Circuit Advent service

Over the last couple of weeks various people have asked me to share the contents of my Circuit Advent sermon in which we launched our Circuit year of risk-taking mission and service, based on the book by Robert Schnase “5 practices of fruitful congregations” which is a major part of our circuit five year vision.

I don't for one minute think I'm a great preacher (and certainly not a great theologian) and so I'm always reluctant to publish written notes as the spoken word is always different to the written one; however, here goes………



Matthew 25:31-40


1. In ancient Israel, sheep and goats separated only at night: daytime grazed together. Separated at night because goats weren't as hardy as sheep and needed to huddle together for warmth. Any goats not gathered in ran the risk of separation from the others and freezing to death. *

2. Is this an image of the end times, of death and judgement, as it's usually thought to be ? or is it an image of something more ? I've spent most of my Christian life thinking the former about Gods wrath, hell and judgement. Don't get me wrong I believe in hell, but not in the usual way; I think that's too simplistic. *

3. no, I now wonder if this is more to do with living the Christian life now, in preparation for the end times. Let's go back to earlier in Matthew as he begins his five discourses on the end times. Matthew 16:24-25 “Then Jesus said 'don't run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I'll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self'”. (Message Bible) *

4. Danger today is that we live in a world where we're encouraged to put ourselves first. Me, me, me- look after no 1 etc. Natural human instinct of self-preservation. So waste time and energy on others ? And we'll use all manner of excuses to hold onto what we have by blaming others. It's the fault of the homeless that they've nowhere to live; it's the fault of the migrants that unemployment levels have risen; it's the fault of teachers that children don't have any manners; it's the fault of others etc etc. We also question the need to be involved in the lives of others “it won't make a difference, so why bother?” Or the classic “it's not my problem, someone else will sort it”. Jesus was different. *

5. Hold onto what Jesus said in our passage (turn to it in your Bibles or on your phones). A reminder, Matthew 25:31-40, and as I re-read the two key words in this second passage, think about the implications. FOLLOW ME ! Jesus instructed his followers to be just that, people who followed. NOT people who sought to follow their own inclinations, but sought to model their lives on Jesus. *

6. In the passage we heard various needs are mentioned, feeding the hungry, serving those who are thirsty (both can be spiritual as well as practical), hospitality to strangers, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and helping the prisoner. When did you last do these things ? Yes, many churches collect for food banks, some will help in overnight shelters, some donate clothing (at least one church in our circuit has done this in my time here), many are involved in pastoral visiting but isn't it easier to visit those we get along with ? and some may donate to prisoner week or a whole host of charities. ALL of which is commendable but I want to challenge us all as Churches and as individuals to go further and take risks. *

7. Following Schnase book (some still available to buy or borrow) as our circuit direction the CLT wish the Church to ask everyone to focus on the chapter “Risk-taking mission and service” for the year 2017. We hope to have some themed preaching on the subject, and that the circuit may hold Bible studies on it, and Church studies may be similarly focussed. Tonight is our launch night. *

8. I think that all I've said above has to go beyond our comfort zones, and that is risky ! Couple of weeks ago I did the annual YMCA sleep-out as you know. A man from my former circuit of Borders Mission came to join me all the way from Chesterfield. I asked Nick why ? He said that last year he'd donated money to my fundraising page and then later in the year had reflected that he wanted to go further, as he put it “get involved” so he'd travelled a long way to do so. I'd have been happy if he'd simply donated again but he'd gone further and got involved. Many of you have heard of my Romanian friends, Alex and Heather; used to occasionally visit Romania each year but then felt God calling them to more so they sold all their belongings and moved into a tatty farm building with their three children in a poverty stricken village in order to help. They got involved. *

9. Now we can't all do that but following Jesus is about 'getting involved', whether it's getting up at 5 in the morning to hang angels all over your village or committing yourself to standing alongside a cause for disability, or deafness or something else; whether it's putting yourself forward as a Local Preacher, Minister, or Worship Leader to serving on your local council or in politics. For Churches it may be about rearranging furniture to create dedicated space within worship to make young parents feel at home with their children to encouraging young breastfeeding mothers to know they won't be condemned or shoved in a corner. It may be for churches to stretch out welcoming hands to the LGBTQ communities (look it up) or to homeless people. It may be about taking the risk of saying 'our work is done' and letting go of the building for a new work of God or to release resources for elsewhere. Not for me to say but I'd like each church this year to consider what risk taking mission and service Gods calling them to in their community. An agenda item for the Spring Church Councils. *

10. And why launch tonight ? Precisely because it's Advent which reminds us of the risk Jesus took-from Heaven to earth, from the cradle to cross, and all because of love. I can't say this loud enough, Advent screams at us that GOD got INVOLVED. *

11. Who can we serve ? Individually or as a Church/Circuit ?

What will be the result of it ? Sponsored walk for water-aid, knitted blankets for various causes, angels in Uttoxeter and this year all over the circuit and so on. Never feels like much but even if one life is enhanced it's worthwhile.

Covenant prayer “put me to what you will……”


Christmas letter 2016

December 2016

Dear all

It's that time of year when we look back, with thanks, and look forward, with expectation. As usual the year has been a mixture of busyness, of relaxation, of joy and of hope.

Alison eventually left her position as dementia care Chaplain for MHA, with sadness after 6 years and has now taken up a position as a part-time Stipendiary Priest for Emmanuel Parish Church, Swadlincote and she is very busy but really enjoying it. The people seem to love her enormously as well. At the moment she's involved in a heritage lottery funding application for Church restoration ! Talk about landing in the deep end. The architect is quaking at the Rottweiler the Anglican Church have unleashed on him.

