Monthly Archives: October 2010

Blessings workshop

This evening I went to my first ever Blessings workshop.

My guess is that it would be a new thing for most other people too.

The background is that during Advent our Methodist Circuit (Leicester North Circuit) is bringing to a close it's "Year of Prayer" and one of the closing elements is to have four blessings, one for each Sunday in Advent. Each week a blessing will be used as part of the advent candle lighting liturgy and everyone will be given that blessing on a card (nicely printed with photo behind). The idea is that you take the blessing card home and then pass the blessing onto someone else.

So if we are going to have these blessings they needed to be written, This evening at Syston Methodist Church we had the second blessings workshop where people from the circuit were invited to come and write blessings. The first was at Claremont Street Methodist Church on Tuesday afternoon. Both workshops were ably led by Bev and Sue.

The dozen of us gathered this evening had an enjoyable time learning about blessings, writing them and sharing them. There were plenty of fun with humorous even daft suggestions as well as some that where really thoughtful and thought provoking as they expressed various aspects of what it is to be blessed by God. It was lovely to see how people brought their own life experiences into the blessings they wrote covering everything from midwifery to the desire to be blessed by thinking that leads to ordered words being spoken.

I'll share a couple I wrote. There are others much better, so I am confident these won't be needed for the cards.

The first is inspired by the Christian New Media Conference I went to recently as well as a challenge to rewrite Psalm 139 at our Circuit quiet day last Saturday ("Oh Lord you have googled me …"):

May the blessings of the God, who knows you better than Google; Facebook; and your Web Browser combined and who still loves you, bring life to your avatar and peace to your online communities.

The second is more conventional:

May God the Father create new life in you.
May God the Son be born again in you.
May God the Spirit set you free.
May God: Father, Son and Spirit bless you.

As I say, not prizewinning but great to spend part of the evening with friends, meeting some new people and celebrating God's blessings together.

Cycling Updates

As I mentioned in 42: Two weeks into Cycling for work « 42 Bikes I have a new and separate blog for cycling related stuff now at  42Bikes: Life the Universe and Bikes.

Some recent posts have included:

As you will see I am completely uncontroversial when it comes to transport,

Why would someone do this?

As any regular reader will know I love being a Methodist Minister. I get to be part of some fantastic Churches focused on Mission. I get to work with amazing people whose commitment to the Gospel is fantastic. I rejoice in being part of the Methodist people whose love and commitment is wonderful.

 

So I just don't understand why a Methodist Local Preacher would treat someone else as we see in Any stick to beat the Jews with where David Hallam refers to a fellow Methodist, Richard Hall, as "the anti-Jewish Methodist blogger".

 

I invite you to read Richards blog to see if you can find any justification for this attack. Richard has been entirely consistent in his views and non of them are anti-Jewish.

 

Instead he has consistently and politely stood against David Hallam's threatened law suit against the Methodist Church and has supported the resolutions made by the Methodist Conference this summer that urge a boycott on the goods produced in illegal settlements in the West Bank. He (and the Methodist Church) have made this clear that this is not a stand against Jews but against illegal settlements by the state of Israel.

 

Instead of disagreeing in any kind of Christian or even in a reasonable secular way David Hallam seems to now be conducting a hate campaign against Richard. 

 

This is so far outside my experience of Methodism that I am floundering around not knowing how to respond. What is the loving and peaceful response to someone within the Church who is being so publicly hateful to another in the Church?

 

One response is that I will be spending more time praying for Richard and for David and I urge others to do the same. Beyond that I just do not know at the moment.

I am now an “Official” GB Chaplain!

A nice busy day today. The public part finished with leading a short service for the 1st Syston Girls Brigade Company who are a lovely part of Syston Methodist Church. The service which included enrolling 6 new members (after Kathryn had properly instituted me as Chaplain – I even have a badge to prove it!) ended with an updated version of "We are marching in the light of God". We had to do the update as the Girls Brigade don't do marching any more, so one of the new verses was "We are giggling in the light of God" :-)

I also had two meetings to plan worship. One in the coffee shop at Birstall Methodist Church for this coming Sunday morning, and we are using Lukes Gospel about Zacchaeus meeting Jesus without singing any songs about little people climbing trees.

