The graveyard shift !

Earlier this week I posed the question “Am I mad?”. In 2013 I was invited to choose between the regular YMCA sleepout undercover at the Pirelli football stadium or the extreme sleepout in the graveyard of St Modwens Parish Church.


My response was that I was too old for the extreme but here I am 5 years later on the verge of my 60th birthday sleeping in that very same graveyard: well I use the word 'sleeping' loosely as having chosen my spot carefully, laid the groundsheet and got into my sleeping bag I managed to grab roughly an hours sleep before waking up to find the constant rain had worn the box down even with the tarpaulin over it. Consequently I now have a very wet sleeping bag and pillow.


I'm grabbing half an hours dryness before I get another cardboard box and try again in the hope that the rain will ease off.


What have I learned from this ? Firstly slipping on the wet grass and twisting my knee slightly isn't helped by then having to sleep on hard, unforgiving and uneven ground.


Secondly, Gods creation is beautiful but also powerful. Rain and wind make lethal foes, and ultimately humanity cannot control or even predict them accurately.


Thirdly, and most importantly I'm only out here one night in the year. Tonight in Burton alone will be at least 12 rough sleepers who won't have a bath, a bed and a hot drink to return to in the morning. Instead all they'll face is another long day followed by sleeping rough again. Worse, all this in the knowledge winters coming and the weathers going to worsen.


Im very fortunate: I have a house, food,, friends and family to return to: others haven't and this is why I'm doing this again for the 6th time and why I'll do it again next year. I'll become uncomfortable again because others will benefit and perhaps they'll be given hope.



Methodist Evangelicals Together

This is the opening of our year of Intentional Faith Development. Paul from the Methodist Evangelicals Together movement is one of the country’s leading speakers and Bible teachers in my opinion. Although this is taking place in Burton (a.m.) and Uttoxeter (p.m.) it is open to anyone and everyone irrespective of denomination.

Langans is on the corner of Guild Street near the Cooper Square car park and Uttoxeter Methodist Church is just at the top of the shopping street and next door to the fish shop !!


Please feel free to advertise this around your contacts.


Rotary:making a Difference

I'm currently in Llandudno at my annual Rotary District Conference and it's always a good weekend with friends from Burton Rotary Club and other friends from West Ashfield Rotary Club, as well as folk from a variety of clubs. Catching up with how we all are you become aware of the sense of family that holds Rotary together.


The theme for this Rotary year is “Making a Difference” but the Rotary motto is “Service above Self”. Founded on 23rd February 1905 Rotary has in many ways tried to change people's lives for the better, by men and women giving of their time, energy and resources in a variety of ways. It's a mixture of fun, graft and fellowship but at the end of the day it's about Rotarians wanting to make a difference.


And that difference is seen in my own club through its fundraising, charitable giving, support of individuals and groups who are striving to do incredible things in their own lives. We have planted crocus bulbs in local schools and Burton hospital as part of the Eradicate Polio Now campaign, by bringing awareness of the dreadful illness and to highlight how close it is to creating a completely clear of polio world.


We support young people in our young chef award, young photographers and young footballers. In a few weeks time three of us will sleep out for the local YMCA.


And through all of this and much more we have fun, fun, fun !

This weekend we have danced, laughed but learnt also of what Rotary is achieving in local communities and internationally.

Particularly good has been Andy Cope under the heading “The art of Brilliance” explaining about the mindset to be happy and positive; look him up on YouTube.

Another good speaker was Malcolm Wells about Canine Partners (assistance dogs) and we found ourselves caught up in his enthusiasm.


Tomorrow, we have more including Children's Air Ambulance and a keynote speech from Geoff Miller, OBE, a former England international cricketer.

So, to anyone who thinks Rotary is just a bunch of old men and women sitting around being grumpy, WE'RE NOT. We are trying to make a difference.

Why not consider asking your local Rotary Club if you too can make a difference ?







4 weddings and a lot of great memories

As I've started as co-deputy Chair of District and Paul and I have begun fully covering for Revd Loraine as she experiences her Presidential year, I was completely aware of how busy I would be. However August has turned out to be much busier than anticipated.