Alison is involved in many other initiatives as well, messy church, the local o.a.p. home, inter church events and the town clergy gatherings.

She still plays an active part in her Inner Wheel club (West Ashfield) and enjoys the friendship and fellowship with people who we've now known 11 years.

Mike, continues his role of Superintendent of the Trent and Dove Circuit and is very happy here. At the time of writing the Circuit are on the lookout for a new Presbyter for next Summer and so that is dominating his thinking. The Circuit are very good and caring and it is our hope that when they have to decide on our future that they'll 'put up' with us a few more years.

Mike also continues in his role as Deputy Chair (joint) of District and feels it a privilege to be allowed to share in the work with Loraine Mellor (Chair) and his co-deputy Paul Worsnop. Over the summer they gave a series of workshops based on the book by Robert Schnase “5 practices of a fruitful Congregation” So well received, that it's now being rolled out across the District.

Both Paul and Mike are gearing up for July onwards when Loraine becomes President of the Methodist Conference and they will be taking on more responsibility. Busy times ahead, but exciting times. Mike is exceedingly grateful for the colleagues around him who are already helping in so many ways. As well as jugglingSuperintendency and Deputy Chair, Mike has also begun his voluntary role as Junior Vice-President of Burton Rotary Club where he has made many new friends. In 2017 he will become Senior Vice-President leading to President in 2018, a role he fulfilled in 2010 in his last Rotary Club. Mike is also now a Director/Trustee of Burton Addiction Centre and a Trustee of Burton Transformation Trust. Allied to the support he gives to the YMCA (slept out for the 4th consecutive year this year) life is very full.

Photo taken at the recent Burton Albion vs Newcastle United match: notice the scarf with both teams colours on it !



The proudest memories of the year though centre on little Piper Connie Fox, our Grandchild, who is growing very fast. Now, just over 1 year old, she dominates our thinking and our lives. We have become very familiar with “In the night garden”, Upsy Daisy, Iggle piggle and the Ninky Nonk. If you don't understand any of this, then you're missing a treat 😂 It's great !

Vikki and Mark are furiously preparing the house in readiness for Christmas and then it'll be full scale ahead for their wedding next August, which we are all looking forward to.

Rebecca and Michelle continue to enjoy life (& Piper) in their flat. They moved flats this year, all of several yards across the landing, but into a larger flat. This has meant that Michelle's Mum, Susan, and her Dad, Alfie, have been able to visit. It's been lovely getting to know them.

Alison and Mike continue to feel very blessed by the family around them, and this year for the first time all 7 (+ a special friend, Judith) were able to holiday in Cornwall together. Special memories were created.

We managed to make our annual trip to Romania to work in Poiana near Constanta. Having missed in 2015 Mike was especially pleased to be back.
We were privileged to work with a team insulating a house, and running a children's club. Alison and I have really grown to love the people of the village and they top our prayers every day.
Alison's Mum and Mike's Dad continue to both do very well and considering they're both 88 years old we count ourselves very fortunate to have them both. Mike was recently able to take his Dad to just north of Brighton to have a few hours with his older sister, Anne. A trip full of memories and its hoped to repeat it in the new year.

All in all, it's been a busy time but life is good and we're so grateful to the Lord for His blessings. We wish you all a very happy and peaceful Christmas and may 2017 bring you great joy.

Mike & Alison Redshaw


Love thy neighbour

Just back from a couple of days away and then weekend working.

On Thursday and Friday I travelled to just north of Brighton to take my father to see his older sister: the first time in several years, although they keep in touch by phone. It was a joy to see them sitting in her settee catching up on the news, like a couple of teenagers.

Auntie Anne (& her husband Uncle Stanley) were always special as I grew up and whenever they came to visit it was an exciting occasion because to a small child growing up it felt like two important visitors were coming. I now know that they wouldn't have seen themselves as special in any way but to me it was always a great adventure meeting them and spending time with them. After all, they were from so far away; London !!
It was a lovely visit as it gave me a chance to catch up with my cousins also, April and Douglas who I hadn't seen for many years. Memories shared, laughter and tears also. I do hope to go back in the Spring, with Alison.
Then, just this afternoon I called in to see an older church member who'se husband is in hospital. As we chatted she shared about how her daughter was able to get each week (because of distance) but how her next door neighbours called in each day to make sure she's ok. “They're Muslims” she remarked in a matter-of-fact way. As I was leaving, the lady of next doors family called and I took the chance to thank her, to which she replied “As Muslims we're taught to look after our neighbours” and then she told me what a joy it was to have my church member as her friend.
You know, we live in a world wher at the end of the day religion is used as an excuse to shore up the in-built bigotry some people already have; islamaphobia, homophobia, do not have any justified place within any religion, but our media and others will argue that Christians and Muslims are full of all-consuming hate for each other, for homosexuality, and for anything that is considered 'not the norm'
I actually find that it is the true people of whatever faith who have found that which lies at the heart of life itself, love, peace and respect for all. To me ALL people are God-created and although I may not agree with their religion, their dress code, their way of life or even their football team (!) I WILL love them as central to my faith is the belief that God created all people and has told me to “love my neighbour”
I love the current Amazon Christmas video of a Muslim and a Priest showing friendship by buying each other knee pads to help them at prayer times. Oh, hasten the day when all people can sit as close to each other as Dad and Auntie Anne did on her settee and simply talk with a sparkle in the eyes and the enjoyment of company.