Message from the Minister
Welcome to autumn at Stones Methodist Church; I write this as leaves are beginning to fall, and as the dark evenings are drawing in. We are coming through a trying and turbulent time, and one we hoped would be over by Autumn: the end point, and time when we can sing and gather and travel, and generally move forward in all our lives. It still feels like it is still very much a work in progress.
Saying this is not to be down hearted but to be real: there is never more cause for thanksgiving to God. I have been extraordinarily encouraged seeing the things you are all engaged in – not as superhuman heroes, but as companions with one another in our prayer, work, and care. Church has never been more important in our local community, and as a voice on the global stage bringing people together and speaking up for those who have no voice.
I offer you my encouragement and prayers for all that is yet to be.
Bless you and stay safe,
Minister's first message to us
It’s good to write a first note from the manse. Words that come to mind are ‘My beloved speaks and says to me: ‘the winter is past… the time of singing has come… ’ (Song of Solomon 2: 10a, 11b, 12b, NRSV). These seem like timely words and really came home to me during a recent baptism and two weddings.
I am also aware that in so many ways, our Covid crisis is not yet past: but we are once again able to sing. As we look at the way in which various activities restart, I am reminded that as followers of Jesus, we have the assurance of God’s presence in our joyous celebrations and in our times of greatest struggle and loss. We don’t get a promise that we will always be deliriously happy, and we certainly don’t get a promise that God will bless us with earthly riches. We look forward in Hope, but we know that such hope is founded in the love of God surrounding us.
Friends, we are not certain what this next year will bring, but we have confidence in God’s faithfulness, and in our ability to stand together and continue to gather the people, tell the story, and break the bread. Ours is a long-term witness, a broad vision, expressed in the most local work and attention.
It’s times like these that the book of Revelation has something to say to us. Not in a News Channel exclusive kind of way but in a Revelation is a gorgeous piece of poetry written for a people who have every reason to be afraid. It is a book about final victory through the slaughtered Lamb. I’ve long been caught by the strange vision John has describing the throne of God in Revelation 4.
At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne.
It’s easy to move past all this imagery quickly and not think much about it. But it’s weird, John is describing the indescribable, and has to use poetic language to try to capture the grandest thing he’s ever seen. What strikes me (and I’m sure not only me) about this vision is that rainbow encircling the throne of God in heaven. The rainbow is the symbol of the covenant God make with Creation to never again destroy us with a flood. God surveys the universe through the lens of the rainbow, a symbol that has come to the fore once again, a symbol of divine protection and defence against chaos and destruction. God’s lens is now one of mercy.
I love this imagery, especially in times like these, of fear. It challenges me to see the world through God’s rainbow-tinted glasses, not as if there are no major problems, but as though mercy conquers fear. When I have mercy for others, I am living into the life God seeks for all creation. When I take the time to recognize my own limits, that I am not superior to any, I am more likely to seek peace with my neighbour. We will need to give and receive in this way as we consider the future use of the church building.
The rainbow isn’t a promise that we will escape the storm, only that the storm will not be the end.
Bless you and stay safe,
Friday Get Together
At the Friday Get-together a member of the Stones family gave a talk about her trip to Eastern Canada, visiting St John’s, Halifax, Peggy’s Cove, Quebec and Montreal. It was a fascinating account, and of great interest because of its historical content. St John’s was the last port of call for the convoys carrying essential supplies to Northern Island in the Battle of the Atlantic in World War two. 500 ships were lost in the Battle. Thousands of immigrants landed in Halifax in the great move west in the 18th and 19th centuries. Each name was recorded, and can be seen in the museum. The Titanic disaster took place off the coast of Halifax, and little known facts were outlined. Coal in the hold was on fire before the ship left Southampton, and may have weakened the hull. Substandard materials were used in vital parts of the construction, and there were design faults. The White Star Line hired 4 ships to find the bodies, and many are buried in the Fairview Lawn cemetery on land bought by the shipping line. The Halifax Explosion of 1917 caused when 2 vessels, one carrying explosives, collided in the Bedford Basin, resulting in the biggest bang until Hiroshima, and killing 2000, and wounding 9000. The English-French conflict in 1760 was discussed, and the continuing French influence in Quebec. Pauline Balmforth thanked the speaker. The collection was for the Stones church organ fund. Afternoon tea was served. The next meeting is on April 3rd at 2.30pm. Ken Holgate will give a presentation entitled ‘Excerpts from a film maker’s collection. The Spring Fair will be on Saturday, March 28th, from 10am to 1.30pm There will be a variety of stalls, and refreshments will be served; bacon sandwiches until 11am, and light lunches, all at very reasonable prices.