Amongst the round of Chair duties, such as welcoming new Ministers to the District, saying goodbye to the leaving Ministers and so on, I have had four weddings over the last three weeks.


The first was to take part in the wedding of Andrew Chalmers and Elena, in Romania. Having known Andrew for the last 10 years this was a very special privilege, flying out on the Friday and returning on the Monday with the actual wedding blessing on the Sat. (by Romanian law they had already held a civil ceremony). An outdoor setting in the grounds of the church and family home the sun was glorious and the party till late at night. It also gave me the chance to meet again Alistair Chalmers and his wife Sabina. What a delight that was.

As most of you know the Chalmers family mean a lot to Alison and I so this was a special honour.
The second wedding was very different; in my smallest Chapel, it seemed like amiable chaos ! The groom was still selecting music on his phone for the service, 15 minutes prior to the start of the service. There were 10 bridesmaids ranging upwards from 2 years to early twenties. On top of this there was a best man and two small page boys nervously looking after the rings. There were so many in the bridal party I could hardly move at the front of my church. Despite the chaotic feel there was a sense of joy in the air, but my nerves were shattered.The fourth wedding was a unique affair Iain Barnett was one of my young boys from a previous circuit. Iain and Kayleigh were married in the heart of Sherwood Forest at the visitor centre with photos at the Major Oak. They asked if I would give them a blessing. Fully expecting it to be a public blessing they took me to one side and under a tree I gave them my blessing. A wonderfully intimate moment between the three of us. The bizarre thing was that because of the muddy conditions, the bride had bright custard yellow Wellington boots under her gorgeous white wedding dress !
The fourth and final wedding was the most personal as my youngest daughter, Vikki married Mark. What greater honour can there be than to walk your daughter down the aisle and entrust her to another man.
I felt proud, honoured, nervous, excited and a whole host of other emotions. We had a great day seeing family and friends and making new ones. Marks best man, Julian, was in Marks words a 'legend' and I'm inclined to agree. He and Mark did so well
And of course it was this wedding when Vikki and Marks daughter Piper acted as flower girl alongside Caitlyn. They were both delightful, as were the older bridesmaids “crazy aunts” Rebecca and Michelle and Matron of Honour, Julia.
So I close the month, not only with a new waistcoat, but with a whole host of memories, far too many to list, but above all else I thank God for the opportunity to preach at an overseas wedding, meet and guide a local couple as they set out. I thank God for that intimate blessing under the tree in Sherwood and the fact that having left his church 4 years ago Iain still wanted me to be at his highest moment in life.
Finally, I give thanks to God for the gift of family and that privilege of bringing them up and acting them flying the nest to begin their own lives.
God at the centre of all four, albeit in different ways, but he was present nevertheless, and when we let him he'll lead us on the journey we call life.



I'm been at Minehead for our annual trip to Spring Harvest, something we've done (largely) since 1995. Opening evening celebration tonight centred on the theme of “One for All” when Malcolm Duncan opened up the idea that in John chapter 17 verse 21 Jesus prayed his disciples might be “as one”.


Malcolm Duncan preached that too often we let our denominations define us and as such we argue and don't get on with each other: “I am a Methodist/Baptist/Anglican/Pentecostalist etc.” we say, and often close the door to any dialogue. Instead we should let our love of Jesus define us and define our attitudes towards others. After all if God has called them into his family, they are our brothers and sisters in Christ. Who are we to deny them a family ?


I found it a powerful, yet simple, sermon and then found it moving when a banner was unfurled for people to add their thumbprints to as a sign that we stood together against division.


It doesn't mean we agree on everything, but that we respect and tolerate each other AND that we take the time to listen and talk.

Excellent week, enhanced by Krish Kandiah teaching in John 17, the Great High Priests Prayer: teaching on unity borne out of Gods love for us, his expectancy that we love each other and finally our love for the world around us.
Booked in for next year already


Let’s turn it round

Get a cup of coffee/tea, sit down and make yourself comfortable as this could be a lengthy read: however I do think it to be important.


Like many of the churches within our circuit, Methodism stands at a crossroads in its life, torn between its past and the future, between appreciating and enjoying that which has sustained many over the years and discovering the new that will draw fresh disciples, between clinging to the comfort we know and venturing into the unknown with its risks and fears.

