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,
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,
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.
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.
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.
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.
Message from our Minister
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
From our Minister:
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.
Rev Terry Keen
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
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,
Squeezed into the precipitous Calder valley, like a cork about to pop out of a bottle, Sowerby Bridge fizzes with atmosphere, and there are plenty of champagne moments for folk of a picaresque sensibility who warm to the more saturnine corners of this sceptred Isle. It’s a great slapping Yorkshire lass of a place, prone to glamour on first acquaintance, but increasingly wreathed in self-deprecating smiles as intimacy grows. With this unlikely quote Melvyn Cross started his talk entitled ‘Learning the ropes’. Melvyn celebrated a significant birthday this spring, and with his wife, Joan, decided to mark the occasion by Hiring a Shire Cruiser on the Calder and Hebble canal, as a beginner, sailing to Wakefield and back in a week, the birthday boy as the skipper. Instruction seems to have been minimal, but with a few mishaps they seem to have managed well. They were joined on the way for days, or overnight by friends, and family, including four grandchildren, and a very jolly time was had by all Afternoon tea was served, The collection was for Christian Aid The next meeting is on Friday, June 21 at 2.30pm. Frank Wright will be the speaker, and his subject is ‘The village butcher’. Everyone is welcome.
As the days become longer so the pace of our lives can sometimes quicken in response to the many tasks that we find ourselves facing. There is a story of a woman staying at a small hotel with her family. She was due to give a speech at a very important meeting – the meeting was very tightly timed and her presentation had to last a precise number of minutes; no more, no less. But she couldn’t find her watch. The family joined in the search which became ever more frantic – until she said “Stop! Be quiet.” Everybody just stopped where they were and listened. In the quietness they could hear the watch ticking and thus found it.
I pray that whether in our personal devotions or community gatherings, whether at work, at home or wherever we find ourselves, through both the joys and the challenges, we are able to find those moments of quiet where we too can stop and rest in God in Christ and through the power of the Holy Spirit listen for God speaking to us:
Master, speak! Thy servant heareth,
Waiting for thy gracious word,
Longing for thy voice that cheereth;
Master, let it now be heard.
I am listening, Lord, for thee;
What hast thou to say to me?
Master, speak! and make me ready,
When thy voice is truly heard,
With obedience glad and steady
Still to follow every word.
I am listening, Lord, for thee;
Master, speak! O speak to me!
Frances Ridley Havergal (1836-1879)
Prayer is a vital part of what it means to be a Christian. The Revd Canon Gareth J Powell, Secretary of the Methodist Conference writes:
From the very first gatherings of Methodists in Oxford, Methodism has always been suffused with prayer. Prayer is the foundation on which the Methodist Church is built and from which it seeks to fulfil its calling to respond to the gospel of God’s love in Christ and to live out its discipleship in worship and mission.
To encourage our response to the call to prayer as individuals and churches we are being invited to engage with Thy Kingdom Come which is a global prayer movement in which Christians pray that people would come to know Jesus. Taking place between Ascension and Pentecost, Thy Kingdom Come this year falls between 30 May - 9 June 2019.
During the 11 days of Thy Kingdom Come, it is hoped that everyone who takes part will:
+ Deepen their relationship with Jesus Christ
+ Pray for God’s spirit to work in the lives of those they know
+ Come to realise that every aspect of their life is the stuff of prayer
The ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ website explains that it is an opportunity where:
‘+ People commit to pray with God's world-wide family - as a church, individually or as a family.
+ Churches could hold prayer events, such as 24-7 prayer, prayer stations and prayer walks, across the UK and in other parts of the world.
People can be transformed through prayer by the Holy Spirit, finding new confidence to be witnesses for Jesus Christ.
The invitation is simply for people to pray in whatever way they want, with whoever they want and wherever they can, that others might know Jesus Christ. After the very first Ascension Day the disciples gathered with Mary, constantly devoting themselves to prayer while they waited for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Like them, our reliance on the gift of the Holy Spirit is total – on our own we can do nothing.