Friday Get Together
At the Friday Get-together Julian Carr spoke about the work of the St Augustine’s Centre in Hanson Lane, Halifax, a voluntary organisation supporting asylum seekers. Newly arrived asylum seekers are allocated to different areas of the country, and those arriving in Calderdale are usually housed in the Hanson Lane area, and are directed to the centre. Here they receive emotional support, and practical help with registering with a GP, money, shopping etc. Lunch is provided daily, and there are English language classes. The centre is run on a voluntary basis. Mr Carr works as an advisor. Afternoon tea was served. The collection was for the St Augustine’s Centre. The next meeting is on Friday, February 28 at 2.30pm. Margaret Whiteley will give a talk about her holiday in Canada, and everyone is welcome.
Friday Get Together
Maria Glott of Saltaire was the speaker, and her subject was ‘Titus Salt through the eyes of the people living there’. Miss Glott is involved in a dialect project, and addressed the audience as fellow workers, in the language of the time. Titus Salt spent his early years working in his father’s mill in Bradford. In 1830 he discovered Alpaca, which at the time could not be processed. Over the next 20 years he experimented, and found a method of processing Alpaca to produce a very fine fabric, suitable for making ladies dresses, and on this he built his fortune. He became one of the richest men in Europe, a personal friend of Queen Victoria, and all the crowned Heads of Europe; Mayor of Bradford, Justice of the Peace, and MP. In 1851 he commissioned the building of Salts Mill, in the style of an Italianate Palace, situated between the River Aire with its clean water, and the Leeds Liverpool canal, and by the Midland railway, and subsequently built a village for his workers with a school, a library, a hospital, a park, and a church; no Public Houses or pawn shops. It opened in 1853 with many innovations, and is now a world heritage site. He lived at Crow Nest in Lightcliffe, which he purchased from Ann Walker, when she moved to Shibden Hall as Ann Lister’s partner. Afternoon tea was served. The collection was for the Saltaire Church restoration fund. The next meeting is on Friday, January 10 at 2.30pm. Julian Carr will give a talk about the St Augustine’s Centre in Halifax
Friday Get Together - October 2019
The speaker was Ian Slim, and his subject was ‘The Burma railway, truth versus Hollywood fiction’. Mr. Slim has visited Burma, and the site of the railway, built by Japanese prisoners of war in World War 2, and said that the film ‘Bridge over the River Kwai’ was a hugely fictional account; the suffering of the prisoners was so much more severe. There were no questions at the end; just a very quiet and reflective audience. Afternoon tea was served. The next meeting is on Friday, November 15, at 2.30pm, and Maria Glott of Saltaire will give a talk about Titus Salt, seen through the eyes of the people living there. Visitors are welcome.
Friday Get Together
The speaker was Miriam Asquith, and her subject was Jane Austen. Mrs. Asquith studied Jane Austen as a student, and has a life-long enthusiasm for her novels. Amusing extracts from various books were shared with the audience, and a brief outline of her life, and the inspiration for her works. Afternoon tea was served, and the collection was for the Parkinson’s Disease Society. The next meeting is on Friday September 13th at 2.30pm. The speaker will be Judith McLean, and a warm welcome is extended to everyone.
Minister's message - March 2020
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Don’t we make quite a fuss about giving something up during these next few weeks as we journey to Easter? Sometimes it can be so difficult to give things up with the stresses of life and the many temptations around us to keep going especially when it comes to eating that last piece of chocolate cake at the end of a bad day.
A few years ago, Linda and I used to support a charity by raising funds through sponsorship for going without food for twenty-four hours. Because it was recommended to start at 7:00pm on Friday and finish at 7:00pm on Saturday I didn’t find it too hard to do as after four hours I was asleep for about the next eight. The stress didn’t really start until it was about tea-time on Saturday when it was time to feed the dog and that tin of chunky meat in delicious gravy was very tempting!
Whatever my motives for going without food were, I had a sense of achievement of having raised funds to help someone else have a better life. If you are giving something up for Lent this year, what is your motive? Simply not eating chocolate to lose weight isn’t what Lent is about. Sometimes the things that tempt or test us are how we learn about ourselves and what we are actually capable of doing. It was during this time in his life that Jesus learnt about himself and the work he was to do.