Some things to consider, reflect on, discuss and pray about……….

Sacrifice. Wow, there's a starter for you ! I believe that discipleship is sacrificial and a major part of discipleship is 'being a witness for Christ'. In other words mission. Jesus said “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies it produces many seeds” (John 12:14). In various other places in scripture this point is made. John 3:3 & 5 speaks of dying and new life: Matthew 18:3 speaks of becoming like a little child: Galatians 2:20 reminds us of being crucified with Christ and 1 John 3:14 shares that the Christian is one who has passed from death to life.

So often we want to bring people into our Churches with minimum effort, like having a beautiful rose garden without thinking of the need to prune the roses or feed the soil. Discipleship is sacrificial in as much as it demands we need to sacrifice some of the old in order to cultivate the new. Sadly, in every Church there are those 'who do', those who 'complain about those who do', and those 'who don't do anything'. We need to ask ourselves (me included) at all time which grouping we're in.

We need to die to our own fears, our sense of inadequacy, our clinging to comfort zones, our sitting on the sidelines of church watching others get burnt-out doing everything and we need to become risk-takers.

Pray. We must be prepared to pray. We all say we do it but is it an integral, committed discipline or is it something we squeeze into a gap in our day, a passing thought ? I spoke above of gardening and our gardens need regular tending. In the same way our Christian lives need feeding through committed prayer. We cannot carry out Gods work withou consulting him regularly. Church history is scattered with the ruins of well-intentioned and yet failed ventures because Christians didn't consult Gid in prayer nor sought his power through prayer.

In the Good News version of the Bible the word 'pray' is used 54 times in the Gospels alone and always in connection with Jesus. He placed a great emphasis on prayer and Scripture records the times he went to pray.

This was a practise continued by the early Church, Acts 1:14, Acts 16:25 and Paul frequently urges the early Christians to develop their prayer time, often citing his own prayer life as an example.

John Wesley made it a discipline to rise at 4.00am in order to begin the day in prayer: the Celtic tradition holds a daily discipline of morning, midday, evening and night prayers. Next time you're in Church look in the Worship book and you'll find the Methodist discipline of daily prayer, morning and evening.

I think prayer should be corporate as well as individualistic, believing, expecting, persistent, specific and if it contains all of these things it will become the means by which the dead seed becomes the flower.

Thirdly, Watch & Listen. Too often we don't look around us and see God at work, we don't listen for what he's doing. I used to have a Church of 39 good folk but clinging to the ways they'd known all their lives. About a mile away was another Methodist Church of over 200 and growing. When I challenged my church about this they retorted “ah yes but that's not how we do things” and when I said that it was obvious God was at work in the other church they simply came back again with the same answer. In other words they didn't want to be sacrificial, nor pray to seek Gods will, and they certainly didn't want to see what God was up to elsewhere.

We need to look around us and see what God is doing, at the Churches who are growing, at the growth of Christian work such as Street Angels or Pastors, at the needs of our community. For instance I had a Church on a council housing estate where because of my school work I felt that we should be doing something amongst young single-mothers. I was assured by the church that there were no single mothers in the area, only to find the 1991 census which confirmed that estate had the highest number of single-mothers in Europe! So often God is calling us to things that we fail to see.

That's why I particularly like the Fresh Expressions '360 degree listening course' as it teaches us to listen to God, the Church tradition and the community.

To those who have endured this to the end, congratulations, but I also say lets all, die to self, pray, read our scriptures and watch and listen.


Typhoon Haiyan

Isn't this a hard image to hold onto in the light of the current news re the typhoon in the Philipines ? The sense that even when possessions are gone and the future looks bleak; even worse, when loved ones have perished, it is hard to hear someone simply say “God loves you”, for often there is little understanding or attempt to understand, the circumstances the listener is enduring.

And yet that's what many Christians say; as if it makes everything alright again and sadly when it doesn't, there is still the cry from some quarters that a persons faith is obviously not strong enough.

In a word “rubbish

I would have liked to have used a stronger word but thought better of it.

