“So what’s the story ……?

Ive just finished re-reading the Connexion magazine from the Methodist Church and have found it to be truly inspiring in many places. Not only are copies delivered to every Methodist Minister,  for Church use, but it can also be found online at https://www.methodist.org.uk/media/12459/the-connexion-magazine-issue-15.pdf

From the article written by our President of Conference, Revd Dr Barbara Glasson to articles on Church planting, our Methodist heritage, racial justice and much more, I have found this edition to be one of the best that the Methodist Church has produced and Im so thankful for it. I would encourage readers of this blog to pick up a copy from Church or look at it online. I’m thinking seriously about using it for a study group in either Trent and Dove or South Derbyshire Circuits (or both together !)

I’m particularly encouraged by the article from Barbara Glasson entitled “Embodying God’s grace” and the way she reminds us that ‘doing small practical things graciously is at the heart of who we are as Methodists”

I’m particularly reminded of the time when Alison was expecting our first child; because of high blood pressure she was frequently in hospital. The lady who took me ‘on note’ as a young Local Preacher (she knows who she is) took it on herself to frequently land at my back door with a casserole or a simple meal, so that when I returned home from work I didn’t have to cook and therefore could get to the hospital to visit Alison. For me that was a life-saver. As she reads this I hope she grasps something of my enormous gratitude for her generosity, even though she probably didn’t think she was doing much at the time. She gave me more than just a love of preaching, she shared with me the generosity and Grace of Christ.

Sometimes we think we can’t do much to improve the world; we feel helpless in the face of natural disasters, racial hatred, discrimination, , illness and so on but there is so much that we can do I our own area. I once heard a story of a man walking along a beach in which hundreds of starfish had been washed ashore. As he looked at the number of dying creatures in the baking hot sun, he saw a small boy throwing one back into the water. ‘What are you doing ?” he said, “you can’t possibly throw them all back. it’ll make no difference” The boy pointed at the sea and simply replied “Its made a difference to that one !”

Within Methodism we have been challenged to have a year of testimony and I want to begin by asking “what’s our story …..?” Is it a story of conversion, of opportunity, of helping someone, of making a difference ? We all have a story to tell, whether it be a small generous gift like the one I received or the opportunity to work overseas for charity. It may be a story of how we received a call to preach or to the Ministry, or it may be a story of starting a new venture amongst the homeless, but whatever it is I ask you to “tell that story of what God has challenged you to” and allow others to hear and be challenged as well.

 

p.s. Three times over the last couple of weeks I’ve been asked to put my story (ies) into a book. I don’t think it will be of interest and I also think that just about every Minister in the land has stories to tell so why should I be any different ? However, I’m praying it through to see if God is challenging me towards my next sabbatical.

 

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 ?

 

 

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.

page1image4190801984

 

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

 

 

 

 

Be the light

Rant warning !

Why is it that we see the need to be critical of other people. As I get older I find that tolerance of others seems to get less within society. Some people seem to find it all too easy to call out the faults in others and whilst I agree that there are many injustices within society that need to be challenged so often we look for the little things and pick on them.

In a world which seems to be dominated by mistrust, tension between America and Iran, between Leavers and Remainers (Brexit), between political opponents seeking historical mistakes in others and “fake news” cried in every situation that people disagree with, why do we seek to discredit colleagues, friends, family over little things ? So often it feels as though we’re ignoring the tatty state of our own garden and criticising our neighbours houses in order to hide our own shortcomings.

And sadly we’re all guilty of it.

This rant has come about because some Church folk have ‘complained’ about something that is so mind-bogglingly trivial that it hardly warrants mention, and yet it sits just under my skin, creating a persistent itch. It almost feels as though folk require their pound of flesh no matter how small the matter might be or how insignificant it is in the scheme of things compared to hunger in Africa, war in the Middle East, child abuse etc.

In Matthew 5:38-40, Jesus advocates turning the other cheek when hurt: forgiveness is the way not revenge. In Matthew 18:21-22 Jesus speaks to Peter about forgiving someone seventy times seven as an answer to the question of forgiveness. Here he is indicating that there should be no end to forgiveness. I’m also mindful of the injunction of Jesus in Matthew 7:5 to “first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Too often I ignore the plank obscuring my vision and I concentrate on the fault in someone else.

And yet when someone offends it is very easy (and sadly almost self-righteous) not to accept their apology. My particular sadness is that it is a trait that affects all areas not only of society but of the Church itself. And I too fall into the trap. It feels as though there is something inside of us which refuses to give in and accept an apology. Is it pride ? Is it a belief that acceptance shows weakness ? Is it the thought that ‘they deserve it’ ? It could be any of these or a thousand more reasons but the answer surely has to lie with each one of us. Certainly for Christians there has to be a better way, and its Gods way, especially as shown by Jesus. Proverbs 25:22 indicates the better as being the way of showing love; being the better person; claiming the moral ground. for it speaks of how being kind to a person is like pouring burning coals onto their head. It sounds harsh but the idea being that the heat of kindness melts their hard hearts and reconciliation becomes possible.