It is the prayer of ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ that those who have not yet heard the Good News of Jesus Christ and his love for the world will hear it for themselves, and respond and follow Him. Specifically, we invite each and every Christian across the country to pray that God’s Spirit might work in the lives of 5 friends who have not responded with their ‘Yes’ to God’s call.
Whether we have joined in ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ before or not, we are invited to take part this year – along with churches from over 65 different denominations in 114 countries around the world.
To take part we are invited to ‘pledge to pray’ on the Thy Kingdom Come
How might we as individuals, small group or churches engage with this wonderful, prayerful movement?
Drawing upon aspects from Acts 1, and 2 we are reminded.
"You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses …to the ends of the earth. When he had said this…Jesus was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight…Then they returned to Jerusalem … and were constantly devoting themselves to prayer… When the day of Pentecost had come they were all together in one place... All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit... and that day about three thousand persons were added." Acts 1, 2’
Rooted in prayer we say ‘Come Holy Spirit, come.’
Love and prayers,
February - March
I have had the privilege over the past few months of meeting with a group of 8/9 people exploring membership and what it means in the Methodist Church. We studied Scripture, shared and prayed together and explored some aspects of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus as part of the Methodist Church. Just meeting together in the way we did was a profound reminder of the significance of Band/Class meetings that were a key feature of early Methodism. These gatherings were real opportunities for journeying together in faith, deepening discipleship and being equipped for mission and evangelism in responding to God’s call to each of us and collectively as the church. I looked forward to these get togethers which I found to be a real blessing.
We are approaching the season in the church known as Lent. Perhaps this could be the opportunity to gather, with two or three others [or more], over this season as we follow the biblical account of Jesus’ journey to the Cross. There are lots of resources we can use to support meeting together in this way both for daily devotions and for meeting in small groups and I’d be glad to have a conversation about resources if that would be helpful.
The section on the Methodist Church website entitled ‘Prayers for Lent and Easter’ reminds us that ‘As Christians we have the opportunity to use the Lenten period to prepare ourselves for God's great act of self-giving at Calvary’. One way we can approach this is by gathering around the word of God as we meet together in fellowship and prayer.
A prayer offered for us all and drawn from the study material we used as we met:
Jesus, open my eyes to your presence,
open my ears to your call,
open my heart to your love.
Grant me the grace to follow you,
wisdom to discern the way
and strength in time of challenge.
Help me to trust you,
and give myself to you,
so that I may follow your ways
and be your true disciple. Amen
January - February 2019
From our Minister
350th Anniversary of Susanna Wesley's Birth
2019 marks the 350th anniversary of the birth of Susanna Wesley,
“the mother of Methodism”.
I wonder who it was that introduced you to Jesus and nurtured you in the Christian faith? I was drawn to a headline on the Methodist Church website which simple read ‘Susanna350’. As I read further I learned:
‘2019 marks the 350th anniversary of the birth of Susanna Wesley,
“the mother of Methodism”.
Although most known for her influence on her sons John and Charles, Susanna deserves recognition in her own right as an accomplished writer, teacher and theologian. A selection of her writings will be published this spring, and celebratory events are planned throughout the anniversary year. More information will become available on www.methodistheritage.org.uk.’
The heritage website explains:
‘The anniversary will be a yearlong celebration with events taking place around the connexion so please do let your networks know. We would love to hear how our brothers and sisters are celebrating Susanna so if you are made aware of any Susanna Wesley inspired events taking place please let us know so that we can add them to the Susanna350 online calendar.’
At college we were introduced to a book written by Michael McMullen entitled ‘Prayers and Meditations of Susanna Wesley’ and through those and the accompanying narrative more is learned of her faith and her life. That learning though is not one that is held in the past but, in what I believe is a wonderful insight and trajectory for Methodist Heritage:
“…heritage in the Methodist Church is about - contemporary mission. Not dwelling in the past, but using our history to signpost a way to transform the future through the love of Christ…” –Joanne Hibbard, Director of Engagement in the Connexional Team.