However, that's what it amounts to for I believe in a God who does love us but expects us to get off our backsides and show his love. It's not just about saying it, it's about doing it.

That's why I give thanks that I belong to two of the biggest providers of care at a time like this. Rotary International have once again mobilised its volunteers, organised and despatched shelter boxes, and arranged for financial assistance. The Methodist Church (and I dare say other Churches) met under its Methodist Relief and Development (MRDF) banner yesterday and launched a scheme to raise and send monies (more below).

If we're going to talk about the love of God then we need to show it sacrificially in terms of finance, time, energy, prayers etc. we need to let the victims of such tragedies see our action. God does love people but he has given us the means to show that and he expects us to do so.

Oh, and by the way that means your neighbour next door as well!!


If you feel you can contribute in any way to the MRDF appeal the details are below……..

Philippines Typhoon Appeal


Dear Co-ordinators

On 8th November 2013, Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines causing untold devastation. Over 10,000 people are feared dead and early reports suggest millions more have lost homes and livelihoods in the storm.

The Methodist Relief and Development Fund is responding with an emergency appeal to enable churches and individuals to respond practically through giving. Donations are being taken through the website, by texting TYPH13 £10 to 70070, through the post (cheques are payable to ‘MRDF’ and should be sent to MRDF, 25 Marylebone Rd, London NW1 5JR, please state Philippines Typhoon Appeal), and over the telephone 020 7467 5132.

Not only would it be great to make a practical difference to those affected by the disaster, but also to stand with them in prayer.

As an MRDF co-ordinator please consider how you can influence your church/networks to respond to this disaster. Here are some suggestions:

  • Organise an Appeal: Such as, take a collection on Sunday in your church, and/or contact mid-week groups (whether bible study groups or social groups) to respond through giving, and/or use upcoming events that would provide a good source for a collection. You can order gift aid envelopes here.
  • Encourage Prayer: Such as, include the Philippines situation into the prayers on Sunday in your church, and/or encourage mid-week groups to pray, and/or pray at the events you have coming up. MRDF has written a prayer you may like to use and make known. Find it here.
  • Build Awareness: Such as, email or phone your contacts (e.g. church members) with the details of the appeal and with the MRDF prayer, and/or place information about the appeal on the websites you have access to.

If you find other methods useful that are not listed here please let us know about them, so we can share your good ideas with the co-ordinator community.

Thank you for reading this email, for remaining prayerful and for being willing to take action.

May God bless you in all you do,


Churches and Volunteers Co-ordinator

MRDF makes small miracles possible for people living in the world's poorest communities.
Email: Website: Registered charity no: 291691

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Bank Holiday

OK, get ready for another moan and rant !

Why are clergy not allowed to have Bank Holidays off ?  I’ve just come through a very busy Christmas Day, spent part of Boxing Day getting ready for Sunday worship and all along I thought that as this was a bank holiday I might get some time off. NOT A CHANCE !

I recieved a phone call this morning, which I foolishly answered, to get a message to visit someone. They had decided, kindly, not to wait until tomorrow to ring me as its my day off but they felt they could ring me today. In most other professions bank holidays whether taken on the day or not are a given, but it seems to some folk that this doesn’t apply to the clergy. Why ? Are we superhuman who can keep going whatever the day it is ? Are we incapable of feeling tired or stressed or simply wanting to spend time with a good book ?

Some people will say that I shouldn’t have picked the phone up. That’s as maybe but surely there is also an emphasis on the church members to hold fire on public holidays, unless it is a real emergency.

As always I kept my tongue to the caller, agreed to visit, and am so thankful for this medium in which to vent my spleen. Thanks for reading (and therefore listening).

All I ask for in response is that anyone who is a Christian and a church goer that you remember to give your Minister/Vicar/Pastor space to relax and don’t always expect him or her to be there at your beck and call when it suits you.

Nearly there

Only one and a half hours to go and it’ll be Christmas. Am I excited ? You bet I am ! At the end of the day I’m a little child at heart. Yaaaaahh.

Christmas Tree at Ripley Chapel

Seriously, just in case I don’t get near the computer to blog tomorrow (as I’m expected to work !) I want to wish all my readers a very HAPPY CHRISTMAS and a BLESSED NEW YEAR.
May you all know the joy and love of Jesus Christ our Lord at this time.