The picture on the right hangs in the Church that Alison and I love so much in Poiana, Romania. I don’t know the story behind it but every time I look at it or think of it, somehow God seems to speak to me through it. The love shown by Jesus on the cross should lie at the centre of all of our hearts; when I think of Christians that I admire who have fallen out with fellow Christians I want to cry “where is the love of Jesus in your heart, that shows forgiveness”: when I think of Christians not speaking to other Christians, no matter how great the hurt I want to ask “how much hurt did Jesus endure on the cross for us and yet was able to say ‘Father, forgive them’“; When I hear of Church members (& Presbyters) being critical of the so called Church hierarchy who are often trying their best in difficult circumstances I want to say “when did you last pray for them ?”

I’m, frankly fed up of being criticised, attacked, complained about, suspected, but I keep trying to return to the Christian default position of love; I try to love people into the Kingdom of Jesus and I try to love those who are already there. In this way I’m trying to model my life upon the Lord I love.

In a week in which my three year old Granddaughter looked at her wrinkled fingers after a bath and declared “I’m getting old” I want to look at my whole life and be able to declare I’m not only getting older but wiser and hopefully more Christlike (long way to go)

Thanks for pursuing this rant to the end, but it would be better if all of my readers could endeavour to put right relationships, forgive others, accept forgiveness, and take the love of Jesus into their hearts.

Then we can truly tackle the ‘big’ issues in our world, in order to alleviate suffering, hunger, raise up the oppressed and protect the weak and vulnerable.

Finally, dont talk about the light; be the light

EDI

Feeling ashamed to realise this is actually my first post of 2019 and its almost April ! To those who tell me that they appreciate this Blog, Im truly sorry but life has, as usual, been very busy.

So what has prompted tonights message ? Ive returned from an EDI meeting on behalf of the Methodist Church. EDI stands for the team that looks after Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, and tonights meeting has been both challenging to our thinking and to future actions. We have a passion that the Methodist Church should be open and inclusive to ALL people and our conversations tonight has centred around Church accessibility being more than just fitting a disabled toilet, but about a changed attitude towards others, so that those with mobility issues, hearing issues, sight issues and many others can still feel welcome and accepted. Yes, change the buildings etc where possible but we talked about the need to change attitudes.

Our second conversation was about inclusivity for all of the above and for so many more folk who currently feel disenfranchised by the Church.

It’s about the very nature of the Church: what is the Church here for ?; who is it for ? Do we listen to ALL people or just those that we approve of ?

Hard questions and tonight was an open and frank exchange of views, but all positively seeking the way forward. On Saturday is out District Synod and I’m hoping to include in the notices the following statement………….

“On Thursday past the EDI (equality, diversity and inclusion) team met and identified issues around accessibility and inclusivity within worship. We meet again in June where we’d like to put together an accessibility audit and invite every church to consider at its Church council, its AGM or a specially convened meeting having a time of conversation around the question “if the church was truly inclusive what would it look like ?”

More after June.

I hope that if you’re in any such conversation that you’ll find it as challenging as I have tonight.

2018

And so we draw towards the close of 2018 and like many folk at this time of year I reflect back on what has happened, mistakes, joys, regrets, sadness’ and hopes for 2019, so bear with me as I look back and also look forward.

In many ways it’s been a tough year, which on reflection actually began in October 2017. That was when we moved house mid-appointment and I vow that we’ll never do it again. In future we’ll hang on until the traditional August move or we’ll tell the Circuit that we need two weeks off after a move. The problem this time was that as we prepared to move a serious issue within the Circuit blew up and I never got time to deal with things properly. I ended up going from looking after three Churches to all close by to looking after 5 (two at the far end of the circuit) and it has staggered into the second half of 2018 as I now hold responsibility for 8 churches (shared with the great Ministry of Revd Stella Mills and Revd Helen Harrell and the great support over two churches of Mrs Teresa Hawkins). It has meant a year of criss-crossing the circuit calming folk who were worried, angry, threatening to leave and supporting colleagues also caught up in the midst of the storm. I believe it has calmed down now and we look forward, expectantly, to our new colleague coming next August.

The consequence of this is that we are still unpacking to a certain extent and still trying to sort my study out into the way I’d originally envisaged it.