After joining the Syston Lunch Club (without needing to join the long waiting list), for Shepherds Piefollowed by Flan with cream and then coffee, I had a meeting with Linda, the Curate at Rothley to finalize the arrangements for the Remembrance Service for Young People and their Uniformed Organisations. Fortunately (and very kindly and efficiently), Linda had already done most of the work while I was on holiday. Anyway I it was good to meet and work together on that service which will be on Nov 14th at the Rothley Centre, the service starts at 10:45am (parade gathers at 10:30am), it finishes at 11:25 to march to Cross Green where we join the British Legion etc from the service at the Parish Church. Isn't it good that the village has two ecumenical services at the same time for remembrance day rather than giving up because none of the buildings are big enough for everyone.

Hopefully now all sorted for the Syston Church Council (preceded by the Family Committee) tomorrow evening with the Age Concern AGM in the morning.

Meanwhile also starting to make progress on the Just Walk Across the Room series that we are doing right across the Leicester North Circuit starting on January 23rd.

Steelroots is good to see

Great to see Methodist Churches involved in projects like Steelroots.

 

Sad to see that they have been threatened by a big US "Christian" broadcaster over the name Steelroots and that therefore they are probably going to have to change it.

 

What a total waste of money and gooodwill this is. I guess like many people in the UK I had never heard of this Steelroots video channel. Now the first thing I hear is them threatening legal action against a small local youth project in a city famed for it's steel.

 

So now all I know of the Steelroots TV station is that I don't want to watch it, great publicity guys!

 

So sad because I bet that if they had written to what is probably a fairly cash strapped youth project and offered to sponsor them and help them re-launch with a new name they could have got excellent publicity and not had to pay any lawyers. It could have been a win win.

 

I have sent the following tweet (which you might want to re-tweet):

 

@Steelroots Ur legal threat 2 small UK youth project is sad. Could u not find a grace filled response like pay 4 their rebranding?

 

Alternatively, you could show support and encouragement by following @steelrootsyouth, they are looking for a new name and I guess offers of help with branding would be welcome (and I am fairly sure support for their ongoing work would be very welcome indeed).

 

Your choice. A bullying US TV company or a British Youth Project like this: "Steel Roots Youth Community:  Aiming to be a more radical community that encourages each other and every young person in S17 to walk together with God". Not a very difficult choice is it?

Seeing Stu and Naomi

This evening we went out with Stu and Naomi. Here is Stu.

image from www.flickr.comFor a few moments I was in trouble, it seems that last time we were in Falmouth and went out together I didn't blog about it. Instead I wrote about bikes! Terrible crime.

So tonight we met Stu in the Whetherspoons pub (location of this photo) for a drink before going to Da Vinci's where Naomi joined us for a meal. The food and the company were great :-)

Stu and I met at the Methsoc in Manchester when we were at University. We shared a house in Acomb Street (yes, of course it was number 42) for two years. So it is always good to catch up with each other and the friends we variously keep in touch with.

In case I have not mentioned it before, we like Falmouth a lot – and not just because Stu and Naomi live there now ;-) We had a nice walk though earlier in the week with a very nice sandwich and coffee at de Wynns (an old favourite).

I have already tweeted this photo, hopefully the blog post will complete the process of getting me out of the doghouse :-)

Maximum Respect to David Hallam | The Jewish Chronicle

So David Hallam is pleased that he has some support for his plan to sue the Methodist Church Maximum Respect to David Hallam | The Jewish Chronicle.

Maximum Respect to David Hallam, a Methodist preacher preparing to sue the Methodist Church over claims it is using charitable donations to pursue a campaign of discrimination against Israeli Jews.

Maybe I should make a couple of things clear:

If the Methodist Church were pursuing a campaign against Israeli Jews I would be fighting it. I am 100% against discrimination against Israeli Jews (or any other Jews for that matter). But I have seen no evidence that it is true. I was at Methodist Council this last week and checked my understanding with people like Martyn Atkins (General Secretary/Secretary of Conference), Alison Tomlin (President and affectionately known as my Great Grand Boss), Chris Elliott (Secretary for external relationships) and Toby Scott (Head of Communications).

If I were fighting the Methodist Church I would not be doing it through the courts. See my detailed blog post.