Presidents Christmas Message

Every year the President of the Methodist Church, Rev.d David Gamble, sends out a message to the Methodist people, through the pages of the Methodist Recorder. I have recieved permission from the Press Office to publish it here…………

“I wonder how we shall remember Christmas 2009?

I have to admit that I don’t always remember Christmas for very Christmassy reasons. Sometimes it is things to do with home or family. For example, 1995 was the Christmas we got a new cooker. It was delivered at the beginning of December. Eventually someone came to disconnect the old one on the morning of Christmas Eve, which seemed like good news, but wasn’t so good at 3.00 in the afternoon when still no one had come to connect the new one. They did come eventually – but not until very late.

Or I remember Christmas 1988. My wife, Liz, was pregnant and our baby was due in the middle of March. But then, just after Christmas, Liz went into hospital and our son, Joe, arrived two months early. When they came home at the beginning of March, I’d been so busy going to work, taking family members hospital visiting, doing the washing and so on, that the Christmas decorations were still up.

Or 1980, when my mum, who was housebound, asked to be taken out Christmas shopping on the last weekend in October. She bought and wrapped all our presents. The next day she contracted pneumonia and she died on the Monday. We opened her presents on Christmas Day. Many people associate Christmas with the death of someone special to them.

Other memories relate to work. In my first Circuit I was chaplain to an open prison for women. One Christmas we took a small group from the prison carol singing around the local village. Unfortunately, when we got back the group was one short!

So, many Christmas memories don’t seem to have much to do with the Christmas story itself. They’re not about the carols or the Christmas Day sermon, but about things – happy and sad – that were going on in our lives and the world at the time. Who will ever forget Christmas 2004, when, in the middle of the season of goodwill, the tsunami struck?

But that is part of the paradox of this time of the year. On the one hand is the Christmas story, which we like hearing again and again. On the other hand we have the real world; things going on for us, our neighbours and friends; things on the news, new cookers not turning up, people in prison, people being born too soon, people being ill, or dying. The real world.

But that’s the whole point! Christmas is actually much more about the real world than it is about a lovely story of far off places in far off times.

It’s about a young unmarried mother. And our country has the highest rate of teenage pregnancies in the European Union. It’s about a homeless couple and their young child out in the cold. Look on the streets of our cities. Think of the television pictures of refugees.

It’s about shepherds who didn’t go to church and weren’t all that respectable being there to witness how God was doing something new – while the churchgoers and the religious leaders weren’t there.

It’s about wise men looking for a new king and finding him not in a palace but behind a pub.

It’s about Mary and Joseph having to escape with their baby, as sanctuary seekers. Who is to say they wouldn’t have been desperate enough to hide themselves in the back of a lorry coming through the channel tunnel in their attempt to save their precious son? And what kind of a welcome would they have received here in 21st Century Britain ? And for those who didn’t escape, it’s about innocent children being brutally killed. You don’t get much more real than that! And for Bethlehem in 2009 you could also read Baghdad or Afghanistan .

Christmas is about the real world – as we know it. And it’s in that real world – at times very cruel, painful and dangerous – that God acts. Not in heaven. Not even in the temple. But right in the middle of human life at its toughest. People being born, people dying, people on the run, people with nowhere to go, people for whom there is no room.

Remember the meaning of the name Immanuel in Isaiah’s prophecy? God is with us. That’s the central part of the Christmas message. God is with us. And behind and within the lovely Christmas story is the truth of God with us in our world and in our lives. In good parts and bad, joys and pains, hopes and fears. Remember, too, that some people won’t be able to suspend normal life for a few days over Christmas. If you are literally starving; if you are a refugee or a sanctuary seeker; if you are a child being abused in your own home, worried sick that your dad’s going to be around more over the next few days – you can’t suspend normal life, however much you’d like to.

If the gospel is really the good news it claims to be (and I believe it is) then it has to be good news for the hungry, the hurting, the oppressed, the abused. Good news. God is with us.

Sharing that good news is a huge challenge – but it’s also our great joy. God be with you.”