Over the last few months many people have been forced to give up things without making the choice for themselves because of damage caused to businesses by the storms. Jobs, homes and even money that they have carefully saved have been taken away from thousands of people week by week. Life has taken on a new route for them, and who knows how many more are to join them. I hope that you used this time of Lent not only to prepare for the celebration of Easter but also to reassess your own pathway through life. Read again the stories of Jesus and the work he did following his preparation time and maybe you will be encouraged to seek new ways of living your life in these testing times.
As you read this article Lent will be with us. Over the next few weeks in our services we will be hearing about people being renewed and restored to a close relationship with Jesus. If you feel you have drifted away from the initial relationship you had, remember that Peter was lovingly restored and given even more responsibility to carry on the work of Jesus.
I pray that this year, Lent and Easter will be a time of blessing and renewal for you.
Yours in Christ
Minister's message - February 2020
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Have you noticed how our lives seem to be controlled by the retail industry? It doesn’t seem that long ago that we were being encouraged to buy for Christmas, whether that was gifts or food. As I prepare this item, I have already seen chocolate bunnies being sold ready for Easter which isn’t until the middle of April and we haven’t even got Valentine’s day out of the way yet!
Life seems to be a case of lurching from one event to another, for some it is from one weekend to another. Does anyone remember the advert for Cadbury’s Crunchie that had the slogan “Thank Crunchie it’s Friday!”? I remember back in the days when I worked as a draughtsman the lads in the drawing office were always talking about their plans for Friday evening, some started talking about them on Monday morning. For some people the treadmill of working and other commitments means that they work simply to get to the weekend or that annual holiday of two weeks in the sun somewhere.
Many today don’t get the privilege of even being away from work at the weekend. The technology we have enables people to not only be in touch with the office but even to carry on working wherever they are. The pressure to do so can be quite high in today’s climate where so many are being made redundant and the demand to do as the company requires is not easy to refuse. Where do you find peace, rest and renewal in times like this? It’s not easy, especially when to do so by having a break adds to the financial burden that is already quite draining.
In a lot of ways, the Church is no different, yet is should be. We often find ourselves lurching from Christmas to Easter to Pentecost to Harvest to Advent to Christmas again. It is right that we celebrate these events, but they should not be the reason for our being. I suppose it’s a bit like learning to dance using an instruction book without music. The book may show you the technical steps and the movements needed to glide gracefully around a room but that is all. If all we ever do is to keep following the instructions each day we will collapse at the end of it exhausted by the strain of keeping to the rules with no passion or company whilst doing so.
But when music is played the body moves to the music and others can dance along with you and you can enjoy the event together. God has given us an instruction book, the Bible, but he has also given us the music to dance to which we hear through the Holy Spirit. I pray that this year will be a new way of living for you as you read the instruction book again, or maybe for the first time, but also listen for the music and allow that to guide you through your daily living as we journey through the year. In doing so, the pressures from others, whether the retail industry or employers, can be eased and shared with those dancing alongside you.
Minister's message - January 2020
As you read this article Christmas will have been and gone and even the New Year celebrations may only be a distant memory! Some spend all year planning for that time of year and it’s soon over and done with. I hope that there was something in the celebrations that made it a special time for you and those precious to you.
Christmas is one of those times when people who don’t normally share in the worshipping life of a church slip in to sing the carols and to hear the familiar story, or even to watch the children perform a nativity play. One of the reasons many people give for not being part of a church any other time of the year is because of the differences we don’t seem able to sort out amongst ourselves. In some ways that is true but in many ways it isn’t. For instance, I am a Methodist Minister but was raised as a Roman Catholic. Over the years I have been responsible for a URC congregation and shared in the ministry team of an Anglican Methodist LEP.
In the third week of January the churches throughout Britain meet together for what is called the “Week of Prayer for Christian Unity”. During this week congregations will gather in other places of worship to pray and worship together. It isn’t easy working together, even those within the same church would say so, but we endeavour to do just that throughout the year. In some ways it is the differences that enable people to worship in a place that connects with them. Maybe 2020 is the year when you reassess your opinion of church and find out what is happening.
May 2020 be a year of challenge, excitement and blessing to you all.
Rev Terry Keen
Minister's message - January 2020
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Have you ever noticed how waiting for something to happen can seem to take longer as the event draws nearer? It’s a bit like a child waiting for Christmas – each day seems like an eternity! As you read this article, we will have begun what is called the season of Advent. Advent means the time of waiting and preparation. Waiting is not always popular these days in a culture of if you want it you can have it now.