That transformation in Christ is picked up well in the poem written by Jenny Carpenter, [Vice-Chair of Trustees at Epworth Old Rectory and their representative on the Methodist Heritage Committee] to celebrate this 350th anniversary:
Although most known for her influence on her sons John and Charles, Susanna deserves recognition in her own right as an accomplished writer, teacher and theologian. A selection of her writings will be published this spring, and celebratory events are planned throughout the anniversary year.
More information will become available on: www.methodistheritage.org.uk.
The Methodist Heritage Committee offers churches this prayer, written especially for use on Sunday 20 January 2019, the anniversary date.
This prayer has been written by Jenny Carpenter, Vice-Chair of Trustees at Epworth Old Rectory and their representative on the Methodist Heritage Committee.
Living, loving God, Trinity in Unity,
We praise and thank you for the life of Susanna Wesley, Mother of Methodism.
Inspired by her regime of private prayer and meditation, may we grow in our devotion to you.
Following our conscience as she did, may we think for ourselves and dare to act on Kingdom values.
Aware of her programme of teaching her children, girls and boys alike, may we value and nurture all in our care, sensitive to individual needs.
Encouraged by her determination to build up the faith of her family and the parish of Epworth, may we lead others to follow Christ more closely.
Discerning the Holy Spirit moving powerfully in the life of the nation as she did, may we be open to new challenges and expect great things from you.
We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ and in the power of the Spirit. Amen.
Taken from: www.methodist.org.uk
December - January
The nights are certainly darker now and winter is drawing upon us. The forecasts indicate that it won’t be too long before we have the first frost and, although as I write this there are still leaves upon the trees, I am sure it will not be long before they have fallen. As much of nature at this time of year in this country seems to slow down and hibernate, our response to Advent and Christmas seems to be one of direct contrast and of busyness, in what seems to be almost constant activity. The demands and pressures of life today seem to become ever more frenetic and this is particularly highlighted during this season.
I wonder whether we might be able to commit ourselves during Advent to find some-time of quiet reflection allowing ourselves the opportunity to spend time with God as we read Scripture and pray and ponder on the awesome reality of God with Us – Immanuel, when:
‘The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.’
On behalf of Denise, myself and our family I send you our greetings and pray that you will know the love and peace of Christ this Advent, Christmas and through the New Year:
Master of both light and darkness, send your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas,
We who have so much to do seek quiet spaces to hear your voice each day.
We who are anxious over many things look forward to your coming among us.
We who are blessed in so many ways long for the complete joy of your kingdom.
We whose hearts are heavy seek the joy of your presence.
We are your people, walking in darkness, yet seeking the light.
To you we say “Come Lord Jesus”.
When you hear reference to the ‘Methodist Circuit’ I wonder what that phrase means to you. The Methodist Church website helpfully explains:
‘The circuit is normally a group of churches served by a team of ministers. Occasionally there are circuits with only one minister. A minister will have pastoral charge of one or more churches, but will preach and lead worship in different local churches in the circuit, along with local preachers. The arrangements for leading worship in a circuit are drawn up in a quarterly Plan. The circuit is led by the superintendent minister who presides over the circuit staff (both lay and ordained) and the circuit meeting, and with lay and ordained colleagues facilitates and encourages mission throughout the circuit. He or she is also responsible for drawing up the Plan and arranging the gathering of information about activities (eg baptisms, weddings, and funerals) and about membership statistics in the circuit……. Responsibility for the direction and policy for the circuit is shared between lay and ordained. Voluntary circuit stewards have responsibility for maintaining, buying and selling circuit property (usually manses), and for the general welfare of the ordained and employed staff in the circuit. There is also a circuit treasurer. The circuit is the place where new initiatives and changes in the pattern of church life need to happen. This is where the staffing capacity, where closures of chapels are debated, and where fresh expressions of church or new pioneer ministries are launched.’
