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.

 

 

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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.
 

 

17:21

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
2013


MRDF

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,

Claire

Churches and Volunteers Co-ordinator


MRDF makes small miracles possible for people living in the world's poorest communities.
Email: mrdf@methodistchurch.org.uk Website: www.mrdf.org.uk Registered charity no: 291691


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