In the world situations we have going on around us as the moment, the appalling stories we see daily on our TV and read about in the papers and along with the effects that they are having on individuals and families within our communities, many will have difficulty looking positively and with excitement to the future. For many the expense of Christmas and the dread of families gathering together, or the fact that some spend time alone, will not be something they are looking forward to.
The Christian Church celebrates at this time of year the hope that came into the world through the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. Jesus was born at a time when, for the people of Israel, all seemed lost and the times hard. Israel had been conquered by the mighty Roman Empire and taxes were being imposed to fund the Empire and its vast army – there’s nothing new under the sun, as they say!
Through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection Christians have an example of how to look at life and all that it throws at them. However difficult your circumstances are as this moment in time, know that as well as a time of celebration, Christmas is also about a message of hope. A message of hope helps you look beyond the situations you face and the circumstances you are in to somewhere over the horizon.
May this time of waiting and preparation enable you to catch a glimpse of the message of hope for you and those you cherish. And as you prepare to start a new year in 2020 may you experience that hope in a new and refreshing way.
Yours in Christ
Rev. Terry Keen
Dear Brothers and sisters,
November is a difficult time for many people. We turned the clocks back at the end of October. This means that the evenings get dark earlier and for many this means that for them they are shut in for longer. It is also a month when the world spends time remembering those who are no longer with us. We hold Services of Remembrance on the 11th November to remember those who gave their lives so that we can live in peace. For those who have lost loved ones Remembrance Sunday will be no more special than any other day, it will be just as painful as memories of times spent together will come flooding back.
God was always encouraging the Israelites to remember all that he had done for them, so remembering is OK. God told them to remember how he had been with them in the past whenever they faced difficulties, God also told them to remember the Covenant they had made to be his people, which we do when we share the bread and wine in Communion.
Once in a while our lives are touched by someone very special. Someone who looks at life through different glasses but also has the gift of enabling others to see something of what they see. Some of those special people may have been members of our families, some of them may have been colleagues, others are people we just happen to have met. They challenged us, encouraged us and held us when times were hard. Now they are no longer there, for whatever reason, and we miss them terribly.
Jesus had the same ability. He looked at the world through his Father’s eyes and saw deep inside the person to the passion that was within, to the hurt that was breaking their heart, to the wrong thing they had done that they regretted so much, and he healed them. The loved ones who are no longer with us have left a legacy behind, you and me, to pick up the things that they taught us and to carry them on. This encourages us to try as hard as we can to continue to see the world they way that they did.
As you spend time this month remembering those loved ones, remember what it was that made them special to you and honour their lives by trying to do the same. Have the courage to allow Jesus to show you the world through his eyes and may you be blessed by this time of remembering and may you be a blessing to your loved ones now and throughout the coming year.
Rev Terry Keen
In August as we are between ministers I wrote a report on the Methodist Conference.
Methodist Conference 2019, Birmingham.
I was privileged to be a guest of Rev Dr Barbara Glasson at her induction as President of the Methodist Church 2019/20. The conference was being held at the Hilton Hotel at the NEC, in the past when it moved around the country District by District, it now meets in one central location. An extra duty for me was take two of the Methodist Women in Britain tables for Communion on the Wednesday. I just managed to get them into my car! On the Friday evening I went to the Methodist Women in Britain (formerly Network) service and the induction of their new President. Over 200 people were there to celebrate.
Saturday morning on the hottest day of the year so far we welcomed Barbara to the finish line after her 121 mile walk from Huddersfield to Conference. There was only a short time for her to recover and get ready for her induction service. As a guest I was seated centrally on the third row therefore had a wonderful view of proceedings.
Rev. Ruth Gee, formerly of the Calderdale circuit welcomed everyone and past Presidents of Conference paraded to their seats.
Finally Barbara and Clive Marsh (new Vice President) were welcomed into the room.
Rev Michaela Youngson transferred her cross to Barbara and then, reluctantly handed over Wesley’s Bible. The two then changed places. Bala Gnanapragasam then presented his cross to Professor Clive Marsh and handed over his Wesley Prayer Book, they too changed places.
This was a really moving ceremony, one President handing over to another. Barbara then went to sit in Wesley’s chair, normally kept in the basement of Methodist Church House.
Barbara’s message to us all is: So What’s Your Story? We heard about how Barbara came to faith through Sunday School, a wild woman on a pink moped wearing a yellow crash helmet (who is now a supernumerary in our circuit) and listening to stories whilst baking bread in Liverpool. She would like us all to listen to other peoples stories.
Representatives of other churches, Young Methodists and International Methodist Churches were introduced and welcomed Barbara and Clive. Some wore traditional costumes of their countries and were very colourful.