You will see as part of this month’s newsletter a paper submitted to and approved through the Autumn Calderdale Circuit Meeting which seeks to explore how each church in the Calderdale Circuit would define itself in relation to the ‘five streams for mission’ and where:
…….each church is encouraged to prayerfully determine which of the five streams it feels is the best description of its current status and vision of its future and to give a report backing their choice.
Opportunities for conversation to draft a response will be needed in each church before the Circuit Meeting in March 2019 where the way forward will be discussed further.
As we continue to be bearers of the good news of Jesus in our community and the world a prayer from Rev Dr Roger Walton for us all:
Loving God, we long for a world transformed, where justice and peace reign,
where people live joyfully with variety and difference,
where every person is honoured and all are welcomed.
Renew in us the vision of your kingdom,
free us from selfish interests and all that hinders your liberating love,
and empower us to pray and work for the new heaven and the new earth.
In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Roger Walton, Yorkshire West District Chair
July and August
Over the past few years I have had the privilege to be involved with the ‘Encounter Programme’. ‘Encounter’ is a year-long programme that explores discipleship and vocation developed and run by the Methodist Church’ and here are a couple of typical comments from the last programme run in the Calderdale Circuit that ended earlier this year:
‘A fantastic combination of fellowship, prayer, creative meditation and inventive ways to deepen faith. I have loved it! Sad that it’s got to end but it’s now time to move forward with whatever God has in store for each of us.’
‘It was all more than I anticipated. Thank you to you all for the journey!’
‘The programme is designed to help people develop a deeper relationship with God, to know themselves better and identify their gifts and discern their personal calling from God, in service, both within and outside the church. Encounter is an ideal programme if you are sensing a call to a particular ministry, either ordained or lay, and wish to explore that calling further. Encounter is also for you if you sense God is nudging you to do something new or deeper, and feel called to explore what that call might be.
A small group of up to 12 people, led by Encounter Facilitators, meet approximately once a month to consider various themes relating to discipleship and vocation. Each session involves prayer, engagement with the Bible, discussion and time for reflection. Between sessions, Explorers follow activities of their own choosing, such as delving deeper into session themes, practical experiences of Christian service or ministry, and personal learning experiences such as reading, attending short courses or study days. Each Explorer also meets regularly with an Encounter Accompanist to discuss and reflect on their personal journey during the Encounter programme.
You can download a leaflet about Encounter by following this web link
which contains more information about the programme.
Or you can visit the Encounter website www.methodistencounter.org.uk also contains full details about the programme.’
Perhaps you might like to ponder over the summer whether the ‘Encounter Programme’ is something you would like to engage with; it starts in September 18 and ends in July 2019. If that is the case then speak with me and I’d be glad to have a conversation about how we might take that forward.
I hope that summer months allow you some time and space for rest and relaxation knowing you are held in the love of Christ.
We are fast approaching the event that takes place around this time of the year which has much significance in Methodism – the annual Methodist Conference. This year it is being held in Nottingham from the 28th June to 5th July.
What does the Methodist Conference mean to you? The Methodist Church Website explains:
‘The Methodist Conference is the body that agrees policy for the Methodist Church. It meets annually in June or July and is hosted by a different district or group of districts each year. The Conference first met in 1744 under John Wesley, who gathered together his assistants (both ordained ministers and itinerant lay preachers) to confer together about 'what to teach, how to teach, and what to do, i.e. how to regulate our doctrine, discipline and practice.' The contemporary Conference is a gathering of representatives from each Methodist district, along with some who have been elected by the Conference and some ex officio members and representatives of the Youth Assembly. Representatives are a mixture of lay people, ordained presbyters and deacons. Presbyters and deacons also have their own separate gatherings before the main, decision-making session. Business for the Conference to decide upon is prepared by the Methodist Council, an elected body that meets regularly. Memorials to Conference may be sent by districts ahead of time, and representatives to Conference may introduce Notices of Motion.’
I watched a video clip about the Methodist Church recently which ended with the message ‘We are you’ – a profound reminder of the connexional or interconnected essence of who and how we are the Methodist Church and how ‘Conference’ forms that pivotal role in our being.
