my friends and family and I invite others on whichever side of the debate to do the same………”Greater love has no man than to lay down his life for his friend”. Perhaps the time has come to lay down some of our old lives (prejudices/misunderstandings etc.) in order to find Gods love for all people.