Methodism and Brexit and how to handle it all !

Its hard to imagine but I’ve been running this blog since May 2007 when I was first challenged to keep an account of how I was spending my sabbatical (looking at sports chaplaincy). 12 years later I’m surprised that there are still folk who look out for my ramblings; many thanks for the encouragement.

Ive used this picture before but tonight Im thinking in a different direction. Im very aware that we’re living in a very divided world; Over and above all the potential for world conflict that is around us (sabre rattling between countries) our own country and my own denomination is caught up in conflict.

The nation continues to argue over Brexit, prorogation of Parliament, political parties and in general the whole atmosphere is quite toxic. the Brexiteers accuse the Remainers of thwarting the will of the people and the Remainers accuse the Brexiteers of being reckless with our future.

In a similar way a dispute is simmering within the Methodist Church; our Conference agreed that this year we’d explore a report entitled “Marriage and Relationships” especially looking at the meaning and understanding of marriage. Into this mix comes the subject of same-sex marriage and quite quickly has become the red hot potato of Methodism. One group arguing that the traditional view of marriage (one man, one woman) is the norm and is Biblical; the other side saying that there is room within Biblical understanding for homosexuality and therefore for same sex marriage.

I have my views on both of these subjects but I’m not airing them here; however my bigger concern is how the issues are being dealt with for I fear that both are creating an atmosphere of intolerance, misunderstanding, bullying and in some cases downright prejudice. Each bin represents a viewpoint and once in one bin it cant jump up and declare it wishes it was in the other. Recycling rubbish cant be put into landfill rubbish and so on. Brexiteers and Remainers are in separate bins, and in a similar way lies the various camps within Methodism.

The picture below is of a broken vase (result of an accident in one of my churches 5 years ago) and all that the vase became good for was the filling of the local land-fill site, sadly.

I fear that our society and our Church is running the risk of being broken by peoples attitudes and intolerance. It doesn’t matter one iota about who I disagree with or who disagrees with me, but what is very important is that I still continue to treat them as God created, for to fail to do that is to fail to honour God.

Although the preacher, George Whitefield disagreed with John Wesley on some theological matters, he was careful not to create problems in public that could be used to hinder the preaching of the gospel. When someone asked Whitefield if he thought he would see Wesley in heaven, Whitefield replied, “I fear not, for he will be so near the eternal throne and we at such a distance, we shall hardly get sight of him.” 

Whitefield had the right idea: we can disagree but still admire, discuss, debate, recognise the good in others. Sadly, many disputes these days seem to mean that sides and stances are quickly taken from which there can be no shifting. On Facebook (and presumably other social media sites) abuse is hurled at any who people disagree with over Brexit (to the point of Retainers being told to “*****, to Europe if you disagree” or Brexiteers being assumed to be ignorant. In the Church some of those in favour of same-sex marriage have been told that they are not Christian and hell awaits. Similarly those who earnestly and honestly seek the traditional view of marriage are told that they need to “get modern” and are holding the Church back.

The truth is that in neither the Brexit nor issues regarding marriage are the problem; the problem is the culture of intolerance within both. Notice that Whitefield could disagree but still recognise God within Wesley. Oh, that we could do the same with those we disagree with.

Wesley famously said “Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike ? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion ? Without all doubt, we may; Herein all the children of God may unite, not withstanding these smaller differences

and

“If we cannot think alike, at least we may love alike; and can anything but love beget love?”

The trouble is that none of us think we have any bigotry, any homophobia, any racial prejudice and in that way it sneaks into our lives; we really do need to cultivate a spirit of love between us and others, so that the Kingdom of God may blossom in the lives of other people. Hatred begets hatred, but love also begets love. I know which I’d rather have. I return to the original picture of the two bins and I note the cross in between them. The only way to cultivate such a spirit is to see others through the eyes of the God who created each person and the God who dies on the cross to draw the world back to him. Reconciliation can only come through the sort of love that took Jesus to the cross. We have a choice ………………………

 

Which way will you and I follow ?

 

 

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Rotary Presidential letter

 

As most of my readers know I have now served my year of office for Burton Rotary Club, and here I repeat the letter I posted in the club bulletin as I thought it might be of interest elsewhere.

Ive now been a member of Rotary for 15 years (2 different areas) and it really is a special organisation, that Im proud to belong to………

 

Dear friends

As my year of office as President draws to its close, my attention turns towards memories of a very special year and my thankfulness for the privilege of having served you all. A few ramblings……………….

Thinking of that word “privilege” it can grammatically be used in a variety of ways. As a countable noun it means it is a special gift or right afforded to a person or a group. For me this year has felt like a special gift: it has been tiring, difficult and because of my work and family commitments has not been easy but I have seen it as a role whereby the members of the club have set me aside to carry out a particular task. To represent someone or something you believe in passionately is a great privilege.

Secondly, it can be used as an uncountable noun which speaks of power, but this has not applied in this year. In the PePs training they constantly told me that “it is your Presidential year, you can do what you like”; I soon found that I couldn’t and rightly so for in Rotary the President only carries whatever power is given by virtue of agreement, which is why its representative not dictatorial or tyrannical.

Thirdly, it can be a verb, expressing that to privilege someone is to treat them differently or better, rather than to treat them equally. Yes, I got my dinner marginally sooner than others but that’s for practical reasons of the activity of the top table. I hope I wasn’t treat any differently than any other Rotarian, for we’re all in the organisation together, with different skills and gifts to be used; however everything we bring to the club is for the benefit of others not ourselves.

Fourthly, it is as a singular noun that I use it. Here it means that it has been a privilege to have been your President. It has enhanced my view, not only of Rotary, but of you all as friends and special people. I offer you my heartfelt thanks.