Following refreshments Prof. Clive Marsh gave his address, the theme The Three P’s. Pleasure, Piety and Politics from music (pleasure), on being routed and grounded (Piety) and on Raging Righteously becomes politics.
There was such a diversity between the two styles, Barbara’s relaxed and humorous, Clive’s academic and informative.
I have placed a copy of Barbara’s address on the notice board for everyone to read, or if you contact me I will email it to you.
The next morning I attended worship before driving home for our evening service. How wonderful to be in the middle of a thousand Methodists singing, we truly are “Born in Song”.
All the new presbyters and deacons were introduced and welcomed to their new roles. Following the service they went off to various churches around Birmingham for their ordination services.
Over the year I will try to keep you updated on Barbara’s journey.
As you may be aware Rev. Francis has been going into St. John’s Primary School each half term to take an assembly. Rev. Francis, Stephen Fisher and I had a meeting last week in the school with the teacher responsible for RE to see how we might continue to have a presence in the school after Francis leaves. Stephen also goes into Ripponden School to take an assembly every other week.
We believe it is important to have this Christian presence in our local schools and Francis has suggested using the Open the Book scheme (openthebook.net) which provides a modern re-telling of Bible stories designed to be read to children. This might also involve dressing up, using props, singing a song….
It is our intention to go into the school once in each half term. In order to do that we need a team of people who would be willing to be involved as narrators, makers of props and costumes when necessary, singers (simple songs) etc. If you think this would interest you, please see me for more information.
Francis's leaving service
There was a full church to celebrate Francis’s ten years as Minister in the Calderdale Circuit. People came from all his past and current churches to share in the service of praise and thanks. A big thank you to everyone who took part preparing the service, music and contributions from other ministers and staff. Not forgetting the wonderful food provided for the refreshments afterwards.
July from our Minister - his last
In preparing for our impending move, I am in the process of deciding which of the books I have acquired over the years to keep and which can be moved on. In doing so, I am coming across those that I have not had the opportunity to read for quite a while. One publication from a few years ago was from an event held at Skegness where we attended the annual ‘Spring Harvest’ at Butlin’s. Each Easter Spring Harvest attracts large numbers of people of all ages and it is an opportunity to meet with new friends and familiar faces during the week. The theme that year and captured in the book invited us to follow Jesus and to ‘see the world through different eyes’.
The call to follow Jesus daily, to see the world with His vision and to share the Good News of Christ, was meaningful. The themes of journeying, meeting folks along the way, and as a result, having a new and different perspective brought into focus for me, the biblical account of two friends journeying towards a village called Emmaus. They were travelling with deep sadness and then were unexpectedly joined by a third person on the journey whom they at first did not recognise. This person spoke with them and opened the scriptures for them and when he broke bread with them ‘their eyes were opened and they recognised him’ [Luke 24: 13 – 35]. These two friends had met with the risen Jesus:
‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us? That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together.’ As they met with the risen Christ they now could see the world through different eyes and the truth that through Christ and his life, death, resurrection and ascension; through His-story, nothing would ever be the same again.
As we prepare to leave Calderdale, I’d like to take this opportunity to give thanks to God for his calling. We are grateful to Him for bringing us as a family to this wonderful place. I can hardly believe that we have been here for 9 years and I want to express our sincere thanks and appreciation for the love, support, wisdom, insights, friendship and fellowship, acknowledging the joys and sorrows, that we have shared together throughout our time here. We as a family have seen with our eyes the light of the love of Christ in the people we have had the privilege of journeying alongside here, in the churches in the Calderdale Circuit, the now Yorkshire West District, with ecumenical colleagues and congregations and the wider community. It has been a real and genuine joy to have served here in this beautiful part of the country with special folks where we have been deeply blessed.
We have a plaque displayed in our hallway that is a reminder that ‘The Lord is with you everywhere you go [Joshua 1: 9]. As we all journey on in the certain knowledge that Christ goes before, with and ahead of us, I offer a prayer for us all:
Talk with us, Lord, thyself reveal,
While here o’er earth we rove;
Speak to our hearts, and let us feel
The kindling of thy love.
Charles Wesley [1707-88] alt
To God be the glory,
Rev Dr Mark Cheetham moved to the Calderdale Circuit in Sept 2014, serving the Brighouse area.
Mark loves sharing 'knowing God' with those around him; helping people and churches find their way in life.
He also loves all things music (especially Bon Jovi and Beethoven), watching rugby (Leicester Tigers) and gardening.