Can I please encourage you to pray for Conference; to pray for the Yorkshire West District representatives and all those who attend; for the conversations and decisions, for current and past Presidents and Vice Presidents and for the President Designate Revd Michaela Youngson and the Vice-President Designate Bala Gnanapragasam; that in all things God may be glorified and His will be done for His Kingdom to come. You can engage with Conference directly if you have access to the internet and you can ‘Live Stream’ some of the worship and debates in real time; if you can I would encourage you to do so.
Offering a challenge to us all the Revd Lorraine Mellor; the current President of the Methodist Conference said:
"I want to encourage and enable the Church to put God back on the agenda in our communities and enthuse people to share the Good News. The Church has reached a tipping point, the time has come for us to take some risks in our mission and in our discipleship in order to help us grow".
As the Methodist Church how will we respond to that challenge in the name of Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit to the glory of God.?
‘Thy Kingdom Come’*
‘Peace is the Journey’# from Easter to Pentecost and beyond.
I received the following article through the Yorkshire West District Office and thought you would want to know about this initiative:
* Thy Kingdom Come is an initiative of the Archbishop of Canterbury inviting prayer, especially between Ascension and Pentecost, for more people to come to know Jesus Christ. The Yorkshire West District is hosting a Pentecost Party on Sunday 20th May at the John Charles Arena in South Leeds, from 1.30 to 5.30pm, as a major Yorkshire focus for TKC. The Vice President of the conference, Jill Baker, will preach, and Stuart Townend will lead worship.
# Peace is the Journey is an initiative of Barbara Glasson, Team leader at Touchstone and Deputy Chair of the District, involving walking from Liverpool to Leeds (on the Leeds/Liverpool Canal towpath) from 6th to 20th May. A companion on (some of) this walk will be Tim Baker, of All We Can.
The invitation is to each circuit and local church to participate, in whatever way is appropriate for your setting, in this exploration of pilgrimage and prayer. This could mean:
Walking your circuit in a prayerful and structured way (e.g. Airedale Circuit have just completed ‘Walk with me’ – a series of morning walks linking the circuit churches in prayer).
Prayer-Walking your church buildings and/or their communities (the next step for Airedale). There is information regarding Prayer walking in the Story of Light Handbook (see Link on District Website).
Linking with Peace is the Journey, either by linking directly with Barbara and the walk (see provisional itinerary below), or by gathering and decorating prayer stones, either for Barbara to distribute on the way, or to be used in your local prayer-walks (see instructions below*).
Linking with another church or circuit to walk together, whether paired because of proximity, or difference. A provisional itinerary is being planned.
The invitation is to each circuit and local church to participate, in whatever way is appropriate for your setting, in this exploration of pilgrimage and prayer.
More info – Nick Blundell email@example.com or 01274 416506
As we each seek to communicate the Good News of Jesus in our communities and beyond I offer this prayer from Revd Dr Roger Walton:
Jesus, alpha and omega, first and last, beginning and end, making all things new, come to us afresh this moment; enlarge our vision of your kingdom; enflame our passion for truth and justice; kindle your grace in our hearts that we may be bold to speak of your love, freely giving and receiving, wherever we go, whoever we are with and whatever we face.
April news from our Minister. Sorry I didn't receive one for March.
And still more snow!.....Then just when it looks like winter will be here forever, the sun shines the frost thaws and the spring flowers bloom.
On Good Friday the disciples must have had the sense that the darkness of winter would be with them forever. Jesus had died and was buried in a tomb and all seemed lost. Then, on Easter morning, and as Luke’s account puts it:
1 On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. 5 In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? 6 He is not here; he has risen! Luke 24: 1 -6 [NIV]
What was the women’s first response to this history making event? It was to share the Good News with others that “Jesus is risen”.
‘Jesus is risen – He is risen indeed’; what is our response is to the awesome love of God seen through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection and what does it means to be a disciple of Jesus for us today? How might we be the light and love bearers of Christ to many in the world today who suffer a continual winter of injustice, poverty, famine, drought and the consequences of war.