Throughout the latter half of 2017 and the first half of 2018 I held the role of Deputy Chair of District alongside one of the best colleagues I’ve ever had, Revd Paul Worsnop during the absence of our current Chair of District who was fulfilling her role as President of Conference. It was a challenging time to which I’m still not sure I was able to give it full attention, because of circumstances such as the move and other things which will follow later in these ramblings. I currently am continuing as Deputy Chair. I consider it a great honour and privilege to have been asked and I continue to try my best amongst colleagues who I’m convinced are far more qualified than I am.

February 2018 brought with it a frightening moment as I’d been having trouble swallowing and when I went to my GP he uttered one word, Cancer, and sent me to the hospital for a very urgent appointment to have an endoscopy (camera down my throat). Not a painful procedure but uncomfortable and I cannot praise the staff at Queens Hospital, Burton enough for the kindness, gentleness, humour and skill that they showed to me. However and thankfully it came back clear of anything untoward. It seems strange but I’m convinced the problem is the age of my false teeth and my need for new ones which leads me to not chewing as well as I should do ! However I cannot afford new teeth just at this time.

June brought with it the opportunity to rejoice and celebrate with friends, family, church members and Rotarians as I acknowledged 25 years since my Ordination. As the Church in which I was Ordained is here in Burton, and is now a cafe I was able to ‘take it over’ for the day and simply host a day long coffee time. It raised £81 each for Romania, YMCA, and the Burton Addiction Centre, and for me it was simply a joyous and a time of great thankfulness. Even my best friend, Judith, was able to make it from Oldham where my first Ministerial appointment had been.

July 1st saw me inducted as the President of the Rotary Club of Burton. Regular readers of this blog may remember that I was the President of West Ashfield Rotary Club in 2010. It is a tremendous honour and as with my Church work it is something that I haven’t sought but that in itself makes it more of an honour that I’ve been asked. It has brought me into interesting situations amongst other Rotarians and Rotary clubs, great opportunities to serve the community. I’ll hold the post until next July and in that time great things lie ahead such as the continuing work of Rotary in eradicating Polio, restoration of Burton railway station and the supporting of youth around the town. great stuff.

August, though, brought with it the most difficult time of all. My brother Andrew and I had been concerned about Dads increasing forgetfulness throughout the year and also in 2017. Suddenly in early Summer Dad was admitted to hospital after an accidental overdose as he took several days worth of tablets in one go. Thankfully he came through this, but then whilst I was on holiday I got a phone call from Andrew to tell me that Dad had been urgently admitted to a care home as he’d been found wandering in the street where he’s lived for 56 years yet unable to find his own home. And so the looking for a care home began alongside the worry about what was going to happen. I found myself on the M1 many times (see previous blog October 7th) travelling up to see how things are, to try to support Andrew who has risen to the task admirably and of whom I’m extremely proud. As you can imagine it’s incredibly sad to see Dad failing but a wonderful privilege to be able to be with him as he has been with us for the whole of our lives. Last week we got the diagnosis of dementia, which Alison and I in our previous role of Dementia care Chaplains had already worked out. 

Thankfully we were able to celebrate Dads 90th birthday in September

It means for an interesting journey as we travel into 2019 not knowing what is going to happen, but content with the home he’s currently staying in and knowing that we’re doing all we can for him. However, I suspect that there will be more tears to come.

Hot on the heels of all this came the great and tremendous news that we are grandparents again. Vicky and Mark gave us a grandson, Emett William in September; Piper now has a baby brother and already she lets us all know that she is the big sister ! She loves I’m to bits but it’ll be interesting in a years time to see how she feels when he’s started pinching her toys. We’re so proud of our family and this Christmas we were able to gather together, Rebecca, Michelle, Susan (Michelle’s Mum), Mark, Vicky, Yvonne and Phil,  (Marks Mum and her husband), Piper, Emett, Alison and I to share in the opening of presents and the eating of dinner. We are so grateful to have a family close to us. Blessed.

And so you can see its been a year of ups and downs as it probably has been for everyone reading these ramblings; such is life. What do we look forward to in 2019 ?

I look forward to the time when I will receive a hearing dog for the deaf as my hearing is now almost non-existent. I’ve been accepted and I now just await my name to rise to the top of the list, so it may be this year or the next but in the meantime Im fussing over every dog that I see.

I look forward to being involved in mission work throughout the District as mission becomes our focus more than ever both in the circuit but also in the District.

I look forward to continuing to get to know my current colleagues and meeting new ones as we learn to truly work as a team, and seek the vision for this area.

Most of all I look forward in 2019 to remembering that I’m married to a lady, with her own great Ministry, and to giving Alison all the love and support she’s ever given me. She and the family remain the most important people in my life, on this side of the Pearly gates.

I step into 2019 with confidence, hope and expectation borne out of the knowledge that I love and serve a Lord who first loved and served me, Jesus Christ