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BUT, what will I remember from this past year ?

1) The Trafalgar night, being piped on board SS Rotary with Admiral Sir Trevor Hoar, and the chance to speak to some of the youngsters of SS Modwena, the towns sea cadets.

2). The special entertainment at our Christmas dinner, by a local school showing us their pantomime

3). Charter night with entertainment by Hilary and Andy. Special friends

4). Presenting the Burton Hero of Heroes award to Jyoti Shah, alongside Carol Moralees from our Bretby club.

5) Speaking at Bretby Rotary Club Christmas celebration

6). Travelling to Retford to collect our District award, but not knowing what we had won it for; fun part was it seemed that no one in the District knew either.

7). Last years garden party at John Jacksons house

8). The Presidents hand over last week to Bryan. I loved it, good food, good venue, good company. What more could you ask for ?

Sadly because of work commitments I missed the Pirelli parade, the young chef competition and several other events such as the Marquee event at Repton. However I feel that you have supported me through difficulties this year, with my Father and currently with my Mother-in-Law. Thankyou.

Finally, a thank you for the magnificent support you have given through the Presidential appeal towards a Hearing Dog for the Deaf. (currently standing at £1005 I believe). My deafness is now almost complete and without my hearing aids I hear nothing. I have been accepted onto the waiting list for a dog and I hope word gets through soon, but it can take up to 4 years for this to happen. However hopefully I’ll have one before I move on from Burton. If you’re still not sure about the organisation please look up its website                         (www.hearingdogs.org.uk)

I ‘m delighted to have had the year past and I’ve been proud to serve the Rotary Club of Burton, even in my moments of inadequacy. As I close this article I wish Bryan a good year as he takes on the reins of office (like me for the second time). We have a lot to be proud of in Burton Rotary Club; its a great organisation, a great club and some great people.

Yours in Rotary

Mike, Immediate Past President (or back bench whinger !)

Handover to President Bryan Pickering June 2019

P.S.  As a bit of fun I wore a different waistcoat every time I turned up anywhere for Rotary; now Im receiving complaints that Ive attended two meetings without a waistcoat !!!!!  lol

Love what ?

Hi everyone, been a while since I wrote; in that time work has been busy, Ive enjoyed a holiday period in Shrewsbury and am now getting myself back into the swing of things,

and as I return to ‘the swing of things’ Ive found myself reflecting on priorities; what are my priorities in life ?

Firstly, Ive been thinking of how he nature of my Ministry has changed considerably since I first came into Circuit life in Oldham in 1991 as a young Probationer Minister; Now I find myself holding responsibility as a Superintendent Minister and as Deputy Chair of District. Within the latter role I am also taking on additional responsibility as a Titular (stand-in) Superintendent for the neighbouring Circuit and as such my mind is currently full of making necessary plans dominated by how to handle additional meetings without becoming meeting bound and having no time for anything else. It gets harder to make room for people and yet I won’t give up on meeting and sharing with others for that’s where my heart burns.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Secondly, Ive loved spending time with Alison on holiday and we’ve both committed ourselves to trying to take more time off and getting away from the Manse. When your home is also your workable it becomes too easy to constantly be thinking of what needs to be done and what hasn’t been completed. When I was in the Civil Service I’d walk out of the office at the end of the day and not think about it until I was walking back in the following morning. In Ministry thats rarely possible. I wake in the night occasionally (only occasionally, don’t worry) and find myself thinking about the jobs for the following day, and so we’ve said that we need to get away from the Manse and therefore the telephone etc. more often otherwise our respective Ministries will totally consume us. Not easy but its the only way we’ll cope with the additional work on both sets of shoulders. (Alison takes on a greater responsibility in September in her own Church as well).

 

Alongside spending more time with Alison we both give daily thanks for the wonderful family that we have around us. Blessed to still have Alisons Mum and my Dad, we both have great brothers who look after them as we’re so far away, but closer to home we have Rebecca and Michelle and Vicky and Mark. In all their different ways they have enriched our lives but none more so than our dear grandchildren wo both stretch us and frustrate us, worry us and cheer us. Piper and Emett have brought such love to us and not a day goes by without us thinking about what they’re up to. It is a great family and we give thanks for them, alongside special friends with whom we share our lives; Judith, the Woods, the Chalmers and the Greens have all become such an integral part of us that we cannot imagine life without any of them

Friends and family are essential to well-being, as is taking time to pursue interests such as football, Rotary and I really want to get back to theatre-going somehow.

 

 

 

 

Finally, I return to the question of how do I pull all this in and which is my priority ?

I think you all know the answer that I give, which is the latter of family and friends, but how does this equate with my Ministry ?

At the centre of the whole of my life is my love of Jesus and whilst I accept that not all of my readers will follow the same line of thinking, for me it is that love which holds me in all things and makes sense of all things; as long as I keep returning to Jesus it makes sense of everything else and prevents me getting over absorbed in the wrong priorities. He redirects me back to those areas that he considers important and that is relationships far more than the structures of the Methodist Church, far more than Brexit, far more than my own petty desires.

Jesus said “Love your neighbour as I have loved you”. I am so aware of his love for me that I understand how important loving other people actually is. When we arrive at Pipers home its great to stand on the outside of the door and hear her shouting with excitement “Its Grandad, hide” Far from wanting to avoid me she’s genuinely overjoyed to see Alison and I. Thats my priority, to have that sense of excitement over other people, that joy I their presence, that ability to see them as Jesus sees us and to love them with his love which is the greatest force of them all.

Jesus, the Alpha and Omega,                                                 the beginning and the end