Do we each truly know that we are treasured and loved by God and the sign and cost of that love is witnessed through an empty cross, an empty tomb and the invitation to proclaim far and wide “I have seen the Lord”.
The late Billy Graham is reported to have said:
“The resurrection of Christ changed the midnight of bereavement into a sunrise of reunion; it changed the midnight of disappointment into a sunrise of joy; it changed the midnight of fear to a sunrise of peace.”
May you know the assurance, joy, peace and love of God through Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit this Easter for: He is Risen – He is Risen indeed; Hallelujah!
I received an email from a colleague recently who questioned, ‘Where is the year going already?’ It hardly seems as though we have turned the page of a new year that, as I write this newsletter, we approach the season of Lent which begins on Ash Wednesday; 14th February 2018.
The opening words for the Ash Wednesday service in the Methodist Worship Book sets a Lenten context explaining:
‘At first, this season of Lent was observed by those being prepared for Baptism at Easter and by those seeking restoration to the Church’s fellowship. In the course of time, all Christians were invited to keep these days carefully, to take heart the call to repentance, to receive the assurance of forgiveness proclaimed in the Gospel, and so to grow in faith and devotion to our Lord.’
This year what will be your approach to Lent?
A friend recently passed on a card he had received from ‘All We Can’ – which is the operating name of The Methodist Relief and Development Fund, whose aim is to ‘help find solutions to poverty by engaging with local people and organisations in some of the world’s poorest communities to end the suffering caused by inequality and injustice.’
A 6 week [40 day] Lenten resource of reflections, activities and prayers has been produced by ‘All We Can’ where the invitation is to ‘Keep it simple’. The aim is to be inspired as individuals, groups, churches and young people using the resources [book or daily email] exploring ‘the pleasure of living simply while joining in solidarity with our global neighbours.’
Is this something you might want to be involved with as an individual or in a small group? The resources are free and can be ordered on-line but a donation can be made accordingly. Maybe you could co-ordinate an order or arrange a small group to meet during Lent to ‘Keep it simple’ together? http://allwecan.eu
I’ll close with a prayer from ‘Keep it simple’:
Loving God, We come to you, knowing that you care deeply for everything you have made. We thank you for the joy, freedom and justice that are found in your Kingdom. We pray for your Kingdom to come and for your will to be done – in our lives, in the lives of the people we hold in our hearts, and for people around the world struggling with poverty and injustice. Help us to be your witnesses as we seek your Kingdom first. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
FrancisFrom February 2018 you will find the newsletter here.
November - January
According to an article I read in a newspaper recently there were 130 million parcels delivered over Christmas 2016 - the logistics of which must be enormous. That said, have you ever experienced not being in when a parcel you were waiting for has attempted to be delivered and finding the card through the door saying you can collect it the next day? Waiting; how do we respond when we are required to wait?
Advent, for Christians, is a time of waiting upon God in preparation for the coming of Christ. The United Methodist Church website explains: ‘…Advent, comes from the Latin word adventus meaning coming or visit, begins four Sundays before Christmas and ends on Christmas Eve.’
I wonder how we will approach Advent as we wait for and journey towards Christmas, looking forward to the birth of Christ and as we ponder His coming again. Over the years Advent has been a time for prayer and reflection on Christ’s coming and all that that means. Are we able to create that space each day, no matter how short, for prayer and time with God and as the journey to the manger gets ever nearer?
As we watch and wait, I pray your Advent may be one where you are drawn closer to Christ and the assurance of His love. That as we journey to the room where Christ is born, we may know Him born anew in our hearts with His love for the world so that we may share the Good News of ‘Immanuel’, ‘God with us’ in whom all our hope is founded:
Hope of the world, Mary's Child, you're coming soon to reign; King of the earth, Mary's Child, walk in our streets again. Geoffrey Ainger
May God surround you with His love and peace this Advent, Christmas and New Year.
Love and blessings,
Friday Get Together reviews