It seems that others agree as David has gained so little support for his campaign and none of it from mainstream anything.

Celebrating a Worship Meeting

Things have been a bit busy and so recently I have not been blogging so much here except a few rants.

So I want to return to a more positive view and the Worship Group Meeting that happened this evening at Syston Methodist Church is an excellent example.

A great atmosphere with lovely constructive people who don't want to just talk but get on and together listen and respond to God in the worship life of this Church and Circuit.

We reviewed what has happened and worked through a packed calendar for the next few months. I am still getting my head around what it means to be a minister in a larger and very active Church with lots of people who are capable and committed to responding to God's call in this community.

What is more that is not just true of the Worship Group (and it is a large group of Worship Leaders, Local Preachers, Junior Church Leaders, Musicians, Stewards etc) but also of the Business Committee who met last week, the group that work with Churches Together (and they too have a lot planned), the Stewards and lots of other teams that I have not yet met with.

Anyway, how about this for a nice problem. We had to spend a while thinking about how to make the Church look less full on a Sunday morning :-) We are concerned that it has reached that level of fullness which could mean that visitors might be put off by trying to find seats. Yippeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!!

But if you are thinking of trying Syston Methodist Church out on a Sunday morning, don't panic. Our Door Stewards will not just welcome you but they will also make sure they find a seat for you (yes, with the people you come with).

In a full Church some care is needed with the mayhem I have been enjoying creating with the kids running around. Last Sunday, the kids were racing up and down to win a bar of Chocolate – sadly I ate it before they finished the race. See Habakkuk 1:1-4 for why (and don't worry, all the kids got to choose chocolate from the Traidcraft stall after the service). At the Harvest Festival they were running around collecting an Idea Harvest from the rest of the congregation. Fortunately, having aisles wide enough for a rapid safe exit in case of fire is useful for active all age worship :-) 

One of the other areas that excited me in the Worship Group was the response to what the Churches Together team are planning for Christmas, they were enthusiastic and challenging in their desire to take worship out into the Community this Christmas. That will include supporting a number of events the Council are arranging as well as a carol pub crawl and a local tradition of a Carol Service in the Town Square (with mince pies etc afterwards at the Methodist Church.

Some of the other things happening are:

  • Following a successful trial last year at Birstall we are having a circuit wide series of blessings for Advent, to bring to a close the focus for the last year of "Time to Pray". There are two workshops to prepare for this (2:30pm on 26th Oct at Claremont St Methodist Church and 7:30pm on 28th Oct at Syston Methodist Church).
  • We are joining our Girls Brigade for their enrolment service on Tuesday 26th October, dunno what we will be doing but there were several volunteers tonight to help with that.
  • A good reaction to the mid week advent services happening around the Circuit (we all get to lead worship in each others Churches). I'll have to find a better way of picking between the fellowship groups eager volunteer for things rather than just picking the next one to meet :-)
  • I think I lost count after about 6 Carol services for different groups from Rotary Club, to schools, to residential homes, to pubs, …
  • The idea of a gentle walk to an afternoon service on Boxing Day in Watermead Park, maybe with mulled wine & nice bread for Communion seems popular. We will be finding out if it is possible over the next few weeks.
  • Good interest in the Circuit 4 week series for Just Walk Across the Room starting on January 23rd (at Syston we are going to finish it with a Back to Church Sunday on Feb 20th)
  • We also decided that as Churches Together in Syston are joining in with The Big Read for Lent 2011 that we would use this for our Sunday Services in Lent as well. Follow #bigread2011 on twitter for more.

My only problem at the moment is managing to put things into my diary fast enough while keeping track of the people volunteering. It is a tough life :-)

Internet Explorer usage falls below 50%

This Internet Explorer usage falls below 50% is actually big news and good news.

 

Over a few years the market share of the "other" web browsers has rocketed. That process was really started by free software by Mozilla (now Firefox) while others have come on board more recently, notably Google with Chrome.

 

The effect has been good for everyone. Internet Explorer has been massively improved in recent years and is becoming far more standards compliant.

 

Free Software is good for everyone, even those who never use it.

Is David Hallam going to sue the TUC and Labour Party?

Now that the TUC have followed the example of the Methodist Church the question we are all wondering is whether David Hallam is going to sue the TUC and the Labour Party as well as the Methodist Church. See Repositioning Labour Party policies on the Middle East.

If it is true that Ed Miliband was supported overwhelmingly by the trades unions in the leadership election, this may well herald the beginning of a new era for the Labour Party, particularly with regard to its policy on Palestine. Earlier this month the Trades Union Congress (TUC) took a landmark decision to boycott Israeli goods originating from illegal settlements on the occupied West Bank. The TUC is vehemently opposed to the settlements, which are outlawed under international law. The umbrella body's decision followed a wave of similar motions by individual unions, all outraged by Israel's brutal occupation and human rights abuses of the Palestinian people.

I suppose it is not surprising given the historical connections between the Methodist Church and the Labour movement.

Good news to see how the Methodist Church has been ahead of so much of society in responding on this issue. Just wish that we had acted all sooner and more consistently. All should know that we stand for peace, justice for all people and that we will work for that justice and peace even when unpopular. Nobody should even hope that the Methodist Church will support them in violence or hatred.
[update 7/10/10]
David Hallam has responded on his blog with an amusing piece of fiction.
I have left the following comment:
Your creativity in inventing a whole story about me is impressive and amusing. Just a shame that it is so disconnected with reality.
You claim to be suing the Methodist Church for having a very similar policy towards the illegal settlements in the West Bank to 

  • The TUC
  • Christian Aid
  • Oxfam
  • Cafod
and potentially The Labour Party.
Some of these are charities and some are not. You are a member of at least one of them.
My point was nothing about gift aid (something I happen to be very ambivalent about as I see it as a relic of Christendom and do not want the Church to be dependent on the state). It was about why you are picking on the Methodist Church and no other organisation with similar policies.
After all one of your arguments was that the Methodist Church needs to be consistent and act in all cases of injustice or none – I am only holding you to your own standard.
For more on the other charities see Charities ripe for suing | connexions.
[Update #2 7/10/10]
David responded to my comment and continued to ignore the challenges to his position while trying to push me into actions that appear to me to be a complete waste of time. I have responded with 2 comments (sitting in moderation queue at present).
David,
I have no intention of wasting my time or the Churches time with a memorial on tax relief.
I want the Church focused on mission not on tax law.
I do see a focus on Mission all over the Methodist Church (Methodist Council, Synod, District Exec, Circuit Mtg, Circuit CLT, Local Churches, Connexional team). I want to encourage all this not stifle it or distract from it.
In other words I can see many people getting hold of mission in all it's aspects and getting on with it. I see eagerness and I see results (just heard great news from a Church I have moved on from. They  have had a huge Junior Church Anniversary, are going on with growing their fresh expression etc).
As I have said before this is a great time to be a Methodist as God is so clearly at work.
I passionately believe that working for Justice and Peace is a central part of mission. Busy, passionate people have dedicated time to working for the Mission of the Church by writing this report. They cannot have got everything perfect as they are not perfect and are busy people. But the democratic conference received it and passed the resolutions after an open debate.
So I see a Church that is trying to focus on mission and get on with things with eagerness and urgency.
Then I read that you want to sue this Church because you disagree with the democratic decisions of the democratically elected conference.
I do not understand this at all. I know people have different views on Israel. I disagree with your views. But to me all you are doing is trying to stop mission. To distract the Church from mission and you are doing so in ways that appear to me to be fundamentally opposed to Scripture
and
David
You are giving good money to the Church, great. But now you want to throw away your money and the Churches money over a decision you don't like but that was democratic and happened after an open debate. You could have read the paper and spoken to your elected representatives before conference and you can now work for a change at the next conference.
Even if I agreed with your position on Israel and Palestine I am at a total loss to understand how you think your actions could be considered to be good for the mission of God. 
How do you think your actions can help your own Church on Mission?
Tell you want. Let is follow the Quaker model (where they do not wish to support war via their taxes). Let us agree how much of your total giving has gone to the connexion and been spent on this issue. 
You reduce your giving by that and I'll increase mine by the same amount providing you a) drop the lawsuit and b) seek to change the policy of the Methodist Church through the mechanisms of the Church